Parashah Bechukosai 2019 (In my statutes) Leviticus 26:3 – 28

This parashah is the final reading from the Book of Leviticus.

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Up to this point, God has given us his instructions for how to worship him, the responsibilities of the Cohen, and how to treat each other within the society. He also has included the punishments for failure to do as he instructs. Now, in this final section, God does what the Prophets have done throughout the Tanakh, which is to tell us what will happen when we obey, and what will happen when we disobey.

It is very similar to one of my favorite chapters throughout the Torah, which is Deuteronomy 28 and is called the Blessings and the Curses.

Whenever a covenant is made there is a standard formula:

(1) The one proposing the covenant states the conditions of the covenant;

(2) He states what the one(s) agreeing to the covenant must do;

(3) What will result from compliance, and (finally);

(4) What will happen as a result of noncompliance

Today, what I would like to talk about is what God says will happen if we do not follow his instructions in this book.

In Chapter 26, God says he will punish us for our sin of disobedience 7 times over (and another 7 times over if that doesn’t work, and another 7 times if we still refuse to obey, and even ANOTHER 7 times if we have still refused to do T’shuvah), but his purpose is not to be punitive, it is to be corrective.

In Ezekiel 18 God tells us that he gets no pleasure from the death of a sinner, but that he would rather the sinner turn from his sins, and live. Meaning live eternally with God. This is not possible if we choose to live a sinful life and never to T’shuvah (repent.).

You may ask, “If God wants us to stop sinning, why would he curse us with tsuris?” (Yiddish for troubles)

The answer is that the mother of all sins is pridefulness. Refusing to follow God’s instructions is evidence that we think we know better so we don’t have to trust or listen to God. It is rebellion and means we trust only in our own power. So, since we think we are so great we don’t need to listen to God, he shows us just how incompetent, weak, and powerless we really are. The way he does that is to withhold the rain so our crops fail; he will make us infertile so we can’t have successors to carry on the family heritage or maintain our property; he will allow us to get sick and lose our health; he will send our enemies to decimate our family and fields; essentially, his punishment is to remove his protection, which leaves us exposed to all the evil that exists in the world.

You see- God doesn’t really do anything bad to us, per se’, but when he removes his protection and blessings, all the bad things he says he will do to us the world will do for him.

Often we hear people say the God of the Old Covenant is cruel but the God of the New Covenant is all about love. I don’t know how anyone who actually has read or learned about the Bible can say something so ridiculous: God is the same today as he was in the beginning, and he will be the same throughout eternity. The only difference is that in the Old Covenant God was training his people to become a nation of Priests to the world and in the New Covenant he sent the Messiah to fine-tune that training. Same God, same teachings, same rules, same instructions, only with a deeper, more spiritual understanding being given.

Today’s message is very simple and short (I know- surprising that I would ever give a short message!), and this is it:

Punishment from God is not punitive, it is corrective. 

The next time you feel you are being punished, review your life. Have you been disobedient? Have you been trying to live under your own power and not trusting in God’s power? Are you doing God’s work in the world (sometimes our tsuris is from the Enemy to stop us doing what God wants us to do)? Answer these questions carefully; look deeply into the mirror and decide if you have walked away from God’s Kippah (covering)? if you think that is the case, then return to him and follow the instructions he gave us all.

If you believe you are being attacked by the Enemy, then call out to God for more protection and help to get through it.

Terrible things can happen to godly people; in fact, we are told that they will happen. Do you remember you were told you have to pick up your execution stake in order to be able to walk with Yeshua? So steel yourself for the tsuris to come, and be comforted by the knowledge that there will be blessings, as well. Look for them and know that what seems to be a curse today might evolve into a blessing tomorrow.

Having reached the end of a book in the Torah, before we start the next book we say:

                                           Chazak, chazak, v’nit’chazek! 

                        (Be strong, be strong, and let us be strengthened!)

