What Does it Mean to Strain Out a Gnat and Swallow a Camel?

In the Gospel of Matthew (Chapter 23), Yeshua is chastising the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and false teachings. One of the things he accuses them of is straining out a gnat while swallowing a camel (Matthew 23:24.)

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

The use of this hyperbole was to show the people that although the Pharisees were knowledgeable and well trained in Torah, while they did things in a legally correct manner they taught (by example) to do things that were not in accordance with what the Torah really wanted. Whereas they gave their tithe carefully measured out, they neglected the spirit of the law with regards to how they treated others.

I see this same straining/swallowing problem in the Messianic and Hebraic Roots movements, mostly from Gentiles, and not from ignorance or hypocrisy, but from a misdirected zealousness to know God better and be obedient to the Torah.

I see arguments, passionate and even hateful at times, regarding how to spell and/or pronounce God’s Holy Name, the Tetragrammaton. God never said that our salvation was based on our pronunciation.

I see people arguing over exactly which day Yeshua was raised, and was it at night or in the light of dawn? When Thomas doubted Yeshua’s resurrection, at the time Yeshua met him he didn’t tell him what the time was when he left the tomb to prove he was raised.

I see people arguing over the calendar days, solar or lunar, and even within the lunar calendar, they argue over which day a certain festival really starts on. Don’t they know that in the ancient days no one knew when the days started or ended until they saw a signal fire? There was a 2-3 day “grace period” for every important festival simply because they had to have 3 witnesses in Jerusalem agree that the moon phase was verified. If that was OK with God then, why would it be any more important now?

I see people arguing over topics that have absolutely NOTHING whatsoever to do with their salvation- it is just biblical trivia. And the worst thing of all is the biblically knowledgeable people arguing over these irrelevant and non-salvation issues as if they were as important as faith in God and trusting that Yeshua is the Messiah!

What do you think this does to neophyte Believers? I have read posts by people complaining that they joined a “Believers” discussion group to get answers and help and all they see are arguments, where people are nasty to and insulting each other, and are now more confused than ever.

If you think you are biblically knowledgeable and want to help others know the truth about God and Yeshua, and also about the Torah, then PLEASE stick to the important things. What are the important things?  They are the things that God told us we need to do, which are the same things Yeshua taught about.

God taught us how to worship him and how to treat each other, and Yeshua taught us the deeper, more spiritual meaning of the instructions God gave us, which he discussed in the Sermon on the Mount. Neither God nor Yeshua are into minutia, but they are very much into compassion, trust, faith, love, forgiveness, and just living humbly and with treating each other with respect.

God and Yeshua were never concerned with how to pronounce The Name, or when the moon is really in phase, or even whether you tithe from gross income or net.  All God or Yeshua cares about is how you treat others and your faithfulness, which is demonstrated by obedience and accepting that what God said we need to know is all that we need to know.

We don’t need to know when the End Times will start; we don’t need to know when Yeshua will return; we don’t need to know if ducks are kosher or not (yes- I have seen that question); and we don’t need to know “Why” about anything!

All we need to know is that God wants us to love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly with him (Micah 6:8.)

And if you aren’t sure what walking humbly with God means, it means to stop asking so many useless questions in order to poof up your own pride and to show off how knowledgeable you are. It means to accept that all you need is to be faithfully obedient, faithfully trusting (without asking why) and faithfully treating each other with respect, love, compassion, patience, and forgiveness.

If you find yourself asking things that are not directly related to salvation, think about whether or not you really need to know the answer.

I know what I am talking about because I have always been the “Duty Expert” in every job I have worked; I have been the one with the technical knowledge of every detail. I still want to know everything about everything, but when it comes to God, Yeshua and my own salvation I have learned what the writer of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) learned the hard way: trying to know everything about everything is like chasing the wind.

I have taught myself to be satisfied knowing that God exists, that Yeshua is the Messiah God promised, that I am to do my best to obey the Torah (which I read every day, along with the rest of the Bible), and that I can learn about the culture and history of the people in the Bible but when it comes down to it what matters is to trust God to do as he said he would, if I do as he said I should.

That is all you need to know to be- and to stay- saved.

Thank you for being here, and if you like what you hear please share this out with others. Subscribe in the right-hand margin and also go to my YouTube channel and subscribe there, as well.

I welcome your comments, even if you disagree: all I ask is that you be nice.

Until next time…L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

How Do We Discern What is Important to Know?

