The Finite Can Never Understand the Infinite

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Can you imagine what 1,000,000 candles would look like if they were all lined up in a row?

Can you picture in your mind what 1,000,000 dollar bills would look like if they were stacked one on the other?

I can’t.  My mind, although it is often in a state of flux, is still pretty sharp and yet I cannot picture what one million anything looks like. I cannot “see” it or imagine what it is.

This is the problem we have when we try to imagine or understand the awesomeness of God. He is so far out of our range of understanding, so distant from the furthest edge of the Bell Curve of our knowledge that we can never even come close to knowing what he knows. Or understanding why he does what he does. Or even understanding the things he tells us about.

In Judaism we have three types of laws:

  1. Mishpatim– these are the laws we can understand that are mostly “civil” laws, such as do not kill or do not commit adultery;
  2. Edot– these are ceremonial laws regarding the rites and practices such as rules for Shabbat and the sacrificial system; and
  3. Chukim– these are laws God gave to us that seemingly have no rationale at all. For instance, changing the sacramental bread every week or not wearing clothes of different cloths.

Human nature almost demands that we know the “why” of something. When someone asks us to do something, how many times is our first response, “Why?” This is no different with God because I hear and read, over and over…and over…so many people “explaining” why the Kosher laws are better for us or why we need to wear Tzitzit.

The answer I give is this,” Because God said so.”

That is all the answer we need, and the easiest answer to understand. I will go even further than this and say that if this answer isn’t enough for you, then you need to start asking yourself what your faith is based on?  If we say we have faith, but can’t accept God’s commandments without understanding the reason why we should, then we aren’t faithful at all. How can I say that? Easy!- if you cannot accept what God says without knowing the reason why, it is because you do not trust that God knows what he is talking about. That is an a priori truth, as far as I am concerned.

When we trust someone we do what he or she suggests, especially when we are unsure of what we are doing. We seek out confirmation that we are doing the “right” thing in the “right” way. I saw this when I was a Salesman: so many people needed to see articles from Consumer Reports or Better Business Bureau ratings or letters from customers justifying using my company because we did such a great job. Did they really think I would show them complaint letters? And I realized that these people had no faith in their own decision-making ability but total faith in other people’s ability to decide. In a similar way, so many congregations are constantly preached to about God’s love and compassion and forgiveness, all of which are good things, but when these are the only things that are talked about, the congregation is not given the chance to trust God as they should. Talking only about love and forgiveness is like third party confirmation- the people hear all about what they want to hear but they don’t learn what they need to know. And what they need to know is that God is there even when troubles are all around them. The leaders of God’s people must be trusted, and that trust must be turned to God.

We can (and should) question our human leadership, and we can ask God why (he can handle that), but we must not ask God to prove why what he says is something we should do. That is disrespectful and demonstrates lack of faith. Yes- ask God why things happen; Yes- ask God why whatever you are going through is happening to you; Yes- ask God why he is allowing something to happen. You can always ask God why he wants you to do something but you should never ask God to prove to you why you should do it.

Can you see the subtle but very important difference here? It is OK to ask God to explain something to you but it is not OK to demand he prove what he says to be something you agree you should do.  When God says do not eat pork, there are those who can explain why pork is unsafe using health studies about pork and Trichinosis, and others will use that to explain why we don’t need to obey that law anymore because of the USDA. In both cases, what we are doing, really, is trying to understand the “why” of Gods’ law so that we can justify obeying it.

My point is that the moment we try to understand something in order to justify it we are showing distrust in God. There is absolutely no reason why we need to understand any of God’s laws- NO reason! He is God, and that is all the justification “why” anyone needs; anything more than that and you are being faithless, obstinate, stiff-necked and rebellious.

So do yourself a favor- just forget trying to understand why when it comes to God and his commandments. It’s a useless and impossible thing to do because the finite (us) can never understand the infinite (God.)

Tradition or Torah?

Besides being fed up with their faithlessness and ignorance, Yeshua’s (Jesus) biggest complaint when He was ministering to the people was that they gave more importance to the Rabbinic traditions then they did to God’s word. It is clear throughout the Gospels how He felt, accusing the Pharisees of hypocrisy, and adding more to what God required (Matthew 23.)

We have known of Yeshua’s request to do what God has said we should do (and to beware of hypocrisy) for centuries, and after all these centuries what have we learned?

Nothing. In fact, back then it was just Jews following Yeshua and Jews not following Yeshua, but today we have so many different religions (all man-made) with so many different laws and canons and requirements and traditions that not only have we not learned, but we have exponentially made it worse!

Jews that didn’t want to follow Yeshua made it hard for the ones that did, then Rome made it worse, so the followers began to separate themselves from the Jews, which led to ignoring some of the Torah. Then they wanted to separate further, and the Council of Nicene developed their own religion, changing the Sabbath, creating their own holidays, and developing Canon, laws, commandments and rituals (all man-made) that took precedence over the Festivals of the Lord that God told us we should celebrate (Leviticus 23.) What they did was to totally ignore God’s commandments, just as Jeroboam did when God gave him the 10 Tribes of the Northern Kingdom (1 Kings 12:2.)

So Christians became Catholics, became Eastern Orthodox and Western Orthodox, became Lutherans, became Protestants, became, became, became, became….until today there are dozens of different Christian denominations; adding to the ones I mentioned above, there are Unitarians, 7th Day Adventists, Latter Day Saints, Methodists, Amish, Mennonites, AME, Baptists (Southern and others), Christian Scientists, Quakers, and the list goes on and on.

Let’s not forget the Jews: Chasidic (different groups within this), Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and Messianic (yes, my Jewish readers, Messianic Judaism IS a sect of Judaism:Messianic Jews are not Christians.)

