Hebrews for the Practical Messianic

The Epistle to the Hebrews is one of the most overlooked texts in the entire Bible, and is greatly unappreciated by many in today’s Christianity, as well as the Messianic movement. A profoundly spiritual and intellectual masterpiece, the theme of this treatise is undeniably Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), and His supremacy over all. The author engages his audience by describing Yeshua as the Creator, being superior to angels, Moses, Joshua, and as mediator of the New Covenant. The author comes to these conclusions using some very unique ways, employing First Century rhetoric and literary devices that often evade your average reader. His sacrifice has provided men and women with permanent atonement for their sins, if they will truly choose to accept it.

The Epistle to the Hebrews asks First Century questions for a First Century audience. The Jewish revolt in the Land of Israel was just getting started, and the Temple was on the verge of being destroyed. Many Jews from all over the Mediterranean world—who had acknowledged Yeshua as Messiah—did not know what to do. Was this the end of their faith? Many were at the possible point of denying the Lord. The author of Hebrews, employing carefully constructed and Scripturally-based arguments, advocates that to not heed the warnings of the past brought Ancient Israel extreme judgment—and to deny the Messiah would bring even worse judgment. The bulk of his arguments are deeply rooted in the Jewish theology of the First Century that we see attested to in a variety of ancient sources such as the Septuagint, the Apocrypha, the Pseudepigrapha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Josephus, Philo, and traditions later recorded in the Mishnah and Talmud.

In the commentary Hebrews for the Practical Messianic, Messianic Apologetics editor J.K. McKee tackles some of the difficult hermeneutical questions that are asked when we consider this text for today. Hebrews asks ancient questions that had to be answered by an ancient audience: Hebrews has background issues that cannot be answered solely by a surface reading of the text. Who wrote Hebrews? When was it written? How broad was its original audience? These are some of the many questions that surround Hebrews. The Twenty-First Century questions that Hebrews asks are difficult for many Messianics to consider: What should the role of the Greek Septuagint be in our theology? Do we ever make the mistake of uplifting the Torah over Yeshua? How do we maintain a high regard for Moses, but understand that Yeshua is superior?

In a very careful way, the issues of Hebrews are addressed fairly and scholastically. We need to understand who Yeshua is to us, who Moses is to us, what the New Covenant is to us, and how we should never lose sight of our saving faith in Him. You will see that the Epistle to the Hebrews is a truly inspired and profound text.

316 pages




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Ki-Teitzei

Ki-Teitzei

When you go out

Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19
Isaiah 54:1-10 (or finish at 52:13)

“Love Thy Neighbor”


by Mark Huey

Ki-Teitzei is traditionally considered during the month of Elul, as one is preparing his or her heart for the Fall high holidays. It is during this forty-day season of repentance or teshuvah, which lasts from 01 Elul through the Ten Days of Awe (01-09 Tishri) preceding Yom Kippur (10 Tishri), that many of our Jewish brethren turn, or in some cases return, to the God of Israel, and review their personal relationship with Him. For a Messianic community which studies the Torah portions on a weekly basis, this is a good example to follow. In some respects, this forty-day period is almost like an annual inspection of one’s soul to determine where a person stands in his or her relationship not only with the Almighty, but with one’s fellow human beings.

The Book of Deuteronomy is an important review of the Torah—and a great tool for instruction—as hearts are being prepared for not only the Day of Atonement, but also the season of joy that envelops the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot. While Believers in Yeshua do not necessarily approach the Fall high holidays in the same way as non-believing Jews, the fact remains that meditating upon God’s Word is of great personal benefit. The Psalms are replete with statements to this regard:

  • “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2).
  • “I will meditate on Your precepts and regard Your ways” (Psalm 119:15).
  • “And I shall lift up my hands to Your commandments, which I love; and I will meditate on Your statutes” (Psalm 119:48).

Last week in Shoftim (Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9), the text dealt with the theme of justice in national civil matters, as instruction for judges, kings, priests, and prophets was described. This week, Ki-Teitzei deals primarily with matters that pertain to individuals, their families, and their neighbors on a more personal level.

As you read through these chapters of Deuteronomy in Ki-Teitzei (Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19), you are confronted with a wide array of instructions, including but not limited to: family laws,[1] laws of kindness,[2] laws about the holiness of the camp,[3] how to handle fugitive slaves,[4] laws prohibiting prostitution,[5] interest on money lent,[6] vows,[7] gleaning in neighbors’ fields,[8] divorce,[9] pledges,[10] treatment of workers,[11] individual responsibility,[12] avoiding injustice to the stranger,[13] instructions relating to orphans and widows,[14] judgments short of capital punishment,[15] kindness to animals,[16] the laws of levirate marriage (for a deceased brother),[17] flagrant immodesty,[18] honest weights and measures,[19] and finally remembering Amalek.[20]

This is a wide breadth of topics to consider. I would encourage you to take the time to read and consider these passages, because these commandments have helped to inform and guide many of the civil codes and social structures founded in the Judeo-Christian world. While there is a diversity of instructions witnessed in Ki-Teitzei, the overall theme we witness focuses on how one should handle affairs between people from all walks of life, namely, one’s family and neighbors. Where the emphasis appears on how to love God, these commandments give us a clearer understanding about how we are to love our neighbors.

Consider the question of the lawyer or Torah teacher to Yeshua, asking for His opinion about the greatest commandment:

“One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ 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 22:35-40).

Here, the greatest commandments tell us that we are to love God unconditionally, and then we are to love our neighbors unconditionally. Yeshua responds to the lawyer by first quoting from the Shema:

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5).

Yeshua then amplifies His answer by stating that the second commandment is the application of the first. As one begins to love the Lord with all his heart, soul, and might, it will manifest itself tangibly by evidence of loving one’s neighbor. If you turn to where loving one’s neighbor is first detailed in Leviticus 19:9-20, you will notice that many of the actions that are described in this passage are also a part of this week’s Torah portion. Just listen to how some of this week’s themes come forth in Leviticus 19:9-20:

“Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the LORD your God. You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another. You shall not swear falsely by My name, so as to profane the name of your God; I am the LORD. You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning. You shall not curse a deaf man, nor place a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall revere your God; I am the LORD. You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly. You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the LORD. You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD. You are to keep My statutes. You shall not breed together two kinds of your cattle; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor wear a garment upon you of two kinds of material mixed together. Now if a man lies carnally with a woman who is a slave acquired for another man, but who has in no way been redeemed nor given her freedom, there shall be punishment; they shall not, however, be put to death, because she was not free” (Leviticus 19:9-20).

Do you hear some of these same themes further articulated in Ki-Teitzei? Proper gleaning of crops, payment of wages, how to sow crops, and dealings with virgins and others, are just a few of the topics considered in this passage from Leviticus. Ultimately, the overwhelming theme of Leviticus ch. 19 is the concept of loving your neighbor as yourself. By demonstrating fairness and love when dealing with your neighbor—or even your enemy—on a wide variety of personal issues, you demonstrate obedience to this commandment. Consider how this week’s Torah reading lists some commandments with how to help one’s neighbor with a lost animal:

“You shall not see your countryman’s ox or his sheep straying away, and pay no attention to them; you shall certainly bring them back to your countryman. If your countryman is not near you, or if you do not know him, then you shall bring it home to your house, and it shall remain with you until your countryman looks for it; then you shall restore it to him. Thus you shall do with his donkey, and you shall do the same with his garment, and you shall do likewise with anything lost by your countryman, which he has lost and you have found. You are not allowed to neglect them. You shall not see your countryman’s donkey or his ox fallen down on the way, and pay no attention to them; you shall certainly help him to raise them up” (Deuteronomy 22:1-4).

Putting others’ needs before your own is definitely an indication that one loves his or her neighbor.

Another example comes from the concept of equal weights and measures. The essence of honesty is expressed as God extends a reward for equality, but regards inequality as an abomination:

“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).

