How Should We Really Pray for The Peace of Jerusalem?

In the Gospels, when Yeshua (Jesus) is in the garden praying to God, he asks if the cup can be passed from him. He was asking, “Lord? Do I really have to go through this? Isn’t there a Plan B?”

And the answer he gave himself was, “Thy will be done.”

Do you know where we commanded to pray for the peace of Jerusalem? Nowhere. There is nowhere in the Bible we are commanded to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. The Torah is where we find God’s instructions and there are none telling us we must pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

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We are asked to pray for the peace of Jerusalem by King David in Psalm 122:5-6, where he says:

For there the thrones of judgment stand, the thrones of the house of David. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May those who love you prosper. May there be peace within your walls, and prosperity inside your fortresses.”

This psalm is asking that we pray for peace in Jerusalem so that there is peace in the house of David, and also in the house of Adonai.

Since its formation as a state in 1948, Israel (and Jerusalem as its capital) has been attacked daily by her enemies, which surround her on all sides. These attacks aren’t just military or terroristic; Israel is also being attacked economically, it is being lied about in the media, and it’s people are attacked throughout the European nations through anti-Semitic activities, such as in France and many former Soviet Union states, to name a few.

Even in the Congress of the United States, there is a New York Representative who is blatantly anti-Semitic! New York has always had a tremendously large Jewish population, yet here is a New Yorker who is obviously against Israel. Let’s not forget to mention there are some representatives from other states who also demonstrate a public persona that is anti-Semitic.

With regards to Jerusalem and Israel, we have prayed and prayed until our tallitot are frayed, and yet there is no peace. Is God ignoring his people? Does God want the enemies of the Jews to succeed?  Are we praying the wrong way?

I believe we are praying the wrong way, or maybe I should rephrase that: I believe we are praying for the wrong kind of peace.

First off, let’s all see if we can agree on this: whatever God wants to happen, will happen. Are we all OK with that? Good.

Next, let’s see what God intends for Jerusalem and Israel, so we know what he wants to happen:

Zechariah 12:3– On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves.

Luke 21:24– Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

Isaiah 34:1-2- For the Lord’s anger is against all the nations. And His anger is against all their armies. He has destroyed all of them. He has given them over to be killed.

Revelation 21:1-3– Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”

 

These are just a few of the many verses telling about Jerusalem and Israel in the End Days, called the Acharit HaYamim.  God has punished Israel for her sins, and since the re-establishment of the State of Israel, the regathering promised throughout the Tanakh by nearly every prophet has been underway. The time of Israel’s punishment is over, and the time for the punishment of the nations is starting.

However, that doesn’t mean Israel is going to have peace- not yet.

God’s plan is that all the nations of the earth will come against Israel, and when the end of Israel seems to be certain, Messiah Yeshua will return, land on Mount Carmel and then (as we Marines say) he will kick butt and take names.

And when he kicks butt there won’t be any names left to take.

God’s plan for Israel is that it be attacked and decimated, nearly to the point of total destruction. We don’t have to like it, but that is what it is. He had the same plan for Messiah, who was insulted, beaten, whipped, tortured, and crucified. Israel will have to undergo the same treatment, and just like her Messiah, who rose triumphant and resurrected in a perfect body, Israel and Jerusalem will also be resurrected as a perfect place, and we will live in the presence of God, forever.

We should be following Yeshua’s example of praying, which means not praying for the avoidance of the terrible things to happen, but for God’s will to be done. We should not pray for the peace that men design, for we have seen throughout the history of Mankind that the peace men create is not lasting. Forget about peace with Jordan, or Syria, or any other nations. It ain’t in the cards!  Pray that the attacks against Israel and her people be ended by the return of Messiah.

That is the way I pray for the peace of Jerusalem: I pray that Messiah’s return happens swiftly because that is the only thing that will bring everlasting peace to Jerusalem.

We cannot go against the plan of God, and his plan is that Israel is attacked until it is nearly destroyed. We can’t stop that and we shouldn’t- it is what God wants, therefore I say we must not pray against it but for it to be done speedily so that the fewest number of people will have to suffer.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, but not for a man-made peace, which is a waste of time. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem that God has planned for it by praying for the speedy return of Messiah Yeshua.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe and share this message to everyone you know who believes in God. I welcome your comments, just be nice, and until next time…L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

 

Why There Will Not be Peace in the Middle East

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There will not be peace in the Middle East because God said it won’t happen.

