Mark Huey

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.

B’shalach

B’shalach

After he had let go

“An Ancient and Current Foe”

Exodus 13:17-17:16
Judges 4:4-5:31 (A); 5:1-31 (S)


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

This week’s Torah portion, B’shalach, is another excellent example of how important it is for us as Believers to really take the messages of Moses’ Teaching quite seriously. God lets the enemies of Israel harass His people in any generation. Whether it be the Ancient Amalekites who attacked Israel in the early days of the Exodus sojourn, or various evil forces that try to attack moves of the Spirit of God as we approach Yeshua’s return: the imperative is for one and all to fight!

There must be a Divine purpose in allowing promulgators of evil to persist in their desire to destroy Israel. As B’shalach concludes, we are all reminded that “The LORD will be at war with Amalek throughout the ages[1]” (Exodus 17:16, NJPS). In spite of the various human efforts for Israel to overcome its historical enemies, Amalek and his allies will presumably war against God’s chosen people until the consummation of the age. As Messianic Believers who all consider ourselves a part of Israel, recognizing this reality, we must be able to equip ourselves for the inevitable conflicts that we will encounter. Both individually and corporately, through time and circumstances, the Holy One will use challenging situations and circumstances to accomplish His sovereign will for the Creation. And so, let us all turn to Him as we face the challenges!

Knowing about the inevitability of war with Amalek comes after the Ancient Israelites have departed from Goshen, and they have witnessed the devastation of Egypt’s military in the waters of the parted sea. The power of God to defeat Israel’s enemies was such a traumatic event that to this day, the nations of the world know the story of the Hebrews’ deliverance from Egyptian bondage. The Song of the Sea in Exodus 15 conveys a message not only to Ancient Israel and Ancient Egypt, but also to the people of Ancient Canaan, as God’s chosen prepare to enter into their inheritance and the mission He has for them.

The Testing Patterns Begin

Within three days of the celebration of the victory over Pharaoh, the problems of life arise and the testing of Israel begins (Exodus 15:22). As we see throughout the Holy Scriptures, testing is a critical component of God implementing His plans for His people. We are reminded of the first major test recorded in the Torah, when the Lord appears before Abraham:

“Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am’” (Genesis 22:1).

Centuries before the Exodus, a personal test of faith challenged Abraham, when he was commanded to take his son Isaac up to Mount Moriah and offer him as a sacrifice before God. Here at this critical juncture, after the sacrificial ram was caught in the thicket, Abraham called the place “The LORD Will Provide” (Genesis 22:14). In this seminal test, Abraham obeyed the direction of God, and the results were His provision and great blessings upon Abraham and his descendants.

The tests of life now came upon the Israelites, as they began their sojourn in freedom to the Promised Land. They had the example of Abraham’s obedience as a guide, knowing that God would provide. Now as they encountered new tests, they learned that He was also the Great Physician, most willing and able to heal. In the first test of their wilderness journey, when the waters at Marah were bitter, the people of Israel began a repetitive pattern of murmuring for sustenance. As they cried out to Moses, he turned to God for the provision and He gave him the solution:

“So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’ Then he cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a tree; and he threw it into the waters, and the waters became sweet. There He made for them a statute and regulation, and there He tested them. And He said, ‘If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the LORD your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the LORD, am your healer’” (Exodus 15:24-26).

The Holy One said, “for I am the Lord, who heals you’” (NIV). Here in the opening days of Israel’s freedom from the bondage of Egypt, the God of Israel expressed His willingness and desire to offer Divine deliverance from the evil challenges of life: ki ani ADONAI rofekha. In exemplary fashion, He told His people, If you will heed the Lord your God diligently, doing what is upright in His sight, giving ear to His commandments and keeping all His laws, then I will not bring upon you any of the diseases that I brought upon the Egyptians (NJPS). In other words, by demonstrating loyalty to God by obedience, He in turn would be Israel’s Healer.

From the initial stages of the journey in the wilderness, the Lord expressed Himself to be the solution to the trials of life that Ancient Israel—and eventually all of His people throughout time—will encounter. When we are tested, if we hear His voice and obey Him, then He will respond with whatever is required to remedy the situation.

Within our Torah portion, you should recognize that the pattern of murmuring became more commonplace for the Israelites, than a desire to seek God for His provision and protection from disease. Before long, as the people moved from Elim into the wilderness on the way to Mount Sinai, another test generated complaints about the lack of food from the ranks:

“Then they set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the sons of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departure from the land of Egypt. The whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The sons of Israel said to them, ‘Would that we had died by the LORD’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’ Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction’” (Exodus 16:1-4).

Here the Lord’s intention is clear: “By this I will test whether they will observe my Torah or not” (CJB).

Testing and Training

The lack of bread was another test to see whether the Ancient Israelites would walk in God’s ways and obey Him. Even though the people departed Egypt with various herds of cattle and sheep that could have easily been slaughtered and eaten, they continued to murmur and complain. They also had a desire for meat, so in His role as the Great Provider the Lord decided to answer their complaints (Exodus 16:8-21) by using His provisions to instruct them about the elementary issues of the Sabbath rest and obedience to Him. Using the daily appearance of manna and the need to gather on a daily basis just what one needed, He graphically showed His people the need to observe the Sabbath:

“Now on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one. When all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, then he said to them, ‘This is what the LORD meant: Tomorrow is a sabbath observance, a holy sabbath to the LORD. Bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning.’ So they put it aside until morning, as Moses had ordered, and it did not become foul nor was there any worm in it. Moses said, ‘Eat it today, for today is a sabbath to the LORD; today you will not find it in the field. Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the sabbath, there will be none.’ It came about on the seventh day that some of the people went out to gather, but they found none. Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My instructions? See, the LORD has given you the sabbath; therefore He gives you bread for two days on the sixth day. Remain every man in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.’ So the people rested on the seventh day” (Exodus 16:22-30).

As the Israelites ventured out into their wilderness march, we witnessed that the experiences they encountered both tested and trained them. The tests and trials of life that we likewise experience should be regarded as times to be trained in remembering that our Heavenly Father is not only the Provider, but also the Healer. Adherence to His instructions is critical, because it is noted that those who tried to hold onto manna beyond the specified time limit not only made Moses angry, but had to see their food spoil:

“But they did not listen to Moses, and some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul; and Moses was angry with them. They gathered it morning by morning, every man as much as he should eat; but when the sun grew hot, it would melt” (Exodus 16:20-21).

Continuing, we see a third test delivered by the Lord as He provided for Israel’s vital need for water. The Israelites required water for themselves and their livestock, but they apparently had not learned from the first two tests. Instead, they now bitterly complained and murmured:

“Then all the congregation of the sons of Israel journeyed by stages from the wilderness of Sin, according to the command of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, and there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, ‘Give us water that we may drink.’ And Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD’?” (Exodus 17:1-2).

As the murmuring and quarreling increased, Moses asked the people of Israel, “Why do you try the LORD?” (NJPS). He asked them why they had not learned from the earlier tests they experienced, and simply turn to God for His provision. Eventually, the Lord gave Moses the solution to the demand for water, but from the reading you can discern that He was not very pleased with the Israelites:

“‘Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.’ And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. He named the place Massah and Meribah because of the quarrel of the sons of Israel, and because they tested the LORD, saying, ‘Is the LORD among us, or not?’” (Exodus 17:6-7).

The Hebrew terms Masah and Merivah respectively mean “proving and strife” (ISBE).[2] Both of these meanings are borne out in negative connotations regarding the failure of the Israelites to trust in God. In many respects, the people set themselves up to experience the biggest test that concludes this portion.

The Test of Amalek

As the Israelites dealt with the issues of water and testing God Himself, situated within striking distance of the camp was an archenemy of Israel: the Amalekites (cf. Exodus 17:8ff). The Amalekites, the descendants of the grandson of Esau (Genesis 36:12), were apparently—based on what we glean from additional Scripture passages[3]—in some way going to be a proverbial “thorn” in the side of Israel until the end. So now, in a weakened moment, with the water issue creating problems between Israel and the Lord, the Amalekites engaged Israel in battle. This test was most serious, perhaps even being a matter of life and death for the Israelites:

“So Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose men for us and go out, fight against Amalek. Tomorrow I will station myself on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.’ Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought against Amalek; and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands were heavy. Then they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it; and Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other. Thus his hands were steady until the sun set. So Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Write this in a book as a memorial and recite it to Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.’ 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 17:9-16).

Moses knew that the attack was coming from the Amalekites, and so he commanded Joshua to assemble a force to go out and fight the enemy. Moses did not back down from the fight, but sent faithful warriors into battle. Moses also knew the absolute necessity to call upon the power of the Most High. Having personally witnessed the effects of the staff of God (matteih ha’Elohim) on the Egyptians (serpents eaten, the Nile turned to blood, the Red Sea parted, and water ushering forth from the rock at Horeb), he declared that he will station himself on a hill overlooking the battlefield, and call upon the Lord for victory.

Moses knew the power of intercession, and called upon the providing and healing power of the Holy One. But he also knew the critical need to have others involved in the fight. His faithful brother Aaron and Hur were present at his side to help bear the burden (Exodus 17:10, 12). In a very symbolic fashion, Moses raised up the staff of God to promote Israel’s prevalence on the battlefield. As long as the staff of God, representing intense intercession, was raised up high overhead, the Israelites prevailed. But when Moses weakened, due to his age and the weight of the staff, the Amalekites prevailed (Exodus 17:11-12).

As the battle waged on, the assistance of Aaron and Hur helped him to persevere until sunset. With Moses’ arms steadied, Israel achieved a victory. But we also see that the Amalekites were only defeated; Joshua only weakened Amalek. At this great test, even with the intercessory work of Moses, Aaron, and Hur focused on Joshua and the warriors of Israel, Amalek survived to become a perpetual enemy of Israel (Exodus 17:16).

Our Ancient Foe

In many respects, the Amalekites have become the ancient foe, which even until our time continues to harass and harm unsuspecting members of God’s people, who failed to apply—in their personal and spiritual battles—the many godly principles established in the wilderness on the journey to Mount Sinai. Somewhat later in the Torah, as Moses came to the end of his life, he issued the following admonition regarding the Amalekites:

“Remember what Amalek did to you along the way when you came out from Egypt, how he met you along the way and attacked among you all the stragglers at your rear when you were faint and weary; and he did not fear God. Therefore it shall come about when the LORD your God has given you rest from all your surrounding enemies, in the land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you must not forget” (Deuteronomy 25:17-19).

This description of Amalek gives us a much clearer picture of just how wicked and evil the Amalekites truly were. Here, we read that Amalek liked to attack the faint and weakened stragglers along the way. Moses gave the instruction, “you shall wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the heaven” (ATS), or to not forget to utterly defeat them. Interestingly, when you look at the wider context of where this was stated, we find that it was linked to the admonition about maintaining equal weights and measures:

“You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a large and a small. You shall not have in your house differing measures, a large and a small. You shall have a full and just weight; you shall have a full and just measure, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you. For everyone who does these things, everyone who acts unjustly is an abomination to the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 25:13-16).

Is it possible that the Holy One was trying to warn His people then, and also future generations, that when they discovered someone employing unequal weights and measures in human affairs, that perhaps one is stumbling across a “spirit of Amalek”? Regardless of the possible linkage, consider these two facts: (1) Israel will be at war with the Amalekites from generation to generation, and (2) the instruction to destroy the Amalekites has never been rescinded. Obviously, people who are physically descended from the Amalekites can be redeemed from their sins, and experience the salvation of Messiah Yeshua. The real conflict is with the force that empowered the Ancient Amalekites.

