Tree of Life Messianic Congregation

A Fellowship of Jewish and non-Jewish Believers in Yeshua

Category: Uncategorized (page 1 of 6)

The Word Became Flesh

20201017 Parsha Bereshit – The Word Became Flesh

This morning we begin a new Torah Cycle wherein we start reading in Genesis 1:1 and each week progress through the first five books of the Bible.  In every Jewish Synagogue in the world we are reading from the same Torah Portion each week.  As a Messianic Congregation we also read from the Brit Chadashah, the New Testament.  The reading from the Apostolic writings can vary from congregation to congregation and from all the various organizations that publish a reading plan.

We all know the main theme of Bereshit and that being creation of our world and the worlds that surround us.  The imagery of creation can easily overwhelm even the most imaginative mind.  And yet there is an aspect of creation that we can and should grasp and understand.  Who was the creator?  It was Yeshua and He was deity.  How do we know?

1) Scripture Reveals It…

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. We looked upon His glory, the glory of the one and only from the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:1,14

Philippians 2:7-8  But He emptied Himself—taking on the form of a slave, becoming the likeness of men and being found in appearance as a man.  (8)  He humbled Himself—becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Hebrews 2:14, 17  Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared the same humanity— (17)  Therefore He had to be made like His brothers in all things, so He might become a merciful and faithful Kohen Gadol in matters relating to God…

The Word was with God and Word was God.

Scripture reveals that Yeshua was God and also…

Yeshua is deity, and yet He willingly became human, flesh and blood like you and me.

Fully God… and – fully man….

That was a hard concept even in the first century.  John addressed it again in…

1 John 1:1  What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of life—

When you look at the life of Yeshua, you see that he lived it as a man.

2) His Life Demonstrates It…

  • Yeshua was conceived in a womb
  • He was born just like you & me
  • And he came out of the womb bloody and slimy just like you and I did
  • Yeshua had to depend on His parents, to fed Him, Bath Him and change His dirty diapers
  • Yeshua had to learn to walk and no doubt took many falls on that journey
  • He had to learn to talk… I wonder what His first word was?
  • Yeshua got tired and he slept
  • He got hungry and he ate
  • He got thirsty and he drank
  • If you hit Him – He bruised
  • If you cut Him he bled
  • If you killed Him – he died.

To think of Yeshua in such a light is uncomfortable to some.  But personally, I like to think of him like that.  It gives me a sense of knowing Him better.

I like the Yeshua who danced at weddings.  Turned water into the finest wine ever made….or the finest Welches grape juice if you are a Baptist or Pentecostal.

I like the Yeshua who played with children, laughed and told them stories.  I can imagine him walking with His disciples and saying “hold up guys, I got a rock in my sandal”.

Yeshua being a man, makes all the difference in the world…

Why? Because:

  1. A) Yeshua The Man, Allows You To See God…

John 1:18  No one has ever seen God; but the one and only God, in the Father’s embrace, has made Him known.

He has shown us what God is like.

Before Yeshua no one had ever seen God.  Even Moses, who spoke with God as a man speaks face to face could not see Him in all his glory.  He would have died.

It is really hard for finite creatures (like us) to wrap our brains around an infinite God.  He is too big, well beyond our comprehension.

But I can relate to Yeshua.  That’s why He became a human being.

Yeshua as a human helps us to know that God cares for us, loves us, is concerned about every aspect of our lives.

  1. B) Yeshua The Man, Allows You To See Yourself

 

QUESTION – how do you see yourself this morning?

My guess is that the way you see yourself today is closely connected to the way that you think the world sees you. So, this morning, do see yourself as;

Important? Valuable? Desirable? Acceptable? Significant?

Do you see yourself as someone who is worth being with? Maybe so. But I suspect that the opposite might be true. You don’t see yourself in a positive light.  You don’t feel important, valuable, or desirable.

Yeshua the man, allows you and me to see ourselves. To see ourselves not as the world sees, not as other people see us and not as we see ourselves (because of past sin and failure)…but as God sees us… awesome, loved by God, precious, valuable and significant to Him.

Look at yourself like Yeshua looks at you, someone worthy to die for.

  1. C) Yeshua The Man, Shows You Who You Can Become

 Tired of that old life? Don’t fret.  Yeshua the man shows you who you can become…

One of the best words in the English language is ”New”.

It’s great to start a new year;

  • get a new car,
  • move into to new house,
  • learn new things
  • read new books
  • hear new songs
  • start a new relationship,
  • get a new beginning

AND – do you know what…? GOD – seems to be pretty fired up about the word new too.

Throughout the bible we see God talking about; New names… New songs… A new covenant, New wine & new wineskins… A new heavens & new earth, Behold I am making all things new

Those who become Believers in Yeshua become new persons.

2 Corinthians 5:17  Therefore if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

  1. D) Yeshua The Man, Destroyed Death and the devil…

Hebrews 2:14-17    Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared the same humanity—so that through death He might break the power of the one who had the power of death (that is, the devil)  and free those who by fear of death were in bondage all their lives.  For surely He is not concerned about angels, but about the seed of Abraham.  (17)  Therefore He had to be made like His brothers in all things, so He might become a merciful and faithful Kohen Gadol in matters relating to God, to make atonement for the sins of the people.

 

This is a big deal

  • Because God the Son, became a man
  • Because He was like us in every respect
  • Because He was flesh and blood
  • Because He lived a sinless life
  • Because he offered that life and as payment, as a sacrifice for our sins…

The devil has been defeated

Death has been destroyed!

Mercy has been given

AND – His amazing grace has been unleashed in the world…

Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Yeshua.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. – 1 Corinthians 15:55-58

Resisting the pressure of socio-political culture, Jonathan Isaac of the Orlando Magic stood for the national anthem on July 31, the lone player or coach in that game who did not kneel. Isaac stood with his hands behind his back, and it was no surprise to his teammates, who know that he is an ordained minister. According to CNN.com, In a post game interview, he stated…

“…I’m standing and not wearing a (BLM) T-shirt to get something done… to get out of the realm of skin color… to see all the things that we all do each and every day that aren’t right, and come to an understanding that at the end of the day, the answer to it all, to all of our problems, to all of everything that goes on in our world is Jesus.” – Jonathan Isaacs

YES – because of Yeshua the man… WE – are free!

Free from sin

Free from guilt

Free from shame

Free from popular opinion

Free from condemnation

Free from the fear of dying

Free from the fear of living

Free from a life of wishful thinking

Our hope is not wishful thinking, instead it is an confidently expected outcome.

Yeshua the man destroyed death and the devil..

  1. E) Yeshua The Man, Understands Everything That You Will Ever Experience …

QUESTION – have you ever felt like no one really understood what you were going through?

You have a problem, you’re being tempted, you’re in a struggle, you’re facing a crisis…AND – you feel like you’re all alone…

Sure – you try to talk to people, but most of the time all you get back is blank stares. either people don’t get it, don’t WANT to get it, or they can’t do anything about it!  And sometimes you get the “I’ll be praying for you” line that is just a dismissal.

Hebrews 4:14-16

Therefore, since we have a great Kohen Gadol who has passed through the heavens, Yeshua Ben-Elohim, let us hold firmly to our confessed allegiance.

(15)  For we do not have a kohen gadol who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all the same ways—yet without sin.

(16)  Therefore let us draw near to the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace for help in time of need.

 

ABOUT – sixty years ago C. S. Lewis imagined someone objecting here:

 

“Hey, if Yeshua never sinned, then he doesn’t know what temptation is like. He lived a sheltered life and is out of touch with how strong temptation can be.”

Here is what Lewis wrote in response to that objection:

“A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. . . .

A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. . . .

Jesus, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means.”

 

If Yeshua had not become a man, we would not have a God who really, fully and experientially understood us.  Although God, would have knowledge of human life (because he created it), we might still be able to hurl the accusation,

“God you just don’t understand what it’s like to be me. You can’t possibly understand the temptations I struggle with.

AND – besides that I am handicapped by all kinds of weaknesses, problems and pain that you’ve never faced, because you’re all-powerful.

AND GOD – if you can’t understand me you can’t really help me. AND – you certainly have no right to judge me.”

BUT – the fact is that “the Word became flesh and lived among us.” AND THEREFORE – no matter what we face, whether it’s temptation, weaknesses, or suffering Yeshua can and does say “Been there… Dealt with that…Wore out the T-shirt…I can help! ”

YES – TO THOSE…

  • Who feel alone
  • Who had a friend betray them
  • Who are tempted by (lust, money, popularity, power)
  • Who are weeping over the death of a loved one
  • Who had best intentions misunderstood and twisted
  • Who are stressed by the demands of life
  • Who experience disappointments and setbacks or had everyone walk away when they needed them the most
  • Who are in physical pain
  • Who have had family members think they are crazy
  • Who have had loved ones who actually WENT crazy.
  • Who have had their name and reputation slandered by other people
  • Whose lives seemed to be filled with sorrow and grief
  • Who don’t have a lot of money or material things
  • Who find it so hard to do the right thing and to follow God’s will

Yeshua the man says; “Been there… Dealt with that…I can help! ”

Let me read Hebrews again.

 

Hebrews 4:14-16

Therefore, since we have a great Kohen Gadol who has passed through the heavens, Yeshua Ben-Elohim, let us hold firmly to our confessed allegiance.

