A modern day Christmas Message from the past: Isaiah 29:13

I am going to skip the Parashah teaching today because , it being Christmas Day, I feel there is a more important message the Lord would have me deliver.

Isaiah was a Prophet to the Southern Kingdom of Judah and tried to help the people realize the hypocrisy of their worship. He lived during the reign of 4 kings of Judah and within 100 years or so of his ministry, the Southern Kingdom of Judah was destroyed.

Isaiah was telling the people that their worship was useless because they were only paying lip service to God. The above-referenced passage says it all:

The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.

This message was about how sacrifice had become corrupted and polluted into a meaningless rote activity that had no real love or worship of God attached to it.

Sounds exactly like what Christmas is today, doesn’t it?

Look at what Christmas is today: there is nothing “godly” about it anymore, except the occasional bumper sticker that says, “Keep Christ in Christmas.” Even that has become passe and meaningless to most- it’s something akin to the beauty pageant answer, “What I would like most is to have world peace.”

Most of us know that Christmas is not a Holy Day, nor is it a biblically commanded festival to God; it is a celebratory event created by Constantine in the Third Century (or thereabouts) to help rebrand the pagan celebration of the Solstice to a more “Christian” event.

That doesn’t mean it can’t be a wonderful thing. The music of Christmas is some of the most beautiful and heartfelt devotion to God I have heard from any religion, and the spirit of goodwill that comes on people during this season is unique, and refreshing. There is a magic to Christmas.

Unfortunately, even that is more from social conditioning than a desire to be closer to God, and how many of us really feel the impact of what Christmas means? Heck, if we really thought about what Christmas is supposed to stand for, celebration and thankfulness for the birth of the Messiah, we should all feel sad and dejected that someone was born into this world to suffer for us, to accept the blame and physical abuse that our sins deserved, and that this miraculous birth, this proof of prophecy, this wonderful and merciful living gift of salvation would have to die a horribly painful and lingering death because of what we have done.  That’s really what Christmas is about: thankfulness for the Messiah coming into the world, but tempered with the sadness of knowing what this tender, innocent baby would have to endure. Christmas should make me feel remorse and repentance that this baby had to live the life He lived because of what I have done.

Personally, I don’t think Christmas s such a happy time when you think about what will happen to Yeshua. Yes, I am thankful for His birth, and I am disgusted with myself for causing His death. It’s true: I killed Yeshua. In fact, you killed Yeshua. Each and every one of us killed Yeshua because if there had been but one sinner in all the world, Yeshua would have done what He did for the sake of that one person. His parables about finding the one lost sheep, the woman who found the missing coin, the statement that there is no greater love than that one will give his life for a friend (note that He didn’t say for many, or for friends, but for a friend- even saving one life is worth dying for); all the teachings Yeshua gave us, all of which are directly from the Torah, teach us that it is what we do and what we feel that add up to who we truly are.

I hope that you all have a merry and joyful Christmas- the birth of the Messiah is truly a wonderful event, the fulfilment of God’s promise of salvation for the world, and the proof that biblical prophecy is valid and trustworthy. The fact that it is not a biblical Holy Day, that Yeshua was probably born during Sukkot, that Constantine created it as a theo-political event, and that it has become totally corrupted in modern society is something we can get past. If we worship God from our hearts, if we ignore the retail sales events, the presents to each other and all the schmaltz, and instead concentrate on thanking God for His Son, and thanking His Son for all He suffered for us, then…just maybe then…Christmas can be the joyful and penitent celebration it should be.

Yeshua said that we should give to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar, and to God that which belongs to God. Thankfulness and worship from the heart belongs to God, sacrifice belongs to God, honor and glory belong to God. Give each other niceties, sure, but first give to God that which He is entitled to. Celebrate Christmas with heartfelt thankfulness to God and conscious recognition of how far short we come to measuring up to what God expects of us.

If you really want to show God that you are thankful for the birth of the Messiah, than go visit the sick, help the needy, dress the naked, feed the hungry. Instead of spending thousands of dollars at Kohl’s and Walmart and Macy’s, spend a few hundred at the soup kitchens and food pantries, give your time to bring food to the hungry, give to charities you know are doing good for people.

Today Christmas is all about what I get from you; let’s make Christmas all about what I can give to those who are in need.

That would be a Christmas present to God and Yeshua that I just know they would love to receive. Remember that Yeshua told us in Mattitayu 25:40:

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Why we don’t start a new tradition of giving Christmas presents to God instead of each other?

 

Parashah Vayyera (And He Appeared) Genesis 18 – 22

Not much here- only the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, not to mention the Akedah, the binding of Isaac (traditionally read at Rosh HaShannah.)

There is also the second time Abraham “pimped” Sarah, when Abimelech took her to wife because Abraham (with Sarah’s agreement) said she was his sister, not his wife. Abimelech was the king of the Philistine city and his entire household was cursed with not bearing children because he took Sarah as wife.

There is so much written about the Akedah I am not even going to try to comment on it, but I do feel that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah has a lesson for us, something more personal than the story we read.

The people living in these two towns were wholly and unashamedly depraved. The bible makes sure we know that both young and old, meaning everyone, was depraved and sinful. I am not surprised, though; after all, doesn’t the society create it’s own morals? If you were alone in the desert, wouldn’t you form your own ideas about right and wrong? Look at modern cultures: some drink coffee, some drink tea, some nap in the afternoon and some don’t nap at all. Some believe that salad should be after the main course and others eat it first. There are many, many different cultural mores and values, not just about food and work, but about childbirth, capital punishment, education of the young, just to name a few. Lot offered his virgin daughters to the mob of men so they can gang rape the girls instead raping the guests in his house, the cultural ideal at that time being that to protect and care for a traveler was of the utmost importance. The care of a stranger was more important than protecting your own daughters from sexual abuse. We see this cultural standard also in Judges, 19.