Genesis 16 recalls the story of the birth of Ishmael. It tells us Sarai (not yet called Sarah) gave her slave girl, Hagar to Abram (not yet Abraham) so that she could have children through the slave girl. When Hagar became pregnant, instead of being joyful at this Sarai was jealous and began to mistreat Hagar. Hagar was fed-up with this and ran away, but God saw her and told her to return to Sarai.

Now here is the important thing for us to remember: when God told Hagar to return, he also promised her that she would have a son and be the mother of many, many descendants, but the most important thing he said, which seems to have been forgotten by people is found in Genesis 16:12 (CKB):

“He will be a wild donkey of a man, with his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, living his life at odds with all his kinsmen.”

I think we can all agree that when God says something is going to be a certain way, we can be sure that that certain thing will be exactly the way God said it will be. And God said that the Arab nations that are the descendants of Ishmael, who are all still living throughout the Middle East (Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Iran and the smaller countries) would always be in combat and against one another. Of course, Israel is right in the middle of all this, being also a kinsman to Ishmael.

And the history of that part of the world demonstrates that God wasn’t lying.

So there you have it! We all want peace in the Middle East, but it’s just the same as when every beauty pageant candidate is asked what would be their fondest wish and they answer, “World peace.” Yeah, nice thought, but it ain’t gonna happen in this plane of existence.

Do you want peace in the Middle East? So do I, so do what I do to make it happen- pray for Messiah’s return. That’s the only way there will be peace in that part of the world; in fact, that is the only way there will be lasting peace anywhere in the world.

God’s Plan is Being Accomplished and We Are Complaining!

I am still a little under the weather so there will not be a video for this message.

 

I have been using Face Book as a means to advance this ministry, and I have many friends who I know personally outside the FB domain. I follow them and see all too often postings about how the media is attacking Israel, about how the UN is attacking Israel, or about how the Democrats here in the US are either attacking Israel or supporting Hamas and the enemies of Israel.

I also see this in discussion groups (Christian, Messianic and Hebraic Roots), all kvetching about how everyone is coming against Israel with lies and how the media and the world are accepting it as truth.

To all this I say….DUH!!  What did you expect? Isn’t this God’s plan? Isn’t this what the Prophets and Yeshua and John’s vision all tell us is going to happen?

In Matthew 16:21-23, when Yeshua was telling his Talmudim (Disciples) that he had to suffer and die, Kefa (Peter) said this should never happen. And what did Yeshua reply to him? He said:

But Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me. For you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.

Kefa was only seeing the worldly events that were to happen and did not recognize or accept that what was going to happen would result in the salvation of the world! He was all about the flesh and nothing about the spirit.

Earlier, Yeshua was telling a parable and when his Talmudim later asked him to explain it he said (Matthew 13:15-16):

But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.…

He was, in a way, chiding them for not understanding or appreciating what was happening. Their eyes and ears were blessed because Yeshua was going to explain to them the meaning of his parables, but they were still as “thick” as everyone else.  They had the Messiah right there, in the very midst of them, and they couldn’t appreciate it.

Of course, they did later.

What I am complaining about is those people who are constantly complaining about the treatment Israel is getting from the world and want the world to change it’s attitude. This won’t happen, it shouldn’t happen, and in fact, we should not be kvetching about it! What we should be doing instead is praising God for his wonderful plan of salvation that we are blessed to see happening in our own lifetime!

Look…I hate seeing Israel under such pressure, and I look forward to the peace that God will bring, but it won’t come until after the Tribulation. That is God’s plan, we are aware of it and we are seeing it happen. Stop complaining about God’s plan coming to fruition and instead shout, “Halleluyah!! Come, Lord Yeshua!”

I am not happy seeing Israel and Believers all over the world being persecuted, but I am overjoyed that the plan of God is being realized and brought to it’s completion.

Aren’t you?

 

Parashah Bo 2018 (Go) Exodus 10 – 13:16

The plagues continue, starting with the eighth plague of locusts, followed by the days of darkness, and the final and ultimate plague: the death of the firstborn.

And with this last and terrible event, God’s plan of salvation for the Israelites is completed and they are sent out of Egypt.

In this reading we have the first, the original, Passover and we learn about the Passover Lamb.

We call Yeshua the “Passover Lamb”, but is that really what He is?

What Changed After Egypt?

