Parashah Korach 2019 (Korach) Numbers 16 – 18

The story of the rebellion of Korach, Dathan, and Abiram is pretty well known, even to those who are not very well versed in the Bible. Essentially, Korach (a Levite) with Abiram and Dathan (Reubenites) plotted against Moses and Aaron, having seduced some 250 of the tribal leaders to follow them in this rebellion. Moses’s authority as God’s representative was challenged, as was Aaron’s, and God took care of this rebellion by first getting rid of the rebels. He had the ground open up and swallow the families and all possessions of Korach, Abiram, and Dathan, and also had fire come forth from the Tent of Meeting to totally consume the 250 men that were following them.

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Next, to silence the people who now blamed Moses and Aaron for these deaths, God had each tribal leader, including Aaron, place their staffs in the Tent of Meeting, and the next day the only one that budded was Aaron’s. In fact, not only buds but flowers and ripened almonds appeared on Aaron’s staff to demonstrate that he was the sole Levite to represent and have the honor of performing the service unto God.

There is a lot to work with in here, no doubt. But what I feel the need to talk about is not directly related to the story but to how the people reacted to the punishment God performed on the rebellion leaders. It seems reasonable to think they would say something about the miraculous way God punished these men who rebelled against him, but they didn’t do that.

They blamed Moses and Aaron for what God did. Despite Moses telling the people, over and over, that he and Aaron are nothing other than the spokesmen for God, the people saw them as the cause of these actions.

This is how the Christian world has depicted Yeshua (Jesus) for millennia. Despite how often we read in the Gospels that Yeshua constantly told those he healed that it was their faith that healed them, Christianity has taught that the credit for these miracles belongs to Yeshua, himself, even though it is written, clearly, that Yeshua gave the credit to their faith in God. Yeshua never took credit for the miracles he performed, except (possibly) one time, in Luke 5:12 when the man with leprosy said that if Yeshua was willing, he could make him clean, and Yeshua said that he was willing and cleansed the man of leprosy.

But even then, Yeshua said not to tell how it was done but to go to the Cohen to be declared clean in accordance with the instructions in the Torah and to give the required sacrifice.

Today, all too often, we do not recognize the true cause of something. This is especially evident on a spiritual level. There is a rise in antisemitism that is a spiritual battle, but the Enemy wants us to focus on something other than him. He will do his nastiness all over the world, but through others, because he knows that people do not have the discernment to see the true cause of these events.

Just as the Israelites in the desert blamed Moses for what God did, the Devil will have his representatives seem to wield power, but it will be him behind them.

We who understand this must try to make everyone else aware of it, even though we will not be believed by the majority. We cannot save the world, only those who are willing to listen to us, but to find them we must announce the truth to the world. We are looking for the needles in the haystack, and the only way to do that is to go through the entire pile of hay.

God has always been the power behind those who have performed miracles in his name, and the Son of Perdition is the power behind those who rebel against God. The people of the world are a physical facade of the underlying spiritual battle between God and those who want to usurp him.  They will lose; in fact, they already have, they just don’t want to face the truth of it. And their denial will result in their eternal damnation.

You and I need to make sure that whether it be politics, interpersonal relationships, or international agreements that we look for the true cause of the events we are witnessing, and remember that those performing these actions are only the conduit for the ones with the real power.

Thank you for being here, and please remember to subscribe. Also, I will be closing my campaign in just a week or so to send Bibles and study materials to Ugandan Messianic Synagogues who have asked me for help, so please- if you haven’t given, do so now. Anything will help. Here is where you can donate:

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Tonight begins the Sabbath, so Shabbat shalom, and until next time L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Give the Argument About Shabbat Rest a Rest

Every Friday and Saturday I see posts all over the Hebraic Roots and Christian Discussion Groups I am a member of about the Sabbath (Shabbat, in Hebrew), which is the 7th day. Most decry the Christian moving of the Shabbat to a Sunday, and many are very confused about what can and what cannot be done on the Shabbat.

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The Bible tells us all one, definitive thing about the Shabbat- it is to be kept holy. Holy, as I have said many times, simply means to be separated, and the Shabbat is to be holy, i.e. separated from our regular activities and dedicated to rest and to God. There can’t be any reasonable argument against this simple definition of what the Shabbat is: a day to be separated from our regular scheduled activities and dedicated to resting and to God.

The next question is: what, exactly, does it mean to rest?  And, as Shakespeare wrote, “There’s the rub!”

I will not tell you what you should do on the Shabbat. I will also not accept anyone telling me what I should do on the Shabbat; anyone, except God, of course, and he told me that I should rest from my regular work. To me (and you each have to determine what this means for you), resting is not doing that which I normally do on a regular basis that is not restful for me. As for dedicating the day to God, I dedicate every day to God and in this, I may be guilty of not separating the Shabbat from the rest of the week.

