Thursday, December 5, 2019

A Sure Foundation

In 1st Corinthians 3:10-11 Paul makes the following statement: “According to the grace of YHVH which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it.  For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Yeshua the Messiah”.  In other words, "the Living Word of Elohim" is the foundation laid by the first apostles and prophets of old. Let me insert a clarification here: The apostles and prophets of what is commonly called “the fivefold ministry” (Ephesians 4:11) are not the builders of the foundation, nor are they the ones that are to add to or take away from it.  They are called to build on the foundation that has already been constructed, that is on the “Rock”, and Scriptural foundation.  
“Therefore thus says YHVH Elohim, ‘behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; whoever believes [in Him] will not act hastily” (Isaiah 28:16).  
The ‘prophets of old’, i.e. the Biblical prophets, and the first apostles were the ones to whom Paul was referring in Ephesians 2:20: “…having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Yeshua the Messiah Himself being the chief cornerstone”. As a result of their groundwork we have “come to Yeshua as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by YHVH and precious,  we also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to YHVH through Yeshua the Messiah” (1st  Peter 2:4-5).  Without the foundation which has been built by the prophets and the apostles, we, as living stones, cannot be set on a sure foundation.  The prophets’ foundation is the Word of Elohim in covenants and promises to our forefathers and to Israel as a whole, enumerating details of people, place and time (history past and future fulfillment).  The apostolic foundation bears witness to YHVH’s faithfulness in keeping and fulfilling those covenantal declarations and prophetic promises via the indwelling of the Spirit.   The Holy Spirit is the guarantee and the evidence of YHVH’s faithfulness:  “For all the promises of Elohim in Him are yes, and in Him amen, to the glory of YHVH through us.  Now He who establishes us with you in Messiah and has anointed us is Elohim, He has also sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Corinthians 1:20-22).   
 “Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him that glory may dwell in our land.  Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed.  Truth shall spring out of the earth, [that is, from our innermost being], and righteousness shall look down from heaven” (Psalm 85:9-11).  Thus, it is in us that heaven and earth touch each other and kiss. 

Bond Servant

“And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness…” “But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of Elohim, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life” (Romans 6:18; 22).
From these two verses one might raise the question: If we have been set free, how is it that we become servants or slaves?  Actually the definition of one who has been set free by their master or redeemed by another, but then decides to freely give himself back to his master or his redeemer is a “bond servant”.  In the following scriptures we see this term used by those who in their service were advancing the Kingdom of Elohim. 
Here is how some the greatest prophets and apostles and foundational builders of Elohim’s Kingdom thought of themselves and of their callings: “Paul and Timothy, bond servants of Yeshua the Messiah” (Philippians 1:1);James, a bond servant of Elohim and of the Lord Yeshua the Messiah” (James 1:1); Simon Peter, a bond servant and apostle of Yeshua the Messiah (2 Peter 1:1).  Not to mention our forefathers, along with Moses, Joshua, Isaiah, Ezekiel etcetera, who all were servants of Elohim. 
Even our Messiah Yeshua became a bond servant of Elohim in order to qualify to be our Redeemer and Lord. Therefore “Let this mind be in you which was also in Messiah Yeshua… who made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bond servant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5, 7-8).   If we have the mind of Messiah then our thinking should be the same, as well as our behavior.   Just because we have been set free from sin and are seated with Him in Heavenly places does not free us from being bond servants to righteousness AND to our King. 
If the following is an example of being a bondservant of an earthly master, how much more so does it illustrate our required service to our spiritual Master and King?  “Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Messiah;  not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Messiah, doing the will of Elohim from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to Yeshua the Lord, and not to men,  knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether a slave or free” (Ephesians 6:5-8).  
Every day, regardless where we are, at home with family, at work with co-workers, colleagues or employees, or anywhere for that matter, we should be living out our calling as ‘bondservants’ of Yeshua our King.   Therefore, “Let as many bond servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, so that the name of Elohim and His instructions [Torah] may not be blasphemed” (1 Timothy 6:1).  “For we do not preach ourselves, (nor live for ourselves) but Messiah Yeshua the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Yeshua’s sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5).

