Divinely Inspired is Not Divinely Dictated

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Today I am going to do something totally different- I am going to have a short and to-the-point message.

That message is this: the Bible is a book, written by human beings that were divinely inspired by God’s spirit. The entire book is not dictated by God, and although there are many parts that do state exactly what God said (for example, the 10 Commandments Moses wrote down) the majority of the Bible is what people remembered about a certain event.

Certainly you know that if 5 people see the exact same thing, when you ask them to recall it later you will get 5 different versions. Some parts will be exactly the same, some will be a little different, and some parts will be so outlandishly different you will have to ask yourself, “What was that person looking at?”

The Gospels were written by those who were eyewitnesses to the events. We have many parts that are exactly the same, some parts that are unique to that Gospel, and some parts that retell the same event but differently. Does this mean that the bible contradicts itself, therefore we cannot believe any of it?

Of course not. That is the argument that Atheists and people against the bible use to try to discount everything in the bible.

It is simple: people aren’t perfect, their memory isn’t perfect, and therefore the bible isn’t perfect. I know there are many of you who are defensively thinking you want to strangle me for my blasphemy, but the truth is the bible is the Word of God that was divinely given to imperfect human beings, who wrote using their imperfect understanding and imperfect memory.

But that doesn’t change anything! The bible is valid as a book which tells us what God wants us to know. If there are imperfections within it, due to the imperfections of those that compiled it, we still can trust the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, to give us the understanding that God wants us to have.

The bible is about God and what he wants us to know; it is not God, Himself. It is a book- a darn good book, yes, but in the end it is just a book. A book written by people who received their inspiration from God to write these things down. Some of it is divine dictation, but the vast majority of it is divine inspiration filtered through human recollection.

If you are all up in arms right now, thinking the bible is God’s word and therefore God, you are wrong. Sorry, but that’s how it is: God is not restrained to pages of writing. The bible is the ultimate User’s Manual for gaining understanding, wisdom, and salvation. It isn’t perfect, but God is perfectly able to make each and every one of us understand what he wanted the writers of the bible to convey to us.

So, nu?  What do you do now? You read the bible, and before you start reading ask God to show you what he has in there…for YOU!

Just like 5 people looking at the same event will recall 5 different versions, the bible will have different messages for different people who are reading the same exact passage. And that’s okay- God has different plans for each and every one of us, so the bible has to be flexible enough so that we can can decipher what it is that God wants us to know.

When you read the bible do not trust in what people have written down, but trust instead in the spirit of God to teach you what he wants you to know.

Is the Bible Perfect?

It isn’t. Sorry to say, because I know most of us (myself included) are desperate to be able to trust absolutely everything in the bible as God’s own words given and recorded exactly as He gave it to those who wrote it down. We especially want to trust that the bible never, ever contradicts itself; but the fact is, in a few places, it does.

For instance, in Hebrews 11:24-27 we are told that Moses left Egypt because of his faith:

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.  He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.  He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.  By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.

Yet in Exodus 2:14-15 we read the exact opposite:

He replied, “Who made you a boss or judge over us? Are you planning to kill me like you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid when he realized: They obviously know what I did. When Pharaoh heard about it, he tried to kill Moses. But Moses ran away from Pharaoh and settled down in the land of Midian.

Another example is in the first letter Shaul (Paul) wrote to the Corinthians, telling them that the rock that provided water to the Children of Israel throughout their desert wanderings was Messiah (1 Corinthians 10:4):

 They all ate the same spiritual food; They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Messiah.

Yet in Judaism it is a legend that the Well which accompanied the Children of Israel throughout the desert was credited to Miriam, Moses’ sister. Granted, this is not exactly a biblical contradiction, but Shaul would certainly have been aware of the Jewish legend, yet He directly contradicted it.

Romans 4:2 tells us Abraham was justified as righteous solely by means of his faith, but in James 2:21-24 we are told that it was because of Abraham’s works (by offering up Isaac) that he was considered righteous.

There are other examples of writings in the bible (meaning from Exodus through Revelations) that seem to contradict each other. Not only that, but there are many different versions of the bible, and within each version you can find any particular passage that will use different words or phrasing, even different verse numbering. Did you know that the Catholic bible is the only one that includes the Apocrypha? Did you know that the Jewish Tanakh (everything up to the New Covenant) will end with the books of Chronicles, but every “Christian” bible will end the “Jewish” part with the book of Malachi?

