Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Torah Torah Torah

A few years ago, I posted two blogs in regard to "keeping the law."  If you haven't read them, you can go back and read them starting here.

I have continued to study the Word of God from a Hebraic viewpoint.  This means that I come across a lot of people who call themselves Torah Observant.  However, I have found that there is a variety of opinions on what Torah obervance looks like.  Let me share more of what I have learned since the previous posts on the subject.

The word Torah means instruction.  It comes from the root word yara, which means direction; as an arrow being aimed and shot toward its target.  In this sense, the whole counsel of scripture from Genesis to Revelation is the Lord's instruction, or Torah, that leads us to the final goal.  The first place that the word Torah shows up in scripture is in Genesis 26:5, where the Lord says that Abraham kept His laws.  At this point, the Sinai covenant had not yet been given to Moses.

So am I Torah observant?  Yes!  Torah - The Instruction of God, from Genesis to Revelation.

Understanding the covenants is key.  There are seven covenants between God and man.  It is not just a matter of Old Covenant/New Covenant.  If you want more information on them, I have written on the seven covenants here.  Sorry for the rabbit trails today, but it is worth your time.

We must know what covenant we are under and then discover what is required of us under that covenant.

The fourth of the seven, given to Moses on Mount Sinai, was centered on the tabernacle, and later on the temple.  Of the 613 mitzvot (commandments) in the Sinai covenant, only 207 of them can be observed apart from the temple.  This is why there are Orthodox Jews in Israel that yearn for the temple to be rebuilt - so they can properly keep Torah!

What does that mean for us as New Covenant believers, under the blood of Yeshua?  James 2:10 tells us that if we stumble on even one precept of the law (Sinai covenant), we have broken the whole thing.  Do you see how impossible it is?  

Hebrews 7:12, speaking of Yeshua our High Priest, tells us, For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law. 

Yeshua fulfilled the entire Sinai Covenant perfectly, for us, putting to death the laws of the flesh once for all.  It is finished, He said as He hung on the tree, taking on the curse for us with His dying breath.  Having fulfilled every precept of the Sinai Covenant, He is now our living Torah.

The Sinai Covenant dealt with the flesh.  The New Covenant deals with the spirit.  The Holy Spirit is our living Torah.

Yeshua gives us a major hint in the gospels.  When He sent out the 12 (a very Jewish number) disciples prior to feeding the 5000, He sent them to a Jewish crowd.  There was no need to give them any dietary warnings - they were kosher.  Then in Luke 10, we see Him sending out 70 (number of completeness) to a very Gentile area, prior to feeding the 4000.  What did He tell them?  Eat such things as are set before you.  There was a good chance that some of these Gentiles were going to give them pork BBQ.  

Yeshua was preparing his disciples to carry the gospel to many cultures - cultures who were never given the Sinai Covenant.  Can you imagine witnessing to someone, and they invite you to dinner, and you have to refuse them because they are serving bacon-wrapped shrimp?  The highest form of fellowship in scripture is to dine with someone.  What an insult that would be, and a stumbling block to the gospel!

Yeshua said that if we loved Him, we would obey His commandments.  What were His new covenant commandments?  Love God, and then love people.  The external precepts (flesh) were completed and the internal precepts (spirit) were magnified.  Romans 8 tells us that love is the fulfillment of the law.  This is our directive in this age of Messiah, until He comes again.

Friday, December 25, 2015

The Spirit of God is Moved

Short post today.  I just wanted to put into writing an insight that the Lord gave me this past week.

Last week, I finished reading all the way through the Bible.  It took me nearly four years, because I like to stop and ponder (and investigate) the meanings of words.  I then went back to Genesis 1:1 to start over.  I wondered if it were possible to get new insights this time around that were different from last time.  I was not disappointed.

In verse 2, we read this:
And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

Wanting just a little more insight, I went to my trusty Blue Letter Bible app and clicked on the interlinear to peek at the original Hebrew.  The word for hovering (or moving, in some translations) is rachaph, which means to be soft, or to be moved, to cherish.  Figuratively, it is used in the sense of a mother hen brooding over her chicks.

Isn't that a beautiful thought?  That Elohim thought so highly of the earth He was creating?   That He cherished it?  I find it very heartwarming that He cared so very much about the abode that He was preparing for us.

Then today, another verse popped into my head, which really brought it home for me.  Matthew 23:37 says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!

Can you see how Yeshua cherishes His people as He weeps over Jerusalem?  It breaks my heart, knowing the grief He felt for His Israeli kinspeople, knowing the time of terrible testing that was coming for them.

But two verses later, we have the blessed hope:  Yeshua says, For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say,"blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord."  It is one of my very favorite Hebrew sayings:  Baruch haba b'shem Adonai!

The Jewish people will say it again soon, when Yeshua returns, for He cherishes them!  And at the same time, we who know Him now will get to see Him face to face!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Rambling Hanukkah Thoughts

I am sitting here just hours before Hanukkah is to begin, with lots of thoughts swirling in my head. So I am going to try and write them down here. I guess what I am saying is, don't expect to read a clearly-written essay here on Hanukkah.

I am surrounded by Christmas, everywhere I go. Really, it gets to be a bit much for me. For several years now, I have chosen not to celebrate it, for reasons that are hashed out elsewhere on this blog.  One thing I will reiterate it about Christmas though, is its non-biblical Babylonian-Greco-Roman origins. Tuck that away while we look at Hanukkah. The word means Dedication.