When we read the 4th Commandment in Exodus 20, it reads this way:

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work,  but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns.  For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

But later on, after the Israelites have been in the desert for some 40 years and Moses is about to die, he reviews all that has happened, and when he repeats the 10 Commandments in Deuteronomy 5 , the 4th one changes:

“Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work,  but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do.  Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.”

Do you see the change? The reason for celebrating the Shabbat has been changed! Initially, when the people were freed they were told that God rested on the Shabbat and so they should, also. These were a people that had been in slavery for 400 years and never had a single day’s rest. Slavery isn’t a 9 to 5 job, it is 24/7/365! If God was able to rest, so can they, and it was a totally new life style for them. But later, after 40 years of having a Shabbat, as they were about to enter the land, God changed the reason for celebrating.

They were about to take possession of a land in which, instead of being a slave, they will have slaves of their own. A land where there will be other people living with them who will be working for them instead of the other way around. So they will need to remember how they were slaves, that once they were mistreated and never had a single day’s rest until God provided it for them. Therefore, they were no longer to emulate God just by resting on Shabbat, but also by providing a Shabbat rest for others.

It may seem the reason for celebrating the Shabbat had changed drastically, but there is a common element between the two: whether they were resting as God rested, or providing others rest as God provided for them, they were still emulating God. At first they were told to rest because God rested, and that was something they needed to learn how to do. By the time they were ready to enter the Land the Shabbat had become a regular part of their lifestyle, and the next step was to learn how to allow others to rest from their work with them, just as God had them rest when He did.

From this point in the bible forward, the Shabbat is (almost always) commanded to be observed because we were once slaves in Egypt and now we are free. In fact, if you really look at it, from the time we entered the Promised Land onward, the impetus for the people to emulate God was in that they were once slaves and now they are free. This is the founding principle of God’s plan of salvation: those who were slaves are now free. First we were slaves to Pharaoh, and God freed us through wondrous miracles. He gave us the Torah, which defined, absolutely, sin from righteousness, and so we were able (as Shaul tells us) to identify sinfulness from sinlessness. With Torah we understood that instead of being slaves to a political system, we were still slaves to a spiritual system; more than that, we understood that the freedom to this spiritual system was also provided by God, through Messiah Yeshua.

What changed between Egypt and the Promised Land was not just the reason for celebrating the Shabbat, but our understanding of God’s plan of salvation. It is all about freedom: freedom from a political system, then freedom from a spiritual system, and ultimately freedom from this plane of existence, itself. Whether we are saved by Messiah or still slave to the world system, we are always going to be enslaved by our physicality, our mortality and our flesh. This will not change until we are resurrected into spiritual beings, and then God’s plan of salvation will be completed.

The good news is that for those that have accepted Yeshua as their Messiah, we are already 2/3’s of the way home! Freed from slavery to a world system, freed from slavery to sin, and now just waiting for our resurrected bodies.

I can hardly wait!

Repentance Without Change is Nothing

How often do we hear preachers tell us that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved? How many times have you heard missionaries tell you that Jesus died for your sins and once you accept Him, your sins are forever forgiven? How many people believe that by asking for forgiveness they are now set to go to heaven?

How many of you out there believe that anything I said above is true? If you do, please sit back, open your heart to the Holy Spirit and read on….WARNING: your comfort zone is about to be attacked.

Calling on the name of the Lord, accepting Yeshua (Jesus) and asking forgiveness from your sins in His name, repenting of sin (which is what this is all based on) is totally useless if you, yourself, do not change how you act from that moment onwards. You cannot be forgiven for sinning if you do not repent of sinning, and repentance means that you stop doing what you have been doing. That means changing how you act, changing what you think, and changing how you live your life.

Think about it: What if I stole from you, and then said I was sorry and won’t do it again? Later, I steal from you. Do you think that I really meant what I said when I promised not to steal anymore? If I continue to steal from you, then what you finally realize is that I am NOT repentant, that I am NOT sorry I stole, and that I am playing you for a sap.

God is not a sap. God is forgiving and compassionate and patient, but He is not stupid or easily (actually, I should say ever) fooled. He knows our heart, He knows out very essence, and when we ask for forgiveness, if we really don’t mean it, if we are just trying to get away with something, then He will know and He will not forgive.