Just as an FYI… when Scribes write a Torah, every single letter is counted to be absolutely positive that there isn’t any alteration or change from one Torah to the next. Every Torah throughout the world that has ever been written or ever will be written will be exactly the same, literally down to the letter.

Obviously, those who wish to debunk the bible and are proponents of a humanistic viewpoint will say you cannot trust the bible, or even believe in God, because the bible is full of contradictions. And even when we point out many supposed contradictions are just the result of people pulling statements and verses out of context, we still have some contradictions we really can’t explain. So what can we say about this?

We can start by asking the real question: If there are occasional contradictions in the bible, does that mean that everything in the bible is untrustworthy?

The answer is: No, it doesn’t. Just because there are some statements in the bible that, when directly compared to each other, seem to be contradictory, it doesn’t mean the entire bible is untrustworthy. You may ask, “How can you say that, Steve? If we can’t trust that what we read in Exodus is not the same thing we read in James, then what else may be wrong in the book? ” My answer is this: just because what we read in Exodus is different than what we read in James, why believe that everything else is wrong? Or that anything else is wrong? And if there are things that seem to be different, does that make the whole thing wrong?

Let’s take Abraham for a start. In Genesis we are told his faith is his righteousness. Genesis is a narrative which was written to teach us the history of the people and the formation of their relationship with God as they became a nation. The Book of James is written to the Jews in the Diaspora, and is written not as a narrative but as a reminder to reinforce the meaning of Yeshua’s appearance and the plan of salvation. When James says that Abraham’s righteousness was credited by his works, it is used not to show that works are the only means of justification, or that faith wasn’t involved, but to show that Abraham’s faith in God resulted in faith generated works, either of which was credited to him as righteousness. James was writing to show that faith must result in faithful works- that is the point of the letter. So whereas the point of Exodus was to narrate the story of the formation of Israel and it’s relationship with God, the point of James’s letter was to refresh the teachings and reinforce the need to demonstrate one’s T’shuvah (repentance) through good works.

We may see a contradiction regarding what was credited to Abraham as righteousness, but God’s message for us, which is that good works result from faith, is in both stories. They are written in a way that contradict themselves, but the message that we are to receive is the same.

Have you ever said something at one point in your life and then changed your mind? Does that mean you lied before, or that you’re lying now? Of course not, it just means that what you thought you knew or what you felt then is different within you now. Is it a contradiction? Yes. Does it mean we can’t trust anything you say or have ever said? Of course not.

The same holds true with the bible. Often I have heard, and said myself, that what seems to be a contradiction in the bible is just our lack of understanding. That may be true, but lately (as I read the bible more and more) I feel that there may be contradictions, caused by misunderstanding or just as a result of the fact that what was written at one time was trying to make a certain point, and later it was referenced to, but for making a different point. As we would say today, that same event was simply given a new “spin.”

For me, when people say there are contradictions in the bible, I say, “So what?” Does one thing that doesn’t make sense destroy all the rest? If there is one piece of brown lettuce in the sandwich does that mean you should throw the entire sandwich away? If someone tells you something that they thought was true but it ends up being wrong, do you never trust them again? If you go to your favorite restaurant, which has always served you good food and had good service, but one day the french fries aren’t really hot, do you refuse to ever go there again?  Do you assume that everything they serve is cold? Do you think that all the other times you went there and found it satisfying was a lie you have told yourself?

See my point? The bible is God’s word that He gave to us through people. God did not physically write the bible, and He certainly isn’t editing every single version some new interpreter puts out. With human intervention, there will be human error. In the IT world, which is where I come from, the weakest point of any program or process is where there is human intervention. The best you can do is incorporate error-catching programming using double and triple checks within the process to prevent an error. But take it from me: no matter how “smart” the program, humans will find a way to blow it up.

God has His own error-catching program: it is called the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit.  When we read the bible we are to ask the Ruach for guidance in proper interpretation, and for deeper understanding so that we can avoid the trap the Adversary wants us to fall into. Satan is the one behind the proposition that if there is something that seems to contradict itself in the bible, then the entire bible (and God, too) is untrustworthy.

Don’t fall for it! Just because there may be a contradiction in the bible, that doesn’t mean we cannot trust the bible. It just means someone interpreted something differently than someone else, or that the writer was trying to make a different point. Different letters to different congregations were written to provide different lessons and for different purposes, so the writer may have taken some “poetic license” when referring to other parts of the bible. It doesn’t dilute the truth of the bible and it shouldn’t cause us to doubt anything in the bible.

