Mark Huey

Vayikra

Vayikra

He called

“A Witness Who Keeps Silent”

Leviticus 1:1-5:26[6:7]
Isaiah 43:21-44:23


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

As we begin to examine the Book of Leviticus, the Torah student gets an opportunity to study the sacrificial system that was instituted by the Lord to cover the transgressions of His people. In Exodus, the Ancient Israelites have just completed the construction of the Tabernacle, and have witnessed God’s glory descend upon it. The weight (Heb. kavod) of His presence was so intense that Moses was not able to enter the Tent of Meeting in order to communicate directly with the Almighty (Exodus 40:34-35).

There is little doubt that at the close of the Book of Exodus, Moses’ credibility and reputation with the people of Israel was at its pinnacle. Moses’ revealed God’s instructions on how to build the Tabernacle and all of its accoutrements, and they were followed to precision. The result had to be an awesome sight to these former Egyptian slaves, who were privileged to participate in the construction projects. From a distance they were all eyewitnesses to the pillars of fire and cloud that were guiding them by night and day, but now the manifestation of God’s presence was preventing access to the awesome structure.

It is at this point that the Torah prescribes the sacrificial system that Moses was given directly from God in the Tent of Meeting. Without any significant interruption in the text, it appears that the Lord, from His new location in the midst of Israel, began to address the need for the individual atonement of the sins of the people:

“Then the LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, ‘Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, “When any man of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of animals from the herd or the flock.” If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer it, a male without defect; he shall offer it at the doorway of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the LORD. He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, that it may be accepted for him to make atonement on his behalf.” He shall slay the young bull before the LORD; and Aaron’s sons the priests shall offer up the blood and sprinkle the blood around on the altar that is at the doorway of the tent of meeting’” (Leviticus 1:1-4).

In these opening verses of Leviticus, we discover that the sacrifices for transgressions are intended to be quite personal. The one who is guilty of sin is instructed to place his hands on the head of the animal that has been chosen from the herd, onto which the sin guilt will be transferred. The individual is told that “He is to slaughter the young bull before the LORD” (Leviticus 1:5, NIV), and then Aaron and his sons are to take the blood and offer and sprinkle it in the appropriate places. Can you imagine the impact this ceremony would have on you if you were required to participate in this ritual? If you have ever slaughtered an animal—which the great majority of modern-day people have never done—you might have some understanding of the significance of what was mandatory. But can you visualize actually placing your hands on an innocent animal’s head with the knowledge that your sin has required a blood atonement, in order for you to be restored to a right relationship with God? From an economic standpoint, what would happen if you had to slaughter your prize bull in order to affect a degree of reconciliation with the Creator?

Many of these thoughts are difficult to fathom, but as you read through the Book of Leviticus, the variety of offerings and their significance for the array of sins of commission and sins of omission, can be a bit overwhelming. It is understandable that many, especially in the nearly two thousand years since the Second Temple was destroyed in Jerusalem, have had a tendency to not really comprehend what is being communicated in passages such as these. Since Yeshua’s atoning work for sinful humanity at Golgotha (Calvary), the propensity for His followers to focus on His permanent sacrifice has understandably outweighed the study of the Book of Leviticus in most Christian teaching. As a result, the ability, to personalize the gravity of sin and what was required to restore a right relationship with God, has been largely mitigated. Many Believers simply claim the “blood of Yeshua” when they transgress the Father’s will—if they are even aware of what it is—at too many times resulting in very little, if any, spiritual growth toward maturity. While none of us should ever be found degrading or downplaying the eternal salvation available in the Son of God (cf. Hebrews 10:29), how can we appreciate such salvation if we do not first appreciate the sacrificial system of Leviticus?

This is one of the primary reasons that the Lord today has convicted many Believers to return to a consistent study of the Torah. By actually reading through this Torah portion, Vayikra, and meditating upon some or all of the sins which require atonement, one should be able to analyze areas of his or her life where some “fine tuning” would be appropriate. Who among us is not personally guilty of various sins of commission or omission at times? Even if we have experienced the transformative power of the good news, having received the Lord Yeshua into our hearts—are there not areas of our lives which need (significant) improvement? How frequently do we fail to really consider the gravity of the words of 1 John 1:8-10?

“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10).

I trust that many of you reading this commentary have taken care of the bulk of the sinful habits and behaviors that might have once been present in your life. But, among those areas that you know do need to change, have you been completely honest with yourself? Does sin truly have no influence at all over you?

Interestingly, I have seen 1 John 1:8-10 described in the past as a “Christian confessional bar of soap,” as God is able to forgive us and cleanse us of all our sin and guilt if we ask Him. Our sin nature inherited in Adam, can still at times have a tendency to negatively influence us, our decisions, our thoughts and demeanor, and how we conduct ourselves in the workplace and in family life. The Apostle John describes some of the significant benefits of a true salvation experience, as we are to have each become redeemed children of God who are experiencing victory over sin and lawlessness:

“See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:1-10).

Here, we see that John clarifies the concept of sin and the fact that when we are in Him and abiding in Him we do not sin. But the problem is that in our spiritual journey, the sanctification process takes time, and a knowledge of just what sin is—and what righteousness is—is mandatory in order for us to mature. Take this one example from Vayikra as a starter in your personal appraisal:

“Now if a person sins after he hears a public adjuration to testify when he is a witness, whether he has seen or otherwise known, if he does not tell it, then he will bear his guilt” (Leviticus 5:1).

Have you ever been in a predicament when you were a primary eyewitness to some sinful circumstances that were being investigated or adjudicated by some authority? This could be a civil or criminal offense from a minor misdemeanor to a felony. Perhaps you did not want to be involved in the investigation or prosecution, because of your relationship to the offender. Or perhaps you were concerned about your potential loss of time. Nevertheless, for a variety of reasons, you might have justified your decision to act ignorant to the circumstances. By doing so, did you know that you were not only disobeying secular law, but also God’s Law?

Perhaps by thinking and meditating on many of the different implications from this single commandment, you can hopefully become a better corporate citizen to the community where you live. If you do not come forward, then the Torah of Moses says that you will bear the guilt of the offender! I urge you to consider this, and recall some instances in your life when you should have stood up to say something.

What if you are an employee at a company and you witness some people stealing some of the company pens and paper for their own personal use? What if the owner of the company asks all the employees to report any known offenders? Are you going to come to the employer and report what you have witnessed? Or are you going to remain silent and bear the guilt of the offender? At least consider the possibility that if you do not come forward and say something, that all employees could be penalized if the situation remains unresolved. Do you really want to lose pay, vacation time, or be laid off because of someone else’s transgression?

On a spiritual level when we witness our brothers or sisters in sin, there is an admonition that allows us to deal with them in love. In his final statement in his epistle, James gives us a strong encouragement to go to fellow members of the faith community, in order to save them:

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

This is a strong parallel passage that echoes the words of Yeshua, when He was instructing His Disciples about how to deal with issues of sin in the community:

“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED [Deuteronomy 19:15]. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the assembly; and if he refuses to listen even to the assembly, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matthew 18:15-17).

The problem we face on all of these levels throughout the world is that most people do not know the ramifications of a Torah commandment like Leviticus 5:1. If we understood the guilt of our lack of performance to testify, when we have personal knowledge of some offense, then perhaps we would follow the instructions. In so doing, our culture may improve as offenders are duly prosecuted. Companies would avoid the loss of assets from internal theft. Our assemblies and congregations would function more righteously as the “sin in the camp” is properly handled. Most importantly, those who refuse to confront flagrant sin that they have personal knowledge about, would not be burdened with the guilt that should rest upon the offender, rather than the one who keeps silent.

If you take the time to reflect upon all of the different offerings in this portion, I am confident that you will be able to identify with some of the different sins of commission or omission, and perhaps let the indwelling Spirit convict you of where you need to confess, repent, and be restored to His grace. The following is an appropriate summary I would ask you to reflect upon before our Heavenly Father:

“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘If a person acts unfaithfully and sins unintentionally against the LORD’s holy things, then he shall bring his guilt offering to the LORD: a ram without defect from the flock, according to your valuation in silver by shekels, in terms of the shekel of the sanctuary, for a guilt offering. He shall make restitution for that which he has sinned against the holy thing, and shall add to it a fifth part of it and give it to the priest. The priest shall then make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering, and it will be forgiven him. Now if a person sins and does any of the things which the LORD has commanded not to be done, though he was unaware, still he is guilty and shall bear his punishment. He is then to bring to the priest a ram without defect from the flock, according to your valuation, for a guilt offering. So the priest shall make atonement for him concerning his error in which he sinned unintentionally and did not know it, and it will be forgiven him. It is a guilt offering; he was certainly guilty before the LORD’” (Leviticus 5:14-19).

Comprehending the sacrificial system of Leviticus more fully is a blessing to those who take the time to meditate on the ramifications of intentional or unintentional disobedience. By doing so, it gives the revelatory power of the indwelling Spirit the opportunity to expose areas of your life which need to be dealt with through confession and repentance. As a result, those who are seeking the truth, while being led and taught by the Holy Spirit, have an opportunity to develop a deeper and more profound walk with the Lord as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:11-13). And, unlike the Ancient Israelites who would have to offer various animal sacrifices over and over again—we can walk in the assurance that with the arrival of Yeshua the Messiah and His permanent sacrifice—that an everlasting solution to the guilt incurred by sin is available to all those who place their trust in Him!

V’yakheil

V’yakheil

He assembled

“Actions Speak Louder Than Words”

Exodus 35:1-38:20
1 Kings 7:40-50 (A); 7:13-26 (S)


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

By the time we arrive at this week’s Torah portion, V’yakheil, we discover that it encapsulates a description of the actions of Ancient Israel, as the people collectively fulfill the requirements for the Tabernacle construction which was the subject of the previous Terumah (Exodus 27:20-30:10) and Tetzaveh (Exodus 30:11-34:35) readings. Without any hesitation, the text reminds us about the commandment to take a Sabbath rest, even in the midst of the Israelites building of the Tabernacle and producing the various implements, accouterments, and garments as defined.