Our society today, right here in the good old U S of A, is becoming more and more like Sodom. In the days of Sodom, people learned about social mores by observing their neighbors. There was no Face Book, Twitter or NetFlix to see what was happening all over. But today? We can see depravity as acceptable everywhere, in the newspapers, on TV, on our phones, and even inside the house of worship! How many of you have heard of “churches” that are pro-abortion? Churches that are specifically for homosexual and trans-sexual people? Churches that are abusing children, both physically and sexually? Churches? Places of worship? That’s what they call themselves.

Have you ever watched the History or Discovery channel specials on anything biblical? They debunk God, almost making it seem that He is a myth. I have more often than not heard references to biblical stories and lessons as being nothing more than passed down myths. The narrator refers to the “writer of these stories” as having made them up from existing legends. They show many biblical “scholars” who talk about the truths that God gave us in His word with cynical, disrespectful terms, as if they were referring to some fictional novel. And when they have someone who speaks of the bible with reverence for God, they make him or her look like some idiot, whose opinion is childish and uneducated; essentially they make faith-based obedience look like some uneducated, sect-like conditioned thinking.

Halloween is tomorrow- we give the kids candy because if you give no treat your house gets tricked. We know that the small children don’t understand anything about what their costumes and that day really represent, so we (myself included) condone, as it is, the demonic foundation of this day because we don’t want to hurt the feelings of the small children.

And what effect does that have? It plants a new seed of Sodom. This is how societies become depraved: little by little, one small concession to the mob mentality after another, until you have God thrown out of the courtroom, out of the schools, and even out of the places of worship.

Anyone who says they worship God cannot also acknowledge as acceptable those things God says are not.

God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. We need to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, too- not the towns of millennia ago, but the sinfulness and depravity that exists in our own hearts. Yeshua said that which goes into the body doesn’t defile us, but that which comes out of the mouth is what defiles us (Matthew 15:11), so exorcise that which defiles you. The words we speak, especially in anger, are straight from our hearts. We later apologize, and say, “I didn’t really mean it”, but isn’t that a lie? If we didn’t mean it, we wouldn’t have said it! THAT is the truth- what we say in anger or under stress is what is in our hearts. When we lie to the one we said it to we are really lying to ourselves because no one wants to face the truth of what is in his or her defiling, evil heart.

The towns and people of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by God, but we need to destroy the spirit of Sodom and Gomorrah in ourselves. When we call on the Holy Spirit we can get the spiritual strength to overpower our evil hearts. Eventually, the Torah will be written on our hearts, these hearts of stone will be replaced with hearts of flesh and we will be living Torahs, just as Yeshua is the living Torah.

Until that day, we need to work at destroying Sodom in us.

Freedom Costs Lives

The traditional belief is that after the Fall in the garden of Eden, God sacrificed animals to atone for the sin of Adam and Eve, and that is where He got the animal skins from which He made their clothes. The bible is clear, God is clear- the only way to atone for sin is by the blood of an innocent. The cost of the freedom from sin is an innocent life.

The cost of political freedom is high, too. We who have served in the military, whether in a war zone or not, know that our lives are on the line, every day, because you never know when you will be called. It’s sort of like being a Believer, never knowing when Yeshua (Jesus) will come back. Or, in a more “day-to-day” setting, never knowing when you might be called to serve God’s purpose. It may be to help someone find his or her Messiah, it may be to help an old person carry groceries, it may be to feed a homeless and hungry person.

It may be to give your life for a friend- Yeshua said that there is no greater love than that. It may also be to stand for what is right and Godly in a world that is wrong and satanic.

God has blessed Donna and I very much. Although there is Tsouris in our lives, and we have things go wrong, we are truly blessed. We own our home, we have no debt, and when I can get SSI next year we can afford to let me retire at 62. God willing that things in the world don’t get worse.

Frankly, as much as I appreciate what God has done, and all the wonderful things we plan, I am prepared to live in poverty and distress as the times of the Tribulation grow closer. I am certain that we are close, and although the part of me that always sees the other side says that for thousands of years people have felt this way, I still look forward to the return of Messiah, even though what it means is nearly the total destruction of everything I hold dear and everything I have now. Remember, He isn’t coming back when the trouble starts. It won’t be until it all seems lost, which means that we will all be at the end of our ropes- no money, no homes, destitute, under persecution. It won’t be like sitting in the green room with tea and scones waiting to be called on stage.

The freedom to live under the rule of Messiah will first cost us many lives. Many of those lives will be of Believers who stood fast in the path of evil, who refused to be moved, to take the mark, and who will be killed for their faithfulness.

It’s happening already in many third world countries.

Most everyone accepts that the freedom to live in a free country, like America, costs the lives of some of it’s inhabitants. I think most people know enough about the bible to know that the cost of freedom from sin is innocent blood, but that is of animals, right? Sheep, goats, bulls, cows….right? God created those animals, separated them (in Leviticus 11) as clean and therefore, eligible for sacrifice. Maybe that’s why the bible also tells us to care for our animals and treat them well- after all, if they aren’t perfect specimens they can’t be used as a sacrifice, and that is not good for the sinner.

Believers have accepted that the sacrifice Yeshua made is the one last and ultimate sacrifice for sin, but you still have to be nice to animals, even if you don’t need their innocent blood anymore.

I was talking about the sacrificial system to someone the other day, and simplifying the process to when someone does a bad thing, to be forgiven an innocent life must be sacrificed so the bad person can now be a good person. That does over-simplify the process, but the one I was talking with said, “That doesn’t seem right.” And you know what? I agree. It doesn’t seem right: if I kill someone why should I get away with it, so to speak, if I kill an innocent animal and sacrifice it to God? If I kill an animal for my own needs, isn’t that just as much murdering as killing a human who got me angry?  Animals aren’t human, but isn’t killing bad, at any time? Of any living thing?

Here’s the difference: the atonement for sin that an innocent’s blood makes for us isn’t in this life, but in the afterlife. So far as this plane of existence goes, if we do something sinful and wrong, we will suffer for it. Sooner or later, we will. And the bible stipulates the punishment for sinfulness while in this world.