Faith is something that we have because we choose to have it: it isn’t given, it isn’t bought, it can’t be traded for or earned. Our faith in God is something we have chosen to have, and once we have asked for and received the Ruach HaKodesh we have a physical experience that justifies our faith in God. I know God exists because I have felt His spirit enter my body, because it constantly keeps me in line, and because of all the wonderful blessings I recognize in my life that could only be from God. If there is something in the bible that is a contradiction from one letter to another, or in a letter that contradicts what I read in the Tanakh, so what? I have so much more than what is written in a book to justify and confirm God’s existence and presence in my life.

The bible is, after all, just a book. It was given to us by God in order that we may learn about Him and His Messiah. It is the road map to eternity. Once we know the Lord, and have felt His Spirit, and seen His wonderful works, the book becomes a reference manual for us, a way to remind ourselves of how we got here and to better know God. He allows us to see more and more of Him, and His lessons for us, as we continue to read it.

The bible is the story of what God has done in other people’s lives, and helps us find our way to God; after we find Him, what matters then is what God does in our own life.

If your faith can be turned or weakened by a contradiction in the bible, then you do not have faith in God, you only have faith in a book.


Parashah Va-Ethchanan (I besought) Deuteronomy 3:23 – 7:11

Moses completes his First Discourse, going into detail about how God has separated the Jewish people from the other nations by his laws, ordinances and (more than anything else) His continual presence and the miraculous works He has performed for His people. These all show the world who God is and who He has chosen as His inheritance.

Moses then assigns the cities of refuge and starting in Chapter 5, verse 1 Moses goes through the 10 Commandments, recites the Shema and the V’Ahavtah: the Shema being the watchword of the faith, the statement of monotheism which separated the Jewish people from the rest of the pagan world. The V’Ahavtah (‘and you shall love’) follows the Shema, and is the way we follow the Shema- to love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might. Yeshua told us that to love God (from this passage) and to love each other (Lev. 19:18) are the two most important commandments of all.

Moses also tells us, throughout this parashah and (indeed) throughout the entire book of Deuteronomy, that we are not to make a graven image of anything; nothing in the sky, nothing on earth and nothing in the sea. Maybe someone should tell that religion with all the statues in their churches about this commandment.

Chapter 5 also starts the Second Discourse of Moses, which is all about the foundations of the Covenant.

Well, all we have here today to talk about are the two most important prayers in Judaism and how important it is to follow God’s commandments in order to secure our future. Let’s see- maybe we can cover this completely in, oh say, …a LIFETIME!! We have been studying these things since we received them, some 3500 years ago. Oy!

I am going to keep this simple. The bottom line, the acid test question to be answered (“How does this affect my salvation?”) is that we are to remember to follow God’s lead. That’s it, really. Here’s salvation in a nutshell: do as God says.

Of course, since we can’t do that because of our sinful nature, God has provided Yeshua the Messiah to get us over that “hump”, but that hasn’t happened yet for these people.

God has given us the Torah- not “us” meaning just the Jewish people, but “us” meaning everyone.  The Jewish people are the chosen people (sorry to tell you, Replacement Theologists, but you are so wrong you aren’t even in the same universe where what is right is found), but chosen only to be the custodians of the Torah. We are to be teachers, Levites (priests) to the nations; by learning and following the Torah, we are to present to the world the example of how we all should act.

All nations will be blessed by Abraham’s seed- that is the promise God made to Abraham (Genesis 22:18) and we have seen that happen throughout history. Just as a small example, here is an excerpt from Wikipedia regarding the contribution Jews have made to the world resulting in being awarded the Nobel Prize:

 Nobel Prizes have been awarded to over 850 individuals, of whom at least 20% were Jewish or people of Jewish descent, although Jews comprise less than 0.2% of the world’s population (or 1 in every 500 people). Overall, Jews or people of Jewish descent have won a total of 41% of all the Nobel Prizes in economics, 28% of medicine, 26% of physics, 19% of chemistry, 13% of literature and 9% of all peace awards.

Less than 0.2% of all people have contributed over 20% of the most beneficial discoveries and contributions to society that have occurred in the modern world. I would call that a good example of blessing the world, wouldn’t you?

Moses tells the people (over and over) how God chose them, saved them, protected them, and will continue to do so, as long as they continue to worship Him and obey His Torah. It’s really that simple- do as He says, live in peace and comfort, the end; close the door on your way out.

That is today’s message: do as God says, not as we do.

