Speaking Can’t be Erased

There is a story I once heard that provides the basis for today’s message.

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A man once spread gossip about his Rabbi. Later, he felt bad about it and went to his Rabbi to apologize. He asked if there was anything he could do to make it better, and the Rabbi asked him, “Do you have a feather pillow?” The man, a little taken back, said that he did. The Rabbi told him “Take the pillow into a large field of grass on a windy day, split the top open and swing the pillow around your head. Then, come back to me.”

The man did as he was told, and when he went back the Rabbi asked what happened. The man said, “It was really beautiful, Rabbi. The feathers floated here and there, everywhere, and it looked like snow. But, Rabbi…what does this have to do with my spreading gossip about you?”

The Rabbi said, “Go back out to that field and pick up all the feathers.”

Gossip isn’t the only thing we do that cannot be taken back. Angry words, nasty comments, and a discompassionate attitude are all things that, once done, cannot be retracted.

Oh, yes- we can apologize, and we may be forgiven, but for most people, the rule is “Once bitten, twice shy.” And many people, to their own detriment, will take the attitude that once you do something to them they don’t like, they will never have anything to do with you, at all.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean trusting again, it doesn’t mean loving again, and it doesn’t mean wanting to be friends again. Forgiving others who hurt us is something we must do, not for their sake but for our own. We will never get past the hurt until we forgive. But, as I said, forgiving doesn’t mean having to re-establish the previous relationship. I can be forgiven for saying something, but that person doesn’t have to trust me or even speak to me, ever again.

The Bible is clear that we must always watch what we say. We read about it in Proverbs, in Psalms, in the Gospels and the Epistles. We must always be wary of what we say and how we say it, if not only to avoid hurting someone but (more importantly) not to do or say anything that will dishonor God.

Remember in Psalm 51, when David asked God to forgive him for the sin he committed against Uriah, the Hittite and with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba? He said (Psalm51:4):

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight;

Any and all sins we commit are, first and foremost, against God because we have done something he said we must not do. And when we ask for forgiveness, it must first be from God. When we come to judgment, it will be God who is the judge, so we better make sure we have nothing for him to hold against us. If we only go to the one we sinned against to ask forgiveness, even if he (or she) forgives us, they are not God.

When God forgives us, we have re-established our relationship with him; when someone else forgives us, it doesn’t have anything at all to do with our relationship with God. It affects their relationship with God, but not ours.

No one other than God can forgive your sins, and because there is no longer any temple in Jerusalem (where the Torah commands we must bring our sin sacrifice) the only way to receive forgiveness of our sins today is through the substitutionary sacrifice that Yeshua ha Maschiach made for us.

Therefore, be very, VERY careful what you say. Always think before you speak, and if you have even the slightest doubt that what you are saying (or writing) may be taken the wrong way, then shut up!

I say this not as someone who knows how to shut up, but as someone who has made a profession of not shutting up in time.

I know all about sin because I have so much experience doing it. God forgive me for my weakness and strengthen me to sin less each day.

Amen!

Thank you for being here and please share me out to help this ministry to grow. I never ask for money, I just want to spread the truth about God so that people can make an informed decision, based not on their religious doctrine but on what God says.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch haShem!

Parashah Balak 2019 (Balak) Numbers 22:2 – 25:9

The Israelites had just defeated Og and Sihon and were encamped outside the border of Moab. The king, Balak, has emissaries go to Bilyam (that is the correct pronunciation of his name), a sorcerer of renown, asking that he come and curse the Israelites so that they will not be able to defeat Balak’s armies. Bilyam, who is a sorcerer and user of divination (both of these considered sinful by Adonai) sacrifices and calls on Adonai for guidance. And Adonai answers him! He tells him not to go, and Bilyam obeys, sending the emissaries back to Balak.

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This isn’t acceptable to Balak, who sends more important men with promises of greater reward. Bilyam tells this second group of emissaries (Numbers 22:18):

 And Bilyam answered and said unto the servants of Balak: “If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord, my God, to do anything, small or great.”

However, after saying he can’t go against God, for some reason he again asks God if he can go, and God says if he is called then he can go. On the way, God sends an angel to prevent Bilyam from going, and although Bilyam doesn’t see the angel, his donkey does. The donkey avoids the angel no less than three times, the third time (with no way to pass) the donkey stopped and dropped to its knees. As Bilyam beats it with a stick, the donkey is given the power of speech by God and talks to Bilyam.  Then God allows Bilyam to see the angel, sword drawn and ready to kill, and Bilyam asks forgiveness for going and says he will return.

But God has a better plan and tells Bilyam to go, ordering him to say only what God gives him to say. Bilyam arrives, and three times instead of cursing the people, he blesses them. This infuriates Balak, who sends Bilyam back without pay.

The parashah ends with the Israelites being seduced into sin by the Moabite women, and in the midst of a plague sent by Adonai to punish them, Pincus, the son of Aaron, stays the plague by killing an Israelite and Moabite woman who were flaunting their sinful relationship right in front of Moses.

Later in the Bible, we learn that this seduction (which was designed to make the people sin and have God destroy them) was the brainchild of Bilyam!

There is just so much in here to work with. However, I am going to do something different than I usually do with this parashah, and talk about Bilyam’s seemingly schizophrenic personality.

Let’s first look at something Jeremiah will say hundreds of years from this time, in Jeremiah 17:9:

 The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceeding weak- who can know it?

