Parashah Ekev 2020 (Because) Deuteronomy 7:12 – 11:25

In this parashah, Moses again repeats the same warnings he has already given and will continue to repeat throughout this book.

 

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He confirms that so long as they obey God he will bless them mightily and go before them to conquer the peoples in the Land; but, if after conquering them, they adopt the worship and gods of the people they conquered, then God will come against them as he did with Dathan and Abiram.

Moses says that God will send the hornet before them to drive out the people, and reminds them of all the good God has done for them since leaving Egypt. He retells the mighty works God performed in Egypt and throughout their travels in the desert, and to have confidence that God will continue to do the same for them now, so not to fear the Canaanites or the Anakim living in Canaan.

Moses also tells them not to become proud and think their victory is from their own power, but to remember that it was God who did it for them. He tells them they should not continue to be rebellious, as they were at Horeb when they made the Golden Calf, relating how he had to plead with God to not destroy them and how God separated the Tribe of Levi to serve him.

Moses ends this parashah with the statement that so long as the people obey God, God will go before them and put the fear of them on all the nations they will face, and they will possess everywhere the soul of their foot touches.

It is a little challenging to find something new to discuss in Deuteronomy because, well, Moses says pretty much the same thing, over and over.

But today there are two things that struck me, and the first is when he tells the people that God will send the hornet ahead of them.

The hornets in Israel are pretty mean, and like to nest in caves, which is also where people under attack would hide. If there are aggressive hornets in a cave and you run in there to hide, you will be forced out back into the battle. But what is interesting, and noted in my Chumash, is that the hornet was the symbol of the Egyptian Pharaoh Thothmes III, who could have been the hornet God was referring to. If Pharaoh Thothmes III attacked and raided Canaan, as Pharaohs were wont to do, then that would weaken the armies of the Canaanites, helping Israel to more easily conquer them.

The second thing I found interesting, and when I read this passage I recognized it immediately, is Deuteronomy 10:12-13 (CJB), which says:

So now, Isra’el, all that ADONAI your God asks from you is to fear ADONAI your God, follow all his ways, love him and serve ADONAI your God with all your heart and all your being;  to obey, for your own good, the mitzvot and regulations of ADONAI which I am giving you today.
Do you see why I immediately recognized this? Yes? No?
Let’s look at Micah 6:8 (CJB):
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
We are constantly told that God is the same today, yesterday, and tomorrow, and here is proof of that- what he requires from us has never changed. And it isn’t blind obedience or sacrifices given exactly as we are told to do; it is an attitude of the heart, which causes us to do these three things:
1. Act justly (the result of obeying God’s instructions);
2. Be merciful (the result of treating others as God tells us we should); and
3. Walk humbly with God (which is the result of loving God with all our heart and soul).
God has never wanted automatons; he doesn’t want us to obey him only from fear of reprisal; and, he won’t ever force us to love him. He gave us free will so we could decide to do as he instructs us to do or to reject his ways. He tells us, over and over (especially in this book) that when we do as he says, we will be blessed, and if we don’t, well, then we’ll be on our own in a cursed and fallen world where everyone is against us, which is, essentially, being cursed.
Today’s message is simple: decide if you will be with God or against God. You don’t have to do every single commandment in the Torah perfectly, and you can even screw up now and then, even on purpose! God knows we are weak and easily led into sin. The one thing that you must do, though, in order to continue being blessed is repent of every single sin, ask forgiveness in Yeshua’s name, and try to do better each day.
As I have often said and will continue to say: we can never be sinless, but we can always sin, less.
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Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

 

 

Parashah V’etchanan 2020 (I besought) Deuteronomy 3:23 – 7:11

Moses reminds the people of the fact that he, Moses, is not allowed to enter the land and all those who rebelled against God have died off, leaving this generation to take possession. He assigns three cities as a City of Refuge for the tribes of Gad, Reuben, and Manasseh in the land east of the Jordan.

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Moses goes on to remind the people of how God chose them to be an example of a people who live according to fair and wise laws so that all the other people can learn from their example. He tells them God never appeared in any form to them, so they shouldn’t make any form of anything and worship it. If they live according to the laws God gave them, which Moses has taught them, then they and their children will live long in the land; however, if they worship any other god they will be ejected from the land and scattered throughout the earth.

Moses reviews the Ten Commandments, which he received in the presence of the people, and reminds them (there’s a lot of reminding in this book) of how they were afraid to hear God’s voice and told Moses to be their Intercessor, which God said was a good thing for them to do.

Moses gives us the Shema and V’ahafta prayers.

Moses tells the people when they are in the land to utterly destroy the pagan idol worshipers, as well as the symbols and altars of their gods, and not to intermix with the indigenous people in any way.

Well, what have we here?  We have the Shema, the watchword of the Jewish faith, which is first and foremost the definitive declaration of the one true God and of Monotheism.

We also have the V’ahavta (“and you shall love”) prayer, which is recited after the Shema at every Jewish service that is held, everywhere in the world.

Deuteronomy is a book of retelling, of reminding, and of warning. These two prayers, however, are unique to this book, alone. Just about everything else in Deuteronomy is referencing what happened previously in the Torah, but not these two prayers. Perhaps there is a reason for that?

If you ask me, and even if you don’t, I will tell you my thinking on this (after all, it is my ministry): these two prayers are the pathway to salvation. They tell us that the LORD, Y-H-V-H is our God and the only God. We must love him with everything we are- heart, mind, and soul- obeying and teaching our children to obey his commandments. And, to ensure these commandments never are forgotten, we must bind them on our hands and before our eyes so that we are reminded of them when we go to sleep and when we wake up, and also place them on the gateposts of our house and on our doors so we see them going out and coming in. By doing these things we will never forget them, and (hopefully) by being constantly reminded of them we will do them. And if we do them, we will be righteous in the eyes of the Lord.

