Salvation From Both a Jewish and Christian Perspective- Part 5

In part 4 of this series, we learned how these different perspectives evolved. Today we will look at ways that we can try to reconcile these vastly different ideologies to come to a singular, correct understanding of who the Messiah is and what we can expect from him.

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

To truly understand the Messiah, we need to look at what we are told about him from the original source, which is the Tanakh (the “Jewish” Bible) and with a proper interpretation of the prophecies we find there. When I say a proper interpretation, I am referring to the dual prophecies regarding the salvation of Israel. In some of the Messianic prophecies, the rabbinical interpretation has been that the prophecy is about Israel, the nation and is not about the Messiah. However, this teaching (looking back in history) is only half-true.

Prophecy can be both spiritual and physical. For example, Isaiah 9:6 (about the child being born and the government on his shoulders) was referring to King Hezekiah- no doubt about that, but that was the physical interpretation. The spiritual interpretation was for the distant future and clearly points to the Messiah. The prophecy in Matthew 24:29 (actually this comes from Isaiah 34:4 and Haggai 2:6 and 2:21) physically means that Jerusalem will be destroyed by Rome, but spiritually refers to the final Tribulation when Messiah returns.

The “New Covenant”, which we find in Jeremiah 31:31, refers physically to the return to Jerusalem of the exiled Babylonian Jews under Cyrus, and the covenant that we can have through Yeshua ha Maschiach (physical return and spiritual salvation.)

One last example: In 2 Samuel 7:12-13, God tells David that he will establish his kingdom forever through one of his descendants who will build a house for his (God) name. The physical prophecy is about Solomon and the spiritual side is about Yeshua. The house Solomon build did not last forever, but the house Yeshua has built, the spiritual house, is an everlasting dominion.

Now that we have established prophecies can be dual, we need to first approach Jews who reject Jesus and Christianity with the truth about Yeshua and his teachings, as well as the truth about Christianity. The first rule of approaching a Jewish person with the Good News of Messiah is this: do NOT use anything from the New Covenant.

First off, Jews do not recognize it as scripture. To use verses from the New Covenant to convince a Jew about Jesus is no different than using verses from the Quran to convince a Jew Allah is their God. Ain’t gonna work:  no how, no way!

Next rule: do not use “Christian” terminology, especially the term “under the blood” because this is a filthy thing to the Jewish mindset. Do not use the name “Jesus Christ” because of what that name represents to Jews (as we discussed in Part 2 of this lesson.) Instead, use Yeshua ha Maschiach when you talk about the Messiah. And, again, use “Messiah” not “Savior” because Jesus Christ is a Savior, but Jews expect a Messiah. I know they mean the same thing, but Jews rarely use the term ‘Savior” so it will help them stay open to hearing you.

The most important thing is for you to know the prophecies about the Messiah that are in the Tanakh. If anything comes up from them about the New Covenant refer back to the original prophecy in the Tanakh.

You can also use extra-biblical writings to help. The works of Josephus are considered to be historically accurate and trustworthy, and he mentions in his history of the Jewish and Roman Wars about Yeshua (referred to as Jesus in some manuscripts) and even how he rose after the third day.

Most Jews, as we have discussed, expect one appearance of Messiah. To offset this we can use Isaiah 9:6 and Isaiah 53: Isaiah tells us the kingdom of the son of David will be established and rule forever, yet he later says that the Messiah will die. The only way to have a dead person rule forever is for that person to make two appearances, or (more accurately) to be resurrected.  We can also find this in Hosea 6:2-3, where Hosea prophecies that after being torn we will be healed and that after 3 days we will be raised up (physical Israel and spiritually the Messiah.) There are also the prophecies in Zachariah: Zachariah 9:9 tells of the king of Israel riding into Jerusalem on a donkey and Zachariah 14:4 tells us about the return of Messiah in the Acharit HaYamim (End Days) and how God will rescue his people. There is also the reference here of the humble king and the fierce king, which coincides with Talmudic prophecy.