Bilyam is a study in contradiction. He comes from Mesopotamia, the same place where Abraham came from, and we know that Bilyam knows of God because (as we saw above) he refers to God as “the Lord, my God.”  This makes him a “Believer”, yet he is also a known sorcerer and diviner, which God strictly forbade his people to perform.

Like Bilyam, our desires, our thoughts, and our actions are not always completely in accordance with our stated beliefs. We may be cruel to our loved ones, yet gentle and compassionate to a pet. We may worship every Shabbat and be “Born Again”, but we sin during the week and figure it will be OK because we will ask for forgiveness at services later that week.

Human beings are not perfect (oh- really? What a surprise!) and we will often do that which we don’t really want to do, and more often than not, not do what we want to do. Hmmm….doesn’t that sound like someone else you know? Maybe that nice Jewish tent-maker from Tarsus? (Romans 7:18.)

Bilyam did as God said when he first asked to go with the king’s men by refusing to go. But the second time they came back Bilyam was told that if the men call him, he can go but speak only what God tells him to say. Yet, after giving Bilyam the OK to go, God sends the angel to stop him, even if it had to kill him.

Why did God say go if he didn’t want him to go?

The Talmud says that audacity may prevail even before God. It states that Bilyam’s insistence to go wrested from God his consent to go, but God also warned him of the consequences, saying that he finds no pleasure in the destruction of sinners, but if he (Bilyam) is bound to go, then go. In that case, it makes sense: God already said not to go, but Bilyam insisted that he really wanted to go, so God said, essentially, “If you are determined to go, then go but remember that I already told you not to go and when I say something, I mean it!”

With all due respect to the Talmud, I have a different idea. I believe that the second time Bilyam asked if he could go, knowing that God already told him these people cannot be cursed because they are blessed, God said that if Bilyam was being summoned by the king by royal order, then he can go.

In other words, if Balak was giving a royal command that Bilyam must go to him, then God would give permission to go only so that Bilyam does not disobey a royal order. However, this second group was not ordering him to go, they were still just asking. There was no royal command to appear, so when Bilyam went, he was really going because he wanted the reward and intended to do as Balak asked, going against God’s commandment not to curse the people. That is why God sent the angel to stop him.

We all have the potential to be obedient and disobedient, based solely on our innate selfishness and iniquity. This is something that must be conquered, but to conquer it we must first take possession of it. What I mean is that we must recognize our own natural sinfulness; when we recognize what we are (know thyself?) then we can recognize what we are doing. How many people do you know that do something terrible without really realizing what they are doing? They speak cruelly to others, they act without compassion, or they steal and cheat but excuse it away. They do these things, and many times think they are really a nice person.

Since I have been saved by Messiah Yeshua, I say: “I used to be a sinner that rationalized my sins; now I am a sinner who regrets my sins.”

This confession of mine demonstrates what I am talking about- we were sinners who were saved when our sins were forgiven, but we are still sinners!! Being forgiven for our sins means being forgiven for the ones we have performed, not for anything that comes after. We are required to repent and ask forgiveness for every single sin we commit throughout our lifetime. There is no automatic forgiveness clause in the “Sinner’s Prayer.”

The lesson to learn from this parashah is that we are all sinners at heart, and only when we can own up to our own iniquity, realize that it is always there, and always will be there whether we are “saved” or not, then we will better be able to recognize when we do sin. We will also know when we want to sin and thereby work (with God’s help through his Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit) to overcome that sin.

One sin at a time. We can never be sinless, but we can always sin less; pray for forgiveness, ask for help in recognizing sin before you do it, and settle for one less sin each day.

That is my daily prayer, and I think it is a good one.

Thank you for being here. Please (as I always ask) subscribe and my campaign on Gofundme to send Bibles and Bible study materials to three Ugandan Messianic synagogues will be shut down next Friday, July 19 so if you haven’t donated, please do so now. Here is the link:

Ugandan Synagogue Help

Tonight begins the Shabbat, so Shabbat Shalom!

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Which is More Important?

Like many people, I get my best ideas when I am doing something totally different than working, such as when I am in the shower or riding my bicycle.

The other day, as I was riding along on my bike and praying, I started to think about which would be more important for us as Believers to do: is it more important to not sin or is it more important to repent of our sin?

If you prefer to watch a video, click on this link: Watch the video.

The answer seems obvious- just don’t sin. If we don’t sin, then we have nothing to repent of and nothing to be concerned about because not sinning is the pathway to salvation.

I know- you are saying that we are saved by faith, not works, but the truth is if we lived a sinless life, we would be demonstrating perfect faith, wouldn’t we? In fact, if we lived a sinless life, as Yeshua did, we could be certain of salvation.

Of course, it then struck me that there is a significant fly in the ointment with regard to living a sinless life, which is this:  no one can live a sinless life.

TIME OUT

There are just too many places where the Bible tells us that we all sin, so I am not going to quote chapter and verse. If you need to verify that we all sin, do the research. It will be a good experience for you.

TIME IN

I often say “We can never be sinless, but we can always sin less“, and that is how I try to live out my life, but even that is hard to do. So what is left to us? Repentance, and trying harder.

The obvious answer is not the right answer because even though living a sinless life is what we want to do, it is not possible, so the most important thing to do is to repent. And I mean REAL repentance, not just saying”

 

 

and going on with our life as if we did nothing wrong, thinking a simple apology is enough.

It isn’t. God sees and knows the heart and minds of everyone, so if you are not really sorry for having sinned against him- and every sin is first and foremost a sin against God- he will know. He won’t accept insincerity and he can’t be fooled.

