Is the Bible Perfect?

It isn’t. Sorry to say, because I know most of us (myself included) are desperate to be able to trust absolutely everything in the bible as God’s own words given and recorded exactly as He gave it to those who wrote it down. We especially want to trust that the bible never, ever contradicts itself; but the fact is, in a few places, it does.

For instance, in Hebrews 11:24-27 we are told that Moses left Egypt because of his faith:

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.  He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.  He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.  By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.

Yet in Exodus 2:14-15 we read the exact opposite:

He replied, “Who made you a boss or judge over us? Are you planning to kill me like you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid when he realized: They obviously know what I did. When Pharaoh heard about it, he tried to kill Moses. But Moses ran away from Pharaoh and settled down in the land of Midian.

Another example is in the first letter Shaul (Paul) wrote to the Corinthians, telling them that the rock that provided water to the Children of Israel throughout their desert wanderings was Messiah (1 Corinthians 10:4):

 They all ate the same spiritual food; They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Messiah.

Yet in Judaism it is a legend that the Well which accompanied the Children of Israel throughout the desert was credited to Miriam, Moses’ sister. Granted, this is not exactly a biblical contradiction, but Shaul would certainly have been aware of the Jewish legend, yet He directly contradicted it.

Romans 4:2 tells us Abraham was justified as righteous solely by means of his faith, but in James 2:21-24 we are told that it was because of Abraham’s works (by offering up Isaac) that he was considered righteous.

There are other examples of writings in the bible (meaning from Exodus through Revelations) that seem to contradict each other. Not only that, but there are many different versions of the bible, and within each version you can find any particular passage that will use different words or phrasing, even different verse numbering. Did you know that the Catholic bible is the only one that includes the Apocrypha? Did you know that the Jewish Tanakh (everything up to the New Covenant) will end with the books of Chronicles, but every “Christian” bible will end the “Jewish” part with the book of Malachi?

Just as an FYI… when Scribes write a Torah, every single letter is counted to be absolutely positive that there isn’t any alteration or change from one Torah to the next. Every Torah throughout the world that has ever been written or ever will be written will be exactly the same, literally down to the letter.

Obviously, those who wish to debunk the bible and are proponents of a humanistic viewpoint will say you cannot trust the bible, or even believe in God, because the bible is full of contradictions. And even when we point out many supposed contradictions are just the result of people pulling statements and verses out of context, we still have some contradictions we really can’t explain. So what can we say about this?

We can start by asking the real question: If there are occasional contradictions in the bible, does that mean that everything in the bible is untrustworthy?

The answer is: No, it doesn’t. Just because there are some statements in the bible that, when directly compared to each other, seem to be contradictory, it doesn’t mean the entire bible is untrustworthy. You may ask, “How can you say that, Steve? If we can’t trust that what we read in Exodus is not the same thing we read in James, then what else may be wrong in the book? ” My answer is this: just because what we read in Exodus is different than what we read in James, why believe that everything else is wrong? Or that anything else is wrong? And if there are things that seem to be different, does that make the whole thing wrong?

Let’s take Abraham for a start. In Genesis we are told his faith is his righteousness. Genesis is a narrative which was written to teach us the history of the people and the formation of their relationship with God as they became a nation. The Book of James is written to the Jews in the Diaspora, and is written not as a narrative but as a reminder to reinforce the meaning of Yeshua’s appearance and the plan of salvation. When James says that Abraham’s righteousness was credited by his works, it is used not to show that works are the only means of justification, or that faith wasn’t involved, but to show that Abraham’s faith in God resulted in faith generated works, either of which was credited to him as righteousness. James was writing to show that faith must result in faithful works- that is the point of the letter. So whereas the point of Exodus was to narrate the story of the formation of Israel and it’s relationship with God, the point of James’s letter was to refresh the teachings and reinforce the need to demonstrate one’s T’shuvah (repentance) through good works.

We may see a contradiction regarding what was credited to Abraham as righteousness, but God’s message for us, which is that good works result from faith, is in both stories. They are written in a way that contradict themselves, but the message that we are to receive is the same.

Have you ever said something at one point in your life and then changed your mind? Does that mean you lied before, or that you’re lying now? Of course not, it just means that what you thought you knew or what you felt then is different within you now. Is it a contradiction? Yes. Does it mean we can’t trust anything you say or have ever said? Of course not.

The same holds true with the bible. Often I have heard, and said myself, that what seems to be a contradiction in the bible is just our lack of understanding. That may be true, but lately (as I read the bible more and more) I feel that there may be contradictions, caused by misunderstanding or just as a result of the fact that what was written at one time was trying to make a certain point, and later it was referenced to, but for making a different point. As we would say today, that same event was simply given a new “spin.”

