Saturday, May 21, 2011

Blessings and Curses

Dear Mr. President,

God's word, talking about Israel, says, "I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you."  Genesis 12:3, Genesis 27:29, Numbers 22:12, Numbers 24:9.

Isaiah 9:16 says, For the leaders of this people cause them to err,  and those who are led by them are destroyed.

I'm just sayin....

Friday, May 20, 2011

Testaments: Old and New?

Old testament, new testament.  It sounds like one is done, past, obsolete; the other is the cool, hip new thing.  The old has gone, the new has come.  But is that really what is going on?

Imagine you are a Jewish person, and a Christian friend keeps referring to your Holy Scriptures as "The Old Testament," making them seem obsolete.  Don't you think that would bother you a bit?  I think it would bother me if I were the Jewish person.

Jewish people call their Holy Scriptures the Tanakh, which is an acronym for Torah, Nevi'im and Ketuvim (The teachings - also translated "law" - the writings, and the prophets).   The Torah (the first five books of the Bible) is also called the Pentateuch in Greek.  Messianic Jews also follow what is popularly known as the New Testament, but they often refer to it either as the Messianic Writings or the B'rit Hadashah (which means new covenant).

Why do so many churches today treat the Tanakh like it doesn't apply anymore?  When you take a look at our early church history, it makes sense.

The ancient church distanced itself from Judaism (even making Jewish practices illegal), and declared itself the new Israel.  "God is done with Israel," they declared.  "It's all about us now."  It is called Replacement Theology, and it has led to the horrible treatment of Jewish people throughout history.

Friends, there is SO MUCH in the Tanakh that points to the Messiah of Israel, Yeshua haMashiach.   The influence of the ancient Roman church and their obliteration of anything Jewish, sadly, has kept many of these teachings out of the modern church.  But the ancient scriptures are still there, just waiting for us to dig into them, like a wonderful hidden gold mine.

Look at Acts 17:10-12  "Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men."

It was through study of the scriptures that the Jews and also many Greeks realized that what they were hearing was true.  What scriptures?  The Tanakh, of course. The messianic writings hadn't even been written and/or compiled yet! 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Covenants: Who, What, Where, When, Why?

Is the "Old Testament" obsolete?  It seems to me like most of Christianity thinks so.  But what exactly IS it? 

God's dealings with man have always been through covenants.  A covenant is a "deal" made between two or more parties, and each had their own responsibility in the covenant.  (Whereas a testament is one-directional, as in last will and testament).  In Genesis 9, God made a covenant with Noah (and all of creation) saying that He would no longer destroy the earth with a flood.  He sent His rainbow in the sky as a sign.   For Noah's part, he was to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth.  This is an everlasting covenant.

Centuries later, God made a covenant with Abram in Genesis 15.  The covenant was the promise of the land.  In Genesis 17, God adds to the covenant with Abram - that he would be a father of many nations and of kings - changing his name to Abraham.  The sign of this covenant was to be circumcision, and verse 13 says that this is an everlasting covenant.  In verses 19 through 21, God says that the covenant will continue through Isaac (who was not yet born), not Ishmael.

In Exodus 6, God reiterates the covenant given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob - the promise of the land.  In Exodus 19, God brought up the covenant again with Moses, and added more to it... the requirement of obedience to His voice and the promise that they would be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.  In Exodus 24, the covenant is affirmed, and blood sacrifice is introduced as a sign.

The covenant of the Sabbath is introduced in Exodus 31 as a perpetual covenant between God and Israel.  Exodus 34 affirms the covenant of the promised land, as God promises to drive out the inhabitants.

Leviticus 26 contains the bountiful promises of a covenant kept (through obedience to God's commands), and also a sober warning regarding the consequences of a broken covenant (idolotry and disobedience).

There are many more places that mention covenants in the Tanakh (Old Testament), but the main point is that God promises the land and the blessing, in return for obedience.  Whenever Israel broke the covenant through disobedience, trouble followed.  They were removed from the land more than once.

But is the land covenant obsolete?  The fact that Israel has been back in her homeland since 1948 proves that God keeps His promises (Judges 2:1).  It is still a valid covenant!  In bringing Israel home, He is preparing for His return to earth.  In Revelation, the land covenant culminates with New Jerusalem. 

