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.

 

 

Send Messiah a Thank You Card

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I was reading Dear Abby the other day and a Grandmother wrote that she is upset her teenage grandchildren never send her a thank you card for the gifts and money she sends them. Abby agreed it was wrong and said when people do not send thank you’s for gifts they receive, the message it sends is that the receiver of the gift has no respect or appreciation for the gift or the sender.

When I read this I thought how nice it would be to send Yeshua a thank you card. After all, he gave me the greatest gift anyone could- eternal joy in the presence of the Almighty. It is wrapped and I already took possession of it, which anyone else can do with their gift of salvation at any time they want to, although it does have a card that says, “Do Not Open Until After the End Times.”

Of course, we can’t really send him a thank you card- we don’t have his email address and the post office delivers nationally as well as internationally, but not spiritually. So what can we do?

How about we do what he said we should do in order to show our appreciation? He told us this in John 14:15 when he said:

If you love me, keep my commands.

The problem here is that too many different religions will argue over what his commands were. That’s a shame because he never really made any commands- he always quoted from and obeyed the Torah. So, his commands were what we find in the Torah.

If you wanted to, you could say his only real commandment to us is found in Matthew 22:36-40. This passage starts with a man asking Yeshua what is the greatest commandment, and Yeshua’s answer is:

Yeshua told him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength. This is the greatest and most important commandment. And a second is similar to it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. All of the Torah and the Prophets are dependent on these two commandments.

And even these commandments are not original: the first one is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-7 and the second one in Leviticus 19:18.

Do you want to send the Messiah a Thank You card for all he has done for you?  If you do, then all you need to do is obey God’s commandments in the Torah as best as you can.

Obedience is not the way to get to heaven (faith is), but every Torah commandment you do obey sends a “Thank You” card to Yeshua.

Do All Blessings Come from God?

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Now for today’s drash

We know that God loves to bless his children and that he rains on both the just and the unjust, alike (Matthew 5:4.) To me, that means even someone who rejects God will receive blessings from him, if for no other reason than God loves all his children.

Besides those blessings God gives to us simply because he loves us, we can earn blessings through obedience to his commandments (Deut. 28), which means that there is an awful lot of really nice stuff God has for all of us, and he never ever runs out of blessings for us.

But what about the Enemy, the Devil, that old lion HaSatan stalking each and every one of us, trying to place a wedge between us and God? Does he ever do nice things for people?

You bet he does!!

In fact, I believe that Satan gives more good things to people than he does bad things. Why? It’s because when we are given things we like, especially things that are worldly and appeal to our base nature, we become prideful and unappreciative. The Israelites in the desert are a perfect example of this, and for those who are not Jewish don’t think for a moment you are any better than they were. Even after 40 years of seeing bread fall from heaven, water come from rocks, clothes and shoes not worn from the rough terrain, having food and water supplied for over a million people (not to mention millions of animals) and yet, the moment they were had any trouble, they carped and complained and lost faith in the One who had been providing this all along.

They had the same attitude towards God that I used to hear when I was in Sales:

“I know you’ve been the best producer this branch has ever had, but what did you do for me today?” 

I believe that Satan gives many blessings so that when they are taken away, we will curse God. Look at the Bible verses that support this:

Job 2:9– His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”

Matthew 4:9Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “All this I will give You,” he said, “if You will fall down and worship me.”

Revelation 16:11– And the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness, and men began to gnaw their tongues in anguish and curse the God of heaven for their pains and sores; yet they did not repent of their deeds.

We know that Job did not fall victim to the Devil’s tricks, and neither did Yeshua. But we are told that in the Acharit HaYamim (End Days) many will curse God for the pain and suffering they will be going through without realizing that this is as much a chance for them to be saved as it is having to suffer God’s just punishment for their sinfulness.

The Enemy knows that after being blessed with fleshly desires we not only get used to them, we think we deserve them. And when they are taken away, we feel rejected, unjustly punished and we take it out on the one who we think gave us these in the first place- God!  How many people who have been given blessings (Satanists notwithstanding) think that the Devil made it happen? Probably none. We blame the Devil for bad things happening in our lives, but not for the good things. And because we think God is blessing us, when the Devil takes away those things he gave us we don’t blame him- we blame God. We ask “Why?”; we look for reasons we are being punished;  we tend to get sad, melancholy and resentful, which results all too often in our rejecting God.

Can you see how by blessing us the Enemy can turn us against God?