For me, when people say there are contradictions in the bible, I say, “So what?” Does one thing that doesn’t make sense destroy all the rest? If there is one piece of brown lettuce in the sandwich does that mean you should throw the entire sandwich away? If someone tells you something that they thought was true but it ends up being wrong, do you never trust them again? If you go to your favorite restaurant, which has always served you good food and had good service, but one day the french fries aren’t really hot, do you refuse to ever go there again?  Do you assume that everything they serve is cold? Do you think that all the other times you went there and found it satisfying was a lie you have told yourself?

See my point? The bible is God’s word that He gave to us through people. God did not physically write the bible, and He certainly isn’t editing every single version some new interpreter puts out. With human intervention, there will be human error. In the IT world, which is where I come from, the weakest point of any program or process is where there is human intervention. The best you can do is incorporate error-catching programming using double and triple checks within the process to prevent an error. But take it from me: no matter how “smart” the program, humans will find a way to blow it up.

God has His own error-catching program: it is called the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit.  When we read the bible we are to ask the Ruach for guidance in proper interpretation, and for deeper understanding so that we can avoid the trap the Adversary wants us to fall into. Satan is the one behind the proposition that if there is something that seems to contradict itself in the bible, then the entire bible (and God, too) is untrustworthy.

Don’t fall for it! Just because there may be a contradiction in the bible, that doesn’t mean we cannot trust the bible. It just means someone interpreted something differently than someone else, or that the writer was trying to make a different point. Different letters to different congregations were written to provide different lessons and for different purposes, so the writer may have taken some “poetic license” when referring to other parts of the bible. It doesn’t dilute the truth of the bible and it shouldn’t cause us to doubt anything in the bible.

Faith is something that we have because we choose to have it: it isn’t given, it isn’t bought, it can’t be traded for or earned. Our faith in God is something we have chosen to have, and once we have asked for and received the Ruach HaKodesh we have a physical experience that justifies our faith in God. I know God exists because I have felt His spirit enter my body, because it constantly keeps me in line, and because of all the wonderful blessings I recognize in my life that could only be from God. If there is something in the bible that is a contradiction from one letter to another, or in a letter that contradicts what I read in the Tanakh, so what? I have so much more than what is written in a book to justify and confirm God’s existence and presence in my life.

The bible is, after all, just a book. It was given to us by God in order that we may learn about Him and His Messiah. It is the road map to eternity. Once we know the Lord, and have felt His Spirit, and seen His wonderful works, the book becomes a reference manual for us, a way to remind ourselves of how we got here and to better know God. He allows us to see more and more of Him, and His lessons for us, as we continue to read it.

The bible is the story of what God has done in other people’s lives, and helps us find our way to God; after we find Him, what matters then is what God does in our own life.

If your faith can be turned or weakened by a contradiction in the bible, then you do not have faith in God, you only have faith in a book.

 

salvation is not a covenant

God has made 5 Covenants with the world (yes, with the world- the Jewish people are the Chosen people, but chosen only to live these covenants as an example for the rest of the world to learn how to live this way, as well):

  1. Noadic– rainbow in the sky to remind Himself not to destroy the world by flood (this is the main part of this covenant);
  2. Abrahamic– to make the descendants of Abraham as numerous as stars in the sky, to make them a blessing to the world and to give them the land God brings Abraham into;
  3. Mosaic– the Torah (which, according to Yeshua/Jesus, was not changed by Him at all so every stroke of the pen in the entire Torah is still valid and necessary- check out Matthew 5:17);
  4. Davidic– that the Messiah would come from David’s descendants, and that the kingdom of the Messiah would be an eternal kingdom (read 1 Samuel 7);
  5. The “New” Covenant- Jeremiah 31:31:
    1. “The days are coming,” declares the Lord “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt,
      because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them” declares the Lord “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord“I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.  No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

These are the covenants God has made with us all. The only one that is a bilateral covenant is the Mosaic covenant, because God delivers blessings when we obey the commandments, and delivers the curses if we don’t (Deuteronomy 28). However, the covenants with Noah, Abraham, David and through Jeremiah are grant covenants;  in other words, there is no requirement on our part.  What God said He will do is not dependent on our actions.

Yet, no where in the bible does God forgive sin or grant eternal salvation as a grant covenant; even though God is always willing to forgive sin, forgiveness starts with us, not Him.

The covenants are from God to us, but for forgiveness of sin it must be from us to God; He offers it through the sacrificial system, but we have to ask for it to receive it. And when we ask for it, we need to be truly repentant; we need to have done T’shuvah (turning) in our hearts and come before God (as David says in Psalm 51) with a broken and contrite spirit. If you ask for forgiveness but don’t really mean it, and have little or no intention to try with all your effort to stop sinning, then you request is useless- God isn’t stupid!