And it gets worse: many, many people have their religious leaders telling them that if they confess their sins they can be forgiven. Well, that is biblically accurate, but the truth is that we have to really feel bad about sinning, not just confess we did it and continue to sin. Unrepentant repentance may get you absolved by a Priest or given the “OK” by your Pastor, but it won’t hold water with the Big Guy upstairs. As for mainstream Jews, meaning Jews who haven’t accepted Yeshua yet, repentance is necessary but they also have to accept Yeshua as their Messiah because, without him, there is no means to be forgiven since the Jerusalem temple is gone, and that was the only place (according to the Torah) where a sin sacrifice could be accepted.

Without Yeshua’s substitutionary sacrifice, no one (Jew or Gentile) can be forgiven of their sin.

Therefore, the answer to my original question is this: it is more important to be truly repentant than it is to not sin because we cannot avoid sinning but we can always be repentant. And when we really feel bad about something, it motivates us to better discipline ourselves to not do that something, again. True- it doesn’t always work out that way, but that’s no excuse to stop trying.

That old cop-out “I am what I am” may be OK for Popeye, but not for those who want to please God.

Thank you for being here and please remember to subscribe. Also, I am going to have to wind down my campaign to send Bibles and Bible study materials to poor Ugandans who follow this ministry, so please send something to help me to help them at the link below:

Ugandan Ministry Appeal

Please help- I don’t usually send money through the Internet, but this is a legit cause, and I barely have 1/3 of what I need. I will end up paying for the copies of my books they want out of my own pocket, so please help with money for Messianic Bibles and prayer shawls, and especially just to help defray the exorbitant cost of mailing these items.

Remember that God blesses those who bless others.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

 

Parashah Metzora 2019 (laws for the leper) Leviticus 14 – 15

These two chapters deal with the instructions for cleansing a person from the skin disease usually identified as leprosy (Tzara’at in Hebrew), as well as cleansing of the house if there is a form of Tzara’at (probably an infectious or dangerous mold) in the plaster of the house.  Chapter 15 deals with the instructions regarding any issuance of a bodily fluid.

If you prefer to watch a video, click on this link: Watch the video.

The prior chapters taught us how the Cohen (Priest) is to identify Tzara’at in a person and these chapters give God’s instructions for the cleansing, once it has been determined that the person is no longer unclean (or infectious.) Only after the person has been completely cleaned may they re-enter the camp and the Sanctuary.

The basic formula is to bring two animals for sacrifice: one is a sin sacrifice and the other a burnt offering. The sacrifices are performed in this order since the sin sacrifice cleanses the person (spiritually) and the burnt offering represents their rededication to total commitment in obeying God’s instructions.

What I would like to talk about is the instruction in Leviticus 14:14, which is the placing of some of the blood of the guilt offering on the tip of the right ear, the thumb of the right hand, and the big toe of the right foot.  This is the same procedure when anointing a Cohen.

This placing of the blood represents a consecration of the entire body. We know that placing the blood of the sacrifice on the horns of the altar, as well as sprinkling it on something, makes that thing holy. So, too, the placing of this blood on a person makes them holy, or more correctly in this case, re-consecrates them to the Lord.

The reason for placing it on the ear, thumb, and foot is explained in the Chumash this way: the priest must have his ears consecrated so that he will always be attentive to the commands of God; his hands are consecrated so that at all times he will do God’s will; and his feet consecrated to walk from that time on in holy ways.

When we review the anointing of the Cohanim and the cleansing of people from their sins, we see a pattern. We first ask for forgiveness through the sin and/or guilt sacrifice (this places us in a spiritually clean condition), followed by a burnt sacrifice which represents our total devotion to God. Finally, the blood which cleanses us from the sin is also used to anoint and consecrate us to doing as God instructs.

Only after we have been made “whole” again can we re-enter the camp (physical world), the community (spiritual world), and the Sanctuary (presence of God.)

Today, we don’t bring our sacrifice to the Temple in Jerusalem for two reasons: first, it isn’t there anymore (DUH!) and second, we don’t need to because the sacrifice of Messiah Yeshua replaced that one part of the sacrificial system. Thanks to Yeshua, we can be forgiven of our sins right in the comfort of our own home. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t perform, at least in our hearts and minds, the placing of the blood on our ear, thumb, and foot! That action was very important because of what it symbolized, and if we forget about it (because we don’t really have any blood with us) we might neglect to mentally and spiritually rededicate ourselves.

You may ask, “Why do we have to rededicate ourselves at all?” The answer is because when we sin we separate ourselves from God: sin places us outside the camp of the Almighty. We are not under his wings, not in his presence, and thereby unable to properly serve him in whatever house of worship you go to.

This is a hard word to hear, but the Torah tells us it is a fact: when we sin, we are separated from God and outside of his presence. In order to reenter his presence, we must first be cleansed of that sin, then rededicate ourselves to hearing, doing and walking as God directs. Those directions are on the roadmap called the Torah.

So, the next time you ask for forgiveness in Yeshua’s name by means of his bloody sacrifice, don’t forget to place some of his blood on your right ear, thumb, and foot. Mentally, emotionally and spiritually present yourself before the Lord with a heartfelt desire to start all over again, but this time with an even stronger will to sin less than you had sinned before. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you won’t sin again- we all will. Sinning is something God expects of us, and he assumes it might be by accident. That is why he gave us instructions in Leviticus 5:17 specifically for sins we committed accidentally or didn’t know we had done.

Every time we sin we are in the same position Yeshua was just before he gave up his spirit and cried out:

“Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” (“My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?”)