If you have been reading closely the past few weeks, you will have noticed that Shabbat is of particular concern to the God of Israel. Two times (Exodus 31:12-17; 34:21), an emphasis is placed not only on the “sign” of Shabbat, but also on the importance to observe it faithfully. As the physical labor for constructing the Tabernacle finally commenced, Moses once again reminded Israel about the Sabbath. Perhaps knowing human nature, these admonitions have been placed by the Lord in these Torah portions, so that we may be reminded that having a day of rest is a great blessing to all those who remember and observe it:

“Then Moses assembled all the congregation of the sons of Israel, and said to them, ‘These are the things that the LORD has commanded you to do: For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a holy day, a sabbath of complete rest to the LORD; whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. You shall not kindle a fire in any of your dwellings on the sabbath day” (Exodus 35:1-3).

Of course, it is important to note that in this section of the Torah, we find that the whole congregation of Israel, kol-adah b’nei Yisrael, was supposed to rest. By resting one day out of seven, the people would be able to focus on the Lord in a rather unique and special way on the Sabbath day, but they would most especially be able to be rejuvenated during this critical season of the Tabernacle’s construction.

Further on in our Torah portion, we witness the widescale amount of contributions and offerings that the Israelites were making to the building project. The overwhelming reaction by many, with their offerings literally ushering forth, required that Moses command the people to halt their outpouring of freewill offerings:

“And they said to Moses, ‘The people are bringing much more than enough for the construction work which the LORD commanded us to perform.’ So Moses issued a command, and a proclamation was circulated throughout the camp, saying, ‘Let no man or woman any longer perform work for the contributions of the sanctuary.’ Thus the people were restrained from bringing any more. For the material they had was sufficient and more than enough for all the work, to perform it” (Exodus 36:5-7).

As I personally pondered the importance of Shabbat this week, and rejoiced in the recorded reaction of the people who wanted to contribute to the various construction projects, I was personally thinking about how I have dealt with this subject since I came to the Lord in 1978. I was born again at the age of 27, and committed myself to being a Believer, rather than a non-Believer—a member of God’s people—rather than a part of the world. From that year forward, I matured in my relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ, and learned to live more like Him. Like many of you, it has been a “wild ride,” and I have done things since becoming Messianic that I would never have dreamed of when I first came to faith.

First, I thought back to some of the early years of my new life in the Lord when I was confronted by a relative who happened to be a proponent of Dominion theology. At the time, he was trying to persuade me that taking Sunday and devoting it fully to God was a good thing that would honor the Fourth Commandment. At the time, I was faithfully attending Sunday morning services at a church in Dallas, Texas, and then coming back on Sunday evening for a service that would include taking communion. Two times a day I would load my family into the car and proceed to the church for a teaching convocation, and then a second service which was more contemplative.

At that time many years ago, when this relative admonished me, I thought he was being extremely legalistic. After all, I was living in Dallas and the Cowboys were on a roll in the NFL! I also played men’s city league soccer, and our games just happened to be played on Sunday afternoon. I could certainly get my “time in” with the Lord between Sunday morning and Sunday evening. As I justified my other activities during the afternoon, I actually thought I was doing pretty well to be a dedicated “twice a Sunday” attendee. With the passage of time, I have witnessed that via God’s sanctification in my life that my personal attitude has changed substantially since those naïve days many years ago.

In God’s mercy to me, as I have continued to beseech Him in order to know Him and understand His ways, He has been faithful to reveal more and more of Himself to me. The Prophet Jeremiah reminds us about the rewards of seeking the Holy One of Israel.

“‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile’” (Jeremiah 29:11-14).

Here, we find that our Heavenly Father does have things under control and He does have a plan for our lives! I can personally testify that if you do seek Him with all your heart, He will not only restore your fortunes, but as He has said: He will gather you back from where you have been scattered. The Lord will bring you back to Himself no matter what nefarious paths you have chosen to follow for a season. He will take you from the doldrums of sin into a place where you can be used for the growth of His Kingdom.

Today, as the Messianic movement continues to grow and affect positive change in the lives of God’s people, we encounter that many are learning to reappreciate the value of the Torah, and the significance of things like the seventh-day Sabbath. The Lord is restoring an understanding to all His people regarding how Yeshua and the early Believers obeyed the commandments—and this is exciting to witness! As I study the Torah and read passages about Shabbat, the appointed times, and other things that the Lord wants His people to follow so that He can bless us, I am immensely blessed. I not only know now that the Sabbath Biblically begins at sundown on the sixth day and ends on sundown on the seventh day (cf. Genesis 1:5), and not at midnight as I had always assumed according to modern reckoning. I think it is amazing that Shabbat is exactly what the Scriptures say it is—and it was there all along. I simply failed to look at it.

As I have been maturing in my walk with the Lord, I can honestly say that I delight in Shabbat and I look forward to it as the pinnacle of my week. Entering into the Father’s rest and putting down the labors of the week are more clearly understood than when I had my debate years ago with this relative. Today, I might be able to present a more comprehensive understanding of what the Sabbath is for me as defined by the Holy Scriptures, than what he tried to present to me years ago. Perhaps now he would be the one considering me “legalistic.”

My second area of contemplation this week was piqued by some other verses in our Torah portion, which describe the supernatural endowment of two individuals who had been specifically selected by the Lord to oversee the various construction projects of the Tabernacle:

“Now Bezalel and Oholiab, and every skillful person in whom the LORD has put skill and understanding to know how to perform all the work in the construction of the sanctuary, shall perform in accordance with all that the LORD has commanded. Then Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab and every skillful person in whom the LORD had put skill, everyone whose heart stirred him, to come to the work to perform it” (Exodus 36:1-2).

Over the past few years (2005-2010), I have spent some time at the Orlando Convention Center overseeing the construction of various “temporary tabernacles,” and I can relate to just what it takes to physically construct something and take it down in order to move it. Now these trade show, seminar, and conference booths and displays are not to be compared to the magnificence and significance of the Tabernacle, but there are some parallels. I have had to use my hands to build things that have a degree of temporary usefulness, and as a result I can identify with some of what Bezalel and Oholiab had to do.

It does take a certain amount of mental acumen when dealing with the erection of complex structures, and this is where I have been able to consider some of the talents and gifts of those like Bezalel and Oholiab. Not only were these skillful people probably able to physically make the objects of the Tabernacle, but they were also probably gifted with the ability to organize and administer the construction projects. In my work, I have enjoyed learning from the younger and more experienced artisans, who often have specially designed tools crafted for certain needs. Even though I might have some age and wisdom in other areas of life, when it comes to knowing the most efficient and safest way to construct something, I typically defer to the younger people, who I discern are more gifted and experienced for various construction projects.

Additionally, I learned another lesson this week (in 2005) via a gift that I was given for Bible research. I received a certain Greek lexicon, and I believe that receiving it happens to be well timed with a writing project that I have been inspired to pursue. In recent weeks, while going through the Torah portions, I have been spiritually stimulated by Paul’s words of being a “living sacrifice” and what it means as listed in the balance of Romans ch. 12. Pensively, as I began to lay out some of my thoughts and started to think about the terms being used, I realized that my Greek study resources were slim. In a providentially-timed gift, I was given a reference tool that should hopefully point me in the right direction.

In an ironic sort of way, just like watching the younger and more gifted builders of complex structures at the Convention Center, a gifted young teacher of the Holy Scriptures gave me a resource “tool” that will allow me to be far more effective in my studies. I was delighted that this tool was given to me at just the right time. Similar to a Bezalel or Oholiab coming along with a special tool or instrument, or perhaps one first showing you how to build something, it is a sign of maturity when you do not think too highly of yourself and are willing to listen to instruction from someone else. Even if the advice or tool comes from someone younger, I recommend to joyfully receive what is being imparted, and welcome the talents that the Lord wants to instill in you via a young person, so you can be more effective in His service.

This begins to take on even more significance when you realize that in light of the construction of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, it is the operation of the Ancient Israelites with all of their collective talents and gifts in unison with one another that accomplishes all of what God wants. After all, where would Bezalel and Oholiab have been without the gold, jewels, brass, skins, wood, and the laborers to perform certain tasks? If the willing hearts did not give the items necessary for the project, no matter how talented the artisans were, the Tabernacle would have been a conceptual design relegated to theory rather than the reality of a completed temporary dwelling place for the Most High.

Consequently, it takes the whole Body of the Messiah to accomplish the Lord’s will. Now that I am armed with some more theological tools, I hope that my ability to write and comment about certain aspects of the Scriptures will be greatly enhanced. Just consider some of the things that Paul writes about in Romans 12, which are required of us who serve the Lord diligently:

“For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3).

With the measure of faith I have the more I learn to walk in His ways, the more I not only appreciate His rest on Shabbat, but also to simply rest in confidence in Him for all things. Watching Him orchestrate my life today via a consistent study of the Torah and how it applies to my walk with Him, in so many regards, is fascinating. As I sit back and review Scripture through His illumination, I am beginning to realize more than ever that my actions do speak louder than words. I have seen my walk starting to catch up with my talk! Some verses that dramatically changed my life many years ago, echo the prayers that I still offer today:

“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 3:8-11).

I am blessed that my earnest actions to know my Lord and Savior, and quite possibly the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, continues to bring me more of His rest, as I personally notice the maturation in my walk with and in Him. These actions speak volumes to me much louder than all the words I can fathom! In a like manner, I pray that you would be equally encouraged that our collective actions will be what today’s world sees and hears.

Finally, even though different measures of faith come by hearing, it is most often by our Messiah-like actions that people will observe the power of the Holy Word that is transforming us. In so doing, others should be drawn to us to hear about how God has transformed our lives by us receiving Yeshua and obeying Him diligently. This must be the testimony that we offer: whether they witness our obedience via the peace only He can give us or even whether they witness our obedience to following something like Shabbat. May we remember that we testify of Yeshua via our actions—sometimes even more than our words! Take to serious heart the immeasurable responsibility that you have.

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.

Terumah

Terumah

Contribution

“The Heart of the Matter”

Exodus 25:1-27:19
1 Kings 5:26-6:13


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

This week’s Torah portion, Terumah, details the construction of the Tabernacle which the glory of God occupied during the Ancient Israelites’ journey through the wilderness. This temporary dwelling place was used by Israel until the First Temple was constructed in Jerusalem by King Solomon. As you read through the details of the Tabernacle’s materials and its construction, you can marvel at the minute particulars that come forth from the instructions of the Master Builder. The finest natural materials are utilized, which are all thought to have significant symbolic interpretations. But regardless of the specificity of the blueprints and materials, two overwhelming themes bubble to the surface as you read the account:

“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Tell the sons of Israel to raise a contribution for Me; from every man whose heart moves him you shall raise My contribution’” (Exodus 25:1-2).

