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.

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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.

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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!!

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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.

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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.

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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.

No Way Out of This One

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I am hoping that you find this title- No Way Out of This One– interesting because it makes you wonder, “No way out of what?” And, remarkably enough, I have the answer, which is, “No way out of obedience to the Torah!”

You see, Yeshua preached and taught from the Torah, but later the Gentile Christian leadership (most notably Constantine and his cronies) changed the dogma and structure of Christianity.

When Yeshua walked the earth, what he taught was something that those Jews who accepted him as their Messiah already knew, i.e., the Torah. And that was the same thing that the Gentiles who chose to follow Messiah and worship God were being taught, which effectively meant they were converting to Judaism.  But after Constantine took charge of Christianity, he created a totally different religion based on Jesus Christ as the Messiah, rejecting everything Messianic (i.e., Jewish) about him, except for the teaching that through him we can receive forgiveness of sin.

The main difference between modern-day Christianity and its root, Judaism, is the Torah. Christians have been taught that the Torah is for Jews, and they only need the blood of Christ. Obedience to all of God’s instructions has been reduced to simply loving each other and being a “good” person; they have been taught that is all you need because this guy Jesus has got your back, so long as you ask him to forgive you.

In Catholicism you don’t even need to ask Jesus to forgive you- the local Priest can do that!

The reason I say you can’t get out of this one is that the Torah, whether anyone likes it or not, is the direct word of God given to Moses. God gave it to Moses to bring to the entire world. It is not, and never was, intended just for Jews. The Torah is not a set of laws, so much as God’s instruction to everyone about how he wants us to worship him and how he wants us to treat each other.

Let me go off on a bit of a tangent: there are parts within the Torah that are specific to a certain class of people, such as certain requirements for the High Priest and the Levites are different than for everyone else. Also, there are some instructions that apply only to women (for physiological reasons.) However, overall the Torah (which means “instruction”) was given to the Jews to learn so they could live it as an example to the rest of the world to show them how they should live.

Now that we know what God intended the Torah to be, let’s address the wrongful teaching that it is only for Jews. To do this we first have to establish some basic “givens”:

  1. God gave the Torah to the Jewish people;
  2. God has stated throughout the Bible that all who sojourn with the Jewish people (i.e., live with and worships as) are subject to the same treatment as natural-born Jews (Lev. 24:22; Numbers 15:15);
  3. God says eventually the entire world will worship him (Isaiah 60:1-3; Zech. 8: 22-23)
  4. God wants the people to learn Torah from the Jews (Deut. 4: 6-8);
  5. Yeshua’s Disciples preached obedience to the Torah (Luke 24:47; John 14:15; Romans 3:31; John 2:3-6; Rev. 22:14)

All of these statements from the Bible lead us to the same conclusion: the Torah is what God gave to the world so we can live and worship as he wants us to so that we can have eternal life.

And it is most clearly stated in Numbers 15:15 (your bible may have it as 15:14 or 15:16):

As for the congregation, there shall be one statute both for you, and for the stranger that sojourneth with you, a statute for ever throughout your generations; as ye are, so shall the stranger be before the Lord. 

That’s it! If you profess to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which means if you are a Christian you are included in that group, there is no way you can argue that God or Messiah say you are not subject to the same requirements for worship and interpersonal relationships as the Jewish people are.

God said it- one law for Jews and anyone who sojourns with them. And the New Covenant writings also confirm, absolutely, that if you have faith in God and Messiah you are an adopted son or daughter of Abraham- in other words, like it or not, as an adopted child of Abraham you are required to live subject to the same rules as his natural-born children.

Period; end of argument; close the door on your way out.

I know many of you have been taught differently, and you may not only dislike what I am saying but will passionately refute it. Go ahead- try. Look throughout the Bible and find the place where God says his commandments are just for Jews. Find where Yeshua says forget what my Father told you- it isn’t for you. Show us any place in the entire Bible where God or Yeshua or any of the Disciples say Christians don’t have to obey any of the laws or commandments in the Bible.

