The Spirit of Bilyam in the Modern Body of Messiah

In the book of B’midbar (Numbers), Chapter 22 tells us the story of how Balak, the son of the king of Moab, hired a man named Bilyam (Balaam is how most Christian Bibles spell it) to curse the Israelites, who have just defeated the Emori and now are on the border of his land.

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I think we all know the story: Balak sends messengers to summon Bilyam to curse the Israelites, God tells Bilyam not to go but he ends up going. An angel is sent to stop Bilyam but his ass continues to sidestep the angel until Bilyam gets so angry he beats the ass. That’s when the ass speaks to him and Bilyam sees the angel with drawn sword. God tells Bilyam to continue to go but say only what he is told to say, and Bilyam ends up blessing the people instead of cursing them.

Balak then sends Bilyam back to his own country and right after Bilyam leaves (Numbers 25) the people of God commit the sin of Ba’al-Peor. They were seduced by the Moabite and Midianite women to partake in their paganistic rituals and worship of the Moabite gods, which resulted in God’s anger being poured out on the Israelites in the form of a plague which took 24,000 lives.

Now, do you recall that even though Balak was infuriated with Bilyam, Bilyam gave Balak advice on how to get God to destroy his own people? No? Well, we are told about it in Numbers 31:16; that is when we find out the sin of Ba’al-Peor was the brainchild of Bilyam!

The Israelites had just defeated Midian and saved the women as spoils of war. Moses is infuriated with the leaders, saying (JPS Tanakh):

Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Bilyam, to revolt so as to break faith with the LORD in the matter of Peor, and so the plague was among the congregation of the LORD.

Aha!! So, even though Bilyamblessed the people, he reverted back to his sorcerer ways and told Balak how he could get the people to make their own God curse them.

That brings me to today’s topic. The same thing that Bilyamdid which resulted in the people of God sinning, which forced God to punish them, is alive and well in the body of Messiah, today!

Anything that is done against the people of God we know originates with Satan, the enemy of God, and what Satan has done is cause dissent, arguing, pridefulness and personal attacks against each other to promulgate itself throughout the congregation of Believers in Messiah, causing them to sin. This sin that Satan introduces within the body of the Messiah weakens the entire body and will cause, just as the advice of Bilam did, God to take action against his own people.

So, nu? How has Satan done this terrible thing? He has introduced the idea that we need to know exactly how to pronounce God’s name and the idea of the Trinity. And just as the people sinned against God when the Moabite women seduced them into worshiping their gods, so, too, people within the congregations who argue and fight against each other about God’s name or whether or not Yeshua and God are the same or different cause God’s people to sin against God.

Please forgive this next statement, but I am sorry to say, these arguments never were an issue before Gentiles were grafted in. Jews have been substituting Adonai, HaShem, Elohim, and other names for God instead of pronouncing the Tetragrammaton for millennia, and God never once had a problem with that. Also, Jews knew of God’s Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) since Day 1, but never ever thought it was the same exact entity as God, himself. And the Messiah was never, in the Jewish mindset, to be God.

This type of seduction into argumentation as a means of separating God’s people is not new: as far back as the early congregations formed by Shaul, he was warning his Gentile Believer congregations against arguing with each other. Here are a few examples:

2 Timothy 2:14Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.

Philippians 2:14-15Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” 

Titus 3:2They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone.

1 Corinthians 3:3…That’s because you are still worldly. As long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, you are worldly and living by human standards, aren’t you?

Besides these warnings, we should also remember all of the warnings in the Book of Proverbs against useless arguing.

I have seen, as you have, so many times when people who are supposed to be Christian or Messianic argue about things that really have nothing at all to do with salvation or knowing God’s desires for us. They start off defending their position, then when the other person refuses to agree, they begin to argue, reverting to name-calling, judging the other person as unfit for God’s kingdom or heretical, calling them spiritually immature or a non-Believer, and eventually reverting to childish, insulting and degrading personal attacks.

These are sins against God. Every sin we commit is first and foremost a sin against God. King David knew this and said so in Psalm 51.