Now, I am sure many of you are thinking, “We aren’t saved by works but by faith, so how can Steve say these prayers are the pathway to salvation?” That is a good question, and my answer is that, at that time, the only pathway to salvation was through obedience to God’s instructions, which Moses is reminding them of now. If they learn nothing else from all that Moses is saying, by remembering the Shema and the V’ahavta they will know all they need to know to stay on the proper path.

The way we have placed God’s instructions before our eyes, on our hands, and on the doorposts of our house and gates is through the use of the Tefillin and a Mezuzah.  For those who may not be familiar with these things, let me finish today’s message with a little Jewish 101 lesson about the Tefillin and the Mezuzah.

The Tefillin (also called Phylacteries) are little black boxes with prayers inside that are tied to the left arm (which is the arm closest to the heart) and on the forehead, with the box on the bicep and between the eyes on the forehead. The strap is wrapped on the arm 7 times, and around the hand in the shape of the Hebrew letter Shin (“S”), to represent Shaddai, a name for God. The Tefillin contain four chambers, each chamber containing a prayer. The prayers inside are the following:

1–2. Kadesh(Exodus 13:1–10) and Vehayah ki yeviacha (Exodus 13:11–16): These describe the duty of the Jewish people to always remember the redemption from Egyptian bondage, and the obligation of every Jew to educate his children about this and about G‑d’s commandments.
3. Shema(Deut. 6:4–9): Pronounces the unity of the one God, and commands us to love and fear Him.
4. Vehayah (Deut. 11:13–21): Focuses on God’s assurance to us of reward that will follow our observance of the Torah’s mitzvahs.

                  

The Mezuzah is nailed to the door jamb on the right side as you enter, and the top is angled towards the house. Inside the Mezuzah is a scroll with the Shema written on it.

These two articles are essential things for every Torah observant Jew to own, although you usually only find the Orthodox and Chasidic Jews using the tefillin. However, the mezuzah is often found on every Jewish home, even those who are not very observant. It seems to be a tie to our heritage that isn’t easily broken (thank God for that!)

These symbols of obedience can remind us of one of two things: they will remind us that we are obedient, or they will remind us of how we haven’t been obedient. Either way, the one good thing is that they remind us of what we should be doing, and so long as God is not out of sight, he won’t ever be that far out of mind. So even those who have the mezuzah on their doors, which to them is nothing more than a decoration, they are still, despite themselves, being reminded of God and his commandments which should be followed, And who knows? Maybe one day they will suddenly come to realize how far short they have come to what they should be doing, do T’shuvah (turning from sin), and repent of their apostasy.

From my lips to God’s ears! Amen and Amen!

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

 

Parashah D’Varim 2020 (the Words) Deuteronomy 1 – 3:22

We have now come to the last book of the Torah.

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It is the 11th month of the 40th year since the Israelites came out of Egypt, and Moses knows he will not be crossing over with the people, so he gathers them together and reviews the past 40 years with them. This is, in essence, his last teaching, his good-bye speech, and he wants to make sure he doesn’t leave anything out with this final warning to the people.

In this first section, he reviews their travels and events, starting with leaving Mount Horeb (Sinai) and taking them to the recent victory over the two kings, Sihon and Og, whose conquered lands he gave to the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh.

This book is a recap of the travels, experiences, and teachings that the Israelites have undergone for the past 40 years. Moses states that the old generation, the ones that rebelled when they first came to the Promised Land, have all died in the desert, as God said they would, and now Joshua is to lead this generation into the Promised Land, and do so without fear because God will be going ahead of them and will protect them.

As we go through this book, there are some things I think we should be most aware of.

In Deut. 5, Moses restates “The Ten Words”, the Ten Commandments God gave us.

He also tells the people (Deut. 9) not to become proud and think they are in the Land because they deserve to be (when I read this I automatically think of Romans 11:18); no, they are there because God has kept his promise to their faithful and obedient Fathers (the Patriarchs), but the ones Moses is talking to now are rebellious, stiff-necked children. Moses reminds them of the many ways they have disobeyed and complained against the Lord for the past 40 years.

In a number of places, Moses warns the people against apostatizing and serving other gods, telling them that when (notice he doesn’t say “if”) they do, God will eject them from the land just as he did the people before them.

One of the most important chapters, in my opinion, of the entire Torah, is Chapter 28, The Blessings and Curses, where Moses tells the people exactly what blessings they receive for obedience and the curses they will suffer for disobedience.

Finally, God gives Moses and song for the people to learn (Deut. 32) and pass down throughout their generations as a testimony against them so that when they reject God and are dispersed, they will remember this song and know that what happened was their own fault.

This is Moses’ last chance to warn the people against disobedience, which is why he reviews the entire Torah, all the laws God has given, and all the times the people rebelled against them.  He reminds them of how God has protected them when they were obedient and punished them when they disobeyed and emphasizes often that as long as they do what God has told them, they will live a long and peaceful existence in the land they are about to enter.

What you must realize is that the constant admonition from Moses to obey God’s instructions is valid for everyone, not just the Israelites that lived back then. Remember: God told Moses in Exodus 19:6 that the Israelites were to be his (God’s) nation of priests, and that means these lessons that were to be learned, everything Moses reviews in this book of Deuteronomy, is just as valid for both Jews and Christians today as it was for the Israelites back then.

