Ki Tisa

Ki Tisa

When you take

“Compassion Personified”

Exodus 30:11-34:35
1 Kings 18:1-39 (A); 18:20-39 (S)


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

This week’s Torah portion is entitled Ki Tisa, and we see how the Israelites continue to receive instruction from God via Moses, who continues to remain on Mount Sinai. For the past two weeks in Terumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19) and Tetzaveh (Exodus 27:20-30:10), we have seen much instruction regarding the Tabernacle service and how different offerings were to be contributed toward its construction. Now, additional instructions are given, including: taking a census,[1] a laver for proper cleansing at the Tent of Meeting,[2] prescriptions for the anointing oil,[3] and the ingredients for the holy incense.[4] After this, Moses is given directives about those who have been specifically anointed with the Spirit of God in wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and the required skillset to construct the Ark of the Covenant and all of the related implements.[5] The Lord also speaks of the significance of the seventh-day Sabbath,[6] as this special weekly day of rest is to be set aside as a unique “sign” between Israel and God, designating this community as His chosen people.

As Moses was handed the two tablets of stone which had been inscribed by the very finger of God, he began to make his descent toward the camp of Israel, which was impatiently waiting below. Apparently, the forty-day period he was on the mountain was too long for the people to wait. In the interim, they had lost faith in God and in Moses’ ability to return from Mount Sinai:

“Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, ‘Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him’” (Exodus 32:1).

Amazingly, within less than forty days, the Israelites departed worship of the Lord and pressured Aaron to make a god for them to worship. With the offerings of gold rings and earrings by the people, Aaron himself fashioned a golden calf and proclaimed a feast unto this golden idol:

“He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.’ Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, ‘Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD’” (Exodus 32:4-5).

As this rebellion erupted, God was incensed with the actions of His chosen people, and He responded by stating that He was ready to eliminate all of them, and start over with the offspring of Moses:

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation’” (Exodus 32:9-10).

At this point, we get a glimpse into the heart of Moses, who beseeched God to remember His covenants with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob through interrogative questions. What would it communicate to the Egyptians if the God of the Hebrews simply delivered His people into His safety only to wipe them out?

“‘Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, “With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth”? Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind about doing harm to Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself, and said to them, “I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.”’ So the Lord changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people” (Exodus 32:12-14).

In an interesting statement by the Lord, it is recorded that He “repented” (RSV) or changed his mind about what He wanted to do to the Israelites. The Hebrew verb nacham, appearing in the Nifal stem (simple action, passive voice), means “be sorry, rue, suffer grief, repent” or “comfort oneself, be comforted” (BDB).[7] The LXX renders this with the Greek verb hilaskomai, meaning, “to make him propitious to one, conciliate him, win his favour” (LS).[8] Yet, even while God is said to have changed His mind or repented, elsewhere in the Torah we see how “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent [nacham, Hitpael][9]; has He said, and will He not do it?” (Numbers 23:19). God actually repented from His stated intention to eliminate the people of Israel when witnessing their idolatry; God as an Eternal Being with a definite plan for Creation cannot repent or deviate from His plan. Why the tension between Exodus 32:14 and Numbers 23:19? Is it because we are limited mortals and are unable to see things fully from His perspective? Or was it because the Lord was refining Moses for further service, seeing if he truly was the able leader of Ancient Israel that he could be in reminding God of His duty not to wipe out the idolatrous people?

One thing we know for certain is that witnessed in many of the mythologies of the Ancient Near East, if various gods and goddesses saw disloyalty being committed by their people—they would exterminate them without a second thought. The Lord God of Israel, quite to the contrary, is compassionate, understanding, and merciful—especially when we entreat Him! Some might even observe how one of the primary reasons that God even created the universe, the Earth, and humanity was to display His attributes which center on grand compassion.

The Golden Calf Incident

Moses returned from the mountain with the two tablets of the Ten Commandments, and with Joshua he found Aaron and the remaining Israelites in idolatrous revelry (Exodus 32:15-18). The scene was too much to bear, and in his anger Moses broke the two tablets that God gave him as he approaches the golden calf (Exodus 32:19). Moses shoved the idol in the fire and reduced it to a powder (Exodus 32:20a). He took this power and mixed it with water, forcing the revelers to drink a bitter mixture (Exodus 32:20b). At this point, after Aaron’s poor justification that the golden calf just “made itself” in the fire (Exodus 32:21-24), the indignant Moses declared that all of those true to the God of Israel must join to him:

“Now when Moses saw that the people were out of control—for Aaron had let them get out of control to be a derision among their enemies—then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, ‘Whoever is for the LORD, come to me!’ And all the sons of Levi gathered together to him.  He said to them, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, “Every man of you put his sword upon his thigh, and go back and forth from gate to gate in the camp, and kill every man his brother, and every man his friend, and every man his neighbor.”’ So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about three thousand men of the people fell that day” (Exodus 32:26-28).

The drama of the moment subsided as the Levites went through the crowd, and slew three thousand people who were participating in the riotous festival (Exodus 32:28-35). Moses interceded to God for the Israelites with one of the most self-sacrificial offers that is ever recorded in the Scriptures: He unabashedly offered his own life for the lives of the Israelites. He was even willing to have his name erased from the Book of Life:

“But now, if You will, forgive their sin—and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!” (Exodus 32:32).

Moses completely understood his role as an intermediary between God and Israel.