Throughout the Scriptures we witness an ongoing spiritual battle between the children of light and the children of darkness. The war against God’s people is not over, and the evil Satanic presence that once empowered the Ancient Amalekites to attack the Ancient Israelites has not disappeared. Amalek was sent to stop Israel on its way to Mount Sinai, and as the people of God were being prepared to accomplish His purposes.

How many times does the enemy come along when God starts to move? I have lost count of how many times, just in my own life, when the enemy has tried to stop the Lord’s hand. The continual conflict we face must be waged through the power of strategic, corporate intercessory prayer, just as Moses had his arms raised up. So, if we would take the account of B’shalach to more serious heart, we would be able to be far more effectively in spiritual warfare.

King Saul’s Failed Attempt

Moving forward in the history of Israel, when the people were established in the Promised Land and they received a human king, the war with Amalek was catapulted to center stage. The Israelites had cried out for a mortal king like the other nations, but it presented some serious problems. The Prophet Samuel had anointed Saul and he became the first king of Israel. But as humans have a tendency to fall short in their assignments, we can turn to the circumstances articulated in 1 Samuel 15 and learn from the mistakes made:

“Then Samuel said to Saul, ‘The LORD sent me to anoint you as king over His people, over Israel; now therefore, listen to the words of the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts, “I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”’ Then Saul summoned the people and numbered them in Telaim, 200,000 foot soldiers and 10,000 men of Judah. Saul came to the city of Amalek and set an ambush in the valley. Saul said to the Kenites, ‘Go, depart, go down from among the Amalekites, so that I do not destroy you with them; for you showed kindness to all the sons of Israel when they came up from Egypt.’ So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites. So Saul defeated the Amalekites, from Havilah as you go to Shur, which is east of Egypt. He captured Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were not willing to destroy them utterly; but everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed. Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel, saying, ‘I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands.’ And Samuel was distressed and cried out to the LORD all night. Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul; and it was told Samuel, saying, ‘Saul came to Carmel, and behold, he set up a monument for himself, then turned and proceeded on down to Gilgal.’ Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, ‘Blessed are you of the LORD! I have carried out the command of the LORD.’ But Samuel said, ‘What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?’ Saul said, ‘They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and oxen, to sacrifice to the LORD your God; but the rest we have utterly destroyed.’ Then Samuel said to Saul, ‘Wait, and let me tell you what the LORD said to me last night.’ And he said to him, ‘Speak!’ Samuel said, ‘Is it not true, though you were little in your own eyes, you were made the head of the tribes of Israel? And the LORD anointed you king over Israel, and the LORD sent you on a mission, and said, “Go and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are exterminated.” Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD, but rushed upon the spoil and did what was evil in the sight of the LORD?’ Then Saul said to Samuel, ‘I did obey the voice of the LORD, and went on the mission on which the LORD sent me, and have brought back Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took some of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the choicest of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the LORD your God at Gilgal.’ Samuel said, ‘Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king.’ Then Saul said to Samuel, ‘I have sinned; I have indeed transgressed the command of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and listened to their voice. Now therefore, please pardon my sin and return with me, that I may worship the LORD.’ But Samuel said to Saul, ‘I will not return with you; for you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel.’ As Samuel turned to go, Saul seized the edge of his robe, and it tore. So Samuel said to him, ‘The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to your neighbor, who is better than you. Also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind.’ Then he said, ‘I have sinned; but please honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and go back with me, that I may worship the LORD your God.’ So Samuel went back following Saul, and Saul worshiped the LORD. Then Samuel said, ‘Bring me Agag, the king of the Amalekites.’ And Agag came to him cheerfully. And Agag said, ‘Surely the bitterness of death is past.’ But Samuel said, ‘As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women.’ And Samuel hewed Agag to pieces before the LORD at Gilgal. Then Samuel went to Ramah, but Saul went up to his house at Gibeah of Saul. Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death; for Samuel grieved over Saul. And the LORD regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel” (1 Samuel 15:1-35).

This entire chapter is a lengthy account, but it describes in great detail how God desires to deal with Amalek and the spirit of Amalek. Just like in the case of Moses, Aaron, Hur, Joshua, and the warriors of Israel, as they worked together to fight the Amalekites in the wilderness journey, 1 Samuel 15 elaborates how God wanted the Amalekites eliminated. The Prophet Samuel informed King Saul that he was to obliterate Amalek. The Holy One allowed Saul to marshal the forces to accomplish the task.

As we read the account, King Saul, in spite of his great victory, did not fully follow the instructions of the Lord. Consequently, he lost his anointing as king, and ultimately the throne itself. This often-taught passage of Scripture brings to light the imperative that “to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22). All generations which read this passage should learn that disobedience to the Word of God often has serious consequences. Here are the specific words that Samuel rebukes Saul with as God’s judgment comes forth, and Saul’s responds:

“But Samuel said: ‘Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As much as in obedience to the LORD’s command? Surely, obedience is better than sacrifice, compliance than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, defiance, like the iniquity of teraphim. Because you rejected the LORD’s command, He has rejected you as king.’ Saul said to Samuel, ‘I did wrong to transgress the LORD’s command and your instructions; but I was afraid of the troops and I yielded to them’” (1 Samuel 15:22-24).

We should be able to discern that Saul was simply a reflection of who his ancestors had largely been in the wilderness centuries before. In spite of the clear instruction, Saul decided to take matters into his own hands and do what he wanted to do with Agag, the king of the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:8-9). Saul’s failure to follow the direction of Samuel was interpreted as the sin of rebellion and witchcraft, and his insubordination was considered iniquity and idolatry. These were serious charges against the king of Israel, and as a result he lost his position and dynasty.

Ultimately, the Prophet Samuel exemplified how God expected His people to deal with His enemies. Samuel fulfilled His command, and faithfully hewed him to pieces (1 Samuel 15:33). This gruesome example should encourage Believers today to take spiritual warfare very seriously. When we are battling the spirit of the Amalekites today—that demonic force which attempts to root out God’s people as they prepare to enter into their destiny, similar to how the Israelites were attacked early on as they left Egypt—the example is to show no mercy. We are to take on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20), and unreservedly fight the spirit of evil in our midst.

Let Us Remember

In B’shalach we are given some excellent instruction about how God’s people can handle the inevitable attacks of those operating in the “spirit of the Amalekites.” When the Lord starts to move, and His people are being directed according to His plan and purpose, there will typically be outside forces that almost immediately enter in and attempt to deter or stop it. Will men and women, who diligently strive to serve Him, have the fortitude and the integrity to stand up—or will they complain, be weary and tire, and give up?

In many respects, the patterns that we see in this Torah portion have plagued God’s people ever since the desert wanderings of Ancient Israel. Regardless of the tests delivered by Ancient Amalek or the spirit of Amalek or any other evil influence—it seems that the common fleshly proclivity to not obey the Lord is endemic to most. Even when we know that we have the anointing and blessings of God Himself, too many people act without possessing faith and confidence in Him.

Although attacks from the enemies of God will be with us until Yeshua returns, we have been given patterns on how to achieve positive results. Like Joshua, we can weaken or damage the perpetrators of wickedness. If we can remember that Moses declared how God is our Banner, then we can never lose:

“Moses built an altar and named it The LORD is My Banner [ADONAI nissi]” (Exodus 17:15).

It would be my prayer that as we each move through our own particular and inevitable challenges with the Adversary, we would hopefully understand the blessings of God inherent with intercessory prayer and unified direction of purpose to handle various tests. We will see that those “tests,” for whatever purposes, are indeed a sign to us that God Himself must always be our Provider, Healer, and Deliverer. Even though battles are inevitable, our ability to endure until the end is assured. For as we all know, the ultimate victory over the power of death has already been secured (2 Timothy 1:10).

We need to also remember that as we die daily to the inclinations of our flesh (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:31), God’s Spirit will guide us and instruct us in the diverse battles and incidents we wage. Today’s Messianic movement, simply in bringing together Jewish and non-Jewish Believers as one in Yeshua, possesses a great deal of spiritual potential as we approach His Second Coming. It is a definite vehicle to bring about the restoration of all Israel, and of the good news of the Kingdom fully reaching out to the world (Matthew 24:14). It should be no surprise why the testimony, of many people who have been involved in the Messianic community, is that it is somewhat “messy.”

There are worthy battles that need to be fought, as ungodly and insidious influences that can deter the Father’s objectives are present. But, the things we may encounter are nothing new to our faith. At the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther compiled his hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” words that many Believers have taken great encouragement from. Its first stanza declares,

A mighty fortress is our God, A bulwark never failing;
Our helper he amid the flood Of mortal ills prevailing:

For still our ancient foe Doth seek to work us woe; His craft and power are great,
And, armed with cruel hate, On earth is not his equal
.[4]

The battles against the ancient foe have been known and have been described throughout the centuries by many who have walked in the light they were given, and in the tasks they performed for the Holy One. But how much more light have we been given in these days of restoration? Should we not be that much more aware of how to battle our spiritual enemies, and of the tactics that will be employed against God’s people?

There are many ways that the enemy can deter or decelerate the restoration that our Heavenly Father has promised in His Word. The faith of many people is not in “the words of the Prophets” (Acts 15:15), but rather in various organizations, ministries, congregations, or even personalities. Would your total trust and confidence have been in King Saul, who failed Ancient Israel by not completely wiping out Amalek? Is your total trust and confidence in limited mortals today who may be leading the Messianic movement down some inappropriate paths? Many you encounter are simply limited people and will accomplish many good things for the Lord, who will surely be pleased by what they have done, even though they could have done more. Others, though, think they are working for the Lord when they clearly are not.

I thank God daily that I can turn to Him, knowing that He will never fail! I hope we all strive to stand firm in our convictions, confronting the enemy with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, and guided by the love we are to have for one another. Let us always be on guard against the spirit of Amalek, as it will surely attempt to stop Israel from entering into its final stage of restoration in this hour.


NOTES

[1] Heb. m’dor dor.

[2] M.A. MacLeod, “Massah and Meribah,” in ISBE, 3:277.

The Greek Septuagint actually renders Massah u’Merivah as peirasmos kai loidorēsis, meaning “Temptation, and Reviling” (LXE).

[3] Deuteronomy 25:19; 1 Samuel 15:2; Psalm 83:7.

[4] The Methodist Hymnal (Nashville: Methodist Publishing House, 1966), 20.

Bo

Bo

Go

“Signs for Us”

Exodus 10:1-13:16
Jeremiah 46:13-28


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

This past week, the Lord has given me much to think about as I have meditated upon our Torah portion, which is most especially known for recording the Exodus of Ancient Israel from Egypt. Determining what to share can be rather difficult, as the Exodus is probably the most important event in our faith after the crucifixion and resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah. I believe that a systematic study of the Torah has the ability to help us scrutinize and mature in our individual walks of faith. The Torah portions compile the foundation for the rest of Scripture, and teach us valuable lessons that we must integrate into our relationship with God and our understanding of His plan for the ages.