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Behind The Fig Leaf

This exploration venture is an investigation into what is “behind the fig leaf” and will be much like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, in which each piece has four sides, mostly male or female shaped. Each such piece is also of multiple colors that have to match the piece next to it.  Synonyms in the English language can amplify, spice up, or lend hues of color to each part, but referencing the literal Hebrew and the roots of the words provides an even richer dimension to the picture formed when all the parts are connected. If you have worked with a Hebrew Lexicon you will know what I mean. 

The text that I want to highlight is Genesis 3:7, the one from which the title of this article is derived.  I will be using the following reference materials: Strong’s Concordance, Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon, Etymological Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew, and Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament and of course the Bible/scriptures.
“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings” (Genesis 3:7 emphasis added).

Why did Adam and Eve use the fig leaf to cover their shame?  Obviously this “fig” is figurative, although some believe that they used the leaf (notice, the original states, “leaf” and not “leaves”) of the very tree whose forbidden fruit they tasted.  In other words, the fig tree represented, or may have even been, the very tree of knowledge of good and evil.  The meaning of the Hebrew word for fig makes it clear as to why YHVH would have told Adam not to eat the fruit of that particular tree, and why such a tree would be named as it was.

The Hebrew word “fig” is “te’ena”, spelt tav, alef, nun, hey (8384), with its root being alef, nun, hey (578). Several colorful meanings are seen in this root - mourn, mourning, lament, occasion, opportunity, ground for quarrel, pretext. A change of the final letter - from hey to chet (584) - makes it, sigh or groan. Change the hey to a yod (589) and it becomes “I” - individual self-identity; add to the first two letters (alef, nun) chet, nun and vav (587) and its meaning becomes “we”, a multiple of “I’s”.  Before their disobedience, man and woman were only conscious of the light of creation emanating from the tree of life (and thus devoid of self-consciousness) , but when their “eyes were opened” they became self-conscious (the ego rising as a little self-contained god - “I”. Indeed they did became their own gods, in fulfillment of the word of satan).
Let’s continue by adding more colors to the ‘piece’ we just viewed.  How about alef, nun, chaf (594), which is “plummet”, reminding us of the Fall. Or, alef, nun, nun (596) complain, murmur; alef, nun, samech (597) compel, constrain; alef, nun, kuf (602) cry, groan (as if wounded) or distress (as if in prison); alef, nun, shin (605) be weak, sick (or mortal 582).  As you can see, there is more to the meaning of this word – fig – and its surrounding terminologies than just a rendition of a harmless fruit.  It points to the fallen, contaminated, corrupted human condition.  These adjectives designating negative, unloving, harmful, hurtful and damaging characteristics are fitting descriptions of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and its effect on mankind.  Notice the meaning of the word for “evil” – rah - resh, ayin (7451) - distress, murmuring, unpleasant, calamity etc. This is what awaited man if he were to disobey YHVH’s voice, making it obvious why YHVH charged him not to eat of that tree.
Even more understanding, as to the fallen human condition, may be obtained by examining another piece of the puzzle found in the above quoted verse (3:7). The Hebrew word for “naked” - arum singular and arumim plural - is derived from the root ayin, resh, hey (6168): naked, nakedness, a desert waste; destitute, empty, pour out.  To add a little more color, ayin, resh, mem, hey (6191; 6195) is guile, wiliness, astuteness, craftiness, prudence, subtlety, wisdom. Is this in any way similar to the description of another creature that was in that tree, of whom it says that he was “more cunning/subtle – arum - than any of the beasts of the field”? (3:1). Is his 'wisdom' seen in us when we have ... bitter envy and self-seeking in our hearts...? This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic” (James 3:14-15 emphasis added).
Let’s continue and investigate the word for “coverings” (2290), which appears at the end of the above-quoted verse – chagorot, of the root chagar;  chet, gimel, resh - gird, gird on, gird oneself; hinder, restrain, closed in space. If we exchange the last consonant with an alef, we end up with chet, gimel, alef (2283) which means reeling; chet, gimel, hey - conceal, place of refuge, protection.

