Friday, February 15, 2019

Beyond the Mountain part II



What was YHVH’s purpose for bringing the Israelites to Mount Sinai?  Without understanding His reason for revealing Himself to His people there, as He did, we will continue to camp by that mountain. We will be studying all the details of the commandments, statutes and ordinances, collecting offerings - “trumot” – for the purpose of building a sanctuary for Him and then working hard at doing the mitzvoth. We will also keep trying to decide how to carry out what we are hearing.  Because the original Hebrew script is so complicated, the poor lay person would feel the need to rely on rabbis and theologians for interpretation.  As a result, all this effort will end up becoming a hierarchal religious system, devoid of the relationship YHVH has intended for us to have with Him. So let us examine the reason that Elohim brought us to the mountain, so that we may move on. There are two statements in Exodus that not only show YHVH’s intent, but also demonstrate His absolute devotion to carry out His plans for His people (past, present and future). 

“And Moses went up to Elohim, and YHVH called to him from the mountain, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel:  'You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself”  (Exodus 19:3-4 italics and emphasis added).   Notice “I brought you to Myself”.  The following verses demonstrate YHVH’s attitude and intentions toward His people, who were to be “to Me a special treasure, to Me a kingdom of priests and a set apart nation” (19:5-6).  The Almighty was looking to prepare a place for Himself, as seen from a statement in Exodus 25:8:  "And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.”  His intentions were not to dwell in a building, but within a nation of priests and kings. 

The above statements highlight the YHVH’s place in the relationship even though the called out ones were stiff necked and disobedient, a trait that seems to haunt us even in this generation.  We have to be careful that we do not become so enamored with discovering our Israelite identity and being called a treasured possession of the Most High and a priesthood, that we forget our first love: "You shall love YHVH your Elohim with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart” (Deuteronomy 6:5-6).  It is very easy for us to be living for ourselves, using our relationship with Abba for our sake, rather than existing for Him and for His name’s sake. 

The one rabbi who had a clear understanding of YHVH’s perspective of the Sinai covenant, was Rabbi Shaul. In his commentaries he explains the purpose for giving the “Law”.  “For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.  Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses” (Romans5:13-14). Thus in spite of “sin not being imputed" it did reign and mankind was obviously suffering the consequences (as is evident in the early Torah narratives).

So what is it that took place at Sinai that changed everything? And why is it so important that we as believers today understand our relationship to the Torah. For societies to be functional, in antiquity as in our own day, they obviously had to have laws and moral and operational codes, even some of YHVH’s laws were practiced and upheld (see, for example, Gen. 5:26). However, there was not a clear spiritual demarcation line. By and large Man’s attempts to set up codices of law stemmed directly from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

YHVH’s commandments of “you shall” and “you shall not” are based on the Spirit of His Word, with the intent of convicting humanity of Sin.  “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet’” (Romans 7:7 emphasis added).  “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20 emphasis added).  Sin could not be atoned for until after YHVH gave the Law, and because in giving it He knew that His laws would be violated, He immediately made provision for a sacrificial system and gave instructions for constructing the Mishkan and the instatement of the Levitical priesthood, in order to facilitate the sacrifices.

YHVH’s intent was to have a people for His name sake, so that He might dwell not just among, but IN, them.  But as long as the heart/spirit of His people was still corrupted by the fallen spiritual condition it was impossible for His Spirit to unite with theirs.  It was therefore necessary for YHVH to prepare the people by this first agreement, or should I say contract, which both parties signed, thus setting in motion His future plan that would make it possible for Him to dwell in them.  Through Moses and the blood of an oxen the first Sinai covenant was inaugurated.

 Then he sent young men of the children of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to YHVH.  And Moses took half the blood and put it in basins, and half the blood he sprinkled on the altar.  Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, ‘All that YHVH has said we will do, and be obedient.’ And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘this is the blood of the covenant which YHVH has made with you according to all these words’" (Exodus 24:5-8).