The origins of Hanukkah go all the way back to the book of Daniel.  Daniel prophesied that a great one would arise but then die young, and this happened to Alexander the Great. The prophecy continued and said that kingdom would be divided among four leaders. It was.

Two of those leaders, the Ptolemy regime of Egypt, and the Selucid regime of Syria, were constantly fighting one another. (See Daniel's discussion about the king of the north and the king of the south in chapter 11... these details were fulfilled with amazing precision).

If you look at a map of the Middle East today, you will see the northern country of Syria (smaller than back then but still there) the southern country of Egypt. And going back to our story, you can't help but notice just who is caught in the crossfire of these two warring kingdoms.

One of the descendants of the original Greek-Syrian Selucid king was Antiochus IV. He hated the Glorious Land and wanted to wipe out the Jews, or at the very least, he wanted to Hellenize them... make them into Greeks.  He hated that they were different, set apart, and that they would only worship יהיה, the One True God.

So evil was Antiochus that he desecrated the holy temple, sacrificed a pig on the altar, and demanded that the Jews worship HIM.

Enter the Maccabees.  The family of Yehuda ben Mattathias of Modi'in led a rebellion against the Syro-Grecian invaders, and prevailed against massive odds. Maccabee means hammer, and this small band of devout Jews totally hammered the Greeks.

The Grecian influence, at least for the, time being, was eradicated. Once again, the people of God could live a set-apart life to the glory of God, driving out the unholy so that they could live holy.
Holy means set apart. It is the separating of the profane from the sacred. It is to avoid mixing truth with deception.

The problem that remained for the Jews following their great victory was that the holy temple was an unholy mess.

Quickly, the temple was repaired, restored, and made beautiful again. It was time to rededicate it. The story tells us that there was only enough oil to burn in the temple menorah for one day, but that the oil lasted miraculously for eight days, which is how long it takes to prepare new oil for temple service.

Whether this part of the story is true or simply legend, the fact remains that the temple was rededicated for service to יהיה, just as it was originally dedicated by King Solomon in 1 Kings. Back then, they actually had such a blast during that week of dedicating the holy temple that Solomon added a second week of celebrating.

But when that week was over, we read,
"On the eighth day he sent the people away; and they blessed the king, and went to their tents joyful and glad of heart for all the good that the LORD had done for His servant David, and for Israel His people."

There was great joy in the restoration of the holy temple and the eradication of Grecian influence.  And today, WE are the temple of the Holy Spirit, the breath of the living God!  We have the opportunity, if we so desire, to celebrate this Feast of Dedication known as Hanukkah.  It is not required; Romans 14 makes this clear regarding the Biblical celebrations.  But it truly is a great time to remember and re-dedicate!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Deeper Thankfulness

This past weekend, I had the privilege of worshipping at the congregation of Jonathan Cahn, author of The Harbinger and The Mystery of the Shemitah.  It is that time of year again - Thanksgiving - and like many pastors throughout the world, Jonathan gave a message on being thankful.

I have heard many messages about thankfulness through the years, but this year's message really dug down deep.  I probably won't do his message justice, but let me summarize.

Let's go right to the name of Judah (or Yehuda).  The word itself means praise and also thanksgiving.  This is the word from which came the words Jews and Judaism.  This is also the tribe from which came our Redeemer Yeshua.  We will come back to more root meanings at the end of this post.

The Word often tells us to be thankful.  You might be familiar with 1 Thessalonians 5:18, which says, Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Rejoice all the time!  Pray all the time!  Be thankful all the time!  This is God's will for you!

Romans 1:21 tells us that among other things, people were not thankful,  They walked a path of darkness.  Giving thanks in all things helps to avoid this darkness.  Thankfulness is crucial to an abundant life of peace.

The opposite of thankfulness is complaining.  Complaining takes away the blessings that thankfulness brings.  A heart of complaining makes us miserable. We are confessing that we are not blessed.

Thankfulness opens the doors to more blessing.   The Greek word Eucharistia means thanksgiving over the bread.  In Hebrew it is the hamotzi.  We westerners make the mistake of blessing our food.  It's not the bread that we should bless, but the Creator Who provided it. The hamotzi is clear and to the point:  Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.

In Judaism, there are brachot (blessings) for everything.  This is why, in Fiddler on the Roof, the Rabbi is able to come up with a blessing for the Czar and also for a sewing machine.  Every one of the Jewish brachot is directed to God in thankfulness.

And it's not about how much you have, but how much you are thankful for what you do have.  Yeshua gave thanks on the hillside over five loaves and two fish.  Thankfulness causes multiplication.

Complaining, on the other hand, causes a reverse miracle.  Keep complaining and you'll lose what you do have.

Jonathan shared a story of when he was serving with a team in Haiti.  They arrived back in the US and were eating at a restaurant.  One of the team members complained because his chicken club sandwich had cheese on it and he hadn't ordered it that way.  Jonathan pointed out to him that if he had wanted a chicken club sandwich in Haiti, he would have been handed a club and a live chicken and told to procure his own sandwich.

We must decide to be thankful in all things, even when faced with difficulty.  Even the bad stuff.  In Acts 5:41, for example, the disciples were thankful that they were worthy of persecution.  In Matthew 5, Yeshua tells us to REJOICE when we are persecuted.

Philippians 4 is a good place to park if you need peace of mind and heart.  Verses 6 and 7 tell us,  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  Do not forget thankfulness when praying through problems.  Problems help to sharpen our faith.