Is the covenant promising multitudes of descendents obsolete?  No, the Jewish people continue to thrive in spite of the many people and nations who come against them.  The family of Abraham also includes those (such as myself) who are not Jewish by birth but are grafted in through adoption.  And don't forget; Abraham was also the father of Ishmael who is the patriarch of the Arab nation. 

When the Lord God promised in Jeremiah 31:31 that He would make a new covenant with the house of Israel, He was not obliterating the former covenants.  He was adding another one... salvation through the blood of the lamb - Israel's messiah!   Yeshua fulfilled every last requirement of the covenant with Moses, and in doing so, He became our substitute - atoning for our sin and giving us eternal life - when we believe, obey, and trust in Him.

More about covenants/testaments on my next post.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Ekklesia? Church? Iglesia? Kahal? Synagogue? What's the difference?

In my studies, I came across this very interesting topic.  In the church today, there seems to be the idea that the "church" is something totally different than (and separate from) Israel.  A change in God's plan, so to speak.  An age ensconsed in parentheses.  And when the church age is finished, the church will be zapped away so God can deal with Israel separately.

I don't buy it.  In the septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures, written a few hundred years before the birth of Yeshua), you will find the word ekklesia, which is translated church in the New Testament of modern English bibles.  The Hebrew word is actually kahal, which means assembly.  It actually has no religious meaning at all.  Also, the Hebrew word edah carries the same meaning.  Proverbs 5:14 is a verse that uses both words:  "I was on the verge of total ruin in the midst of the kahal and edah" (assembly and congregation). Both words are used frequently throughout the Hebrew scriptures and are interchangeable.

In the messianic writings (aka New Testament), the Greek words sunagoge and ekklesia are also used interchangeably - sunagoge in its various forms occurring about 50 times and ekklesia about 100 times.  Just like the words edah and kahal from the Tanakh, the words do not connote anything Christian, or even religious, at all.  Everywhere in the Greek world, people had their ekklesiai, or meeting places.  The Greek word sunagoge means gathering or gathering place, and does not have a Jewish context at all.  Today's notion that the church and the synagogue are respectively Christian and Jewish is simply wrong.

Consider the book of Ecclesiastes.  The Hebrew word is kohelet, one who speaks to the kahal.  The word Ecclesiastes is the Latin transliteration of the Septuagint Greek translation of the Hebrew word kohelet.  Did you follow that?

Hebrews 2:12 is a quote from Psalm 22:  I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly (ekklesia) I will sing praise to You.  However, in Psalm 22, the word is kahal.  The word ekklesia here obviously refers to Israel.

Interesting!  The church of today is simply God's people, whether they be Jew or gentile... a continuation of God's remarkable dealings with mankind.  Can you say GRAFTED IN?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Palestine, Schmalestine

Israel, Palestine... do you ever wonder what all the fuss is about?  The tiny nation no bigger than New Jersey is the most contested piece of real estate on the planet.  The media often portrays Israel as this big, mean entity that just doesn't want to share its land with  the Arab "Palestinians."  What is really going on?  Where does the name "Palestine" come from, anyway?  The answer might surprise you.  It sure surprised me!

Jerusalem fell in 70 AD, and most, but not all, Jewish people were driven from the land.  In the second century, Simon bar Kochba led a revolt against Rome that caused Rome to sweep in and drive out every last Jewish person from the land, and they were forbidden to return.  The emperor Hadrian renamed the country "Palestine" after Israel's ancient enemies, the Philistines, who no longer existed as a nation.  He re-named Jerusalem Aelia Capitolina (after his family name) and made it a pagan Roman city.

If your bible has a reference section, it probably features a map that says "Palestine in the time of Christ."  Guess what?  There was no such thing!  Palestine was a name given by a ROMAN Emperor over 100 years later!

God promised the land of the Canaanites to Israel in an everlasting covenant with them.  Genesis 13:15 is the first place we find this promise, and it is reiterated many times throughout scripture.  See Ex 32:13. Joshua 14:9, 1 Chronicles 28:8, 2 Chronicles 20:7, Ezra 9:12, a bunch of places in the Psalms, in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel - seventeen in all. 

In Revelation 21, we see the beautiful culmination of this promise, as all things are made new, and the New Jerusalem comes down from heaven and is joined with the new earth. 