Now you might be asking “what is meant by the first Sinai Covenant”…..?
 To be continued

Friday, February 1, 2019

Beyond the Mountain

“Beyond the mountain”. There are several thoughts that come to mind in regards to this concept.  The first of these concerns the sequence of events that took place while our ancestors’ sojourned from Egypt to Mount Sinai.  Having departed Egypt on the 15th of the first month (Aviv, ref. Numbers 33:3), they arrived at the wilderness of Sin on the 15th day of the second month (ref. Exodus 16:1), where they rebelled against Moses because of lack of food.  After receiving the miracle of the manna, and the ordinance of the Shabbat they moved on and camped in Rephidim, where they once more complained, this time about water shortage and were also attacked by the Amalekites (ref. Exodus 17:8).  Such a short time has elapsed, yet so many attacks, both from within and from without! Is this a sign (for us) that the enemy does not want us (too) to get to the ‘mountain of Torah’? There is no mention of a departure date from Rephidim, but it is recorded that they arrived in the wilderness of Sinai in the third month on the same day that they had left Egypt, which was the 15th of the month.  Although no details are specified as to where they camped, it would appear from other references they were near the “Mountain of Elohim”. 
Immediately upon their arrival YHVH called Moses to come up to the mountain, so that He could deliver a message to His people. Notice that this took place before He descended upon the mountain in the great display of fire, earthquake and sounds. This introductory message, which from YHVH’s perspective has never changed, was an identity message (in addition to having already called them Israel, His firstborn nation while they were still in Egypt. (Ref. Exodus 4:22).
“And Moses went up to Elohim, and YHVH called to him from the mountain, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel:  'You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself.  Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.  And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.  So Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before them all these words which YHVH commanded him.  Then all the people answered together and said, ‘All that YHVH has spoken we will do.’ So Moses brought back the words of the people to YHVH” (Exodus 19:3-8 emphases added).  
YHVH then told Moses to consecrate the people, for in three days (which would have been the 18th of the third month) He would descend upon the mountain.  In obedience they preformed all that they were charged with, washing their clothes and preparing themselves.   Yet it appears that they were not really ready to experience what was about to happen.  Having been used to gods or idols of some kind, it is no wonder they became fearful at the sounds and sights that brought the Elohim of Israel from the unseen world into a reality that they could not even begin to relate to.  Notice that their response to YHVH’s first message “we will do” changed after experiencing the awesome Presence and “seeing the voices” (according to the Hebrew) of the Almighty. Now they added “nish’ma – we will hear/obey” - but under the condition that Moses alone would address them (ref. Exodus 20:19).   It is easy to say “we will do”, but that does not necessarily mean that the importance of obedience is recognized, because “doing” can also turn out to “doing it my way”. 
This kind of mind set pretty much typifies religious systems in general, as we pick, choose, alter and ultimately make up our own rules and regulations, ones that we desire to follow.  Thus YHVH’s instructions and commandments are being quickly laid aside, especially when we fail to live up to them.  Throughout the history of Israel this has been, and indeed still is the case today.  The main reason for failing is only realized when we acknowledge and recognize the commandments of Elohim. It is through and by the commandments that we arrive at the knowledge of sin, which is the power that works in our heart causing us to rebel (see Romans 3:20).
Elohim, of course, did not think for a moment that this mob-being-formed-into-a-people was capable of doing, hearing or even keeping any of His commandments, as He knew what was in their uncircumcised hearts. This is evidenced if comparison is made between the ordinance of Passover, just before their journey begins, and Moses’ speech toward the end of the journey. Let us lay those two side by side. "… It [keeping the Passover] shall be as a sign to you on your hand [that is, the “doing] and as a memorial between your eyes [the thoughts and motives], that YHVH’s law may be in your mouth [speech]” (Exodus 13:9).  However, in Deuteronomy 5:29 at the end of the 40 years journey, YHVH has this to say: ”Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments.” YHVH was obviously making an observation regarding the heart condition.  Later on Moses adds: “Yet YHVH has not given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear, to this very day” (Deuteronomy 29:4).  These are but a few of the instances in which the true state of the heart and its motives were exposed during the wilderness journey.
It seems that as soon as our forefathers heard YHVH’s instructions their response was to follow their own inclinations, not obeying or trusting His word.  Let us go back to the Mountain and see if walking through the events will help us understand what YHVH’s intents were then and continue to be - applicable for us today so that we can move beyond Mount Sinai and take with us our true identity, as well as His instructions for a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
(to be continued)

Sunday, January 20, 2019

One New Man?