In the Talmud, Succah 52a it says the Messiah is the son of Joseph who must be slain, which coincides with Daniel 9:26 declaring that the Messiah will come and be put to death. The Talmud, the Targum and even the Zohar (which Judaism considers heretical) all agree that the Messiah will be both a suffering servant and a conquering king. You cannot have one Messiah fulfilling two totally opposites roles at the same time, so there have to be two comings.

The last thing to cover today is to know the Jewish roots of Christianity so that you can show where today’s Christian thoughts and beliefs about Messiah are similar, if not the same, as the Jewish beliefs. Here are some of those similarities:

  • Through the work of the Messiah the people will be reconciled back to God by the forgiveness of their sins;
  • the miracles that the Messiah will perform;
  • the regathering of Israel in the End Days (use “Acharit HaYamim” and get some extra points!) and all will live in peace;
  • there will be a one-world government, a Theocracy, with Messiah as King over all the world;
  • death and sickness will be done away with; and
  • there will be a great battle that Messiah will win.

We are getting close to the end of this lesson. The next time we get together for this we will continue to learn how to approach the Jewish people with the truth about Yeshua by debunking the many misinterpretations of New Covenant writings which have contributed to the rejection by Jews of anything Christian.

 

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Thank you for being here, please don’t hesitate to comment (just be nice) and until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Salvation From Both a Jewish and Christian Perspective- Part 4

Up to this point, we have reviewed what salvation means and that it comes from faith in a Messiah. There are certain expectations (based on biblical prophecy) regarding what the Messiah will do, which we have examined from both a Jewish and Christian perspective. In doing so, we have seen a vast difference in what each religion expects, even though this is supposed to be the same Messiah. In this lesson, the fourth part of our series, we will look at how these different viewpoints and beliefs developed over the millennia since Yeshua (Jesus) walked the earth.

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

When Yeshua was with his Disciples, traveling and teaching in the Synagogues and towns throughout Judea, he was preaching from the Tanakh (the “Jewish” Bible) because that was the only “Word of God” that existed. After he was resurrected and returned to heaven, the Disciples continued his teachings. Eventually, they died out and Shaul (Paul) was one of the last of the (divinely appointed) Apostles who taught, and he went mainly to the Gentiles, although he always taught in the Synagogues first.

Back then there were, as there always have been, many more Gentiles than Jews, and once the Jewish population had been separated into those that accepted Yeshua and those that didn’t. It is very important to know that both groups were still practicing Judaism- there was no “conversion” event, but what started to happen is that the newer additions to this movement would be mainly composed of Gentiles. As these formerly pagan worshipers accepted Yeshua as their Messiah, they were the ones converting- to Judaism! There were no other religions around- you were either a Roman pagan worshiper or a Jewish God worshiper, and the Jewish ones were obeying what is written in the Torah.

With the advent of more and more Gentiles being added to this group of Messianic Jews, and because this conversion was such a paradigm shift in lifestyle, the Messianic leadership (Elders) in Jerusalem decided to make it easier for them. In Acts 15:20, by a suggestion from Yacov (James, the brother of Yeshua) it was determined that Gentiles converting to Judaism through Messiah Yeshua immediately had to change their lifestyle in this way:

1). no fornication;

2). no eating of blood;

3). no eating of anything strangled to death; and

4). not eating anything that had been sacrificed or devoted to an idol.

The important thing to note is that these were not the only requirements, they were only IMMEDIATE changes that had to be made. James’s suggestion ended with the statement that these new converts would be hearing the laws of Moses in the synagogues every Shabbat.  That clearly indicates James expected that eventually these converts would learn and be obedient to all of the Mosaic Law, completing their conversion to Judaism.

In other words, there was never to be any difference between how Jews rejecting Messiah and Jews and Gentiles accepting Messiah would worship God.

The practice of Judaism was allowed in Judea because Rome had originally been invited into the land to help the Jewish people get rid of the Seleucid kings. Because the religion was well established and an integral part of the society and government, Rome allowed the people to continue to practice it. However, by the time Yeshua arrived, the Jewish population wanted (as discussed earlier) their Messiah to free them from Roman rule. When this expectation went unmet, they began to revolt themselves. This was not viewed favorably by Rome, and there was the beginning of political persecution by Rome against the Jewish people. The first Jewish-Roman War (70 CE) resulted in the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and the depopulation of the Jewish people (and renaming of Judea to Palestine by the Romans) was the result of the Bar Kochba revolt of 132-135 CE.

