salvation: easy to get, hard to keep

“All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Joel 2:32) is a very comforting thought.

Are any of you reading this surprised to see me cite Joel? Were you perhaps thinking this is from Acts 2:21 or, maybe, it’s in Romans 10:13? You are correct: we do find this verse in each of those letters, but the writer was quoting Joel. In fact, there is nothing “new” in the New Covenant- it is all, every single word, based entirely on what is found in the Tanakh.

And when Joel said this, just like when Shaul (Paul) repeated it centuries later, the meaning was not that calling on the Lord is all you have to do, but that calling on the Lord is only the start of what you have to do, and continue to do for the rest of your life.

What is “calling on the Lord?” Is is asking for forgiveness? Yes. Is it asking to be rescued from a dangerous situation? Yes. Is it asking to be saved from your sinful lifestyle and the consequences that come from it? Yes, of course it does. But does it mean call on Him once and that’s it? You don’t need to do anything else?

Not a chance!

The Lord is wiling and able, and even more than that, desiring to forgive you. He wants to forgive you, He loves to see a lost soul return to the flock. In Ezekiel 18:23 he tells us:

 Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?

Being forgiven is something that comes easily because the One who forgives wants to do so. It wasn’t so easy for Yeshua (Jesus) to provide the pathway to salvation, but it is easy for us to get on that road. There is no toll booth, no “Exact Change Required”, and no traffic.

However, it is a rough road to travel.

As we go along our way, we need to stop in to the churches and synagogues that are along the road to get refreshed, and we need to avoid the “tourist traps” that have billboards all along the road. They want you to get off the road and travel to their hotel, or inn, or restaurant. They offer free drinks, free food and free accommodations. They are enticing and very hard to resist when you have been travelling a bumpy and dusty road.

What I am talking about is the “world”- everyone else who has chosen to take the smooth, paved highway to hell, with all it’s earthly pleasures. They want you to join them on their road as badly as God wants you to stay on His road. He knows it’s a hard road to travel, He knows that our very nature is to get on that smooth surface and glide through life, and He knows that what He is asking is hard for us. Not impossible, just hard. It’s designed that way, because the only way to prove we are serious and honest about our call to Him is to have us go “through the fire.”

And this isn’t to prove to Him how serious we are- God sees the heart, He knows our desires and our inner-most truths. The reason we have to go through hell-on-earth to avoid going to hell-for-eternity is to prove to each one of us that we are serious.  We are the ones that need to know what is truly in our hearts because, as humans, we lie to ourselves. If we lie to ourselves, then when we tell others the same lie it isn’t really a lie, right? After all, we believe it to be the truth, so when we tell someone else it isn’t lying, right?

Wrong. It is a lie, but it is not a lie of volition, it is a lie of omission. We omit the truth about something by pretending and convincing ourselves that it doesn’t exist or that what we are being told is not the truth.

For instance, if you thought that the quote at the start of this message was original to the New Covenant, that is a lie, but a lie that you were taught is the truth by someone who also was taught it was the truth. The lie is not where the verse originated as much as the lie that it is a Christian “thing.” Many Christian teachings are designed to ignore the Old Covenant because that is for Jews, and not for “us”. They are saved by their Torah but we have the Blood of Christ!

That is also a lie. Christians aren’t the only ones who have the Blood of Christ because Jews have the blood of Christ, too. Muslims have the Blood of Christ, as well. Buddhists, Hindi’s, Atheists, Skin-heads, Nazi’s, everyone has the Blood of Christ to save them!  He didn’t die just for Christians- He died for everyone. His blood doesn’t care who you are or what you believed in- when you call to the Lord for salvation, it is there for you. I, you, we are saved by the Blood of the Messiah, no matter what we did before we called on His name.

And when we call on His name, that is just the start.

Once you have been given salvation, it is not set in stone. No one can take it away, that’s true, but we can easily (as many do) throw it away. God gives you a ticket to get into the Garden of Eden, but you have to get there yourself. He provides the divine GPS, the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to lead us and help keep us on the pathway, but there are all those billboards. Come in for free drinks; children eat free; get a free night’s stay for every night you sleep here (Hotel California); take this short cut to the same destination because our road is smooth, and the gas is free!

The signs are enticing, they are overwhelming, and they are constantly in our faces. But they do not lead us to the place we want to go. That is why salvation is easy to get, and hard to keep, because the world we have to live in is cursed and sinful and it wants us to join it as badly as God wants us to be separated from it.

That is why almost every prayer we have starts with:

Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu, Melech Ha Olam, asher kidshanu, b’mitzvotav, vitzivanu… which means: Blessed are you, oh Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with Your commandments….

To be sanctified, to be made holy, means to be separated. And what we need to be, and remain separated from, is sin. Sin is all around us, not to mention living inside of us. It is our nature to sin, and that is why the road is so bumpy and difficult to travel: we have to overcome our own desires, and it is so much harder to do that when all we see, every mile, at every exit ramp, is the sinful world calling out and beckoning to us with rich and pleasurable rewards if we would only return to it.

