Friday, September 23, 2016

Gather or Scatter


Shalom Fellow Israelite,

That Scriptures’ quality of freshness never ceases to amaze me.  Their timelessness, just like that of their author’s, is full of life’s beauty.   Regardless of the number of times read, there is always something hidden within its pages waiting to be revealed or understood in a different way, depending on what the Spirit of the Word (Yeshua) happens to be enlightening to the heart at a particular moment. 

One such passage hidden in the pages of a “minor prophet” suddenly became “major” for this time:

“The one who scatters has come up against you. Man the fortress, watch the road; strengthen your back, summon all your strength.  For YHVH will restore the splendor of Jacob like the splendor of Israel, even though devastators have devastated them and destroyed their vine branches” (Nahum 2: 1-2).

For thousands of years the heartland of Israel, Samaria, testified to the reality of the devastation of its inhabitants and of the destruction of their vineyards.   But today there is a different reality that stretches across the hills of Menashe and Ephraim.  The vineyards are back and the farmers are on the mountains again gathering the grapes at the time of the Fall harvest and feasts. 

As we know, the scriptures have a very literal meaning, but not without a spiritual counterpart.  The words may have a message for us individually, and/or corporately.  The above word from Nahum, spoke to me a warning, namely that when YHVH is in a season of restoring and gathering His people, the enemy will work in opposition, in order to scatter them or keep them scattered.  We can see this very plainly in the recent history of the house of Judah (the Jews).   The Hebrew Roots Movement within the Christian world is YHVH’s declaration that He is gathering the House of Joseph while turning them back to their forefathers (see Malachi 4:6), and writing the Torah on their hearts (see Jeremiah 31:33).   However, the scatterer has been working overtime to prevent this ingathering from taking place.  Yeshua warned:  “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters”.  

Some of those causes for scattering and shattering are enumerated by Paul in his warnings to the congregations, and they are:  pride, jealousy, envy, strife, and contention, fear etc., all of which are contrary to “love”, and could result in maintaining and even adding to the devastation.  Therefore encouragement is a much needed commodity. So, with this in mind, I would like to rephrase Nahum’s words:   

Even though devastators have devastated us and destroyed our vine branches, YHVH is restoring the splendor of Jacob and the splendor of Israel. However, the one who scatters has come up against us. Therefore man the fortress, watch the road; strengthen your back, summon all your strength.   

Yom T’ruah is coming soon. May we hear the same clear sound of the T’ruah that our ancestors heard as they/we stood before the burning mountain in the Sinai desert.

Shabbat Shalom,


Ephraim

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Star of David

Regretfully over the past several years subtle anti-Semitism has been creeping into, and growing within the Hebrew Roots movement (being a self-defeating oxymoron). One of these expressions, which directly affects the Jewish people and the State of Israel, is the interpretation or meaning given to the Star of David (the “magen David” as it is called in Hebrew, “the Shield of David”).  Among the numerous symbols used in the world there are, for example, the symbols of the written languages, that is the letters, but what renders each of them its meaning? 

So let’s view the “Shield of David.” It is made up of two equilateral triangles that were joined together in days of long ago. Later it was used by other people or groups who took to that geometric shape, and may have given it their particular interpretation.  But what is a symbol or any given object?  In and of itself it has no intrinsic meaning.  A five year old could look at the six pointed star and it would mean nothing to him, other than being an object to handle.  He could play with it all day and it would still remain a play thing to him.  But a parent may come by and tell the child that this star is what King David inscribed on the shields of his mighty men.  A little while later another person may come by, declaring to the child that this object, with its particular shape, came from the devil and is very dangerous to look at, or touch.  So now the child puts the two together and decides that king David and his mighty men were evil, as would be anyone else who associates himself with this hexagonal shape.
 
The Scriptures discuss how symbols and objects can become idols.  Paul states, “We know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other Elohim but one” (1 Corinthians 8:4).  In other words, it doesn’t matter what we call an object. Even if we attribute to it divine and supernatural characteristics, it is still just an object which cannot give life or anything else, and as such it will never animate itself, as it states:  “They have mouths, but they do not speak; eyes they have, but they do not see; they have ears, but they do not hear; nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them are like them; so is everyone who trusts in them (or attributes any capabilities to them. Psalm 135:16-18 emphasis added).  Hence if man applies his knowledge to that article (Paul called this knowledge “food” given to an idol), and then believes that it can somehow give back to him some kind of edification or information – good or bad - then the object becomes that idol, for good or bad.  YHVH further chides Israel for such stupidity: 