BTW– The Western Wall was not a part of Solomon’s temple- it was the remaining section of the wall built by Herod which surrounded the court of the original Temple.

As the population of “Believers” continued to grow, there were many more Gentiles joining than Jews, and eventually (as the original Apostles died out and were replaced) the leadership of this movement was populated by Gentiles and through wrongful interpretations and desire to separate from the Jewish population (which was having its own problems with Rome) led to a separation from Judaism of this new movement being called Christianity.

Let’s go back in history for a moment: when the 9 1/2 tribes of Israel living in the land God promised were split under Jeroboam into the Northern and Southern tribes (Shomron, also called Israel in the north and Judea in the south), the split was as much spiritual as it was political. In the north, idol worship took over and they rejected the Torah and the God of their fathers to worship the many Semitic gods of the surrounding peoples. This was as much a political move as a religious one; by doing this, Jeroboam ensured that his people would not be enticed to return to the southern kingdom.

Now we return to the end of the first century and see the Christian leadership following the example of Jeroboam. By separating themselves from the Jewish population, spiritually, they could try to avoid the Roman persecution by showing they were not Jews. This started with Ignatius of Antioch, one of the early “church” leaders. In 110 CE he changed the Sabbath day to Sunday.

Later, under the rulership of Emperor Constantine at the Council of Nicene (third century), the doctrine of modern day Christianity was formed which completed the total separation of Jews and Christians.

Some examples of the Christian doctrine are the changing of the Sabbath day, the ideology of the Trinity, the festivals of Christmas and Easter, and the idea that salvation was available universally and not centered on Jerusalem. These changes, as well as many others, resulted in the total separation between Jews and Christians, which were now totally different religions. Yeshua was no longer a Jewish Messiah- he was now the Christian Savior.

For over two thousand years, between Jews and Christians, there has been animosity, bigotry, and ignorance. During these times the doctrine of the “Church” has been progressively hateful and derogatory towards the Jewish people. Ignatius, who already changed the Sabbath day, also declared (circa 110 AD) that where there is Christianity there cannot be Judaism. In or around 200 CE, Origin declared that because the Jewish people rejected Jesus Christ, it is right that their nation was destroyed and that God now offered his joy to the Christians; this is the beginning of Replacement Theology. And we get still more from Ignatius, who also said that living in accordance with Jewish law means that one has not really received Grace. This is still being taught today, which I can personally confirm as I have (more than once) been told that if I do all that “Jewish” stuff I am still “under the law” and not really saved.

When it comes to separating Christians from Jews and fostering hatred and fear, let’s not forget to mention the Crusades and the Inquisition, which (as we learned earlier) led to the death of hundreds of thousands of Jews by Christians who believed they were doing God’s work.  Spain, the progenitor of the Inquisition, was the world power in the 15th Century when Queen Isabella exiled all Jews from Spain. However, by the end of the 18th Century Spain was not even considered a viable threat, and has never recovered her position as a world power (didn’t God tell Abraham that those who curse him will be cursed?)

As we have already learned, Nazi Germany also thought they were doing God’s work- their belt buckles had “Gott mit uns” engraved on them (God is with us), and from the Jewish perspective, they were no different than Christians.

Lastly, Replacement Theology is a rampant right-wing Christian movement that says, essentially, because the Jews rejected Christ God has rejected the Jews and Born-Again Christians are now God’s true Chosen people, the “real Jews! Of course, the Bible is totally against this, as we can see in the following verses:

Matthew 19:28- Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Jeremiah 30:11-I am with you and will save you,’ declares the LORD. ‘Though I completely destroy all the nations among which I scatter you, I will not completely destroy you. 

Isaiah 49:16- Can a woman forget her nursing child, or lack compassion for the son of her womb? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are ever before Me.

