He assembled

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



Exodus 38:21-40:38
1 Kings 7:51-8:21 (A); 7:40-50 (S)

“The Glory of Faith and Works”

by Mark Huey

This week’s Torah reading completes the Book of Exodus, with the final two readings being studied. For a substantial part of the selection, the instructions given to Moses for the construction of the Tabernacle, furnishings, and its components, are essentially a reiteration of the details which have been previously considered (Exodus 35:10-40-33). Apparently, the command to build a formal dwelling place for the Holy One of Israel was of such significance for the chosen people of God, that Moses repeated the specifications for it. After the failings of the golden calf resulted in the execution of some three thousand faithless rebels, Moses and the artisans returned to the work at hand. After an additional forty days and forty nights in the presence of the Lord, the radiating facial appearance of Moses helped further convince the remaining Israelites, that the instructions he was conveying were directly from the Holy One, as noted in the closing verses of the previous parashah:

“Then Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the rulers in the congregation returned to him; and Moses spoke to them. Afterward all the sons of Israel came near, and he commanded them to do everything that the LORD had spoken to him on Mount Sinai. When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with Him, he would take off the veil until he came out; and whenever he came out and spoke to the sons of Israel what he had been commanded, the sons of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone. So Moses would replace the veil over his face until he went in to speak with Him” (Exodus 34:31-35).

With the trauma of violent death having permeated the encampment, the visible reminder that Moses was intimately communicating with the Almighty, prompted the Israelites to respond with willing hearts, as they were stirred to contribute the materials needed for the Tabernacle. Those people, endowed with supernatural skills, were given the opportunity to finally exercise their faith in the Holy One, by completing the work as prescribed:

“Then Moses assembled all the congregation of the sons of Israel, and said to them, ‘These are the things that the LORD has commanded you to do: For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a holy day, a sabbath of complete rest to the LORD; whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. You shall not kindle a fire in any of your dwellings on the sabbath day.’ Moses spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, ‘This is the thing which the LORD has commanded, saying, ‘Take from among you a contribution to the LORD; whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as the LORD’s contribution: gold, silver, and bronze, and blue, purple and scarlet material, fine linen, goats’ hair, and rams’ skins dyed red, and porpoise skins, and acacia wood, and oil for lighting, and spices for the anointing oil, and for the fragrant incense, and onyx stones and setting stones for the ephod and for the breastpiece. Let every skillful man among you come, and make all that the Lord has commanded” (Exodus 35:1-10).

However, before Moses rested these instructions, there was a key reminder that remembering the Sabbath during the construction of the Tabernacle was not to be abandoned. As important as it would be for the Tabernacle to be assembled, so that God could dwell in the presence of His people—He still desired His people to rest (cf. Exodus 31:13-17).

While reconsidering the different elements of the Tabernacle and the priestly garments, in light of the prohibition to work on the Sabbath, from this week’s Torah reading—it is significant to note the unique intersection of faithful obedience to a command, and the completion of human works resulting in the presence of the glory of the Lord. For assuredly, when the Book of Exodus comes to a close describing the “finished” work of the Tabernacle, there was the incredible blessing of the “glory of the Lord” residing in the midst of the Israelites throughout their desert journeys:

“From it Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands and their feet. When they entered the tent of meeting, and when they approached the altar, they washed, just as the LORD had commanded Moses. He erected the court all around the tabernacle and the altar, and hung up the veil for the gateway of the court. Thus Moses finished the work. Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the sons of Israel would set out; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day when it was taken up. For throughout all their journeys, the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and there was fire in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel” (Exodus 40:31-38).

Glory or Glorify?

In many regards, the description of the blessing of the “glory of the Lord” filling the Tabernacle could be taken as an example of faith and works combining—in what was then among the Ancient Israelites, a tangible manifestation of God. However, over the course of time, the visible evidence of the “glory of the Lord” has no longer centered on a transportable Tabernacle. Instead, since the resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah, the Holy Spirit of God has taken up universal residence in the hearts of God’s people, which “glorify the Lord” in their actions:

“Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16).

Modern-day Messiah followers can vaguely imagine the majesty of the “glory of the Lord,” filling the desert Tabernacle. The days of the Ancient Israelites, fearfully observing the presence of the Lord, has largely shifted to faithful Believers willingly allowing the Holy One to accomplish His will through their works. There is now a definite, personal responsibility to “glorify the Lord” through faithful acts of obedience, the good works that Yeshua requires of each of us, as they emulate His fulfillment of the Torah:

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:16-19).

If someone has truly been born from above, indwelt by the Spirit of God, and given a measure of faith (Romans 12:3)—there should be a heartfelt willingness to want to obey the Torah (which has not been abolished or nullified). Such a trusting obedience to the commandments of God should evidence itself in faith, combined with good works, which together ultimately brings glory to the Lord. In his epistle, James the Just specified how it was faith combined with his works, that reckoned Abraham righteous. Faith alone was not enough, because only by demonstrating the right actions could Abraham be truly said to have faith:

“What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, ‘You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.’ You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS’ [Genesis 15:6], and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (James 2:14-26).