So, nu?  How can I know who gave me the blessings I have? Actually, it’s not so hard to figure it out: if you are being obedient to God’s Torah you will receive blessings. That’s God’s promise, and all his promises are trustworthy. If you know that you are not obedient to Torah and yet, you are receiving blessings, then you have to ask yourself, “Who is giving me so many wonderful things for rejecting God’s commandments?” The answer is obvious, isn’t it? There is only one entity in the universe who will reward people for disobeying God.

One last note on this: if you are doing your best to obey the Torah and find yourself devoid of blessings, or at least having a lot of tsouris, then be happy for that. It means you have successfully rejected the Enemy’s attempt to seduce you and you are getting closer to God, which is why now he is attacking you. Maintain your faith and the blessings will come, eventually, just as they did for Job.

Blessings are able to be earned and also given freely by God to those who love him and show that love by obeying his commandments. If you know that you are disobedient to God’s commandments but have many blessings, you can be fairly certain those blessings are not from God.

This may sound like an oxymoron, but the Bible shows us it is true:

The Enemy gives us wonderful things to take us away from God; God takes away what we have in order to bring us back to him.

Always be certain your blessings are the ones earned through obedience.

Should We Forgive Abusers?

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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.

Reporting That I Have Nothing to Report

Sometimes you just don’t have anything to say. That is a rarity in my case, but still and all I haven’t had any real inspiration for today’s message.

Maybe that is a message in itself- when you have nothing to say, say nothing.

Often we have to comfort those in pain and don’t really know what to say, so to break that uncomfortable silence we say something. And how many times have you done that and wished you could take back whatever it was you said, the moment the words came out of your mouth? I know that has happened to me.

I once joked around with one of my sister-in-law’s and she was upset with the joking around. I apologized but she was too angry to even care- that was about 6 years ago and she is still angry and won’t talk to me. Not only that, but her sister (my wife, Donna) once slapped her arm forgetting that it had just been operated on. It wasn’t a hard slap, but S-I-L took it as an attack and still isn’t really talking to her- and it’s been nearly 10 years now!  It is so sad that some people are just so unforgiving that they destroy the relationships in their life. She may be mad at us and it does hurt, but not because of what she is doing to us as much as what she is doing to herself.  Donna and I feel, unfortunately, that we aren’t missing anything if that’s the way she wants to be. The only one my S-I-L really hurts by being so hateful and unforgiving is herself.

You can’t fence someone out without fencing yourself in at the same time.

So, nu?  Just now I found a message for us all: Be forgiving and work on strengthening relationships instead of destroying them. Most importantly, remember that God tells us the measuring stick we use on others is the one he will use on us (Matthew 7:2:  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”)

That passage should scare the heck out of anyone who believes in God.

Yeshua Confirms Lack of Torah Signals the End

No video today.

Usually, when someone takes a single line or passage from the Bible and uses it to make a point, I become a little leery because that generally indicates something else is missing. I am going to do that very thing today, and hope to still be able to validate what I say.

The line I am talking about is Matthew 24:12, which says (Complete Jewish Bible) :

…and many people’s love will grow cold because of increased distance from Torah.

This is taken out of the paragraph in which Yeshua is telling his Talmudim (Disciples) about the End of Days. I believe that most of you reading this are familiar with what was said about wars and rumors of wars, famine, earthquakes, etc., and as hard as I could I did not see this specific statement about “distance from Torah” in either of the other Gospels.

The KJV says, “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.”; the NKJV says, “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.”; and (lastly) the NIV says, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold…“. 

All of these versions indicate an increase of lawlessness and iniquity, which is, by definition, distancing oneself from Torah, is it not?  So Yeshua, by telling us that in the end times there will be more and more people rejecting the Torah, is identifying what Christianity is doing, and has been for centuries.  Since even before the end of the First Century, the Gentile “Church” fathers have been working to separate themselves from Judaism, which is the very root of the tree they have been grafted onto. I ask you- if a branch separates itself from the root, how can it be nourished? How can it hope to survive?

When I would teach Messianic Judaism to new Believers I used this example: Remeber the Bugs Bunny cartoon where Elmer Fudd chased Bugs into a tree? Bugs would be out at the end of a branch, and Elmer would be sitting on the branch attached to the bole of the tree, sawing away at the part Bugs was on. Laughing, Elmer would say, “I’ve got you now, you silly wabbit!” and as soon as he sawed through the branch, the tree fell down with him it in, and Bugs remained suspended in the air.”  After we all had a chuckle, I would tell them that this is what Christianity thinks is possible- to separate themselves from the tree they are connected to and yet still remain “saved” from destruction.

