Tree of Life Messianic Congregation

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A Different Spirit

20230617 Parashat Shelach – A Different Spirit

Torah Portion                         Numbers 14:18-24

Haftarah                        Joshua 2:1-9

Besorah                         Hebrews 3:12-19

The thirty-seventh reading from the Torah is called Shelach, an imperative verb that means “send out.” The portion is so named from the first few words of the second verse: “Send out for yourself men so that they may spy out the land of Canaan” (Numbers 13:2). The Torah reading tells the tragic story of how the spies returned with a bad report about the Land of Promise and influenced the congregation of Israel to rebel against the LORD. Thus God consigned the generation of Moses to wander in the wilderness for forty years.

As you can see, the title of today’s drash is “A Different Spirit”.  What does it mean to be different?

To be different means literally that something does not conform to the standard or the norm. Different can be a positive thing. In fact, we have been called to be different than the world around us. This morning I want examine the life of a man who was indeed different from those around him, and God brought blessing into his life.  As many of you know Caleb is one of my all-time favorite characters in the bible.  He caught God’s attention long before I discovered him.

Numbers 14:24  However, My servant Caleb, because a different spirit is with him and he is wholeheartedly behind Me, I will bring him into the land where he went—his offspring will inherit it.

Today I would like to talk about the Caleb Principle:  If we give ourselves wholeheartedly to God, He can do the impossible within us.

  1. A Different Passion

Let’s break down that scripture about Caleb.  It says that he followed God with all his heart.  Caleb’s devotion to God was not a half measure.  He was one hundred percent committed to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

In fact, Calev, in Hebrew, is a combination of two words “Col” and “Lev” meaning “whole” and “heart.” It is no wonder that the words together have become the definition of “dog” who loves faithfully and wholeheartedly.

Every ounce of his being was dedicated to the Lord.  Caleb lived out the Ve’ahavta every day.  I like the translation from David Stern’s Complete Jewish Bible.

Deuteronomy 6:5  and you are to love Adonai your God with all your heart, all your being and all your resources.

William Borden, the heir to the Borden Dairy Company, wrote these words in the back of his bible. No reserve, no retreat, no regrets.  That’s the kind of life Caleb lived. He held nothing back and gave his all to God.

As a result of his spying adventure in Canaan, Caleb found a new strength.  No, he was not working out at the Canaan Club.  He found his strength was in God and not himself.  Caleb’s confidence was in God and not himself.  Now Caleb could see that his very future was in the hands of God.  It’s like that old advertisement about being in good hands with Allstate.  You are in better hands with the Lord.

Caleb followed God through the challenges.  What challenges?  Well, how about a land filled with big people with heavily fortified cities.  Jericho was one, as well as Hazor, and other cities belonging to the Amorites on the east side of the Jordan River.

This week I was reading an article in the Biblical Archaeology Review about the Amorites and how strong they were.  Their cities were well fortified with massive walls and large dry moats around them to foil any siege towers.  Some of their citizens were said to be descendants of the Nephilim, giants from a previous age. So yeah, Caleb saw the challenges, but he saw that God was bigger than his enemies.  He was so convinced of God’s greatness that when Israel was conquering Canaan, he wanted to settle Hebron, the land of the giants.

Caleb also faced challenges from his own people.  The people heard the size of the enemy and they melted in fear. They focused on their fear and forgot their faith.  The Israelites were even talking about stoning Moses, Joshua and Caleb.  But God was greater than all that negativity.

  1. A Different Perspective

Wisdom is looking at things from God’s point of view.

Joshua 14:9-12  So Moses swore on that day saying: ‘Surely the land on which your foot has trodden will be an inheritance to you and to your children forever, because you have fully followed Adonai my God.’  (10)  So now behold, Adonai has kept me alive, just as He said, these 45 years, since the time that Adonai spoke this word to Moses while Israel was journeying in the wilderness, and now behold, I am 85 years old today.  (11)  I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me—as my strength was then, so is my strength now, for war and for going out and coming in.  (12)  Now therefore, give me this hill country about which Adonai spoke on that day. For you heard on that day how the Anakim were there as well as great, fortified cities. Perhaps Adonai will be with me, and I will drive them out, just as Adonai has spoken.”

We see several things in this passage that need to be emphasized.

Caleb followed God in faith.  Even though he was going through the wilderness for 40 years Caleb never lost faith is what God had for him to do.  All the military men from the age of 20 and older were condemned to die in the wilderness because of their lack of faith.  As he got older, Caleb saw all his contemporaries, some younger and some older than he pass away.  That had to be disheartening.  But Caleb never lost faith.

Caleb recognized who it was that gave him his strength.  It was God that kept him alive.  It was God who kept him as strong at 85 as he was at 40.  Caleb was well aware of all the objections that the people had expressed.  The Canaanites were strong.  They lived in cities whose walls reached up to the heavens.  Some of the enemies were giants – The sons of Anak: Goliath was one of them.

Caleb believed that God would help him.

Caleb followed God with focus.

Caleb pursued God’s promise.

Caleb was strong in God.

Caleb was courageous in God.

Caleb was victorious in God.

Caleb rose to the challenge.

Nothing was going to stop Caleb from accomplishing what God called him to do. No enemy was too great, no obstacle was too large and no opposition too loud to keep Caleb from doing what God wanted Him to do

2. A Different Position

Caleb stood up for his faith.  He was not complacent or timid.  He actually believed that God could and would do the impossible.  Imagine that!

Numbers 14:7-9  … “The land through which we passed is an exceptionally good land!  (8)  If Adonai is pleased with us, He will lead us into that land and will give it to us—a land flowing with milk and honey.  (9)  Only don’t rebel against Adonai, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They will be food for us. The protection over them is gone. Adonai is with us! Do not fear them.”

Caleb believed that God would provide the victory if the people acted in faith.  He believed that God would provide the victory.  Sure the enemy was strong, but Caleb’s God was stronger.  Adonai was the protector of Israel.  The Canaanites had no such protection.  In fact, it was the opposite.  All the people of Canaan were under judgment from God because of their abject immorality.  Because of that, the enemies of Israel would be given into their hands and would be defeated.

Caleb also spoke differently.

Numbers 13:30  Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “We should definitely go up and capture the land, for we can certainly do it!”

Caleb spoke with the voice of faith, and unmitigated confidence is God’s ability to defeat the Canaanites.  He spoke of action, not sitting around hoping and wishing for something to happen.  He was like the original Nike spokesman.  “Just Do It”

3. A Different Path

I think we can say that Caleb followed the road less traveled.  He lived a different life.  He was used by God to be a leader.  He was already a leader in his own tribe of Judah.  But he was also a servant, one who could follow orders.  Moses had sent him out to be a spy.  Caleb carried out that mission with courage and commitment.  His life was a great example of what many today call toxic masculinity.  I say if that is toxic masculinity, then bring it on.  We need our synagogues and churches filled with such men of faith, courage and action.

Conclusion – Life Lessons from Caleb

  1. God has a different passion for us.

Our passion comes from our faith in the fact that God is with us and faithful to us. God is the same yesterday, today and forever.  The God that sustained Joshua and Caleb through 40 years in the wilderness and 7 hard years of conquest in Canaan is the same God that walks beside each of us.  He is that friend that sticks closer than a brother.

  1. God has a different perspective for us

Our perspective on life comes from the reality that God is working in our lives.  As Believers we belong to God.  Yeshua said we can call Him Abba, or daddy.  That is a parent/child relationship that is just about as close as it gets.  We are grafted in to the True Vine.  We become one with the Creator of the universe.  There is not a thing that happens to us that God does not know about.

Yeshua gave us what our perspective should be.

Matthew 6:25, 30-34  “So I say to you, do not worry about your life—what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing?

(30)  Now if in this way God clothes the grass—which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow—will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  (31)  “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’  (32)  For the pagans eagerly pursue all these things; yet your Father in heaven knows that you need all these.  (33)  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.  (34)  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Live the Caleb perspective.

  1. God has a different position for us.

Just what is our position.  Rav Shaul put it this way.

Romans 8:14-17  For all who are led by the Ruach Elohim, these are sons of God.  (15)  For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall again into fear; rather, you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”  (16)  The Ruach Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.  (17)  And if children, also heirs—heirs of God and joint-heirs with Messiah—if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

Sons of God.  That is a pretty good position to be in.

  1. God has a different path for us.

Yeshua gave us a path to follow.  He said,

John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life! No one comes to the Father except through Me.

We are definitely in the world, but we are not to be of the world.  God has called us to be a peculiar people.

1 Peter 2:9  But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

That’s our path following Torah, following Yeshua, being led by the Ruach HaKodesh.  Be like Caleb, a different spirit.  It’s ok to be different.

Double Standard or Higher Calling?

20230506 Parashat Emor – Double Standard or Higher Calling


Torah Portion Leviticus 21:1-8
Haftarah Ezekiel 44:15-23
Brit Chadashah Matthew 26:59-66

The thirty-first reading from the Torah is called Emor, a title that comes from the first verse of the reading, which says,

Leviticus 21:1 Then Adonai said to Moses, “Speak to the kohanim, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: A kohen is not to allow himself to become unclean for the dead among his people,

Emor begins with special laws of sanctity, propriety and purity for the priesthood. Leviticus 23 provides an overview of the biblical calendar, a listing of the LORD’s appointed times.

My Dad was a WWII Marine who served in the Pacific Theater. He was not highly educated, nor particularly emotional, but he loved his family and had a simple, homespun philosophy of life. I can remember complaining on several occasions how something had happened in my life that didn’t seem fair. He would say “Son, that’s life, and life’s not fair”. His outlook on life was influenced by what he considered an inequitable distribution of the family estate.

This week’s Parsha is about discrimination and unfairness in Torah! I said discrimination and unfairness in God’s instructions to His people. Have I got your attention yet?

Do you realize that there are portions of the Torah that you could never obey? There are parts of the Torah that even Yeshua didn’t follow. Before you start throwing rotten vegetables let me explain. Not all of the Torah applies to all of Bnei Israel. There are sections that apply to women only. Some portions are instructions regarding lepers. Then there are portions that involve only the Levites and even further, the kohanim (priests). Chapter 21 details the requirements for the kohanim in keeping themselves ritually clean.

A priest is not to defile himself by coming near or touching a corpse. The exception is that he may come near a dead body, meaning preparing the body for burial, if the deceased was a close relative. This would include a father, mother, brother, a virgin sister, a son or daughter.
A priest was prohibited from attending a funeral for any family member outside the ones mentioned above. The Kohen Gadol, or High Priest had further restrictions. The High Priest could not come near any corpse, not even his parents.

The priests were restricted to whom they could marry. Ok, so some of the prohibitions made sense. A priest was not to marry a lady of the night or a divorcee.

The High Priest could only marry a virgin. Although, this was probably moot since a High Priest was normally an older priest and would have already been married.

Any descendants of Aaron who were not totally whole could not serve in the priesthood. If they were crippled, blind, deaf, impotent, or disfigured they could not offer sacrifices to God in the office of a priest. They could eat of the sacrifices though.

If you were born into the Levitical tribe and were actually a priest, I think it would be easy for a priest to feel like these restrictions were unfair. The guys in the other tribes can marry anyone they want to, even women from outside Israel if she agreed to abandon idolatry and to worship Adonai. It just wasn’t fair.

And why can’t a priest go to the funeral of his first cousin. After all, they grew up together and had all sorts of adventures together. It’s only right that he should be able to attend the burial of good friend and cousin.

This is an example of what is called distinction theology. A higher standard of holiness and special laws maintained by the priesthood are good examples of distinction theology – the theological perspective that knowledges not all of the Torah’s laws apply to everyone equally.

Why were the priests held to a higher standard of holiness or separation than the other members of Bnei Israel? It was because of their calling. They had a special calling on their lives because they were born into the family of Aaron. These were the men who prepared the sacrifices of the people and brought them to the altar of God. They put the sacrifices into the fire on the altar. The meat and fat was consumed, sending a plume of smoke up to the heavens. God called it a pleasing aroma. That was about as close as one could get to God without being the High Priest and entering the Holy of Holies each year at Yom Kippur. Because of that closeness, God required that the priests live by a much higher level of Holiness than their countrymen. They were to maintain that special separation from the profane or common things of life. The priests were God’s representatives on earth.