(15)  For we do not have a kohen gadol who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all the same ways—yet without sin.

(16)  Therefore let us draw near to the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace for help in time of need.

 

Let’s Pray

 

Here we are, now what? Returning to God’s Normal

20200912 Parsha Nitzavim-Vayelech – Here we are, Now what?

Getting back to God’s Normal

 

Blessing

 

This week’s Parsha is a double Parsha because we are not in a leap year.  It encompasses Deuteronomy 29:9 to 31:30. The most significant aspect of this portion is the renewal of the Mosaic Covenant with Israel.  We have to remember that the vast majority of Bnei Israel standing on the East side of the Jordan River were not present at Mt Sinai.  All the people above the age of 20 had died out in the wilderness due to their lack of faith.

 

Therefore, at Hashem’s direction, Moses gathered the people together to renew the covenant that their fathers heard at Mount Sinai and to which they agreed wholeheartedly.

 

Deuteronomy 29:9-14  “You are standing today, all of you, before Adonai your God—the heads of your tribes, your elders, your officials, all the men of Israel,  (10)  your children, your wives, and the outsider within your camp (from your woodchopper to your water carrier).  (11)  Each of you is to cross over into the covenant of Adonai your God that He is cutting with you today, and into His oath.  (12)  “This is in order to confirm you today as His people. So He will be your God, just as He promised you and just as He swore to your fathers—to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob.  (13)  Not with you alone am I cutting this covenant and this oath,  (14)  but with whomever is standing here with us today before Adonai our God and with whomever is not here with us today.

 

So what were they renewing?  Which Covenant?  Certainly, they were renewing the Mosaic Covenant because that would be the laws and regulations for their daily lives. These laws and regulations also made them distinct from the peoples and nations around them.

 

But Genesis 22 tells us of another covenant.  That was the Covenant God made with Abraham.  The Mosaic Covenant was a reaffirmation of the Abrahamic Covenant that promised that Abraham would be the father of many nations.  Even more importantly, it promised that all the families of the earth would be blessed through his seed.

 

That is the promise of the Messiah, who would come and be a savior to anyone who would believe in him.  All the world is blessed by the Messiah Yeshua IF they will just lay hold of that promise.

 

Verse 14 has some strange language in it.  God was cutting the covenant for all who were standing there at that moment.  But then He says it was for whomever was NOT standing there on that day.  In other words, God’s promise to Abraham and the Children of Israel was not for a moment in time.  It was for ALL generations.  When God makes a promise, it is a forever kind of thing.

 

On this occasion of getting ready for the crossing over into Canaan what did Moses do?  He recited the Law that God had given them at Sinai.  He had a copy written for each tribe.  He gave a commandment that every 7 years, the people would get together hear the Law read out to them.  In the intervening years the Law was retold by memory and we know that sometimes memory can fail us, so that 7 year requirement was important to bring us all back to the center of the road.

 

There was another 7 year requirement that was important to God, that was outlined in Exodus 23:10-12. It pertained to giving the land an opportunity to rest, and it also provided the poor among B’nei Israel an opportunity to gather and be fed. It was an issue of social justice and provision for the poor, and also a prescribed Sabbath for the land, for animals, and for the servants among them.

10 “For six years you are to sow your land and gather the increase. 11 But during the seventh year you are to let it rest and lie fallow, so that the poor among your people may eat. Whatever they leave behind, the animals of the field may eat. You are to deal with your vineyard and your olive grove in the same way.12 “You are to do your work for six days, but on the seventh day you will rest, so that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and also the son of your handmaid and the outsider may be refreshed.

Let’s fast forward a thousand years to the end of the Babylonian exile.  The Children of Israel were coming back into the land after 70 years of exile in Babylon.  You can read about it in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

 

Did you ever wonder why they were exiled for 70 years?  It was because Israel did not keep the 7 year sabbath for the land and for the poor beginning with the reign of King Saul.  There was 490 years from the time of Saul to the destruction of the first temple.  490 divided by 7 equals what?  That’s right, 70 years.  The land got its prescribed years of rest, and Israel was reprimanded for her social injustices.

 

2 Chronicles 36:20-21  He exiled to Babylon those who had escaped the sword and they became slaves to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia—  (21)  in fulfillment of the word of Adonai by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had paid back her Shabbat rests—for as long as it lay desolate—the Shabbat rest was kept till 70 years were complete.

 

Israel had not let the land rest, or her people rest.  They had not observed the commandments concerning the shmitah such as returning land back to the original clans, freeing slaves, and perhaps, most important, they did not gather together and read aloud the Torah.  They had abandoned God’s standard of holiness and pursued their own path.  The reading of Torah may very well have avoided the exile if they and read it and heeded its words.

 

But God left a remnant.  It seems as though He always has a remnant.  And God’s remnant is enough for a majority. We can read about it in Ezra.

 

Ezra 9:8  But now for a brief moment Adonai our God has shown us favor in leaving us a remnant and giving us as a peg in His holy place. Thus our God has enlightened our eyes and has given us a little relief in our bondage.

 

I like the imagery in this verse.  He has given us a peg in the Temple.  Some translations say a nail in the Temple.  For all of our transgressions, Hashem still grants us his grace and a place in the temple.  Through a lot of difficulty, danger and delay, the Temple was finally rebuilt along with the wall around Jerusalem.  There were divisions among the people.  They had different opinions about how things should be done.

 

Ezra 3:12  But many of the kohanim, Levites and patriarchal leaders, older men who had seen the former House, wept loudly at the sight of the founding of this House, while many shouted for joy.

 

It was the glass half full or the glass half empty conundrum.  Some Levites wept at past glories lost and others rejoiced that there was still a foundation and a place to start the rebuilding.

 

I’ll mention just in passing another odd parallel between the Exodus from Egypt and the return to Israel from Babylon.  Only about 20% of all the Hebrew people in Egypt left to go to the promised land.  And only about 20% of all the Jews left the lives they had carved out for themselves in the land of Babylon. In fact, Nehemiah 3:12 says that “Shallum son of Hallohesh, the ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, and his daughters repaired the next section.” I think it would be wise for us to acknowledge and honor the efforts of ADONAI’s daughters, who rise up to the occasion and readily accept the labor intensive efforts that are required to build the Temple. We could not move forward as a congregation were it not for the significant contributions of our ladies here at Tree of Life. It is clearly significant to ADONAI also, as it was recorded in scripture that certain women worked side by side with the men, in dangerous circumstances, to do God’s work.

 

I think though that one of the most important things that B’nei Israel did in the building of the walls and the Temple was what happened at the rededication of the Temple. Let’s read together some more excerpts from Nehemiah.

 

Nehemiah 9:5 5The Levites… said: “Stand up! Bless Adonai your God, from everlasting to everlasting! May Your glorious Name be blessed; may it be exalted above all blessing and praise…

 

Nehemiah 9:7 7“You are Adonai, the God who chose… Abraham… and made the covenant with him to give the land… to his seed. You have fulfilled Your words, for You are righteous… 13“You descended on Mount Sinai and spoke with them from heaven. You gave them just judgments, reliable laws, and good statutes and mitzvot. 14You made known to them Your holy Shabbat and ordained for them mitzvot, statutes and Torah by the hand of Your servant Moses…

 

Nehemiah 9:16 16“But they, our ancestors, became arrogant. They stiffened their neck and did not obey Your mitzvot.

 

Nehemiah 13:1  On that day, the scroll of Moses was read aloud in the hearing of the people.

 

As they were trying to get back to a normal, pre-exilic existence, Israel began the right way.

 

  1. They stood up together as a unified body.
  2. They worshipped ADONAI together
  3. They remembered the covenants together
  4. They confessed their sin together
  5. And then they read the Law of Moses out loud to the people. They redirected the people to God’s standard of holiness.

 

Today we are also beginning again. The world would have us believe that we are “Stronger Together” and use it as a campaign for wearing protective masks and following the same handwashing hygiene protocols that ADONAI prescribed for B’nei Israel thousands of years ago.  I don’t know why we went through all of this.  Perhaps We have been exiled for 6 months due to the actions of misguided government officials and aided by a corrupt media.  In some parts of the country, their local governments are suing congregations and fining them $5,000 per day because they to the courageous stand to meet together to worship God.  Fortunately, we don’t have those kinds of extremes here in Texas.  So instead of wailing and crying about the government abuses, let’s be like those that rejoiced that at least the Temple foundations still stood.  We have our beautiful facility back and we can once again gather to worship God.

 

So here we are.  Now what?  We are one week away from the High Holy Days.  Next week we will all gather back here with our shofarot and we will celebrate Rosh Hashanah.  This is a perfect opportunity to reassess our lives and our relationship to our Creator. How can we best “Get back God’s Normal?”

 

READ THE WORD

 

Instead of having someone read God’s word to us, we all have Bibles available to us.  I encourage each of you to make a concerted effort to get into the Word, study it, meditate on it and follow it.  It is our roadmap.  It is what keeps us on the right path.

 

For our part at Tree of Life, we will continue to teach directly from God’s word and not from the latest thing that is trending on social media.  If you want to get a head start on what I will be teaching each week, look up what Parsha is for that week. A great resource for the weekly portion is the website at First Fruits of Zion.  You can see their website up there on the screen.  Unless I get a special direction from the Lord, I will be teaching somewhere in the Parsha.

