Tree of Life Messianic Congregation

A Fellowship of Jewish and non-Jewish Believers in Yeshua

Author: treeofl8 (page 2 of 5)

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


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.

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.
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.”

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.

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,

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

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

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?

Fervent Prayer

Sermon 24Nov18
20181124 Parsha Vayishlach – Fervent Prayer

There was once a man who was very faithful in his prayer life. Every morning when he got up he would kneel by his bed and he would pray, ‘God bless me, God bless my family, God bless this day’. And before every meal he would say a prayer ‘God bless this food’. And every night when he went to bed he would pray, ‘God bless me, God bless my family, God bless this night’. And every time he prayed a prayer, he would take a walnut and place it in a glass jar. And over the years his house became full of glass jars, that were full of walnuts. They were on shelves and bookcases and window sills and everywhere. Walnuts… 1000’s of them! And the man felt very pleased with himself – ‘just look at all these jars, just look at all these walnuts, just look at all these prayers that I have prayed’ he would say.

Then one night, Yeshua appeared to him in a dream. And Yeshua took each of the glass jars, opened them, and one by one he took out the walnuts and broke them open. And inside each one it was empty, nothing but dryness and dust. And Yeshua said to him, you know your prayers are like that, although there have been 1000s of them – they are empty, they are dry, they are meaningless.

All too often we simply pray weak prayers, such as “Dear God, help me to have a nice day” and “Help me not to get so angry today.” But, Yeshua challenges each one of His followers to pray fervent prayers. They can be short, but they’re certainly not weak… If you want to maintain the status quo, don’t even begin this prayer. Or if you want to live an average life, leave it alone. But if you have a passion to make a difference in the world—if you have a longing to see Yeshua return in glory as King of kings and Lord of lords—then I invite you to learn more about fervent prayer.

Once you begin to pray fervent prayers in faith, the way will open for great and wonderful things to happen. Your life will truly be transformed, and you will never be the same again.

What is fervent prayer? Webster defines fervent as very hot, exhibiting great intensity, zealous. Does that describe your prayer life? Do you pray life changing prayers or “now I lay me down to sleep” prayers?

Now listen to this – this is important – Fervent prayer enables God to change the world–through you. Did you get that? Fervent prayer enables God to change the world–through you.

James 5:16 says the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man is very powerful.

And I want to share this morning 3 things about fervent prayer that come out from this story of Jacob. Now Jacob had not seen his brother, Esau, in a very long time. You may remember the story of how years before he had tricked his brother out of his birthright and stole his blessing. Because of that Esau wanted to kill Jacob. But Jacob’s mother found out about Esau’s plan and she arranged for Jacob to live with relatives far away. Now after many years had gone by God tells Jacob to go back home but he’s terrified that his brother Esau still wants to kill him.

And so, he comes to the Jabbok river and crossing it means crossing into Esau’s territory. So before crossing the river Jacob decides that he would try to appease his brother, that he would try to pacify him, that he would try to win him over by sending him some gifts. So, he sent his servants ahead of him with gifts for Esau, 220 goats, 220 sheep, 30 camels, 40 cows, 10 bulls, and 30 donkeys.

And as he was making these preparations, he said to himself, “I will pacify him with these gifts I am sending on ahead; later, when I see him, perhaps he will receive me” (Genesis 32:20).

But his plan doesn’t work. His servants come back with the message, ‘We went to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him’. (32:6) And it says that Jacob was in great fear and distress. Well, of course he was. If you are going to go and shake someone’s hand you don’t take 400 men along with you. It was obvious Esau was unhappy, it was obvious Esau meant business.

And that brings me to the first thing I want to say about fervent prayer:

1. Fervent Prayer challenges the status quo

Things weren’t looking too good for Jacob. The situation looked hopeless. His angry brother was coming toward him with 400 men – looked like this could be the end. But fervent prayer refuses to accept the status quo. Fervent prayer refuses to believe that things have to be the way they appear.

Faced with the hostility of his brother, faced with certain death – he got on his knees and he held God to his promises.

Genesis 32:10-13 Then Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, Adonai, who said to me, ‘Return to your land and to your relatives and I will do good with you.’ (11) I am unworthy of all the proofs of mercy and of all the dependability that you have shown to your servant. For with only my staff I crossed over this Jordan, and now I’ve become two camps. (12) Deliver me, please, from my brother’s hand, from Esau’s hand, for I’m afraid of him that he’ll come and strike me—the mothers with the children. (13) You Yourself said, ‘I will most certainly do good with you, and will make your seed like the sand of the sea that cannot be counted because of its abundance.’”