This separation and call to holiness is important to us today as Believers. God had called Israel to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

Exodus 19:6 So as for you, you will be to Me a kingdom of kohanim and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you are to speak to Bnei-Yisrael.”

By extension, any of us here today who are born again Believers in Yeshua HaMashiach, Jesus, the Messiah are to be part of that nation of priests. It doesn’t matter if you are a Messianic Jew or a Gentile grafted into the spiritual family of Abraham. We are all called to a higher purpose.

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

There are other scriptures that bring out our calling.

Isaiah 61:6 But you will be called the kohanim of Adonai, They will speak of you as the ministers of our God.

Revelation 1:6 and made us a kingdom, kohanim to His God and Father

Let me ask you. What are the roles, duties, or purposes of a kingdom of priests?

1. Witnesses. Primarily, they were to act as witnesses to the nations of the one, true living God (Isaiah 43:10). It meant that they were given access to God’s presence in the tabernacle. There, they performed the duties of atonement through sacrifice, worship, and prayer.

2. Intercession. God desires order in His house. In Exodus 28 He meticulously begins laying out His instructions concerning the duties and expectations He would require of His priests. How did the job description of a priest begin?

The very first priestly task instituted by God was to intercede on behalf of the Jewish people. The early priests prepared and brought the sacrifices of the people to God to atone for their sins. They were a go-between, connecting the people with a most holy God.

Today we are also called to be witnesses. Yeshua gave his disciples their marching orders just minutes before He ascended.

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Ruach ha-Kodesh has come upon you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and through all Judah, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Ten days after His ascension, Yeshua dispatched the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit to fill and equip these 120 faithful followers who had gathered in an upper room to pray. The effect was immediate and evident. Peter, the one who had denied he ever knew the Master was transformed. With the other disciples around him praising God in many of the known languages of the world, Peter delivered a rousing salvation message that was accepted by 3000 men.

Yeshua had met previously with the eleven disciples up north in the Galilee.

Mark 16:15-18 He told them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the Good News to every creature.

(16) He who believes and is immersed shall be saved, but he who does not believe shall be condemned.

(17) These signs will accompany those who believe: in My name they will drive out demons; they will speak new languages;

(18) they will handle snakes; and if they drink anything deadly, it will not harm them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will get well.”

You have heard me quote these verses many times. It doesn’t get any clearer than that. We are to be God’s representatives on earth, just like the early priests.

That is a pretty high calling if you ask me. And because of that high calling, we have what you could call a double standard. Each and every one of us are called by the creator of this universe to uphold a much higher standard of morality and ethics than those in the world.

There can be no lapse in our dedication to purity. The early priests were tasked with another task of teaching the people to discern between what was tahor (clean), tamei (unclean). Tragically, the priesthood failed to teach the people, and as a result, Israel slipped into apostacy. Malachi speaks to this.

Malachi 2:7-8 For a kohen’s lips should guard knowledge, and instruction must be sought from his mouth. For he is a messenger of Adonai-Tzva’ot.

(8) But you have turned from the way. You caused many to stumble in Torah by the instruction, You corrupted the covenant of the Levites,”—says Adonai-Tzva’ot.

Are we diligent in teaching our children and others the requirements of holiness laid out in Torah and in Yeshua’s teaching? Are we diligent in searching the scriptures ourselves in order to actually know what the Bible teaches?

It is not enough to sit here in this building and listen to me deliver a sermon and then teach for an hour and a half in the Torah class. Each and every one of us has a responsibility to get into the scriptures and see for ourselves what the word of the Lord says. Notice, I said in the scriptures. I did not say to consult Rabbi Google. The internet is a minefield of disinformation and outright heresy. Can you find good things online, certainly, but make sure it corresponds to scripture. Read what the Bible says. Meditate on it. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you insight.

In James 1:5 we read these words:

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all without hesitation and without reproach; and it will be given to him.

In today’s world we are constantly bombarded with all manner of lies, half-truths, inuendoes and any other trick of the enemy to get you offtrack. That is why it is incumbent that we stay grounded in the word.

How often do you actually sit down and read your Bible? Do you have a regular study time? For me, it is early morning just when the sun is coming up. My bible in one hand and a hot cup of coffee in the other…It doesn’t get much better than that.

Seriously, we each have to do what works for us individually. I can’t study at night. So I do it in the morning when my mind is fresh. Do what works for you, but do it. God has called you to be his priest, so He also calls you to put in that extra work.

Is that a double standard? It sure is.

Luke 12:48 From everyone given much, much will be required; and from the one for whom more is provided, all the more they will ask of him.

This statement of Yeshua has become somewhat of an idiom in Western culture and is found, paraphrased, in Uncle Ben’s words of wisdom to Peter Parker in Spider-man: “With great power comes great responsibility.” The idea of “to whom much is given, much will be required” is that we are held responsible for what we have. If we are blessed with talents, wealth, knowledge, time, and the like, it is expected that we use these well to glorify God and benefit others.

We have been given so much. We have been given the privilege of being priests and kings in God’s creation. We have been give the gift of eternal life through the sacrifice of Yeshua our Redeemer. And for that we are called to a higher level of holiness. It is a double standard for a higher calling.

Keep On Keeping On

20230429 Parashat Acharei Mot-Kedoshim – Keep on Keeping On


Torah Portion Leviticus 18:1-5, 30
Haftarah Amos 9:9-15
Brit Chadashah John 14:15-21

Acharei Mot
The twenty-ninth reading from the Torah and sixth reading from Leviticus is named Acharei Mot, two words that mean “after the death.” The title comes from the first words of the first verse of the reading, which say, “Now the LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron” (Leviticus 16:1). Leviticus 16 describes the Tabernacle ceremony for the holy festival of the Day of Atonement. Leviticus 17 establishes general rules for sacrifice and sanctuary. Leviticus 18 lays down specific laws about permitted and forbidden sexual relationships.

The thirtieth reading from the Torah and seventh reading from Leviticus is named Kedoshim, which mean “holy.” The title comes from the words in Leviticus 19:2, which says, “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” Leviticus 19 describes the holy community through a series of specific commandments. Leviticus 20 warns against the snares of sexual immorality and idolatry, mandating a death penalty for certain sins. Except in biblical leap years, Kedoshim is read on the same Sabbath as the previous reading, Acharei Mot.

This morning I would like to focus on just one word in the five chapters of this Parsha. The word in English is keep. The word is Hebrew is Shamar (שמר). The word shamar is found 468 times in the Bible and is translated variously as keep (283x), observe (46x), heed (35x), keeper (28x), preserve (21x), beware (9x), mark (8x), watchman (8x), wait (7x), watch (7x), regard (5x), save (2x), miscellaneous (9x). The root word for Shamar is found 684 times if you are just reading a Hebrew version.

In the five chapters of our Parasha this week the word “shamar” is recorded 11 times. We read some of them this morning.

Leviticus 18:4-5 You are to obey My ordinances and keep My statutes and walk in them—I am Adonai your God.

(5) So you are to keep My statutes and My ordinances. The one who does them will live by them. I am Adonai.
Leviticus 18:26 You, however, are to keep My statutes and My ordinances, …
Leviticus 18:30 Therefore you are to keep My charge, so that you do not practice any of these detestable customs that were practiced before you, so that you do not defile yourselves by them. I am Adonai your God.”

I think it is safe to say that we should pay some attention to this little four letter word.

To better understand what God meant by keeping His commandments, we need to look at covenants also. The Bible speaks of seven different covenants, four of which (Abrahamic, Land, Mosaic, Davidic) God made with the nation of Israel. Of those four, three are unconditional in nature; that is, regardless of Israel’s obedience or disobedience, God still will fulfill these covenants with Israel.

One of the covenants, the Mosaic Covenant, is conditional in nature. That is, this covenant will bring either blessing or cursing depending on Israel’s obedience or disobedience. Three of the covenants (Adamic, Noahic, New) are made between God and mankind in general, and are not limited to the nation of Israel.

The covenants God made with Abraham, the Land, and David are the unconditional covenants. They were, are and will be carried out in the course of history. The Mosaic covenant, however was conditional.

The Mosaic Law handed down to us at Mount Sinai was written in the form of a suzerain treaty. This was a common document in the ancient Middle East. The treaty typically opened with a short history of the two parties involved. Followed by the identification of who was the suzerain, or greater king and who was the vassal or lesser king. There were stipulations that the suzerain would protect the vassal in return for the vassal state sending tribute or taxes, and obeying the rules laid down by the suzerain. There was a section of blessings and curses. Blessings if the commandments were obeyed and curses if they were not. That is why we say the Mosaic covenant is conditional. We have to keep God’s commandments to receive the blessings.

Six times in Leviticus 18 we are told to keep God’s commandments. Chapter 18 codifies prohibited sexual activities. It is very descriptive and doesn’t leave a great deal to interpretation. Just to be clear, the phrase “uncover the nakedness” means to have sexual relations. So, now that leaves nothing to interpretation.

When I am confronted by the current reincarnation of Sodom and Gomorrah, I really don’t have to personally defend anything. I can boldly point to Chapter 18 and say God Says. It doesn’t matter what I think. God Says. It doesn’t matter what some poor, misdirected soul that doesn’t know what bathroom to use thinks. God Says.

We are told to KEEP His commandments. We are told not to be like those in Egypt and Canaan. What does that mean? It means we are commanded not to follow the practices of this world. In the ancient world, the Canaanites and Egyptians were noted for their promiscuous lifestyles. And now what do we see in this country today? Men pretending to be women, performing lewd dances in elementary schools. Women pretending to be men shooting up schools. School administrations mandating that kindergarten students be taught human sexuality, including acts condemned by God as an abomination.

We need to renew our efforts to keep God’s commandments. Just this past week the Texas Senate passed SB 1515 which requires the Ten Commandments to be displayed in every classroom in Texas. Not one single Democrat voted in favor of posting a copy of the Ten Commandments in schools. Let that sink in the next time you go to the polls.

Don’t let your guard down. Every opportunity we have to press forward the agenda of holiness and purity must be vigorously pursued. Keep His commandments.

There’s another aspect of Keep that needs to be explored. That aspect is the covenants that God made with His people. God made a covenant with Abraham that He would bless Abraham and make him the father of many nations. His descendants would number like the stars in the sky or the sand on the earth. God also made a covenant with Abraham that defined the boundaries of the land of Israel.

The final covenant was with King David that promised a descendant of David would rule eternally. What is the common thread of all those three covenants? They were unilateral. It did not require anything on our part. God made a promise and He kept those promises regardless of what we did.

God is the same, yesterday, today and forever. What He promised to Abraham is still valid today. So the covenants God made to Abraham are just as valid as they were some 2500 years ago. That is foundational.

A third aspect of Keeping is actually an echo of our Parsha but with caveat. Listen to the words of Yeshua.

John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commands;

When we read Leviticus the instructions to keep God’s commandments were couched in terms of the Mosaic/Suzerain treaty language. It was an if/then proposition. If we obey God’s commandments, then He will bless us. Conversely, if we disobey God, then curses will follow. It is what we could call the carrot and stick approach.

However, Yeshua has given the commandment a bit of a twist. It is in the Why do we obey His commandments. Yeshua is not changing the Law. He said that He didn’t come to change the law but to fulfill it. He explained the law in terms of the spirit behind it. In this way we have a greater understanding of the underlying principles of the law.

Leviticus 19 we are told that we are, as a people to be holy because God is holy. That doesn’t mean we are to be sinless. That is impossible. But we are to be set apart from the world. We are not to be like the world. It is counterintuitive to the average person in this world to understand, much less practice the commandment to “Love your neighbor as yourself”.

Yeshua brought clarity and purpose to Keeping God’s Commandments with some of His examples as recorded in Matthew 5, the sermon on the Mount.

He spoke of controlling our anger.