Don’t be fooled. Stay the course, keep running the good race, and keep your eyes on the prize. Please believe me, or better yet, believe God when He tells you that the rewards at the end of your trek will be more than worth the effort it takes to get there.

Parashah Noach (Noah) Genesis 6:9 – 11:32

No, I am not going to review the story- who doesn’t know about “The Flood”?

Some interesting points:

  • Noah did not bring in all the animals two-by-two: he brought in the clean animals seven-by-seven, and the unclean two-by-two;
  • He first sent out a raven, which could have fed on any carrion left but not indicate if it was safe for them to leave the Ark, so later he sent a dove which only would feed on vegetation, indicating the waters had receded;
  • the rainbow wasn’t necessarily created after the flood, but it was now used to signify the covenant that God made with Noah;
  • before the Flood mankind ate only fruits and vegetables, but now mankind is allowed to eat meat, so long as there is no blood in the meat;
  • this was (probably) the very first time that rain fell on the earth, as we are told that the garden and the earth was watered by a mist in the morning.

When Noah was lying drunk and uncovered (Gen. 9:20-28), Ham (as described in the Chumash)  laughed about it with his brothers (was disrespectful) instead of covering his father, as his brothers did. The result is that Noah curses Canaan, the son of Ham, to be a slave to his brothers.

God, on the other hand, swore (Gen. 8:21-22) that He would never again hold the entire human race guilty of the sins of the individuals. Noah cursed Ham by cursing Ham’s son, and that curse was for all the generations of Ham. In a way, God relented of cursing the multitude for the sins of the individuals, but Noah cursed the multitude (all descendants) for the curse of an individual. To me, this shows that even a righteous man, which Noah was, will be less generous and merciful than God in his actions towards his fellow man (and woman.)

The final story of this parashah is the Tower of Babel, again a story that almost everyone knows. Just a single thought today on this: if the tower had been built as an alter to God, and not a means to show mankind’s strength, maybe God would have allowed it. The tower was built so that people could show their power and authority, and because it was a monument to mankind and not to God, that is the reason God did not allow it to be completed. If the tower had been built for the right reasons, and we continued to work together, a single humanity with a single voice and a single purpose that pleased the Lord, who knows what could have happened? Maybe there would not have been need for Messiah because we could have made our own paradise?

Naaahhhhh!! Couldn’t be- God tells us, in Gen. 8:21, that the heart of every man is evil from the start (it is called the Yetzer Hara, which means the evil inclination) and so God will just deal with each person in accordance to what they deserve.

It is a nice thought though, isn’t it? That of the world coming together, everyone working in unity for a common goal that is pleasing to the Lord, if only I could buy the world a Coke, and we could all sing in perfect harmony? Well, ….don’t hold your breath!

We are what we are, and during our life the goal should be to end up a better person than the one we started out as. We start off as sinners, born into a sinful world controlled by sinful people, and we have the one lifetime God gives us to get our act together. Shakespeare was right when he said all the world is a stage, and we are merely players; what you need to understand, what we all need to understand, is that the bible is the script God wrote for us, and we really need to read it if we want to know our lines!

Life is a dress rehearsal for eternity. We have seen God create mankind, destroy all of it (except for a remnant) and build an entire civilization, for a second chance. There will be one more great destruction, with one final rebuilding from the remnant that survive.

This play is almost ready for the opening night: we’ve had our read-through, we’ve been rehearsing for hundreds of generations, and who knows whether or not our generation will be the ones who get the curtain call?

Are you prepared to go on stage?

Parashah Bereshith (Genesis 1 – 6:8) In the Beginning

What can I say about the creation of mankind?

Don’t worry- I’ll find something, I’m sure.

Seriously, I re-read this parashah and saw something that I hadn’t seen before- it was when I was reading the commentary in my Soncino Edition of the Chumash. The Rabbi talks about how the second chapter is not a different creation, but a defining of certain parts of the the general description of creation given in Chapter 1. That made me think how Yeshua did not redefine the Torah but defined it; in other words, as Chapter 2 of the bible gives more specifics so we better understand Chapter 1, Yeshua gave us a more specific, deeper understanding of the Torah. He didn’t re-write it or create a new religion (you can blame that one on Constantine), all He did was more accurately tell us what God meant. He taught us more than the letter of the Torah- He taught us the spirit of it.

I also see in this parashah the entire plan of salvation. We start with nothingness, which becomes formation of the earth, the separation of land and sea, earth and sky, growth of vegetation, creation of animal life and, finally, creation of man and woman and life in perfect communion with God. Then what happens is sin, which comes between people and God, causing the separation from His constant presence. We no longer are able to commune with God in both the physical and spiritual realms simultaneously- the garden is out of reach for us from that point on. Next we see the sin of disobedience to God grow into the sin of covetousness leading to aggression- Cain murders his brother. Then that sin leads to more sin when Cain lies to God.

We went from perfect communion with God in a paradise to expulsion into a cursed world where sin is growing as fast as the population. And the sin continues to grow to such a level that God has to intervene and destroy the sin that abounds in everyone. Well, nearly everyone- in all the earth there is only one who is favored by God, and that one is Noah.