Now back to the name Yehuda.  The root to this word is yod.  A yod in Hebrew is a letter that sounds like our letter Y.  But the deeper meaning is a hand.  An open hand. The Hebrew word for hand is yad.   In scripture, open hands were lifted in praise and also when thanking God.  An open hand is a symbol of giving.  The one who gives love, forgiveness, blessings, love, and so forth are open to receive those things abundantly in return.

A closed hand, however, such as a fist raised to God in complaining, is a picture of being closed off to receiving blessings, love, forgiveness, and so forth.

Cultivating an attitude of thankfulness is an exercise.  It gets easier as you practice it.  Start writing down a thankful list.  And be thankful for difficult people - they help you build character.

Happy Thanksgiving!

PS.  Did you know that Thanksgiving is based of the biblical feast of Sukkot?  The early pilgrims were Puritans who observed the Biblical feasts.  The first American Thanksgiving took place in early October of 1621 and evidence shows that it was a Sukkot celebration.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Faith and Spikenard

What is faith?

My scripture reading for today was Hebrews 11... the great Biblical Hall of Fame of Faith.  And this past weekend, I heard a fantastic message on faith.

The message began with a discussion of spikenard, and the account of Mary lavishing Yeshua with the fragrant and expensive substance.  This anointing can be found in Mark and John 12.

So what is spikenard? Spikenard is the head of a fragrant east Indian plant which yields a thick, oily juice called nardos.  Historically, the ancients used it as a precious  ointment - a healing juice used for many ailments, such as skin infections, constipation, insomnia, stress, anxiety, fevers, and so on. Nardos would aid in cell regeneration, blood circulation, and was also used as a perfume and deodorant.  A cure-all substance, so to speak.

The Song of Solomon refers to "Nard" three times,  and each time the context suggests something precious and wonderful.

Mary of Bethany possessed something expensive, precious, and wonderful - an alabaster flask of this very costly oil.  Scripture records the value of her possession... 300 denarii - a year's wages.  If she had fallen on hard times, this oil could have been sold to provide for her.  This oil could very likely have been her dowry for marriage.

Mary of Bethany was willing to give up this precious possession for something much more precious... Yeshua.  A transfer took place when she poured it all out.  She took something that she had placed her trust in, and gave it all up for Yeshua, thereby putting all her trust in HIM!

Trading in temporary healing juice for a Permanant Healer.

The Greek word pistis is a noun that means faith.  The Greek word pisteuo is a verb that is translated believe... an action word.

It is interesting to note that the Greek word for spikenard in the gospels is pistikos nardos, or in other words, the object of one's faith.

Faith truly is an action word.  It is not simply a way of thinking; it is a way of living.  Look at this passage from James 2: What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.  But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?

It is said that Martin Luther wanted to remove the book of James from the scriptures. He struggled with the idea that faith had to be accompanied by any kind of works.  Today, it is often still preached that all you need to do is simply believe, and that's it.  You're in, and you don't have to do anything further about it.

But friends, justification by the blood of Yeshua is just the beginning of our lives of faith.  What follows is sanctification... working OUT (not FOR) our salvation with fear and trembling, according to Philippians 2:12.

Following Yeshua means living out our faith through obedience to Him. He asks us to be holy, set apart for Him.  Each of us is unique, and each of us has a calling within the Body of Messiah.

When you get a chance, peruse through Hebrews 11.  Every single member listed there in the Biblical Faith Hall of Fame demonstrated their faith through action.

What is your pistikos nardos?

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Hitchhiker

I recently returned from a journey to Israel, during which I was blessed to observe the three Fall Feasts - a dream come true!  Yom Teruah (Rosh Hashanah), Yom Kippur, and Sukkot.  My heart is still bursting from all I saw and learned.

A soldier adds palms to the roof of his sukkah
Just before I returned home, I went out beyond the green line to a small village in the land of Benjamin in Samaria, to visit a sweet family that I know.  I had asked them if I could come and see their sukkah (a temporary booth, built every year in honor of the seventh Biblical Feast, Sukkot - a memorial of God's presence and provision during the forty years in the wilderness).

We had a wonderful visit that morning and ate lunch together.  After lunch, I needed to return to Jerusalem for the final Sabbath of my visit - the first day of Sukkot.  (During my 21 days in Israel, seven of them were Sabbaths because of the Feasts.  As a Gentile, I confess that I am not used to resting that much!)

As I was about to exit the community for the hour-long trek back to Jerusalem, I came upon an Orthodox Jewish man who was awaiting a ride to the bus stop from anyone who was willing to pick him up.  Since my friend in the village had already explained to me the procedure (and safety) of Israeli hitchhiking, I felt no qualms in offering this man a ride.

For twenty minutes, we had a lively and engaging conversation.  Even though he was born and raised in a rural area of Israel, he was fluent in English, telling me it was due to computer games, computer programming, and Hollywood.

I let him know right away that I had been visiting a family for Sukkot.  A few minutes later in our conversation, I let him know that I was a gentile... a Christian.  His surprise was palpable.  I could pretty much read his thoughts... "We don't get many of your kind way out here.  And Sukkot?  You even know what that is??"

Driving down the mountain, we spoke of Yeshua.  He had questions on how we could possibly worship three Gods.  I told him that I don't believe Christianity has done a great job at explaining who God is and what we believe about His nature.  Yeshua Himself said that He and His Father were one.  I affirmed that it is blasphemy for a man to claim to be God.

But then I posed the question from the other direction:  "But what is to stop GOD from becoming a MAN?"

Yeshua claimed that He was God.  But then He backed up His claim through His miracles, including the three miracles that ancient sages expected the Messiah to perform:  1)  Healing a leper, 2) Casting out a demon from a mute person, and 3) Healing a man who was blind from birth.