From the title of our parashah, terumah, meaning “contribution, offering, for sacred uses” (BDB),[1] you find that the Holy One of Israel is looking for people who have a strong heart’s desire to offer valuable contributions for the construction project. God was looking for a people who would love, honor, and respect Him enough so that they would be entirely willing—from the heart—to offer up their valuable resources in order to build the Tabernacle and fashion all of its furnishings and accoutrements, for the priestly service. We learn from some later comments that the response to the request was overwhelming to the point that an order was issued to stop the outpouring of freewill gifts:

“And they said to Moses, ‘The people are bringing much more than enough for the construction work which the LORD commanded us to perform.’ So Moses issued a command, and a proclamation was circulated throughout the camp, saying, ‘Let no man or woman any longer perform work for the contributions of the sanctuary.’ Thus the people were restrained from bringing any more (Exodus 36:5-6).

From the beginning of the wilderness journey—after witnessing the miracles of the defeat of the Egyptians, the provisions of manna, quail, and water, hearing the voice of the Lord bellowing from Mount Sinai, and receiving the Ten Commandments—the Ancient Israelites were prepared to give freely of their possessions for the assembly of the Tabernacle. The God of Israel articulates the second theme which is evident not only in this Torah portion, but throughout the Holy Scriptures, as He makes His great desire made known to Moses:

“Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8).

The Lord has a strong desire to dwell (Heb. verb shakan)[2] among His people. This is an important statement because even though He desires for a sanctuary or mishkan to be built, our Heavenly Father is really stating that He desires to just dwell among His people. Even though there is a construction project for a specific structure to represent His holiness, He actually says that He wants to dwell among human beings. From this wording, you get the impression that the Holy One just wants to walk among His people in a similar fashion to the way He established the relationship He had with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden:

“They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8).

As you ponder the theme of dwelling with the Creator, we see the intimate relationship that God is attempting to establish with His chosen ones. He desires a people whose hearts yearn for Him and with whom He can dwell! The rest of the account in Mishpatim simply concerns details that have significant meaning, and which convey the majesty and dignity of the Tabernacle and priestly service—serving as tangible manifestations of His heart’s desire.

When you take a look at the associated Haftarah portion in 1 Kings 5:26-6:13, you discover that in spite of the impressive construction project developed by Solomon and Hiram during their time of relative peace, the overwhelming theme is still God simply wanting to dwell with His people. For whatever reasons, it is apparent that humanity needs physical structures in order to imagine spiritual and relational principles. The Creator knows this attribute, and consequently fulfills this need by orchestrating both the wilderness Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple to be constructed.

The Good Shepherd

The most significant point that the Lord is trying to convey from Mishpatim regards the melding of one’s heart attitude, and His intended residence among His people. Probably the most vivid analogy, that is used to communicate the essence of this relationship, is the image derived from the relationship of a shepherd to his sheep. The Holy One is often described as a Good Shepherd who is constantly walking among His sheep tending to their needs. Recall how when the Patriarch Jacob communicated some of his final blessings, he referred to God as a shepherd (Heb. verb ra’ah)[3]:

“He blessed Joseph, and said, ‘The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day’” (Genesis 48:15).

Later, when blessing Joseph specifically, another reference to God as the Great Shepherd is witnessed:

“But his bow remained firm, and his arms were agile, from the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel)[4], from the God of your father who helps you, and by the Almighty who blesses you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb. The blessings of your father have surpassed the blessings of my ancestors up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills; may they be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of the one distinguished among his brothers” (Genesis 49:24-26).

Of course, most Bible readers are eager to remember David’s reference to God being his Shepherd in Psalm 23:

“A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd [ADONAI ro’i], I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23:1-3).

Less well-known words come from Qohelet, as he summarizes his life experience:

“The words of wise men are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd [nittenu m’ro’eh]. But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body. The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:11-14).

The Prophets are also replete about referring to God as a Shepherd:

  • “Behold, the Lord GOD will come with might, with His arm ruling for Him. Behold, His reward is with Him and His recompense before Him. Like a shepherd [k’ro’eh] He will tend His flock, in His arm He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes” (Isaiah 40:10-11).
  • “Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare in the coastlands afar off, and say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him and keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock [k’ro’eh]’” (Jeremiah 31:10).
  • “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity. Therefore He will give them up until the time when she who is in labor has borne a child. Then the remainder of His brethren will return to the sons of Israel. And He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of the LORD [v’amad v’ra’ah b’oz ADONAI], in the majesty of the name of the LORD His God. And they will remain, because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth” (Micah 5:2-4).

And of course, perhaps most important, Yeshua referred to Himself as the Good Shepherd to His Disciples, as He explained the mission and purpose of His ministry:

“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd [Egō eimi ho poimēn ho kalos][5], and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd” (John 10:11-16).

The author of Hebrews summarized his treatise by calling the workings of the Holy One, the works of the Great Shepherd:

“Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep [ton poimena tōn probatōn ton megan] through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Yeshua our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Yeshua the Messiah, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20-21).

Earlier in his work, the author quoted extensively from the Prophets in order to communicate many of the principles relating to the wilderness Tabernacle and how it applies to Believers’ lives through the inauguration of the New Covenant:

“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]. But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. For if that first[6]…had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. For finding fault with them, He says, ‘BEHOLD, DAYS ARE COMING, SAYS THE LORD, WHEN I WILL EFFECT A NEW COVENANT WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AND WITH THE HOUSE OF JUDAH; NOT LIKE THE COVENANT WHICH I MADE WITH THEIR FATHERS ON THE DAY WHEN I TOOK THEM BY THE HAND TO LEAD THEM OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT; FOR THEY DID NOT CONTINUE IN MY COVENANT, AND I DID NOT CARE FOR THEM, SAYS THE LORD. FOR THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR MINDS, AND I WILL WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS. AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. AND THEY SHALL NOT TEACH EVERYONE HIS FELLOW CITIZEN, AND EVERYONE HIS BROTHER, SAYING, “KNOW THE LORD,” FOR ALL WILL KNOW ME, FROM THE LEAST TO THE GREATEST OF THEM. FOR I WILL BE MERCIFUL TO THEIR INIQUITIES, AND I WILL REMEMBER THEIR SINS NO MORE’” (Hebrews 8:4-12; cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34, LXX).

In Hebrews chs. 8-9, the author gives his audience a description of the wilderness Tabernacle, and the distinction made between it and “the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation” (Hebrews 9:11). This is what Yeshua entered into in Heaven, as He performs the required priestly duties, as our intermediary between God the Father and humanity at large (Hebrews 4:14-15). The author of Hebrews quotes directly from the Prophet Jeremiah, who describes that the New Covenant that God will make will write the Torah onto the hearts of the people by His Holy Spirit:[7]

“‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,’ declares the LORD. ‘But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,’ declares the LORD, ‘I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, “Know the LORD,” for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,’ declares the LORD, ‘for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more’” (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

These conclusions come after Jeremiah has described the work of God as Shepherd to scatter and then gather His flock:

“Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare in the coastlands afar off, and say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him and keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock’” (Jeremiah 31:10).

Hear O Israel

One of the awesome works of our God, as the Good Shepherd, is that He will supernaturally transcribe His Torah onto the hearts of His sheep, as He is their God and they will surely be His people. As this transformative action occurs in every heart, of every man and woman of God who recognizes Yeshua as the Messiah of Israel, he or she can fully live forth the Shema:

“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).

The imperative here is that each individual is to love the Lord God of Israel with all of his or her heart, and to see that the principles of God’s commandments are embedded within his or her mind. This can be conducted by a number of crucial exercises and disciplines. The Father knows human beings’ propensity to wander and to avoid following His commands, and so in order to help inscribe His Instruction upon the heart and mind, He has detailed some basic guidelines to help with the process. This includes a daily routine of waking up and thinking about Him, and instructing our children about Him and His love for us. Going to sleep at night, our final thoughts should be focused on the Lord. Everything that we put our hands to, or every thought that we consider, should be viewed through the grid of His understandings. In the Shema, we are even told to put the commandments of God on the very doorposts of our houses and gates, so that we will be reminded as we leave our home and return—of the imperative need to focus all of our attention, love, and loyalty to Him!

As you read and reflect upon the Shema, you almost get the impression that the Holy One of Israel wants as much of our attention just as your husband or wife would. He wants our hearts to be turned toward Him so that we will be one with Him in thoughts, deeds, and actions. We can yearn for such intimacy with our Creator that many of our spiritual forbearers in the faith have modeled for us. Figures like King David knew the Lord intimately, and his Psalms reflect the great love he had for Him. Psalm 19 is an excellent example for us to consider:

“For the choir director. A Psalm of David. The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their utterances to the end of the world. In them He has placed a tent for the sun, which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; it rejoices as a strong man to run his course. Its rising is from one end of the heavens, and its circuit to the other end of them; and there is nothing hidden from its heat. The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether. They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward. Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults. Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not rule over me; then I will be blameless, and I shall be acquitted of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:1-14).

Here, we see how King David has such a desire for intimacy with the Lord, that he does not even want his thoughts to be unacceptable in His sight. I pray that each of our hearts would be as sensitive!

The Tabernacle of David

Today, our gracious Heavenly Father surely continues to look for people He can indwell with His intimate presence. We are each called to be a tabernacle for Him to occupy. We know that the Prophet Amos in the Seventh Century B.C.E., and James the Just First Century C.E., both affirm a rebuilding of the Tabernacle of David as a key part in the eventual restoration of the Kingdom to Israel. Amos first decrees,

“‘Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are on the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the face of the earth; nevertheless, I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob,’ declares the LORD. ‘For behold, I am commanding, and I will shake the house of Israel among all nations as grain is shaken in a sieve, but not a kernel will fall to the ground. All the sinners of My people will die by the sword, those who say, ‘The calamity will not overtake or confront us.’ In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David, and wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old; that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by My name,’ declares the LORD who does this. ‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘When the plowman will overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; when the mountains will drip sweet wine and all the hills will be dissolved. Also I will restore the captivity of My people Israel, and they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them; they will also plant vineyards and drink their wine, and make gardens and eat their fruit. I will also plant them on their land, and they will not again be rooted out from their land which I have given them,’ says the LORD your God” (Amos 9:8-15).

