God is More Than Just Love

I have heard, oh so often, that God is love.

I have heard that the God of the Old Covenant is all about destruction and violence and rules, but the God of the New Covenant is all about love.

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I have also heard that there are false teachers and that those who sin and teach others to sin will be in big trouble when they have to explain what they did to God.

And the reason they will be in big trouble is that although God is a loving God, he is MUCH more than that.

He is the Creator of everything, which includes right from wrong. He is also the Judge of the Universe which (for the record) includes Earth and all that live on the Earth. In fact, he is not just the judge, but the jury and the executioner, as well.

God is holy; he is so holy that he is the holiest of all that is holy, and as such he is also faithful to his word. When God tells us that disobedience will be met with punishment, because he is holy, he must dish out that punishment to the disobedient.

Where his love comes into play is that even when he punishes, his love for all of his creation will result in a punishment that is actually merciful, meaning it will still be terrible, but not as terrible as we actually deserve.

For example, his love for Israel (the Northern Kingdom) was the only reason that he waited so long before punishing them: he was giving them time to repent. But once God reached the end of his patience, his punishment was, indeed, terrible; but, he did not totally destroy his people, as they deserved. In fact, he sustained them even after they were spread throughout the Diaspora, and he promised to return them to their homeland one day.

For the past 75 years, we have seen this regathering happening and it is wonderful.

People are so happy to hear about God’s love for them just as they are, which is misleading people to believe that because they are loved God will allow them to continue to do just what they have always done. This is the message that traditional Christianity sends, which ignores all the laws and regulations necessary to receive blessings.

You’re right, God will bless those who do not do everything in the Torah because he is a loving God, and sometimes in order to bless the righteous, the sinful get blessed too- it’s like collateral blessings. On the other hand, when the sinful are punished (sad to say) the righteous are sometimes collateral damage (Everyone Gets Rained On) and suffer along with the sinful.

The bottom line is that God makes the rules and because he is holy, faithful, trustworthy, and never-changing we can depend, absolutely, on his also judging according to HIS rules (not what any religion says), punishing those who have rejected his instructions exactly as he said he would in the Torah.

God does love each and every one of us, and it is because of that wonderful and infinite love that he will punish those who do wrong. Not as a means of enforcing his will, or out of the kind of prideful anger that humans feel when they are ignored or rejected, but because the only way a sinner will turn to God is when that sinner realizes the consequences of the sin he or she is doing. And the consequence of sin, as Shaul (Paul) tells us in Romans, is death.

God punishes the guilty out of love so that they will have every possible chance to turn from their sin (do t’shuva) and by turning from those sins, be able to remain alive and live eternally in peace and joy.

The big lie from Christianity is that we are all okay because God is love; the truth is that because God is love us he will punish the guilty.

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I always welcome your comments.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

 

Should We Pray for America?

Before I start, let me inform those of you who may not know, I served as a First Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps, 3 1/2 years active service and a year in the reserves, and because I served this country I have the right, as do all Americans, to talk about what is wrong with it.

And there is a lot wrong with it.

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We have kicked God out of our courtrooms and schools, (almost) made it a crime to pray in public, gone out of our way to prevent Godly worship because it offends those who reject and hate God, and our youth are not only ill-prepared for adulthood, but they are being taught anarchy and disrespect for authority by the very examples of authority within our culture -their teachers, professors, and political leaders.

Not to mention that in the very heart of our democracy we have elected officials who are against democracy, against Israel, and against the system of government that made this country the greatest example of freedom in the world.

Notice I said “made” not “makes”: we used to be the land of the free and the home of the brave, but today we are the land of the frightened and the home of the cowardly.

So should we pray for America?

I am sure most every person who professes to be a worshipper of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will say, “Yes, of course, we should!” because prayer is what we do when we need God to intervene.  But have you considered this: does God want to intervene? Maybe, just maybe, this is all part of God’s plan.

We read in the Tanakh about the Acharit HaYamim, the End Days, and in the book of Revelation, we are given the most detailed account of what to expect. Of course, there have been doomsday warners since the first report of doomsday, but I can’t help to think that we are really close this time.

Logically, since the End Days are still to come, every day brings us closer, but today there is so much distress, fear, and anxiety in the world that it seems ready to explode.

So, nu? Should we pray for God to intervene and save America? I say don’t bother because this is all part of what God has planned for us. He told us about it, he’s making it happen, and to pray for him to stop and change his mind is almost like refusing to cooperate.

Yes, I know Moses intervened for the Israelites, more than once, to ask God to change his mind about destroying the people, but this is different. They were a newly freed people who did not know their God; we have had thousands of years of God showing us who he is and what he wants us to do, so we don’t have that excuse.

The very last request being made of God in the Bible, which we find at the very end of the book of Revelation, is for Yeshua to come. I think just about everyone looks forward to that, but I also think too many ignore what must happen before he comes. That part no one wants to deal with, but it is here, now, and we have to deal with it.

I feel such sorrow for those who do not know the LORD, God, or Yeshua. My own people, the Jewish people, God’s chosen, have not really rejected Yeshua as much as they have been conditioned to reject anything about him. They have been taught to reject him, and as such, they don’t really reject him from knowledge but from training and conditioning.

But, to God and Yeshua, rejection is rejection, no matter what the reason, so I pray for my own people and my family, loved ones, and friends who do not know who Yeshua really is to be made aware of him before the shoe drops. That is why I have written the books I have written- so that people can make an informed decision about where they want to spend eternity.