Not only did He do these three miracles, but many, many more.  Feeding thousands.  Walking on water.  He even raised his friend Eleazar (Lazarus) from the dead.  And finally the ultimate miracle:  His Own Resurrection. He had kept every single point of the Moses covenant perfectly, and as such, death had no hold over Him.  He was our Perfect Passover Lamb.  Only God could do that!  (Remember Abraham's words in Genesis?  God will provide Himself the Lamb).

Yeshua did not just back up his claim of being God through miracles.  He is the fulfillment of everything written about Him in the Tanakh.  The entire book Hebrew scriptures points to Him.  He fulfilled every single prophecy that was written about Him.  There are hundreds.

The seven Feasts, as outlined in Leviticus 23, are also a foreshadowing of Him.  He fulfilled the four Spring Feasts perfectly at His first coming, when He became the ultimate Sacrifice for all mankind. He was Messiah, son of Joseph, the Suffering Servant.  The Lamb.

He will fulfill the Fall Feasts when He returns, as the Messiah, Son of David, the Conquering King, when He returns to set up His kingdom on Earth.  In Jerusalem.  The Lion.

My new hitchhiking friend did not agree with me, and that is okay.  History is full of forced conversions that were ugly and cruel.   In fact, I apologized for that cruel history; for the way that my people treated his people.

I made another friend in a shop on Ben Yehuda Street, another Orthodox Jewish man.   I kept going back because we had such great conversations.  People have tried over and over to tell him about Yeshua.  But he looked me in the eye and said, "I am not going to believe it unless God Himself reveals it to me."  I wonder if he realizes that he was paraphrasing the truth found in John 6:44 - No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.

Romans 11 tells us that Israel will be blinded in part until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.  Isaiah 8:17 confirms this:  And I will wait on the Lord, Who hides His face from the house of Jacob;
And I will hope in Him.

So I continue to love my Jewish friends, tell them about Yeshua when the door is opened, and love them unconditionally, whether they choose to follow Yeshua as Messiah or not.  I trust God for the outcome that He has already foretold.

As for me, I believe that Yeshua IS the Messiah that was prophetically foretold in the Hebrew scriptures, otherwise I wouldn't follow Him.  And if He IS the prophesied Messiah, then trusting in Him is the most Jewish thing that a Jewish person can do!  No need to "convert" to a Gentile faith, only a need for teshuvah (repentance, or turning) from sin to the One who paid the price in full.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

To the Ends of the Earth

The other day, I visited Casaerea with my daughter. It was a seaport built by Herod the Great.

Why did Herod build it? Israel already had an important port, the ancient city of Joppa (Yafo) to the south. (This was the same Joppa from which Jonah fled, hoping to avoid his prophetic assignment to the Gentiles at Nineveh.)

Well, Herod wanted a piece of the monetary action (not to mention renown), so he built a new port 60 kilometers to the north. To attract the sailors to his port, Herod built all sorts of amusements for them, such as a horse racing track (hippodrome), amphitheater, and more. Many sailors were happy to spend their winters in Caesaerea, when the Mediterranean was too blustery to navigate safely.

Herod named the port after Caesar. It was a thoroughly Roman city.

Enter Acts 10...

There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment,

a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.

About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius!”

And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, “What is it, lord?” So he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God.

“Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon whose surname is Peter.

As the account continues, we see Peter having a vision while in Joppa, of a proverbial ham sandwich in a bed sheet. The Lord was demonstrating to him that the gospel would also be preached to the Gentiles.

The men sent by Cornelius arrived immediately following Peter's vision.  Peter went with them to Cesaerea, and Cornelius and his household then became the first Gentile believers.

Scripture gives us yet another glimpse of God's ordained order, "To the Jew first."

How appropriate it was that Peter had his vision in a very ancient Jewish port, but was called to a very Roman port to give the gospel to the gentiles. What a picture of the Word going forth to the rest of the world, from a symbolic Roman port!

Back to Jonah... how symbolic is it that Jonah, wanting to avoid his assignment to preach to Gentiles, fled from the Jewish port of Joppa?

(PS. I had planned to share photos on this post, but the app won't let me do it)

Saturday, August 29, 2015

BDS - What Are They Really After?

This post may seem like it is political in nature, but bear with me. I will connect the dots biblically, I promise.

Perhaps you are already familiar with the BDS Movement against Israel.  Or perhaps you have no idea what I am talking about. If not, it is time to unpack this movement so you can understand what is going on today.

BDS stands for Boycott, Divest, and Sanction.  It is merely a continuation of 4000 years of hatred that is inspired by satan himself, who knows his time window for mischief is short.  This time, it is wrapped in "justice for Palestine" packaging, but when it is seen for what it is, you can see that there is nothing new under the sun.

The early boycott movement began before Israel was a nation, when the Arab League voted on December 2, 1945, to boycott Zionist goods in the British Mandate of Palestine.  When Israel became a legal nation in 1948, the Arab League broadened the boycott to include all companies throughout the world that do business with Israel, as well as their business partners. 

The objective was to isolate the Jewish state from the international community, as well as to inflict economic harm.

Drats.  It didn't work, as Israel became one of the most successful and prosperous nations in the world, despite being the size of a postage stamp and being surrounded by hostile enemies.  

In 2001, a new approach was begun by those who wished to destroy Israel as a nation.  Trying to legitimize their boycott, they adopted human rights language and falsely accused Israel of "ethnic cleansing" and "apartheid."  