Jeremiah 30:31-At that time,” declares the Lord, “I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they will be my people.

In the letter to the Romans, Chapters 9 through 11 Shaul confirms the Jewish people will always be God’s chosen and will one day be grafted back onto the tree of Salvation. He warns the Gentiles not to become proud, which (apparently) they never paid attention to.

One last point regarding Replacement Theology: if they are truly God’s chosen people and the “real” Jews, then why didn’t they speak up during the Holocaust?

This ends lesson 4 of our series. In our next lesson, we will discuss methods we can use to try to reconcile the differences between the Jewish and Christian Messiah.

 

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L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Salvation From Both a Jewish and Christian Perspective- Part 2

In Part 1 of this teaching series, we reviewed the meaning of “salvation” and the Jewish expectations of what the Messiah will do when he comes, based on both the Tanakh and the Talmud.  Today, in Part 2, we will examine why Yeshua was not, and still isn’t, accepted as the Messiah by the majority of the Jewish population.

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

For the purposes of this discussion, when we talk about “the Jews” during the time of Yeshua’s ministry we are referring to the main portion of the Jewish population living in and around Jerusalem during the First Century. And we need to remember that these people were mostly “Am Ha’aretz“, which means people of the land. The reference is not very complimentary and refers to those who are not well educated regarding the Bible or Jewish tradition. At that time, people looked to the Sanhedrin and their local Levites for instruction and guidance in their worship and how to live. Even today, most of the Jewish people look to their Rabbi for instruction and interpretation, and not to God through the guidance of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit.)

As we are told in the New Covenant writings, Yeshua performed many miracles and taught in a different and more meaningful way. Yet, he was not accepted by the majority of the Jews. And, even with the publication of the B’rit Chadashah (New Covenant), in modern times “mainstream” Judaism still rejects him, not just as the Messiah but some even reject the idea that he ever existed! And, as we will soon see, the actions “Christianity” has performed against the Jewish people over the millennia have made it nearly impossible for a Jewish person to believe anything a Christian says.

The Jews living during the time of Yeshua’s ministry rejected him based on his inability to meet the expectations they had been taught regarding their Messiah.

First off, Yeshua had no father. The Tanakh tells us the Messiah will be a son (i.e., descendant) of David, and because Judaism is a Patriarchal religion, one’s heritage comes through the father’s line. Because Yeshua was not conceived by Joseph he had no father, therefore he couldn’t be a son of David.

Another reason for the Jewish rejection of Yeshua is because the Bible says that God will raise up a prophet like Moses; however, Jewish tradition stated that the age of prophecy ended circa 300 BCE, centuries before Yeshua was born. Because the Talmud taught there were no more prophets, Yeshua could not be a prophet like Moses.

One of the major expectations was that the Messiah will rebuild the Temple and reestablish the Levitical service. Well, when Yeshua walked the earth, the Temple was there! The service was actively being performed! Therefore, how could Yeshua be the Messiah? Besides, this, there was no peace throughout the world, and under Roman rule there most certainly wasn’t a world government that recognized God as the one and only King of kings ruling from Jerusalem.

The Pharisees, who saw Yeshua as a threat to their political power over the people, also spread lies about him that last to this very day. One of these was that Yeshua changed the Torah because he violated the Shabbat (see John 9:14.) The Rabbis since then have added that Isaiah 53, one of the strongest and most accurate prophecies about Yeshua found in the Tanakh, was not prophesizing about the Messiah but about Israel. They say the references to the suffering servant are a metaphor about the nation of Israel and should not be taken as a literal prophecy about a person. In fact, in modern times this one chapter from the book of Isaiah is not even read in the Synagogue!

One of the strongest and hardest to refute arguments against Yeshua being the Messiah is that the Messiah was to bring salvation to the world, a universal redemption for the people of Israel. Yet, while Yeshua lived that did not happen. There was neither spiritual nor political nor even a social redemption of any kind.

