Parashah Vayyera 2018 (And he appeared) Genesis 18-22)

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This parashah has so much stuff in it we could review it for months! It starts with the three angels coming to Abraham and telling him that Sarah will give birth to a son the following year and that they are there to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.  The next event is how Lot protected the angels and they saved him and his family, although his wife turned back to look and turned to salt. His two daughters plied their father with wine and slept with him, each becoming pregnant and giving birth to the Ammonite and Moabite nations.

Next, we read about Abraham and King Abimelech, where Abraham (for a second time) lied about his relationship with Sarah to protect his life. After Abimelech took Sarah to wife, his entire family was cursed with infertility, and only after he returned Sarah (and Abraham prayed for them) did their fertility return.  Later Abraham and Abimelech make a pact regarding a well and form a treaty between them.

Then Sarah bore Isaac and when Ishmael, about 13 years older, began to pick on Isaac Sarah had Abraham eject Hagar and Ishmael into the desert. However, God took care of them and Ishmael grows into a mighty hunter and father of nations.

The parashah ends with one of the most important chapters in the Torah: we call it the Akedah. Abraham’s faith is tested by God, who demands Isaac be offered up as a burnt sacrifice to God. Abraham immediately obeys and only at the last second does God call out to Abraham to stop, and a ram caught in a bush is the sacrifice used instead of Isaac. This is why we use a ram’s horn for the shofar, to memorialize the ram that was substituted for Isaac. This chapter is one of the most Messianic chapters in the entire Bible.

There is one part of the Akedah that I want to talk about today, the one line that represents so much in our worship of God and our desire to know him better. That line is Genesis 22:2:

And he said, “Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest, even Isaac, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.” 

Abraham does so immediately. He leaves not knowing exactly where he is to go, is shown Mount Moriah (I could go on and on about the importance of this mountain, but that is for another time) and builds an altar there. He binds Isaac and places him on the wood, then raises his hand to kill the boy before burning him up completely. It is only when he is about to strike that God tells him to stop.

I checked a number of different Bible versions, such as the NIV, KJV, CJB, JPS Tanakh and even an old Dartmouth bible I have, and every one of them, except the NIV, use the word “offer”. The NIV is the only one I found that uses “sacrifice” instead of the word “offer”, or “offer up.”  We all know that God is hateful of human sacrifice, especially of the child sacrifice that was practiced by the Semitic peoples at that time. The hard-to-answer question that is always posed when reading the Akedah is why would God tell Abraham to sacrifice his son?

An answer may be found when we really read the command God gave to Abraham: to offer up his son as a burnt sacrifice. Now, it is important to be careful when interpreting the Bible that we use proper context, not just of the words within the sentence and sentences within the paragraph, but also of the meaning of the words. We must not use current definitions, but the definition of the word(s) at the time it was written. So, when we read the word “offer”, what did it mean to Abraham? Did it mean the same as it means today? The Wikipedia definition is: “present or proffer (something) for (someone) to accept or reject as so desired.” That means we present something to someone, and then wait to see if they will accept it or not.

I would like to submit that when God said he wanted Abraham to offer up his son as a burnt sacrifice, he never intended to accept it. This was a test- we all know that. But Abraham (apparently) did not know it was just a test. If he did, I suspect that after tying up Isaac and laying him out on the wood, he would have taken the knife, raised his hand and held it there himself, praying to God to please show a sign that this offering is acceptable to him. Then if God showed it was, he would have completed that act. But Abraham did not hesitate to kill Isaac- only God’s calling out to him stopped Abraham’s hand.

So what went wrong? Did Abraham miss the point? Did God purposefully mislead Abraham into thinking he had to go through with it? The fact is nothing went wrong- God intended to test Abraham’s faith, he told Abraham that he only wanted Abraham to offer up Isaac but Abraham, in his zeal to be obedient, took it one step further than God intended it to go, which is why God had to call out to him to stop.

The question for us is: do we go too far sometimes? Do we act out our own idea of what God is telling us to do? I have had experiences with many people were insulting and accusatory, telling me that I am spiritually empty and don’t know God’s word at all simply because we disagreed on a biblical interpretation. When I pointed out they weren’t acting very “Christian” with their attacks and attitude, they told me God commands us to be truthful with each other and they were just telling the truth. In my opinion, what they are doing is going further than God wants regarding how we tell the truth to each other. They aren’t being truthful, they are being prideful- their angry and insulting remarks are not the result of knowing the truth of God’s word, but of their frustration with me because I don’t agree with them. They know they are right!- and they can’t stand someone not agreeing with them.