Let's just stop right there and look at several facts.
  • Arabs living in Israel with full citizenship:  about 1,500,000.  
  • Jews living with full citizenship (or no citizenship) in Jordan (formerly 77% of Palestine): 0. 
  • Jews living in Saudi Arabia:  0.  (They are not even allowed in)
  • Jews living in Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Iraq, Iran, etc:  Maybe a handful.
After Israel became a nation, Jews that were living in these various Middle Eastern countries had to flee due to persecution, many with just the clothes on their backs.  The postage-stamp-sized country of Israel took them in and gave them citizenship.

Who cleansed who?  Who really practices apartheid?   SMH.   (That means Shakes My Head, in case you are like me and didn't know what it meant until I asked my children).

The BDS movement picked up steam in 2005 when a group of Arab Palestinian organizations formed a coalition (ironically, the same year that Israel vacated Gaza, which did NOT lead to peace but to the launching of many rockets into Israel and two wars).

Here are the stated goals and objectives of the BDS movement against Israel:
  1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall
  2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality
  3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.
Well, number 2 has already happened.  See above... remember the 1,500,000?  Some of them are members of the Knesset and one is even a judge on Israel's Supreme Court.

Numbers 1 and 3 have nothing to do with land or justice and everything to do with wiping out the Nation of Israel.  

Regarding number 1:  God gave Israel this land as an everlasting possession (Genesis 17:7).  It is only right that Israel should "occupy" their God-given land.  The wall was erected as a protective measure, after the second Arab Intifada (uprising) in the early 2000s.  It cut down on the suicide bombers by at least 90 percent.  I travel frequently through Tijuana and see a similar wall to the one I saw in Bethlehem.  Nobody accuses Mexico or the United States as being "apartheid."  Also, that little blurb in number 1 about "All Arab lands"?  They don't just mean "the West Bank and Gaza." When you hear them at the rallies chanting "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" they are referring to the Jordan River and the Mediterranean sea.  They mean all of Israel.

Regarding number 3:  The Arabs would have you believe that Resolution 194 is simply a call for the return to Israel by the Palestinian Arab people who fled when the surrounding Arab leadership initiated the war against Israel.  It's not.  Out of the 15 paragraphs of Resolution 194, only one paragraph dealt with the return of refugees.  One of the stipulations of that paragraph stated that the returning refugees be willing to live in peace with their neighbors.  There are numerous things that are very interesting to note about Number 3:
  • Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen all voted against Resolution 194. 
  • Israel is not mentioned at all by name in resolution 194.
  • There is no call for justice for the many Jewish refugees that were forced to flee Middle Eastern countries after 1948. 
  • No Arab country will offer citizenship to the Palestinian Arabs that were displaced by the war.
  • 50,000 displaced Palestinian Arabs HAVE returned to Israel and gained citizenship.
  • When they mean "refugee right of return" they do not mean the original 500,000-700,000 people who fled during the War of Independence.  They mean the 5 million descendants of them as well.  Goodbye Jewish demographic.
Moving on... Do you know about the BDS-sponsored Israeli Apartheid Week in colleges and universities?  In its own words, "Israeli Apartheid Week  (IAW) is an international series of events that seeks to raise awareness about Israel's apartheid policies towards the Palestinians and to build support for the growing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign."

So there you have it.  This campaign takes place annually in Feb/March at colleges and universities across the US, Canada, Britain, South Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.  They bring in speakers and have all sorts of events and rallies that try to delegitimize the nation of Israel.

One of the saddest things about this insidious BDS malarkey is that CHURCHES have believed this nonsense and jumped on board.  Some of the churches that have voted to boycott Israel are Presbyterian USA, Church of Scotland, the worldwide United Methodist Churches, and most recently, the United Church of Christ.  In addition, many para-church organizations have jumped on board as well.

Do they not understand Genesis 12:3?  Isaiah 40:1?  The heart of our Lord in Matthew 23:39 as He WEPT over Jerusalem and His brethren?

So how does this connect to the Bible?  I alluded to it earlier when I said that satan knows his time is short (Revelation 12:12).  He has been trying to destroy the Jewish people since they became a nation thousands of years ago in Egypt. 

Revelation 12:17 gives us a little insight as to satan's order of attack (which incidentally parallels God's order of things... to the Jew first):  

And the dragon was enraged with the woman (Israel), and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.  (That's us).  

Satan hates it that he just can't seem to win against Israel. 

In Revelation 3, the church at Philadelphia, the sixth of the seven churches, was commended for its faithfulness and was promised protection within the sphere of danger.  Maybe this is a stretch, but could that prophetic church example be connected to the sheep in Matthew 25, who blessed "the least of these my brethren?"  Brethren in Greek is adelphos, and literally means close kinsmen.  Philadelphia means loving the brethren.  Could this be why very few churches are actively blessing Israel and most are turning away from them... because it was prophesied in Revelation? One church in seven loving the brethren??

Psalm 83 gives us further insight into the motives of Israel's enemies.  It really isn't about land, or justice, or "apartheid."  It's about hatred.

You can read the Psalm on your own and see for yourselves the long list of Israel's surrounding enemies, but let me highlight two verses. 

Verse 4:  They have said, “Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation,
That the name of Israel may be remembered no more.”

Verse 12 (in referring to punishment for Israel's enemies)  Who said, “Let us take for ourselves
The pastures of God for a possession.”

Do you wish to stand firmly with Israel?  We need a BDS alternative!

