Parashah Vayyera (And he appeared) Genesis 18 – 22

We begin with Abraham sitting under the terebinths just chilling out when three men (who are really angels) appear to him. He performs the usual act of kindness that was culturally expected of him, asking them to stay, wash their feet and giving them food and drink. After partaking of his hospitality, one of the three tells him that next year Sarah will have given birth to a boy. Sarah laughs (hence the name Yitzchak, which means “to laugh”) and as they leave one of them tells Abraham what is to happen to Sodom and Gomorrah.

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Abraham, thinking of Lot, pleads with the angel not to destroy the cities if there are but 50 righteous men found there, and the angel agrees. Abraham manages to negotiate down to saving the city for the sake of just 10 righteous men, but there weren’t even that many.

The angels find Lot and are invited to his house overnight, but the men of the city come to force the strangers to participate in homosexual sex  (hence the term “sodomize”), and to prevent that Lot offers his two virgin daughters instead. Before anything can happen, the men of the city are struck blind by the angels, who tell Lot to get out of Dodge now. Lot delays until the early morning and is forcibly taken out, with his daughters and his wife. The wife lags behind and looks back, which results in her being turned into a pillar of salt, while Lot escapes the destruction with his two daughters,

They live in a cave and the daughters get him drunk so that without his knowledge they sleep with him, one daughter one night and the other daughter a second night. They are each impregnated and their children give rise to two of the ancient enemies of Israel, the Ammonites and the Moabites.

Meanwhile, Abraham is moving on, as well, and settles near the kingdom of Abimelech.  As he had done in Egypt, he asks Sarah to pretend to be his sister and when Abimelech sees her, he takes her for himself as a wife. He never approaches her and God comes to him in a dream, warning him against doing anything to Sarah because she belongs to Abraham. God tells the king to have Abraham pray for him, and eventually, Abraham and Abimelech swear an oath of friendship and Abraham secures his rights to a well he dug, the Well of Seven (Beer-Sheva.)

The final chapter of this parashah is called the Akedah, the Binding of Isaac. This is one of the earliest and best known Messianic references since Abraham is asked to sacrifice his only son, indicating the future sacrifice of the Messiah by God. We all know the story: Abraham takes Isaac to a place God tells him about, which is Mount Moriah. Isaac is bound and placed on a pyre, and just as Abraham is about to kill him, an angel calls from heaven to stop. God tells Abraham that because of this act of faithful obedience, the promises he has made will be fulfilled. Abraham sees a ram stuck by its horns in a bush, and sacrifices that to God (which is why the ram’s horn is the preferred horn to be used for the Shofar.)

I am interested in the situation with Lot’s two daughters who escaped with him. We read in Genesis 19:14 that Lot went to his sons-in-law to ask them to join him in leaving the city, so it seems that Lot also had two married daughters. Sadly, they and their husbands did not take Lot seriously when he told them the city would be destroyed. Those daughters had become subjects of their environment, choosing to reject salvation in order to remain in the sinful city, despite the fact that their father told them of the coming destruction.

The two daughters who escaped with Lot performed a heinous act by seducing their own father in order to make sure that his bloodline continued. They were true “daughters of Sodom” and by their actions demonstrated not only were they comfortable with the sexual perversity of the place where they grew up but that they also had no faith in God.

Abraham was truly unique, growing up in a paganistic environment, yet knowing and believing in the one, true God. His environment didn’t affect his righteousness or his morals. However, even though Lot was raised by Abraham, a righteous man, Lot did not learn anything from Abraham. Abraham was humble and generous, but Lot was self-centered and selfish. We can see this when Abraham asked Lot to choose where he will settle, and Lot chose the best possible land, despite its proximity to the sinful city of Sodom.  Lot married into this culture and allowed his daughters to also marry into the culture of Sodom, whereas Abraham made Eliezer promise to get a wife for Isaac from his own people, even though it was a fair distance away (Genesis 25:20.)

Are we allowing our children to be influenced by their environment to the point where they might accept sin over our advice? Are we careful to watch what they see on TV and in the movies? To control which video games they play? To know who their friends are and what their parents are like?

I was not able to raise my children, who lived with their mother two states away. Although I tried to see them every weekend, I was unable to influence them because the few hours I spent with them couldn’t overcome the “24/7/365” their mother had with them. Eventually, because I tried to show them the right way to act and get them to know God, which was against what their mother had been doing, my efforts resulted in them cutting me out of their lives. Thanks be to God, I have reconciled with my son, but his older sister still has nothing to do with me, despite my earnest pleas in a letter to her every year on her birthday. And it kills me that I have not been able to save their eternal souls by teaching them how to overcome their environment.

I see young people today that are totally blinded by technology and trust what they are exposed to by the Internet and the media, which are tools of Satan. Satan is the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2) and that is how what our children see and hear every day is delivered to them. Too many parents today are more concerned about being a friend to their child than being a parent, and the Bible is clear that without proper discipline, a child will not be saved (Proverbs 23:14.)

You may say that in today’s world it is impossible to prevent a child from being exposed to the sins and perversity of the world, and you would be correct. So how do we keep them from being absorbed into this culture of corruption?