The reason we are here, the reason we are given this time on earth, is to decide where we will spend eternity; and the time left to decide is running out.

So, if you want to pray for America, as far as I am concerned, don’t waste your time, or God’s, praying for peace or for relief from disease because we are past that point. However, you can pray for the repentance of the people. Ask God to spread a spirit of repentance, so that the people will realize what they have done, how they have rejected and disrespected God and his instructions to us, and for them to do T’shuvah, to turn from their sins.

Peace will not come to an unrepentant people, so if you want to pray, pray for America to repent, for that is the only way God will forgive us.

Learn the lesson from the book of Jonah: God relented of his destruction of Assyria only after they repented, truly repented, of their sins. America has become a sinful and Godless society, and until we change that we will not be spared the destruction that God will send to all who reject and deny him.

Personally, I don’t think America is going to get out of this one unscathed: God is taking aim, the safety is off and his finger is on the trigger. My friends, I really think the hammer is about to drop!

Thank you for being here, and sorry about the bad news I had to spread today. No one likes to talk about destruction, but if we don’t then aren’t we ignoring God’s warning?

Until next time, (God willing we are all still here)…L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

 

The Apocalypse…God’s Doing or God’s Allowing?

When the Apocalypse comes, when the 7 seals are opened, when the bowls of God’s wrath are spilled on the earth, when the fecal matter hits the air circulation unit, will this be something that God does or something that God allows?

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When Noah and his family left the ark, Noah sacrificed to God. And this is what happened then (Genesis 8:21 CJB):

 Adonai smelled the sweet aroma, and Adonai said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, since the imaginings of a person’s heart are evil from his youth; nor will I ever again destroy all living things, as I have done.

This is the reason I ask if God will be the one who destroys the earth. If he does, meaning that God, himself, directly performs the curses that come from the opening of the seals and the bowls of wrath, then he is breaking his covenant with Noah, isn’t he?

Yet, if God doesn’t actually do the “bad” things, but the bad things happen because of something God doesn’t do, then is that the same as actually doing something?

I know, I know…it sounds like a convoluted bit of excuse-making, but it is, I believe, important to know whether God actively destroys the world or simply doesn’t prevent it.

Regarding Deuteronomy 28, which is referred to as the Blessings and the Curses Chapter, I have often stated that the blessings we receive are actively given to us by God. He directly causes these good things to occur. However, the curses, which are the exact opposite of the blessings, aren’t actively sent to us by God, but instead are visited on us because God is not actively blessing us.

In other words, the world is already a cursed and fallen place and tsouris is what we should expect when living in a cursed and fallen world. The blessings we receive are God’s kippur, his covering, which protects us from the curses. When we are obedient to the instructions God gave us regarding how to live and worship him, he protects us from the world. That is why blessings are given and curses are sent, although they really aren’t sent because you can’t send what is already here.

I believe that when we read of the destruction of the world in the Book of Revelation that is the same sort of thing. Yes, the bowls are of God’s wrath, and yes, the 7 seals were sealed up by God, but it isn’t God who opens the seals and it isn’t God who pours the wrath upon the earth.

Revelation 6:3 says that the rider on the red horse was to take away the peace of the world and cause people to slaughter themselves; it isn’t the rider or God who is slaughtering the people, they are killing themselves.

In Revelation 7 we are told that God says to the destroying angels to wait until the servants of God have received their seals to protect them; as I said, God will not be causing the destruction to follow but is protecting those who are his own from it.

As for the rule of the Beast, it is allowed to rule. It has always been here, and since it is will be allowed to rule, that means prior to that time it was kept from ruling anything.

The seven bowls of fury are poured out on the earth, but the authorization comes from a voice from the Sanctuary (Rev.16:1) and the bowls were given to the angels by one of the living creatures. The bowls are filled with God’s wrath, which is just and correct because of all the sins of the world, but God is not pouring them out, himself, he is just allowing it to happen.

Do you see the subtle difference I am trying to point out?  God has been protecting us from the consequences of our sins all this time. His wrath and judgment are correct and justified, but he has withheld the punishment we deserve. It won’t be until the end of his patience when he will no longer hold back the judgment we all deserve, and then he will allow the angels, his executioners, to do their job.

From the moment God told Noah he will not destroy life again, he has been actively protecting the world by suspending the execution of his righteous and perfect judgment of the sinners in the world. He is waiting, hoping that he can issue a reprieve from the judgment his holiness demands he makes upon the world. In Ezekiel 18:23 he says that he doesn’t get any pleasure from the death of the sinner but would rather they turn from their sin and live, and since the days of Noah he has been giving everyone as much time as he can to do just that.

God will not destroy the world any more than a judge kills a criminal found guilty of a capital crime. The judge orders the punishment, the executioner performs it, but the one who is really responsible for the death of the guilty person is the person, himself.

Thank you for being here and please share these messages with others. I would also ask that you subscribe, check out my books, my entire website and don’t hesitate to comment if you would like to agree or even if you want to argue. Just be nice.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah Bechukosai 2019 (In my statutes) Leviticus 26:3 – 28

This parashah is the final reading from the Book of Leviticus.

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Up to this point, God has given us his instructions for how to worship him, the responsibilities of the Cohen, and how to treat each other within the society. He also has included the punishments for failure to do as he instructs. Now, in this final section, God does what the Prophets have done throughout the Tanakh, which is to tell us what will happen when we obey, and what will happen when we disobey.