Matthew 5:21-22 “You have heard it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever commits murder shall be subject to judgment.’
(22) But I tell you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca’ shall be subject to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be subject to fiery Gehenna.

Yeshua addressed lust.

Matthew 5:27-28 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’
(28) But I tell you that everyone who looks upon a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Adultery is not only a physical act, but can be an activity of the mind. Whether or not one actually commits adultery physically, Yeshua said that if we think about it, are consumed by the thought of it, then it is if we have actually committed adultery.

What we say is what we should do.

Matthew 5:33-37 “Again, you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall carry out your oaths to Adonai.’
(34) But I tell you, do not swear at all—not by heaven, for it is the throne of God;
(35) or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King.
(36) And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black.
(37) But let your word ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’—anything more than this is from the evil one.”

Remarkably Yeshua told us to love not only our neighbors, but our enemies.

Matthew 5:43-44 “You have heard that our fathers were told, ‘Love your neighbor—and hate your enemy.’

(44) But I tell you, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!

The chapter ends much in the way Leviticus 19 begins.

Matthew 5:48 Therefore, be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Again, it is a call to keep God’s commandments, not only in the letter of the law, but in the spirit of the law also.

In 12th Century Europe, society was of course much different than it is today. Local nobility (another word for a strong man), ruled an area and protected his subjects from bandits and rival lords. This necessitated the construction of fortresses, castles and such that could be defended against waring neighbors. These castles would often include a tower-like structure that was more heavily constructed than the rest of the castle. It was called the Keep and was a refuge of last resort. If all else failed, the defenders could retreat to the keep with the hope of outlasting the invaders. These structures were not that successful and with the advent of gunpowder and artillery, they were useless. But still people would put their trust in brick and mortar.

We are studying the book of Isaiah in our Sunday night online class. One of the main themes of Isaiah is the warning that Israel and Judah should not put their trust in foreign nations, nor should they trust in their own defenses. No, Isaiah repeatedly told them to trust in God to protect them.

Times have changed but God has not. The Psalmist wrote in:

Psalms 46:2 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who promised to protect and defend His people if they would Keep His Commandments is still on the throne today. We all need a refuge today against the onslaught of the enemy. We cannot trust in a political party, or a government to look out for our best interests. But we can rely on God to preserve us and give us the strength and ability to resist all manner of evil. Keep His Commandments. We need to Keep On Keeping On.


20230408 Shabbat haMo’ed Pesach – The Reality and the Relevance of the Resurrection

Torah Portion                         Exodus 34:1-7

Haftarah                                Ezekiel 37:1-9

Brit Chadashah                      John 11:17-27

Today is the Shabbat that falls during the Passover week.  It is called Shabbat Chol haMo’ed.  On this Shabbat we take a break from the sequential reading of the Torah portions and revert back to Scriptures in Exodus.  The Haftarah reading is from Ezekiel and describes a vision given to Ezekiel of a valley of dry bones being resurrected into a might army.  Today I would like to explore the concept of resurrecting the dead.

  1. Introduction

A few years ago Patricia and I were invited to give a Passover demonstration at a local church on Easter Morning.  We got there and were told we had 15 minutes because they had a guy dressed up as the Easter bunny and they were having a big Easter Egg hunt.  No sermon, just the Easter Bunny and eggs.  Why does the Easter bunny and egg hunts seem to be more exciting than news about Yeshua’s death and resurrection? Because we simply haven’t grasped the significance of the death and resurrection of Yeshua HaMashiach.

I’m paraphrasing Hank Hanegraaff  (The Bible Answer Man) here, “The resurrection of Yeshua is the greatest feat in the annals of human history. It is the very “capstone in the arch of the Messianic Movement.” Without it, all else crumbles. When we fully comprehend the significance of resurrection, our lives will be revolutionized. Without resurrection, there is no hope. Indeed without resurrection, there would be no Messianic Movement.”

  1. The Reality of the Resurrection

We need to come to a conclusion today that the resurrection of Yeshua is more than a fairy tale, more than a legend, and more than some religious symbol. It is a historical fact that is indisputable.

In fact, Billy Graham said that “There is more evidence that Yeshua rose from the dead than there is that Julius Caesar ever lived or that Alexander the Great died at the age of thirty-three.” How can Billy Graham make such a statement? Is there really evidence that makes believing in the resurrection more than a leap of blind faith? Let’s see…

I’m going to borrow from Hanegraaff’s acronym F-E-A-T to show you the importance of the resurrection.

While each of these points could be studied in more detail, we’ll just stay on each point briefly, but enough to make the point.

– Fatal Torment

One of the first things that we need to realize is, that for Yeshua to be resurrected, first he had to actually die.

Some commentators have posited that Yeshua just passed out and revived later in His tomb. But that’s dumber than dirt! Yeshua suffered horribly. Let me explain how horribly He suffered and eventually died.

He began his suffering at the Garden of Gethsemane where Luke 22:44 says, “his sweat was like drops of blood falling the ground.”

His suffering continued throughout his interrogations before Annas and Caiaphas, where he was hit in the face, spit upon and beaten,

and continued on as he was taken to Pilate, where he was flogged, given a crown of thorns, spit upon and struck on the head again and again. The flogging alone was so brutal that it is amazing he lasted until His crucifixion.

And then there was the crucifixion itself. The Romans had perfected the act of crucifixion to inflict the maximum amount of pain and suffering. The nails were driven into the wrists and ankles, some of the most sensitive parts of the body.

John 19:31-37 gives the account of the guards breaking the legs of the thieves to hasten their death by asphyxiation at the request of the religious leaders so that the bodies would not be left on the crosses during the Sabbath. But when they came to Yeshua, he was already dead, and they speared His side instead. This produced a sudden flow of blood and water. If he wasn’t dead, he would certainly be dead now.

Mark 15:44-45  Pilate was surprised that He was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him whether Yeshua had been dead for long.  (45)  When Pilate learned this from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph.

He was dead. No doubt about it.

– Empty Tomb

In Matthew 27 gives the account of Yeshua’s burial. Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin, placed Yeshua’ body in his tomb. This account also says that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting opposite the tomb, so they knew where it was. And the next day the Sanhedrin came up with a plan to specifically thwart any plan the disciples might have of stealing Yeshua’ body and faking a resurrection by getting Pilate’s order to post a guard and seal the tomb (read Matthew 27:62-66).

Some might say that the Romans or the Jews stole the body, but that makes no sense. What motive would they have had? That would only encourage something they wanted squelched. Instead, after Yeshua had risen, and the guards had reported everything that had happened, the chief priests bribed them to circulate a false story that the disciples had stolen the body.

The tomb was discovered empty because it was empty. Nobody got the tombs mixed up. Nobody stole the body. It was empty, period.

– Appearances

One of the greatest proofs of the Resurrection of Yeshua HaMashiach was His many post-resurrection appearances.

While there were many appearances, for the sake of time, I want to look at just one of these appearances.

1 Corinthians 15:6  After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.

More than 500 people! There were surely many people that could testify to the trustworthiness of this statement. Several hundred. Paul’s statement had plenty of eyewitness testimony to back it up or to disprove it if it had been false.

– Transformation

The reality is that a transformation in Yeshua’ followers took place. This is evidence of the reality of the resurrection. This little band of disciples went from hiding to preaching in a very short time. They were willing to go through horrible torture and death. As one writer put it, “Nobody willingly dies for something that they know is false”. But they knew it to be true. They knew Yeshua had died, they knew there was an empty tomb, and they had seen Him.

And the reality of the resurrection’s transforming power didn’t stop with the eyewitnesses. For within weeks of the resurrection, not just one, but an entire community of at least ten thousand Jews were willing to give up the very sociological and theological traditions that had given them their national identity.

Some angry Jews in Thessalonica said of Paul and his comrades that “These men who have upset the world have come here too”. The original followers and the hearers of that first century were so radically transformed that they affected their culture big time. And the transformation of people has been continuing for 2000 years.

III. The Relevance of the Resurrection

Now the question is ‘Why should Yeshua’s resurrection be important to me?’

  1. The Resurrection proves Yeshua is God

Yeshua’s resurrection proves He was God, and not an imposter. In John 2 Yeshua chased out the money changers in the Temple because they’d turned God’s Temple into a marketing venture. The Jews asked Him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” This is what Yeshua told them:

John 2:19  “Destroy this Temple,” Yeshua answered them, “and in three days I will raise it up.”

They thought he was referring to the Temple building they were in. But verse 21 tells us He was referring to His body. He delivered on His miraculous sign, thus proving who He was.

Paul opened the letter to the Romans like this:

Romans 1:1-4  Paul, a slave of Messiah Yeshua, called to be an emissary and set apart for the Good News of God,  (2)

which He announced beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures.

Concerning His Son, He came into being from the seed of David according to the flesh.  (4)

He was appointed Ben-Elohim in power according to the Ruach of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. He is Messiah Yeshua our Lord.

The Resurrection proves Yeshua to be the Son of God and brings us face to face with the fact that He is who He claimed to be, God. The founder of every other religion died and stayed dead. Yeshua rose again. This is important to you because it forces you to make a decision in your life. Since Yeshua is who He claimed to be, how will you respond to Him?

  1. The Resurrection makes your salvation possible

Without the Resurrection of Yeshua every person is still dead in their sins.”

Romans 4:25 NIV says, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

If Yeshua died and was never raised, then his death did nothing to accomplish justification. God raising him from the dead showed acceptance of Yeshua’s sacrifice. If God left Yeshua in the grave, then the sacrifice was not accepted and no one has received cleansing from sin. The condemnation for sin is death (Romans 6:23).

To still be under condemnation means that all people will be given the ultimate penalty for their sins.”

Paul writes,

1 Corinthians 15:14  And if Messiah has not been raised, then our proclaiming is meaningless and your faith also is meaningless.

1 Corinthians 15:17-18  And if Messiah has not been raised, your faith is futile—you are still in your sins.  (18)  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Messiah have perished.

If Yeshua did not rise then you are still dead in your sins and your faith in him is worthless and anyone you’ve known who died a believer is just as damned as an unbeliever.

If there had been no resurrection, then Yeshua proved Himself nothing more than a self-deceived prophet or crazy man and all of us are fools for trusting Him. BUT, as we’ve already seen, thankfully, the resurrection of Yeshua is a historical fact. Faith in Yeshua is not in vain. This is important to you this morning because Yeshua being alive means the way to God has been ‘paved’ by Yeshua and you can be made right with Him and have relationship with Him this morning.

  1. The Resurrection makes your resurrection possible

You and I are spirit and body. We are spiritual and we have physicality. Unlike the beliefs of the Greek philosophers who thought the body was evil and something we should want to be released from, God made our bodies as part of who we are and they complete us. Right now our bodies are affected by sin and die, but God has a plan to resurrect our bodies to perfection.

These resurrected bodies, our current bodies transformed, will be bodies completely perfect and dominated by the Spirit rather than the sinful nature. Granted, the resurrection will not take place until Yeshua’s Second Coming, and 2 Corinthians 5 lets us know that our disembodiment at death, for the believer, results in being in God’s presence.

But the same passage also lets us know that Paul desired to be “clothed” with his heavenly dwelling and not “naked,” or disembodied. So we can conclude that while our family members and friends that have died who were believers are very much enjoying the presence of the Lord, this is not their final eternal state. God has their bodily resurrection planned because He never planned permanent disembodiment for us.

Romans 8:23-24  and not only creation, but even ourselves. We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Ruach, groan inwardly as we eagerly wait for adoption—the redemption of our body.

(24)  For in hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?

Our spirits have been saved, but we are awaiting the day our bodies are completely made new and free of the weight of sin and totally dominated by the Holy Spirit. “For in this hope we were saved.” Resurrection is our hope.

And 2 Corinthians 5:5 says, “Now the One who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave us the Ruach as a pledge.”

This ‘first fruits of the Spirit’ spoken of in Romans 8:23 is elsewhere referred to as a guarantee and pledge that we, who are His followers will be resurrected and will be forever with Yeshua.