He was forsaken, meaning ejected from God’s presence, the very moment he took on the sins of the world because sin separates us from God.

Don’t beat yourself up when you sin, but do make sure when you ask for forgiveness by means of the blood of the Messiah that you remember to place that blood on yourself; consecrate yourself to hear, work and walk in obedience to God’s instructions, and rededicate yourself to do better.

Thank you for being here, and please SUBSCRIBE by clicking on the subscribe button in the right-hand margin. Also, use the link above to go to my YouTube channel and subscribe there, as well.

I welcome your comments and suggestions, all I ask is (you’ve heard this before) …be nice.

This being Friday, I wish you all Shabbat Shalom and until next time, Baruch HaShem!

How to Deal with Being a Sinner

Like it or not, you are a sinner. I am a sinner, and we all are not only sinners but sinful, filled with the desire to sin (which is called “iniquity”.)

So, how do we deal with this? We do that by, well…dealing with it. We can’t escape it, we can’t stop it, but we can learn to control it better than we used to.

The best answer I can give you is what I always say:  We can never be sinless, but we can always sin less. 

(No video today.)

Grace is what we call forgiveness from the sins we commit, but it is on a spiritual level; in the physical realm, we will always have to suffer from the consequences of our sins. And even worse than that- many times it will be the innocent people who we care about that suffer, as well.

There exists within Christianity a very popular teaching (popular because it removes any feeling of guilt or responsibility) that says once we have asked forgiveness in Yeshua’s name, we are forgiven forever. The term used is OSAS (Once Saved, Always Saved), and it is a lie from the pit of Sheol.  It makes one feel good about sinning and removes any feelings of repentance.

How?  Simple: when we think no matter what we do, we are automatically forgiven then we don’t worry about what we do. This is NOT the way to deal with your sinfulness.

Oh, yes, there are some who will make the excuse that the Holy Spirit will guide us and prevent us from doing wrong; others will say the Torah was already written on our hearts the moment we accepted Jesus.  Both are wrong.  Salvation is not a momentary change of heart, it is a life-long process. The Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) may warn us when we are about to sin, but if someone has been taught their sins are automatically forgiven why would they worry about listening to the little angel on their shoulder saying, “Uh, uh, uh- you really shouldn’t!”?  Especially when the little devil on the other shoulder is saying, “Don’t listen to that one- you are already saved by the blood of Christ! If you think you have to obey God to be saved, you are not under the blood but under the law!”

That’s the same guy who told Eve, “You certainly won’t die.”

What do you think? If I continue to sin because I think I am already saved, is God going to accept me into his presence? Will my ignorance be forgiven and my sinfulness ignored because the reason I rejected his instructions in the Torah was a result of someone telling me I didn’t have to obey them?

I don’t think so.

I can’t speak for God, but I’m pretty sure that if I came before him on Judgement Day and said, “I am sorry I rejected your instructions, but my (Priest/Minister/Pastor/whatever) told me I didn’t have to obey them”, he might say something like: “I understand, my child, that someone told you what to do, but it’s what I say that counts!”

What was “nailed to the cross”, as Shaul (Paul) tells us, was not every sin we will ever commit, but only every sin we have already committed. The past is forgiven, but the future remains open. We can continually work at being better or we can continue to sin and make excuses. This is a very important truth to understand or you cannot properly deal with your sinning.

Let me remind you of the main point in this message- we WILL continue to sin. One way or the other, we each have to deal with this.

When we face up to the fact that we are sinful, the way to deal with it is the way God tells us to in the Torah: obey the instructions he gave us and when we sin, repent and ask forgiveness through Yeshua’s sacrifice. When we do that we can trust his promise that we will have life, eternal.

God says in Ezekiel 18 and elsewhere, throughout the Tanakh, that if we obey we will have life, meaning life eternal. We still suffer from sins on earth, yet we will be forgiven in the resurrection. BUT..only if we remain repentant and continually ask for forgiveness, demonstrating the genuineness of our repentance by working, every day until we are dead, to sin less each day.

Most of Christianity teaches an easy path to salvation: trust in Jesus and you’re saved forever. That sounds nice, but you know the old saying: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Yeshua said that if we want to follow him, we must each of us pick up our execution stake and walk after him. If that sounds like a cake-walk to you, you have a real problem with comprehension!

And the Enemy? He wants you to believe that, and sometimes he will try to make you feel so bad about sinning that you might just think, “I can never stop sinning, no matter how hard I try! I might as well chuck it all and just enjoy myself. Why should I beat myself up any more for something I can’t control?”  It should be obvious this is not how to deal with your sin.

We are sinners, we always will be, and that’s not okay but it is the way things are. We deal with it, first of all, by taking possession of our own iniquity, owning up to our weaknesses, and asking God’s help to be obedient to his instructions.

Think about it: God created this game called “Life, Death, and Resurrection”, and he gave us the instructions telling us how to win it.  So, nu?  why would anyone want to ignore them?

Amen?….AMEN!!

Thank you for being here, and if you like what you have heard please share me out, and don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE in the right-hand margin.

I welcome comments, just be nice, and until next time…L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah Vayyikra 2019 (And he called) Leviticus 1 – 5

We are now starting the third book of the Torah, which is the central book. This book has also been called the Torah of the Priests, mainly because it is almost exclusively about the priestly duties, to include knowing what is sinful and what is not with regards to our everyday activities.

If you prefer to watch a video, click on this link: Watch the video.