It is very similar to one of my favorite chapters throughout the Torah, which is Deuteronomy 28 and is called the Blessings and the Curses.

Whenever a covenant is made there is a standard formula:

(1) The one proposing the covenant states the conditions of the covenant;

(2) He states what the one(s) agreeing to the covenant must do;

(3) What will result from compliance, and (finally);

(4) What will happen as a result of noncompliance

Today, what I would like to talk about is what God says will happen if we do not follow his instructions in this book.

In Chapter 26, God says he will punish us for our sin of disobedience 7 times over (and another 7 times over if that doesn’t work, and another 7 times if we still refuse to obey, and even ANOTHER 7 times if we have still refused to do T’shuvah), but his purpose is not to be punitive, it is to be corrective.

In Ezekiel 18 God tells us that he gets no pleasure from the death of a sinner, but that he would rather the sinner turn from his sins, and live. Meaning live eternally with God. This is not possible if we choose to live a sinful life and never to T’shuvah (repent.).

You may ask, “If God wants us to stop sinning, why would he curse us with tsuris?” (Yiddish for troubles)

The answer is that the mother of all sins is pridefulness. Refusing to follow God’s instructions is evidence that we think we know better so we don’t have to trust or listen to God. It is rebellion and means we trust only in our own power. So, since we think we are so great we don’t need to listen to God, he shows us just how incompetent, weak, and powerless we really are. The way he does that is to withhold the rain so our crops fail; he will make us infertile so we can’t have successors to carry on the family heritage or maintain our property; he will allow us to get sick and lose our health; he will send our enemies to decimate our family and fields; essentially, his punishment is to remove his protection, which leaves us exposed to all the evil that exists in the world.

You see- God doesn’t really do anything bad to us, per se’, but when he removes his protection and blessings, all the bad things he says he will do to us the world will do for him.

Often we hear people say the God of the Old Covenant is cruel but the God of the New Covenant is all about love. I don’t know how anyone who actually has read or learned about the Bible can say something so ridiculous: God is the same today as he was in the beginning, and he will be the same throughout eternity. The only difference is that in the Old Covenant God was training his people to become a nation of Priests to the world and in the New Covenant he sent the Messiah to fine-tune that training. Same God, same teachings, same rules, same instructions, only with a deeper, more spiritual understanding being given.

Today’s message is very simple and short (I know- surprising that I would ever give a short message!), and this is it:

Punishment from God is not punitive, it is corrective. 

The next time you feel you are being punished, review your life. Have you been disobedient? Have you been trying to live under your own power and not trusting in God’s power? Are you doing God’s work in the world (sometimes our tsuris is from the Enemy to stop us doing what God wants us to do)? Answer these questions carefully; look deeply into the mirror and decide if you have walked away from God’s Kippah (covering)? if you think that is the case, then return to him and follow the instructions he gave us all.

If you believe you are being attacked by the Enemy, then call out to God for more protection and help to get through it.

Terrible things can happen to godly people; in fact, we are told that they will happen. Do you remember you were told you have to pick up your execution stake in order to be able to walk with Yeshua? So steel yourself for the tsuris to come, and be comforted by the knowledge that there will be blessings, as well. Look for them and know that what seems to be a curse today might evolve into a blessing tomorrow.

Having reached the end of a book in the Torah, before we start the next book we say:

                                           Chazak, chazak, v’nit’chazek! 

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

Thank you for being here, and please don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel and also to this website. Share me out to everyone you know, whether a believer or not, and buy my books. I also appreciate your comments… just be nice, or at least respectful.

Tonight begins the Shabbat, so I wish you all Shabat Shalom and Baruch HaShem!!

Parashah Ki Tesa 2018 (When You Take) Exodus 30:11 – 34

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This parashah holds two of the most amazing and influential passages of the bible: the sin of the Golden Calf, and the 13 Attributes of God.

Chapter 32 retells the sin of the Golden Calf, and after Moses goes back up the mountain to ask God to forgive the people, he also asks God to “show me, I pray Thee, Thy glory”, which God agrees to do. When God passes by Moses He proclaims Himself, and these are what we call the 13 Attributes of God.

Today I want to talk about a very small sentence that represents a very magnificent reality: God treats everyone the same way.

In Chapter 30, at the beginning of this parashah God tells Moses to take a census of the people and that everyone has to pay a ransom for their soul. Each person counted is to give the same amount, a half-shekel. And at verse 15 God says:

The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than the half shekel, when they give the offering of the Lord, to make atonement for your souls.

To me this means that God is asking from each person the same amount because each person is, to God, the same in His eyes. Whether rich or poor, intelligent or unlearned, good-looking or weak of countenance, to God we are all the same. He doesn’t look at our outward appearance and cares not for our financial strength because God looks at our heart.

This is confirmed later, in Chapter 33, verse 19 when He agrees to show Moses His glory, and states:

I will make all My goodness pass before thee, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.

Because God is always the same, Kefa (Peter) confirms this nearly 1,500 years later, in Acts 10:34:

So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”

God will not be moved or change His mind about something simply because a person is destitute, or rich, or important in the worldview. God will and does treat every single living person on Earth as one of His children. Whether or not they accept and acknowledge Him as God, or accept and acknowledge Yeshua as Messiah, God still treats them the same way.

