Tree of Life Messianic Congregation

A Fellowship of Jewish and non-Jewish Believers in Yeshua

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Guard Your Soul

20190817 Parsha Vaetchanan – Guard Your soul

Va’etchanan means ‘I pleaded’. This is the story of Moses asking God one more time to rescind his judgement prohibiting Moses from entering the promised land. Midrash says that Moses asked 515 times. But there is no evidence of that. I believe that he did ask multiple time to be allowed to enter the land. That let’s us know that making multiple petitions before God is ok.

Today I want to focus on chapter 4:15-19

Deuteronomy 4:15-19 “So be very watchful over your souls since you saw no form on the day that Adonai spoke to you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire, (16) so that you do not act corruptly and make for yourselves a graven image in the likeness of any figure—the form of a male or female, (17) the form of any animal that is on the earth, the form of any winged bird that flies in the sky, (18) the form of anything that creeps on the ground, the form of any fish that is in the water under the earth— (19) and so that you do not lift up your eyes toward the heavens and see the sun and the moon and the stars—all the heavenly host—and are drawn away and bow down and worship them. Adonai your God has allotted them to all the peoples under all the heavens.

“Be watchful over your souls…”. In some translations it is rendered ‘guard’ rather than ‘be watchful’. So the name of the sermon today is “Guard Your Souls”.

Five Levels of the Soul
1. Nefesh –
2. Ruach
3. Neshama
4. Chayah
5. Yechida

The first verse of this portion makes an interesting premise. It says to guard your own soul, not the soul of your wife, daughter, or son. Your soul is yours to keep.

In Jewish thought, the soul referred to here is the nefesh. Nefesh is the most basic level of our consciousness. It is the animal level, the level which animates and gives function to the body. Every animal that breaths has a nefesh.

The second level is the Ruach. That is the ‘wind’, but could be called the emotion generator.

The next level is the Neshama. Neshama is the third level and it is what allows one to distinguish between good and evil.

The nefesh could be argued not to be a soul at all. It is the most ethereal of all physicality, like a wisp of air disappearing into a small breeze. All animals and all humans have a nefesh, each programmed with the bodily stimuli God wanted for the particular individual or species. Only humans have a neshama. If you want to see the difference, watch the animals. Anything both animals and humans do is of the nefesh, for example, eating an apple. Anything only a human does, is of the neshama. For example, saying a prayer of thanksgiving before and after eating that apple.

The last two levels of the soul as enumerated in Jewish thought are Chaya ‘Life’, and Yechidah ‘Oneness’. These two are complex and beyond the scope of time we have this morning.

In our text this morning, the level of the soul referred to is nefesh. This is the most basic level and just means ‘hey, I’m alive’.

Slide: Bible on Talit
So what is Moses trying to say here? I believe he is saying that we should start with the basics. He was reminding Israel that they needed to go back to the defining moment of all Judaism, the giving of Torah at Mount Sinai. He said to remember that in all the awesome displays of power and majesty at Sinai they never saw God in any physical form. He is a Spirit and as such must be worshipped as a spirit and not as a physical being.

John 4:24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

People in the days of Moses were used to having gods that could be touched, held, seen and carried with them in some cases. These deities appealed to their senses and gave them a feeling of security, confidence, happiness, basically a warm fuzzy. So Moses is warning Israel that their God is not like any of the Canaanite false gods. We look at them and think how foolish the people were to want to put their faith and trust in a rock, or stick.

Fortunately, we don’t do that today. Or do we?…….. Do we make idols out of hardware, software, Hollywood, Washington DC? Do we spend all our waking hours with our eyes glued to a computer screen? Now that might not qualify as worship. But those things certainly divert our mental and emotional and physical resources away from our calling. Does that make all those things idols? Maybe not in the traditional sense, but it is close.

It’s time to go back to basics and make God the central focus of our lives.

How else do we guard our souls? The Psalmist David tells us:

Psalms 39:2 I said: “I will guard my ways, so I will not sin with my tongue. …”

It is an interesting picture that David paints for me because of the words he uses. He says I will guard my ways, my path, my route. Couple that with the image of the tongue as a rudder of a ship. Jacob, in the book of James speaks of the tongue.

James 3:1-5 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, since you know that we will receive a stricter judgment. (2) For we all stumble in many ways. If someone does not stumble in speech, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. (3) And if we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole body as well. (4) See also the ships—though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. (5) So also the tongue is a small member—yet it boasts of great things. See how so small a fire sets a blaze so great a forest!

In my mind’s eye I see a ship pilot guiding the ship through a winding channel. So the tongue can influence or direct our lives through the winding paths that we encounter. Just as a ship has an engine room and propellers to provide the power to push the ship along it still needs that little rudder so that big hunk of floating steel doesn’t run aground. From personal experience I know that running a ship aground can ruin your day and career. You need to control that rudder.

Applied to our sometimes not so boring lives, that rudder known as the tongue can keep us away from the shoals. Hitting the shoals of life can certainly ruin your day, your marriage, your career, your personal relationships. You get the picture.

At the same time, controlling our lives via the tongue brings blessing. In fact that same little piece of flesh can bless God and curse your neighbor. Your choice. Guard your soul.

I don’t think I need to do a cost/benefit analysis for you this morning but just to point out the Biblically obvious.

Proverbs 4:23 Guard your heart diligently, for from it flow the springs of life.

Guard your heart. Guard your emotions and your spirit. You have now moved up to that third level of your soul. The neshama. That seat of emotion. You may say that you are not an emotional person. Everyone is emotional. It’s just that the right button has not been pushed hard enough. I cannot watch movies where women or children are abused. You want to see me cry like a baby, trick me into watching a movie where the little kid dies of some terrible disease. That’s one of my buttons.

We all have emotional buttons, some good, some bad. Anger can destroy a person. This last week in one of the several stories about mass shootings, the police described one of the perpetrators as being full of anger. It may be one of the toughest emotions to curb.

There are many emotions and habits that we need to curb. I’m sure all of us, if we would be honest with ourselves, could make a list of those things that we need to throttle back on. Make your own list and work on it.

But there are also emotions that we can develop that will build us up, build others up, just make the world a better place. Start with the second greatest commandment. Love your neighbor as yourself. Put others first, ahead of you. How many times do you get to the line at HEB and see that old lady or single mom with the bedraggled look clutching one item and you have a basket full? Do you invite her to go ahead of you? That one is easy. How about putting on the signal to change lanes and the driver in the rear-view mirror speeds up to get ahead of you rather than letting you change lanes? Hello? Buttons pushed anyone?

Doing the right thing at the right time for the right reasons just makes your heart feel good. Guard your heart.

And in conclusion, we have talked about what we can do to guard our souls. But did you know you have a helper?

Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything—but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. (7) And the shalom of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Messiah Yeshua.

We don’t have to struggle alone. We have a friend and advocate. The peace of God, that shalom, that completeness, that comes from knowing Yeshua will guard our hearts and minds.

Invitation

Can the Apostate Return?

20190803 Parsha Mattot-Massei – Can The Apostate Return?

This week’s Parsha is Mattot/Massei. It is a double Parsha. Mattot means Tribes. It speaks of men and women making vows, taking revenge on Midian, and the settling of Reuben and Gad on the east side of the Jordan. Massei means Stages, and it describes the places the Israelites camped in their wilderness journeys, boundaries of the land, a list of the tribal chiefs, cities of refuge, and marriage of female heirs.

There is a wealth of material from which to build a sermon in these seven chapters, however, I will be talking about current events with just a nod to the cities of refuge.

This last week I saw a story pop up on my computer news feed. Joshua Harris, a prominent former Christian pastor and author of several publications, such as “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” had recently divorced and then later renounced his faith.

Harris explained in an Instagram post, “The information that was left out of our [separation] announcement is that I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. The popular phrase for this is ‘deconstruction,’ the biblical phrase is ‘falling away.’ By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian. Many people tell me that there is a different way to practice faith and I want to remain open to this, but I’m not there now.”

In light of this sad announcement, the question arises, has Joshua Harris forfeited his salvation beyond any hope of recovery? It is an understandable question when you consider the following verse in Hebrews.

Hebrews 6:4-6 For it is impossible for those who once were enlightened—having tasted of the heavenly gift and become partakers of the Ruach ha-Kodesh, (5) and having tasted the good word of God and the powers of the olam ha-ba, (6) and then having fallen away—to renew again to repentance, since they are again crucifying Ben-Elohim for themselves and publicly disgracing Him.

This passage has given many backsliders industrial grade heartburn. They ask, “will God take me back? Is God’s mercy big enough to forgive my sins? Am I forever lost?

God Forgives and Restores

Spoiler alert! The answer is all throughout scripture. It should be no mystery. Absolutely yes! God will forgive and restore.

Look at what Hashem said to Israel through his prophet Jeremiah.

Slide:
Jeremiah 3:22 “Return, backsliding children! I will heal your backsliding.”
This passage is not unique in the Bible. Right now, in the Sunday night Torah Study, we are studying the book of Judges where the people of Israel go through a cycle of sin, repentance and restoration followed by sin, repentance and restoration. It seems there is no limit to God’s mercy.

I am often reminded of Peters words:

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some consider slowness. Rather, He is being patient toward you—not wanting anyone to perish, but for all to come to repentance.

Consider for a moment the triad of parables in Luke 15. There’s the parable of the lost sheep where the shepherd leaves the flock in a safe place and goes out to find the one lost one. Why does he do that? He still has 99 sheep. What’s one more? Because as a good shepherd he was not willing for even one to perish.

The second parable is about a woman who loses a coin in her home. She lights a lamp and sweeps the house searching high and low until she finds it. Even though she has 9 other coins, that one was important enough that she called her friends and neighbors together to rejoice with her in finding her lost coin. Why? Because she was not willing to forgo the loss of just one coin. Yeshua said “In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

And finally there is the story of the prodigal son. We all know this famous story of the younger son who doesn’t want to wait around for his 1/3 of the estate. (Remember the firstborn gets a double portion). He asked his father for his portion now. The father gave him his portion and the lad went out and spent much of his inheritance on wine, women and song. The rest of it he wasted. At the end of the adventure, broke, tired, and hungry he realized that the servants in his father’s household were better off than he was currently residing in a pig pen.