The first 7 chapters deal with the sacrificial system, and this parashah outlines the regulations for the sacrifice, which also includes offerings. There are two main offerings: the meal offering and the First Fruits offering. This parashah also tells us the rules for the Sin and Guilt sacrifice.

Sin sacrifices are for those sins committed against other people and the guilt sacrifice is for those sins committed against the tabernacle by causing a loss of holiness, such as misappropriation of property belonging to the Lord or failure to give the Priest his due share of the sacrifice.

One of the things that demonstrates God’s compassion and understanding is that God takes into account those people who may be too poor to be able to give a bull or an ox, or even a sheep. He states that even though a sacrifice may call for the slaughter of a bull, if the person is too poor to afford the animal that is required, he can offer grain and oil and he will receive the same forgiveness as the one sacrificing a bull.

If you ask me, the most important thing we learn from this parashah is Leviticus 5:17, which says:

And if any one sin, and do any of the things which the Lord has commanded not to be done, though he know it not, yet he is guilty and shall bear his iniquity.

I could do an entire series on that verse, alone, but the lesson I want to share with you today is that the sacrificial system was not done away with when Yeshua was sacrificed. In fact, the sacrificial system is still in effect and just as valid today as it was back when God gave these commandments to Moses.

What stopped us from sacrificing animals was the destruction of the Temple, because in Deuteronomy 12:5-6 we are told that the sacrifice must be made only where God places his name, which was (of course) the Temple in Jerusalem. Before the Temple, the sacrifices were made at Shiloh, where the Tent of Meeting Moses constructed was located.

The sacrificial system is a process that involves 5 separate steps:

  1. The first thing we have to do is sin;
  2. We have to recognize and admit that we have sinned;
  3. We need to repent of that sin- without heartfelt repentance, no sacrifice will be accepted;
  4. The next step is to slaughter the animal called for; and
  5. We must humbly ask for forgiveness by means of the innocent blood that was shed for us (Leviticus 17:11);

When Yeshua died on the execution stake, his innocent blood was shed so that through him, we can be forgiven. The sacrificial system is still in effect, but what changed with Yeshua was that the 4th step- bringing the animal to be slain to the Temple in Jerusalem- was replaced with the substitutionary sacrifice of Yeshua.

The animal sacrifice, which has never been done away with but was replaced by Yeshua, will continue in the Acharit HaYamim (End Days) when the Temple will be reconstructed. The only difference is that there will not be a need for the sin or guilt sacrifice, but the wholly burnt and thanksgiving/peace sacrifice will once again be performed.

There is no biblical reference I can give that absolutely confirms what I just said about the sacrifices continuing in the End Days. However, there is nothing in the Bible that confirms the sacrificial system was ever done away with, either. Today’s message is strictly from my understanding of how the sacrificial system works and how it will be utilized in the End Days.

Whether or not I am right about what will happen in the End Days will not be known for certain until the End Days. In the meantime, I think we can all agree that we should thank God for Yeshua’s substitutionary sacrifice which allows us to fulfill our requirements under the sacrificial system to receive forgiveness of sin.

 

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

Parashah Bo 2019 (Come) Exodus 10 – 13:16

We continue with the plagues God is sending on Egypt, yet sparing the Israelites in Goshen. Finally, the 10th plague, the death of the firstborn comes and God tells Moses how to protect his people living in Goshen from this plague. After such a terrible loss of life, including Pharaoh’s own son, the people are told to leave. They take many gifts (spoil) from the Egyptians, who are more than happy to give them anything to get out of Egypt, and God institutes the Passover and states this shall be the beginning of our year.

If you prefer to watch a video, click on this link: Watch the video.

The parashah ends with the commandment that every firstborn, whether human or animal, belongs to God as the substitution for the firstborn God took from the Egyptians.

There is a term used during the narrative of the 10 plagues that comes up very often; actually, two terms which appear no less than some 19 times. One is that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (9 times) and the other is that Pharaoh hardened his heart (10 times.) Now, for God to purposefully harden someone’s heart so that they sinned, then punish them for that sin is obviously unfair and sinful, in and of itself, so how could a sinless and perfectly holy God do that? The answer is: he didn’t.

First off, we must understand that in the biblical days, everything that happened was ascribed to God. God has a plan for the universe, and whether things happen as a direct result of Divine intervention, or just unfold as God knew they would, in the Bible it is considered a direct result of God’s will. So, even if someone does something entirely on their own, it is (in the Bible) considered to be a direct act of God.  This is not meant to blame God, it is just the cultural understanding of that time.

We all have the freedom to decide if we will obey God or not. There can be a million and one reasons why we shouldn’t, and really only one reason why we should. That one reason is simple: He is God and we are not. As for why we shouldn’t, or don’t have to (anymore), people can rationalize any desire to be justified, at least in their own mind. What happens is this: we make up our own reason for disobedience, and repeat it to ourselves. Once we succumb to sin, it gets easier and easier to continue to sin, and harder and harder to overcome it. I learned from many years as a Salesman that the more you tell someone something, even if it is ridiculous, they will eventually believe it. God knew about Pharaoh from the start, and the warning to all of us is the same warning he gave to Cain in Genesis. 4:7

If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.