The sad truth is that the sin we commit usually is also felt by others, by innocents, who suffer from our sinfulness. Just as innocent blood is needed to atone for sin on the spiritual level, there is a lot of innocent blood being spilt in the real world, today, as a result of sin. And much of it isn’t a sacrifice for the sinner. It’s just a waste of innocent blood.

Martyrs pay for their faithfulness with their lives, many other faithful Believers pay for the freedom to worship God as He says to with their their jobs, their friends, even their family. Freedom, whether political or spiritual, costs lives.

I am saying this, which is probably pretty obvious to most of you already, to remind you that when you read about or know of someone who is an innocent that has suffered from the sin of another, don’t blame God or think they weren’t so innocent (like Job’s friends),  and accept that this is how it works. We don’t understand why, and we don’t have to- it’s just the way it works.

And sometimes bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people. We can’t understand it, and we don’t need to. We need to keep focused on what we do in service to God.

This life is short and meant for only one thing- to prepare us for eternity.  We never know when we will leave this existence: no one knows when they will die, so we have to be prepared. And no one knows when the Messiah will return, but the signs are pretty clear lately, so if you have been on the fence about really getting to know God, about finally coming to a decision about will you do as the bible says or as your religion has told you, don’t wait anymore. And know that what you decide will be what you will be judged on.

And we will all face the Judge. The only thing that stands between you and eternal suffering is how good your lawyer is.

As for me, well….I have the best lawyer there is: Yeshua. And what’s even better?- he’s a Jewish lawyer.

Who is your lawyer?

Parashah Pinchas Numbers 25:10 – 30:1

The plague was just stopped by the zealousness of Pinchas, the grandson of Aaron, when he killed a prince of Israel who was with a Midianite woman (also of high birth) and blatantly showing disdain and rebellion against Moses’s command to not have any relations (especially physical ones) with the Midianites. God makes a covenant with Pinchas that throughout his generations his seed will serve in the Priesthood.

The Israelites are at the end of their wandering, and God has already demonstrated His support as they have defeated two kings and taken their lands. Now He has them take another census, and after 40 years of living in a desert, the difference in the size from when they came out of Egypt and now is less than 3/10 of 1%. Essentially, there are as many now before entering the Land as there were when they left Egypt. Some of the tribes are less but the nation, as a whole, is the same size.

The rules for inheritance are stipulated and God reminds the people about the regulations for sacrifices, Joshua is appointed as Moses’s replacement and Moses is allowed to view the land, although he is still not to cross over and enter it.

Isn’t it amazing that when the Jews were in Egypt as slaves, with plenty of food, water and shelter they were able, despite their slavery, to grow into a great nation, and then after 40 years in a desert, devoid of food, water and shelter, they were still able to maintain their great size? Well, maybe it is amazing to someone who is secular minded, but to me it is just what I would expect from God. He said that the generation which had rebelled would die in the desert, and they did, but still we read in this parashah that not only did God maintain the size of His people, but even the descendants of Korach have survived (26:11) to enter the land.

Now, as God prepares the people for what is to come, He reviews the laws for the daily sacrifice and the holy convocations, since these were first given to the prior generation (Leviticus) before they were to enter the land. They didn’t get in, though, and it has been 40 years, so God is reminding them what to do when they enter.

The lesson I see here is simple: God’s plans, whatever they are, will be accomplished. He is flexible enough to make it seem to us, with our limited ability to understand, that He changes His mind or doesn’t accomplish what He said, but what is really happening is that the ship is moving. We may have to take a round-a-bout way to avoid some reefs and rough waters that weren’t on the chart, but it is always going to the place it is sailing to.

God’s plan of salvation has been working itself out since before Adam was created. The Israelites in the desert got to see miracles daily, and these have been recorded for us because we are too “sophisticated” and too “scientifically wise” to see the miracles that are still happening today, every day. We think that just because we can explain how an event occurs that knowing how it happens makes it less of a miracle. I can describe how the digestive system works, but does that make it less of a miracle? Could anyone of us design that system? Could any one of us make a stomach? Can we create a physical being that can spontaneously create hydrochloric acid inside itself and not burn itself to death from the inside out?

God needed a nation to enter the land that was big enough and strong enough (and faithful enough) to be His weapon of judgement against the nations that had been defiling His land for centuries. The first group didn’t meet that criteria, so God got rid of them and had the second group, just as large but more faithful, do the job. When all was said and done, what God wanted was accomplished. Oh, yes, not all of the baddies were destroyed and, yes, the people screwed up royally and ended up being thrown out of the land, also. But has that stopped God’s plan? No, of course not: God is this very day actually completing His plan. We see the regathering of the people back to the land and the land becoming a fruitful garden, again. And we see the world starting to suffer the judgement that God promised would happen through the words of the Prophets and in Revelations.

This parashah shows us that whatever God plans to do gets done. Maybe not when it was first started, maybe not with the people that it was first intended to use, but it will be done, one way or another. That is something that the enemies of God should find totally frightening, and the children of God should find totally encouraging.

The generations we are reading about in today’s parashah got to see God up close; they saw Him on the mountain when they were children, they have been miraculously fed and watered by him in a desert for forty years, and now they see Him supporting them in their battles, allowing them to defeat bigger and stronger nations, easily. They saw His plan to free them from slavery and lead them into the land evolve and succeed. We, today, are also seeing His plan evolve and succeed. We have seen the Messiah overcome sin, we have seen the gathering of the people back to the land happening for the past 60 years, and we are seeing the earth being judged and in turmoil, weather-wise, politically and spiritually. The enemy is on the move, this is his time and we are seeing it happen. We need to steel ourselves against what is to come because it will come! Don’t listen to the prophets that advised Ahab, or the ones that told Zedekiah everything is fine. We are coming into the End Days, and it won’t be pretty.

Take hope, no matter how bad it gets, in the knowledge and the proven, historical evidence that God’s plan WILL be done, and the promises He made and the ones He will make are all absolutely trustworthy.