 

INTERNALIZE THE WORD

 

David said in Psalms 119:11

Psalms 119:11  I have treasured Your word in my heart, so I might not sin against You.

 

David used an analogy of eating God’s word, taking it into your body so that it becomes part of you.

 

Psalms 34:9  Taste and see how good Adonai is. Blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.

 

SPREAD THE WORD

 

Finally, don’t be the Dead Sea.  The Dead Sea is dead because it doesn’t have an outlet.  The Jordan river and other streams flow into it but nothing comes out.  One of the requirements for a mikveh is that it must be living water, not stagnated water that doesn’t flow.  It’s the same with our lives as Believers.  We can take in all the teaching and preaching, but if we don’t do something with it, then what good is it.  One of the last things Yeshua said to his disciples did not include sitting on a bench doing nothing.

 

Matthew 28:19-20  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, immersing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Ruach ha-Kodesh,  (20)  teaching them to observe all I have commanded you. And remember! I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

 

Some will ask why did all this COVID stuff happen.  I’m not going to go into global geopolitics and economies and all that stuff.  But I have been thinking on something that Moses said.

 

Deuteronomy 8:15-16  He led you through the great and terrible wilderness—fiery serpents and scorpions, and thirsty ground where there was no water. He brought forth water for you from the flinty rock.  (16)  He fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, in order to afflict you and test you, to do you good in the end.

 

I don’t know why, but I do know that it is all for our good in the end.  Let’s pick up, and go forward in the Lord’s grace and strength, letting the world know that greater is He that is in me and he that is in the world.

 

STAND with me, and let’s pray TOGETHER:

 

Father, we acknowledge together, as a unified body of Believers, that You are Almighty, the maker of the heavens and earth, the King of the Universe. Teach us how to worship You in the way that You deserve, instead of with vapid empty praise. We remember Your covenant with Abraham, that all the earth would be blessed through the promised Messiah. We remember Your covenant with Moses, that if we listen AND obey Your commandments, You would be faithful to hear our prayers. We confess our sin, and our need for Yeshua HaMashiach, our promised Messiah, and His sacrifice by which we are reconciled to You. And we ask that You create in us the craving to consume Your Living Word, that Your Word would be the guiding light within us, that leads us during this season and those times yet to come…

Trust

20200606 Parsha Naso – Trust

Blessing

Torah Portion Numbers 4:21-7:89
Haftarah Judges 13:2-25
Brit Chadashah John 8:3-11

Our Torah Portion this week is Naso. It is not a recipe for a Japanese soup but means “take” as in take a census. The last couple of Parashot have included instructions for taking a census of the Israelites for various reasons. There was the one for military eligibility that didn’t include the Levites and then there was one for the Levites. In this Parsha Moses is directed to take a census of the Levites between 30 and 50. These would be the men who would be involved in active service in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple.

Parsha Naso is the largest of all the Parashot at 176 verses. It is in my opinion, one of the strangest due to one particular instruction. We see this one in Numbers 5:11-31. It is the instruction about what to do when a wife is unfaithful, or if her husband suspects her of being unfaithful. It is a very curious ritual in which a man who suspects his wife of committing adultery (and there are no witnesses) brings his wife to the Kohayn. The minutia of this ritual is spelled out in the Torah itself, as well as Sifrei Bamidbar. Not only that, but an entire tractate of Talmud is dedicated to this curious ritual, Tractate Sotah.

Torah gives us a very specific situation. A man believes his wife has committed adultery, and she denies it. There are no witnesses. So a “spirit of jealousy” comes upon the man so that he brings his wife to the Kohen to enact this ritual. The ending of the ritual is that she drinks the “bitter waters”, and if she has committed adultery, she becomes sick and dies. If she has not committed adultery, she is fine.

Sifrei explains that the water she is forced to drink does not actually taste bitter. Rather, it embitters her body so that she becomes sick and dies. The Halacha of the ritual is spelled out and can be easily found. But the reasons for the ritual itself is why Torah imparts to us the Sotah ritual.

Realistically, if the ritual of the Sotah is ever invoked by a man, that marriage is over. Either the woman has committed adultery, in which case she’s going to die drinking the bitter water, or the woman has not committed adultery and her husband has wrongly suspected her, to the point where he would force her to go through the ritual of Sotah. Either way, the marriage is over. So, truly, the ritual of the Sotah is designed to never be invoked.

Why would a ritual appear in the Torah if it is designed to never be invoked? The answer lies in discovering the trap of “the spirit of jealousy”. This is a destructive force which Torah makes us confront. In the situation of the Sotah, the jealousy has gotten so out of control that the husband wishes to punish his wife with death, not by an impromptu active passion, but by a premeditated calculating method. To get to the point of wishing to invoke the Sotah, the husband must be completely consumed with rage and hate. If the husband was willing to forgive his wife, he would never bring her to the Kohen for the ritual of Sotah.

If the wife has not committed adultery, she is trapped. Her husband does not believe her, and is so filled with jealousy and rage that he wants to see her die. If she goes through the ritual of Sotah and survives the bitter water, then what? Will the husband’s rage dissipate? It seems unlikely. If she has committed adultery, and she confesses to her husband, is he going to forgive her? This too seems unlikely.

So the real lesson Torah is teaching in the ritual of Sotah is about the husband’s jealous rage. The husband needs counseling. He is out of control. He needs to be reminded about his love for his wife. If he cannot conquer his own jealousy, he will ultimately destroy himself. It is the Kohen’s duty to talk the husband out of invoking the ritual of Sotah by pointing out that in the end nothing good can come of it. If he cannot overcome his own jealous rage, he should give his wife a Get and divorce her. If he can conquer himself, perhaps he can forgive her if she has committed adultery, or reconcile with her if she has not. Therefore, the key is in the husband conquering himself.

But there is another aspect to this that is important too. It is called trust. In the above Biblical illustration, there is definitely a breakdown in trust or perhaps a breakdown in faithfulness. The result of the husband not trusting his wife was the horrible humiliation of the Sotah. But there is also the possibility of the lack of faithfulness on the part of the wife. Either way a relationship was probably irrevocably severed. Never again could there be a marriage of two people sharing life together in peace.

There is an application that we can draw from the Sotah. It takes faithfulness, trust, and forgiveness for a relationship to work. I am not speaking exclusively about the marriage relationship. I am speaking about any kind of situation where there are two or more people engaged in activities that involve commitment to each other. That could be a work related environment, a sports team, a school homework project, or even a committee in the synagogue trying to develop a children’s education program. Basically, any serious social engagement could benefit from studying the Sotah.

Let’s assume the marriage started off happily with a man and woman in love with each other and looking forward to a long life together. But somewhere on this path of marital bliss they run off the road. Something happens and pride, emotions, stubbornness, anger, jealousy, you name it hits them from both sides. Instead of putting on the brakes and slowing down, they accelerate off the cliff. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Is your marriage going to be perfect with never an argument or harsh word? Probably not. How about those work groups that we all have suffered though? Is your family like Leave it to Beaver, or more like Dallas? Who shot JR anyway? No we all live in the real world and the real world is imperfect. My dad had a saying, It may not be right, but that’s life, so you have to do the right thing.

Let’s look at Yeshua doing the right thing.

John 8:3-11
(3) The Torah scholars and Pharisees bring in a woman who had been caught in adultery. After putting her in the middle,
(4) they say to Yeshua, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of committing adultery.
(5) In the Torah, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do You say?”
(6) Now they were saying this to trap Him, so that they would have grounds to accuse Him. But Yeshua knelt down and started writing in the dirt with His finger.
(7) When they kept asking Him, He stood up and said, “The sinless one among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
(8) Then He knelt down again and continued writing on the ground.
(9) Now when they heard, they began to leave, one by one, the oldest ones first, until Yeshua was left alone with the woman in the middle.
(10) Straightening up, Yeshua said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?”
(11) “No one, Sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Yeshua said. “Go, and sin no more.”

When Yeshua was confronted with the woman caught in adultery He realized this was a trap set for him by the religious leaders. According to the Law she should be stoned, but so should her paramour. But he was nowhere to be found. Witnesses were not named. A capital crime had to have at least two witnesses. There were a lot of things wrong with this confrontation.

But Yeshua just bent down and started writing in the dust. We don’t know what he wrote. Maybe names of the accusers and some of their hidden sins. We don’t know. But finally, Yeshua seems to agree with the religious leaders and says for the sinless ones to cast the first stone. Each of the accusers left without a further word.

There are some in today’s world that would condemn the woman and berate her in front of the crowd so as to humiliate her or perhaps contrast her lifestyle with their own. But Yeshua didn’t do that. He asked her where are your accusers, those who would condemn you. She replied that they were all gone.

Yeshua then said, I don’t condemn you. He certainly didn’t condone her conduct. I’m sure he knew all the circumstances surrounding her behavior. But He told her not to sin any more. Stop that conduct, that lifestyle and change.

What a contrast to the religious leaders. They were exercising the adrenaline rush of the power to condemn. Yeshua was exercising the power to forgive. Yeshua was the model here for what we read in Romans 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Messiah Yeshua..

We are not told what became of the woman. After this public humiliation in the Temple complex her life would have been a disaster. Divorce if she was married, social shunning if she was not.