You may be thinking, “Wait a minute! God treats all people the same way? Are you crazy, Steve?  Are you saying that God will bless sinners who reject and curse His name the same way He treats a godly person who obey’s Torah and loves Him?”

Yes, that is exactly what I am saying, and No, it is not as you may think.

When I say God treats everyone the same way I mean that God will see each person not for what the world thinks is important, but for what God thinks is important. God will not have special concern for a person’s physical well-being, or their finances, or their position the business world, or even their rank within a church or synagogue.  To God, we are all the same, and we all will be treated the same way, which is according to what we deserve.

That is how God treats everyone the same way: we all get what we deserve.

There is one exception to this: those that have accepted Yeshua as their Messiah, who work their salvation in truth, having done T’shuvah (repentance) and who fear God will not receive all they deserve because Yeshua has paid that price for us. Thank God for that! Literally.

From this lesson we need to move forward knowing that God sees everyone for who and what they are, and since we can’t we need to trust God to judge and avenge Himself as He sees fit.  We should not take the position of judge away from God because, frankly, we aren’t fit for that role. We cannot judge fairly as God does because we are human, we are in the world, we are saturated by its standards and whether we like it or not, we cannot be partial in the way God can be partial.

Admitting this is not something that should make us feel bad, it should instead give us a sense of relief. To judge is very difficult, and to judge fairly is almost impossible. I, for one, am very happy to let God do that. I have written many, many evaluations during my lifetime and they are hard to do- if any of you has done this, you know what I mean. The weight of having someone’s future, their family’s support and the person’s self-worth in my hands is a very heavy burden.  Now if we took that up to the level of judging the world, well….better to let God handle it.

Take joy in the truth that God judges everyone equally, as we deserve, and take even greater joy in knowing that because of Yeshua, we will not actually receive that which we really deserve.

Parashot Nitzavim (standing) and V’yellach (and he spoke) Deuteronomy 29:9 through 31

This Shabbat we have a double-parashah. This happens during non-leap years so that the reading cycle will conform to the Gregorian calendar.

In these parashot (plural of parashah) Moshe finishes the third of his three discourses: the first is the review of their journey (1:6 to 4:40), the second deals with the religious foundations of the covenant and rehearsal of the Code (4:44 – Chapter 11), and this third discourse (Chapter 12 to here) as been all about obedience and punishment.

In these two relatively short chapters, we are given teachings that are so very, very valuable and important. In Chapter 29:28 Moses tells us that the secret things belong to the Lord, and that which has been revealed belongs to us AND our children. Prior to this Moshe reminds the people that the covenant is made between God and all the people- the ones there, the ones that were before, and the ones that are to come. In other words, God is eternal, and His covenants are eternal: although the people He made this covenant with (Israelites) are, individually, mortal, His covenant is with not just them, but their seed. Israel is, to God, an eternal son and so the covenant made with Israel, the nation, is as eternal as God.

The other important teaching, which comes on the heels of the fact that our relationship with God is eternal, is that this code, this covenant, is not too hard for us. We are told this in the very next Chapter, verses 30:11-14:

For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

After telling the people that God’s commandments are not too hard for them to do, he calls to heaven and earth to witness that day that Moshe is presenting life and death, and they should choose life. Here, again, a very important lesson for us, maybe the most important lesson in the entire bible: we are all, each and every one of us, responsible for the choices we make. God has given us Free Will to accept or reject Him, and it doesn’t matter who tells us what we should do, if we listen to anyone other than God we will be held accountable for that. The line the Nazi’s used in Nuremberg during the war crime trials was, “I was only following orders.”  In the human courts that excuse didn’t hold water, and it certainly won’t hold water in the Court of the Almighty!

The last reading this Shabbat is God telling Moshe his time is up, and to anoint Joshua, but first God let’s Moshe in on a secret: He tells Moshe what is to happen in the future. God shows Moshe the history of the nations of Israel and Judah, and has Moshe write down a song that God, Himself, has created which will be taught to the leaders to teach to everyone, so that when all this tsouris comes to be, they will remember the song and know that it is because of their rejection of God and violation of His covenant that these calamities have come upon them.

So what shall we talk about today? Which lesson that brings life eternal to us, which knowledge and understanding of God’s plan can we discuss?

I think it is simple, just as Moshe told the people- what God wants from us is for us to choose life. He has told us what we must do, and that when we don’t do it we will not be blessed or protected from our enemies. But, when we do as He says, He will protect us, He will bless us beyond our imagination, and He will provide all we need, forever.

Sounds like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? In truth, it IS a no-brainer, and we qualify- we have no brains! We choose death, we choose fleshly desires and rewards, all which are fleeting and momentary. I just don’t get it- I suppose that is the iniquity we all inherited from Adam and Eve. Desire to sin is in our very DNA, and the only hope we have is that the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) is an expert in recombinant DNA. God can rewire our brains to accept His laws and teachings, but it means we have to work at it. It is not something He will just do- it is a team effort. When people have brain surgery done, very often they are fully awake to help guide the neurosurgeon. I believe that this is also how God helps rewire our brain- we work together, with God doing the repair while we give Him feedback, which is through our actions and words.