I am not exclusively blaming Gentile Believers for this problem, even though I do believe it started with Gentiles at the end of the first century thinking they can just change all of God’s rules. Today, I see this dissension from all Believers, whether Christian, Hebraic Roots, Messianic, or what-have-you. It is not righteousness that is behind this, but the spirit of Bilam infiltrating the body of Messiah.

The answer to this problem is actually not very complicated: focus on what saves, maintain a position of humility, don’t allow pridefulness to overcome you to the point where you find yourself insulting someone, and never, ever, ever let yourself be drawn into an argument when you can plainly see that the other person is not going to change their mind.

What I do is to state my case and if the other person is not open to even hearing it, which I know immediately because they don’t address my points but just repeat their side, then I simply tell them we must agree to disagree, and let God judge between us.

If that doesn’t stop them I will stop replying. And in most cases, since they really only want to hear themselves talk, my not being there doesn’t stop them. Eventually, I have to block them.

I do have discussions with people where we are at opposite ends of a topic, but we can discuss it without insults or arguments. These few and far between events are refreshing and renew my hope that we can allow God’s spirit to rule over our own sinful pride when dealing with each other.

Listen to someone as compassionately as you want them to talk to you and when you are in a discussion, always focus on what edifies. Insults, arguing for the sake of arguing, and personal attacks are prideful, unnecessary, and a sin. Follow the example of the archangel Michael (Jude 1:9) who was arguing with Satan but instead of condemning him said, “The Lord rebuke you!

God’s people should be an example of how God tells us to treat each other, and if you can’t be a good example, then at least don’t be a bad one.

Thank you for being here. Don’t forget to subscribe and share this message with others. I welcome comments, even if you have a different opinion, as long as we can discuss things in a godly way.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Is Salvation Really Free?

How many of you have heard the expression that salvation is the free gift of the Lord?

It is something that we cannot buy, cannot earn, and can have simply for the asking, so it certainly does sound like it is free, doesn’t it?

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But what is “free’? One definition of free, as an adverb, is without cost or payment. Another definition of free, as a verb, is to release from captivity. And we can also define it, when used as an adjective, as not being under the control or power of another.

So something that is “free” can mean a number of things, and let me add that just because something has no cost doesn’t mean it isn’t priceless.

When we are saved, we are supposedly freed from captivity to sin and no longer a slave to it. But, then again, Shaul writes in 1 Corinthians 7 that while once free we are now to be a slave to Messiah, so in that sense, salvation doesn’t really free us, it just exchanges masters (for the better, of course.) And if being free means not being under the control or power of another, accepting God’s gift of salvation frees us from the control of Satan, but we need to be under the control (guidance?) of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) in order to grow in the Lord and become more spiritually mature and strong enough to maintain our freedom from being controlled by the Enemy.

Forgiveness of sin is free, but freedom from sin is not the same as salvation. Of course, salvation comes through forgiveness of sin- we can’t be “saved” if we are constant and unrepentant sinners. But when our sins are forgiven, that is just for then and there; God forgives what we have done, and understands that we will probably sin again. But asking for salvation is a lifetime commitment: forgiveness of sin is now, but salvation is from now on.

Let me say this again: salvation cannot be bought and it cannot be earned, no matter how hard we try. It can be ours simply by asking for it, but there will be a cost.

It might cost you friends; it might cost you family; you may lose worldly status, you may even suffer all three of these losses! And sometimes, it may even cost you your life.

Faithful worship of God and Yeshua is something that the world hates, so to be “saved” and, more importantly, to remain “saved”, you will pay!

Why do you think Yeshua says that to be his disciple we need to pick up our execution stake and follow him? (Mark 8:34) It means that, as I said earlier, the world hates what God loves. Throughout the Tanakh (and it is confirmed within the New Covenant) we are told that what the world considers wise, God considers foolish, and vice versa, so if you are for God, then you are against the world, and the world will be against you. Job loss, being persecuted verbally and physically, losing friends, being ostracized by family…all of these things, and maybe even more, can and have happened to the faithful.

