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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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. 

Parashah Ki Tavo 2018 (When you come) Deuteronomy 26 – 29

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As Moses finishes his Second Discourse (review of the laws) he starts the Third (and final) Discourse in Chapter 27, which is the enforcement of the laws.  This culminates in Chapter 28, the Blessings and the Curses chapter in which we are told what blessings we will receive for obedience, and the horrible litany of curses that will befall us for disobedience.

All of which happened: we were mightily blessed when we obeyed, and when we disobeyed we were even more mightily cursed. 

One interesting point of detail before we start: in 26:1 we are told to bring the first fruits of the land to the Cohen as a sacrifice to God, and in 26:12 it is referenced that this is the third year tithe. So if we are in the land for three years, why are the first fruits in the third year? In Leviticus 19:23-25 it says:

When you come to the Land and you plant any food tree, you shall surely block its fruit [from use]; it shall be blocked from you for three years, not to be eaten. And in the fourth year, all its fruit shall be holy, a praise to the Lord. And in the fifth year, you may eat its fruit.

So the first fruits given unto the Lord after possessing the land could be only done in the third year. 

I have often written how Chapter 28 in this book is one of my favorites because it shows that God’s blessings are what he actively does for us, and his curses are really not active, but passive. In other words, God gives us blessings but when he curses, it is really just the absence of his blessings.  We live in a cursed and fallen world so when God isn’t blessing us (i.e., protecting us from the real world) we are subjected to the world as it is. 

But today I want to talk about something different. I want to talk about how much obedience does God really expect from us? I mean, really- no one has ever lived the Torah perfectly, except (of course) Yeshua, and he is the son of God and was filled with the Ruach Ha Kodesh (Holy Spirit) from birth. I know it says that the Spirit fell upon him like a dove in the Gospels, but it is clear from what we read in the Gospels that there was something unique and special about Yeshua from his birth and throughout his youth.

So, if no one can live up to the standards of the Torah, and God knows this, why require us to do everything that is in the Torah?  On the surface it seems really unfair, doesn’t it? 

But then again, we know God is fair. He wants us to live the Torah as he gave it, which he reminds us at the end of this book (“Do not add to or take away…”), but he knows we can’t. That is why he also gave us the sacrificial system outlined way back in Leviticus 1-7 (and repeated throughout the other books.) It is through the sacrifice of innocent blood that we can be forgiven of our sin.

That is really a wild concept- sin can only be forgiven through the shedding of innocent blood (Hebrews 9:22, based on Leviticus 17:11), which means the one who is guilty cannot shed his or her own blood to atone for their own sin. It must be the blood of another, an innocent. Perhaps that is why God created the animals that are acceptable for sacrifice- just so that we have something clean and innocent to atone for our sins? Hmm…maybe? Maybe the other things we get from them– food, milk, cheese, yogurt, clothing, etc.- is all just a perk?

Why would God give us commandments we can’t follow completely and create animals that are destined to be killed so that our sins can be forgiven? My answer is… I don’t know why. Really- I have no idea why we are given commandments we can never live up to and why the guilty are not allowed to atone for their sins with their own blood.

Perhaps, just maybe, it’s because God thinks and sees things from an eternal viewpoint and these things I am asking about are finite? Perhaps it is because the real horror of sin is that the sinner must live with the memory of a poor, innocent having to suffer because of what that person did?

Again, I don’t know. This is a sort of conundrum, an unanswerable question which will forever haunt us. I don’t even think there is an answer, but there may be a solution to the problem of trying to know why and never being able to: trust that God knows what he is doing, even when you don’t.

We have been reviewing everything that happened in the prior four books of the Torah in this last book, and we have been told that pork is bad and deer is OK; fruit trees must not be used for 3 years for first fruits but we still have to wait a full five years before we can eat the fruit- it is holy after three years but not allowed to be eaten for 5. The Red Heifer ashes are used to cleanse us but everything involved in creating the ashes makes us unclean. A woman is unclean for 7 days after giving birth to a boy but for two weeks if it is a girl.