He determined to go back home and beg forgiveness and resign himself to servanthood. His father never got over losing his son. Each day he scanned the countryside in the hope that his son would someday reappear. That father never gave up on his son. There was always mercy and forgiveness in his heart. When the son showed up, the father was overjoyed and held a celebration. Nothing the son did could drive a wedge between him and his father that was big enough to break the relationship.

These three stories illustrate why we are encouraged to pray for those who have fallen and help them find their way back to Hashem. Yeshua’s brother, Yaacov (James) said it like this.

James 5:19-20 My brothers and sisters, if any among you strays from the truth and someone turns him back, (20) let him know that the one who turns a sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.

What a great promise that is!

WHAT ABOUT REJECTING GOD

It is true that some people blaspheme the Spirit, a sin for which there is no forgiveness (see Mark 3:22-30). But people who harden their hearts to that degree will have neither the thought nor the desire to repent. They have utterly rejected God.

John also speaks about a sin the leads to death, writing, 1 John 5:16-17

Slide: 1 John 5:16-17
If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he should ask, and God will give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death—I am not saying you should ask about that. (17) All unrighteousness is sin, but there is sin not leading to death.

What, exactly, does John have in mind? There is great debate among biblical commentators, since we have no further background information that brings absolute clarity to his words. There is even debate about what kind of death John speaks of, physical or spiritual.

Slide: Apostate Monthly
It might be safest to say that, in the event that we see someone cross the point of no return, their rejection of the Lord will be so final and ultimate that we will sense the futility of praying for them.

But, to repeat, from the beginning to the end of the Bible, there are calls for backsliders to repent, with an offer of mercy for those who return. Jesus died for those sins too.

HEBREWS IN CONTEXT

Then what are we to make of Hebrews 6:4-6? It’s important that we remember that Hebrews was written to Jewish followers of Jesus. For them, apostasy from the faith could mean a return to Jewish faith without Jesus, a return to the Temple-based sacrifice system, a return to repentance without the Messiah’s blood.

The author appears to be telling them that, as long as they remain in that state, there is no repentance for them. As rendered in the ISV,

Hebrews 6:4-6
For it is impossible to keep on restoring to repentance time and again people who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have become partners with the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of God’s word and the powers of the coming age, and who have fallen away, as long as they continue to crucify the Son of God to their own detriment by exposing him to public ridicule” (my emphasis).

By denying Jesus and going back to their traditional Jewish faith, they were crucifying Him all over again. And to the extent that they did this openly, they exposed Him to public ridicule.

Although they thought they could find repentance in their Jewish traditions without the Messiah, they were sadly, fatally wrong.

TRUE REPENTANCE LEADS TO LIFE

So what is the bottom line? Can a person who denies Yeshua return to the Lord? I believe that if a person is truly repentant and turns away from his sin and apostacy, the Father will run towards him and embrace him saying “For this son of mine was dead and has come back to life—he was lost and is found!”

For this reason I want to ask anyone who is in this building this morning that feels like you have slipped away. Satan has told you that you cannot come back to the Lord. He’s a liar. The Father is on the throne of heaven just waiting for you to repent and return to Him.

Also I want to encourage everyone here today who has friends or family that are not living right, don’t give up praying for them. Remember, God is not willing for anyone to perish. He wants everyone to be saved. He sent his son to die for the world, not just a part of the world, but the whole world.

Life is Precious

20190727 Parsha Pinchas – Life is Precious

The Parsha for today is Pinchas. It is a story that really follows on the heels of last week’s portion. Israel could not be cursed by Balaam. But he advised King Balak to send his women into the camp to entice the Israelite men into abandoning Adonai and embracing Baal. Evidently, this plan met with some success whereas some of the leadership of the tribes of Israel were ensnared by the Moabite women. God commanded the guilty parties to be executed. Pinchas, a cohen took a spear and executed a couple in the act of their sin. The remainder of the Parsha deals with a census and a description of the sacrifices required for the Moedim or the Feasts of the Lord.

But the Haftarah Portion caught my attention so I will be teaching from Jeremiah today.

Jeremiah 1:1-10 The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the kohanim who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin. (2) The word of Adonai came to him during the days of King Josiah of Judah, son of Amon, in the thirteenth year of his reign. (3) It continued during the days of King Jehoiakim of Judah, son of Josiah, until the end of the eleventh year of King Zedekiah of Judah, son of Josiah—until the exile from Jerusalem in the fifth month. (4) The word of Adonai came to me, saying: (5) “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I set you apart—I appointed you prophet to the nations.” (6) Then I said, “Alas, Adonai Elohim! Look, I don’t know how to speak! For I’m still a boy!” (7) But Adonai answered me, “Do not say ‘I’m only a boy!’ For to everyone I send you, you will go, and all I command you, you will speak. (8) Do not be afraid of them! For I am with you to deliver you.” It is a declaration of Adonai. (9) Then Adonai stretched out His hand and touched my mouth and Adonai said to me, “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. (10) See, today I have appointed you over nations and over kingdoms: to uproot and to tear down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”

Today, I am going to attempt to show you that Hashem really does know who we are. When I say He knows who we are, I mean He knows us specifically. He knows all about us. And because He knows who we are, our lives are precious in His sight.

In our text we see a story of a young teenager named Jeremiah and how God shares with Him how intimately He knows him. Jeremiah was a prophet in Israel. You may wonder what a prophet is? A prophet was one who would foretell future events; he was one who would receive a specific message from God to speak to people; and he was able to do this by the power of God. A person never just decides one day that they are going to be a prophet. You had to have a calling from God to do this. And it is actually in the midst of Jeremiah’s call to be a prophet that Jeremiah discovers something amazing about God. He discovered that God knew who he was.

We live in a digital world today that robs us of personal contact. Everyone seems glued to one kind of electronic device or another. Sociologists speculate on what effect this will have on our personal relationships. Living in such an isolated environment makes it difficult to imagine that there is a God who truly knows who we are; who knows us on an intimate level. A God that knows you better than any spouse can know you, better than any parent can know. God really knows everything that there is to know about you. That is truly an amazing thought! The creator of the universe knows everything about you, He knows you intimately. How intimately? Well, our text points out some things concerning you and your relationship with God.

I. BEFORE YOU WERE CONCEIVED, GOD KNEW YOU

That is a truly amazing statement and a true statement. I cannot imagine getting to know anyone any better than that. Think about that for just a second. Before you were ever conceived, God knew you! Not even your parents can say that. I remember how excited my wife and I were before each of our children were born. We couldn’t wait to see what they looked like, to see who they were. For nine months they are inside that belly and you get so excited about them coming out to meet you. For the first time in that delivery room you introduce yourself to your new child. We couldn’t wait to see what they would be like. We just couldn’t wait to meet them. But the Bible says that before we were even conceived, God knew us! That means before our parents got together, God knew us!

The word “know” carries with it a sense of relationship and approval. In other words, God had a stamp of approval on Jeremiah’s life. It means that God specifically knew Jeremiah and what he would become. Obviously, God was speaking to Jeremiah here, so you may think that God knew Jeremiah before he was born, but there is no way that he would know you because you are just an average Joe. However, God tells us over and over again in His word that He made us and formed us.

Psalms 139:13-16 For You have created my conscience. You knit me together in my mother’s womb. (14) I praise You, for I am awesomely, wonderfully made! Wonderful are Your works—and my soul knows that very well. (15) My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. (16) Your eyes saw me when I was unformed, and in Your book were written the days that were formed—when not one of them had come to be.

There is no arguing with this Scripture. He specifically says that God knit me together in my mother’s womb. David goes on to say; “your eyes saw me when I was unformed.” You can’t argue the fact that God knew you before you were even born. Another Scripture puts it quite clear for us as well.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship—created in Messiah Yeshua for good deeds, which God prepared beforehand so we might walk in them.

We were created to do good works and the Bible says that God has prepared us in advance to do those works.

There is no doubt that the Bible teaches God knew us before we were born. He didn’t just know Jeremiah but He knew each and every one of us before we ever took our first breath on our own.

You may be wondering why it is such a big deal that God knows us. The big deal is if God knows you then that means He knows what you are going through in life. If God knows us, that means we are not all alone, that means you haven’t been forgotten. God knows the very trial that you are dealing with. God knows the struggles that you are facing in life. God knows the temptations that you come up against. God knows your family situation and He has promised us that He will never leave us nor forsake us. God knows all about your financial dilemmas. He is concerned about you and He knows you. He hasn’t forgotten all about you, He knows your street address. He knows the number of hairs on your head. Before we accept Him as our Savior, there is a God that knows who you are and knows what you have need of and wants to meet those needs. He knows us so well that He knows what is best for us even better than we do. God sees the life that you have come out of, but He also sees the life that you are going into.

Knowing that God knows us should give us confidence. God told Jeremiah this at the beginning of His calling to be a prophet in order to give him confidence. He was commissioned by God to spread a message of judgment to the people of Israel. This isn’t exactly what you would call a fun message to preach. It was as though God was telling Jeremiah, “I know you have got a tough message to deliver but let me tell you something. I know you! I am not going to leave you alone. I am going to be by your side as you deliver this message.” God is giving this same message to some that are here today. He wants you to know before you leave this place that He will not leave you; He is by your side every step that you take. The first thing to know with our relationship with God is that before you were born, God knew you:

II. BEFORE YOU WERE BORN, GOD SET YOU APART

Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I SET YOU APART;”

God set Jeremiah apart. That means God had a specific purpose in mind for Jeremiah before he was ever born. In Jeremiah’s case, he was set apart for the purpose of being a prophet. Jeremiah was born with a certain task he was created to perform.