If everyone is worshiping the same God, then how can there be all these different ways of worshiping?  All agree this is the same God, the God that doesn’t change. So, if He doesn’t change, and He told us how to worship Him when he gave the teachings to Moses (which describe how we are to worship and provides penal and moral codes we are to live by), then how can there be so many different ways to live and worship? The Torah is a constitution, but unlike a political constitution which can be amended, God’s constitution is never to be amended. He told us that in Deuteronomy 4:2.

I got on this “kick” by reading Dear Abby, where she was asked by someone who’s Grandmother believed all children need to be baptized, and another granddaughter had a baby that was not being baptized. The writer asked if it would be OK to baptize the baby in secret just so the Grandmother feels better.  Good for Abby!- she told them no way. But here is what “gets” me about this- where did anyone ever get the idea that God would send an infant to hell because it wasn’t baptized? I know that Yeshua said we must all be reborn of spirit and water, but when we read about John (Yochanan) baptizing in the Jordan, it was adults who were coming. There is nothing in the bible that even implies children were there, let alone infants. To even imply God would send an innocent infant or child to hell because some Priest or Minister didn’t have someone else promise that the kid would be raised in that religion (remember- God has no religion, so that promise can’t really mean anything to God) is nothing short of ridiculous! Maybe even blasphemous. The only one who gains anything from the baptism ceremony is the church/priest. From what I have seen, $40 is the recommended “donation”, but then again, you have the textile industry (you need to buy the baby a Baptism dress), the card company, the food industry (“Come back to our place for refreshments afterwards”), and who knows who else makes money from this ceremony?

Baptism, as it is done in the church today, is absolutely wrong. The truth about the Jewish ceremony called Tevilah, which is the baptism Yochanan did in the Jordan, is a ceremony that represents an outward expression of an inner, spiritual cleansing.  It is something that one decides to do, and an infant cannot make that decision for itself. And, since this represents a communion and relationship between the baptized and the Lord, obviously no one else can make that decision for them.

To bring it all together, I believe the traditions that people have created in order to worship God in their own way only pollutes the true spiritual meaning of worship. God told us how to act, to worship, and to treat each other, His laws and regulations are not too hard to follow, they are not too difficult to understand, and they are not to be messed with.

If you really think that God is going to send an infant to hell because it hasn’t had someone pour water on it, you don’t understand anything about God. And because the infant hasn’t made it’s own decision to be baptized, the entire ceremony is really just pouring water on the kid.

I have nothing against traditions- they help to bind us, to remind us, and to keep us acting in a proper manner. It is a comfort zone, of a kind, and when the traditions we form are in keeping with and complementing God’s commandments, they are useful, practical and can be a blessing. But when they take on more importance than what God said to do, and we follow traditions that don’t complement but compete with God’s commandments, then we are blaspheming. We are ignoring God and idolizing ourselves and expanding our own importance.

The tagline for my ministry (this blog) is designed to honor God and get you on the right path: “God has no religion.” God has given us what He wants us to do- no more, no less. And when we add to it or subtract from it, we are telling God that what He says isn’t good enough.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to face God and tell Him He didn’t get it right.

Don’t fence me in

Anyone remember that old song? It was actually the title song to a Roy Rogers movie from the 1940’s.

Basically, it tells of a man who doesn’t want to be restricted, a man who wants to be free to choose what he does and where he does it.

God is like that, too: He doesn’t want to be restricted into doing or being what others think He should be. Yet, we do that to Him- especially within many religions. Some teach only of His loving kindness and the salvation He provides, and that He is all about love. That’s true, God is love, but He is also justice, and He is demanding, and He is definitely willing and able to punish. If God will not punish the sinner as He promises He will, then His promises aren’t trustworthy. Yet, many religions don’t even like to mention that. They work on your emotional need to be unconditionally loved, and ignore the other aspects of God and (especially) His requirements for worship. Basically, they only want you to know the New Covenant writings and teach the Old Covenant is really just for the Jews.

Wrong!

Let’s be clear about what I mean when I say “punishing the sinner”: we all are sinners, who are sinful (meaning it is our nature to sin), but when those who truly fear the Lord sin, they are rueful and repentant. That is not the sinner who will be punished. A rueful and repentant person, one who goes before God with a contrite and humble heart and asks forgiveness, will be forgiven.

The sinners who will be punished are the ones who are unrepentant, the ones who reject God, willfully and obstinately, and who do whatever they want to do and justify doing so using worldly ethics and morals.

It seems funny using the words “ethic” and “moral” when talking about the world, doesn’t it?

So, sinners who will be punished are the ones who do what they want to do and reject God.

But, what is “rejecting God”? Is it simply to say He doesn’t exist? Is it to admit He may exist? Is it to worship Him and say you are a “Believer” but only do what you want to do and make excuses to ignore what you don’t want to do?

WHOAAAAHH, NELLIE!!!  Steve: are you implying that a Believer, someone who has accepted Messiah Yeshua as their personal Savior and fears the Lord, who goes to church every Sunday and tithes, and makes cakes for the fund-raisers, and doesn’t cheat at Bingo….are you saying this person, this godly, wonderful, angelic representative of the Almighty is rejecting God because he or she doesn’t do everything God says we should?

In a word…yes.

And to add to that, I also confess that I am one of those people. I don’t wear Tzit-Tzit, even though it is a commandment (Number 15: 38-40);often on Saturday I will do work around the house and I will spend money shopping or getting a haircut, and I also do other things I shouldn’t regarding speech and jokes and ….well, I could go on. I am sure everyone reading this could go on, as well. So I am not preaching to you as much as I am preaching to myself.

We are all guilty of not performing all the commandments God gave us, and that is why He needed to provide Yeshua (Jesus) as our “Get out of Hell” card so that when we do T’shuvah (repentance) and try (note I am saying try) to do better, I believe that God, in His mercy and compassion, sees our attempts to do better and our heartfelt desire to obey Him, as the next best thing to actually living a sinless life.

As I often say: we can never be sinless, but we can always sin less.