While this passage from James is commonly quoted to emphasize the relation that faith and works have together, Paul’s teaching is not at all devoid of an emphasis on faith and works. In his letter to Believers in Asia Minor, Paul stated that eternal salvation only comes from grace and not from works—but that we have been created to walk in good works, surely something resultant of salvation:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Notice that in God’s sovereign will for humanity, He has actually chosen certain faithful people to glorify Him, by performing good works that were prepared beforehand that they should walk in them. This can refer to artisans like Bezalel and Oholiab (Exodus 31), who had the privilege and God-given skill to help assemble the Tabernacle. It can also surely refer to the Prophets, the Apostles, or for that matter, a multitude of people down through the ages who have been used for critical tasks to glorify the Lord—especially by bringing others to Himself.


As we come to the end of the Book of Exodus, in considering this week’s reading and trying to imagine the majesty of the glory of the Lord residing in and around the Tabernacle—it would be beneficial to make a personal assessment of just how we are individually seeking to glorify the Lord. After all, since through the ages, the Lord has chosen to use mere mortals to bring glory to Him through their faithful works—we each should take some time to introspectively challenge ourselves, to see that we are fulfilling our God-ordained destinies.

  • Are we truly walking by faith?
  • Are we living and walking by sight?
  • Are we obeying the commandments of God? Or are we trying to pick and choose which to obey?
  • Are we willfully available to let the Lord use us for His glory? Or are we seeking personal glory?
  • Are we doing the good works prepared for us to do? Or are we avoiding works due to selfishness?
  • Are we glorifying the Lord in our marriages, family, and relationships?
  • Are we glorifying the Lord in our neighborhoods and the marketplace?

This sampling of questions only scratches the surface of personal self-examination. More can be added to the above list, but what is most critical is taking the time as admonished by Paul in his instruction to the Corinthians, to test and examine ourselves so we might bring glory to the Lord:

“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves that Yeshua the Messiah is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

May we each be strengthened in our resolve to glorify the Lord, by our faithful works to persevere to the end!

Controversies Involving Biblical and Jewish Holidays as a Messianic Believer – February 2018 OIM News


February 2018

At the conclusion of this month on the 14th of Adar (February 28th), the worldwide Jewish and Messianic Jewish communities will be observing the Feast of Purim (Esther 9:26-32). The Book of Esther is typically read or reflected upon through plays or skits, and the reader of the megillah or scroll of Esther discovers how one wicked person, Haman, was almost able—except for the providential protection of the Almighty One—to annihilate the Jewish population of the Persian Empire. How could this near tragedy occur, you might ask? As I reflected upon that possibility, in light of what has been transpiring in the United States government in recent years, I saw some distinct parallels.

First, I was reminded of how the “evil tongue” or lashon hara (slander, lies, mistruths, etc.) was effectively used to incite the possible murder of untold thousands of Jewish souls, by one anti-Semitic individual placed high in Persian government circles. In the following passage, because Mordecai the Jew would not bow down to Haman, Haman cleverly convinced Persian King Ahasuerus that all of the Jews must be destroyed because they “did not observe the king’s laws.” Clearly in his lust for power, Haman twisted the truth, as he over-zealously concluded that everyone must pay homage and bow to him:

“Day after day, they spoke to him but he would not listen to them. Therefore they told Haman in order to see whether Mordecai’s resolve would prevail, for he had told them that he was a Jew. When Haman saw that Mordecai was not bowing down or paying him honor, Haman was filled with rage. But it was repugnant in his eyes to lay hands on Mordecai alone, for they had told him the identity of Mordecai’s people. So Haman sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, who were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus. In the first month (that is the month of Nisan), in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, they cast the pur (that is, ‘the lot’) in the presence of Haman from day to day and month to month, up to the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar. Haman then said to King Ahasuerus: ‘There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom whose laws differ from those of every other people and who do not obey the king’s laws. It is not in the king’s interest to tolerate them. If it pleases the king, let an edict be written to destroy them. I will pay 10,000 talents of silver into the hands of those who carry out this business, to put it into the king’s treasuries.’ The king took his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman—son of Hammedatha the Agagite—enemy of the Jews. The king said to Haman, ‘The silver and the people are yours—do with them as you please’” (Esther 3:4-11, TLV).