In fact, these instructions are for everyone in the entire world.

If you want to know what God wants from you, all you have to do is read this book, Deuteronomy.

The last thing I want to talk about today is this:

Deuteronomy 29:28: “Things which are hidden belong to Adonai our God. But the things that have been revealed belong to us and our children, forever, so that we can observe all the words of this Torah. 

Too many people want to know every single tidbit and iota of information about every single aspect of God and the Bible. Now, it is never wrong to want to know God better, and the best way to do that is to study his word, but when the need to know gets in the way of the ability to accept faithfully that all God wants us to know we have been told, then (in my opinion) it becomes a sin. God hasn’t just told us that all we need to know we have been told, but that anything else is above our pay grade, and only for him to know.

Just remember that the next time someone wants to argue about details that aren’t specifically in the Bible because reading between the lines can be a two-edged sword.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe, share these messages to help this ministry grow; I never ask for money, I just want to give people the right information so they can make an informed decision about where they will spend eternity.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

Parashot Chukkat / Balak 2020 (Statutes / Balak) Numbers 19-25:9

There is so much here that I have to just give the highlights.

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We start with the regulations regarding the Red Heifer and the purification procedures involved with it.  Next, we read of the death of Miriam, and the water coming from the rock after Moses struck it. But in his anger, Moses did not give credit to God so God tells Moses that he will not be allowed to enter the Promised Land.

They come to Mount Hor, where Aaron dies and Eliazar takes his place as Cohen HaGadol (High Priest).

The people are still wandering around the desert, and as they are now nearing the end of the punishment God decreed for them, they again complain about no meat generally kvetch about their lives, so God sends snakes against them as punishment.  After repenting and asking forgiveness, God tells Moses to make a brass serpent and place it on a pole as a symbol so that when someone is bitten, if they look at the serpent they will not die.

This first parashah end with the defeat of both Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan.

The next parashah we will read for this double-parashot Shabbat is Balak, the story of how Balak, the king of Moab hired Balaam to curse the Jews. Balaam tells the messengers from Balak he refuses to go, as per God’s instructions, but Balak sends more important men with greater promises of reward and Balaam agrees to go. God sends an angel to block Balaam, and even though Balaam doesn’t see the angel, his ass does and three times avoids the angel. The third time Balaam begins to beat the ass for her disobedience, but God allows the ass to talk to Balaam, and then God opens Balaam’s eyes to see the angel, with drawn sword and ready to kill.

Balaam asks forgiveness and says he will return, yet God says to keep going but say only what God will tell him to say. Balak takes Balaam on a high hill to see the multitude of God’s people, and instead of cursing them, Balaam blesses them. Balak tries to get Balaam to curse the people three times, but all he does is bless them. Finally, enraged, Balak sends Balaam back home.

This parashah ends with the sin at Ba’al-Peor when the men of Israel began to associate with the Midianite women, sinning and worshiping their gods with them (we learn later, in Numbers 31, that this was Balaam’s idea). As Moses is telling them to stop, one of the princes of the tribe of Simeon is with a Midianite woman, and mocking Moses in full view of all the people; meanwhile, God has sent a plague as punishment for this terrible sin. Phineas, the son of Eleazar, is so enraged at the Simeonite prince that he thrusts a lance through both the prince and the woman with him, and this act of zealousness for God stays the plague, and that is where this second parashah ends.

As I said at the start, there is so much here.

Chukkat are the laws that God gave to us for which we can’t understand their meaning. The laws regarding the Shew Bread on the table, for instance, and this law about the Red Heifer, in which everything associated with preparing the heifer makes one unclean, but that which has made you unclean is then used to cleanse you.

The snake in the desert is so important for two reasons: first, the snake represented God’s salvation for those who would die, which has the spiritual message that when we look to, i.e. call upon God, we will be saved from death. Second, the snake is mentioned by Yeshua (John 3:14) as a foretelling of his form of death, as well as a prophecy about the distant future when he is held up and worshiped as God, just as the snake was later called Nehushtan and turned into an idol (2 Kings 18).

And finally, the lands that were taken from the two kings, Sihon and Og, are later given to Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, which ended up separating them from the protection of their brothers and their eventual destruction and dispersion throughout the world by the Assyrians, well before the Northern Tribes suffered the same fate.

Oy! Where to start, how much to say, and how can I stop once I start (which is always a problem)?

I am going to make this a simple lesson because as I reviewed these chapters, one thing stuck out in my mind: in my Chumash, the commentary on the Red Heifer gave a story about Rabbi Yochanon Ben Zakkai telling his talmudim (students) “…but the law concerning the Red Heifer is a decree of the All-holy, whose reasons for issuing that decree it behooves not mortals to question.”

This is pretty much what God told Moses later, which we read in Deuteronomy 29:29:

 The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.

Too often I hear people asking questions about the secret things, such as the pronunciation of God’s name, are he and Yeshua the same or separate beings, when does a certain holy day on the calendar really begin, and other such Gnostic-like questions.  They want to know every little detail about every single line of the Torah and use the excuse that they are trying to be obedient as their reasoning.

God told us everything we need to know, and beyond that, he told us to mind our own business. God doesn’t care if we understand why he said what he said, or why he wants us to do something, he only cares that we do it. The Torah is the first time people were told they don’t have the need to know. To me, the willingness to accept that because God said something, that is all the justification we need is a demonstration not just of obedience, but of our respect, trust, and faithfulness.

So today’s message is this: if you don’t understand why God wants you to do something, it’s OK to ask God to explain it to you; but, if he doesn’t give you an answer, accept that his silence means it isn’t necessary for you to understand, it’s just necessary for you to obey.