However, through the love and example of Yeshua, she had hope. She was perhaps at the end of the rope, but not the end of her hope.

There is always a place of forgiveness at the feet of Yeshua. No matter what we have done, we can come to Him for forgiveness and a new start.

2 Corinthians 5:17
(17) Therefore if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

It doesn’t matter what you have done in the past, there is forgiveness, hope and a future in Yeshua.

Be Holy

20200418 Parsha Sh’mini Be Holy

The Parsha this week is Sh’mini which means the eighth as in the eighth day and describes the culmination of the consecration of Aaron and his sons. The account is very detailed regarding the offerings. The remainder of the Parsha has two major stories that really don’t seem related, but perhaps they are.

Chapter 10 tells the story of Aaron’s two oldest sons who took it upon themselves to offer sacrifices in an unauthorized manor. Their punishment was swift and final. Fire came from heaven and killed them both. They did not regard the instructions of Adonai.

Chapter 11 gives us a description of the kinds of animals that we are permitted to eat. Most of us follow the rules laid down in Chapter 11 to a certain degree. Some are very careful to follow God’s instructions to a Tee while others are more relaxed.

This morning I want to bring your attention to verses 44 and 45.

Leviticus 11:44-45 “For I am Adonai your God. Therefore, sanctify yourselves, and be holy, for I am holy. You are not to defile yourselves with any kind of creeping thing that moves on the earth. (45) For I am Adonai who brought you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. Therefore, you should be holy, for I am holy.

We are coming out of a very strange period in the life of the United States. There has never been a national shutdown order. There really wasn’t a national shutdown order in this case, but the effect was still the same. Millions of Americans shuttered at home, suddenly found themselves out of job with no means of supporting their families. Tragically, the invisible monster originating from China called Covid-19 has infected millions around the world and as of this writing, almost 150,000 lives have been lost.

As a result of this virus we have been asked, and in some states, ordered to stay home except to go to work if you still have a job, or to buy groceries. We have been separated from much of what was considered normal American life.

We have been separated, set apart. How does that apply to our text?

Most of you know that I have taught for a long time about holiness and what it means. For those of you who are new, I used to think God was being cruel and unfair when he told us to be holy, because He was holy. The Holiness of God was too far above me, it was unattainable. How could I ever achieve such a level of righteousness so as to be like God?

Baruch Hashem, I have learned that when Adonai says we can be holy like He is holy, it doesn’t mean we have to be totally sinless. It means to be separated out from the world and its ways.
For the last few weeks, we have been separated out away from jobs, friends, family, activities that we enjoy. So, as some of the restrictions of our personal liberties are slowly being restored in the next few weeks I was wondering if there could be a holy purpose in all that has occurred with this Chinese virus?

What are some of the things we have lost?
1. Loved ones have died. This is the main thing we have lost.
2. 1 in 4 Americans have lost the jobs or had wages cut.
3. Many are in danger of losing their homes or vehicles.

But are there some things that we have gained or benefited from during this crisis?
1. Some of us have gained weight, but we are not going there this morning.
2. We have gained a greater appreciation for the teachers of our nation that sacrifice so much to teach our children.
3. Hopefully, we have used this down time to get reacquainted with our spouses, parents, children and others we hold dear.
4. I have seen people stepping out of their comfort zone to help other people.
5. Industries have re-tooled to provide masks, respirators and other needed medical supplies.
6. We have learned that Hollywood and sports are not essential. But healthcare workers, truckers, farmers, and the guys that re-stock the grocery shelves, they are essential.

What about in your own personal lives? This is not exactly the easiest format for discussion, but you can comment and we can see how others may have been blessed through this shutdown. Of course, it won’t be private, but perhaps there is something you might want to share.

For me, this has been a learning experience.

1. I hope I have become more sensitive to the hurts of others around me.
2. I have been blessed with good friends who will take the time to rebuke me in love when I am wrong.
3. Trusting God to meet needs can be a challenge in times like this.
4. Our ministry outreach online has more than tripled.

We are not out of the woods yet and perhaps we will have a few more weeks before we get back to some semblance of normality. But I thought that this might be a great opportunity for each one of us to reach out to someone who might need an encouraging word. While I fuss about technology, it has great potential and it makes reaching out to others very easy. So, turn off Netflix, put down the remote, and call or write to your brother or sister, aunts or uncles, maybe you are estranged from someone. Now would be a great time to let them know you care about them.

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with someone on my mind. That’s an opportunity to pray for that person. They might need the prayer and I certainly could benefit from the practice.

Make this time of separation a time of Holy Separation. Let people you know and love that you care about them. You could even call someone you don’t particularly like and tell them God loves them. I promise, you will be blessed.

And when we do come out of this and we return to work, school, or wherever, be kind. You don’t know what all people went through during this time.

Ask yourself, when we see the Chinese Virus in the rear view mirror, am I a bitter person or am I a better person? Am I closer to friends and family or have I closed them out?

The governor of New York said this week “we brought the number down. God did not do that. Faith did not do that.” He obviously does not know that God that I know. The one that can heal and restore during these times of isolation.

A few years ago the US Army had a recruiting slogan “Be all you can be”.

In our text it says to “be holy”. That verb “be” or “to be” is powerful. If you look it up in your webster dictionary, the definitions ramble on for a couple of pages. A couple of things struck me. “To be” can mean to exist, or equality, so when God says to be holy like He is holy, tells me there is equality. I can be separated out to and for God. And, I can have right standing before God because He had a son who really did exist and because of the sacrificial death of Yeshua we actually can BE holy.

Sacrifices of Praise

“LET US OFFER UP SACRIFICES OF PRAISE!”

Blessing

Our Torah Portion this morning is from the first five chapters of the book of Leviticus. It is called Vayikra or “He called”. In fact, the name of the book of Leviticus in Hebrew is Vayikra. It is sometimes referred to as the Torah of the Kohanim. You could say it was the instruction text for the priests because Leviticus largely is about how to conduct the sacrificial system and the form of worship that God was setting up for the Israelites.

Parashat Vayikra specifically outlines the types of sacrifices that are required at what time and for what purpose with what kind of animal or produce.

TEXT: Heb. 13:15-16; Rom. 12:1-2
INTRO: Mention the word “Worship” to someone and see how they respond! To most people the idea of “Worship” is something that happens on a Saturday or Sunday morning in a building somewhere called a Synagogue or Church. For some, the conditions have to be just perfect in order for them to worship…too often people don’t enjoy worship unless things are just right, thus we are good at finding all kinds of reasons to avoid coming to synagogue or church…imagine the world acting like this!

ILLUS: What if we gave up sports: football in the fall, baseball in the summer, basketball in the winter, based on the following 12 excuses:

1. Every time I went, they asked for money.
2. The people I sat next to didn’t seem friendly.
3. The seats were too hard and not comfortable at all.
4. The air conditioning is always too hot or too cold.
5. I went to many games but the coach never came to call on me.
6. The referees made decisions that I couldn’t agree with.
7. The game went into overtime and I was late getting home.
8. The band played songs I’d never heard before and it wasn’t my style of music.
9. It seems the games are always scheduled when I want to do other things.
10. I suspect that I was sitting next to some hypocrites. They came to see their friends and they talked during the whole game.
11. I was taken to too many games by my parents when I was growing up.
12. I hate to wait in the traffic jam in the parking lot after the game.

Worship and praise are not something that comes just from the right conditions
around us, it comes from the heart and from our life….we are always worshipping…it is not just what happens on Saturday or Sunday morning!

The Bible will teach us that both our LIPS and our LIFE should be offering up praise to God continuously.

I. PRAISE FROM OUR LIPS! Heb. 13:15; Rom. 12:2
A. A New Communication Heb. 13:15

1. Notice in the text the link that makes this new communication possible:
“Through Yeshua…..”
a. Praise and worship is possible before coming to faith in Yeshua. We see it in thousands of synagogues throughout the world every day as they read from their siddurim. But praise and worship is enhanced because we have Yeshua!
b. Praise is not just something we do, it is what we are and who we are
connected to….connected to the Messiah makes praise even more possible!

2. Notice here also the sense of praise being “continual”!
a. It is not just at the synagogue where praise from our lips is supposed to happen!
b. The reason it is called a “sacrifice of praise” is because it won’t always
be convenient or when we simply feel like it!
c. There is a real sense here that how we communicate all the time is a
part of worship, every word from our lips should be “praise” in some
form or fashion to God reflecting Yeshua in our lives.
3. Our lips should confess praise and gratitude at all times reflecting Yeshua’s
reality in our lives!

ILLUS: Alexander Whyte, the Scottish preacher, always began his prayers with an expression of gratitude. One cold, miserable day his people wondered what he would say. He prayed, “We thank Thee, O Lord, that it is not always like this.”

4. It is our language at home, work, and shul that is in view in the passage, that our lips are offering up to God ’CONTINUALLY’ a sacrifice of praise!

a. How should this impact that way we talk about others?
b. How should this impact that jokes we tell co-workers on the job?
c. How should this impact our speech around home and family?
d. As well as how we enter into the service at Tree of Life!

5. Too often it is far easier to express praise in a worship service than it is in
day to day routines…yet the sense of “continuously” and “sacrifice” here indicates the daily routine as well as the Worship service.