Secondly, I was reminded in the concluding words of the B’shalach Torah portion (Exodus 13:17-17:16) that Israel will continually struggle with the physical, and apparently also, spiritual descendants, of Amalek, from generation to generation:

“So Joshua overpowered the Amalekites and his army with the edge of the sword. ADONAI said to Moses, ‘Write this for a memorial in the book, and rehearse it in the hearing of Joshua, for I will utterly blot out the memory of the Amalekites from under heaven.’ Then Moses built an altar, and called the name of it ADONAI-Nissi. Then he said, ‘By the hand upon the throne of ADONAI, ADONAI Adonai will have war with Amalek from generation to generation’” (Exodus 17:13-16, TLV).

This memory took me to 1 Samuel 15, where the graphic description of King Saul’s defeat of the Amalekites is chronicled. But lamentably, Saul does not immediately execute Agag, the king of the Amalekites, but spared him until the Prophet Samuel arrived on the scene. In the following selected passages, the consequences of disobedience are recorded:

“Then Saul struck down the Amalekites from Havilah until you come to Shur, which is close to Egypt. He captured King Agag of Amalek alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag as well as the best of the sheep, the cattle, even the fatlings and the lambs, and all that was good, since they were not willing to utterly destroy them; everything that was worthless and feeble, they destroyed completely” (1 Samuel 15:7-9, TLV).

“‘But I did obey the voice of ADONAI,’ Saul said to Samuel. ‘I went on the mission on which ADONAI sent me, and brought back Agag the king of Amalek—and utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took some of the spoil, sheep and oxen—the best of what was under the ban of destruction—to sacrifice to ADONAI your God in Gilgal.’ Samuel said: ‘Does ADONAI delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of ADONAI? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, to pay heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination and stubbornness is like iniquity and idolatry. Since you have rejected ADONAI’s word, He has also rejected you as king’” (1 Samuel 15:20-23, TLV).

“Then Samuel said, ‘Bring me Agag the king of Amalek.’ Agag approached him in chains, thinking, ‘Surely bitter death has turned back.’ Then Samuel said, ‘As your sword has made women childless, so will your mother be childless among women.’ Then Samuel cut Agag into pieces before ADONAI in Gilgal” (1 Samuel 15:32-33, TLV).

The result of this encounter was not only Saul losing his kingship, but the Jewish Sages have widely concluded that during Agag’s brief reprieve from death, he had relations with a woman who was a direct ancestor of the aforementioned Haman. Hence, Saul’s lack of obedience perpetuated further physical, and I might add, spiritual troubles, upon the Jewish people down through the centuries.

In addition, by recalling God’s instructions to blot out the memory of the Amalekites, every time the name of Haman is mentioned during annual Purim plays, the audience hisses, boos, or uses noisemakers to derisively mock this wicked enemy of the Jews:

“Remember what Amalek did to you along the way as you came out from Egypt—how he happened upon you along the way and attacked those among you in the rear, all the stragglers behind you, when you were tired and weary—he did not fear God. Now when ADONAI your God grants you rest from all the enemies surrounding you in the land ADONAI your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, you are to blot out the memory of Amalek from under the heavens. Do not forget!” (Deuteronomy 25:17-19, TLV).

So how do the recollections, of these ancient words and the existence of the spirit of Amalek, apply to today’s challenges in the American government? Obviously, the Apostolic Writings give Believers more insight into the invisible spiritual warfare which has been persistent from the very Garden of Eden, as noted in these statements of the Apostle Paul:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you are able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the worldly forces of this darkness, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:10-12, TLV).

Here Paul describes the invisible, yet discernible schemes of the Devil, which are being orchestrated by “the angelic Rulers, the angelic Authorities, the potentates of the dark present, the spirit-forces of evil in the heavenly sphere” (Moffat New Testament). When one breaks down these four distinct entities, it is abundantly clear that Satan, the enemy of our souls—coupled with the world and the flesh—is a worthy adversary. But Paul earlier has also described the prince of the power of air, who is working through vessels of disobedience, to thwart God’s chosen with lies and distortions through the very airwaves used for communication:

“You were dead in your trespasses and sins. At that time, you walked in the way of this world, in conformity to the ruler of the domain of the air—the ruler of the spirit who is now operating in the sons of disobedience. We too all lived among them in the cravings of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and the mind. By nature we were children of wrath, just like the others” (Ephesians 2:1-3, TLV).

It is my contention that the Evil One is using willing accomplices in the various media outlets to spread lies, slander, and misinformation about certain people in leadership using the technological tools currently available. The distortions of character and the blatant lies are difficult to hear over and over. Certain media outlets are making false statements and claims, which are obviously coordinated, because they use the same phrases and words in what has been labeled a “mockingbird” pattern.

So brothers and sisters here is a warning! The same spirit of Amalek (an agent of HaSatan) which attempted to destroy the Jewish people in ancient times, is still seeking to rob, steal, and destroy whomever it can. It seeks to control through perverting the truth. It is alive and well on Planet Earth, circling in the airwaves, desiring to distort justice and create confusion and mistrust wherever it can. So with all this in mind, it is highly recommended that we all pray—like in the days of Esther—and ask for discernment regarding what we hear and see from the multitude of powers and forces that are working constantly to gain our attention, and if possible, our allegiance. We do indeed need to put on the armor of God in order to ward off the wiles of the Devil (Ephesians 6:10-20). May the Holy One of Israel have mercy on each of us, our families, friends, and most especially the Body of Messiah in these trying days!