Satan knows the story and is doing all he can to foil God's plans.  He causes whole nations to despise God's chosen people, and incites them to try and wipe Israel off the map.  It is the only logical explanation as to why so many would hate this tiny nation.   Too bad they won't succeed; God's word says so.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Yosef and Yeshua: Shadow and Fulfillment

Last night in our Jewish Roots Bible study, we took a look at the story of Yosef (Joseph) son of Ya'acov (Jacob), and how it foreshadows the first coming of the Messiah.

Yosef ben Ya'acov (Joseph son of Jacob) is portrayed as a suffering servant who overcomes his circumstances and rises to the top.  The parallels to the life of Yeshua (Jesus) are many. 
  • Yosef was despised by his brothers.  Yeshua was despised by many of the leaders of Israel.
  • Yosef was given a special robe by his father, which represented a special anointing.  Yeshua was given a kingly robe at His trial.  Both were stripped of their robes.
  • Yosef's brothers sold him for twenty shekels of silver.  Judas betrayed Yeshua for thirty pieces of silver.
  • Yosef's brothers threw him in a pit, from which he emerged alive.  Yeshua was killed and thrown into a grave, from which He emerged alive.
  • Yeshua suffered because He was hated, just like Yosef.
  • Yosef then rose to prominence in Egypt, but was convicted of a crime and punished, though innocent.  Yeshua was convicted of a crime and punished, though innocent.
  • Yeshua suffered because He was righteous, just like Yosef.
  • Yosef eventually becomes second in command, like Yeshua is second in command to His father.
  • Yosef was 30 years old when he entered into the service of Pharaoh.  Yeshua was 30 years old when he entered into His ministry.  In Israel, thirty was the age for entering the priesthood.
  • Yosef saved the world for 2 years before his brothers came to Egypt.  Yeshua has been saving the world for 2000 years, and His brothers (Israel) are now flocking to their promised land.
  • Yosef's brothers did not recognize him until he revealed himself to them.  Yeshua's brothers (Israel) for the most part still don't recognize Him.  Won't it be an AWESOME day when they do?
Pharaoh offered Yosef's brothers the best of all that Egypt had to offer.  He welcomed them wholeheartedly, because they were loved by Yosef.  Pharaoh represents what the gentile response to the people of Israel should be.  Our Jewish brothers are heading to Yeshua for the bread of life.  Let us give them our very best!

Gen 12:3:  I will bless those who bless you,And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. 

Matt 25:40:  ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Training Up Your Child

When my four kids were small, I felt God leading me to homeschool them.  However, I resisted this prompting because all I could envision was the five of us huddled around a table, painstakingly going through each of our curriculum products one by one.  45 minutes for grammar, 45 minutes for science, ring a bell, have a snack, 45 minutes of math, 45 minutes to write a book report.  The very thought made me shudder and want to cry.  I was in no way cut out for that.

So off to school went my firstborn.  And then my second born.  By the time my thirdborn made it as far as preschool, I was feeling like I just couldn't take it anymore.  The children were becoming more and more attached to their peers.  Also, they were bringing home pages and pages of what I considered mindless busywork, but I had to make them do it because their teacher said so.  My God-given role as parent was being slowly diminished by these other authorities in their lives.

I think the final straw for me was the day my firstborn brought home SIXTEEN workbook pages to do, because he haden't gotten them done in school (he was in the third grade).  He spent about 30 minutes working on them, and then announced that he was finished.  I knew better, and a quick search revealed a majority of undone workbook pages, hidden under the rug.

About this time, a friend handed me some tapes of a homeschooling speaker.  The woman on the tapes spoke right to my heart!!  She advocated lots of reading out loud, very little curriculum, no busy work, and lots of life experience.  My heart sang with joy - THIS I could do!  (Actually, my heart sang with Joy.  Her name was Carole Joy Seid).   We began our homeschooling journey and have never looked back.  I never imagined that I would actually LOVE homeschooling - what a blessing!

I have to say, though, that a large percentage of homeschoolers that I have met through the years really have re-created "school" at home.  Some families do very well with the structure of this method.  But I see many others getting burnt out, and often even sending their children back to school.  Why does this happen?

There is an expectation in our society that to be successful, you have to study certain subjects, to fulfill requirements needed for college, to get a degree that society says you need in order to be a success in life.  It seems to me like there is a big, giant scholastic game out there; you just need to learn the rules, play by them, and you will become an accepted member of society.