Face to Face

Now as the days proceed, Moses entered the Tent of Meeting to speak with the Lord “face to face.” The Israelites began to respect Moses, because as he departed for the Tent of Meeting, the people stood at their tents and watched him enter in. As they watched the pillar of cloud descend upon the gathering place, the people arose and began to worship the Lord at the opening to their own tents. We are then told that Moses spoke with the Lord “face to face,” as a person would speak with his friend:

“Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, a good distance from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting which was outside the camp. And it came about, whenever Moses went out to the tent, that all the people would arise and stand, each at the entrance of his tent, and gaze after Moses until he entered the tent. Whenever Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent; and the LORD would speak with Moses. When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would arise and worship, each at the entrance of his tent. Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses returned to the camp, his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent” (Exodus 33:7-11).

A very interesting request from Moses is then recorded. While interceding for the people of Israel, Moses expressed a great desire to get to know the Almighty on a much deeper level:

“Then Moses said to the LORD, ‘See, You say to me, “Bring up this people!” But You Yourself have not let me know whom You will send with me. Moreover, You have said, “I have known you by name, and you have also found favor in My sight.” Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people’” (Exodus 33:12-13).

Moses pleaded that God would reveal His ways to him in order for him to really know Him and find favor in His sight. This plea of Moses is somewhat reminiscent of what the Apostle Paul would later communicate to the Philippians regarding a Believer getting to know Yeshua intimately as Lord—ultimately to the point of emulating His ministry even in death:

“But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Messiah. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Messiah Yeshua my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Messiah, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Messiah, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:7-11).

Of course, this heartfelt request of Paul comes after he has listed all of his worldly accomplishments and personal passion for the Lord. He realized, just like Moses centuries earlier, that getting to know the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is really what life is all about! A committed man or woman of faith must pursue an understanding of God with all of the heart, mind, soul, and strength.

At this point, the Holy One made a promise to Moses about revealing Himself, and He showed Moses His glory:

“Then Moses said, ‘I pray You, show me Your glory!’ And He said, ‘I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.’ But He said, ‘You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!’ Then the LORD said, ‘Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen’” (Exodus 33:18-23).

As you read these words, the Lord clearly states, “You will not be able to see My face, for no human can see My face and live” (ATS). An unholy mortal cannot look upon the sheer holiness of the Creator and survive. Sinful flesh cannot bear to view the awesomeness of pure holiness. Moses, however, was allowed to see the proverbial “back” of God and His glory, as He passed by. Throughout the Scriptures we are certainly encouraged to seek the face of God, but since this statement about seeing God’s face appears so definite, in our mind’s eye when we consider who we are seeking—it is probably better to visualize seeking God’s presence or intimacy, or His favor or His compassion.

A Second Chance

After the Lord had decided not to eliminate Israel, He commanded Moses to hew out two more tablets of stone to replace the two which were broken in anger over the discovery of idolatry in the camp. In an answer to Moses’ petition, the Lord came down to meet Moses and revealed His glory to Him, uttering some profound words which described His Divine character:

“Now the LORD said to Moses, ‘Cut out for yourself two stone tablets like the former ones, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets which you shattered. So be ready by morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to Me on the top of the mountain. No man is to come up with you, nor let any man be seen anywhere on the mountain; even the flocks and the herds may not graze in front of that mountain.’ So he cut out two stone tablets like the former ones, and Moses rose up early in the morning and went up to Mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and he took two stone tablets in his hand. The LORD descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the LORD. Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations’” (Exodus 34:1-7).

What we see described of God in Exodus 34:6-7 are the attributes of a Creator who is full of great compassion, longsuffering, and faithfulness toward His human creations. In His self-description, we find a God whose character is beyond our sinful imagination to comprehend. These are characteristics—because God is infinitely perfect—that He will always exemplify toward men and women of any generation. They are not just “New Testament” concepts, as many people may falsely think—but are demonstrated time and time again in the “Old Testament.” They are, however, chiefly embodied in the revelation of the Messiah of Israel, who was incarnated as a man so that there might be a permanent solution provided for the human sin problem.

The Compassion of the Cross

The Father’s compassion toward us is absolutely epitomized by the sacrificial death of His Son, who absorbed in Himself the capital punishment of the Torah due upon each of us (cf. Colossians 2:14). When I consider the gruesome sacrifice of the Messiah upon the tree, I can only be reminded of the prophetic declaration of Isaiah—but in so doing I am deeply saddened by how many have not believed the report of the good news:

“Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed” (Isaiah 53:1-5).

The Psalmist also reminds us that it is impossible for a mortal man to redeem another from the power of death and being left to the realm of the dead in Sheol. Only God Himself can provide the ransom required for redemption:

“No man can by any means redeem his brother or give to God a ransom for him—for the redemption of his soul is costly, and he should cease trying forever—that he should live on eternally, that he should not undergo decay…As sheep they are appointed for Sheol; death shall be their shepherd; and the upright shall rule over them in the morning, and their form shall be for Sheol to consume so that they have no habitation. But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol, for He will receive me. Selah” (Psalm 49:7-9, 14-15).

God Himself had to offer Himself in order to redeem fallen humanity, something which because of His compassionate nature He did in the person of Messiah Yeshua. This is an awesome thing to consider. As we get to know Him more, we realize just what a sacrificial heart He has for His Creation.

The Prophet Micah summarizes, in similar terms, the attributes of God that we witness in Exodus 34:6-7, making the following declaration:

“Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in unchanging love. He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, You will cast all their sin from to the depths of the sea. You will give truth to Jacob and unchanging love to Abraham, which You swore to our forefathers from the days of old” (Micah 7:18-20).