God told Abraham to offer up Isaac, and Abraham took it one step further because that is what he knew “to offer up” meant. It was a natural mistake and thank God that God corrected him before it was too late. We also often take things one step too far, innocently or on purpose, and like Abraham’s mistake, it is because we are overtaken by our own desire to please or obey. God looks more to our heart than he does to what we actually do. We can obey a commandment, but if we do so without the desire to please God or are just going through the motions, God will not accept that. On the other hand, if we sin by disobedience, but not on purpose or through abject rejection of God, then he is willing to forgive us, which he has proven throughout history.

We need to listen to God and to listen carefully. If something seems a little “off” like Abraham must have thought when God told him to offer up Isaac, ask God for clarification. I am not suggesting you delay or ignore what you believe God is telling you to do, simply that if it doesn’t feel “right” in your spirit you should ask God to help you understand exactly what he is asking you to do.

And remember, as Job learned, that we don’t always know why God does what he does and we are to always trust God to do the right thing. But because we all have human frailties and pridefulness within us and we are born with iniquity, even the most spiritually mature person can make a mistake or misunderstand God.  When we think God is telling us to do something, we should always make sure we know exactly what he wants of us.

God is gracious, patient and understanding; I believe that if your heart’s desire is to obey and serve the Lord, to ask for clarification will not be a problem.

Shabbat Shalom!

Parashah Re’eh 2018 (Behold) Deuteronomy 11:26 – 16:17)

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   God has Moses remind the people of the requirements when they enter and live in the land. This Third Discourse of Moses is all about what they are to do now that they will be in the land promised to their Fathers. 

   God reviews with the people that they are to take their sacrifices, vows, and tithes only to the place where God places his name. They are to destroy all the altars and Asherim (poles) they find throughout the land. Anyone or even any town or village that turns to worship other gods, and tries to get others to do so, is to be completely destroyed, even if a close family member or loved one.  

   One of the things they are to do, as soon as they can, is to place the blessings on Mount Gerizim and the curses on Mount Ebal. These two mountains are called the “Shoulder” mountains because they are next to each other, and they overlook the Shechem Valley. When the Israelites got there (under Joshua) and they all shouted the blessings and curses, all the people in the Shechem Valley were able to hear them. 

   God reviews the Kashrut laws and tithing rules, to include the 2nd tithe and the 3rd and 6th-year tithes for the Levites and the poor.  The commandment regarding the Shemittah (7th Year) release is given, which applies only to fellow Hebrews.

   The final part of this parashah is a review of the regulations regarding the Festivals.

   So much to talk about, so many things in here that are valuable to know and understand. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is pick one. I usually just open my mind and as I read through the parashah I pray for God to show me something, a little pop-up, so to speak, or to implant an idea in my skull. What popped into my head today was this: the importance of bringing the sacrifice to the one place in the entire country where God placed his name. 

   The pagan sacrifices were made anywhere the people wanted to, usually on high grounds and under leafy trees.  There was no real management since everyone could do whatever they wanted to do. God told the Israelites this is not what they are to do- they have to bring their sin forgiveness, vow, and tithe offerings to one place, and one place only. That place is the location where God, himself, will decide upon. They are not to offer anything to the Lord anywhere else.

   This rule is, for me, the set-up for needing Messiah. God knows all that will happen, and he knew (of course) that the Romans would destroy the Jerusalem temple, which (because of this rule) would prevent the Jewish people from having the opportunity to ask forgiveness of their sins. You may ask, “Why would God not want people to be forgiven? He gave us the sacrificial system specifically so that we could be forgiven, so why take that away? Doesn’t he tell us in Ezekiel 18:23 that he prefers we turn from sin and live?  How can we turn from sin and ask for forgiveness if he takes away the one place we are allowed to do so?” 

   That’s a good question, and the answer is that God took away our only means of forgiveness under the sacrificial system because the sacrifice of Messiah Yeshua is to be the alternative to the animal sacrifice at the temple. Prior to Yeshua, we sacrificed something that we owned and had value to us. That valuable thing was to be taken from us and given up to God. Messiah was given up by God and given to us, then taken from us back to God. Whereas the animal sin sacrifice was geographically mandated, Messiah’s sacrifice is a universal atonement, allowing all people everywhere to ask forgiveness without having to bring anything anywhere. God sacrificed his most valuable possession, his son, in lieu of us giving up something of our own. 

Because God’s laws are forever the only way God could keep his commandments regarding sacrifice for sin valid but “upgrade” them to the newer version, which is by Yeshua’s sacrifice, was to make obedience to the original sin sacrifice commandments impossible. With the destruction of the temple, the only way anyone could be forgiven of their sins was through Yeshua.