Thus it was actually a “girdle” or a “belt” that was the product of Adam and Eve’ making, not a covering (chaf, samech, hey, 3680), as the latter would not fit well the ‘section’ of the fig in our puzzle. “Stand therefore, having girded your waist (loins) with truth…” and “gird up the loins of your mind” (Eph. 6:14; 1 Peter 1:13) are actions designated to counter the ongoing condition of disseminating and proliferating lies, which begun the journey that humanity has been on ever since.

This fig leaf (with all of its direct meanings and derivations or connected terms) was sown (“taphar” tav, pey, resh, 8609) together collage or quilt style, and was attached by the humans to their bodies.  But as if that were not enough, we go on reading: “And they heard the sound of YHVH Elohim walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of YHVH Elohim among the trees of the garden” (v. 8). The literal rendering, however, is not "among the trees", but “in the midst of the tree”. What?  Yes, they actually hid themselves in the tree of knowledge of good and evil itself.   It is no wonder that YHVH asked, "where are you Adam?” as He could not look upon a tree that represented the kingdom of darkness. “You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness”, was declared by the prophet Habakkuk (1:13a).

The Garden of Delight has now become in Adam and Eve's languishing hearts an “empty desert waste”, even before they were expelled from it.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Succah – Succot – Symbol – Event – Time – Place

How have a few sticks with a couple of sheets for walls, and some cut off branches for a ceiling come to symbolize a momentous episode of the past, and another, which will culminate this age, as well as (symbolize) those who form an inextricable part of these events? 

Let us start with this last point. Psalm 139 says, “You covered me in my mother’s womb”. The Hebrew verb used here for ‘covered’ is “te’su’ke’ni”, i.e. literally, ‘You have made/formed me as a succah’.  Psalm 39:4-5 confirms our fragility and transience, much like the succah, which is a flimsy and temporary structure.

Before taking a journey to visit the succah and the feast of Succot, it has to be admitted that, the original succahs in the wilderness were structured differently than the typical ones which have been traditional for hundreds of years in the Jewish world. Our forefathers dwelt in structures that consisted of stone-marked circles in the middle of which was placed a stone or stick pole with skin draped from the top down, making it more like a tent (at least that appears to have been the case at Kadesh Barnea, where they remained for quite a few years).

The reason for Succot is stated thus:  “You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 23:42-43 emphasis added).   

Quite frankly, this command seems curious and raises a question. Elohim performed great and mighty miracles and wonders for the people of Israel during their wilderness sojourn, protecting, rescuing, and providing for them in amazing ways, so why is it that out of all other possible symbols, the succah was chosen to commemorate this experience? Moreover, the succah is definitely not a secure shelter, and yet Amos 9:8-12 states:

"’Behold, the eyes of the YHVH Elohim are on the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the face of the earth; Yet I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,’ Says YHVH.  ‘For surely I will command, and will sift the house of Israel among all nations, as grain is sifted in a sieve; Yet not the smallest grain shall fall to the ground.  All the sinners of My people shall die by the sword, Who say, 'the calamity shall not overtake nor confront us. On that day I will raise up the tabernacle/succah of David, which has fallen down, and repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old; that they may possess the remnant of Edom, and all the Gentiles [nations/peoples] who are called by My name,’ says YHVH who does this thing”.

This text describes troublesome times, replete with judgment of the sinners from among the people of Israel. And yet, YHVH also promises “in that day” to raise up the “falling” (literal Hebrew) succah of David. The usage of the present continuous tense may be indicative of an on going action, and likely connected to man’s similitude to a succah, which does not cease falling until YHVH Himself raises it/them (His people) as His own kingdom, according to the text.