When he was wrestling with God what do you think he meant when he said ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me’. He’s not talking about prosperity, he’s not talking about God giving him more wealth – anyone who can give as a gift 220 goats, 220 sheep, 30 camels, 40 cows, 10 bulls, and 30 donkeys has enough wealth. Jacob wants to be blessed by being reconciled with his brother.

‘Look God… you said. Look God… you promised, and now I’m not going to let you go until it happens’! That’s pretty fervent! And what has God promised for us? What should the reality of this world be?

Through fervent prayer we stand against the status quo and we hold God to His word and to His promises.

In Acts 16 there’s the story of Paul and Silas in prison. They had been beaten, they had been thrown in jail, but they weren’t defeated. They didn’t sit around in chains and say ‘that’s it, we’re done for, it’s time to give up’. They didn’t moan and groan. They didn’t just accept the status quo. The Bible says, they prayed. Right there in that dark, damp, smelly prison, wrapped in chains – they prayed, and their prayers challenged the status quo. Their prayers challenged the ‘what was’.

And it’s no good us sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves and for the state of our nation and our world. Mainstream Christianity is in decline, morality is at rock bottom, Islam is taking over much of the world, there is huge injustice in the world, famine, starvation, poverty and greed. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Fervent prayer stands up in the face of the status quo and says things can be different – things will be different.

2. Fervent Prayer challenges and changes the status quo

That brings us to point number 2 – Fervent prayer not only challenges the status quo, it changes the status quo. Jacob wasn’t prepared to accept the status quo, he wasn’t prepared to go forward with the mentality of ‘que sera sera, whatever will be will be’. He said, ‘things can be different, things will be different’. And that night the most famous and perhaps the most bizarre wrestling match in all of history took place. That night Jacob wrestled with God. He took God to task and held him to his promises, held him to his word. ‘I will not let you go until you do what you promised, I will not let you go until you keep your word, I will not let you go until you bless me’.

I want to share a little Hebrew with you. The phrase “and he wrestled” is the Hebrew word ויאבק . The root word of vayi-vech is avech, which means dust. So, to wrestle, meant that they had a dust up.

And while Jacob wrestled with God in prayer something quite remarkable happened. As Jacob prayed over here – something changed over there. While Jacob was praying here – a change was happening in his brother Esau over there. How do we know that?

Well in Gen 32:7 it says that when the messengers returned they said, ‘we went to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him’ – fearing for his life Jacob gets on his knees and pleads with God, wrestles with God until God blesses him – and then in Chapter 33 it says, ‘Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men… (verse 4) Esau ran to meet Jacob and (killed him – NO) embraced him. He threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.’

You see, while Jacob was praying here – a change was happening in his brother Esau over there. He went from being an angry, vengeful, spiteful, hate filled person to a loving, caring, forgiving brother. Fervent prayer doesn’t only challenge the status quo – it changes the status quo.

Many of you are familiar with the saying “Prayer Changes Things”. Through prayer, cancers disintegrate, lame people walk, deaf people hear, the blind receive their sight.

I was on a ship that visited the port of Lubek, Germany in 1971. At that time, one of the major prayers of the Christian population in Germany was about the Berlin wall which had been built 10 years earlier in 1961. Practically every service, every prayer meeting, every gathering included prayers that one day Germany would be a unified country again. Fervent prayers – refusing to accept the status quo. And then, quite suddenly, and without warning on 9 November 1989, a scene I remember vividly – the Berlin Wall was gone. Fervent prayer doesn’t only challenge the status quo – it changes the status quo.

3. Fervent Prayer Leaves a Mark

And that brings me to point number 3. When it comes to fervent prayer you need to be careful what you pray for – you might just get it – and it might just come at a cost.
Jacob wrestled with God. He challenged the status quo and through his praying he changed the status quo – but it came at a cost. Verse 26, ‘When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man’. Why wouldn’t God overpower Jacob? He could have quite easily, but because Jacob was holding him to his word, to his promises allowed Jacob to prevail. God is always faithful to his promises. Verse 31, ‘Jacob called the place Peni-el, (face of God) because he had been face to face with God.

Jacob spent the rest of his life limping wherever he went – because of the fervent prayer he prayed that night. His prayer was answered, the status quo was changed – but it came at a personal cost. So I say, be careful what you pray for – you might just get it – and it usually comes at a cost.