Each person in this room was created for a specific reason. Each person in this room was created on purpose for a purpose. This indicates to me that there is no one on the face of the planet who is a mistake. No one accidentally came into this world. Some parents may not have expected you, but no one was an accident because God had you in mind before you were ever born. Not only did He have you in mind, but He also had a purpose in mind for you when you came into this world. That is a message that people need to hear! We hear too much that we are no good; we hear that we were a mistake; we hear that we have no purpose in life, but that is not what God says. God says that you were created for a God-given purpose. There is a reason you are here. God made it very clear in Jeremiah’s life that he was here for a purpose.

He even said in Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans that I have in mind for you,” declares Adonai, “plans for shalom and not calamity—to give you a future and a hope.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship—created in Messiah Yeshua for good deeds, which God prepared beforehand so we might walk in them.

God told Jeremiah He had set him apart. The phrase, “set you apart” means to separate. In other words, God made Jeremiah kadosh, or holy. His calling was on Jeremiah’s life to perform a specific task.

God has a calling on your life for a specific task. God has specific directions for your life. Before you were born, God knew you, also, before you were born, He set you apart:

III. BEFORE YOU WERE BORN, GOD APPOINTED YOU

According to Webster’s the word “appoint” means: “to assign officially; equip or furnish.” We could read this Scripture like this: “I assigned you as a prophet to the nations.” “I will equip or furnish you to be a prophet to the nations.” God didn’t hardly give Jeremiah a say in the matter. God appointed Jeremiah to be a prophet before he was even born; He equipped him to be a prophet before he was born. What an amazing thought! Jeremiah could have thought, “Wait a minute. Don’t be so quick as to tell me what I am going to do. I’ve got my rights! You can’t just tell me what to do, I have some decisions I want to make on my own.”

That kind of thinking is backwards. That type of thinking is where we say, “God was created for me. He was created for me to call out to for help; He was created for me to grant me my wishes.” The Bible makes it very clear that we were created for God to do with as He chooses.

Each of us are in the same situation as Jeremiah, whether you know it or not. God knew us before we were conceived. He set us apart before we were born. He appointed us to do good works before we took that first breath.

God had paid a lot of attention to each and every one of us. Even before we were a twinkle in our parent’s eyes. That makes us special. I’m saying every human being is special. You are special. I’m special.

So, when God created us for doing good deeds what can we do? Treat that person sitting next to you like they are special. The second most important law is “love your neighbor as yourself.” That is one of the best good deeds you can do.

Put others ahead of you. Remember, every life is precious. From before birth to burial, every life is precious to our Heavenly Father. He sent His son to die for each of us. That’s how special human life is to God. It is up to us to recognize that and act appropriately.

I challenge each of you this week and all the coming weeks to treat everyone around you like the special person they are.

What If God Says No?

What If God Says, “No”

Today’s Parsha is Balak. Named after the Moabite King who wanted to defeat Israel. Before launching a military campaign, he sought the help of a very successful diviner named Balaam.

Scripture Reference: Numbers 22:4-6, 12-14

Numbers 22:4-6 Moab said to the elders of Midian, “The multitude will lick up everything around us like the ox licks up the grass of the field.” Now Balak son of Zippor was king of Moab at that time. (5) He sent messengers to summon Balaam son of Beor, at Pethor near the River in his native land, saying to him, “Look now, a people has come out of Egypt. See now, they cover the surface of the earth and are settling beside me. (6) Come now, curse this people for me, because they are too strong for me! Perhaps I may be able to defeat them and drive them away from the country. I know that whoever you bless will be blessed and whoever you curse will be accursed!”

God sends an answer to Balak’s request:

Numbers 22:12-14 God said to Balaam, “Do not go with them! Do not curse them, for they are blessed!” (13) So Balaam got up in the morning and said to the officials of Balak, “Go back to your country, for Adonai has refused to let me go with you.” (14) So the Moabite officials got up, went back to Balak, and said, “Balaam refused to come with us.”

Have you ever gone to God to ask Him for something and felt like you deserved it and knew that there was really nothing to stop you from having it and God tells you that you cannot have it?

I remember being a young boy and if my mom ever told me, No that I couldn’t have a thing that I thought I deserved and had earned, then this meant that she didn’t understand what I was asking her for. In my opinion this would always signify that I needed to explain to her what I was asking for in more detail. I mean certainly she could not have meant, “No” as her final answer.

I have wondered what my marriage would be like if all I had to do was to tell my wife, “No” and she listen and obey. No questions asked. All I had to do was say it one time. Actually, I probably would miss out on more than I gain.

There is a passage in 2 Samuel where David enquires of God about whether he should face the Philistine army or not.

2 Samuel 5:19 Then David inquired of Adonai saying, “Should I go up against the Philistines? Will You give them over into my hand?” Adonai answered David, “Go up, for I will certainly give the Philistines over into your hand.”

As a side note, the Philistines were descendants of a very fierce group of people from islands in the Aegean Sea between Greece and Turkey. They were call the Sea People or Phoenicians. For several centuries these people had raided coastal empires and destroyed them. Joshua had to contend with them in the conquest of Canaan.

Although David was truly a man of God and had often enjoyed the luxury of God on his side often in battle, he still acknowledged the fact that he had to humbly and sincerely approach God on this matter. David was fully aware that it was a matter of life of death because the Philistines would attack no matter what God’s answer was. David knew that the power to win or lose was in the hands of the living God.

What if God had said, No. What if God had answered David, No at a time like this. David would have certainly and immediately been either killed or taken captive. Yet David still completely and sincerely trusted God to do what was right.

Can we truly, sincerely and completely trust God even in a situation like the one that David found himself in. Knowing that if God had answered, No then he would have been defeated.

In this passage, David is teaching us that we may go to God with great boldness and confidence in full assurance that He can do all things but we must also always remember to remain humble when talking to the Father.

Just because God is the Father and can do anything, that does not always mean that He is going say yes to our every request.

In our passage today we see Balak, a powerful king, petitioning God through a man named Balaam to grant him a request. I am sure that when Balak thought it through he did not see anything wrong with his approach to the situation.

The king was probably highly surprised to hear that his offer was refused. Balaam was a diviner for hire. Sort of like the old TV western “Have Gun, Will Travel” except this was have Oracle will travel. To the king, it seemed as though Balaam lived for an opportunity such as what the king was offering him right now.

When God told Balak, No. Balak must have thought to himself that surely God either did not understand the question or wasn’t sure of the power held by the mighty Balak. So he does what every self-centered man with power and authority does when he doesn‘t get his way.

He asks again.

This time using more of his weight than he did the first time to ensure that God completely understood who he was and what he was asking.

Numbers 22:15-17 Balak again sent other dignitaries, more numerous and honored than these previous ones. (16) They also came to Balaam and said to him, “Thus says Balak son of Zippor: Please let nothing keep you from coming to me! (17) I will richly reward you, and everything you tell me I will do! Just come now and curse this people for me!”

An interesting point that we should notice in this passage is that the king sought Balaam and not the other way around.

This is sort of like the President seeking the advice and counseling from a man like Billy Graham.

Although this could be a wise move on behalf of the President it is highly unlikely. It would surely cause an immediate rebellion from the “enlightened, progressive” people of the country if the source for his advice was ever revealed. The mainstream media would go wild if our current President appeared to be seeking divine direction.

Many of us are holding positions that God has us in right now that seem so insignificant to the big picture but I would like to take this moment to tell you that you should always stay ready because you never know when, where, why, for what, who or how God may need you.

What may seem like a small and insignificant position to you may be just the position that God needs you in to make a point, so hold on to God. God needs you.

Just as to be expected, the man of God responded with a direct answer from God again. This time he spoke in a language that he was sure that the king would understand.

Numbers 22:18 But Balaam answered Balak’s servants, “Even if Balak gave me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot cross beyond the mouth of Adonai my God, to do anything small or great!

God was not only telling the king, No, but he was also telling Balaam, No. He was refusing the opportunity of Balaam to receive a “get rich quick” present from the king.

In today’s time, it seems that all that we think that we have to do is go to the leaders of the church with our request (no matter what they are) and if our offering is good enough, we believe that the leaders should find a way to show that God justifies our actions and support our request.

We, as leaders, have to be careful that we are not attempting to compromise the word of God for a “get rich quick” present from someone other than God.

God may not just be refusing the person petitioning the request, but he may be taking the leader of the church through a trial to see if the leader deviates from His word for a “get rich quick” present from someone other than God.

I am sure that many disagree with me and believe that it is ok to receive any offering and pray to God the He grant any request we ask but let’s look at what Satan tried to offer Yeshua immediately following his fast.

Matthew 4:8-11 Again, the devil takes Him to a very high mountain and shows Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. (9) And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” (10) Then Yeshua says to him, “Go away, satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship Adonai your God, and Him only shall you serve.’” (11) Then the devil leaves Him. And behold, angels came and began to take care of Him.

Satan offered one of his favorite offerings. He offered Yeshua a “get rich quick” present in hopes that the Messiah would not think clearly and accept his illusion of a present and lose out on the true blessing from God.

I would like to take a moment and share a poem by Claudia Minden Weisz

I asked God to take away my pride. And God said “No”.
He said it was not for Him to take away, but for me to give up.

I asked God to make my handicapped child whole. And God said “No”.
He said her spirit was whole, her body was only temporary.

I asked God to grant me patience. And God said “No”.
He said patience is a by-product of tribulations. It isn’t granted, it is earned.

I asked God to give me happiness. And God said “No”.
He said He gives me blessings, happiness is up to me.

I asked God to spare me pain. And God said “No”.
He said suffering draws me apart from worldly cares and brings me closer to Him.

I asked God to make my spirit grow. And God said “No”.
He said I must grow on my own. But He will prune me to make me fruitful.

I asked for all things that I might enjoy life. And God said “No”.
He said He will give me life, that I may enjoy all things.

I ask God to help me love others, as much as he loves me.
And God said “Ah, finally you have the idea!”