But what about religions that teach you don’t have to do what God commands? Religions that teach Torah is just for Jews and Christians have the Blood of Christ, and that is all they need. What about a religion that tells you you have to be totally abstinent if you want to be a spiritual leader? What about a religion that teaches you drinking and dancing are sins? What about a religion that tells you it is a sin to eat a cheeseburger? What about a religion that teaches you the Jewish people have been rejected forever by God and that Christians are now the Chosen people of God (Replacement Theology)?

Aren’t they rejecting God when they reject what He has said?  God gave the Torah to the Jewish people not for them exclusively, but for them to learn to live the way God wants us to live, and then teach the rest of the world by example. The fact that (in Acts) the Jewish Elders were amazed when God’s Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) came to the Gentiles shows that they didn’t understand this, either. God gave the Torah to the Jews so that they could bring it to the world.

Which means that Torah is what God wants us to do, how He wants us to worship Him, and to teach us all that we need to know.

God has no religion. He has Torah, and His Torah took on flesh and lived among us to demonstrate what the Jewish people were supposed to be demonstrating all along. Jesus showed the Jews in Israel how to live as a God-fearing person. Not as a “Jew”, but as someone who wants to obey the Lord. He was obedient to the Father, and (as John describes Him in the Gospel of John), Jesus was the Word of God become flesh.

Well, what was the “Word of God” in the First Century? It was the Torah.

If you are being taught that the Torah is for Jews and you, as a Gentile, are not subject to it, you had better start stocking up on Coppertone. I mean it- you need to read the bible, you need to read my book, and you need to make up your own mind about what God wants you to do.

I can help here: God wants you to do as He says you should and the world wants you to do what it says you should. In the end, there will be a fight between God and the world (Satan’s realm), and only one wins.

I’ll give you three guesses to tell me who wins, and your first two guesses don’t count.

I would love to be able to do everything in the Torah that God tells us to do, but I can’t. And, yes, I confess (and ask forgiveness) for the things I am too weak to control and discipline myself to do, such as wearing Tzit-tzit and observing the Shabbat fully. In fact, today I am going to work and it is the first day of Sukkot- I should be celebrating a Sabbath rest. But I’m not doing that, by choice. I have no vacation or personal days left, and already have taken two days without pay for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

I am sinning, I am rejecting God, and I know I am doing it. And, I really feel lower than whale poop. I pray God will forgive me, and strengthen me to do better in the future.

That’s the difference between who I was and who I am: I used to be a sinner that rationalized my sins, and now I am a sinner who regrets my sins.

Please read the word of God and let Him guide your understanding: don’t be lazy and just take what you are told as God’s truth. Religion is not for God, it is for itself, and teaches you what it wants you to do. Not all the time, and not all the commandments, but all religions teach something that is against what God wants. And when you face Him at Judgment Day, He will hold you responsible for what you have done or failed to do, and the reasons for it will be yours. That old cop-out, “But that’s what they told me to do!” won’t hold water with the Big Guy upstairs.

So, do what you do, don’t do what you don’t do, but (at least) know what the rules are before you decide what choice to make.

Because it is your choice to make, and you will be held accountable for making it. .

Vote or don’t vote: that is the question

A couple of weeks ago, when we were in the Parashah Shoftim (Judges), my Pastor made a very good argument for voting in the upcoming Presidential election. He pointed out this parashah tells us that we are told to appoint judges, in fact, we are told to appoint righteous judges, to determine justice. This was a commandment given by God to the children of Israel. This is a strong argument that we should vote in an election. Although it was plainly stated that he didn’t think much of either candidate, the argument for one over the other was, essentially, that God is in control and that he (my Pastor) believed one of the two would be more inclined to appoint “righteous judges” within the Cabinet and Judiciary than the other would.

Good argument, but I don’t buy it.

I am not voting for either of these two candidates because I do not think either of them are worthy to be President. I am not being inactive- I am actively abstaining.

I am very vocal with people who tell me I have to vote- NO, I don’t have to vote!  The right to vote is also the right to abstain.

The problem with people is that they are too lazy to think for themselves and too eager to tell others what to do.

If you take a moment to do a Google search for “abstention as a political tool” you will find a number of “hits” that demonstrate how abstaining from a vote is, in and of itself, a vote against what is being offered.

I served my country, and when someone has the nerve to tell me what to do with my vote, I ask them what branch of the service they served in (most never have.) I have risked my life for my country, and the oath I took when I joined the Marine Corps did not end when my required service time on active duty was up (I also served an additional year in the Reserves). I have served my country, and have never stopped being obligated to the oath I took- I have earned the right to not vote.

I don’t want to have anything to do with having put either Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton in the White House. It’s just that simple, and unlike my Pastor (who I respect and have listened to in the past, when there was someone I could vote for), I don’t trust either of these two to appoint anyone except someone like them. As the expressions goes, “Birds of a feather flock together” and as President, both of them will need as many friends in positions of authority as they can get.

My opinion follows: elect Hillary and we put Bill back in the White House; elect Donald and we’ll have a President who will (effectively) be a lame duck from the moment he takes the oath because neither Congress not the Senate will work with him.

But, this isn’t about what I believe, or what you believe, for that matter- this is about doing what is right in God’s eyes. I believe the passage Pastor referred to (Deuteronomy 16:18) is telling us, literally, to appoint righteous judges, meaning we shouldn’t settle for less. If there are no righteous judges, then we are like those people we read of in the Book of Judges, where there was no King so men just did what seemed right to them.

In other words, there was anarchy. And that is what we can expect as the End Times come upon us: anarchy, unrighteousness flourishing, and the stage being set for the Evil One to take over. They say that the “stuff” flows downhill, and the White House is at the top of the Hill.

See my point?

I am not voting simply because my non-vote, my abstention, is a statement that I do not want either of these candidates. Voting for someone who has no chance of winning, just to say “I voted”, seems to me to be a waste of the right to vote.