Thank you for being here, and please don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel and also to this website. Share me out to everyone you know, whether a believer or not, and buy my books. I also appreciate your comments… just be nice, or at least respectful.

Tonight begins the Shabbat, so I wish you all Shabat Shalom and Baruch HaShem!!

Parashah Behar 2019 (On the mount) Leviticus 25 – 26:2

In this reading from the Torah, we are given the instructions for celebrating the Sabbatical Year and the Year of Jubilee.

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The Sabbatical year (called the Shemita) is the Shabbat rest for the land. Just as every seventh day the people rested, every seventh year the land would also get a rest. God promised that the sixth year produce would be great enough to be able to feed the land-owner not just for the sixth year, but for the next two years, as well, until the planting that started in the year after the Sabbatical year was harvestable.

Sounds just like the promise (that God kept, of course) regarding the collection of Manna on the sixth day lasting for two days over the Shabbat instead of morning to morning, as it did on the other six days of the week.

The Shemita also gave us rest from the burden of debt, in that all debts were to be released in the Shemita year. This was only for debts within the Israelite community and did not affect debts to or from non-Israelites.

The Jubilee year (called the Yovel) occurs the year after every 7th Shemita year or every fiftieth year. It is a year of rest, as well. Not just a rest for the land, but a rest from slavery or debt-bondage. In the Jubilee year, all property was to be returned to the hereditary owner and all slaves (again, only fellow Israelites) were to be set free.  In fact, the Jubilee Year was the basis for buying and selling of land and people in debt-bondage, in as much as the cost of land or freedom from bondage was to be prorated (you could say amortized) based how much production from the land or person could be expected by the next Jubilee Year.

Why all this resting? Didn’t God know about Type A personalities? What are they supposed to do with themselves when there is no work to be performed?

Maybe God instructed these different times of rest (Shabbat, Shemita, and the Yovel) so that we could have a moment in which to stop worrying about our life and start thinking about our eternity? Maybe God was thinking that if he made sure we had nothing that required us to concentrate on ourselves or what we were doing we could then concentrate on what is really important- where we will be going?

People are inherently self-centered. That doesn’t necessarily mean we are selfish or egotistic, it just means that when we receive input from the world, we identify and relate it to personal experience and understanding. Essentially, we are each of us the center of our universe, and as such we relate everything to ourselves. When we have nothing to worry about, nothing to occupy our time doing, we then can settle down and expand our vision, so to speak, to see things from someone else’s eyes.

In the Bible, God gives us his view of the world and the people in it. We are given the opportunity to see and understand things from a different viewpoint. And, when there is nothing else to do but study the Bible, we can mature both spiritually and emotionally because we learn to see things the way others see it.

Notice that I say we have the opportunity to see and understand other’s viewpoint- as with everything in life, there are those who will open their minds and hearts to others, and there are those that refuse to acknowledge anyone else’s feelings or opinions.

Every covenant and promise God has given to us, he has given as an open-ended agreement. He always keeps his end of the bargain, but we have the choice to accept or reject his covenants and promises. The way we demonstrate acceptance or rejection is through obedience. When we obey God’s instructions that he gave in the Torah (which Yeshua confirmed and discussed in spiritual terms), we will receive those things that God promised. When we disobey, be it by volition, ignorance, or instruction from others (meaning a religion’s doctrine), we reject God and will not receive all the blessings he has for us.

God isn’t just willing to bless us, he desires to bless us tremendously, and how much we receive is directly proportional to how well we follow his instructions. He wants us to obey as a love response and result of trusting him, but he doesn’t care why we disobey.

I am going to finish this message with what I believe is a really interesting thought- you don’t have to wait for one of God’s Shabbat rests before you rest. You can take a Shabbat any time you want to. Since I have retired, I am still active (as my ministry work online shows) but I am now in what I like to call a perpetual Shabbat. I don’t hafta do nothin’ if I don’t want to, and I am much more relaxed than I ever was when I was a member of the Rat Race. Don’t get me wrong- I liked my job, but I like not having to do it even better!

