Parashah Vayeshev 2018 (And he dwelt) Genesis 37-40

 

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Jacob has now settled back in the land of his father, and we are given the story of Joseph. I think most everyone knows this- Joseph, the favorite son of his father (because he is the firstborn son of Rachel) is given a coat of many colors to signify Jacob’s love for him. This special treatment doesn’t stand very well with his brothers, which should come as no surprise, but then we add to that Joseph having ratted them out to Jacob, not to mention telling them of his dreams in which they are all bowing down to him.

Joseph doesn’t show a lot of common sense here, does he?

Eventually, an opportunity arises in which the brothers can kill Joseph, but Reuben convinces them not to, so they take his coat and throw him into an empty cistern, thinking they will do the deed after they have lunch. In the meantime, the brothers see a caravan in the distance of Yishma’elim (descendants of Yishmael) and decide to sell Joseph to them, But while they are still having their lunch (you have to read the passage very carefully to see how this happens) some other Arabs (Midyanim) find Joseph, raise him out of the cistern, and THEY sell him to the Yishma’elim.

Reuben comes back to save Joseph himself but finds him gone. He reports this to the brothers, and now no one knows what happened.

Time Out: I believe that Reuben saved Joseph only so that he could get back into good standing with his father because he was still in hot water after sleeping with one of Jacob’s concubines.

Joseph gets sold to Potiphar, and God blesses all that Joseph does. However, Potiphar’s wife wants to sleep with Joseph, who refuses and she tricks him into being alone with her and tries to force him to sleep with her. He runs away but she has his robe and accuses him of trying to rape her. When she tells her husband, Potiphar throws Joseph into jail. In jail, Joseph is still blessed by Adonai and made a Trustee, eventually also serving the Pharaoh’s Cupbearer and Baker, who teed off Pharaoh somehow and were also thrown in jail. They each have a dream, which Joseph interprets, and the interpretation proves true, with the Cupbearer being returned to duty and the Baker being hung. However, the Cupbearer forgets his promise to Joseph to ask Pharaoh to have him released.

In the middle of the story of Joseph, we have one chapter devoted to Judah and how he failed to give his third son to Tamar. Tamar was married to Er, Judah’s firstborn who was killed by God because of his evil ways, then given to Onan. Onan refused to give her children to protect his own inheritance, so God had him killed, too. Shelah, Judah’s remaining son, was too young so Judah told Tamar to go back to her father until he could give her to Shelah. However, it seems Judah had no intention of doing so. Later, Judah (now a widower) was seduced by Tamar (who hid her identity) who took his seal and staff as collateral until he could send her payment. She returned to her father before Judah could recover his things, and three months later when her pregnancy was discovered, she sent Judah his seal and staff to prove he was the father. Then Judah confessed his sin of not giving her to Shelah.

Wow! There’s a whole lot of stuff in here, but we have time for only one lesson, so I am going to talk about one line, a single sentence uttered by Joseph to the wife of Potiphar. It is found in Genesis 39:9. Joseph has been asked by Potiphar’s wife to sleep with her, and he tells her that his Master has put everything in the household under Josephs’ control, everything but his wife, and in explaining why he won’t sleep with her he says:

“How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”

Notice that Joseph has been talking about his Master, Potiphar, and his Master’s house and his Master’s wife, but when it came down to it he would not sin against God. God- not Potiphar, not his wife, not because he would break the trust, but because the sin would be against God!

Joseph knew what King David also knew about sin (Psalm 51:6) – any and all sin is always first and foremost against God. We may do things to other people that are sinful, but when we ask forgiveness, we must first ask God because every sin is a sin against God.

Forgiveness is something that we are commanded to do for each other, and that forgiveness is not only between us and the person who sinned against us but also between us and God.  God requires us to forgive each other, Yeshua tells us this in Matthew 6:14:

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

When we sin against someone else we must first ask God for forgiveness, then we go to the person we sinned against and ask them to forgive us. Once you have done that, whether they forgive you or not is between them and God and no longer between you and them. I believe we should allow people a few chances to forgive us- for their sake, not ours, and maybe even try to explain that to them. But, if someone refuses to forgive you your sin, then the sin now lies between them and God and no longer between you and them.