Micah states that God will not retain His anger forever because of His attribute of “steadfast love” (RSV) or “mercy” (NIV), chesed. The Lord will have compassion on us and forgive us for our iniquities and sins, casting them into the depths of the sea.[10] The Lord is fair and just, and He will not just summarily wipe out His people.

What a gracious God we honor, worship, and glorify! May His love for us become a part of who we are as we continue to know Him. Ultimately, we can understand how the Father’s compassion was personified in the glorious work accomplished by Yeshua on the cross at Golgotha (Calvary)—and surely also in many more acts to come as we eagerly await the Messiah’s return. The ability of God to continue to demonstrate love and compassion toward us is unfathomable by the human mind, as observed by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans:

“For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all. Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? OR WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? [Isaiah 40:13; Job 15:8; Jeremiah 23:18] For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:30-36).

We cannot fully understand what true godly compassion is; it is beyond our human ability to compute. We need to simply be thankful that through the Father’s compassion personified in the Son, Yeshua—through faith we can get a glimpse of who God truly is and by His grace continue to seek Him. We need to demonstrate such love and compassion to others, and by loving them and showing them His goodness, hopefully the Lord will allow us to be used to draw others unto Him!


NOTES

[1] Exodus 30:11-16.

[2] Exodus 30:17-21.

[3] Exodus 30:22-33.

[4] Exodus 30:34-38.

[5] Exodus 31:1-11.

[6] Exodus 31:12-18.

[7] BDB, 637.

[8] LS, 379.

[9] In Numbers 23:19 the verb nacham appears in the Hitpael stem (intensive action, reflective voice), meaning “rue, repent of” (BDB, 637).

[10] It is from Micah 7:19 that the Jewish custom of tashlikh, throwing crumbs or small pieces of bread into a body of water at the time of Yom Teruah/Rosh HaShanah, is derived. For more information, consult the relevant sections of the Messianic Fall Holiday Helper by Messianic Apologetics.

March 2017 Outreach Israel News


OIM Update

March 2017

There is something about this time of the year that reminds me of the “seasons of life” which continue in clockwork like fashion, to spring forth life and renewed vigor to pursue the Holy One of Israel. Perhaps it was a recent birthday, coupled with attending a Messianic Jewish conference and a congregational leadership retreat, in consecutive weekends, which all combined to make me reconsider these memorable statements from the Preacher in the Book of Ecclesiastes:

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace”
(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).

Without getting too philosophical or overly dramatic, there is definitely a personal benefit from taking some “time of reflection,” to simply meditate upon God’s Word, as the Holy Spirit brings it to mind. In this case, I have been reminded of the timely cycles or events of life that occur for every soul on the planet we call home.

Thankfully, for those inclined to follow the Torah reading patterns established by the Jewish Sages, to inculcate every generation with the wisdom found in the instruction given to Moses, there are annual reminders of the Almighty’s faithfulness to His people. Consequently this month, we conclude the Book of Exodus, reconsidering the deliverance of Israel from bondage in Egypt, and when they receive the nascent instructions on how to establish the holy nation of priests:

“Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel” (Exodus 19:5-6).

In addition this month, our methodical study of the miraculous Exodus events is interspersed with another deliverance story, when the Book of Esther is considered and Purim or the Feast of Lots is celebrated. Once again, the Creator God demonstrated His sovereign will for the children of Israel, as they avoided potential annihilation from the ancient Persian Empire. So, it is extremely important for modern-day followers of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to reflect upon the “times and seasons” of life found in the Holy Scriptures, being continually cognizant of the ancient and modern realities of Israel’s (and God’s) persistent foes. After all, the obstinate Enemy of our souls has always used people like the Amalekites to destroy those who have been called to bring the light of truth. In fact, it is clearly stated that after Moses declared the Holy One as a banner over Israel, the harassment from the Amalekites will continue forever:

“Moses built an altar and named it The LORD is My Banner; and he said, ‘The LORD has sworn; the LORD will have war against Amalek from generation to generation’” (Exodus 17:15-16).

Therefore, let us all be persistent in our intercessory prayers, as we reflect upon historical occurrences, and present realities! 2017 is a year of significant anniversaries for the State of Israel and the liberation of Jerusalem, which will keep Israel in the media focus throughout the year. It is our fervent prayer that despite the attempts of nefarious interests to do harm to Israel, we will all redouble our prayers for protection for those in positions to lend help and security. We know from past experience that as the Lord continues to bring His people together in harmony, the Evil One continues to prowl about as a lion seeking to devour any susceptible to his wiles.

This month’s lead article by J.K. McKee has been entitled, “Purim, Haman, and Anti-Semitism.” As he continues to expand the Messianic Apologetics division of Outreach Israel, there is also a change in our service narrative that will begin to come into focus. In the past, our ministry has tended to almost exclusively be focused on helping non-Jewish families and individuals, like ours, get acclimated to the Messianic movement and experience, as they embrace their faith heritage in Israel’s Scriptures. Because of our growing associations with Messianic Jewish Believers and leaders over the past few years, we will be focusing more efforts on how we can make a substantial contribution to Jewish outreach and evangelism, particularly in the apologetics of Yeshua’s Messiahship and Bible difficulties. This is very exciting! Please continue to support our efforts with your financial contributions! Without your offerings and gifts, it would be difficult to dedicate the time and energy to produce our many educational resources.

Thank you in advance for your partnership with our ministry endeavors!

“The LORD bless you, and keep you; the LORD make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).