Shalom Fellow Israelite,
In the early nineties we joined a local congregation in the town where we were living at the time.  At one point, because of some questions that arose, I decided to explain to the pastor the subject of the historic division of the two houses of Israel (Isaiah 8:14) and their future restoration to form the one house of Jacob again. I brought up the fact that YHVH placed a wall of partition between the two (see 2nd Chronicles 11:4), while each one continued in its respective specified prophetic destiny. After about two hours of going through the Tanach and New Covenant books, the pastor responded as follows: "I can't refute the scriptures you presented but WHAT GOOD IS IT? We are all ONE NEW MAN in Messiah." Through the years this One New Man has become a defining doctrine of the Messianic churches, somewhat like the Catholic belief that the Church is the Israel of God. If this doctrine is a true picture of the ‘no Gentile’ and ‘no Jew’ identity, then why are the Jewish believers still identifying themselves as Jews, and the non-Jews as Gentiles? There seems to be something missing in this all-encompassing One New Man interpretation. From all appearances and with the (unfortunate) prevalence of envy, strife and contention maybe at this time it is still just a "One New Baby"?  (See 1 Corinthians 3:1-3). 

Labelling ourselves now “New Man” takes us away from the prophetic Scriptures that pertain to the history and calling which is upon the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Taking on this identity before its time will rob us of our identity as Israel - YHVH’s people. Moreover, it also blurs the “identity of Elohim” Himself as the Elohim of Israel (see Exodus 3:6, 15), and the testimony of His faithfulness in keeping covenant with the forefathers of His People.

I would like to suggest that, the One New or Renewed Man is parallel with the term “the sons of Elohim” who will be revealed when all that has been spoken by the prophets of old is fulfilled (Ref. Acts 3: 19-21; Ezekiel 37:19-28). Yeshua, as the Redeemer of all Israel, must complete His task of bringing the whole house together again, as well as back to the lands that were promised in the covenants.

In His first coming as the suffering Messiah (Isaiah 53), He broke down the “wall of partition” through his atoning death, as stressed by Paul (see Ephesians 2:14). However, the problem that still exists between the Ephraim and Judah is seen in Isaiah 11 where the prophet points out the envy and jealousy that prevails between them. Nevertheless, the prediction still stands that these two are to become “sons of Elohim” (Hosea 1:10) and one nation in His hand and in the land (see Ezekiel 37). Hence are these Israelites indeed the same sons of Elohim mentioned in Romans 8?  Is the whole creation still groaning because of an identity issue?

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Egyptian Idolatry


We do not generally envision the poor enslaved Israelites in Egypt to have been at fault for their hard conditions, nor do we attribute their spiritual condition in the wilderness (other than the fiasco of the golden calf) to some kind of idol worship and connection to the Egyptian gods. But Ezekiel chapter 20 makes it very clear that our ancestors defiled themselves with the gods of Egypt. YHVH says in no uncertain terms: "… they rebelled against Me and would not obey Me. They did not all cast away the abominations which were before their eyes, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt” (verse 8). According to the same verse all this had taken place “in the midst of the land of Egypt.” What's more YHVH 'admits': "Then I said, 'I will pour out My fury on them and fulfill My anger against them...'" (emphasis added). YHVH refrained from doing so, that is from literally exterminating His people, because "I acted for My name's sake, that it should not be profaned before the Gentiles among whom they were, in whose sight I had made Myself known to them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt" (v. 9).

Aside from Ezekiel, another scripture writer verifies this. One who was a first eye witness to his brethren's condition. It is none other than Joshua, who makes mention of this fact not only once, but twice. (Then there is also Amos in 5:25-26, whose short account is repeated in Acts 7:42-43.)

As Joshua was about to exist the stage of life, he was recalling the history of the People, reminding them Whom they were to serve, while at the same time also exhorting and challenging them: “Now therefore, fear YHVH, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve YHVH!” (Joshua 24:14 emphasis added). The “other side of the River” refers to the pre-Abrahamic days, but “in Egypt” is quite a strong and clear indictment, which is less excusable.