Consider this: Do you truly love your neighbor if you have unequal weights and measures? Yeshua’s saying, commonly called “the Golden Rule,” essentially summarizes the command to love one’s neighbor. The concept of doing to others as you would have them do to you is a major theme of Yeshua’s teaching in His Sermon on the Mount:

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets’” (Matthew 7:1-12).

Here in this passage, Yeshua brings great understanding to His listeners about some of the critical components of loving one’s neighbor. The parallel account in Luke’s Gospel offers us some different dimensions of what it means to love one’s neighbor that must be considered:

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:27-36).

Earlier, I discussed how meditating upon the Torah is beneficial to the soul. But what about meditating upon the words of Yeshua—the Word of God made flesh? After all, many times throughout Gospels, Yeshua helps clarify what is meant by what Moses originally directed in the Torah. The question asked of the Lord in Matthew 22:35-40 cited earlier, where Yeshua made His declarations about the greatest commandments, was preceded by another question about one of the passages from this week’s Torah portion. Here, the Sadducees question Yeshua about remarriage in light of Deuteronomy 25:5:

“When brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a strange man. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her to himself as wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. It shall be that the firstborn whom she bears shall assume the name of his dead brother, so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel. But if the man does not desire to take his brother’s wife, then his brother’s wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to establish a name for his brother in Israel; he is not willing to perform the duty of a husband’s brother to me.’ Then the elders of his city shall summon him and speak to him. And if he persists and says, ‘I do not desire to take her,’ then his brother’s wife shall come to him in the sight of the elders, and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face; and she shall declare, ‘Thus it is done to the man who does not build up his brother’s house.’ In Israel his name shall be called, ‘The house of him whose sandal is removed’” (Deuteronomy 25:5-10).

This is how Yeshua deals with them asking about this:

“On that day some Sadducees (who say there is no resurrection) came to Yeshua and questioned Him, asking, ‘Teacher, Moses said, “IF A MAN DIES HAVING NO CHILDREN, HIS BROTHER AS NEXT OF KIN SHALL MARRY HIS WIFE, AND RAISE UP CHILDREN FOR HIS BROTHER” [Deuteronomy 25:5]. Now there were seven brothers with us; and the first married and died, and having no children left his wife to his brother; so also the second, and the third, down to the seventh. Last of all, the woman died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had married her.’ But Yeshua answered and said to them, ‘You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God: “I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB” [Exodus 3:6, 15, 16]? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.’ When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at His teaching. But when the Pharisees heard that Yeshua had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ 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 22:23-40).

The Sadducees, who denied anything supernatural such as the resurrection (Acts 23:8), asked the Lord about a hypothetical case where a widow ends up marrying seven brothers. They were actually trying to trick Yeshua into saying something that would discredit Him. The Sadducees’ shock comes when Yeshua admonishes His questioners with the succinct statement that “He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” This profound statement was meant to shock the Sadducees into reconsidering their perverse thinking, as the Patriarchs were still to be considered as “living,” presumably in some kind of disembodied temporary state until the resurrection.

Yeshua taught that what matters the most is evidenced in our heart attitude toward God and toward one another. It is critical that such love is evidenced by us. If one is unable to demonstrate love toward a human being who can be seen—then how can we truly love a God whom we cannot see? This is why I would like to close with some thoughts on love from the Apostle Paul. Here in 1 Corinthians 13, sometimes regarded to be the famous “love chapter,” Paul describes the essence of agapē love. Each of us needs to consider whether our love for our neighbor is evidenced by this type of love:

“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:1-13).

If we cannot say that we love our neighbor by these standards, is it possible that we cannot love others as we would have them love us? This is something for each of us to think about as we evaluate our relationship with God in this season of repentance. I pray that we would be continually conformed to the loving image of His Son, who not only loved His neighbors—but died for everyone so we all could live!


NOTES

[1] Deuteronomy 22:13-23:1-6.

[2] Deuteronomy 23:7-9.

[3] Deuteronomy 23:10-14.

[4] Deuteronomy 23:15-16.

[5] Deuteronomy 23:17-18.

[6] Deuteronomy 23:19-20.

[7] Deuteronomy 23:21-23.

[8] Deuteronomy 23:24-25.

[9] Deuteronomy 24:1-5.

[10] Deuteronomy 24:6-13.

[11] Deuteronomy 24:14-15.

[12] Deuteronomy 24:16.

[13] Deuteronomy 24:17-18.

[14] Deuteronomy 24:20-21.

[15] Deuteronomy 25:1-3.

[16] Deuteronomy 25:4.

[17] Deuteronomy 25:5-10.

Consult the FAQ on the Messianic Apologetics website, “Levirate Marriage.”

[18] Deuteronomy 25:11-12.

[19] Deuteronomy 25:13-16.

[20] Deuteronomy 25:17-19.

Torah In the Balance, Volume II

The views expressed and practices witnessed, regarding the place of God’s Torah in the life of contemporary Messianic Believers, are more likely to cause tension for far too many people—than facilitate any sense of spiritual fulfillment, much less relief. There is little doubting the fact that as a widely mixed group of people, from both Jewish and Christian backgrounds, that each man and woman within the Messianic community brings both positive and negative things into the assembly. When it comes to the issue of Torah observance, the spectrum of views and practices has been too often polarized between an Orthodox Jewish, hyper-traditional style—and some anti-traditional, quasi-Karaite style. Much of this has come about because there is an entire array of issues, which need some preliminary handling, and which has yet to receive it.

Torah In the Balance, Volume II is a book which recognizes that the Torah does regulate many physical actions to be performed by God’s people. Faith in the Lord is hardly just a series of abstract mental beliefs or doctrines; it is also something which is to be demonstrated in concrete works. But when we consider the importance of external works as a manifestation of our trust in Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), what is some of the variance seen in on-the-ground Messianic settings? How do people keep the seventh-day Sabbath/Shabbat, eat kosher, or sanctify the appointed times? What about our physical dress and appearance? What about issues like circumcision or water immersion (baptism)? What about various religious symbols like the cross or Star of David? Even when Messianic people have been theologically convinced that Moses’ Teaching remains valid instruction for God’s people today, there is going to be variance, and even internal disagreement, about how it is to be implemented for those living in the Twenty-First Century.

This publication has been long anticipated in addressing some of the finer-issues of Torah observance witnessed within the Messianic movement. It takes into consideration the theological and spiritual developments of the 2000s-2010s to be sure, but more importantly tries to present the necessary third way which must emerge for our Torah observance. This is crucial, as we steadily develop into a force of holiness and righteousness in the world, and strive to commit ourselves to further obedience.

364 pages




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Shoftim

Shoftim

Judges

Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9
Isaiah 51:12-52:12 (or finish at 53:12)

“Required Words”


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

Shoftim concentrates on justice and what God required of the Ancient Israelites, as they enter into the Promised Land. Our absolutely righteous and just Creator was very concerned that His chosen people maintain justice, as they established a governing system in Canaan. For without righteous justice, God knows that any society will fail, due to the human proclivity toward evil inherited in the fallen nature.

Here in this parashah, Moses touches upon a wide variety of ordinances to help insure proper balance in Israel. These include the requirements for a judicial system,[1] specific guidelines for a government led by a king or regent,[2] inheritance for the priesthood,[3] prohibitions against various forms of false worship,[4] how to deal with true or false prophets,[5] the establishment of cities of refuge,[6] laws regarding boundaries,[7] regulations for military warfare,[8] and how to handle the discovery of a slain person in any tribal territory.[9] God is very specific about these different areas of concern, because He recognized that conflict is inevitable and that people need rules in order to resolve it. By detailing these ordinances from God, Moses has given Israel some foundational guidelines for handling the different issues that will arise in the life of the nation.