Will I follow the strict limitations that are found in the Talmud? No, I will not. I don’t believe that God thinks walking a certain distance is not work, but going a few feet further is work. I do not believe that driving my car is forbidden, and if I want to do work in the garden or around the house, which I don’t normally do during the week, although I will work up a sweat and it is often hard toiling, it is also restful for me in my spirit and my body (I love a good workout.)

Why is driving a car forbidden? We are told not to light a fire on the Shabbat (Exodus 35), and when you drive you are lighting a fire every time the spark plug creates the spark to ignite the atomized fuel in the cylinder.

There are so many rabbinic restrictions on people regarding the Shabbat, and I see neophytes in the Hebraic Roots Movement confused about them. The pressure from others to conform to strict restrictions is a new form of the legalism that the Galatians were being subjected to.  Look- if you want to spend the entire day in a Synagogue or sit quietly at home, not walk very far, not spend any money or doing any kind of physical activity at all (not even making the bed), I do not think that is wrong or a bad thing IF it is what you believe God wants from you.

Personally, on Saturday I will ride my bike, I will spend money if I need to go to the grocery store and I wil go out to brunch with Donna if we feel like it. I will drive my car if I need to go somewhere, and I will do many other things that many people (especially Orthodox Jews) would say I should not be doing. Do I do this in order to purposefully sin against God? Of course not! I do what I do on the Shabbat because I find it restful; if Donna and I want to see a movie on a Saturday, we will go. It is time together, it is restful, and it is not denying God our attention and devotion. That I give to God 24/7/365…and 366 in Leap Years!

I am not telling anyone that they can do whatever they want to do on the Shabbat, but if what they do is restful, enjoyable, connect’s them with family, and includes worship of and communion with God, then as far as I am concerned, that can’t be a bad thing. Maybe I am wrong, and if so, then I will have to ask forgiveness from God for misunderstanding him. I believe he will let me know if I am really off the mark.

If you don’t feel comfortable doing something on the Shabbat, then don’t do it. But don’t not do something just because someone else told you that you can’t. Ask God to show you what he wants from you, and always remember that it is our intrinsic nature to avoid God’s instructions, so filter what you want to do from what you think God wants you to (or not do), and when in doubt go with what you think God wants.

Thank you for being here, and please subscribe, share me out and buy my books. I use the income (what little there is) to send my books and Bibles to people who ask me for them.

And I always welcome comments, so long as you are nice.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch Ha Shem!

Passover Message 2018

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Chag Sameach!! Pesach Tov! Shabbat Shalom!

These are the greetings we will be giving to each other this evening because Passover (Pesach) starts at sundown, and this year (2018) so does Shabbat. Our preparations are twice as important today: not only do we prepare for Shabbat but we also prepare for Pesach.

For those people who keep their home Kosher according to Talmudic (also called Rabbinic) tradition, the plates might be the special, once-a-year Pesach servings. The house will not just be cleaned of dirt and dust, but also everything with any form of leavening in it. The Orthodox will even have the Rabbi confirm this and give them a certificate to state their house is “clean.” The removed foods will be given to the (Gentile) poor.

The Seder plate will be set: we will need chicken (the traditional meat for the Seder since we cannot sacrifice a lamb), a roasted egg, charoset (an apple, walnut, honey and wine mixture), matzo (lotsa matzo!), wine that has been approved as Kosher for Pesach, horse radish, parsley and salt-water. A lamb shank bone is also needed.  All of these food items are part of the Seder, which we celebrate with the reading of the Haggadah.  That is the Passover story, taken from Exodus 12, and as we read from the Haggadah we sample the foods and remember the bitterness of their slavery as we taste of their bitter tears when we dip the parsley in the salt water and eat it. In the middle of the story, just after they’ plagues are recited, we eat the Passover meal. After dinner the children look for the Afikomen (a hidden piece of matzo) so that we can then have desert and complete the reading of the Haggadah.

All told, it is more than a meal- it is an experience.

Over the past twenty years or so Donna and I have shared our Seder with different friends each year, trying to invite those friends who have never experienced a Seder. We use a Messianic Haggadah so that our Gentile friends can see where Yeshua (Jesus) fits into the Seder. It is surprising (I should say, disappointing) that so many of our Gentile friends have no idea that this Seder was what they know as the Last Supper. Their Christian training has done nothing to help them understand their connection to Judaism.

I want to leave you with this interesting thought: did you know that even though Yeshua is called the Passover Lamb because he died for our sins, the real Passover lamb was NOT a sin sacrifice? It was a peace offering, also called a Thanksgiving sacrifice. However, the Yom Kippur sacrifice (which was a goat, not a lamb) is a sin sacrifice. So Yeshua really was a Yom Kippur sacrifice but he performed that function on Passover. Do you know why?