In Bo, we see the final three judgments God issues upon Egypt,[1] the institution of the Passover,[2] and the departure of Israel and a mixed multitude from bondage.[3] Many diverse thoughts came to mind as I considered these things, going through the challenges of my own workweek. In retrospect, the element that best summarizes my experience this week concerns the signs that we observe and how the Lord wants us to pay attention to what He is doing.

Since the beginning of time, the Lord has used various phenomena to get the attention of the righteous, and of the world in general. These things may be physical indicators, they may be a message proclaimed, or when reading the Bible they may be grammatical forms used in the text to make an important point. Yeshua the Messiah said, “all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 22:44). Consequently, when we examine the Torah and Haftarah readings, we need to be looking for those various “signposts” that portray His redemption. Some of these things may be clear prophecies of the Messiah to come, but others may be subtle hints or patterns that can only be seen by a careful examination of Scripture. Regardless of which is the case, some distinct “signs” were used by God in order to communicate His power and supremacy to the Egyptians:

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may perform these signs of Mine [otai eleh] among them, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son, and of your grandson, how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and how I performed My signs [otai] among them, that you may know that I am the LORD’” (Exodus 10:1-2).

Signs (Heb. sing. ot) used by God may not always be good things, and not all signs need be specific prophecies or indicators of the Messiah to come. As we examine Bo, we find that three signs are scheduled to show both Israel and Egypt that the God of Israel is indeed the Creator and is superior to the elements. This would have been contrary to what the Egyptians believed, as they believed that the elements themselves were “gods.” Between the plague of locusts (Exodus 10:1-20), the imposition of a thick, tangible darkness (Exodus 10:21-29), and finally the slaying of the firstborn of Egypt (Exodus 11:1-10), the Pharaoh finally gets the message to let the people of Israel go. These signs indicate that God is not unwilling to judge the world when His demand of change goes unheeded. Pharaoh only capitulated to God’s demands when the plague of the firstborn was released (Exodus 12:30-41).

The most important sign seen, within Bo for certain, is the giving of the Passover. The Israelites are given a sign by God that will make them a distinct group of people set-apart from the Egyptians around them:

“Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled at all with water, but rather roasted with fire, both its head and its legs along with its entrails. And you shall not leave any of it over until morning, but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall burn with fire. Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste—it is the LORD’s Passover. For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments—I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you [v’hayah ha’adam l’khem l’ot] on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance” (Exodus 12:7-14).

Moses instructed the Ancient Israelites to apply the blood of the lambs upon the doorposts and doorframes of their dwellings. In so doing, the judgment that God issued upon the firstborn of Ancient Egypt does not apply to those who followed these instructions. In a summary remark that is repeated throughout the instructions of the Passover meal and Festival of Unleavened Bread, God stated that the remembrance of the Passover is a chuqat olam, meaning “an ordinance for ever” (RSV), a “perpetual ordinance” (NRSV), or a “permanent statute” (HCSB).

Within the further instruction given regarding the seven-day Festival of Unleavened Bread (Exodus 13:7-10, 16), a rather intriguing remark is made so that the Israelites will remember how God delivered them forth with His mighty hand:

“And it shall serve as a sign to you on your hand, and as a reminder on your forehead, that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth; for with a powerful hand the LORD brought you out of Egypt” (Exodus 13:9).

A verse like Exodus 13:9 has been interpreted throughout Jewish history as meaning that one must literally “bind God’s Word” on the hand and forehead. In Exodus 13:16 the further remark is made, “So it shall serve as a sign on your hand and as phylacteries on your forehead [l’ot al-yadkhah u’l’totafot bein], for with a powerful hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt.” The term totafot can mean “bands, frontlet-bands, between the eyes” (BDB),[4] and this is why up until today, Orthodox Jewish men traditionally wrap tefillin or phylacteries at specified times of prayer.[5]

The key thrust of the Exodus 13:9, 16 instruction calls for God’s people to remember that what they do with their hands and with their minds is to be focused on His work. We certainly follow this every year when we keep the Passover, as we must work with our hands to prepare the meal. At the same time, we also have to consciously think about what the Passover and Exodus mean, and what they can teach us for our lives today. As a result, the Law of God will surely be on one’s mouth or speech, as we should want to discuss what it is telling us with others we meet.

By remembering to commemorate the Passover and Festival of Unleavened Bread in their future generations, is it possible that the Ancient Israel themselves became a sign to the nations around them (cf. Exodus 15:14-15)? Was not the Exodus itself a confirmation of the covenant established with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—a fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to Abraham about delivering his descendants from the bondage of Egyptian slavery (Exodus 12:40-41; cf. Genesis 15:13)? By the mere existence of Israel and their consistent celebration of the Passover and Festival of Unleavened Bread, they would certainly testify to the world that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is faithful.

Today, via the growth of the Messianic movement, many people are being exposed to the significance of the Passover. Jewish Believers who remembered the Passover as a part of their upbringing in the Synagogue are experiencing great fulfillment as they get to see the Jewish Messiah in the seder meal. Evangelical Christians are discovering the great blessings of celebrating Passover, as they likewise experience enrichment and see how the Last Supper meal Yeshua conducted with His Disciples was the Passover. People around the world are returning to the ancient paths!

This can be a very confusing reality to many who have grown up in traditional Judaism and traditional Christianity. Both have taught for centuries that the Passover and Festival of Unleavened Bread only apply to the Jewish people. Christianity has largely replaced Passover with Easter, which is supposed to commemorate the resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah. But nowhere does the Bible negate the command to celebrate the Passover, nor are we to ever somehow forget the Exodus. On the contrary, Paul’s words to the Corinthians were, “let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:8). When we commemorate the Passover as Messianic Believers today, the message that we are to communicate is that the Lord is blessing us for remembering an event that portrays what Yeshua has done for us. We have a dual blessing that Jews who only celebrate Passover for what it represents for Israel, or Christians who only remember the Messiah’s resurrection at Easter, miss out on.[6]

When you read the critical passages within our Torah portion, and apply them to your daily walk of faith, do you realize that you are to be a witnesses or sign of the work the Lord has done for us? We are to testify of His transforming power in our lives by obeying Him and by being blessed for our obedience. This includes being faithful to God among our family members, within our neighborhood, or in our work environment. All people need to see the Holy Spirit emanating from us when we keep a holiday such as Passover, so that they too can learn about the saving grace of Yeshua! The challenge with this is that some of us may have to face some criticism or rejection from our peers.

My prayer for you is that you can be a “sign” via a consistent walk of faith by following the Scriptures diligently, and representing Yeshua faithfully in a world that desperately needs Him. Yeshua the Messiah is The Sign who was crucified for our sins. As we choose to follow Him, let us in return be a sign for those many others perishing without a knowledge of His saving grace. Let us remember that Yeshua Himself was like the bronze serpent raised centuries earlier by Moses to bring salvation and deliverance for all who would believe upon Him in faith:

As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:14-16; cf. Numbers 21:9).

Are you going to be a sign to others of the good news of salvation in Yeshua, the One who has provided us with final atonement for sin? What will you be doing the next time you celebrate Passover? Will you remember not only the Exodus of Ancient Israel from Egypt—but your own exodus from sin to new life in Him? Consider these things as you reflect on what Passover means to you.


NOTES

[1] Exodus 10:1-11:10.

[2] Exodus 12:1-32.

[3] Exodus 12:33-13:16.

[4] BDB, 377.

[5] Tefillin are also employed in both Conservative and Reform Judaism, with women also frequently using them. Messianic Jewish practice certainly varies, as there are men who use tefillin in their daily prayers, those who interpret these verses somewhat metaphorically, and those of both genders who use tefillin.

Our ministry does believe that there is great value within the traditional Jewish prayers issued to God throughout the day, and that the discipline of wrapping tefillin can be an edifying spiritual exercise for those who practice it. Tefillin were certainly a part of the Second Temple Judaism in which Yeshua’s ministry functioned.

[6] Consult the Messianic Spring Holiday Helper for a review of useful teaching articles and information on the significance of Passover.

January 2017 Outreach Israel News


OIM Update

January 2017

The arrival of the New Year brings with it cautious anticipation and optimistic expectations, tempered by the Biblical reality that The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). In other words, despite the relative joy which many American followers of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are experiencing due to a dramatic providential change in governmental leadership—as the political pendulum appears to have shifted from liberal to conservative—we are all still at the mercy of God’s sovereign will for His created order. Lest people from all nations of the world forget, Psalm 2 succinctly summarizes how the Holy One of Israel views the often inane machinations of humanity. Here in unequivocal terms, regardless of recent resolutions declared by the United Nations Security Council that impact the State of Israel and Zion as the apple of God’s eye (Zechariah 2:8), everyone on the planet is ultimately accountable to the words of Messiah Yeshua (Deuteronomy 18:15; Hebrews 12:25), the recognized Son of God:

“Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!’ He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them. Then He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury, saying, ‘But as for Me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain.’ I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.’ Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the LORD with reverence and rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!” (Psalm 2:1-12).

Thankfully by God’s merciful grace, many in the world today have freely received the offer of salvation by faith in the accomplished sacrificial work of the Messiah, and in so doing, not only worship Him, but are blessed to take refuge in Him. It is our fervent prayer that the timely respite from tumbling into the abyss of ungodly liberalism and secular humanism, will be used by the Holy Spirit to bring countless others around the globe to a salvific knowledge of Yeshua’s unconditional love for them.

As a result, in what we might term a “line extension” in time, prior to the eventual return of Yeshua the Messiah to rule and reign from Jerusalem—work to advance God’s Kingdom on Earth continues, with the spiritual impediments that the Holy One has sovereignly allowed. In light of the oracles of God which have been entrusted to and preserved by the Jewish people down through the millennia (Romans 3:2), humanity today has at the very least a vague roadmap for how the Almighty plans to exercise His will among the nations. With that in mind, this month’s lead article entitled, “2017: A Pivotal Year Ahead,” is an attempt to recognize that the Eternal One is a God of peace and not confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33), who at times allows His followers to obliquely through a mirror dimly (1 Corinthians 13:12), see His hands upon the levers of historical events. Personally, I believe this peek is for a “time such as this,” so that the encouragement received from prayers answered will elicit even greater prayers, and hopefully concrete actions in the days, weeks, months, and years to come before the Messiah’s ultimate return.

There is a huge volume of work to be undertaken, in order to complete God’s commission to every Believer to share the good news, and make disciples of those from every tongue, tribe, and nation. We must each individually ask the Creator God: What did You create me for? How do You want me to accomplish Your purposes on Earth during my lifetime?

For us at Outreach Israel Ministries and Messianic Apologetics, the answer has been consistent. Dedicate your lives to serving Me, by helping Messianic people understand My ways and how I am restoring all things as promised (Acts 3:19-21). Since 2002, our family has been intimately involved, in full time ministry, with the emerging and still-developing Messianic community of faith, as the Holy One has been working diligently to bring all of His people, Jewish and non-Jewish Believers, together as “one new man” or “one new humanity” (Ephesians 2:15). In particular, John McKee has been given significant intellect, spiritual maturity, and an incredible work ethic to produce articles, FAQ entries, books, commentaries, and audio and video podcasts for today’s Messianic people. I would encourage everyone to financially partnering with our efforts, as we certainly believe that the teachings we offer, will help today’s Messianic movement mature more rapidly.

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).

Have a personally peaceful and spiritually fruitful 2017!