Read the writings of the Prophets and see how God continually challenged the Children of Israel, in both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms, to truly repent, to change their ways. Read the book of Jonah- Nineveh did a real T’shuvah (turning from sin) and God recognized that, so they were not destroyed. Later, they went back to their sinful ways and eventually were used by God to punish the Northern Kingdom (who never even tried to repent), then they were also destroyed.

The way many missionaries and preachers gain congregants, and how they keep them, is to tell them what sounds good: “God will forgive you and God loves you just as you are.” Although these statements are true, they aren’t complete.

God does love you just as you are, but that doesn’t mean that He wants you to stay that way.

James tells us faith without works is dead, and that goes hand-in-hand with what I learned when I was a salesman, which is: people don’t mean what they say; they mean what they do. When we ask God to forgive us our sins, He is willing and desiring to do so, but He requires T’shuvah, which is demonstrated only through a change in our actions. Yes, God can see our heart, but that isn’t enough.

Forgiveness of sin is something that says more about God than it does about us, namely that He is wonderful, compassionate and forgiving, and when we talk about how Yeshua died so we can have a chance to live eternally in God’s presence, we are glorifying both Yeshua and God. And that is why we need to change what we do- repentance of our sins has to be shown by a change in our actions which glorifies the Lord.

We naturally will do and act the way we want to, so to change how we act we need to change who we are. People can’t do that, which is why we need the Holy Spirit, the Ruach HaKodesh, to indwell in us. Through the leading of the Holy Spirit we can change our words, thoughts and actions. That is what we mean when we say “die to self.”

I once read a self-help book that made a lot of sense to me: the basic premise is that we cannot change how we react to things, but we can change how we act. I was not a Believer then and was thinking simply in humanistic ways, but now that I understand better I see that this is how the Ruach can help. I am sinful from birth, and iniquity (tendency to sin) is something that is part of me- I cannot just make it go away. BUT- I can control it, and I can act in a way that will allow me to overrule my desire to sin. The Ruach is how I do that, and that is what you need to do, as well.

What I mean is this: I can never be sinless, but I can always sin less. I can sin less tomorrow than I did today, and I can do that through repentance (true repentance) by asking the Ruach to help me. And by surrendering to it. When I put my pride and stubborn heart in subjection to the Holy Spirit, then I will have a change of heart, and I will act differently. And my change will demonstrate not to God, but to the world, the truth of my repentance. Our repentance must be obvious to the world in order to glorify the Lord.

That is the essence of today’s message. When we repent and mean it, we will have to change how we act and what we say because the repentance must be obvious to the world- what we do and say as Believers is not to reflect on us, it is to reflect on God and glorify Him.

When we change our words and thoughts, we show the world that our repentance is genuine and that glorifies God. If we tell people we are saved but they see us acting the same way we always have, what are they going to think? I’ll tell what they are going to think- they are going to think that whole “God thing” is a bunch of hooey! We will not only have lied to God but will have defamed Him, trampled the blood of Messiah into the dirt, and possibly prevented someone from being saved from their sin.

That is not a good thing to do.

So, remember what David said in Psalm 51: “Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit in me.

And while we’re at it, my personal prayer is from Psalm 19: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”

Repentance must be real, it must be demonstrated through a change in your words and your actions.

Repentance that doesn’t change you is not repentance, and without repentance of sin there will not be forgiveness of sin.

Parashah Shoftim (Judges) Deuteronomy 16:18 – 21:9

There are some very important practices outlined in this parashah.

First off, judges must not allow a person’s social status to influence their decision. Any crime deserving of capital punishment must be substantiated by no less than 2 or 3 witnesses, and to ensure those witnesses realize the seriousness of their accusations, they are to be the first ones to lay hands on and stone the guilty.  For criminal cases that are too hard for the local judge to adjudicate, those cases are to be brought to the Levites in the location where where God places His name; God just created the first Supreme Court.

It talks about when the people want a king that the king must read and obey the Torah daily, and that he must not bring the people out of the land or have too many horses or wives; too many horses represents faithlessness in God as their protector, and too many wives will be a lure to idolatry (as Solomon proved true.)

What is interesting is that after establishing the rules for having a king, Moses tells the people that God will send a prophet to let them know what He wants of them. The reason I find this interesting is that the prophet was supposed to be in place of the king, yet the rulings for how the king is to act came before Moses talked about the prophet.  Perhaps this is to emphasize that the king is also required to listen to the prophet God sends, which (for the good kings) did happen. As for the bad kings who rejected the prophets warnings, well… we know where they ended up.