In Judaism, we have different types of “laws”-  Mishpatim and Chukkim.  The Mishpatim are laws easily understood, such as do not kill and do not lie. The Chukkim are laws for which we do not understand the reason, such as why can’t we wear clothes of different types of material and why pork is unclean. The Torah tells us that Mishpatim are to be guarded but Chukkim are to be done.  This could mean that because we can understand the reason Mishpatim have been given, we must make sure that we do not change or rationalize why we should ignore them. With regards to Chukkim, because we cannot understand why they have been decreed, we really can’t justify or rationalize changing them so they should just simply be obeyed.

As an example, a “mercy killing” violates the Mishpatim not to kill, but we can rationalize by saying we aren’t really committing murder, we are doing a form of humane Tzadakah (charity.) However, since there is no reasonable or easily understood justification for not mixing wool and linen in a shirt, how can we rationalize disobedience? We just have to accept that’s how it is and this is what we must do, period; end of story; don’t slam the door on your way out.

That, of course, is very hard to do for us prideful, curious humans who need to know “Why” for everything. We question, we analyze, we change, we reject and we adjust things to fit our own desires. But God doesn’t allow us to do that, which may be one of the reasons we can never be completely obedient.

I think this is why Yeshua told us we need to pick up our execution stake in order to follow him. We must be ready to die to self, to kill our own curiosity and desire to know “why” in order to be able to accept the Ruach HaKodesh and be led by it. Yeshua also said we need to be like little children in order to enter the Kingdom of God; in other words, accepting, trusting, and unquestioning (although I think he meant kids older than 2 or 3 who can’t say anything without asking, “Why?”)

What we should carry away with us from this parashah is that we will not ever understand why God wants us to do all the things he requires of us.  Furthermore, even when we understand the “why” of certain Mishpatim we are not to rationalize disobedience. Overall, whether we understand the reasoning for a commandment or not, we should obey all of God’s commands without question.

It’s this simple- he’s God, we’re not, so we do what he says.

Born-Again Christians and Legalism Born Again

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First and foremost let me say that I am ecstatic to see more and more Christians wanting to know their Messiah and who he really is, and what he really taught. They are realizing that the Jesus they have been told about is not the Yeshua who lived, preached and taught from the Torah. This is a wonderful and prophetic happening and will lead to the fulfillment of the prophecy that one day all knees will bow and all tongues confess that Yeshua is Messiah; on that day we will all be one in Messiah, worshiping God as he said we should.

That being said, let me go a little further and point out that with this new-found love for their Hebraic roots and for Hebrew, both Modern and Paleo, I see a really upsetting dark cloud on the horizon. That cloud is a new form of the legalistic mentality that was prominent in the First Century, which both Yeshua and Shaul (Paul) were totally against.

Let’s get something else clear before we go on: “Legalism” is the system under which faith is not important or needed to gain salvation. Under a legalistic system (which is what the Pharisee’s taught) you can be saved ONLY by strict and complete adherence to the Torah, as well as the rabbinic traditions that the Pharisee’s added to one’s activities and worship. Again, so no one misunderstands: under the system of legalism, faith is not needed to be saved. All we need to attain salvation is absolute obedience to everything we are supposed to do stated in the Torah, as well as strict and total adherence to Halacha (Talmudic, or Oral Torah) requirements.

Now, on to today’s message.

I have been blogging for over 5 years, and am a member of a number of different “Christian” or “Messianic” discussion groups, and one of the most prevalent arguments that constantly comes up is how to pronounce God’s Holy name (called the Tetragrammaton), how it is spelled, how to pronounce the name of the Messiah and how these things are absolutely necessary to prevent one from being fooled by the Enemy and (even worse) to not call out to false gods.

