Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Hebrew of Judah

Hebrew fascinates me. There is usually so much more going on under the surface of the text, in part because of the deep meanings of the letters. Our English translations simply miss all the amazing nuances and word plays that are going on.

When Jacob blesses his sons in Genesis 49, there is definitely more going on than meets the eye.

Let's look at the blessing he gave Judah in verses 8-11:

Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise;
Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
Your father’s children shall bow down before you.

Judah is a lion’s whelp;
From the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He bows down, he lies down as a lion;
And as a lion, who shall rouse him?

The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor a lawgiver from between his feet,
Until Shiloh comes;
And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.

Binding his donkey to the vine,
And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine,
He washed his garments in wine,
And his clothes in the blood of grapes.
His eyes are darker than wine,
And his teeth whiter than milk.

First of all, the word Judah means praise... Literally giving thanks. The prophecy starts out with his brothers doing just that.  Someday, the brothers of Yeshua are going to thank and praise Him for what He did for them.

I have previously written about the connection between the name of God  (Yehovah) and the name of Judah.  You can read it here if you wish.

Shiloh is considered to be a synonym for the Messiah, even by the ancient Jewish scholars.  The meaning of Shiloh is He whose it is.

It is interesting to note that in Jacob's entire prophecy to Judah, every single Hebrew letter can be found, except the zayin.  Every Hebrew letter carries a meaning, and the original meaning of the letter zayin is a sword or sharp weapon.

The zayin even looks like a sword.
Just zayin'
At the time of Yeshua, the Jewish people were looking for a man of war, a mighty Messiah who would deliver them from Rome's oppressive rule. 

Just as the zayin was missing from the prophecy, perhaps this is why so many missed His first coming. They wanted the physical, visible sword!  They did not want the invisible, spiritual sword by which Yeshua conquered sin and death through His suffering.

Yeshua is returning soon. But He is no longer the suffering servant with the invisible sword.  The second time around, He will be arriving with the zayin as a mighty conquering King, and will vanquish His enemies. Are you ready?

Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations.
And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron.
He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
Revelation 19:15

Saturday, December 10, 2016

A Trilogy of Messiah

I was at a conference awhile back that had a bookstore on site.  One of the books featured was the "Jesus-Centered Bible."  I had to chuckle a little... aren't they all?

Maybe the publishers
 ran out of marketing ideas?

The Messiah is evident all throughout the scriptures, from Genesis 1:1 through Revelation 22:21.

One of my favorite places in the scriptures is the book of Psalms.  I have been hanging out there this month, just enjoying His presence there.

Did you know that the word salvation appears 63 times throughout the book?  And did you know that the Hebrew word for salvation is Yeshua, which also happens to be the name of the Messiah?  The name we English speakers know is Jesus, which is a transliteration of the Greek word Iesous.  (Note:  the letter J didn't show up until the 16th century.  The Hebrew letter is a yod, which sounds like a y).

Anyway, the grammar police in me digresses.  I want to visit a particular section in the psalms that gives us a complete picture of the Messiah.  Throughout history, the Jewish sages have been perplexed at the two very different portrayals of the Messiah.  Some concluded that there were two Messiahs.  Others thought that perhaps there was one Messiah, but He came twice.  These two pictures of the Messiah have names - Messiah ben Yosef (son of Joseph, the Suffering Servant), and Messiah ben David (son of David, the Reigning King).

He is the Lamb of God and the Lion of Judah
In Psalm 22, He is portrayed as the Suffering Servant.  When you read it, you see such a clear picture of His death.  When Yeshua spoke the first line of this psalm while He was suffering on the tree, it was His way of calling our attention to the entire psalm.  My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?

The psalm describes the sort of death He would suffer... hundreds of years before crucifixion was even invented by the Romans as a form of execution. It also foretells the division of His garments.
I am poured out like water
And all My bones are out of joint
My heart is like wax; it has melted within Me
They pierced my hands and My feet
They divide My garments among them
And for My clothing they cast lots

During His first advent, the Messiah suffered, died, and rose again in order to atone for the sin which entered the world back in the garden.  He then went back to heaven so that the good news of salvation by His finished work could circle the globe.