The best thing, of course, is to never sin (DUH!!) but being human that will not ever happen. We will always sin, one way or another, sooner or later, and God knew about us. Why do you think he created the sacrificial system? Yeshua replaced the need to bring a sin sacrifice to the Temple in Jerusalem, so now, through his sacrifice, we can be forgiven. That is, forgiven by God. Once we have gone to God, we must still go to the person we sinned against and ask their forgiveness.

Here’s an interesting tradition you may not know about… in Judaism, one of the things that we do at Rosh HaShanah is to go to anyone that we think we may have sinned against during the year and ask them for forgiveness. Does this sound familiar? Maybe because Yeshua said to do this in Matthew 5:24. You think, maybe, he knew of this tradition?

To finish this up, let’s remember that any sin committed by anyone is first and foremost against God; Joseph knew this, King David knew this, and now we know it, too. Try to not sin, but when you fail, go to God and then to the person you sinned against, and you will be doing what is right in God’s eyes, and doing it in the right order.

 

 

God Crashed My Pity Party

No video today, but please take a moment to Subscribe if you haven’t already done so, and check out the deals for my new book, “Parashot Drashim” on my Kickstarter campaign page. 

About a month ago, when I began the Kickstarter campaign to sell my newest (third) book I was feeling rather low. I have had this online ministry for about 6 years, and only have about 70 followers. I am a member of half a dozen discussion groups (Christian and Messianic) but still haven’t made book sales or even gained subscribers. My other two books are very dear to me and writing them was a cleansing for me, similar (I suspect) to how Jeremiah felt when he gave God’s word.

Of course, we know Jeremiah wasn’t the happiest of prophets, and I felt the same way he did. I couldn’t figure out why so few people were interested in what I have to say and began to think that I wasn’t treating God’s Word, or God, with the honor he deserves. Maybe I thought I was preaching truth but I wasn’t…could that be why God hasn’t blessed this blog/ministry with more followers? 

So I sent out a post (maybe some of you remember it?) asking for confirmation. This wasn’t an Ego Trip…not at all! I wasn’t asking or fishing for compliments- I wanted to know, really, if I was doing anything that edified or helped anyone. If what I do is useless to people, why should I continue to go through the time and financial expense of doing it? Right?

I did receive some confirmation from people, and again, felt bad that I only had one or two people answer. None of my own friends and most of my family did not reply, either (then again, we all know a prophet has no honor in his home town), so even though I was somewhat uplifted by the couple of confirmations I received, I didn’t feel useful.

The Pity Party was well underway and I was praying to God (as I rode my bike to the gym) asking why he wasn’t helping me. And he answered me: I felt him telling me to look at the “popular” sites to see why they are so popular. So I did, and I also recalled many of the postings from people with many followers. And you know what I realized? 

I wasn’t a “happy” site. I don’t constantly post messages about the love of God and the forgiveness of Messiah. I don’t constantly post quotations from the Bible that relate how God saved me, how God has helped me, how God has been my shield and my salvation. I have never implied or stated that salvation is a “Come as you are” party (although, in a way, it is.) These are the types of things the “popular” sites post, and when I thought about it, it was also the type of messages you hear from the mega-churches. 

I don’t do that. Oh, well, every once in a while I do post about forgiveness, but it is mostly how God requires us to forgive others, not how he has forgiven us. I do post about God’s love, but it isn’t about how he loves us but how we should work to love others as he tells us we should. In fact, I rarely post about what God does for us and almost always post about what we are supposed to do for God.  

And that is what God was telling me: I am not popular because the messages I post aren’t about how God does things for people; I post about what people are supposed to do for God. 

In other words, I am preaching about what God wants from us instead of what God does for us. 

Yes-salvation is a “Come as you are” party, but it is NOT a “Stay as you were” party.  The popular messages are all about how Yeshua did away with the law, all food is good to eat, and you are forgiven now and always, known as “Once saved, always saved.”  The messages that are popular are the ones that tell you all about how God loves you and you don’t have to do anything different, just call on his name and be saved.  Don’t worry about changing your lifestyle or your desires, and when you make a mistake God will forgive you because Jesus loves you and died for your sins, so you are cleared for life. 

You will not hear any of that dribble from me. What I preach is what people need to know to continue in their salvation: the Torah is valid, God’s commandments are still necessary to obey, and salvation is given for free but costs a lot to keep. You must change, you must truly do T’shuvah (repent), and you must be an example to others of how God has changed you through your actions and your words. You are commanded to forgive or you will not be forgiven: how you judge will be the way you are judged: if you really want to follow Yeshua, you must pick up your execution stake and walk as he walked, which means in accordance with the Torah.