The words from Amos 9, relating to the succah, are quoted in Acts 15:16-17, albeit with slight modifications, and read thus: “’After this I will return And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up; so that the rest of mankind may seek YHVH, even all the Gentiles [nations/peoples] who are called by My name’, says YHVH who does all these things’”. Rather than “that they – Israel – will possess the remnant of Edom”, our present quote says, “so that the rest of mankind will seek YHVH”.

In looking at the words that were changed, in Hebrew, it is very easy to see how “yirshu” – will possess – can be changed into “yidreshu” – will seek, and how “she’erit Edom” – the remnant of Edom – can be changed to “she’erit Adam” - remnant of mankind, i.e. Adam.  But beyond the simplistic word switching possibilities, this alteration may be also viewed as the extension of YHVH’s plan - beyond the local and onto a world-wide one.

Let’s examine again the term “succah”, as it appears in the two cited excerpts. Why “succah of David” and not “temple of David”? “sacturary of David”, or “House of David”? Why is the succah one of the ultimate symbols of the establishment of YHVH’s kingdom on earth?

Isaiah and Micha’s parallel prophecies (Is. 2: 2-4: Mic. 4:2) describe one of the greatest peaks of scriptural fulfillments: “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that, the mountain of YHVH's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it” (Isaiah 2:2). 

On that great and auspicious day, what are the nations supposed to do? “And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, YHVH of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Succot” (Zechariah 14:16 emphasis added), whilst draught and plagues await those who do not obey this word.

Many are of the opinion that the birth of Messiah was around the Succot season, while, unlike the spring feasts which have had their fulfillments during Yeshua’s first coming and immediately after, Succot’s fullest manifestation has not taken place yet. Is it possible that His return will indeed take place around this time? When it says in revelation 21:3 “Behold, the tabernacle of Elohim is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and Elohim himself shall be with them, and be their Elohim” is it referring to the time of Succot? In the Greek original, “tabernacle” as it is used here, and “dwell” are both designated by a semitic originated term “skay-nay” which means a structure made of green boughs, skins or other materials. What makes this verse even more fascination is its context; this above-mentioned scene is to occur after the establishment of the “new heaven” and the “new earth” and also of the “New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from Elohim” (vs. 1, 2). Peter describes what precedes these occurrences: “… the heavens pass away with a great noise, and the elements melt with fervent heat” and “both the earth and the works that are in” are “burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). Here we gasp… even after upheavals on such a colossal scale, what seems to not pass away is Succot and with it the flimsy booth – the succah.

Remember our reference at the beginning, to Psalm 139:13: “You have covered – made a succah out of – me in my mother’s womb”? Psalm 27:5 says, “For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his succah”. That is to say that Elohim Himself has a succha, which for us is a place of refuge in time of trouble.

How may we conclude this survey, and what does it point to?
Let us review: I and my formation in the womb are likened to a… succah. The reminder of the wilderness miracles – YHVH’s incredulous provision for His people and His protection all add up to a… short dwelling time in a succah. The very establishment of Elohim’s kingdom is ‘funneled’ to a… succah. The Messiah’s return is in… Succot, and He Himself chooses to dwell with us (quite possibly) in a… succah, at a time of the new heaven, the new earth and the new Jerusalem.  

Does the imagery of the succah and of the Feast of Succot give us a glimpse into the Mighty Creator’s world view, as it were, where a flimsy and weak structure symbolizes His creatures, but also His own abode when He comes to dwell with His chosen, at a time of a feast that centers on the very same flimsy booth which points to the Messiah’s birth as well as to His much awaited return at the very peak of human history?

This survey will not be complete without citing what is said in Isaiah 4: 2-6: “In that day the Branch of YHVH shall be beautiful and glorious; and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and appealing for those of Israel who have escaped. And it shall come to pass that he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy -- everyone who is recorded among the living in Jerusalem. When YHVH has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purged the blood of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning, then YHVH will create above every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and above her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night. For over all the glory there will be a covering - CHUPA.  And a tabernacle - SUCCAH - for shade in the daytime from the heat, for a place of refuge, and for a shelter from storm and rain”.  In the Hebrew original “succah” follows “chupa” without a break. Again, is this a hint as to the connection of succah to the wedding canopy, chupa, and to the time during which Messiah marries His bride, pointing to His return in order to dwell among His own?