And also remember that you are responsible to do your part- God will keep His word to you, but you need to hold up your end of the bargain.

Parashot Acharey Mot / Kedoshim (Leviticus 16 – 18; 19 – 20)

Acharey Mot starts with the regulations about how to celebrate Yom Kippur, then about not eating blood and ends with forbidden types of marriages and worship. This is a continuation of the main theme throughout this entire book, which is to teach the people how to be holy.

Kedoshim is the central book of the Torah because it is right in the middle. It is the center of Vayikra, and also the center of Torah. As such, the Rabbis have regarded it as “the essentials of Torah” ( Pentateuch and Haftorah, Soncino edition) and a brief description of it’s main points follows:

* holiness and imitation of God

* moral and ritual laws

* Duties to and treatment of other people

* Prohibitions against hatred and violence

* additional precepts and ordinances

* prohibition against the pagan lifestyle

* ethical injunctions

* penalties for disobedience

* laws regarding immorality

* final exhortation to be holy and set apart

As I say above, this book is not just a set of laws and rules. It is how we become sanctified, holy and separated for God from the rest of the world.

In America, the court cases of Plessy vs. Ferguson and Brown vs. The Board of Education (of Topeka, Kansas) are well known to almost everyone, lawyer or not. “Plessy” was a Supreme Court ruling (in 1896) which stated separate accommodations, if equal in quality and standards, is not unconstitutional. Half a century later (1954), “Brown” was the reversal of that decree stating the very nature of things being separate means they can’t be equal (I ask any law professionals to excuse any minor misstatements I may have made in condensing these.)  The belief that separate cannot be equal is also what we are told in Leviticus, and throughout the Bible. If we want to be holy, as God is holy, we need to be separate and NOT equal. We need to be different.

Let’s get something straight here: different is not better than; it is not worse than;  it is just different from. The only thing that separates Believers from the rest of the world is Messiah Yeshua. We are still sinners: the only thing different is that we are saved sinners. And because we profess to accept the truth that Yeshua is the Messiah, and accept God’s Grace provided through Yeshua’s sacrifice, we are bound to change our way of living to that which God decrees in the Torah. Doing that makes us different from the world. God tells us to be holy for He is holy, and in Leviticus He gives us all the rules, regulations, and ordinances that will teach us how to worship Him properly and how to properly treat each other so that we can be holy.

Problem is…we ain’t holy! God gave us all we need to be holy, but it’s beyond us, that’s why God also provided Yeshua, and why we so desperately need Him, our Messiah, to bring us into the communion with God that we cannot bring ourselves into, by means of His sacrifice cleansing us of our sins.

We need to be different, and in the way God says to be different. Not as a means of rebellion (of course, if you’re a teenager, rebellion is mandatory behavior) or as a means of acting “holier-than-thou”, but as the proof that we worship God. It’s just that simple. We worship God, Adonai; the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Holy One of Israel, the one, true God. And when we do this as He said we should (not as a religion tells us) then we are separated from the world.

The world says “holier-than-thou” as a condemnation against someone thinking they are a better person than someone else. Yeshua told His Talmudim (Disciples) that the Goyim (nations, or Gentiles) lord it over each other and they should not, so He also teaches us not to think we are any better than anyone else. But, in the long run, we are supposed to be “holier than thou”, but not because we are better: we are to be holier because our God is holy and we represent Him. We aren’t better, just saved. The difference between heaven and hell is certainly much more than that between railroad cars (Plessy vs. Ferguson) and we definitely want to be in First Class.

I believe this about Leviticus: the central theme of this central book of the Torah is to be holy so that we can represent God correctly.

The book tells us exactly how we achieve holiness by telling us how we are to worship, how we are to treat each other, how we are to marry, how we are to have intimate relationships, how we are to eat; essentially, Leviticus tells us that we should be, and how we are to be, separated from the world.

The brokerage firm Smith-Barney had a great commercial where their spokesman used to say (something like), “We make money the old fashioned way…we earn it!”  That’s the way the world works, and there’s nothing wrong with that- you work hard and you earn your reward.

With God, it isn’t like that. Salvation cannot be earned through hard work, it can only be gained by asking for it.

It’s not until after we have been saved that the hard work starts.

Parashah Pesach (Exodus 12:21 – 12:51)

Weren’t we in the book of Leviticus last week? How’d we get back to Exodus?

Today, actually tonight, begins Passover (‘Pesach’, in Hebrew.) As such, this being one of the most important and happiest of all the Holy Days God gave us, we read this portion of the Torah and then get back to Vayikra next week.

Passover is a Holy Day that is somewhat misunderstood, by both Jews and Christians. If you ask most any Jewish person how long Passover lasts, I’ll bet the answer you get is “7 days”, but that’s wrong. “Passover” only lasts from evening until midnight, when the angel of death passed over Egypt. The 7 days that we fast (no leavened products, i.e.. nothing with yeast) is called Hag Ha Matzot. It is the Feast of Unleavened Bread that lasts 7 days. Another thing that is misunderstood is that Passover is when God said we should celebrate the new year; God never said that Rosh HaShannah is the Jewish new year. In Exodus God tells Moshe that this day (the day the Jews left Egypt) is to be the first day of your year. Rosh HaShannah, the Jewish New Year, is a Rabbinical holiday and not a God ordered Holy Day. The day that it is celebrated on is a God-ordered Holy Day, but that day is called (by God) Yom Teruah, or Day of Trumpets. It is a memorial day.

From the Christian viewpoint, because of the undeniable association of the sacrificial death of Yeshua (Jesus) on the day after Passover, leading to His resurrection on the third day (Sunday, the beginning of the Jewish week, as we are told in the Bible) the sacrifice of the Passover lamb is considered to be what Yeshua underwent, which was a sacrifice to absolve us of our sin. Especially since He is often referred to as the Lamb of God. Even the Jewish people, for the most part, believe that the Pesach lamb was a sin sacrifice.