By example. Parents, uncles, aunt, grandparent, friend…whatever relationship you have with a child, you must be an example of righteousness. Even if you are fearful of losing that child’s love or companionship, you must present yourself as an example of proper moral and spiritual living. The Bible tells us that if we bring up a child in the way they should go, they will remain in it (Proverbs 22:6); personally, I find this not to be true in every case. I am sure Abraham was an excellent example to Lot, and we know how that turned out. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

You never really know in which way you are influencing a child until they grow up. I know many of the things I found uncomfortable and annoying about my parents ended up being good for me. And I didn’t realize this until I was fully grown, and appreciated it, even more, when I had children of my own.

Lot wasn’t a good example to his daughters, and what resulted from that was his children became sworn enemies of his uncle’s children. Eventually, the descendants of Lot (children raised to accept sinfulness) were destroyed by the descendants of Abraham (those raised to obey God.)

It’s never too late to start being righteous or to teach your children to obey God. I believe that the world is overpowering the youth of today, influencing them in a way that makes it very difficult for parents to fight against. When I was a child, we didn’t have anything that was as powerful an influence as the Internet, TV, movies and the media are today. The parents of today have an especially hard job when it comes to keeping their children “clean” because there is really no way, other than physical isolation, to prevent our kids from being exposed to the sinfulness of the world.

The only chance our children have is for us to be the kind of example that will shine so brightly and make such a lasting impression on them that even if they should stumble and fall victim to the world, they will always have in their memory the image of righteousness that might, one day, bring them out of the dark and back into the light.

Be the best example of righteousness you can be, keep vigilant, keep watching what they do, and keep praying to God for the spiritual and physical protection of your children. Just as Yeshua prepared and warned his Talmudim before sending them out into the world, we must do the same for our children.

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I wish you Shabbat shalom, and until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah Lech Lecha 2019 (Get thee out) Genesis 12 – 17

There is so much that happens in this parashah:

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  1. Abram (not yet called Abraham) is called by God to leave his father’s house, and he does so, receiving the promise from God that his seed will be a blessing to the entire world (which, by the way, has certainly been proven true);
  2. Abram gains wealth when the Pharaoh of Egypt takes Sarai (not yet called Sarah) as a wife, but God causes a plague to fall on his house so that Sarai is protected;
  3. Abram returns to Canaan and he and Lot separate, then God promises Abram his descendants will inherit all the land Abram can see, in all directions;
  4. There is a war with Sodom and Lot, with his whole family and possession, are taken captive, but Abram saves him;
  5. We are introduced to Melchizedek;
  6. God makes a physical covenant with Abram reiterating the promise to inherit the land and also tells Abram of the Egyptian bondage that will happen later;
  7. Abram gives birth to Ishmael, Hagar runs from Sarai but God has her return, promising her son will also be the progenitor of many nations, but will always be a wild ass of a man, with his hand against every other person, and their hands against him;
  8. When Abram is 99 years old, God tells him that he will now be called Abraham (and Sarai wil be called Sarah) and that he and all his descendants are to be circumcised;
  9. God promises Abraham that Ishmael will become the father of many nations, but it will be his own son, Isaac who will be the inheritor of the promises God made with Abraham.

Well, that should be enough to keep us talking for what? a year? Don’t worry- I won’t keep you here that long.

The challenge of having a teaching ministry is that there is so much to teach, and it is often difficult to determine what to teach about. I try to do everything in a way that glorifies God and edifies those who hear me, and more often than not I count on the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to have something “hit” me when I am reading through the parashah.

What hit me today was how Abraham was not only willing to do as God told him but that he did it…immediately.

When God told Abraham to leave everything he knew, where he was comfortable, where his family and friends were, and go somewhere that God will show him when he gets there, he goes. Just like that; packs up everything and leaves. He doesn’t even know where he is going, but he goes, all the same (Gen. 12:1.)

When God tells him after he has set up camp coming out of Egypt, to go walk the length and breadth of the land, he goes (Gen. 13:17.)

When God tells him he will be a father of many nations, he believes him, which is counted to Abraham as righteousness (Gen. 15:6.)

I know that isn’t really doing anything, but it is such an important foundational aspect of salvation, I had to make sure I added it.

When God tells Abraham to circumcise every male as the sign of the covenant God has made with him, that very same day he circumcises himself, Isaac, and all the males in his household (Gen. 17:26.)

Abraham is the ultimate example of faithfully obeying God. Moses asked not to go to Egypt, then hesitated on the way; Gideon threw the fleece before the Lord (twice!) to test him; Jonah ran in the opposite direction; and even the great prophet, Isaiah, asked God to kill him because he felt wasn’t making a difference (he was wrong, of course.)

So many of the great Bible heroes showed some form of hesitation when called by God, but Abraham never hesitated for a second. Whatever he was told to do, he did ASAP.