We must be mindful that Ancient Israel did not get a pass on the inherent human nature that gravitates toward selfishness and corruption. This is one of the reasons that the Torah was communicated to Israel. Undoubtedly, down through the ages, many judicial codes or customs that have been established among many other societies, can trace their roots to some of these very texts. It is through adherence to many of these specific ordinances that have been incorporated into different national civil codes, through which different cultures and ethnic groups have been able to maintain various degrees of civility.

As the people of Israel prepared to enter into the Promised Land, Moses will no longer be the person to turn to for resolution of conflict as he did in the wilderness. As the different tribes inherit their specific territories, it will be incumbent upon each tribe to appoint judges to handle the levels of conflict that are inevitable in human affairs. As the teaching seen in Shoftim begins, Moses lists a number of commands and criteria for the people who are to be appointed by the various tribes to function as judges and officers to handle disputes between people. In this reading, Moses describes the criteria and attributes for a judicial system and the appointment of judges:

“You shall appoint for yourself judges and officers in all your towns which the LORD your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous. Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you” (Deuteronomy 16:18-20).

The first requirement is that the people select from among themselves judges and officers or magistrates, who do not distort or “pervert” (NIV, ATS) justice. Distorting justice perverts God’s intention for His people to be holy and prosper.

Years earlier, while in the desert sojourn, Moses was advised by his father-in-law, Jethro, to appoint judges to help with the workload of mediating disputes between the Israelites. In the following passage, some basic criteria are established for those who are chosen to be judges:

“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.’ 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 will 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. 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 18:13-24).

The three basic criteria that Jethro counseled Moses to discern in a judge are that these are: (1) to be individuals who fear God, (2) they are committed to truth, and (3) they are those who hate dishonest gain. In many respects, these are similar character traits that Moses now gives to the people of Israel in Shoftim, as they were to find judges who would preside over conflict in each of the cities that would be established in the new tribal territories.

The first attribute that a judge must have is a healthy fear of the Lord. In selecting judges, one must understand how “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). Fear generates wisdom, which in turn gives one knowledge and understanding about who God is. Without fear of the Lord, one can become a kind of god unto himself, or at least some kind of potentate who can make rulings and decisions entirely unchecked. By fearing the Creator, one recognizes that His justice is absolutely perfect in all of its ways. The goal is then to attempt to emulate His perfect justice. By fearing the Lord, one will not distort justice or be partial toward the wealthy or the poor. This is told to us earlier in Exodus, because various temptations can have a tendency to pervert justice:

“You shall not bear a false report; do not join your hand with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not follow the masses in doing evil, nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after a multitude in order to pervert justice; nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his dispute. If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying helpless under its load, you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release it with him. You shall not pervert the justice due to your needy brother in his dispute. Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent or the righteous, for I will not acquit the guilty. You shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of the just. You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:1-9).

In order for these things to be accomplished, the second attribute that a judge must have is to be a person of truth, and recognize that truth comes from the Word of God. By studying and applying the established principles of God’s Word, a judge will not rely upon his own standards, but rather the standards of the Holy One. The Psalmist describes it this way:

“He leads the humble in justice, and He teaches the humble His way. All the paths of the LORD are lovingkindness and truth, to those who keep His covenant and His testimonies” (Psalm 25:9-10).

In order to administer justice, one must know the truth that is embodied in the testimonies of the Almighty.

The third attribute that is required of a judge is that he hates dishonest gain. Moses elaborated, “and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous” (Deuteronomy 16:18). In this statement Moses indicated that even the wise and righteous will be blinded if they are bribed. The need to hate dishonest gain is of paramount importance.

The bottom line that we see in these Scriptures is that God requires His judges to exercise, to the best of their human ability, a justice that is a reflection of His perfect justice. By placing these criteria upon the judges selected for the different cities, Israel, or any subsequent society, has the best chance of administering justice in a fair and equitable manner.

As I reflected on these matters of justice and how the Lord desires His judges to not pervert justice, there is a passage that comes to mind in this week’s Torah reading which speaks to the ultimate justice that all people must contend with in their lifetime. This is the reality that eventually the Lord would send a future prophet whose words must be heeded. The Scripture declares,

“It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him” (Deuteronomy 18:19).

The words of the passage are of utmost importance to all who are seeking a relationship with the God of Israel. Consider them in their entirety:

“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him. This is according to all that you asked of the LORD your God in Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, let me not see this great fire anymore, or I will die.’ The LORD said to me, ‘They have spoken well. I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him’” (Deuteronomy 18:15-19).

In this passage, Moses declared that God will send a prophet like him from among the people of Israel, whose words must be followed. It is from this passage that the ultimate justice for humanity is embodied. Moses says that a future prophet will make declarations that must be believed.

As Moses described this future prophet, it is categorically clear that the “Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable” (Deuteronomy 18:19, NRSV). This future prophet will speak words from God, in His name, that must be complied with—or else God Himself will issue judgment.

The Apostles understood the significance of the future Prophet whose words must be heeded, or they would not be saved. After Shavuot or the day of Pentecost, the Apostle Peter explained to those gathered that Yeshua the Messiah was the Prophet who Moses testified about:

“But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Messiah would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Yeshua, the Messiah appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren; to Him you shall give heed [Deuteronomy 18:19; Leviticus 23:29] to everything He says to you. And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days. ‘It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, “And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed” [Genesis 22:18; 26:4]. For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways’” (Acts 3:18-26).

Peter declared that Yeshua is indeed the future Prophet whom Moses refers to in this week’s Torah portion. His words must be heeded! If they are not, then the Almighty will require it of all those who hear. What this means is specified by the words of Peter, as he stated, “everyone who does not listen to that prophet will be utterly rooted out of the people” (NRSV). Peter makes it clear that failure to believe in the words of Yeshua will bring eternal damnation, and banishment from God’s presence. This is far more serious than what a human judge might decree. This has eternal significance.

When you take this to heart, and read and consider the words of Yeshua—recognizing that He is the future Prophet that Moses speaks of in Shoftim—you realize that the Messiah’s words must be believed or you will face eternal separation from the Holy One. Statements like the following must be believed:

“Yeshua said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.’ Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’ Yeshua said to him, ‘Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him’” (John 14:6-21).

Yeshua alone is the way, the truth, and the life. The only way to the Father is through belief and faith in the shed blood of the Messiah. Other truthful words indicate that the Messiah via the Holy Spirit will take up residence in the hearts of His followers. We also see that Yeshua is in the Father and that He is in His followers. Those who truly know Him and love Him will embrace words like this.

According to the statements of Moses, the Lord will require His children to believe the words of this future Prophet. Do you believe Yeshua’s words? These are actually the required words of more than a prophet, but indeed, are the words of the very Son of God!

How seriously do you take the words of Moses? I suspect that if you are a committed Messianic Believer, probably reading through the Torah portions every week, that you take Moses’ Teaching very seriously. While many of you read the Torah portions so that you can have a foundation established in your heart and mind for understanding the remainder of Scripture, other Messianics read the Torah portions as the only part of the Bible that they think is important. Is this a problem? Other than the fact that there are key Biblical doctrines that are elaborated on elsewhere than the Pentateuch—it is a serious problem when it comes to understanding Yeshua. Only encountering the Torah, without encountering Yeshua, leaves one devoid of the reality of eternal life.

If one does not understand the work of Moses, one cannot understand the work of the Messiah. If one believes Moses, a further step must be taken to absolutely believe the Messiah. The Messiah’s words are the words that all people will be required to heed. As our Lord clearly declared,

“For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?’” (John 5:46-47).

For those without faith, it is impossible to believe His words. Yet, God requires belief in them. In all of this, God’s justice is perfected. May we all cling to the words of the Messiah, but most importantly, we must cling to Him, for in Him and Him alone we have eternal life!


NOTES

[1] Deuteronomy 17:1-13.

[2] Deuteronomy 17:14-20.

[3] Deuteronomy 18:1-8.

[4] Deuteronomy 18:9-14.