I don’t! But…I do know that because we are cleansed of our sin by Yeshua’s sacrifice we can then come into the presence of God. What Yeshua did was actually perform two sacrificial functions at one time: he made it possible for us to be cleansed of sin which allows us to come into the presence of God and share our thanksgiving meal with him.

If you are having a Seder tonight then may God’s blessing be on you and all with you.

If you are enjoying an Easter ham this Sunday, well…I wish God’s blessings on you if your heart is for Messiah and God, but please consider this: you will be eating something that the person you are celebrating would find to be an abomination on his table.

I will end today’s message with the phrase that concludes every Seder:

לשנה הבאה ב’רושל’ם

(Lashanah haba’ah bi Yerushalayim)

Next year in Jerusalem! 

What Changed After Egypt?

When we read the 4th Commandment in Exodus 20, it reads this way:

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work,  but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns.  For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

But later on, after the Israelites have been in the desert for some 40 years and Moses is about to die, he reviews all that has happened, and when he repeats the 10 Commandments in Deuteronomy 5 , the 4th one changes:

“Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work,  but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do.  Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.”

Do you see the change? The reason for celebrating the Shabbat has been changed! Initially, when the people were freed they were told that God rested on the Shabbat and so they should, also. These were a people that had been in slavery for 400 years and never had a single day’s rest. Slavery isn’t a 9 to 5 job, it is 24/7/365! If God was able to rest, so can they, and it was a totally new life style for them. But later, after 40 years of having a Shabbat, as they were about to enter the land, God changed the reason for celebrating.

They were about to take possession of a land in which, instead of being a slave, they will have slaves of their own. A land where there will be other people living with them who will be working for them instead of the other way around. So they will need to remember how they were slaves, that once they were mistreated and never had a single day’s rest until God provided it for them. Therefore, they were no longer to emulate God just by resting on Shabbat, but also by providing a Shabbat rest for others.

It may seem the reason for celebrating the Shabbat had changed drastically, but there is a common element between the two: whether they were resting as God rested, or providing others rest as God provided for them, they were still emulating God. At first they were told to rest because God rested, and that was something they needed to learn how to do. By the time they were ready to enter the Land the Shabbat had become a regular part of their lifestyle, and the next step was to learn how to allow others to rest from their work with them, just as God had them rest when He did.

From this point in the bible forward, the Shabbat is (almost always) commanded to be observed because we were once slaves in Egypt and now we are free. In fact, if you really look at it, from the time we entered the Promised Land onward, the impetus for the people to emulate God was in that they were once slaves and now they are free. This is the founding principle of God’s plan of salvation: those who were slaves are now free. First we were slaves to Pharaoh, and God freed us through wondrous miracles. He gave us the Torah, which defined, absolutely, sin from righteousness, and so we were able (as Shaul tells us) to identify sinfulness from sinlessness. With Torah we understood that instead of being slaves to a political system, we were still slaves to a spiritual system; more than that, we understood that the freedom to this spiritual system was also provided by God, through Messiah Yeshua.

What changed between Egypt and the Promised Land was not just the reason for celebrating the Shabbat, but our understanding of God’s plan of salvation. It is all about freedom: freedom from a political system, then freedom from a spiritual system, and ultimately freedom from this plane of existence, itself. Whether we are saved by Messiah or still slave to the world system, we are always going to be enslaved by our physicality, our mortality and our flesh. This will not change until we are resurrected into spiritual beings, and then God’s plan of salvation will be completed.

The good news is that for those that have accepted Yeshua as their Messiah, we are already 2/3’s of the way home! Freed from slavery to a world system, freed from slavery to sin, and now just waiting for our resurrected bodies.

I can hardly wait!

Is It Okay to Take a Shabbat Rest from the Shabbat?

How many of you are actively involved in your place of worship? What I mean by “actively involved” is that you do more than just come to services and tithe. Are you in a ministry? Are you on the Council? Do you help out with tasks and work that needs to be done? Do you help to lead liturgy?

When you are involved to the point where you are expected to be there and to help those in charge, the Shabbat can become something you have to do and not something you want to do. And if that happens, I would like to think (this is mainly for myself) that it is OK to feel that way.

I was exceptionally involved with the Messianic Temple where I worshiped in Philadelphia. I started slowly, just making coffee for the Oneg each Shabbat (we had Friday night services), then started to teach the Shabbat school (which now was taking time during the week to prepare), and after some 17 years or so I was on the Council with monthly meetings, helping to process the tithes, helping the Rabbi to lead liturgy (which included giving the message when the Rabbi wasn’t there), and I did all the construction and handy-man work needed. I also helped with the music ministry and was a member of the Dance ministry.