How many of us can claim to have faith that strong?  Of course, to be fair, how many of us have heard God calling us to do something? I haven’t had a divine revelation to teach, but it came about slowly as I grew more and more in the Lord. Yet, I have had a calling on me, twice, when I was asked to be a member of the Council at the places where I have worshiped. And you know what I did? I hesitated. I asked if they were sure, not because I felt unable to do the job, but because I didn’t really want to. I knew it would involve me putting in extra time and energy and would carry great responsibility.  It was a calling that I didn’t answer immediately. Eventually, I did accept and what I thought would happen did; when in Philadelphia, I ended up taking on the job of the Rabbi when our Rabbi left to have his own ministry, and here in Florida I ended up holding three of the four executive positions on the Council and also teaching every other week.

This isn’t about me, though, it is supposed to be about you. I shared my own experience with you so you can see that I am no Abraham. But what about you? Have you been called by God to serve in some way? Did you answer right away or hesitate? Did you make excuses or immediately “pack up and leave”, as Abraham did?

Do you even think you have a calling from God? I ask God to not only show me what he wants from me but strengthen me to do it because I know whatever God wants me to do, it will be outside my comfort zone and will entail work that will get in the way of what I want to do.

But that is how it has to be. Staying inside our comfort zone is the same as never going anywhere; to be comfortable all the time is to be stagnant. To serve God we have to be more than willing to do something, we have to actually DO IT!!

I am going to conclude today’s lesson from this week’s parashah with this: when you hear the calling from God, don’t think about it, just do it.  I know, really, how easy that sounds and how hard it is to do, so you need to prepare yourself. The best way to do that is just read the Bible every day to see how, throughout history, God has taken care of those that obey his calling. Trust in God and demonstrate that trust through faithful obedience (I just posted about obedience yesterday) and no matter what God asks of you when you obey his calling you will be blessed beyond your understanding.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe if you like what you are hearing. Also, share me out and visit my website to check out other articles and videos. I always welcome comments and would love to hear what you think of this ministry.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

 

By Direction of the Commanding Officer

For those who have served in the military, the signature line “By Direction of the Commanding Officer” should be very familiar. For those who aren’t familiar with it, it means that whatever has been written has been done so by someone under the authority of higher command and although the letter (or orders, whatever) come directly from the writer, they are done so as if the commanding officer had issued them, personally.

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For example, when I was in the Marine Corps I was a Company XO (Executive Officer), and as such, I had authority over 350 men and millions of dollars in equipment. What I said, went, but I was under the authority of the Company Commander. I was most often the one issuing commands, but when the CO (Commanding Officer) issued a command through me, written below my name was the signature line “ByDir“, which meant that what I said was an order directly from the Company Commander.

Yeshua is the Messiah God sent to the world: to the Jew first, then to the Gentile. What Yeshua told us about how to live, worship and treat each other was not just from his own authority as Messiah, but was “ByDir” of God.

And when Yeshua used “ByDir” it was from the universe’s Million-Star General, the Lord, God Almighty!

Many times Yeshua told us that he does only what his father in heaven tells him to do or to say. There are too many references in the Gospels to annotate each time this is done, but when you read the Gospels (especially in John) you see this often. We read how people say of Yeshua that he speaks as no one ever did and that his teachings have the tone of authority to them. Well, of course, they do! He is speaking ByDir of the Lord! Yeshua’s every teaching, parable, riddle or lesson was directly from Adonai.

When we consider the above, we have to ask this question:

“How can anyone say that Yeshua did away with the instructions God gave us in the Torah if he was always speaking “ByDir” from God?”

Anything Yeshua said that was not in accordance with the “commands” God had already given would be like disobeying a direct order, wouldn’t it? If God told us to eat certain foods, but Yeshua said we didn’t have to do that, then he would have been disobeying God, right? Or, if Yeshua had taught that the Sabbath was on the first day of the week and not the 7th, he would have been in a state of sin, wouldn’t he?

The fact is Yeshua never disobeyed God or taught anyone to do so. His authority was given to him directly from God and was evident in the miracles he performed. And when people praised him, Yeshua always gave the credit to that person’s faith in God and in Yeshua, who was only acting under the ByDir authority from God as God’s Messiah.

When people preach to us, they should be preaching not from their own authority but ByDir; however, too often they don’t. They preach what they want to, such as when the Shabbat day was changed, the kosher laws were said to be only for Jews, and the festivals God ordered to be celebrated should be replaced with man-made “Christian” celebrations. These, and many other unauthorized doctrines and teachings have polluted God’s word and his plans for humanity. The ByDir from God has been misused and abused by those who teach not to edify but to create and maintain power over others.

We all have the God-given right to choose what we will believe, and God has given us all the information we need to make a choice. He has instructed us how to live and how to worship and how to treat each other. And through the Prophets, he has advised us to choose life (meaning obedience) because the only other option is death.

Don’t find yourself in the Brig for all eternity by refusing to accept the ByDir of Yeshua. Always question what your religious leaders tell you God meant and read it for yourself in the Bible, asking God to show you what he really meant.

God is the ultimate power and authority in the Universe, and there have only been two XO’s God has assigned: Moses and Yeshua. Those two, and only those two had God’s ByDir authority Remember that when you are reading the New Covenant Epistles, so you can understand them correctly, or when you hear people telling you that you are saved by the “Blood of Jesus” and the Torah is just for Jews.