The other episode, during which Joshua had to deal with this painful subject, occurred much earlier. It was upon the Israelites’ entry to the land. There, in Gilgal, those born in the wilderness got circumcised, an action which was also designed to: “roll away the reproach of Egypt from you. Therefore the name of the place is called Gilgal” (Joshua 4:9). The “rolling” of the “reproach of Egypt” is “galot” – literally to roll or roll off, while the similarity to the name “Gilgal” is quite apparent. The verb “galo” or “galot” shares the same root as “gilool” or “giloolim” (plural). This is what the “idols of Egypt” are called in the above-mentioned Ezekiel 20 scripture. The “giloolim” are “balls”. What kind of “balls”? They are what the Tanach calls dung balls, using another word having the same root – glalim.

So what is the connection of “dung balls” to the “idols of Egypt”? One of Egypt’s venerated and deified creatures was the scarab beetle. Scarab is a dung beetle, which when it swarms and collects provender it does so by forming it into a ball, rolling it around to its destination. When Joshua’s altar was discovered on Mount Eyval (the mount of curse) in the 1980’s, several of these man-made scarabs were unearthed. This was clear evidence that our forefathers venerated this item of the “reproach of Egypt” and carried it around, and even passed it on to their children who entered the land of Israel. In fact, Chuck Missler contends that these scarabs or beetles were the “swarms” – arov in Hebrew – which made up the fourth plague. https://www.khouse.org/articles/2000/263/

The ten plagues that YHVH inflicted upon Egypt were not only intended against Egypt’s sovereign, Par'oh, but also against the “gods” of that land. At the time of the last plague, YHVH made the declaration that the gods of Egypt were the object of His assault (as well as that land’s living beings). Indeed, as you probably know, each of the plagues was a directed against one of Egypt’s idols (refer to the above link).

As a matter of fact, even before the season of the ten plagues had begun, we see YHVH already proving His might against one of Egypt’s deities. YHVH exerts His authority and declares: “And the Egyptians shall know that I am YHVH, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt…” (Exodus 7:5). “Stretching out” in this case is “ne’to’ti” (the verb being “nato” – its root is noon, tet, hey, n.t.h). This verb denotes leading or pointing direction, and thus in verse 9, when A’haron is told to cast his rod, this article is designated by “ma’teh,” originating from the same root. A’haron and Moshe were to represent YHVH’s authority over Egypt’s ruling powers, both the natural ones as well as the supernatural. Indeed, when A’haron casts his rod in front of Par’oh it turns into a serpent, which in Hebrew is “tannin”, literally an alligator. Thus YHVH demonstrated His power over one of Egypt’s most powerful symbols. In fact, in Ezekiel 29:3 Par’oh himself is addressed as the “great tannin” (translated “monster”), that is the great alligator (for the same idea see also Ez. 32:3). The very rule and authority of Egypt is therefore symbolized by this creature that inhabited the Nile, and was the first to be challenged by Elohim. (For more on the alligators and their role in Egypt’s Pantheon see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sobek)

It is not a mere coincidence that the plagues that are to strike this world and its systems, as described in Revelation, seem to mirror the plagues that befell the Egyptians, before YHVH brought Israel out from their midst. However, the fact that the Israelites themselves were not free from the same type of idolatry should not be overlooked, especially if we refer back to the Ezekiel 20:33-38 “transitional” passage. In verses 38 and 39 we read the following: “As for you, O house of Israel,’ thus says the Lord YHVH: ‘Go, serve every one of you his idols -- and hereafter -- if you will not obey me; but profane My holy name no more with your gifts and your idols.’” Would it surprise you to find out that the word there for “idols” is again “giloolim”? How revealing! Thus, if our forebears’ sojourn in Egypt and their emergence from that place is in some way equivalent to our day and age, we ought to consider the idolatry that prevailed in Israel’s camp.

No matter what these idols look like, or what form they take, or how they are being worshiped, spiritual entities do not just disappear or vanish. They are still at war with Elohim and His people, and they are still able to cling to us. Even though they do not take the form that they did in ancient Egypt, they have not ceased from being “abominable dung balls” that we are required to forcibly remove from ourselves. The Gilgal experience is not over.