Note: It seems that the succah ceases to be on the “eighth day” – Shmini Atzeret. In Leviticus 23:42 it says, “you shall dwell in booths for seven days”, while the eighth day, and not the seventh, is a “holy convocation” (v. 36). On this holy day, the eighth, there is no more booth dwelling. If we convert this day into a thousand years, then the eighth millennium symbolizes eternity where the proverbial ephemeral succah is not seen anymore.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Lesson from the olive tree (part II)

Before continuing on the theme, “a lesson from the olive tree,” here is a comment that was made by one of my readers:

“...Togetherness seems elusive, and fear of the furnace paralyzes many. Plus, we have continued to cherish things we learned in our youth; things that are deeply embedded in our hearts and minds - so deeply we do not recognize their unclean nature. Only submission to the fiery furnace can strip us of these foreign objects - worldviews, perspectives, interpretations, convictions, prejudices, ignorance, etc - and set us free to be one as He is one; to be transformed. Truth and renewal. May we see it in our day”.

The reader’s last remark, “be one as He is one” seems to be one of the greatest challenges that are before us.  In Ephesians 4 Paul states that we already are “one body”, just as the olive tree has only one all-inclusive root, while the branches form an inseparable part of the one tree.  In addition to the olive tree imagery, and parallel to it, is the metaphor of the “body of Messiah”, which although made up of many parts is still one; One “body”; One “tree”.  Paul’s exhortation to the members of the body cum grafted-in branches is very strong: “I beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling” (Ephesians 4:1-4).  Notice the nature of this tree/body and the fruit that it bears, so why not bear with one another in love, keeping the unity in the bond of peace?  This is the nature, characteristic of the “olive tree” of Romans 11, which is the evidence of “life from the dead” (see v. 15). 

The reader above mentions some of what is holding us back from achieving our corporate calling as the body of the Redeemer, the restored olive tree of Israel.  Perhaps as he pointed out: “we have continued to cherish things we learned in our youth; things that are deeply embedded in our hearts and minds - so deeply we do not recognize their unclean nature”.  I believe that James puts his apostolic finger on the reason:  But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lusts and enticed.  Then, when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:14-15).   Comparing this passage with the one cited above (from Ephesians), let us ask, isn’t this excitant duality curious? We are joined to a tree; or a body that is supposed to exemplify life from the dead, but yet we, as individuals, are still susceptible to being enticed by sin, and if we continue to cooperate with it, the result will bring forth death.  Hence the warning to the branches that have been grafted into the holy shoot of Jesse, “you are only here by grace through faith”.  Because sin will always result in death and disease, any sick branch is likely to be cut off, so that its illness will not spread to other branches.

The solution to the above situation is obviously “repentance” from a sincere heart, which must be accompanied by humility, by confession, and by going ‘outside the camp/gates’, so to speak, to receive the forgiveness from a crucified Messiah (see Hebrews 13:12-13). This, however, cannot take place before addressing one’s sin by asking forgiveness from the injured party or in other cases confessing one’s sin to trustworthy brother/s or sister/s and granting forgiveness, just as the Father has forgiven us “…lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11). 

One very important point to understand about Satan’s devices, is that he can only tempt us, enticing the flesh.  He knows, along with his demonic forces, that He has no legal right over us.  However, if we listen to the allurement of the tempter and give in to the lusts of the flesh, it throws out a welcome mat for the unclean spirits (power of sin) to manifest through us, which produces death and more importantly grieves or makes sorrowful the body of Messiah.  “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12). 