So, way back when, even as the Israelites were just beginning to enter the land, God already had his plan for forgiveness of sin through Messiah configured. He first set the rules for sin sacrifice (in Leviticus), then he set the rules for where that sacrifice should be done (this parashah), then he sent Messiah to replace the sacrifice and, finally, took away that place so that there was no other way to be forgiven except through the Messiah.

   If you haven’t accepted Yeshua as your Messiah, you will have a second chance when he returns. May I suggest, enthusiastically, that you don’t wait.  Review the Messianic prophecies in the Tanakh (there are about 135 of them) then read the New Covenant writings and make a decision. Don’t let the prejudice and hatred between Jews and Christians over the millennia get in your way- it got in my way for over 40 years, but when I made my own decision to study, research and then choose to faithfully believe, I found that my worship and my “Jewishness” became stronger and more fulfilling than it had ever been before. 

Parashah Tzav 2018 (Give an order) Leviticus 6:1 – 8:36

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As we continue in Vayikra (Leviticus), God gives the orders and commands regarding the daily offerings, specifically the wholly burnt, meal, guilt, peace and thanksgiving offerings.

The procedure and requirements for anointing of the Priests and the Cohen haGadol (High Priest) are given, and Aaron and his sons are anointed by Moses.

There are so many different things we could discuss in these few chapters, but since in this year (2018) Passover falls next Friday night, I would like to talk about the Passover lamb and its significance in the sacrificial system.

Yeshua (Jesus) has been referred to as the “Passover Lamb” for centuries, and His sacrifice is the means by which we are able to be absolved of our sins, so why is He called a “Passover” lamb? The lamb sacrificed on Passover was not a sin sacrifice.

We are told the requirements for the 5 different types of sacrifices outlined in Leviticus; by definition, Yeshua’s sacrifice was a Thanksgiving, or Peace sacrifice. We know this because only the peace sacrifice was eaten by the one bringing the sacrifice. In all the other forms of sacrifice some of the animal was given to the Priest as his compensation, with the remaining parts either burned on the Altar or removed and thrown away. Only the Peace sacrifice was also shared with the one bringing the animal.

Yeshua’s sacrifice was a sin sacrifice, and also served as a Passover sacrifice; in fact, His sacrifice fulfilled three sacrifices: peace, sin and wholly burnt. Of course, His body wasn’t consumed by fire, but His entire body was sacrificed (which is what was done with the wholly-burnt sacrifice.)

The wholly burnt sacrifice represents our complete devotion to God- no question that Yeshua was completely devoted to His Father in heaven.

The sin sacrifice is the means by which we are forgiven our sins when we do T’shuvah (repentance) and ask God for forgiveness (now by means of Yeshua’s sacrifice.)

The peace offering is how we enter into communion with God by sharing the meal made from the sacrifice, which we do at the Passover Seder.

Can you see how Yeshua’s once-and-for-all sacrifice accomplished all three types of sacrifice? Through our acceptance of Yeshua we can show our complete devotion to God, receive forgiveness of sins and enter into communion with God.

Does this mean we shouldn’t call Yeshua the “Passover Lamb” anymore? I think it is still appropriate to refer to Him that way, just as it would also be appropriate to refer to Him as the Yom Kippur goat.

Personally, I prefer to use “lamb” other than “goat” when I refer to Yeshua, although from a technical perspective either would be correct.

For those that will celebrate the Holy Days of Passover and Hag ha Matzot, I pray you thoroughly enjoy this festive festival. I am always afraid I will accidentally eat something with yeast during the week of this festival, and have done so, once or twice, in the past. I hope it is easier for you to keep away from leavening than it is for me (I just LOVE bread!)

Donna and I have different people to our Seder every year, and we usually try to have Gentile friends who have not enjoyed this Holy Day. Every single couple we have shared our Seder with, for nearly 20 years now, has enjoyed it and it has helped them to get closer to their Jewish roots.

I may be a week early, but…Chag Sameach!

Jesus Proves Salvation Comes From Torah

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I know what you’re thinking…”Huh?!? We all know that salvation is from Messiah Yeshua and that we can’t be saved by Torah”

Or maybe you’re thinking that the “cross” is our salvation?

Or maybe you are thinking that salvation is through faith and not through works?

Or maybe you are thinking that Jesus did all we need when He died for us?

If you are thinking any of these, well…you’re right. We are saved by Messiah’s sacrifice, which was proven acceptable to God because He was resurrected.