Psalm 24 speaks of His glorious return as the King of Kings.  Scripture tells us that He will return to the Mount of Olives and enter Jerusalem.  Today, the Eastern Gate is sealed.  But the psalm tells us,
Lift up your heads, O you gates.
And be lifted up, you everlasting doors!
And the King of Glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The LORD (YHVH), strong and mighty.

The Muslims sealed the gate and put a cemetery in front of it.
This will not stop the Messiah.
This King of Glory is indeed returning soon. 

But let's not forget one of the most famous of the psalms, Psalm 23.  Sandwiched between the Suffering Servant Psalm and the Returning King Psalm is a beautiful passage that comforts us and assures of of His presence while we wait for Him to return.  Additionally, we need our Good Shepherd because like sheep, we are restless, prone to wander, always searching for greener grass, and to often oblivious to danger.

Let the familiar words wash over you today as you read them.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil
For You are with me
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

This beautiful psalm ends with the prophecy that leads right into His glorious return in Psalm 24.  Forever we will dwell with Him!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Armor of God

have had this subject floating around in my head for weeks now.  And the Lord keeps putting things in front of me to remind me to write it down!  Just this week, the kids and I were reading about the ancient Greeks and Cretans and how they were workers of iron to make weapons that were better than bronze.  And last Saturday, I heard a keynote speaker on the Armor of God.  Ok, ok, I get it, Lord.  So here goes...

Most believers are quite familiar with Ephesians 6:14-17, which speaks of the Armor of God.  For reminder's sake, here it is:

Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

As I was studying the words, I realized that the first three pieces of armor are already in place. They were provided to us at the moment of redemption, when we are born again in Messiah. We are already armed with the truth (by which we realized Yeshua IS our savior), the breastplate of righteousness (Yeshua made us righteous), and our feet have been prepared with the good news of peace in Messiah. At the moment our justification, we were armed with good armor!

The Bible instructs us then, having been armed thus far, to take up the remaining pieces. We must arm ourselves with that shield of faith day by day, because those fiery darts are constantly aimed at us. The helmet of salvation is a picture of renewing our mind and taking every thought captive to Yeshua (Romans 2:12, 2 Corinthinans 10:5). And finally, the sword - the Word of God - is our spiritual bread that sustains and arms us. These three pieces are available to us as we are sanctified (a lifelong process), but we must actively take them up. We need them as we work out our salvation (Philippians 2:12).

Notice that there is no armor for our backs. I believe it is because God does not want us to retreat from the battle, and also because He has got our back!

I find it interesting that spiritual armor was not just a clever idea made up by Paul in Ephesians. He was a Torah scholar, and was well familiar with the concept. Here is a passage from Isaiah 59, which is clearly foreshadowing the Messiah:

Then the Lord saw it [man's sinfulness] and it displeased Him
That there was no justice. He saw that there was no man,
And wondered that there was no intercessor;
Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him;
And His own righteousness, it sustained Him.
For He put on righteousness as a breastplate,
And a helmet of salvation on His head;
He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing,

And was clad with zeal as a cloak.

Isaiah clearly shows that our Intercessor - provided by the LORD'S own arm, was armed and clothed for the job that He was sent to do. I love that Isaiah included a piece of armor for both justification and sanctification in this passage, showing that salvation is not simply a one time deal, but an ongoing process that began the moment we were justified. Our salvation will be complete at the resurrection when we receive our new imperishable bodies.

Another piece of the Ephesians armor can be found in Isaiah 52:7:

How beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who proclaims peace,
Who brings glad tidings of good things,
Who proclaims salvation,
Who says to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”

In closing, let's go back to the beginning of Ephesians 6 and be reminded of just Who is in charge and who we are battling:

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Burning the Bones and Tearing Down the High Places

God's timing makes me smile.  Again.

Last night, my daughter and I were having a conversation about cremation.  I shared with her that I don't believe it's God's first choice for us.  As an example, I talked about the bones of Joseph being carefully brought up from Egypt, and also the imagery of the dry bones in Ezekeil resurrecting and coming to life.  I also mentioned that the remains of King Saul were burned and that the connotation was negative.  Saul's body had been desecrated by the Philistines, and the valiant people of Jabesh Gilead came and burned the body of Saul and his sons because of what had been done to them.