As a side note we may take into consideration the fact that at the site of the greatest international interfaith convention – that is where the attempt was made to raise a tower to the heavens and to be “as the Most High”, in Bavel - Mitzrayim (the progenitor of the nation of Egypt who was also Nimrod’s uncle) would have been present. Thus the beliefs, with the entities that accompanied them, were transported from that cradle of humanity’s rebellion, to the entire known world of the day. Babylon has always played her part as the enemy’s representative, and still does, in each epoch of human history. It is from her, which is doomed to destruction, that we are to flee (while shedding off the ‘dung balls’ as we go so that we may run faster without being “unencumbered by sin”), lest we fall with her. This is summed up well in Revelation chapter 18.

Monday, December 3, 2018

A Historical Perspective on Hanukkah


The prophet Daniel (in the 6th century B.C) foresaw the rise of the Greek empire, its ultimate division into four parts and especially pointed to the regime of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Seleucid king who came to power in 175 B.C. (see Daniel 11:1-4; 21-25). It was against this king and his vicious edicts that the Maccabean family led a revolt during the years 167-160 B.C, with good reason. The religious prohibitions against the Jewish population in Israel at that time were very severe, resulting in horrendous penalties upon anyone who dared to violet those edicts.  The course of the militant rebellion was short, resulting not only in religious freedom, but also in achieving autonomy for the Jews from the Greek/Seleucid control. From then on the Maccabees, who were a priestly family, took upon themselves the leadership of Judea and acted in various capacities, but refrained from the judiciary and kingly duties (while they did sign a pact with Rome which opened the way for the latter to begin to influence the fledgling state). However, in the year 104 B.C. John Aristobulus I and then his brother Alexander Jannaeus declared themselves kings, thus establishing a royal dynasty, while still holding the position of the high priesthood, as did their successors. Things began to spiral downhill from there, resulting in a moral, spiritual and national decline of the “kingdom”, such as we see a century later at the time of Yeshua. Clearly the family who so miraculously won against all odds a war with a superpower failed to uphold the very principles they had fought for, and betrayed the people of Israel-Judea.

Although these chronicles of the revolt are not part of Scripture, but as we saw above there was a definite reference to what was about to transpire in Judea a couple of centuries beforehand.  Since the commemoration of the re-dedication and cleansing of the Temple (in the year 138 B.C.) is what Hanukkah is (or should be) all about, let us turn to another biblical text (from around 520 B.C) which is solely focused on the Temple of Elohim and its place in the life of the people of Israel, that is the book of the prophet Haggai.  This short book has quite a few things to say about the House of Elohim and its holiness. Moreover, as the historical date of the Hanukkah celebration is the 25th of the 9th month (Kislev), Haggai makes reference 3 times to the 24th of the 9th month (all of which are on the same year, “the second year of Darius”, chapter 2:10, 18, 20) being almost 400 years before the Hanukkah events. In fact, in 2:18 he says “Consider now from this day forward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, from the day that the foundation of YHVH’s temple was laid -- consider it:” (emphasis added). Haggai lived during the time of the return to Zion, after the 70 year exile in Babylon, at which time the second Temple was being built. That prophet was greatly concerned for the new House of Elohim, its sound foundations and for the proper care and attitude on the part of those who would be attending to it. 

In the book that follows Haggai, Zachariah, the same year (Darius’ 2nd) is being referred to again, with prophecies that pertain to Jerusalem, to Zion AND, once more, to YHVH’s House. But here it is YHVH Himself who declares His zealousness for those places, and His word of promise concerning them: "Proclaim, saying, 'thus says YHVH of hosts: "I am zealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with great zeal.  I am exceedingly angry with the nations at ease; for I was a little angry, and they helped -- but with evil intent.”  Therefore thus says YHVH: ‘I am returning to Jerusalem with mercy; My house shall be built in it,’ says YHVH of hosts, ‘and a surveyor's line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem. Again proclaim, saying, 'Thus says YHVH of hosts: "My cities shall again spread out through prosperity; YHVH will again comfort Zion, and will again choose Jerusalem’" (Zach. 1:14b-17).