And our resurrection is only made possible by the resurrection of Yeshua. Yeshua’s resurrection guarantees our own bodily resurrection. The Bible refers to Him as being the ‘first fruits,’ which guarantees the whole harvest, of which you and I are a part if we are in Yeshua. In other words, since He was raised first, we know we will be raised.

1 Corinthians 15:20-23  But now Messiah has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

(21)  For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also has come through a Man.  (22)  For as in Adam all die, so also in Messiah will all be made alive.

(23)  But each in its own order: Messiah the firstfruits; then, at His coming, those who belong to Messiah;

When will our resurrection take place? The passage we just read said, “when he comes.” This second coming is referred to in Titus 2:13 as the “blessed hope.” Philippians 3:20-21 tells us that we are awaiting a Savior from heaven who “will transform this humble body of ours into the likeness of His glorious body.” When Yeshua returns we will see Him and we will be transformed! What a blessed hope indeed!

Now, just look at yourself. Take a minute. Do you feel too fat? Too thin? Got hurting knees or allergies? Losing your hair? Whatever problems and imperfections you have are temporary and will one day be changed in the twinkling of an eye if you are in Yeshua. That is our hope. It is the completion for us of the ultimate extreme makeover. A heavenly body for eternal living.

  1. Conclusion

Do you ever feel like your life is like Humpty Dumpty’s. Remember, he sat on a wall and fell and all the king horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put him back together again?

You and I are broken because of sin. And there’s not a thing anyone can do to fix us. We are utterly helpless and hopeless and stand in judgment before God because of our sin.

You may be broken like Humpty Dumpty because of sin and unfixable by anyone in the world.  But that tomb is genuinely empty and Yeshua is alive! What He did on the cross paid for your sins and you’ve been given an opportunity to not just be fixed, but to become a NEW CREATION and to have fellowship with God.


That’s the joy of Resurrection morning. God can fix you spiritually and you can have the hope that He will one day complete your redemption by redeeming your body to be like Yeshua’s body!  Do you see how relevant the resurrection is to our lives? Without it we have no life.



20230401 Parashat Tzav – Keep the Fire Burning

Torah Portion                 Leviticus 6:1-7

Haftarah                        Malachi 3:4-12

Brit Chadashah                      Matthew 3:10-17

The twenty-fifth reading from the Torah and second reading from the book of Leviticus is called Tzav, which means “Command.” The name comes from the first word of Leviticus 6:9, where the LORD says to Moses, “Command Aaron and his sons …” Tzav reiterates the five types of sacrifices introduced in the previous portion but this time discusses the priestly regulations pertaining to them. The last chapter of the reading describes the seven-day ordination of Aaron and his sons as they prepared to enter the holy priesthood.

The title for today’s drash is “Keep the Fire Burning.” Many times you hear someone say, “That church is really on fire.” Or, maybe they say, “That person is really on fire for the Lord.”

We want to consider words from the Bible that should encourage us to keep the fires burning in our life for always. We can keep that fire burning with God’s help. And not just in our individual lives but in the life of this congregation, also.

Let’s look at our primary text now.

Leviticus 6:2  “Command Aaron and his sons, saying: This is the Torah of the burnt offering. The burnt offering should remain on the hearth atop the altar all night until the morning, while the fire of the altar is kept burning on it.

Leviticus 6:5-6  The fire on the altar is to be kept burning on it—it must not go out. Each morning the kohen is to burn wood on it, laying the burnt offering in order upon it, and burning up as smoke the fat of the fellowship offerings.  (

6)  Fire is to be kept burning on the altar continually—it must not go out.

It should be our prayer that Tree of Life, St. Peter’s UMC, other churches in our area, and all congregations around this world that stand for Yeshua HaMashiach be on fire for God. May it be that we are on fire more than we have ever been before. May it be that when a lost person comes by, they might say, “I don’t know why I’m here. I just felt that something was persuading me to come in here and see what’s going on.” May it be that this congregation is so on fire that people in this community say, “There are wonderful things happening at Tree of Life. Things that can’t be explained. Things that only God can do.”

We should be praying for the fire of the Holy Spirit to consume this place. And that it happen in such a way people will be drawn to this place.

Now, there are some questions we need to ask and try to answer as we consider this fire that is spoken of in Leviticus.

First of all: What is this Holy Fire?

Secondly, Whose Responsibility is this Holy Fire?

And, thirdly, How Do We Maintain this Holy Fire?

  1. What Is This Holy Fire?


The Scripture tells us what this fire is. Over and over in the Old Testament we’re reminded of the symbol of fire.

The fire first appears as Moses sees a bush burning in the desert but its not being consumed. Moses had often seen bushes burning in the desert, but he had never seen one that wasn’t being consumed. So, Moses went over to see that bush and he heard a voice. That voice said, “Take off your shoes, Moses, for the ground on which you’re standing is holy ground.” Moses removed his shoes and began a meeting with the Lord God.

Later, after leaving Egypt, Israel was led by a cloud by day and a column of fire by night.

At Mount Sinai, the top of the mountain was covered by fire because of the presence of God.  You can still see the blackened mountain top even today, 3500 years later.

Later, in the book of 1 Kings we read about a challenge between Elijah and the prophets of Baal.  The pagan priests could not call down fire from Baal.  After drenching his own altar and sacrifice with water, Elijah called down fire from heaven that consumed the sacrifice, the altar and the priests of Baal.

And then on the Emmaus Road, the two disciples who were walking and had an encounter with the incognito risen Messiah said, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

Do you see what the fire represents? The fire represented the presence of Almighty God.

It wasn’t the burning bush that made the meeting with Moses holy. It was the presence of Almighty God. God Himself led the children of Israel. Elijah didn’t defeat the prophets of Ba’al. It was God Who defeated them. It wasn’t the emotional moment of the day which created the fire for the disciples. It was the very presence of Yeshua HaMashiach.

And there were others who experienced this fire.

Jeremiah said there is a fire in my bones and I have to speak the Word of God.

Yochanan, John the Baptist said that Yeshua would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

At Pentecost, in the Book of Acts, we see the Holy Spirit coming down with tongues as of fire.

In the Book of Revelation, John had a vision of the risen Lord Yeshua. He spoke of His eyes being as that were fiery. Those fiery eyes that can see into our soul and discern everything that is within. The fire represents the judging presence of Almighty God.

The fire represents God’s presence among us. When you give your life to Yeshua, He places a fire within you to grow and become more and more like Him. Sadly, though, that fire begins to die out. It becomes a flickering flame where once it was an inferno for Him. What’s happened?

Well, let’s consider our next question,

Whose responsibility is this Holy Fire?

Here in Leviticus it’s clear that it’s the priest’s responsibility. So, by extension, it is the rabbi’s responsibility. It’s the responsibility of the leadership. You might say it’s the responsibility of those who teach our children.

But, as New Testament Christians, we must remember what Peter said in 1 Peter 2:9,

1 Peter 2:9  But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

Every Believer should be a priest of Adonai. It was the responsibility of the priests to carry men to God and to carry God back to men. Take men to God through prayer and take God to men through His Word. And it is our responsibility then to be God’s priests. We are to pray for our neighbors and our coworkers and our family. And we are to take God to our neighbors and coworkers and family by sharing His Word.

Whose responsibility is it to carry the fire? It’s mine, it’s yours and it’s the responsibility of us all to carry this fire and to keep it burning. Because we are all priests.

Have you ever heard anyone say, “Oh, our congregation is just so cold. I just don’t feel anything there anymore.” Listen folks, if you feel your synagogue is cold, then you go in on fire and heat up that place. It doesn’t have to be cold if you’ll set it on fire. It only takes a spark to get a fire going. You warm up somebody else and let them warm up somebody else and soon your whole congregation will be on fire for Yeshua.

Whose responsibility is it? It’s all our responsibility.

There is a need for people of all ages to carry the fire.  You are never too old or too young to share the Good News of Yeshua.

Senior Adults we need you to help carry the fire because you look at life as no other age can – from the other end of spectrum. We need you to be involved because of your wisdom and experience.

Young people we need you to be involved because of your energy and enthusiasm. And don’t ever use youth as an excuse not to join God in some great work.

Jeremiah tried that and God said to him,

“Do not say, ‘I am only a youth.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you.”

To those of you in between, we need you because you are out there in the real world. You know the needs and how best to meet those needs. We rely on you to lead this church in taking the light of His fire into a sin-darkened world.

What does fire represent? It represents God’s presence. Who is to keep the fire burning? We are all called to help keep the fire burning.

Now, how do we keep the Holy Fire burning?

Those of us who have been married a while can probably agree that one of the keys to a successful marriage is communication.

Do you and your spouse talk to each other?

“How was your day?

What have you done today?

What are your plans for later this week?

Can I do something to help you?”

Any time I am out running errands I will call home and tell Pat where I’m at, does she need anything from HEB, how the doctor’s visit went.

These kinds of conversations keep us in touch with how one another is feeling and what our needs are and what our expectations are.

But, what would happen if we didn’t communicate with one another? What if we just saw each other briefly in the morning and said a quick ‘hello’ and ‘have a good day’? What if when I come in from the garden or workshop and plop down at my computer and wait for Pat to finish cooking my supper? You know what would happen? I might lose the chance to do a little grilling if didn’t communicate to her that we should have steak for supper.  She might cook Brussel sprouts just so I would protest.

Without good communications we would begin to lose touch with one another. I wouldn’t know what her needs are. We wouldn’t know each other’s expectations. How would that make us feel toward one another?  I think both of us would be really disappointed if we didn’t spend time talking to each other.

How do we keep the fire burning? We pray. We talk with God throughout the day.

“Lord, I feel a difficult day coming on. Help me out.”

“Lord, show me where You’re working. Empower me to join You in the work You have already started.”

“Lord, we need to feel your power in our home, in our community, in our congregation. Help us out, Lord”

“Lord, here’s a lonely person. Show me how to be your servant and help him out.”

As we talk with Him through the day we grow closer to Him. That’s one way to keep the fire burning – prayer.

A second way to keep the fire burning is by hearing the Word. Prayer is primarily us talking to God. I know He talks with us in prayer but it’s mostly us talking to God. So, we turn to His Word to hear from Him. That’s God talking to us. That’s part of the communication process.

The Word of God will keep you from sin.  Conversely, sin will keep you from the Word of God.

If you are burning with His fire you will stay in His Word.  But when you move away from the fire of the Lord you get cold.

Spend time in the Word every day. To help you do that, I highly recommend a plan that will keep you engaged. One such plan is The Bible Recap which takes you through God’s Word chronologically in one year. It is available as a podcast and also on YouTube, so you can listen on the way to work, or watch it from your device or TV at home. There are journals and study guides available, but you can do it for free with your own Bible, and the YouTube channel. Every day, you read about 2 chapters, and then follow up with the podcast or YouTube portion to summarize and give context to what you’ve just read. That kind of program helps you to build consistency and accountability to stay in God’s Word, and deliberately hear from Him every day.

A third way to keep the fire burning is what James called “works”.

James 2:14-18  What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith, but does not have works? Can such faith save him?

(15)  If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food,  (16)  and one of you says to them, “Go in shalom, keep warm and well fed, ” but you do not give them what the body needs, what good is that?  (

17)  So also faith, if it does not have works, is dead by itself.  (18)  But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith without works and I will show you faith by my works.

Doing things for others will keep you warm as well as the one you are helping.  One gentleman in this congregation took a generator over to the home of a friend during that ice storm a couple of years ago so that he would have electricity to operate his medical equipment.

Other members devote time to people in need.

How do we keep the fire burning? Through prayer, through Bible Study, and through our works. Ask God what you can do. There’s something all of us can do. And all of us don’t have to do the same thing. What God has for you to do might be something no one else is doing in this congregation.

There are needs all around us. Ask God to open your eyes and empower you to do the work that He has already begun.

So, we have seen that fire represents God’s presence. We are all responsible for keeping the fire burning. We keep the fire burning through prayer, studying His Word, and by our works.

It was a commandment to keep the fire burning.  Yeshua said that if we loved Him, we would keep His commandments.  Let’s show our love for the Messiah.  Keep that fire burning within us.