Also, Jewish law requires that the body of a dead person be buried within 24 hours of death.  The remains of cremated individuals are not allowed to be interred in a Jewish cemetery.  Additionally, I was surprised to learn that the traditional Jewish laws of mourning are not observed in orthodoxy if a person's remains were cremated.

Finally, the Shoah (the Jewish term for the Holocaust).  Not only were the Jews tattooed with numbers- which was in itself an affront to what was written in the Torah - but also, the bodies of murdered Jews were burned in crematoriums.  I believe the cruel men who came up with this atrocity knew exactly what they were doing, and knew how this would be such an evil insult to the victims and their families.  Even if the Nazis didn't know it, the demonic beings working in the spiritual realm and influencing their actions certainly knew.

Let me just stop right now and say, if you are reading this and have different convictions on cremation, I am not condemning you.  My mother and stepfather were both cremated, and I believe that God can and will put them back together out of the dust of the earth at the resurrection.  After all, He formed man from the dust of the earth in the first place.  But it's never too late to learn what the Word of God has to say about any given subject.

So anyway, back to God's timing...

My reading today took me to 2 Kings 23, which recorded the major reforms of King Josiah.  He was one of only two kings of Judah who were willing to tear down the high places.  Many kings previous to Josiah had been good kings, but they left the high places alone, not wanting to stir up trouble among people who were so attached to their traditions.

The high places were generally up on hills, and in groves of green trees.  If you have ever studied what went on in these places, you know what an affront they were to the Lord God.  On the high places, all manner of fornication took place under green trees.  If you have ever been to Cesaerea Phillipi in Israel, you can still see remnants of where some of this pagan worship took place.  It is also the location of a giant cave, which in ancient days was known as the Gates of Hades.  How fitting it is that Yeshua was in that very place when Peter declared Him to be Messiah, and Yeshua declared that the Gates of Hades would not prevail against His ekklesia.

The former pagan grove of Banias, temple of Pan, home of the Gates of Hades in Caeserea Philippi

In 2 Kings 23, verse 7 speaks of how the king tore down the houses of the qadeshim that were in the house of the Lord - the temple!  Qadeshim were literally sodomites... male prostitutes.  So you get an idea of how depraved the pagan worship had become, and why Josiah was so diligent to eradicate it.

Verse 10 tells us that King Josiah also wrecked the places in the valley of Hinnom, which is a place in Jerusalem where people would actually sacrifice their children through burning them (known in Greek as Gehenna, which is also translated into the word hell in some versions of the New Covenant),  Perhaps this is another reason why the burning of bodies is such an affront to God.  Here is a link to another blog post in which the writer tells of the process a pagan worshipper had to go through to sacrifice their child to Molech.

The pagan practice of child sacrifice to Molech in the Valley of Hinnom
Josiah was so thorough in tearing down the high places that he even stepped out of his jurisdiction. He went to Samaria, where the first king of the divided kingdom of Israel -  Jeroboam - had established a high place of worship so that his people would not go down to Jerusalem to worship.

In verse 16, we see Josiah taking the bones of those idolaters out of their tombs and burning them on the altar there.  Suddenly, he came to a gravestone that made him stop.  Look at verses 17-18:

Then he said, “What gravestone is this that I see?” So the men of the city told him, “It is the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and proclaimed these things which you have done against the altar of Bethel.”And he said, “Let him alone; let no one move his bones.” So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet who came from Samaria.

My study Bible led me back to 1 Kings 13, where we read of a righteous and unnamed prophet foretelling this very incident, 300 years earlier, even naming King Josiah by name!  This is what it says:

And behold, a man of God went from Judah to Bethel by the word of the Lord, and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. Then he cried out against the altar by the word of the Lord, and said, “O altar, altar! Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, a child, Josiah by name, shall be born to the house of David; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and men’s bones shall be burned on you.’” 

So the bones that Josiah refused to burn were the bones of the very prophet who had prophesied that all the other bones would be burned by someone from the line of David named Josiah!  

Is that mind boggling, or what?

In closing, I just want to say one more thing about the high places, and this one will definitely step on toes.  Consider the connection of pagan worship to the green trees, and all that was associated with that worship.  As I mentioned earlier, only two kings were willing to tear down high places... most were not.  They didn't want to upset the proverbial apple cart among their people.  But consider the words of Jeremiah 10 and ask the Lord if this might be a high place that needs tearing down in your life.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Solomon's Temple

The Lord's timing never ceases to amaze me.