A few centuries later, Yeshua demonstrated His zealousness for the then existing House of Elohim. Matthew 21:12-13: “Then Yeshua went into the temple of Elohim and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves, and He said to them, ‘It is written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer,” but you have made it a 'den of thieves.'" He also said to the merchants: “Do not make My Father’s House a house of merchandise” (John 2:16).  “And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple” (Mark 11:16).

It was at the very same scene and location that Yeshua also added, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ Then the Jews said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?’  But He was speaking of the temple of His body (John 2:19-21). “The temple of His body”!? Yes, Yeshua’s body, given for us (see Luke 22:19). If we follow this line of thinking a step further, Scripture also tells us that we too are the “temple of the living Elohim”.  Therefore Paul exhorts: “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?  And what accord has Messiah with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?  And what agreement has the temple of Elohim with idols? For you are the temple of the living Elohim, as Elohim has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among themI will be their Elohim, and they shall be My people.’ Therefore "Come out from among them and be separate,” says YHVH. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters,’ says YHVH Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18 emphasis added). 
   
We took a long journey around YHVH’s House or Temple, but isn’t this the essence of the celebration of this time of year? May this Hanukkah indeed be to us a feast of light as we celebrate the One who is “the Light of the world,” and who told us that “He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life" (John 8:12), and that, like Him, we too are to be “the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14). With cleansed temples, surely His light through us will “so shine before men, that they may see your/our good works and glorify your/our Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).


Friday, November 2, 2018

From Hebrew Roots to Hebrew Fruits – thoughts to ponder


Having had a background in botany, I learned in higher education (that is growing up on a farm) that roots grow mostly underground and can’t be seen.  Some trees and plants do have roots above ground, but in order to draw sustenance they too reach deeply into the soil.  As things are, most roots are hidden underground at all times. With this in mind let me ask: What about “Hebrew Roots”?  Is it an “underground movement”? Are roots all that there is to the olive tree (etz) of Jacob (ref. Jeremiah 11:16-17; Romans 11: 17ff)? If there are roots (healthy ones that is) there most likely will also be something growing above ground.
In Ezekiel 37 we read about two (olive) trees - “etzim”- the etz of Judah, and the etz of Joseph/Ephraim.  These two trees have the same Hebrew roots, having both come from the same seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. When their progeny was in Egypt they were known as Hebrews.  But when they exited that foreign soil, YHVH identified them as Israel and transplanted them into their own native ground. Later, even though the Elohim of Israel divided them into two separate plantings, their roots were still Hebrew. Yet according to His designated plan, at some point in the future, they will come forth out of the ground, grow and be identified by Him as two trees (etzim). 
Biblical history recounts what happened to the two trees when they were cut down and their branches scattered throughout the earth.  Those branches also took root, but in foreign soil and spread in many nations.  Some of those roots were nourished and some were not.  The ones that YHVH preserved and took care of are known as having a Jewish identity.  But the others became wild and have lost their distinctiveness in the forest of humanity.  Yet their roots are still the same, Hebrew, which by the grace of Elohim many are discovering today.  Obviously from the roots there has to come forth a visible plant, growing into a fruit bearing tree. Are these the trees of righteousness that YHVH has destined to bear fruit for the healing of the nations? Or conversely, are they the two olive branches from which oil drips into the menorah (ref. Zach. 4:11, 12)?
However, we should not be uninformed in regards to the enemies that may lurk underground, in the darkness of the soil, known as cut-worms.  These little white critters (masquerading as angles of light) love to chew away at the roots.  Most of these worms are found in the top soil, close to the base of the trunk.  If there are enough of them they will kill the tree, especially a sapling. 
More problems to contend with are roots of other trees that are growing too close, like the boxthorn (the bramble of Judges 9:15) for example. The roots of this shrub are so thick that other trees can hardly survive in its vicinity, as the boxthorn draws all the moisture and nutrients from the soil.  Such are many doctrines in the religious systems of man, which are prone to kill the two trees, distorting the two ensigns which are being raised up as YHVH’s end-time witnesses.  
Additionally, there are also Hebrew roots that have been placed in pots of religious institutions, and if kept there will not be able to mature into full grown trees and produce Hebrew fruit, as their roots will become bound up in the ‘pot’.  Although plants in pots make for a lovely sight, a constrained and controlled environment limits the plant from developing to its full potential.   Then there are ‘farmers’ who are assigned to tend the trees, but are not trained in horticultural righteousness and are feeding the trees poison while also contaminating the soil.  There are some that do excessive digging around the tree and thus damage the roots. Indeed, has there not been at times a wee bit too much “digging” thus endangering the safety of the roots, sometimes even to the point of chopping them off?
Should not the “planting of YHVH” be given more liberty and freedom to come forth naturally or should I say supernaturally, so that the upper and visible part may mature in health? The ground in which Hebrew roots flourish is in their native soil, being nourished by the Word, covenants and promises of their Husbandman.  YHVH meant for roots to go deep into the soil and be strong enough that the tree will not blow over in times of severe storms, but certainly not to remain in root form only. 
Our hope, over the past few years regarding the Hebrew Roots Movement was that it would begin to identify to a trunk of a tree that YHVH defines as a nation: "…and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again” (Ezekiel 37:22). Let us remember that having our roots identified is only the beginning of becoming that fruit-full nation of which Yeshua is the Husbandman and Kingdom Ruler. 