Chag Samaech Purim!

Mark Huey

Controversies Involving Biblical and Jewish Holidays as a Messianic Believer

by J.K. McKee

For people throughout the broad Messianic movement, the appointed times or moedim of the Torah, and the various traditional Jewish holidays and commemorations, are significant moments of celebration, enrichment, and enlightenment. Jewish Believers in Israel’s Messiah are often reconnecting with deeply significant traditions and customs, practiced not only by their ancestors, but by their immediate family which has yet to recognize Yeshua. Non-Jewish Believers called by God, into the Messianic movement, are embracing things which were practiced by Yeshua and His first followers. When the Biblical and Jewish holidays take place, these are supposed to be seasons of great personal, familial, and congregational unity and spiritual growth. As we reflect upon what the Lord has done in the past, we are to all embody the Psalmist’s grand word, “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1, NRSV).

A majority of you who commemorate the Biblical and Jewish holidays experience precisely this: a sense of spiritual fulfillment and unity when they appear in the annual cycle. Yet, it would be entirely inappropriate to introduce you to the appointed times, without also letting you know that these can be periods of division and discord within the Messianic community. Many of you all already know this to be the case, if for any other reason because you have volunteered at your local Messianic congregation or fellowship to help, in some capacity, during the Fall high holidays or with the congregational Passover seder. You probably got a quick lesson in how it is one thing to remember the Biblical and Jewish holidays within the privacy of your own home; it is another thing to remember the Biblical and Jewish holidays in a much larger venue of people who have opinions about the “right way” things are to be done.

Unnecessary divisions and tensions are a part of human living, and whenever you have to help out, usually behind the scenes, with a large group of people remembering something important—it is inevitable that an incident of some kind will take place. This especially involves gatherings where large quantities of food have to be prepared and served, different people have been asked to cook the same item, but each has probably altered a recipe here or there to his or her liking. For a great number of you remembering the Biblical and Jewish holidays at a congregational level, the controversies you will encounter are likely to be involved with the logistical details of how a larger gathering of people can get the most out of them.

I wish all of the controversies involving the Biblical and Jewish holidays in today’s Messianic movement solely concerned “the menu” of traditional foods and recipes offered at congregational gatherings. Most of the controversies involving the holidays actually tend to concern individual people investigating particular aspects or components of a season, either on their own or usually via some Internet source, which challenges a traditional Jewish understanding. While the Messianic Jewish movement, because of its affirmation of Yeshua as Israel’s Messiah, has certainly challenged traditional views of the Synagogue—a wide array of traditional Jewish practices and customs are still observed. In our information age, though, it is very easy for those involved in a Messianic congregation to see the appointed times observed according to a philo-traditional model, but then have such a model either criticized or condemned, by encountering some online media. While not always offered by those within the independent Hebrew/Hebraic Roots movement—and sometimes even presented by evangelical Christians opposed to Messianic Judaism—those who tend to challenge Messianic Jewish employment of mainline Jewish traditions and approaches to the appointed times, are not too concerned with the Messianic movement’s original vision of Jewish outreach, evangelism, and Israel solidarity.

Titus 3:9 does astutely communicate, “avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about Torah, for they are unprofitable and useless” (TLV). Yet at the same time, whether it be the weekly Shabbat service, or seasons such as the Fall high holidays or the Passover—the appointed times tend to be the major periods when one’s local Messianic Jewish congregation is able to reach out to the Jewish community with the good news of Yeshua. You need to know what a number of the common controversies associated with the Biblical and Jewish holidays are, so when you encounter them, you can not only not be disturbed—but you can help stop potential problems before they start. Our list is by no means extensive, but will highlight some of the most common problems you are likely to witness.

The Sabbath Debate

Whether various leaders and teachers want to publicly admit it or not, the fact that today’s Messianic movement holds its main worship services on Saturday, in observance of the seventh-day Sabbath as prescribed in the Fourth Commandment (Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15), immediately places it in conflict with most of the worldwide Body of Messiah.

An honest reading of the Gospels and Book of Acts will reveal that Yeshua the Messiah and His first followers, observed the seventh-day Sabbath or Shabbat—although Yeshua did come into conflict from time to time with how various Jewish religious leaders and Pharisees applied various Sabbath regulations. As Yeshua poignantly asked, “Is it permitted on Shabbat to do good or to do evil, to save a life or to kill?” (Mark 3:4, TLV). The Sabbath keeping of Yeshua of Nazareth was one where it was permitted to perform the good deeds of the Kingdom of Heaven, and the Messiah is indeed witnessed performing significant acts of healing and restoration to people on Shabbat. Later, it is said of a figure like the Apostle Paul, “As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures” (Acts 17:2, 2011 NIV). Rather than abandon the institution of the Sabbath as a result of his Messiah faith, Paul used the weekly Shabbat service as a venue by which he could go to a Jewish synagogue, and declare Yeshua as Israel’s Messiah from the Tanach Scriptures.