Enjoy the Shabbat that God has instructed you to enjoy. Take a break from your own life and learn about others. Expand yourself, emotionally and spiritually, by concentrating on something and someone other than yourself. You’ll find it very restful.

Thank you for being here, and please don’t forget to subscribe to the website and my YouTube channel: click on the Messianic Moment icons in the corners of the video and on the subscribe button in the right-hand margin on the website.

I welcome comments and whether you agree or vehemently disagree, all I ask is that your comments be made in a nice way.

Tonight begins God’s weekly Shabbat, so I wish you all Shabbat Shalom!

Until next time….L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

How to Deal with Being a Sinner

Like it or not, you are a sinner. I am a sinner, and we all are not only sinners but sinful, filled with the desire to sin (which is called “iniquity”.)

So, how do we deal with this? We do that by, well…dealing with it. We can’t escape it, we can’t stop it, but we can learn to control it better than we used to.

The best answer I can give you is what I always say:  We can never be sinless, but we can always sin less. 

(No video today.)

Grace is what we call forgiveness from the sins we commit, but it is on a spiritual level; in the physical realm, we will always have to suffer from the consequences of our sins. And even worse than that- many times it will be the innocent people who we care about that suffer, as well.

There exists within Christianity a very popular teaching (popular because it removes any feeling of guilt or responsibility) that says once we have asked forgiveness in Yeshua’s name, we are forgiven forever. The term used is OSAS (Once Saved, Always Saved), and it is a lie from the pit of Sheol.  It makes one feel good about sinning and removes any feelings of repentance.

How?  Simple: when we think no matter what we do, we are automatically forgiven then we don’t worry about what we do. This is NOT the way to deal with your sinfulness.

Oh, yes, there are some who will make the excuse that the Holy Spirit will guide us and prevent us from doing wrong; others will say the Torah was already written on our hearts the moment we accepted Jesus.  Both are wrong.  Salvation is not a momentary change of heart, it is a life-long process. The Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) may warn us when we are about to sin, but if someone has been taught their sins are automatically forgiven why would they worry about listening to the little angel on their shoulder saying, “Uh, uh, uh- you really shouldn’t!”?  Especially when the little devil on the other shoulder is saying, “Don’t listen to that one- you are already saved by the blood of Christ! If you think you have to obey God to be saved, you are not under the blood but under the law!”

That’s the same guy who told Eve, “You certainly won’t die.”

What do you think? If I continue to sin because I think I am already saved, is God going to accept me into his presence? Will my ignorance be forgiven and my sinfulness ignored because the reason I rejected his instructions in the Torah was a result of someone telling me I didn’t have to obey them?

I don’t think so.

I can’t speak for God, but I’m pretty sure that if I came before him on Judgement Day and said, “I am sorry I rejected your instructions, but my (Priest/Minister/Pastor/whatever) told me I didn’t have to obey them”, he might say something like: “I understand, my child, that someone told you what to do, but it’s what I say that counts!”

What was “nailed to the cross”, as Shaul (Paul) tells us, was not every sin we will ever commit, but only every sin we have already committed. The past is forgiven, but the future remains open. We can continually work at being better or we can continue to sin and make excuses. This is a very important truth to understand or you cannot properly deal with your sinning.

Let me remind you of the main point in this message- we WILL continue to sin. One way or the other, we each have to deal with this.

When we face up to the fact that we are sinful, the way to deal with it is the way God tells us to in the Torah: obey the instructions he gave us and when we sin, repent and ask forgiveness through Yeshua’s sacrifice. When we do that we can trust his promise that we will have life, eternal.

God says in Ezekiel 18 and elsewhere, throughout the Tanakh, that if we obey we will have life, meaning life eternal. We still suffer from sins on earth, yet we will be forgiven in the resurrection. BUT..only if we remain repentant and continually ask for forgiveness, demonstrating the genuineness of our repentance by working, every day until we are dead, to sin less each day.