Agent of Salvation

20221224 Parashat Miketz – Agent of Salvation

Torah Portion                         Genesis 43:26-34

Haftarah                                Zechariah 3:6-10

Brit Chadashah                      Acts 10:24-33

The tenth reading from the book of Genesis is named Miketz, which means “the end.” The title comes from the first verse of the reading, which says, “Now it happened at the end of two full years that Pharaoh had a dream” (Genesis 41:1). The portion begins with Pharaoh’s portentous dreams, Joseph’s interpretations and his subsequent rise to power over Egypt. When a famine strikes the land of Canaan, his brothers come to Egypt seeking grain, but they do not recognize Joseph, who engineers a means by which he can test their character.

The story of Joseph is a multi-faceted tale of hubris, jealousy, hate, betrayal, success, seduction, unjust imprisonment, and finally redemption.  But there is also an underlying story of a man who wronged by his family and how he reacted to it.  Joseph was sold into slavery by his older brothers at the age of 17.  His life was like a roller coaster ride for 20 years.  Joseph eventually became the second most important man in Egypt.  Egypt was the most powerful nation in the world at that time so that would make Joseph, the former slave and ex-convict the second most powerful man in the known world.

Against that backdrop we see a drama unfold that could have destroyed a family and the future nation of Israel.  When Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt a second time to buy grain during the massive famine that engulfed the entire Mediterranean area, they had no idea what they were getting into.  They again came face to face with the brother that they had wronged some 20 years earlier.  Joseph recognized his brothers, but since he was dressed in the fashion of an Egyptian ruler, they had no idea who he was.

Joseph had arranged to eat a meal with his brothers.  It would be the first time he saw Benjamin in 20 years.

Genesis 43:26-30 When Joseph came home, they brought him the offering in their hand into the house, and they bowed down to the ground to him.

Then he asked if they were well, and said, “Is he well—your elderly father that you told me about? Is he still alive?” “Your servant, our father, is well,” they said. “He’s still alive.”

Then they knelt and bowed down. Then he lifted his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, “Is this your youngest brother whom you mentioned to me?”

Then he said, “May God be gracious to you, my son.” Then Joseph hurried out because his compassion grew warm and tender toward his brother so that he wanted to cry. So he went into an inner room and wept there.

Joseph had manipulated events in order to force his brothers to bring Benjamin with them.  Now that he had all of his brothers together he had the perfect opportunity to throw them all in prison for their evil deeds.  All but Benjamin were guilty, were they not? And yet, there was something far different inside Joseph.  Most men would have relished the opportunity for revenge.  But Joseph wept.

Most men would harbor deep seated hatred for those who had caused him so much pain.  But Joseph wept.

There was nothing in Joseph’s heart and mind as important than his family.  These men had abused him terribly 20 years ago and Joseph’s response was to cry.

Joseph now knew that the God of Abraham, Isaac and his own father Jacob had directed his path in order for him to be the agent of salvation for his family.  Instead of hate and revenge, Joseph showed nothing but love and forgiveness.

Yeshua has been called Mashiach ben Yoseph, Messiah son of Joseph for the many parallels between their lives.  Yeshua lived a sinless life, resisting many temptations.

He taught us the power and necessity of forgiveness.

Matthew 5:22-24  But I tell you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be subject to judgment.

And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca’ shall be subject to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be subject to fiery Gehenna.

“Therefore if you are presenting your offering upon the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go.

First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.

Yeshua is telling us that our offerings, our good deeds, our piety are not acceptable if we don’t make things right with our brother.  Brother in this context can mean family, friends, acquaintances in the Congregation.  Our relationship with our neighbors, our fellow man is important.  It is the second most important commandment of God.

Rav Shaul, the Apostle Paul, taught us in Galatians.

Galatians 5:13-15  Brothers and sisters, you were called to freedom—only do not let your freedom become an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.  For the whole Torah can be summed up in a single saying: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not destroyed by one another.

Again in His letter to the congregation in Rome Rav Shaul gives us some good advice.

Romans 12:9-18  Let love be without hypocrisy—detesting what is evil, holding fast to the good.  (10)  Be tenderly devoted to one another in brotherly love; outdo one another in giving honor.

(11)  Do not be lagging in zeal; be fervent in spirit. Keep serving the Lord,  (12)  rejoicing in hope, enduring in distress, persisting in prayer,  (13)  contributing to the needs of the kedoshim, extending hospitality.  (14)  Bless those who persecute you—bless and do not curse.  (15)  Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.  (16)  Live in harmony with one another; do not be proud, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own eyes.  (17)  Repay no one evil for evil; give thought to what is good in the eyes of all people.  (18)  If possible, so far as it depends on you, live in shalom with all people.

I like that last verse.  “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live in shalom with all people.”  Your relationship with people often depends on you.  I realize that some folks are just not easy to get along with.  You have to walk on eggshells when you are around them.  But that is what we are called to do.  That is part of that living sacrifice that Romans 12:1 calls us to be.

With those thoughts in mind let me go on to the hard part of this teaching.

Both within and outside the Messianic Movement today are people that have decided that they will no longer celebrate Christmas.  The reasons for such a stance are varied and generally settle on these main points.

  1. Disagreement on the actual date of Yeshua’s birth. Possible dates include Sukkot, Rosh Hashanah, Shavuot, and 1 Nisan.


  1. Christmas merged with an older pagan holiday to coincide with the Winter Solstice.


  1. Christmas trees are falsely maligned as objects of worship as described in Jeremiah 10, or pagan sexuality.


  1. Santa Claus has replaced Jesus as the reason for the season.


There may be other reasons than those enumerated, but for our purposes today those are sufficient.

Do we know the real date for the birth of the Messiah?  There are many theories and calculations as to when he was born.  Does His possible birth on December 25 or during Sukkot, or Rosh Hashanah or even in the springtime affect your salvation?  If Yeshua was born on the 4th of July, would any of us be less redeemed and covered by the Blood of the Lamb?  No it would not.  The date of Yeshua’s birth is not a salvation issue.

Some point out that Christmas was chosen on December 25 to coincide with the Winter Solstice, which is celebrated by many non-Believers.  While that may be true, does that in an of itself make Christmas a ‘pagan’ holiday?  I would ask you to consider the names we ascribe to the days of the week.  All the days of the week use names honoring some ancient deity.  Are we pagans because we use those names?  No!

What about the names of the months?  Our calendar is based on a Roman calendar that was established around 753 BCE.  Seven of the twelve months are named after Roman gods or Roman emperors.

However, it’s not just the Gregorian calendar that reflects false gods, but the Hebrew calendar shows blatant compromise as well. Does being born in one of those months make you a pagan?  Obviously not.

Many people point to Jeremiah 10 as a prohibition against Christmas trees.  Let’s look at what it says.

Jeremiah 10:2-4  Thus says Adonai: “Do not learn the way of the nations or be frightened by signs of the heavens—though the nations are terrified by them.  (3)  The customs of the peoples are useless: it is just a tree cut from the forest, the work of the hands of a craftsman with a chisel.  (4)  They decorate it with silver and gold, and fasten it with hammer and nails so it won’t totter.

If you take these verses literally you see a person cutting down a tree, carving it into an image, and then gilding it with gold and/or silver.  The Asherah poles in ancient Canaan, and possibly, the totem poles of the Pacific Northwest are examples of that.  No one that I know of “worships” a Christmas tree.  Many are thrown away or disassembled and stuffed in a container after Christmas.  Strange way to treat a god.

The last point is one to which I thoroughly agree.  Santa Claus and the whole Santa Claus culture has highjacked what should be a wonderful time of celebrating the birth of our Messiah.  Growing up, Santa Claus was never part of our culture.

So what do we do about all this?  What should be our reaction?

Nowhere in the Bible is Christmas mentioned.  Neither are there any instructions as to how to celebrate Hanukkah or Purim.  And yet, we observe them.

Christians who celebrate the birth of the Messiah on 25 December do so out of a desire to honor the Messiah.  Do they have it all right?  Can we as Jews, Messianic Jews, or grafted-in Believers say with certainty that our form of worship is perfect?  I would say not.

Joseph, after 20 years in Egypt had an Egyptian name.  His wife was the daughter of an Egyptian priest.  He had two sons from a pagan wife.  Joseph dressed like an Egyptian.  He walked and talked like an Egyptian, and yet he was still tied to his Hebrew family.  His family was important enough to risk his position to embrace them.

How important is your family today?  Are you willing to cast them aside because they celebrate Christmas like every other Jesus-loving Christian?  How are you ever going to win your family to the True salvation of Messiah with an arrogant attitude of superiority because we worship on the Sabbath?

We don’t celebrate Christmas or Easter because of Santa Claus and the easter bunny.  You will never win them over by saying they are pagans.  No, you win them over by showing your love for them. Remember that time when Jesus said he came to bring a sword that would divide families? Well He didn’t mean bringing war to family gatherings and holidays.  Be like Joseph, the agent of salvation for his family.

Outside of your relationship with Yeshua HaMashiach, there is no relationship more important than your own family.  Please don’t ostracize your loved ones because they don’t believe like you do.  We have both ends of the spectrum here at TOL.  There are families that came out of a particular denomination, and yet they still retain a loving relationship with their families and former congregants.  Do they have different beliefs?  Absolutely they do.  But they still show love to each other.

Sadly, we have some folks who are so dogmatic about what they NOW believe, they cannot show love and tolerance to their own family members: refusing to gather with them during this Christmas season, refusing to have anything to do with their loved ones.  With all my heart I am asking you, if you fit into that description, please reconsider.  God gave us our families for a reason.  You may be the only one who can bring them to salvation.   Be that agent of salvation for your family

I think Paul had it right.

1 Corinthians 9:22  To the weak I became weak, so that I might win over the weak. I have become all things to all men, so that by all means possible I might save some.

Our objective is not to show off our “superior” style of worship.  Our major purpose is to win the lost at any cost.

In this dual season of Hanukkah and Christmas may the light of the Messiah shine through each of us.

Living Water or Broken Cisterns

20220730 Parsha Mattot-Massei – Living water or Broken Cisterns


Torah Portion Numbers 30:1-8
Haftarah Jeremiah 2:5-13
Besorah John 7:32-39

The name of the forty-second reading from the Torah is Mattot, which means “tribes.” The name is derived from the words of Numbers 30:1, which says, “Then Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes of the sons of Israel.” Numbers 30 discusses the laws of vows and oaths. Numbers 31 tells the story of Israel’s war with Midian. Numbers 32 relates the story of how the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Mannaseh came to inherit the land east of the Jordan River. Except in biblical calendar leap years, Mattot is read together with the subsequent Torah portion, Massei, a word that means “journeys, on the same Sabbath. It comes from the first verse of the reading, which begins with the words “These are the journeys of the sons of Israel” (Numbers 33:1). Massei is the end of the continuous narrative of Torah that began in Genesis with the creation of the universe. The narrative does not resume until the end of Deuteronomy, when Moses dies.

Last week I spoke from the Haftarah Portion, and I will do the same this week. We will examine the words of the Prophet Jeremiah.

Jeremiah, known as the weeping prophet, warned the people of Jerusalem of their impending judgment by Babylon’s invasions in 598 BCE and 587 BCE. His ministry was solely to plead with the Jewish people to repent and return to the Lord. Interesting notes about his personal life are that he was called by God at a very young age, subsequently forbidden to marry, beaten and abused by his embarrassed family as well as the Judean regime, and left to die in the bottom of a well. He lived and died alone, without any recognition of his prophetic accuracy. Jeremiah preached doom and gloom messages, but his ultimate intent was to inspire repentance and restoration.

For all of Jeremiah’s lamentations, it has always been interesting to me to note something about Jeremiah’s writings. When God called him to be a prophet, God made an incredible statement.

Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I set you apart—I appointed you prophet to the nations.”

When does life begin? According to that scripture, it appears that life begins even before conception. God said even before you were formed in the womb, I KNEW YOU. And I believe that He also has plans for you and me. Whether you were planted in a Jewish or gentile family, God does not make mistakes. Be the man or woman God formed you to be and run with it. Don’t question God. He knows what He’s doing.