“Hey- this isn’t fun! Are you really telling me I can’t be forgiven unless I change? You’re saying that if I ask for forgiveness but I don’t change I won’t be ‘saved’ anymore? I can lose my salvation? You say I have to obey the Torah? Well, if that’s what you preach, forget you, Pal! I am going to listen to the other people who tell me how wonderful I am, how I am saved forever and no one can take it away from me. I want to hear how much God loves me just as I am; I want to be told I don’t have to do that ‘Jewish’ stuff because Jesus nailed it to the cross. I want to be assured that I will be in heaven for eternity no matter what I do because I called on Jesus’s name once.” 

Yes, that is what I am telling you. And I will take my lead from Hosea 4:6: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” 

That is how God crashed my Pity Party, and am I ever glad he did. I realize now that I may never be “popular” because I speak the hard truth that most people don’t want to hear. When I trained people (in the corporate world and as a mentor to volunteers) I did not hold back from telling the truth, even when it wasn’t pleasant for them to hear. I didn’t do that to hurt them but to help them become better. If everyone that takes a class passes, then the class work was too easy, and the students probably didn’t learn what they really needed to know. Just like when preachers tell all about the goodness of God and what he does for you- yes, God does much for you but he expects you to do much for him. And that is what people, who are naturally self-absorbed and selfish, do not want to hear. 

So I will remain unpopular. I will continue to speak the truth that God has, through his Ruach HaKodesh, inspired me to teach. I will not sugarcoat salvation or preach all about God’s love and forgiveness as a one-way street, only traveling from God to you.

Salvation is free to have but hard to keep. God says we are to be holy as he is holy, which means we are not to do as the world does. We are to separate ourselves from the world, spiritually and actively, so that when people see us they see what God wants us to be. Not what we want to be, but what God wants us to be. That is a message that will be popular only to the truly spiritual mature person, to the one who is humble before God, to the one who is here to serve and not to be served. 

My Pity Party was all about the fact that I wasn’t “popular” and because I didn’t have so many followers on my website and FaceBook that they were coming out of my ears. God crashed that party by showing me I would never be popular preaching the hard truths of salvation and T’shuvah.  He showed me that, like Jeremiah, like Elijah, like Elisha, and like most every single prophet we read about in the Bible, I was not going to be asked to the A-List parties.  

I was looking for human confirmation but God stepped in and took over, showing me that I was in good company by being unpopular. 
And you know what? I felt G-R-E-A-T when he did that! 

Kol Nidre Message 2018

If you prefer to watch a video, click on this link: Watch the video.

This night, September 18, 2018, is Kol Nidre, the eve of Yom Kippur. As such I would like to share the traditional message I used to give when I was “acting” Rabbi (for about 1-1/2 years) at the Northeast Philadelphia Messianic Synagogue I had attended for 17 years.

Before we go into the message, I have a beautiful rendering of the Kol Nidre prayer which you can watch by clicking on this link: Kol Nidre.

For centuries, the Kol Nidre prayer has been used as a polemic against the Jewish people, accusing us of being untrustworthy and stating that our word is useless.  At one point there was even a movement within Judaism to remove this prayer. That movement came to a stop once it was discovered that the prayer dates back to 17th Century Spain, where persecution of the Jews was taking place under the Inquisition. Many thousands of Jews were forced to forgo their beliefs and swear allegiance to Christianity or suffer torture and death.  That is why even though the Torah requires us to strictly adhere to any oaths we take, this prayer seems to be an anomaly; however, we are not asking to be released from valid oaths and contracts we make but only from those oaths we were coerced into making.

On this day, when we ask God to forgive us our sins, we must realize that we have an obligation to forgive those that have sinned against us.  And not just to forgive others, but to forgive ourselves, as well.

It is strange that we are willing sometimes to forgive others their sins against us but we will not forgive ourselves for sins we have committed against others. After all, if we love others enough to forgive them their sins, shouldn’t we love ourselves enough to forgive our sins? Doesn’t it say in Leviticus 19:18, “Love thy neighbor as thyself?” If we love our neighbor enough to forgive them, then shouldn’t we do the same for ourselves?