And you’re right that faith and not works (alone) is the way we are saved, BUT we still need to be obedient. God told us in the Torah how we are to worship Him and treat each other, and we aren’t excused from obedience just because we accepted Yeshua as our Messiah.

So, nu? How does Jesus prove that we can be saved by Torah?

Simple- He was saved by Torah! 

Let’s take this one step at a time:

  1. All mankind is born into the original sin of Adam and Eve.
    1. In Judaism we also believe this: Talmud tells us we are all born with the Yetzer Hara (Evil Inclination.) When we are at the age we are able to study Talmud and Torah, we develop the Yetzer Tov (Good Inclination.)
  2. Mankind was given the Torah by God, through the Jewish people, so that they could act in accordance with God’s will, thus securing eternal life. To obey Torah is to remain sinless, and to do what is forbidden in Torah is to sin- that has never changed.
    1. God tells us throughout the Tanakh, especially by the Prophets, that He wants us to repent and turn from sin so that we can live. God isn’t all that interested with the finite, so when He says “live” He is talking about eternity.
  3. Yeshua was born of a virgin who was impregnated by the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), so He was born sinless (not having the stain of original sin.)
  4. Because He was sinless when He died, Yeshua was resurrected by God to show that God’s promise of eternity with Him by obeying the Torah was true.
  5. Yeshua’s resurrection can mean only one thing: Yeshua received salvation because He lived His life completely obedient to the Torah.

It is only through Yeshua, because of His righteous life and acceptable sacrifice, that we also can achieve salvation. We cannot be saved by Torah ONLY BECAUSE WE CANNOT OBEY THE TORAH PERFECTLY. 

So you see, because Yeshua obeyed Torah perfectly He was resurrected to eternal life, which we call “salvation.” If He hadn’t obeyed Torah, if He had sinned, then His life would not have been acceptable as a sacrifice for us, just as a lamb with a blemish would not be an acceptable sacrifice. And if you are thinking, “Yeshua is the son of God- He would always have been able to return to God.”, then why bother living a sinless life?  In other words, if Yeshua did not give up His divinity and submit Himself to death (which the bible says He did), then He didn’t risk sinning. But Isaiah tells us (Chapter 53) that Messiah is a man of troubles, who knew illness and suffering- God is above all that.  You see, Yeshua had to be 100% human, with all the human weaknesses and frailties in order to prove that Torah was trustworthy.

In order to be a real sacrifice, He had to be able to die without a guarantee of resurrection.

The mission of the Messiah is to bring God’s people back into communion with God. To do that, because of our iniquity (desire to sin) we all need someone to bridge the gap between us and God. That is what Yeshua did, and He did it by showing us that the Torah is the roadmap to salvation. By living a Torah-perfect life, He was “saved”, and through His salvation we can all come into God’s kingdom.

So, nu?  Does that mean I can be saved by Torah alone? Yes, if you could live it perfectly, but since no one can… NO, it doesn’t mean you can be saved by Torah alone.

Does that mean I don’t need to obey Torah at all?  NO, it doesn’t- we all need to be obedient to the Torah because it is God’s commandment that we must, and to ignore or reject Torah is an unrepentant sin. Unrepentance is a wedge between us and God that even belief in Yeshua will not remove. No one who is unrepentant of their sin can be saved.

So then what is my point? It is this: Torah is still valid, it is still part of God’s plan of salvation, and it is what Yeshua taught us we should obey. We can’t do it as He did, but through His accepted sacrifice (which was because He lived Torah perfectly) we can still be saved even when we fail to obey Torah perfectly.

And through the indwelling of the Ruach haKodesh, we can be strengthened to overcome our iniquity and comforted when we fail to.

As I often say: we can never be sinless, but we can always sin less. Yeshua has saved the world from it’s iniquity, but we still have to have faith in Him and God, do T’shuvah (repent) and live as sinless a life as we can.

The instruction manual for living a sinless life is called the Torah.

 

 

 

 

Salvation: Ours to Keep or Ours to Lose

There is a saying that has led many to think they are saved when they may be sabotaging themselves.

That saying is: “Once saved; Always saved.”

It is a lie from the pit of Sheol, which has separated many from the truth of the Gospels and made impossible the proper worship of Adonai.

“Once Saved, Always Saved” is a One-Way Ticket to Sheol

One of the many wrongful teachings that Christianity has proliferated over the millennia is that we are saved because Jesus (Yeshua is His real name) died for our sins, and when we call on His name for forgiveness we are no longer under the law but under Grace and all our sins are automatically forgiven, now and forever; in other words, Once Saved, Always Saved.