B. A New Communion

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

1. It is clear that what we say comes from how we think…hence how this passage fits well with the “fruit of lips” issue in Heb. 13:15!

a. We speak how we think!

Luke 6:45 “Out of the good treasure of his heart the good man brings forth good, and out of evil the evil man brings forth evil. For from the overflow of the heart his mouth speaks.”

b. If we are to offer up a sacrifice of praise as the “fruit of our lips” on a
ongoing basis, it will have to spring from the way we think in our hearts
and minds!

2. Paul writes here to express the importance of “conformity”….but to be
cautious not to conform any longer to the thinking of this world!

a. The world has little concern for worship and praise of God…and if we
allow the world’s influence to infiltrate our entire thinking processes we
will find our sense of worship distorted as well!
b. The world puts little value on verbal expressions to God…it is a low priority if one at all!
c. We must be careful that the emphasis of the world does not become ours!
Philippians 4:8-9 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any virtue and if there is anything worthy of praise—dwell on these things. (9) What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—put these things into practice, and the God of shalom will be with you.

ILLUS: Most middle-class Americans tend to worship their work, to work at their play and to play at their worship. As a result, their meanings and values are distorted. Their relationships disintegrate faster than they can keep them in repair, and their lifestyles resemble a cast of characters in search of a plot.

3. The problem for many Believers today is that we have too compartmentalized our lives into chunks… we think of worship as only this “chunk” of time spent in Synagogue on Shabbat morning, and don’t see how worship is a part of the rest of our week or our activities!
a. We should develop a “worship” mentality in everything!
b. We would be completely different as people if we really had a “KINGDOM OF GOD” mentality over everything in our daily lives and not just when we are in a synagogue!

4. In the strictest sense…everything we do is a part of worshiping God, and all our daily mundane things in life are a part of that expression!
a. Think about how the emphasis in our lives would be changed if we really thought this way?
b. Everything we say and everything we do tests and approves the will of
God … hopefully our lips and our actions will show “His good, pleasing
and perfect will!”

5. The idea here is to have our minds transformed by God’s Word so that we
are no longer conformed to this world and its way of thinking
a. The Greek word translated here “transform” is “metamorpho” from which we get our English word “metamorphosis” from. The idea is that we change from the way the world thinks to the way God thinks, a process of becoming something new and different!
b. This is no doubt a process…worship always is!
c. The renewing of our minds will enable us to think very different from
this world, and by thinking different we will speak different!
d. This will enable us to have the fruit of our lips worship God continuously!

II. PRAISE FROM OUR LIVES!

Hebrews 13:16 Do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
Romans 12:1 I urge you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice—holy, acceptable to God—which is your spiritual service.

A. A New Compassion Heb. 13:16

1. As soon as the writer of Hebrews talks about the “fruit of lips” as a sacrifice of praise he moves to his next thought tying this together with “do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”
a. The “fruit of lips” results in the “fruit of living” & vice versa!
b. What we SPEAK we tend to SHOW! (remember in school “SHOW & TELL”) and what we SHOW we tend to SPEAK!

2. What we do as good to others is also a part of our worship of God, it will bear fruit at some point in our lives as well as theirs!

ILLUS: Many years ago two young men were working their way through Stanford University. At one point their money was almost gone, so they decided to engage the great pianist Paderewski for a concert and use the profits for board and tuition. Paderewski’s manager asked for a guarantee of $2,000. The students worked hard to promote the concert, but they came up $400 short. After the performance, they went to the musician, gave him all the money they had raised, and promised to pay the $400 as soon as they could. It appeared that their college days were over. “No, boys, that won’t do,” said the pianist. “take out of this $1,600 all your expenses, and keep for each of you 10 percent of the balance for your work. Let me have the rest.”

Years passed. Paderewski became premier of Poland following World War I. Thousands of his countrymen were starving. Only one man could help, the head of the U.S. Food and Relief Bureau. Paderewski’s appeal to him brought thousands of tons of food. Later he met the American statesman to thank him. “That’s all right,” replied Herbert Hoover. “Besides, you don’t remember, but you helped me once when I was a student in college.”

3. The world does not just look at what we “say” but also what we “do” in determining what kind of “worshiper” we are!
a. The world will rarely criticize our worship style if they know our lifestyle is also godly!
b. We show people what a “sacrifice of praise” is not just by the way we verbally worship on Saturday mornings, but how we live throughout the rest of the week.

4. God is pleased with our “sacrifices of praise” when they come from both our LIPS and our LIVES!
a. The idea from God’s standpoint is that our LIPS match our LIVES!
b. Since this “sacrifice of praise” is supposed to be “continuous” it is supposed to be a constant flow from both our lips in a “worship” service, and from our lives in “willful” service!

B. A New Commitment

Romans 12:1 I urge you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice—holy, acceptable to God—which is your spiritual service.

1. Here Paul picks up this very theme…
a. to worship means to give up more than a couple of hours on Shabbat morning to offer worship as LIP SERVICE, it means to offer up our own bodies as a LIVING SACRIFICE!
b. To offer up our bodies as a “living sacrifice” is “pleasing” to God!
c. The only problem with a “living sacrifice” is that it has a tendency to
“crawl off the altar when the fire gets hot under it!”
2. This really means that God should get the best of us!
a. For too many Believers, our faith is like a weekend thing you do, and so it is treated like “going to the movies” or going somewhere else, it doesn’t have the commitment of the best from us all the time.
b. Only western belief system has this concept of compartmentalizing our relationship to God….many other religions see their commitment to their gods as all embracing, their gods always get their best, not their leftover time and resources!

ILLUS: A missionary tells of a woman in India holding in her arms a weak, whining infant, while at her side stood a beautiful, healthy child. The man of God saw her walk to the banks of the Ganges River and throw the robust youngster to the crocodiles as an offering, and then turn toward home again still clutching the sickly child to her bosom. Tears were running down her cheeks when he stopped to question her concerning her shocking actions; however, she proudly replied in defense of her conduct, “O sir, we always give our gods the best!”
c. Can we say that God gets our very best, or just whatever we have leftover in time, resources, and priorities?

3. It is always too easy to see a sacrifice as something we give, or even something we do, but we need to see the sacrifice as OURSELVES!… a
living one!

4. Paul says that such a living sacrifice in view of God’s mercy is a “SPIRITUAL ACT OF WORSHIP”!
a. The word “spiritual” here in Greek is “LOGIKOS” from where we get our word “LOGICAL” from!
b. In view of God’s mercy it is only LOGICAL that we offer up our bodies as a living sacrifice for God to use!
c. This is both “reasonable” (KJV) and “logical”!
d. Why would God want just the worship of our lips without the worship from our lives?
5. If we are to offer up “sacrifices of praise” we must be willing to offer up our lives as living sacrifices, this will then include what comes from our lips!
a. When done out of love, this sacrifice will not be viewed as a LOSS, but as GAIN!

ILLUS: It is told that in the First World War there was a young French soldier who was seriously wounded. His arm was so badly smashed that it had to be amputated. He was a magnificent specimen of young manhood, and the surgeon was grieved that he must go through life maimed. So he waited beside his bedside to tell him the bad news when he recovered consciousness. When the lad’s eyes opened, the surgeon said to him: “I am sorry to tell you that you have lost your arm.” “Sir,” said the lad, “I did not lose it; I gave it — for France.”

William Barclay, in his commentary on the Gospel of John said “Yeshua was not helplessly caught up in a mesh of circumstances from which he could not break free. Apart from any divine power he might have called in, it is quite clear that to the end he could have turned back and saved his life. He did not lose his life; he gave it. The Cross was not thrust upon him; he willingly accepted it — for us.”

b. too often we think of “sacrifice” as a painful loss, but in reality it is a joyous thing… “holy and pleasing to God” …
c. to God, the content of our worship is wrapped up in the character of the
worshiper!
6. The real life of “worship” then is both what comes from our “LIPS” and from our “LIVES” !
a. So did you come this morning “to worship” or as “a worshiper” ?
b. Are you “continuously offering up to God a sacrifice of praise” or just when you are in the “service” ?
c. Are both your LIPS and your LIFE engaged in praising God?

7. “LET US OFFER UP SACRIFICES OF PRAISE!!”

CONCLUSION: The concept of “praising God” is far more reaching than just what happens on a Shabbat morning worship service! It is also far more reaching than a song of praise or two! The crowds on Palm Sunday were quick to praise Yeshua with their lips, but not with their lives! Praise is a lifestyle of glorifying our Messiah and not just lips that gush “Glory to God in the highest”! Did you come TO worship, or did you come AS a worshiper!? Let us offer up sacrifices of praise through our lips and our lives!

The Finger of God

20200314 Parsha Ki Tisa – The Finger of God

Blessing

The Parsha this week begins with a census where all the men over 20 were counted and taxed one half shekel as atonement for their souls. There are further instructions regarding the Mishkan and its furnishings.

Chapter 31 relates the commissioning of Oholiab and Bezalel who were to be in charge of everything concerning the construction of the Mishkan. The chapter conclude with Moses coming down off Mount Sinai with two tablets of stone. Verse 18 says that the tablets of stone were written by the finger of God.