Have you ever seen the movie Evan Almighty – God is explaining to Noah what happens when you pray and he says, ‘If someone prays for patience, do you think God gives them patience, or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If they pray for courage, does God give them courage, or does he give them the opportunity to be courageous?

If you’re praying fervent prayers for the homeless people in our town, don’t be surprised if God whispers in your ear and reminds you that you have a spare bedroom or two. If you’re praying for the hunger and poverty of the world, don’t be surprised if God reminds you of your bank balance and that check book that sits in your draw unused. If you’re praying fervent prayers for the lost people in China, don’t be surprised if God tells you to book a seat on the next plane to Beijing.

You know, if you pray to God to make your Rabbi, a great Torah teacher, a visionary leader, someone who prays and gives spiritual direction. Someone who has a heart for the lost, motivating the congregation toward evangelism. Then don’t be surprised when God starts working on each one of us from the Rabbi on up with a desire to start impacting the community with the Gospel of Yeshua – even though it will cost you financially, it will cost you spiritually, it will cost you in time, it will cost you in talents, it will cost you in gifting, it will cost you in commitment. And it may even cost you in rethinking your own attitudes and belief structures.

If you’re praying for God to start moving among us by the power of the Holy Spirit – don’t be surprised if and when he does. And I can guarantee he won’t turn up the way you want him too. But he will challenge your comfort, he will challenge your attitude. He won’t just sit on the back row and be quiet. He’ll make a fuss, he’ll make a dust-up, he’ll make a noise, he’ll make his presence known – and he’ll say ‘hey now I’m here what you going to do with me’. That’s certainly what happened that first Pentecost in Acts 2.
So be careful what you pray for – you may just get it – and it usually comes with a personal cost.

Recall Yeshua’s prayer in John 17, that God would glorify Him, that the disciples would be protected, and that future believers would be unified. That fervent prayer left physical marks on the body of Yeshua that He was able to display to the disciples after His resurrection.

I’ve finished. But let me just ask you. Do you believe in prayer? Do you really believe that prayer changes things? Or is prayer for you just some kind of ritual that you go through. Some kind of religious act you do because that’s what you think you should do.
A true story is told about a small town that had historically been “dry,” but then a local businessman decided to build a pub. A group of believers from a local church were concerned and planned an all-night prayer meeting to ask God to intervene. It just so happened that shortly thereafter lightning struck the bar and it burned to the ground. The owner of the bar sued the church, claiming that the prayers of the congregation were responsible, but the church hired a lawyer to argue in court that they were not responsible. The presiding judge, after his initial review of the case, stated that “no matter how this case comes out, one thing is clear. The pub owner believes in prayer and the believers do not.”

Remember when Peter was in prison in Acts 12 and it says that the believers were
earnestly praying to God for him. And an angel appeared to him and helped him escape – so he made his way to the house where the people were praying for him knocked on the door – and it says, ‘a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door.

When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!” “You’re out of your mind,” they told her.

They prayed but didn’t really believe.

How often are we just like that? We pray, and we pray, but we never really believe that our prayers will achieve anything. Do you believe in prayer? Do you believe in the power of prayer? Do you believe in the power of fervent prayer? ‘The angel brought Peter out of prison, but it was prayer that brought the angel.

Fervent prayer – challenges the status quo.

Fervent prayer – challenges and changes the status quo.

Fervent prayer – Leaves a mark.!

Fervent prayer enables God to change the world–through you. My prayer is that God would make us a fervent congregation –a fervent people – praying fervent prayers that will change this world.

4 Thing to Remember in Uncertain Times

20181117 Parsha Vayetze

4 Things to Remember in Uncertain Times

This week’s Parsha is one of the most well known of all. Every child with any kind of religious training knows this story. Who has not sung that little ditty from our early years, (sing) We are climbing Jacob’s ladder ladder 3x Children of the Lord.

Today I would like to offer a little different take on this classic tale. I read the following illustration in an old sports magazine.

Willie Mays began his major league baseball career with only one hit in his first 23 at-bats. Though he went on to hit 660 home runs (third on the all-time list), and steal more than 300 bases, his debut was so unimpressive it seemed unlikely he would last more than a few weeks as a big-leaguer, let alone become one of the greatest to play the game. He had a very uncertain future in baseball.