[5] Deuteronomy 18:15-22.

[6] Deuteronomy 19:1-13.

[7] Deuteronomy 19:14-21.

[8] Deuteronomy 20:1-20.

[9] Deuteronomy 21:1-9.

Torah In the Balance, Volume I

The Messianic movement largely advocates that the Torah or Pentateuch is relevant instruction for Believers today, and that modern Christianity has too often ignored God’s revelation in the Tanach or Old Testament—not benefiting from this dismissal. Yet the subject of “Torah observance” can often be a point of contention, not only between the Messianic and Christian communities, but even internally among Messianics. Why is this the case? Do we have to be negative about this? Is it possible that people claiming to be Torah observant do not often know why the Law of Moses is to instruct and teach today’s Believers? Have some Messianics simply lacked an appropriate perspective on how the work of the Holy Spirit is to guide God’s people into greater holiness and maturity, given the promises of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:26-27)? How are we to balance how following the Torah includes outward practices, but also includes a greater manifestation of God’s love and goodness to all we encounter?

Torah In the Balance, Volume I is a well needed resource for our time, as it addresses the main aspects of how to follow God’s Torah. Subjects addressed include: why Believers need the Torah, the Acts 15 Jerusalem Council, the foundational importance of the Ten Commandments, the role of the appointed times, and the dietary laws. While Messianic positions on these aspects of faith can often clash with those of our Christian brothers and sisters, they are considered in a fair and reasonable way that encourages positive solutions between all people who have called out to Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) for salvation. A large amount of scholastic engagement and support is offered for the validity of these aspects of faith on the part of today’s Believers.

This book is an important addition to any Messianic library, and should be read by those desiring not only a comprehensive understanding regarding what the Lord has started in this hour—but the great responsibility we have been endowed by Him. With everything we have been called to do, the transforming power of God’s love is emphasized above all! This resource encourages growth and maturity on the part of all of His people.

306 pages




$21.99 plus $3.01 U.S. shipping and handling

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 20-page excerpt

August 2017 Outreach Israel News


Update

August 2017

Typically each year, the 9th of Av on the Hebrew calendar arrives in late July or August, with an annual reminder that the enemies of Israel continue to harass and spew hatred toward the Jewish people. This year is no different, as deadly disputes with Muslim worshippers on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem remind Believers around the world to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6). According to Rabbinic tradition, on this day shortly after deliverance from bondage in Egypt, the ten spies who returned from surveying Canaan conveyed a bad report because they feared the inhabitants. This lack of faith had serious immediate consequences that included the death of every man over twenty years of age (other than Joshua and Caleb), during the forty-year delay wandering in the desert, before entrance to the land promised to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob:

“Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, ‘We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.’ But the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us.’ So they gave out to the sons of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, ‘The land through which we have gone, in spying it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great size. There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.’ Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. All the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, ‘Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness!’” (Numbers 13:31-14:2).

Still, the long term ramifications of troubles on this day, including most significantly the destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians in 587 B.C.E. and the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 C.E., have been recorded. Hence, the Jewish people have observed a day of fasting on Tish B’Av throughout the centuries, and thankfully, the recent turmoil is subsiding as of this writing.

The Ninth of Av essentially begins the countdown to the month of Elul that with the first ten days of Tishri constitutes the forty-day “Season of Teshuvah” (Return or Repentance) prior to Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement. Interestingly this year, the 29th of Av occurs on August 21, and in the continental United States, there will be a total solar eclipse that traverses the country from Oregon to South Carolina. Some prophecy teachers are hyping people with some wild end-time prognostications about what this means from a Biblical perspective. Do not fear! This scientifically predictable event is simply a celestial occurrence that astronomers can accurately calculate from the consistency of God’s created order, repeating patterns year after year and even century after century: Who commands the sun not to shine, and sets a seal upon the stars” (Job 9:7).

Instead, Believers should marvel at the majesty of the Creator God, and perhaps use this unique solar eclipse as an opportunity to share the good news with those stirred up by the hyperbolic conjectures!

In addition, we are praising the Lord for all of the Internet traffic being generated on the Messianic Apologetics website and mobile app! The increase in website hits this past month has required www.messianicapologetics.net to recently be upgraded to handle the higher volume. As we have experienced in the past, what initially seems to be an obstacle, is really turning into an opportunity! One of our long term goals has been to see that there be an associated video or audio podcast associated with every written post on Messianic Apologetics. We are using our recent server transfer as a prompt from the Lord to see that this comes about. Please continue to pray that the upgrades will enhance the outreach of our ministry efforts!

Finally, Outreach Israel and Messianic Apologetics want to be sure that we are a voice of reason and stability, providing fair resolution and consensus, as pressures continue to mount against people of faith from the world, as anti-Semitism and growing anti-Israel sentiments are on the rise. We want to especially thank those of you who have faithfully supported our efforts over the years. We continue to need your financial support in order to dedicate the time and energy required to continue in the work that the Lord has assigned us. We especially need many of you to sign up for a regular monthly contribution via PayPal at www.outreachisrael.net.

“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).

Blessings,

Mark Huey


A Spiritual Scavenger Hunt

by J.K. McKee
editor@messianicapologetics.net

 

Every single one of us, as a redeemed man or woman of faith, has been on some kind of life journey that has led us to the salvation of Yeshua the Messiah, and hopefully into a place of contributing to the purposes of the Kingdom of God. One of the questions that I frequently ask myself, as a person who has been involved in the Messianic movement since 1995, very much is: How did I get here? A follow up question to this is: What does God actually want me to do here?

I truly came to dynamic saving faith on August 8, 1995. While this concerned dealing with some demonic issues from my family’s past, as well as some issues involving the death of my father in 1992[1]—within several months of repenting of my sins and being born again I was in the Messianic movement. My mother Margaret, and her new husband Mark Huey, had gone on a Zola Levitt tour to Israel in December of 1994, where they had the impression that when returning to the United States, they needed to be focusing on the Biblical feasts of the Lord (Leviticus 23). And, by the Fall high holidays of 1995, we were attending a Messianic Jewish congregation, and getting acclimated to things like the weekly Shabbat, a kosher-style of diet, and various mainline Jewish traditions and customs.

One of the things that was very appealing for Mark and Margaret Huey, entering into the Messianic movement, was the fact that my mother was an Arminian, and my new stepfather was a Calvinist. While we all came from a broadly evangelical Protestant background, this new blended family knew that it was going to have to chart a new spiritual course. Throughout the second half of 1995 and into 1996, we tried attending Shabbat services on Saturday, while also going to Sunday Church. By the Spring of 1996, we had fully crossed over to the Messianic Jewish congregation. Not only was our faith in the Messiah being enriched and enlivened at new levels—with there being significant “hands on” spiritual activities to be considering—the Jewish community is one which indeed likes to talk about significant issues. Fellowship times either before or after the service, or getting to know new friends at their homes, was a substantial blessing. We were a family that liked to talk about the Bible, things of the Lord, and current events.

Our full transition into the Messianic movement was also enjoined in the Spring of 1996 by our family encountering a number of—at the time—compelling voices, “quasi-Messianic” we would say now, who were making significant predictions about the end-times, the return of Yeshua, and the Middle East peace process. In the Summer of 1996, my parents made a point to attend both the MJAA Messiah conference in Grantham, PA and the UMJC conference in Sturbridge, MA, mainly with the purpose of getting acclimated to this movement we were getting involved with. But when they returned home to Dallas, they got plugged in more and more to the prophecy teachings and predictions. Certainly for a new family, with three who had lost their father several years earlier, the thought that Yeshua was soon going to return, was something that grabbed our attention. In fact, it grabbed our attention for a number of years!