I want to do what is right in God’s eyes, and God is very clear about who should lead us. I’ll give you three guesses who that is, and the first two guesses don’t count. Yes, very good- Yeshua is our King on Earth and God is the King of kings. Until Yeshua is running the show, we have to settle for earthly leaders, who we should respect and obey (1 Peter 2:17).

However, we are to have no part, whatsoever, in unrighteousness:

Chronicles 19:7– Now then let the fear of the LORD be upon you; be very careful what you do, for the LORD our God will have no part in unrighteousness or partiality or the taking of a bribe.”

2 Corinthians 6:14- Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?

Ephesians 5:11– Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.

The bible is clear that we must respect those in authority over us because God is in charge, and if they are there it is because He allows it. But He also tells us to have nothing to do with unrighteousness, so that means, to me, that if there is no righteous judge to appoint, then leave what happens up to God and have nothing to do with unrighteousness. It’s His show, it’s His call, and I want to play the game on His turf, so I should vote for those that represent righteousness and abstain (as a vehicle used to show a negative vote) from voting for anyone that I believe to be unrighteous.

You have the right to vote, and the right to abstain. No one, and I mean NO ONE!… has the right to tell you what to do with your vote.

Be a part of righteousness in all that you do, and refrain from being a part of unrighteousness: that isn’t from me, it’s the way God tells you to be.

 

Parashah Tatzria (She Delivers) Leviticus 12 and 13

These two chapters continue in the sections of Leviticus that deal with cleanliness and uncleanliness. Chapter 11 started with food, Chapter 12 deals with the cleanliness of a woman after giving birth and Chapter 13 with skin disorders, specifically leprosy (in Hebrew it’s called Tza’arat.)

Chapter 12 says that a woman is unclean after giving birth just as she is considered unclean during her time of Niddah. Chapter 13 says that when someone is suspected of having Tza’arat, they must go to the Cohen to have him inspect it, he will determine if it is Tza’arat or not (the chapter outlines the diagnostic methods), then (if and) when the person is declared clean, what sacrifices are to be made to allow them back into the community and the Temple.

I am not going to discuss the specifics of what is discussed in these chapters because there is a more important issue that these mitzvot (laws) have generated over the centuries. That issue is about our questioning the reason for these laws. We ask why these laws are given; we ask if they are for health reasons (physical) or for religious reasons (ceremonial); we even ask if they are valid or necessary now that we have better standards of inspection for disease with regards to meat being sold and better methods of disinfection and disease control.

What I want to know is why?- why do we think we have the right to question God? What makes us think we can ask God “Why” He gives us laws, and even worse, question if God’s laws are really necessary or valid anymore.

I am not saying  we shouldn’t ever question God. That’s just silly. Job questioned God (of course, the answers fell on him like a ton of bricks, but he did get answers), Gideon questioned God, Moses questioned God, Abraham questioned God, ….get the point? The point is that all these great men questioned God, but not in a manner that raised doubts about whether or not God had the right to do what He did or whether or not what God said was valid or really necessary.

There are good questions for God, and there are bad ones. The good questions could be:

  1. Why do bad things happen to good people?
  2. What do you want from me? How can I better serve you?
  3. When will you answer my prayers?
  4. Who is the Messiah?

Then there are the bad questions:

  1. Why do I have to do this?
  2. Is this law really necessary anymore?
  3. Who are you to tell me I have to do this?
  4. If I am saved by the blood of Jesus why do I still have to obey these “ceremonial” laws?

Can you see the difference between these questions? If not I didn’t do a good job of giving examples- what I want to show is that we can question God about His plans and what He is doing and why He does things but when we question the validity of His laws or His authority to issue them, we are out of line.

Shaul (that nice Jewish boy from Tarsus who makes the tents) addressed this in his second letter to Timothy, 3:16:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.

And in the Gospels, John 14:21  Yeshua tells us what it means to love Him:

Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them

And Yeshua also told us in Matthew 24:35:

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away

All these scriptures point to the fact that God doesn’t change, and His word doesn’t change, and if we love Him we will do as He says not because it’s healthy, or for some arcane religious ceremonial need, but because we love Him. We do what He tells us as a labor of love, not as a forced activity to prevent going to hell. We do what God says without questioning His authority or reasons for giving these laws to us because He is God and we are not; He’s the boos, He’s the Man! He’s the one who leads, we are the ones who follow.

Isaiah 45:9 also addresses this issue of wrongful questions to God :

Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, those who are nothing but potsherds among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘The potter has no hands’

We need to do what Yeshua said we should when He told us to change and become like little children, otherwise we will never enter the Kingdom of God (you can look this one up yourselves.) What He meant was that we need to accept, unquestioning and faithfully, what God tells us to do. How many times in the Tanakh do we read how Moses told the people to obey God to receive His blessings and life? Not just for them, but for their children, too!

I ask God a lot of questions, but I never ask Him to justify what He does or what He has told me I should do. That is just plain disrespectful, and certainly not faithful.

Do you love someone a lot? I mean, “fall down on your face and kiss the ground they walk on” love them? If you do, and they asked you to do something for them, would you ask them why you had to?

God gives us laws, regulations, ordinances and commandments- what’s the difference? Who cares? If you love Him and trust Him to tell you to do only what is good for you, then faithfully obey, do it as a labor of love, and trust that whether you can understand why God says to do something or not, He always tells us what to do because it is good for us.

Thessalonians 4:7-8  says this:

God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives. Therefore, anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human teaching but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you

Question God all you want about how to do those things He says to do better; question God all you want in order to serve Him more completely; question God all you want to help better understand His plans for you. But don’t question His authority, don’t question the validity of His commandments, and certainly don’t question God’s right to tell us what we should do.

God is our Father, we are His children, and children should do as their parents tell them. Proverbs says that when we teach our children what to do they will always return to that path. Believe it when I tell you that God only wants what is best for His children, and show that trust and love by doing as He says without questioning why.