Yeshua is telling his Talmudim that as more and more people reject the Torah, which leads to lawlessness and iniquity running wild, the End of Days (in the Hebrew it is called the Acharit haYamim) will be getting closer. And the rest of the passage states that those who hold out to the end will be delivered. That means, obviously, obedience to Torah will not gain our salvation, but it will secure it.

We are saved through faith, but faith demands obedience to Torah and Yeshua is saying here that those who remain obedient will be among the saved. Like it or not, God’s commandments are valid throughout time, until the new earth and new Jerusalem come from heaven. And even after that, Torah will still be valid, only under the New Covenant, it won’t need to be written on a scroll because, as Jeremiah tells us, it will be written on our hearts.

If you have been told that the Torah was “nailed to the cross with Jesus”, or any other such teachings, anything to indicate that Torah is for Jews but Christians have the Blood of Christ, well…that’s not according to Jesus.  Messiah told us all that distance from the Torah will result in loss of salvation, and since John says the Word (Torah at that time) became flesh, obviously referring to Yeshua, that means that those who reject Torah also reject Yeshua.

How many of you think that rejecting Yeshua will result in your salvation?

Straining Out the Gnats

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In Matthew, Chapter 23 Yeshua is addressing the crowds and talking about the hypocrisy He sees in the Pharisees. He discusses how, in essence, they are more concerned about looking superior in people’s eyes then they are concerned with doing what is righteous in God’s eyes. They go through the motions of being righteous but they do not have righteousness as their goal. Instead, they seek the praise of men instead of acceptance by God.

Today I want to talk about one of the better known verses, Matthew 23:23-24:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You pay tithes of mint, dill, and cumin, but you have disregarded the weightier matters of the Law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. 

I see this all too often in the discussion groups I am a member of. There are many well-learned and knowledgeable people in these groups and I respect their understanding and years of study. However, when I see a discussion on a specific topic devolve into insulting accusations and judging of each other, I have to ask myself: is the topic a camel or a gnat?

Now don’t get me wrong: I enjoy discussing anything that has to do with God, Yeshua and the bible as much as anyone else, but what happens too many times is that the discussion turns ugly. People stop trying to edify each other or work to better understand God’s meaning because pridefulness rears its ugly head.

We are told not to judge others because how we judge others will be used to judge us. OK- everyone knows that, but how many people really understand what it means?  I am sure all of us have seen someone who thinks they are God’s own spokesperson, judging others and telling them that they are wrong, or that they will go to hell, that they are apostate, are demonically controlled….whatever. They accuse and abase people who may only need to be gently led into the truth of the Torah. But by being superior and judgmental, they are no better than the Pharisees Yeshua accused of hypocrisy. They turn people away from God by declaring themselves as an example of a godly person then acting in a way that is completely opposite of what they say they represent.

And why do they do this? Is it justified to call someone a sinner because they may say it is OK to wear a polyester blend? Or because someone else says it is fine to use the name “Jesus” in prayer? Is there anyone out there, really, who is authorized by God to determine who is going to hell and who isn’t? Are any of you in the place of God?

Oh, yes, I know what the prideful will say: “We are told that we will judge the earth and I am only judging you righteously.” Yes, there are those who will judge the earth…but not yet!

Who are we, any of us, to tell someone else today what God will decide about them later? Are we in the place of God? Are we above the messengers of God?

Let’s look at Y’hudah (Jude) 1:8-10:

But even the archangel Michael, when he disputed with the devil over the body of Moses, did not presume to bring a slanderous judgment against him, but said, The Lord rebuke you!” These men, however, slander what they do not understand, and like irrational animals, they will be destroyed by the things they do instinctively.…

King David tells us in Psalm 8 that God made us just a little lower than the angels. Well, if an archangel, the highest of all the angels, is willing to submit himself to God’s authority by not judging one who anyone and everyone knows is certainly deserving of judgement (Satan), then who are we to do so to each other?

I am not against discussing details and minutia that is in the bible. I mean, c’mon- I’m Jewish! If any of God’s creatures loves a good argument, it’s a Jew, right? So what am I kvetching about? It’s the pridefulness of people which a discussion will bring out when one is not paying attention to the more important things- compassion, understanding, forgiveness, and respect.

The gnat of a topic is strained while the sin of pridefulness is swallowed.

When someone says that they are ‘judging righteously,’ I hear nothing more than, “I know better than you and you need to acknowledge that by agreeing with me!” Maybe that person does know better, but does that give them the right to judge me? As a person? As a believer? As a child of God? Do they have the insight to see my heart? Do they have some special gift that can reach out across the Internet and know my inner desires?