Shalom and blessings,

Mark Huey


Purim, Haman, and Anti-Semitism

by J.K. McKee
editor@messianicapologetics.net

This month the worldwide Jewish community will be commemorating the Festival of Lots or Purim. As many of us know, Purim is a time when the account of the Book of Esther is read, there is typically some kind of congregational play where young people dress up as Biblical characters, and there is a great deal of food. Purim is a calendrical reminder that one month later, we will be remembering the Passover. There are many important themes of Purim, as witnessed in the Book of Esther, which force us as God’s people to not only consider the ancient Jewish exile from the Promised Land, but also how anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism is a blight that humanity has been suffering from for well over two millennia.

I have already written many things about Purim and the Book of Esther, which are included in our ministry’s Messianic Spring Holiday Helper publication, as well as in A Survey of the Tanach for the Practical Messianic. As someone who has been involved in Biblical Studies, my approach to reading the Book of Esther is not guided by me trying to look for esoteric or hidden meanings behind the characters of Queen Esther, King Ahasuerus (Xerxes), Mordecai, or Haman. While there are points of irony within the account of Esther, and one can surely see the sovereign direction of the God of Israel behind the events—my interest is understandably more focused on the historicity of the events, and how we learn from them moving forward in time. There certainly was an Ancient Persian Empire that controlled what we today call the Middle East, and into parts of both India and the Eastern Mediterranean. There certainly was a large displaced population of Jews, living in exile away from their home in the Land of Israel.

At the end of 2003, I can recall some of the unexpected reactions that many people in the Messianic community had, when The Jewish Study Bible by Oxford University Press was released. Even today, the engagement level that many Messianic people have tends to begin and end with the resources produced by Orthodox Jewish publishers such as ArtScroll—which definitely sits at the (far) Right end of the spectrum. When The Jewish Study Bible was released, it was acclaimed to be a compendium of Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Jewish scholarship; what it ended up being was a Jewish edition of another Oxford Annotated Bible, meaning that it was very liberal. Its introduction for the Book of Esther approached Esther as though the story were ahistorical at best, but in all likelihood an ancient novella akin to modern day soap operas, broadly fiction, with its inclusion in the Hebrew canon of the Tanach to be somewhat spurious. I certainly believe that the Book of Esther contains reliable history, and should not be removed from the Biblical canon—but historical issues in the Book of Esther are actually some of the least of our challenges when approaching the Tanach.

I seriously wonder if some of the conclusions drawn by those who treat the Book of Esther as being ahistorical, are affected by how Purim can often be commemorated today in various settings. None of us should have any real problems with having a good time, and even putting on a dramatic presentation, in costume, of various Biblical stories. Dramatic presentations will necessarily invite embellishing a few things here or there. Ultimately though, the account of Esther chosen to be the wife of King Ahasuerus, Mordecai’s position in the Persian court, Haman’s manipulations—and God working behind the scenes through people strategically positioned—is something very serious and sober. There is no denying the fact that the account of the Book of Esther, forces each of us to consider the dastardly effects of anti-Semitism throughout world history. There has been a concentrated effort by the enemy to see that the Jewish people are eradicated—mainly because without the Jews, you have no people who can bear forth to God’s faithfulness of a Messiah to come.

When I was living in Central Florida from 2001-2012, my local Messianic congregation did have a customary Purim play, where the younger people, and a few of the adults, dressed up as characters from the Book of Esther. Periodically, however, the traditional play would be supplemented with another presentation: Hamans throughout history. In the traditional Purim play, the figure of the evil Haman is typically booed. Haman dresses up in all black, with some kind of an elaborate headpiece, and he is played by someone who has to give him sinister characteristics. And yes, for the record, I have played Haman on multiple occasions. Even though at the end of the record of Esther, Haman is put to death using the same mechanisms with which he sought to exterminate the Jews—anyone who reads history, is quite consciously aware of how anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism did not die with Haman. What many would rightly classify as “the spirit of Haman,” a chief demonic principality which seeks for the annihilation of the Jewish people, has been passed down among many willing vessels to our present day.

So, assuming that in attending a Shabbat service during the week of Purim, and witnessing the younger people and a few adults seemingly make fun of themselves as they go through the story of Esther—is the story of Esther to just be something where we have a good laugh, and then eat 250-calorie Hamentashen cookies afterwards? I am hardly someone who is against having a good time, but as I recall from the Hamans throughout history presentation, the customary Purim play only gives one-half of the story. How do we move forward with it?

When we contemplate the figure of Haman in the Persian court, we see the ultimate opportunist. Haman uses his subordinates to help elevate himself, and he manipulates the Persian king to acquire more and more power. One wonders if Haman ever saw himself deposing King Ahasuerus to become king himself, but what was more likely is that Haman was positioning himself to be the major power behind the throne, with Ahasuerus a puppet to do his bidding. Haman is stated to be a descendant of Agag (Esther 3:1), who was spared by King Saul (1 Kings 15:8), which can provide for some interesting speculation. But, Haman is ultimately someone intimately involved in the high political affairs of the Persian Empire. And, Haman is someone who found the Jew Mordecai to be a significant threat to him (Esther 3:2). Rather than simply seeking revenge on Mordecai for not showing him the respect he believed he was due, Haman seeks to eliminate all of the Jews in the Persian Empire (Esther 3:6).

The customary Purim play usually ends with two young people dressed as Persian soldiers, marching out a much larger adult, who will be hanged on his own gallows. When I played Haman years ago, I was marched out to the back of the congregation—where I then joined six others, as the second presentation was getting ready. Our congregational leader made a few observations about the fun and humor everyone was able to participate in, but that there was more to be heard. That the spirit of Haman lives on, in not just many people—but specific people in positions of great power in history—has to be recognized. And so, he invited the “Hamans throughout history” to come up and be introduced, with their various profiles as evidence of the great scourge of anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism.