We are nearing the end of the Torah, and in a few weeks we will turn it back to the beginning and start to read it all over again. I think it is wonderful that these last chapters deal with the future of the Children of Israel, which eventually affects the world, just before we start all over again learning about God’s intervention in the world.  It is a vicious cycle that we create for ourselves- God blesses, we get used to His blessings and forget about Him and screw it all up, God punishes us to bring us back to Him, we do T’shuvah, God forgives and again blesses us, then we (again) become enured to God’s blessings, our iniquity wins out, we forget about God and sin, so God (again) punishes us, we (again) do T’shuvah, God (again) forgives us and blesses us, we screw it up…ad infinitum. This will not end until God completes His plan of salvation.

Albert Einstein is reputed to have given this definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I think, based on this definition and the cycle of sin that mankind has demonstrated for millennia, there can be no doubt that we are insane!

It’s like the old joke: How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?  Only one, but the light bulb has to really want to change.

We are the light bulb and God can change us, but only when we let Him.

Parashah Shelach Lecha (send for yourself) Numbers 13-15

The children of Israel have been in the desert for more than 2 years, and they are now just outside the Promised Land. Moses is set to enter and take possession, but the people suggest he send spies to reconnoiter the land before they go in. Moses agrees and 12 leading men, one from each tribe, are chosen. They stay in the land for 40 days, then return with a report about how wonderful the land is. However, they then say they saw the Nephalim (a race of giants) and the people living there are fierce with well protected cities, so their report turns to a sorrowful cry of certain defeat. Only Caleb (from Judah) and Joshua (from Ephraim) are ready and willing to attack.

God hears this rebellion and is ready to strike them all down. He says He will make a nation from Moses’s seed (this isn’t the first time this was His desire) but Moses intercedes (again) and God relents destroying them (although He does kill the 10 spies that spread the bad report by a plague.) However, their sin doesn’t go unpunished. God tells them that since they cried their children would be taken as slaves and they would rather die in the desert, God says they will, indeed, die in the desert. They will be wandering for 40 years (one year in the desert for each day they spent in the land), and their children who they said would be slaves will be conquerors. Hearing this dismal decree, the people follow one bad idea with a worse one: they decide to attack, even though Moses says God will not be with them- God has decided this generation will not enter the land,  and true to form, they reject His word (again) and attack. But they are attacking without Moses, Aaron, the Ark, and most importantly, without God, so they get their tuchas’ beaten. Beaten so badly, in fact, that it takes an entire generation to build up enough men of fighting age to be able to attack their enemies.

The last chapter seems out of place, as God is telling Moses what the people should do once they are in the land, but it is not really out of place when you consider that despite the judgment against them, God reminds them that they will be entering the land; not this generation but the next one, and when they do they need to honor and thank God with the sacrifices He is telling them about now. It is an instruction that confirms God’s promise that Israel will, eventually, be in the land.

This parashah is an easy one for me to talk about. The lesson is abundantly clear: what God says to do, we should do, and what God says not to do, we shouldn’t do.

There is, of course, a lot more in here for us to learn about: God’s forgiveness in the midst of His terrible anger, God’s promises will be fulfilled despite what we want, how Moses is humble and his love for his people is overwhelming, even turning the heart of God to forgiveness from His righteous anger. All of this is important stuff, and good fodder for a sermon. But not today.

God has His plans, we have Free Will so we can choose to obey or disobey Him. When we obey what He has planned for us, miracles happen. When we choose to disobey Him, we royally screw ourselves up. And why do we do that? I mean, why do we turn from God? In the bible we see that during the past two years He’d shown the Israelites that He could provide food from heaven, water from rocks, He protected them from their enemies and kept them healthy and secure in one of the the worst climates in the world! Yet, still, they didn’t trust that He could help them overcome their enemies in the land He promised to give them. Oy!  And don’t we do the same thing, today?

We need to realize that we are in control of ourselves, but God is in control of everything, so He is the one to trust. We get used to good things, we get enured to miracles, we get puffed-up in ourselves and ungrateful if something wonderful is done for us more than once or twice. Basically, we learn to expect goodness and, as the old saying goes, “Familiarity breeds contempt.”

That’s why, in Numbers 14:11, God says to Moses:

And the LORD said to Moses, “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?

God asks why the people despise Him- He was feeling unwanted, hated and treated with contempt. And you know what? He was right. That’s exactly how they treated Him.

The question you might be asking now is how could they have done that? How could they be that way?

But that is the wrong question to be asking: the question we all should be asking is, “How many times have I done this?”

Yes…how many times have I, you, we treated God with contempt? Don’t we treat Him contemptuously when we refuse to do as He says? Don’t we show contempt for God when we show contempt for His commandments? And worse than individuals doing this, how many religions do this as dogma? How many Christian churches have taught the Old Covenant is not for them? How many times have you heard someone say the Torah was completed in Jesus so it is no longer valid because we are now under the Blood of Christ? If that was true, if Jesus really did overrule His Father’s commandments with His death, then that means Jesus also showed contempt for His own Father, and preached repealing the commandments of God!

That doesn’t sound very “Christ-like”, does it?

We need to remind ourselves, every minute of every day, how wonderful God’s treatment of us is, how many blessings He pours down on us (most, if not all, we don’t deserve) and how miraculous events occur every day. When we fail to do this, we fail to be as thankful as we should be, and that leads, inexorably, to showing contempt for God.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want God to think, even for a nano-second, that I don’t appreciate everything He has done, is doing and has planned for me.