It is easy to understand why it was so difficult for the Jewish people at that time to accept him: he didn’t perform many of the expected events the people had been taught by the Rabbis he was supposed to do, and he was rejected by the leaders of the people.  As we are told in John 12:42, even those in leadership who accepted him as their Messiah kept that fact a secret out of fear of retribution by the Sanhedrin.

But what about since then? What about all that we have learned, the additional events recorded in Acts, the miracles of the Gospels that many other Jews have been able to read about who didn’t know about it then? Why, with all this historical evidence, haven’t the Jewish people readily accepted Yeshua as the Messiah God promised to Israel?

The reason is simple: early Christianity totally separated itself from Judaism at the Council of Nicene, and since then has been such an enemy of Judaism that no Jew in his or her right mind would accept anything “Christian.”

Huh? What could they have done that was so terrible? Good question. Here are some examples:

  1. During the Crusades hundreds of thousands of Jews were slaughtered because they refused to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and reject Judaism (even his name was changed from Yeshua to Jesus to remove any trace of “Jewishness” from their Messiah);
  2. The Inquisition also saw the torture and slaughter of thousands upon thousands of Jews, not to mention all Jews being expelled from Spain, if they refused to reject Judaism and accept Jesus as their God (by now God, himself, was being left behind as Christianity gave all glory to Jesus);
  3. Because to a Jew, all non-Jews are Gentiles, a Gentile is the same as a Christian. During the Second World War, the Nazi’s (really, only a select group of them) murdered millions of Jews, but do you know what was inscribed on their belt buckles? “Gott mit uns”, which means “God is with us.” This statement of divine hatred for Jews was no different than what had been heard by Jews being killed by Christians since the second century; and
  4. The on-going persecution of Jews by the Gentile (Christian) world.  The Pogroms in Russia, the rejection by America of Jews trying to escape Nazi Germany, and even today we see the constant unjustified accusations by the media against Israel through the use of fake news and purposefully not showing the Israeli side. Don’t even ask me about the unbelievable injustice against Israel being done at the United Nations. As far as I am concerned, it should be renamed “The United Nations against Israel!”

To conclude today’s lesson, let’s review why the Jewish people haven’t accepted Yeshua as their Messiah.  The answer is two-fold: first, during his ministry, Yeshua did not perform many of the activities that the Messiah was supposed to perform based on Talmudic interpretation of the Tanakh, and he was rejected by the power elite of the Jewish people.

Secondly, and I believe even more influential in why Jews have rejected Jesus, is the historical and continual hatred for and persecution of Jews by “Jesus-loving” Christians that began as early as the end of the First Century. That was when the Gentile followers of Yeshua first began to separate themselves from their Jewish roots and reject the Torah. This separation was “set in stone” with Constantine and the Council of Nicene in the Third Century, which created the dogma and traditions of modern Christianity.

Should we really be surprised that Rabbis throughout the centuries have taught against Jesus Christ and the religion he created, which has tried to destroy Judaism? Why would any Jew even think of accepting or believing anything that is in the Christian Bible?

The rejection by the Jewish people of Jesus Christ as the Messiah is completely understandable when we consider the above reasons.  I was, as most every Jew is, brought up being taught that Jesus Christ was a Jew who rejected the Torah and Judaism, creating his own religion that wants to destroy Jews.

Next time we will look into what Christians believe their Messiah will do, and why there is such a difference between the Jewish and Christian expectations.

 

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Until then, l’hitroat and Baruch Ha Shem!!

 

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.

What Does “Believe in Jesus” Really mean?

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As a Jewish man who accepts Yeshua (Jesus) as my Messiah, I have been told by nearly every other Jewish person I know who doesn’t accept him that if I “believe in Jesus” I am no longer Jewish because believing in Jesus is only for Christians.

Yet, I doubt they even know what “believe in Jesus” means. For that matter, I’m not sure if I know what it means!

Does it mean acceptance that he is the Messiah? Many would say yes, but then what about the Muslims? They believe in Jesus, in that he existed, but he is a Prophet to them and nothing more. This is also the view of many Jewish people.

Does it mean I am a Christian? Many would say yes, but then again, what about all the demons in hell? They absolutely believe in Jesus and more than that- they have seen him, in person! But they’re not what anyone would call “Christian.”