While “Hamans throughout history” was supposed to be a very serious and probing presentation, it too embellished things. As I was obviously the first to walk out in front of the congregation, I recall back in 2004 how The Imperial March from Star Wars was specifically chosen to be played. Everyone had just “met” the Persian Haman in the preceding Purim play, but there was a recounting of who Haman was, his hatred for Mordecai and the Jewish people, and how he met his fate. And then, six others in costume were announced, one by one, to come up to the congregation and be introduced.

The next person who was announced to the congregation was a Greek, but more specifically someone who represented the Seleucids who invaded the Land of Israel, and sacrificed pigs at the Temple in Jerusalem. Because Chanukah had taken place only months before, the account of the Maccabean resistance was fresh on everyone’s minds. The Seleucid Greeks wanted the Jewish people to give up on the Torah, circumcision, the Sabbath, kosher dietary laws, and be assimilated into Greek culture and religion. Those who did not comply were put to death. While not the blanket extermination intended by the Persian Haman, the insidious nature of Antiochus Epiphanes, and in wanting to see the Jewish people annihilated by assimilation into the wider Hellenistic milieu, was well taken. Even today, the biggest threat to the survival of the Jewish people is not necessarily Middle Eastern terrorism, but instead is in Jews wanting to give up on their heritage, and completely assimilate into wider Gentile society.

The third person announced was a Roman, but someone who specifically was in costume as a Roman emperor. While Judea was a province of the Roman Empire, and Judaism was a legal and protected religion exempt from Caesar worship, on the whole the Jewish population within the Roman Empire tended to be a tolerated minority at best, but frequently discriminated against. The temptation to assimilate into paganism was always present, which led to Jewish zealots and others wanting to see the national integrity of the Jewish people preserved, by political independence. As readers of the Apostolic Scriptures are innately aware, as the good news of Yeshua was spreading out in the First Century, the tensions which led to the Jewish revolt and the fall of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. to Rome, were also building. The relationship between not only the Jewish people and the Romans—but the Believers in Israel’s Messiah—substantially deteriorated in the centuries following.

The fourth person introduced to the congregation was a Roman Catholic inquisitor. The common Jewish hostility to Roman Catholicism is very palpable. In the case of the Spanish Inquisition, its major purpose was to identify and convert those it considered to be heretics, so that the Kingdom of Spain could be a fully Catholic society. In the Sixteenth Century, this mainly included those of the nascent Protestant movement, which rejected Rome and papal authority—and the longstanding Jewish population, which had once flourished and thrived in Spain. The figure of the inquisitor invokes not only forced conversions of Jews to Roman Catholicism, but also the forced renunciation of various converts’ Jewish heritage via the compulsion to eat pork. But most especially, the figure of the inquisitor represents how there were Jewish people tortured to death by those claiming to represent the Messiah of Israel.

The fifth person introduced before the congregation was dressed up as Adolf Hitler. While the anti-Semitism of the Greek, the Roman, and the Inquisitor was less specific, the anti-Semitism of Nazi Germany was self-explanatory. A number of the factors leading to the rise of Hitler, including the anti-Semitism of German Reformer Martin Luther, and how the German Jews deeply integrated into German society were utterly betrayed by their Christian neighbors, were explained. More than anything else, the systematic extermination of the Jews of Europe, enacted by the most advanced society on Earth at the time—in terms of its science, technology, and philosophy—was graphically portrayed on the screen. The Holocaust and 6 million Jewish dead, to be sure, was the great tragedy of the Twentieth Century. But the Holocaust was perpetrated not just by some sadistic fascist state; it was perpetrated by those with all of the advancements and education of the age, and absolutely no ethics or humanity. And to be sure, the Holocaust was committed by many people claiming to be followers of Israel’s Messiah.

The sixth person introduced before the congregation was a Muslim terrorist. Since the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, modern Israel has not at all had an easy relationship with the surrounding Muslim countries. When I first started being involved with Hamans throughout history in 2004-2005, someone dressed up as Yassir Arafat came up, with a brief discussion and slides presented on the PLO and Intifada. After 2005, someone dressed up as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the former president of Iran (2005-2013), came up—carrying a briefcase labeled as “Bomb,” with a radiation symbol on it no less! In this case, the point made was not only that the State of Israel had Muslim neighbors wishing its destruction, but at least one in Iran actively out to build a nuclear weapon. And to further intensify the point, President Ahmadinejad is technically a Persian. But, not only is Islamic terrorism and anti-Zionism a threat to Israel and the Jewish people, it is a threat to the Western world.

At this point in the Hamans throughout history, it can be legitimately interjected as to who else in past human affairs could have been brought before the audience. Seeing how my congregational leader, David Pavlik, had a huge walrus moustache, I actually thought about him dressing up as either Joseph Stalin or Saddam Hussein! You could probably have had a white supremacist or KKK member, or going back even before Haman, have had various Egyptians who oppressed Ancient Israel. But, being pressed for time, only one more person filled with “the spirit of Haman” could come before the audience: “He will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time” (Daniel 7:25).

Not too unlike the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the seventh figure is presented before the congregation. The music is changed to be far more eerie and bone chilling. The final Haman is dressed in all-black suit, and wears a hockey mask, obscuring his face. The specific identity of this final person is unknown, but he has been foretold in the Holy Scriptures. The final figure who is brought before the congregation, is none other than he “who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4). The final Haman, the ultimate enemy of the Jewish people and the God of Israel, will be the antimessiah or antichrist. The challenge is put before the Messianic congregation to not just be able to identify and resist this person when he comes on the scene—but to now do everything humanly possible to increase one’s loyalty to the God of Israel, and support the Jewish people. For, as the antimessiah comes on the scene, so will there be a massive influx of Jewish people to the community of faith (cf. Romans 11:25-26ff)!