Mark Huey


2017: A Pivotal Year Ahead

by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

For the ardent student of the Bible, with an insatiable appetite to understand world history, and how humanity has traveled down through the annals of time, recent political events in the United States, coupled with geopolitical events around the globe, recognizably reflect God’s sovereign hand upon the affairs of mankind. Certainly many astute observers, who are Believers in the Holy One of Israel—with the distinct benefit of the Holy Spirit or the Comforter/Teacher/Helper resident in the heart—can filter through the overwhelming input of true and false information, in order to discern what the Father is revealing to His children:

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26).

During this time period through supplication and appeals to the Almighty One for His mercy, many in the faith community which calls upon the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob through the beneficence of the accomplished work of Yeshua the Messiah, were led to read and contemplate an overabundance of opinions easily obtainable by access to the Internet. Prophecy teachers expounded eloquent theories, and predictive “words” were given by various people who generally claimed that they were “hearing from God” or “had a vision” about certain things which were on the horizon. Certainly, I would have to admit that I was especially excited to read how various voices were discerning a Cyrus-anointing (Isaiah 45) upon one of the U.S. presidential candidates, and I even began to pray and encourage others to ask for a Jehu-anointing on that same candidate (2 Kings 9-10). Thankfully, there are indications that these unique attributes appear to be evident to the next leader of the free world, even before the designated power to execute justice has been bestowed. Hence, the Biblical admonition to pray for those in authority (Romans 13), or soon to be, needs to continue by the faithful:

“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” (1 Timothy 2:2).

Nevertheless, from a Biblical perspective, the chosen of God down through the ages have always had challenges presented to them by nefarious forces seen and unseen. In fact, when one analyzes the recorded history of Israel in the Bible, there are distinct patterns recognizable by anniversaries which appear to affirm that the Lord is the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

One obvious reoccurrence has been the events that have taken place on the Ninth of Av, which most notably include the destruction of the First and Second Temples on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. But according to Jewish history, the Ninth of Av, and the horrific things associated with it, actually began centuries earlier (1313 B.C.E.), when the twelve spies returned from Canaan on the Eighth of Av. On the Ninth of Av, the ten faithless spies gave a bad report which discouraged the Israelites fleeing from Egypt, resulting in forty years of wandering in the desert. This was followed by the destruction of the First Temple (423 B.C.E.) and the Second Temple (69 C.E.). Additionally, the Battle of Betar, the final butchering of Jews from the rebellion of Bar Kochba in 133 C.E., was also on this day. Much later, the expulsion of Jews from England in 1290 and Spain in 1492 both occurred on the Ninth of Av. And finally, the day that Germany declared war on Russia to begin World War I was on the Ninth of Av, 1914. Surely, the patterns realized on the Ninth of Av have made this a day to live in infamy down through the centuries in Jewish history. With this notable example, God has used some providential patterns on the annual calendar to remind people that He is in charge of what actually occurs or what He allows among the created order.

However, in addition to actual days on the Hebrew calendar, the Eternal God of Creation has also set in motion other time markers which occur less frequently, that we may be reminded of how He is a God of order who uses time as a means to establish patterns of behavior. Obviously, the seven-day week is a pattern set in motion. When one researches the history of the seven-day week, there is attribution sought by various ancient cultures in antiquity. Yet, for those who believe in the authority of the Holy Scriptures, it is clear that the seven-day week reflects back upon the account of Creation found in Genesis chs. 1-2. Failed attempts by post-revolution France in the late 1700s and the Soviet Union in the 1930s, to alter the seven-day calendar, did not prevail—and for the most part, both Western Civilization and the commercial world in general, have embraced and utilize the seven-day work week. There is variance among cultures as to what day is considered the first day of the week, but for the most part, in order to maintain proper order and transactional accountability, the seven-day week has become almost universally accepted in the Twenty-First Century.

Of course, a natural extension of the seven-day week found in the Holy Scriptures are patterns adopted for seven days, and even seven years. Recall the seven years of plenty versus the seven years of famine found in Genesis 41, when Joseph correctly interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams. These critical events ultimately leading to the preservation of the children of Israel, foreshadowed the eventual codification of the Sabbatical year and the year of jubilee as recorded in Leviticus 25:

“The LORD then spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai, saying, ‘Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, “When you come into the land which I shall give you, then the land shall have a sabbath to the LORD. Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its crop, but during the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath rest, a sabbath to the LORD; you shall not sow your field nor prune your vineyard. Your harvest’s aftergrowth you shall not reap, and your grapes of untrimmed vines you shall not gather; the land shall have a sabbatical year. All of you shall have the sabbath products of the land for food; yourself, and your male and female slaves, and your hired man and your foreign resident, those who live as aliens with you. Even your cattle and the animals that are in your land shall have all its crops to eat. You are also to count off seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years, so that you have the time of the seven sabbaths of years, namely, forty-nine years. You shall then sound a ram’s horn abroad on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the day of atonement you shall sound a horn all through your land. You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family. You shall have the fiftieth year as a jubilee; you shall not sow, nor reap its aftergrowth, nor gather in from its untrimmed vines. For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you. You shall eat its crops out of the field. On this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his own property”’” (Leviticus 25:1-13).

In Ancient Israel there was a pattern established for the seven-year Sabbatical rest, a special time of release after seven sevens (forty nine) and then the year of jubilee on the fiftieth year. Today there is much contentious debate about what exactly are “years of jubilee.” At this point in world history, Jewish and Christian theologians and scholars are not in agreement on the timing of the years, or even whether it is applicable for our modern setting. Nevertheless, yearly patterns do occur—and regardless of whether the Jewish year 5777 which began last Fall is a “jubilee year”—2017 (and 2018) will have some very significant anniversaries, falling into fifty, seventy, and one hundred year patterns.

Personally, because modern man has become accustomed to following the news cycles promoted by the increasingly ubiquitous Internet and social media feeds, I expect considerable opinionated outlets to make the world aware of events which directly affect Israel. After all, Zion has always been the apple of God’s eye (Zechariah 2:8), and followers of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob know that the nations of the world will constantly be at odds with God’s chosen people and the plans He has for Israel. So let us examine some of the anniversaries which will be referenced in books, articles, governmental speeches, news media interviews, movies, and television in the coming months—which will keep Israel in the forefront of people’s minds. After all, the God of Creation has made certain absolute promises regarding the restoration of Israel to the Promised Land, that He must eventually fulfill.

Consider, for example, the recent U.N. Resolution 2334 of 23 December, 2016, where in a speech from the U.S. State Department, Secretary of State John Kerry referenced the upcoming 120 year anniversary of the August 1897 First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland. There, after the Congress adjourned, Theodore Herzl (the recognized father of modern Israel) on September 3, 1897, prophetically wrote in his diary:

“In Basel I founded the Jewish State…If I said this aloud today, I would be answered by universal laughter. Perhaps in five years, and certainly in fifty, everyone will agree.”

Providentially, the nascent United Nations passed U.N. Resolution 181 on 29 November 1947 (almost fifty years to the day), which declared a partition of the region under the post-World War I British Mandate. The area which was known as “Palestine,” actually became the territory for the formation of the modern State of Israel.

However, it was Secretary Kerry’s reference to 120 years in his speech which caught my attention, primarily because of a verse spoken by God recorded after the Flood of Noah’s time:

“Then the LORD said, ‘My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years’” (Genesis 6:3).

As I pondered all of the striving which has taken place over the past 120 years (since 1897) regarding the Promised Land and the restoration of the Jewish people to their ancestral home, some historical patterns came to mind which were monumental anniversaries in fifty, seventy, and one hundred (2 times 50) year increments.

In the year 1917, there were two circumstances which were incredibly instrumental in allowing the Jewish people to return to the Promised Land in increasing numbers. The first was a letter written on 2 November, 1917 by Lord Arthur James Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary, to Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community, for transmission to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland. In a document that became known as the “Balfour Declaration,” it was forthrightly stated.

His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

In November 2017, people in Israel, the worldwide Jewish community, and friends of Israel all over the world—most especially Messiah followers who understand God’s promises to restore Israel to its historical land—will be recognizing the one-hundreth anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, and what it meant to the changing tides of history.

The second major event of 1917, for the restoration of Israel, occurred in December 1917, when General Edmund Allenby of the British Expeditionary Forces captured Jerusalem from the failing Ottoman Empire. For the first time in four hundred years, the ancient revered city of Jerusalem was no longer under the control of Arab, Muslim, or Turkish forces. Jews were allowed to return and live relatively peaceably in their ancient capital city. By 1922, the formal British Mandate was established by the League of Nations as a protectorate to maintain order in the region. The British Mandate of Palestine was the administrative authority of the region from 1920-1948, but this period of time between the World Wars also obviously witnessed European powers vying for political and military dominance. With the end of World War I in 1918, the demise of the Ottoman Empire, the defeat of the German Empire and Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the communist revolution in Russia, the British and the French were in the best position to maintain order in the Middle East.

However, it was not until after World War II and the Holocaust with the defeat of Nazi Germany and the Axis powers, when on 29 November 1947, the United Nations agreed to U.N. Resolution 181 which formally declared a Jewish state and Arab state, with Jerusalem declared a corpus separatum or international city. The seventieth anniversary of this resolution will be taking place in the Fall of 2017, along with the one-hundredth anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. Needless to say, the news cycles will be filled with stories about these critical events which have impacted the history of the modern Middle East. This is especially true as the enemies of Israel continue to try to delegitimize the State of Israel and its right to exist. The proposed two-state solution, which is most contrary to the Bible, has been promoted with a vicious attempt in recent years via the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions or BDS Movement against Israel—something not only proposed by various countries against Israel, but is seeing increasing support in various sectors of evangelical Christianity.

But 2017 will also see another anniversary which compliments the defeat of the Turks and capture of Jerusalem by the British in 1917. 2017 will be the fiftieth anniversary of the liberation of Jerusalem from the Jordanians following the Six Day War, on June 7, 1967. (Do you see a pattern? 1917-50 years to 1967-50 years to 2017. Are these potential jubilees? Or are they simply coincidences?) On that day, the Israeli Defense Forces overwhelmed the efforts of the armies of Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon to defeat and destroy Israel. Instead, the God of Israel prevailed in miraculous ways, and the outmanned Israeli army had an incredible victory which sent their enemies back from the Golan Heights, across the Jordan River, the Gaza Strip, and even beyond the Suez Canal. The captured territories from this war established boundaries that were defensible. So, when the fiftieth anniversary of this implausible Israeli victory is recognized and celebrated, it will doubtlessly spark recriminations coming from the world at large, from those who want Israel to give back all of these lands. This, in fact, is what the recent U.N. Resolution 2334 has set in place for the coming year. Thankfully, we will have a new administration in government of the United States which has a completely different approach on how America should be handling its relationship with the State of Israel.

Please be mindful that these anniversaries, and all of the potential controversies that the nations and peoples of the world will generate to come against Israel—are merely a prelude to what will be taking place in May 2018 as the State of Israel celebrates its seventieth anniversary. Providentially, the one-hundreth anniversary of the conclusion of World War I will be remembered on November 11, 2018. Significant world events will be remembered simultaneously, with overlapping discussions in academia, among the intelligentsia, the media, in religious circles, and virtually everywhere with the omnipresent access of information to the mass of humanity.