In a word, these concerns are ridiculous! A bunch of drek that no ones who really knows the Lord would be worried about. God isn’t going to condemn someone to Sheol (hell) because they call out to Jesus, or when praying to God use the name Jehovah or Yahushua, or if they call Yeshua Yahshua. If the person praying is praying to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in their mind and heart, and invoking the name of the Son of God, the Messiah God sent to earth to save mankind, it doesn’t matter what name they use. God knows the heart and the mind of everyone, as does Yeshua, so believe me when I tell you they know who you are talking to.

Not only is the name issue important to these people, but I see other ridiculous issues- we should pray after we eat and not before because it is a commandment to thank God for our food only after we have eaten it. As such, they imply (or even state) that praying to God and thanking him for the food on our table BEFORE we eat is a sin! Imagine! Thanking God is a sin! Who woudda evah tought’ it?

This need to be absolutely accurate using God’s name, or taking one single sentence from the Torah (specifically, Deuteronomy 8:10) and expanding it out of context, to indicate that we must perform some physical act correctly or we cannot be saved is Legalism.

They may not say this that way, i.e. if we don’t pronounce God’s name correctly we won’t be saved, but the indication is clear- not doing this is a sin, and since we all know sin prevents us from being in God’s presence, well…you can all add, I’m sure.

I am concerned that the zealousness I see from a number of people for this minutia, this useless straining of gnats while swallowing a camel, is going to choke the seeds that were sown and are starting to grow, just as it did to the new Gentile converts to Judaism in the First Century.  This is why I call it a new form of Legalism, the same thing that Yeshua, Shaul, and the Disciples fought against when Yeshua’s ministry was first growing.  Once the Council of Nicene got in the picture, then this issue of new converts to Judaism being taught the wrong message was totally overridden by the separation of Yeshua’s followers from mainstream Judaism. Essentially, after Constantine, obedience to the Torah as necessary for salvation was no longer a concern for Christians.

For those of you who are reading this and thinking that I am wrong, so be it. If you really believe God will condemn me to hell for calling him Adonai, or God (many even think the word “God” is pagan!) then I can tell you right now, absolutely, you have no idea who God is or what he is about. I pray that one day he will open your eyes and minds to the truth that he is a forgiving and compassionate God, and not as thin-skinned as you seem to think he is.

“Legalism” is a tool that the Enemy can use to cause dissension and confusion within the body of Messiah. It was used thousands of years ago to dissuade new Believers from the truth and tie them up in traditions and activities that didn’t lead to salvation, and today it is still being used to do the same thing. Those who are adamant that God’s name is spelled or pronounced a certain way are leading us away from the truth of who and what God is, and not edifying anyone. Those who take one sentence out of context and imply that praying to God to thank him for our food before we eat is a sin are just being silly, and misinterpreting the Torah (which is the real sin.)

PLEASE!!!  Stop worrying about how to pronounce the name of God; stop worrying about when you are supposed to thank God (I can tell you absolutely that God will never, ever be upset with you when you thank him for his blessings and provisions); stop worrying about ancient Hebrew; stop worrying about minutia and insignificant details. What you should be worrying about, if you must worry about something, is being led off the path of true faith in God. Too much emphasis on detail and performance is going to lead you into a hole, and when you make it necessary for others they will fall into that hole, with you. God is compassionate and understanding, God is looking for faithful obedience and not proper grammar or pronunciation, God wants you to obey him with a contrite and humble heart, not puffed up pride from the study of ancient scrolls and a Gnostic attitude towards salvation.

We do not need to understand God or even understand his word to be saved- we only need to be like little children, obeying as best we can out of love for our Father. Faithful obedience to Torah is an act of love, a response of thankfulness and trust that God knows what is best for us.

I am not saying be totally ignorant, but instead read the Torah, ask the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to guide your understanding, and don’t get all tied up in minutia and details. Yeshua told us to love God and love each other is all we need to do.