Of course, you will counter with, “But, I can’t obey the Torah fully- there is no temple for the sacrifice, and besides that, (now comes the string of excuses that religion has taught you), and that’s why I can’t follow Torah. Oh, yeah- I am not under the Law but under the Blood of Christ!”

Religion is not something God created- mankind created religion. God has no religion. So, what religion has taught you may or may not be correct in God’s eyes. The Torah, on the other hand, is correct in God’s eyes. I mean, well, He gave it to us- how much more correct can it get than that? The only logical and sensible thing to do is try to follow the Torah to the best of our abilities.

Being under the Blood of Christ is a very good thing- a VERY good thing- but it is not license to ignore God’s commandments that are in the Torah. Being under the blood is being born again and having Yeshua (Jesus) as your intercessor: your unrighteousness before God is covered by His blood, which washes clean the stain of your sin. Being “under the blood” is how you are able to be saved from yourself at Judgement Day, but if you haven’t really done T’shuvah (turning from sin), if you use the suffering and sacrifice Yeshua underwent to save you as an excuse to continue sinning (on purpose), then there will be no blood shed for you! God and Yeshua want you to be saved from yourself, even to the point where Yeshua gave up His divinity to take on a mantle of flesh and die so that you can be welcomed into heaven.

BUT– neither God nor Yeshua are stupid. If your heart is not truly repentant, if you don’t truly try to sin less every day, if you have’t really done T’shuvah, then you aren’t fooling anyone. You may think you are under the blood, but you are, in fact, under a curse.

The whole Torah comes down to this, as I have said before, am saying now, and will continue to say: just do what God says to the best of your ability, and what He says in in the Torah. It’s not what the Rabbi, Priest or Minister tells you (although they are trying to help guide you), and it’s not what I tell you (Oy! Who, me? I am just like you!): it’s what God tells you! God is the Boss, the Big Kahuna, the Macher, the Holy One of Israel, the Lord of lords and King of kings. God is all there is, ever was, or ever shall be.

The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the One and Only God, and that is all there is to it. His business is salvation, His CEO is Yeshua, His office is in heaven, and if you want to want to work for Him you need to follow His business practices.

And the Employee Handbook is called…..Torah.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Having a ticket doesn’t guarantee entry

One of the most comforting quotes from the bible is Joel 2:32, where Joel tells us that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. In the New Covenant this is repeated in Acts 2:21 and, again, in Romans 10:13.

And it is true, of course, but that assumes the one calling is repentant, and remains repentant. Call on the name of the Lord and you will be saved, but that is only your ticket to come in. You still have to arrive, you have to be dressed properly and you need to bring your ID.

We first need to understand that “calling on the name of the Lord” means asking for forgiveness of your sins through the Messiah’s sacrificial death. It means doing T’shuvah, turning from your sinful life, and working towards sinning less for the rest of your life.  If you ask for forgiveness, and mean it, you will be forgiven, but that isn’t the beginning and the end of it- it is just the start. You need to demonstrate your repentance through changes in your actions. You will still be thinking sinful things, but so long as you fight to overcome the sinful nature we all have, and you make progress, you will continue to be saved. Your works, the fruits of your salvation that you demonstrate in your everyday words, actions and thoughts will be the clothing you wear to the “wedding” and the gift you present to the King.

There are quite a few parables about those who have been invited (i.e., those who have called on the name of the Lord and received forgiveness), but because they did not fully repent or because they backslid they did not get to make it to the party.

There is the parable of the wedding guests who were invited but allowed their cares for the world to prevent them from going, so they did not get to attend the wedding. There is the another wedding parable about bridesmaids who didn’t buy oil for their lamps and when the groom came they were too busy trying to find oil, with the result that when they finally had what they were supposed to have already had, they were locked out of the wedding.

There is another wedding parable, this one about one person at the reception without the proper clothing (in those days the wedding host gave clothing to the guests as they arrived) so he was thrown out of the reception.

That’s not all!

There is the parable about the fruit tree in the garden (in the garden= already saved) but didn’t bear any fruit and ended up being thrown out of the garden.

The parable about the three servants given talents and the one returned only what he had been given; for not using what he had been given he was called a wicked servant and was thrown into the darkness.