Forgiveness of sin is a promise from God to all the people of the world that is attainable through repentance with the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22), and we are told in the Torah how that sacrifice is to be performed. It is something, though, that had to be done at the Temple in Jerusalem, the place where God put His name. With the destruction of that Temple, the sacrificial system came to a halt. So, how can we attain redemption from sin, which God has promised to be available to us, if the Temple is gone? Through Messiah Yeshua (Jesus); now, when we ask for forgiveness by means of the blood shed with the sacrifice of Yeshua, we will have it.

When we are forgiven, it is for what we have done, and not for anything we will ever do again (I cover this here: Forgiveness is Only for the Past.) The promise of forgiveness is that it will be granted to you, case by case, over and over, so long as you are repentant and ask in Yeshua’s name.

When you come before God at Judgment Day and expect to enter His presence because on March 29, 2017 you asked for forgiveness, but then just kept living your life as you wanted to, continuing to do the same things you did before, well…I am afraid you will be very disappointed.

Salvation is not a covenant, it is simply a promise. But what a promise!

 

Parashah Lech Lecha (Go Forth) Genesis 12-17

This parashah starts with these words:

The Lord said to Abram, Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make of you a great nation, And I will bless you; I will make your name great, And you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you And curse him that curses you; And all the families of the earth Shall bless themselves by you.”

What should we do when we receive a calling from God?  The answer is: do what you are told to do.

Abram (he isn’t Abraham yet: Abram means “Noble Father” but it isn’t until he is to fulfill his side of the covenant through circumcision that God says his name is to be Abraham, meaning Father of Nations) is to leave all that he has known, his family, his friends, everything that is of the Chaldees where he has lived. This is so that he will not be contaminated by their pagan worship, and the household he is to train up to be God fearing is also not to be influenced or contaminated by the unclean pagan worship and lifestyle.

The calling from God was more than just that God will make Abraham a blessing to the world. There was the need for Abraham to obey the calling so that this promise could be fulfilled. If Abraham had remained in Ur, if he had not gone to the land God called him to go to, then he would not have ever become the blessing that God intended to make of him.

But it’s not useful to be a hermit. It may be true that the only way to be completely free of wrongful influences is to hide away on some deserted island or make a home in the North Atlantic woodlands, which is especially hard in today’s technological world where everyone is only an email or a FaceBook post away. In Abraham’s day all he had to do is walk far enough away from everyone else, but that would have prevented him from fulfilling the rest of his calling.

By becoming a hermit we can stay “pure”, but that purity is useless because it brings no glory to God and doesn’t do God’s work in the world. Yeshua tells us in Matthew 5:15 that no one lights a lamp then puts it under a basket; they light the lamp and place it high up where the light can be seen by all. Abraham’s calling was to be a light to the world, and through him, i.e., through his example of worship, his lifestyle and his actions, the world would be able to see how he is blessed by God. Then they would be influenced by his goodness. As they learned to live as Abraham lived, then they would, as a consequence of following Abraham’s example, also be blessed by God.

We must follow the calling we receive. You may not have heard it yet, or you may have heard it but you’re waiting for the right time. Well, if you are waiting for God to tell you it’s time for you to fulfill your calling, you have already missed it. God is not a god of “Let’s think about this”; God is the god of “Get it done!”, and that means now. When you receive a calling from God He is telling you He wants you do to something. If you stall or wait too long, His plan will go forth, without you. If you do not do as God says to do when He says to do it, you will miss out on what He had in store for you.

God’s plan of salvation is like a large ship going from creation to creation. As the ship travels, with God at the helm, people can get on for free, and they also can get off. That’s called Free Will. And there will  be many doing just that- many getting on, many getting off, and most just waving as it goes by. But the ship will continue to sail, and it will reach it’s destination. If you want to get on, it’s free. You have to work, though- it’s a free entry but it’s not a free ride.

Abraham did as God told him to do, without hesitation. We usually think of Genesis 15:6 when we think of Abraham’s righteousness, but I would venture to say that the true demonstration of Abraham’s’ righteousness and faith is the fact that he didn’t just do as God said to do, he did it then and there. He left his home right away, he went without knowing where he was being led, he circumcised everyone (including himself) the very day he was commanded to do so, and even when he was told to sacrifice Yitzchak, his only son, the son of the promise, he left early the next morning to do so. No hesitation, no questioning, no discussion. God said do, and he did.

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t heard too many callings in my life. I believe writing my book was a calling, but even though I wrote it and have tried to push it out (see the links at the bottom right of this web page), I really think I should have done more long ago, and even though I know I should do more now, I hesitate. I have invested a few grand in this, and need to invest more. I know that God will honor what I do, and if this book is giving God the glory I think it does, He will get it out there.

But I still need to do my part. I had a calling to give a testimony (the link to it is at the bottom of my bio) and I hesitated on that, too. I was a new Believer, but it seems I still have a lot to learn about faithful obedience. We all do, don’t we?