Oh, oh…not so, oh no. The Passover lamb was sacrificed, yes, but it was a thanksgiving sacrifice, a peace offering, not a sin or guilt offering.

Go back and read the first chapters of Leviticus we just went through- it describes how the different sacrifices are to be administered by the Kohen. There is only one type where the person offering the sacrifice also partakes in the eating of the sacrifice, and that is the peace offering. God demands that the Passover lamb be roasted and eaten by those offering it, so that makes the Passover sacrifice a peace offering, not a sin offering.

But didn’t Yeshua offer Himself as a sacrifice for sin? Yes, He did. Well, when do the Jewish people offer their sin sacrifice? That’s on Yom Kippur.

You see, Yeshua is both sides of the coin, so to speak: His sacrifice to overcome our sin was on Passover, and the Passover sacrifice is a peace offering to God. When we think about it, isn’t the Messiah supposed to bring us all back into relationship with God?  So when He sacrificed Himself as a sin offering, didn’t that also allow us to come into relationship with God? Wasn’t the curtain torn from the top down? From God to us? When Yeshua died on that execution tree, His sacrifice was both the sin sacrifice that comes at Yom Kippur (the final one that will be at the End of Days) and the peace offering that brings us back into relationship with God. His sacrifice counted then as two- the sin sacrifice to cleanse us before God and the peace offering that will bring us into relationship with God. They may be a little backwards to us, since our time is linear, but God’s time is different. What Yeshua did back then was for then, and for now, and for the rest of time; one sacrifice to accomplish two things, from then until forever.

Isn’t God just amazing?!? It gives you goose-bumps. Now do you see the real association between Passover and Yom Kippur? We usually associate Passover with freedom from physical slavery and follow it up with Shavuot, the giving of the Law on Sinai as a “one-two punch” against sin. For those that accept Yeshua’s Messianic calling as true, these two Holy Days also represent the freedom from spiritual slavery and the giving of the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, which only because of Yeshua’s sacrifice can now indwell forever. Prior to Yeshua the Ruach fell on the person, but was lifted up later. Only because of Yeshua can that Ruach now indwell and remain.

And there’s another misunderstanding- as nicely as this all fits, Passover is not really associated with Shavuot, but with Yom Kippur. Passover and Yom Kippur are the two sides of the same coin, sacrifice for sin to cleanse us and peace offering to bring us back into relationship with God. Again I ask, isn’t that what the Messiah is supposed to do?

I also do two things at once to my Christian friends at this time of the year: I teach them by kidding with them and rebuking them at the same time. I ask them if they ever considered that as they are celebrating and honoring the resurrection of Yeshua, they are eating something that He would find to be an abomination and an insult on His table?

Think about it before you buy that Easter ham. Also think about it when you have bread and cake all next week. Yeshua told his Talmudim (Disciples) to beware the Hametz (yeast) of the Pharisees;  Yeshua and all His followers fasted from yeast during the celebration of Hag ha Matzot. Do you want to do as Yeshua did? Do you really want to please God?

If you do not normally fast during the 7 days after passover, try it. I am sure there are many who fast from something for a day or a week to get closer to God. Don’t you think that fasting as God says you should would bring you that much closer to pleasing Him? To being in communion with Him?

Forget the ham- do a turkey or a chicken. No lamb- that is not allowed because the lamb is the demanded sacrifice and it must be done at the Temple, but the Temple doesn’t exist anymore so we don’t do lamb on Passover. Chicken, turkey, maybe a nice brisket, no bread- only matzah for the next week. No cakes, no nothing with any yeast in it at all.

Try it. Do what God says and He promises to bless you (read Deuteronomy 28.) Don’t get all caught up in that drek about obeying Torah means you aren’t under the blood- that’s nothing but a bunch of fertilizer taught by those who don’t understand and don’t want to obey God to those who don’t want to make their own decision about how to worship God.

Here are my two most favorite ways to eat matzah: spread butter lightly over it with salt (warm the butter a bit first or it will crack the matzah)- YUM!!! And for breakfast eat Matzah Brei: soak matzah in warm water, when it’s soft wring out the water (carefully) and then drench the matzah is an egg wash with a little milk (and cinnamon), then fry in a frying pan greased with butter. Serve hot with syrup or sugar. It’s sort of a Jewish french toast, and I cannot believe you won’t LOVE it!

Chag  Sameach!!

Parashah Tzav (Command) Leviticus 6 – 8:36

The prior chapters are addressed to the entire congregation, whereas these next chapters are more specifically to the Priests, describing the way the different sacrifices should be offered, and which portion of the sacrifice is for the Priests, who may eat it, and it ends with the anointing of Aaron and his sons into the Priesthood.

The Sacrificial System was a major part of the lives of the Jewish people. Of the 613 Commandments in Torah, nearly 1/3 deal with the sacrificial system. There are different offerings: a sin offering, a guilt offering, a burnt offering, a peace offering and a thanksgiving offering. The peace offering is considered to be classified in three ways: (1) thanksgiving for deliverance from sickness or danger; (2) fulfillment of a vow made in times of distress; and (3) a free-will offering made when the heart is moved at the remembrance of God’s tender mercies (Pentateuch and Haftorahs, Soncino Edition.)

With the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, the sacrificial system came to a halt; more like running into a brick wall! All of a sudden, that was it! One day we can be cleansed from our sin, the next day there is no way for the Jewish people to atone for their sins. Because God decreed that these sacrifices had to be made at the place where He placed His name, when the Temple was destroyed we couldn’t sacrifice as we should, and the Jewish people had an even stronger need for their Messiah. It’s too bad that “Mainstream” Judaism still hasn’t accepted the truth about Yeshua, who is the Messiah and through whom our sins have been forgiven. That is why the Temple was destroyed: the sacrificial system was no longer needed, but since God’s word is like He is- the same today, yesterday and forever- and He declared these sacrifices had to be made at the Temple, by destroying (or more correctly, allowing the destruction of) the Temple He put an end to a system that He said should be forever, without going against His word or changing His mind.