While there are varied reasons given by modern evangelical Protestants, the most common claims issued for why the seventh-day Sabbath is not observed by most Christians any more are either: (1) The discovery of the empty tomb of Yeshua by Sunday morning necessitates a Divinely-approved transfer of the seventh-day Sabbath to the first day of the week, Sunday. Or, (2) the seventh-day Sabbath has been abolished for the post-resurrection era. Non-Jewish Believers in today’s Messianic movement, as well as many Messianic Jewish leaders trained in Protestant institutions, have been exposed enough to both of these points of view. More frequently than not, Christian people who are supportive of the Messianic movement as a means for Jewish evangelism, will come from a (dispensational) theological framework which approaches the seventh-day Sabbath as an institution which was only intended for Ancient Israel of the past, and not for the worldwide Body of Messiah in the present. Still, even though thinking that the seventh-day Sabbath was a thing of the past, such people will pragmatically recognize that Messianic congregations holding their services on Saturday is an appropriate way to attract Jewish non-Believers to the gospel—certainly in a way that a church which holds its services on Sunday will broadly be incapable of doing.

While it is doubtlessly true that Messianic congregations holding their services on Saturday should attract Jewish people who need to hear the good news of Israel’s Messiah—today’s Messianic community broadly does not think that the only reason why Shabbat is to be observed, is for matters of Jewish outreach. In the future Millennium, the seventh-day Sabbath is unambiguously to be enforced as a mandatory, worldwide observance (Isaiah 66:23), and today we are to largely represent such future realities in our present conduct, as we are able. Shabbat is a time to rest from our labors, commune with God and with one another, and to truly enter into a period of intimacy and union with our Creator. And for many Messianic people, Shabbat truly is a time of physical rest and spiritual refreshment. Attending one’s Shabbat service on Saturday becomes something that many Messianic people look forward to—not just because it is a significant time for worshipping the Lord and for studying the Scriptures—but often because it is the social highlight of the week, where we get to fellowship with fellow brothers and sisters in the Messiah.

Many Messianic people have learned how to carefully interact with Christian people who do not keep the seventh-day Sabbath. They recognize that the focus of our common faith is to be the atoning sacrifice of Yeshua of Nazareth, and rather than condemn those who disregard Shabbat or think it was changed to Sunday—they prefer to invite Christian friends and colleagues to their Messianic congregation on Shabbat, so they can see what makes the Shabbat experience much different than Sunday church. For many, the close community of a Messianic congregation, centered around its weekly service on Saturday, can do more to get people to see the value of Shabbat than any theological argument.

There are scores of Internet teachings out there which over-emphasize how the first day of the week was used in ancient paganism as a religious day—but most Protestants think that Sunday church originated much earlier, in the time of the Apostles (cf. Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2). Yet, few are informed enough from either study of the Scripture or contemporary examinations, that it has been challenged as to whether or not some sporadic references to the “first of the week” seen in the Apostolic Writings (New Testament) are actually the beginnings of what would become “Sunday church.” What if various “first of the week” gatherings actually took place on Saturday evening, per ancient Jewish reckoning of time where the new day would begin in the evening—and such gatherings were more reminiscent of havdallah, the ceremony that closes out the Sabbath?

While it is true that by the early-to-mid Second Century C.E., with the death of the Jewish apostles and their major successors, that the ekklēsia largely abandoned the seventh-day Sabbath in favor of Sunday activities—pockets of Christians over many centuries are witnessed to have observed the seventh-day Sabbath as a Creation institution (cf. Genesis 2:2-3). As the shackles of Catholicism were being thrown off, the issue of Sabbatarianism arose in the Protestant Reformation, although most Protestants believing in the continuance of a Sabbath-principle from the Fourth Commandment were actually seen to practice semi-Sabbatarianism—with the Sabbath believed to be changed from Saturday to Sunday. Still, various groups ranging from the Seventh-Day Baptists to the Seventh-Day Adventists have kept the discussion of the validity of the seventh-day Sabbath alive and well in the world of theology. Various resources of note have been released over the past several decades, in favor of, and against, the continuance of the seventh-day Sabbath.[1]

In our external relations, today’s Messianic movement is going to have debates with others about the seventh-day Sabbath. And, there are certainly some significant discussions which have taken place in theological quarters about the ongoing importance of Shabbat. Yet for many of us, we see the Sabbath as a great gift given to people by our Creator, a gift that far too many have dismissed or rejected. So, in our keeping of Shabbat, let us be forever mindful of the famed admonition of Isaiah 58:13-14,

“‘If you turn back your foot from Shabbat, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call Shabbat a delight, the holy day of ADONAI honorable, if you honor it, not going your own ways, not seeking your own pleasure, nor speaking your usual speech, then You will delight yourself in ADONAI, and I will let you ride over the heights of the earth, I will feed you with the heritage of your father Jacob.’ For the mouth of ADONAI has spoken” (TLV).