I am sure that since we serve such a powerful and altogether wonderful God that it may seem as though our every request should be granted. However, I am here to tell you that there is a possibility that God can say, No. As many of you have figured out, I don’t preach a prosperity gospel here at Tree of Life. We don’t have a “McDonalds You Deserve a Break Today” doctrine. We must always remember that Hashem will always have our best interest in mind and that He will never lose or fail so we should be assured that this too will pass. Just because He said, No doesn’t signify that we are out of His will. He will have something better for us if we just have patience and listen.

Grumbling is for the birds

20190622 Parsha Beha’alotcha – Grumbling is for the Birds

Blessing

Israel was still wandering through the wilderness of Sin. They had been delivered from the taskmasters in Egypt, freed from the bondage of slavery and now they were nearing their destination of a Promised Land. But, the problems of a sinful heart and nature remain with us no matter where we go. We may be able to free ourselves from the bondages of man and mind, but we cannot free the spirit until Yeshua pays the price for us and we accept Him.

Those who are a part of the Body of Messiah have been delivered from the bondage of sin. We have been set free to serve the Lord and to travel through this life as a pilgrim and a stranger while we are looking for the same city that Abraham sought after whose builder and maker is God.

Numbers 11:4-6 The grumblers among them began to have cravings, so Bnei-Yisrael began to wail repeatedly, saying, “If we could just eat some meat! (5) We remember the fish that we used to eat in Egypt, for free—the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic! (6) But now we have no appetite. We never see anything but this manna.”

It doesn’t take very long until Satan begins to bring to our remembrance the “good times” of our life of sin. He has the ability to make the things of this world look so brilliant and so desirable. At the same time, God brings us through the trials to test and build our faith in Him. The combination of seeing the world through rosy glasses and having the Devil jump on your shoulder with accusations against you as a result of your testing is often persuasive enough to cause a Believer to murmur and complain.

“We had more fun when we were sinners. We had more good times with our worldly friends that in the family of God.” We remember the fun times, but we forget the bad times. The only way to overcome these thoughts of going back is to fill our heart and mind with the things of God. If we dwell on them long enough, Satan will surely convince us to return to Egypt and the bondage of sin once again.

This is a constant battle inside the heart of most people and their spiritual walk is like a roller coaster ride that is up and down, in and out, upside down and right side up. The big problem is that we never know which way they are going to be when we meet them. We may come together and hear them praising God and portraying the life of a sold-out, born-again, washed in the Blood, Believer who is on their way to Heaven, or we may see them down in the mouth, disheartened, distressed and discouraged. I know that we all have times when we aren’t on the mountaintop, but I find that too many Believers live in the depths of the valley because they are constantly murmuring about their lot in life and living as though God had forgotten them.

The Israelites were like that. They were never thankful for very long. It only took them a few days of hardship to forget that God had performed great miracles of deliverance and provision for them in their wilderness journey. They were sick of the bread from Heaven and wanted more. They were sick of the manna, sick of the journey and they wanted to go “bird hunting” to get some meat to eat.

How many of you like a good steak from time to time? Is there anyone here who is a vegetarian? Most of us like a good steak once in a while! So it was with Israel! They had eaten nothing but manna for a long while and were tired of it and wanted some variety in their diet.

I dare say that this same desire for something different, for a change of pace, for a variety and for the spice of life, is the same desire that causes so many people to fall into sin. It is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life that says that I will have what I want whatever the cost!

We human beings become so easily bored with life, especially in the fast-paced world that we live in! If there isn’t a “new” thing in our lives on a regular basis we will get bored and start searching for something new and better. People are constantly changing homes, changing spouses, changing friends, changing churches, changing everything. Why, because they are bored and want something different.

There is nothing wrong with the house, after all there isn’t one of us who lives in a house that is the envy of 95% of the world’s people whether it’s an apartment, a mobile home, a condo or a single-family home. Most of the world would be so grateful for what we Americans have. But we get tired of the same 4 walls and want to get 4 new walls. Often this leads to financial disaster and we finally come to the realization that it isn’t the home that needs changing, it’s the heart of the owner.

I see couples all the time who fell in love and were married, only to come to believe that they are incompatible. I want you to know that God hates divorce and He expects you to work out your incompatibility problems. Most of the time, the problems in our marriages are not problems of incompatibility. They are problems of noncommittal hearts and forgotten marriage vows that say we will stay together through every trial and test until death do us part. It’s not your spouse’s job to make you happy. It’s your job. If you put your life and trust in Yeshua then hold on for the ride because He knows how to make life great. That being said, I don’t believe that a woman needs to stay with a man who is a physical danger to her and her children.

There’s nothing wrong the congregation most of the time. The problem lies in our relationship to the kehilah and to Yeshua. I know that Messianic synagogues have personalities based upon the people that attend but you get out what you put into it. If you get bored with Tree of Life Congregation, just come sit and tell me that and I’ll see to it that you never get “bored” again. You will praying for a day of rest, for there is always much to be done.

The problem with the body of Messiah is the same as with Israel in the wilderness – we have too much free time on our hands! Israel didn’t have to work for their food, they just walked around and picked up the manna. They didn’t have to plow, plant, water and work the ground. God just dropped the blessing into their camp and all they had to do was bend over and pick it up as they needed it on a daily basis.

I know that most American’s, including those Messianic congregations and churches, dream of the day when they will be able to walk away from work, go home and sit and enjoy not having to work anymore. I can take you to people right now who wish they could go back to work. They have discovered that without work, without something to do and something to accomplish, life loses its zest. That’s why the national statistics say that 90% of retirees are able to enjoy their retirement for only about 18 months before their health fails and life comes to a standstill or to an end.

God promised us that because of the fall, we would have earn our bread by the sweat of the brow. That means that no job, no business, no manner of earning your living will be perfect! There are problems everywhere, and if there are no problems now, there will be when you arrive tomorrow because you have problems that you carry around with you everywhere you go.

We are like Israel; we don’t want to take what God gives and be thankful. Our attitude reminds me of the cartoon I once saw that depicted two old vultures sitting on a dead limb out in the middle of the hot, burning desert. There isn’t a living thing for many miles around except the two vultures. One looks at the other and says, “the heck with waiting on something to die, let’s go kill something.”

That’s the attitude that Israel had and that’s the attitude that we get too. God, I’m tired of eating what you give, let me go “bird hunting” and get some flesh to eat!

Numbers 11:18-20 “Now to the people say: Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, because you will eat meat, for you wailed in Adonai’s ears saying, ‘If only we could eat meat! It was better for us in Egypt!’ Now Adonai will give you meat and you will eat! (19) You will eat—not for one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, (20) but for an entire month—until it is coming out of your nostrils and it becomes loathsome to you! For you rejected Adonai who is among you, and you wailed to His face saying, ‘Why did we ever leave Egypt?”

God wants you to feel good. He wants you to be blessed. But, He will not tolerate grumbling and complaining about the blessings that He gives.

He supplies our need and we complain about what He gives. He gives us air to breathe and we complain because it’s too hot or too cold. He gives us food to eat and we complain because it doesn’t match our taste buds. He gives us His only Son as our Savior and we complain because we don’t like the way of salvation that Yeshua has provided! It is no wonder that God gets enough of our complaints and decides to give us just what we want – only more than what we want.

God told Israel and still is saying the same thing to us today. So you want birds, right?

Well, I’ll give you your wish and you will have so much of what you want that you will be sick of it very quickly.

You want free time and complain because God’s work keeps you busy? God might just let you lose your ministry or lose your job and allow you to sit with nothing to do for a long time.

You don’t like your food that He provides, then He may just allow you to walk in the dry and thirsty land for a while until you are glad for what He gives.

Israel could only remember the great salads, “leeks & vegetables” of Egypt. They could only remember the nearly limitless supply of fish from the lakes and rivers of Egypt. They could only remember that they could eat of these things freely, without money, without growing them, but they forgot that they were slaves to Egypt and paid a terrible price in the mud pits. Satan blinded them, and us, to the real price of the things of this world that we desire.

Numbers 11:31-33 Now a wind went out from Adonai and drove quails from the sea. He brought them into the camp to about a day’s journey in any direction, about two cubits above the ground all around the camp. (32) The people went out all that night and all the following day and collected quail. No one gathered less than ten omers. They spread them out all around the camp. (33) Yet while the meat was between their teeth, before it was swallowed, Adonai’s anger burned against the people. So Adonai struck the people with a severe plague.

God performed his promise to the people, in giving them flesh. How much more quickly do we run to collect the meat that perishes, than we labor for meat which endures to everlasting life!

We are quick sighted in the affairs of time; but stupidity blinds us as to the concerns of eternity. To pursue worldly advantages, we need no arguments; but when we are to secure the true riches, then we are all forgetful. God often grants the desires of sinners in wrath, while he denies the desires of his own people in love.

How long does it take meat to spoil in the hot burning sun of the desert? Since we live in Texas, we know that no food can be left in the hot sun more than just a few minutes because it spoils so very quickly.

The Israelites were greedy. They didn’t just pick up enough quails to eat for one day, they tried to stock up for many days. They picked up huge quantities of dead quails and laid the meat out in the sun to cure. What they didn’t realize is that bread, left in the hot sun, doesn’t spoil like meat.

The manna, the bread from Heaven, could stand the test of time and the heat of the day and still be sufficient for their needs. The meat of this world begins to spoil as quickly as it is obtained.

It seems that the quails had died before they could be gathered and lay in the sun too long and before the people could even eat them, they were getting a plague, perhaps food poisoning, and dying all over the camp.

They got what they wanted but they didn’t want what they got! They went “bird hunting” but God’s anger against them was kindled and brought judgment through the very thing that they desired.

We had best be very careful of what we ask for and what we seek after. I hope and pray that I never desire anything that God doesn’t desire for me to have. Those things that we obtain that are not in God’s will can be very destructive to our walk with the Lord!

We might seek a new job only to find that it keeps us from the House of God!

We might seek some of the pleasures of this life, only to discover that they are empty and unfulfilling!

We might desire the easy life, only to find that the easy life isn’t worth living.