Those people do not have ByDir and you don’t have to listen to what they say.  You are responsible for what you do, and what you don’t do, so make sure you know exactly who gave what commands so you follow the ones that are under God’s ByDir.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

We Can’t Reject Our Cake and Eat It, Too.

No video for this one, but please take a minute or two to read it.

This message came to me in the middle of the night, and I couldn’t sleep until I shared it with you.

There was once a small town in a valley that was protected by a dam. In this town, there was a man of God who constantly professed faith in the Lord.

One day the dam began to fail and the townspeople had to be evacuated. The man of God ran around warning people to leave. The water level was up to his knees and he was wading through it when a truck came by and the driver said for the man of God to get on so he could be taken to safety.

The man replied, “God will protect me and save me- go save someone else.”

The water was now up to his waist and climbing quickly, and a rowboat came by. The people asked the man to get in, but he replied, “God will protect me and save me- go save someone else.”

Now the water was up to his neck and he was half-walking/half-swimming when a helicopter came overhead and through a loudspeaker, the pilot said, “Man of God- get on because the dam is about to burst!”

The man replied, “God will protect me and save me- go save someone else.”

Finally, the dam burst and the man of God was drowned.

In the heavens, the man saw God and said to him, “Why did you let me drown? I told all those people you would save me and you didn’t!”

God replied, “What are you talking about? I sent you a truck, then I sent you a rowboat. I even sent you a helicopter!”

Remember this story- we will return to it soon.

Yeshua told us in Matthew 5:17 that he did not come to change the law.  He also told us, in John 13:20 that whoever accepts someone he sends, accepts him, and whoever accepts him accepts the one who sent him. And in Luke 10:16 he tells us the converse is true, which is that whoever rejects him (Yeshua) rejects the one who sent him (God.)

One more verse- John 1:14 tells us the Word (meaning the Word of God, which is the Torah) became flesh and dwelt among us, who was Yeshua.

Putting these together, we see that the written Torah is from God, Yeshua (also from God) is the living Torah, so they are one and the same thing. Yeshua said he did not come to change anything in or about the Torah, and that when we accept him we accept God but if we reject him we also reject God.

Everybody with me so far?

Shaul said in Colossians 2:14 that the crimes against us were nailed to the cross with Yeshua, which is true, but those were only our own sins which we had already committed. Traditional Christian teaching is that this means the Law (Torah) was nailed to the cross and through faith in Yeshua we don’t need the law anymore. In other words, once saved, always saved and the need to obey the Torah was done away with.

This is the exact same thing that the snake said to Eve when he told her it was okay to eat the apple because she wouldn’t really die.

You cannot accept Yeshua as your Messiah and reject the instructions God gave us in the Torah because they are both one and the same thing. 

Now we can see the true meaning of the story: God has been telling us, first through Moses (the truck), then through the Prophets (the rowboat) and finally through Yeshua (the helicopter) that people who are trusting traditional Christian rhetoric to save them are really rejecting the salvation God has provided and will end up drowning.

For those who profess faith in God and Yeshua, but reject the Torah, they will be in the same situation as the ones we are told about in Matthew 7:21-23:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

How can anyone say that the law was done away with and not admit that they are practicing lawlessness?

Faith is how we are saved, and genuine faith will motivate us to obedience. You can’t have one without the other- they are both sides of the same coin. It is a never-ending circle of righteousness: faith generates obedience, obedience brings blessings, blessings confirm faith, faith generates obedience, ad infinitum…

Let go of the comfort zone that Christian teaching has provided by telling you that all you need is “faith in Jesus”! Yes, you need to have faith in Yeshua as the Messiah, but that doesn’t replace faith in God, and true faith (as James says in James 2:14) is shown through good works, meaning obedience to the instructions God gave us how to worship him and how to treat each other- which are found in the Torah!

You can’t accept the living Torah and reject the written Torah at the same time.

 

Parashah Shemini 2019 (the 8th day) Leviticus 9 – 11

This parashah picks up from last week’s reading, where we left Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu in the Tent of Meeting for 7 days as part of their anointing to be Cohanim (Priests) to the Lord.

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Now, on the eighth day, they are to perform a series of sacrifices to complete their anointing ritual, but after doing so Aaron’s two sons present their own incense before the Lord, which was not part of the ritual, and the punishment for that was their immediate death. Moses commands that drinking alcoholic beverages when serving the Lord is forbidden, which the rabbis have understood to mean that Aaron’s sons were drunk, causing their irrational and sinful behavior.

The next chapter, Chapter 11, is the one that gives the instructions for Kashrut, the kosher regulations.

This is probably one of the most argued against instructions in the entire Bible. Christians have misinterpreted Mark 7 and Acts 10 for centuries as doing away with these instructions; even within Judaism, Reform Jews (within my experience) generally do not keep Kosher and many Conservative Jews I have known may maintain a kosher home, but when outside their home will disregard these instructions.

Rabbinical thought categorizes the Kashrut instructions as Chukim, which are regulations we are expected to obey, although the reason for them transcends human understanding.