The Romans 11 olive tree of Israel is being restored as a tree of righteousness and peace. When its fruit (the olive) is pressed, the flowing oil may be used for healing, deliverance, and life from the dead, as well as for the light of revelation. The nature or the character of this light in its varying hues is described in Colossians as “tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with others, and forgiving …but above all these things is love, which is the bond of perfection” (Colossians 3:12-14 alterations mine).  If we are truly bonded/grafted to the olive tree, the clear evidence will be our love for one another, as Yeshua loves us. 

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Yom Truah

The first of the seventh month is almost upon us, a time of “remembering truah” – the sound, the call, the blowing/blast, which heralds the crowning of the King (see Ex. 19:13,19; 20:15; Lev. 23:24). The Sinai scene was the time when Israel, as a people, a “kingdom”, first recognized their Supreme Ruler (see Ex. 19:6, 8).  It is the fourth of YHVH’s appointed times, to be followed ten days later by Yom HaKippurim (Day of ‘Atonements’).

“Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples! Shout – hari’u (same root as TRUAH) to Elohim with the voice of triumph!  For YHVH Most High is awesome; He is a great King over all the earth.  He will subdue the peoples under us, and the nations under our feet.  He will choose our inheritance for us, the excellence of Jacob whom He loves. Selah. Elohim has gone up with a shout (TRUAH), YHVH with the sound of a shofar.  Sing praises to Elohim, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises!  For Elohim is the King of all the earth; Sing praises with understanding. Elohim reigns over the nations; Elohim sits on His holy throne. The princes of the people have gathered together, the people of the Elohim of Abraham. For to Elohim belong the defenders of the most exalted land” (Psalm 47:1 – 9 literal translation emphasized). 

As we remember the coronation of our King, which was experienced by our ancestors, it is also a reminder to look forward to His return and to be in preparation for this event. As the “defenders of the most exalted land” we also take heart when we read in Ephesians 3:9,10 about:  “the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in Elohim… to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of Elohim might be made known by the assembly/kahal [of Israel] to the principalities and powers in the heavenlies”.

In this Shabbat’s Parashat Nitzavim (and in the next two to follow) “heaven and earth” are to bear witness against Israel, if curses and death are chosen rather than blessings and life. How wonderful it is that through and by our redemption, we are now able to not only be YHVH’s “defenders of the most exalted land”, and thus witness to and on the earth, but also now testify to the heavenlies of the “manifold wisdom of Elohim” thus reversing our forefathers’ indictment (by the terrestrial and celestial witnesses).

Psalm 81 says that the shofar is to be blown on the day of the covered moon (vs 3). Since only one of YHVH’s moadim occurs on such a day, it would stand to reason to pay attention to who is being addressed here: “For this is a statute for Israel, a law of the Elohim of Jacob.  This He established in Joseph as a testimony while he was in bondage in Egypt” – even in his present Egypt (Psalm 81:4-5).

Do the sounds of the Truah also speak prophetically of the coming redemption of the sons of Jacob and Joseph? This is the specified time for the redeemed remnant to declare the Lordship of King Messiah Son of David. Is Yeshua waiting for a people that will call Him, “YHVH our righteousness, in [whose] days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely” (Jeremiah 23:6)?  

On Yom Truah, being a day of remembrance, are we also to recall who we are as the seed of Joseph and Jacob (the “defenders” referred to above), who are to crown the King Messiah as the Master over our lives? 

Yes, we love Yeshua as Savior and Redeemer, but is He the One who sits on the throne of our hearts?

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

A lesson from the olive tree

There are many lessons that we can glean from the olive tree of Israel, but none as important as what is written in Romans 11. This passage depicts many of the fulfillments of the prophetic scriptures, both from a positive view point but also dire warnings that come alongside the grace given to the branches, both natural and wild.  One of the most incredible and amazing aspects highlighted in this chapter are the mercy and grace granted particularly to the rejected, discarded, and cut off House of Yosef.  The tribes that once made up this house have been scattered and mixed into all the nations.  As branches from the original olive tree of their forefathers, they took root in the field of this world.  They, like all the other nations, are strangers to the covenants and promises.  Hosea prophesied that YHVH would have no mercy on Israel and named them “not my people”.   Because of sin and iniquity their roots have rotted, and thus they have no way back to the covenant promises.  However, out of the olive tree of Jacob YHVH did preserve one root, and that is the “root of Jesse” from the House of Judah.  He sent Yeshua as the offshoot of that root, and by grace through faith in the Gospel of His Kingdom, He is (re)grafting these wild branches into this special anointed sprout from the root of Jesse.  In so doing He is starting to restore the fallen sukkah of David.