Praise God that He is not just patient, but compassionately understanding. I feel ashamed to confess to you that I have these hesitations, but I am not here to tell you about God because I am an expert at following Him- I am here to show you that even someone as useless as I am can still do God’s work in the world and honor Him. Even though I, myself, am weak. Just as Shaul said of himself in 2 Corinthians 12:9, God’s strength is made manifest in our weakness.

But you don’t have to be weak- you can be stronger than me, stronger even that Shaul. You can obey the calling God has for you ASAP. If you don’t know what that calling is, or He hasn’t revealed what He wants you to do for Him yet, then wait for it. It is coming, and you can prepare for it by studying His word, separating yourself from those influences of the world that would contaminate you, and listening. Remember that God was not in the fire or the shaking mountain or the fierce wind, but He was just a still, quiet voice (1 Kings, 9:12.) To hear the majestic voice of God, we need to listen quietly and faithfully.

Faith isn’t just believing, it is also doing. Abraham showed tremendous faith in doing as he was told to do, and doing it as soon as he heard the command. God grant us all that we may demonstrate that same level of faithfulness.

Covenants Don’t Change, and They Don’t Go Away

There are 5 Covenants that God made with us. The first was the Noahide Covenant, then the Abrahamic, Mosaic and Davidic. Finally, there is the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31).

The usual Christian teaching is that the New Covenant did away with most of the previous 4 covenants, leaving only what they (ridiculously) call either “moral” or “ceremonial” laws. The teaching is that the ceremonial laws (which I think are whatever they don’t want to follow) are still valid for Jews but not for Christians.

There are some 613 commandments (as told in Jewish teachings) in the Torah; about 1/3 have to do with the sacrificial system. These laws are not done away with, but they are impossible to obey because they deal with the sacrifices that are to be made at the Temple, and the Temple doesn’t exist anymore. There are a whole bunch of sermons in that fact, alone, but we aren’t going there today.

The other laws are not ceremonial- do you consider commandments about having fair weights and lending at interest “ceremonial”? Do you think that helping your neighbor is “ceremonial”. No? Oh, no- clearly, helping a neighbor is a moral law. Is it? Which is moral and which is not? Who’s to say: you? Me?

God made covenants and these covenants are not exclusionary. In other words, the Abrahamic Covenant did not override or overturn the Noahide Covenant. It added to it, it supplemented it, it complemented it. Same with the others.

Noah basically was told by God He wouldn’t destroy the Earth by flood. The rainbow was the sign and the blood of the millions of dead people was how the covenant was sealed (all covenants are sealed by blood.) Then the Abrahamic Covenant, which added by saying all the people that God won’t destroy will be led into righteousness by a Nation of Priests God will raise up through the seed of Abraham, who will be a blessing to the world.  The Mosaic Covenant then added the rules by which that nation will live. The Davidic added that the ultimate Kohen Gadol (High Priest) would be a descendant of David and also be a king with an everlasting kingdom. Lastly the New Covenant, the final promise, which says:

(1) all the people whom God won’t destroy;

(2) who are blessed by the seed of Abraham;

(3) who live by the codes and laws given to Moses;

(4) who are led to salvation and ruled by the eternal king from David’s descendants (who is the Messiah);

(5) will then be given, permanently, the Ruach Ha Kodesh (Holy Spirit).

And, with the Ruach to help them, they will be able to produce the good fruit they are required to produce which demonstrates their T’Shuvah (turning from sin) during their lives, and which they can present to God at Judgement Day,

Each covenant builds on the previous one- there is no overturning or doing away with, at all. God’s covenants are eternal; as long as He is alive and one human is still alive, every covenant, every condition of the covenants, is valid, real, and still in effect.

Don’t let anyone fool you or tell you that some laws aren’t valid anymore, that some are ceremonial and not required, or that some are done away with, altogether. Yeshua didn’t come to change the law but interpret it correctly and show us all how to live it. That’s what He says in Matthew 5:17. Read the entire verse; in fact, don’t stop there but read the whole chapter. The covenants of God are eternal and valid, true and necessary.

What God has said is not subject to human intervention, human denial, or human interpretation. The covenants are not delivered as a vision or need to be interpreted- they are clear as glass. There is nothing any human should do except obey them as best as he or she can. ALL of them!

The greatest victory the Enemy has won is that he managed to separate those seeking the Messiah from those finding the Messiah. The way he did it was the usual method for the Enemy: he just let mankind do their own thing, subtly leading them to think it is okay to identify God’s laws and commandments as necessary or unnecessary, ceremonial or moral.