How about this:  Bless, Defend, and Support!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Don't Be Ruthless

One of my very favorite Bible stories is the account of Ruth.  What a beautiful picture of how we Gentiles are to esteem Israel.  If you are part of the community of faith in the Messiah, I hope you will read on and take this to heart.  It matters, big time.

Ruth was a Moabite.  She belonged to a nation that was a bitter enemy of Israel.  But wait… let’s back up.

Naomi was an Israelite.  Or in a metaphorical sense, Naomi is Israel.   She left her homeland behind and encountered much bitterness in her journey.  It doesn’t require a degree in rocket science to make a connection between Naomi's life and the history of Israel's people since 70 AD.  In fact, while in exile, Naomi proclaimed that her name was to be Mara – meaning bitterness.

While away from her homeland, her life became entwined with two Gentile Moabite women.  Ruth and Orpah each married one of Naomi’s sons.  These women’s lives were changed because of Israel.  These women are a picture of the church.

While in exile, Naomi’s husband died, and Naomi’s sons died – the source of her bitterness.  However, in her bitterness, she was drawn back to her homeland.  Her daughters-in-law ventured out with her.  She urged them to return to their own people.  Strongly urged them.

So strongly that Orpah agreed and back she went to her people and her pagan ways. 

Ruth, however, vehemently declared that she would never leave Naomi.  In one of the most beautiful passages of scripture, often read at weddings, she declared that where Naomi went, she would go.  Naomi’s people would become her people.  She would die for and with Naomi.  She attached herself so firmly to Naomi – Israel – that there was no talking her out of it.

We know the rest of the story.  As Ruth lived out her faithfulness to her mother-in-law, God showed His faithfulness to Ruth.  She married Boaz – a kinsman redeemer and a picture of our Messiah.  They produced a child, Obed, who was placed on the knees of Naomi to redeem her from her former bitterness.  With great joy, Ruth and Naomi raised this child together – this child who would one day become the grandfather of King David, who of course is the forerunner of the Messiah Himself.

What about Orpah?  Scripture reveals nothing further about her after she turns away from Naomi.  But it is interesting to note that the Babylonian Talmud records her as being an ancestor of Goliath!

Whoa.  Think that one through.  David and Goliath.  We know who won that battle.

Ruth means friend.  Her friendship to Israel was obvious, and the Lord richly blessed her for it.

The meaning of Orpah is more obscure.  It can mean neck, or back of the neck, or stiff-necked. 

After David felled Goliath with the stone, how did he finish him off?  With a swift blow to the neck.

Christian friends, you want to get this one right.  The Bible has much to say about standing with Israel.  The separation of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25 is written entirely within an end-times context.  When Yeshua spoke of “the least of these my brethren,” the word for brethren literally means His close kinsmen. 

You cannot love the Jewish Messiah and ignore His brethren.  The Bible leaves no room for neutrality.  It requires action – you cannot remain passive.

Comfort, yes, comfort My people, says your God.  Isaiah 40:1.

In Genesis 12:3, God said to Abraham (and later to Isaac and to Jacob, aka Israel), I will bless those who bless you, and he who curses you I will curse.

The Hebrew uses one word for bless but two words for curse.  The literal meaning of the “curse” words is “I will curse him who does not esteem you.”  In other words - he who ignores, or treats as unimportant, or turns his back on - the nation of Israel

Ruth or Orpah.  Whom will you emulate?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

God Answers!

I serve a faithful God.

I have been feeling a little dry spiritually, so yesterday, I took a prayer walk.  During my time with the Almighty, I asked Him to give my kids a kingdom spark.  A faith boost.  More motivation to seek Him and less motivation to pursue the world's distractions.

A few hours later, I noticed that my daughter had made a comment on social media about the goodness of God.  This was followed by an excited comment by my son, agreeing with her wholeheartedly.

Here is what happened.

My daughter was on her break at work.  She happened to strike up a conversation with an Asian woman who turned out to be a missionary from the Philippines.  My daughter was very blessed and encouraged by the conversation, and proceeded to give a $20 donation to the missionary.  The lady accepted the donation gratefully and offered my daughter a handmade bracelet.

After work, my daughter went over to my son's place of work and told him what happened.  His eyes got as big as saucers, and he proceeded to tell her what happened to him that day.

A missionary from Thailand had stopped by his work and had a conversation with him.  He told her he was blessed by the conversation, and offered her a donation of $20.  She accepted the donation gratefully, and proceeded to offer him a handmade necklace.

Sometimes God answers prayers immediately.  Other times, He asks us to wait.  This was an example of an immediate answer.

A reminder of God's faithfulness
At the end of the day, both kids came home with more than a spark for the Kingdom.  My daughter is even more excited about her upcoming mission trip and prayer internship, and my son is now making active plans to pursue missionary training.

Coincidence?  I think not.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Musings on the Crucifixion, Part 2

If you missed part one, you can click here to read it.

Tradition says that Yeshua was crucified at the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which was "discovered" by Constantine's mother Helen through a series of "visions" in the fourth century. It is a very, ahem, interesting place, and perhaps some day I will write a post on it.  Or not.  Suffice it to say that the location of the site had formerly housed a temple of Venus, and that seven different sects of Christianity spar with each other over the rights to the place.  Ironically, the key is held by a Muslim family.  It is located to the north and the west of Mount Moriah.

Another location that claims the site of the crucifixion is the Garden Tomb, located on the north side of the city, just outside the Damascus Gate. A beautiful and peaceful place, to be sure, and a great place to meditate on what Yeshua did for us.

However, there is really no scriptural pattern that would justify a site to the north or the west of the Temple Mount.