Let’s think about that for a moment…….hmmmmm….so, Jesus died so my sins can be forgiven, therefore I no longer have to worry about sinning because He paid the price of my sins. I am free, I am no longer under the Law (meaning the Torah; you know, that “Jewish stuff”) and now I am guaranteed that I will go to heaven.

In other words, I’m covered. The “J-Man” has my back!

But that is not true. The “Once Saved, Always Saved” lesson actually teaches that we don’t have to try to stop sinning, and we don’t even have to be repentant. In other words, it tells people they are OK no matter what they do because forgiveness is automatic, therefore they don’t have to change.

From this point I could find many, MANY passages in the bible that confirm this to be an absolute lie from the very pit of Sheol (that’s what we Jews call “Hell”), but I won’t. Why? Because I am going to ask us all to just think it through.

CAVEAT: Just because something makes sense to a human doesn’t mean it is right with God. His understanding and knowledge is so far above ours that what we think is sensible He knows to be nonsense, and vice versa, but there are some things that make sense to us that are sensible to God, and can be confirmed in the bible. What we are about to discuss is one of those things.

Let’s start with the fact that sin is bad and we aren’t supposed to sin. No one should disagree with that. Next, we need to agree that we do sin, and that we are incapable of not sinning (if anyone disagrees with that, we have a real problem.) So, where are we? Oh, yeah- sin is bad, we aren’t supposed to sin, but we will, so what do we do when we sin? We atone, and the first step in atonement is to ask forgiveness. Without forgiveness we are stained and thereby unable to come into God’s presence, meaning we got to Hell.

Let’s take a step back for a moment….it is important to note that we have to want to atone, don’t we? That’s called repentance. When we are repentant, we are sorry for the sin we committed. Every sin is a sin against God; we may do something nasty to another person, but that sin is also a sin against God because He told us not to be nasty to each other. King David knew this (Psalm 51): when we do something God said not to so, it is a sin against God.

Next step after repentance and asking forgiveness is to sacrifice, according to the rules and commandments God gave us. Uh oh!- we hit a hurdle with this one; God commanded all sacrifices be made at the temple in Jerusalem, and that place doesn’t exist anymore. So what do we do?

We can’t do anything, but God did do something for us- He sent Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) to be a substitution for the sacrifice at the temple. All the other steps in forgiveness, i.e. being repentant, asking forgiveness (for each sin) and doing T’shuvah (turning from sin) in our hearts, are all still part of the sacrificial system process. The only change is that instead of bringing a sacrifice to the temple (again, for each and every time we sin) we have Yeshua’s sacrifice as a substitution.

When we put it all together, we get this:

  1. We sin
  2. We’ are repentant
  3. We bring our sacrifice to the temple and by the means of it’s innocent blood that is shed we ask for cleansing of our sin
  4. If the sacrifice is accepted God will forgive our sin
  5. We go away cleansed of that sin at that time, and if and when we sin again, we go through the process once more

Yeshua ‘s sacrifice is a once-and-for-all sacrifice, but teaching that it automatically saves us from all our sins (those we have committed and those we have yet to commit), is against the process God outlined. Teaching that asking one time for forgiveness (through Yeshua’s sacrifice) means our sins are forgiven forever negates repentance.

Do you really think that God will forgive someone who isn’t repentant? Do you really think that we can automatically be forgiven of any sin without ever asking to be forgiven? If we are, then why did God say we had to sacrifice at all? Oh, wait- you’re saying that the animal sacrifices were only good for that one time, but because Yeshua is the Messiah His one time sacrifice is good forever? You’re right- His one time sacrifice IS good forever, but it is useless to you if you are not repentant, and when you are repentant you do what?

You ask for forgiveness, over and over and over, every single time you sin. Not every other sin, not only when you remember to ask, but for every, single sin you commit, large or small you must ask forgiveness in Yeshua’s name.

BTW..as far as God is concerned, there are no small or large sins, there is only sin.

When we don’t ask for forgiveness, we demonstrate we don’t really care that we sinned. It’s that simple.

Do you see the logic and sense of it all? To say we are forgiven automatically because Yeshua sacrificed Himself for us is to negate the need for repentance and to ignore God’s process of forgiveness. It is just plain wrong, from any and all angles, and totally against everything we read in the bible.

That is why this idea of “Once Saved, Always Saved” is a one-way ticket to Sheol: those who are unrepentant will not be forgiven. It won’t matter that at one time you called on the name of the Lord and asked forgiveness through Yeshua’s blood; each time you sin you have to ask forgiveness (and MEAN it!); each and every time.