The other regulations in this parashah deal with which men shall be free of military obligation, establishing cities of refuge and what I want to talk about today- offering peace with slavery or total destruction to the cities the people would encounter when conquering the land.

Deuteronomy 20: 10-18 states that when coming to a city which is not one within the land that God is giving as an inheritance, they are to approach it and offer a peaceful takeover. The city that accepts will be required to pay tribute but will remain unmolested. If the city refuses, then all the men are to be killed and the woman, children and possessions are to be taken. However, for those people living in the land that God is giving as the inheritance (the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites), the people, all the animals and their possessions are to be completely destroyed. Nothing is to be kept by the Israelites.

Wow! Our loving, compassionate and merciful God wants total annihilation of people- men, women and children, as well as the animals!  Is this the same God who chided Jonah for wanting Nineveh destroyed? Is this the same God who gave us commandments regarding proper treatment of all people and animals? Is this the same God who gave us Messiah so that we can have eternal life? Is this the same God who has Ezekiel tell us (Chapter 18) that He doesn’t like to see anyone die, but would rather that the sinner turn from his sin, and live?

If God is willing to let the other pagan peoples remain alive as slaves, why not these that live in the land already?

The answer is simple, yet hard for humans to accept- the people living in the land that God is giving to the Israelites have sinned so terribly that their time for forgiveness has passed and the time for judgment has come. Remember how Moses told the people that they are not being given the land because they deserve it, but because of the promise God made to their fathers (Deuteronomy 9:5)?  Moses also told the people the reason the existing peoples are being ejected from the land is because they have so polluted it that the land, itself, is vomiting them out of it (Leviticus 18:28), and if the Israelites do not destroy them completely then they will become a snare for them and cause them to fall into the same sin, resulting in Israel being vomited out of the land, as well. Which, of course, eventually happened just as Moses warned them it would happen.

God is loving and compassionate and caring, but he is also God, which means that He judges fairly. He sets the rules, and He holds Himself accountable to them. I think this is why people can’t figure God out- it’s because we are weak and easily influenced by our emotions, and God isn’t. We have rules and regulations but we do not always hold ourselves up to our own standards.

God is not like that- God makes the rules for us, but He also follows those rules Himself. One of the reasons God is able to judge fairly is because He not only can see the heart, but because He will not allow Himself to break His own rules. Since He is God, if He wanted to break His own rules, who could stop Him? Who can hold God accountable? No one, of course, except God, and He does exactly that- God holds Himself accountable to follow His own rules.

We do not know if God sent prophets to these people, or if He made Himself known to them as He did to the Israelites, but we do know that the people in the land were aware of who God was. The story of what God did to Egypt was known throughout that area. God also said He would put the fear of the Israelites into the peoples, which was evident. Once Joshua was in the land, Rahab (Joshua 2) knew about them, and there is the story of the city of Gibeon (Joshua 9) that fooled Joshua by sending envoys pretending they came from a far distance in order to make peace with him. So there was no excuse for these people to have not done T’shuvah and save themselves.

Purging of sin and sinful people from the world is a cruel thing, because sin is a cruel thing. You cannot put out a fire with gasoline or by throwing wood on it- you have to kill the fire by taking it’s life. You do that by suffocating it with water or chemicals. Sin is like fire- it destroys anything and everything in it’s path, and someone who has come into close contact with it will wear the scars of that experience forever. Through Messiah we are saved from the fire, and when we receive our resurrected bodies the scars of that fire will be gone. In the meantime, we go on and let those scars remind us of how terrible sin is. Yeshua is the balm, the covering and the relief from the sin we have scarred ourselves with by playing with fire.

What we learn from this parashah is that God is fair, just and will hold Himself accountable to His own commandments and regulations. He wants everyone to live, but when people reject Him (and He gives them plenty of chances to change their mind) eventually the deadline for T’shuvah (repentance) runs out, and the judgment follows. America is coming into judgment, as is the rest of the world. In fact, we can see it has already started. Terrorism is a cruel, heartless and destructive thing that cares not for men,women, children ,animals, or possessions; I believe it is the sword of Adonai. God used His people, Israel, to mete out His righteous judgment against the Canaanites and other peoples that had polluted the land God allowed them to live in, and today judgment is coming on the nations just as it did then. God is using terrorism as His sword of justice. Why do I say this? Because what the terrorists are doing is no similar to what the Israelites did- destruction of the social, financial and political systems of the people they were sent to destroy.  The only difference is in the procedure: in Joshua’s day the destruction was through direct warfare, whereas today it is through terrorism; terrorism is slower and less direct, but it is just as destructive and cruel, with the same final results. The people are destroyed without pity, without recourse and without warning. Just look at how terrorism is spreading throughout Europe and America. Even those Arab countries that are attacking Israel to this day are tearing themselves apart, internally.