Amos’ prophecy looks forward to the restoration of the fallen Tabernacle of David. This includes the return of a sizeable part of Israel (mostly from the Northern Kingdom) that had been sown into the nations, as well as many of the nations themselves being integrated into the holy community. As God let him see into the future, Amos knew the time would surely come when the captivity of Israel would be over, and His people will return to the Promised Land to rebuild cities, plant vineyards, drink wine, make gardens, and eat their fruit.

At the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15, upon hearing the testimony of Paul, Barnabas, and Peter regarding the salvation of Jewish people and various Greeks and Romans coming to faith in the Messiah of Israel—James the Just makes a distinct connection between the non-Jews coming to faith and Amos’ prophecy. Rather than capitulate to the demands of a few hyper-conservative Pharisees that such non-Jewish Believers be ordered to keep the Mosaic Torah (Acts 15:5, Grk.), James instead acknowledged that the words of the Prophets were in play. He places the salvation of the non-Jews in the First Century within the scope of expectations regarding the eventual restoration of all Israel:

“After they had stopped speaking, James answered, saying, ‘Brethren, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name. With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written, “AFTER THESE THINGS I will return, AND I WILL REBUILD THE TABERNACLE OF DAVID WHICH HAS FALLEN, AND I WILL REBUILD ITS RUINS, AND I WILL RESTORE IT, SO THAT THE REST OF MANKIND MAY SEEK THE LORD, AND ALL THE GENTILES WHO ARE CALLED BY MY NAME,’ SAYS THE LORD, WHO MAKES THESE THINGS KNOWN FROM LONG AGO. Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood. For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath” (Acts 15:13-21).

The difference between what Amos prophecies is that James says “so the rest of humanity may seek the Lord—even all the Gentiles who are called by My name” (Acts 15:17, HCSB). Luke’s transcription in Acts does not follow the Hebrew text of Amos, but the Septuagint rendering which reads with hoi kataloipoi tōn anthrōpōn for the Hebrew sh’eirit Edom. The LXX Rabbis understood Edom to be connected to adam, also the Hebrew word for “mankind, people” (HALOT)[8] and rendered it in Greek as “those remaining of humans” (NETS), referring to God’s faithful remnant that would come forth out of humanity’s masses. James makes a connection between the salvation of Israel and those of the nations coming to faith in Israel’s Messiah.

James would have had to recognize that a critical part of Israel’s restoration would have been an obedience to God’s Torah by all coming into the fold. In Ezekiel 37:24, we are told that when all Israel is restored “they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them.” As James was considering the salvation of the nations, he was reflecting on the restoration of the Tabernacle of David described by the Prophet Amos. Why force the non-Jewish Believers to keep the Torah, when prophecy should be allowed to take its natural course? The nations were to come to Zion to be taught God’s Instruction (Isaiah 2:2-4; Micah 4:1-3), and the promise of the New Covenant was that the Torah would be supernaturally transcribed on redeemed hearts as a special work of the Holy Spirit (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27).[9]

Today, almost two millennia later, we have yet to see the complete fulfillment of Amos’ prophecy. The presence of today’s Messianic movement, and the unique work it has in seeing Jewish people brought to saving faith in the Messiah Yeshua and evangelical Christians brought into a tangible appreciation of their Hebraic Roots—leads me to believe that “the words of the Prophets” (Acts 15:15) are going to become increasingly more important to recognize in the days to come. As we all begin to truly understand this, we need to allow ourselves both individually and corporately to be a people who can be filled up with the Spirit of God, serving as a living sacrifice that faithfully emulates the Lord Yeshua (cf. Romans 12:1-2). If we are truly able to do this, then we can all compose that holy nation and separated people, truly accomplishing the mission of God, which the Apostle Peter says we will be:

“And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Messiah Yeshua. For this is contained in Scripture: ‘BEHOLD, I LAW IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER stone, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED’ [Isaiah 28:16]. This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, ‘THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone’ [Psalm 118:22], and, ‘A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE’ [Isaiah 8:14]; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed. 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 2:4-10).[10]

When we can all truly understand how every redeemed man and woman in Yeshua is a part of “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God” (NIV), then we can marvel in our privilege to serve the Lord fully—most especially in terms of declar[ing forth] the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (NIV)! When the world at large can see us demonstrating the Lord’s goodness toward them, as we testify of the salvation He has provided, then we can really begin to see the complete restoration of David’s Tabernacle.[11]

As we contemplate these awesome truths, we must reflect upon our own hearts, wondering in which capacity we can serve God and make a difference in our generation. We need to search our hearts and consider what the meditations of our hearts are. What motivates us? Do we wake up with His thoughts on our minds? Do we go to sleep considering His ways? Are we training up our young people according to His precepts? Everyone will be accountable for their actions, deeds, and thoughts.

In the end, it comes down to being a matter of the heart. May our hearts be His and His be ours!


NOTES

[1] BDB, 929.

[2] Appearing in the Qal stem (simple action, active voice) in Exodus 25:8, shakan means, “settle down, abide, dwell” (Ibid., 1014).

[3] Largely meaning “pasture, tend, graze” (Ibid., 944).

[4] Heb. m’sham ro’eh even Yisrael.

[5] John 10:14 includes one of the many “I am” sayings, where there is a deliberate connection being made between egō eimi and the Lord’s declaration in Exodus 3:14, ehyeh asher ehyeh, “I AM WHO I AM,” rendered in the Septuagint as egō eimi. The intention is to clearly associate Yeshua the Messiah as being the “I AM,” the LORD God in human flesh.

For further consideration, consult G.M. Burge, “‘I am’ Sayings,” in Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, and I. Howard Marshall, eds., Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1992), pp 354-356.

[6] Grk. Ei gar hē prōtē ekeinē; “for if that first were faultless” (YLT).

Editor’s note: While many translations provide “covenant,” the subject matter is actually the priesthood/tabernacle/ministry-service of the Levites (Hebrews 8:1-3). Feminine nouns that can be associated with hē prōtē do include diathēkē or “covenant,” but can also include skēnē or “tabernacle,” hierōsunē or “priesthood,” or leitourgia or “ministry.”

For a further evaluation, consult the article “What is the New Covenant?” by J.K. McKee.

[7] For an examination of some of the issues circulating around the Messianic movement concerning the reliability of the Epistle to the Hebrews, consult the article “The Message of Hebrews” and the commentary Hebrews for the Practical Messianic by J.K. McKee.

[8] HALOT, 1:14.

[9] For a further evaluation of the events of the Jerusalem Council and the Apostolic decree, consult the commentary Acts 15 for the Practical Messianic by J.K. McKee.

[10] Cf. Kurt Aland, et. al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Stuttgart: Deutche Bibelgesellschaft/United Bible Societies, 1998), pp 788-789.

[11] For some further thoughts on what might compose the Tabernacle of David, consult the author’s article “Restoring David’s Tabernacle,” appearing in the March 2007 issue of Outreach Israel News.

February 2017 Outreach Israel News


OIM Update

February 2017

As noted in last month’s update, the change in direction of the government of the United States was a Godsend of magnanimous proportions! In many regards it could have been, according to a variety of righteous servants of the Most High, a direct result of God’s children crying out for mercy, and then protection, for the inauguration of the new executive administration. Whatever it was, for those old enough to bear witness to the persistent political pendulum swings of the American culture, there is one undeniable conclusion: the population of this 240-year old democratic republic is substantially divided about how to proceed into the future. To observe the internecine battles played out daily on various media outlets can be extremely disconcerting. There almost appears to be a self-destructive nature at work to tear apart people with different worldviews. We must persist in our prayers!

From a Biblical viewpoint, one knows that without the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit impacting a person’s thinking and understanding, diametrically opposed perspectives are expected. How, one might ask, is it possible for a person without faith under the domineering influence of the world, the flesh, and the Evil One (Ephesians 6:12; 1 John 2:16), going to comprehend spiritually appraised data in lieu of the onslaught of contradictory information? The Apostle Paul summarized the dilemma two millennia ago when writing to the Corinthians:

“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM [Isaiah 40:13]? But we have the mind of Messiah” (1 Corinthians 2:12-16).

As I contemplated these realities, some words shared by Yeshua came to mind:

“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand” (Mark 3:24-25; also Matthew 12:25; Luke 11:17).

Here in precise terms Yeshua stated that when a kingdom or a house is divided, it will not be able to stand. This universal truth applies to countries that the Almighty has always used for His sovereign purposes. Hence, the United States of America, founded on Judeo-Christian principles—and currently the foremost protector of the State of Israel—cannot avoid the severe negative consequences of division indefinitely. This is especially true in light of geopolitical circumstances which have the potential to erupt with nominal warning. Once again, we urge the faithful to pray for those in authority, as was declared recently from the inaugural podium, when this Scripture was read without any hesitation:

“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Messiah Yeshua, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time” (1 Timothy 2:1-6).

With those Scriptures as a backdrop, rather than dwell on the depressing and surly aspects of division and vile detestation for others, instead I want to share a personal testimony which has taken place over the past year. This month’s lead article entitled, “One New Man Testimony: United We Stand,” describes how the Holy One of Israel is meeting the needs of people through willing vessels who are simply making themselves available to serve Him. Hopefully, everyone who reads this account will be as blessed, just as the author was, who simply followed the Spirit’s lead to help those in need.

Finally, our year has gotten off to a fast start and we are anticipating an acceleration of references to Israel as significant anniversaries occur later in the year! We know from past experience that as the Lord continues to bring His people together in harmony, the Enemy of our souls continues to prowl about as a lion seeking to devour any susceptible to his wiles. Hence, J.K. McKee continues to expand the Messianic Apologetics division of Outreach Israel in order to help people within the emerging Messianic community of faith refine their understanding. 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 endeavors!