We might desire the wealth of this world, only to find that the wealth controls us!

We might seek popularity or fame only to find that our privacy has been lost!

I believe that the best thing we can do is be thankful and grateful for the Bread of Life that God gives and stay close to Yeshua. Let Him be your provision. Let Him give you what He wants you to have. Allow Yeshua to use you in His kingdom.

If we get too caught up in the desires of this life, God just may have to do a little “bird hunting” to wake us up and get us back on the right track.

Yeshua is the Bread of Life and we should be satisfied with Him! The provision that He gives for us is sufficient and our needs are always met according to necessity and the will of God for our lives! Let’s learn to be thankful in all things!

Six Ways to Make God Smile

20190615 Parsha Nasso – Sermon – Six Ways to Make God Smile!

What Brings a Smile unto God Text: Numbers 6: 22-27

Our Torah Portion today is really long. It starts at Numbers 4:21 and ends at 7:89. There are several interesting subjects in these passages of scripture. It begins describing a census and duties of the other two Levitical clans, Merari and Gershon.

Then in chapter 5 is one of the strangest rituals in all the Bible. This passage speaks about the steps taken when a wife is accused by her husband of infidelity, or even when he is only suspicious of her. There is an entire tractate in the Talmud regarding this ritual of going to the priest and have the woman drink water mingled with dust from the tabernacle floor. If she is guilty, she dies and if not, there are no ill effects. Except that the marriage is forever damaged. Maybe that is why there is no official record of this ritual ever being carried out.

In Chapter six we read about the Nazarite vow along with all its restrictions and requirements. The two most famous Biblical characters who were Nazarites for life were Samson and John the Immerser. People today will sometimes speak of taking a Nazirite vow but that is not possible since it required animal sacrifice and there is no temple so no opportunity for animal sacrifice or altar upon which to lay your hair that was shaved from your head.

Then finally, at the end of chapter we come to the Aaronic Benediction. You recognize this as our final piece of liturgy after every service.

Numbers 6:22-27 Again Adonai spoke to Moses saying, (23) “Speak to Aaron and to his sons saying: Thus you are to bless Bnei-Yisrael, by saying to them: (24) ‘Adonai bless you and keep you! (25) Adonai make His face to shine on you and be gracious to you! (26) Adonai turn His face toward you and grant you shalom!’ (27) In this way they are to place My Name over Bnei-Yisrael, and so I will bless them.”

#1. Our obedience to communicate this blessing over our children brings pleasure and a smile unto God!

Every Erev Shabbat is a perfect opportunity to bless your children. It is exactly the same blessing that I say at the beginning of every service.

This passage records the benediction which God appointed for dismissing the people at the close of the daily service. The repetition of the name “Lord” or “Adonai” three times, expresses the great mystery of the Godhead–three persons, and yet one God. The expressions in the separate clauses correspond to the respective offices of the Father, to “bless and keep us”; of the Son, to be “gracious to us”; and of the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, to “give us peace.” This blessed God because it was verbal communication between priest and members; between parents and their sons and daughters!

Notice vs. 27 “In this way they are to place My Name over Bnei-Yisrael, and so I will bless them.”

God said he would place His name over all the people of Israel. What does that mean? It means that Hashem is imparting His character, His morality, His very essence over Israel. So by placing His name on Israel, he is stamping us with His seal of approval.

#2. God smiles when we love Him supremely!

Genesis 6:5-8 Then Adonai saw that the wickedness of humankind was great on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their heart was only evil all the time. (6) So Adonai regretted that He made humankind on the earth, and His heart was deeply pained. (7) So Adonai said, “I will wipe out humankind, whom I have created, from the face of the ground, from humankind to livestock, crawling things and the flying creatures of the sky, because I regret that I made them.” (8) But Noah found favor in Adonai’s eyes.

The Bible tells us that for his entire life, Noah consistently followed God’s will and enjoyed a close relationship with Him!

God wants a relationship with you! Hosea 6:6 For I delight in loyalty and not sacrifice, knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.

#3. God smiles when we trust Him completely!

Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, when warned about events not yet seen, in holy fear prepared an ark for the safety of his household. Through faith he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

Noah had never seen rain and yet he trusted God, and for 120 years Noah built an ark! He had to withstand the ridicule of his neighbors for 120 years and yet he never waivered in his devotion and obedience to the Lord.

The Psalmist David tells us in:

Psalms 147:11 Adonai delights in those who revere Him, in those who trust in His lovingkindness.

Hebrews 11:6 Now without faith it is impossible to please God. For the one who comes to God must believe that He exists and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

#4. God smiles when we obey Him wholeheartedly!

God didn’t say, “Build any ole boat!” No, He gave Noah detailed instructions as to the size, shape and materials of the ark. 450 ft. long, 75 ft. wide and 45 ft. tall. (I have read that the ark had the capacity exceeding that of 500 railroad stock cars.)

Genesis 6:22 Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did.

If God tells you to build a boat; He doesn’t owe you any explanation!

James 2:24 You see that a man is proved righteous by works and not by faith alone.

The concept of works confuses a lot of people. Of course, works alone will not bring salvation. No, salvation can only be secured by belief and trust in the Messiah Yeshua. But it is the works that shows the world that you are a follower of the Messiah. It is what you do that bears witness to your faith.

Yeshua said in John 14:15 If you love Me, keep My commandments.

Why is obedience so pleasing to God? Because it proves you really love Him!

#5. God smiles when we praise and thank Him continually!

Doesn’t it feel good to you when someone gives you heart-felt praise?

Men, do you have a wife that is a great cook? Make sure she knows how much you appreciate her efforts in the kitchen and you won’t go hungry. Complement and encourage your children and they will excel.

Hebrews 13:15 Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.

Psalm 116: 17 I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD.

#6. God smiles when we use our abilities!

Before the flood, Noah used his abilities to the fullest in order to build the ark. And after the flood God gave Noah these simple instructions.

Genesis 9:1-3 God blessed Noah and his sons, and He said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the land. (2) The fear and terror of you will be on every wild animal, and on every flying creature of the sky, with everything that crawls on the ground and with all the fish of the sea—into your hand they are given. (3) Every crawling thing that is alive will be food for you, as are the green plants—I have now given you everything.

1. Be fruitful. Make sure that the work you do is productive and accounts for something. Busy work does not build a lasting legacy.

2. Multiply. Yeshua gave us some marching orders before he ascended. He said to go into all the earth and make disciples of all men.

3. Fill the land. Evangelism and fellowship are necessary to fill the land. Fellowship is the key. Make friends with the people of this congregation. Get together, support each other. That’s the way we build the kingdom.

Psalms 37:3 Trust in Adonai and do good. Dwell in the land, feed on faithfulness.

Do you believe that God made you for a purpose?

1 Timothy 6:17-19 Direct those who are rich in this present age not to be proud or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God—who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. (18) Direct them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, to be generous, sharing, (19) storing up for themselves a good foundation for the future, so they might take hold of the true life.

2 Corinthians 5:9 So whether at home or absent, we make it our aim to be pleasing to Him.

You want to see God smile?
Bless others
Love Him
Trust Him
Obey Him
Praise Him
Serve Him

Servants of Messiah

20190202 Parsha Mishpatim – Servants of Messiah

Last week’s Torah portion (Yitro) explained that exactly seven weeks after the Exodus from Egypt (i.e., 49 days after the great Passover), Moses gathered the Israelites at the foot of Mount Sinai to enter into covenant with the LORD. In a dramatic display of thunder, lightning, billowing smoke and fire, the LORD descended upon the mountain and recited the Ten Commandments to the people. Upon hearing the law’s categorical requirements, however, the people shrank back in fear and begged Moses to be their mediator before God. The people then stood far off, while Moses alone drew near to the thick darkness to receive the various laws and rules from the LORD.

This week’s Torah portion begins with Moses in the midst of the “thick darkness” of Sinai receiving additional instructions regarding civil law for the Israelite people. It begins with the LORD saying to Moses:

Exodus 21:1 Now these are the ordinances which you will set before them.

A well-known Jewish midrash says that the LORD initially offered the Torah to each of the 70 nations, but none accepted it without first asking what it was about. After hearing the various commandments, each nation had some excuse or another for not accepting it (for example, God offered Torah to the Ishmaelites, but they declined the offer because of its prohibition of theft, since their trading practices required it). God finally turned to the nation of Israel, who said “all that the LORD says we will do”. Note something remarkable here: Unlike the other nations, Israel chose Torah before knowing its contents (Exodus 19:8). In fact, even after Moses had explained the extent of Torah’s demands, all Israel said “all that the LORD says we will do and
obey” (Exodus 24:7).

The word mishpatim means “rules” or “ordinances” and is derived from the Hebrew word shaphat (“to judge”). Parasha Mishpatim is sometimes called Sefer HaBrit (“the Book of the Covenant”), since it contains over 11.5% of all of the mitzvot (commandments) found in the entire Torah (53 of 613). These mishpatim include a wide range of civil laws, criminal laws, ritual laws, financial laws, and family laws (these civil laws are sometimes referred to as bein Adam L’Chavero – “between man and his fellow man.”

What follows in Mishpatim is in stark contrast with last week’s Parsha Yitro. We go from the thunder, lightning and earthquakes to a bunch of rules and regulations. That would be like moving from a Tom Clancy novel to the Code of Federal Regulations governing the specifications for wheelchair ramps in the Americans With Disabilities Act. Boring!!!

It is interesting that the first ordinance that we read is

Exodus 21:2 “If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve for six years, and in the seventh he is to go free, without payment.

Why would the first thing after the 10 Commandments be rules about slaves? Why not something grandiose, befitting the lightning, thunder and earthquakes?

I think these verses are brought up first because of the condition from which Israel had just been freed. Remember that less than four months earlier, Israel had been mired in the bondage of generations of slavery. Slavery was all the people knew. They didn’t know how to be free men.

All they knew about how to treat slaves was how they were treated. The Egyptians were cruel taskmasters and Hashem did not want His Chosen People to emulate their former masters. He wanted them to be better than that.