If I ask God for forgiveness but refuse to forgive myself, then I am placing myself above God!  So many times I have heard someone say, “How can God possibly forgive me for this?” That person doesn’t understand Grace and doesn’t understand that God is able to do so much more than we can.  In Romans 5:20 we are told that where sin is increased, so too is Grace.  There is no sin too great or too horrible for God to forgive. 

And God is not just willing to forgive: he desires to forgive! He is so compassionate that he assumes our sins are accidental.  Numbers 15:25-26 states that we will be forgiven from our sins we did “in error”; in other words, God assumes that we did not intend to sin but that we did it by accident!  What a wonderful demonstration of the compassionate understanding and forgiving nature of God! 

But let us not forget that disobedience of the Torah is still rebellion and a sin. And the wages of sin is still death (Romans 6:23.) However, because of God’s forgiving nature, he is willing to see our sins as his children making a foolish mistake.  However, that is no reason for you to get comfortable with your sin- sin MUST be removed from our lives if we want to be with God eternally. He may look upon us with compassion and love but he is still God, and there can be no sin in his presence.

Too many people have been taught that “Once saved, always saved” is how things work under the blood of Yeshua. That is a lie. We are not to take advantage of God’s willingness to forgive us and just assume he will, which can only lead to an attitude of unrepentance. If we think it is OK to sin now and then, that is like trampling the blood of Messiah into the dirt. Even though God understands it is our nature to do so, it is NEVER acceptable to sin.

Because we cannot overcome our nature, Yeshua came to earth and sacrificed himself for us so that through his goodness we have the opportunity to overcome our sinfulness.

Today we pray for forgiveness and ask God for the atonement of our sins. This is a process:

  1. First, we must recognize our sin and take responsibility for it so we recite the Al Chet prayer, also called the Ashamnoo (we are guilty);
  2. We must choose to do Teshuvah (repent) and remove sin from our lives;
  3. Once we have done these two things, only then can we ask God to forgive us. Because we cannot sacrifice at the Temple in Jerusalem, we ask forgiveness through the blood of the Messiah, who gave his life as a ransom for us over 2,000 years ago and through his innocent shedding of blood we can receive forgiveness (Messianic Jews/Hebrews 9:22.) 

Some of you may be asking why bother to go through fasting and prayer to ask forgiveness when we already have it through Yeshua ha Mashiach?  The answer is simple: because it is a commandment! Besides that, don’t we still sin? Don’t we still need to ask forgiveness? “Once saved, always saved” is hogwash and a lie from the pit of Sheol which is designed to keep us out of God’s Grace. We need to ask forgiveness of our sin(s) every single day! Maybe even more than once per day. So, nu? If we are to ask forgiveness any time we sin, why should we not ask on this day, the one day that God specifically said we should?  

Another reason is to show solidarity with our unsaved Jewish brothers and sisters. Look at the prayers we recite on this day (the Al Chet and the Amidah) – they ask forgiveness for the sins WE have committed. Not the sins I have, but the sins we have committed. These prayers are community prayers because in Judaism God sees the entire nation of Israel as a single entity. We are not just responsible for our own sins, but for the sins of all Jews; those who came before us and those who are with us. 

One last word: what we do on this day is not to be left in the Synagogue or Church- we are to take this attitude of Teshuvah and forgiveness for others out into the world. Going to Shul on the High Holy Days isn’t enough. We meet together to reinforce each other and to strengthen each other so that we are able to go back out there- back into the darkness to be a light. What we do today is what we should be doing every day.

So whether you are attending Shul all day or staying home and worshiping with God alone, take what you do out into the world with you tomorrow and every day thereafter.

Should We Forgive Abusers?

If you prefer to watch a video, click on this link: Watch the video.

As I have often said, I read Dear Abby every day because it provides great fodder for spiritual understanding and teaching.

Recently someone wrote to her who had been abused as a child by her family, and now as an adult and parent is asking how she should react to those who constantly tell her that she should try to reconcile with her family.  Abby answered that when one has been abused they do “NOT” have to forgive the abusers.

Those who are God-fearing should know better than to follow that advice. True, it is hard to forgive someone who has damaged you, whether it be physically and/or emotionally. The pain and anger, unresolved anger, is very hard to live with and even more difficult to get over. In truth, I don’t think we ever really get “over” it, we just learn to get past it.