My scripture reading has had me in 1 Kings 8 this week. For a few weeks, I have been reading about the time leading up to the building of God's holy temple in Jerusalem. Today, I read Solomon's prayer of dedication over the temple, and it spoke to me in ways like never before.

It is interesting to note that right now, the Jews are in a time of mourning that leads up to Tisha b'Av (9th of Av) on the Hebrew calendar. The three-week mourning period began on the 17th of Tammuz. This year, the corresponding dates on the Gregorian calendar are July 24 to August 14. So what does this have to do with Solomon dedicating the temple?

The 9th of Av was the very day that Solomon's temple was destroyed by Babylon, and the very day that the second temple was destroyed by Rome.  The temple destructions are the main reason of mourning for the Jewish people

Sadly, throughout history, many other terrible things have happened to the Jewish people on Tisha (9th) b'Av. For example:
  • The spies returned from Canaan on the 8th of Av. By the 9th, all Israel was mourning.
  • The Bar Kochba revolt in Israel was crushed on this day by Rome in 135.
  • The Jews of England were expelled on this day in 1290.
  • The Jews of Spain were expelled on this day in 1492.
  • World War I broke out on the 9th of Av, which of course led to World War 2 and the Holocaust.
  • Deportations began on this day from the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka in 1942.
No wonder it is a day of mourning for the Jewish people.

A few things jumped out at me today while reading 1 Kings 8.

About 11 months after the temple was completed, the Ark of the Covenant was placed into the temple at the Feast of Tabernacles... the feast that commemorates Yehovah dwelling with His people. As soon as the ark was established, the glory of the LORD filled the place and the priests were so overwhelmed that they could not continue ministering. What an awesome moment that must have been!

In his prayer of dedication, Solomon acknowledged the vastness of Yehovah. The king declared that He is too vast even to be contained in the heavens and the earth, but then he humbly asked the LORD to come and dwell in the temple that he built for His holy name.

Over and over again, Solomon pleaded for the righteousness of the people of Israel. He acknowledged that they would continue to fall into sin and begged the Lord to be merciful.

Solomon then prayed for the foreigners in verses 41-43:
Moreover, concerning a foreigner, who is not of Your people Israel, but has come from a far country for Your name’s sake (for they will hear of Your great name and Your strong hand and Your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this temple, hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to You, that all peoples of the earth may know Your name and fear You, as do Your people Israel, and that they may know that this temple which I have built is called by Your name.

Even though I have been grafted into the commonwealth of Israel through Yeshua the Messiah, I came to Him as a foreigner.

Ephesians 2:12-13 says this:
...that at that time you were without Messiah, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Messiah Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Messiah.

Hallelujah!  I am forever grateful to God's people Israel, and yearn for the day that Israel is fully restored to the Kingdom of the LORD.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Musings From 2 Samuel

I have read 2 Samuel numerous times, but this time the Lord has seen fit to give me glimpses of the Messiah and of insights that I had not seen before.

It is a very colorful book.  It begins the reign of King David.  He conquers Jerusalem from the Jebusites and dwells in the City of David.

It is interesting to note the Hebrew letter shin created by the three Jerusalem valleys.
A shin is the letter on every mezuzah, and denotes the protection of Almighty God.

The King brings the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem and dances with all his might before the Lord, much to the chagrin of his wife Michal, who is made barren because of her scorn of him.

Immediately after that, the Lord God makes a covenant with David; the covenant that promises no end to King David's reign, through his progeny.  (The human kingship of Israel ended.  This can only mean the everlasting reign of Messiah... a son of David).

It is not long before trouble enters for David.  Most people know the story of Bathsheba and how it causes turmoil to enter David's family.  It leads to the uprising, attempted usurption, and eventual death of his son Absalom.

David's indiscretion had far-reaching consequences.
In the midst of the battle with Absalom is a sweet little account of a man named Ittai. Ittai is a Gittite; a foreign man from Gath who has attached himself to King David.  The king reminds him that he is a foreigner and questions why he is there supporting him.  David goes so far as to tell Ittai to go home, back to his own people.

My mind instantly went to one of my all-time favorites, the Book of Ruth.  See if 2 Samuel 15:21 rings a bell:

Ittai answered the king and said, "As the LORD lives, and as the lord the king lives, surely in whatever place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also your servant will be."