The first response Pharaoh had to Moses was in Exodus 5:2, where he said, “Who is Adonai, that I should obey when he says to let Israel go? I don’t know Adonai, and I also will not let Israel go.” Pharaoh had the opportunity to obey God, and he chose to reject God’s command. God knew this would happen, as he told Moses in Chapter 3 (Ex. 3:19- “I know that the king of Egypt will not let you leave unless he is forced to do so.”), so the first “hardening” came from Pharaoh. And as I stated earlier, because the Bible states everything is from God, when it continues from this point on to say “God hardened his heart:” that is not an actual accusation but an expression. Pharaoh was the sole cause for the plagues coming upon the Egyptians, and Pharaoh had the opportunity to obey God every step of the way, but HE chose not to.

We have the same freedom to choose that Pharaoh had, and we have sin crouching at our door, just like Cain did. I remember the comedian Flip Wilson, and his character Geraldine always said, The Devil made me do it!” That was funny, but in truth, the Devil can’t make us do anything- we do it. Old Nick may provide opportunity and even give us a strong incentive to do evil, but in the end, it is our choice.

You have no one to blame but yourself for what you do.

God is in control of everything, but that doesn’t mean he does control everything. God allows us to make up our own minds, and to choose whether we accept or reject him. And don’t think for a moment there is a middle-of-the-road position with God- he is totally binomial. It is or it isn’t, right or wrong, black or white, you is or you isn’t. Period.

Moving forward, next time you think the Enemy is attacking you, or that God is punishing you, think again. Think about what choices you have made recently, and make sure that if you really are under a curse that you didn’t bring it on yourself. Thank God that when we do screw up, we have forgiveness available to us through Messiah Yeshua. Do Teshuva (repentance), ask forgiveness in Yeshua’s name and make a better decision in the future.

If you ask me, this is the pathway we must walk. We will always sin, and as long as we continue to repent, ask God for forgiveness through Messiah and also through the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) guidance and the strength to improve our ability to resist sin, working to sin less and less every day, we will be walking the path of salvation.

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Tonight begins the Sabbath, so Shabbat Shalom, and may you have a blessed weekend.

What Does Do Not Add or Take Away Really Mean?

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There are many times within the Bible, from Genesis through to Revelation, that we are told we are not to add to or take away from the commandments we are given. The most specific commands I could find regarding this can be found in Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; 13:1; and in Revelation 22:18-19.

Too often I have noticed that people use these admonitions as a means of denying the validity of both Jewish and Christian traditions, rites and holidays that are not specifically commanded in the Torah. They believe the words “do not add to or take away from” as universally encompassing any and all words, ceremonies, activities or regulations outside exactly what is written in the Torah.

This is a form of legalistic interpretation, and although their heart is in the right place, their understanding is incorrect.

When Moses warned against adding to or taking away from the instructions God gave us he meant not to change only those things which he just instructed us to do. Rabbi Rashi gave an example by saying that we are told to use 4 species for the Lulav, so we shouldn’t use 5 or 3. The idea is that we are not to make arbitrary changes to the laws; that, however, does not mean we cannot make new additions to the Mosaic laws, as conditions require. Obviously, with the advent of new technology and moving from an agrarian economy to a service economy, the Mosaic Laws, taken in a stoic and unbending literal meaning, in many cases cannot be applied.

Let us consider that we do not change anything in the Torah at all- literally, not one word is to be added or taken away. If that is the case, then the only way we can be sure we obey that command is to read the Torah in the original Hebrew it was written in. For example, if we are not to add to the words in the book, then English cannot be used to translate the Bible because we would have to add many, many words.

Here’s an example: in Hebrew, the possessive is usually the noun with the ending having a “-nu” added. “Adonai” means “Lord” but when we write “Adonainu” it means “our Lord” The Hebrew is a single word but the English translation requires the use of two words, which is a violation of the command not to add anything to the words in the book. Imagine how many uses of the possessive we find in the Bible, and how many words will have to be added just to interpret the Hebrew correctly. Not to mention that the Torah has been translated into scores of different languages, each of them having their own need to add or remove certain words to make the translation fit.

Can you see how ridiculous it becomes if we insist on an absolutely literal interpretation of that command?

The Torah is a book of instruction- it is the ultimate User’s Manual for worshiping God and treating each other. Torah doesn’t mean “law”, it means “instruction” and the instructions we are given are to be performed as God said to. That means we are to do what God said to do the way God said to do it, but it does NOT mean we cannot adjust to a changing world. R. Maimonides has said that the sages (Sanhedrin) are allowed to temporarily suspend some requirements or allow that which is forbidden under extreme circumstances. These are not to be permanent changes, but under extreme conditions and only to allow what needs to be done only while there is a need for it.

And under no circumstance can additional requirements be considered as Divine instructions- that is what it really boils down to when Moses said do not add to or take away from what God gave us:  the instructions in the Torah are not to be changed, deleted, altered or modified in any way. However, what new “fences around the law” are required (aka, Talmudic instruction) are acceptable so long as they are not presented as Divine instruction. 

This is where Judaism has violated the Torah- the Talmud is studied and revered as scripture by some of the more Orthodox sects of Judaism, and that is what Moses said we should not do. There is nothing wrong with traditional forms of worship if they do not nullify or over-rule God’s commands, AND if they are recognized as man-made and not presented as Divinely ordered.

Here is an example: the Divine order in Torah is that we are not to boil a calf in its mother’s milk; the fence around that law (given in the Talmud) is that we are not to even mix meat and dairy. I, myself, will never boil a calf in its mother’s milk but I will go to Steak and Shake and order a cheeseburger, fries and a milkshake (Oy! Now I’m hungry.) I am not violating God’s commandment, and the truth is even if I never mix meat and dairy, I am not violating God’s commandment, and I am not sinning- I am simply doing a little more than the minimum to ensure I do not violate the Divine order. That is really what the Talmudic/Rabbinic traditions are designed to do- they are to help us perform God’s commandments properly and not accidentally violate them (hence the term “fences around the law”, i.e. a way to prevent us from accidentally trespassing the law.)