There are warnings about people who apostatize in some of the letters from Shaul (Paul) and in Revelation we are told that most will turn from the faith. Have you ever thought that maybe one doesn’t need to renounce God to apostatize? Maybe all it takes is to ignore what God tells us, or simply do what we want to do, even if it goes against what God says?  Did you ever consider why Yeshua said that there would be some who call Him “Lord” but He tells them He never knew them (Matthew 7:21)?

I think those who believe the “Once Saved, Always Saved” ideology will find themselves in that group, the group of people who call Yeshua “Lord” but He doesn’t know them. The reason He doesn’t know them is because they aren’t repentant; yes, maybe they were at one time, when they first called on His name, but because they think they don’t have to, they haven’t called on Him since. One time doesn’t do it- you need to do it always. Shaul tells us to pray constantly, and that isn’t just for what we want but for forgiveness, too.

I suppose if anyone reading this doesn’t agree or get the point by now, they may never get it. I pray that someone who thinks “Once Saved, Always Saved” has had their eyes opened.

No one wants to be told, “I do not know you” when they see Yeshua in the Acharit HaYamim (End Days.)

Who Really Kills the Sacrifice?

I was talking with someone about the sacrificial system yesterday, and the person I was talking with asked me why God wants to kill animals in order to forgive sin. I explained that sin can only be washed clean with blood and that blood has to come from an animal that was acceptable for sacrifice, without blemish (perfectly formed and innocent of sin.)

Hebrews 9:22  In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

Afterwards, I began to think about this a little more. In the Torah God tell us to kill an innocent animal as a sacrifice to absolve our sin, but is it then God who is having the animal killed? If the removal of sin can only be accomplished by the death of an innocent animal, then isn’t it really the sinner who is the cause of the animal’s death?

God tells us that blood is the way we cleanse ourselves of sin, but does it have to follow that it is God’s fault the animal has to die? Does God really want to have the animal killed?

That doesn’t seem to be so when you consider all the biblical admonitions to be kind and compassionate to animals:

Proverbs 12:10– A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal, But even the compassion of the wicked is cruel.

Deuteronomy 25:4You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.

Luke 14:5– And He said to them, “Which one of you will have a son or an ox fall into a well, and will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?

Judaism places great stress on proper treatment of animals. Unnecessary cruelty to animals is strictly forbidden, and in many cases, animals are accorded the same sensitivity as human beings. Jacob, Moses, and David were all shepherds, people who cared for animals.  The Talmud specifically states that Moses was chosen for his mission because of his skill in caring for animals:  “The Holy One, Blessed Be He, said ‘Since you are merciful to the flock of a human being, you shall be the shepherd of My flock, Israel.'” Likewise Rebekah was chosen as a wife for Isaac because of her kindness to animals; when Abraham’s servant asked for water for himself, she volunteered to water his camels as well.

The Torah and the Talmud have many other specifications regarding the importance of caring for animals, and there are punishments for failure to do so. This leaves us to again question, with all this concern for proper and compassionate love of animals, why does God require that we kill them to remove the sin that we performed?

I don’t know; but I have an idea… wouldn’t you agree that we all seem to have a natural desire to care for and love animals? I believe that God did more than just tell us to care for the animals, I believe He gave us an innate desire to love them! To prove this, let me ask you if you own or have ever owned a pet?  Do you know people who have? I will bet that the vast majority either have had their own pet or know many people who have pets. We are created in the image of God, and I think part of that includes the love of all His creations. That is why I believe sacrifice of an innocent is necessary- it is designed to strike us to our very marrow with the horror of sin!

In other words, God isn’t really the one killing an animal- when we sin we are the reason an innocent animal has to be slaughtered! 

Our sin is the cause of the animal’s death- if we hadn’t sinned, the animal would have lived.

The lesson in this regulation for us is that sin isn’t something that affects just us, but it affects all around us. Your sin is like having a big pile of garbage in your back yard: even though the garbage is only in your yard, the stench of it permeates the entire neighborhood. Our sin isn’t just on us, but it affects those around us, especially our loved ones.

God loves all the creatures He created and doesn’t want to see any of them killed needlessly. Killing an animal to cleanse us of a sin we committed is a needless killing: yes, we need the blood to be forgiven of  our sin, but it is still a needless death because the animal did nothing to deserve being killed.

So, if someone should ever ask you why God wants to have animals killed, I would suggest you answer the same way I will from now on: it isn’t that God wants to have animals killed, it is because we are sinners that animals have to suffer. God doesn’t require the death of animals, sin does!

Let’s not be confused about something: the forgiveness we receive is spiritual, and will not stop us from suffering the consequences of the sin we committed while we are still in this world.