When the Rabbi left to start his own missionary program, those of us on the Council (4 of us) took over, and I was the one who (mostly) ran the Friday night service (liturgy and message), created the liturgy and led the High Holy Days services, and also led the bible study every Wednesday night. All the preparation had to be done during the week, somewhere between my 60 hours a week with work, commute and homelife.

I am not telling you this to brag on myself, but as an example of how much effort I, as well as many, many others, devote to our house of worship. And this was all volunteered- I never received a Shekel. Same thing for where I worship now- I am on the Council (I am the Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer- OY!) and I also help with the liturgy, music, whatever.

In my case, the Shabbat rest isn’t always very restful. Although I love serving the Lord, sometimes it is tough to get myself “up” for it. In truth, as Friday approaches I often feel anxious, and find myself waiting for it to be over.

Do any of you feel that way sometimes?

The place where I worship will probably be completely changed, if not disbanded, in the next few months. The Senior Pastor is stepping down, and the Assemblies of God will be taking over the church. It is currently (as it has been for years) a Hebraic Roots congregation, which is not the typical A of G church, but the Presbyter has been very accommodating, and we have been a sovereign church under the A of G, so they have pretty much left us alone. However, now that we are so small we don’t qualify as sovereign anymore (we cannot even meet our own bylaws for Council membership) and the Senior Pastor is going to be gone (we do not have any A of G credentialed Pastor to replace him), the A of G will reclassify us as a District church, and will put someone in charge. That means we will be having Sunday services (we will need to find another building) and (most likely) will not be a Hebraic Roots congregation. Consequently, the few remaining congregants will have to find somewhere else to worship, and I will absolutely NOT be a member of the typical Assemblies of God church. Their recent change of position regarding Israel is against God. As a stand-alone Hebraic Roots church I have no problem with the “legal” A of G association, but to worship as they do is not going to happen for me.

So, what will I do? I will do nothing. Really- no church, no Messianic Synagogue, no Home Worship groups, nothing but my own Sabbath rest from the Sabbath. I confess that Shabbat has become a bit of a burden the past year or so, especially since the Pastor has been out of town a lot and I have been running the show in his absence. I admit that I’m tired of doing it, and when what you are doing is supposed to be a joy, but it is a drag, then you need to get away for a while.

So, for me, I will be taking a Sabbath rest from the Sabbath. That doesn’t mean I will ignore the Sabbath- not a chance, but I will just be resting from running the services for everyone else’s Sabbath. Even the Priests under King David were given rest from their duties on a regular basis, so why not me? Or you?

Here’s the really hard thing to confess to you: I am actually hoping that the A of G will not replace our Pastor with a Hebraic Roots Pastor so that I can take off. If we continue as Hebraic Roots, I will have to stay because that will be (for me) a sign from the Lord that He is not done with me there. Not yet.

So, after my little kvetch about being tired, I want to say that if you ever feel that you need to take a Shabbat rest from the Shabbat, it is OK. I do believe, since the Levites were allowed rest, that God will also allow us rest from the obligations of running a service (so long as there is someone else there to handle things) now and then. I am not preaching or even suggesting you do not honor the Shabbat- that we must always do- but if you want to stay home and relax with family, or just by yourself, that is OK. In fact, I will go as  far as to say it should be done every once in awhile.

We all need to change our routines now and then. There is a word for when we do the same things the same way all the time, and that word is: stagnation.

 

Pruning hurts, but it is a necessary pain

I wonder if the place where I worship will even be here in a year. We have a very small congregation, and need to disassociate ourselves with the Assembly of God, which will result in a significant loss of available funds. It’s a long story and not for print, but suffice it to say we are being “realigned” (as our Senior Pastor calls it), and this realignment is painful.

Maybe lethal- who knows?

Some of the people who have been faithful and constant are feeling led to serve in other congregations and churches; even though they still come on Friday nights, they also go to other places to help on some Friday’s (so we don’t see them) and Sunday services. One or two have indicated they will probably leave completely (on good terms, of course) because they feel led to go elsewhere.

I don’t see this, as some might, as a rebellion or desertion: it is pruning. When a branch gives forth good fruit, it is cut off from the main trunk and replanted elsewhere, so that it can grow more than it would be able to on the tree that first nourished it. It is painful but it is necessary for growth. Of course, being cut off and replanted is tough- it hurts, you miss the regular flow of nourishment you first received, and it is scary. The root that has fed you for many years is now gone, and you are on your own.

It’s like finally moving out of your Mother’s basement.

We are in a realignment, in that the mission of the Zionist Revival Center (our website is: zionistrevivalcenter.org) has moved from the cookie-cutter “Save-the-World” Christian mission to being a teaching ministry. Not just to teach Christians about their Hebraic Roots (which is a major part), but to teach Christian churches what is their true role in the plan of Salvation. That being that the “Church” is grafted onto the Tree of Life, which is the Torah. And, as is taught throughout the New Covenant writings, being grafted on means feeding from that one root, which God provided to all in His Word.  To be able to do what God has planned for the Gentiles who have been saved by Messiah Yeshua, all churches need to be one with Israel and support the Jewish people. This is, unfortunately, not the standard teaching in most Christian churches, who reject Judaism (Israel, the Jewish people and the Torah) because of nearly two thousand years of wrongful teaching.