At first we had those who believed in the one, true God and all the rest were pagans. Then we had Jews and pagans; then we had Jews who believed in Yeshua and Jews who didn’t, pagans who believed and were becoming Jewish, and all those other pagans. Then we had Jews, Christians, and a few pagans still hanging around. Now we have 6 sects of Jews (Hasidic, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and Messianic), any number of Christian sects (Catholic, Western Orthodox, Lutheran, Protestant, Baptist, with all their subdivisions, Amish, and many, many more) all of whom have their own ideas of how to worship God. Oh yes- believe it or not, we still have pagans hanging around.

As I read it in the Manual, God doesn’t have ceremonial or moral laws, He doesn’t say these laws are for the Jews, these are for the Catholics, these for Mennonites. etc., and He is absolutely clear that these laws and commandments are to be observed throughout all our generations. No end-point, no “up until…”, but forever!

God has no religion, so anyone who believes in God shouldn’t have a religion, either. Period, end of statement, das ist alles, shut the door on your way out!

You want to make it easy, you want to know what to do and how to do it, then read the Bible and just simply follow what God says. Yeshua and the Rabbis of old knew there were just 2 commandments that needed to be followed in order for all the rest to be easily observed: love God and love each other.  If you do that, it doesn’t make the others unnecessary, just easier to obey.

You have your choice to make: follow the laws and commandments in the Torah or try to obey the plethora of laws, regulations and traditions that we find in every religion, which have very little to do with God and everything to do with people enforcing their own will on others in the name of the Lord. That’s the difference between God’s Word and religion: God tells us how to follow Him to lead us to salvation, and religion tells us we must obey human laws and traditions over God’s word in order to allow other humans to rule over us.

The Bible is clear in more than one place that we should never add to or detract from the commandments that God has given us. If we have been following that, then where did all these different religions come from? Read my book and see where there are differences, or just read the Bible and don’t allow yourself to have preconceptions of the meaning of what you read. Let the Ruach lead you to understanding.

God has no religion, and we shouldn’t either. We should have only God. Really: if we have God, what else do we need?

parashah vayyera (He Appeared) Genesis 18:1-22:24

This portion starts with the telling of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and ends with one of the most well-known passages, the Akedah, also called the Binding of Isaac. This is seen by most everyone, Jewish and Gentile alike, as a precursor to the sacrificial death of the Messiah.

Those of us who are Messianic or Christian accept that the Messiah is Yeshua, Jesus. I say Messianic or Christian because being Messianic is NOT being a Christian.

This has been a problem I have faced during my walk with the Lord- that people (especially Jews) who hear that I believe Jesus is the Messiah figure I have to be Christian because, as most any Jew will confirm, any Jew who believes in Jesus can’t be a Jew anymore.

What a load of…well, let’s just say you could grow roses in that statement.

Today I want to show how “Jewish” the teachings of Yeshua are (notice I said “are”, not “were”- that’s because His teachings are still valid, and because He is still alive what He said is still current.) And to do that I am going to use the commentary from the Chumash I still have from my Bar Mitzvah (that was so long ago I got a “Mazel Tov !” from Moshe, himself!) For those that are familiar with the Chumash, this is the Soncino edition with commentary from the Chief Rabbi of the British Empire, Dr. Hertz.

The first commentary note is in reference to chapter 18, verse 7 when the Angels visited Abraham. He ran to get them food and wash their feet, and Dr. Hertz references Leviticus 18:7 where we are told to love the stranger, for we were once strangers in Egypt.  Later,  when Abraham made the covenant with Abimelech and told the king about his servants taking away the well Abraham had dug, there is another reference to Leviticus, this time it’s 19:17 about not hating your brother in your heart.

Both of these teachings about being kind to strangers and not hating people are constantly mentioned by Yeshua. In fact, He said the two most important commandments are to love the Lord and love each other. These are not foreign ideas that formed a new religion- these are direct from the Word of God given to Moshe at the Mountain. Yeshua never taught anything but Torah, and he taught it correctly.That is why He said, in Matthew 5:17 that He came to “fulfill the law.” In First Century Rabbi-speak that didn’t mean to complete it or finish it, but to interpret it correctly. To interpret correctly was to complete and to interpret wrongly was to trespass.

Another lesson to show how Yeshua was not teaching anything different than what is in the Torah is when Yeshua tells us that anyone who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God. We can see this lesson clearly in this parashah when Lot’s wife looked back to Sodom and turned into a pillar of salt. She was going forward, protected and led by the Lord (or, in this case, His angel- close enough!) to a promised salvation. But she looked back. And what did she miss out on? Despite the Sodom-like actions of Lot’s daughters, they were the genesis of two of the greatest kingdoms of the times: the Ammonites and the Moabites. True, these peoples were godless and enemies of the Israelites, but they were great nations. Because Lot’s wife looked back she was not the progenitor of these kingdoms.