The Calendar Debate

One of the biggest controversies—which always tends to erupt at the most inconvenient time for Messianic congregational leaders and teachers—involves the Biblical calendar. The appointed times of the Torah are obviously observed on a different calendrical cycle than the Gregorian calendar used by secular society today. In the Creation account it is specified, “Let lights in the expanse of the sky be for separating the day from the night. They will be for signs and for seasons and for days and years” (Genesis 1:14, TLV). The common Hebrew word for month, chodesh, also means “moon,” a sure testament to the Hebrew calendar being lunar based.

During Second Temple times, the Jewish religious council known as the Sanhedrin would have been able to determine and agree when a new month had started, by the visible sighting of the New Moon. When the New Moon was sighted in the vicinity of Jerusalem, and the Sanhedrin could agree, then signal fires were lit, and passed on over many hundreds of miles, signaling to the wider Jewish community that a new month had begun. This system was not exact, but it was what was employed until several centuries after the fall of Jerusalem. In 358 C.E., Rabbi Hillell II introduced a pre-calculated calendrical system for the worldwide Jewish community, now in a broad worldwide Diaspora. A pre-calculated calendar is what is employed by the mainstream Jewish community today.

For today’s Messianic Jewish movement, the issue of what calendar to use for the Biblical holidays is a simple one; the Messianic Jewish movement uses the same calendar as the mainstream Jewish community. When the Jewish community meets for Yom Kippur, so does the Messianic Jewish community. If the Messianic Jewish movement uses a completely different calendar for the Biblical and Jewish holidays, how is it going to best fulfill its mandate of reaching out to Jewish people with the good news of Israel’s Messiah? Attendance at Messianic Jewish congregations peaks during any of the holidays, after all!

While today’s Messianic Jewish movement follows the pre-calculated calendar of the wider Jewish community, it is widely observed that the independent Hebrew/Hebraic Roots movement does not tend to follow the mainstream Jewish calendar. A number of fellowships and groups within the Hebrew/Hebraic Roots movement may be seen to follow the mainstream Jewish calendar, for most of the dates of the Biblical holidays, with a number of exceptions like following the Saddusaical rather than Pharisaical determination of counting the omer to Shavuot. The Saddusaical method of counting the omer reckons “the day after the sabbath” (Leviticus 23:11, NASU) to be the weekly Sabbath during the Festival of Unleavened Bread, whereas the Pharisaical method interprets the Sabbath here as being the High Sabbath of the Festival of Unleavened Bread. It is historically documented though that the Pharisaical method was followed in Second Temple times (Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 3.250-251; Philo Special Laws 2.162), and it is what is observed in the Jewish community today.[2]

Unlike Messianic Judaism, the independent and mostly non-Jewish Hebrew/Hebraic Roots movement will widely follow various calendars of its own invention. Some of these calendars will follow the determination of the New Moon as offered by the Karaite movement in Israel, a Jewish sect which rejects all forms of Rabbinical authority and the commentary of the Oral Torah. At the same time, other fellowships and groups are witnessed to formulate their own calendar on the basis of their own sighting of the New Moon, at a place outside of Jerusalem and the Land of Israel, which is usually where they meet. Further complications are witnessed when various groups’ presumed “restored Biblical calendar” interjects speculations on the actual year since the Creation of the universe, but most especially prognostications about the time of the Messiah’s return.

Ultimately, the issue involving the calendar followed by today’s Messianics does concern our approach to Jewish tradition and the authority of the Rabbis. Many people are of the opinion that Jewish religious authorities which have rejected Yeshua of Nazareth, are to be rejected as having any legitimate things to say about any Biblical matters. Others, per Yeshua’s words about the Pharisaical authorities sitting in the seat of Moses (Matthew 23:2-3), would conclude that the Jewish religious authorities should be followed in major matters such as what calendar should be followed for the Biblical holidays. Spiritual hypocrisy is actually what is to be dismissed (Matthew 23:4-35), not the dates on which the religious community remembers the Passover. For Messianic Jews, and non-Jewish Believers in the Messianic movement, following the mainstream Jewish calendar for all of the dates of the appointed times, is as much about Jewish outreach and evangelism, as it is about recognizing that the Jewish religious leaders do have an authority to not be easily disregarded. What kind of testimony is it to Jewish non-Believers, to not stand in solidarity with them during the appointed times—because a completely different calendar may be followed?[3]

Traditional Jewish Liturgy

There is little doubting the fact that liturgy is an important part of traditional Jewish worship, which the Messianic Jewish community is significantly affected by. Any Messianic Jewish service, on Shabbat or otherwise, is going to employ traditional and customary Jewish prayers and hymns. The significant majority of the liturgical prayers found in the siddur are taken either directly from Tanach Scripture, or from the prayers and hymns offered up to God in the worship of the First and Second Temples.