At the beginning of 1997, our family moved out of Dallas to a small farm   north of the city. Over the course of 1997, while we continued to maintain our connections to the local Messianic Jewish congregation, my stepfather helped host a series of prophecy conferences. In March of 1997, I launched my first website, where I posted a number of opinion articles on both end-time prophecy and Messianic themes. On August 15, 1997, I started the website Tribulation News Network or TNN Online. And, in forecasting the future with the close of the Millennium and Y2k impending, my stepfather actually got involved with a shortwave radio operation based out of Central Honduras. In the Spring of 1998, and with some end-time concerns being present, my family sold its major assets and sent two containers with all of our possessions to the island of Roatán in the Bay Islands of Honduras.

It was my stepfather’s plan in 1998 to go back and forth between Roatán and the mainland, doing work for the shortwave radio venture and some real estate consulting in the Bay Islands. We would then see what the global-prophetic situation in the world would be. None of this came to pass. For eight months (April-December) we rented a number of picturesque homes on Roatán, with our two containers still on the dock waiting to be opened. Due to the intervention of Hurricane Mitch in October-November 1998, one of the deadliest storms on record, we knew it was time to return to the United States. An opportunity opened for my stepfather to do some consulting work for a ministry in Oklahoma. We are thankful that we did not lose anything due to Hurricane Mitch!

I am most especially thankful that even though my high school career was not what others would have wanted it to be, that I did finish my senior year through a homeschooling correspondence program, and that in the Fall of 1999 I was able to enroll at the University of Oklahoma. As we returned to the United States in 1999, any end-time preoccupation, fear, or paranoia did get removed from us, and we instead returned to witnessing what God was doing through an increasingly expanding and diversifying Messianic movement. As I was finishing up the first year of my college studies in 2000, my parents accepted an offer to consult with another ministry out of Central Florida. This venture ended in 2002, but by this time we had become a part of an independent Messianic assembly in the Greater Orlando area.

Throughout my college studies at the University of Oklahoma, my TNN Online website, Theology News Network, was something which definitely kept my attention, and it also kept me away from associating with the wrong crowd. I was working on my bachelor’s degree in political science, and as a result took classes not only in political philosophy and theory, but also in histories ancient and modern relevant to Biblical Studies, and was able to take some modern Hebrew and classical Greek. Being on my own for these years, with my website as a hobby, did get me to focus on what being part of the Messianic movement meant to me. I was not really a part of a Messianic congregation or fellowship, and so I instead would spend Shabbat often in Bible study or in writing for my website. I did try to be a part of various on campus ministry groups, which had some success for a season, but eventually did not work out too well by the time I graduated. While there were sincere evangelical Christian people at OU, it was obvious that the Messianic movement, its focus on Israel, and reconnecting with the Tanach or Old Testament, were just too foreign. And, I do have to admit that I was not always too kind or graceful in response to criticism I would receive. It was good that this happened while I was in college, and not when I entered into full time ministry.

In the Fall of 2002, my parents launched Outreach Israel Ministries, which at the time had a very broad vision of incorporating many different possible ventures. When I graduated from college in 2003, I returned to Central Florida, TNN Online became a division of OIM, and our ministry began releasing its first series of educational resources. For the most part, these books, bearing titles like Hebraic Roots: An Introductory Study and Introduction to Things Messianic, were written with the intention of helping aid many non-Jewish Believers, like our family, in getting acclimated to the Messianic movement.

To be sure, as we got started in the first full two years of ministry, in 2003-2005, we had a lot to learn. Mark Huey and I did some speaking trips throughout the U.S., Canada, Israel, and the United Kingdom. In 2005, I started attending the Orlando campus of Asbury Theological Seminary, where I would work on my M.A. in Biblical Studies. As a result of our major travels in 2004, where we encountered all sorts of people identifying with the label “Messianic”—Jewish Believers, non-Jewish Believers, people part of Messianic Judaism, people part of break-off sects and new sects bearing provocative labels[2]we realized that we had a huge amount of work ahead of us, and that even some of our own attitudes and viewpoints needed to change. As a result of the first few semesters of attending Asbury Seminary, where I was able to reconnect with much of my Wesleyan upbringing, I was having, for the first time, to deal with the Holy Scriptures and the world of the Bible in a much more complex and detailed way. In learning new skills involving Biblical exegesis, Hebrew and Greek, and accessing technical commentaries and resources—I found myself being much better equipped to defend many of my convictions as a part of the Messianic movement. I also realized in 2005-2006, that a number of the things that our family picked up in our early days entering into the Messianic movement, were in serious need of reevaluation, even dismissal, being rather simple and downright unsupportable.

My seminary experience from 2005-2008 is something which I have not commented about too frequently among Messianic people, precisely because I know that on the whole many Messianic people are skeptical, if not hostile, to religious studies education. I did not attend seminary to “convert” people to my Messianic beliefs. I attended seminary to acquire skills, and be able to join into a larger conversation of Biblical Studies. And this is something that I was able to do. When I graduated in Spring of 2009, I was blessed to receive the Zondervan Biblical Languages Award for Greek. But immediately following seminary, our ministry would have to start absorbing all of the new knowledge and resources that I had access to, and things certainly started to change.

One of the biggest things that shifted for us in 2009 was seeing that our ministry books be transferred out of spiral combs and into printed paperback books. It was at this time that I was able to totally dedicate all of my time to ministry work, and as titles were prepared for paperback release, updates reflecting my seminary training and degree would be steadily reflected. Yet as we all know, God has a unique way of being able to “jump start” things…

As the 2000s came to a close, and in particular as my youngest sister Maggie started finishing high school, our family knew that our time in Central Florida would be concluding. In the Summer of 2009, my mother, Maggie and I went on a college scouting trip out to the University of Oklahoma. I had not been back since my graduation. When the three of us walked into the Armory at OU, where the Naval ROTC unit was based, we all received the distinct impression that Maggie was going to OU. Of course, this did not affect me directly; I would be returning to Central Florida and be continuing my work of editing our books for paperback release, and working on new Bible studies. In the late Spring of 2010 we again went on a roadtrip out to OU, as Maggie had been accepted and was getting ready to start college in the Fall. My work was continuing.

Our family had originally believed that were we to move out of the Orlando area, that we would move northward to Jacksonville, where we have extended family. In late August 2010, my mother and I went to Jacksonville to help move my grandmother from her assisted living unit into a new memory care unit. While we were there, my stepfather Mark was on a trip visiting friends and other family members. I remember distinctly walking out of the Allegro in Orange Park, and telling my mother that I would seriously consider moving back to Dallas rather than move to Jacksonville. This was quite a change, because neither one of us ever wanted to live in Dallas again. Yet, with my sister Maggie now at the University of Oklahoma, and knowing that there was a vibrant and significant Messianic community in the DFW Metroplex, we definitely started feeling the pull West.

We announced our intention to relocate to North Texas in the Fall of 2010, but we had no idea that it was going to take us over two years to do it. For my part, I knew that I had to gear up, seeing that all of our books were prepared for paperback release—and that if the Lord wanted us to go through any major theological changes, namely in the form of refining and expanding our teachings on various issues, now would be the time to do it. While 2011-2012 were hardly easy years for me, 2011 was a significant year for some theological transitions. 2012 was spent formatting all of our ministry books for both paperback and eBook release. At the end of 2012, my parent’s house in Kissimmee, FL finally sold, and by December we were all living in North Dallas once again—in the same exact zip code where we had originally moved in 1994, no less!

The Spring of 2013 was widely spent getting reacclimated to the DFW area, after being gone for fourteen years. What was most important to us was getting reconnected with the Messianic friends we knew from our early days in Messianic Judaism, back in 1995-1998. By the late Summer of 2013, we quickly got plugged into Eitz Chaim Messianic Jewish Congregation, as we had been good friends with the main leaders, David and Elizabeth Schiller, in the late 1990s. Because EC is an assembly which encourages participation from members, by the Winter of 2014 we had all taken the New Members class, our family began helping out with the different festivals (in particular the congregational Passover seder), and by the Fall of 2014 Mark Huey had been asked to become a shammash (deacon), by the Fall of 2015 being further elevated as an elder. I had given several teachings on Shabbat, and had renewed my own friendship with David that I had back in 1996-1997 when I was in my teens.