Jeremiah was called by God to be a prophet to the nations, not just Judah in 627 BCE. He prophesied to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for 40 years, warning them of the impending judgement that was about to fall. His message was simple and straightforward. Repent. Repent. Repent.

We have already read this portion of Jeremiah, but it bears repeating.

Jeremiah 2:4-5 Hear the word of Adonai, O house of Jacob and all the families of the house of Israel. (5) Thus says Adonai: “What fault did your fathers find in Me that they strayed so far from Me? They walked after worthless things, becoming worthless themselves?
(6) They did not ask ‘Where is Adonai, who brought us up from the land of Egypt and led us through the wilderness, through a land of deserts and rifts, through a land of drought and distress, through a land where no one travels, where no one lives?’
(7) Yet I brought you into a fertile land, to eat of its fruit and goodness. When you came, you defiled My land. You made My heritage an abomination.
(8) The kohanim did not ask, ‘Where is Adonai?’ The Torah experts did not know Me. The shepherds rebelled against Me. The prophets prophesied by Baal and went after unprofitable things.

Bnei Israel saw the miraculous interventions of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob time after time. Yet they forgot. That is why the observance of Passover is so important. Why do we do it every year? So we do not forget the wonderful miracles God wrought on our behalf. We should never forget, nor let our children forget, who we are and what Adonai has done for us.

The priests drifted away, busy with their rituals and liturgy. The Torah teachers became experts in dividing the words but forgetting who wrote the words. Even the shepherds, the common everyday people like you and me turned against God. The so-called prophets were corrupted and prophesied in the name of Baal.

We can sometimes get so wound up in our routine, even our religious routine, that the prayers, the liturgy, Bible reading becomes just that….routine. Something we can do without even thinking. It’s like formulaic prayers we say at meals, or bedtime. Take a step back and think about what you are doing and what you are saying. When I say you, I mean me too. I have to remind myself what those Hebrew words mean and to whom I am speaking. Continuing with Jeremiah…

Therefore I will plead with you again!” It is a declaration of Adonai. “I will contend with your children’s children. Cross to the coasts of Kittim and see! Send to Kedar, and observe carefully. See if there has been anything like this.

Has a nation changed its gods—even though they are not gods? Yet My people have exchanged their glory for worthless things. Be appalled at this, O heavens! Be utterly horrified and dumbfounded.” It is a declaration of Adonai.

My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me—the spring of living water—and they dug their own cisterns—cracked cisterns that hold no water.

I don’t think I have to tell you the importance of water. It is the most precious commodity in all the world. It is important in part, because you must have water to make coffee.

So what is a cistern? Cisterns are a substitute for clean running water. Ancient cisterns were a necessary survival tool, peppered throughout all throughout Israel, the most impressive of which are in desert regions like the fortress of Masada. The problem with cisterns is that they leak, losing all that precious rainwater. If you have a really good cistern and it doesn’t leak you will have problems of stagnation.

Cisterns themselves are not good, nor bad, but they must not replace the preferred life-giving source of fresh running water. Today we still dig cisterns, as coping mechanisms, to shore us up during personal tragedies. We rely on friends, family, government to bail us out of our dry spells. What we really need to stay close to Ruach HaKodesh, drinking from the well who never runs dry.

Now, let’s address what Living Water actually means. Many Believers will tell you that it is simply refreshing from God, to renew them in their daily walk. That is not even close to the depth of significance intended for this phrase.

The Living Waters
1. Come from the Throne of God (Zech 14, Rev 7 & 22)
2. Everlasting life to those who receive Yeshua (John 4)
3. Ruach HaKodesh to the Believer (John 7)
4. Justice for those who suffered the Tribulation (Rev 7)
5. Healing of all the nations (Rev 22)

ADONAI calls Himself the spring of Living Water, but Yeshua does not. As Yeshua speaks to the Samaritan woman in John 4:14, He does not tell her that He IS the Water,

John 4:13-14 Yeshua replied to her, “Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. 14 But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never be thirsty. The water that I give him will become a fountain of water within him, springing up to eternal life!”

Nor does He claim to be the Living Water in John 7:37-39.

John 7:37-39
On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Yeshua stood up and cried out loudly, “If anyone is thirsty, let him COME TO ME AND DRINK. 38 Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture says, ‘out of his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now HE SAID THIS ABOUT THE RUACH, whom those who trusted in Him were going to receive; for the Ruach was not yet given, since Yeshua was not yet glorified.

Yeshua says that He will give to anyone who is thirsty, but He is referring to the Ruach HaKodesh.

The Water itself comes from the Throne of God, as described in Revelation 22:1-2.

Revelation 22:1-2
Then the angel showed me a river of the water of life—bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the city’s street. On either side of the river was a tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

Rev 7:14 Then he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

15 For this reason, they are before the throne of God, and they serve Him day and night in His Temple. The One seated on the throne will shelter them.

16 They shall never again go hungry, nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not beat down on them, nor any scorching heat.

17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne shall shepherd them and guide them to springs of living water, and God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes.”


Where else do we see Rivers of Living Water referenced, besides John and Revelation?

Zechariah 14:8-9 Moreover, in that day living waters will flow from Jerusalem, half toward the eastern sea and half toward the western sea, both in the summer and in the winter. Adonai will then be King over all the earth. In that day Adonai will be Echad and His Name Echad.

Before the calendar was changed under Babylonian influence, the seventh month of the Hebrew year was Ethanim.

King Solomon dedicated the Temple to ADONAI in the month of Ethanim, because he understood the significance of the moedim outlined in Leviticus 23. This wise king was deliberately inviting the Holy Spirit of God to inhabit the Temple during the month when God Himself established a time of holy convocation, signifying the presence of the Holy One with His people.

Ethanim is when we are instructed to celebrate 3 crucial feasts. The Feast of Trumpets is the first day of Ethanim. The Day of Atonement is the 10th day of Ethanim, and the Feast of Tabernacles, which symbolized God walking with us, begins on the 15th of Ethanim. Those three feasts announce the very Messianic experiences of Yeshua’s return, the Day of Judgement, and the Millennial Reign.

The importance of the distinction between the Hebrew word for the 7th month, Ethanim, and the Babylonian word, Tishri, is dire. Ethanim was the 7th month, with specific biblical meanings attached to the number seven. Tishri, the current word used for the “Jewish” calendar is a Babylonian word meaning, “Month of the beginning,” which completely transformed the Hebrew calendar, forcing Tishri to be the first month of the Hebrew year, rather than the seventh month.

But the most tragic part of losing the Hebrew word Ethanim to a pagan Babylonian word, Tishri, is not the calendar sequence; it is the symbolism that comes from the word itself. Ethanim has several meanings: “perpetual” and “permanent,” like the Kingdom of God. It also means flowing water. Put the books of Zechariah, John and Revelation together, and you have the perpetual and permanent rivers of water, flowing from the Throne, moving from the base of the Throne to the east and the west.

When ADONAI is lamenting B’nei Israel and their rejection of Living Water for broken cisterns, it is more than a simile describing their rejection of spiritual refreshing. They literally rejected their Covenant identity established by ADONAI. They redefined the terms by which the presence of God came to them in the 7th month of the Hebrew year. They chose Ba’al over ADONAI, because the COEXIST movement told them to.

Those moedim cement the identity of the Judeo-Christian culture. They outline prophecy for the events that surround the coming and the return of the Messianic Kingdom. Our daily scripture reading must NEVER become mundane or routine. Give us this Day our Daily Bread, is not about food, but about feeding our souls with the Word of God. The ones who reject the Living Waters reject eternal life and embrace eternal damnation. As Believers, whether Jew or Gentile, our misunderstanding of the Living Waters as prophetic guidelines will give a foothold for compromise and false grace.

I was explaining to Pat about the theme of the drash this week. She observed that I was preaching to the choir. She’s right. This message is directly pointed at the choir, not the unbeliever. This isn’t a missionary attempt to redeem a people who are neck deep in hedonistic lifestyle choices, but instead to sound the alarm for a bored people who are satisfied with the status quo of FaceBook, instead of the Good Book.

Wake up and repent!

We, as Messianics, are all guilty of condemning and accusing the unbeliever or the casual cultural Christian, while our own righteousness is as filthy rags. Jeremiah wept as he watched the Chosen Ones become eternally damned because of their casual negligence of the mandate of holiness that God gave them.

Do we sometimes forsake the source of living water? Let me ask you this. When something in our lives goes sideways, who is connected to the other end of our 911 call?

There is only one way to fill that void and that is relying on the living water of Ruach HaKodesh. If you have not yet asked Yeshua into your life, do it today. There is no better time. If you are a Believer, don’t wander off away from the life-giving water that Ruach gives. Broken cisterns will always disappoint, but Yeshua never will.

Under Law or Under Grace?

20220129 Parsha Mishpatim – Under Law or Under Grace

Torah Portion                   Exodus 23:20-28

Haftarah                          Jeremiah 34:14-17

Brit Chadashah                       Galatians 3:23-29

The eighteenth reading from the Torah is named Mishpatim, which means “judgments.” The title comes from the first words of the first verse of the reading,

וְאֵלֶּה הַמִּשְפָּטִים אֲשֶר תָּשִׂים לִפְנֵיהֶם׃

 Ve-E-Le   Ha-Mish-Pa-Tim   A-Sher   Ta-Sim   Lif-Nei-Hem

which could be literally translated to say, “And these are the judgments which you will place before them” (Exodus 21:1). The first three chapters of this Torah portion deliver a legal code of laws and commandments that form a nucleus for the Torah’s laws. The last chapter tells the story of how the people of Israel consented to keep these laws and entered into a covenant relationship with God through a series of rituals conducted by Moses.

Last week we looked at a couple of ways to characterize the Covenant between God and Israel.  Was it a code of conduct imposed on a subjugated people or was it a marriage contract between a loving husband and his bride?  We saw that it was perhaps a little bit of both.  It was indeed a Suzerain treaty format with God as the Sovereign and Israel as the Vassal.  But it was also a marriage with the Torah serving as the Ketubah.

Today, I want to dig a bit deeper into the characteristics of the Torah, God’s written instructions, His standard of holiness.

This week’s Torah Portion contains a lot of laws and commandments.  When Christians talk about the “Law”, they are probably thinking about lists of dos and don’ts.  But we must remember that the Torah also contains stories from creation through the days of Moses.  All that preceded Moses is a valuable commentary that is much more than just a legal code.

But, I have to admit, there are a lot of laws and commandments in the “Law”.  The word Torah actually means “instruction.”  Have you ever bought your kids something that comes in a big box with a gazillion parts in it?  What is the most important piece of information that is included in that box?  Not the warranty. That’s right, it is the instruction manual.  Without it you would be lost and perhaps never get the toy assembled properly.  In the same way, the laws and commandments found in the Torah are God’s instructions for how He wants His people to live.  The Torah is the user’s manual for life.

This week’s Torah portion contains a lot of laws. Exodus 21-23 reads like an ancient legal code. Of the 613 commandments that the sages traditionally derive from the Torah, more than fifty of them are found in this week’s portion.

For some reason, many Christian teachers seem to view the laws of the Torah as if they are a bad thing. It is commonly taught that the law is the opposite of grace. You might hear someone say, “We are no longer under the law. We are under grace.” The implication is that since we have received the Messiah, we need not concern ourselves with the laws in the Old Testament. We can call this idea “Grace vs. Law.”

But before anyone begins to think that the Law is not good, let’s look at some of the innovations brought about by the law.  These items were not practiced in the Ancient Near East in 1446 BCE.  One that immediately comes to mind that we will see in an upcoming Parsha, is the treatment of women captives after winning a battle.  Contrary to the prevailing custom of the day, Israelite soldiers were not allowed to ravage women captives.  If they found one that they were attracted to, they had to take her home and treat her with respect.  After a month in which she was able to mourn her captivity, he could marry her but she had certain rights not granted to women captured by other nations.

The treatment of slaves was also much better than other countries.  There were provisions that allowed slaves to be free after 7 years.

Involuntary manslaughter was dealt with by having cities of refuge that allowed sanctuary against family avengers.