 

Parashah Yitro (Jethro) Exodus 18 – 20

Moses’s father-in-law, Yitro, brings Moses’s wife and two sons to him now that he has taken the people close enough to their home on the way to Sinai. And after staying the night, Jethro (who apparently has converted from paganism after hearing about all that God did) sees Moses all day long judging for the people and advises him to learn to delegate. Moses takes that advice and sets up what is (in today’s world)  a system of circuit courts, with himself being the final court of appeal.

The people come to Sinai and God, in a thunderous cloud of smoke and fire, gives them (and us) the 10 Commandments, first identifying and charging the people to be a nation of priests unto the world. After seeing the majesty and fearsomeness of God, the people tell Moses that they will do as Moses says if only Moses, alone, will speak to God and then tell them what God said. They are too afraid of God to be in His direct, physical presence.

This parashah ends with God instructing Moses the way any altar to God is to be constructed.

The Decalogue is designed to make the people holy, i.e., separated from the rest of the world. Our Priests, Rabbis, Pastors, Ministers- whatever title we give to our religious leaders- are supposed to be above-board in everything they do. We are told in the Torah what kind of people they are to be and how they are to manage their household, and this is repeated in the New Covenant, as well. So, too, those who worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are to be above-board. They are to be holier-than-thou, but not in the usual sense or meaning of that phrase.  The world thinks holier-than-thou means to be self-absorbed, overbearing and conceited. When God (and Yeshua says this too, and often) tells us to be holy He means the opposite of what the world means: God’s holiness is shown by meekness, humility and honoring God above all things. Being holy unto God means never honoring ourselves. We are to be a holy people, priests to the world, and as such we are to be an example of Godliness. We are to be holier in order to demonstrate to everyone else how they are to be; we are to be holier by being humble, meek, unassuming and self-effacing.

Those who worship God are to be an example of how God wants everyone to act. Yeshua told His Talmudim that the people will know they are His Talmudim by how they act (John 13:35).

The Jewish people were chosen to represent God’s system of worship and society. The Jewish people are the Chosen people not because they deserve it or are the greatest. We have proven our unworthiness over and over. It has resulted in the destruction of Shomron and Yehudah, and the disbursing of the Jewish people all over the world. Over the millennia we have proven we are obstinate, stiff-necked and ungrateful. We have proven that the Jewish people are just like everyone else. The one and unique difference why we were chosen is because of the righteousness of Abraham, and that righteousness was also shown by King David. Despite our the sinful and obstinate nature, shown throughout the history of the Jewish people, we are still a nation of priests. Subsequently, any and all who accept that God is God and, now that Yeshua has come into the world, accept that Yeshua is God’s Messiah and accept the grace we have available to us through His sacrificial death, are then inducted into the nation of priests.

And, as a member, you are expected to abide with all the laws that govern that group. Unfortunately, although every “Born Again Believer” is a member of the nation of priests, most Christian teachings have ignored the Torah (at least, most of it) and preached obedience only to the 10 Commandments. They use Yeshua (Jesus) as their excuse for not even trying to obey any of the other 603 commandments.

The bottom line is this: God has no religion. God has rules, regulations, ordinances, and laws. The main ones are here, in this parashah, and the rest are given throughout the Torah. As far as God is concerned, if you violate even a stroke of the Torah, you have violated the entire Torah. It’s that simple, it’s that plain, it’s that awesome. A nation of priests means to be holier than the other people in the world: not ‘above’ them, not ‘better than’ them, just separate from them. We are to be living in the world as a light in the darkness, and we are to be an example of what God wants from everyone.

And because we represent Godliness in a satanic world, we are going to be hated, derided, insulted and persecuted. So, well…it sucks, but it’s the way we must be. The world has only themselves to look to for hope, which means the world has no hope. We have God as our hope, we have Yeshua as the means of our salvation, and we have the Ruach HaKodesh as our Comforter. The job is  hard, the workplace is a horrible place to be, and our clients are mean, ungrateful and uncooperative.

If you want to be a member of the nation of priests, there’s no question about it: the job is tough! The Boss expects a lot from us, there are no vacations or personal days, and the people you are required to deal with will treat you somewhere between ignoring and abusing you to killing you. You really have to ask yourself if it is all worth it.

The answer is: YES!! Absolutely!! True, the job is hard and thankless, but the retirement plan is heavenly!

Just what is the “Torah”?

For many the Torah is an unknown thing- something that Moses got from God with a lot of rules and it looks like a big scroll. The most misunderstood thing about the Torah, which is also a very prominent teaching in the Christian world, is that the Torah is for Jews only. Many are taught that Christians are not to worry about the Torah because they are saved by Jesus’ sacrifice and His love. They don’t need to obey Torah.

WRONG!!!  But, we’ll get to that soon enough. Just leave it at this for now: Jesus is the Living Torah, the Word that became flesh (John said that.) He was there when God gave it to Moses, and all He taught was the Torah (it was the only scripture.) Remember Jesus said a house divided against itself cannot stand?  So…if Jesus is the living Torah, and He can’t teach against what He is (that would be a house divided), then how can He possibly even suggest that we should not obey Torah? Moving on…

Today we are learning about Torah. It is comprised of 5 books, you all should know the names. And Torah doesn’t mean “law”, it means “teaching”, so to ignore the Torah is to ignore not just God’s commandments but His teachings, as well.  There are four basic functions the Torah serves to all of us:

  1. It is a covenant (God says do this and when we do He blesses us)
  2. It is a Ketuba (marriage certificate between us and God)
  3. It is a Constitution (it identifies the penal codes, civil codes and other laws that define a nation)
  4. It teaches us about sin by telling us what is right (Shaul explains this in Romans 3:20 and 4:15)

The Torah is a guide to show us what is right in God’s eyes. There are 613 commandments in the Torah. Some are laws, some are commandments, some are ordinances- it is hard to tell one from the other sometimes. There are three different types of these laws:

  • Mishpatim (judgements)- there are three types of these, as well.
    1. “Mishpatim” are generally considered laws which we can understand the reason for having;
    2. “Dupah” are laws that God explains why we are to follow them; and
    3. “Hucah” are laws that we have no idea why they are given- God says do this this way, and that’s all there is to it.
  • Mitzvot (commandments)- these are easy to understand and usually God specifies them as commandments (like the festivals in Leviticus 23 and the Big Ten, of course)
  • Chukim (ordinances)- these are more along the lines of the civil and penal codes.