In 1 Timothy 4:1 we read how, in the Acharit HaYamim (The End Days), even some of the chosen will fall away from the faith; this warning is first given to us in Matthew, repeated in the other Gospels and given as a final warning in Revelations. False Messiahs will come and perform wondrous signs that will fool even some of the Chosen, those who have been saved and given their ticket to Eternal joy and peace. They will turn that ticket in to the wrong place, and just like some stores will honor the coupons of their competitors, the enemy of God will certainly accept you into his realm. He will honor you and shower you with gifts of earthly power and wealth so that you will eagerly trade in your salvation.

Many teach that salvation is irrevocable, and they are right- it is irrevocable, but what does “irrevocable” mean? It means it won’t be taken back. That doesn’t mean we can’t throw it away! That doesn’t mean we can’t disqualify ourselves by accepting the grace of God then misusing or abusing it. Grace from sin is not license to sin, and too many people think that all they have to do is ask God for forgiveness and their position in heaven is set in stone.

It isn’t.

We all can receive the forgiveness God has provided through Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) if we are repentant and if we change. We can’t be repentant without showing a change in our deeds and ways. As Yacov (James) says in the book bearing his name, a well cannot give both fresh and salt water. If you have done T’shuvah, and accepted the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) then you have to change. You can’t help it. It is slow, and there is always that fight between the little guy wearing the halo on one shoulder and the little devil on the other shoulder. That fight will never go away, but the more you read the bible, the more you allow the Ruach to rule your life, the more you “die to self” so that the Holy Spirit can live more fully in you, well, soon the little angel looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger and the devil looks like Steve Urkel.

No one likes to hear that when you call on God for forgiveness that you get it, but you don’t have it. Yet, that’s really what it comes down to- remember, God doesn’t work in the same time zone we do. He is, He was, and He will be- all in the same moment. There is no lineal timeline where God is concerned, so you can have something and not have it, all at the same time.

The guarantee of our salvation is not dependent on God- once He gives you that forgiveness, you have it, but now you have to keep it. The way you do that is to show the world the change that the Holy Spirit has made in you by doing more and more of what God wants. You’ll find those instructions in the Torah. That’s what God told Moses to write down so we would all have the same instructions; that’s what Jesus taught His disciples to preach and what He lived completely as an example to us, and the Torah has the rules for how everyone who worships the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is supposed to live.

In a nutshell, calling on the name of the Lord will get you that ticket to salvation, and there is a seat reserved for you, but you need to hold tight to that ticket, not let anyone else fool you into giving it to them, and to show up at the theater properly dressed, wearing the fruits of your salvation. Don’t wait until the first call to find fruit, because this show doesn’t adhere to any schedule. You may be called to appear at any time, and once the curtain goes up the doors are locked to everyone.

Salvation: if you ask for it, you get it. That’s the easy part- the hard part is working at it, keeping it and being able to show up properly dressed when the doors open.

Parashah Bechukotai (If you walk) Leviticus 26:3 – 27

Throughout the Torah, the methodology for God commanding us is that He tells us what we are to do, then He tells us what will happen if we don’t, and finally He confirms that after we have disobeyed, when we do T’shuvah (turn from sin) and return to Him with all our heart, He will remember us and His covenant with the Patriarchs, redeem us from wherever we are and bless us, again.

Leviticus is a book that is the penal code for the nation, as well as the ceremonial rites and actions we are to perform, from the High Priest (Cohen HaGadol) down to the common person. And, as outlined above, after we are told of the rites, laws, commandments, regulations and all that we are do to in order to properly worship God, and all that we are to do to properly treat each other, now comes the final warning: if you don’t do as I say, then I will do this to you.

And it ain’t pretty! What’s interesting is that it is not just a warning, it is a prophecy. The language of the warning, as it seems to me, is that God is not just saying “if you don’t”, but more like “when you don’t.”  God tells us what we should do, then tells us He knows we won’t. Next, He tells us what He will do to bring us back into obedience because He will not coddle us or enable our disobedience. No- what God will do when we try to act bigger than Him is to bring us down to our knees, and if that doesn’t get us back in line, He will bring us down to our hands and knees, and if that doesn’t bring us around, He will flatten us until our faces are in the dirt, and if we are still unwilling to atone, He will shove our head into the ground and step on our necks until we finally realize how stupid we have been and cry, “UNCLE!!!” Then, finally, after we do T’shuvah and return to Him, God will return to us the blessings promised for obedience.