Since we are teaching “against the tide” of traditional Christian understanding, getting the word out will be difficult; getting congregants will be even more difficult, and we really need to trust God to help us. You see, there are so many churches in Melbourne (Florida) that if you spit in any direction on a windy day, it will land on some church. We want to teach the “Church” it’s role in God’s plan of salvation, and we also want our congregation to grow, but we don’t want to “steal” the sheep from other places, so it is a sort of balancing act. We need to work with the other churches, and stealing their members is not going to help us reach that goal, so we are facing a difficult road.

But, then again, with God all things are possible. I see us fulfilling an essential role and I totally agree with our vision/mission.

For our own people, we are going to have different Shabbat services to “mix it up”; one Friday will be song worship, one Friday teaching, one Friday testimonials, one Friday prayer worship, etc. We will have five different types of Shabbat services, scheduled ahead of time, and we expect that those who like music will come to that worship service, but those who don’t, won’t (on that Friday); those who like prayer will come to prayer services but those that don’t want to be in prayer for an hour or so, won’t (on that Friday.)

In the long run, who knows what this will do? That is why I started out saying that we may end up pruning ourselves- the scary thought is when you cut yourself off, how do you replant yourself?

This blog is my ministry, and I would love for it to grow. I guess I need to get back on Face Book, Twitter, Google Plus (and whatever) other social media in order to gain wider exposure. I trust in God to make things happen, but I also believe He expects us to show that trust by stepping out as if we already knew what was going to happen. Abraham didn’t call AAA for a Trip Tik when God told him to leave Ur- he just up and left. That’s what real faith is- leaping without looking because you trust God to make sure there is something there to land on.

Please pray for our center, for our mission to be fulfilled, and for the Gentile world to come back to it’s roots- too many churches have cut themselves off from the very root that feeds them. I talk about this in my book, in the chapter called, “You Can’t Get Pears from an Apple Tree”- if the Gentiles that have been saved by Jesus want to be like Jesus, then they need to live and worship as Jesus did.

Unfortunately, that isn’t what traditional Christianity teaches.

Parashah V’yegash (and he approached) Genesis 44:18 – 47:27

Joseph has kept his true identity a secret from his brothers, and after setting up Benjamin to take the fall for robbing from him, Joseph now has them where they believe that Benjamin will be kept as a life-long slave to the Grand Vizier of Egypt, and this will just kill Israel.  Judah steps forth, as the guarantor for the boy, and offers a beautifully poignant plea on behalf of Benjamin, offering to give his own life in servitude if only Benjamin may be allowed to return to his father, or else the fact that Benjamin is being left in Egypt will kill their father.

At this point Joseph has heard enough, and is convinced of the truth of the T’shuvah (turning from sin) and repentance his brothers have done after the way they treated him as a child. He reveals who he really is to them, and immediately defers any fear of retribution they may have. He gives them assurance that he knows God was the one who placed him where he is so that he could save his family (reminds me of what Mordecai says to Hadassah/Esther, that maybe she was queen and in her position for such a time as they were going through.)

The brothers are overjoyed to see Joseph alive, and with Pharaoh’s approval and help, the entire family of Israel (67 in Canaan and 3 in Egypt, totaling 70) move to Goshen, and thus is planted the seed of a nation. This is why God tells Israel in a dream to go to Egypt, and foretells of the 400 years before they will be able to come back to the land God promised them.

There is so much to talk about regarding Joseph’s spiritual perception. Here is an innocent and God-fearing man who has been mistreated by family, unjustly accused by his master’s wife, forgotten by one who owed him a debt and unfairly jailed for years, yet when he has it in his power to revenge himself on those that caused it all to happen, he forgives and consoles them. He rightly (or better yet, righteously) accounts the events in his life that led to where he is as the work of God. He sees past the obvious and realizes the truth of the meaning of his life, his ups and downs, and all that has led to this moment.

We need to have revelation, just as Joseph did, as to what God is doing in our lives. Joseph’s brothers were blind to his true identity. To be fair, who would have expected to see your brother as Grand Vizier of Egypt when 13 years earlier he was sold into slavery? Yet, as an Egyptian, Joseph would have been clean shaven- no full beard (that a Hebrew would have) to hide his face. Even though it is 13 years later, his face would still be very recognizable, especially to his brothers. His voice should be very similar, also. Yet they didn’t recognize him at all- their expectations of who they were going to see blinded them to be able to see their very own brother, right there in front of them.