Who makes these rules?  What does God have to say about it in the scriptures?  "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it."  This verse actually contains in it (among other things) the idea of finding out your child's gifts and aptitudes, and directing his (or her) path in that way.  In other words, to become the very person that God wants him/her to be. 

This past week, I read about one homeschooling mom who noted that her daughter was good at writing, so she felt no need to have her work on it because she already "got it."  So she spent much more time on the subjects that her daughter struggled with.  Really?  All I could say was "Boy, I'm glad I am not that daughter."  If she is gifted at writing, and loves to write, why not develop that talent to its fullest, so she can serve the Lord with it to the best of her ability?  Is it really important that our child know what a predicate nominative is?  Or can configure polynomials by the age of 10?

Proverbs reiterates several times that the persons responsible for teaching children are the parents.  The Hebrew home was centered around the family.  Proverbs also has much to say about the beauty of obtaining wisdom.  But what is wisdom?  Read the first nine chapters of Proverbs, and see if you find anything at all about chemistry, algebra, spelling, grammar, biology, etc. etc.  You won't.  But you will note several times that "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."   

Romans 12 tells us that we are not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed; yet we often work so hard to conform to the world's system.  The chapter also goes on to say that we should not think of ourselves more highly than we ought (pride), and furthermore that different people fulfill many diverse functions in the kingdom. 

Here is our challenge:  helping our children to find their place within the body, by encouraging them and allowing them to discover who God made them to be.  .

Monday, May 2, 2011

Israel: Blessing to the World

God chose Israel for very special purposes!  They were to be a people set apart from the heathen nations who worshipped false idols.  They were entrusted with the very word of God and brought us the holy scriptures.  They were the chosen people to bring forth the Messiah to the world.  In John 4:22 we are told that salvation is from the Jews.  They were promised the land that is the land of the future and eternity

God allowed partial blindness to come to Israel regarding her Messiah - so that by His amazing mercy, salvation could come to the whole world.  But was this blindness the final deal concerning Israel?  Romans 11:11-12 says no way, Jose (my paraphrase)!

Here are the verses:  "Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.  But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!"

So, we see that Israel's stumbling brought riches for the world - salvation through (and grafting into the kingdom of) Messiah!  For two thousand years, we have seen people from all nations coming to faith in Messiah.  But does Israel's salvation mean even greater riches for the nations?  Yes!

Since Israel has been in her homeland, faith has increased all over the world.  China and India are excellent examples of this!  People are coming to faith in record numbers since the 1970s.  (Two wonderful books to read on this subject are "The Heavenly Man" by Paul Hattaway and "Revolution in World Missions" by KP Yohannan).  The Jesus Movement, which saw the salvation of many Jewish people, began in 1967 in California - the very same year that Jerusalem fell under control of Israel.

Get ready friends!  Yeshua is coming soon!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Israel: The Key to the End

The early disciples thought the end was near.  All throughout history since Yeshua ascended back into heaven, believers have been awaiting His return.  Each generation thought that theirs would be the one during which He would return.

So how can we know that the time is now near?  2 Peter 3:1-5 speaks of the moral decay in the last days.  I don't think I even need to elaborate this point.  Just take a look at the music, books, movies, TV, and art of today. 

However, there is something else that is far more telling.  God promised throughout scripture that Israel will return to her homeland.  For out of the ashes of the terrible Holocaust against the Jewish people, the fledgling nation of Israel was born in 1948.  And since then, every time her neighbors came against her (big, huge, powerful neighbors, might I add), more land was added!  In 1967, Israel was given control of Jerusalem for the first time since its fall in 70 AD!  God had returned the land to them, the land He promised to their forefathers.  A literal nation of Israel is key to all end-time prophecy!

In Matthew 24:32-34, Yeshua says, "Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened."   Throughout scripture the fig tree is used to represent Israel.  And what is a generation?  A generation is portrayed in scripture as 40, 70, and 100 years.

Israel was brought back to her land unbelieving.  Ezekiel 36:24-26 gives us the order:  "For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh."

This is happening today!  Most of Israel has not yet acknowledged her Messiah.  However, things are changing.  In 1948, when Israel was reestablished as an independent nation, there were fewer than 100 Messianic Jews living in Israel! Today, there are approximately 6,000 Messianic Jews in Israel in 100 congregations. 

The idea of Israel acknowledging her Messiah is very exciting to me!  I will be writing more on this in my next post.