After moving back to North Texas in 2012, I do not know if the Hamans throughout history presentation is still conducted in my previous Messianic assembly. My current congregation, like many other Messianic Jewish congregations, to be sure, holds a Purim play for our Shabbat morning service. The sure advantage, of at least sitting down and recognizing that there has been a demonic principality operative throughout many centuries since the deliverance of the Jewish people during the time of Esther and Mordecai—opposing the God of Israel, His ways, and seeking the eradication of Jews—should cause us to consider our role as Messianic people for the future. The story of Esther does not end with the hanging of Haman. It might be said that the story of Esther will only end when “the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone” (Revelation 19:20).

Anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism have been around for a very, very long time. Anti-Semitism was around centuries before the arrival of Yeshua the Messiah. All of us need to be aware of the blatant forces of anti-Semitism, found in the Hitlers, Arafats, and Ahmadinejads of the world. All of us need to stand in support of our local Jewish communities, and find ourselves as eager Zionists in friendship with the State of Israel. But what about the more subtle forms of anti-Semitism that can be encountered? While we know that many evangelical Christians today have a grossly under-whelming knowledge and appreciation for their Jewish Roots in the Synagogue—are you aware that many who consider themselves to be “Hebrew Roots” Believers do not have that much more knowledge or appreciation of Judaism?

One of the more obvious things that we have to encourage people to do, is read the Scriptures more intelligibly. Consider these two different versions of 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15, from two widely accessible Christian Bible versions:

“For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews, who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men” (NASU).

“For you, brothers, became imitators of God’s churches in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, since you have also suffered the same things from people of your own country, just as they did from the Jews who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets and persecuted us; they displease God and are hostile to everyone” (HCSB).

The big difference here, in English reading, is whether or not a non-restrictive comma should be placed between vs. 14 and 15: “the Jews, who both killed the Lord Jesus” or “the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus.” Anyone who reads the Gospels in context, knows that it was only certain Jews, in the religious and political leadership, who were responsible for the death of Yeshua. Likewise, Paul himself further says in 1 Corinthians 2:8, “the rulers of this age…crucified the Lord of glory,” as the Romans also bore specific responsibility for executing the Messiah. In 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15, Paul is associating the Jewish religious leaders who were responsible for Yeshua’s death, with the Jewish religious leaders in Thessalonica, who saw him and his party ejected from the city (Acts 17:1-15). A smart reader can recognize this sort of detail, as there were thousands of Jews living in the Land of Israel, and certainly in the greater Diaspora, who had never  even heard of Yeshua of Nazareth and cannot be held at specific fault for seeing Him unjustly condemned to death. But an ignorant person from the Middle Ages would have used 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15 as a means to hunt down and persecute European Jews, blaming all Jews everywhere and at all times for the unjust trial and execution of Yeshua. Do not be surprised if the latter approach experiences some revival in the days ahead.

This month, an even more perditious form of anti-Semitism will manifest itself across many sectors of the independent Hebrew/Hebraic Roots movement, largely composed of non-Jews—who while having embraced their faith heritage in the Tanach Scriptures, tend to be very suspicious, and at times hostile, to the Jewish Synagogue. To be fair, a number of the Hebrew Roots associations you will encounter embrace the Festival of Purim, and do their best to stand against anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism. They rightly believe that there are many lessons to be learned from the Book of Esther, they value the traditions and customs of Purim, and they are supportive of Zionism and the State of Israel. But many other people in the Hebrew Roots movement do not support Purim. In fact, they believe that Mordecai’s establishment of Purim as a holiday to be commemorated by the Jewish people, who were saved from extermination (Esther 9:20-22), is to be construed as “adding” to God’s Instruction in the Torah, and that Purim is to be rejected. I have even seen a few claim, just like many liberal theologians, that the Book of Esther is ahistorical and should not be canon.

If I want to see anything change this year, I want to see our appreciation for the themes of Purim deepen and increase. I do not want it to begin and end with a child’s play; I want to see more congregations having presentations on Hamans throughout history. I want the themes of God’s deliverance behind the scenes through good people, and the vigilance we all must maintain against anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism, be carried throughout the year.

Tetzaveh

Tetzaveh

You shall command

“Set-Apart Unto Him”

Exodus 27:20-30:10
Ezekiel 43:10-27


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

This week’s Torah portion, Tetzaveh, is in many respects a continuation of the previous reading, Terumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19), where the willing heart contributions for the materials needed for the construction of the Tabernacle and its accouterments were freely given. Now that the various elements have been offered and gathered, certain individuals gifted with “the spirit of wisdom,” ruach chokmah, begin the crafting of different aspects of what the Lord required for Ancient Israel to approach Him in worship:

“Then bring near to yourself Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the sons of Israel, to minister as priest to Me—Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s sons. You shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. You shall speak to all the skillful persons whom I have endowed with the spirit of wisdom, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him, that he may minister as priest to Me. These are the garments which they shall make: a breastpiece and an ephod and a robe and a tunic of checkered work, a turban and a sash, and they shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons, that he may minister as priest to Me” (Exodus 28:1-4).