So don’t be fooled by someone who is trying to “convert” you with rose-colored glasses and promises of peace, joy, and contentment because it is a lie. To be truly faithful to God and Yeshua means to be separated (holy) and different from the rest of the world, and that puts you in a position that is not very pleasant.

True, we can find solace in prayer and God will protect us in many ways from the world’s evil. Not only that, but we can also find comfort in the knowledge that this tsouris is only temporary, and we will have that eternal joy in the Olam Haba (world to come.)

But in the meantime, it ain’t no bed of roses.

Today’s lesson is that the next time someone mentions how salvation is free, set them straight. They have to understand that salvation is something that is going to have a cost to them. Only when people are properly prepared to know what asking for salvation will mean to them will they truly be able to make a decision they can stay with. Too many people hear the words “free” and “eternal joy” and “answer to prayer” and think that faithfully following God is a cakewalk.

It isn’t: it is a hard choice to make, it is costly to maintain, and it is difficult to do well but…it is certainly worth it in the end.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah Haazinu 2019 (Hear) Deuteronomy 32

We are now very close to the end of the Torah. Moses is going to teach the song that God gave him to the children of Israel, so that when they go astray in the future and wonder, “Why has this happened to us?” they will remember the song, and know that it is because of their own transgressions that they have been left defenseless.

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The song, itself, basically tells how God raised up Israel to become a great nation, but they have been disobedient and rebellious children, and because they spurned their God, Adonai, he spurned them and allowed their enemies to triumph over them. But, at the end of the song, God states that the enemies, themselves, also have no wisdom in thinking that their victory came at their own hands, and was not allowed by God, so because their sins are just as bad as Israel’s, once Israel has suffered the punishment they deserve, God will rise up against their enemies and destroy them, saving his people.

After Moses gives this song to the people, God tells him to climb Mt. Nebo and look upon the land the people will inhabit, and after that Moses will die.

Pretty simple stuff here, isn’t it? God tells the people all he has done for them, all they did against him, rejecting him and disobeying, and that they will be punished. But, once they return to him, they will be saved.

And we, having the benefit of knowing the history that hadn’t happened to them yet, can see exactly how all this came true.

Today, Israel is a world leader in technology, farming, and military strength, fulfilling the promise God made to Abraham thousands of years ago, which was that his seed would be a blessing to the world.  Despite the fact that they are surrounded by enemies that vastly outnumber them, they have survived and are still surviving. Every attempt to dislodge them from their land has failed and based on what God said, it will always fail.

Israel has undergone her punishment; she is no longer being judged because now is the time for judging the Goyim, the other nations of the world.

Europe is being overtaken by militant Islamic population growth, and even Canada and Great Britain are kowtowing to Islamic pressure. The United States is still behind Israel, but within our country, we are so divided, politically and morally, that I fear we are being judged, as well. And when the US and Europe fall, the evil governments left in the world will take charge. At that time, all the nations of the world will come against Israel (Zachariah12:3) and then God will unsheathe his sword to drink the blood of those nations which have rejected him and attacked his people.

You know what? That’s all I have. Really! What else is there in this parashah except that we have been told by God exactly what will happen in the future, and why. When will it happen? No one knows- even Yeshua said that only God knows when this will come about; for us, the best thing we can do is to live every day as if it was our last one on earth. And not in a depressed, sad mood but joyfully. Get the most out of what you do, enjoy your family, work to maintain your friendships and don’t hesitate for a nanosecond to tell those you care about that you love them and are grateful they are in your life.

Finally, the last thing I want to ask of you is to always remember to praise and thank God for all he has done, all he is doing right now, and for whatever he has planned. The Acharit HaYamim (the End Days) will be terrible, and going through them will be horrendous, but just as the pain of childbirth is forgotten and replaced with total joy once the birth is over, so too, will we feel that complete and overflowing joy when we are lifted up into the clouds with Messiah.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and this being Friday, I wish you all Shabbat Shalom.