I believe that studying the Bible is a wonderful thing, and should be a life-long activity. But- when it becomes more important to do every little thing, know every little detail, study every ancient manuscript and tell others they must do what you think is right otherwise they are in sin, you have gone too far. Once you place “doing because it says to” over “doing out of faithful desire to please”, you are legalistic.

I can’t speak for God, but I am pretty sure that so long as what we do, we do to please him and try to be in obedience, he will be pleased.

Parashot Thazria/Metzora 2018 Leviticus 12 – 15

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These chapters deal with the purification procedures for a person after childbirth, when Tzara’at (leprosy, or some infectious skin disease) breaks out and if one suffers any type of bodily secretion.

It should be noted that they refer mainly to uncleanliness (either physical or spiritual) with regard to the Sanctuary and the holy things associated with the Sanctuary. The restrictions regarding the Sanctuary do not apply for all cases in everyday life. The observance of these regulations have been somewhat lost over the centuries, starting with the destruction of the Second Temple, and now are rarely observed except by the Orthodox. For example, Orthodox  Jewish men will not shake hands with a strange woman or even give her change of a dollar. It is not because they are misogynistic or disrespectful but simply because they are obeying the laws in this parashah. A woman in her time of Nidah (menstrual cycle) is unclean, and if a man touches her or anything she has touched he also becomes unclean which would prevent him from being able to enter his synagogue that day.

As with all of God’s commandments that are not simple to understand (i.e., do not kill or do not lie) people try to make up the reasons for God giving us these mitzvot (laws.) The reasons generally fall into one of two categories: hygienic or levitical (religious.) They may also be referred to as either moral or ceremonial laws, and for many Christians the ceremonial laws are the ones that they are taught are only for Jews because Christ did away with when he died on the cross. Those who know better understand that “anti-Torah” teaching is wrong because Yeshua never taught against the Torah; in fact, he taught only from the Torah and never even implied that we should do anything other than what the Torah says. But…that topic is for another time.

I am going to be somewhat repetitive today because the important message I believe we get from these two parashot is one I have recently talked about. In fact, I talk about it often, and what it is is this: it doesn’t matter why God tells us to do something! What does matter is that he told us what we should do.

If there are good reasons we can understand for the regulations, such as separating someone with an infectious disease from the community, all the better. But it doesn’t matter why God tells us something- he is God, we are not. He is the Father, we are the children. He is in charge, and we must obey if we are to receive blessings.

That’s all there is to it. Now, if someone feels that they have a right to understand, go ahead and ask God to explain his reasons to you. He is “big” enough to be questioned, but realize something first: you had better ask politely, act respectfully, and not expect an answer. God doesn’t have to justify himself to anyone. God is merciful and compassionate and you might get an answer, but whether or not you receive and answer you are still expected to act as commanded.

Yeshua tells us we are either a slave to God or a slave to the world (Matthew 6:24) and, as such, we must choose whom we will serve. God tells us throughout the Torah that when we obey him we will be blessed. One of my favorite biblical chapters is Deuteronomy 28, which is the Blessings and Curses chapter. I have often written and talked about how God never does anything cruel to us; the world is already a cursed and fallen place, and because we live in it we are constantly barraged by cruelty and hatefulness. God’s blessings are protection from the world. When we act in obedience to the Torah we are protected. It is when we reject Torah that we find ourselves exposed to the world and cursed. God actively loves and protects his children who obey him, and passively allows us to go our own way when we reject him. That’s when we find ourselves in trouble.

So, nu?  What is the word for today? It’s this:

  • obey God because he is God;
  • obey God because we trust God tells us to do only what is in our best interest to do; and
  • obey God because he is telling us how to live forever with him in peace and joy. 

To paraphrase a line from a famous poem: “Ours not to reason why, ours but to do OR die.”

If these reasons aren’t enough for you, then you will have a hard life and may sacrifice your very salvation. We are not saved by obedience, we are saved by faith; and that faith is demonstrated not by what we say but by what we do.