We can know this one thing about the instructions in Leviticus 11: they help to make us holy, where holy means to be separated.

I keep kosher according to the instructions in the Bible, but I am not kosher according to the rabbinic regulations in the Talmud, which greatly expand the ones in this chapter. As such, I can tell you, absolutely, that I am separated from those who do not maintain this diet.  For instance, when I go to an Italian restaurant I have to ask if there is pork included in the meat that they use for their lasagna and meat sauce. For breakfast, I have to double-check that there is no bacon fat added to the home fries, which many chefs use to enhance the flavor. When going out for breakfast, I know the turkey sausage I order will probably be cooked on the same grill with the regular sausage, but the heat of the grill is enough to destroy the treif (Yiddish for unclean) germs left behind. The fact that the heat of the grill makes it OK to have kosher next to treif comes from the same reasoning the Rabbis give for using the same plates for meat and dairy (fleishig and milchig), so long as the dishwasher is hot enough to sterilize the dinnerware.

My obedience to Kashrut is what separates me from the rest of the patrons, and when asking about the food preparation I have an opportunity to demonstrate obedience to God’s instructions and (maybe) set an example to others.

What presents a serious problem, to me, is when people argue about why certain animals are kosher and why others aren’t. The problem I see with this is that it shows a need to know why God does something.  We are allowed to question God, but this human need to know everything works against faith.

Faith is believing that which can’t be seen or proven, and I believe when we have to know “why” it represents a lack of faith: I say this because by having to know why we apparently don’t trust that God will only have us do that which is good for us. When it comes to obedience to the instructions God gave us on how to live, worship and treat each other, I think we should follow the motto from the Nike shoe company: Just do it!

I am not saying we cannot ever question the Lord; he is big enough and compassionate enough to allow this. My concern is that constantly questioning God’s reasons might result in losing faith when we don’t get the answers. This is what the writer of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) found out- trying to understand God at God’s level is like chasing the wind. It was impossible and resulted in disappointment and depression.

Obedience to the instructions in Chapter 11 of Leviticus, as well as any other instructions God gave to us throughout the Torah, should not be based on understanding the reasons why God gave them. Obedience for the sake of obedience is what many think will help us earn our entry into heaven- it won’t. This is what I call “Performance-based Salvation”, and is the “legalism” that Shaul spoke against when he wrote to the congregation in Galatia.

Obeying the instructions for Kashrut (as well as every other instruction in the Torah) should be based solely on faithfully accepting that God would not tell us to do anything other than that which is good for us. He says, over and over throughout the Tanakh, that we should obey so that we will live. He doesn’t mean live this life but to live eternally with him. When we are truly faithful, that faith generates a desire to obey. The more faithful, the more obedient.

What is really sad is that there are many, many people who do have faith, but their obedience has been stifled with wrongful teaching through traditional Christian (meaning Constantinian) doctrine that was not designed to honor God. Neither was it created by the early ‘church” fathers to separate Christians from the unholy, but to separate Christians from the Jews.

God sent the Messiah to bring all people back to God, but men have distorted that event into further separating people from God by teaching disobedience.

Each one of us has the right to choose what we will do. God has given us all the instructions he wants us to know, which are all the instructions we need to know. And we do NOT need to understand why he has given any of them, we just need to faithfully accept they are what is best for us, and obey them. God has said many times in the Tanakh that he has presented to us life and death, and tells us to choose life, that we may live.

So, nu? You can choose life or death- which one do you want?

Thank you for your interest and please share me out to help this ministry grow. Also, don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE by clicking on the button in the right-hand margin. Also, use the link above to subscribe to my YouTube channel. If I get enough subscribers I will earn a little advertising money and I use that to send my books to foreign countries that are asking for hard copy (it cost me over $100.00 to send 6 books to Uganda earlier this year.)

Tonight is Shabbat so Shabbat Shalom, and until next time…L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

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

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

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

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

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

and in Nehemiah 6:14-15 we read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                          Hazak, hazak, v’nit’chazek!

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

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

What Does God Really Want From Us?

I was reading Isaiah 56 the other day and thought about what he was saying.  It starts with “Here is what Adonai says:” and goes on to tell us:

Observe justice, do what is right, for my salvation is close to coming, my righteousness to being revealed. Happy is the person who does this, anyone who grasps it firmly, who keeps Shabbat and does not profane it, and keeps himself from doing evil.

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As I was thinking about how simple a commandment this is, I realized that God really doesn’t expect or demand too much of us. Let’s take a look at what God tells us he really wants from us…

Matthew 18:4– Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 

Micah 6:8– He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.

Leviticus 19:18– Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. 

Exodus 19:5– Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. 

Deuteronomy 11:27– There will be blessing if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I am giving you today.

Malachi 3:10- Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

There are many, many more instances throughout the Bible where I can find the same kind of message from God, but these should suffice to show that what God really wants is humility, love, and obedience. That’s it! That doesn’t seem to be too much, does it? It doesn’t require a PhD in Theology; you aren’t commanded to know how to pronounce God’s Holy name; there’s no extra credit for being able to read ancient Hebrew or to know Greek.