Judgement is here, God is working His will throughout the world, and it will only get worse. We need to steel ourselves against turning from the faith in order to avoid the terror- it won’t work, anyway, The terror is coming, and no one can do anything about it. We just need to make sure we are on the wining side.

 

Parashah V’etchanan (and I sought..) Deuteronomy 3:23 – 7:11

Moses asks God to allow him to enter the land, and God says, pretty much, “Enough already! Stop whining about this because I told you that ain’t gonna happen! But, I will do this- after you anoint Joshua climb up to the top of Mount Pisgah, and I will let you see the land.”

Some believe, as I do, that not only did God show Moses the land, but also the future. He showed Moses the eventual degradation of the people into idol worship, the consequent dispersal into the Diaspora and exile to Babylon, ending with their return to Israel. I believe this because of the warning Moses gives right after he observes the land, which is not so much the warning of a possible future as it is the narration of events from one who has seen it happen.

This rest of this parashah holds nearly everything that is important to the Jewish people, and thereby the world:

Deuteronomy 5:6-19: Moses reviews the Ten Commandments;

Deuteronomy 6:4:        Moses teaches us the Shema;

Deuteronomy 6:5-10:  Moses teaches us the V’ahavta;

Deuteronomy 6:16:      Moses teaches us a lesson that is used more often in Christianity (from my experience) than in Judaism: Do not test the Lord, your God.

Clearly, there is in just those 4 lessons more than I could write in a single post, unless that post was something like 15 pages or more. Don’t worry- this won’t be.

Actually, the message I have today is not about any of those passages. It is from Deuteronomy 4:5-8, which is what Moses told the people before he told them all those other things:

See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it.Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?

I often state that the Torah is not just for the Jews, but for the entire world. The Jews received it so to learn it and live it (just like it says here), so that they may be an example to the world.

Shaul says pretty much the same thing, but to a different audience, in Romans 11:11

So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.

Moses is telling Israel to obey Torah so that when the other nations see the wonderful rulings, peacefulness, social closeness, morality and compassion of the people, and how God is always close at hand to help and protect them, they will be jealous and want to be part of it. And Shaul, some 1500 or so years later, tells the Messianic communities that their living in faith to Messiah Yeshua will eventually be an example to the non-believing Jews how much better it is to accept Yeshua and make them jealous for their own Messiah.

Here we have the same message faithfully believe God and do as He says being told to Jews and Gentiles first going into the land, and centuries later to Gentiles and Jews who have been living in the land. And the reason is the same: to incite, through jealousy, those living outside of God’s plan to choose to accept God (and His Messiah.)

There are many passages in the bible that confirm this message, and it is unfortunate that much of Christianity has perverted and misused the writings of Shaul to dissuade people from hearing the proper message. Shaul says he is delivering the Gospel to the Jew first, then the Gentile (Romans 1:16); I believe this means if the Good News of the Kingdom of God is not presented in a way that is acceptable to a Jewish person, it isn’t the correct message for a Gentile.

Still and all, we can be confident in this: God’as plan will win out in the end!  Torah will be written on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33) and we no longer ask our brother (and sister) if they know the Lord, because all will know Him.

In the meantime, what should we do? Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? Live your life as an example to those who have rejected God and/or Messiah Yeshua to show them how blessed and peaceful it is to be living as God has told us we should.

Most everyone knows that God’s house has many rooms, but what many don’t know is that there is a really big pool in the backyard, which is always refreshing, so to you who are suffering the emptiness, despair, heat and discomfort of living a worldly life…C’mon in- the water’s fine!!!