Finally, let’s take this one step further: because it is our fault animals had to die to remove our sins, then when Yeshua (Jesus) died to remove our sins, who really killed Him? Was it the Romans? The Jews? God, Himself, who could have saved Yeshua from death? The answer to the question, “Who really killed Yeshua?” is- I DID! YOU DID! WE ALL DID! Yeshua died because sin existed in all of us and we needed an innocent life to be sacrificed so that we wouldn’t have to suffer the eternal (spiritual) consequences of our sins. Yeshua, the Messiah, was the only innocent that could do that: then, now, and continually until all things have come to pass and we are living in the Olam Haba (World to Come) together.

Sin is more horrible than we want to realize. It causes innocent lives to be lost, and it is, in my opinion, a cowardly act because when we sin we know that some poor innocent will suffer on our behalf, just so that we can escape the fate we really deserve.

To sin is to commit murder- remember that the next time you feel tempted to do something you know you shouldn’t.

Yeshua’s Death on a Stake: Was it Murder or Suicide?

I had a radical thought the other day- since Yeshua knew that going to Jerusalem on that fateful Passover would result in His death, was He actually murdered or, because He allowed Himself to be killed without protecting or defending Himself in any way, did He really commit suicide?

I thought this was an interesting question, especially when we consider that most Judeo-Christian religious beliefs state that suicide is a sin.

So, nu? What do you think?

Yeshua did say that there is no greater love than that one give up his life for a friend (John 15:13), and the shepherd will give his (or her) life to protect the flock (John 10:11), so if we do something to save others, something that we know might cause our own death, is that heroics or suicide? What about military actions that are called “suicide missions”, which offer little or no chance of the participant’s survival but are necessary to help the overall victory? If you volunteer for that mission and die, is that suicide?

The answer is: I’m not sure I know. If it is considered suicide, and suicide is a sin, then Yeshua sinned! Oy! But he couldn’t have sinned, otherwise He would not have been an acceptable sacrifice, right? Isn’t that what we have always been told? Yet, He took on the sin of the world, so if He was taking on the sin of the world, every sin that everyone did and ever will do, then really? what’s one more sin going to matter?

You know, now that I am discussing it with you, I may have an answer. My answer is the difference between sinful suicide and doing something that will result in your death is the reason why you are doing it: are you taking your life or giving it away?

If I do something that I know will lead to my death, and I do it in a state of emotional depression or to avoid facing the consequences of something I have done, that suicide is sinful. It is trying to escape from something that is part of living. However, if I do something that I know may result in my death, but the reason is to save someone else’s life or to accomplish a greater good for others, then I am giving up my life for the benefit of someone else.

For example: if I shoot myself, I have taken my life, but if I am helping someone to escape a firefight, get shot and die, I have given my life for another. The former is sinful, the latter is sacrificial and godly.

Therefore, given this difference between sinful and righteous ways to lose one’s life, it is clear that Yeshua did not commit a sinful suicide: He sacrificed His life so that giving up His life could save everyone else’s life.

We can give our life without losing it, by sacrificing our time, finances, possessions and energy in ways that will honor God’s Word (Torah), and to teach others how to do so through our example. And maybe, as the End of Days gets closer and the enemy rules the world, we will have to sacrifice our very life. Maybe, maybe not, but if we do, at least that will be a godly sacrifice.

Here’s a godly sacrifice you can do that won’t cost you your life: die to self so that there is more room for the Ruach haKodesh (Holy Spirit) to live within you. Then you can be filled with God’s power and righteousness.

Loving is Easier than Forgiving

If there is one thing about God everyone knows, it is that He loves us all. If there is another thing about God everyone knows, it is is that He is willing to forgive us all, even the ones that reject and deny Him.

We, as Believers, should emulate God, right? Doesn’t He tell us, over and over, that we should be holy, as He is holy? Doesn’t Yeshua tell His Talmudim (Disciples) that they should love each other, as the Father does, so that people will know they are His Disciples?

But the old adage doesn’t say: “To Err is Human; to Love, Divine”, does it?  No, it doesn’t. It says, “To Err is Human; to Forgive, Divine.”

In the Gospels of Matthew and Luke we are told how even sinners do good things for those they love (specifically their children.) For instance, in Matthew 7 Yeshua says:

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Contextually, Yeshua is teaching about asking God for what we need, and I do not think I am quoting out of context since we don’t need anything more than forgiveness of our sins, right? My point is this: Yeshua is teaching us that even sinners can love others.