For a few years now, I have believed that the crucifixion took place on the Mount of Olives, east of the Temple Mount across the Kidron Valley.  Knowing some of the Jewish roots of our faith is very helpful here.

In scripture, the idea of movement toward the east signifies cursing, and movement toward the west indicates blessing.  This pattern is demonstrated over and over again.  The Garden of Eden was probably on Mount Moriah.

Every single translation that I can find of Genesis 2:8 says that God planted a garden Eastward, or toward the East.  However, this is incorrect.  The Hebrew word kedem (which means both east and from ancient times) is preceded by the Hebrew letter mem, means from.  God either planted a garden from the earliest times, or from the East (or both).  But not toward the east.

Here are just a few examples of God's pattern of eastward being the direction of cursing, and westward being the direction of blessing:
  • Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden, toward the east.  
  • When the Jews were dispersed from Jerusalem to Babylon, they went east.  The regathering was toward the west.  
  • When the glory of the Lord departed from the temple in Ezekiel 11, it went east.  
  • In Yeshua, our sins are removed as far as the east is from the west.  (Side note:  If you head north long enough, eventually you will go south.  Not so with east and west).  
  • The gospel began in Jerusalem and has made its way, for the most part, in a westward movement and is now heading back westward across the 10/40 Window where it will culminate in Jerusalem.  
  • When Yeshua returns, He will descend onto the Mount of Olives and head west, into the city of Jerusalem.  
  • Even the sun works its way across our sky in an east to west direction.

Abraham took his son Isaac to the land of Moriah, as directed by God.  God then showed him exactly the place where the eventually-averted sacrifice of Isaac was to take place.  Methinks God led them to the Mount of Olives, east of the location of the future temple, and probably the exact place were Yeshua was crucified.

Kidron Valley, Mount of Olives in the distance
When Yeshua took on the curse of sin, this established pattern from God indicates that the crucifixion would be to the east of the Temple Mount, which would put it across the Kidron Valley and on the Mount of Olives.

Deuteronomy 21:22-23 tells us, If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God.

That's not all.  There is biblical evidence that He was nailed to a living tree, and that the two robbers were on the same tree; one on each side of Him.  And it was likely an almond tree, and the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden was probably an almond tree.  (I know... this flies in the face of every depiction of the crucifixion we have ever seen).  The menorah in the temple was fashioned after an almond tree.  With Yeshua in the middle between the two criminals, all arms raised, they would have resembled a menorah.  The six branches of the menorah represent mankind with the seventh middle branch representing God.  If this is the case, what a stunning picture of Yeshua - Son of Man and Son of God - in the middle, featuring the head of God with human arms raised up.

There is yet another picture to consider in this scenario.  In the temple across the Kidron Valley, the Holy of Holies featured two cherubim on the Mercy Seat facing one another, covering the Ark of the Covenant (which housed the Ten Commandments, manna, and an almond rod).

The two criminals on the tree with Yeshua would have depicted just the opposite, facing away from Him.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  Psalm 22:1

Even the very items contained in the Ark of the Coven:ant were highly symbolic.  The Almond Rod - a picture of the priesthood for Yeshua, our High Priest.  The manna, for Yeshua, our Bread of Life.  And the Ten Commandments, showing that Yeshua fulfilled every single precept of the Torah perfectly, thereby becoming our Living Torah when we put our faith and trust in Him.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Musings on the Crucifixion, Part 1

In the past few weeks, new insights have been introduced to me, from various sources, regarding the Jewish roots of the crucifixion.  So bear with me as I ponder these things here.

The first thing that has come up is the account of the rooster crowing at Peter's third denial.  Ancient writings show that chickens and roosters were not allowed in Jerusalem during Passover, because they were unclean.  (I have raised chickens and roosters and can very much attest that this is true).  

I then discovered that the term "crowing of the rooster" actually was a euphemism for the first and last blowings of the shofar each day by the priest at the temple.  When the priest blew that shofar early on that Passover day when Yeshua became our sacrificial Lamb, it was the last legitimate shofar blow of the priesthood.  Yeshua was about to fulfill the priesthood by becoming our High Priest.

One other verse of interest in this regard comes from Mark 14:51, a seemingly random and odd scripture:  Now a certain young man followed Him, having a linen cloth thrown around his naked body. And the young men laid hold of him, and he left the linen cloth and fled from them naked. 

 Linen was the garment of the priesthood.  In the same sense of the shofar, we can see in the stripping of the linen a picture of the priesthood coming to an end.

Moving on to the trial of Yeshua...

The people had a custom of having a prisoner released to them at Passover.  Pilate saw not fault in Yeshua and wanted Him to be that released prisoner.  However, the people demanded Barabbas.

Barabbas means "Son of the Father."

So you have two men, both of them the Son of the Father.  However, one was released, and one was killed.  In this respect, Yeshua the Messiah fulfilled not only the role of the Passover Lamb, but of the goat that was sacrificed by the priest at the Day of Atonement.  See these words from Leviticus 16:7-10:  
He shall take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. Then Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats: one lot for the Lord and the other lot for the scapegoat. And Aaron shall bring the goat on which the Lord’s lot fell, and offer it as a sin offering. But the goat on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make atonement upon it, and to let it go as the scapegoat into the wilderness.

Wow.  God's word is so precise... so many patterns are evident.  Yeshua the Messiah became the One to Whom the LORD's lot fell, and He was killed as a sin offering.  Barabbas became the scapegoat and was set free alive.

My next post will address several additional aspects of the crucifixion.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Servant, Faithful and Nameless

It has been said that all Biblical truth can be found in seed form in Genesis.  The more I study it, the more I find it to be true.