Chapter 32 tells the story of the Golden calf, an extraordinary episode of failure. First, on the part of Aaron for his lack of leadership. And second, on the part of some of the Israelites who abandoned their moral compass to follow their baser instincts which devolved into idol worship and debauchery. Punishment quickly follows with the elimination of those who led and participated in this sad escapade.

Moses intervened to avoid the destruction of the entire nation of Israel. Even though they sinned greatly, God did not abandon His people Israel.

Israel was told to leave the region of Sinai. They had been there a year. It was time to move on. Moses was instructed to carve out new stone tablets upon which he, Moses wrote down the Ten Commandments. God renewed His covenant with Israel and declared their future victory in Canaan.

The Parsha ends with Moses coming down off the mountain after a miraculous time of fasting of both food and water for 40 days. His close encounter with God was evident, in that his face literally glowed so that he had to wear a veil over his face.

This morning, I want to jump back up to Chapter 31

Exodus 31:18 When He had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, He gave the two tablets of the Testimony to Moses—tablets of stone, written by the finger of God.

The tablets of the Testimony were what we call the Ten Commandments or the Ten Words. Contrary to today’s interpretation, these were the Ten Commandments, not the Ten Suggestions.

What I would like to focus on is that these were written “by the finger of God”. His instructions to His people were so important that God felt that He, personally, should write them.

There are several other places in the Bible that speak of the finger of God, but this morning I want to discuss only three aspects of what is the finger of God.
I. The Finger of God – His Instruction

God is not the author of confusion. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 14:33 for God is not a God of confusion, but shalom.

He does not like chaos. He spoke into existence a world of order, where even the smallest particles, smaller than atoms behave in a predictable pattern. Ocean shores are generally fairly constant. We don’t have the Gulf of Mexico at Galveston beach one day and on 29th street in Lubbock the next only to retreat a hundred miles southeast of Corpus Christi. In a macro sense, the earth and all of God creation is neat and orderly. I know the sun will shine tomorrow and I can predict the next blood moon. God is a God of order.

For that reason, He gave us His instructions called Torah, so that we may know what His standard of holiness is. We know what He considers sin. Torah is an act of grace, because we are not judged by some nebulous concept that changes with the seasons. His word is constant, just as He is. We can know how we should act because God wrote it down for in with His own finger.

II. The Finger of God – Judgment

Another time we see directly the hand of God operating directly is found in the Book of Daniel. The grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar had ascended to the throne of Babylon and was hosting a party. He had ordered golden vessels stolen from the Temple to be brought so his guests could toast their gods and goddesses. In the middle of all the revelry a hand appeared.

Daniel 5:5 At that very moment, the fingers of a human hand emerged and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace opposite the lampstand, so that the king could see the back of the hand that was writing.

This passage does not say that it was the hand of God, but Belshazzar certainly reacted as if it was something terrifying. His legs gave out on him and he couldn’t stand.

Daniel was summoned and in his interpretation, he said that what Belshazzar saw was the hand of God.

Daniel 5:22-24 “But you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this. (23) Instead you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven. You had the vessels of His House brought before you, and you and your nobles, your consorts and your concubines have been drinking wine in them. You have praised the gods made of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. Yet you did not honor the God who holds in His hand your very breath and all your ways. (24) Therefore, the hand was sent from Him that wrote this inscription.

In this case the hand or finger of God was sent in judgment. We know that Belshazzar was killed that very night and his kingdom conquered by the Medes and Persians. This was an extraordinary display of God’s judgment. It is not seen very often but is devastating in its depth of destruction. If we look back at Exodus Chapter 8 when God sent lice to inflict Egypt, the Egyptian magicians marveled at the plague and acknowledged that it was the finger of God. It was something they could not create, augment or mitigate.

Some prognosticators and commentators are expressing the belief that this Coronavirus is some kind of judgment of mankind or it’s a sign of the end times. I don’t know if it is or not, but I believe that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is a healing God who can protect His people from this virus.

To see a third time God’s finger in man’s affairs we have to go forward 500 years.

III. The Finger of God – His Mercy

John 8:2-11 At dawn, He came again into the Temple. All the people were coming to Him, and He sat down and began to teach them. (3) The Torah scholars and Pharisees bring in a woman who had been caught in adultery. After putting her in the middle, (4) they say to Yeshua, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of committing adultery. (5) In the Torah, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do You say?” (6) Now they were saying this to trap Him, so that they would have grounds to accuse Him. But Yeshua knelt down and started writing in the dirt with His finger. (7) When they kept asking Him, He stood up and said, “The sinless one among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” (8) Then He knelt down again and continued writing on the ground. (9) Now when they heard, they began to leave, one by one, the oldest ones first, until Yeshua was left alone with the woman in the middle. (10) Straightening up, Yeshua said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” (11) “No one, Sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Yeshua said. “Go, and sin no more.”

A group of religious leaders opposed to the message and person of Yeshua attempted to set a theological trap for him. They brought to him a woman caught in the very act of adultery. They rightfully said that the penalty for adultery was death by stoning, but they didn’t get all of the elements of the trial correct. They didn’t bring the partner to her sin to Yeshua as was required by Torah. They didn’t hold a proper trial before the Beit Din. They wanted to see if Yeshua would say something that would contradict the law.

Instead, Yeshua, the Son of God bent down and with his finger started to write in the dust. We don’t know what he wrote. Was he writing out the law that addressed this situation, or as some have suggested, did he write the names of the woman’s accusers in one column and the sin of that accuser in another column? We can only speculate, but when Yeshua rose up he said, let him who is without sin cast the first stone. The law required the accuser to throw the first stone. But Yeshua turned it around on his antagonists. How could any of them cast the first stone? They would have had to declare that they had never sinned and that would be blaspheme. Perhaps they saw their name in the dust and horrified and shamed before their colleagues who could now see their own sins. We don’t know.

But we saw here the hand of God through Yeshua create the framework for mercy.

In the three examples I’ve given you this morning we saw God’s hand instructing us. His word is there for all to see if we would just follow it. The choice is ours. We can meet the finger of God in judgment telling us to depart I never knew you. Or we can see the finger of God beckoning to us.

Matthew 11:28-30 Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (29) Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and ‘you will find rest for your souls.’ (30) For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Are you burdened this morning? Does it feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulder? God’s hand of mercy is extended to you. He is inviting you to give Him your hurts, your fears, your failures. He will give you rest.

Worship Without Walls

20200201 Parsha Bo – Worship without Walls

The Parsha today is one of the most important we have to study. It sets up the Passover and describes the events that led up to Israel’s freedom. At the end of the Parsha we see a stark contrast. The firstborn of Egypt were killed but the firstborn of Israel were set apart and dedicated to Hashem.

“Consecrate to Me all the firstborn, from every womb of Bnei-Yisrael, both men and animals—this is Mine.”

Many of you know the significance of being the firstborn in the ancient middle eastern culture. It was a big deal. The first born received a double portion of inheritance as well as other benefits. Rather than stay in the Exodus story, I’m going to jump ahead a few hundred years to the book of Micah.

With what shall I come before Adonai? With what shall I bow myself before God on high? Shall I present Him with burnt offerings, with year-old calves? (7) Will Adonai be pleased with thousands of rams, with hordes of rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my belly for the sin of my soul? (8) He has told you, humanity, what is good, and what Adonai is seeking from you: Only to practice justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.
What would you do in this situation?

Mike Breaux, the pastor of the Heartland Community Church in Rockford, Illinois tells the story of a man and his wife who go to a restaurant that features steak and a salad bar. As they dine, a girl comes out with a 5-gallon bucket of Thousand Island dressing to fill up the salad bar. But she catches her heel and launches the 5-gallon container of dressing all over this one guy. He’s got Thousand Island dressing from the top of his head to the bottom of his shoes; dripping off his forehead, off his chin, on the lapels of his suit, all over his tie, all over his pants, all over his shoes. He is a mess. Now if you were the one covered by Thousand Island dressing, what would you do? How would you respond?

This guy, he goes ballistic. He starts calling this poor girl every name a marine drill sergeant ever used. And he says, “I can’t believe just how stupid you are. Look at this! This is the first chance I’ve had to wear this suit. It cost me $350 and you have completely ruined it.” She’s going, “Sir…” and she’s trying to clean up. “Get away from me! You caused enough damage already.” His wife chimes in. “That’s right. It’s a $350 suit…blah … blah … blah.”

Everybody in the whole restaurant is watching, and he demands, “I want to see the manager.” The manager comes out and says, “Is there a problem?” “Yes there’s a problem. This stupid girl has ruined my suit. It’s the first chance I’ve had to wear it. It costs $350.”

“Sir, we’ll clean your suit for you. No problem. We’ll take care of that.” The guy says, “I don’t want my suit cleaned. I want a new suit. It’s completely ruined. I want a new suit. I want a check right now for $350.” The manager disappeared, and the guy with him. I imagine he wrote him a check and justice was served.

Now the interesting part of this story is that this happened on a Sunday afternoon. So why in the world would a guy be in a suit on a Sunday afternoon? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe he just came from hearing a great sermon on loving your neighbor as yourself or about turning the other cheek. People who work in food service will tell you that the very worst people to wait on are the people who just got out of church on a Sunday morning. Don’t believe it, just ask Cynthia. That’s tragic, because, friends, we’re called to worship not only inside the walls of a church or synagogue, but to worship without walls.