I believe this will be an excellent time to be knowledgeable about these anniversaries and how they will impact Israel and the believing community at large, because I believe they reveal some aspect of the mysteries of God (Deuteronomy 29:29). Conversations will be plentiful by many who are searching for answers about what will be characterized as “controversial topics” which are harmful to global peace and security. As followers of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and Yeshua the Messiah—there will be ample opportunity to share the hope that is within us. The Apostle Paul put it this way:

“Of this [assembly] I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Messiah in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Messiah. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me” (Colossians 1:25-29).

It is my prayer that 2017 will be a very special year for each of us, as we enter into this season when the subject of God and Israel will be on many hearts. I urge you to be equipped, because I believe the parable of the fig tree or Israel’s restoration, applies to us, given the series of anniversaries getting ready to take place. If that is so, then Yeshua’s warnings to His generation are apropos for us today:

“‘But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’ Then He told them a parable: ‘Behold the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they put forth leaves, you see it and know for yourselves that summer is now near. So you also, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap; for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth. But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man’” (Luke 21:28-36).

2017 will be a pivotal year for those with hearts prepared to share the hope that is within them. May we all be so ready, as we ask the Holy One to use each of us to advance His Kingdom on Earth, until the Messianic restoration of all things…

V’eira

V’eira

I appeared

“The Finger of God”

Exodus 6:2-9:35
Ezekiel 28:25-29:21


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

In our Torah portion for this week, V’eira or “I appeared,” we continue to focus on the great deliverance that the Holy One of Israel will bring about, as He hears the cries and moans of His chosen people in bondage to Ancient Egypt. As we learned last week in Shemot, the Lord has chosen to work through various human vessels to be His agents to communicate to the world that He is a covenant-keeping God, as Moses is used to speak of His will and demands to the Pharaoh. The word given to Abraham regarding how his descendants would only be strangers in a foreign land four centuries must come to a conclusion:

“And God said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve; and afterward they will come out with many possessions’” (Genesis 15:13-14).

The four centuries of oppression and enslavement to Ancient Israel are coming to an end, with the judgment upon Egypt and a dramatic deliverance of Israel ready to commence:

“And furthermore I have heard the groaning of the sons of Israel, because the Egyptians are holding them in bondage; and I have remembered My covenant. Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you for a possession; I am the LORD.’ So Moses spoke thus to the sons of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses on account of their despondency and cruel bondage” (Exodus 6:5-9).

Interestingly, we discover that as the Lord remembered His covenant and promises with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that the oppression and bondage have been so cruel to the Israelites that the people turn a deaf ear to Moses. It is actually recorded, “they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery” (Exodus 6:9, ESV). Apparently, the lack of freedom and harsh treatment at the hands of the Ancient Egyptians had largely obliterated the Israelites’ hope of ever returning to the Promised Land. As we read through the narrative, Moses turned his attention to delivering the news of the soon coming plagues to Pharaoh and his court of counselors (Exodus 6:10-13).

For most of V’eira, the first seven plagues that God will issue upon Egypt are chronicled, including judgments of: blood,[1] frogs,[2] gnats,[3] insects/wild beasts,[4] death of livestock,[5] boils,[6] and hail.[7] Moses and Aaron dynamically communicated the successive judgments that the Lord issued upon the various gods of Egypt, Egyptian pride and prestige, and the Egyptian people themselves—all the while with the Pharaoh hardening his heart[8] to the requests of “Let My people go!”[9] Throughout the parashah the magnitude of the plagues and their specific objectives are detailed. But while reading and contemplating the implications of these horrific challenges for the people of Egypt, it becomes quite clear that the people of Israel were being separated out as those who have the favor and protection of the Initiator of the plagues, God Himself.

By the time the third plague arrived, that of gnats—after water was turned to blood and there had been a frog attack—the magicians of the Egyptian court were not able to imitate the plague. Earlier, they were able to turn their staffs into snakes (Exodus 7:11), turn water into blood (Exodus 7:22), and bring frogs up from the river (Exodus 8:7), but when the gnats came up from the dust of the ground, the secret arts of the sorcerers could not match the “finger of God”:

“Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, ‘This is the finger of God.’ But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had said” (Exodus 8:19).

From this point on until the actual Exodus transpires, the distinct separation of the Israelites from the Egyptians became crystal clear. The Lord was setting His people apart in order to communicate eternal principles to not only instruct them, but also the Egyptians:

“But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where My people are living, so that no swarms of insects will be there, in order that you may know that I, the LORD, am in the midst of the land. And I will put a division between My people and your people. Tomorrow this sign shall occur” (Exodus 8:22-23).

Let us not think, though, that the “difference” (NKJV) which is intended between God’s people and those of Egypt is simply so—as later generations might have viewed it—the chosen can have a sense of self-pride about them. Throughout V’eira we see that God’s intention is to make His glory and power known to the whole Earth. With this comes the missional imperative that as His judgment falls, all people are to acknowledge and turn to Him for their deliverance:

  • “But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people dwell, so that no swarms of flies shall be there; that you may know that I am the LORD in the midst of the earth” (Exodus 8:22, RSV).
  • “For this time I will send all My plagues on you and your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is no one like Me in all the earth” (Exodus 9:14).
  • “But, indeed, for this reason I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth” (Exodus 9:16).
  • “Moses said to him, ‘As soon as I go out of the city, I will spread out my hands to the LORD; the thunder will cease and there will be hail no longer, that you may know that the earth is the LORD’s’” (Exodus 9:29).

Throughout the ordeal of plagues, the protective hand of the Almighty was ever-present and steady over the Israelites, as the Egyptians are pummeled. The “finger of God,” etzba Elohim, was raised from the Heavenly realm to point out that there is a distinct difference between those who trust in Him, and those who look to mortal rulers like the Egyptian Pharaoh for guidance. In many ways, as God judged Egypt, it was almost like He drew a line in sand to demarcate the difference between being His own and protected from His anger, versus the alternative of having to see His omnipotent power be issued against idols.

A Powerful Stylus

As I read our Torah portion, and specifically those parts regarding the different plagues issued upon Egypt, I was really struck by the concept of the finger of God. After all, this is a powerful mental image of an anthropomorphic description of our Heavenly Father. Even the unbelieving Egyptian magicians were able to discern that a Supreme Power had used His abilities to spring up gnats from out of the dust of the ground. It was something that they were unable to duplicate. Looking for other places in Scripture where “finger of God” terminology is used, a most notable location where it appears is how it is used to describe how the Lord inscribes the Decalogue, or the Ten Commandments:

  • “And when He had finished speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God [ketuvim b’etzba Elohim]” (Exodus 31:18).
  • “The LORD gave me the two tablets of stone written by the finger of God [ketuvim b’etzba Elohim]; and on them were all the words which the LORD had spoken with you at the mountain from the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly” (Deuteronomy 9:10).

The finger of God transcribed the Ten Commandments, the highest principles that the human race has ever been given to follow. The powerful image of God’s hand, and by extension His finger, actually touching stone tablets and hewing out the Ten Words is a most comforting thought. After all, as the Great Shepherd guided His people away from the plagues and devastation falling upon Ancient Egypt, His hand and now finger were visible in actions of deliverance. So much more intimacy can be achieved with a finger, as opposed to just a hand!

Looking at some other times in the Torah where the finger is used, we find that it is a critical component of the examination and healing of lepers (Leviticus 14:2-57). The priests were to dip their fingers into the blood of various sacrifices in order to apply the atoning blood to the altar horns, or sprinkle it before the veil of offering (Leviticus 4). The finger is used when the sacrifice of the red heifer is used to purify the altar (Leviticus 19:2-22). Each of these things signifies an intimacy that is relegated to the finger of a human person, as the priest in each ritual serves as a proxy for God.

Yeshua’s Finger Pointing

Considering the concept of the finger of God, I was drawn to a significant place in the Gospels which employs this description. In the Gospel of Luke, Yeshua the Messiah made use of the finger of God,[10] when He was accused of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul. After giving His Disciples some instruction about prayer (Luke 11:2-4), He then goes on to describe how giving and how merciful the Heavenly Father is when we approach Him and ask for needed things (Luke 11:5-13). In an act of great mercy, Yeshua cast out a demon from a dumb man (Luke 11:14), in the sight of those gathered to hear His words of hope.

At this point, some doubters began to resist Him with questions. The Lord is accused, “No wonder he can cast out demons. He gets his power from Satan, the prince of demons” (Luke 11:15, NLT). Insults are hurled at Yeshua, along with further challenges for Him to demonstrate additional supernatural signs (Luke 11:16). Yeshua responded to all of the naysayers with some excellent instruction about how the enemy uses division to tear down kingdoms, and by extension, people, families, fellowships, congregations, and even nations:

“But He knew their thoughts, and said to them, ‘Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. And if I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? Consequently they shall be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own homestead, his possessions are undisturbed; but when someone stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away from him all his armor on which he had relied, and distributes his plunder. He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters’” (Luke 11:17-23).

Reading these words of instruction and applying them to my own life and recent experiences, I was once again intrigued by how the study of the Torah is indeed most beneficial to consider on a consistent basis!

I thought about the concept of division and how the enemy uses all sorts of distortions to bring division, strife, and contention into our own hearts, or our families, and also various congregational assemblies. The Devil knows that if he can make an entity divide over an issue—most frequently something which can be rather small and insignificant—he has a much better chance of creating havoc, chaos, and a lack of peace. This can happen to a person who has let some unclean spirit have access to him, due to sin that has not been confessed and repented of. It can occur to families, as the enemy exploits lack of oneness and harmony in a marital relationship, or the frequent lack of honor displayed by children for fathers and mothers and/or harsh treatment of children on the part of parents. Wherever we willingly give the Adversary an opening, he is apt to take advantage of the opportunity to rob, steal, and destroy us of our joy and peace.

When it comes to groups of Messiah followers, the variety of opinions and beliefs that are often present can frequently complicate matters. Because we are all “works in progress” and humanly limited—with none of us truly having the intricacies of God fully understood—the possibilities for confusion are multiplied exponentially. This is particularly a problem when we need to be mindful of the words of Yeshua, and to utilize the sensitivity of casting out demons by the “finger of God.” Just as the finger is more useful in cleaning out the burrs caught in the wool coats of sheep, or cleaning disease or debris from the tender eyes of newborn lambs, so is the finger able to point out the errors of the human fold as we assemble together. And yet, the Book of Proverbs tells us plainly that it is the pointing of a finger which can be considered an attribute of a worthless and wicked person:

“A worthless person, a wicked man, is the one who walks with a false mouth, who winks with his eyes, who signals with his feet, who points with his fingers; who with perversity in his heart devises evil continually, who spreads strife. Therefore his calamity will come suddenly; instantly he will be broken, and there will be no healing” (Proverbs 6:12-15).

Consider this admonition, and realize that it is finger pointers who are most often the ones who cause contention. In the immediate verses following, the Lord lists some of the main things He hates:

“There are six things which the LORD hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers” (Proverbs 6:16-19).

Is it possible that in the context of describing a wicked and worthless person who is always pointing fingers, the things which are abominable to the Lord are often the negative, personal characteristics traits of the actual finger pointer? Instead of finger pointing and spreading strife and contention with the tongue, the Book of Proverbs actually gives us a much better usage for fingers. Here in a passage that has been traditionally used in Judaism to help emphasize the need to wrap tefillin or phylacteries,[11] it is suggested that instead of pointing with fingers, the faithful should bind God’s commandments upon their fingers:

“My son, keep my words, and treasure my commandments within you. Keep my commandments and live, and my teaching as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers [qashreim al-etzbe’oteykha]; write them on the tablet of your heart” (Proverbs 7:1-3).