Now many of you will look at these rules and ask how could God condone slavery? Isn’t that wrong? Yes, I believe slavery is wrong. But in those days a person could become a slave in a variety of ways. He could be ordered to be slave to pay for theft or to pay off a debt that he could not repay. They didn’t have a prison system like we have today. It was all much more personal. If you stole someone’s property, then you had to pay them back.

A person could sell himself into slavery to pay debts. He could even sell his daughter up until the time she could be married. The oral Torah on this is much softer. A man would sell his daughter if she would eventually be married to her master or his son. It doesn’t really square with our own sense of what is right and wrong today, but it was a common practice throughout all the world at that time. In fact, many people who couldn’t afford passage to the Americas from Europe were indentured servants in a similar fashion, with an expectation of freedom after a number of agreed upon years of service.

Torah was given to Israel to bring order and humanity to the system. When you think about it, the reality of that day is not so different from the reality of our day. In many ways we are also slaves. Slaves to the government that robs us of our wages and calls it taxation. Slaves to financial institutions that entice us with the promise of easy monthly payments but in fact are webs that entangle us just as surely and deadly as the spider. Slaves to jobs that drain the life out of us but are vital to the wellbeing of our families. I know all this sounds a bit macabre, but we are not so different from the Hebrew slaves and masters of antiquity….or are we?

Maybe we are different. I submit to you that we are different because not only do we have the written Torah, we have the Oral Torah that explains how to live out the written word. But we also have the Living Torah.

But He emptied Himself – taking on the form of a slave, becoming the likeness of men and being found in appearance as a man. He humbled Himself— becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Phil 2:6-8

1500 years after Sinai, the Torah was made flesh. Yeshua was born to a young woman in Bethlehem. Yeshua was born at a time when once again Israel was in bondage. The Egyptian Pharaohs were replaced by Roman Emperors. The slavery looked different, but it was slavery nonetheless.

But God had a plan to redeem His people. He redeemed them from Egypt and Yeshua would also redeem them. But his redemption was not a freedom from earthly bonds. His was a redemption from the bonds of sin that are much more insidious than the prisons of government, financial institutions and our fellow man. He lived a sinless life and sacrificed that life so that we could be in right fellowship with the Father.

It is interesting that the Son of God, the living Torah, the Prince of Peace showed us a paradox. He gave us freedom that transcends any earthly entanglements but at the same time gave us an example that confounds many today.

Lets look at a few Scriptures.

Matthew 20:25-28 But Yeshua called them over and said, “You know that the rulers of the nations lord it over them, and their great ones play the tyrant over them. (26) It shall not be this way among you. But whoever wants to be great among you shall be your servant, (27) and whoever wants to be first among you shall be your slave— (28) just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

Matthew 23:11 But the greatest among you shall be your servant.

John 12:26 If any man serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there also will My servant be. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.

The story of Yeshua washing the feet of his talmudim is one of the most poignant examples of humility and servanthood to be found in the Bible. He is telling us through these scriptures that our daily reality is not where we find worth. Just because we may be wealthy enough or powerful enough to escape some of the drudgery of everyday life does not mean that we have made it.

No, Yeshua is telling us something entirely different. If you want to make a difference in the Kingdom of God, you don’t have to be wealthy. You don’t have to have many employees working for you or drive that BMW 750. No, He says if we want to be great in the Kingdom we have to be willing to be a servant.

Yeshua is calling us back into slavery. Paul called it being a bondservant to the Messiah. The big difference is that Yeshua said that his bondage was easy and his burden was light. He is calling us into a slavery of love, caring for each other, and selflessness.

Just as Torah prescribed the boundaries of slavery for ancient Israel, Yeshua is telling us to reach out.

In Luke 10:27 Yeshua tells us, “You shall love Adonai your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”

Are you willing to be a servant this morning? Can you set pride aside and recognize that you cannot pay the debt of sin in your life? There is only one way for that debt to be paid and that is to ask God to forgive you of your sins and believe in His Son who died for our sins.

Is being a servant of the Messiah always easy? Not on your life. But it is worth it!!!

The Scepter Shall Not Pass From Judah

20181222 Parsha Vayechi – The Scepter Will Not Pass From Judah

Readings Genesis 49: 8-12
Matthew 1: 18-25

Today is 22 December 2018. I want to thank God for a miracle that occurred 28 years ago on this date. About 5pm I was working on a couple of wooden boxes for my boys and was cutting strips of hard maple and alternating with walnut. In an instant of inattention, I got my left hand too close to the table saw and instantly cut off three fingers. It is a long story that Pat would be happy to regale you with all the gory details. Suffice it to say, the prognosis was not good, infection, gangrene, amputation. But my heavenly Father had a different plan. Against all natural odds, he healed my fingers, much to the amazement of the surgeon. Just three months after the accident I was back on full duty. There is seldom a day goes by that I don’t thank God for this hand. There is a God in Israel and he is still in the healing business!

In today’s world we don’t do blessings on our children like was done by our forefathers. Perhaps something is lost as a result. We are much more legalistic and formal. We don’t lay our hands on our sons and pronounce a blessing/prophecy over them. No, we write out a will and let all the kids fight over our estate after we are gone.

You know the old saying. Where there’s a will there’s….relatives.

Our Parsha this week describes the blessings given to the sons of Jacob. The blessings were separate from birthright. Anyone could get a blessing. But generally speaking, the birthright was for the first born. That meant that he received a double portion of the father’s estate.

In the case of Jacob’s sons, they all received a blessing, but Joseph’s two sons Manasseh and Ephraim received the birthright. With Ephraim, the youngest, receiving the greater share.

The blessings outlined in Genesis Chapter 49 were actually quite prophetic. Reuben forfeited his natural position of prominence as the firstborn because of serious sin. The tribe of Reuben dwindled down to almost nothing.

Reuben not only lost his position as the head of the clan, he lost his position as the priest. Levi would eventually occupy that position after supporting Moses at Sinai.

Similarly, Simeon, because of his violent nature would eventually dwindle to almost nothing.

Genesis 49:8-12 Judah, so you are—your brothers will praise you: Your hand will be on your enemies’ neck. Your father’s sons will bow down to you. (9) A lion’s cub is Judah—from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He crouches, lies down like a lion, or like a lioness—who would rouse him? (10) The scepter will not pass from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs will come. To him will be the obedience of the peoples. (11) Binding his foal to the vine, his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, he washes his garments in wine, and in the blood of grapes his robe. (12) His eyes are darker than wine, and teeth that are whiter than milk.

Judah was given a very good blessing. Whereas the three previous blessings prophesied problems for the recipients, Judah was all positive. Judah would become the leader of the tribes. He led all the other tribes when they would march from one place to another while in the wilderness.

However, Judah himself was not the most sterling of characters. Remember, he was the brother that suggested selling Joseph rather than killing him, so they could make a profit. Then later, he dealt unfaithfully with his daughter-in-law Tamar. But then he showed good character when he interceded and offered himself as a substitute for Benjamin. Overall, this blessing is an example of God’s grace to an undeserving individual.

This blessing/prophecy of Judah is a description of Judah’s greatest descendant, Yeshua HaMashiach. Charles Spurgeon said “The dying patriarch was speaking of his own son Judah; but while speaking of Judah he had a special eye to our Lord, who sprang from the tribe of Judah. Everything therefore which he says of Judah, the type, he means with regard to our greater Judah, the antitype, our Messiah Yeshua”.

Jacob continued his blessing. You are a lion…The scepter will not pass from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,…. To him will be the obedience of the peoples. Each of these refer to the ruling position Judah will have among his brethren. He inherited the leadership aspect of the firstborn’s inheritance. This leadership position among his brothers meant that the eventual kings of Israel would come from Judah and that the Messiah – God’s ultimate leader – would eventually come from the tribe of Judah.

The part about tying a donkey to a vine is a prophecy of the abundance and blessings that Judah would enjoy. No one would tie his donkey to a vine, (think grape vine) because the donkey would eat it. So, the ability to tie a donkey to one of your grapevines means that you have so many grape vines that you are not concerned with a donkey eating one of them. Washing garments in wine is also a metaphor for wealth in that Judah would be rich enough that wine was just as plentiful as water.

In Revelation 5:5 Yeshua is called the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.

The leadership prophecy took some 640 years to fulfill, in part with the reign of David, first of Judah’s dynasty of kings. The prophecy took some 1600 years to completely fulfill in Yeshua. Yeshua is referred to as Shiloh, the name meaning, He whose right it is or to Whom it belongs and a title anciently understood to speak of the Messiah.

From David until the Herods, a prince of Judah was head over Israel (even Daniel in captivity). The promise was that Israel would keep this scepter until Shiloh comes. Even under their foreign masters during this period, Israel had a limited right to self-rule, until 7CE. At that time, under Herod and the Romans, their right to capital punishment – a small but remaining element of their self-governance – was taken away.

At the time, the rabbis considered it a disaster of unfulfilled Scripture. Seemingly, the last vestige of the scepter had passed from Judah, and they did not see the Messiah. Reportedly, rabbis walked the streets of Jerusalem and said, “Woe unto us, for the scepter has been taken away from Judah, and Shiloh has not come.” Yet God’s word had not been broken.

In the blessing for Judah, Jacob is prophesying about Yeshua. This is the season where most of the Christian world and much of the secular world celebrates or at least acknowledges the birth of Yeshua, Jesus the Messiah.

We know for a variety of reasons that Yeshua was not born on the 25th of December.
1. It was too cold to be out in the fields with sheep.
2. The lambing season is in the springtime. Makes sense that the Lamb of God would be born when the lambs were being born.
3. Calculating the birth based on John the Immerser brings us to either Sukkot or the weeks prior to Pesach.

The Bible does not specify the day. I believe that was on purpose so that we would not begin to venerate the day and adding all sorts of secular customs that would obscure the significance of the earthly birth of the Son of God our Messiah. Oh, wait…that may have already happened….my bad.