In fact, it is even easier than what we have already seen to find salvation through faith by doing what Yeshua told us to do:

Matthew 22:36-40Yeshua replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

All the law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments: what does that mean? Does that mean that loving God and others is enough? No! And the reason I say “No” is because too many people throw the word “love” around like it is a hot potato and cry at the top of their lungs how they love the Lord and they love Jesus and call each other “Brother” or “Sister”, or even “Beloved.”

Then they go home and do whatever they feel like doing, eat whatever they feel like eating, ignore the Sabbath and celebrate only those holidays that they like.

To love the Lord is to obey his commands- God told us that throughout the Tanakh and Yeshua confirmed it. Yet, even in trying to be obedient people will create their own problems.

We have seen in recent times many Gentiles desiring to get back to the Jewish Roots of Christianity because they realize just how far afield modern Christianity is from what Yeshua taught. That is a good thing. However, what is bad is that in their zeal they have created a new form of the same type of legalism that Shaul (Paul) fought against when Gentiles first started to accept Yeshua and learn about God’s instructions in the Torah.

Here is what is so remarkable about this: in the beginning, it was the Jewish Believers who were telling the Gentiles that they had to be absolutely obedient to every word of the Torah. Today, it is the Gentile Believers who are telling everyone else, including Jews, that they have to be absolutely obedient to every word of the Torah. And they have taken it one step further than that: just a few examples are arguing about lunar calendars, how we must pronounce God’s Holy Name, and why the names we have always used for God and Messiah are wrong. These matters have nothing to do with salvation, but to these people they (apparently) do.

Despite my exhaustive search throughout the Bible, I have not found where God says you must know how to pronounce his Holy Name to be saved. I found nothing that requires us to know the exact day of the week Yeshua rose from the grave to receive blessings and eternal life. I tried and tried but didn’t find even one commandment which says if we begin a Holy Festival based on a lunar calendar that isn’t the exact same one used in ancient Israel, then our celebration is unacceptable to God.

And I looked and I looked and I’m sorry, but I couldn’t find where God tells us our salvation is based on knowing anything other than that he wants us to be faithful, humble, to love each other and obey his commandments.

And, just for the record, there is no place anywhere in any Bible that says when you tell the “truth” you are allowed to be nasty, judgmental, accusatory or insulting. If you want to use that age-old, cliche’ excuse that Yeshua told it as he saw it, then first live your life exactly as Yeshua lived his. You want to talk as he did, then live as he did; if you aren’t doing that, then either be nice or shut up!

As far as serving God is concerned, I recommend using the KISS rule (Keep It Simple, Schlemiel) and just live your life trying to humbly accept God’s authority and show both God and people that you really mean it by obeying him and loving others, meaning treat all people with justice, compassion and patience.

I know that isn’t as easy to do as it sounds, but on the other hand, it ain’t that hard, either.

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I welcome any comments- just be nice- and I look forward to the next time we are together.

Until then, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

 

Legalism in a Nutshell

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Legalism- just what is it? Many Christians have, for centuries, been taught that it means people who follow the Torah and the Jewish lifestyle are not really saved because they don’t have faith in Jesus. To a Jewish person, following the Torah is the ultimate indication of faith.

So, what legalism is, in a nutshell, is a belief that one can achieve eternal glory and be welcomed into the presence of God (i.e., be “saved”) through the performance of activities, specifically those which God gave in the Torah. I call it performance-based salvation.

Faith is not a necessary element of legalism, but it is not absent in those who are legalistic. In other words, one can have faith in God and still be legalistic. The main issue is whether or not salvation is considered to be the result of faith, which inspires obedience, or if obedience is how we attain salvation, which also requires having faith in God.

Legalism is a form of putting the cart before the horse.

We need to have the right type of faith: is our faith in God to “save” us based only on obedience, or is it because we believe God knows what is best for us so we do as he says? Isn’t that the type of faith Abraham had? Trusting in God so much that he obeyed without question.

Here is what I see as the foundation of wrong teaching in all religions- Abraham trusted without needing to know why, but “religion” tells us why we should trust, why we should obey and that we need to do what our religion tells us is the proper thing to do. God has no religion, but men have created “religion” in order to have power over other men by pretending to know best how to do what God said to do.

I believe that organized religion is the ultimate form of legalism.

For me, salvation is the result of faith, which inspires obedience, and together they result in salvation…but that is too simplistic a definition. What I should say is that proper faith will lead us to the desire to obey God, and when we are obedient for that reason it will strengthen our faith even more; ultimately, just as iron sharpens iron, our faith will strengthen our desire to obey which will enhance our faith. It is a win-win situation.

There are more than a few times in the Bible that God has told his people, through the Prophets, that lip-service to him is unacceptable. It is clear from the Bible that just doing what God says, just to do it, is not true worship- it is nothing more than being an automaton. God doesn’t want automatons, he wants worshipful, thinking human beings who love him and show that love through faithful and unquestioning obedience.