So, here is how I look at “traditional” rites and holidays: do they change what God has said? Is celebrating Hanukkah (not specified in Lev. 23) a violation of God’s commandments? In my opinion, it isn’t because God couldn’t include it when he gave the Moedim to Moses simply because it hadn’t occurred yet. Is thanking God for a miraculous military victory which saved Judaism wrong? How could it be? How can anything that is a loving and worshipful celebration of the Lord and what he has done for us ever be wrong?

On the other hand, is failing to honor the Sabbath OK? Certainly not! Or if we decided we wanted to celebrate Sukkot for only 5 days, would that be OK? Certainly not! But what if I want to have a party and read the Magillah of Hadassah on Purim, is that OK? It certainly is!

God gave us the Torah so we can know how he wants us to live. It is not all-encompassing, it does not cover everything we will run into as the world changes, and it is not absolutely the exact words God gave to Moses. There is no way we can know that. So, nu? What is it? It is a collection of instructions that are the minimum we should do to obey God. Anything outside of the Torah that is required by our religious leadership is not a sin as long as that requirement is in accordance with God’s instructions; they must not nullify, overrule or change them, and they must not be presented as a Divine instruction.

What we are given in the Talmud and Constantinian Christian dogma is man-made instruction. It is not Divine, it is not absolutely required, and if it goes against what God said (such as changing the day we celebrate the Sabbath) it is a sin.

So, celebrate the Lord, give thanks in every way you can and don’t restrict your thankfulness to only what is in the Torah.

Parashah Vayeshev 2018 (And he dwelt) Genesis 37-40

 

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Jacob has now settled back in the land of his father, and we are given the story of Joseph. I think most everyone knows this- Joseph, the favorite son of his father (because he is the firstborn son of Rachel) is given a coat of many colors to signify Jacob’s love for him. This special treatment doesn’t stand very well with his brothers, which should come as no surprise, but then we add to that Joseph having ratted them out to Jacob, not to mention telling them of his dreams in which they are all bowing down to him.

Joseph doesn’t show a lot of common sense here, does he?

Eventually, an opportunity arises in which the brothers can kill Joseph, but Reuben convinces them not to, so they take his coat and throw him into an empty cistern, thinking they will do the deed after they have lunch. In the meantime, the brothers see a caravan in the distance of Yishma’elim (descendants of Yishmael) and decide to sell Joseph to them, But while they are still having their lunch (you have to read the passage very carefully to see how this happens) some other Arabs (Midyanim) find Joseph, raise him out of the cistern, and THEY sell him to the Yishma’elim.

Reuben comes back to save Joseph himself but finds him gone. He reports this to the brothers, and now no one knows what happened.

Time Out: I believe that Reuben saved Joseph only so that he could get back into good standing with his father because he was still in hot water after sleeping with one of Jacob’s concubines.

Joseph gets sold to Potiphar, and God blesses all that Joseph does. However, Potiphar’s wife wants to sleep with Joseph, who refuses and she tricks him into being alone with her and tries to force him to sleep with her. He runs away but she has his robe and accuses him of trying to rape her. When she tells her husband, Potiphar throws Joseph into jail. In jail, Joseph is still blessed by Adonai and made a Trustee, eventually also serving the Pharaoh’s Cupbearer and Baker, who teed off Pharaoh somehow and were also thrown in jail. They each have a dream, which Joseph interprets, and the interpretation proves true, with the Cupbearer being returned to duty and the Baker being hung. However, the Cupbearer forgets his promise to Joseph to ask Pharaoh to have him released.

In the middle of the story of Joseph, we have one chapter devoted to Judah and how he failed to give his third son to Tamar. Tamar was married to Er, Judah’s firstborn who was killed by God because of his evil ways, then given to Onan. Onan refused to give her children to protect his own inheritance, so God had him killed, too. Shelah, Judah’s remaining son, was too young so Judah told Tamar to go back to her father until he could give her to Shelah. However, it seems Judah had no intention of doing so. Later, Judah (now a widower) was seduced by Tamar (who hid her identity) who took his seal and staff as collateral until he could send her payment. She returned to her father before Judah could recover his things, and three months later when her pregnancy was discovered, she sent Judah his seal and staff to prove he was the father. Then Judah confessed his sin of not giving her to Shelah.

Wow! There’s a whole lot of stuff in here, but we have time for only one lesson, so I am going to talk about one line, a single sentence uttered by Joseph to the wife of Potiphar. It is found in Genesis 39:9. Joseph has been asked by Potiphar’s wife to sleep with her, and he tells her that his Master has put everything in the household under Josephs’ control, everything but his wife, and in explaining why he won’t sleep with her he says:

“How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”

Notice that Joseph has been talking about his Master, Potiphar, and his Master’s house and his Master’s wife, but when it came down to it he would not sin against God. God- not Potiphar, not his wife, not because he would break the trust, but because the sin would be against God!

Joseph knew what King David also knew about sin (Psalm 51:6) – any and all sin is always first and foremost against God. We may do things to other people that are sinful, but when we ask forgiveness, we must first ask God because every sin is a sin against God.