Women could inherit property just like men.  Unheard of in that era of human history.

There were laws that prevented perpetual slavery and indebtedness.  Property was reverted back to the original clan at the Jubilee years.  (Every 50 years)

So we see that the Law, far from being a repressive burden was actually progressive for its day.

Let’s think about the Grace vs. Law idea. What do we mean when we say that we are not under the law? Does that mean we do not have to keep God’s rules? For example, does it mean that we can commit adultery and theft? Of course not. No one would say that. So what does it mean?

The Grace vs. Law concept is derived from the writings of Paul. In his epistles, it seems that Paul pits the two in opposition to each other. He often says things like

“Now before faith came, we were being guarded under Torah—bound together until the coming faith would be revealed.” (Galatians 3:23)


“But if you are led by the Ruach, you are not under law.” (Galatians 5:18).

One might misunderstand these statements to mean that Believers in Yeshua do not need to keep God’s rules. Of course, that would be absurd. Paul realized that some people might misunderstand his teaching, so he cautioned us not to suppose that grace gives us free license to sin against God:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may abound? May it never be! How can we who died to sin still live in it? (Romans 6:1-2)

Do we then nullify the Torah through faithfulness? May it never be! On the contrary, we uphold the Torah.  (Romans 3:31)

If Paul was not teaching believers that they did not have to keep God’s rules, what was he talking about? In Paul’s day, many of the Jewish believers taught that before Gentiles could be part of the kingdom of heaven, they needed to become Jewish. The idea that a Gentile must become Jewish before being saved is what Paul calls being “under the law.” Paul believed that Gentiles became sons of Abraham and part of the people of God through faith in Messiah. They did not need to earn that status by becoming legally Jewish. They did not need to first come “under the law” in order to enter the kingdom.

The Bible does not actually teach the idea of Grace vs. Law. Grace is God’s free gift of salvation for those who believe in His Son. Law is His loving instruction for how His people should live. Grace vs. Law is a false dichotomy. They are not opposed to each other. They are meant to work hand in hand.

The Law of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and the Grace of the Brit Chadashah (New Testament) ultimately serve one purpose and one purpose only.  That being the process of bringing us into right standing before God.

In doing so, there is a duality in the Law.  Paul says that the Law acts as a guardian, mentor or tutor guiding us to faith in the Messiah.

Galatians 3:23-25  Now before faith came, we were being guarded under Torah—bound together until the coming faith would be revealed.  (24)  Therefore the Torah became our guardian to lead us to Messiah, so that we might be made right based on trusting.  (25)  But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

It would be like having a tutor or overseer to guide us through the years of our education.  At the end of the process, when we have graduated high school or university, there is really no need for the daily guidance of our tutor.  We are now on our own and not under his tutelage.  The Torah serves as that guide pointing us to the time of graduation when we have come to understand the principle of salvation and have accepted Yeshua as our savior.

So, do we fire our tutor, the Torah, or does he remain our friend, guide and companion as we go forward.  Of course, we keep Torah in our lives.  Can you imagine the confusion of not knowing what is right and wrong?  For me that would be like trying to participate in a game of cricket.  I know it looks sort of like baseball, but not really.  The scoring is absolutely incomprehensible.  I would need someone to teach me the rules of the game if I ever wanted to be competitive.

Life sometimes is like that rhetorical game of cricket.  How do you compete and excel if you don’t know the rules?  Torah provides those rules even though you are a Believer, there are still rules.  We have to know God’s standards of holiness if we want to continue walking with the Lord.  What did Yeshua say about that?

John 14:15  “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.

John 14:21  He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me. He who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and reveal Myself to him.”

John 15:10  If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.

To what commandments was Yeshua referring?  It was the commandments of the Law.  Yeshua didn’t come and bring a new Law with Him.  No, He said that He didn’t come to change the law.

Matthew 5:17-18  “Do not think that I came to abolish the Torah or the Prophets! I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.  (18)  Amen, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or serif shall ever pass away from the Torah until all things come to pass.

Yeshua didn’t change the Law.  He didn’t say it was alright to eat pork or shellfish.  He didn’t say we could change the day of Shabbat, disrespect our parents or cheat on our spouses, lie or cheat.  Yeshua didn’t nail the Law to the cross.  He clarified the Law.  He gave us a better understanding of the Law.  We already had the letter of the Law, but Yeshua gave us the Spirit of the law.  It is like studying the Legislative Notes of the Law, which give the reasoning behind the law and gives a sense of the intended purpose of the Law.  Yeshua’s teaching gives us a clearer picture of what God intended when He gave us the law on Mount Sinai.

Are we under the Law or under Grace?  Like the analogy from last week, it is a bit of both.  We are under Law because the Law has not been repealed.  Hello!!! The Law will never be repealed.  The Law is STILL God’s standard of Holiness.  God never changes and neither does His standard of Holiness.  Sin is still sin.  Lying, cheating, stealing, fornication, homosexuality is still sin.  So, yes we are still under the Law.

But we are also under the mantle of grace because 2000 years ago, Yeshua lived a sinless life and became the perfect sacrifice for the atonement of our sins.  Because of God’s grace we are no longer under the penalty of death.  We have eternal life with the Messiah.  We are no longer condemned because we couldn’t follow Torah perfectly.  We have an advocate in Yeshua that brings us into the throne room of God through grace.

We don’t observe Torah in order to be saved.  Observance of Torah will not save you.  We observe Torah BECAUSE we are saved.  Because of the grace of God and the sacrifice of Yeshua we are saved and therefore we observe Torah.

Torah is a Law of Grace and Grace is how we are saved.  We need both.

A Covenant for all Times

20220122 Parsha Yitro – A covenant for all times

Torah Portion                                                Exodus 19:1-8

Haftarah                                                        Isaiah 6:1-7

Brit Chadashah                                            Matthew 19:16-26

The seventeenth reading from the Torah is named Yitro, which is the literal Hebrew behind the name Jethro. The title comes from the first words of the first verse of the reading, which says, “Now Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel His people” (Exodus 18:1). The portion tells the story of Jethro’s visit to the camp of Israel, then relates the great theophany at Mount Sinai, where God gives Israel the Ten Commandments and invites the people to enter a special covenant relationship with Him.

Today I’m going to look at the Ten Commandments and the language leading up to them with two different lenses.  Many scholars consider the language surrounding the Ten Commandments as being what is called a Suzerain Treaty.  What is a Suzerain Treaty.

A Suzerain treaty was a document or peace treaty between a strong entity, (suzerain, king, conqueror, etc.) and a lesser entity, sometimes called a Vassal, and usually was the loser in a war.  Over the years Israel had most likely been a signatory to several such treaties.  We don’t have any surviving copies of treaties between Israel and Assyria or Israel and Babylon for example, but there are other treaties that survived the ravages of history dating back to the time of the Hittites, 1400 BCE, so we know what they looked like.

The typical Suzerain treaty consisted of several sections.

  1. Preamble – identified who the Sovereign was.
  2. Historical prologue – described in detail the circumstances of the previous relations between the two parties, listing the many great things the suzerain king had performed for the benefit of the vassal.
  3. Stipulations and obligations were varied depending on the situation, the condition of the vassal nations, and the whim of the suzerain.
  4. Provision for deposition and periodic reading of the covenant
  5. List of witnesses
  6. Blessings and curses – Blessings accruing to the vassal for obedience to the treaty and curses or penalties for disobedience.

I don’t have the time this morning to go into a detailed description of all the parts of a Suzerain Treaty, but we can identify how the Ten Commandments and Deuteronomy fit the pattern of the typical Suzerain Treaty.

The preamble – Exodus 20:2a “I am Adonai your God”

Historical prologue – Exodus 20:2b “who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” This section is greatly expanded in Deuteronomy 1:9 – 4:20

Stipulations – As the Lord’s vassals, the corporate nation of Israel and, individually, the people were forbidden from forming an alliance with any other foreign deity. Enmity against the true God or showing disrespect for their Suzerain, was also forbidden. Lack of respect indicated a rebellious attitude, and the Suzerain would not tolerate it. Hashem knew that fraternizing with ideas and material things of the foreign nations would turn the minds of the people away from Him, so He included stipulations regarding just these situations. Paralleling the requirement of the vassal to appear before the Suzerain on a regular basis, we find that the Decalogue stipulates that each week the vassal was to appear before the Lord and hear the reading of the words of the covenant. This would show enduring confidence in the Suzerain as their Lord and Master. It was understood that the word of the Sovereign Lord and Master could not be changed in any way. Tribute could be defined as taking the form of tithes and offerings, and sacrifices as set forth in the ceremonial laws.

The remainder of the 10 Commandments was the core of human behavior that was expected by the vassal Israel.  These rules were given so that God’s Chosen people had a framework from which to live their daily lives in peace, harmony and mutual respect.

Deposition and witnesses– the two identical copies of the commandments were to be placed in the Ark of the Covenant.  One copy was for Israel and the other for God.

Blessings and Curses – These were spelled out later in the Book of Deuteronomy and were to be reinforced by the tribes gathering on two mountains and shouting the blessing and curses.

The covenant that God made with Israel there at Sinai was an eternal covenant.  It was not one that God would break.  The people broke it many times but God never did.  The times of exile and punishment were a direct result of their own disobedience and had been clearly delineated in the terms of the covenant.

Unfortunately, with the coming of the Messiah and his work on the cross, there are those that say that the Law of Moses is no longer in effect.  We are now under the law of Yeshua the Messiah.  Certainly, there are things in the law that are no longer being observed such as sacrifices because the Temple doesn’t exist.  But that is only a pause.  Temple sacrifices will be reinstated.  Yeshua said that:

Matthew 24:35  Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.

The law is here to stay.

But let’s go back to Sinai and take another look at the circumstances leading up to the giving of Torah.  Perhaps we need to even redefine the relationship between God and Israel.  Was it a relationship between a Sovereign and a subservient people?  There are those that point to the format of the Suzerain Treaty and believe that to be so.

I think there is another relationship between God and the family that was led out of Egypt.  First Fruits of Zion have several articles from which I am drawing today.

In Exodus 6:7, the LORD told the children of Israel, “I will take you for My people, and I will be your God.” This phrase was an adaptation of an expression from the sphere of marriage. The ancient Near Eastern wedding formulation was “You will be my wife; I will be your husband.” In the Hebrew Bible, it is common to speak of marriage as “taking” a wife. God likened Himself to a suitor and the people of Israel to the young woman He was courting. He was not content to simply redeem them from slavery; He wanted to take them as His very own people and enjoy an intimate relationship with them, like that of a husband to a wife.

Exodus 19:5  Now then, if you listen closely to My voice, and keep My covenant, then you will be My own treasure from among all people, for all the earth is Mine.

This is covenantal language. God wanted to enter into a covenant with Israel. A covenant is a contractual arrangement that specifies the terms and conditions of a relationship. The marriage metaphor is a good way to understand the covenant at Sinai. The sages speak of Exodus 19 as God’s betrothal of Israel. At the foot of Mount Sinai, God officially asked for Israel’s hand in marriage.

He spoke to her lovingly. He reminded the people of how He had carried them out of Egypt, as if on the wings of an eagle, and how he had brought them to Himself. He promised to make them His own special treasure above all other peoples. He said, “You shall be my own possession” (Exodus 19:5). The Hebrew word that the NASB translates as “possession” is the word segulah (סגלה). Some versions translate it as “beloved treasure” or “peculiar treasure.”

In the ancient Near East, the term segulah was used to describe a king’s prized trophy. When a king’s army vanquished an enemy, the king kept the most valuable items for his own treasure. A precious object like this was called a segulah. In Exodus 19:5, the word is used as a term of endearment for Israel. God says that He will make the Israelites into His specially prized treasure. He says that even though He owns the entire earth, Israel will always be His special people.

This can be compared to a king who had conquered many lands and possessed great wealth. His treasuries were filled with valuables, but he had one precious gemstone that he valued above all others. Rather than leave it in the treasury with the other valuables, he had it hung on a golden chain and wore it around his neck every day.

That’s the way God looks at Israel and each of His children.