“He cuts down cedars for himself, and takes the cypress and the oak; He secures it for himself among the trees of the forest. He plants a pine, and the rain nourishes it.  Then it shall be for a man to burn, for he will take some of it and warm himself; yes, he kindles it and bakes bread; indeed he makes a god and worships it; he makes it a carved image, and falls down to it.  He burns half of it in the fire; with this half he eats meat; he roasts a roast, and is satisfied. He even warms himself and says, ‘Ah! I am warm, I have seen the fire.’  And the rest of it he makes into a god, his carved image. He falls down before it and worships it, prays to it and says, ‘Deliver me, for you are my god!’  They do not know nor understand; for He [YHVH] has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand.  And no one considers in his heart, nor is there knowledge nor understanding to say, ’I have burned half of it in the fire, yes, I have also baked bread on its coals; I have roasted meat and eaten it; and shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?’" (Isaiah 44:14-19, see also Jeremiah 10:1-50).

Astrology is one of those disciplines that attach knowledge to inanimate objects; someone ascribes to the heavenly bodies certain characteristics, making it known to others who, in turn, believe this ‘information’ which originated in that someone’s imagination, or from a spiritual influence exercised upon that imagination.

As mentioned above, Paul calls this knowledge “food” that is offered to an object or symbol (idol), and then goes on to warn his readers not to partake of this so-called knowledge.  Nowadays the computer is a case in point. All the source of the knowledge it contains had to originate from man, but it is so easy to forget that fact and ascribe the data it holds, to this technological device. Thankfully we do not worship the computer, although it is possible to become dependent on it and to trust it to the point of being unable to function without it (as if it will “never leave or forsake” us). 

All this was in order to bring us back to our original subject. At present some ‘ministries’ are engaged in propagating what Elohim calls “foolishness” (see 1 Cor. 3:19). One, for example, put out a long occultic dissertation on the meaning of the symbol on the flag of Israel, with its associations being akin to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (a foul and contrived publication that helped fuel the Holocaust).  

If I may, I would like to give another definition to that symbol, with a more positive outlook.  When David conquered Jerusalem he united the two Israels (the northern tribes with Judah, located in the southern region).  But after the reign of Solomon YHVH, in accordance with His word and will, divided the kingdom in two.  And so, if we separate the two triangles, by taking the one that is pointing down, raising it up until its tip is touching the tip of the other triangle, so that it looks like an hour glass.   Label the one above Ephraim and the one below Judah.  An hour glass just might be a good description of this symbol, as the two separate sticks/nations are showing that YHVH has the destinies of Ephraim and Judah as His time schedule for the fulfillment of His prophesied plans.  The Apostles preached what is called the Hope of Israel, which is the reunification and restoration of the Kingdom of Elohim to the whole House of Israel. So let us use this Shield of David as a symbol of that future hope, when the Messiah son of David (who we believe is Yeshua) fulfills His mandate as our kinsman redeemer (see Acts 3:19-21).

Ephraim

Friday, September 9, 2016

Scriptures to Contemplate

Something I try to do on a daily basis I called "scriptural contemplation".  I find two or three scriptures that may have a similar theme or connect in a certain way, and then each day during the week I read them together and contemplate or think on them, in expectancy of what the Spirit would want to accentuate.  Perhaps you are already doing something similar, or would like to use the following example to start with:

“For the love of Messiah compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.  Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Messiah according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.   Therefore, if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:14-17).
 
“For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.  For he who has died has been freed from sin.  Now if we died with Messiah, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Messiah, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.  For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to Elohim.  Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to Elohim in Messiah Yeshua our Master.  Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.  And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to Elohim as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to Elohim” (Romans 6:5-13).


“Therefore, brethren, by the mercies of Elohim, 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). 

Have a great week!
Ephraim

Friday, September 2, 2016

The Prodigal Daughter

   This is the story of a certain woman, who like the well-known Prodigal Son became desolate and impoverished after resorting to ‘lovers’ for her sustenance and well-being.  Although married, she loved her adulterous ways so much that she even sold herself to harlotry.  The consequence of her sin put her on the road to destruction (see Micah 2:10).

Under the pressure of life’s circumstances this adulteress reached an unfathomable level of desperation. She found herself without lovers, and without sustenance, much like the Prodigal Son. So in desperation she decided to repent and return. From that lowly place she cried out:  “I will go and return to my first husband, for then it was better for me than now” (Hosea 2:7b). 

But how could her (former) husband even think twice about forgiving her and taking her back? Thankfully, YHVH’s great mercies are entwined in the laws that govern sin and rebellion, even adultery combined with harlotry, which to us seem the worst of the worst. And so in His great compassion the Elohim and Husband of Israel gave her a certificate of divorce, in order that she would not have to face the death penalty as a consequence of her rebellion, and would still have an opportunity to repent.  