Friday, October 19, 2018

As in the Days of Noah



Parashat Bresheet ends with enumerating mankind’s genealogies, as well as with a preamble to the next episode, that is to Parashat Noach. Rabbi Fohrman of alefbeta.org highlights the words of Lemech, Noah’s father, whose reason for naming his son is explained in chapter 5 verse 29. Rabbi Fohrman then goes on to point to chapter 6:6 and 7, as some of the same words, and in the same order, are used there too, but in regard to YHVH’s judgments of humanity. These similarities can only be seen in Hebrew. Hence we will go through them one by one.
Upon Noach’s birth Lemech says, “(This one) will comfort us – y’na’cha’mey’nu – (concerning) our work – ma’a’seynu – and the toil – um’eetza’von (of our hands, because of) the ground – ha’a’da’ma (which YHVH has cursed)” (5:29). In 6:6, 7 it declares: “(And YHVH) regretted – va’yi’na’chem – (that) He had made – asah – (man on the earth) and He was grieved – va’yit’atzev - … (so YHVH said, ‘I will destroy man… from the face of the) earth – adama.”  Let us review our words as they appear in both texts: “Comfort” which is also “regret”, “work” which is also “make”, “toil” which is also “grief” and “ground which is also “earth” (the roots for each of these four terms being: n.ch.m, a.s.a, e.tz.v, and a.d.m).

Now that we had a short Hebrew lesson, let’s ask ourselves one or two questions: Were Lemech’s words prophetic? Did YHVH consider Lemech’s monologue to be so important as to replicate his words? What is going on here, and is this repetition of any significance?

Well, if we read each of the two texts in their respective contexts, we will see that they are actually very different from each other. Thus, the usage of the same terms but with two different messages seems to highlight the big gap that exists between the two ideas that are being conveyed here. This linguistic technique is often used by Scripture to draw the readers’ attention to an important subtext.

Let’s examine Lemech’s reasoning for naming his son a “comforter”. Apparently life was not easy in the post Edenic times: toiling, working, eking out a living was ‘no fun’. The earth, the source of income, was resisting man’s efforts. The pay check didn’t meet all of the needs, work hours were long, very little leisure and pleasure; the effects of the curse were truly evident.

Is there a way for a hard working person to ease his/her burdens in this never ending race to sustain himself/herself and the family? At last a firstborn comes into this world (his father is a youngster of 182). A beautiful baby – what joy! Additionally, when he grows up some, he will be of great help to his hardworking father in easing the heavy burdens! Perhaps he will even be a great leader in the community; will be gifted with ingenuity and may even come up with some agricultural/ecological solutions that will make the ground yield more produce and lessen the toil! Little Noach’s birth signaled hope in the drudgery of Lemech’s everyday routines.

It is so easy to identify with Lemech, isn’t it? Our day to day routines also wear us down. Legitimately we look forward to relief, to some comfort, and indeed thankfully quite often there is a supply via family, friends, ministry, promotions which bring financial relief, change of local or national government that seems more favorable, health improvements, change of location etc. We are blessed in all sorts of ways.