Secular Judaism is an Oxymoron

One of my oldest, dearest and closest friends discovered she was Jewish on her mother’s side. This was a family secret that had been one since her mother was a child in Germany, born just before Hitler’s rise to power began. Her family converted and changed their name, which is what many Jewish families did during the late 1930s and early 1940s to protect themselves.

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Having a desire to know her Jewish roots better, she recently told me she is going to attend services at a local synagogue, which she explained to me is a Secular Jewish synagogue.

When she told me that I thought I heard her incorrectly, but she confirmed that this synagogue follows a humanistic theology.

Huh? Jews that aren’t centered on God but on humanism? That can’t be. But…it is.

Here is what I found on Wikipedia about Secular Judaism:

According to historian Shmuel Feiner, the onset of modernism in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries witness the appearance in Europe of Jewish communities who rejected the religious norms and discipline demanded by the rabbinical elite and whose identities as Jews were increasingly separate from beliefs and practices from the Torah or the commandments.

As far as I know, the Reconstructionist sect of Judaism is close to this description, although they do have some deist factions. Here is the Wikipedia definition of their theology:

Most “classical” Reconstructionist Jews (those agreeing with Kaplan) reject traditional forms of theism, though this is by no means universal. Many Reconstructionist Jews are deists, but the movement also includes Jews who hold Kabbalistic, pantheistic (or panentheistic) views of God, and some Jews who believe in the concept of a personal God.

To settle this confusion, one could simply identify what being a Jew means, or to rephrase my statement, we could ask, “What is a Jew?”  This is a question that seemingly has no one answer. Some say it is by birth, some by spiritual attachment to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Some say it is those who live a Jewish lifestyle, but that opens up an entirely new can of worms, for what is a Jewish lifestyle?  Is it being Torah observant? Is it celebrating all the holidays that are identified as “Jewish”, or just the ones God specified in the Bible? Is it wanting your son to grow up to be a lawyer or a doctor?

Frankly, there are as many opinions as to what a “Jew” is as there are people answering the question, but there is one thing that I do not believe any can argue against, which is that the Bible has told us God chose the Jewish people, meaning the direct descendants of Jacob (later called Israel) to be his nation of priests to the world (Exodus 19:6) and gave them the Torah to learn, then teach to the rest of the world.

Yes- the Torah is for everyone because when you are a priest to the world that means you teach the world how to worship God.

So to be “Jewish” according to the Bible is to worship God as he said he should be worshiped, and to live our lives in accordance with the instructions he gave us in the Torah. Not that anyone can do that perfectly, but if we want to- if we try our best to live as God says to in the Torah- then we are, by definition, “Jewish.”

This means there is no way to separate Judaism from God, or vice-versa: God is the very foundation of Judaism, the roots of the Tree of Life, the rock upon which the house of David (Messiah) is built. According to the Bible, you cannot reject God or his Torah and still be Jewish.

You can reject much, if not all, of the Talmudic regulations, called Halacha (the Way to Walk) because they are man-made traditions and rules, but to reject God and his rules? No way, Jose!!

Judaism has been identified as a religion for thousands of years, but when God told Moses how we are to worship him and treat each other, it wasn’t a religion -it was how you were to live your life. The Torah is more than just a set of laws; it is a marriage certificate between a people and their God, it is the Constitution for a nation outlining the organization of the government, creating a justice system, establishing a penal code, and defining societal standards of behavior.

The idea of secular Judaism is an oxymoron. For me, you can’t be Jewish when you reject God as the way he presents himself in the Bible.

We will never know exactly what a “Jew” is, and that doesn’t really matter. What matters is how we feel towards God, other people, and how hard we try to live according to the instructions God gave to all human beings (through the Israelites) in the Torah.

Jews, the Torah, and God are inseparable.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Yom Kippur 2019 Message

Today I would like to share a message that I had given every Yom Kippur service when I was still living in Northeast Philadelphia and attending Beth Emmanuel Messianic Synagogue. For about 2 years we didn’t have a Rabbi and the Council members (of which I was one) kept the temple going, with me serving (pretty much) as Rabbi-pro-tem. The following is an updated version of the sermon I had been giving on this day.