Here, God’s people are instructed to keep His words and treasure His commandments in order to live in harmony. Are these words not the very words that originate directly from the finger of God? The instruction here is to keep these His words as the “apple of your eye,” or to let God’s Law be your filter through which you observe everything that you do in life. And, if it takes one going through the regular discipline of binding tefillin on your fingers, do it so that you will be reminded to inscribe His commandments into your own heart and mind![12]

The Finger of God and His Kingdom

When Yeshua asserted, “if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Luke 11:20), He did not choose His words aimlessly. He knew that evidence of the Father’s abilities and sovereignty was demonstrated by Himself as Son. Yeshua surely knew that the finger of God had been used to write the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone, and what the Book of Proverbs had to say about the misuse or abuse of one’s finger. When Yeshua declared that He exercised demons by the finger of God—and that it was appropriate evidence that the Kingdom of God had manifested itself—the Lord executed proper judgment by His use of the finger.

Yeshua’s continuing instruction remarks about the need for strong, properly equipped people of God to powerfully protect and guard their homesteads and possessions (Luke 11:18-23). These words can be understood on various spiritual and physical levels. As the followers of the Most High, it is our responsibility to remain strong and vigilant to strongly protect ourselves, our families, and our local assemblies from the wiles and distractions of the enemy. We know that in the spiritual arena that we war not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities in high places. The Apostle Paul directs our attention to some of the specific spiritual equipment available, to maintain our strength and overcome the world forces of darkness:

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH THE TRUTH [Isaiah 11:5], and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS [Isaiah 59:17], and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE [Isaiah 52:7]; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION [Isaiah 59:17], and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:12-17).

After describing how “we are not contending” (RSV) or “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood” (ESV), likened unto a kind of “battle” (HCSB), Paul describes a variety of key weapons that are to be employed against the Adversary. The Lord Himself is described as a Warrior who goes out to battle for His people. Isaiah 42:13 exclaims, “The LORD will go forth like a warrior, He will arouse His zeal like a man of war. He will utter a shout, yes, He will raise a war cry. He will prevail against His enemies.” Psalm 35:1-3 says, “Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. Take hold of buckler and shield and rise up for my help. Draw also the spear and the battle-axe to meet those who pursue me; say to my soul, ‘I am your salvation.’” Part of being an imitator of God (Ephesians 5:1) is going out and joining the fight against evil! The various elements of the armor of God are derived directly from the Tanakh:

Girded Loins and the Breastplate of Righteousness:

“But with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; and He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins, and faithfulness the belt about His waist” (Isaiah 11:4-5).

“He put on righteousness like a breastplate…” (Isaiah 59:17).

Feet Shod with the Gospel of Peace

“How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” (Isaiah 52:7).

Shield of Faith

“After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great’” (Genesis 15:1).

“For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O LORD, You surround him with favor as with a shield…As for God, His way is blameless; the word of the LORD is tried; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him…The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart exults, and with my song I shall thank Him” (Psalm 5:12; 18:30; 28:7).

Helmet of Salvation[13]

“…a helmet of salvation on His head…” (Isaiah 59:17).[14]

The analogies of girded loins or belt for protection, a chest covering breastplate, appropriate protective shoes, a shield, a helmet, and a sword, all suggest that the struggle God’s people are to endure is interminable warfare going from battle to battle. The implied fact that the faithful soldier of God can utilize His truth, His righteousness, the gospel of peace, personal faith, the salvation experience, and the (spoken) Word of God[15] is to give him or her great comfort. But if these spiritual weapons and tools are not employed during the frequent skirmishes, then victory over the Devil and his temptations will not be achieved. Paul elaborates on this point to the Corinthians, as he notes that within the spiritual war we fight, we are to take every thought captive, and see that any speculation or lofty thing raised up against God is taken down:

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Messiah, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete” (2 Corinthians 10:3-6).[16]

Ephesians 6:12-17, especially with its various intertextual references from the Tanakh Scriptures, is excellent advice to men and women of God who urgently desire to have the best protection available for defending themselves from the attacks of the spiritual forces of wickedness. If we do not possess each of these protective armaments, and even offensive weapons, then we will only find ourselves in a weakened position, which will allow the enemy to harass, attack, and render us almost completely ineffective for the Lord’s service.

The Power of the Finger

So much of what people can do with their fingers, be it throughout history or even today, can involve harsh judgment, mean-spirited accusation, or just scolding or complaining. While we often think of the classic scene of someone waving the index finger at someone else, indicating displeasure over a situation, I really would be remiss if I did not at least mention how the most widespread insulting gesture used in much of Western society is directed by the middle finger, frequently with profanity spoken.

The fingers on a person’s hands do make human beings different from the animals. Fingers are most often the means by which we get to demonstrate our great abilities through writing, artwork, construction, gardening, athletic activities, and many other useful things that testify of the unique skills God has blessed each of us with. Let us not be found ever misusing our fingers!

Yeshua the Messiah issues the rather severe warning, “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters” (Luke 11:23). The objective of the Adversary is one of division, as Satan takes the opportunity to overwhelm those who do not protect themselves from his attacks and temptation. Surely, if one does not gather with the Messiah, and is accomplishing more in terms of dividing God’s people and causing discord, then you are opposed to Him and are responsible for the inadvertent scattering of His flock. This is not a place where any seekers of the Holy One should want to be! While there are surely legitimate reasons to be divided, such as casting people out of assemblies who bring in severe theological error or heresy, the great majority of things “God’s people” get divided over most often concern minutiae.

Each of us needs to be fully committed in our desire to be conformed to the image of Messiah Yeshua (Romans 8:29), with His teachings and example for living permeating every aspect of our being. His example of faithfulness unto the Father should be our heartbeat and credo. It is imperative that after you have had any demons, evil spiritual forces, or just bad influences cast out of your life by the finger of God, it is critical to let this same finger of God write His commandments onto your heart, as is promised in the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27; cf. Hebrews 8:7-13; 10:14-18). It is not simply enough to see unclean spirits removed from one’s heart, if it is not followed by being filled and transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit. Yeshua’s definite warning is that demonic influences can return to people if there is not a change of behavior enacted:

“When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first” (Luke 11:24-26).

Here, the unclean spirit cast out into “dry places” (KJV) looks for a house to occupy. So it returns to the habitation from which it was cast out, and discovering the place “swept and put in order,” it goes and gets seven other spirits, more evil than itself, and returns to further torment the one from whom it was cast. This is a terrible fate, but lamentably it can be the result of many who get delivered from demons, yet then do not let the Word of God change the way they live and how they are to obey God. A temporary deliverance from sin and evil influences is followed by a relapse and return to sin, and the person who was delivered allows the demon with his evil companions to re-enter. The person forgets or neglects to cry out and ask that he or she be filled up with the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) and His truth to fill the void.

This tragic oversight is primarily a byproduct of unbelief and a lack of faith. The great irony is that although many people often witness the almost tangible deliverance power of the finger of God and get a glimpse of His Kingdom in action, they react like the Ancient Egyptians of millennia ago. They make it a practice to harden their hearts to the requirements to cry out to the God of Israel for mercy, repenting of their evil ways, and seeing the void in their hearts filled up the void with faith and love provided by God’s Spirit.

The Egyptian magicians were in awe when the finger of God brought forth gnats from the ground. They knew that the God of the Hebrews was very powerful. Yet, they did not repent and cry out to Him for salvation and deliverance, and they suffered the consequences of their pride. Months later, that same finger of God wrote the Ten Words onto tablets of stone that would frame the entire Torah, and help define the instructions for living a life that is pleasing to Him. When the Messiah Yeshua finally arrived, He helped clarify just how potent the finger of God can be, when He cast out demons, a major evidence that the Kingdom of God has manifest itself.

May we all bind our fingers with the Word of God, and pray that the finger of God has written it upon our redeemed hearts of flesh. By so doing, perhaps He will continue to extend His mercy to us, and beckon each of us closer to the work of His Kingdom, so that in short order in all of its fullness—the Kingdom will come! May we be so blessed to see even greater works demonstrated by the finger of God in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead.


NOTES

[1] Exodus 7:14-25.

[2] Exodus 8:1-15.

[3] Exodus 8:16-20.

[4] Exodus 8:21-32.

[5] Exodus 9:1-7.

[6] Exodus 9:8-17.

[7] Exodus 9:18-35.

[8] Exodus 7:13, 22; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 12, 34-35.

[9] Exodus 7:16; 8:1, 20f; 9:1, 13.

[10] Grk. daktulō Theou.

[11] Exodus 13:16; Deuteronomy 6:8.

Cf. Michael V. Fox, “Proverbs,” in Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler, eds., The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 1459.

[12] For a further discussion of related topics, consult the author’s article “Unity, Despite Diversity in the Body of Messiah,” appearing in the December 2010 issue of Outreach Israel News.

[13] Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:8.

[14] Also detailing the armor of God is Wisdom 5:17-20 in the Apocrypha:

“The Lord will take his zeal as his whole armor, and will arm all creation to repel his enemies; he will put on righteousness as a breastplate, and wear impartial justice as a helmet; he will take holiness as an invincible shield, and sharpen stern wrath for a sword, and creation will join with him to fight against the madmen.”

For a further evaluation of the armor of God, consult the commentary Ephesians for the Practical Messianic by J.K. McKee.

[15] Ephesians 6:17 employs rhēma Theou and is likely the spoken gospel message of salvation (cf. Ephesians 5:26). The principal way this is to be accomplished is obviously using the written Word of God.

[16] For some further thoughts, consult the author’s article “Waging War: Fight the Good Fight,” appearing in the August 2010 issue of Outreach Israel News.

V’yechi

V’yechi

He lived

“Blessing Israel”

Genesis 47:28-50:26
1 Kings 2:1-12


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

This week’s parashah, V’yechi, brings us to the end of the Book of Genesis. For twelve weeks, this first book of the Torah has instructed readers about the Creation of the universe and Planet Earth, to an emphasis upon the one family which was chosen to be God’s representatives to humanity at large. From Adam to Noah to Abraham and finally Jacob, the Almighty has progressively demonstrated how He works through specific individuals in order to accomplish His will and purposes. Now as Genesis comes to a close, the Patriarch Jacob, inheritor of the covenants and blessings bestowed upon Abraham and Isaac, is now in a position to extend those same blessings to his progeny who will give rise to the future nation of Israel.

Many critical lessons should be understood from this week’s Torah portion. After all, we witness how Jacob is in a unique position to not only bless his sons, but also prophetically declare much of the future intention of his offspring. Great lessons for followers of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob can be imparted by the graphic example of extending one’s blessings upon children. Consider how the author of Hebrews indicates that by following the example established by his father Isaac, Jacob exhibited the great faith that he had in the God who was not only faithful to his fathers—but now to him as his life was ending:

“By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even regarding things to come. By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff” (Hebrews 11:20-21).

In many respects, the concept of faithfully blessing one’s children and offspring, in order to pass on the blessings you have received from God, is reinforced and categorically established by the actions described in V’yechi. Thankfully, faithful men and women of God who have inherited these blessings throughout Biblical history—have been responsible for passing them on to people like us today, who clearly reap the benefits of the original blessings imparted to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We should have great confidence in the Lord that we will see them continue to be passed on to future generations!