I am not saying we cannot ask God for explanations- he is always there and always listening to us. But (I believe) with the proper faith you will ask God without demanding an answer, and be thankful if he decides to give you one. Usually, this is done through prayer, and we all know (or should) that prayers are always answered, but God’s answer may be “No”, or it could be “Maybe later, but not now”, or “Yes, but it isn’t going to be what you expect and it won’t come when you expect it.”  And sometimes we get an immediate answer that is just what we asked for- but if it should happen to you, don’t get used to it!

Legalism is still around today- not the same kind that Shaul (Paul) argued against, but from (mainly) Gentile Believers who are getting back to their Jewish roots. However, their form of legalism is so exacting that they forget faith is more important. They argue over how God’s name is pronounced, and stating that if you use what they consider to be the wrong name or pronunciation you are praying to idols. They are “anal” about when the moon sets and what calendar is the absolutely correct one. They universally reject all Jewish tradition, yet follow many traditional Christian teachings, such as Yeshua said all food is clean so we don’t have to be Kosher (Mark 7 or Acts 10), or Christians really only have to obey the 4 commands given by the Elders in Jerusalem (Acts 15), and other teachings like these. Their desire to be obedient is so strong that the pendulum has swung from one far side to the other, and their attempts to be correctly worshipful has caused them to stray off the path of true worship.

It is really simple: trust that God knows best, and believe that what he says is what we should do. Without question, without rationalization, without needing to know why- we should just do as God says because we trust in him and because…well, he’s God and we’re not!

Anything more than that is walking down a path that may lead us away from salvation.

No Way Out of This One

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I am hoping that you find this title- No Way Out of This One– interesting because it makes you wonder, “No way out of what?” And, remarkably enough, I have the answer, which is, “No way out of obedience to the Torah!”

You see, Yeshua preached and taught from the Torah, but later the Gentile Christian leadership (most notably Constantine and his cronies) changed the dogma and structure of Christianity.

When Yeshua walked the earth, what he taught was something that those Jews who accepted him as their Messiah already knew, i.e., the Torah. And that was the same thing that the Gentiles who chose to follow Messiah and worship God were being taught, which effectively meant they were converting to Judaism.  But after Constantine took charge of Christianity, he created a totally different religion based on Jesus Christ as the Messiah, rejecting everything Messianic (i.e., Jewish) about him, except for the teaching that through him we can receive forgiveness of sin.

The main difference between modern-day Christianity and its root, Judaism, is the Torah. Christians have been taught that the Torah is for Jews, and they only need the blood of Christ. Obedience to all of God’s instructions has been reduced to simply loving each other and being a “good” person; they have been taught that is all you need because this guy Jesus has got your back, so long as you ask him to forgive you.

In Catholicism you don’t even need to ask Jesus to forgive you- the local Priest can do that!

The reason I say you can’t get out of this one is that the Torah, whether anyone likes it or not, is the direct word of God given to Moses. God gave it to Moses to bring to the entire world. It is not, and never was, intended just for Jews. The Torah is not a set of laws, so much as God’s instruction to everyone about how he wants us to worship him and how he wants us to treat each other.

Let me go off on a bit of a tangent: there are parts within the Torah that are specific to a certain class of people, such as certain requirements for the High Priest and the Levites are different than for everyone else. Also, there are some instructions that apply only to women (for physiological reasons.) However, overall the Torah (which means “instruction”) was given to the Jews to learn so they could live it as an example to the rest of the world to show them how they should live.

Now that we know what God intended the Torah to be, let’s address the wrongful teaching that it is only for Jews. To do this we first have to establish some basic “givens”:

  1. God gave the Torah to the Jewish people;
  2. God has stated throughout the Bible that all who sojourn with the Jewish people (i.e., live with and worships as) are subject to the same treatment as natural-born Jews (Lev. 24:22; Numbers 15:15);
  3. God says eventually the entire world will worship him (Isaiah 60:1-3; Zech. 8: 22-23)
  4. God wants the people to learn Torah from the Jews (Deut. 4: 6-8);
  5. Yeshua’s Disciples preached obedience to the Torah (Luke 24:47; John 14:15; Romans 3:31; John 2:3-6; Rev. 22:14)

All of these statements from the Bible lead us to the same conclusion: the Torah is what God gave to the world so we can live and worship as he wants us to so that we can have eternal life.

And it is most clearly stated in Numbers 15:15 (your bible may have it as 15:14 or 15:16):

As for the congregation, there shall be one statute both for you, and for the stranger that sojourneth with you, a statute for ever throughout your generations; as ye are, so shall the stranger be before the Lord. 

That’s it! If you profess to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which means if you are a Christian you are included in that group, there is no way you can argue that God or Messiah say you are not subject to the same requirements for worship and interpersonal relationships as the Jewish people are.

God said it- one law for Jews and anyone who sojourns with them. And the New Covenant writings also confirm, absolutely, that if you have faith in God and Messiah you are an adopted son or daughter of Abraham- in other words, like it or not, as an adopted child of Abraham you are required to live subject to the same rules as his natural-born children.

Period; end of argument; close the door on your way out.