What “Under the Law” Really Means

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This is not going to be a scholarly treatise on the differences in the Greek words used for “law”, or that Torah means “teaching”, or anything that involves anything more than just some common sense and a basic understanding of God’s plan of salvation.

So let’s start with how God’s plan of salvation works. It’s really quite simple: God gave the Torah through the Jewish people to all people so that we would know two things, and just two things. They are:

  1. How to worship God; and
  2. How to treat each other.

When we do as God tells us we should be doing, we are living in accordance to His will and thereby not sinning. When we do that which God says we should not do, then we are rejecting God’s commandments, which is called “sinning.” When we sin, that sin separates us from God and if we die in our sin we cannot be with Him throughout eternity. Salvation is available to those that ask for it and do not die in their sin.

Salvation starts with the Torah, which tells us how to not die in our sin by staying within God’s will. The problem we run into is that no one is able to live in accordance with Torah, so we all will die in our sin, unless we happen to die as we are exiting the Temple in Jerusalem right after performing a sin sacrifice.

Oh, wait a minute! The Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed! That’s OK because God has us covered for that one; again, all part of the plan.

Right from the start, even before God gave us Torah, He knew this would all happen so He had a back-up plan. That plan is called Messiah. The Messiah would present Himself as a sin sacrifice for all people, and through His sacrifice we would be able to atone for our sin, even though the Temple is no longer available to us. Messiah’s sacrificed “trumped” the animal sacrificial system that was what we needed before Messiah came.

Today we try to live our lives as God told us we should (Torah) and when we fail to do that we ask for forgiveness, which we can receive as a result of our T’shuvah (repentance) and by means of the substitutionary sacrifice of Yeshua haMashiach.

That’s it! God gave the world the Torah (through the Jewish people) and because we couldn’t obey the Torah as we should, He sent Messiah Yeshua (again, through the Jewish people) to suffer the penalty we all (Jew and Gentile) deserve so that we can overcome sin and be in God’s presence for all eternity.

Now that we have a basic understanding of how salvation works, the next step is to understand the difference between being under the law and obedience to the law.

Under the law is a term used in the New Covenant writings to describe a system that understands salvation to be a result exclusively from obedience to rules and regulations. It doesn’t account for a desire to obey as a result of love for God. Faith is not needed in this system because salvation is only possible through performance.

Obedience to the law means that we choose to obey the rules and regulations that God gave us as a means of proving our T’shuvah (repentance) and comes from a desire to please God. It is not a means to gain salvation. Salvation is only possible through faith; we obey because we love God and show that by obedience to His word.

The Torah is the User Manual for staying in God’s will. We obey the Torah because we want to show God that we fear Him (as in honor and respect) and to show others how God wants them to act. We should obey Torah as a love response to God’s kindness, His sovereignty and His authority.

When we are obedient to Torah we are not doing so to “get into heaven”, but because we want to do as God says and because we respect and honor Him.

Obedience to Torah is not a means to be saved, it is a way to show God how much you love Him. In John 14:15 Yeshua told His Talmudim (disciples) that if they loved Him, they would obey Him: everything He taught was directly from the Torah, so to love Yeshua means to obey the Torah.

Can you see the difference now? Obedience to the law is all about faith and desire to please God, whereas under the law is nothing more than a means to an end.

And since no one can be perfectly under the law, those means lead to only one end- damnation.

Many people say they love Jesus, they love the Lord, they love, love, love…but do they ever even try to love God the way He asks them to? No- they excuse and rationalize disobedience to the Torah.

Do you love God? Do you love Yeshua? If so, do you prove it by living the way God says you should, or are you living the way you want to?

Which one do you think God will accept?

Is Yeshua God?

I am proving myself either crazy, suicidal or brave by even thinking about approaching this topic.