 

 

Parashah D’varim (Deuteronomy / The Words) Deuteronomy 1 – 3:22

We now come to the last of the 5 Books of Moses. This book combines and recalls the events of the other books in the Torah, and is a wonderful work of narration and prophecy. Moses starts by going back to the days when the Children of Israel first came out of Egypt, and he reminds them that he set up judges to attend to the daily need of resolving disputes among the people. He then recalled how they were to enter the Land, but when they sent out spies how the spies gave a bad report, resulting (ultimately) in not only being condemned to the desert for 40 years, but also suffering a devastating military defeat.  Moses recounts their travels, and how they were not to attack or take possession of the lands of the Edomites or Ammonites. He then comes to the present day, recalling to them their recent defeat of Og and Sihon, and that the tribes of Gad, Reuben and half of Manasseh will have those lands on the East of the Jordan that had been possessed by these two kings. The last part of this portion is when Moses reminds these tribes they are to go over into the land with the rest of the Israelites and fight with them until they have secured their own lands. He tells Joshua that God will be with them in Canaan, as He was with them against Og and Sihon, and to go boldly to take possession and not be afraid.

I find it very interesting, especially in today’s geopolitical context regarding the state of Israel and it’s neighbors, that God tells Moses the people are not to have any of the land of the Edomites (children of Esau), Ammonites or Moabites (descendants of Lot) because God gave it to them as their own possession.

These lands today represent Syria (Edomites) and Jordan (Ammonites.) These two ancient enemies of Israel are still attacking Israel  and claiming that Israel has no right to their own land, while all the while Israel has never tried to take the land of Jordan or Syria away from those that live there. Israel is still honoring God’s commandments given through Moses some 3500 years ago, which commanded us to not attack and take the land that God gave them. Yet, the people whose lands we respect as their biblical right to own are not respecting our biblical right to our own land!

Since they don’t care about what the bible says regarding Israel’s right to our land, maybe we should do the same with regards to their land? I believe that if Israel wanted to take over Jordan and Syria, it would be done so quickly that even before the U.N. could react it would be over.

So why don’t we? We don’t because we do as God says, and therefore we leave Jordan and Syria alone to their own people. Given the way things are in both those countries, there isn’t much to take over, anyway. They are destroying themselves.

Here, again, the Torah (which is thousands of years old) still has value and is meaningful in the current world. The commandments to the Jewish people, which are meant for all people, everywhere, when upheld and honored yield blessings. Israel was told to leave those countries alone, and those countries have constantly attacked Israel, yet Israel thrives: economically, scientifically, technologically and socially. Meanwhile, Jordan and Syria are falling to pieces through internal strife and civil war, which is tearing them apart.

Those who honor God will be blessed, and those that reject God and come against His people will be cursed. We’re seeing it today! Right there in the Middle east, and we have been seeing it since 1948.

When will they ever learn?

Parashah Balak (Balak) Numbers 22:2 – 25:9

Here is one of the best known biblical tales- the story of Balaam’s talking ass.

We start with Balak, son of the the king of Moab, seeing the Children of Israel on his doorstep having just annihilated both King Og and King Sichon, and taken their lands. Being afraid for his own kingdom, Balak sends envoys to Mesopotamia to find Balaam, a known prophet who’s reputation is that whomever he blesses is blessed, and whomever he curses is cursed.

Balaam is an enigma in the bible- he is obviously a true prophet of Adonai because when asked to come curse a people (at this point he doesn’t know who the “people” are) he sacrifices and asks the guidance of Adonai. Adonai tells him that these people are blessed (indicating God has blessed them), so Balaam cannot curse them. Balaam tells the envoys he cannot go with them, and sends them away (it is important to note that he doesn’t tell them what God told him, just that he cannot go with them.)

Balak figures Balaam is holding out for more money, so sends more important men with a better offer. Once again Balaam asks God, who this time relents to say go if you are called, but say what I tell you. Balaam saddles up his ass and rides with them the very next morning. However, God places an angel in the way where Balaam has to pass a narrow gap, and although Balaam is blind to the angel, the ass is not and steps to the side to avoid the angel. Balaam is peeved at this and strikes the ass. This happens again, and this time Balaam’s foot is crushed against a wall by the ass while trying to avoid the angel. Again, the ass gets a beating. Finally, the angel with sword drawn is directly in the path at a point where there is no way around, so the ass just plops down on the ground. Balaam gets off and beats it, cursing at it. Then two remarkable things happen:  first, the ass talks to Balaam asking why he is beating it these three times. The second remarkable thing is that Balaam answers without skipping a beat, as if having your ass talk to you is an everyday event!

Finally, Balaam sees the angel, confesses his sin to God and says he will return home. At this point God tells him to continue to go, but he must say only what God tells him to say.