Yet God tells us that forgiveness is what we must do. We are told to be holy as God is holy, and part of what God does is forgive. He forgives because he is a compassionate and loving God, yet if we do not ask for forgiveness, it will not be given automatically. The reason for that is simple: if we do not ask to be forgiven, that means we aren’t repentant for the sin we committed, and God will not forgive an unrepentant sinner.

Here’s is the thing about forgiveness that (I believe) many people do not understand: forgiving someone else for a sin they committed against you does not make them right with God but it does make you right with God. Each and every one of us must ask God to forgive us for the sin(s) we commit. I can ask God to forgive others, but if they are unrepentant it doesn’t seem likely that God will forgive them. We can ask him to be merciful, but God will judge fairly and mercifully, anyway, whether or not we ask him to do so. What is good about us asking God to forgive or be merciful is that we can show God we are forgiving of others.

Yeshua tells us in Matthew 6:14 that if we do not forgive others, we will not be forgiven. OUCH!! That means that we must forgive if we are to maintain our salvation.

That’s right- it sounds bad and is a hard word to hear, but it’s right there in the Bible. If we do not forgive, we will not be forgiven. We are also told that the rod we use to measure out others will be used to measure us (Matthew 7:2), which is another way of saying the same thing. If we judge others unfairly and refuse to forgive them, that is how we will be judged and how we will receive forgiveness (or not.)

There is another aspect of forgiveness that (I believe) many people do not know: the only way to make the pain go away is to forgive! Without forgiveness, the pain will never go away. Even when you do forgive, it will take time. I try to remember that I need to pray for those that have sinned against me (per Yeshua’s command in Matthew 5:44), and when I pray for them I find that it is easier to forgive them.

The old adage, “To err is human; to forgive, divine” is absolutely correct, and totally biblical.

Usually, Dear Abby’s advice is on the mark, and I understand that her column is not a religious one, but it sure would be nice if she was less PC and more GC (God Correct) for then her advice would be truly good advice.

What Did Jesus Really Nail to the Cross?

 

If you prefer to watch a video, click on this link: Watch the video.

One of the things I have heard often is the statement that when Jesus was nailed to the cross, the law was nailed to it with him.

This is similar to the statement that because Jesus fulfilled the law, it has been done away with.

These statements are both based on what Shaul (Paul) said in Colossians and what Yeshua said in Matthew, respectively. Both of these statements are also uniformly and completely incorrect.

Today I am only dealing with the statement Shaul made, so let’s actually see what Shaul said was nailed to the cross in Colossians 2:13-14 (from The Complete Jewish Bible):

You were dead because of your sins, that is, because of your “foreskin,’ your old nature. But God made you alive along with the Messiah by forgiving you all your sins. He wiped away the bill of charges against us. Because of the regulations, it stood as a testimony against us; but he removed it by nailing it to the execution-stake. 

Before we discuss what was nailed, we need to first understand the context in which this letter was written. It was written to reinforce the message of the Good News that was first brought to the Colossians by Epaphras. This letter is written by Shaul to Gentile Believers in order to remind them how their faith in Yeshua has saved them from their previous sinful lifestyle, which condemned them to death. Throughout the letter he reminds them of the Good News message that salvation comes through continued faith in Yeshua and continued worship of God. Shaul was, essentially, giving them a pep talk to help them stay the course of faithfully following Torah, believing in God and Yeshua. I believe that all his letters have, in one way or another, a reminder that a legalistic observance of Torah as the means of earning salvation will never work, but faith in Yeshua (while still obeying Torah) is how we are able to overcome our sinful nature and be saved.

Now that we know what the context of this letter is about, we can see that when Shaul was talking about the “bill of charges against us” he meant the sins they had committed. When he says “Because of the regulations” he meant to identify the Torah and God’s commandments; this is also seen in the letter Shaul wrote to the Roman Believers where he stated that the Torah created sin, he meant that because the Torah tells us right from wrong it identifies what is sinful. And in this letter when Shaul refers to the “regulations” that create the bill of charges (or sometimes called “trespasses” in other bibles) against us he is talking about the Torah.

Now for the really important part- what was (and is) being nailed to the execution-stake? It is only the bill of charges; it is our trespasses; it is those specific sins we each have against us. It was (and is) NOT the Torah; it was (and is) not the Law; it was (and is) not anything other than the list of existing sins that stand between those people and God. When we confess our sins, repent and ask forgiveness in Yeshua’s name, those sins- and ONLY those specific, already committed sins- are what get “nailed to the tree.”