With that in mind, may: “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


One New Man Testimony: United We Stand

by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!”
Psalm 133:1

Who would have thought that Psalm 133:1 would be quoted in the inaugural address by the newly elected President of the United States of America? In a prophetic sort of way, it is our prayer that his—and our—desire for unity between people of relatively common faith, will be a hallmark of the new administration and the citizens of our divided nation over the next four to eight years. However, as people of faith witness over and again, the attainment of blessed unity, or even respectful coexistence, is under constant attack from nefarious spiritual forces that derive satisfaction from division, destruction, and the ultimate divider, death.

Lamentably, the acrimonious debate devolving to vile actions is never pleasant to observe. In fact, the constant reminder of negative disinformation can be discouraging and downright depressing! Hence, instead of writing and focusing on the ugly things people say and do to one another, I would like to, instead, share a positive personal testimony about how people from distinctly different Jewish and Christian backgrounds have come together to help others in desperate need. After all, everyone who fervently seeks to follow the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and walk in His ways, is exhorted to perform good works to and for their fellow human beings. Providentially, in a unique display of unity under the broad umbrella of the Holy Scriptures, there are Jewish Israelis, American Baptists, and Messianic Jews collaborating to minister to Syrian Christians fleeing from atrocious acts of carnage at this very hour. From my limited perspective as I watched the events unfold, it surely could have been God’s mercy answering the prayers of His people for those in significant need of medical attention.

In this particular case, although it continues to be a work in progress as of this writing, we find a prime modern-day example of a “one new man” collaboration of Jewish and non-Jewish people working together to help those in physical need. The spiritual ramifications of the relationships established remains to be seen, as hearts are softened on all sides of the Judeo-Christian spectrum. After all, over the last several decades since the reconstitution of the State of Israel in the Promised Land, the Holy One has been patiently and methodically removing the enmity and breaking down many of the historical barriers that have been built between the Jewish people and non-Jewish followers of Israel’s Messiah over the last two millennia. The Apostle Paul wrote some dynamic words to ancient Believers in the First Century, specifically on how Yeshua’s work has torn down the barrier wall of enmity, and how Jewish Believers and non-Jewish Believers in Israel’s Messiah were to be unified into a “one new man” or “one new humanity” in Him:

“For we are His workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we would walk in them. Therefore remember, that once you, the nations in the flesh—who are called ‘Foreskin’ by the ones called ‘Circumcision,’ which is in the flesh, made by hands—remember that you were at that time separate from Messiah, alienated from the Commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Messiah Yeshua you who were once far off, have been brought near in the blood of Messiah. For He is our peace, who made both groups one, and broke down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, the religious Law of commandments in dogmas, that He might create in Himself the two into one new humanity, so making peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, having killed the enmity by it” (Ephesians 2:10-16, PME).

With this Scriptural reminder of not only how all Believers in Israel’s Messiah are a part of the Commonwealth of Israel—but most especially how they are to experience great unity in His Body—the following is my testimony of what the Holy Spirit is doing to bring His people into unity to accomplish His purposes.

The resulting good works ministering to God’s children in Syria began in an unusual way, with a chance encounter at the Baylor Hospital in Dallas, Texas. In late November 2015, I was attending to the needs of my father, who was receiving an MRI for his trigeminal neuralgia disorder at the hospital lab. My brother and I were in the corridor speaking with the neurologist, when down the hall on an electric cart came a middle aged man who recognized and then greeted my brother. Apparently, these two SMU graduates had reserved season ticket seats next to each other at the basketball arena. Other than the time they sat together during games, they had no other real relationship. To be polite, my brother introduced me to Bruce, and I noticed he had a nametag on that indicated he worked for the Baylor Hospital system. So I asked him what he did, and he said that he helped raise money for the Baylor, Scott & White Health Group, and then also worked on distributing used medical equipment to needy people around the world, spending much of his time at his office in a warehouse just a block away.

As it happened, I had just seen a presentation about the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America’s, or MJAA’s, Joseph Project, a few weeks earlier. So, when Bruce mentioned medical equipment and giving it away, I simply asked him if they would consider giving some to needy people in Israel. Without hesitation, Bruce simply replied, “We give it to any needy people. All you have to do is pick it up and pay for the shipping overseas!” With that I said, “OK. When can I come by the warehouse and see what you have? Maybe some of this can minister to folks in Israel?” And from that providential point forward, a relationship was initiated that resulted in the shipment of a container of medical equipment and supplies in July 2016. In fact, I was able to solicit the medical expertise of one of our congregation members, an oncologist who had just recently retired from working at the Baylor Hospital. She was able to point out valuable medical equipment and supplies which would be appropriate to send, and was even going to be in Israel when the container was going to arrive. But the testimony does not end here…

The MJAA Joseph Project was already responsible for distributing over $100 million in humanitarian aid to Israeli Jews, Arabs, and even Palestinians (widows, orphans, homeless, elderly, disabled, and Holocaust survivors) over the past two decades. They were delighted to receive the generous gift of medical equipment and supplies from the Christian Baptists and their Faith in Action Initiative (FIAI), the non-profit organization of Baylor, Scott, & White Health Group. The FIAI is the entity that runs the warehouse and prepared the pallets of supplies and equipment for shipment. So in a unique sort of way, there was a collaborative “one new man” effort of Messianic Jews and Christians working together with the sole goal and desire to minister to people in Israel with this medical equipment and supplies. But there is more evidence of God’s handiwork.

After the container landed at the dock in Israel, because there were some used electric powered incubators, monitors, and sophisticated baby warmers, the Israeli Health Ministry would not let it into use because of government regulations about restrictions on “used” electrical medical equipment. This “red tape” hang up precipitated a series of meetings with not only some of the Orthodox Jewish Israeli Health Ministry bureaucrats, but also the Israeli Minister of Health, who is also Orthodox. Thankfully, the Joseph Project director, who coordinated the shipment, and our retired oncologist friend, were able to attend the meetings with the Health Minister this September 2016 in Israel. Their conversations went extremely well. The result was the Israeli Health Ministry actually changing some governmental policies to allow used medical equipment to come into Israel, and actually be given to smaller towns, villages, and settlements where they do not necessarily have the monetary resources to purchase new equipment. That breakthrough was quite a blessing, because what is happening in Israel through the efforts of the Joseph Project is spiritually significant! Orthodox and secular Jews are witnessing the tangible actions of Messianic Jews literally giving all sorts clothes, shoes, furniture, appliances, diapers, baby formula, and other things to needy people—without expecting anything in return. The unconditional love of the Messianic Jewish community, to those in need, is softening the hearts of many Jews, who have historically been antagonistic toward Yeshua the Messiah, and very distrusting and suspicious of the Messianic Jewish community. Clearly, God has been using the Joseph Project for His eternal purposes beyond just physical relief!

However, even though at the time all the parties to the breakthrough were elated, there was still a problem getting the new regulations written and approved through the Israeli Health Ministry. (Does this sound familiar to those working through other governmental entities?) But God had another plan. Instead, while the container remained on the dock and the stowage fees began to mount daily, word got out through the community of Messianics and an Israeli lobbyist, with many contacts with the Knesset and Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), that the container was being held up at the dock. Then somehow through a series of relationships, the person who started Israeli Flying Aid (IFA), a first responder to natural disasters, found out about the container of medical equipment. Through her contacts with the IDF, she was able to get the container released from the dock, and get the mounting stowage fees waived. She was then allowed to have the medical equipment and supplies sent clandestinely across the Israeli and Syrian border to help the Syrian “internally displaced people” (IDP) or refugees unable to leave the country. It is our understanding that many of these IDPs are Christian Syrians fleeing from the violence and carnage taking place in cities like Aleppo. Since the refugee camps established in Jordan are completely full and unwilling to take any more people, the Syrian IDPs are actually being collected down near the Golan Heights. How amazing is it that the IFA, performing some “good works” for their neighbors, have been instrumental in making all of this happen by the end of 2016? But if you can believe it, positive things continue to materialize.

In January 2017, after the people at the Joseph Project had developed this strong relationship with the secular Jewish Israelis and American Jews supporting the efforts of the Israeli Flying Aid missions, and the ongoing association with the Faith in Action Initiatives, a request for more aid was made to help those in Syria. Without any hesitation, the request for a container of medical equipment to be shipped in January was granted. In fact, during a long distance phone call showing the equipment available via Facetime technology, a request for a second container was suggested. Providentially on that very day, 87 pallets of shoes and orthopedic braces and boots had just arrived. Those at the FIAI warehouse were more than delighted to send a second container, because their own warehouse was too overloaded, with more medical equipment and supplies than it could handle. So not only did the MJAA Joseph Project send two containers which will make the trip to minister to the Christian Syrian IDPs, but a third container with 18 pallets of shoes will go directly to the Joseph Project warehouse in Israel this month. These will be distributed on a first come first served basis to needy Israelis of all backgrounds.

Quite frankly, I am marveling over how the Lord has orchestrated this rapid shipment of medical equipment and supplies to His needy people in Syria, and also in Israel. But what is also exciting to witness is how the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is knitting together the hearts of Israeli Jews, Messianic Jews, and Christians, in order to minister to Syrian Christians, as well as Israelis who are both Jewish and Arab. God does not discriminate when it comes to answering the prayers of His people, and ministering to those in need.

As I contemplated and wrote this testimony, a variety of Scriptures came to mind. One in particular is found in the Sermon on the Mount, when Yeshua contrasts the command to love neighbor with the common human fault of hating one’s enemy:

“Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR [Leviticus 19:18] and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:42-48).

In addition, the Holy Scriptures are replete with commandments and examples of what is required to love God and your neighbor as yourself, as best summarized by the Messiah Yeshua, when questioned by a scribe as to what was the foremost commandment:

“One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, ‘What commandment is the foremost of all?’ Yeshua answered, ‘The foremost is, “HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORED YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH” [Deuteronomy 6:4-5]. The second is this, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF” [Leviticus 19:18]. There is no other commandment greater than these.’ The scribe said to Him, ‘Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is one, and there is no one else besides Him [Deuteronomy 6:4]; AND TO LOVE HIM WITH ALL THE HEART AND WITH ALL THE UNDERSTANDING AND WITH ALL THE STRENGTH, AND TO LOVE ONE’S NEIGHBOR AS HIMSELF [Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18], is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices” (Mark 12:28-33).