That is also what happened with Yeshua: the expectations the Jewish people had for their Messiah was that He would be a Rambo- someone who would lead them in gaining political freedom from Rome. Yeshua wasn’t here for that, and the Scriptures also were clear about the Messiah’s spiritual leadership. When it comes to prophecies about the regathering of the people to the land, it is always God that is the progenitor of that event. Yeshua didn’t meet their expectations, and as such many did not have revealed to them the truth of His ministry and what He was there to do.

When I was a salesman, I learned that perception is everything- once someone perceives the value to be greater than the cost, you have a sale. The value is built up by creating the expectation of the rewards the buyer will receive once they own this thing. When our expectations are unrealistic, due to marketing hype, our personal desire for what we want something to be, or just because we were told to expect something by someone else, there is often much disappointment when that “thing” doesn’t meet our expectations. When we have it and finally realize it is not what we expected, the truth is revealed; but, by then, it is too late.

The end times are very near- Yeshua told the people they could read the signs of the weather but not the signs of the times (Matthew 16:3), and He chided them for their blindness. It was their unrealistic expectations that blinded them, and we are going to be blinded, too, if we expect anything but what the bible tells us is going to happen.

Keep your eyes open for the unexpected- in fact, expect it! Shaul (Paul) tells us that the End Days will come upon us like a thief in the night (Thessalonians 5:2) and so we must always be watching. There are many parables Yeshua tells about being prepared and not knowing when He will return, but He does tell us what signs to look for.

You don’t need to look for Yeshua because His return will not be a secret one- He’ll be riding on the clouds, the entire sky will be filled with His presence. I don’t think you will need to strain to see that. But the Anti-Christ will be the exact opposite at the beginning- he will work secretly, in shadows and subversively until he comes to full power, so you need to watch for him, but maybe not for any one person. Look at the fruits, as Yeshua told us, because you can tell the good tree from the bad tree by the type and kind of fruit it produces. No one really knows who the Anti-Christ is, and as far as I am concerned, I don’t know if it is really just one person. The United Nations seems to be acting just as we would expect the enemy to act, yet it is not one person. If the UN is not the Anti-Christ, it is unquestionably one of the tools of the enemy. It’s fruit is rotten and full of worms.

The point today is this: look for the fruits, do not let yourself be blinded by human expectations or what you have been told by your religious leaders alone- read the bible, read Revelations (I don’t think anyone really can understand it, but it will help a lot just to be familiar with the process) and especially read what Yeshua tells us about the End Days. Knowledge is power, and as the old adage says, “Luck favor’s the prepared”, so make your own luck by knowing what to look for and not blinding yourself with unrealistic expectations. Perceive with spiritual eyes, ask the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to see for you so that you will not be like the blind man being led by another blind man, with the end result that they both fall into a hole.

Perception is everything- so be as wise as serpents and gentle as doves, let the Ruach guide your perception so that you will not be blinded by human expectations.

Parashah Ekev (because) Deuteronomy 7:12 – 11:25

This parashah has Moses delivering the same message to the Israelites repeated three times; essentially, Moses is telling them that “God has your back!”

He retells about the 40 years in the desert, the way God handled the Egyptians (and will be able to handle the Canaanites, just the same way), about how God gave the tablets to Moses, about how God fed them in the desert (in 8:3 Moses tells us we do not live by bread alone) and provided water from the rocks. He reminds them how God punished them for their rebellions, but only to test them and make their faith stronger. Moses reminds them of the sin of the Golden Calf, and how he often had to beg God not to destroy the people.

This message- God protected you, God fed you, God brought you to this land, yet you have constantly rebelled against Him, causing you to suffer. And, despite all this, God has always forgiven you and as long as you obey Him He will continue to watch over you, as He has for the past 40 years- is repeated three times throughout this parashah. But do you think they remembered?

Moses also warns them not to fall into worshiping the idols of the people they are to soon conquer or they will be forsaken by God and ejected from the land.

Moses also tells them, in no uncertain way, to never get so comfortable with the wonderful things they will have when they are settled in the land that they start to think they actually deserve it- not so. They are to remember that they are there only because God loved their fathers and keeps His promises.

Throughout this book Moses pounds into their skulls, over and over and over, that God will take care of them so long as they obey Him. Over, and over, and over….and over!

It didn’t seem to do any good, did it?

And have we learned from this? Every bible-based religion that has come after the Jewish people, from Catholicism to Protestantism to Methodism to whatever: every single one of these religions that profess to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob have not only made all the same mistakes that the Israelites made, but have made worse ones, yet! They have not just ignored the Torah, they have taught that the very living Torah, Jesus (Yeshua) told them to ignore it! They teach that the Torah is only for Jews, and they only need the blood of Christ to give them freedom from sin.