Does this mean that we don’t have to sacrifice anymore? Even though I can’t bring an animal to the Temple and offer it up to the Lord, does that mean I don’t need to perform any kind of sacrifice? When David went to buy the threshing floor in 2 Samuel 24 to stop the plague he caused, when it was all offered free to David, we read, “But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on buying it, for I will not present burnt offerings to the Lord my God that have cost me nothing.”

Don’t we still have ways to offer to God thanksgiving sacrifices? Can’t we still be moved to wanting to thank him? Don’t we still sin? Yes, Yeshua’s blood covers our sin, but can’t we still live up to the spirit of the law by giving up something that is valuable and desired by us to demonstrate our willingness to obey God’s commandments?

We all sin, and we all will continue to sin. As I have said before, we will never be sinless but we can always sin less, and even though we have our sins forgiven when we ask in the name of Yeshua, is that all we should do? Just say, “Thanks, Yeshua, for dying for me, so that when I ask forgiveness in Your name I am cleansed.”

Nice deal- He suffered, and we get off. Is that really good enough for you?

It’s not good enough for me. I don’t want to just accept all He did for me and do nothing to show my gratitude. And I don’t want to sacrifice something that costs me nothing. Yeshua’s death cost me nothing, but it cost Him everything, and when I sin I feel that I need to do more than just call upon His name. But what can I sacrifice? Where can I go? I don’t even own a goat or a lamb; I have two cats, but they are not acceptable sacrifices (lucky for them, too.)

So, nu? What do I do to show God I want to sacrifice a guilt or a sin offering, and especially a thanksgiving offering (because every day He does so many wonderful things for me?) Wait- didn’t David say he wouldn’t sacrifice anything to the Lord that didn’t cost him anything? Maybe what we can do, if you feel like I do, is sacrifice something that is valuable to us. I am not talking about a special monetary gift towards something that honors God, although that would be something, but let’s give something that is as valuable to us today as a lamb or a goat would have been to the people of Jerusalem in Yeshua’s day and before: let’s give up our time.

Today we work so hard, we commute so many hours a week, and when we get home (at least I know I do) all we want to do is rest. And the weekends are play time. Well, God already tells us to rest on the Shabbat, but that is a commandment we obey anyway (hopefully) so we need to do more than that if we want to make a sacrifice.

Give of your time to something that is “God-honoring.” Maybe volunteer to help with something at your place of worship, or go to a soup kitchen and serve others, or volunteer at an animal hospital (God did tell us that we are to care for His creation, did he not?) or at a human hospital. Do something that takes away from your personal time, or give money if that is more important to you than your time, but offer something up to the Lord as a sacrifice to show Him how much you appreciate what He has done for you, and to honor the sacrifice Yeshua made for you.

Yeshua gave up His divinity, His supremacy, He took off His robes of holiness and put on a mantle of stinking, dirty flesh, then wore it for 30-something years. And finally, He allowed Himself to be humiliated, beaten and tortured to death, all so that you and I can be saved because of our failure to be able to obey the Lord. Don’t you think that if Yeshua was willing to do all that for you that you should do something for Him to show your gratitude?

I volunteer at the Brevard Zoo (with Donna, my wife) and I help out at the place I worship during, before and after services, and I am available to help people there if they need computer work or training. These things take time, and I gladly sacrifice my time because it is an offering to the Lord. I don’t say this to brag or get accolations, but to show you one way in which you can do the same.

God gave up His only son, and that son gave up everything, even to the point of death, just so you can have a chance to enter God’s presence for eternity.

Don’t you think that deserves some thanks? If so, find something that will cost you something and offer it up to the Lord.

Parashah Tetzaveh (Command) Exodus 27:20 – 30:10

This parashah describes the way the priestly robes are to be manufactured, and the process for the anointment and consecration of the priests (Aaron and his sons), as well as the rules for their share of the sacrifice, and about the incense.

In the description of the breastplate, the Urim and Thummim are mentioned. According to the Chumash (Soncino Edition) the words are translated as “The Lights and the Perfections”, possibly to imply “perfect lights.”  There is still to this day the question of just what the Urim and Thummim were: were they a kind of dice, or is it a term for the breastplate, being one and the same with the precious gems?

They are mentioned also in Leviticus, Numbers and 1 Samuel. But after the reign of David they are no longer being used for determining God’s will; in fact, they aren’t mentioned at all.

So what were they? I would like to submit that what they are is less important than what they represent, which is the need to ask for God’s opinion and judgement on important matters. We know that whatever the Urim and Thummim were, when important matters of state or judgement was needed this “thing” was used to determine God’s will. In Joshua, after the failure to attack Ai, God commanded Joshua to call forth all the families and draw lots to determine the person at fault for the sin Israel committed. We read in other places about the use of lots to determine the outcome, always with the underlying understanding that it is God who is making the lot come out as it should. This could have been the Urim and Thummim.

In the “real” world, we “know” that the use of dice or some other form of determining a result from a random process is all luck and statistics-with each throw of the dice you have a 1 in 12 chance of a certain number coming up. It’s just dumb luck.

That doesn’t explain why the lots used in the Bible were always accurate. The party that was chosen never said, “It’s not me- I didn’t do it! Throw those dice again.” No, indeed- those chosen by lot confessed. If you knew that you were going to be killed because of the results of the Urim and Thummim, wouldn’t you lie through your teeth to prevent it?

I don’t think it is important to know what the Urim and Thummim were because the point is that they were used to ask for God’s guidance before taking action. That is what we need to remember. And that is, I believe, why we don’t hear about them after the days of David. What happened after David’s rule? The kingdom split in two, the Northern Kingdom of Israel (Shomron) began a long and ugly degradation of it’s worship, immediately prostituting itself to the Semitic gods of the area and eventually being destroyed by God. The Southern Kingdom of Judah did the same, although it was a longer decline due to a number of righteous kings, but in the end they also were destroyed by God. Not totally, like the Northern tribes, but it was devastating and lasted from about 750 BCE up to the 1950’s.  Not once during this time do we hear of anyone consulting the Urim and Thummim: it is like America today. First we took God out of the schools (1962 Supreme Court decision from a New York suit) and then in 2003 they removed the monument to the Ten Commandments from the Alabama Courthouse, taking God out of our system of judgements.