2014-2015 were important years not just in terms of transitioning to a new life back in North Texas, to take on new theological and spiritual challenges, and to consolidate ourselves—they were also very important as we began to discern what our own long term purpose would become as a family ministry. While we all agree that moving back to Dallas was the best decision we ever made, because we are human, no place on Earth is entirely perfect. Things in the United States shifted immeasurably with the legalization of homosexual marriage in the Summer of 2015. When this happened, I actually felt in a similar manner to how I did in 1996-1997, when we were encapsulated with end-time prophecy. If anything, American society crossed a Romans ch. 1 “red line,” and we were all shown a “road sign” that End Game is approaching. I myself have had the distinct supernatural impression that with as many things that I have researched and written on, that I would have to be targeted with my life, and would not be able to have all of the same opportunities that those who preceded me had. In June of 2015, the tnnonline.net domain was actually stolen from me during the few hours that the domain was needing to be re-registered, and so I made the necessary upgrade from TNN Online to Messianic Apologetics. This was a vital change for the future!

Mark and Margaret Huey like to frequently describe the journey our family has been on as a “spiritual scavenger hunt.” We went from one place and experience…to another place and experience…and so on… The journey of human life is always something that is ongoing. We learn new things every day through our experiences and interactions, with both the Lord and other human beings, as to how to be more effective in His service. But as far as the bulk of experiences that our family has had—in moving from place to place, in being called into Messianic education, and in interacting with broad and diverse sectors of this emerging faith community—on the whole our “spiritual scavenger hunt” is over. Much of what we are involved with today concerns our effectiveness as Messianic people, fine-tuning our strengths and abilities, and with new stages of development which are likely to equally excite and frighten us all.

Our family was first called into Messianic ministry to help others from evangelical backgrounds, adequately transition into a Messianic lifestyle—extending grace and mercy to others who were not similarly called (at present), and making sure that this was a genuine work of the Holy Spirit in their lives (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27). Our ministry experiences to the present day included things that we could both anticipate and not anticipate. Like everyone, we have had our good days and our bad days, we have had to firmly stand up for the truth of God’s Word, and we have had to admit where we have made mistakes and correct them.

Salvation history is on a decisive trajectory: “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26ff). This is something that involves not only a massive salvation of Jewish people, but will culminate in the return of Israel’s Messiah—and with it the completion of not only many prophecies regarding the restoration of Israel’s Kingdom, but will involve Yeshua Himself reigning over this planet. Today in the Messianic community, we see Jewish people coming in substantial numbers to Messiah faith. We also see non-Jewish Believers embracing their Hebraic and Jewish Roots in substantial numbers. Together, we should not only be united as “one new humanity” (Ephesians 2:15, NRSV), purged of old hostilities and mistrust of the other—but we should be employing the virtues and strengths of our shared Judeo-Protestant heritage for what is to be anticipated in the future.

If there is anything that I have learned on the spiritual scavenger hunt, it is that suspicion, division, and rivalry begin when we fail to communicate with one another, and when we do not even bother to consider the vantage point or perspective of someone else. A figure like Paul knew better than this, when going out to reach the diverse groups of people in the First Century Mediterranean (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). My many writings and studies to date bear significant attention to detail. For some, this is just information overkill. For others, it is a documented record of wanting to not only hear multiple witnesses in a case (Deuteronomy 19:15), it demonstrates a deep seated commitment on my part to be fair, and even what it means to “love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10, NRSV).

Your journey into the Messianic movement is not the same as my family’s journey. Your journey may have been less, or even more, difficult. Like all people in this unique and special move of the Holy Spirit, there are things we have had to give up. I personally take a great deal of comfort from Yeshua’s word, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for My name’s sake, will receive a hundred times as much, and will inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:29, TLV). Yet, each one of us needs to maintain a sense of purpose, a steadfast will, and a consistent resolution to accomplish the Messianic mission—and to arrive at the culmination of history. May we stay true to the call!


NOTES

[1] Some of my experience in coming to salvation is covered in my articles “The Assurance of Our Salvation” and “Why Hell Must Be Eternal.”

[2] These provocative labels included, but were not limited to, the Two-House and One Law/One Torah sub-movements.

Re’eih

Re’eih

See

Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17
Isaiah 54:11-55:5

“Tests from Within and Without”


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

This week, Re’eih continues Moses’ admonitions to the people of Israel by listing a number of commandments that when obeyed will result in God’s blessings, but when disobeyed will result in God’s curses. The opening verses spell out the dire warnings and establish this theme for the balance of our Torah portion:

“See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, which I am commanding you today; and the curse, if you do not listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way which I am commanding you today, by following other gods which you have not known” (Deuteronomy 11:26-28).

Moses continually reemphasizes the necessity to obey the commandments, statutes, and ordinances of the Lord. Without a doubt, Moses was most concerned about the propensity for the Ancient Israelites to follow after strange gods. In the months just prior to when these words were issued, Moses witnessed how readily the men of Israel succumbed to the temptations of the Midianite and Moabite women, as they had enticed them into the sexual sins of Baal-Peor. The judgment of God on those who succumbed to these vile enticements was devastating. Between execution by sword of the flagrant violators and the plague that erupted, many Israelites died and were buried on the plains of Moab (Numbers ch. 25).

In contrast, Moses was also able to witness a miraculous victory over the Midianites, when the people obeyed God and slaughtered their enemies without losing a single combatant (Numbers 31:48-49).

This vivid contrast, of the curses of disobedience and the blessings of obedience, was undoubtedly fresh in the mind of Moses as he continued to plead with the people. But now that the time had arrived for Israel to cross over the Jordan River and into the Promised Land, Moses expanded upon the types of temptations that will meet the Israelites upon their entry into their inheritance. While the influence of idol worshipping nations and their obvious debauchery is readily apparent, it is in this section of the Torah that Moses introduced Israel to even more insidious temptations that will be used by God to test them. Moses specifically warned about the eventuality of various individuals arising in their midst, who will be either adding to or taking away from his teachings:

“Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it” (Deuteronomy 12:32).

Moses stated in absolute terms that the commands he had relayed to Israel come from the Lord (cf. Exodus 33:11; Numbers 12:8). Moses foresaw the inevitability of different people radically altering the meaning of his words—especially those which were imperative for the Israelites to avoid idolatry and sexual immorality—and this was most troubling to him. He followed this warning with a list of some of the different types of people who will be sent to test the hearts of Israel, describing how they will alter God’s commands:

“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the LORD your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you. If your brother, your mother’s son, or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul, entice you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods’ (whom neither you nor your fathers have known, of the gods of the peoples who are around you, near you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other end), you shall not yield to him or listen to him; and your eye shall not pity him, nor shall you spare or conceal him. But you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. So you shall stone him to death because he has sought to seduce you from the LORD your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such a wicked thing among you” (Deuteronomy 13:1-11).

The first group of people, that Moses warned about, are false prophets and dreamers who will arise. Apparently, God is going to send these individuals into the midst of His people, throughout the ages, in order to test their hearts. What each of us needs to be conscious of is the fact that these deceived individuals will largely come from within the ranks of the faithful. There will be some commonality between the deceivers and those who will be deceived, making the deceivers various individuals who at times one might least expect to be agents of evil.

This is a very difficult subject for anyone to consider. Have you ever encountered people who sincerely think that they are speaking for God—but are in actuality quite deceived? Many, at times, may not even know that they have been deceived, but truly believe that they speak for God. They might have “heard a voice” or “had a vision” or “received a call,” which they will swear is definitely from the Most High. Such self-deceived prophets can be some of the most difficult to encounter, because they speak their words with great personal conviction and authority. If you have ever been exposed to people like this, you can probably understand how convincing they are to the naïve and spiritually immature. But this does not excuse any of us from blindly following words, which may take us away from the Instruction of God—and most especially the salvation of Messiah Yeshua.