The turning point for Mays occurred when his manager, Leo Durocher, found him crying in the dugout after yet another miserable performance at the plate.

The coach put his arm around Mays and said, “What’s the matter, son?” Mays said, “I can’t hit up here. I belong in the minor leagues.”

Durocher said this to Willie Mays: “As long as I’m manager of the Giants, you’ll be my centerfielder.”

You know how the story ends. The very next time Willey Mays came to bat, he hit a home run and he was on his way to becoming a legend of the game.

Fortunately, there was someone there to encourage him and tell him, “I am behind you, this will work out

We also will face times in our life when we are discouraged and despairing because our future seems so uncertain. Life may be falling apart as a result of our own wrong decisions or through no fault of our own, just as a result of living in a fallen world. Doubt, discouragement, and uncertainty can affect varied aspects of our lives. We might be uncertain about our ability to fulfill ministry obligations. We might be uncertain about our material needs be met. We may be uncertain about our personal relationships, our physical health, or some other area of our lives.

During those times of uncertainty and discouragement we need the same thing that Willie Mays needed. We need a word of encouragement. We need to know that the “coach” is behind us. We need to know that things will work out. The good news is that we can have this need for encouragement and assurance met because God, through his word and Spirit, reminds us of what we need to remember in uncertain times. In fact, this particular passage of Scripture contains four things we need to remember in uncertain times.

The four things we need to remember in uncertain times.
1. In uncertain times remember God’s promises.
2. In uncertain times remember God’s presence.
3. In uncertain times remember God’s protection.
4. In uncertain times remember God’s provision.

Jacob was facing a very uncertain future. He was far from home and could not be sure of ever coming back. He had no assurance of finding a wife, a job, a home to stay in, or even having his basic needs met. He was seemingly all alone in a hostile world with no guarantee that he would not be hunted down and killed by his brother Esau or that he would not be harmed by a bandit or wild animal. Jacob was living in very uncertain times and needed a word of encouragement and assurance from God. Jacob did not deserve anything from God, but God in his mercy came to Jacob anyway.

Jacob had traveled about 70 mi. of his 500 mi. journey to Haran. He needed to rest for the evening and so he set up camp in a “certain place.” This place is not especially noteworthy, it did not even have a name. It was not known as a place for Divine visitations. There was nothing particularly holy about this place. It was just a place of dirt and stones, so Jacob had no reason to expect anything unusual. Soon after Jacob went to sleep with this head on a rock, God came to Jacob in a dream.

God sometimes shows up at unexpected times and unexpected places. It may be in the shower, during the drive to work, or when you’re cooking dinner. God is not limited to showing up at so-called spiritual places, such as the church building. Now of course God is everywhere, but I am referring to God showing up or manifesting himself to us in a special way. In this case, God visited and encouraged Jacob through a special dream.
In the dream Jacob saw a ladder going from earth to heaven, with angels going between the two realms, and Adonai at the top. Jacob would have understood the dream’s symbolism as the ladder being representative of a place where there was access to God. The main point of the dream being to affirm to Jacob that the Lord and his angels were present and active even though he’d been unaware of them, as verse 16 attest. Most of us will not have special dreams like Jacob did, but it has been revealed to us through the Bible that God is present and active even when we are unaware of him.

Keep in mind these two principles. First, God sometimes shows up at unexpected times and unexpected places. Second, God is present and active even when we are unaware of him.

In verses 13-15 The Lord speaks to Jacob, and it is from that speech we learn the four things we need to remember in uncertain times.

Genesis 28:13-15 Surprisingly, Adonai was standing on top of it and He said, “I am Adonai, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your seed. (14) Your seed will be as the dust of the land, and you will burst forth to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed—and in your seed. (15) Behold, I am with you, and I will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land, for I will not forsake you until I have done what I promised you.”

1. First, in uncertain times remember God’s promises.

The first thing God reminds Jacob of is the promises he had made. He basically says, “I made a promise to your father Isaac and your grandfather Abraham to give you the very land where you are now asleep as a stranger and to bless the whole world through your offspring and I am going to do it.” When you consider that Jacob was leaving the Promised Land and that he had not one descendant at this time, this is a very reassuring promise. At this point in Jacob journey, his return to the land and future offspring are very uncertain, so this promise is very encouraging.

This principle is not true only for Jacob, but for us also. When we are facing hard or uncertain times, we need to open up our Bibles and let the Ruach HaKodesh remind us of what God has promised. You can pace back and forth, worry, and focus on the problem or you could be strengthened by focusing on the promises of God; the choice is yours. Now let’s look at the second thing we need to remember in uncertain times.