The ultimate demonstration of our faith in God is to come to him like little children (sound familiar?), meaning we don’t question why we have to do something, we just do it.

You don’t get on God’s good side by trying to understand him, you get on God’s good side by trusting that he knows what is best for you and faithfully obeying him.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

Parashah Korach 2020 (Korach) Numbers 16 – 18

This is a well-known story of rebellion; Korach, a Levite, jealous of Moses organized other Levites, all leaders within their tribes, to rebel against Moses and Aaron and to appoint a different leader (who he thought should be himself.)

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Meanwhile, Dathan and Abiram, from the tribe of Reuben, also led a rebellion against Moses for their failure to enter the land, having just been driven out by the inhabitants.

Moses tells the men, a total of 250 of them, to bring their fire pans to the Tent of Meeting in the morning and God will show them what he wants. Moses also goes to the tents of Korach, Abiram, and Dathan and calls them out to tell them how God will handle this rebellion, which isn’t really against Moses and Aaron but is against God.

First, Moses tells those whose tents are close to these men to move away from them because if they don’t, they might suffer the same punishment that the rebels will have to undergo. Fortunately for them, the surrounding families listen.

Moses then tells the rebels that if God hasn’t placed Moses in charge, Abiram, Dathan, and Korach will live long lives. On the other hand, if God is the one who put Moses in charge, then the earth will open its mouth and swallow these men and all they have- family, tents, and possessions- and send them to Sheol, alive!

No sooner does Moses finish speaking than the ground splits open and Abiram, Dathan, Korach, their families, and their tents are swallowed up, after which the ground closes over them.

At the same time, fire comes out from the Tent of Meeting and totally incinerates all 250 men, being so hot that their brass offering plates are melted.

Despite this obvious show of God’s intervention and appointment of Moses and Aaron, the people still are in an uproar and blame Moses for the death of the men. God sends a plague among the people that starts to kills multitudes, but Aaron takes incense from the altar and goes into the crowd and stands between the people and the plague to stop it.

God has the 12 tribal leaders each bring their staff to the Tent of Meeting, Aaron representing the Levites, and tells Moses to say to the people that the staff which grows buds will belong to the one who is God’s choice for serving him as Cohen. In the morning, only one staff has buds on it, Aaron’s staff, and more than buds, it has flowers and ripe almonds, as well.

This parashah ends with God giving the instructions, again, regarding how the Cohen and Levite are to serve him and that they are to be paid from the tithes.

For those of you who follow this ministry (thank you!), you know I rarely ever allow politics to enter these messages. However, when we look at what happened in this Shabbat reading and what is happening in the US today, there is such a direct relationship I can’t ignore it.

The rebellion within the United States, with cities of two separate states declaring themselves as a sovereign entity, is exactly what happened to the nation of Israel under Moses. There is such a spirit of rebellion against legitimate authority that I would think Korach has found his way back up from Sheol!

We have a President who was legally elected, yet since the very day he took office, there have been rebellions against his authority and position. And not just by outside forces, but by the leaders of states within the Union. Just like under Korach (or should I say, Pelosi?), many important and powerful leaders of the tribes of America (i.e., Congresspersons and Senators) have taken up their firepans and tried to oust President Trump, with little more than weak and often (we found out later) manufactured stories claiming he was disqualified for office.

Today there are the CHAD and CHAZ groups in their separate states who are declaring themselves free of the properly instituted authorities, such as the police. They have established zones of anarchy, and proliferate violence as their means of control.

In truth, they have no control: that is SOP within an anarchistic society. Sooner or later the proper authority, which has been authorized by the Constitution, will remove these rebels and (hopefully) prosecute them in accordance with their illegal activities.

If God had not intervened on behalf of Moses and Aaron, it is very likely that the general populace would have gone along with Korach, Abiram, and Dathan. What has been proven in the Bible (as shown by the Israelites) is that the crowd will follow whoever is popular or promises them what they want.  We saw this at the sin of the Golden Calf (Exodus 32), we saw it with the Korach rebellion (Numbers 16), we saw it with their constant complaining which caused God to send snakes (Numbers 21), and we saw it during the Sin of Baal-Peor when Balaam had the Midianite women entice the men into sinful behavior (Numbers 25.) 

The people rebelled against proper authority (that would be God, of course), times too numerous to mention here, from the very day they were freed from Egyptian bondage until the time of the Babylonian exile.

America has been through tough times before and came out of it stronger, but I am concerned about what is happening to her today. The pandemic has shown that we are a society composed of easily frightened, easily duped, and easily led sheep. We know that people are like sheep, easily led astray (Isaiah told us that) but it is one thing to read about it in the Bible, and quite another to see how true it is when people wear face masks and isolate themselves because they are told lies and exaggerations without questioning the truth of it.

And common sense? Well, that is rare under any condition, but it is so rare today that it seems to be an extinct commodity.

We need to remember, just as the Israelites were reminded, that God is in charge and that whoever is in charge, legally, was placed there by God. We are told this in Romans 13 (CJB):

Everyone is to obey the governing authorities. For there is no authority that is not from God, and the existing authorities have been placed where they are by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authorities is resisting what God has instituted; and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.

If people are dissatisfied with the leadership, there are legal means for removing the leaders, and those procedures should be followed. It takes longer than open rebellion, but it is the legal and correct way to oust a bad leader. In the meantime, we are obligated legally and spiritually to respect our leaders.