I see these two events, Yeshua teaching that you can’t look back and be worthy of God’s kingdom and what happened to Lot’s wife, as the same teaching. We can’t walk a straight path forward when we are looking behind us. And what are we looking at that is behind us? It’s our comfort zone. It’s what we are used to, it’s what makes us feel secure. It’s the place where we trust ourselves and others and not God. Yeshua taught to trust in God and walk in His way, leaving behind the faithlessness we had when we looked to our own devices and others for guidance. Yeshua was teaching what is in the Chumash. That’s real Jewish stuff!

Lastly, when Abraham told Abimelech about the well that Abimelech’s servants stole from Abraham, Rabbi Hertz refers again to Leviticus 19:17, where we are told to love they neighbor and also to rebuke them. This seems to be an oxymoron, to rebuke someone you are told to love, but it is meant (I believe) to demonstrate that it is for the good of the person doing wrong that we rebuke them. Not in a mean and spiteful way, but to lovingly bring to their attention their wrongdoing so that they can be aware of it, and as such, do T’Shuvah and turn from that sin. What we are being told in the Torah is not to enable wrongdoing, even by those we love, but to show “tough love” and not condone or allow wrongful actions. We are, actually, required by Torah to advise people when they are killing themselves (sin is death.) The prophets are often told by God that if they fail to warn the people, no matter what the people say or think of them, then the blood of those sinners will be on the head of the prophet. However, if the prophet does warn them and adjoin them, constantly, to do what is right, then if the people fail to pay attention their blood is on their own heads.

This is what Yeshua meant when He taught that if we are bringing a gift to the Lord but have some level of strife between us and another person, we are to leave the gift at the altar and make right our relationship. Then we can offer our gift. This is just what Abraham did- he was making a covenant of peace with Abimelech but first he settled this issue about the stolen well. After that was done, then there was the covenant of peace and the covenant of the well, with the exchange of gifts.

Yeshua did not start a new religion, and in this parashah we can see that the commentaries made by one of the most “Jewish” of Jews, the late, Great Rabbi of the British Empire, is exactly the same lessons that Yeshua taught. There is nothing new in the New Covenant writings- it is all Jewish. Yeshua taught from and about the Torah, Shaul (Paul) taught that Torah is correct, all scripture is useful (BTW…the only scripture then was the Tanakh) and the writer of Hebrews also told the Jewish Believers in the Diaspora that Torah was still valid. The New Covenant is not “new”- it is the continuation of and brings to completion God’s plan of salvation that He told Abraham about way, way back in Genesis.

If you are reading the New Covenant and ignoring the Old Covenant, it is like trying to build a house starting with the second floor. God’s plan is simple: since humans can’t save themselves He will provide the Escape Clause, the ultimate Get Out of Jail card- The Messiah. All though the Tanakh we read about His coming, what He will do so we can know Him, and what will happen when He takes charge. It never happens in the Tanakh. Messiah’s coming isn’t written for Season One of this show, it happens in Season Two. That’s also the Final Season, when the show called “God’s Plan of Salvation” is taken off the air, forever. Season Three is Eternity. If you missed Season One, you can’t possibly understand or appreciate the subtleties of the plot and characters in Season Two. Oh yeah, you can get the main point, but you miss a lot of why things are so important and the history of how things got that way.

If you are Jewish and reading this, please think about getting familiar with the New Covenant, but find a Messianic version. Read Dr. Stern’s “The Jewish New Covenant” to see the ‘Jewishness” of those writings. Allow yourself the right to make up your own mind. And if you are a Gentile Believer and reading this, talk about Yeshua’s teachings and don’t use the name “Jesus”- that will not go over well with a Jew. Use His real name, Yeshua. And relate the teachings to the Torah- stay out of the New Covenant.

Everything Yeshua taught us about the Kingdom of God, how we should live, how we should treat each other and how we should treat God was from the Tanakh: if that was good enough for Yeshua, why isn’t it good enough for you?

To reach Jewish people with the Good News, you need to show it to them in the Tanakh, and then let them know that Yeshua said the same thing. Before they can accept Yeshua as their Messiah, they need to see Him as He really was and is: a Jewish Messiah teaching Jewish lessons from the Jewish book of law, the Torah. Once Yeshua stops being a Jew-hating Gentile and is revealed as He truly is- the Jewish Messiah- then and only then can a Jewish person begin to accept Him as their Messiah.

And until the Jewish people say, “Baruch haba b’shem Adonai” (Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord), Yeshua said he would not return.

You want Messiah to return? So do I, so get started teaching your Jewish friends the truth about their Jewish Messiah!

Parashah Lech Lecha (Out of) Genesis 12:1 – 17:27)

This portion of the Torah tells us of God’s covenant with Abraham; the promise that  his seed will be many, that they will be a blessing to the whole world, and that God will stand behind them, blessing those that bless them and cursing those that curse them.