The Torah is part of the Old Covenant, which is also referred to as the Tanakh (‘tah-nach’, with a hard ‘ch’ at the end.) Tanakh is an acronym of the names of the different types of books in the Old Covenant: T is for the Torah (the first 5 books), is for Nevi’im (the writings of the Prophets) and K is for K’tuvim (the other writings and scrolls.)

I should also mention the Talmud, called the “Oral Torah” which is a compilation of Rabbinic writings and commentaries on the Torah. It is a massive writing, a Tome of some magnitude, with some 60-plus volumes split into tractates and orders and all sorts of different names for each part. There is a Babylonian and a Jerusalem Talmud, both are made up of (essentially) a Gemara and a Mishna. Many of the Orthodox Jews believe it to be scripture, or scriptural, and (in my opinion, this is unfortunate) will often go to the Talmud for answers before they go to the Tanakh. It also defines Halakhah, the Way to Walk, which encompasses Rabbinic rules and regulations for everyday living. It is a wonderful and rich compilation of Jewish thought and also contains many Jewish myths and stories that have nothing at all to with the Bible. I have not studied it, but it is essential if you are to create a library of Jewish writings.

The last thing about the Torah I want to discuss would, and easily can, take a lot more writing than anyone reading a blog would want to deal with. I have had a few posts already about this, and will continue to write about it now and then because it is so important for Christians to understand. And what is so important for Christians to understand about the Torah is this: Jesus did NOT do away with the Torah. He did not finish it, He did not teach against it, and He did not say it was completed and over.  What Yeshua (Jesus) did that no one else has been able to, or ever will be able to do in this plane of existence, is to live according to the Torah perfectly. The Torah identifies what sin is, and Yeshua lived a sinless life. That is the reason His sacrifice was accepted.

In the New Covenant writings there are many sections that have been misinterpreted and wrongfully taught in order to argue against the Torah being relevant to Christians- these are lies from the pit of Sheol! Read Matthew 5:17, or 2nd Timothy 3:16, or Romans 7:12 and you will see that the Torah is absolutely valid and alive. It is still God’s word to all of us, it is God’s instructions for how to worship Him, how to treat each other, and how to earn blessings (not salvation- that is free- but blessings. Blessings can be earned.) Much Christian teaching has used Galatians 3:10, 3:28, 5:1-4 and 2:15-16 as a polemic against the Torah, but that is all wrongful teaching. Galatians is not a polemic, it is an apologetic, just as Romans is. The problem is that Shaul (Paul) writes as a Pharisee does, in a somewhat convoluted way. He makes an argument against the Torah to point out the argument is false. That is why so many people misunderstand- they don’t take the bible in proper cultural perspective, they don’t interpret it using the meanings of the time it was written so they turn  the true meaning around.

The Torah is what God gave to Moses so that the Jewish people could be separated from the surrounding pagans, it sanctifies us, it makes us holy, and it is what God says is the way we should be.

GOD HAS NO RELIGION!! He has rules, He has laws, He has commandments all designed to help us live as He wants us to live, to teach us how to properly worship Him, and to lead us to salvation. And He calls it the Torah.

If you say you worship God and you want to know who God is, what He wants of you, and how to please Him, then you better know the Torah because that is exactly what God gave you so that you can! Yes, God gave the Torah to YOU! It is for each of us, it is who He is, it is who Yeshua is, it is valid, true, and eternal. It is all we need.

Well, Yeshua’s sacrifice is also absolutely necessary because, as I said above, no one (other than Yeshua) has been able to live in accordance to the Torah for more than a few seconds at a time, if that long.

But it is still all we need to know about God, what is right and what is wrong, and how to live with God and with each other.

Yeshua said it all comes down to two things: love God and love each other. The Torah teaches you how to do that, so why would you want to ignore it?

May You Have an Easy Fast

Tomorrow night is Erev Yom Kippur- the evening that begins the Holy Day of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This is one of the holiest days of the Jewish year.  It is a commanded day of gathering together (although this is not one of the “Big Three” where you need to go to the Temple)  and “afflicting one’s soul”, which has been interpreted as fasting. No food, no water, nothing from sundown tomorrow until sundown Wednesday.

You may be thinking, “But Steve- you’re already saved. Your sins are forgiven. Why bother?” and the question is not unwarranted: I am saved. My sins are forgiven and will continue to be forgiven because I belong to Yeshua. So long as I am trying harder and harder to be what God wants, to obey His laws and do T’Shuvah (turn from sin), I will be forgiven whenever I call on God and ask forgiveness in the name of Yeshua Ha Mashiach.

And that is the very reason I fast and worship as all the “unsaved” Jews do- because I do belong to Yeshua, and Yeshua did not do away with Torah, and the Torah says I should fast.

How many of you out there can say you are without sin at any given time? Do you really think that once forgiven never held responsible again? If so, you’ve got a really nasty surprise coming. Sin separates us from God, and every time that we sin, we are that much more separated from God. Forgiveness is available but it isn’t shoved down our throat. God will not automatically forgive you just because in 1993 at 10 AM on a Tuesday you “found Jesus.” That’s great that you did, and once forgiven, all those prior sins are not going to be held against you. They were paid for. And the sins you commit afterwards, well, you have to ask forgiveness of them, too. You still need to confess and ask forgiveness. This isn’t revolving credit where you make a payment, run a debt, then make a payment. We sin every day and every day we need to ask forgiveness.