The prophet Hosea allows us to take a close look at the relationship between YHVH and Northern Israel.  It is not only a prophetic declaration of YHVH’s destiny for her, but also a revelation of His sovereignty and faithfulness to redeem and restore this wayward one back to Himself.   

"Therefore, behold, I will allure her, will bring her into the wilderness, and speak to her heart. I will give her her vineyards from there, and the Valley of Achor as a door of hope; She shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, as in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt” (Hosea 2:14-15).  YHVH banished the faithless wife to the wilderness of the nations in 722 BC, but has left her a door of hope in, of all places, the valley of Achor.  What is this valley and why there the door of hope?

When Joshua and the Children of Israel first entered the land and witnessed the miracle of the collapse of the walls of Jericho, they were told by the Elohim of Hosts (Elohey Tzvaot) that, “The city shall be under the ban, it and all that is in it belongs to YHVH” (Joshua 6:17).  The Israelites were not to be tempted by the silver, gold, garments or anything else in that doomed city. However, one man violated the ban and took the silver, gold and a Babylonian garment and hid it in his tent. That one violation brought on all Israel a defeat when attempting to take the next city of Ai.  YHVH eventually revealed the culprit and sentence was passed, but not before Joshua and the elders went on their faces before YHVH and repented.  Then in the valley Achor, Achan and his family were stoned and then, together with all their belongings they were burned.  Notice that all of Israel was indicted by Achan’s sin, and until the “accursed” thing was removed all of Israel stood guilty because of the sin of the one man (Joshua 7:1, 11). (All of Israel were rid of the guilt of sin by virtue of the act of the one man – Yeshua).

What are the traits shared by Achan, the Prodigal, and the unfaithful wife? Achan coveted the Babylonian garment, the silver and the gold (Joshua 7:21), the son coveted his inheritance, while the adulteress was much easier to please. She only went after bread, water, wool, linen, oil, and drink (Hos. 2:5), even though YHVH maintains that He had provided her with much more: grain, new wine, oil, silver and gold (v. 8). But being blind to His love, she couldn’t see what was available to her, and was willing to settle for much less and get it from other sources. But whereas for Achan the valley of Achor was a place of total annihilation, YHVH was willing to turn that lowland of death into a gateway of hope for His repentant wife.

The root letters of “Achor” (ayin, kaf, resh) make up a verb which means “to trouble” or “to stir up”. At most times this troubling involves breaking a status quo, compromising someone else’s situation, even to the point of bringing upon them a taboo, excommunication, or a curse, and there are many scriptural examples of what this kind of “troubling” can cause another, or has the potential to do (e. g. Gen. 34:30, 1st Kings 18:17,18).

As mentioned, all of Israel stood guilty of Achan’s act before YHVH, and hence forfeited their ability to defeat their enemies (Joshua 7:12). Therefore He told Joshua to sanctify the people and then have them remove from their midst that which was under the ban (7:11, 13).  It was only when the people as a whole were gathered, having taken corporate responsibility toward one another and faced the issue at hand, that YHVH revealed the root cause of their predicament. Notice the order of the procedure; first the nation as a whole, then the tribes, the families, and lastly the individuals (7:14, 16-18).

How does the valley of Achor then become a door of hope?  In Joshua 7:26, it says that after the stoning, the burning, and the raising of a heap of stones over the remains of Achan and his family, “YHVH turned from the fierceness of His anger”. But then it adds, “The name of that place has been called the valley of Achor to this day”. Even though YHVH’s anger has been “appeased”, at that time the place itself has not become a “door of hope”.

What makes for the reverse? Why in the case of the woman/Israel this valley is no longer named “Achor”, but instead is named a door of hope? Listen to the words of Joshua to Achan: "My son, I beg you, give glory to YHVH the Elohim of Israel, and make confession to Him, and tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me" (Joshua 7:19).

It was not the gold, silver or the garment that were accursed, but it was the covetous and disobedient heart of Achan (and the heart of the wayward wife) that were not right before YHVH.  The hope of Israel is embedded in learning that YHVH is holy and everything that is His is holy, including us as His people. When the wife returns to Her Husband she must do so in total holiness (k’dusha), as there is no other way to come to Him. Has the door of hope started to crack open in what was the valley of Achor, a valley that now spells a future and a hope? Are these words meant for now, for those who after repenting have been cleansed and redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, and who have also regained their identity as Israel?  If it is now that Israel is to be that repentant wife in accordance with Hosea’s description? Will she be willing to follow His prescribed protocol?   
Ephraim and Rimona