Please remember to click on the SUBSCRIBE button you will find in the right-hand margin, and if you would prefer to watch a video, click on this link: Watch the video.

As most of you who are reading this blog today already know, I am a member of half a dozen (or so) “Christian” or “Messianic” discussion groups. Constantly I see the same type of discussion being raised, and the main ones that generate the most passionate responses (which are often not very “Christian”, if you know what I mean) are ones dealing with the pronunciation of the name of God and the need to obey the Torah once you have accepted and asked forgiveness through the Messiah, which we call being “saved.”

The people who consider it paramount that we know and use the “proper” pronunciation for the name of God (and Messiah) are called “Holy Namers”, which is a somewhat derogatory epithet, but is accurate in that the names are holy. God’s holy name, which is made up of 4 Hebrew letters, is called the Tetragrammaton.

I, myself, do not use God’s holy name simply because I am Jewish and we don’t do that. It is our way of showing respect for God, as well as a “fence around the law” about not using his name in vain (which is Number 2 on God’s Top Ten Hit Parade of commandments.) I understand that there are those who use it often, and I have seen no less than 4 different pronunciations, each one being the only correct one.

When we talk about obedience to the Torah, well, we can go almost anywhere with that one. I mean, really- even within Judaism, there are 6 different sects that each have different ideas about how to obey the Torah. Not to mention the additional requirements under the Talmud! Oy! If we Jews can’t make up our own minds, how can we expect the Gentiles to make up their minds? Am I right?

Besides these two issues, there are other questions that come up: when does the day really start; how do we really know when the holy days begin (is it only when they see the moon in Jerusalem?); should we celebrate Hanukkah or any other traditional holiday if it isn’t specified in Leviticus 23?

These questions and many others are not invalid or unnecessary, but we need to ask ourselves: Are they important?  And to answer that, we need to know just what is important. And I don’t mean what is important to us, I mean what is important to God.

I think it is, first and foremost, important for you all to know this: I cannot tell you absolutely how to determine what is important. Sorry- I am raising an issue I do not have an absolutely correct answer for. The best answer I have is that we each have to determine what we believe God wants us to know. If you are absolutely certain that you need to know an answer to something that you read in the Bible but don’t understand, then ask God first (I think we can all agree that is the best place to start) then ask others, those you trust and know to be spiritually mature. I suggest you also keep an open mind because, at least for myself, I truly do not trust my own judgment, and what I may think I am “hearing from God” may really only be my own voice with an answer I want to hear.

Sidebar: when I think I am getting an answer from God and it goes against what I would like the answer to be, then I feel pretty certain that it is from God.

Discernment should start with learning, which comes from reading the Bible and listening to others who have shown they have both a high level of biblical knowledge and spiritual maturity. Also, pray to God to show you through the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) the truth he has for you and to place in your path through life those who God wants to teach you.

He definitely did that for me, and I am very grateful to him for that.

I always use an “Acid Test” question when trying to discern what is important to know and what isn’t: I ask myself, “How does this affect my salvation?”  To answer that question also takes a bit of discernment and spiritual guidance, simply because we humans want to know everything there is to know about everything, and God doesn’t work that way. He keeps those things secret that he wants to, and reveals those things that he will (Deut. 29:29), and I believe he will reveal different things to different people so what may be important to me may not be important to you, and vice-versa.

There is no end to learning about God and the Messiah. From this moment on, until you get to meet them face-to-face, be open-minded, be studious (a “Berean” of the Word), and be flexible and compassionate with others who may have different priorities than you do. If you know someone is on the wrong track, gently and lovingly advise them. If they refuse to listen, so be it. Maybe they really do have a valid reason to know what you consider to be nothing more than biblical minutia. Who knows?

Finally, trust in God that what he wants you to know he will make sure you do, and what you don’t know but want to, well….always ask yourself if it is really that important? Are we saved by knowing exactly when the moon rises on the 10th day of Tishri? Is God going to condemn you to hell forever if you mispronounce his name?  If you celebrate a holiday that is a traditional celebration of God or Messiah but has a history that dates back to a pagan holiday, will your worship and prayers be rejected because of what that day used to represent, even though you are earnestly praying to the true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?

I will end with something I do believe is important to know: I don’t think God is so thin-skinned to be upset by what something used to mean or how you pronounce whichever name you use when praying to him, so long as your prayers to and worship of God is from your heart and an attitude of faithful obedience and love for him.