Obedience is the fulcrum for worship: when we sin, we tilt to the side of disobedience, which results with the weight of God’s punishment falling on us like a ton of bricks; but, when we tilt to the side of obedience, God’s blessings come down from heaven like a gentle rain. The best place of all is in total obedience, at which point we are in perfect balance with God, and that will result in living in harmony with the world and at peace with each other. I like this simile because ever since God created us, we have see-sawed from one side to the other, blessed and cursed, obedient and disobedient, almost never balanced.

And if you have ever been on a see-saw and had the other person, when you were way up high, get off the see-saw you know what it feels like to be at the wrong end of God’s wrath.

Have you ever heard that it takes more muscles to smile than it does to frown? I don’t know if that is true or not, but I think, from a spiritual viewpoint, it is true because sinning is so much easier than obeying. But that doesn’t mean obedience is impossible, it is just harder to get started doing.

It is also said that if you do something 21 times in a row it becomes a habit. So if I can chose just one commandment, just one, and do it 21 days in a row, then it shouldn’t be hard anymore because it has become a habit. Are you willing to try this? Now, now- don’t pick Do Not Kill or Do Not Steal– those are too easy. Try something harder, something worth working to do, like Do Not Covet, or Keep the Sabbath. Pick any commandment that has been difficult for you to obey, and try to obey it for 21 days in a row. Mark it on your calendar, tie a string around your finger, whatever will work to keep this one commandment in front of you (let it be a frontlet between thine eyes) and see if you can do this one thing for 21 days.

If the saying is correct, then it will no longer be hard to do because it will be a habit. Imagine- what was once hard to do will now become hard not to do!

We can never be sinless, but we can always sin less. That is a reasonable goal, and one we can reach- to sin less. Less than I used to sin as a child, less than I used to sin as an adult, less than I used to sin last year, less than I sinned yesterday. One day at a time, one step at a time, one sin at a time.

You can perform one less sin today, can’t you?

Parashah Tzav (Order) Leviticus 6:1 – 8:36

This parashah covers sacrifice and ordination rules, but that is not what I want to talk about today.

The Torah is more than just a “book”- it is a narrative (that archaeological discoveries are proving to be historically accurate), it is a Ketubah (marriage certificate) between God and His people, it is a national constitution which outlines and sets the foundation for a nation, and it is a penal code.

It also tells us who God is, who we are, how this all started and how it will all end.

Leviticus is the most legalistic (if I may use that word) book of the Torah. In this book we are told all the laws, commandments, regulations, and ordinances that we must obey in order to receive the blessings of God and salvation. It separates the Jews from the Gentiles, sin from righteousness and death from salvation. Although Torah is often misinterpreted to mean “Law” when it really means “Teaching”, Leviticus is a very legal book. It not only covers laws regarding sacrifice, but also health code, restitution for theft and negligence, penal codes outlining the punishments for these crimes (which, by the way, was at that time the most humane of all penal codes) and generally how we should treat each other.

Too many Christian teachings are that the Torah is not valid for Christians, but how can they say that when Torah outlines how human beings are supposed to live together? Does the blood of Jesus Christ overrule common decency? Does the sacrifice of the Messiah mean that we don’t have to obey laws? Does the promise of salvation through Jesus’s death mean that we can ignore everything else God told us to do?

I don’t think so! Christians are always saying, “Do as Jesus did” but there are almost none who do. Hey! Get with the program, Folks- what Jesus did was to follow the Torah! He kept every single commandment, and (like it or not) He also taught everyone else to keep every single commandment. That’s right- He never once preached anything against or in lieu of Torah.

Jesus is called the Living Word, is He not? Well, what “word” do you think He is? Torah! That was the only “word” that existed, that was the “word” He taught from, that was the “word” He taught about, and that is the “word” He was. Jesus was Torah in the flesh.

Yeshua (that’s Jesus’s real name, in case you didn’t know) also said that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. If that is true, and He is the Living Torah, then for Him to preach or teach or even suggest doing anything against or in opposition to all that is in the Torah would be preaching against Himself, and if that is what He did then His kingdom cannot stand.

But that can’t be, because His kingdom will always stand, our words will fade away but His words will never fade away, and He built His kingdom on a rock (Kefa) that the gates of Hell cannot overpower.

Read Isaiah 40:8; read Daniel 2:44; Read 1 Peter 1:25; for that matter, read any part of the Bible where it talks about the kingdom of God and you will see that God will place all kingdoms under the feet of the Messiah, and that he will rule forever.