Notice at the end of this passage that evidence of loving God and neighbor is much more beneficial than “all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” Is not ministering to the needs of neighbor—and perceived enemy—much more pleasing to our Creator than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices we can do? Now is that not something to think about as we move forward in 2017?! Perhaps we all should consider how we can live together in unity rather than in division. After all, we know how good and pleasant it can and will be if we can work toward that end!

So in this era of great division in our country, may our prayers be for those who persecute us—which quite frankly is a difficult thing to do. Nevertheless, we need to learn to love our neighbors and the immigrants which come to live among us, as was commanded of the Ancient Israelites in the Torah of Moses:

“When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 19:33-34).

The Lord God is testing all of us in this hour of rapid change, as the illegal immigrant population grows, not only in the United States, but in modern countries around the globe. And it is critical that we all understand that this axiom continues to ring true: “United we stand, divided we fall!”

I thank God that He is bringing together the “one new man” at His pleasure and according to His will. It is my prayer that this is one testimony which reflects His work among those who call upon the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and encourages one and all to continue to advance His Kingdom, until the Messianic restoration of all things…

Mishpatim

Mishpatim

Rulings

“Rules Unto Others”

Exodus 21:1-24:18
Jeremiah 34:8-22; 33:25-26


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

As we turn to Mishpatim this week, we are reminded that the Israelites have just received the Ten Commandments and have heard the terrifying voice of the Lord as He shook Mount Sinai. We recall that the Israelites were so frightened by the sound of God’s voice, that they requested that Moses be their exclusive intermediary to receive the further instructions about how to conduct their lives. As they trembled at a distance, the fear was so great that they thought they would die if they had to continue to hear the voice of the Almighty:

“And all the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. Then they said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, lest we die’” (Exodus 20:18-19).

Apparently, the presence of God was so awesome that the Ancient Israelites relinquished their individual rights to hear Him directly, by choosing Moses to be their intermediary. In this capacity, Moses received instructions about how men and women should conduct their lives with respect toward one another. At the end of Mishpatim, we see the commitment of the Israelites to keep the commandments that Moses delivered to them:

““Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, ‘All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!’ So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words’” (Exodus 24:7-8).

In many ways, as you read Mishpatim and its listing of rules, ordinances, and judgments—the thought comes to mind that these practical instructions are quite consistent with what we often call “the Golden Rule,” treating others as we would have them treat us (Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31). Examining Mishpatim gives us the annual opportunity to rethink many of the basic instructions on how we should treat others, when human interaction creates inevitable conflict.

Interestingly, the first rulings that Moses focused on relate to the treatment of slaves (Exodus 21:2-11). Here, the Ancient Israelites, having just been freed from the bondage of slavery in Egypt, are given specific instructions about how to lovingly handle the relationship between a slaveholder and slave.[1] Hopefully, with memories ripe with remembrance of this condition, they will be able to relate to people confined to this humble station in life. The Holy One definitely communicated grand attributes of compassion and lovingkindness to all members of humanity, no matter what their relationship might be one to another.

A New Creature

The instructions in our parashah relate to a variety of interactions that typically occur in any society, especially given the fallen state of man. We are reminded that in spite of us being created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27; James 3:9), we have inherited a sin nature from Adam (Romans 5:12). Because we are fallen creatures, we require redemption. The nature that we have all inherited in Adam must be replaced by a redeemed nature only available through the salvation of the Messiah Yeshua. Once a person can understand who he or she is in Adam, confessing and repenting of sin, and dying to oneself—then and only then will you be able to receive the new nature provided as the Ruach HaKodesh or Holy Spirit takes up residence inside of you. You are finally able to be born again! You become a new creature in the Messiah, just as the Apostle Paul describes to the Corinthians:

“Therefore if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Messiah and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Messiah reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Messiah, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Messiah, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).

To many of you this may sound very basic, but if you will recall, even the exemplary Torah teacher and Pharisee Nicodemus did not understand some of these foundational concepts. For whatever reason, Nicodemus could not comprehend the concept of being “born again,” even though he was considered a leader among his people:

“Yeshua answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?’ Yeshua answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, “You must be born again.” The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can these things be?’ Yeshua answered and said to him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?’” (John 3:9-10).

Many of us are familiar with this passage from the Gospels, and yet have we ever considered the thought that even the foundational teachings of the Torah are frequently not understood by its teachers? It has long been recognized in Biblical Studies that being “born again” or “born from above” was used in Second Temple Judaism to describe proselytes. The Talmud records, “R. Yosé says, ‘A proselyte at the moment of conversion is like a new-born baby’” (b.Yevamot 48b).[2] Yeshua the Messiah simply took the terminology “born again,” and rather than apply it to proselytes to Judaism—applied it to His followers. This might not always be obvious to some of you, so think about whether the Torah teacher you listen to on a regular basis is really familiar with its basic instructions regarding holiness and proper living.

It is critical for us to consistently turn to Moses’ Teaching in order to learn more and more about our human condition and how we should conduct ourselves. The main reason that the Torah exists is to help define sin for humanity, and regulate the behavior that the Lord expects His people to demonstrate in the world.

We must each be thankful for the opportunity to be reckoned as the sons and daughters of the Living God, via our adoption in Yeshua. But for whatever reasons, we frequently need to be reminded of our responsibilities, even after we have inherited new life in the Messiah. Paul comments about the awesomeness of Believers’ adoption into God’s family in his letter to the Romans:

“For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Messiah, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:15-23).

Just as Paul writes, we as Believers in Yeshua do not walk in a spirit of slavery, but instead in a spirit of adoption as children of the Most High. Hallelujah for His mercy to us! Yet, we each eagerly await the complete redemption of Creation, including our total selves at the resurrection. But, let us now turn to the Torah portion and see what our Father wants us to consider, as once again His Instruction communicates basic life principles to His sons and daughters.

Civil Laws

As you read through Mishpatim, you are reminded of some of the basic instructions about how we should treat one another when the inevitable problems of human interaction occur. We see detailed, various ordinances about personal injuries (Exodus 21:12-36), property rights (Exodus 22:1-15), sundry laws (Exodus 22:16-23:9), as well as the stipulations to keep the Sabbath (Exodus 23:10-13) and observe the three festivals of ingathering (Exodus 23:14-18). The basic yardstick of instruction is essentially “the Golden Rule.” When God’s people face challenges today, these various instructions surely articulate and inform us on how He would have conflicts resolved.

Interestingly, as you read these rulings, you will note that a tenor of fairness, equality, and compassion seems to permeate the statements. If the Spirit of God resides inside of you, then when you read these various ordinances, the Spirit should bear witness that the remedies and treatments for various violations of conduct seem perfectly equitable. Over many centuries, these very statements have been incorporated into the civil laws of societies influenced by the Judeo-Christian values established in Holy Writ. This is not to say that all of these laws are reiterated exactly, but that the essence is certainly there in our Western judicial system. (Even pagan societies that do not acknowledge the God of Israel have benefited from the Torah’s moral message.)

The difference between when these commands were originally given to Israel and today is that we live in a post-resurrection era that has made the understanding of these rulings much clearer, through the teachings of Yeshua and His Apostles. We do not stone children for striking or cursing their parents, because Yeshua has atoned for this penalty (cf. Colossians 2:14). However, when you encounter statements that speak of capital punishment, you realize how important God considers adherence to the commandment regarding how parents should be honored (Exodus 21:17).

When you couple these kinds of statements with other reiterations about: keeping the Sabbath, the appointed times, the first-born offerings, not bearing false witness, properly treating the poor, widows, orphans, speaking out about leaders, lending money, etc., you begin to realize that at times throughout your life you have probably not followed these rulings too well. You have probably broken all the rules. As a result of breaking these rules, you are therefore guilty and need to pay restitution. Some of the restitution principles are articulated in this parashah, but when you are completely honest with yourself, you begin to realize that you have probably not paid the price perfectly for your various transgressions.

The Almighty God Himself is most aware of each and every transgression we have committed. He knows the when, where, and to what degree each of us has sinned. He knows that each person is indeed bankrupt in trespasses and sins. Eventually, in spite of our various mortal attempts to keep all of these commandments, especially coupled with the remaining instructions that are seen throughout the Bible, one should hopefully come to the logical conclusion that he or she cannot possibly avoid the penalties that ultimately lead to death and eternal separation from God. If you really think through all of these things seriously, the final conclusion would be not too unlike what many cried out to the Apostles at various times: Sirs, what must I do to be saved? (Acts 16:33). An inability to keep God’s Law is to show us the need for a Savior (cf. Galatians 3:24; Romans 10:4, Grk.).

Yeshua’s Upgrade

Yeshua came to Earth and was sacrificed at Golgotha (Calvary), paying the penalty for our sins and offering a permanent atonement. But long before being executed, He spent time with His Disciples and others, trying to help them understand some of the basic principles of His Father’s Instruction. Yeshua’s teachings bring a great depth and dimension to what we are constantly learning in the Torah—some of you for the first time. Many of the things Yeshua says are almost impossible for a person who has nothing more than a natural, fleshly mind. As the Apostle Paul reminds us, a natural person is incapable of receiving things from the Spirit:

“But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM [Isaiah 40:13]? But we have the mind of Messiah” (1 Corinthians 2:14-16).

Consequently, we have a great number of people throughout the ages who have attempted to understand and comment about the teachings of Yeshua and the Apostles—with many now trying to understand the Torah. Unfortunately, many have not dealt with the reality about coming to the end of themselves and being born again from above, in order to have the spiritual capacity to even understand the basic teachings of the Bible. This, you can imagine, can create a tremendous amount of confusion, as one will be most prone to misunderstand the essentials of salvation, holiness, and accomplishing God’s mission for His Creation.

When one reads the words of Yeshua, and His clarification about and/or elaboration upon the Torah principles that are seen in a reading like Mishpatim, many are befuddled. Consider the instruction that deals with the loss of an eye or a tooth (Exodus 21:24, 27). Read how Yeshua applies this in His Sermon on the Mount:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH’ [Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21]. But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” (Matthew 5:38-39).