Today’s parashah is so perfectly timed to what is happening in the US today that you might even think God planned it. If you ask me, I don’t think what is happening is from God; on the contrary, it seems evident to me that this is the work of Satan. Our society has a spirit of Korach running rampant through it, and our legislative bodies have a spirit of Absalom taking charge of them. Rebellion, social unrest, lies, and false teachings abound, while the people show they are mindless sheep, blind to the truth, speechless against the evil (you can’t understand what they say through the cloth masks, anyway), being led dancing to their own destruction.

I am afraid. I am afraid for our country, for our economy, and for the people who claim to be doing what they do to save lives, while what they are doing is refusing to acknowledge that the Emperor is not wearing any clothes. And more than anything else, I am afraid and concerned about how so many people can so blatantly disobey the law and get away with it; and I don’t mean just the rioters in the streets, but the elected leaders of our cities, states and our federal government, whose members are sworn to defend the Constitution.

I don’t how this will all turn out, if we will have a new normal or if we will even be able to return to the old normal, but I trust in God to get us through it and will wait, patiently on the Lord (although I have to say, I am SO fed up with all this mishigas!)

Thank you for being here and please subscribe, share these messages with others, and check out my website and books. I am starting on my 4th book, which I am calling “The ‘I Don’t Want to Read the Bible!‘ Bible.”

Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

Parashah Shelach Lecha 2020 (Send forth) Numbers 13 – 15

The Israelites are within sight of the Holy Land, and Moses picks 12 men, princes and leaders within their tribe, to scout out the land, the people, and bring back military intelligence so that the invasion and taking over of the land can be planned.

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The men are gone 40 days and bring back samples of the produce of the land. However, although they say the land is wonderful, they also demoralize the people by saying that the land is full of strong and gigantic people who the Israelites have no chance of defeating.  Except for Caleb and Joshua, the other 10 representatives of the tribes say there is no way they can win.

The people are so demoralized they want to stone Moses, but God intervenes and tells Moses to stand aside so he can destroy these people and make a new nation from Moses. Moses intercedes for the people, reminding God of his forgiveness, mercy, and patience and also arguing (effectively) that if God did destroy these people the other nations, who are in awe of him, would think he was not able to do as he said and bring these people into the land.

So, God relents but only to a point: the men who gave the bad report died from a plague, then and there, and the rest of the people were told they would wander in the desert. God decreed they would wander one year for each day the spies were in the land, so for the next 40 years, the people will wander in the desert until every single one who rebelled is dead. It will be the next generation, the generation born in freedom, who will inherit the land.

After this God reminds Moses of the requirements for worship when they enter the land.

This parashah ends with a story about a man who violates the Shabbat by gathering wood, and when brought to judgment God decrees that he shall be stoned to death by the entire congregation. In order to remind people not to violate the laws, God decreed the wearing of Tzitzit.

I think it really a shame that the generation who had been raised in slavery did not get to enjoy the bliss of living in freedom in the land that God promised to give them, but it was their own fault that they did not get to do that. If they had trusted in God and his servants, Moses and Aaron, the trip to Canaan would have been easier, there wouldn’t have been snakes or plague, and there wouldn’t have been the death of the thousands that the sin at Mount Sinai caused.

If only they had listened and obeyed, but they didn’t, so why didn’t they? Were they stupid?

No, they weren’t stupid, but they had a slave mentality. They weren’t able to live their own lives; they were able to make decisions, but they weren’t able to make good decisions because all of the important decisions, such as where to live, what to do with your life, who to worship and who to trust had been made for them.

After generations of being told what to do and what to think and how to worship, they had become mentally lazy. So, when they were given the chance to advance, to become self-determining, and to learn to trust in God, they failed to do so at every opportunity.

God had performed unbelievable miracles which they saw done in the land of Egypt and throughout their travels in the desert. Yet, despite the evidence, they still couldn’t trust in him when they came to a problem they felt unable to solve on their own. Their mental laziness had turned them into cowards and unable to trust even what they see and hear. They rejected their chance for freedom and demanded to be returned to what they were comfortable with, which was slavery.

This is the same problem we have today. People have been told how to worship and how to act for so long that they accept what they are told and don’t want to consider anything different. Religion has turned people from God-fearing (as God directed us) to religion-worshiping, doing what men have told them they should do instead of as God told us we should do.

This can only result in the same thing that happened to the rebellious Israelites: they will not be allowed into the Promised Land, meaning God’s presence which has been made possible through the Messiah.

God promised Abraham that his descendants would be in the Promised Land, and that promise was kept, but not in the way many people expected. God did not renege on his promise to that first generation of freed slaves, they refused to accept it, and God had to wait until there were people desiring to receive the promise.

If you think I am saying that there are many devoutly religious people, whether Jewish, Christian, Born Again or whatever, who worship God, who try to do what they believe is right, but who will be told: “Get thee away from me- I never knew you” (Matthew 7:21), well… you’re right! That’s exactly what I am saying.

And why would God reject those who have called on his name? Because they may have called on his name, but they are not the ones who can receive the promise because they worship as men have told them to do, and not as God said to do.

The truth is that “calling on his name” means to turn to him and worship him. It doesn’t mean to shout out whatever name you use for God- it has nothing to do pronunciation and everything to do with worshiping him as he has said to. People who call on his name but worship him and live their lives as some religion says to are not children of the covenant.

And to me, that is as big a travesty, if not more so, then the Egyptian born Jews not being allowed to enter the Promised Land. Here are people trying to do what is right, but they are too mentally lazy to certify that what they are being told is really what God wants. They have that same slave mentality, which we call a comfort zone, and they refuse to let go of it.