Balak is overjoyed to see Balaam, and takes him to a high point where he can see the tribes encamped. Balak says to curse them, but after Balaam sacrifices and gets a word from God, he blesses them as God directs. Balak is upset, and Balaam tells him that he warned Balak’s envoys and Balak that he could only say what Adonai told him to say. Balak is unrelenting, takes Balaam to two other locations to see (stupidly enough) if that would change God’s mind, but each time Balaam blesses even more.  Now Balak is so peeved that he sends Balaam away without pay, but before going God gives Balaam a prophetic word for Balak, as well as the kings of the Midian tribes that were with them regarding their future.

The parashah ends relating how the women of Midian lure the men of Israel into worshiping their gods, and how this sin results in a plague from God. One prince of Israel, from the tribe of Simeon, goes as far as to rebelliously display his Midianite woman right in front of Moses. This so angers Phinehas (Pinchas), Aaron’s, son, that Phinehas grabs a spear and runs it through both of them, pinning them together.

It is interesting to note that even after Balaam is told don’t curse the Israelites, when urged a second time to do so, he again asks God if he can go. God relents to let him go but warns he must say only what God tells him to say; the Talmud explains this apparent change of mind by God as God, having warned him not to go, allows that if he is absolutely determined to go to his destruction, so be it. The Rabbi’s tell us the angel that was placed in Balaam’s path was not a destroying angel, as the story may imply, but an angel of mercy to try to turn him back before it was too late. Later in the Torah we learn that Balaam was the one who gave the idea to the kings of Midian to have their women seduce the men of Israel to sin, and Balaam (finally) got his reward when Israel fought against Midian and he was slain with the sword.

I have to ask myself: What is it with this guy, Balaam? He is clearly a prophet of Adonai because not only does he ask of Adonai, but he is answered by Adonai! And he should know that when God said these people are blessed by Him, that no curse he may give would have any effect, anyway. Also, as I mentioned above, Balaam doesn’t tell the first envoys that God has blessed this people, only that God said Balaam cannot go with them. This didn’t slam the door shut in Balak’s face, as it should have, but left it open a bit, so to speak, so that Balak could send a better offer. It is clear that Balaam, although a prophet of Adonai, from the very beginning wanted to have the rewards offered by Balak.

God knew that Balaam’s intent was to curse the people, and he put the fear of God (literally) into him by sending the angel. God then allowed Balaam to continue to go because God used this human desire to sin and turned it into a way to glorify Himself.

He’s good at things like that.

The lesson Balaam teaches us today is this: anyone can be turned from service to God by the allure of worldly rewards. Anyone. That means you, that means me, that means anyone. It also shows us that God is going to warn us, and try to stop us from hurting ourselves, but if we stubbornly refuse to listen, even if our family donkey is telling us we are doing something stupid, then God will move out of the way as we rush towards destruction.

During our lives God will give us more than enough rope to pull ourselves up, or to hang ourselves. It’s our choice. We need to listen to God, whether He speaks to us directly or through another medium. Often events in our life proclaim God’s will for us, other times it may be events in someone else’s life that we see happen, that warn us of what will happen to us if we do the same things. And then we may just get a direct word from God through the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) that is designed to keep us on the right path.

Shaul warns us against this, as well. In 2 Peter 2, Shaul talks about false prophets and wicked people who sin, and entice others to sin. When we see sin and work with our brother or sister to help them overcome it, we must be careful not to get too close to it, or we, ourselves, may be enticed into it. Just as the men of Israel were enticed by the Midianite women, as Balaam was enticed by the riches offered, and even as Judas was enticed by the offer of silver, we all, every one of us, must be careful not to allow the innate sinfulness within us to be given any leeway.

The best guide we have is the Ruach HaKodesh. We must discipline ourselves to listen to it. Next, we need to make sure we are surrounded by godly people who can encourage and help us. Finally, we must never judge sinners or backsliders harshly, but instead treat them with love and encourage them to do T’Shuvah (repentance) that they may be saved. Again, though, be warned- work with sinners but do not allow yourself to get too close. Even if you never touch a fish, hang around the fish market all day you will stink like old haddock! Sin comes slowly and stealthily, so stay alert. Read your bible, know the signs, and listen to those who are godly and knowledgeable.

Remember: you can learn a lot when you are open to hearing what others say, even if the one talking is an ass.