Most of Christianity teaches an easy path to salvation: trust in Jesus and you’re saved forever. That sounds nice, but you know the old saying: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Yeshua said that if we want to follow him, we must each of us pick up our execution stake and walk after him. If that sounds like a cake-walk to you, you have a real problem with comprehension!

And the Enemy? He wants you to believe that, and sometimes he will try to make you feel so bad about sinning that you might just think, “I can never stop sinning, no matter how hard I try! I might as well chuck it all and just enjoy myself. Why should I beat myself up any more for something I can’t control?”  It should be obvious this is not how to deal with your sin.

We are sinners, we always will be, and that’s not okay but it is the way things are. We deal with it, first of all, by taking possession of our own iniquity, owning up to our weaknesses, and asking God’s help to be obedient to his instructions.

Think about it: God created this game called “Life, Death, and Resurrection”, and he gave us the instructions telling us how to win it.  So, nu?  why would anyone want to ignore them?

Amen?….AMEN!!

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I welcome comments, just be nice, and until next time…L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Changing the Way I Talk About the Torah

The Torah is the first 5 books of the Bible, which most of you already know, and it contains all the commandments (also referred to as “laws”) God has given to us. The rest of the Old Covenant is more of a historical narration, which shows us how we have failed to live up to our side of the covenant God made with us, in which those laws reside.

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For Jews, there is no problem with the Torah being God’s laws because the Torah is all that almost every non-Messianic Jew in the world cares about, meaning they do not accept anything from the New Covenant as scripture or even valid.  So, for those Jews who do not accept Yeshua as their Messiah, law=Torah=commandments=regulations, and that is fine.

The problem I want to talk about today is that Christians, in general, have traditionally been taught that the Torah- in truth, the entire Tanakh- is just for Jews. Jews have the Torah and Christians have Jesus Christ.Add to that the traditional Christian teaching of the Epistles Shaul (Paul) wrote, which is that obedience to the ‘Law” is legalism and wrong because faith and love are all you need to be saved, and you have the incorrect belief that law=Torah and neither apply to Christians.

As a Messianic Jew, I understand the truth about the relationship between Yeshua (Jesus) and the Torah, in that Yeshua was (as John tells us in John 1) the living example of the way we are to live in accordance to the Torah. Not only did he NOT do away with Torah, but he confirmed it in everything he did and said.

Consequently, understanding the above I also know the truth about the letters Shaul wrote, which (again) did NOT deny the validity of the Torah, but confirmed it. Albeit, the way he did so was very convoluted and confusing to Gentiles who couldn’t grasp the underlying cultural and religious meanings of much of what he wrote.

So, what I have decided to do (which will take me a while to incorporate into my messages) is to not refer to the Torah as “law”, or “commandments” or even “regulations” (which, by the way, they are) but simply as God’s instructions to us.

When we look at how God tells us what we are to do, it isn’t so much a decree as a choice. There are way too many passages to quote, but I doubt that anyone with any knowledge or familiarity with the Bible will be surprised when I say God tells us (repeatedly) what we are to do and what will happen if we don’t. To some, this may be a decree or even seen as a threat, but to me, it is a choice.

Through all the Prophets, God constantly told his people that he wanted them to choose life so that they would live. When he says to choose life, he means to obey his instructions in the Torah. Yeshua did not give any new instructions: yes, I know he said: “I give this new command, to love one another” (John 13:34) but that really isn’t “new”- it is from Leviticus 19:18. Yeshua did not create a new religion (this is what Jews are taught), nor did he change any of the existing instructions from the Torah or do away with them (this is what Gentiles are taught), so since Torah and Law and commandments all have the same connotation to both Jews and Gentiles, I will use “instructions” because that won’t sound like the same rhetoric everyone has already heard.