2. Second, in uncertain times remember God’s presence.

We must know that God is with us if we’re to face the uncertain and fearful future with confidence. Jacob needed to know this also, so in verse 15 God said very clearly, “I am with you!” Jacob may have felt alone, but he never was alone and neither are we! God is with us. Remembering his presence has been a source of encouragement in uncertain times for all the saints. King David said in Psalm 23, “I will fear no evil for (because) you are with me.” Yeshua encouraged his disciples in Matthew 28 by assuring them, “Surely I am with you always.” Hebrews 13:5 says, “God will never leave us nor forsake us.” God’s word to us is the same as his word to Jacob, “I am with you.” This does not mean we will escape the storms of life but the knowledge of his presence in those storms can give us peace and confidence in uncertain times.

Have you ever comforted your children in a storm, when the power goes out? A simple hug and an assurance that all you are there calms a lot of fear.

Now to the third thing we need to remember in uncertain times.

3. Third, in uncertain times remember God’s protection.

God’s protection is the next thing that the Lord reminds Jacob of. He says in verse 15, “I am with you, and I will watch over you wherever you go”. In other words, I’m going to protect you on this perilous journey. This did not mean that nothing hurtful or bad would ever happen to Jacob but it did mean to him and it does mean to us that God will protect us so that his plan, which is good, comes to fruition. Jacob did not have to worry about his brother’s anger, bandits, or wild animals. God would protect him.

In the same way, we do not need to fear the dangers we face in today’s world such as: terrorist, disease, crime, wicked people, etc. God has promised to watch over us and certainly that is enough.

4. Fourth, in uncertain times remember God’s provision.

The promise in verse 15 to “watch over you” had a dual meaning. The Hebrew word שמר ,shamar, meant to protect and to provide for or to take care of. The Hebrew word is first used in Genesis 2: 15 where God instructed Adam to “take care” of the garden i.e. provide for its needs. This means God was also promising to provide for Jacob’s needs in addition to promising to protect him from harm. Jacob clearly understood this because he expects God to both watch over him on his journey and provide food and clothing for him as we see in verse 20.

God has promised to provide for all the needs of his people. Yeshua reminds us that the Father knows we need these things and that since he provides them for the birds of the air, certainly he will provide them for us. We need to remember the promise of God’s provision because even in America, where we are materially blessed, there can be times when we are uncertain as to how our needs will be met. This can cost a lot of unnecessary and harmful anxiety in our lives, but it doesn’t have to do this because God has promised to provide for us.

Let’s recap the four things we need to remember in uncertain times:
God’s Promises,
God’s Presence,
God’s Protection, and
God’s Provision.

Let’s look at Jacob’s response to God’s gracious encouragement and assurance.
Read Genesis 28:16-22

In verse 16 we see that Jacob recognizes that God has intervened in his life in a very special way and that such a Divine visitation should elicit a special response. Jacob then proceeds to set up a stone pillar as a memorial of worship. We also should worship God, especially when he reveals himself to us in special ways.

Then in verses 20-22 Jacob made a vow or commitment to the Lord. This vow could be seen as conditional, “If God does what he promised, I will follow him.” The vow could also be translated as, “Since God has promised these things, I will follow him.” In either case Jacob’s response is to serve Adonai as his God and King and to worship him. We also should respond to God’s assurances to us with worship and commitment.

Often, the miraculous things that God has called us to, or done for us, becomes a dusty memory, or even a point of pain because it has not yet born fruit. It’s at these moments that there is an active component on our part in response to God’s promise.

Recognize. Psalm 119:71 It is good for me that I was afflicted,
so that I may learn Your decrees.

Receive Hebrews 11:6 If a person does not believe God, he cannot please him. Anyone who comes to God must believe that God is real. And he must believe that God will bless those who try to find him. God will reward a person, if he really tries to find God.

Recall Psalm 145:4-7, One generation will praise Your works
to another and declare Your mighty acts.
5 I will meditate on the glorious splendor
of Your majesty and Your wonders.
6 They will speak of the might of Your awesome deeds,
and I will proclaim Your greatness.
7 They will pour out the renown of Your great goodness,
and sing joyfully of Your righteousness.

Recommit. Galatians 6:9 So let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we don’t give up.

Conclusion: Each of us will face uncertain times but we can be encouraged because God is with us and for us.