I write about Joseph a lot.  Much of his life was a foreshadow of Yeshua our Messiah.  But we can also look at the life of Joseph's grandfather, Isaac.  More beautiful parallels begin to emerge.

In Genesis 22, we see the binding of Isaac by Abraham.  For those of us who know Yeshua as our Redeemer, the similarities to Yeshua are pretty easy to spot.  Abraham was willing to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac, the Son of the Promise, out of obedience to the Lord God.  Happily, Yehovah stopped Abraham and provided a sacrificial ram instead.  This points to the ultimate sacrifice at the cross.

The Genesis story continues, but we don't hear anything more about Isaac until it was time for him to be married.  The obvious parallel is that after Yeshua was sacrificed and then rose, He returned to Heaven and will not return again until He comes back to claim His bride.

Let's look at the story, in Genesis 24, one of the most wonderful love stories in scripture.

We see Abraham, advanced in age, declaring that it was time for his son to be married.  In the same way, God Himself will one day declare the wedding day of His Son.  Abraham called on his old, nameless, and faithful servant, and gave him the task of going to find a wife for Isaac.  

Who was this guy?  The passage tells us that he ruled over all that Abraham had.  Could he be Eliezer from Damascus, mentioned in Genesis 15:2 as a faithful servant and potential heir of Abraham in the absence of children?  My guess is yes.  But I find it interesting that his name was only mentioned once, and then he faithfully does his work in the background, with no complaints that he didn't get to be the heir after all.

The faithful and obedient servant set out on the long journey to do his master's bidding, along with ten camels and probably a whole bunch of other stuff, in order to obtain the bride for Isaac.  Abundant gifts for the bride!!

When the servant arrived at his destination, he immediately asked the Lord for very specific signs.  Before he even finished speaking, the signs began to manifest, exactly as requested.  Hmm, so this unnamed servant had intercessory power and the ear of the Almighty.

The unnamed servant revealed Isaac to the potential bride.  In verse 34, just before he described his master's kingdom, he simply said, "I am Abraham's servant."  Not, "I am Eliezer, the most trusted, favored, and important servant of my master Abraham."

He went on to reveal to the bride and her family just how splendid his master's kingdom was.

What was this servant's purpose?  To lead the Bride to the Bridegroom.  To do the Father's will.  To be a faithful helper.  To deflect the glory to His Master.  To shower the Bride with gifts. To point to the Son.

He sounds a lot like the Holy Spirit.

And if that is the case, then it means that Isaac is a picture of Yeshua the Bridegroom, and Rebekah is a picture of you and me, the Bride.  What a love story!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Happy New Year!

A recent email regarding this blog has alerted me to the fact that I haven't posted in awhile.  I had to say, the email caught me by surprise.  (Someone actually reads my rambling thoughts?  Wow!)

So I thought I would drop in and wish you a happy new year.  No, it is not belated; I refer to the new year that nobody celebrates - the Biblical one.

When Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, a new covenant was established between the Lord God and His people Israel - the Sinai, or Mosaic Covenant.  It included many precepts, which required obedience in order to stay in the land.  The sages have counted 613 of them!

The Jews refer to these precepts as Torah (a word derived from archery, meaning direction, shooting straight, hitting the mark, or teaching.  Personally, I refer to the entire scriptures from Genesis to Revelation as Torah... the whole counsel of teaching that comes from God.)

Obeying these Mosaic Covenant precepts gave Israel the right to live in the land that they already owned, according to the Abrahamic Covenant.  Disobedience would cause them to get temporarily kicked out of their land before being brought back for another chance.  Historically, this has happened twice.  We are currently in the middle of the second regathering to the land.

So what does all this have to do with the Biblical new year?  In Exodus 12, the very first thing God established with Israel when they left Egypt is the Passover.   Verses one and two tell us, The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year."

Why did Israel need a new calendar at this point?  Here is a cool insight. 

In adopting a lunar-based calendar, Israel made a clean break from Egypt’s solar calendar, which honored the pagan worship of the "sun god.”
One of the first issues that God had the people of Israel deal with just before leaving Egypt regarded the marking of time.
Why did God choose that moment to set the Biblical New Year?  
The reason is that only a free person has need of a calendar by which to order his life.  A slave rises, works, sleeps, and orders his entire existence according to his or her master’s whims.  Thus, God was saying to His people, “Now you are a free nation and have your own calendar!”

Current Jewish tradition celebrates the Jewish New Year on Rosh Hashanah, which is the first day of the seventh month of this Biblical calendar.  The actual name of that feast is Yom Teruah, meaning Day of Trumpets.  The rabbis established a tradition that the Earth was created at that time, so they renamed the day Rosh Hashanah (a term meaning "head of the year," and not found in scripture).

The ancient Roman calendar arbitrarily chose the middle of the winter for the new year, which is the date that most of the world now celebrates.  We had the privilege of being in Galilee during that day this past year.  We noticed that is not widely celebrated in Israel.  Hmmm, I wonder why?

It is interesting to note that our modern celebration of New Year’s Day stems from an ancient Roman custom, the feast of the Roman god Janus – god of doorways and beginnings. The name for the month of January also comes from Janus, who was depicted as having two faces. One face of Janus looked back into the past, and the other peered forward to the future.

The ancient Babylonians had a tradition of making promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts.  The Romans carried on this tradition of New Year's resolutions by making promises to the god Janus.

So aren't you glad you stopped by?  I hope you have a happy and blessed Biblical New Year!