Forgiveness is something that we are commanded to do for each other, and that forgiveness is not only between us and the person who sinned against us but also between us and God.  God requires us to forgive each other, Yeshua tells us this in Matthew 6:14:

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

When we sin against someone else we must first ask God for forgiveness, then we go to the person we sinned against and ask them to forgive us. Once you have done that, whether they forgive you or not is between them and God and no longer between you and them. I believe we should allow people a few chances to forgive us- for their sake, not ours, and maybe even try to explain that to them. But, if someone refuses to forgive you your sin, then the sin now lies between them and God and no longer between you and them.

The best thing, of course, is to never sin (DUH!!) but being human that will not ever happen. We will always sin, one way or another, sooner or later, and God knew about us. Why do you think he created the sacrificial system? Yeshua replaced the need to bring a sin sacrifice to the Temple in Jerusalem, so now, through his sacrifice, we can be forgiven. That is, forgiven by God. Once we have gone to God, we must still go to the person we sinned against and ask their forgiveness.

Here’s an interesting tradition you may not know about… in Judaism, one of the things that we do at Rosh HaShanah is to go to anyone that we think we may have sinned against during the year and ask them for forgiveness. Does this sound familiar? Maybe because Yeshua said to do this in Matthew 5:24. You think, maybe, he knew of this tradition?

To finish this up, let’s remember that any sin committed by anyone is first and foremost against God; Joseph knew this, King David knew this, and now we know it, too. Try to not sin, but when you fail, go to God and then to the person you sinned against, and you will be doing what is right in God’s eyes, and doing it in the right order.

 

 

Is This Really the Image We Want to Project?

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Every Friday I usually give a message on the Torah reading (parashah), but I saw an article in the local paper this morning and feel I need to talk about it, instead.

Some of you may take what I say here the wrong way so please be patient and do not allow yourself to jump to conclusions based on a word or phrase I use. I pray that I will say what I want to say in an effective way.

The article showed a gay pride parade with some of the marchers taking pictures of people on the other side of a police barrier, taking pictures of them. Those on the other side were wearing shirts with words on them such as, “Jesus is the Lord” and “Gay is an abomination.”

The image is clearly that “Christians” don’t like gay people. I believe this is not the image we should be sending.

There is an immediate and effective argument that anyone who is being protested against can use, which is the fallback excuse that the person protesting is “racist.” That word used in that context will almost always deflate the protester’s argument. When we add to it the somewhat extreme actions of wearing shirts that declaim the people and exclaim a “religious” attitude that will only add fuel to the fire of accusations.

I have family members who are gay, and I never stopped loving them for a second. I also never felt “devastated” by their lifestyle. I do not agree with that lifestyle and do not condone it, but I accept that that is who they are. Is homosexuality a sin? Of course it is! …so is lying, so is cheating on your taxes, so is taking that ream of copier paper from work to use at home, and so is gossiping about the neighbors. All of these are sins, and as far as God is concerned, one sin is as bad as another.

There are those that sin on purpose without any sense of remorse or repentance, and they are not going to be forgiven (that makes sense, doesn’t it?); and there are those who sin but don’t want to, and when they repent and remorsefully ask for forgiveness they will receive it (by means of the sacrifice of  Messiah Yeshua.)

The world says we should be tolerant of each other, but the world’s idea of tolerance seems to be not just acceptance, but support. I think the world doesn’t really understand what “tolerance” should be. To tolerate something doesn’t mean that you agree with it or that you condone it, and certainly should not in any way indicate support of it; for me, it depends on what we are tolerating. What I mean is this: I tolerate a friend who has a good heart but can be a real pain the neck to deal with sometimes. I tolerate a co-worker who may be lazy but will eventually get the job done with some prodding. I tolerate my cat waking me up 1 hour earlier than I want to be woken up.

What I don’t tolerate is someone who is cruel and unfair. I don’t tolerate injustice or cheating on your spouse. I don’t tolerate bullying or speaking against God. And by not tolerating I mean I will speak up against it, I will take action to stop it, or I will simply walk away and ignore the one doing it.

As for homosexuality, I see it as sin and will not tolerate someone forcing it on another, or someone denying another their right to choose how they will live. And yes- it is a choice; whether it is caused by hormones, it is genetic or for some other reason, the truth is that everything we do in our life is a choice. If someone feels that they are not the gender their body has, they can choose to go with their feelings or to submit to their physicality. I do not say one or the other is right or wrong, only that feeling the way they do they have a choice what to do about it.

I would rather have seen those “Christians” that were protesting the gay rights parade wearing regular clothes and holding up signs that would be more compassionate and understanding. Signs that said, “You do have a choice” or “We don’t love what you do but we can still love you”, or things similar to that form of compassionate disagreement. Protest the sin and do so not in an accusatory way, but in a compassionate, understanding way that still gets across the idea that their lifestyle is not acceptable to God.

Just as with any sin that we come against, we should protest the sin but leave any judgment of that person who sins between that person and God.

The image of a Believer, whether a Christian, Messianic Jew, Hebrew Roots, or whatever should be one of compassionate understanding with intolerance of wrongdoing. It is a delicate balance, a thin line to walk on, but with spiritual maturity and biblical understanding, we can achieve a dialog that will not be accusatory or support a claim of racism.

If we want to stop sin, we must do so in a way that will not turn away the sinner but attract them.

And I don’t know what that is- it probably needs to be determined case-by-case. But I trust in God that the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) will lead me in a way that can accomplish God’s desire for everyone, which he tells us in Ezekiel 18:23:

Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD; and not rather that he should return from his ways, and live?

God wants everyone to have eternal life…it’s our choice whether we choose that or not.