But, then again, if I believe I am given insight (the same should be the rule with everyone) and can show in the bible why I believe this way, then I should share it with you. If you disagree with me, I will not say you are wrong- I am simply telling you what I believe. I wish more people could have discussions without attacking each other’s beliefs, because in the long run, God will be the judge if I am right or wrong, and it is up to Him to set me straight. If we disagree, we should be able to do so with mutual respect, compassion, and leave it at we agree to disagree. Too often I see and hear people attacking each other, insulting each other, calling each other stupid or uneducated simply because they don’t agree. That is not how we should act.

So, here it comes.

Let’s start with the basics: Yeshua is the Messiah, and He existed before He came to earth. I really don’t know if He was God then, and became a separate entity in order to exist in our physical plane, or if He was always a separate entity but equal in divinity to God. I can’t find anything in the bible except that He appears to have been an eternal being with divine powers.

When He came to earth, He had to be able to suffer the temptations and illnesses of all humans (Isaiah 53) and to be able to die. For that to happen, and here is what is really amazing- which most people never understand the impact of- He voluntarily stripped off His divinity and took on a mantle of flesh! Yeshua was divine, He was eternal, He was all-powerful, yet He gave all that up just so that He could be a human being and die in order to give us a chance, just a chance, to be with God forever. Have you ever really thought about that? Could you have done that?

When Yeshua was born, He came out of Miryam’s womb as a human being: not eternal, not divine, just plain, old human. I say again, He had to be totally human so that He could take on our sins (a divine being cannot be associated with sin) and so that He could die. A sacrifice that cannot die (in other words, a divine being that is immortal) would not have been a “real’ sacrifice, and without a sacrificial death there is no remittance of sin, and our salvation is unfounded. But…our salvation is founded in that death, for Yeshua surely did die. The spear in His side proved it. So, whatever Yeshua was before He came to earth, He was 100% human while He lived on the earth and all the miracles He performed were done with the power that came from (a separate and unique) God through the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), which was the same exact way miracles had been performed by the Prophets before Him, and by the Apostles after Him.

The one, and most important, difference between Yeshua and all other humans was that Yeshua was not born into the sin of Adam and Eve. Because of His supernatural birth, and through His resurrection, His sacrifice was able to free us of our sins and continues to do so, for now He is a Priest and Cohen forever (Hebrews 7:17.) His blood is still viable, He is still able to cleanse us with His blood because it still exists, and will forever.

I think that every time someone asks for forgiveness in Yeshua’s name, He spills a little more of His blood.

Finally, Yeshua was resurrected and became eternal, again, but he is not divine because he has to serve as Cohen HaGadol for all humanity until the plan of salvation is complete, which won’t be until the Millennial Rule is over, the Adversary and all his demons are thrown into the Lake of Fire and the new heaven, new earth and new Jerusalem appear. In other words, He is still a separate and unique living entity from God. Once all is done, I do not know what will happen. Maybe He will remain the way He is, maybe He will be divine again and still the Son, maybe He will be “absorbed” back into God (which would imply the Holy Spirit would be,also) and there will be just the one and only God…who knows? I sure don’t! But, then again, who cares? I won’t, because I will be in God’s presence for all eternity, and it won’t really matter.

So, now for the biblical “proof” that I have for my position. First off, every letter that Shaul wrote to the Messianic Communities started off with a greeting from Shaul, then from God AND Yeshua. Not God, who is Yeshua, not Yeshua, who is God, but from “God the Father and Yeshua the Messiah.” Every letter from every Apostle, who lived with Yeshua for years, identifies God and Yeshua as separate entities. In Revelation 20:6– now remember that this book is the vision given to John directly from Yeshua- it says this:

Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Yeshua and will reign with him for a thousand years.

Notice it says priests (cohanim) of God AND of Yeshua: not priest of God, who is Yeshua, or of God who is Messiah, but “of God and of Yeshua.” The vision of John sees two separate, unique entities ruling in heaven.