It is impossible for us humans to be perfect according to the Torah. That is why Yeshua had to do what He did, so that we could have this eternal “Get Out of Jail Free” card. But that doesn’t mean we can ignore the Torah. The Torah is where God tells us how He wants us to live: how we are to worship Him, how we are to treat each other, what is good for us, what is not good for us, and how to live long, fruitful, and joyful lives.

Why would anyone want to ignore that?

If you have been told that you are saved by the Blood of Jesus and that the Jews are saved by their Torah, you have been led down the path to destruction. Torah is for everyone and everyone who professes to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, not to mention accept His son, Yeshua, as their Messiah and Savior, is required to honor and follow the way God says we should live, which is (you guessed it!) in the Torah.

Here is the Torah, in a nutshell:

  • Genesis and Exodus take us from the beginning of existence to God giving us His rulings and instructions regarding how we are to worship Him and live together.
  • Leviticus specifies and explains those instructions.
  • Numbers is the historical narrative of the things that happened while in the desert
  • Deuteronomy is a recap of everything up to just before they enter the Land God promised, ending with the promise of the Messiah to come.

Read Leviticus. It is somewhat long, a little boring in parts (I can’t believe how many different things that skin disease can infect) and very detailed, but it is important to know because, well, it is what God tells us to do. It is what Moses did, it is what the Prophets did, it is what (most of) the Kings of Judah did, and it is what Yeshua did.

And it is what we should do, too!

You don’t have to believe to like the bible

Before I was saved I didn’t know the bible, at all. I knew what I had been told, or what I thought they had said, and that was it.

And that was not always correct, either. How many people do you think would say yes if you asked them, “Does the bible say, ‘God helps those that help themselves.'”?

We who know the bible know that this is not said anywhere in the bible; the truth we learn from the bible is that God helps those that ask Him for help.

So, what brought me to the Word of God? It wasn’t the spiritual stuff, it was the social stuff. It was the fact that I realized (and we have to make others realize this by exposing them to these facts) the bible held many wise sayings and useful rules for how to act in society. I realized that there was wisdom that was available for me without having to believe in God. There was truth and understanding about people and how they treated each other in the stories it has, and there is history (I am a lifelong student of history) that is fascinating. It is very hard to argue, with all the archeological evidence and artifacts found over the centuries, that the bible is not an accurate historical document.

All of these things got me interested in the bible as a book. I read it as I would any other saga, and I recognized it as a history of the human experience.

But then the Word of God got into me. The bible does say, in Isaiah 55:11:

“…so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

The purpose of God’s word is to save us from ourselves, and it did that for me. I didn’t understand a lot of it, and what really helped me was to get my hands on a special type of bible- a messianic one. Being Jewish, the New Covenant writings were an anathema to me- I had been told by every Jew I ever knew, even ones that didn’t know the first thing about the bible, that Jesus was a Jew that turned against Judaism and created Christianity (what a crock that is, but even today it is accepted by most Jews as the truth.) And, as a student of history, I knew how well Christianity had treated the Jewish people over the millennia, so (naturally) I had no interest in anything Christian. However, the messianic version bold-printed every New Covenant reference to the Tanakh, and when I saw, page after page after page, that most of everything in the New Covenant came directly from the Old Covenant, I realized that (you’ve heard me say this before) there is nothing “new” in the New Covenant. It is a Jewish book!

So, nu? Let’s read our audience and ask only the questions we already know the answers to: let’s sell salvation the right way. If you are finding that your efforts to interest non-Believers is not working , stop telling them what you think is important and ask them what they think is important.  People only want to know what interests them, so with all there is in the bible you just have to be able to find something that is relevant to their interests.

That is how you get people to read the bible, or (at least) know something about it that is accurate. Just help them to understand that the bible is not just for believers, it is for everyone. The stories are the best stories that have ever been told (isn’t the Gospel called “The Greatest Story Ever Told?”), the wisdom of Solomon in Proverbs is easy to read and necessary for any and all aspects of life, the mitzvot regarding how to treat each other in a society are the foundation for most every civilized country in the world. The history is fascinating.

All of this is in there, and you don’t need to believe in God to enjoy and learn from it. Even within the bible there is a book that never once mentions God. Not a word about Him, not even His name, only a reference to His ability to achieve His goals (if you aren’t sure which book, it’s the Book of Esther {Hadassah}.)

People are afraid of the bible, and I don’t blame them-after all, it does tell us that if we reject God we go to hell. But, other than that, as a book it makes you think, it is a real “page-turner” (in most places- I will admit that the genealogies and the first 8 chapters or so of Numbers is a drag) and it can be read only a chapter or two a day.