There is just so much in here, most notably the verse often quoted in the B’rit Chadashah regarding true faithfulness, Gen. 15:6.

We see Abraham as a pillar of faith. Everything the Lord asked of him he did immediately, everything the Lord told him he believed, absolutely. He was a great leader (it tells us he had over 300 trained men when he went to war against the 5 kings to recover Lot) and that meant he had to be a good manager and leader to have so many servants, trained and loyal to him. He also was a man of action, going to war successfully and also a man of honor, not accepting gifts, as valuable as they were, from the wicked king of Sodom, and a man of generosity giving the tithe to Melchizedek.

In all of this we look up to Abraham as a true Patriarch and a man of unwavering faithfulness.

Well, maybe not unwavering all the time. I am not going to talk Abraham “down”, but the lesson I see here for me, and maybe for you, is that no one is perfect except Yeshua. Abraham’s faith was not so great in  Genesis 11:11 when he took his family into Egypt and asked Sarah to say she was his sister to prevent him being killed so Pharaoh could take her as his own. Abraham certainly wasn’t showing faith and trust in God’s promises that he had already received when he “pimped” his own wife to save his skin. And Sarah, although we don’t have any idea how long she was with Pharaoh or how intimate their relationship had been, went along with this. In all fairness to her, at that time and as a woman, she didn’t have a lot to say about it, but I would think she couldn’t have been very happy with the situation. However, she was a dutiful and obedient wife, submitting even to her own shame in showing obedience to her husband. Shaul wrote to more than one of the Messianic Congregations about how wives should be obedient and submissive to their husbands, but he followed that  up with how the husband should be toward his wife- he should protect as he would his own body. I don’t think Abraham was thinking of her as his own body here; he was only thinking of his own body.

Abraham was unquestionably a man of great faith. He was strong, brave, faithful, honourable…he was a real mensch! And we should all look towards him as an example of how to live regarding our relationships with the world and our relationship with God. Yet, as great as he was, he had faults, fears, and he did have moments of faith-less-ness. He was, after all, human. So are we, and as such we need to remember that we will fall.

The important lesson here is not to avoid falling, because we will. We have no choice to avoid it and no chance to escape it- it is our nature to sin. God knows that: that is why Yeshua had to die, because without His sacrifice on our behalf we had no hope. Messiah is the hope of the Jewish people, and since the Jewish people are chosen by God to be His representatives to the Goyim (the Nations, i.e. the rest of the world), we are Cohanim (Priests) to the world, set apart by God by His Torah to be an example for everyone else, and thereby lead them to salvation. Messiah is for everyone, Jew and Gentile. It has always been that way, and always will be. Be joyful, thou Gentiles, that God has included you in His plan and be not prideful, you Jews, to think that you are better than anyone else. We were chosen not because of who we are, but because of Avraham Avinu (Abraham our Father) and his worthiness.

I got off topic a little there, but it’s good stuff, right?

Back to Abraham and the fact that he showed lack of faith and trust in God. We all will backslide, one way or another, sooner or later. We need to treat those discretions correctly- without guilt, without remorse, and with a stronger desire and commitment to do better. That’s the best we can hope for and what we should aim to achieve: just to do better. If we try to be holy and righteous, we will fail and become distressed and disappointed with ourselves. That is fuel for the Enemy. He will come into your life with trials and problems, or tempt you with the pleasures of the flesh to keep you away from returning to the correct path. When we are attacking ourselves all the Enemy has to do is stand to the side and occasionally give us another reason to feel God has rejected us. He will give us more Tsuris, or he may introduce new pleasures, hedonistic and sinful, that will make us feel better, at the same time leading us away from the proper Halacha (way to walk).

Everyday I fight myself. Just like Shaul says, I do not what I want to do, and that which I do not want to do, I do. I am as much a wretch as he said he is.  But I have the hope of Messiah, and the promise of God, and the knowledge of His forgiveness, compassion and mercy which helps me continue to get back on track. It’s not the falling that is the problem- that goes with the territory. What we need to remember is that the key element is getting back on the right track. We will fall, we will stumble, we will get skinned knees and bloody noses. It will hurt, we will also hurt others (sin always hurts more people than just the one who committed the sin) and we will feel bad about it. You better feel bad about it!  Here’s the big BUT: feel bad but don’t berate or abuse yourself. Don’t give the Enemy a foothold: use the bad feelings in a positive way that will help you get back in the race, get back on the right track, and walk more carefully. Remember the spot where you tripped and avoid it next time it comes around. Don’t worry about not having enough chances to sin- you will never run out of opportunity to sin. That’s OK- God will never run out of mercy or forgiveness to those who do T’Shuvah.