In other words, the sins we have already committed are the only things “nailed to the cross.” Nothing else is nailed, especially not sins we commit after those sins were wiped clean.

When we first confirmed our belief in Yeshua, confessed and repented of our sins asking forgiveness in his name, we received that forgiveness. Those existing sins that were listed against us, and only those sins, were nailed to a tree.  Everything that happens after that is still valid and against us until we again confess, repent and ask forgiveness in Yeshua’s name. Then that list is “nailed to a tree.”

There are a lot of trees out there with a lot of paper nailed to them.

Yeshua was nailed to an execution-stake once, and that was all that was needed. His death doesn’t save us- it is because of his resurrection that we can find forgiveness through his sacrifice. His resurrection proved that his sacrifice was accepted. As such, each time we sin we need to ask forgiveness because the sins we commit from one forgiveness to another are going to be held against us unless and until we repent.

The only thing that was “nailed to the cross” was the existing list of sins. There has never been a person who didn’t sin after being forgiven; we all are sinners who always will sin. As I often say, we can never be sinless but we can always sin less.  And when we sin, we must repent of that sin and ask forgiveness through Yeshua’s sacrifice.

The Torah is still valid and the regulations, mitzvot (laws) and instructions regarding the festivals are all still required for any and all people who confess that they worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

What we really need to nail to the cross are the wrongful teachings.

Did Yeshua (Jesus) Ever Sin?

(Too dressed-down to do a video today. )

I present this drash today only as something interesting to think about.

Did Yeshua ever sin? The answer has to be a very loud, “NO!! He was the sinless lamb of God; he was in perfect obedience to the Torah his whole life; he couldn’t have sinned. Ever. NO! NO! NO!

But, still and all, if he had once or twice committed a sin couldn’t he still have died a sinless lamb of God?

Let’s look at what God says about his forgiveness of sin:

“…on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the Lord, you will be clean from all your sins.” – Leviticus 16:30

“…as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” – Psalm 103:8-12

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. – Isaiah 1:18

“In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back.” – Isaiah 38:17

“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”   – Jeremiah 31:34

“Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. – Micah 7:18-19

These passages show us that once God forgives a sin it is as if that sin never happened. There are many other bible passages that prove this; I didn’t quote any New Covenant passages because everything in the New Covenant is just quoting or paraphrasing what is already said in the Old Covenant.

Now let’s go back to my original question: Did Yeshua ever sin? The bible doesn’t give us any information on this but it does tell us that he underwent B’rit Milah (Circumcision) and that he was in Jerusalem for the festivals, as required by the Torah. We know that he observed all the laws and commandments in the Torah, so if he did sin we can be certain that he would have obeyed the Torah and presented a sin sacrifice at the Temple in Jerusalem. So if this ever did happen, what then?

According to what God says, if Yeshua had sinned and went through the process of sacrificing an animal to have his sin forgiven then he would be as clean as if he had never sinned. He would be a sinless lamb of God.

Otherwise God would have lied when he told us that when he forgives a sin it is as if it never happened. We could never be “as white as snow” and our sins would never be “put behind” his back. All that we were told about forgiveness would be a lie.

Personally, I don’t believe God lied about his forgiveness and I don’t believe Yeshua ever committed a sin. But I am open to the idea that he might have. After all, doesn’t Isaiah 53 tell us:

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.

With all that going on in his life, who is to say he didn’t have a lapse of righteousness now and then and maybe did something wrong?  If he had sacrificed then wouldn’t that sin be gone? Wouldn’t he again be sinless and clean before the Lord? An acceptable sacrifice?

My contention is that he would still have been the sinless lamb of God even if he had sinned, so long as he made the proper sacrifice at the Temple before he was crucified. I say this based on God’s promise that when he forgives a sin it is as if it never happened. And I will go one step further: if Yeshua had sinned and had been forgiven under the sacrificial system, he was (and is) the only human who could have continued to be sinless after that. We can be forgiven our sin, but we will sin again. Thank God (and Yeshua) that when Yeshua replaced the sacrifice at the Temple with his personal sacrifice, we can be forgiven every sin we commit and repent of for the rest of our life.

I feel so sad for those who do not accept Yeshua and, because the Temple no longer exists cannot be forgiven of their sins.

 

Does Praying to God to Forgive Someone Else Do Any Good?

No video for this message- it’s a short one.