On that very first night when the Messiah was born, an angelic choir turned out to celebrate and announce the auspicious occasion. Heaven celebrated Yeshua’s birth so should we.

We should acknowledge basic but critical aspects of prophecy that make His birth unique in all the universe.

Prophecy
Isaiah 7:14 Therefore Adonai Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin will conceive. When she is giving birth to a son, she will call his name Immanuel.
Fulfillment
Matthew 1:18-21 Now the birth of Yeshua the Messiah happened this way. When His mother Miriam was engaged to Joseph but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Ruach ha-Kodesh. (19) And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, made up his mind to dismiss her secretly. (20) But while he considered these things, behold, an angel of Adonai appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Miriam as your wife, for the Child conceived in her is from the Ruach ha-Kodesh. (21) She will give birth to a son; and you shall call His name Yeshua, for He will save His people from their sins.”

Prophecy
Micah 5:1 But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah—least among the clans of Judah—from you will come out to Me One to be ruler in Israel, One whose goings forth are from of old, from days of eternity.

Fulfillment
Matthew 2:1 Now after Yeshua was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, magi from the east came to Jerusalem,

Prophecy
Psalms 72:10 May kings of Tarshish and the islands bring tribute, kings of Sheba and Seba offer gifts.

Fulfillment
Matthew 2:11 And when they came into the house, they saw the Child with His mother Miriam; and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

There are many more prophecies that point to Yeshua. Every book of the Bible prophecies of the coming of the Messiah. For these reasons I think we should celebrate the birth of the Messiah. Notice that I didn’t say celebrate Christmas. The observance we call Christmas has been diluted to the point that very little of it is recognizable.

Right now, our children are being taught about the birth of Yeshua. They are being taught straight out of the Bible. NO Santa, no reindeer, no decking the halls. Just Yeshua and his miraculous birth. This is the perfect time to give our children the truth, when they are being bombarded every day with the secular foolishness of this season.

Let me restate some ideas from my sermon last year.

For many Believers, especially those who grew up celebrating Christmas, the idea of abandoning the most popular of Christian holidays just leaves them empty. Some feel that not honoring the Messiah’s birth would be a sin. Of course, we know that it is not, but this is a real feeling for many.

What I tell people who ask if they must stop celebrating Christmas is that we as a congregation will not be putting on plays of the nativity, and singing “Oh Christmas Tree, oh Christmas Tree, but “In your home, by all means celebrate how you feel best. No one is going to judge you. We have no Messianic police!” I know many Messianic couples where one spouse is not Jewish. For the non-Jews, often there is an emptiness by not celebrating something with which they grew up—that was pure and honoring to God. Several have told me that in recent years they have quietly celebrated.

I would like to leave you with a couple of thoughts.

Your family is the most important physical entity you have been given on earth. All of us had a mother and father. Some of us had siblings, aunts and uncles, and cousins. Do all your relatives know Yeshua? Are they living a holy life before the Lord? Instead of isolating yourself from them, would getting together with them give you an opportunity to be a witness of the goodness of Adonai? Look at every family get together as one more chance to win the lost. Don’t let a division in beliefs rob you (and them) of a blessing.

Your particular belief regarding Christmas should not be a platform from which you can theologically pummel poor old aunt Bertha and Uncle Al. The particular day Yeshua was born is not a salvation issue. The FACT that he was born IS a salvation issue. I wish we would celebrate the birth and life of Yeshua every day with the fervor we see at Christmas. If we did, perhaps we would see more people born into the kingdom of God.

Recognizing the Redeemer

20181218 Parsha Vayigash – Recognizing the Redeemer

Readings
Genesis 44:18-47:27
Luke 24:30-48

This week’s Parsha is Vayigash. That means “He approached”. In the last Parsha we saw Joseph coming to power in Egypt. Egypt was just about the most powerful nation in the world at that time. Joseph was the number two man there after interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams. He was elevated to the position in order to implement a plan that would mitigate the effects of a coming famine that would devastate the Middle East in 7 years. During the first seven years of this plan, Joseph built enormous storehouses and taxed the produce of the Egyptian farmers. The tax was in the form of grain which was collected and stored in the huge granaries.

After seven years of great harvests, the drought and famine set in. Joseph’s father Jacob and his eleven brothers were living in Canaan making a living as shepherds. When the drought began there was no food accumulated for them since they were shepherds and not farmers. Also, God’ plan for 7 fat years followed by 7 years of famine had not been revealed to them. Therefore, after a year of famine, Jacob and family were out of food. Their flocks were in bad shape. There was simply not enough grass to support all the flock. As is the case when drought strikes, the flock is diminished through natural attrition and reduced birthrates.

Eventually, Jacob realized that they had to do something or die of starvation. They heard that there was food in Egypt so, Jacob sent ten of his sons to Egypt to buy grain. Joseph immediately recognized his brothers but kept it to himself. Joseph would have been dressed like the Egyptian Prime Minister that he was. He had been in Egypt for 17 years and spoke to his brothers through an interpreter.

Joseph tested his brothers through a series of events in order to see if they were still the same as they had been 17 years earlier. They would talk among themselves not knowing that the Egyptian ruler in their midst was their own brother. Joseph would just sit back and listen. After several tests Joseph couldn’t go on. He had to tell them who he was.

There were several things that happened to the brothers when they were reintroduced to their long-lost brother.

Their association changed.

What I mean by association is the way they associated with Joseph. Their relationship changed. Before they were afraid of Joseph. Because of Joseph’s position in Egypt and their need for food, the brothers were extremely dependent upon the good graces of the Egyptian Ruler. The tests devised by Joseph were more reason for fear among the brothers, because they thought they would be imprisoned or executed as a result of the various accusations against them.

Remember Joseph’s dream? The brothers would bow before him. Well they did exactly that. They had to bow before their younger brother.

So what happened when Joseph revealed who he was? Fear, panic, terror? I would imagine all of that when through their minds as they replayed that awful day 17 years earlier when they would have killed Joseph but sold him into slavery. They now realized that this could be a terrible day of judgment for them.

But it didn’t happen that way. Joseph wept before them. He called Benjamin to him and embraced him and cried. Joseph had a lot of emotion bottled up inside him. He then called his brothers to him. They all had a big group hug. I’m sure there were a lot of “I’m sorrys” blurted out.

The brothers went from being fearful supplicants to brothers of the ruler. Their relationship with this ruler of Egypt changed.

Their Attitude changed.

Before there was fear and dread. That fear was well placed in their minds because of the evil they perpetrated on Joseph. There was guilt from deeds long ago. All that was wiped away in a few moments of heartfelt repentance and forgiveness. The jealousy and envy was gone and replaced with brotherly love.

Their Actions changed.

No longer were the brothers plotting and scheming because of perceived slights. No more attempts to do harm to their brother. The brothers whose actions almost sent an innocent man to an early death and indeed sentenced their own brother to years of agony in an Egyptian prison, these men were changed.

Fast forward about 1800 years to 1st Century Israel.

A man named Yeshua who was thought by many to be the long-promised Messiah had been cruelly executed on a Roman cross. His disciples had scattered when he was arrested. His most vocal adherent, Shimon Kefa, had denied even knowing him.

Many had big hopes and dreams for Yeshua. He would certainly be the one who could rid Israel of the harsh rule of Imperial Rome. Why else would there be a Messiah? After all, wasn’t that what the Messiah was supposed to do?
It was just 200 years earlier that a ragged band of priests put down The Book and picked up the sword waging a three year campaign for freedom. Judah Maccabee was not a warrior but a priest, so why couldn’t Yeshua, the craftsman become another “Hammer”? Why couldn’t he lead a rebellion against the hated Romans?

Our Brit Chadashah reading this morning picks up the story of Yeshua on the day of his resurrection. Luke records that two of Yeshua’s disciples were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a distance of about 7 miles. As could be expected, these two followers of Yeshua, were discussing all the events surrounding the arrest, trial, and Crucifixion of who they thought would be their Redeemer.

They were puzzled over the storm of the last week. They didn’t understand how the Redeemer of all mankind could be tried by the Sanhedrin, condemned and executed. It didn’t make sense.

While they were walking along, they were joined by Yeshua. Luke said their eyes were kept from recognizing him. Yeshua asked them what it was that they were discussing. They stopped in their tracks and just looked at Yeshua. One of the disciples named Cleopas asked him if he was the only person in Jerusalem that didn’t know what had gone on in the last three days.

Yeshua asked them what kind of things? Well the things about Yeshua from Natzeret. He was a prophet, very powerful in his actions and his speaking. They explained how the Sanhedrin had tried him and turned him over to the Romans for execution.

They then revealed how their minds were working. They hoped Yeshua was going to be the Hope of Israel, the Messiah. But then he died. I have heard that same argument from Jewish people with whom I am discussing Yeshua. They ask how could he possibly have been the Messiah? He died and was buried. In the minds of the Jewish people, 2000 years ago as well as today, the Messiah would not have died.

Then came the curious part. Just that morning, some women went to his tomb to anoint his body, but Yeshua was not there! The women reported that angels had told them he was alive! Yeshua had risen from the dead!

Starting in verse 25, Yeshua said, “Oh foolish ones, so slow of heart to put your trust in all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary for Messiah to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?”

Yeshua started explaining, beginning with Moses, all the prophesies that pointed to his sacrificial death.

By the time Yeshua had completed his explanation, they were at Emmaus so the disciples urged him to spend the night with them because it was almost dark. Yeshua agreed and as they were reclining at the supper table, Yeshua took matza (it was still during the feast of unleavened bread) and said, “Baruch ata, Adonai, Eloheinu, Melech haolam. Hamotzi lechem min ha aretz.” He broke the matza and gave it to the two men. A that time, their eyes were opened and they recognized their Redeemer. Immediately Yeshua disappeared.

So what happened to these men?

Their association with the Redeemer changed.