The use of the Urim and the Thummim remind us more than just that we need to ask God for His guidance in (not just) important matters, but it also reminds us that God is in charge, that what might seem to be a random chance event may be God determining the actions of men, all designed to accomplish His will. No one will be able to accept this unless they faithfully believe God is in charge. However, when we leave God out of our decisions, when we ignore His will, and when we tell Him, basically, to “mind His own business”, He will do just that. He will not keep us in His will, He will not influence our outcomes, and He will leave us to our own devices.

Not a good idea. We are totally incompetent, self-centered and foolish. I like to say the ultimate proof that God exists is to look at the history of Mankind: if there wasn’t a compassionate, all-powerful and protective God watching over us, how could we have possibly survived this long?

We must look to God for guidance in everything we do. We must trust that He is not just willing to help us, but is (in every way) able to guide us away from sin and self-destruction towards righteousness and everlasting life. He tells us throughout the Tanakh that He gets no pleasure from people dying in their sin, but wants us all to do T’Shuvah, and live. The Urim and Thummim were more than just a method for determining His will, they represent the understanding and acceptance that God is in charge, that God is willing to help, and that God wants us to ask Him for guidance. So much so, that He even provided the means to ask Him.

I am not suggesting that you carry a pair of dice or a “lucky” coin and toss them every time you need to make a decision. What I am saying is that we need to seek God’s guidance in everything we do. Heck, maybe tossing a silver dollar and leaving it up to God to determine the course of action we should take isn’t such a bad idea, after all. It worked for the Patriarchs, it worked for Joshua, who knows? Maybe it will work for you?

Whichever way you want to seek God’s will in your life is not as important as the fact that you do seek His will before you make important decisions. As a Believer, as a country, and as a people we need to seek the Lord’s will and guidance in what we do. And this needs to be done at all levels, from the lowest to the highest, because the highest human level is still way, way, way below God. Way below!

By the way, asking God for guidance is no excuse to do nothing and blame God for not answering you. We are to seek His guidance, and we are to walk in faith. The need for action was already determined when the Urim and Thummim were consulted, so do not use asking God’s guidance and waiting for an answer as an excuse to sit on your tuchas and do nothing.

Ask and He will answer, walk in faith and He will guide you.

Many are Called, Few are Chosen, but Who Chooses Whom?

You probably know the parable about the king and the wedding guests, If not, go to Matthew 22.

To understand what I am going to talk about, you need to know about the cultural norm of the day. When people were invited to a wedding, the Semitic custom was for the host to provide proper clothing for the guests when they arrived. The guest would then use those clothes and in this way everyone was properly dressed. Although it is not specifically stated here, since the people were invited to come from the streets, the alleys, wherever the servants could find them, how could they have all had proper clothing unless the custom of providing the clothes was in effect?

The one man who did not have the proper clothing was singled out because to be there with the wrong clothes meant that he had refused to accept the clothing he was given. He did not “put on the Lord”, as the saying goes. As such, having refused to accept the “terms” of the invitation, he was rejected.

So…did the host reject the man, or did the man reject the host?

We are all called by God to accept His Grace, the gift of salvation. Whether Christian, Messianic, Jewish, or just plain confused we all are called by God, to God. That’s because God wants all His children saved. In Ezekiel God says that the death of a sinner does not please Him, rather that He would see the sinner do T’Shuvah (turn) and live. That’s why the parable states that all people, good and bad, were invited. Those that came were then offered the clothing that was appropriate for them to wear at the wedding. In real terms, that means we need to strip ourselves of our own clothing (sinful nature) so that we can put on the new clothing, i.e. we need to be “covered” by the sacrificial death of the Messiah, who is Yeshua (Jesus). Or, as the Christian world likes to say, we need to be covered by the blood of Jesus.

I know Jewish people don’t like that saying, being “covered by the blood”, and I think the main reason is because they don’t really know the Torah. When Moshe anointed Aaron as Cohen HaGadol (High Priest) he sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice on him. Same for Pinchus, and all the priests after that. The sprinkling of the blood of the sacrifice upon something is what made that thing holy, whether it was a person, the altar, or the Tent of Meeting. It is totally “Jewish” to be sprinkled or covered with the blood of a sacrifice to make one holy.

The people who were called and accepted the “clothing” of the host represent (today) those who accept Yeshua as their Messiah and make a commitment to change their lives to live in accordance with God’s way. That means living in accordance with Torah, since that is the only “way” God has told us to live. Yeshua lived according to Torah, so if you are being told to do as Yeshua did, well, guess what that means?

The man who was not wearing the proper clothing represents those who reject God’s call. You may have been taught that it is the Jews, but after reading a couple of different commentaries about this, the general consensus is that it is about Jews and Gentiles, anyone who rejects God’s call to holiness.

So next time you meet someone who says that God rejects the Jews and references this parable, please set him or her straight. And remember to always think of the cultural environment at the time when trying to understand what the Bible is saying( go to the Search button at the bottom of this page and search for Circles of Context to learn about this.)

God has already invited you to join Him in eternal joy; it is up to you to choose Him.

The Torah is All We Need: Everything Else is Commentary

When Yeshua was asked what is the most important commandment of all, His answer was simple- Love the Lord and love each other; on these two commandments pivot all the writings and the Prophets.

Notice He didn’t say , “…and all the other stuff that will be added later.”

The Christian world has historically tried to get away from Torah. They have taught (what I should say is: mis-taught) that the Torah is done away with because Yeshua lived it perfectly. Oh, yeah- that makes sense: once something is done right we never have to do it that way again? Duh!!