No, it doesn’t. No one has that ability, unless God gives it to them, and I am pretty sure from what I have read about God that He wouldn’t give them that ability so that they can abase and insult people.

Again…don’t get me wrong. I am NOT saying we should allow others to sin without telling them about it. Far be it that we ever do that- their blood is then on our heads. NO! We must advise people when we see them sinning, or when they have a dangerously wrong interpretation of the Word of God. What I AM saying is that we must do this compassionately, with forgiveness for their ignorance (“Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do”) and also for their inappropriate response (if you get one) when we tell them.

We need to have the spiritual maturity to know when someone’s mind won’t be changed, and the emotional maturity to accept that they have a right to their own opinion. I have ended discussions nicely when I see that we are at loggerheads. In doing this I have been accused of being afraid of the truth, or stubborn, or lukewarm. I regret to say that I have been called worse things than that, all because I asked people to stop talking about something that we disagree on.

To bring it all together, let me finish by reiterating that discussion is valuable when it edifies people and can serve to help everyone involved better understand God’s word. My concern is that we all need to be aware of our innate pridefulness and remain humble with each other, discussing with love and respect for each other, as well as for God’s word, and to also remember that we are not to judge the world- not yet.

Therefore, we need to be careful when we enter into discussions about God, bible, or how to best obey the commandments. We need to be compassionate, understanding, forgiving and spiritually mature in our handling of both learned and neophyte Believers.

Any topic is only a “gnat” because the way we treat each other is a “camel.”

Speak truth to each other with humility and compassionate understanding, and until God Himself assigns us a throne in heaven we should follow the example of the archangel Michael and submit to God’s authority to judge others.

 

 

Nice May Not Be Nice

I was riding my bike last week and came to a large intersection. I walked the bike half-way across, and was standing in the yellow safety zone, waiting for the light to change to red so I could safely cross the three lane highway. A car was coming down the left turn only lane, and stopped about 10 feet before me, which was about 30 feet before the light. He had a green light, and there was no oncoming traffic. He was, I suppose, trying to be nice and allow me to cross the street ahead of him.

Maybe he thought he was being nice, but he was really leading me to my death. The idiot seemed to forget that there were still three lanes of high speed traffic right on the other side of his car, all with a green light and the drivers would be totally blind to me crossing in front of his car. What he thought was being nice was really attempted murder!

I thought about this in spiritual terms, and realized this is what the enemy will do to us if we are careless and just do as we are told. I mean, really now- do you think he will walk up to you and say,”Hey, there! I’m the Devil, I want you to give up your salvation and suffer in eternal torment with me. Whaddaya say?”  Nah- not likely.  What the enemy will do is to approach you carefully, with a great big smile and his hand out to shake yours. He will be nice, he will offer you something that you really want, and it may seem spiritually pleasing to have it. He will try to convince you that he is on your side, he is also a Believer and he knows what is God’s desire for you. He will entice you with worldly rewards and tell you they are blessings from God that you receive for proper obedience.

He will let you cross the street in front of him, knowing there are cars speeding by on the other side, and smiling at you while you walk blindly into traffic.

Yeshua told His Talmudim (Disciples) when He sent them into the world to preach that they need to be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16) so that they can show the love and compassion of Messiah, but not be so stupid as to cross the road blindly and get run over.

I believe God gave me this simple warning to share with you: the enemy will come as a friend, as a helper, and as a Believer who loves the Lord and wants to help you know Him better. He will entice you with spiritual awareness and sound like he really has an insight to God, but he is a false prophet. How will you know the difference? By looking past the nice things and seeing what is behind them. By being on the alert, always, and being suspicious of everything and anything that seems to be too easy to have. Let’s not forget that Yeshua tells us following Him is not easy:

         Luke 9:62   Anyone who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not worthy of the kingdom of God;

Matthew 10:35   For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law-…;

Matthew 8:20    Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

It is better to suspect now and find out later that you are wrong, then to accept blindly and find out later that you are doomed.

This is my formula for knowing if something is from God or from somewhere else: if it is easy to do, gives me worldly rewards and everyone else is doing it, then I probably shouldn’t be doing it.

That, and look twice before crossing the street.

The Day of Jubilee is on Yom Kippur for a Good Reason

This Shabbat (29 September, 2017) is also Kol Nidre, the first evening of Yom Kippur. As such, the traditional Torah reading is Leviticus 16:1-34 which are the rulings regarding this day.

However, I am going to talk about Leviticus 25: 8-10, which goes as follows:

You shall count seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the time of the seven weeks of years shall give you forty-nine years.  Then you shall sound the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month. On the Day of Atonement you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land.  And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan.