Many people I’ve met have been taught that because Jesus died for their sins they are going to heaven, so they live their life without regard for Torah, for the bible, or for anyone else. They have been taught they are “saved” because Jesus “accomplished it all on the Cross.” And they never spend even one minute of their time getting to know God or Jesus on their own. So, by choosing to believe what they have been told as Prima Facie fact, they are demonstrating contempt for God because they have rejected His commandments, and that rejection means the blood of Messiah, which was shed for them, is being trampled into the dirt.

Here’s the tough question you need to ask yourself: am I doing this, too?

sometimes stuff just happens

You know, we live in a world that has been cursed. Sometimes the ground is like brass, the sky often holds back its rain, and there are terrible weather occurrences, such as snowstorm Stella in the Northeast today.

Last night as I was watching TV and thinking I had some popcorn stuck between my teeth (we’ve all been there, right?) I loosened it up and what came out wasn’t popcorn at all- it was a piece of my molar. Fortunately, the entire center of that tooth is amalgam (filling) so I don’t have any exposed roots or nerves, but still and all, it’s never fun to have a piece of your tooth come off.

So did God punish me? Did I perform some terrible sin that caused this to happen, which may very well interfere with whatever plans I had for today?

I don’t think so- I feel certain that, although God does know everything that happens to me, He has more important things to do than cause me tsouris (Yiddish for “troubles”) this morning.

That’s why I am sharing this event in my life with you today, because I have known people over the years who seem to think that everything that happens, whether for good or for bad, is a direct result of something God did to them. Whenever they have a little trouble in their life, they blame God. If the car breaks down, it’s because they were traveling on Shabbat; if the water heater needs repair, it’s because they sinned against someone; if they get sick and miss some event, it’s because God didn’t want them to go to it.

Now, maybe (just maybe) God did intervene- He does that now and then, but for everything? I don’t see that happening, do you?  Just because God is in control of everything doesn’t mean that He causes everything that happens. Often enough, I am certain (although I cannot speak for God- read Job to find out how God feels about people speaking for Him) that God often allows things to take their own course. He knows what will come from it, and there must be times, just like every parent goes through, when He knows that His children are doing something that will eventually harm them, but as a parent you allow it to run it’s course so that the child learns. It’s called Tough Love, and it is a necessary means to an end, which is that the child learns a valuable lesson so it’s life will be better. Coddling and over-protecting a child will never allow that child to develop self-dependence, or teach it to be responsible for it’s actions.

My plan for today, which was to clean and restore a rotor-tiller motor with a friend who is a good mechanic, may be quashed as I wait for the dentist’s office to return my call for an emergency visit. And who knows what the dentist will say needs to be done. He will most likely want to try to save the tooth or replace it ($$$) while I would rather just have him pull the problem tooth out and be done with it: after all, it’s all the way in the back of my mouth, has no cosmetic value and I have two other molars there to handle the workload.

But no matter what happens, I do not blame God for this, and do not feel that it happened because I was eating too much popcorn. I just can’t believe that God punished me because I was glutenous. As silly as that sounds, I know you have met people (as I have) that would actually believe that is why this happened. God broke my tooth because I went off my diet. Really? Are things that slow in the universe God has to take time to break my tooth as a punishment for eating too much popcorn?

So what’s my point? It’s this: things happen to us and to other people, and more often than not the cause is something we have done to ourselves and not some Divine intervention designed to change our behavior. The question is: how do we know when it is Divine intervention?

I can’t answer that one; I suppose we all just have to look at the event, and the causes of that event, and ask the Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit) to show us the reason. I would say that most of the time it’s probably your own fault, since humans are so prone to doing the wrong thing, and to evaluate the event in terms of how serious it is. For example, my tooth breaking isn’t exactly a change of life event- it happens all the time, to nearly everyone. Now, if every tooth in my mouth broke, that would be something more along the lines of a miraculous happening, something so unique and devastating that I would realistically have to consider God having a hand in it.

Don’t blame God for everything that happens- He is always there for you, He never abandons or forgets you, but He also has other things to attend to and more often than not will allow you to choose your own path. And He will also allow you to walk that path. If He has a definitive plan for you, something that He wants you to do, He will intervene to move you in that direction, but, in the end, we have free will to decide what we will or will not do. So, listen to the Ruach HaKodesh, pay attention to what you are doing, and always check with yourself to make sure that what you are doing is in keeping with how God told us to live our lives. Even when we are walking the path God told us to walk, we will still have troubles- Yeshua (Jesus) tells us so in His teachings.

It’s not how many trials you have that matter- it’s how you come through them that is important. God is there, He is watching, but He is not causing everything that goes wrong. Things will always go wrong when you follow God because you live in a world that rejects God’s ways, so (naturally) when you worship God as He said to worship Him, you are swimming against the tide.

Here’s what I do: I constantly try to remember that what I do now affects where I get to go later, and I concentrate on overcoming obstacles instead of trying to figure out why they are there. If you can do the same, I guaranty it will help you keep on the right path.

Just flipping through the Word….

I didn’t have anything this morning. Well, in truth, I did have something- I sat down, looked at my email for a second, logged onto my blog site and POOF! it was gone. Just like that- the “old-man-brain-stalled” syndrome.

So, nu? Now what do I do? Well, this site is all about the Word of God, so I took out my Tanakh (JPS soft cover version, of course) and flipped the pages until I just stopped, which was on Jeremiah 46, 13-28.

This is where Jeremiah tells Egypt that Babylon will conquer her, but eventually Egypt will be inhabited again, and that God will bring His people, Israel, back to their land and give them peace, even though He will have to chastise them in measure.