Yo, Bro- hate to tell ‘ya, but that blood was shed so that you could be free from sin; it wasn’t shed so you could be free from Torah. Yeshua taught from, of, and about the essence of Torah, and His Talmudim (Disciples) after Him did nothing but confirm Torah. The only difference is that the Gentile converts to Judaism (that is what you were in the First Century when you accepted Yeshua as your Messiah) ) were not held as strictly accountable to every law in Torah AT FIRST when they accepted Messiah Yeshua. AT FIRST– that means they were given 4 restrictions (Acts 15:19-21) only as a start to learn all the laws in Torah. It is clear in the bible that the Elders expected these converts to Judaism to pick up the rest as they heard the Torah preached and taught in the temple.

We have heard from God, we have seen His wonders, we have known His punishment and we have received His love and forgiveness. Everything that we ever needed, need now or ever will need, God has taken care of for us. Yet, we still rebel, we still forget, we still do wrong.

OY! Was Mashuganas!

It’s all really simple- God gave the Torah to the children of the Patriarchs so that they could learn from it how to live, and as such, be an example to the rest of the world. When that didn’t work, He gave up His only son to provide the ultimate Get Out of Jail card for us, but that did NOT overrule Torah. It simply provided another means of salvation that the Torah couldn’t- not because Torah is unable to do so, but because we are unable to follow Torah.

This parashah holds the same message for us that it held for the children of Israel before they entered the land God promised them- do what is right in God’s eyes, remember how He cares for you, remember how unworthy you are of that care, be grateful and show your gratefulness through obedience.

God’s got our back and we should be humbly grateful to Him. Our gratitude should be demonstrated every minute of every day by following, as best as we can, the instructions He gave us about how to worship Him and treat each other.

Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? So, then, why can’t we do it?

Parashah D’varim (words) Deuteronomy 1 – 3:22

This is the 5th and last book of the Torah. Moses gives three discourses: the first is review of their 40 year journey, the second (beginning at 4:44) deals with the foundations of the covenant with a review of the laws and commandments God has given, and the third discourse begins in Chapter 28, that one being on how to enforce the laws now that they are entering the land of promise.

At the end, Moses warns that no one should take away, or add to, any of the words written in this book. Does that mean the entire Torah, or just Deuteronomy?

If you ask me, it’s the entire Torah because the chapters and books are not very distinguishable in the Torah. The Torah is a single scroll, and the only way to tell where one book ends and another begins is that there is more space between the end of the sentences. Here is a sample of what the Torah looks like when there is a clear separation between a chapter or a page.

It is one book and it is one story. It is all about the one and only God and His choice of a people to represent Him; a people who were chosen to present His laws and commandments to the world. These laws and commandments are what will help lead us away from the sinful life our nature desires and to the sinless life that will bring us closer to God.

The Torah is a road map that leads us away from destruction; it shows us the path to salvation.

The Torah was given to the Jewish people because Abraham was so faithful that God chose him to be His means of salvation for the world. Before Abraham, it was Noah. Since Abraham, there have been many people that have saved the Jewish people from their own, well-deserved punishment, and with Messiah Yeshua there was no longer any need for Judges or Kings, because He is all of that, and more.

Deuteronomy, which is the Gentile name for the book called D’varim, reviews what we are told in the previous 4 books and serves as a reminder of what the people must do to faithfully follow God’s commandments. It is the recap, the “Reader’s Digest” version of the first four books. If you only read this fifth book of the Torah, you would still get the meaning and gist of the first four books, although you wouldn’t have the deeper understanding, the Drash, that you can enjoy when you have read the entire Torah.

The most wonderful thing about the bible, and the Torah is just the “warm-up”, is that God’s word has new revelations every time we read it. You could read this 50 times, but when you go over it the 51st time the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) will suddenly reveal to you something new, something that will help you to understand God better and to have a deeper and more fulfilling relationship with Him, and you will think to yourself, “How could I have not seen this before?”

It’s because we need to have spiritual eyes and spiritual ears when we read the Torah. For that matter, when we read anything in the Bible, since it is all the word of God. And these spiritual things take time to develop.

As we go through this book together, let’s read what is there and remember where we read it before. D’varim is the reminder to the people of all they have been through and what they were taught: how to live, how to worship, and how to treat each other. I think it is (no surprise here) very appropriate timing that this book of the Torah, which is a reminder and sort of memorial, comes right on the eve of Tisha B’Av, the 9th Day of Av, a day of mourning and memorial of the worst things that have happened to the Jewish people ever since we refused to enter the land.

That’s exactly where D’varim starts- Moses reminding the people that they refused to enter the land. Did you know that day was the 9th day of Av?