Emperor Constantine is not God, we all know that- no argument from anyone on that point. Yet, there are millions of Christians who follow his rules and doctrines, purposefully ignoring what God said they should do, even though they have God’s instructions sitting there on their bookshelf! The path to salvation is right there, but they would rather be told what it means than to read it for themselves and that will be the cause of their destruction.

I am not preaching Legalism; I am pleading for people to make knowledgeable decisions, coming from the knowledge that can only be gained by reading the word of God, from Genesis through Revelation, and asking God to show you what he wants from you. God has a plan for each of us, and we will never know what it is if we listen to people. We have to hear it from God.

Even those of you who have been prophesied about, then later realized the prophecy was correct, I’ll bet if you think on it, you will remember that when you first heard someone tell you what God wants from you, you had already felt it in your heart and spirit.

Learn from this parashah the evils of a slave mentality, which is a tool of the Enemy, and start to grow out of your comfort zone; a religion-based comfort zone is NOT where God wants you to be. Our God is a God of action and growth, not one of sitting around being told what to think, so get with the program and read the Bible daily, asking God to reveal himself to you and make you aware of what he wants from you.

We all start out wandering in the desert, led by men who tell us which way we should go, and we will die in the desert following them unless we change course and follow God.

God is the only one who can lead us to the Promised Land.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

 

Parashah B’ha’alotecha 2020 (When you set up) Numbers 8 – 12

The people have been in the desert for a year and have completed building the Tabernacle. Now God tells Moses to have Aaron set up the lampstand, or menorah so that the light will shine in front of it. Next, the Levites are cleansed and dedicated to the Lord for service unto him, and they are to be the substitution for all the firstborn among the people of Israel; all the firstborn of the people are ransomed to God since he took all the firstborn of Egypt as a ransom for the people.

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The Levites are to serve from the ages of 25 through 50; afterward, they are to help with the service but not to perform any of the actual work.

As Passover begins this second year, some men were made unclean and God said that those who could not celebrate Passover in the first month could do so the exact same way on the same days in the second month.

The cloud over the Sanctuary would be the signal for moving or remaining, and when it was taken away from the Tabernacle the people followed it. On the 20th day of the second month of the second year of freedom, the cloud moved to the desert of Paran. I believe this happened on the 20th day as there were those who were still celebrating the Passover because they were unclean in the first month.

As they are getting ready to move, Moses asks his father-in-law to come along and act as a guide, but he refuses. Moses asks a second time, but we aren’t told what answer he was given; however, in Judges 1:16 and 4:11 we read about the descendants of Moses’s father-in-law, so it appears that he did stay with the Israelites.

The final chapters of this parashah deal with the people complaining about not having any meat to eat, which leads Moses to ask God for help because their whining and rebellion is too much for him to bear. God gives some of the spirit he gave to Moses to 70 of the Elders, to help Moses lead the people, and then sent quails to feed them. However, as punishment for their complaining, the people were also cursed with a terrible plague.

In Chapter 12, Aaron and Miriam complain against Moses because of the wife he took, and God calls them to the Tent of Meeting where he chides Aaron and Miriam for speaking out against Moses, who God speaks to as a friend. Miriam is struck with leprosy, although Aaron is not punished. Aaron begs forgiveness from Moses, and Moses begs God to heal Miriam, which he does but requires her to be shut outside the camp for a week.

There certainly is a lot happening in this Shabbat reading, which has special meaning for me because the last section of Chapter 12 was the portion I read for my own Bar Mitzvah, oh so many years ago.

What struck me when I read this week’s parashah is at the beginning, and actually has very little to do with the happenings in this parashah. It was during the instructions for the Levite’s cleansing (Numbers 8:12) where God tells them they must sacrifice a sin offering and then a burnt offering.

The sin offering is, of course, to be able to receive forgiveness of sin, and the burnt offering (also called a wholly burnt offering) is to signify total rededication to the covenant between God and the descendants of Abraham, i.e. renewing one’s promise to obey God’s instructions.

There is a teaching within Christianity that is called OSAS, which stands for Once Saved, Always Saved and it is part of the other (wrongful) teaching that the “law” was nailed to the Cross. This is, of course, not justified by anything in the Bible, anywhere, and teaches people that they don’t have to repent or even ask forgiveness because when Jesus died for their sins, he covered all their sins: past, present, and future.

The truth is Yeshua did die for our sins, past, present, and future, but that forgiveness is NOT automatic.

God will not forgive someone who is not repentant, and also only when he is asked for forgiveness. It is clear that the sacrificial system, which states once we have offered up our sin sacrifice we must follow it immediately with a burnt sacrifice, shows that God requires more than just repentance and asking for forgiveness: God also requires our rededication to obedience. The teaching of “Once saved, always saved” is not how God told us it works.

When we sin, we must first repent; if you don’t really care about having sinned, then you don’t really care about being forgiven, and you certainly wouldn’t consider rededicating yourself to obedience since obedience isn’t all that important to you, anyway.  Right?

Sin is pervasive, and it is also very hard to overcome. Our very nature is sinful, and it is only through the leading of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) that we can overcome our sinful desires and sinful thoughts, which (as Yeshua taught us) are just as bad as having actually sinned.

So, the lesson I would like us to learn from this parashah is that repentance is the beginning of forgiveness, sacrifice makes forgiveness possible (thank you, Yeshua), but without your heartfelt rededication to obedience, it will all be unacceptable to God.

Sin will happen, we can’t avoid that, and without the temple in Jerusalem the only way forgiveness is possible is through Yeshua. Yeshua made forgiveness available to us, but without your heartfelt and honest rededication to obedience to God’s instructions, Yeshua’s sacrifice will be rendered impotent.