Does it mean that I acknowledge only that he existed as a historical figure? Yes, for many people, including many Jews (especially those that are theologically educated.)

So where does this leave us?  Pretty much the same place we started- it can mean many things, with the only constant being that Jesus existed…and there are many who will refute that.

Generally, the phrase “believe in Jesus” is understood to not just mean that he existed, but that the person who “believes” has converted to Christianity. This is not true, though, because of the other ways we can believe in Jesus. I believe in Jesus: I believe he is the Messiah God promised to send and yet I have not converted to anything and I vehemently deny being a Christian- I am a Jew. In fact, I am more “Jewish” now than when I was before, living as a non-practicing Reform Jew. Yet, whenever I meet another Jewish person who is not “Messianic”, they call me a Christian. And they aren’t nice about it.

It is because of this misunderstanding of the phrase that I do not use it. I will say I accept Jesus (I always say Yeshua, but to keep it constant in this posting I will use the name “Jesus”) as my Messiah, the one God promised in the Tanakh to send to the Jewish people.

Going forward, I recommend that we stop saying we “believe in Jesus” simply because it sends the wrong message, especially to Jews. We should say instead that we accept Jesus as the Messiah God promised to send. And, if you are talking to a Jewish person, NEVER use the name “Jesus” but instead use “Yeshua”. And also make sure you say “Yeshua, the Messiah God promised to the Jewish people”- the only way you can make any progress with a Jewish person when talking about Jesus is to make sure you maintain the “Jewishness” of Yeshua the Messiah.

I believe that when we begin to concentrate more on who we are talking to instead of just repeating what we have always been taught to say, as Shaul (Paul) did in all his letters to the Messianic congregations he began, then we can begin to break down the wall of preconceived ideas that have formed over centuries as a result of misunderstanding, prejudice, and fear.

We need to address the Good News to people in a way they will be open to hearing it. We should rethink what Shaul meant in Romans 1:16 when he said the Gospel is to the Jew first, then the Gentile: maybe what he really meant wasn’t so much a chronological order of presentation, but that if the Gospel being spread isn’t acceptable to a Jew, it isn’t any good for a Gentile, either.

Remember this the next time God presents to you an opportunity to spread the Good News.

 

 

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.

Parashot Mattot / Massai 2018 (Tribes / Stages) Numbers 30:2 – 36

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These parashot (the Hebrew plural for parashah) cover a number of different issues. We start with the making of vows by women, and how those vows are either allowed to stand or are nullified by the dominant male in the family, be that the father of a single woman or girl living under his roof or a husband.

Moshe is commanded to have Israel attack Midian before he dies, and 12,000 Israelites attack and kill thousands upon thousands of Midianite men, the 5 kings, and Balaam. Afterward, it is found that not one Israelite died in the battle from which hundreds of thousands of animals and people were captured. The booty was then shared among all the people, with a tithing made to the Levites and to God.

The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh ask Moses if they can remain on the east side of the Jordan River because the land is perfect for cattle, and they are cattlemen. Moses is at first upset that they refuse to enter the land, but after they agree to help the other tribes settle the land before they settle down on the east side, Moses acquiesces and allows them to stay in that land.

The second parashah contains God’s commands for the distribution of the land among the 12 tribes. The leaders of each tribe, the boundaries for each tribe, the commandment to give land to the Levites and the rules regarding the Cities of Refuge are specified here.

Finally, the daughters of Zelophehad are brought before Moses with the concern that if they marry outside their tribe the tribal property they inherit will be forfeited. It is commanded that they marry inside their tribe and that no tribe should marry outside so that the lands inherited by a tribe remain always with that tribe.

As I was reading through these Torah portions one word kept coming to mind: accountability.

The father and the husband are responsible to either let the woman’s vow stand or be nullified. Their responsibility is not without accountability: if they do not nullify the vow the moment they hear it, but decide later to nullify it, then the sin of breaking a vow is on their head, not the one who made it. They are responsible to allow or deny the vow, and with that responsibility comes accountability for failing to act correctly.