The Double Blessing

As you begin to study and reflect upon some of the details of this Torah portion, you should be able to pick up on some of the subtle statements which indicate how Jacob, just like his grandfather Abraham and father Isaac, was gifted with prophetic insight about the future of his children and their offspring. Jacob was 130 years old when he arrived in Egypt, and he lived there for seventeen years until his death (Genesis 47:28). During his time spent in Egypt, Jacob was surely able to reflect upon his life experiences, including his reunion with the presumed-deceased Joseph, and how events had led him to his final days outside of the land promised to him and his descendants. No doubt as he considered all of life’s trials and tribulations, he thought about his twelve sons and how they had behaved and acted over the years. He probably remembered some of the dreams that Joseph had shared with he and Rachel years earlier in Canaan, and now how he had witnessed their fulfillment. As he approached death, Jacob desired to finalize his estate.

Jacob was very preoccupied about his final resting place. As his body began to fail, he was compelled to commit Joseph to a pledge to return his remains to the Land of Canaan:

“When the time for Israel to die drew near, he called his son Joseph and said to him, ‘Please, if I have found favor in your sight, place now your hand under my thigh and deal with me in kindness and faithfulness. Please do not bury me in Egypt, but when I lie down with my fathers, you shall carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burial place.’ And he said, ‘I will do as you have said.’ And he said, ‘Swear to me.’ So he swore to him. Then Israel bowed in worship at the head of the bed” (Genesis 47:29-31).

Jacob had a very special relationship with the God of his fathers. The various encounters he had with Him over the years, and now the opportunity to be circumspect, forced him to conclude that it was imperative that he have his body laid to rest in the tomb of his fathers. After all, he might have reasoned, he knew of how his father Isaac had placed his grandfather Abraham in the tomb Abraham himself had purchased in Machpelah,[1] and then he in turn had placed Isaac in that same tomb.[2] Because Jacob had also been promised Canaan as an inheritance, it would only be natural for him to be laid to rest in the same tomb. Since Joseph ostensibly had the power to fulfill his request, Jacob secured a vow from Joseph.

Once this request was insured, Jacob was probably content to finish off the days of his life. We soon discover that as the number of Jacob’s days were coming to a close, he now went into action to repeat many of the actions that he had witnessed his father Isaac perform decades earlier. Jacob understood the important principles of the birthright blessings. After all, some of the most memorable events of his life centered around the challenges of the one who would receive the birthright inheritance and the blessing of Isaac. Of course, we remember that in the case of Jacob and Esau, in spite of the fact that Esau was the elder son, Jacob received both the birthright blessings and the leadership blessings for his generation.[3] Now as death approached, Jacob had the opportunity to pass blessings and important words onto his sons, and as we also see, his grandsons—with each of the words containing an important prophetic theme.

The issuing of the double portion blessing is first extended. As we should keep in mind, Jacob has had a very full life that included multiple wives and multiple concubines. It was the son of Rachel, the beloved Joseph, whom Jacob designated as the heir of these distinct birthright blessings. As we read in this account, Joseph had two sons, and we witness that Jacob actually adopted them as his own. By in essence making them his own, he passed the double portion blessing onto Joseph’s two grandsons Manasseh and Ephraim:

“Now it came about after these things that Joseph was told, ‘Behold, your father is sick.’ So he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim with him. When it was told to Jacob, ‘Behold, your son Joseph has come to you,’ Israel collected his strength and sat up in the bed. Then Jacob said to Joseph, ‘God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, and He said to me, “Behold, I will make you fruitful and numerous, and I will make you a company of peoples, and will give this land to your descendants after you for an everlasting possession.” And now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, as Reuben and Simeon are. But your offspring that have been born after them shall be yours; they shall be called by the names of their brothers in their inheritance. Now as for me, when I came from Paddan, Rachel died, to my sorrow, in the land of Canaan on the journey, when there was still some distance to go to Ephrath; and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).’ When Israel saw Joseph’s sons, he said, ‘Who are these?’ And Joseph said to his father, ‘They are my sons, whom God has given me here.’ So he said, ‘Bring them to me, please, that I may bless them.’ Now the eyes of Israel were so dim from age that he could not see. Then Joseph brought them close to him, and he kissed them and embraced them. And Israel said to Joseph, ‘I never expected to see your face, and behold, God has let me see your children as well.’ Then Joseph took them from his knees, and bowed with his face to the ground. And Joseph took them both, Ephraim with his right hand toward Israel’s left, and Manasseh with his left hand toward Israel’s right, and brought them close to him. But Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh’s head, crossing his hands, although Manasseh was the first-born. And 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, the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and may my name live on in them, and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and may they grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth’” (Genesis 48:1-16).

In this classic passage, the birthright blessings of Jacob are extended to the two sons of Joseph. But in a somewhat confusing manner, due to the inspiration of the moment, the younger son Ephraim actually received the greater blessing that is typically extended to the elder son of each generation. Somehow during this intriguing moment of blessing, Jacob was prompted to cross his arms and place his right hand upon the head of Ephraim. As Jacob placed his name, and the names of Abraham and Isaac upon these two young boys, he declared some truly awesome privileges. He stated that the two of them will grow into a multitude in the midst of the Earth (Genesis 48:16). But then we see that Joseph was somewhat confused, wondering if his elderly father had made a mistake about to whom he was extending his blessings:

“When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on Ephraim’s head, it displeased him; and he grasped his father’s hand to remove it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. And Joseph said to his father, ‘Not so, my father, for this one is the first-born. Place your right hand on his head.’ But his father refused and said, ‘I know, my son, I know; he also shall become a people and he also shall be great. However, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations.’ And he blessed them that day, saying, ‘By you Israel shall pronounce blessing, saying, “May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh!”’ Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh” (Genesis 48:17-20).

The Patriarch Jacob, although aged, was not confused with what he was doing at all. He categorically declares, “I know, my son, I know,” so as not to be misunderstood. Jacob was able to see into the future, to not only see what was going to befall his two grandson’ descendants, but also bless them according to the preeminence that they would each inherit. This was a very powerful event in the life of the emerging nation of Israel, as it would have a resonating effect once the Israelites took possession of the Promised Land and established themselves as a kingdom. The ramifications of this blessing and Jacob’s other declarations undeniably continue until this very day. They are all a part of God’s great plan of redemption for the world, but most especially how we believe today that the restoration of all Israel has begun to take place via the presence of the Messianic movement.

Blessing Our Own

What can we learn from these rich and “loaded” verses as Genesis comes to a close in our Torah examination? What principles and insight must we embrace that will be beneficial as we bless our children with great love and affection, but most especially model them a dynamic walk of faith in the Messiah Yeshua?

It is important for us to truly understand the power of blessing. All parents are responsible for the next generation and the continuation of the faith that has been passed down to them. If you are a parent, you truly need to grasp a hold of the benefits of blessing your children—no different than how you might regularly tell your spouse “I love you” on a daily basis.

We have seen the Holy One bless Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and then in turn the Patriarchs bless their children. Of course, as we have read the blessings throughout the Book of Genesis, we are quick to note that all of the Patriarchs were Divinely guided in the proclamation of their blessings over their various offspring. Whether it is Abraham blessing Isaac or Ishmael, or Isaac blessing Jacob or Esau, or Jacob blessing his sons and grandsons—the one constant thing that you will note is that each of these parents were uniquely tuned in to what God’s will was for the respective children. Each one listened and heard the still quiet voice of the Lord, as He communicated the blessings and the future determined for their children. They in turn, at the proper times, were then able to pass on the blessings to the succeeding generation. You might imagine what the sons of Jacob/Israel thought when they heard that he was “summoning” them to come and hear what would befall them in future:

“Then Jacob summoned his sons and said, ‘Assemble yourselves that I may tell you what shall befall you in the days to come[4]’” (Genesis 49:1).

The expectation to hear a 147 year-old father declare his final words over you had to have been one of the most significant highlights and events of their lives. The Patriarch Jacob, as we know, gave each of them powerful and formative words that would declare forth much of the destiny and future accomplishments of the Twelve Tribes of Israel (Genesis 49:1-28). Perhaps we should take this pattern to heart, and in a similar way desire to pass our blessings down upon our own children. Each parent, who has made the effort to truly train up godly sons and daughters (Proverbs 22:6), should be able to have a special moment near the end of his or her life, delivering some final words of admonishment.

But one of the challenges we each have is that we do not know the day or hour of our departure from this world. Even though there is a certain degree of wisdom to store up your insights and wisdom for the end of your days—to perhaps give your children a peek at what you see them doing in the future—in the interim it is also extremely beneficial to bless your children (or for that matter, any loved one or close friend) on a regular basis. In the event that you are not able to have some special, final moments with a son or daughter, be sure to impart enough to them in your regular interactions! This is why the Jewish people have taken to heart the admonition given to Joseph and the people of Israel, about blessing their children like Ephraim and Manasseh:

“And he blessed them that day, saying, ‘By you Israel shall pronounce blessing, saying, “May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh!”’ Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh” (Genesis 48:20).

The traditional Jewish prayer, usually recited on Erev Shabbat, is to declare that the material blessings of the double portion which was given to Ephraim and Manasseh, is to now be manifested in the current generation. It is customary for fathers to say this prayer over their sons, followed by them declaring a similar blessing over their daughters that they might inherit the blessings of Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah.[5] In Conservative Judaism both parents, father and mother together, will often jointly declare these blessings.[6] By declaring these blessings over their sons and daughters, faithful Jewish people pass on a godly and most encouraging tradition that finds its root not only in our Torah portion—but very early in the Bible itself. The benefits to the children being regularly blessed every week are surely unimaginable!

If there is anything you might want to consider this week as you reflect upon V’yechi, you might want to really think about blessing your children. Let your sons and daughters know how much you care for them, and how much potential you see in them being exercised. Blessing children for good works accomplished has a far greater return than condemning them for opportunities missed, or reminding them of their past failures and shortcomings. Receiving statements of blessing from parents is something that most children truly cherish and never forget! On the other hand, the accounts of those who do not receive statements of blessing are often filled with feelings of regret and remorse, for not hearing comforting and loving messages of appreciation from parents.

While you are developing a habit of blessing your children, you might be considering the important words that you will want to impart as you continue to age and approach death. Leaving children with a legacy and a hope for their future is quite a blessing in itself. It is also quite possible that as your relationship with the Lord becomes closer, He just might impart to you—through His still small voice—a vision of what your children will be doing in the future. Then you, like Jacob, might have the opportunity to place a blessing for a hope and a future upon your descendants.

As the Lord has blessed us through the life of Jacob and the legacy his sons, may we continue to bless Him through our perseverance in the things of the faith that we have received. And by faith, may we like Jacob, pour out His blessings upon our children so that all of our families will be blessed!

Of course, if you have no children of your own, or even if you do have children—make regularly blessing all people you know a regular habit. Encouraging extended family members, close friends, and various acquaintances with the love of the Messiah Yeshua is surely something that each of us needs to do. We do not know if the last time we might see a particular person might really be the last time, so we need to make every effort possible that we have left them with a positive impression from the Father’s heart! The love that parents have toward their sons and daughters is to surely be extended to all who need a special touch from Him.


NOTES

[1] Genesis 25:9.

[2] Genesis 35:29.

[3] Genesis 27:1-41.