Obedience to Torah just makes sense, doesn’t it? If you are going to worship God then you should want to do as he says. Abraham did, David did, the Prophets did, the Apostles did, and even that nice Jewish tentmaker from Tarsus did. And the Gentiles that were accepting Yeshua as their Messiah, and worshiping God instead of their pagan deities were converting to Judaism… and THEY also were doing as God said to do in the Torah. Not all at once, but slowly over time they were expected to learn it (Acts 15:21.)

Starting right now, if you have been living your life separated from God’s instructions, read the Torah. What can it hurt you to learn how God wants you to live? And once you know what is in the Torah, if what some “person” has told you is the way to worship God but it is not confirmed by the Torah, ignore it.

Most people know that if something is really easy to do it probably isn’t all that worthwhile doing, and believe me when I tell you that worshiping God correctly, as he said to do it in the Torah, is not easy. But it is the most worthwhile thing you will ever do.

Did Yeshua (Jesus) Ever Sin?

(Too dressed-down to do a video today. )

I present this drash today only as something interesting to think about.

Did Yeshua ever sin? The answer has to be a very loud, “NO!! He was the sinless lamb of God; he was in perfect obedience to the Torah his whole life; he couldn’t have sinned. Ever. NO! NO! NO!

But, still and all, if he had once or twice committed a sin couldn’t he still have died a sinless lamb of God?

Let’s look at what God says about his forgiveness of sin:

“…on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the Lord, you will be clean from all your sins.” – Leviticus 16:30

“…as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” – Psalm 103:8-12

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. – Isaiah 1:18

“In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back.” – Isaiah 38:17

“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”   – Jeremiah 31:34

“Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. – Micah 7:18-19

These passages show us that once God forgives a sin it is as if that sin never happened. There are many other bible passages that prove this; I didn’t quote any New Covenant passages because everything in the New Covenant is just quoting or paraphrasing what is already said in the Old Covenant.

Now let’s go back to my original question: Did Yeshua ever sin? The bible doesn’t give us any information on this but it does tell us that he underwent B’rit Milah (Circumcision) and that he was in Jerusalem for the festivals, as required by the Torah. We know that he observed all the laws and commandments in the Torah, so if he did sin we can be certain that he would have obeyed the Torah and presented a sin sacrifice at the Temple in Jerusalem. So if this ever did happen, what then?

According to what God says, if Yeshua had sinned and went through the process of sacrificing an animal to have his sin forgiven then he would be as clean as if he had never sinned. He would be a sinless lamb of God.

Otherwise God would have lied when he told us that when he forgives a sin it is as if it never happened. We could never be “as white as snow” and our sins would never be “put behind” his back. All that we were told about forgiveness would be a lie.

Personally, I don’t believe God lied about his forgiveness and I don’t believe Yeshua ever committed a sin. But I am open to the idea that he might have. After all, doesn’t Isaiah 53 tell us:

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.

With all that going on in his life, who is to say he didn’t have a lapse of righteousness now and then and maybe did something wrong?  If he had sacrificed then wouldn’t that sin be gone? Wouldn’t he again be sinless and clean before the Lord? An acceptable sacrifice?

My contention is that he would still have been the sinless lamb of God even if he had sinned, so long as he made the proper sacrifice at the Temple before he was crucified. I say this based on God’s promise that when he forgives a sin it is as if it never happened. And I will go one step further: if Yeshua had sinned and had been forgiven under the sacrificial system, he was (and is) the only human who could have continued to be sinless after that. We can be forgiven our sin, but we will sin again. Thank God (and Yeshua) that when Yeshua replaced the sacrifice at the Temple with his personal sacrifice, we can be forgiven every sin we commit and repent of for the rest of our life.

I feel so sad for those who do not accept Yeshua and, because the Temple no longer exists cannot be forgiven of their sins.

 

Parashah Shemini 2018 (Eighth) Leviticus 9 – 11

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In this reading we continue with the sanctification ceremonies of the Tabernacle and the Cohanim (Priests.) Starting with Chapter 11, we are given the Laws of Purity that God has commanded for all people.  But before we get to the first of these laws, the Dietary Laws (Kashrut, or Kosher Laws) we have to deal with an unhappy incident: the death of Aaron’s two oldest sons, Nadab and Abihu.