I know many of you have been taught differently, and you may not only dislike what I am saying but will passionately refute it. Go ahead- try. Look throughout the Bible and find the place where God says his commandments are just for Jews. Find where Yeshua says forget what my Father told you- it isn’t for you. Show us any place in the entire Bible where God or Yeshua or any of the Disciples say Christians don’t have to obey any of the laws or commandments in the Bible.

Obedience to Torah just makes sense, doesn’t it? If you are going to worship God then you should want to do as he says. Abraham did, David did, the Prophets did, the Apostles did, and even that nice Jewish tentmaker from Tarsus did. And the Gentiles that were accepting Yeshua as their Messiah, and worshiping God instead of their pagan deities were converting to Judaism… and THEY also were doing as God said to do in the Torah. Not all at once, but slowly over time they were expected to learn it (Acts 15:21.)

Starting right now, if you have been living your life separated from God’s instructions, read the Torah. What can it hurt you to learn how God wants you to live? And once you know what is in the Torah, if what some “person” has told you is the way to worship God but it is not confirmed by the Torah, ignore it.

Most people know that if something is really easy to do it probably isn’t all that worthwhile doing, and believe me when I tell you that worshiping God correctly, as he said to do it in the Torah, is not easy. But it is the most worthwhile thing you will ever do.

Parashah Nitzavim 2018 (You are standing) Deuteronomy 29:9 – 30

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The previous parashah ended with the blessings and the curses, and this one continues from there. Moses advises the people that everyone listening to him is subject to this covenant and he then prophecies that when the people turn to their own desires and sin, all the curses will fall upon them and they will be a byword to the other nations, asking “Why has this happened?”, to which the answer will be because they rejected God and his commandments.  

But as with all prophecies of destruction for disobedience, Moses assures the people that once their hearts turn back to Adonai, no matter how far he has scattered them, he will bring them back to their own land and bless them. 

Moses ends with the decree that these laws are not too hard to do, and he offers them the options of live or die, blessings or curses, and the suggestion that they take the blessings.

My message today is regarding what Moses says about those that bless themselves in their heart (Deut. 29:18-20), meaning those that hear the word and purposefully disobey, thinking that because God promises to regather the people they will be selected with the others. Moses assures that person that this will not happen; indeed, the one who persists in indulging himself (or herself) in evil will certainly not be blessed or forgiven. That person will be cut off from the people and all the curses of the covenant will fall on his head. 

When I read this I thought of all those that have been taught that once they are saved, they are always saved. Shaul (Paul) refutes this in his letter to the Romans. In that letter he says (Romans 6:15-16):

For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law, but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that when you offer yourselves as obedient slaves, you are slaves to the one you obey, whether you are slaves to sin leading to death, or to obedience leading to righteousness?

The sins we commit can be forgiven through the Messiah’s sacrifice, but that is only those sins we have committed to that point, i.e. to the exact moment we confess, repent and ask forgiveness in Yeshua’s name.  Whatever sins we commit after that are on our head until we repent of that sin and, again, ask for forgiveness. 

If we sin and continue to sin, without asking forgiveness, then we are- by definition- unrepentant. There is no doubt in my mind after reading the Bible over and over for 20 years and more that God will not forgive an unrepentant sinner, whether they know they are unrepentant or not.  We may feel sorrow in our heart for doing something wrong, but if we do not confess that wrongdoing and ask forgiveness, it is NOT automatically given. We need to have a contrite and humbled heart when we repent and ask forgiveness, but we need to do it all: heartache, repentance (T’shuvah), request for forgiveness (in Yeshua’s name.)  

I also thought of all those who have been taught that Yeshua did away with the law; all those poor souls who blindly follow the blind. Even if they think they are obeying God, they are not. And this is a form of blessing themselves in their heart and they WILL be held accountable. The covenant Moses made was not just with who was there, but those who were not there, as well (Deut. 29:13-14). In other words, this covenant is for all who claim to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Not just the Jews, but all people: those there at that time and those who are not there. 

What this means for you is that you need to make sure you read the entire Bible- Genesis through Revelation- and accept that if you worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob then you are also under this covenant. You may not like hearing that, you may want to argue (as if it will do you any good with God) that God didn’t mean Gentiles who accept Yeshua as their Messiah ( remember that Yeshua taught the Torah) or that Believers aren’t under the law but under Grace (remember what Shaul said to the Romans) or even that Yeshua did away with the law. 
Which is a total lie: Yeshua is the living Torah, the Word that became flesh so how could he have done away with himself? Duh! 

The Torah is still valid: God said these commandments were to be throughout all your generations. That means forever. And those that join themselves to God’s chosen people are not only able to enjoy all the rights of natural born Jews, but they are also subject to all the laws natural born Jews are subject to, and that means the Torah. 

What it boils down to is this: God gave the Jews the Torah to learn and teach the rest of the world, and those that obey are blessed while those that disobey are in BIG trouble. 

The Pharisees were teaching performance-based salvation, and Yeshua gave us faith-based salvation. We obey God’s commandments as a love-response to God’s goodness and because we are obedient children.

Grace is not a license to sin, it is the means by which we can avoid the eternal consequences of our sin; however, faith doesn’t overrule obedience.