That’s what we need to do to our children, ourselves, the people who work for us and to the world- chastise in measure. Our criminal justice system is not like what God said. And yes- I am talking about eye for eye and tooth for tooth; however, that statement  wasn’t meant to be taken literally, but to instruct us to mete out justice in proportion to the crime.  We don’t do that here in America.

How many people are starving in this country, one of the richest and most plentiful in the world, while criminals live in relative comfort and are fed a nutritious, well-balanced meal three times a day? Maybe they don’t get the best cuts of meat, or the freshest vegetables, but they get them. How many millions in this country don’t? According to Google, about 42 Million Americans struggle with hunger.

According to a web site called “Project Censored”:

A report released by The Sentencing Project, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit criminal justice advocacy group, reveals that the number of prisoners serving life sentences in the US state and federal prisons reached a new record of close to 160,000 in 2012. Of these, 49,000 are serving life without possibility of parole, an increase of 22.2 percent since 2008.

Am I saying kill anyone who is given a life sentence? No, well, maybe….I don’t know. Look, I have questions and I have ideas, but I don’t have answers. I wish I did.

Yeshua told Kefa (that’s Jesus and Peter, respectively) that if someone asks for forgiveness you should forgive him (essentially) every time he asks. The assumption is, of course, that the person asking for forgiveness really means it. Our criminal justice system seems to have gone beyond considering if anyone really means it or not and just goes right to forgiveness. When I say they go right to forgiveness, what I mean is that the death sentence is not something we see anymore, except in a few states.

The bible tells us that a murderer must be put to death, as well as a blasphemer. Also, people practicing adultery deserve the death penalty (we would lose half of the government and nearly every Hollywood star from the last century if we did that!) So maybe doing exactly what the bible says with regard to adultery won’t really work out well for us, but it might reduce the number of adulterers.

And that is what God’s justice system is about- it isn’t concerned about being considerate of the ones who have rejected society, which is what criminals do, but to be more concerned about keeping others from doing the same. I believe (as did John Locke, 1632-1704) the rules that govern society are designed to protect us from each other and secure our rights; furthermore, I believe that when someone consciously ignores those rules and chooses to live outside of them they are, by definition of their actions, making a statement that they reject the rules of society and, thereby, they waive their right to the protection those rules provide.

Their social status, race, religion, upbringing, and any other external factor is not a consideration- we all have free will and no matter how we were raised or what economic status we hold, we choose to do what we do. There are way too many examples of people raising themselves up from the depths of society to become meaningful contributors to that society to automatically accept the argument from those who claim they are the real victims: victims of their social status.

We all want to have a peaceful existence, and we all want to live our lives. The “bad” people want to live their lives, too, only they want you to provide it for them instead of working for it. They choose to take instead of earn.

I understand and agree that socio-economic conditions are factors in our lives, and can influence us. Some people are taught that taking something that doesn’t belong to them is stealing, whereas others are taught that “finders keepers: losers weepers” is a valid and fair rule. For these people, if they see a wallet on someone’s chair (that probably fell out of his back pocket) they will take it and use the money and cards inside it, with no thought at all that they are stealing. They found it so now it’s theirs.

That’s why lie detectors don’t work- they only indicate the physiological responses of people to questions based on the person’s morality: if I steal and murder but don’t think there is anything wrong with that, I won’t register on a polygraph.

We need to upgrade our criminal justice system to meet what God said it should be: fair not to the criminal but fair to the victim and fair to society. Criminals need to know that jail isn’t their only option- death is a definite option, too. I know there will be miscarriages of justice- that’s normal. It stinks, especially for the one who is suffering from being found guilty and isn’t, but there is no perfect answer.

 

I don’t like crime, and I don’t like the idea that people who violate my privacy, steal my possessions and maybe do harm to me or any of my loved ones will get to sit in a room, have a library, a gym, and be fed for the rest of their life. If they are caught and sentenced.

On the other hand, I don’t think jail is a holiday- there are beatings, rape, social unrest, over-crowding (the death penalty will help resolve that) and racial strife in most every jail (except the ones the rich people get to go to) so it is not all fun and games.

What I am trying to say is that we need to chastise in measure, and that the bible is a good place to find that measuring stick. Restitution must be made for theft, so let the person who steals work in the jail and that money goes to the one he or she stole from. That’s both helping the criminal learn a trade to use on the outside, and make restitution. Upon release, the government has jobs for almost any trade so that is where these people should be placed- let’s have criminals working in government that (finally) admit to being criminals.

(I had to throw that one in there)

Seriously, I think there is a reasonably justifiable argument that social factors contribute to criminal activities, and that there is a fine line between giving someone a hand up and a hand out. The Welfare System has gone way beyond helping people- it has hampered them, it has enabled them and subsequently, today we have families who for two or three generations have been stymied and controlled by the welfare system and an economy that makes getting a handout more profitable than earning a living. And it really isn’t fair to just cut them off without helping them learn how to be self-reliant.

The monies that we save not providing everything to “lifers”  could be used to create job training for welfare families. The monies we save not building more jails could be used to feed the hungry. And the message we send to the people who think they are allowed to ignore the rules will be that they will suffer for their crime in proportion to what they do- if they steal they will be made to repay, if they do physical harm (from rape to murder) or if they commit any capital crime, they will die. It’s that simple.