While it might be said that in the Orthodox Jewish tradition, liturgy and traditional prayers make up the bulk of one’s worship activities—a moderate amount of mixed Hebrew and English liturgy is what one tends to find in the Messianic Jewish community, concurrent with what is seen in Conservative or Reform Judaism. For many Messianic Jews, employing liturgy in congregational worship services is not just a vital part of being connected to one’s Jewish heritage and the prayers issued to God from one’s ancestors; it is also a critical part of providing structure and reverence to corporate worship. Many non-Jewish Believers, from various Protestant backgrounds, greatly appreciate the value of liturgy, particularly in its ability to instill a sense of holiness.

Not everyone who comes into the Messianic movement likes liturgy. Some Messianic Jews, who were perhaps raised in Orthodox settings, would prefer that little or no traditional Hebrew liturgy be used by today’s Messianic movement. Those from Pentecostal or charismatic backgrounds, are those who especially frown or oppose any usage of liturgy, as it is believed that only spontaneous forms of prayer are acceptable to God. Statements by Yeshua the Messiah, are typically invoked to dismiss any place for liturgy. Did He not say, “And when you are praying, do not babble on and on like the pagans; for they think they will be heard because of their many words” (Matthew 6:7, TLV)? Did He not also criticize the Pharisees of His day, in how they “make long prayers as a show” (Luke 20:47, TLV)? Frequently, there are those who conclude that liturgy only facilitates dead, rigid religion.

Yeshua the Messiah certainly opposed prayers which were repeated over and over by the religious leaders of His day, for the sole purpose of others observing them and being seemingly impressed by false, outward piety. However, how many of us in our spontaneous prayers to God, have ever been led to open our Bibles and read the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), or perhaps recite a Psalm? If you have ever done this, you have employed a liturgical style of worship.

Today’s Messianic congregations should not unnecessarily bore people with endless Hebrew liturgy, where one’s worship activities become stale and manufactured. At the same time, liturgical worship does have a place in one’s remembrance of Shabbat and the appointed times. When employed properly, it is something that can be edifying, spiritually enlightening, and above all cause each of us to stand in awe of the holiness of Israel’s God.

Extra-Torah and Extra-Biblical Jewish Remembrances

Within the annual cycle of the Messianic Jewish community, there are various holidays beyond those of the appointed times of Leviticus 23 which are observed. These holidays commemorate events which post-date the Exodus. Within Holy Scripture, Purim commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people from the schemes of Haman to annihilate them. Mordechai saw to it that an annual remembrance be founded (Esther 9:20-22). Messianic Jewish Believers and most non-Jewish Believers in the Messianic movement recognize that without the deliverance of Purim, there would have been no Jewish people into which the Messiah Yeshua would be born. They recognize the value of Purim, although from time to time one will find people in the independent Hebrew/Hebraic Roots movement who (significantly) frown on it. It is their opinion that commemorating historical events in the life of Israel, subsequent to the giving of the Torah, is “adding” to the commandments.

Chanukah, or the Feast of Dedication, is an extra-Biblical holiday commemorating the defeat of the Syrian Greeks and cleansing of the Temple (1 Maccabees 4:59). In the Jewish community today, Chanukah is remembered for eight days, where families and synagogues light the menorah, eat traditional foods such as potato latkes, and give gifts to one another. In Biblical Studies, the events surrounding the Second Century B.C.E. Maccabean crisis are imperative to understanding some of the complicated relations between Jews, Greeks, and Romans in the time of Yeshua and His early followers. The Jewish people faced forced assimilation into Hellenistic paganism, and rightly resisted. Today’s Messianic Jewish community appropriately celebrates Chanukah, as did Israel’s Messiah (John 10:22). People in the independent Hebrew/Hebraic Roots movement will, at times, be found dismissive of Chanukah, thinking that its remembrance is in violation of the Torah—when the celebration of Chanukah is technically similar to American Independence Day or any holiday remembering an important victory over evil.

Your Further Education in the Appointed Times

Whether you are a Jewish Believer in Yeshua, who is reconnecting with his or her heritage as a result of your Messiah faith, or a non-Jewish Believer first connecting with his or her Hebrew and Jewish Roots—every year the appointed times are remembered, is going to be a year of learning something new and important. This might involve further Bible studies, a greater appreciation for ancient histories, or admiring various Jewish traditions and customs. The appointed times possess a significant Messianic substance to them (Colossians 2:17), and as such we should learn more about the salvation history work of Yeshua when we observe them. Given the fact that we are all limited human beings on a steady path toward greater spiritual maturity, we also have the responsibility to learn to act and behave more like Yeshua, and focus on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable” (Philippians 4:8, TLV).