To make things even more difficult, some of the false prophets and dreamers will actually be known for various “signs and wonders,” that accompany their messages. Once someone has personally witnessed a so-called sign or wonder, the perceived credibility of the prophet or dreamer is elevated in the eyes of the witness. People then naturally have a tendency to let their spiritual and mental defenses down, and they begin to believe the words of the false prophet. Critical thinking skills and healthy skepticism then get jettisoned.

Once a degree of credibility for a false prophet or dreamer is attained, insidious teaching is introduced. This can be very confusing to many (supposed) Believers, because visible signs and wonders are difficult to refute. But the evidence that God is moving, should not be in signs and wonders. The evidence is found in whether or not people are being drawn to God—or to a human being. Is this not what Yeshua Himself warned His Disciples about?

“For false messiahs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24).

False signs and wonders are just a part of God’s testing program for the saints. But did you notice that Yeshua said that even His chosen ones can be susceptible to false signs and wonders? This is a dire warning to any of us who are truly seeking God, as we all must constantly be on guard and alert. Interestingly, as a way to combat these temptations, Moses repeats aspects of an admonition that we saw in Ekev last week:

“You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name” (Deuteronomy 10:20).

Moses repeats elements of this command once again, when challenged by the words of false prophets, who will knowingly or unknowingly direct people away from the true worship and service of the Holy One:

“You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him” (Deuteronomy 13:4).

It appears that by following the Lord, fearing Him, keeping His commandments, listening to His voice, serving Him, and clinging to Him—that one should be able to avoid most of the pitfalls of the deception that will inevitably come to every generation of those who follow Him. While the Torah says that false prophets and dreamers will be dealt with by just retribution, there is another group of tempters who will come, and hit much closer to home. These are one’s immediate relatives, who are once again sent to test our allegiance to God:

“If your brother, your mother’s son, or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul, entice you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods’ (whom neither you nor your fathers have known, of the gods of the peoples who are around you, near you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other end), you shall not yield to him or listen to him; and your eye shall not pity him, nor shall you spare or conceal him. But you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people” (Deuteronomy 13:8-11).

These admonitions are very severe. Moses describes that the temptations to deviate from God’s Instruction may come from people like your blood brother, your natural son, your natural daughter, your cherished wife, or your best friend. They might not exhibit the same dedication that you have to the Lord, and may therefore tempt you to follow after other gods or objects for your spiritual affection. The requirement to deal with such temptation is unbelievably personal in nature. Not only are you not to yield to the temptations issued or listen to them, but you are also not to spare or conceal the attempts of the tempter to steer you toward idols. The original instruction in the Torah is that those deceived were to be the ones who first put the tempters to death. This exemplifies, at least, how serious deception can be.

God is absolutely concerned about the subtle ability of loved ones to turn people away from loving Him. Remember that He is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5; 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24; 5:9; 6:15). God expects us to love Him more than we do our own family members.

For many, this admonition is difficult to swallow. After all, our parents, spouses, children, and siblings are the closest tangible living beings who warrant much of our attention and love. The concept of actually initiating punishment upon them, if and when they take us away from the wholesale love of the Creator, does not make logical sense. In fact, in the balance of the Scriptures, we do not have one recorded event where capital punishment is executed upon a loved one, because their influence enticed someone away from the worship of God. Is killing one’s son or best friend what Moses is actually saying—or is he using this as an hyperbole, to make a point that absolute love and commitment toward God is what is required? Even the idea of entering into a form of self-imposed exile or banishment away from one’s loved ones, who are deceivers, is tough to think about.

If we examine our own hearts honestly enough, we may also see that we tend to personally choose to love ourselves more than we love God. Do we ever punish ourselves for not loving God as much as we should?

How should we understand some of the difficult words that we see in our Torah portion? As I thought about these words, I could not imagine that our Heavenly Father truly wants us to put to death, those in our immediate family who have somehow been used to (temporarily) draw us away from Him. Certainly as Believers in Yeshua, who have been redeemed from our sins and recognize that He has absorbed the required capital penalty upon Himself in our stead (cf. Colossians 2:14), there has to be an important lesson that we can learn here.

Since my initial salvation experience in 1978, I have been investing a great deal of time in prayer for those in my family who do not know the Lord. In my commitment to Yeshua, I have hoped and prayed that my testimony of change would encourage my loved ones to consider who He is. Somehow I think, these instructions of Moses must be understood in the light of what the Messiah clarifies in His ministry and sacrifice for fallen humanity. Certainly since stoning my loved ones is not an option, perhaps Yeshua’s words can bring clarity to what Moses instructed Ancient Israel.

Consider Yeshua’s statements about His mother and brothers, while ministering to those in desperate need of deliverance from evil spirits:

“While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. Someone said to Him, ‘Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.’ But Yeshua answered the one who was telling Him and said, ‘Who is My mother and who are My brothers?’ And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, ‘Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother’” (Matthew 12:46-50).

Yeshua knew that Mary and His half-brothers were trying to speak with Him. And yet, here He stated that the true “mother and brothers” are those who do the will of His Heavenly Father. Those who do the will of the Heavenly Father will actually be more closely “related,” as it were, to the Messiah than blood relatives. Yeshua expanded the breadth of God’s family to those who seek to perform His will.

Perhaps you can understand this principle when you consider some of the relationships you have with others who you are spiritually connected with. Lamentably, I can think of many Believers whom I feel closer to in the Messiah, than some of my own blood relatives. This does not give us an excuse for “stoning” our relatives with our words of unfair condemnation or rebuke, but instead should be a greater incentive for us to pray and intercede for their salvation. We need to remember that our patient God of love desires that no one should perish, but rather come to the knowledge of the truth through repentance:

“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

As I ponder these words, I am personally convicted that my time in prayer for my loved ones has waned in recent years. Perhaps by looking at these passages from the Torah, the Holy One is prompting me to increase with fervency my petitions for their repentance?

Most of us can identify with the challenges of praying for loved ones, especially if the fruit of our prayers is lacking. Let me encourage you to spend some more time in prayer for their redemption. Furthermore, consider what it truly takes for you to be considered Yeshua’s disciple:

“But He said to him, ‘A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, “Come; for everything is ready now.” But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, “I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.” Another one said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.” Another one said, “I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.” And the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, “Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.” And the slave said, “Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.” And the master said to the slave, “Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.” Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.” Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear’” (Luke 14:16-35).

Yeshua used a parable to describe the complete surrender that is required by the faithful, to become a disciple of His and enter into His Kingdom. There are some important parallels between this and what we see in this week’s Torah portion.

In this parable, the master who prepares a large banquet is like our Heavenly Father, who is calling all who will listen, to come and partake. In many respects, this is an invitation for all who would hear, to become a part of His Kingdom. Note that this host sends out his servants to invite all who would hear, that they are to attend the meal. This could be compared to the Lord using various servants like Moses, and also the Prophets, to make declarations about what is required to maintain a proper relationship with the Creator God. Or to personalize this parable and make it applicable to our own walks of faith, this can mean that each one of us is called out to invite others into God’s Kingdom. Are we not all called to be witnesses of the hope that is within us (cf. 1 Peter 3:15)?

In this parable, the results of inviting different people to the banquet are explained. As is noted, many have excuses for not attending. Some are caught up in the business affairs of the world. Others have recently married, and are more concerned about their honeymoon and relationship building with their new spouse. If you have ever shared the good news of the Messiah, you know many of the excuses that people use to avoid what is required to come to a true salvation experience.

The host tells his servants to take the invitation to the people on the highways and byways of the world. We see from this how if those who are near and dear to you do not respond to the invitation, then the Heavenly Father will extend His invitation to those who are lame, blind, and crippled. The less fortunate ones, those who are down and out—who know that they are in desperate need—are those who will definitely respond to the invitation. Generally speaking, this has been the history of the gospel as it has been proclaimed since the time of the Apostles.