What I see this morning in this parashah that I hadn’t seen before is that Noah is the first representation of Yeshua; through one man sin entered the world and through one man the world will be saved (you can find that in Romans 5, 1 Corinthians and I think it is also in Hebrews.) The difference is that Yeshua will save those who are living from spiritual death. Noah didn’t save anyone from spiritual death, or even physical death, but he was the salvation of mankind, meaning that through him mankind would be revived and continue to survive.

Through Noah mankind received a second chance to live on earth, and through Yeshua mankind received a second chance to live in paradise.

There is another reference to salvation- a new creation. The earth and all that was on it was destroyed, except for the select of animals and men. A human family, 7 pair of clean animals and one pair of unclean animals (there was Kosher even before there was Kosher!) were saved through one man- Noah. His righteousness was their salvation, and through his descendants, the salvation of humankind. Just like Isaiah 53:

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

Unfortunately, as we all know, this new start was not much better than the old start, but God had promised no more floods, so He is still standing by and waiting for the right time to finish this and start anew. We are not quite there yet (although I believe we are really, really close), but this time He will do it once and for all.

I think it is amazing that there is so much in God’s word that we read, over and over, and never see until the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) opens our eyes, our spiritual eyes, to see what God has had there for us for millennia.

Maybe this interpretation, this Drash that I present to you, isn’t so new. Maybe it’s been discussed by many others before; in fact, I am sure it has been. I’m not so great that I am going to open up the world to a new truth from the word of God. But I like it- I like how suddenly it seems so clear to me. Perfection is ruined by sin, sin takes over the weak and faithless, the elect (those who remain faithful) are saved from the world’s destruction, and we are given new life in a new world. And in the new world the rules change: before the flood there was no rain but after sin entered the world we need the rains or we have no food; the cultivation of God’s creation has gone from very easy to very hard. Before the flood all life ate of only the herbs and the fruit that was provided in the garden, but now we eat the animals and the animals eat each other (and us.)

Maybe after this world is gone and the final, new creation is here we will go back to a vegetarian way of life, the lion and the lamb will lie together because they also will go back to being vegetarians, and the cultivation of God’s creation will again be simple. We will be constantly in God’s presence, as it was in the beginning. This time, though, we won’t have trees that we can eat from and trees we can’t because those of us who are saved through Messiah will already have the knowledge of good and evil, and having had this knowledge while living in the world but still remaining faithful will entitle us to the eternal life that was refused to Adam and Eve.

There won’t be need for rules in the new creation because the Torah will be written on our hearts, and as has been proven time and time again throughout history, what is on our hearts is what guides our actions. Today the hearts of people are full of sinfullness, so sinfullness is what we do. When the Torah is written on our hearts, then Torah will be what we will do.

The Rabbi’s says that Torah should be a mirror, so when we look in it we see ourselves. That is not true today, but it will be in the new creation. That’s what Shaul (Paul) means when he tells us that now we see dimly through a glass (1 Corinthians 13) but then we will see clearly. Sin clouds our sight (as well as our judgement) but in the new creation we will see clearly.

I love Simchat Torah (Joy of Torah- the eighth day of Sukkot) because we get to start reading God’s word all over again. His word is who He is, so the more I read it the more familiar I am with it, and the more familiar I am with it the closer I am to God.

How close are you to God? If you want to be closer to God, then get more familiar with His word.

Two Taboos Too Many

What are the two taboos? Never discuss religion and politics, right? That’s what we are told, and it’s good advice.

The reason I say they are two too many is because when God created everything, His original plan was that there would be only one, non-taboo discussion: Him. The governmental system in the garden was God, the religion was God. That was it. A perfectly run, perfect example of Theocracy.

The de-evolution of this perfect government started with the invention of other gods (man-made, of course) which is what religion has become.

God has no religion. Gee…where have I heard that before?

Then the gods were not enough, so the system split into gods (religion) and human rulership, aka kings (politics), which further devolved the governmental system into the two taboos of today.

We will eventually get back to the perfect Theocracy that God intended, but that will have to wait until Yeshua returns and the Apocalypse is completed.

As the world falls deeper and deeper into revolution, disruption and civil disorder, helped by human intervention with the destruction of our ecosystem and habitats, I can only smile. Not that I enjoy the tsouris, but that I look forward to His return. And I know that won’t happen until things look their worst.

I hope anyone reading this, who is not absolutely sure where you will be after God drops the other shoe, will read some of the older entries in this ministry blog. Go to Category and (especially if you are Jewish) read some of the Jews and Jesus posts, then the Messianic 101 posts. I think that should give you some level of comfort when thinking about who Yeshua, the real Messiah of Israel is (vice that Aryan-looking guy with the blond hair, blue eyes and whose kingdom has been hell-bent on killing the Jews), and help you to understand how things got so separated.

I recommend that we stick to the two taboos, for the time being, and wait until they are one again. Then we won’t need to talk about politics and religion because, well…they won’t exist anymore. It will be just God.

I don’t know about you, but I can hardly wait.