Get people to see the bible as more than a religious book, teach them that there is more to the bible than God-related things, and get them just interested enough to read it. Even just one book, or a story. Get their face in the book, and leave the rest to the book.

Isaiah knew what he was talking about. All we need to do is get someone curious enough to read something in the bible.

If you can do just that one thing, God will take it from there.

Who or What; Was or Is; Which is Right?

Yeshua, called Jesus by most of the world, is recognized pretty much as the Messiah by the Christian world, although He is also called the Lord, to the exclusion of THE Lord, and God in the Flesh, although there is only one God, and the son of God, which He can’t really be if He is God, can He?

Here is an excerpt from my book, “Back to Basics: God’s Word vs. Religion” regarding who or what Yeshua is or was:

Let’s not overlook the fact that He was in existence from the Beginning- He may have been born of a virgin, as the prophecy states, but He certainly wasn’t born as a human is born. He was fully human, but He was not of human origin. He was subject to human frailty and temptation but He was also so completely filled with the Ruach HaKodesh He was, as no other person ever has or will be, able to overcome His humanity.

I know, I know…this sort of “He was – He wasn’t” back-and-forth can give you a headache! Was He human? Yes. Was He God? Yes. Did He die? Yes. Well, if He was God how could He be human, and if He was God how could He have died, and if He was human how could he be God, and if He was Human how could He do those miracles, and if and if…. YIKES!! That’s why it is just so much easier to just take things on faith. Although, being faithful doesn’t mean accepting ignorance. We still need to know what the truth is, and the only way is to hear it from His own mouth. The way He allows us to hear Him is that He gave us The Bible, The Manual. Reading that, and asking Him to guide our understanding by the Spirit, is the best and most productive way to know His word. Since Yochanan (John) tells us in his Gospel at first that there was the Word and the Word became flesh, if we know His Word then we know Him.

Some things we know, historically, about Yeshua was that, first and foremost, His was born into a Jewish family and His name was never ‘Jesus’- that is a translation of a transliteration. For the etymology of the name Jesus do a search on “what’s in a name” in the Search window at the bottom right of this page. We also know His mother and father, what the family business was, that He was circumcised, had been to Yerushalayim at least once (and was left behind there for a week alone), He was baptised by Yochanan the Immerser (John the Baptist), had a wandering ministry, healed many people of different diseases, taught 12 Disciples who lived and travelled with Him for about 3 years, and was sentenced to death by crucifixion. We also are told by the same dependable writers and witnesses that He was resurrected and wandered among the people for about 40 days (40- another well used number in the Bible) until He rose into heaven.

So, where’s that leave us, with regards to the title of this blog? Is Yeshua a “who”, meaning a human being, or a “what”, as in a proper noun such as Messiah? We know He existed and was killed, so do we refer to Him in the past tense as with a dead person? If so, when He was resurrected He became alive, again, and He is forever alive so shouldn’t we say He “is”, as we do when referring to a living person? He was the Messiah for those people, but, then again, He is our Messiah today. He was God’s son and God in the flesh- didn’t He say if you see me you see the Father? To know Him is to know the Father? If so, that fits in with the old Jewish adage that the Torah is to be a mirror so that when we look into it we see ourselves. John says that Yeshua was the Living Torah, that the Word became flesh. Since Torah is still valid and the Word of God, and Yeshua is the living Torah, then Yeshua is alive, so we should say He “is” and not that He “was”, anything. As a living entity, He is a “who” and not a “what”, wouldn’t you agree?

Who He was is why He was able to do what He did, and what He is is why He is able to do what He does. (say that three times fast!)

It’s all a bunch of literary hoopla. It doesn’t really matter who, what, was, is… whatever! Yeshua was the Messiah, He is the Messiah, and there is only one true Messiah; even after all is done and Yeshua takes on whatever mantle of leadership or divinity that He will wear at that time forevermore, who or what He was or is will not change.

God is eternal, Yeshua is eternal ( Yeshua said, “…before Abraham was, I am.”), and past and present are irrelevant when discussing the eternal.

What is important from this discussion is to understand and accept that Yeshua always has been and, until the end of this existence will continue to be, the only hope we have for salvation.

I have collected this laundry list of questions, and I figure when I see Yeshua’s face I can ask Him because He will know the answers. But you wanna know something? When I do see His face, I don’t think any of those answers will have any meaning for me.

Once I see His face, all that is important to me now won’t matter anymore.