We’re called to worship in restaurants. We are called to worship at the ball field. We are called to worship at the golf course. We’re called to worship in the classroom. We’re called to worship in the office cubicle. But how do you worship without walls? And what does God expect of such a life of worship outside of Sunday morning? Micah explains 3 requirements of Worship without Walls.

Micah says in Micah 6:8 He has told you, humanity, what is good, and what Adonai is seeking from you: Only to practice justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah shares 3 requirements that are easy to memorize. Repeat them with me,
1. To act justly and
2. To love mercy and
3. To walk humbly with your God.”

Today let’s take a closer look at those 3 requirements and how God calls us to live them out in worship without walls.

Slide: “To act justly
REQUIREMENT 1: “To act justly”: Live by God’s standards. I am male; therefore, I am gift buying challenged. When Pat’s birthday comes along or our anniversary, I need help. I need a list. Give me a list, I can do okay. Don’t give me a list, well, it’s just not pretty what happens. These 3 requirements that Micah gives are God’s list. Want to express love to God, this is what you do.

That’s why Paul says in Titus 2:11-12 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, (12) training us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live in a manner that is self-controlled and righteous and godly in the present age.

The Message Bible says it this way “God’s readiness to give and forgive is now public. Salvation’s available for everyone! 12We’re being shown how to turn our backs on a godless, indulgent life, and how to take on a God-filled, God-honoring life. This new life is starting right now. – “

God welcomes us into the family, and then He gives us a list of how to show our love to Him. Yet some of the items on His list, go against the general culture or standards of our world.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I have an attitude that says “I can do it myself”. I am all for God’s agenda as long as it matches what I want. That’s how Israel was living in Micah’s day, and how America lives in our day. To act justly is to live by God’s standards. So Micah lets Israel and you and me know what’s involved.

Letting Israel know what was on God’s list was not original with Micah either. Moses told Israel in

“So now, O Israel, what does Adonai your God require of you, but to fear Adonai your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve Adonai your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

Worship without walls begins when I act justly, when I live by God’s standards.

REQUIREMENT 2: “To love mercy”: Love others with God’s heart. God’s cry for action continues from Moses throughout the Old Testament. To love mercy is an interesting term. The word love refers to the loyal love of a married couple. The word mercy refers to God’s love to those in His family. To love mercy is to love others with God’s heart. God says in Hosea 6:6 For I delight in loyalty and not sacrifice, knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.

Pastor John Ortberg tells the story of a young man named John Gilbert who lived in a California town called Paradise. When he was 5 years old, John was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy. He was told it would eventually destroy every muscle and finally, in a space of 10 years or so, take his life. John Gilbert passed away a few yeas ago at the age of 25. While alive John experienced a lot of exclusion and cruelty from his peers growing up. But at one point he was named the representative for everyone with his condition in the state of California. He was flown to Sacramento and was ushered with mother into the governor’s office for a private meeting.

That night the National Football League sponsored a fund-raising auction and dinner at which John was a guest. The players let him hold their huge Super Bowl rings, which almost extended to John’s wrist. When the auction began, one particular item caught John’s attention: a basketball signed by the players of the Sacramento Kings. John got a little carried away, because when the ball was up for bids, he raised his hand. As soon as his hand went up,

John’s mother pulled it down. In John’s words, “Astronauts never felt as many G’s as my wrist did that night.”

The bidding for the basketball rose to an astounding amount for an item that was not the most valuable treasure on the docket. Eventually, one man named a figure that shocked the room and the no one else could match. The man went to the front and collected his prize. But instead of returning to his seat, the man walked across the room and placed it in the thin, small hands of the boy who had admired it so intently. The man placed the ball in hands that would never dribble it down a court, never throw it to a teammate on a fast break, never fire it from 3-point range. But those hands would cherish it.

Have you bought a basketball for anybody lately? To love mercy is to love others with God’s heart. And to love others that’s a nice way of saying, “love everybody with the heart of God”

Yeshua says in Matthew 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.”

Hold a door open for someone. Let that other car go first. Phone a friend, not because you need a lifeline, but because you might be the lifeline God wants to use to touch him or her with His love.

REQUIREMENT 3: “To walk humbly with your God”: Learn to follow constantly God’s direction. The people of Israel ask in

Micah 6:6-7 With what shall I come before Adonai? With what shall I bow myself before God on high? Shall I present Him with burnt offerings, with year-old calves? (7) Will Adonai be pleased with thousands of rams, with hordes of rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my belly for the sin of my soul?

How many first born children here today? Non-first born? First-born children tend to answer “No” to Micah’s suggestion. Non-first born tend to say, “What do we have to lose?” Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? The answer is no, and not just because I am first born. It wouldn’t do any good. It wouldn’t pay the price. Only one could and only one did. He was a first-born by the way. First-born Son of God gave His life that we might have life.

Yeshua says in Matthew 5:3, “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.” — (The Message)

When we reach the point where our only option is God, then we have reached the point we walk humbly with our God. When we reach the point that we recognize God as the source of our success, then we have reached the point we walk humbly with our God.

We walk humbly with God, when we come to him in prayer. I’m sure you’ve heard the prayer that goes, “Dear Lord, so far today I’m doing alright. I’ve not gossiped, lost my temper, been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or self-indulgent. I’ve not whined, …cursed, or eaten any chocolate. I’ve not charged on my credit card. However, I am about to get out of bed in a few minutes, and I will need a lot more help after that.”

Time in prayer and God’s Word daily sets the focus for the day, Take such time to say, “God, this is the day you have made. It’s your gift. Help me to use it wisely for your glory.” Or, “Lord, it’s going to be a long, long day, I need your help and direction.”

CONCLUSION: The answer to the ultimate question.

For most people, the ultimate question in life is “What should I do with my life?” People search for meaning and purpose, and the answer to the ultimate question. The prophet Micah is a kindred spirit to those pursuing The Ultimate Question. As he spoke to the people of Israel, Micah’s focus was to remind people of their purpose. For Micah, the answer to The Ultimate Question is found in the larger purposes of God. “What does the Lord require of you?” asks the prophet with his own ultimate question. God’s answer is “to act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God”.

As those words echoed in my mind and heart this week, I found myself waiting to hold a door open for people who were beyond the 5 second behind rule for door holding. I realized this week that as these words permeated my soul, I was cutting people off in traffic, but letting them merge. I became aware of God’s presence in the holy and in the ordinary. I found myself worshipping God without walls. Want to experience a great week this week? Here’s what you do. Answer Micah’s call “to act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God”. Amen.

Seven Promises of Adonai

Last week we began the study of Shemot, or the Book of Exodus. I want to thank Geoff Dobbin for filling in for me. As always, he did a great job.

Today we pick up with the continuation of Hashem’s call on the life of Moses. He has already tried speaking with Pharaoh on behalf of Israel only to inadvertently increase the harsh burden on their lives. Moses is pretty much defeated at this point. He tried, and in his mind, failed miserably. But God was not the least bit worried about the situation.

Listen again to what He said to Moses.

Exodus 6:2-5 God spoke further to Moses and said to him, “I am Adonai. (3) I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob, as El Shaddai. Yet by My Name, Adonai, I made Myself known to them? (4) I also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage where they journeyed. (5) Furthermore, I have heard the groaning of Bnei-Yisrael, whom the Egyptians are keeping in bondage. So I have remembered My covenant.

God called to mind His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. How he made an everlasting covenant with His people. And how He now has heard their cries for help and is going to uphold his part of the covenant.

What follows are Seven Promises for the Children of Egypt. Every year we observe the feast of Pesach, or Passover. When we do that, the Sages have told us to observe it as if we personally, were the ones that were brought out of Egypt. We are to identify with our ancestors in their trials and also in their triumphs. So listen to these promises laid out by Hashem and apply them to your own situation.

Exodus 6:6-8 Therefore say to Bnei-Yisrael: I am Adonai, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will deliver you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. (7) I will take you to Myself as a people, and I will be your God. You will know that I am Adonai your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. (8) So I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob, and (I will) give it to you as an inheritance. I am Adonai.”

1. Separation – I will bring you out. Israel had been in Egypt over 400 years. They had arrived as economic refugees fleeing a famine in Canaan and were now slaves of the Pharaoh of Egypt. Their conditions were miserable. They lived a harsh and cruel existence subject to the whims of the Egyptian leadership. Israel had survived famine, and insufferable bondage, and even the slaughter of their male babies.

And yet, through all of the years of misery, HaShem had kept them intact as a people. Now He was calling them out. He was separating them for their captors, from their labors, from their Misery.

2. Freedom – I will deliver you from your bondage. God was not going to just wave His strong arm and declare that Israel was His Chosen People. Not only did He separate them from the population of Egypt, He declared them free from bondage. This was an emancipation proclamation on the order of and perhaps greater than the one declared by Abraham Lincoln.

3. Redemption – I will redeem you. When someone is redeemed, there is a price to be paid. In the case of slaves, there was a set value in the Bible for redeeming a slave. There was also a price to be paid for the redemption of Israel. Only in this case, instead of paying money to the captors, the captors paid the price of redemption for the Children of Israel. Egypt’s land, economy and population lay in ruins. And yet, there was another installment to be paid by Egypt. The price was the lives of their first born.