The Jubilee Year is designed to allow every Israelite to return to take possession of his ancestral land, and to be freed of any and all debts that he has incurred. It allows him  and his family to restart their life in their own home and without any debt. The economy of this action is remarkable: it prevents land grabbing, it maintains a working class, it establishes a moral economy, and it prevents people from being sold into slavery forever. It maintains a family standard of wealth, in that their property will always revert to them, at some point in the future, if they should ever fall on bad times.

It is not unlike the biblical prophecies regarding the Children of Israel that state no matter how many times they are conquered, or how far from home they are dispersed, their homeland and their own, personal property will always be there and one day God will bring them back to it.

Yom Kippur also allows us to restart our life debt free; not free from owing money to someone, but free from the debt we owe to God for our sins.

When we sin we owe God restitution- whether it be blood of the innocent, grain, 1/5th additional to what we took, or any combination of those things. What we owe Him is more, though, than just things- we owe Him our life. When we sin we separate ourselves from God, and our eternal life is then forfeit. The only way we can be reunited and gain back our eternity is to pay the debt. Yom Kippur provides us a single point in time where we can know that our debt will be paid off and we will start anew.

The Jubilee Year and Yom Kippur have this in common- both free us from debt; the former from worldly debt, and the latter from spiritual debt. The year when Yom Kippur and Jubilee fall together is certainly a joyous occasion, even though Yom Kippur is a solemn event.

In case you were not aware, 2017 is a Jubilee Year, and starting on Saturday evening, 9/30/2017 all Jews are to receive back their ancestral lands. I live in Florida, in the United States, and don’t even know what tribe I belong to, but I do know this: I will be forgiven of my sins and somewhere in Israel is a plot of land that belongs to me.

As a Messianic Jew who has accepted Yeshua ha Maschiach (Jesus Christ) as my Savior, you may ask why I need to fast or worship on Yom Kippur. After all, didn’t Yeshua die for our sins? Yes, He did, but He didn’t change the commandments. Yom Kippur, including the fast, is still a commandment of God and all who worship God should obey it. Not because I believe, as my fellow  “mainstream” Jews do, it is the only means of forgiveness, but simply because it is commanded. I think we should also fast and worship as a sign of solidarity with the Jewish people, most of whom have not accepted Yeshua, to show them that believing in Yeshua doesn’t mean one is no longer an observant Jew. Most any Jew will tell you, if you are Jewish and believe in Yeshua as your Messiah, you aren’t a Jew anymore because you have to be a Christian if you believe in Jesus. It’s really sad- they don’t even know what the term “believe in Jesus” means!

Today is a very, very special day- the Yom Kippur of Jubilee Year! We are freed from debt to Man and to sin, and we can start our lives afresh, clean and unencumbered.

Of course, this is a spiritual statement; I don’t suggest going to the local bank branch and insisting that because this is the Yom Kippur Jubilee Year you would like the deed to your house. I think you will find yourself on the sidewalk.

One last note: since Yom Kippur is all about forgiveness, I also suggest there be one other type of debt you relieve yourself of. That is the onerous debt of unforgiveness for others. Starting at sundown tonight we will be praying and fasting, asking God to move from the Throne of Judgement to the Throne of Mercy and to forgive us the debt of our sins, which we owe Him. We must, therefore, also forgive those that owe us a debt of sin, whether they ask for it or not.

Remember Matthew 6:14-15:

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.

Remember also the parable in Matthew 18:23-35 about the man that was forgiven a large debt and refused to forgive one who owed him only a little. It didn’t go well for the one who refused to forgive. It will be the same for you and me if we refuse to forgive, so on this day, more than on any other day, as you pray to God for forgiveness, think also of those that have sinned against you, and forgive them!

Believe me, please, when I say that the heaviness of spirit we feel when we have monetary debts is nothing compared to the emotional emptiness you feel when you are unforgiving.  Debts can be paid, after which they are just a memory, but unforgiveness is a poison that eats away your heart, little by little, until you can’t even love anymore.  It destroys all your relationships, and it hurts everyone you care about and who cares about you.

So celebrate the forgiveness you receive from God by forgiving others, especially those you have refused to forgive because they “don’t deserve it.” It doesn’t matter what they deserve because your unforgiveness separates you from God, and when you forgive them you will be reunited with the Lord in joy, the pain of being hurt will be gone, and a great weight will be lifted.

Forgiveness brings us closer to God, both when He forgives us and when we forgive others.