The response from David is thus:

So David said to Ittai, "Go, and cross over."  Then Ittai the Gittite and all his men and all the little ones who were with him crossed over.

Let me interject a couple of Hebrew meanings for you to ponder.
  • Absalom - My Father is Peace
  • Ittai - With Me
  • Eber - Cross Over.  The word for Hebrew - Ivri - comes from this root word... one who has crossed over.

In the same way, we also attach ourselves to God's people Israel when we cross over via the cross and receive the sacrifice of Messiah.  He grafts us into the household of faith.

Moving on... in chapter 16, a man named Shimei begins cursing King David.  What does David do?  Nothing.  He tells the men with him to leave the man be; the LORD'S will shall be carried out.  Shimei then disappears until chapter 19, at which time he comes to King David and bows at his feet and begs forgiveness.  David's nephew Abishai reminds David that the man should be put to death because he cursed the LORD'S anointed.  

David instead forgives Shimei completely, swearing that he shall not die. What an incredible picture of Messiah Yeshua forgiving us our own trespasses against the King of Kings, as we move from death to life!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

That Other Kinsman with the Shoe

As I return from the land of Israel, I am marveling at how my daily Bible reading has been matching up with what I just experienced while in the land.

Two things jump out.

First, a visit to Shiloh coincided with my reading of the account of Hannah, Samuel, and Eli the priest.  Having now seen Shiloh - the place where the miskhan (tabernacle) stood for 369 years, the passage has become much more vivid in my mind.  The rise of the prophet Samuel marks the end of the Shiloh tabernacle.

I just want to mention one thing about Shiloh before moving on to the second thing.  The spot where the tabernacle rested is surrounded by low mountains.  Pilgrims would offer their sacrifice and then eat their portion of the sacrifice on one of these hills, while looking at the mishkan.  Their pottery plates, oily from the meal, would then be broken on the site.  If millions of people broke pottery here every year for 369 years, you would expect to see evidence of pottery shards.  

And can we?  Yes!  They were EVERYWHERE on those hills... pottery shards from the time of the Judges.  I only had to stoop down and pick them up.  The crazy thing is, those shards could only be found on the side of the hills that were facing the mishkan.  The back side of those hills?  Not a single shard to be found.

Ancient pottery shards lying on the ground at Shiloh

The second thing to jump out for me is the story of Ruth, which is read in synagogues at Shavuot (which also coincided with our visit and with my own reading of Ruth).  Ruth is one of my favorite books of the Bible, so I happen to write about her often.  You can re-read my first post about Ruth here if you'd like.

There is one thing that has always stumped me in the story of Ruth.  What was with that other kinsman redeemer that was closer to Naomi's line than Boaz?  I had never given it too much thought before, but I was curious this time and asked the Lord to give me wisdom as I read through it.  The Lord did not disappoint... here is what He showed me.  It's quite simple, actually.

Someone else had a legal right to Naomi's family land and to Ruth.  Boaz was willing to be a redeemer, but he had to go through proper channels to ensure that his redemption of Ruth was legal.  

In the same way, all the earth is legally under the rule of the evil one, ever since the Garden of Eden.  The devil is the default.  Our Redeemer Yeshua, however, came and redeemed the world from sin and death legally, in a way that satisfied God's holy law.  He shed His blood for us to fulfill what is written. Leviticus 17:11 and Hebrews 9:22 show us that God's legal way of redemption for us is the blood of atonement.

It is interesting to note the custom of the shoe.  The close relative gave Boaz his sandal to confirm that he was giving up his rights to Ruth and to the land.  There is a custom in the Middle Eastern world regarding shoes.  To throw a shoe at someone is considered the WORST. POSSIBLE. INSULT. EVER. The bottom of the shoe is covered in dirt, and throwing a shoe at someone is like throwing dirt at them.  It is the ultimate in uncleanness.  Is there a connection somehow to that other kinsman?

Shoe-wielding protesters
We really don't relate to the shoe/insult custom here in the West.  But I find it interesting that there is another reference to the shoe in the scriptures.  Note the words of the Lord in Psalm 60 verse 8:
Moab is My washpot;
Over Edom I will cast My shoe.