In Mishpatim, some commandments are given about how one is supposed to be compensated for the loss of an eye or a tooth, or whatever else has been lost. Some of these circumstances will arise due to fallen human nature. Out of anger or passion, a person might strike someone and cause an eye or a tooth to be lost, and so the Torah issues instruction on how restitution is to be made. But Yeshua remarks about the spiritual causes of such a loss. The natural inclination when injured is to injure back, but the Messiah instead directs people to receive another blow and turn the other check. If love for one’s fellow human beings is imperative, what is going to convict a person who has lost his temper and control of his emotions more? The perfect restitution for the infraction, or a response out of love that indicates how physical harm can ultimately do little damage? As Yeshua continues in this particular passage, He expresses the meaning of true love established by the Torah:

“If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHRBOR [Leviticus 19:18] and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:40-48).

Yeshua tells those in His audience to give up shirts, walk extra miles, give freely, love their enemies, and pray for those who persecute. Why? Because then and only then will you be “sons of your Father who is in heaven.” He concludes with the stellar requirement that one is to be perfect, just as the Father in Heaven is perfect. Yeshua knows this is impossible for human beings to attain in their own strength, and yet He clearly declares it as a requirement for following Him. Following Yeshua’s teachings are virtually impossible without the Holy Spirit and His atoning work covering our lives. The status of being excellent in the Lord, much less perfect—requires total commitment, steady spiritual refinement, and consistent discipleship in maturity.

We have much to consider this week as we reflect on the ordinances and precepts that God has established for His people. May we hold fast to those rules, so just like the Israelites in the wilderness, we too can claim what the ancients claimed:

“He took the Book of the Covenant and read it in earshot of the people, and they said, ‘Everything that HASHEM has said, we will do and we will obey!’[3] Moses took the blood and threw it upon the people, and he said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant that HASHEM sealed with you concerning all these matters’” (Exodus 24:7-8, ATS).

Today, as Believers in Yeshua, we can experience the fullness of the things that the ancients only heard about. While Moses only sprinkled animal blood on the people, the author of Hebrews testifies that the blood of Yeshua Himself inaugurates the New Covenant—where the commandments of God are to be written upon our hearts and we can have great confidence to go to the Father:

“Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Yeshua, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:19-22).

We should not only have a new heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:25-27), washed by the blood of the Messiah—but we should also have our hearts and minds made clean, eagerly able to perform God’s service. May we all be blessed in this understanding as we consider His rules, and live them out as a testimony of what He has done for us!


NOTES

[1] This is definitely a section of the Torah that can only be adequately understood when read against its Ancient Near Eastern background. For a further discussion, consult the article “Addressing the Frequently Avoided Issues Messianics Encounter in the Torah” by J.K. McKee.

[2] The Babylonian Talmud: A Translation and Commentary. MS Windows XP. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2005. CD-ROM.

[3] Heb. kol asher-diver ADONAI na’aseh v’nishma.

Yitro

Yitro

Jethro

“Divine Service Toward Others”

Exodus 18:1-20:23[26]
Isaiah 6:1-7:6; 9:5-6[6-7] (A); 6:1-13 (S)


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

This week we continue our examination of the Book of Exodus, coming to a Torah portion that includes one of the most significant sections in the entire Bible, as we witness God giving His people the Ten Commandments. After some of the initial trials of the journey into the wilderness as considered last week in B’shalach (Exodus 13:17-17:16), with a lack of water and food, and a battle with the Amalekites—in Yitro the people of Israel come to the base of Mount Sinai and receive instruction from God. Most readers understandably focus their attention upon the reception of the Ten Commandments, transcribed by the very finger of the Most High onto stone tablets (Exodus 20:1-17).

Without any doubt, the Ten Commandments are very important, because it is upon such aseret ha’devarim or Ten Words that the remainder of the Torah’s commandments are somehow based. Yet in one of the most well-known statements made by the Messiah Yeshua in the Gospels, it might be said that the very basis of the Ten Commandments themselves are the Torah’s instructions to faithfully love God and one’s neighbor:

“And He said to him, ‘“YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND’ [Deuteronomy 6:5]. This is the great and foremost commandment The second is like it, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF” [Leviticus 19:18]. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets’” (Matthew 22:37-40).

When we understand how the Ten Commandments have a tendency to point disobedient persons—not only within Ancient Israel but throughout human history—back to remembrance and obedience, the words of Yeshua make perfect sense. But rather than focus on the significant volume of material that has been accumulated on the Ten Commandments,[1] as well as the critical importance of loving God and one’s neighbor, there is another topic within Yitro which precedes the reception of the Ten Words. In the opening chapter of our parashah, Exodus 18, the character and actions for whom this reading is entitled are described. The individual named, of course, is Jethro (Yitro), the father-in-law of Moses. The ancient advice that he gave to Moses, and consequently what it means throughout the Biblical narrative and for us today, is something that we need to consider.

A society with specified rules, regulations, and statutes can implode and fall into disarray if its people fail to heed the guidelines issued for proper leadership. There are far too many historical examples of societal failures that we can reflect upon. Needless to say, Ancient Israel itself, in spite of what is issued in Yitro, did not always implement the godly instructions on whom to regard as those in authority. So as a Messianic faith community which truly desires to be in compliance with Holy Scriptures, what principles do the leadership instructions of Yitro deliver to us, who want to be successful in a time when God’s people are witnessing significant restoration?

The Big Picture

When you often study the Torah, the corresponding Haftarah selections can be used to prompt some major introspection. This week, some of the selected verses from the Book of Isaiah reminded me of the concept of Divine order. After all, the Holy One of Israel is a God of order, and it is through His order that He is going to accomplish all the things that He has providentially ordained:

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:6-7).

As you review this classic passage from Isaiah, the Prophet is looking forward to a time when the Son of God will actually be born as a human being. He will be given the awesome titles of: pele yoeitz, El gibor, avi’ad, sar-shalom, or Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, and Prince of Peace. These titles, in and of themselves, leave no doubt in my mind that Yeshua the Son is indeed Divine, God in the flesh.

In an interesting choice of words, the Prophet states that “the government will rest on His shoulders,” and “There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace.” All rule and dominion will clearly rest upon Yeshua the Messiah.

When I consider the visual picture of the government of God’s Kingdom resting upon the shoulders of the Prince of Peace, I envision a scene of Yeshua in all of His glory, with the government literally resting on His shoulders. Now in order to conceptualize this, I picture the governmental structure like an upside down pyramid with its pinnacle held up by the Lord. In my mind, this represents the order of God by Yeshua serving His people. It notably includes the Messiah at the bottom, rather than at the top; He holds everything up by His supreme power.

According to the author of Hebrews, Yeshua is presently seated at the right hand of the Father, the Son being the One who sustains the Creation—certainly with this governmental structure resting securely upon Himself:

“And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high; having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they” (Hebrews 1:3-4).

When I couple this mental image with the conceptual reality that Yeshua has clearly stated, “He came not to be served, but to serve and offer Himself up as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28), the idea of serving means to humble oneself, and often be at the bottom of the heap. But with all of these mental images of the Messiah and His dual role as the Servant-King—the One who has led by His service and ultimate sacrifice for sinful humanity—I am drawn back to our Torah portion this week, and the advice Moses received from Jethro.

Jethro’s Wisdom

We need to understand that the insertion of the episode we read with Jethro comes at a very strategic time for Moses and the Ancient Israelites. The deliverance from Egypt and the battle with the Amalekites were behind them. Jethro brought Moses his wife Zipporah and their two sons Gershom and Eliezer, to the Israelite camp (Exodus 18:1-7). Jethro heard of the great salvation acts (Exodus 18:8) and was convinced that the God of Israel was the One True God (Exodus 18:9-12). But, this highly respected elder witnessed the leadership model Moses was using, and he had the wisdom and the impetus to make some astute recommendations. As the text indicates, Moses was exhausting himself with meeting the ever-present requests of thousands, not to mention all of their unspoken demands:

“It came about the next day that Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood about Moses from the morning until the evening. Now when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, ‘What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge and all the people stand about you from morning until evening?’ Moses said to his father-in-law, ‘Because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a dispute, it comes to me, and I judge between a man and his neighbor and make known the statutes of God and His laws’” (Exodus 18:13-16).

Jethro immediately detected that Moses was wearing himself out, and that he had to do something to avoid fatigue and the impossible task of resolving all the disputes within the community of Israel. The logical advice was to develop a way to duplicate his authority, and choose capable leaders who could handle varying degrees of responsibility. Jethro’s advice was two-fold: (1) Moses was supposed to continue in his position as the intermediary between God and the people, but (2) he was to raise up those who would learn the commandments and precepts of the Lord, being able to apply them at the various levels to which they would be assigned:

“And Moses’ father-in-law said to him, ‘The thing that you are doing is not good. You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone. Now listen to me: I shall give you counsel, and God be with you. You be the people’s representative before God, and you bring the disputes to God, then teach them the statutes and the laws, and make known to them the way in which they are to walk, and the work they are to do. Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them, as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times; and let it be that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this thing and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people also will go to their place in peace.’ So Moses listened to his father-in-law, and did all that he had said” (Exodus 18:17-24).

Moses was certainly not going to give up his unique relationship with the Holy One. After all, Moses had a special call upon his life that was apparent to those who knew him. Maintaining his relationship with God was critical to continue functioning as the leader of the emerging nation, as they would be taught God’s statutes and laws. And as we know, the Lord continued to give Moses an incredible amount of revelation that is recorded throughout the Pentateuch. However, since this channel of communication needed to be maintained, it was important to delegate the work of administration to others who were qualified to handle various day-to-day administration responsibilities within the community of Israel. Jethro established the essential criteria Moses would use, for selecting those who would be capable of handling various responsibilities:

Within Exodus 18:21-22, Moses’ father-in-law Jethro advised four important attributes for the leaders who would be raised up within Ancient Israel. They were: (1) to be able or accomplished, (2) God-fearing, (3) truthful, and (4) hate dishonest gain. In many respects, these same virtuous character traits were to define the elders and deacons that Timothy and Titus were to appoint, respectively, in their administrative capacities in Ephesus (1 Timothy 3:1-12) and on Crete (Titus 1:5-9). Whether we look to our Torah portion Yitro, or Paul’s instructions within the Pastoral Epistles, I believe we will discover that servant-leaders of God’s people need to all be of impeccable personal quality, as they not only teach, guide, and mentor others—but also help to implement solutions for the problems that they face.