Yom Kippur is a day when we don’t ask just for individual forgiveness, but for corporate forgiveness. Read the prayers in the Machzor (the special prayer book for High Holy Days); read the books of the Prophets, who always asked forgiveness for the people; this is not just a day of asking for personal forgiveness. That’s why we are commanded to have a communal day of prayer, to gather together and confess to God our failure to meet our end of the Covenant He made with our Fathers. It is a communal request to forgive all of us, therefore, everyone who is saved should be even more willing to obey this commandment because we need to show the unsaved our desire for them to be forgiven and reconciled to God (through Messiah.)

Oh, by the way, did you catch that part about “we are commanded”? The best reason to do what God says is because He said to do it! How many times do you hear people say ( or maybe you’ve said it yourself), “Oh Lord, oh Yeshua, oh Jesus- I love you!”  Do you love Yeshua? Do you love Jesus? Are you one of His flock?

Then read John 14:15 (“If you love me, keep my commands.“)  And what commands did Yeshua give? The same ones that His Daddy gave to Moshe. John knew this and the Gospel he wrote began making sure that the very first truth of the Good News that he told us was this:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

There is nothing “new” in the New Covenant writings- it is all the same stuff as in the Torah and the Prophets. That is what Yeshua taught from, that is what Yeshua taught about, and that is what Yeshua told us to obey. When Yeshua told us to prove our love for Him by obeying His commands, He was talking about the Torah. Yeshua/Jesus IS the living Torah!

That is why I fast and worship on Yom Kippur. For the same reason I do so on every Holy Day God has commanded us to celebrate- because He has commanded it. That is all the reason any one needs. Because I love and worship God, and because I belong to Yeshua, I do as my Master tells me to do. And I do so willingly, happily and faithfully, to the very best of my abilities, which are incompetence and failure. In truth, as much as I try, the best I can hope for and the best I can do, is better than what I have already done.

And that is good enough. Don’t try to be perfect- it ain’t gonna happen. I just want to be better than I was, I want to wake up and sin at least one less sin each day. I will walk three steps forward, but backslide two steps because it is my very nature to do so, yet as long as I net out one step closer, I am performing T’Shuvah. I am getting better, I am sinning less, I am becoming more spiritually mature and growing closer to God.

Tomorrow night I will fast. By Wednesday around, oh, let’s say 1130 or 1200, I will have a killer caffeine headache. My stomach will be grumbling and I may become a little testy. But I will be worshiping. Although the place where I worship cannot hold services because of a special needs school it runs during the day (services would be disruptive and disturbing to the children) I will worship in my home. I will read the Machzor, I will sit on my porch and enjoy the Sabbath rest that this day has for me, and I will commune with the Lord. I will recite the Ashamnu and the Al Chet, prayers listing the many sins we have committed against God and prayers asking forgiveness.

And I will demonstrate my love for Yeshua and for God by being faithfully obedient, and I will demonstrate my solidarity with my people by joining them in corporate prayer, even if I am not with them physically, as our prayers reach up to heaven and are presented to God on a golden patter held by Yeshua, Himself.

And I will do as every Jew should do on this day; actually, as everyone who says they worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob should do on this day.

Because God said we should.

The Worst Sin of All

What is the worst sin of all of them? The Torah has 613 commandments, regulations and ordinances, so with all of those rules there would be (at least) 613 sins we can commit.

Of course, being the inventive and ambitious species we are, I am certain that humanity has found new and wondrous ways to have violated every single one of those commandments.

Yet, we still always want to know who is “Number One”, don’t we? Who’s the best boxer? Who is the best pitcher in baseball? Who was the greatest President? So naturally, we would want to know which sin is the greatest; not that any sin is great, but which sin is the worst one anyone can commit?

I am thinking that the worst sin would be the one that violates the most important commandment, leaving us now to wonder which is the most important commandment, right? That is, fortunately for us, easy to answer, since Yeshua Himself told us- it is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and might.

Therefore, since loving God is the most important commandment, the worst sin would be to not love the Lord. But how do we know we don’t love God? So many people shout it out at services, or say they do all the time, but how do we know if we really love the Lord?

Oh, wait- that’s pretty simple, too, because the Big Guy gave us that answer, as well: obey Him. That is in Yochanan (John) 14, when Yeshua said that if His Talmudim (Disciples) love Him, then they will obey His commandments. Now, the trick here is to know that Yeshua never gave them any commandments because there is nothing “New” in the New Covenant writings. Everything Yeshua told His Talmudim they should do came directly from the Torah.

So, what do we have? The answer to the question, “Which is the worst sin of all?” is the sin that violates the most important commandment of all, to love the Lord. And how do we show that we love the Lord? We obey His commandments. All of them, which are the ones Yeshua (Jesus) told us to obey, the ones He taught, which encompass every single one of the 613 commandments found in the Torah.

That’s it. Simple, straight-forward, easy to understand. If you want to commit the worst sin of all, just disobey God. It doesn’t really matter which commandment you disobey, you have 613 to choose from, just don’t make excuses. Don’t try to tell God that you love Him but you reject some of what He says because you don’t agree, because you think they aren’t important, or because your Rabbi, or Priest, or Pastor, or whatever told you that the commandment was done away with. Yeshua says in Matthew 5:17 that He didn’t come to change the law. If anyone tells you that the laws of the Torah have been changed, or aren’t valid anymore (gee, if they aren’t valid doesn’t that mean they’ve changed?) then you are being lied to.

Don’t be left thinking that you don’t really love God because you still sin. All of us sin, and many, many, many do love the Lord. . God understands that, and since He can look into your heart He can see the love that is there but which cannot overcome the Yetzer Hara, the Evil Inclination, which we all have.