There are some places where we hear Yeshua refer to Himself as being the “A” and the “Z”, and how before Abraham was, He is, which means He had no beginning and no end, and that is true in my understanding. As I started off saying, He was eternal and divine, then He gave that up to die, but when He was resurrected, although not divine, He is again eternal, so being ‘the beginning and the end’ while remaining a separate being from God is a valid statement about Himself.  He also constantly talked using parables and riddles, hyperbole and speaking spiritually in the same breath He would speak regarding the physical world. He was of spiritual birth but in a physical form, so He was in both a spiritual and physical place at the same time. Sort of like the Prophets that were taken up in the spirit (Ezekiel, for example) but still physically present on earth. But Yeshua was able to be in both places at the same time and stay in control of Himself.

When He told His Talmudim (students, or Disciples) that when we see Him we see the Father so He and the Father are One, it was a metaphorical statement. He said that He did nothing other than what the Father told Him to do, and said nothing other than what the Father told Him to say, which means (literally) Yeshua was a puppet, so to speak, whose actions and words were not of His own but directly from the Father. That being the case, in His statement that when we see Him we see the Father, for they are One, He was telling us that He is a perfect representation of what the Father does and says. A separate, unique and different entity but still only doing and saying what the Father wants Him to do and say, therefore, seeing Him is seeing the Father, in a matter of speaking, and as such, there is no difference between them from the viewpoint of what Yeshua did and said.

This is very hard to understand, and you don’t have to agree with my belief. If you would like to discuss this, I would ask that you post your comments below, but please don’t be abusive or impolite. I review all comments before they are made public and one’s that do not serve to edify or educate, but are simply attacks without merit, will not be honored with a reply.

Hopefully, those of you who believe differently may have an open mind, and think what I believe may be possible, and maybe there are those who believe as I believe. Let me add one more thing, if I may- we don’t need to know if Yeshua is God or not, really. All we need is to do T’Shuvah (repentance), be faithfully obedient to God, accept Yeshua as our Messiah, observe Torah (as best we can) and constantly ask forgiveness of our sins by reason of Yeshua’s sacrifice.

 

 

To Torah, or Not to Torah: OY! What a Question!

I don’t know where to start on this one, or where it may end. I could probably write a book about this (hmmmm??), but I want to keep it simple, so here I go…

As I have said often, eating ham will not send me to Sheol (the Hebrew word for Hell), and not eating ham will not guarantee me a place in heaven. My sins are forgiven by the sacrifice of Messiah Yeshua, so the Torah, which tells me what is a sin and what isn’t a sin (Shaul says in the book of Romans that the Torah actually created sin, in that it defined it) helps me to act in ways that please God, but no longer really keeps me from death because my sins have been, and will continually be, forgiven through Yeshua. Therefore, there is an argument that can be made that it is no longer absolutely necessary to keep the Torah.

BUT…just because we can make an argument doesn’t mean that the argument we make is valid.

The Torah is composed of many things: it has historical information, it has constitutional regulations, it establishes a system of societal laws and statutes that include torts resolution and a penal code, it outlines a health code, it is a marriage certificate between Jews and God, and it also outlines the procedures for how we are supposed to worship God. These laws, statutes, and regulations are commandments, not suggestions- they are direct and absolute requirements.

The justification (this term means, specifically, being forgiven of our sins) we receive through the sacrificial system defined in the Torah is no different that the justification we receive through the sacrifice of Yeshua. The process is still the same: sin, recognize and accept your sin, do T’shuvah (repentance), present your sacrifice to God and God will accept the blood of the innocent sacrifice (remember that the life is in the blood) as a substitution for your lifeblood. That is the process outlined in Torah, and never, ever did anyone think or say that because we could always sacrifice to be forgiven that the Torah isn’t that important. Never has any Jew ever thought that.

Yeshua’s sacrifice did not do away with the sacrificial system, He only replaced the part where we have to bring the sacrifice to the Temple in Jerusalem. Everything else is the same- we sin, we own up to our sin, we repent, we sacrifice (this is the part Yeshua has provided for us) and then we ask God to forgive us by means of substituting the sacrifice’s blood for our own.