Parsha Toldot – What are you hungry for?

20181110 Parsha Toldot – What are you hungry for?

Today’s Parsha is Toldot, Histories, or genealogies. This is the shortest of the begats that I know of in the Bible. It simply says “Abraham begat Isaac”. This is important because Isaac was the son of promise. Ishmael was not.

The ages of these men when they had sons is interesting. Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born. Isaac was 60 when Jacob and Esau were born. Rebekah gave birth to Jacob and Esau when she was between 35-40. Abraham died at 175 years which made Isaac 75 and Jacob and Esau 15.

If any of you ladies had children at that age you must know that it was not as easy as if you had been 20 years younger. Rebekah had that same experience. She was having so much trouble with her pregnancy that she went for Adonai and asked Him why it seemed like there was a war going on inside her. The Lord told her it was because there were two nations inside her and that indeed the two nations would struggle against each other.

Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from your body will be separated. One people will be stronger than the other people, but the older will serve the younger.

Genetically speaking, Jacob and Esau were twins, but not identical. They came from two separate eggs. Esau was the first born and was covered in red hair like a fur coat. Jacob on the other hand was not remarkable other than holding on to Esau’s heel as he was being born. Jacob looked like most babies. You know, somewhere between Winston Churchill and Mr. Clean.

As the boys grew up Esau became a very proficient hunter and outdoorsman. While Jacob was not. The Bible describes him as “tam” תם . In Bible usage it means perfect, complete, sound, wholesome, morally innocent, having integrity. I have read commentaries by the sages that explained that Jacob stayed home and tended to the business of the family.

The Bible says Isaac loved Esau because he liked the taste of wild game and Esau could supply that. But Rebekah loved Jacob. The Bible doesn’t tell us why she loved Jacob but she did. Maybe it boils down to the argument ending phrase “just because”.

As the story of Jacob and Esau unfolds, we see a lot of intrigue and rivalry between the boys as well as the parents. The relationships between the four of them could prompt us today to say they had a dysfunctional family.

The twins were about 15 when Abraham died, and according to some accounts, during the period of mourning over Abraham’s death, the episode of the lentil stew transpired. Esau had been out hunting and evidently had not been particularly successful. He came back home exhausted and very hungry.

Jacob, the mild one, had made a lentil stew that was seasoned with something that made it red, which was a cultural dish when a family was mourning the death of someone. Esau, the wild one, asked Jacob for the stew and Jacob agreed if Esau would relinquish his birthright that actually was handed down from their grandfather Abraham.

In ancient times, the birthright was a very important and sacred thing. It belonged to the firstborn. The family name and titles were to pass along to the eldest son. He would also receive a chief portion of the inheritance. But it was more than just a title to the physical assets of a family. It was also a spiritual position, and in the case of the people of God, God would lead the family through patriarchs, or fathers (Hebrews 1:1-2).

Additionally, in the special case of Esau and Jacob, that meant the one to whom belonged the birthright was the one through who the covenant promise made to their grandfather, Abraham, would be realized. Ultimately, the Messiah would come through the holder of the birthright and bless the nations of the earth. Esau was the firstborn, and the birthright was his. But like many, he failed to appreciate its value and sacredness. Possibly because it had been spoken over him as a child that he would not inherit, so as a self-fulfilling prophecy, he ensured that he did not. Regardless, Jacob was hungry for a blessing, and Esau settled for some stew.

There are several references for other men losing the physical and spiritual inheritance that was readily available to them, had not chosen to forfeit their birthright.
According to 1 Chronicles 5:1,

The sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel—he was the firstborn, but when he defiled his father’s bed, his (physical) birthright was given to the sons of Joseph son of Israel—so he is not reckoned as the firstborn in the genealogical record.

That pulled Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manassah back into the Jewish genealogies, instead of them being excluded into the Egyptian culture.

When we get to the appointment of the Priesthood for the newly formed nation of B’nei Israel, Numbers 8:18 tells us that the Lord took the Levites in place of all the firstborn sons in Israel, putting the spiritual authority and inheritance onto the Descendants of Reuben’s brother Levi, instead of Reuben’s sons.

King David fathered 19 sons and one daughter. After a series of betrayals, murders, some unspeakable sex crimes, and multiple other family infighting, David appointed Solomon, his 10th son to receive both his Kingship and his Priestly role over the nation of Israel.