Yeshua died a mortal death so that you can have eternal life, but if you have an unrepentant heart, do not ask for forgiveness for each and every sin, and refuse to rededicate yourself to obedience after asking for forgiveness, the only future you have is one of eternal punishment.

Hey, don’t blame me! Look, these are God’s rules and if anyone chooses to accept man-made rules over God’s rules, well, then they have no one to blame but themselves! Amen!

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

How to Interpret the Bible Correctly

Let me start off by saying I am not professing to be an expert on Biblical exegesis (although I do know some of the fancy words), and that I am not saying this is the absolute and only correct method of Bible interpretation, but I have seen and corrected many wrong interpretations and know that what I am going to talk about is valid and necessary.

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Something happened just recently which made me think it might be a good idea to (at least) give a small lesson on how to properly interpret what we read in the Bible.

Two methods I always incorporate when interpreting the Bible are PaRDeS and Hermeneutics. PaRDeS is a Jewish form of exegesis and is an acronym for the following:

P=P’shat, the literal meaning of the written word (i.e., what you read is what it means);

R=Remes, the deeper, more spiritual meaning (as Yeshua demonstrated in his Sermon on the Mount);

D= Drash, a story or lesson which has a spiritual meaning (such as the parables Yeshua told); and

S =Sud, a mystical meaning that no one can fully comprehend.

That is one method I use, and the other is Hermeneutics, which is defined as:

The purpose of Hermeneutics is to bridge the gap between our minds and the minds of the Biblical writers through a thorough knowledge of the original languages, ancient history and the comparison of Scripture with Scripture.

What that means, in simple language, is that we must have a thorough knowledge of the entire Bible, that is, Genesis through Revelation,  and that whatever is written in any part of the Bible should mean the same in any other part of the Bible.

Too often we read or hear someone who has taken a number of passages from the Bible and put them together to form an idea or interpretation. This is not wrong, per se’, unless the passages are taken out of context and used to create the interpretation someone has formed, instead of forming an interpretation from what is written.

Here’s an example of what I am talking about, which happened the other day:

I was reading an article someone posted about the use of the Hebrew word “Seraph” in the story of the snakes sent to punish the Israelites when they were in the desert (Numbers 21.) The writer wanted us to believe that the bronze statue Moses made wasn’t of a snake but of a seraph, an angelic being. This was confirmed when I looked in the Torah to see what word was used in the original Hebrew and saw that it was, indeed, the word seraph, which is what God told Moses to make an image of. The people asked Moses to pray for the removal of snakes (Hebrew word Nachush) and God told Moses to make an image of a seraph.

So, it looks like the writer was correct! But when we use hermeneutics to confirm the interpretation, we find out that this isn’t the case.

I looked at the different uses of the word seraph, to see if it was used anywhere else to represent a serpent, and did not find anything. I then looked through the Bible for other places where nachush was used and found another use in 2 Kings 18. 

In 2 Kings 18, we read how the serpent Moses made in the desert was being worshiped by the people, and they called it Nehushtan, which is a form of the Hebrew word for snake. This confirms that the bronze statue was not a celestial being but a snake, otherwise the people would not have named it “Snake.”

There have been many, MANY times I have corrected people’s attempts to make the Bible say what they wanted it to say, such as how the Kosher laws were removed, or how the Torah was done away with, or how the Jews have been replaced by Gentile Believers. All of these traditional Christian teachings are based on misinterpretation and taking passages out of context, stringing them together and making what appears to be a proper interpretation, but it is really nothing more than a lie.

We must take whatever God says and interpret it in relation to everything else God says, and if there seems to be a contradiction, then one or both interpretations are wrong. God does NOT contradict himself; likewise, what Yeshua taught he told us was only what God told him to say, and this is evident throughout the Gospels (especially in John), so any teachings that indicate Yeshua said something in the Old Covenant isn’t valid anymore is not hermeneutically valid.

What we read in the Epistles are not the words of God but the lessons that the Talmudim (disciples/students) of Yeshua were teaching to the Jewish and (mostly) Gentile Believers, more so to Gentiles who did not understand the instructions the Jews already knew. The letters from Paul to the congregations he started were not meant to change anything, but to teach these Gentile Believers how to live according to God’s instructions, a little bit at a time.

Of course, the Epistles are a totally different lesson, but it is important to know how they fit into today’s lesson because of all the misinterpretations within the Bible that I have seen over more than two decades, the majority of them come from the letters Paul wrote.

God has made his instructions to all the world, which we find in the Torah, pretty simple to understand, and what we can’t fathom we can study and try to understand; or, what I consider to be the better path, we can just accept that God knows best and follow the way of life that God has laid out for us.

Always use these two methods to objectively study the Bible, and when I say objectively, I mean to not just accept what someone tells you; rather, listen and then verify everything, especially before you repeat it to others.

Just like with Hebrew National hotdogs, teachers of God’s word are held to a higher standard, so make sure what you teach is biblically correct.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe, check out my website, and share these messages with everyone you know (after verifying, of course, what I say is accurate and biblically correct.) And if you have a comment or correction, please do not hesitate to let me know: I welcome them all.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah B’midbar 2020 (In the desert) Numbers 1 – 4:20

At the beginning of this book of the Torah, we have Moses, at God’s command (which is the only right time to do this) take a census of the people. We also are given the arrangement of the campsite, as well as the duties of the Levites, with regards to moving the Sanctuary.