I used to think that those people who were “saved” used this Messiah thing as a crutch to simply explain away their problems.  I was right, and I was wrong. I was right in thinking we can use Yeshua as a crutch, but not in the way I thought. I thought He was a crutch people used more for an excuse, a means of avoiding the truth about themselves and the world. The truth is that He is a crutch which supports us when we are about to fall, and keeps us standing and moving , and gives us the hope that we will be better. He is not a means of avoiding our responsibilities: He doesn’t enable us, He edifies us. He holds us up in our weaknesses and supports us with His love, His truth, and the Ruach HaKodesh.

Don’t be afraid of falling; but, do be horrified at the thought of not getting off your butt and back in the race when you do.

Parashah Noach (Exodus 6:9 – 11:32)

What to say? What to say? There is so much in this Parashah.

The flood representing God’s awesome power over the Earth, the righteousness of Noach that saved not just him, but his family. The first covenant mentioned in the Bible. The fear of man upon the animals, probably representing that before the flood meat was not on the menu, not for men and not for animals. Isiah tells us the lion will lay with the lamb and we are told that in the End Days they will eat straw together. Does this mean that they originally were all herbivores? That’s part of what’s in here.

Then we have the question of was the flood really all over the entire Earth, or just locally? They have found a large layer of clay deep under the Earth in the mid-East that scientifically proves there was a great deal of water, and for a long time, in that part of the world, but  was it just the mid-East or everywhere? Does it really matter?

What about clean and unclean animals? The laws of Kashrut (Kosher) were not absolutely spelled out until God gave them to Moshe, but Noach knew clean from unclean. There were 7 pair of clean but only 1 pair of unclean. Yet, God tells Noach that all the animals are for him to eat, so did God allow Noach to have future knowledge to make sure there were 7 times more clean than unclean pairs? Is that because God knows everything in advance, and He knew He would make Kosher regulations a requirement of worshipping Him, so he had Noach save enough of the clean animals to make sure there would be enough to go around?

Oh, and the lineages. We see how Ham was cursed for his disrespectful treatment of his father?  We didn’t even have the 5th Commandment, yet here Ham was cursed for simply seeing his father naked. I wonder why nothing was done to Noach? After all, he got fall-down, lose-your-clothes drunk! What? That’s OK? In any event, Ham becomes the father of the nations that are enemies of the descendants of Shem, who is the favorite here. Japheth seems to be sort of the “middle child”- not as bad as Ham, and not as good as Shem, so Ham is slave to them both but Japheth has to live under Shem’s authority (in the tents of Shem). Does this represent the fact that there will only be a remnant of righteousness in the world? Out of the three sons only one was blessed. As the population grew, the number of righteous people remained small.

What about Babel? God, Himself, said that if men were to get together as one there is nothing they could not accomplish! That’s pretty high praise, and from the Highest of the High, too! So why did God stop that? Because He gave us different speech, from which we ended up with different cultures and different ethics, we have never been a united people, and we have always been at war. Why did God, a loving and compassionate Father to all, set us up against each other like that?

I don’t know.

There could be an entire treatise written about how, when God said , “Let us go down and see…” regarding visiting Babel, that it is impossible for Him to do that because He is everywhere all at once. If you are already there, how can you “go down” to it?

Since God promised not to destroy the Earth by flood, is that why in the Acharit HaYamim He will burn the Earth? Is that some sort of “Escape Clause” He figured into the Noahic Covenant? He can keep His covenant about not destroying the Earth with a flood but still destroy it. Actually, all He has to do is sit and watch- mankind is pretty much destroying the Earth without any help from the Lord. Will the ultimate destruction God plans to bring on the Earth be accomplished through mankind’s own self-destructiveness?

If you add up the years Noach lived after the flood, and the years between the birth of his sons leading to Avram (later to be named Abraham by God) we see that Avram was 88 years old when Noach died. There is no reference as to when Terah left Ur, but I think it is safe to say that Avram could have spent a lot of time with his ancestor Noach, and could have been influenced by Noach. Of all the children that sprung from the loins of Noach, only Avram was righteous enough for God to call upon him. Maybe, just maybe, since Noach had been the only righteous man on the Earth, he was able to teach and influence Avram so that when God was ready to begin His plan of redemption, Avram would be ready.

Who knows? You can’t make an argument from nothing. On the other hand, sometimes you do need to read between the lines, and that’s why reading God’s word with the leading of the Ruach is so necessary; it helps you  get past the P’Shat (written word) to the Drash (underlying or hidden meaning.)

Well, well, well…all these questions and not one “answer.” And you know what? That’s how I’m leaving it today. That’s right- the lesson today is for you to ask God to show you what He has for you from this parashah. If  I am to edify you, my readers, and help you come closer to God by better knowledge of His word, then I need to let you find some answers on your own. Of course, I mean on your own with God’s Ruach leading you.

I am leaving it up to you and the Lord to go through this parashah together. Find out what God has for you, and (maybe?) share it with the rest of us.