On the road to Emmaus these disciples were cut off and confused. Just a few days before, they had been with the Master or had seen him up close. Perhaps they had thrown down their cloaks before Yeshua as he rode a donkey into Jerusalem. And now they were estranged. Once they were close but now Yeshua was just a painful memory.

But then they recognized their Redeemer and everything changed. They were no longer estranged, cutoff, separated from their hopes for Israel. Yeshua was alive.

Their Attitude changed.

Luke said they were gloomy. That was an example of understatement. These guys had been following a man who they strongly believed would be the Messiah of Israel. He would free them from Roman oppression, and now he was dead and gone. But when they recognized their Redeemer, they were changed. Their hearts burned within them even before they knew who he was. They were beginning to understand in their mind and training, who the Messiah was. It didn’t fit their model, but Yeshua was alive!

Their Actions changed.

They had obviously been up since early that morning and walked seven miles to Emmaus. It was a long day. It was time for bed. But they had just met the Master. He was alive. They immediately packed up and headed back to Jerusalem to tell the others that they had seen Yeshua and He was alive. They went from retreat and defeat to advancement and victory. They could not wait until morning to tell the good news.

What about today? I think there is a real lesson for us in these to Biblical accounts. Joseph is often called the foreshadowing of the Messiah. So it is appropriate that we look at the account of Joseph in Egypt and compare it favorably to Yeshua.

The lesson for us here today is that when we find the Messiah. When we recognize who He truly is. Then We have a change in our relationship with him.

Our Association with Yeshua changes.

We were once lost in our sins but after meeting Yeshua, our sins are washed away and we are grafted in to the true vine of Israel. We are no longer outsiders, but mishpochah, family. Yeshua said that we can say Abba, a very intimate Aramaic term for Father. I can address the Creator of the Universe as “Daddy”. That’s a change of association.

We have a change in Attitude.

Before we met Yeshua, many of us had a real attitude. And I imagine it wasn’t a good attitude. When we are not followers of Yeshua, many of us are angry, frustrated, depressed, the list goes one. Paul called “those who have no hope”. But with Yeshua we can have hope. We know in part what the future holds. I tell people all the time that I don’t worry too much about world circumstances that involves politics, wars, the foolishness of man-made global warming, or the mark of the beast. I’ve read the back of the book and I see who wins. It is Yeshua and His followers. That’s an attitude changer.

We have a change in Action.

When we encounter Yeshua, our actions shift from me, me, me to Hineni. Here I am Lord. What do you need for me to do? The direction of our lives change. Our faith should be seen in our mitzvot, our works. Our works won’t save us but are indicative of the fact that we are saved. The things we say, the things we do are different when we know Yeshua.

Where are you this morning? Do you know and recognize Yeshua? Do you need a change in your relationship with Him and with others? Do you need a change in attitude? And finally, do you need a change in action and direction? Are you headed the wrong way? Yeshua is the answer.

The Nature of Light

20181208 Parsha Miketz – The Nature of Light Sermon

Torah Portion Genesis Chapter 41-44
B’rit Chadashah – Matt 5:13-16

In this week’s Parsha we continue our story of Joseph how he correctly interprets Pharaoh’s dreams and ascends from prison to the second highest position in Egypt. It is a remarkable turn of events for Joseph that proves God’s hand in directing his life. We see how the dreams he had as a teenager are now coming to fruition as the scene is set for his brothers to have to come to him with hat in hand trying to get food for their families. It is an amazing story of prophecy fulfilled for the purpose of physical salvation of the Israelite people. Joseph was taken from the darkness of prison into the light of God’s purpose. I encourage each of you to take time out this week to read Genesis Chapter 41-44.

But since we are celebrating Hanukkah this week, I wanted to speak on the subject of light. Hanukkah has several names and several spellings. It is known as the Feast of Dedication as evidenced in John 10:22. But it is also popularly known as the Festival of Lights because we light candles each night to commemorate the miracle of the Menorah staying lit for eight nights. I spoke of that miraculous history at length last week.

Today I want to speak on the Nature of Light. What is light? What are its properties? What did Yeshua say about Light?

What is Light? Light is electromagnetic radiation that can be detected by the human eye. Electromagnetic radiation occurs over an extremely wide range of wavelengths, from gamma rays with wavelengths less than about 1 × 10−11 meter to radio waves measured in meters. Within that broad spectrum the wavelengths visible to humans occupy a very narrow band, from about 700 nanometers (nm; billionths of a meter) for red light down to about 400 nm for violet light.

Visible Light is made of many wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation. It takes all those wavelengths from infra-red to ultra-violet to give us a product that allows us to walk across the living room floor in the middle of the night without rearranging our toes.

The spectral regions adjacent to the visible band are often referred to as light also, infrared at the one end and ultraviolet at the other. The speed of light in a vacuum is a fundamental physical constant, the currently accepted value of which is exactly 299,792,458 meters per second, or about 186,282 miles per second.

Since light is a constant, we use it for measuring vast distances. For instance, the distance to the nearest star outside of our own little solar system is 4.22 light years away. That means that if you could travel at the speed of light it would take you 4.22 years to reach Proxima Centauri, the closest star in the Alpha Centauri system.

Light also produces heat.

I’m not going to bore you with the physics behind all those little particles called photons bouncing around hitting each other. There are a couple of reasons why I’m not going to explain this in detail. First of all, it would take too long to adequately plumb the depths of quantum physics in the few minutes allotted to this sermon. But the most important reason I will not be expounding on how light produces heat is…..I don’t have a clue how it produces heat. I just know that if you touch a light bulb even if it has been lit for only a few seconds, it will be warm. Just remember, light produces heat.

Why is all this important? Let’s look at what Yeshua says about light.

In several scriptures He states that he is the light of the world.

John 8:12 Yeshua spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. The one who follows Me will no longer walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 9:5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

John 12:46 As light I have come into the world, so that everyone who trusts in Me should not remain in darkness.

That is easy for us as Believers to accept. Yes He is a great light for all of us to follow.

But then He also says something extraordinary.

Matthew 5:13-16 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt should lose its flavor, how shall it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. (14) You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. (15) Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on a lampstand so it gives light to all in the house. (16) In the same way, let your light shine before men so they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

He says that we are salt of the earth and light of the world. How can we be the light of the world if He is the light of the world? Those are some big sandals to fill. There are some important principles here that bring us back to the properties of light.

Light is a constant.

The speed of light doesn’t change. It is always the same. We can use it to measure to wide expanses of the universe. Yeshua never changes. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. His standard of holiness never changes. What was immoral 2000 years ago is still immoral today, regardless of what modern society tries to foist on us.

When Yeshua tells us that we are the light of the world, we are to be emitting the same morality, the same standard of holiness, the same level of “Chesed” or lovingkindness that He displayed. If we can be invisible believers, you know what I’m talking about. The invisible Believer is one that can go through his daily routine and no one suspects he is a Believer. If you can live your life so that people don’t realize that you are a follower of Yeshua, then I would submit that maybe you are not. You need to get plugged in to the power of Yeshua. If you are a light to the world, then people should see that light.

The world should see that there is “something different” about us. How do you react to offense? Do you bow up like a junk yard dog, ready to fight at a moment’s notice?

How do you react when confronted with genuine need? Are you too busy to help? Too turned off by physical appearances? Or do you show compassion like the Good Samaritan?

It is something to think about.

Yeshua also mentioned being the salt of the earth. We often hear of good, down to earth people as being “salt of the earth”. But what does that mean? Salt was very important in the Middle Eastern culture of the 1st century.

First, because of the lack of refrigeration, salt was used to preserve food, especially meat, which would quickly spoil in the desert environment. Believers in Yeshua are preservatives to the world, preserving it from the evil inherent in the society of ungodly men whose unredeemed natures are corrupted by sin.

Second, salt was used then, as now, as a flavor enhancer. In the same way that salt enhances the flavor of the food it seasons, the followers of Yeshua stand out as those who “enhance” the flavor of life in this world. Believers, living under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and in obedience to the Lord, will inevitably influence the world for good, as salt has a positive influence on the flavor of the food it seasons. Where there is strife, we are to be peacemakers; where there is sorrow, we are to be the ministers of the Messiah, binding up wounds, and where there is hatred, we are to exemplify the love of God, returning good for evil.

Let me ask you a question. Can you hold salt in your hand? Can you see it? Can you taste it? Of course you can. Salt is a tangible commodity. It has physical properties that are readily apparent to our senses.

By the same token, can we hold light in our hand? Can we taste it? No, but….we can see light if enough of the right wavelengths of electro-magnetic energy is present in the right quantity and intensity.

We can feel light. One of the most pleasant sensations for me is to feel the radiant warmth of the sun on my body. Remember, light produces heat and with heat we produce work. Think steam engines, jet engines, cooking stoves.

Yeshua is telling us to be a light to the world. He is telling us to emit some heat. Do some work.

Notice He said we are salt of the earth and light to the world. What’s the difference? Salt of the earth. Something tangible you can hold in your hand. Doing works that can be measured. Works are important. Yaakov, the brother of Yeshua said in the second chapter of his epistle, that you show your faith by your works. In fact, your faith is non-existent without works.

Yeshua that we should let our light shine so that men can see our good works, or rather, the evidence of our faith, and thereby glorifying God the Father.

Our works are tied to earth, flesh and blood, wood, stone, etc. But the light is beyond time and space. How do you measure love, compassion, lovingkindness? It is hard to know if we are a quart low on loving our neighbor. How about 3 meters of compassion?

When Yeshua tells us we are the light of the world, He is telling us that there should be no limit or boundaries to our love and compassion. His love was limitless. It was infinite. I see no reason why we should be different. He said that we could do greater things because we have the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit to guide us and sustain us.

Today as we continue to celebrate the Festival of Lights, I want to encourage each of you to consider the Nature of Light.

It is a constant. Remember God never changes.

It produces heat that leads to a work product. The Lord calls us to work, not sit.

It produces a visible light by which the world can see our mitzvot (our good works) and thereby glorify God in heaven.

Are we fulfilling Yeshua’s expectations of us to be light to the world?

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