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There is an undeniable relationship between Yom Kippur and Passover, and together they provide total atonement which allows us to have life everlasting. Yeshua is called the Lamb of God, the Pesach Lamb, and by means of his death and the blood he shed, we can find atonement for our sins. But, it wasn’t just as the Passover lamb that He accomplished this.

It’s important to know that the sacrifice of the Passover lamb, as we read of it in Exodus, Chapter 12, was not a sin sacrifice: it was a thanksgiving sacrifice. And the blood was not a sin atonement, but rather a kippur, a covering, which was meant to identify the people of God. It was spread on the sides and over the doorway of the house and as the identification of God’s people, it protected those people from being killed by the angel of death.

The blood from the sacrificed lamb on Passover provided protection from physical death for the people of God, and today Yeshua’s blood not only identifies us as God’s people, but also protects us from spiritual death. Yeshua’s sacrificial death may have occurred on Passover but is actually what the sacrifice of the Yom Kippur goats is all about.

The Yom Kippur goats (the one killed and the one released) together provide for our atonement (Lev. 16:9-10.) The scapegoat (which is the one released into the desert) had the sins of all the people transferred to it before being released into the desert, or as the Bible tells us, to Azazel. Let’s take a moment and talk a little about Azazel:

  • The Talmud interprets this word to mean a steep mountain, and for many years the scapegoat was not released into the desert but instead was thrown off of a steep mountain;
  • In the Book of Enoch, Azazel is a fallen angel. Of course, it is unthinkable that we would be told by God to sacrifice a goat to a god-like satyr in the desert;
  • According to Rabbi Hertz, the Late Chief Rabbi of the British Empire, in his 1965 edition of the Chumash, Azazel is a rare Hebrew noun that means “dismissal”, or “entire removal”. The transference of the sins of Israel by the Cohen HaGadol onto the goat released into the desert symbolized the total removal of sin from the community of God’s people.

I had always wondered why we needed two goats. If all the sins were removed by the scapegoat why kill another one? It’s because sin can only be forgiven by the shedding of blood (Leviticus 17:11) so the goat’s blood had to be shed.  That still leaves me with the question, what did the scapegoat represent?

The scapegoat released into the desert represents our T’ShuvahIt represents our willingness to let go of our sinful desires and remove them totally from our lives. That is why all the people were present when the goat was released. It meant that we all were giving up our sinful ways and desires.

Atonement is a five-step process:

  1.  You commit a sin (after all, without sin there is nothing to be forgiven for);
  2. Recognizing and taking responsibility for that sin;
  3. Doing T’shuvah (repentance);
  4.  Shedding innocent blood to atone for the sin, and finally
  5.  Asking forgiveness from God by means of the first four steps we took.

Yeshua’s sacrifice was more than just as the “Passover Lamb”; his death fulfilled the meaning of the two Holy Days most associated with freedom from both physical and spiritual death: Passover and Yom Kippur.

On the execution stake, Yeshua took upon himself all our sins just as the Yom Kippur scapegoat does, and when he died, just as the scapegoat sacrificed to Azazel, he carried them not just into the desert but beyond the grave. He also fulfilled the role of the goat sacrificed on the altar, the one whose blood atoned for the sins and made it possible for God to forgive us.

The blood of the Passover lamb gave protection from death and the Yom Kippur blood allows forgiveness of sin. Passover and Yom Kippur, although two separate Holy Days, through Yeshua have become spiritually one and the same thing.

In the Acharit HaYamim (the End Times) when Yeshua returns and we are all gathered up into the clouds with Him, then will the ultimate fulfillment of both of these festivals be realized. Yeshua is both the Passover Lamb and the Yom Kippur scapegoat. When He said He was the beginning and the end it meant more than just some timeline: he is the beginning of our eternal life and the end of our sin.

Praise God for his goodness and mercy, and give thanks to Yeshua, ha Maschiach for his sacrifice so that we could all be saved.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and may you have an easy fast.