 “And if some of the [natural/cultivated] branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root [of Jesse] and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, ‘branches were broken off that I might be grafted in’.  Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear.  For if Elohim did not spare the natural [cultivated] branches, He may not spare you either.  Therefore consider the goodness and severity of Elohim: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off” (Romans 11:17-22 emphasis added).

The discovery of the Israelite identity through the Gospel and the coming to the Mountain of Torah, and (allegedly) embracing the ‘whole counsel of Elohim’, has often been accompanied by an air of haughtiness and self-righteousness. This usually has to do with Torah and other scriptural interpretations and practices, supposedly being more precise, more accurate, and better analyzed than… the Jewish understanding and practice, or that of other Ephraimites, or Christians who don’t necessarily agree with a given view point held by one group or another.  The above Romans 11 warning deals with a possibility or a risk that one could be cut off again from the root of the olive tree because of (such) conceit. 

Thankfully YHVH’s goodness leads to repentance (see Romans 2:4), although that does not necessarily guarantee that such repentance will indeed be resorted to.  Pride goes before the fall, or should I say before being cut off? As it says, “you only stand by faith”.  The faith that is mentioned here is the one that justifies and awards us a righteousness that is in Messiah, who is the “Root and offspring of David” (Revelation 22:16).  Immaturity in expressing this righteousness (the fruit of the Spirit), before embracing the right living of the Torah is, I believe, at the root of these only too common problems that show up in the Hebrew Roots movement.
The blood of the New Covenant covers sin, but along with this non refutable fact we are still commanded to cleanse ourselves “from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of Elohim”  (2 Corinthians 7:1). “Therefore consecrate yourselves and be holy, for I am YHVH your Elohim…I am holy (Leviticus 20:7; 1 Peter 1:16).

Having received Messiah’s righteousness, why would we want to have a righteousness based on the works of the Torah?  When we have the righteousness that is founded on “the faith” then, as it is written, we “establish the Torah” (see Romans 3:30-31).  But as it is, until we can walk in the light as He is in the light, having fellowship will be next to impossible, because religious like-mindedness has never worked to unify the body of Messiah, nor the two houses of Israel.

If we are a new creation-being our life is lived in the light, as we have died and our life is hidden in Yeshua the Light.  We must, therefore, ask ourselves: Why are we not loving one another unconditionally, as our Father loves us?  What is hindering this (supposed to be) new creation person from loving others, especially brothers and sisters? Why are there strife, contention, controversies and disputes about words (ref. 1 Timothy 6:4-5)? Is it because we have not resisted sin to the shedding of our flesh, which means repenting and identifying by faith to a crucified Messiah, “so that the dying of Yeshua works in me, so that the life of Yeshua can work in others” (ref. 2 Corinthians 4:10-12)?  If pride and self-righteousness and all their attributes are active and evident in our lives, which means that we are continuing to cooperate with the power and nature of sin, chances are we will indeed be cut off from the holy root of the olive tree.  Additionally, in Romans 2:5 we are warned about the wrath of Elohim.  The Hebrew word for “cut off” is “karet”, a very severe term indeed which describes a removal from the covenants and from the household/commonwealth of Israel (see for example, Genesis 17:14; Exodus 12:15; Leviticus 17:4; Numbers 15:30; Ezekiel 14:8 etc.)

The above-cited Romans 11 excerpt seems to have a fitting continuation by the following: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of Elohim, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to Elohim, which is your reasonable service.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of Elohim” (Romans 12:1-2).