 

More from the Holy Land

I have been a bit remorse in getting to this blog this week, and most likely will be so next week, too. I am sure you will forgive me, knowing that I am touring the holy Land and quite busy all day. We have been on a full schedule, and now as Shabbat comes to an end, we are going to take a nice “Shabbat Walk” hike to a natural spring. I spent the entire day just resting and talking with a friend who I rarely get to talk to, and it was great.

Floating in the Dead Sea as we talked was nice, too!

I have seen communities here in Israel, the kind the media calls “obstacles to peace” and am amazed at how much lying and misrepresentation there is in America about the truth of the relationship between Jews and Arabs in Israel.

Our guide, Yosi, is an Israeli who served and fought in the IDF, has written a book about his experiences, and is a very Godly man, with very practical ideas. His testimony about Jew and Arab relations, along with the confirmation we have received from people living in communities where they live on the border, literally, of the Syrian terrorists, is that Jews and Arabs have no problem with each other: it is the minority made up of of extremists and the satanically-influenced (that part is my own belief) lies of the media that make the world believe it is all the Jews’ fault.

I saw a man and his family walking to the community pool in flip-flops and bathing suits, and he had an M-16 over his shoulder. Every soldier I have seen in the streets, not on patrol but just walking somewhere, has a gun.

We in America have had no idea what life here is like except when we were going through a similar thing during the revolutionary days.

Yet, they stay. Despite potential for terrorist attack, or from any of the surrounding nations, despite hateful and lying media slurs and condemnation, despite the world coming against them, the people of Israel stay and will not leave. Why? Because this is their land. Not just Jerusalem, but the Golan Heights, the Jordan Valley, all of the land God promised, even those parts that are now Jordanian and Syrian. It is all theirs.

I am a Jew- it is my land, too. I don’t live here, but let me tell you this- if it was possible, I would. Why? The reason is simple: IT IS MY LAND! God gave this land to me and I am supposed to live on it; no one should ever take it away. And I would never let it go without a fight. Of course, I don’t live here, and probably never will, but I am still a part of this land.

I am here now, this very moment, and the land and I are together;  I will always have a part of my heart here, and the land will always be a part of me.

I am writing this sitting at a desk, and directly to my right is the large patio door leading to the balcony overseeing the Dead Sea, with the Jordan Rift mountains all around us.  It is magnificent! It is breathtaking. It is humbling.  The awesome power of God to create mountains that are so powerful, so absolutely desolate and yet, at the same time, so absolutely beautiful. Not to mention all the history they have witnessed.

This is the place to come if you really want to know what the Jewish world is like, and to get close to God. Talk to these Jews, who have gone through hardship and suffering, yet who still are friendly and happy to help you. Oh, yes- they seem to be impolite, they  yell and walk right through you, but it’s just because they are practical and have no time for “niceties” – they are too busy living.

We in America have it so soft and so easy that we end up spiritualizing everything because we are relaxing in our high-back chairs,, watching the game on our 62″ HD TV, and thinking about God on the commercial breaks.  We thank Him for His goodness and then go back to the game.

These people are survivors who are descendants of pioneers:- they are tough, they are determined, and they are not going to give you any “bull” or accept any from you. They talk from their heart, honestly, and expect the same back. That is why, to we soft and self-absorbed Americans, they seem harsh and unfriendly. They aren’t, please believe that- they are just not interested in “fluff.”

Their practical approach to God is simply that God wants us to be good to each other, help the needy and put doing good over doing what religion says is required. What I mean by that is that if you are passing by a man who is sickly and needs help as you go to the Temple, and you do not help him because by touching him and feeding him you would become unclean and could not then worship God, you have done wrong. God would prefer that you do not worship or sacrifice to him if it means not helping that man. Yeshua told us (and showed us) about this when He healed on the Shabbat, when He told the parable of the Good Samaritan, and when He (gently) chastised Martha for cleaning and cooking while Mary listened to Him talk.

Too often people are so spiritual that they spiritualize themselves right past God. They are so anxious to act “righteous” and be “holy” that they forget the best way to do that is to dress down and wash someone’s feet. That is the lesson Yeshua was trying to teach the Disciples when He washed their feet.

The bottom line is that it is what we do for each other every day that God wants to see. What we do for Him, specifically religious rites and ceremonies, are not as important to Him as what we do for each other. Whatever sacrifice you make to God needs to be one that smells nice to Him- loving concern for others smells nice, giving to the poor and needy smells nice, helping people get somewhere they need to go smells nice.  Not leaving a tip for the waiter but leaving a tract stinks like yesterday’s diapers. Saying you are going to do something for someone then copping out reeks of two week old eggs. Making a big deal about your tithe or your giving to a charity or your wonderful experiences with God when you haven’t really had any is a stench that will reach to heaven and back again.

Our guide Yosi said it so very well: If you could sing songs and dance for Jesus or give food to a hungry person, which would you do?”

Which do you think would please God more?