The Torah is everything we need to know, and all the commandments we are to follow if we want to obey God the way He said we should. Like it or not, that’s the truth. Yeshua/Jesus had to die for our sins, which were the sins outlined and defined in the Torah. There was no other Bible then.

The fact that our sins are paid for is not license to continue sinning, and not doing what God told us to do in the Torah is still a sin. We still need to be forgiven, and if we don’t really want to stop and we don’t really care about what God said to do (as Christianity often teaches) then we are sinners that the blood of Messiah won’t clean.

That’s right- the Grace of God can cover any sin, but it will not cover a sin that is done over and over because the sinner doesn’t care about what God says.

Our human legal system is all screwed up when you consider that a criminal, one who acts outside the legal system and doesn’t care about what the laws are, often has more protection under those laws than the victim. We protect the guilty with the very laws the guilty reject.

Not so with God. His laws are for everyone, and when we reject His laws we are rejecting Him. He loves us and wants us to live, but He is also our Judge, Jury and Executioner so if we choose to ignore and reject His laws (thereby rejecting Him), those laws will not protect us. Reject God and you will be rejected- the Bible is clear on that point.

The Torah tells us 2 things: how to worship God and how to treat each other. Torah is just the first 5 books- the ones that Moshe wrote in accordance with what God told him to write- and all the books that come after the Torah are commentary. They show us how the Torah was used, and misused, by the people throughout the centuries. When the people did T’Shuvah and cried out to God, and meant it,  He provided them with a judge or a king that could protect them from their enemies. When they were sitting pretty, they went back to ignoring and rejecting God.

It is a cycle of rejection, suffering, coming to their senses and repenting, salvation, happiness, boredom, rejection, suffering, ….over and over. And here’s the kicker: after all the mistakes the Jewish people made between 1500 BCE and the time of Yeshua, since then the Christian world has not only made all the same mistakes, but they have brought it to a much higher level of rejection by making Yeshua their God and “the Father’ nothing more than a secondary thought. And teaching that the Torah, the very word of God and the Word that became the Flesh we know as Jesus, was done away with.

Consider this: if Jesus is the Word become flesh, and He said to do away with the Word, then isn’t He saying to ignore Him? Isn’t that a form of spiritual suicide? Does that make sense at all?

If the Torah was all Yeshua needed to teach about the Kingdom of God and the only set of laws and commandments He needed to follow to be an acceptable sacrifice, why do we need anything else? The New Covenant writings are comprised of the Gospels and the Epistles. The Gospels are historical in nature and the Epistles are clearly informative, outlining the details of how to live and treat each other and the proper way in which to worship God. If you read and interpret them carefully you will see that there is nothing “new” in the New Covenant writings- Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, James, Saul- they all wrote to the new Believers, a combination of Jewish people and pagans who were converting to Judaism, about how to live in accordance with the Torah.

Romans is a very misunderstood book. Shaul writes in it about the Torah and how it is to be reconciled with Yeshua’s teachings. The problem is that Shaul can’t say something straight out- too much education. He beats around the bush and talks in ways that are convoluted to the biblically uneducated. The result is that Romans has been historically quoted as a polemic against the Torah when it is, in fact, an apologetic. Shaul is talking in reverse- arguing about what he is trying to point out as wrong, and making a short, almost invisible statement at the end of a long argument that says, essentially, “NOT!” Read it, slowly and carefully, and you will see what I mean. In nearly every chapter he talks about how Yeshua overcame sin and how the Torah is fading away and how we are forgiven, and ends up with asking if that means the Torah is no longer valid, then says “God forbid!”

The Torah is God’s word. Moshe wrote down what God told Him to write down, which is all we need to know in order to properly worship God. That’s it. Das ist alles! Der ain’t no mo!!

Everything after the book of Deuteronomy is for us to read and understand as commentary, as “I have told you what you need to know and all the rest is to show you how lousy a job you have done with it.”  Love God and love each other: the Son of God told us that is all we need to do. If we do that, the rest falls into place all on it’s own.

BUT…you still need to read and know the entire Bible so we can learn from the mistakes of others, and that way we won’t make the same mistakes (yeah- like that’s going to happen! Good luck with that!)

At the end of Deuteronomy we are commanded not to add to or take away from anything in the book. The Torah is one book, with 5 separate sections. Even though we call them “books”, in the Torah the separation between chapters is almost invisible, and the separation between books is little more than extra space between the lines of writing. It is, when you look at it, a complete, harmonious, and homogenous writing. It is the singular and definitive methodology for worshipping God and for treating each other. It is, as I like to say, the ultimate Users Manual.

It is what God commands anyone and everyone who professes to worship Him how to worship Him and how to treat each other. It tells us we do not need anything else, and commands us to not require anything else. The Torah is complete: we need do no more than what is there, and no less than what it says.

In the end, we all need Yeshua’s sacrifice to atone for us because the one thing I think everyone will agree on is this: we are sinners.  We sin, we have sinned, we can’t stop sinning, and we will continue to do so. Individually and collectively. Yeshua died to give us a chance to escape the fate we all deserve and have earned for ourselves. The Grace of God is shown in His compassion and mercy, which is embodied by Messiah Yeshua. Those of us who have accepted (first) our own sinfulness and inability to stop committing sin, which has led us (next) to repentance and accepting the Grace of God through the sacrificial death of Yeshua, who we (finally) accept as the Messiah God promised, are saved from the judgement Torah requires.

That doesn’t mean the Torah is dead or meaningless. Being saved from our sins doesn’t give us license to continue sinning, and a sin is, by definition, doing something God says we shouldn’t do. It’s really quite simple: God says, “Do as I say because that is as I do. Be thou holy because I am holy.” He provided Yeshua because we can’t do as He says and we will never be as holy as He is.

God is the designer of the game; The Torah are the rules of the game.; Yeshua is our Get Out of Jail Free card.

Decide if you are going to play by the rules or not, and don’t let anyone else tell you what the rules are. Read them for yourself.