Able and Accomplished

When you go back and contemplate Jethro’s advice and the qualifications he articulated for the leaders within Ancient Israel, there is no doubt that subsequent generations of God’s people were informed by these early stipulations. Jethro stated that the selected leaders must be able or accomplished (Exodus 18:21a), with the text employing the word chayil, meaning “ability, efficiency, often involving moral worth” (BDB).[2] “The basic meaning of the noun is ‘strength,’ from which follow ‘army’ and ‘wealth’” (TWOT).[3] We see that those chosen need to be as dependable as one would want the army to be, defending the nation from hostile forces. This would mean that leaders must be disciplined, strong, and courageous to handle any of the challenges that might threaten Israel’s welfare.

When you consider some of the instructions issued to Timothy in Ephesus, as he served as Paul’s authorized representative to help fix the negative effects of the false teaching that had circulated, there is an amplification of what it means to be able. Within the mid-to-late First Century, the Messiah followers out in the Mediterranean basin were largely meeting in small communities that typically gathered in homes. In Ancient Ephesus, the false teaching (cf. 1 Timothy 1:4-7) had influenced some of those in leadership, and so Timothy had to see that new elders and deacons were appointed. The Apostle Paul directed his disciple Timothy to choose new leaders from among those who were mature in the faith, and who demonstrated godly character within the home:

“An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, uncontentious, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the [assembly] of God?); and not a new convert, lest he become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil” (1 Timothy 3:2-6).

God-Fearing

Jethro told Moses that he should appoint leaders who fear God (Exodus 18:21b). Fearing the Lord is a concept witnessed throughout the Holy Scriptures, perhaps epitomized by Proverbs 18:10: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Within the Tanakh, the references one sees regarding how to fear God give readers the distinct impression that a fear of God leads to a great respect for Him, and consequently how He expects His people to live and conduct themselves. Here are two significant examples from Psalms:

“Who is the man who fears the LORD? He will instruct him in the way he should choose. His soul will abide in prosperity, and his descendants will inherit the land. The secret of the LORD is for those who fear Him, and He will make them know His covenant” (Psalm 25:12-14).

“Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart, in the company of the upright and in the assembly. Great are the works of the LORD; they are studied by all who delight in them. Splendid and majestic is His work; and His righteousness endures forever. He has made His wonders to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and compassionate. He has given food to those who fear Him; He will remember His covenant forever. He has made known to His people the power of His works, in giving them the heritage of the nations. The works of His hands are truth and justice; all His precepts are sure. They are upheld forever and ever; they are performed in truth and uprightness. He has sent redemption to His people; He has ordained His covenant forever; holy and awesome is His name. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever” (Psalm 111:1-10).

These Psalm passages can really intensify our understanding about the kind of fear for God that leaders of His people are to demonstrate. A healthy fear of God is a true indicator that a leader not only believes that He is real and exists, but also that consequences of disobedience and disbelief are severe. A healthy fear of God is important for good leadership, because those who fail to fear God will often fall into sin. Jude reflected on this reality in his letter composed in the late First Century, because those without a fear of the Lord had entered into the Believers’ love feasts with intentions to do great harm:

“But these men revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed. Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. These men are those who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever” (Jude 10-13).

Discerning that a leader has a healthy and true fear of God is extremely important. By evidencing a godly fear, the leader will rely upon the Lord for His wisdom and counsel, for the difficult decisions which need to be made.

Truthful

Jethro told Moses that he should appoint leaders who respected the truth (Exodus 18:21c). In the Hebrew Scriptures, the term emet has a variety of meanings, including: “reliability, sureness,” “stability, continuance,” and “faithfulness, reliableness” (BDB).[4] The Greek Scriptures likewise reflect this, often employing pistis, meaning: “persuasion of a thing, confidence, assurance,” “good faith, trustworthiness, faithfulness, honesty,” and “an assurance, pledge of good faith, warrant, guarantee” (LS).[5] Emet is frequently translated with pistis in the Septuagint, and these meanings are all employed in the Apostolic Scriptures. Leaders are required to not only know the truth, but to be able to teach it well because they have experienced it in their lives.

Given the influence of various troublemakers on the island of Crete, the leaders Titus was to appoint needed to be able to be steadfast with the truth of the gospel:

“For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word[6] which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict. For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach, for the sake of sordid gain” (Titus 1:7-11).

The emphasis on being able to “hold firmly to the trustworthy message” (NIV), of the good news of salvation in Yeshua, is evidenced in actions like being able “to encourage with sound teaching and to refute those who contradict it” (HCSB). On the island of Crete there had been various troublemakers and errorists who had circulated controversial ideas for their own self-serving purposes, which was quite problematic especially given the low estimation that Cretans had in the ancient world (Titus 1:12).

Jethro’s words would be comparable to telling the people of Israel to choose leaders who truly understood God’s Law. Moses was told, “enjoin upon them the laws and the teachings, and make known to them the way they are to go and the practices they are to follow” (Exodus 18:20, NJPS). These leaders were to clearly be trained to know the truth, and consequently discern error and lead the assembly through a proper interpretation and application of instructions when various situations would arise. By knowing the Word of God, leaders can be able to discern His will and character when crises erupt—but they should also clearly have a relationship with the Holy One Himself, being filled with His presence to guide their hearts and minds.

Hating Dishonest Gain

Jethro’s fourth requirement was that Moses should choose leaders who hated dishonest gain (Exodus 18:21d). Most frequently, we associate this with honest people who are not consumed with a love of money (cf. 1 Timothy 6:10). These are persons who are absolutely convinced that life should operate according to a system of equal weights and measures, so when it comes to judicial matters they will be absolutely sure that those accused or being subjected to review receive proper justice. The concept of treating others as you would have them treat you is inherent in their nature (cf. Matthew 7:12).

In Exodus 18:21 the Hebrew word betza is used to describe “ill-gotten gain” (NJPS) or a “bribe” (RSV). It can mean “gain made by violence, unjust gain, profit” (BDB).[7] The first time it is used in the Torah is when Joseph’s brothers sold him to the Midianite traders as a slave.[8] When we see this term used in the narrative of Yitro, is a connection being made back to this event? Certainly, able leaders in the community of Israel were not to accept bribery or any kind of “dirty money.”

The false teachers Timothy had to face in Ephesus included many who simply wanted to get rich. The Apostle Paul informs his dear friend about how love for money (philaguria) is a significant cause of evil:

“But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang. But flee from these things, you man of God; and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:9-11).

Rather than pursue money, Paul instructs Timothy and the Ephesians to instead “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.” These are all attributes of a leader who can be responsible for the children of God, and are also to be found in the lives of all Messiah followers who are mature and are accomplishing the Lord’s tasks in the world.[9]

Divine Service Toward Others

In this day of restoration, how important is it that we should heed the leadership qualifications advised of Jethro to Moses? As he had surveyed the assembly of the Ancient Israelites, Moses would have to discern who was capable of handling the different levels of responsibility. Some were given responsibility over thousands, and others responsibility only over hundreds, fifties, or tens (Exodus 18:21e). Each leader, however, had to be godly. The magnitude of responsibility was most likely a by-product of age and experience. Today, we need to consider these principles, and others elaborated on throughout the Holy Writ, as we look for capable, godly men and women to lead the Body of Messiah in some formal or full-time capacity.

We obviously need to be very careful regarding those who are placed in positions of leadership, especially given the many Biblical, extra-Biblical, and historical examples of abuse of religious power. If we are mindful of this, then we will be less apt to make the tragic mistakes of recognizing those who are not qualified or fit to lead.

Too often, this is a major factor given much of the contention that manifests within in the Messianic community. Too often, I have witnessed people who have—through the force of their personality—self-anointed themselves to be the leader of a group. When you really take a serious look at their personal qualifications, you realize that they have more in common with Ancient Israel’s opponents or the false teachers Timothy and Titus had to face in Ephesus and Crete—then they do Moses, the Prophets, the Apostles, but most especially the Messiah Yeshua. Unfortunately, I think we are all aware of how problematic leaders will be a constant bane in the Body of Messiah until the Lord returns.

Perhaps if we considered the substance of what is described in this week’s Torah and Haftarah readings, we could begin to minimize many of the problems inherent with poor, unqualified leadership. Moses certainly listened to the wise counsel of his father-in-law, and implemented a leadership model that has stood the test of time.

But lest we forget, as one takes on more and more responsibility within the Body of Messiah, no one “climbs” the proverbial ladder to the top—but rather descends further down to the center of the government which rests upon the shoulders of Yeshua. As you get closer to Him, the Servant of all, you realize that it is by your service to others that you descend down deeper to where all the muck of life floats. Down there, closer to Yeshua, you not only sense His presence, but you require it in order to handle the greater responsibility that you have been entrusted.

In the end, according to the Biblical model of leadership, you will get closer and closer to “the bottom,” in your service capacity as a follower of the Most High. You learn the simple axiom that through service you lead. Relying upon the Lord’s example, you learn to properly navigate through all of the “stuff” that settles down at the bottom. By walking in and being led by the Spirit of God, all of the junk does not seem to affect or influence you as much as might have previously. As you grow in faith and maturity, your leadership abilities that manifest are closer to those of the Messiah Himself. Humiliation and insults do not hurt as much as they once did, as you recognize the supreme sacrifice of the Son of God—who endured the agony of the cross so that we all might be saved (Philippians 2:8)!


NOTES

[1] Consult the author’s reflections on the Ten Commandments, compiled for the Ten Days of Awe between Yom Teruah/Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, in the Messianic Fall Holiday Helper by Messianic Apologetics.

Also consult the relevant chapters on the Ten Commandments appearing in Torah In the Balance, Volume I by J.K. McKee.

[2] BDB, 299.

[3] Carl Philip Weber, “ḥayil,” in TWOT, 1:271.

[4] BDB, 54.

[5] LS, 641.

[6] Grk. pistou logou.

[7] BDB, 130.

[8] “Judah said to his brothers, ‘What profit [betza] is it for us to kill our brother and cover up his blood’?” (Genesis 37:26).

[9] For further examination on the instructions regarding leaders in 1 Timothy 3:1-12 and Titus 1:5-9, and some of the situation-specific circumstances in Ephesus and Crete, consult the article “The Message of the Pastoral Epistles” and the commentary The Pastoral Epistles for the Practical Messianic by J.K. McKee.