Then Yeshua brings another difficult word to His listeners, which in some respects is reminiscent of what Moses speaks about in this week’s parashah, about how to deal with close family members. However, Yeshua’s words are not only about the temptations that come from loved ones who might turn you away from the Father, but even your own personal proclivity to wander away from placing Him first in your life. It is in the context of inviting people into the banquet, or by extension into the Kingdom of God, that Yeshua makes it perfectly clear what is required to become His disciple. It is on this point that too many people balk:

“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26-27).

But what is this just supposed to mean? Just like Moses says that family members or close friends who take us away from God were to be stoned—could Yeshua likewise be using shock language? He probably is, as “hatred” for people is not a personality trait of the Holy One. Yet, the truth of the matter is that the presence of any human being in our lives—a spouse, a child, a sibling, or a parent—can impede our relationship with the Lord. What Yeshua says is that a person must place his or her love and allegiance to Him as Messiah, above his or her love for one’s family members—or even one’s very own life.

Of course, this does not occur until you realize that before a holy and righteous God, you are totally bankrupt in your trespasses and sins. Remember that there is no one who is righteous:

“What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one’” (Romans 3:9-12; cf. Psalm 14, 53).

We do not have the human ability to perfectly follow the commandments of God—and this is why we all need a Savior. Paul did not mince words when he included “both Jews and Greeks” as those who were “under sin.”

Being honest with yourself is critical no matter what your heritage is. For those who think that they might be righteous of themselves, because they “follow the commandments,” the clarifying words of Yeshua to the people gathered around the adulterous woman need to be recalled: “He who is without sin cast the first stone” (John 8:7). Obviously, if you realize your sinful nature, you will not even consider picking up a stone to unwarrantedly condemn another.

Thankfully, our example for living is found in Yeshua the Messiah. He endured the same human difficulties that we all face, but was able to overcome them because He lacked the fallen nature that we have inherited in fallen Adam:

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Yeshua the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16).

When we consider what Yeshua had to go through for us, enduring great trial, we likewise need to be reminded about the need to count the cost of discipleship:

“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Luke 14:27-35).

Here, Yeshua essentially says that it may cost you all that you have in order to follow Him. It will certainly cost you your entire life, your various habits, your creature comforts, and how you relate to others—if you are going to be a true disciple of the Messiah of Israel. Understanding what Moses has to say this week in Re’eih, and what Yeshua declared to His listeners, can be summarized by the Messiah’s last statement: “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!” (NLT). Thankfully, as Believers filled with the Holy Spirit who is to be instructing us, while challenging us, following the Lord should not be as difficult as we think.

The Apostle Paul makes it abundantly clear that when we come to the end of ourselves and take on the life of the Messiah, that we have, in essence, exchanged our life for His:

“For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Messiah; and it is no longer I who live, but Messiah lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:19-20).

Notice that it is through the knowledge of the Torah that one is to die to the Law. It is not God’s Instruction that becomes nullified in the life of a person, but it is violation of the Torah that affects one’s spiritual death. Paul clarifies this reality, stating:

“I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me…Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Messiah Yeshua” (Romans 7:9-10; 8:1).

Thankfully, each one of us has been released from the condemnation of the Torah through the atoning work of Yeshua. On its own, all the Torah can do is show us how sinful we are before God, and condemn us. When we die to the Law, we do not die to its standard of holiness and proper conduct, but to its penalties pronounced against us as unrepentant sinners. This comes through the regenerative work of Yeshua, which reconciles us to the Father, and now enables us to obey the Lord through the power of the Holy Spirit.

We must identify with the sacrifice of the Messiah, and trust in His work to cover our sins. By faith in the blood atonement provided by the Son of God, each one of us can become a servant of the Most High, and allow the Holy Spirit to walk out Yeshua’s life through us. This is a great mystery, of course, but it is clearly what the whole counsel of God’s Word communicates.

To connect this with what I opened up with from Deuteronomy, we must recognize that the Apostles were fully aware that lawlessness was at work in their generation. They constantly battled with false teachers and false prophets, who deceived the early Messianic Believers. Paul specifically warned the Thessalonicans about the ultimate man of lawlessness, the antimessiah/antichrist, and the strong delusion that God Himself would send to see if His people would at all be loyal to Him:

“For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:7-13).

We are once again reminded that at some future point in time, a man of lawlessness will be empowered by Satan himself to deceive the world. But note that people will not necessarily be deceived by his signs, exclusively. These people will be deceived because they did not wish to believe in the truth of salvation. The salvation experience that requires one to be fully humbled before a holy and righteous God, never took place in the lives of these people.

This is a frightening prospect, because there are many professing Believers today who claim to be followers of Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), but who may not have the fruit of God’s Holy Spirit present in their lives to actually substantiate it. (Thankfully, it is not our job to determine their salvation—but only God’s.) Those who are led astray in the final days, however, are actually going to be sent a “strong delusion” (2 Thessalonians 2:11, KJV) by God Himself. We need to be brought to our knees to pray for anyone who might be led astray by this—or any deception. Even if the antimessiah/antichrist does not arrive on the scene for quite some time, there is undoubtedly a deception opposed to the Messiah Yeshua—growing in today’s world—which will eventually culminate in the arrival of the beast system. For as the Apostle John reminds us, “many antimessiahs have appeared” (1 John 2:18).

Let me conclude with this admonition as you ponder these words: Check to see that you are in the faith! Remember how the Apostle Paul steadily reminded his fellow followers of the Messiah with these words:

“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Messiah Yeshua is in you—unless indeed you fail the test? But I trust that you will realize that we ourselves do not fail the test” (2 Corinthians 13:5-6).

For all of our lives, we are each going to be tested from within and without. My prayer is that no one who reads or hears these words will fail the test!

Colossians and Philemon for the Practical Messianic

The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon are two of the most overlooked letters in the Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament) by today’s Messianic community. Too frequently, our engagement level with Colossians is limited to words that Paul issues about Torah practices like Sabbath-keeping or kosher eating or about something being nailed to the cross. Because Christian friends and family often use partial quotes from Colossians to refute Messianic Believers who are Torah observant, we often try to avoid Paul’s letter. And like many of today’s evangelical Christians, Paul’s letter to Philemon is totally avoided, simply because we do not know what to do with the issue of slavery. Ignoring these two letters cannot be allowed to continue any longer.

Colossians and Philemon, two letters of Paul written together, are actually not too difficult to understand when read as a whole—and when we consciously make a point to interpret them for their original, First Century audiences first. What was the false teaching circulating among the Believers in Ancient Colossae? Was it first Jewish, and then pagan—or first pagan, and then Jewish? When the Apostle Paul uplifts Messiah Yeshua, is he simply claiming that He is like the impersonal force Wisdom—or something much more than Wisdom? Does Paul really affirm Yeshua as being the Deity—God Himself incarnated as a human? How were things like the Sabbath and appointed times improperly used by the false teachers in an ascetic philosophy designed to appeal to the cosmic powers over which the Messiah had prevailed? What can we learn about the mystery of the ages, and how the power of the gospel can change anyone? What role does a letter like Philemon play in our reading of the Bible?

In the commentary Colossians and Philemon for the Practical Messianic, Messianic Apologetics editor J.K. McKee shows us why today’s Messianic Believers need not be afraid of these two letters any more. A wide array of scholastic opinion is considered in regard to these two texts, especially the various proposals made about the false teaching that disrupted the Believers in Colossae. Contemporary applications for some negative trends being witnessed in today’s Messianic movement are also proposed, especially in terms of the false philosophy and worship of angels refuted by Paul. Colossians and Philemon are both important letters for us to understand, as today’s Messianic community strives to move forward in its reading of the Pauline Epistles.

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