From here let’s move on to the next episode, described in the first 5 verses of Genesis chapter 6 and also in verse 11, introducing us to a very different reality from the one that was just described (and decried) by Lemech.  

Oh, wow, wee! What do these verses reveal? A world that is turning topsy-turvy: The “sons of Elohim” marry the “daughters of man”; the fallen (giants) come into being and appear to be very powerful (“of renown”). The mind of man (“the thoughts of his heart”) is occupied in “doing evil continually”.  Apparently those thoughts and imaginations were able to give birth to some very perverse activities which had an overall effect on Elohim’s created world.  He therefore had to take some extreme action in order for this chaos and disorder to come to an end. It was no use reforming or fixing what had taken place. The creation was so corrupt that the only solution would be to re-create it. And just as it was originally created out of water, so will it now be demolished by water and come forth “new”. This now will form the backdrop against which we will be viewing the unfolding plan described in 6:6, 7.

Although echoing the words of Lemech, what it says about the Almighty Creator in these verses bears no direct connection to Lemech’s demise or potential solution for his problems. Quite the opposite! If fact, could the repetition of those words be intended to point to the gap between Lemech’s reality and world (which may have applied to many of his contemporaries too), and the real world which was going to be snuffed out of existence because it was no longer workable? Yes, the wonderful son of Lemech was a “comforter”, but not for the purpose of releasing dad out of his ‘blues’. Lemech’s son had a far greater task apropos the conditions of the then-existing world and the grand-scale calamity that was about to take place, though it still seemed far off… This son was a “comforter” in that he was the only righteous person in a most evil and corrupt generation who did not succumb to the surrounding influences, but with endurance and patience set his mind to the rescue task that was set before him. Moreover, in the midst of all the perversions and violence he also spoke up, withstanding the potential harm he could have brought upon himself. (Peter calls him “a preacher of righteousness” see 2 Peter 2:5.)

Thus the Matthew 24:37-42 (and Luke 17:26 ff) text comes to our aid in regards to our own day, so that our awareness may rise as to the context of our lives and motivate us to act accordingly: "But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.  For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.  Then two will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left.  Two will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.  Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.”

However, we find in Scripture also a counter picture - of a “new” world.  In the beginning of Parashat Noach the term “corrupt” (spoiled, marred, ruined – sh.ch.t) is repeated several times (see 6:11,12,13,17). That word describes a world that was beyond repair. Is this true also of our world? It too may be irretrievably corrupt. Perhaps this is why Peter says that this world is “reserved for fire” (2nd Peter 3:7). But, you know what? The solution once again will come by a “flood”, and so it is written: “The earth shall be full of the knowledge of YHVH as the waters cover the sea”. The same text also emphasizes, in contrast to the days of Noah, that “they shall not hurt or destroy/ corrupt/ mar/ spoil – sh.ch.t. – in all My holy mountain” (Isaiah 11:9b, 9a).

Perhaps you too are sensing that the “days of Noach” are upon us. May be it is time to get busy building the ark (tey’vah), while also “preaching righteousness”. What does “building an ark” and “preaching righteous” mean? They may be different things to different people. That’s alright. There is a possible hint in the very construction of the ‘original’ ark, since in His instructions YHVH incorporates the root k.f.r. (covering – atonement such as “kippur”) twice; once as the verb for covering, and then as the very material that was to coat the wooden structure (ref. 6:14). All the same, we all need to know from the Master Builder and King of Righteousness what any of this may mean for each of us. By YHVH echoing Lemech’s words He made them mean almost the opposite of their speaker’s intention. And as easy as it is to empathize with Lemech, it is not him that we want to emulate, but rather to wake up and gain awareness of what our heavenly Father has for us in this generation, as Noach did in his.

Please note - if this conclusion seems to be portraying YHVH somewhat harshly, as though He is disinterested in personal needs and plights, let us not forget that the ark, with its potential to grant safety to many, ended up protecting and saving (solely) its builders. Even if Elohim appears sometimes to be neglecting, it is only because He is redirecting.

                                                                                                            Rimona 10/19/2018