Maybe, just maybe, if people take a new view of the Torah as just instruction, which we have the right to choose or refuse, then maybe they will begin to see the entire Bible in a different light, one that might shine the truth through the cloudy and darkened misinterpretations that both Jews and Gentiles have been force-fed for generations.

One last thing: there are probably some of you out there who are thinking that I am wrong to refer to God’s commandments as something that is not mandatory, and I can understand why you would feel that way.  After all, he is God, right? The Almighty! The Creator of the Universe! The holy I Am! And when God says we should do something, it isn’t a suggestion, so where do I get off saying we have a choice?  The reason I say we have a choice is, well…because God tells us we do. When God says we should “choose life” he is giving us an option. If God didn’t want us to have an option, he would have not told us we have a choice. And he would not have given us Free Will, either. But God doesn’t want automatons, and he won’t make us love him; the only thing we can give God that he doesn’t already have is our love. He wants our worship, obedience, and love for him to be our choice.

Following God’s instructions shouldn’t be done because you are afraid of punishment but as a love-response.

The Torah is God’s instructions to the world (not just the Jews) teaching us how to worship him and treat each other. It is like the instructions you get when you have to put a child’s toy together: you can do the usual manly thing and ignore them, or you can read them carefully and follow them. And for all of you (like me) who have tried to put something together without reading the instructions, you know how that almost always turns out.

The question I leave you with is this: knowing how the toy turns out when you don’t read and obey the instructions, do you want your eternal soul to end up the same way?

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I welcome comments and discussion, and all I ask is that you be nice.

I look forward to the next time we are together, and until then…L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah Pekudey 2019 (These are the accounts) Exodus 38:21 – 40

We come to the final reading in the Book of Exodus. For the last couple of chapters, we have read about the details of the building of the Sanctuary, as per God’s instructions, and in this reading, we are told how the work was completed, exactly as God had instructed.

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The parashah ends with the separate parts of the Tabernacle being put together and the entire structure being set up on the first day of the first month, in the second year of the freedom from Egypt. Once built, the holy items are placed inside the tent, and God’s Shekinah glory fills the tent, so much so, that even Moses cannot enter it. At the end of this book, we are told how the cloud stays over the tent during the day, and fire during the night, and how the people moved only when the cloud moved.

When I read this parashah, and came to Chapter 39, verses 42-43 I thought about Nehemiah. In Exodus we are told:

And Moses saw all the work, and, behold, they had done it; as the LORD had commanded, even so had they done it. And Moses blessed them.

and in Nehemiah 6:14-15 we read:

So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days. And it came to pass, when all our enemies heard thereof, that all the nations that were about us feared, and were much cast down in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God.

What struck me about these two passages is what they have in common: when the people did exactly as God had commanded them to do, with glad hearts and zeal to please God, they accomplished great works in a very short time.

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who knows about God and certainly isn’t some great revelation that I have had, but it is significant and important (I believe) for us to remember and repeat.  When we do as God instructs, we accomplish much that we would never have been able to do if it was just for us, alone.

I love my wife, and when I do something that I know will please her, I put much more effort into it than I would if it was just something I wanted for myself. We are told throughout the Bible about love; we are told God loves us, we are told to love each other, and we are even told that without love we are nothing. All good stuff, no doubt. But there is something else about love that we aren’t told, which is obvious in the two passages, above: when we do something out of love for God, we are capable of performing miracles.

I am sure that I could wax prolific about that one sentence, but I won’t. It is something that you either understand and agree with, or you don’t. For those that do understand and agree, there is nothing else I need to say; for those that don’t, there is nothing I can say.

So I will leave today’s message with this: when you love God and show it through your actions and obedience to his instructions (which is what “Torah” really means) you will accomplish so much more than you ever thought possible, and just as Moses blessed the people, God will shower you with blessings.

I wish you a joyous and peaceful Shabbat, and as we say after reading a book of the Torah:

                                                          Hazak, hazak, v’nit’chazek!

                                         (Be strong, be strong, and let us be strengthened!) 

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!