But forgiveness? That is not easy for anyone, especially humans, since we are (generally) self-absorbed and selfish. Forgiveness is something that we must do: according to Yeshua, if we do not forgive each other here on earth, His Father in heaven will not forgive us, either. In fact, my message from the other day is all about how we give God permission to treat us as we treat others, even if God wants to give us a break (When We Give God Permission To Do Something).

I checked out my Strong’s Concordance the other day (while thinking about this topic) and counted around 100 references to “forgiveness” (in all forms of the word), but for the word “love” there were nearly three full pages of references, so it is abundantly clear that love is mentioned in the bible much more than forgiveness. But even though forgiveness is mentioned less than love, it is what we need to be saved. God’s love makes salvation available to us, but it is by His forgiveness that we are saved.

Here is what I mean: God’s love is for everyone, as we’ve mentioned already, but His love for you will not allow you to enter into His glory. The way to become justified (cleansed of sin) is not through His love, but by means of His forgiveness, which is given after we have performed the necessary sacrifice. The problem is that the sacrificial system, as outlined in the Torah, is no longer possible because of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, but we are not doomed: by means of Yeshua’s once-and-for-all sacrifice we can be justified and cleansed of our sin. As a cleansed person, no longer stained with our sins, we are able to enter into God’s presence (oh, if only my Jewish Brothers and Sisters would grasp this truth and accept it.)

It is clearly stated throughout the Tanakh (and reiterated in Hebrews 9:22) that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness, and without forgiveness of sin there can be no salvation.

So you see? God’s love for us is what motivated Him to send Yeshua to be a sacrifice, and Yeshua’s love for us is what sustained Him throughout His life and torturous death. God’s love for us and Yeshua’s sacrifice is what makes salvation possible, but it is forgiveness of sin that saves us.

As we live our lives trying to die to self and allow the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to fill us more and more, we need to work on forgiveness more than love. Frankly, I really don’t like it when people I don’t even know come up to me and hug me, and say something like “Love you, Brother!” because (to me) love is too important a word to throw around like “Wassup?” or “Howdy” or “How ya doin’?” You don’t even know me, so how can you really love me? God’s love is real, it’s complete, it’s tangible- humans can’t do that, so stop saying you love me when you can’t possibly love me. Just be nice, be cordial, and be honest with me and with yourself.

You want to know what I think is the ultimate expression of love? Forgiveness. Anyone and everyone can love others, but if you want to prove that you have the ability to love as God loves, then stop telling strangers you love them and forgive the people you already know who have sinned against you and hurt you.

That is the kind of love that God wants from each of us.

Your Salvation is Not in God’s Hands

Salvation is provided for you by God, and guaranteed to remain available to you by God, but your personal salvation is not in God’s hands- it is in your hands.

God has provided Messiah, and Messiah provided the means for us to be forgiven without the Temple ( the sin and guilt sacrifices had to be slaughtered in the courtyard of the Temple, so after it was destroyed there was no longer any place for us to sacrifice and be forgiven), so the only thing left with regard to our salvation is now in our hands.

We must be the ones to ask for it; we must do T’shuvah (repentance, literally “to turn” from sin), and we must maintain that attitude and demonstrate our true repentance by producing good fruits, which starts with observance and obedience to God’s will and commandments found in Torah and subsequent scripture. 

Too many people are taught that “once saved, always saved”, which implies that once you ask for forgiveness through Yeshua’s sacrifice, then you have it always. No matter what you do or say or how you act, once saved…well, that ain’t the way it happens, Folks! Once saved, always saved AS LONG AS you continue to repent of your sins (which we will always do, no matter how hard we try not to) and AS LONG AS you continue to study the word, edify each other, love more than you did before and show everyone that God has changed you through the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) by your actions and words. 

We must show that we are able to love more, forgive readily, glorify God, obey His word (all of it, from Genesis through Revelation), maintain an attitude of humility and servitude to God, constantly ask forgiveness in Yeshua’s name, and pray for the strength and guidance of the Holy Spirit to help us sin less. 

Not every one of us is going to be able to do every thing on that list, or all of it all at the same time, consistently, but these are the things we need to do. That’s a lot of things to do, and none of them are easy. It’s all up to you to demonstrate your obedience (to Torah), which includes your repentance (of your sins), through which you gain your justification (by Yeshua’s sacrifice), which provides your salvation (the Grace of God.)

The more you obey, the more blessings you get; the more you “die to self”, the more you can be filled with the Ruach haKodesh; the more you work at it, the more you will get from it. 

Sounds a lot like life, doesn’t it? And why not? Salvation IS life, and our life on earth is designed for one purpose- we spend time here to choose where we spend eternity. 

And that, again, is totally up to you to decide for yourself.