Just about everyone knows that when he was being nailed to the execution stake Yeshua asked God to “forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.”

When we pray for others it is called Intercession. Intercession is a good thing, and I believe it has shown itself to be a powerful means to bring corporate prayer to God’s throne, and that God will act upon it.

But what about interceding with God by asking that he forgive someone else’s sins? Doesn’t the bible tells us that we must each, individually, ask for forgiveness of our sins?

Wasn’t one of the arguments used against Yeshua during his ministry that he was forgiving the sins of others, which only God can do?  Of course, Yeshua answered them by showing that he was authorized to forgive sin by healing the paraplegic man (Luke 5:17-26) and through other healings. But that was Yeshua…I am not him, and neither is anyone else reading this (well, maybe he is reading it but you know what I mean) so when we pray for others to have their sins forgiven, will God do that?

I don’t know for sure- after all, God can (and will) do whatever he wants to. On the other hand, he is restricted by his own rules and regulations. Therefore, I believe when we pray to God for him to forgive someone else’s sin(s), it may make God more willing to be merciful in his punishment of that person but I do not believe God will forgive anyone of their sins unless that person is repentant and asks for forgiveness.

As such, we should pray for God to open the eyes of the sinner, to send angels of mercy to the sinner to help him or her see the error of their ways, but I believe that praying to God to forgive someone’s sins when the person themself doesn’t care is useless.

Each of us will be held accountable for our actions and words when we come before the Lord on the Day of Judgement, and without Yeshua standing at our side we really have no chance. When we “eat sour grapes” it is our own teeth that will be “set on edge” (Ezekiel 18:2) so we need to go to God, individually, to ask for forgiveness. And we must be truly repentant (do T’Shuvah) when we ask God to forgive us.

I believe intercession is a wonderful thing, and I confess I am not compassionate or caring enough to intercede for others, but many are. It is a gift from God, and as such should be used carefully and with discernment.

When you want to ask God to come to the aid of a sinner, do so by asking for the sinner to be made aware of their sin and to be shown the pathway to forgiveness. That is what we can pray for, and then we must trust in God to take whatever actions are necessary to do that. Ultimately, though, we are each and every one of us personally accountable to God for our actions and words and, as such, must ask for forgiveness individually.

I believe by praying for someone who is a sinner to be shown the way to be forgiven is how we help that person find their salvation.

There is No Gray in God’s Color Wheel

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Lately I have been partaking in different discussions regarding God and suffering. Today’s message came to me a few weeks ago but I couldn’t get to it until today. God has been giving me some really good stuff to discuss lately.

Before we start today’s drash, let’s first set some ground rules:

  1. God is absolutely binomial. He knows what is good and he knows what is bad, and there isn’t anything in between from his perspective;
  2. God is not just willing to, but actually desires to forgive our sins (Ezekiel 18:23);
  3. God is understanding, patient and compassionate. Even when he punishes he does so with mercy (up to a point);
  4. God has made rules and he sticks by them. If he says “Don’t do that or else this will happen” you can be sure when you do that, what he said would happen will happen, sooner or later.

When we talk about God’s loving kindness we are talking about his desire for us to be better and to stop sinning so we can have eternal life. We are also talking about his willingness to be patient before he really lowers the boom. And despite how much he loves us, we must remember the fact that the one thing God will not do is act as we would expect another human being to act.

Humans make excuses for everything: we excuse ourselves when we mess up, we excuse others when they mess up (if it doesn’t make us look bad) and we excuse our children for their impolite actions and irresponsibility. We know there is good and bad, but to help remove our own accountability and responsibility for what we do and say we allow for a lot of “gray” in between the black and white of right and wrong.

“I didn’t lie, I fibbed.”

“I didn’t steal, I found that.”

“It wasn’t my fault- someone else didn’t do what they were supposed to do (even though I was in charge.)”

All lame and childish excuses; people will too often say whatever they need to say in order to land somewhere in that “gray” area of not right but not really that wrong.

Not so with God. God knows the heart and in your heart you cannot be gray: you are either repentant or you’re not. You are either willing to take responsibility for your sins or you’re not. You are either desiring to be righteous or you’re not.

And for those that are desiring the righteous path but are having trouble, God is merciful, patient and willing to forgive. So long as you are really trying. If you are saying you want to be righteous, but continually mess up and make excuses, God isn’t going to fall for it. He isn’t stupid, you know- he knows what you really mean, even if you don’t.