No matter what we do God will punish the wicked- that is, ultimately, His job and He tells us that, often. He will repay, He will bring them to justice, and no matter what we may do here on Earth, when these people, the ones that feel they can do whatever they want without regard to anyone else’s rights or property, face God then they will be chastised in measure.

I am saying we should help more of them get to that point.

 

Parashah Korach, Numbers 16-18

Monday, July 4 I wrote about this parashah, and about how fear of the Lord is not the same as being afraid of the Lord. This parashah is the story of what my Chumash calls “The Great Mutiny”, when Korach (a Levite), Dathan and Abiram (Reubenites) came together, and under Korach’s leadership gathered 250 men- righteous, respected leaders- from the 12 Tribes and led them in rebellion against Moses and Aaron. The reason was to discredit Moses as the one God choose to be in charge by accusing him of taking on too much responsibility, and by association also accuse Aaron of doing the same by being the only person allowed to offer fire before Adonai.

I can’t do this story justice repeating it, and if you don’t know it you really need to read it. Spoiler alert!– Dathan and Abiram (who refused to go before the Tent of Meeting with the others) were destroyed right in their own tents, swallowed up by the earth, and the others in front of the Tabernacle offering incense met their fate as Aaron’s sons, Abihu and Nadab, met theirs- consumed by God’s fire.

The people, after they stopped running around screaming in abject horror and fear for their own lives, came against Moses again the very next day (Again? How long will they remain stupid, right?) and accused him, Moses, of killing God’s people! Well, that pissed the Lord off so much that as He was telling Moses how He was going to destroy them, a plague already started, and Moses had to tell Aaron to take fire from the alter and incense, run in the midst of the people (now remember there is a plague killing people right where Aaron is running to) and stop the plague. Aaron risked his life to help people that were there to stone him.

There is more to the story, and near the end all the people cry out that they are all going to die if they even come near the Tabernacle.

These people may have looked like they were made of skin and bone, but they were really made out of Polytetrafluoroethylene. You may know it better as….Teflon.

Teflon people, like the frying pans and cooking pots, never have anything “stick” to them. They have been in the desert for 2 years, they have seen God destroy Egypt with miracles and wonders, they have seen Him split open the sea, they have received water from rocks and manna from the sky, birds enough for a million people to eat for a month and a pillar of fire every night and a cloud leading them every day.

Yet all they know is that they were told to stone a man to death for collecting sticks on the Shabbat, Aaron’s sons, Korach and 250 leading members of their nation were burned alive, Abiram and Dathan with their entire families were swallowed up by the earth, they were struck with a deadly plague and to top it all off- they are not going to get the land they were promised. And who do they blame for all this T’souris? Moses and Aaron.

Oy! What a bunch of Meshuggahs!

The real reason all these terrible things happened is because they sinned: the man collecting sticks on Shabbat showed irreverence and rejection of God’s commandment, Aaron’s sons refused to follow Adonai’s orders about worship, Korach and all his associates refused to accept God’s authority and choose to follow a man (Korach) instead, and the people, well, the people just rebelled against God over and over. They complained about no meat when they had provisions from God that met their needs, they complained about no water, and they refused to take the land God gave them (then, after being told they were not allowed in, they tried to get in, anyway.) These people all earned their punishment, and proved over and over that their repentance was superficial and not really heart-felt. Their T’Shuva, turning from sin, was not a 180 degree turn- it went a full 360 degrees so they ended up going in the same direction that got them into trouble in the first place.

Teflon people are the hardest to work with, and the slowest to learn because, as the name implies, nothing “sticks” to them, i.e., they take no responsibility for their actions and are not accountable, in their minds, for what they do and say. As such, how can they ever learn anything?

I think we all have a little Teflon in us; I confess that there are many times I do something wrong or make a mistake and I would like to redirect the blame somewhere else, to someone else. I feel that way because I am a sinner and sinners don’t like to ‘fess up’ to their wrongdoing. But I also have the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, indwelling which reminds me and admonishes me to accept the blame and not just confess, but ask for forgiveness. And more than that, it convicts me of my errors and when someone else does wrong to me it forces me to forgive them. That is the only reason I do anything that pleases God- it is because of His spirit in me, not because of who I am.

His spirit in me doesn’t make me a different me, it just makes me a better me.

We all have to deal with Teflon people, mainly because there are just so many of them out there. The best way to deal with them is not to waste your time trying to convince them or change them. What we, as Believers, should do is show them how to act in a way that is pleasing to God. If they throw their problems at you because they know things stick to you, you need to be gentle as doves and wise as serpents to CYA in everything you do so that when they throw stuff at you it bounces off your shields.

Daniel was upright and just in all he did, which is why the Satraps trying to trap him could only do so by fooling the king into making a law regarding something they knew Daniel did which was a righteous thing in and of itself (Daniel Chapter 6.) I’m not saying we can all be like Daniel- I know I sure ain’t gonna be that righteous, ever- but we can follow his example.

Teflon people are out there, everywhere, and they need to find someone who is stickier than they are. That would be you and me, because the Ruach haKodesh makes us accountable. And when you feel unjustly accused or you are in trouble for something you know isn’t your fault, accept it with humility and trust that God will justify you, sooner or later.

These Teflon people will one day come before the judgment of the Lord; He will strip off their Teflon and leave them with raw, unprotected skin that will have the lemon juice of their sins poured on it by the gallon. They will be held accountable for what they never felt accountable for, and they won’t be able to do anything about it.

Brothers and Sisters, all we should feel for these poor, ignorant sheep is pity.