When the Israelites returned from the war against Midian, they had captured women that were not virgins. Moses was very upset that these women who led the people into sin at Pe’or were not killed. But he was upset with the leaders, the captains of hundreds and thousands, and not with the soldiers. It was the leadership which was held accountable for the actions of those whom they were responsible for.

When Gad, Reuben and the half tribe of Manasseh asked to stay on the east side of the Jordan River, Moses held them accountable to ensure that the other tribes received their inheritance first.

Finally, when the land was divided among the 12 Tribes, each tribe was accountable to provide a portion of their land to the Levites, some of which would be assigned as a City of Refuge.

We are given many wonderful things by God: physically, financially and (most important) spiritually. And for all that we receive, we are also held accountable to use it properly and in accordance with God’s commandments. Too many churches have preached a “Once Saved, Always Saved” program of salvation, which creates a lack of accountability. If I can ask forgiveness one time, then never have to ask forgiveness again because once I am saved I will automatically be saved, then how can I feel accountable for the sins I commit later? And if I don’t have accountability, then how can I feel repentance? What I am saying is this: if I am automatically forgiven for any sin I commit for the rest of my life, then I stop asking for forgiveness. That leads to my not feeling concerned or upset when I sin, and that has to prevent me from feeling repentance in my heart. Does anyone who is reading this really believe that an unrepentant sinner will be allowed into God’s presence?

Of course not! We are saved when we ask for forgiveness in Yeshua’s name, but we are not automatically forgiven every sin we commit from that point on. When we are forgiven our sins (which are the ones we have collected to that point), they are what is “nailed to the Cross” that Shaul refers to in Colossians 2:13-14:

When you were dead in your trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Messiah. He forgave us all our trespasses, having canceled the debt ascribed to us in the decrees that stood against us. He took it away, nailing it to the execution stake! 

This passage is very often misunderstood to mean that the requirement to obey Torah was done away with when Yeshua was crucified. That is a lie from the very pit of Sheol. God wants us to act in a godly way- how many times throughout the Tanakh does God tell us that we should “Be thou holy as I am holy?” If we do not act in a holy way, how can we be holy? And if we do not have rules, ordinances, and mitzvot (laws)  to follow, then how can we know what is holy and what is not? That is why Shaul tells us (in Romans, Chapter 7) that the Torah created sin: the Torah tells us what is right and what is wrong.

Salvation is the gift of God which we can now only receive through the sacrificial death of Yeshua the Messiah. When the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, because the Torah commanded the sin sacrifice must be done at that temple, we had no path to salvation. Yeshua replaced the step in the sacrificial system that required bringing a sacrifice to the Temple, and that is why through him we can receive forgiveness.

BUT– that doesn’t mean we aren’t still held accountable for what we say and do every day for the rest of our life. We must still be holy as God is holy, and the only way to do that is to obey the Torah. God gave the Torah to the Jews to bring to the world because it is the ultimate User Manual for attaining holiness.

As you life your life, remember that we are always held accountable: our bosses hold us accountable to produce our work as they want it to be done; our spouses hold us accountable to our vows to love, cherish, honor and remain loyal to each other; and God holds us accountable to obey his commandments and repent of our sins every single time we sin. Salvation saves us from the eternal consequences of our sins, but it doesn’t relieve us of accountability for what we do and say.

With these last two parashot we come to the end of the Book of Numbers, and at the end of each book of the Torah tradition says we repeat the following:

Hazak! Hazak! v’nit’chazek! 

(Be strong! Be strong! And let us be strengthened!)

 

The Holy Spirit is God’s Modem to Humans

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I am a retired IT Professional, and a life-long Nerd of the First Order, so I tend to see things in a technological way.

A Modem, as most of you already know, is a device that allows us to use the Internet. Modem is an acronym for Modulate-Demodulate, and the way it works is to change an analog signal to a digital signal and back again.

You may remember how in June of 2009 you were required to either get a new digital TV or get an adaptor so you could watch TV at all because all TV signals went to digital.

Now we all know that a Modem takes something which our devices cannot understand and translates it into something they can understand.