I have said it before and will say it again… people don’t mean what they say: they mean what they do.

So make sure that your heart is in the right place and that you take accountability for your words and actions. I like to pray as King David did in Psalm 19:14:

 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.

If we do wrong and continue to do wrong on purpose, all the curses God promised will come upon us (Deut. 28) will come upon us. God must keep his word regarding punishment for wrongdoing because if we cannot trust in God to punish the wicked as he said he will, we cannot trust in God to provide salvation as he said he will.

I am thankful for God’s binomial attitude- yes or no, good or bad, right or wrong, black or white- nothing in between, no gray areas to fall within. I am also grateful for God’s wisdom and patience, so that when I am on the wrong side of righteousness, he is willing to give me time to get my head back on straight and will forgive me when I come to him repentant and humbled.

That’s the ticket, Folks! Repentant, humble and asking forgiveness with the proper heart-attitude of wanting to do better.

As I often say, we can never be sinless but we can always sin less. Having that as your goal and living with the words of David in Psalm 19 is the attitude that will always be OK in God’s sight.

Your Past Isn’t Your Future

I would not disagree with the statement that we are all shaped by our past. The specific experiences each one of us have lived through definitely affect us, forming our viewpoints and our beliefs. However, I disagree with the old expression that experience is the best teacher: that isn’t really accurate. Experience is the best database, and it only serves to offer us the opportunity to learn. We must force ourselves to learn from our experience in order for it to be useful.

I was blessed to meet a young man the other day who has recently converted to Judaism and is a Believer. He is covered with tattoos, many of which imply that he has lived a rough life. His girlfriend is a Christian, and it was she who introduced us. This occurred at a New Jersey hotel where Donna and I were staying over the weekend while attending a family wedding in Philadelphia.

He is a neophyte regarding the Bible and salvation and I sense he is also a fine young man. I was impressed and happy to see that he is open to hearing about Judaism, God and Messiah. His past has shaped him and left it’s scars (visually, as well as emotionally) yet he has learned from his experience and is now on the right path. Hopefully, he will see this post and know that I am talking about him, and how I am proud of him for his courage and devotion to not allowing his past to shape his future.

This is just one of the multitude of wondrous things about God: He is willing to forget the past. In fact, God is very Existential. To be existential means to be living in the moment, in the “existence” of things. No past, no future, just now. When he grants forgiveness he forgets the past and only sees the heart as it is at this moment. Of course, God is beyond time so he knows all that has happened and all that will happen, but he chooses to forget the sins in an individual’s past when that person repentantly asks to be forgiven of them.

This holds true also for the good we have done- no “sitting on one’s laurels” with God! If you did wrong, your wrong will be forgiven when you do right. And if you have always done right, but now do wrong, you are guilty! Your past good deeds are forgotten when you sin just as thoroughly as one’s past bad deeds are forgotten when they repent.

He tells us this! In Ezekiel 18:21-24 God says:

But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, that person will surely live; they will not die.  None of the offenses they have committed will be remembered against them. Because of the righteous things they have done, they will live.  Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?  “But if a righteous person turns from their righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked person does, will they live? None of the righteous things that person has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness they are guilty of and because of the sins they have committed, they will die.

The past will not be remembered, whether that past was a righteous one or a sinful one. God sees our heart at the moment we are committing our sins just as much as when we are asking for forgiveness. Each moment is a new one, each event is individual and unique, and each time we ask for forgiveness we are given a clean past.

So do not dwell on your past sins, and do not count on your good deeds to help you. If you have accepted Yeshua as your Messiah and asked forgiveness with a repentant heart in his name, as far as God is concerned you have no past. Likewise, if you have been doing good but have sinned, you still need to ask forgiveness because what you did that was right is no longer of any value to you.

Each and every time you look to God for forgiveness, your past is gone and you are given a future that you can shape any way you want to.

And if I may suggest?….asking God to show you how he wants it shaped is the best way to start your new life.

 

 

God’s Love is Not the Enabling Kind

God is compassionate; God is loving; God is not just willing to forgive, but He really wants to forgive.

But God’s love is tough love, and no matter how badly He wants to forgive us, we will suffer when we reject His guidance and commandments.

You won’t ever hear God ever saying, “Oh no- not my baby! My baby is a good boy.” as they drag the mass murderer to prison.