4. Selection – I will take you as my own. Out of all the nations of the world, God chose the nation of Israel. Even when it was not yet a nation, but a loose collection of tribes. God chose to make one nation special, that He would call His own.

5. Admission – I will bring you into the land. Israel was going to leave Egypt. God was making sure of that, but then they had to go somewhere. That somewhere was the land that he had promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to long ago. Through His sovereignty, HaShem was opening up the land to Israel. Israel’s job was to follow God’s leading and trust in Him.

6. Clear Title – (I will) give it to you as an inheritance. The land that was promised was in the possession of 7 different nations. They had been there a very long time, even before Abraham first came to the Land. In the eyes of all the world then and strangely, even in today’s world, Israel had no claim to the Land. And yet God said it belonged to Israel. He made the land; it was His to give to whomever He would. The people of Canaan had rejected God’s ways and had fallen into the pits of depravity. They were bereft of a moral code. And now they were under judgement. Their claim to the land was revoked.

7. Relationship – I will be your God. Probably the most important part of the promises of Exodus Chapter 6 was the assurance that the King of the Universe, the Great Creator, was not only claiming Israel for his own, they were going to have a special relationship with Him. The most immediate effect was HaShem’s presence at Sinai and His dwelling in the Mishkan. This relationship was further enhanced by sending a Moshiach and His Ruach, not only for Israel, but that all the nations would be blessed.

Today as we sit here, I dare say there is no one who has been a slave. And probably very few of us have been in a prison. But we have all at one time been a slave of sin and imprisoned by yetzer hara or evil inclinations. Perhaps a slave to addictions. Rav Shaul, the apostle Paul said that there was something inside him that wanted to do bad even when he wanted to do good. Sound familiar?

But just as we were once enslaved in Egypt, Adonai hears our cries today. He remembers our plight.

1. He separates us out of the muck and mire we sometimes find ourselves in.
2. He frees us from the bondage that has so long held us. John 8:36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!
3. Adonai, through the sacrifice of Yeshua on the execution stake, paid the ransom for our souls. We have been redeemed and can have right standing before God. 1 Peter 1:18 You know that you were redeemed from the futile way of life handed down from your ancestors—not with perishable things such as silver or gold,
4. God has made us his own. He is our heavenly Father. James 2:23 The Scripture was fulfilled that says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness”—and he was called God’s friend. Because of the promises of God we too are a friend of God
5. We have been granted entry into a heavenly kingdom. 2 Peter 1:10-11 Therefore, brothers and sisters, make all the more effort to make your calling and election certain—for if you keep doing these things, you will never stumble. (11) For in this way entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Messiah Yeshua, will be richly provided for you.
6. We have a rich inheritance in Yeshua. Colossians 3:24 For you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as a reward. It is to the Lord Messiah you are giving service.
7. God grants us an intimacy with Him that is described very inadequately as the relationship between a husband and wife. Revelation 21:9 …“Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”

Light of the World

Today of course is the 6th day of Hanukkah and tonight we will light 7 candles. Hanukkah has several names such as Feast of Dedication, or Festival of Lights. It is a celebration of the miracle of the Temple lights staying lit for 8 days regardless of the fact that they only had oil for one night.

But I need to back up a bit and give you a Cliff’s Notes version of the origins of Hanukkah.

All through our history, Jews have been dogged by the issue of assimilation. In the face of hostility, in ancient times and in the present, we have asked ourselves: should we uphold the faith of our ancestors, even if that means risking life and limb, or should we just conform to the surrounding culture?

The question became particularly pressing during the Hellenistic period (approximately fourth to second centuries B.C.), after Alexander the Great conquered the Western world. The Apocryphal books of First and Second Maccabees recount the battle of assimilation vs. anti-assimilation that raged during this period of Hellenization that swept the Near East.

During the time of the Maccabees, the Israelites were wedged between two of the kingdoms established after Alexander’s death: Ptolemaic Egypt and Selucid Syria. With the ascent of the chauvinistic Selucid Antiochus IV, who called himself “Epiphanes” (lit. “visible god”), the delicate balance of power tipped in the direction of the Syrians and the fragile position of the Jews became even more precarious. A certain Jason bribed Antiochus and obtained the position of High Priest. Jason proceeded to dress Jerusalem in Grecian trappings but did not tamper with Jewish ritual and religion to the extent that more radical Hellenizers did.

Three years after the start of his reign, Antiochus deposed Jason and replaced him with Menelaus, a staunch Hellenist who out-bribed Jason. Jason laid siege to Jerusalem, but Antiochus’ army quashed his forces, later pillaging and slaughtering the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

During the time of darkness that followed, the Selucids slew many Jewish people, all the while defiling and pilfering the Temple in Jerusalem and attempting to scrub out all traces of Jewishness. To show his utter contempt for the Jewish faith, Antiochus sacrificed a sow in the Temple to the Greek god Zeus.

These abuses continued until Mattathias and his son, Judah Maccabee, led a revolt to bring us out of Antiochus’ darkness into light. Through the heroic actions of a band of guerilla fighters, the Maccabees (as Judah and his brothers were called) regained Jerusalem, cleansed the Temple, and restored the practice of Judaism.

Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Temple after its defilement under Antiochus. 1 Maccabees 4:59 tells us:

“Then Judas and his brothers and all the assembly of Israel determined that every year at that season the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness for eight days, beginning with the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev” (NRSV).

Moreover, Hanukkah originally resembled Sukkot, partly because the Maccabees were forced to celebrate Sukkot in the wilderness. 2 Maccabees tells us:

“They celebrated it for eight days with rejoicing, in the manner of the festival of booths, remembering how not long before, during the festival of booths, they had been wandering in the mountains and caves like wild animals” (2 Maccabees 10:6, NRSV).

Hanukkah was thus established to echo Sukkot and to commemorate the triumphs of an ancient band of brave Jews who stood up for their way of life and faith in the one true God in the face of overwhelming odds.

According to later rabbinical tradition (not to be found in 1 and 2 Maccabees):

“When the rule of the Hasmoneans prevailed and they defeated the Hellenes, they searched and finally found a tiny pitcher of oil which bore the seal of the High Priest. In it was enough oil to last no more than one day. And a miracle occurred—it endured for eight days! For this reason a period of eight days was marked off for thanksgiving and praise.

The oil miraculously burned for eight days which was the necessary time to prepare a new supply of sacred oil for the temple menorah.
John 8:12

If we back up a few weeks on the last day of the feast of Tabernacles some water from the Pool of Siloam had been poured out in the vicinity of the altar in the Temple. Yeshua had made His appeal for the spiritually thirsty to come to Him and quench their thirst with living water (John 7:37-39). Then the four golden lamps which had illuminated Jerusalem throughout the feast were extinguished.

Soon after this Yeshua’s voice was heard again, making another bold claim pertinent to this feast.

John 8:12 “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.”

This is the second significant “I am” saying of John’s Gospel, in which Yeshua is both unashamedly identifying Himself with the true and living God, and offering Himself to His people.

Light and living water had been two of the symbols of the feast of Tabernacles. In a clearly Messianic prophecy, light and living water are brought together with the appearance of the Lord on the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4; Zechariah 14:6-8). The feast of Tabernacles is imposed even upon the enemies of Israel, and those who will not come to this light, and those who will not drink of this fountain, find themselves excluded from the benefits of the kingdom of God (Zechariah 14:16-19).

When the children of Israel left Egypt, the Lord went before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21-22). Not only is Yeshua the guiding light of Israel, but also a light to lighten the Gentiles (Isaiah 49:6). The Apostle Paul turned to the Gentiles in fulfilment of this universal mission of the gospel (Acts 13:46-47).

Yeshua is offering Himself in a personal way to be our light, and our salvation (Psalm 27:1). When we “follow” Him we no longer walk in darkness, but have the light of life (John 8:12). Like the man born blind, we declare that “whereas I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25).

On a practical level, this possession of Yeshua as the light of our life should be reflected in our daily walk. We are now the bearers of light to a dark world. We need to renew our faith day by day by taking upon ourselves the armor of light (Romans 13:12).

The source of our light is found in Yeshua Himself. Any light that we may have is at best a pale reflection of His, much as the planets reflect the glory of the sun. The closer we walk with him, the brighter we shine.

Then at last in the Olam Haba, or end times, we shall be translated to a place where the Lord manifests Himself as an everlasting light, and where we shall behold His glory as never before.

Isaiah 60:19-20 No more will the sun be your light by day, nor the glow of the moon be your light, but Adonai will be your everlasting light, and your God for your glory. (20) No more will your sun set, nor will your moon wane, for Adonai will be your everlasting light, as the days of your mourning end.

It is a place where sorrow and mourning shall flee away. There shall be no sun, no moon, no candle, no artificial light, but we shall reign forever and ever basking in the light of God’s glory.

Revelation 22:5 Night shall be no more, and people will have no need for lamplight or sunlight—for Adonai Elohim will shine on them. And they shall reign forever and ever!

Yeshua pronounced the name of God: “I am.” This fact was not lost on His detractors. He testified of Himself, that He is the light of the world. He summons us out of the darkness of corruption into the light of life.

Change of Venue

This Shabbat, 19 October, we will be meeting at 10:30 at the Scout Building which is located at the southeast corner of the St Peter’s UMC property.

Older posts