In a traditional Jewish wedding, the bride and groom are married beneath a canopy called a chuppah, just like here where we bless the children, only much more elaborate.  The word is used several times in the Bible.

Joel 2:16  Let the bridegroom come out from his bedroom and the bride from her “chuppah” or chamber.

Psalms 19:6  It is like a bridegroom coming out of his bridal chamber (chuppah).

The chuppah represents the new house being formed by the union of bride and groom.

Was there a chuppah at Mount Sinai?  The cloud of glory over the mountain can be compared to a chuppah.  A similar image appear in the prophecies of Isaiah.  Isaiah says that in the Messianic Age, God will spread a canopy of cloud over Jerusalem.

Isaiah 4:5  then Adonai will create over the whole area of Mount Zion and over her convocations, a cloud by day, and smoke and shining of a flaming fire by night. For over all, glory will be a (chuppah).

Mount Sinai itself is sometimes likened to a chuppah.  Exodus 19:7 says that the people stood “beneath the mountain”.  This would be like a bride standing beneath a chuppah.  Ok, so don’t take that literally, it is a symbol of a chuppah to give us a picture of a wedding at Sinai.

Exodus 19:20  Then Adonai came down onto Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. Adonai called Moses to the top of the mountain, so Moses went up.

God descended on Mount Sinai in the middle of smoke, lightning, and symphony of trumpet or shofar blasts.  The mountain shook before Him. The writer of the book of Hebrews described it as “a blazing fire, and…darkness ad gloom and whirlwind.” Hebrews 12:18.  So terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am quaking with fear.” (Hebrews 12:21)

It was the grand entrance of the groom into the chuppah.  God knows how to make an entrance.

In a traditional Jewish wedding, a marriage contract is read aloud to the bride and the groom as part of the covenant ceremony.  This written contract is called the ketubbah (כתבה).  The ketubah spells out the terms and conditions incumbent upon the man and the woman.  After the ceremony, witnesses sign the ketubbah.  In Jewish tradition, the ketubbah is displayed in the home as evidence that the marriage is legal.

In the wedding at Mount Sinai, the Torah is the ketubbah.  It is the legally binding covenant contract between Gd and His bride, Israel.

From atop Mount Sinai that day, God spoke the Ten Commandments to all Israel. This can be compared to the reading of the ketubbah in a wedding ceremony.  (Similarly, according to Exodus 24:4, Moses will read the book of the covenant to the assembly of Israel.)

This is a different way of looking at the commandments o the Torah.  We should not think of them as rules imposed by an impersonal government.  They are more like the wedding vows joyously taken by a blushing bride on her wedding day.  If we understand the Torah as a ketubbah, we see that it is far more than an ethical system or moral list o dos and don’ts.  Instead, it functions as the sacred marriage covenant between God and His people.  It lays out the parameters for the relationship and outlines the expectations.  Its specific instructions and stipulations are designed to make the marriage happy, fruitful, and functional.  It defines the obligation of both the husband and the wife and describes how they are to treat each other.

So is Torah a legal document handed down by a conquering king?  Or is it a legal document jointly entered into by two parties that love each other?

I think it can be a little bit of both.  God gave us the Torah as a roadmap and to document His standard of holiness.  Paul said without Torah, we would not know what God expected of us.

But Torah is also a gift of grace.  It teaches us God’s ways and lets us know thousands of times that He loves His bride.  He loved us so much that He gave his only son to die for us so that we can be forever in right standing before him.







The Presence of God Never Departed

The sixteenth reading from the Torah is named Beshalach, which means “When he sent.” The title comes from the first verse of the reading, which can be literally translated to say, “And it happened when Pharaoh sent out the people.” The reading tells the adventures of the Israelites as they leave Egypt, cross the Red Sea, receive miraculous provision in the wilderness and face their first battle.

This Parsha has one of the most spectacular stories in all the Bible.  The crossing of the Red Sea.  Who doesn’t remember Moses (Charlton Heston) stretching his staff across the water and seeing the wind begin to part the water.  You can almost feel the sea breeze hitting you in the face.  I was nine years old when I watched the Children of Israel excitedly cross over the sea on dry ground.  (On the movie screen, not in real life).  I’m not THAT old.

As exciting as that was, there were other events that led up to the crossing that, while they didn’t make the front page of the Israelite Gazette, they were important nonetheless.

The first event was really a non-event.  Coming out of Egypt into the Promised land was only a few day’s journey.  If they followed the main trade route along the Mediterranean Sea they could be been in Canaan in less than a week.  However, there were some issues.

Exodus 13:17  After Pharaoh had let the people go, God did not lead them along the road to the land of the Philistines, although that was nearby, for God said, “The people might change their minds if they see war and return to Egypt.”

The coastal highway was guarded by Egyptian garrisons as well as the road led through Philistine territory. God did not want the military confrontations to dissuade the people. Besides, He had some important things to teach them in the wilderness before they arrived at Canaan. He wanted to deliver them at the Red Sea, teach them about His provision and give them the Torah at Sinai before leading them to the land.

The non-event turned out to be a detour toward the desert.  In that first week after leaving Egypt, the Children of Israel would experience a terrifying existential threat from the most powerful army in the world.  God had led them in one direction only to bring them back to seemingly face utter destruction.  But before the crossing, there are two verses that I want to bring to your attention.

Exodus 13:21-22  Adonai went before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead the way and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light. So they could travel both day and night.  (22)  The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night never departed from the people.

In the following 49 days, the people would face annihilation, starvation, thirst, and war.  But they seemed to have forgotten a very visible symbol of God’s presence.  He said he would provide them with a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire to guide them.  We don’t knw what the cloud or fire looked like.  Perhaps the cloud was a huge cumulo-nimbus thunderhead with lightning flashing throughout it.  Was the pillar of fire simply lightning?  We don’t know.  But there is one characteristic of the pillars of cloud and fire.  They were ever present.  The Bible says the pillars never departed from the people.

The cloud and fire were symbols of God’s presence with the people that was a precursor to when at Sinai, God made his dwelling place between the cherubim above the Ark of the Covenant.  He was reminding them that He was there with them.

Of course B’nei Israel were slow learners.  They saw the problems but didn’t look to the cloud and fire.  The Egyptian army was about to strike and the people cried out to Moses.  His answer?  Stand still and witness your salvation.  Stand still?  With the whole Egyptian army poised to push them into the sea, God’s cloud came between the Egyptians and God’s chosen people.  It must have been some kind of cloud, because the Egyptians could penetrate it.  God was in that cloud.  He didn’t abandon His people.

After crossing the Red Sea and watching the destruction of the Egyptian army,  Israel soon ran out of provisions.  They complained and God heard their cry.  He provided quail and this strange stuff called Manna.  The manna was a miraculous substance that fell with the morning dew.  As the dew dried the flakes of manna remained.  They were to gather the manna for their daily needs.  It could be baked, boiled, roasted.  If they tried to get lazy and keep some for the next day it spoiled overnight except for Shabbat.  Then the manna lasted two days without spoiling.  The daily outpouring of manna lasted until they crossed the Jordan River forty years later.  In hunger, God did not abandon His people.

Almost immediately another crisis confronted Israel.  They ran out of water and when they came to an oasis, the water was not fit to drink.  Complaining loudly to Moses was the order of the day so Moses went into his tent and brought out bottled water for everyone.  What?  You don’t believe that?  Well what really happened was even more unbelievable.  God told Moses to cut down a tree and throw it into the water.  The water immediately became pure and drinkable.  The bitter water full of contaminates and minerals was transformed instantly into a lifesaving liquid.  In thirst, God did not abandon His people.

When traveling through a desert, you have to be able to make it from one oasis to the next watering hole.  If you don’t find water, you end up like so many cartoons we see of a guy in tattered clothing crawling on hands and knees chasing a mirage.  Same thing happened to Israel.  They didn’t find that next watering hole.  They were thirsty again.  But this time there wasn’t even bitter water.  There was nothing but rocks.  God told Moses to take his staff and strike a rock.  Immediately water gushed out of the stone in such proportions that the entire assembly was able to drink their fill.  There is some speculation that the rock followed them throughout their desert wandering supplying Israel with life giving water for the duration of their wanderings.  Israel never seemed to lay hold of the concept that God was there with them and would take care of them.

Some 1500 years later Yeshua was still teaching that message.

Matthew 6:31-34  “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’  (32)  For the pagans eagerly pursue all these things; yet your Father in heaven knows that you need all these.  (33)  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.  (34)  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

God did not depart from His people even though in the ensuing years the people departed from God.  He was still there.  The pillar of cloud was gone as was the pillar of fire, but God never forgot His people and His covenant with them.

If we look through the pages of the Book of Judges, 1&2 Kings, 1&2 Chronicles we see a population of people who quickly settled into a domestic life of farming, sheepherding, and general business.  They settled in towns, and in small communities with the hope of developing a good sustainable life for them and their children.  Unfortunately, in the conquest of Canaan, they didn’t eradicate the source of sin that caused God’s judgement to fall on the Canaanites.  The People of Israel forgot the crossing of the Red Sea, the miracle of manna, the water that followed them through the wilderness.  They forgot the many battles against formidable enemies resulting in victory after victory.  In the words of Yeshua in the Book of Revelation, they had forsaken their first love.  The 1500 years after coming to the Promised land was a rollercoaster ride of idolatry, sin, oppression, repentance, revival, and victory.  They just never were able to stay focused on God’s promises in Torah.  There were a few years of peace but much more of war and turmoil and exile.  Through it all, though, the hand of God was directing the affairs of men.  He did not abandon His people.

Sometimes I think we are not unlike the Israelites.  No, we don’t bow down to idols as such.  But we get so involved in our daily lives that we can lose perspective of what is really important.  In my earlier years I was consumed by my career.  Everything revolved around that next promotion or assignment that would lead to the next promotion.  Family suffered, spiritual life suffered even though I was busy in music ministry wherever I was stationed.  It is easy to lose your focus.

One of my rabbi friends wrote that during the recent rabbi’s conference they were in a group discussion and taking the time to pray for each other’s needs.  He said that the time spent together was beneficial but still had an air of heaviness hanging over them.  One of the other rabbis then voiced what many were thinking.  When will this end?  He was speaking of the seemingly endless virus variations, everchanging government mandates that never really produced any improvement in the situation.  It was one of those honest moments that we really need to confront sometimes.

I feel like that too.  When will this ever end?  When will we get back to normal?  What is normal anyway?  Where is the cloud or fire to give us some direction?  Am I alone in that sentiment?  I wouldn’t think so.

But we don’t have to be depressed or down in the dumps.  No, I haven’t seen a pillar of cloud or fire lately, but we are not without guidance.  We have the Ruach HaKodesh to give us direction.  We need to remind ourselves of that fact on a daily basis.

Yeshua said that when He went back to the Father, he would send a comforter.

John 14:26  But the Helper, the Ruach ha-Kodesh whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you everything and remind you of everything that I said to you.

The Greek word is paracletes and has been variously translated helper, counselor, and comforter.  The Ruach is the contemporary cloud and fire.  Maybe it is not as visible, but it is every bit as powerful if you will let it.

We can rest assured that even when we wander off the reservation, God’s spirit is there with us.  One of my favorite verses was a Psalm of David.

Psalms 139:7-10  Where can I go from Your Ruach? Where can I flee from Your presence?  (8)  If I go up to heaven, You are there, and if I make my bed in Sheol, look, You are there too.  (9)  If I take the wings of the dawn and settle on the other side of the sea,  (10)  even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me.

If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed this morning, you have lots of company.  Speed bumps, detours, cancellations are all part of our modern life.  Fortunately, we don’t have to deal with marauding Philistines or Ammonites.  But it is still a dangerous world we live in.  You don’t have to face it alone.  The writer of Hebrews reminds us to:

Hebrews 13:5-6  For God Himself has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you,”  (6)  so that with confidence we say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What will man do to me?”

That’s a very strong assurance.  The Creator of the universe promised never to leave us or forsake us.  Just reach out to the Lord this morning. His Holy Spirit is just as close as your next breath. The presence of the Lord will not depart from us.

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