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The book of Numbers is a historical narration of the travels of the children of Israel as they wandered in the desert. The wandering was the result of their own sin, which was to reject the land that God brought them to, as he promised he would. They were at the border of Israel only a few months after they left Egypt, but after sending the spies into the land and receiving a bad report, they refused to go in. They were afraid that they would be destroyed by the Canaanites and other tribes that the spies reported as fearsome and powerful.

How quickly they forgot the miraculous events that God performed in Egypt; how quickly they forgot how God split the Red Sea; and how quickly they forgot the way God presented the Torah to them on Mount Sinai.

And isn’t it the same with people, today?

I was in Sales for a long time and I was very good at it. Yet, despite how good a salesman I was, I was never better than what I did yesterday. The standard joke we told each other was: “You’ve been the best salesman in the company for three months now, but what have you done for me today?”

We are in the midst of a world-wide pandemic, causing fear, which has led to the demoralization of the people and is crippling our economy, yet it is nothing compared to the past crises we have had to undergo. But does anyone remember those? Does anyone remember how this country has overcome wars and economic disasters? How did we do that? It was because we had the courage and faith in God to continue through the problems, instead of fearfully sitting on our butts and crying about it!

Does anyone remember that this country, America, was founded on faith in God, which is the real reason we were able to survive those calamities?

Apparently not.

As we go through this book of Numbers we will see how, over and over, God rescued his people when they turned to him and walked in faith towards the goal, the Promised Land. The generation which refused it caused all the people to wander aimlessly until that fearful generation were all gone. It took a new generation, a generation that did not have a slave mentality, a generation that was raised in the desert and didn’t know about living in a house or having everything you needed available to you, a generation that recognized God and accepted his help, THAT generation was the one that entered into the Promised Land and took possession of it.

And when we get to the book of Judges, we will see how they, too, forgot all about God and what he had done for them.

This country is populated now by people who have rejected God, who worship technology and sports and believe only in self-acceptance. They are all about themselves and that is why, after two months of this pandemic, you still can’t find toilet paper on the grocery shelves. Their fear is well-founded because they are depending on their individual ability to overcome problems instead of on God’s ability to protect them.

I am not saying that people should not take precautions when there is a chance of infection or infecting others, but to run and hide in the closet while you wait for someone else to fix things is not what faith is about. Take precautions, wear a facemask if you feel better doing that, and keep away from sick people.

(Do you believe that they have to tell us to do that? Do they think people are that stupid? And what is worse is that they may be right!)

The real problem we have is what President Roosevelt mentioned in his famous speech, which is a statement you most likely have heard used:

We have nothing to fear, but fear itself. 

This country is crippled by fear, by their lack of faith in God, and we are all suffering for it. The shoe has dropped, and I believe the other shoe will drop soon; and when it does, those problems will be so much worse than what we are going through now that this country may not survive it.

The time for the judgment of the nations is now, and America has separated itself from God and joined the world, so we will be judged with the rest of the world. This pandemic is just the start, you mark my words: the next plague will really be deadly, and not just to a small portion of the population.

Learn the lessons we are given in the book of Numbers, see how repentance saved the Israelites while their fear caused them to reject God and suffer. America is doomed, but there will always be a remnant that will survive, so please make sure you are a member of that remnant.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe and share these messages with others, while there is still time. I welcome your comments and wish you all God’s peace which you will receive when you seek him out.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

Parashah Behar / Bechukotay 2020 (On the mountain/ If you walk) Leviticus 25 – 27

We come now to the last three chapters of Leviticus.  These chapters cover the Sabbatical Year, the Year of Jubilee, the regulations regarding the redemption of lands and of people in slavery, as well as the rules regarding how to treat a slave.

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God tells us how he will prosper and bless us when we obey these regulations, and he also tells us what will happen to us if we reject and disobey his regulations.

I have a short and sweet message today, which is this:

When God says something will happen, you can be as certain that it will happen as if it was already a part of history.

For example, lets’ look at Leviticus 26: 33-35 (CJB), which is what God says will happen if the people fail to observe the regulations regarding the resting of the land during the Sabbatical year:

I will scatter you among the nations and will draw out my sword and pursue you. Your land will be laid waste, and your cities will lie in ruins.  Then the land will enjoy its sabbath years all the time that it lies desolate and you are in the country of your enemies; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths.  All the time that it lies desolate, the land will have the rest it did not have during the sabbaths you lived in it.

Does this warning sound familiar? The prophet Jeremiah said that after the king of Babylon defeats Jerusalem, the people will be taken to Babylon and will be there, while the land becomes a desolate wasteland for 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11), and this is confirmed in 2 Chronicles 36:21. 

When Judea was sinning, just as Israel had sinned, they rejected God’s commandments and failed to give the land its rest. We can figure that for (at least) 490 years leading to the exile of the Jews to Babylon, the Sabbatical Year rest for the land was not observed. That is why the exile lasted 70 years, in accordance with God’s word given through Jeremiah, which was the fulfillment of the warning God gave to Moses nearly a millennia before it happened; the same warning we read in today’s parashah.

Every warning God gave to the Children of Israel regarding disobedience, which they tested over and over, came true.

Just as God always ended his prophecies with a statement of hope, I will end today’s message with this: because every bad thing that God said would happen if we disobeyed came true, we can be positive that every promise of blessings when we do obey will also come true.

Given the absolute certainty that we will receive blessings if we do as God says, why would anyone teach others that we don’t have to obey?

We have reached the end of a book of the Torah, so we say:

Chazak! Chazak! V’nit chazek! 

(Be strong! Be strong! And let us be strengthened!)

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!