Many times, we read stories like this and perhaps ask ourselves what in the world does that mean for me. We live in a different world. Different times, different cultures.
You might think that we don’t have that in today’s world. But we do have a birthright. Each of us who is a believer in Yeshua HaMashiach has a birthright. With it comes blessings as well as responsibility. The one who received the birthright was to be the spiritual leader in his family. He would be responsible for ensuring that the children were taught the ways of the Lord. Tragically, many have despised their birthright by rejecting the call to repentance and following God’s word so that we could be the leader God would have us to be.

Are we leading our families in the way of the Lord? Are we following Yeshua’s mandate to make disciples within our family, disciples of our co-workers, disciples of our employees? Have you despised your birthright in Yeshua because of something that someone has said over you? Do you cling to your brokenness, rather than walk in the victory, authority, and inheritance from your Father?

Three ways you might be forfeiting the benefits that you have in Yeshua are
A. Chasing worldly mammon
B. Staying Comfortably numb
C. Getting Dizzy with the Busy

In order to fill the void within us, many of us pursue careers, higher salaries, fancy cars rather than the Shema. 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 tells us

Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear. For the Day will show it, because it is to be revealed by fire; and the fire itself will test each one’s work—what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss—he himself will be saved, but as through fire.

Or maybe, if our personality is less intense, instead of distracting ourselves with a hunt, as Esau did, we are content to be complacent in our mediocrity and pursue nothing at all. Netflix binging is a routine habit of the comfortably numb believer, distracting one from the call of being sacred, called to something higher, walking in the Birthright. Consider the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25. The third servant who buried the talents, rather than use what he had been given was severely reprimanded:

But his master responded, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! You knew that I reap where I didn’t sow and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you should have brought my money to the brokers, and when I came I would have received it back with interest. 28 Therefore take the talent away from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29 For to the one who has, more shall be given, and he shall have an abundance. But from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. 30 Throw the worthless servant out, into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Finally, an easy one to get lost in at this time of year is Dizzy with the Busy. One of Yeshua’s best friends was gently reprimanded to appreciate what has real value, rather than to be so preoccupied with activity that the important work of being with Him was forsaken in favor of busywork. Luke 10: 39-41 tells the story of Martha.

Martha had a sister called Miriam, who was seated at the Master’s feet, listening to His teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving; so she approached Yeshua and said, “Master, doesn’t it concern you that my sister has left me to serve alone? Then tell her to help me!” 41 But answering her, the Lord said, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and bothered about many things; 42 but only one thing is necessary. For Miriam has chosen the good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

So the question remains, what are you hungry for?

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Matthew 5:6

You know it; the Shema and it’s call to you. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength. It is hard to do that and still devote your heart, soul and strength to the bowl of Esua’s red stew.

We have a birthright of blessings. One of the greatest blessings I see as a believer is being part of a fellowship, a family, where HaShem is my father, Yeshua is my savior that sticks closer than a brother, and I have a worldwide family. I can call on that family to support me, pray for me, encourage me.

Yeshua said in John 14:15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” Since He existed before the beginning of the world AND He is the Word, then that means we still keep Torah as best we can. If we are disciples of Yeshua, we buy into the Tanakh (Old Testament) AND the Brit Chadashah (New Testament). That’s part of our birthright.

But there’s something else to which I want to draw your attention. When men ask are you a disciple of Yeshua, do you point to all the mitzvot you have completed since last Yom Kippur? Do you tabulate how much money you put in the little green box on the back of the auditorium? I hope not. Yeshua gave his definition of being His disciple.

John 13:35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This is NOT a new commandment, but a clarification of the SAME instructions given to us in the second half of Ten Commandments. Showing love and consideration to each other is a wonderful heritage and birthright. Don’t despise your birthright by disparaging those with whom you disagree personally, philosophically, politically, or even theologically.

A soft answer turns away wrath. The get in your face attitudes and antics that we see in today’s political arena have no place in a Messianic Congregation. How will men know who we are? By how much we love.

Prayer: Father, we need Your eyes. We want to see things the way You do. Let us hunger for righteousness that only you can satisfy. Lord, let us be filled with Your Ruach HaKodesh and constantly pursue the more excellent prize of who You are. Don’t let us be satisfied with the things of this world, but instead be sons and daughters of righteousness who are eager to love. Eager to make disciples of the fallen around us. We choose to answer Your call to love the way You love. Give us eyes to see and ears to hear.
In the name of Yeshua…

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