As you read the minute details of the garments required for the high priest in Exodus ch. 28, one theme continues to present itself as the various instructions unfold. It is apparent that the Holy One of Israel desires to have a specific group of people who are called to be consecrated unto Him as priests. The verb kahan, used in the Piel stem (intensive action, active voice), means to “perform the duties of a priest” (CHALOT).[1] It is employed throughout our parashah:

  • “You shall put them on Aaron your brother and on his sons with him; and you shall anoint them and ordain them and consecrate them, that they may serve Me as priests [kahan]” (Exodus 28:41).
  • “Now this is what you shall do to them to consecrate them to minister as priests [kahan] to Me: take one young bull and two rams without blemish” (Exodus 29:1).
  • “I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar; I will also consecrate Aaron and his sons to minister as priests [kahan] to Me. I will dwell among the sons of Israel and will be their God. They shall know that I am the LORD their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell among them; I am the LORD their God” (Exodus 29:44-46).

While reflecting upon Tetzaveh throughout this week, many thoughts came to my mind about our role as Believers, functioning in a priestly calling and being set-apart for specialized service to the Lord. Consider how the author of Hebrews writes that the Mosaic Tabernacle in the wilderness is a replica of what exists in Heaven, with Yeshua the Messiah presently interceding before the Father as our ultimate High Priest:

“Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; so it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer. Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, ‘SEE,’ He says, ‘THAT YOU MAKE all things ACCORDING TO THE PATTERN WHICH WAS SHOWN YOU ON THE MOUNTAIN’ [Exodus 25:40] (Hebrews 8:1-5).

In the admonition given by God to Moses in Exodus 25:40, he is told to “make all things according to the pattern which was shown on the mountain.” God is very serious about His people honoring Him and fulfilling His will for proper worship. Consequently, the descriptions of what the Heavenly Tabernacle and its various components looked like, and the role, duties, and responsibilities of the high priest—are most significant for us to consider. As Believers in Yeshua, we all constitute a Kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:6; cf. 1 Peter 2:5, 9; Revelation 1:6; 5:10), and we have a unique and sacred call to minister unto Him and serve others, representing the King of Kings in our fallen world.

A Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation

As to my knowledge, I am not a descendant of Levi and nor do I know of anyone named Cohen (or a close derivative) in my family tree—and I suspect that this is the same for many of you as well. But this does not mean that as Believers we cannot learn important things from the priestly instruction witnessed in this week’s Torah portion. The Levitical priesthood is a very specific group within the community of Israel, called to an almost lifetime set of duties before the Heavenly Father—not too unlike the way members of royalty are born and have no choice but to serve their countries. On a much lesser scale, non-Levites within Israel, which is basically everybody else, have a macro-priestly calling with general duties incumbent upon them as they serve God.

Many of us ask ourselves about the role of a Believer who is called out to “minister unto Him,” and how this applies to the great majority of followers of the Messiah of Israel. We together all compose a unique Kingdom of priests that is to serve the masses of humanity, as we testify of God’s goodness, holiness, and the salvation available in the Messiah Yeshua. The Apostle Peter attests to this reality:

“But you are A CHOSEN RACE [Isaiah 43:20], a royal PRIESTHOOD [Exodus 19:6; Isaiah 61:6], A HOLY NATION [Exodus 19:6], A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION [Isaiah 43:21; Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 4:20; 7:6; 14:2], so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY [Hosea 2:23]” (1 Peter 2:9-12).

Peter testifies to the fact that all Messiah followers—be they Jewish or non-Jewish—compose “a chosen people” (NIV) who have been designated to testify to the world about the God of Israel. It does not matter whether you are named Cohen or Levi. What truly matters is that you have been “born from above” into this priestly service.

As I considered these texts and read the Haftarah selection from Ezekiel 43:10-27, I was reminded of a book that I read several years ago which addressed the very topic we are considering this week:

“‘You shall give to the Levitical priests who are from the offspring of Zadok, who draw near to Me to minister to Me,’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘a young bull for a sin offering’” (Ezekiel 43:19).

When I read the reference “to the levitical priests who are of the stock of Zadok, and so eligible to minister to Me” (NJPS), I was reminded of a book entitled The Sons of Zadok by C.R. Oliver. His insights clarified many things through his study of this topic. I remembered Oliver concluding that it was a much higher privilege to be “called out” to minister unto the Lord, as opposed to be simply ministering unto the needs of humanity. This distinction was something I had never considered before, but upon reflection and considering the Scriptural references, I was convinced that his conclusions had merit. What was notable, of course, is that these conclusions came from a Christian teacher who was certainly not proclaiming any knowledge of the Messianic movement. And yet, as a servant of the Most High, he was clearly articulating the differences.

The emphasis of Oliver’s conclusions came through his study on the life of the Prophet Ezekiel, and specifically from the text of Ezekiel 44:15-16:

“‘But the Levitical priests, the sons of Zadok, who kept charge of My sanctuary when the sons of Israel went astray from Me, shall come near to Me to minister to Me; and they shall stand before Me to offer Me the fat and the blood,’ declares the Lord GOD. ‘They shall enter My sanctuary; they shall come near to My table to minister to Me and keep My charge. It shall be that when they enter at the gates of the inner court, they shall be clothed with linen garments; and wool shall not be on them while they are ministering in the gates of the inner court and in the house. Linen turbans shall be on their heads and linen undergarments shall be on their loins; they shall not gird themselves with anything which makes them sweat. When they go out into the outer court, into the outer court to the people, they shall put off their garments in which they have been ministering and lay them in the holy chambers; then they shall put on other garments so that they will not transmit holiness to the people with their garments. Also they shall not shave their heads, yet they shall not let their locks grow long; they shall only trim the hair of their heads. Nor shall any of the priests drink wine when they enter the inner court. And they shall not marry a widow or a divorced woman but shall take virgins from the offspring of the house of Israel, or a widow who is the widow of a priest. Moreover, they shall teach My people the difference between the holy and the profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean. In a dispute they shall take their stand to judge; they shall judge it according to My ordinances. They shall also keep My laws and My statutes in all My appointed feasts and sanctify My sabbaths. They shall not go to a dead person to defile themselves; however, for father, for mother, for son, for daughter, for brother, or for a sister who has not had a husband, they may defile themselves. After he is cleansed, seven days shall elapse for him. On the day that he goes into the sanctuary, into the inner court to minister in the sanctuary, he shall offer his sin offering,” declares the Lord GOD. And it shall be with regard to an inheritance for them, that I am their inheritance; and you shall give them no possession in Israel—I am their possession. They shall eat the grain offering, the sin offering and the guilt offering; and every devoted thing in Israel shall be theirs. The first of all the first fruits of every kind and every contribution of every kind, from all your contributions, shall be for the priests; you shall also give to the priest the first of your dough to cause a blessing to rest on your house. The priests shall not eat any bird or beast that has died a natural death or has been torn to pieces’” (Ezekiel 44:15-31).

As I read these verses, and then followed the context of what Ezekiel was prophesying, I realized how the above passage details the operative Temple in the future Millennium—and the service of the priests who will be called out to serve. These priests will serve in the same capacity which is originally described in much of this week’s Torah portion. They will serve within an order where Yeshua the Messiah Himself is present. With the Lord’s direct oversight of this operating priesthood—I am sure that He is going to explain many aspects of priestly work and service to us that we have never even dreamed of! Perhaps at the very least in this future time, Yeshua will reveal to us instances in past history where the service of the Levitical priesthood was of absolute importance to Ancient Israel. A great part of the future age, after all, is being shown those moments where God’s hand of protection and guidance was present—without explicit human knowledge of it (cf. Ephesians 2:7).

Minister Unto Him

Our collective job as “ministers unto Him” is to continually be a light which points all to the Holy One of Israel as the Source of all things. We are to be praying unceasingly, as the Lord presents all sorts of opportunities for us to share who He is and what He has done for us through His salvation and saving grace available in Messiah Yeshua. The Scriptures speak constantly of what it means to be “called out” unto Him. Consider some of the key words of admonition that Paul gives to the Thessalonicans:

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Messiah Yeshua. Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-23).

Here, Paul encouraged the saints to rejoice always, and pray without ceasing while giving thanks for all things. When you think about these comments, they are not just directed to the specific “priests” in the crowd, but instead to all who had the ears to hear. Paul himself was of the tribe of Benjamin (Philippians 3:5), and was no Levite. The call to serve as priestly representatives of God is directed to all who have the privilege of knowing Him, and conveying this knowledge to the others who need it! Later, in his letter to the Philippians, Paul made some strong recommendations about rejoicing, and how Messiah followers should guard their thoughts:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Messiah Yeshua. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:4-9).

These are some important instructions about how we should conduct our lives—and even our thoughts. When Paul comments about rejoicing always, and in letting one’s prayers and requests made known toward God always, I believe he is describing the life, thoughts, and actions of a person who has been called into the priesthood as exemplified by a son of Zadok. I believe that God is calling all of His children to this level of commitment to His ways.

Having been a part of the growing Messianic community since 1995, I can clearly declare that the Lord is bringing all of His people into a priestly service with a passion that rivals the zeal of some of the ancient sons of Zadok. The Lord knows that when you come into the Messianic perspective that you will be challenged, and that we each have to make some critical decisions. Are you going to choose to minister unto Him, or are you going to fall into some of the old traps of conformity that your family and friends may want you to pursue? Are you going to be able to endure through the pressures and challenges of being part of a still-emerging movement, or quit and go back to what you might find to be more comfortable?

Dwelling Among His People

We each have to choose whom we will minister to. This week we can be reminded that the pattern has been established in the Heavenly realm and replicated in the wilderness. At the appropriate time, Solomon was blessed with the opportunity to build a more permanent dwelling for the Lord on the Temple Mount. Centuries later, after the Messiah Himself took on human flesh, He became our perfect sacrifice and now functions as our High Priest in Heaven before God the Father. The Apostle Paul writes how we function as a tabernacle for the Spirit of God, appropriating some of the concepts that are stated at the end of this week’s Torah portion:

“Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, ‘I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE’ [Leviticus 26:12; Jeremiah 32:38; Ezekiel 37:27] (2 Corinthians 6:16).

“I will meet there with the sons of Israel, and it shall be consecrated by My glory. I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar; I will also consecrate Aaron and his sons to minister as priests to Me. I will dwell among the sons of Israel and will be their God. They shall know that I am the LORD their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell among them; I am the LORD their God” (Exodus 29:43-46).

The Lord wants us to understand that His desire is to dwell among His people, within the hearts of human beings. The only way that this can occur, though, is by each of us recognizing Yeshua the Messiah as our Savior, being washed clean from the stains of sin upon our hearts and minds, and then committing ourselves to a path of holiness and good works. We are to function as a living sacrifice, the worship of which is evidenced in our committed service to our fellow brothers and sisters (cf. Romans 12). Truly, when this manifests itself within the Body of Messiah, then we can positively impact other people who can likewise be used to further the Kingdom of God here on Earth! We can then be acceptable in His sight.

May we each be called into that place of service as He dwells among us and in us and operates through us, as we are set-apart unto Him!


NOTES

[1] CHALOT, 152.