That is why He sent Yeshua.

I think the worst sin that anyone can commit is to reject Yeshua, the one who came to overcome the sins we cannot overcome ourselves. There is nothing in the Torah that commands we must accept the Messiah: we are promised a Messiah, we are told what to expect, what He will do and why God is sending Him. But there is nothing that says, “Thou shalt accept my Messiah and follow Him.”  Maybe because accepting the one to save us from ourselves is so basic, so understandable, that it is considered a Prima Facie fact of existence. After all, who wouldn’t want to be saved?

Now that’s a good question for which I have no answer.

Parashah Shemini (the Eighth day) Leviticus 9 – 11

The first part of this Parashah has Aaron completing the offerings he is to make as his entry into the priesthood, and his sacrifice is accepted by God, as evidenced by God’s fire coming down to burn up the offering. This miraculous event was witnessed by the people. Then God sends His fire, again, but this time to burn up Aaron’s two oldest sons, who have acted wrongly by offering their fire before the Lord in a way that was disrespectful and unwarranted.

We don’t really know exactly what they did; it seems clear that they were drunk when they did it because the very first thing God says after destroying them is to Aaron, and He says that Aaron and his sons should never have intoxicating drink when serving the Lord. Aaron and his remaining sons were not even allowed to mourn, but the people were allowed to mourn for them. I believe this shows that those of us who are to serve the Lord are to be separated from the people to serve only the Lord, so even our most personal connections are secondary to serving God.

The last chapter of this parashah defines the laws of Kashrut, the Kosher Laws. I believe that too often people think Kosher means clean, and that is the general understanding and meaning, but these laws go beyond just clean and unclean. These laws are part of the Chukim: ordinances and regulations that are supra-natural, meaning these are regulations for which we don’t or can’t understand the reason why God gave them to us. To remain Kosher is more than a physical clean- it is spiritual. To disobey is a violation of everything that God stands for.

Just because we don’t understand the reason for these laws doesn’t mean they aren’t to be obeyed. If you allow me to paraphrase: Ours is not to reason why, ours is to obey or die.

Thanks to Yeshua, the absoluteness of the prior statement is somewhat reduced, since His sacrifice keeps us from the death we deserve for violating Torah.

The Kosher Laws are simple when you break it down to it’s base components: don’t eat any mammal that isn’t a ruminant, and only eat fish that have scales and fins. For birds, no raptors, no ratites, just stick to ducks, chickens, turkeys and pigeons.

All the more difficult regulations, no meat and dairy together, separate dishes, specially prepared, etc. are Rabbinical and although they are not bad, in and of themselves, they are much more difficult to observe than what God says we are to do.

The Rabbinical laws are not Chukim, Mishpatim or Mitzvot- they are human in origin and not God-given. They are the same sorts of things that Yeshua had trouble with: human regulations made more important that God’s commandments. God said don’t boil a calf in it’s mothers milk; He never said eating a cheeseburger is a one-way ticket to hell. These extreme Rabbinical regulations do have a good purpose- they are there to help prevent us from trespassing the law. It is called “Building Fences Around the Law”: let’s say you have a law which you don’t want to disobey, or trespass against, so, nu? How do you keep out trespassers? You build a fence. Well, as we are Jewish and one question with one answer is just never going to be enough, we need another question: “What if I accidentally tripped over the fence?” The answer: build another fence around the fence so it is harder for you to get past them both. This is then repeated, and repeated, ad infinitum, until we end up with the plethora of kosher regulations we have today, which are so numerous and complicated that the simple rules of “no shellfish, no pork: only ruminants, chicken, duck and turkey, and nothing else” have gotten completely lost. We are so concerned about which fences we should build that we have lost sight of the laws they are designed to protect.

The real issue with Leviticus 11 is the teaching in the Christian world that it is not important anymore. Misinterpretations of Acts 10 and Mark 7 have been used to teach people that Yeshua told us that you don’t need to be Kosher anymore. I devote an entire chapter in my book about this, and have mentioned it often in blogs. Essentially, it comes down to this: if Yeshua is the living Torah and the Word that has become flesh, then how can He tell us to do anything that is against what the Torah says? It is the same as denying Himself. It also means that, since God the Father said these commandments are to be throughout your generations, if Yeshua taught to ignore them then He is calling God a liar and going against the word of God. Does that sound like Yeshua, to you?

Kosher laws are as valid today as they have always been: following them won’t get you into heaven, and ignoring them won’t send you to hell (any faster than violating any of the other 613 commandments in Torah, at least a few of which we all violate every day.) I am not condoning ignoring Kashrut, or any commandment from God. When I say not obeying will not send us to hell, it is only because we disobey something in the Torah every day, every one of us. Yes, if you were perfect in every other commandment but you had pork rinds last night watching the game, and if you died prior to being able to offer a guilt sacrifice to be forgiven for eating pork rinds, you would die in your sin. God doesn’t grade on a curve- if you sin, any sin, you are a sinner and unable to be in His presence.

That’s how Yeshua’s sacrifice works for us- His once and for all sacrifice is what keeps us close to God so if we die in our sin, His righteousness will cleanse us before the Lord.

Kosher is still valid, as are all the other mitzvot, mishpatim and chukim in Torah. All valid, all required, none to be ignored. Yeshua did NOT do away with the law- He confirmed it, He explained it to us so we could could understand the deeper, more spiritual nature of these laws, and He lived them to demonstrate what we should be doing.

If you have time, go to the Search button at the bottom right of the page and search for “WWJD?”, then read that blog to see in more detail what I am talking about, and please consider taking the simple challenge I offer there. I truly believe that if you accept my challenge it will make a major difference in your life, even if only to help you better understand Yeshua.

Please don’t think I am saying you need to be “under the law” to be saved; you don’t. On the other hand, that is no reason to disobey them.