So where did someone come up with the idea that because Yeshua’s sacrifice is the only sacrifice we need that we can now do away with Torah? God never said that we could do away with Torah, and Yeshua never said we could do away with Torah, and Shaul (Paul) never said we should do away with Torah. The sacrificial system that provides salvation from sin is no different after Yeshua than it was before Him- it’s just that Yeshua is the substitute we can use instead of bringing a lamb or pigeon to the Temple. No difference otherwise, so what was valid as the way to live before Yeshua came, died and was resurrected, is still valid as the way to live

Oh wait a minute!! Shaul certainly sounded like Torah wasn’t important. I believe that this is where the ‘No Need For Torah” idea started, as a misinterpretation of Shaul’s letters to (mostly) Gentile communities of Believers (there were no churches as we know them today in the First Century.) Shaul never once thought that Torah was unimportant, and he lived it as best as any human could his entire lifetime.  Despite what humans have entitled “Paul converts on the road to Damascus” that you read as the chapter title to Acts 9, Shaul never converted to anything.  When you read his letters you see he did, in fact, go to synagogues.  he did talk to Jews, but he made it his main ministry to go to the Gentiles. He established Gentile filled Messianic communities, and what he taught was what is in Torah. The misinterpretation is rooted in the fact that his main argument was never against observance of the Torah, it was against observance of the P’shat, the literal meaning of the words, in order to achieve salvation. Shaul was not against Torah, he was against the teaching that a legalistic observance would save one’s soul. That was what the Pharisees and most of the Jewish training and understanding of the Torah was at that time- if you do what it says in the Torah, just going through the motions (so to speak) then you can be saved. In fact, if we could perform all the laws and commandments in the Torah (as Yeshua did) then we would be saved: through perfect performance we can find salvation in Torah alone.

The problem is we can’t perform Torah perfectly, so to observe Torah as the means of our salvation, is a lost cause. That is the message Shaul was relating to the Gentiles who were under stress from their old life (to remain pagans) and also from their new life, from Jews who wanted them to do everything in the Torah because if they didn’t they couldn’t be saved.

This is the same drek I get today as a Messianic Jew: Christians who have been taught Torah isn’t needed now that they have Jesus tell me if I still live as a Jew I am not really saved because I am not “under the blood”, and Jews tell me if I believe in Jesus (their understanding is that I must have converted to Christianity) then I am not a Jew anymore. Both of these teachings are absolutely wrong- as a Jewish man who believes Yeshua is my Messiah, the one God promised my people since the beginning, then I am not a Christian, and I am more than just a Jew- I am a completed Jew, in that I have come full circle, from innocence in Eden to sinfulness in the world to Messianic forgiveness through Messiah, and thereby able to commune with God, again and forever more.

So, nu? What do we have? What we have is what we were given from the start- the Torah. The Torah is how God tells us to live, and defines right from wrong, righteousness from sinfulness, and provides the means by which we can be absolved of our sins in order to come into the presence of God. Yeshua is the Messiah God sent so that we can still find forgiveness after the Temple, which is where the Torah said we had to ask for forgiveness, was destroyed. No Temple, no forgiveness, but Yeshua took care of that by becoming the Temple, Himself,and providing the innocent blood (His own blood) for us. So, Torah is still valid, Torah is still necessary, and Torah is still God’s commandment to us all.

We should all try to follow Torah: not in order to be saved, but because it is what God tells us to do. We will receive blessings for obedience and we will not be blessed if we don’t (Deuteronomy 28.)  If we ignore Torah, we are ignoring God- like it or not, that is the truth. Do we need Torah to be saved- no. Do we need to obey Torah to be saved- no. Should we try to obey Torah, anyway- yes, absolutely. Why? Because it is what God tells us to do.

If God tells you do to something, what other reason do you need to do it?