Chapter 10 describes the events that led to the death of these men, and the aftermath of their actions. Nadab and Abihu were under the influence of liquor, and took it upon themselves to take fire that was not from the sanctuary (“strange fire”) and place themselves in their father’s position by offering it to the Lord. Their punishment was to be struck dead by God. Aaron was told (by Moshe as instructed by God) not to mourn for what happened. Aaron and the other priests (his other sons) did not eat of the sacrifice and although this was another rebellious action (as High Priest he was to partake in the eating of that sacrifice), the Rabbi’s explain that Aaron’s answer to Moses meant that they all felt unworthy and spiritually unclean because of their emotional pain. Moses accepted this as understandable.

Chapter 11 contains the commandments regarding Kashrut- the Kosher Laws. I could write a book on this chapter alone, but all I will say today is that whether or not there is an explanation for these laws that makes sense to a human being, God is not required to make us understand why he does what he does, or why he tells us what to do. He is God, we are his creation, his children and his authority is over us from eternity past and will be over us until eternity future. The only “reason” we need to obey the Kosher Laws is because God said we should.  In fact, that is the only reason we need to obey any of God’s commandments. And if that isn’t enough for you, then you need to be more concerned with the strength of your faith and trust in God than what’s on your table.

The message for us today is what Moses tells Aaron that God says, right after Nadab and Abihu are executed, and this is in Leviticus 10:3:

“…I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified.”

The meaning of this, as explained by the Rabbis, is that God holds those who are closest to him and who have been given authority to lead his people to a much higher standard of behavior than others. Unlike most of the world, where if you have a greater level of social or political power you are extended more privileges (meaning you are not subject to the law like others), with God the more power you are given the more responsible you must be with that power.  Consequently, when the people see the example of righteousness that their leaders provide, God will be glorified in their eyes, as well.

The Talmud says, “With the righteous, God is exacting even to a hair’s breadth.” What this means to us is that as we are more obedient, more self-disciplined to act in righteous ways and more of an example of how God wants all people to worship him and treat each other, then God, himself, will be glorified in the eyes of all that see us.

In other words, the more godly we become in our everyday lives the more people will respect and admire God. Think of it like this: when you hear a concert orchestra play a beautiful piece of music, you admire the composer even more than the ones playing his music.

Going forward let’s remember that every day we must watch our tongues and be aware of what we do so that we will not be held accountable for doing anything that reflects poorly on ourselves, for when we do that we dishonor the Lord. I know the pain of dishonoring God for I do it constantly; I get comfortable in a situation or with people, and I act more like myself which, inevitably, leads to me doing something that dishonors God. It really hurts, and I am embarrassed to confess it, but confess I must. Why? Because I want to hand my sin over to God, but you cannot give away something that you do not own, right? Therefore, before I can give away my sin, I must own it, or should I say, own up to it? If we excuse our sins, we don’t “own” them and will not be able to give them up to the Lord. Yeshua took on our sins, but he can’t take them away from us- we have to give them to him. That’s a difficult word to understand for many because they just want to believe “Jesus took on your sins” and there’s nothing you have to do. WRONG!! What we are learning from the Torah today is that if you profess to be a Believer in God and Messiah, then you are to be held more accountable for your actions, and as such you must confess and take ownership of the sins you commit. That is the only way you can be free of them: once you own your sin, you can give it up to Yeshua who is able to take it from you, but only when you offer it up to him.

Yeshua doesn’t take your sin away from you automatically- you have to offer it up to him, and unless you “own” it you cannot give it away.

We are to be holy, as God is holy, and that is a very, VERY difficult calling. We will fail, we will need to try and try again and again to be better, and we need to remember that the closer we get to God, the more accountable we are for our actions. It is a constant uphill battle against ourselves and our Yetzer Hara (evil inclination; iniquity) but with God’s help and by calling on the Ruach haKodesh (Holy Spirit) for guidance and strength, we can do it.

As you will often hear me say, we can never be sinless but we can always sin less.