In 1 Corinthians 2:14 Shaul (Paul) is telling the people that without the Holy Spirit we cannot understand the things of the spirit, i.e. of God.  What he tells them is:

The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

So what does the Holy Spirit do? Well, according to Shaul it acts as a means of interpreting the messages from God. In other words, it translates what we cannot understand into something we can understand.

Hey! Wait a minute! That’s what a modem does. Yes, that’s right- the Ruach HaKodesh is God’s modem for humans because when we have the Spirit we can understand the things of the Spirit. It translates what God is saying in “holy digital signal” into the “unspiritual analog signal” that we humans have to deal with until we are born again.

This is the basis for what I call the circular reasoning of faith: we need to have faith to accept the Spirit, which we need to help us understand what we are reading in the Bible but we need to understand the Bible to lead us to faith, which is what we need to accept the Spirit which we need to ….. well, you see what I mean.

If you don’t have your divine modem in operation it must be because you haven’t faithfully accepted Yeshua as the Messiah, as your Messiah and /or your faith in God is weak. If this is you, please read the Bible and accept, whether you believe it or not that God is real, that Yeshua is the Messiah and pray to God for help in believing. That’s how I started my road to salvation, and it has led me to a strong faith in God, salvation through my Messiah Yeshua and a good understanding of God’s word. Real faith is accepting without proof, and initially even without really believing but remaining open-minded.

The one best thing about God’s modem for humans is that when we use it to pray we never get this:

Your Past Isn’t Your Future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

What’s in a Name?

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In the famous play “Romeo and Juliet”, William Shakespeare wrote: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.

It was spoken by Juliet, who knew that Romeo’s last name was the last name of her family’s enemy.  Her point was that Romeo would still be Romeo, no matter what name he was called by.

My point is that God is God and Messiah is Messiah: no matter what name we use, that name will not change who they are.

Now, I am positive (and I base this on experience) that there are more than a few people reading this who are beginning to vent steam out of their ears because I am saying it doesn’t matter what name they use when they address God or Messiah.  To those people, using a name different from the one they think is correct is no less than blasphemy.

I do not think poorly of these people because I recognize their love for God and Messiah and their devotion to honoring them both. I respect the intensive research they have done over the years to come to the conclusion that they know the correct name. I also understand that to them, using any other name is an insult to God.

I would like to ask this of those people: Do you really think God will reject someone praying to Him with a contrite heart and a broken spirit (Psalm 51) just because the name they use is the only name they have ever known for Him?  Do you really think God will say to Himself, “That’s a nice prayer and I can see they are truly repentant, but I never liked –whatever- as my name so they can just go to hell.” ?  Really?

For myself, I cannot see God refusing a repentant sinner because the sinner calls out to God using a name that isn’t exactly the same name He told Moses.  I also cannot see Messiah refusing to represent a sinner that has called out to Him simply because “Jesus” isn’t the Hebrew name for Him.

Here’s a thought….when somebody tells someone else, as I have seen all too often, that the name they are using for God is wrong and implies that it won’t be heard, isn’t that the real insult to God? Isn’t that the same thing as saying God is too self-absorbed, too egocentric and too “picky” to accept a prayer to Him just because someone uses a name that may not be exactly the way God knows it should be pronounced?

I want to ask those people who are (pardon me for saying it this way) so obsessive about God’s “real” name to please try to remember God’s merciful nature, His understanding and His compassion; I would like to ask that you please STOP telling people that they have to use the name YOU think is right. Have you ever thought that you may be the one who is in the wrong? Could it be that you are the one who may be wrong because you are speaking for God?

Who are you, or me, or anyone to tell anybody else that their prayers and devotion are wrong just because they don’t call God the same name you call Him?

Did you ever consider that maybe, just maybe, your pronunciation is not correct? If so, are you willing to be judged in the same way that you are judging others?

Please think about that before you correct someone else.

I believe God and Messiah are both “big” enough to be able to handle someone mispronouncing their name. Don’t you?

And if it doesn’t bother them, it shouldn’t bother us.