[4] Heb. b’acharit ha’yamim; followed by the CJB rendering “in the acharit-hayamim.”

[5] J.H. Hertz, ed., The Authorised Daily Prayer Book, revised (New York: Bloch Publishing Company, 1960), pp 402-403; Nosson Scherman and Meir Zlotowitz, eds., The Complete ArtScroll Siddur: Nusach Sefard (Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 1985),pp 384-385.

[6] Jules Harlow, ed., Siddur Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals (New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 2007), 311.

V’yigash

V’yigash

He approached

“Positioning for Restoration”

Genesis 44:18-47:27
Ezekiel 37:15-28


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

This week’s Torah portion, V’yigash, is a relatively short reading that deals principally with the reunion of the sons of Jacob/Israel, as Joseph in his capacity as the Egyptian viceroy reveals himself to his brothers as the one they cast away into slavery. This occurs through a series of deliberate steps, Divinely designed to bring repentance and reconciliation to the entire family. In surveying V’yigash, Torah readers and students should be able to consider its overriding theme of restoration between family members and God, which is something that surely permeates much of the Holy Scriptures. Most especially not to overlook is how not only are the various brothers reconciled, but Joseph is also reunited with his father Jacob, and the family is relocated to the land of Goshen where they were protected from the ravages of famine. In an ironic twist, we see how these followers of Abraham’s God begin to appreciate His sovereign hand of protection, which preserved them and their emerging progeny, in spite of their propensity to often be guided by the dictates of their sinful hearts.

If you think about the events described in V’yigash, and place yourself in almost any of the principal parts in the drama that unfolds—you will not be able to miss the obvious reality that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is certainly about fulfilling His covenantal promises to His chosen people. How else can you explain all of the unique circumstances? As the brothers are circumstantially forced to seek sustenance from Pharaoh’s grain reserves in Egypt, little did they realize that it was their brother Joseph who was providentially placed in a position to be their protector, deliverer, and ultimate provider. The one who was sold into slavery and disposed of, is now most literally the family’s only hope for survival.

Interestingly, as you ponder the various scenes described between Joseph and his brothers, Joseph and his father and the Pharaoh, and ultimately Joseph and the inhabitants of Egypt as the famine rages on—you might pause to consider whether there might be any significant, prophetic future implications of what occurs. Certainly, the Jewish Rabbis have done precisely this in centuries past, when they discerned that the right Haftarah portion for V’yigash was Ezekiel 37:15-28. They knew that the prophesied restoration of all Israel in the future is definitely one of the primary things that the Jewish community needed to consider, as God will be faithful to fulfill His covenantal promises. When the Sages heard or read the prophecies of Ezekiel, which described a future time when Judah, Israel/Ephraim/Joseph, and their various companions would be reunited and restored to the Holy Land—they were somehow piqued of how Joseph revealed himself to his brothers while in Egypt.

As Messianic Believers today, who are having to consider V’yigash and its message that undoubtedly carries implications beyond the history of the Pentateuch—what do we really need to be focusing on? Might there be something important that will illuminate current developments in the emerging Messianic movement, and the restoration to Israel that is truly prophesied to occur according to the Scriptures?

The Rise of Judah

You should recall that in last week’s Torah portion, Mikkeitz (Genesis 41:1-44:17), we witness that Judah had begun to assert himself as the spokesperson and leader of the brothers who remained in Canaan. When Jacob issued his concern about the lack of food, it was Judah who spoke for the brothers:

“Now the famine was severe in the land. So it came about when they had finished eating the grain which they had brought from Egypt, that their father said to them, ‘Go back, buy us a little food.’ Judah spoke to him, however, saying, ‘The man solemnly warned us, “You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you”’” (Genesis 43:1-3).

As the dialogue continued and the discussion about how to overcome some of the challenges of complying with the demands of the Egyptian official (unknown by them to be Joseph) ensues, it was Judah who magnanimously offered himself as “surety” for the life of Benjamin:

“And Judah said to his father Israel, ‘Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, we as well as you and our little ones. I myself will be surety for him;[1] you may hold me responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame before you forever’” (Genesis 43:8-9).

Here in an act of self-sacrifice and protection on Judah’s part, we can see definite clues when a future son of Judah, Yeshua the Messiah, will offer Himself up for the sins of the world. As Mikkeitz ended, Judah definitely took the lead among his brothers. With the narrative describing “Judah and his brothers,” Yehudah v’echayv, we find him in charge of the negotiations with the viceroy of Egypt (Joseph):

“When Judah and his brothers came to Joseph’s house, he was still there, and they fell to the ground before him. And Joseph said to them, ‘What is this deed that you have done? Do you not know that such a man as I can indeed practice divination?’ So Judah said, ‘What can we say to my lord? What can we speak? And how can we justify ourselves? God has found out the iniquity of your servants; behold, we are my lord’s slaves, both we and the one in whose possession the cup has been found’” (Genesis 44:14-16).

When V’yigash (Genesis 44:18-47:27) begins, we find again that it was Judah who continued in the dialogue with the yet unrevealed Joseph. The clear rise and preeminence of these two brothers would manifest itself later in how the nation of Israel implanted in the Promised Land will have two main components to it, being largely known as Judah (later Judea) and Joseph (or Ephraim, after Joseph’s youngest son):

“Then Judah approached him, and said, ‘Oh my lord, may your servant please speak a word in my lord’s ears, and do not be angry with your servant; for you are equal to Pharaoh’” (Genesis 44:18).

As this interaction took place, it was Judah and Joseph who discussed the challenges that faced Jacob, who still grieved over the loss of his son Joseph (who he thought was dead). The dialogue proceeded and Judah eloquently described the pain of watching his father suffer the loss of his beloved son, and how he would suffer more if the brothers did not return with the youngest, Benjamin (Genesis 44:19-34). Most importantly, it was Judah who declared to Joseph that he alone would offer up his life for the life of his brother Benjamin (Genesis 44:30). Here at this critical juncture, Judah was the one who attempted to acquire a degree of mercy from the shrouded Joseph toward his family.

Viewing the events in Mikkeitz and into V’yigash, one can find that the two brothers Judah and Joseph emerged into taking some very prominent roles in their generation. What they did appropriately complimented the other, as together they assured the survival of the future of the nation of Israel. Many readers have concluded that the unique characteristics of Judah and Joseph include prophetic foreshadowings of later events and occurrences throughout God’s plan of salvation history.

Joseph Recognizes God’s Hand

At the point when Judah declared his willingness to offer his life for that of his brother Benjamin, this was when Joseph finally broke down and could no longer withhold himself. Joseph revealed himself to his brothers. Was this a result of Joseph witnessing how his brother Judah, the one who had originally suggested that he be sold into slavery (Genesis 37:26-27), had matured into a man of compassion? Whatever the actual reason or combination of factors, the emotional reality of what Joseph was witnessing was too difficult for him to contain:

“Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried, ‘Have everyone go out from me.’ So there was no man with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard of it. Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?’ But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence. Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Please come closer to me.’ And they came closer. And he said, ‘I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life’” (Genesis 45:1-5).

It is most interesting how the Lord molded both Judah and Joseph through completely different circumstances, into the figures of their generation—who would later symbolize the future divisions of Israel that will eventually be reunited in the end-times. Joseph understood beyond a shadow of doubt that it was God Himself who was responsible for all of the episodes of his life, which positioned him into the place to be a preserver of the family of Israel. His statements clearly made this known:

“And now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve lifeAnd God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father, and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, “God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay”’” (Genesis 45:5, 7-9).

Joseph recognized that it was God who had orchestrated the affairs of his life to position him to be the viceroy of Egypt, and be the ultimate deliverer of the family of Israel when the famine strikes. Joseph, whose rise to prominence came through the trials of affliction coupled with the blessing of God to interpret dreams, was no doubt the son who was used by Him to salvage Israel at this point in time.

What does the example of Joseph revealing himself as God’s appointed deliverer communicate to us, as Twenty-First century men and women of faith? Have you ever received an inkling from the Lord that you will be placed in an important position in the future, to help someone or communicate something critical to those needing direction? How many of us might complain about some of the ups and downs of the growth and development of the Messianic movement, not realizing that we have to have a long term perspective, and that some of the things we say—be it explaining who Yeshua is as the Messiah to Jewish friends, or the importance of our Hebraic Roots to Christian colleagues—are to be kept to ourselves until the appropriate time?

How much patience and forbearance do you think a man like Joseph had to possess in order to ably handle his brothers? How much do you think you might need in handling various situations and circumstances in life?

A Supernatural Union

Certainly, the prophecy of Ezekiel 37:15-28, which composes the Haftarah selection for V’yigash, has come to be emblematic of the ultimate reunion and restoration to God’s people as promised by Him. Torah students are reminded year after year that the final restoration of Israel is a prophetic expectation not to be overlooked or ignored. How this involves today’s Messianic movement, particularly with Jewish Believers coming to faith in Yeshua the Messiah in great numbers, and many evangelical Christians embracing their Hebraic Roots, is one which has provoked a wide number of responses. While there are many details in this prophecy that need to be explored by readers, the undeniable theme of Ezekiel’s oracle is how a great supernatural unity is to transpire, one which ultimately represents God’s sovereignty and cannot be broken by any mortal:

“The word of the LORD came again to me saying, ‘And you, son of man, take for yourself one stick and write on it, “For Judah and for the sons of Israel, his companions”; then take another stick and write on it, “For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim and all the house of Israel, his companions.” Then join them for yourself one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand. And when the sons of your people speak to you saying, “Will you not declare to us what you mean by these?” say to them, “Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will put them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand.’ And the sticks on which you write will be in your hand before their eyes. And say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I will take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and I will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king will be king for all of them; and they will no longer be two nations, and they will no longer be divided into two kingdoms. And they will no longer defile themselves with their idols, or with their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. And they will be My people, and I will be their God. And My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances, and keep My statutes, and observe them. And they shall live on the land that I gave to Jacob My servant, in which your fathers lived; and they will live on it, they, and their sons, and their sons’ sons, forever; and David My servant shall be their prince forever. And I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will place them and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in their midst forever. My dwelling place also will be with them; and I will be their God, and they will be My people. And the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forever”’” (Ezekiel 37:15-28).

As we contemplate this prophecy, we are reminded that its fulfillment can by no means be an instantaneous event. Instead, as it transpires, then the people ask: Will you not show us what you mean by these?” (Ezekiel 37:18, RSV). This question indicates almost as many perplexing thoughts that must have been the initial reaction of the sons of Jacob/Israel, as Joseph revealed himself to them in Pharaoh’s courtyard.

I would submit that if we have begun to actually witness the final stages of Israel’s restoration in our day, that this question has been answered in a large number of ways: some good and some not so good. Some do not know what to do, and so they choose to ignore the relevant Biblical passages. Others have entered in, have over-simplified things, and have opportunized things quite a bit. And still, others have tried to develop the patience needed to recognize that the restoration of Israel’s Kingdom is something that can only occur in the Father’s perfect timing, and have tactfully done the best they can in living forth the prophecy’s ethic of unity.

Let us be those who truly seek His face, and are given the gifts and temperance needed! May we each possess the discernment to know what our place may be in the anticipated restoration of Israel, so that the Lord can use us to help it along at the appropriate season, rather than deter it through any ungodly flesh patterns that cause confusion.


NOTES

[1] Or, “I myself will guarantee his safety” (NIV).