[1] Two books that have widely framed the debate are Samuele Bacchiocchi, From Sabbath to Sunday (Rome: Pontifical Gregorian University Press, 1977), defending the validity of the seventh-day Sabbath from a Seventh-Day Adventist perspective, and D.A. Carson, ed., From Sabbath to Lord’s Day (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1999 [1982 actual publication]), cross-examining Bacchiocchi and defending Sunday as “the Lord’s Day” from a broadly evangelical viewpoint.

A more recent analysis from a Seventh-Day Adventist standpoint is Sigve K. Tonstad, The Lost Meaning of the Seventh Day (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 2009). More general is Christopher John Donato, ed., Perspectives on the Sabbath: Four Views (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2011).

[2] For a further evaluation of technical details, consult the FAQ on the Messianic Apologetics website, “Omer Count.”

[3] For a further discussion, consult the FAQ on the Messianic Apologetics website, “Biblical Calendar.”

Ki Tisa

Ki Tisa

When you take

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

“Faith Contrasted”

by Mark Huey

This week’s Torah portion, Ki Tisa, is perhaps best remembered for the infamous golden calf incident. Because of this, it is significantly easy to overlook a variety of other details, ranging from the required half-shekel offering,[1] the anointing oil formula,[2] a description of the skilled artisans,[3] reminders about the Sabbath,[4] appeals to the Lord and His response including a description of Himself,[5] and a return to the mountain to receive yet another set of instructions after the first tablets were shattered at the base of the mountain.[6] The differences between how Moses handled his responsibility, versus how Aaron and a certain segment of the Israelite population, impatiently rebelled, is difficult to ignore (Exodus 32:1-10, 19-35). Recorded for future generations to ponder is the human proclivity that is prone to wander away from the Creator. Nevertheless, some benefits for His people accrue, as incredible insight into the essence and attributes of the Holy One are communicated to Moses, as he implored the Lord for mercy (Exodus 33:19; 34:6-7). Thankfully, because the Lord has an ultimate plan for His Creation, this potential deviation from following Him is averted, but not without commensurate punishment for the malefactors.

However, before getting into some of the details about consequences of false worship, it is critical to note that our Torah reading initially delineates more instruction about what the Lord expects from His chosen people. In our previous Torah portion, Tetzaveh (Exodus 27:20-30:10), the Lord had communicated considerable detail about the high priest, the institution of the priesthood, and its respective duties for service in association with the Tabernacle. But now as Ki Tisa continues the record in the Book of Exodus, there is the imperative that individual responsibility is expected of all the people of Israel:

“The LORD also spoke to Moses, saying, ‘When you take a census of the sons of Israel to number them, then each one of them shall give a ransom for himself to the LORD, when you number them, so that there will be no plague among them when you number them. This is what everyone who is numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as a contribution to the LORD. Everyone who is numbered, from twenty years old and over, shall give the contribution to the LORD. The rich shall not pay more and the poor shall not pay less than the half shekel, when you give the contribution to the LORD to make atonement for yourselves. You shall take the atonement money from the sons of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may be a memorial for the sons of Israel before the LORD, to make atonement for yourselves” (Exodus 30:11-16).

In this instruction, it is noted that a wide segment of the Israelite community, regardless of its financial wherewithal, was required to make a contribution. The blessing of compliance to this was an avoidance of plagues. The essential principle established by this instruction was that every person would be responsible for his own actions. While such a “ransom” was useful to conduct a census, the Lord was requiring Ancient Israel to literally entrust its wealth to those responsible for continually ministering unto Him. In some regards, this foreshadows a similar principle enunciated by Yeshua the Messiah, when He was telling His followers about where they should direct their resources:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

From the census instructions is witnessed another principle that applied originally to the Levitical priesthood, but now is applicable to a wider community of God’s people. This was the requirement that in order to appropriately minister to the Lord or approach Him, one should do so in a state of cleanliness, respecting the sanctity of presenting oneself before Him as the Holy One:

“The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘You shall also make a laver of bronze, with its base of bronze, for washing; and you shall put it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and you shall put water in it. Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet from it; when they enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water, so that they will not die; or when they approach the altar to minister, by offering up in smoke a fire sacrifice to the LORD. So they shall wash their hands and their feet, so that they will not die; and it shall be a perpetual statute for them, for Aaron and his descendants throughout their generations” (Exodus 30:17-21).

This basic principle, of cleanliness before the Lord, was expanded upon by King David, as he had the privilege of approaching His presence after the Tabernacle was relocated to Mount Moriah. Note the reverence and awe emoted in this Psalm, which takes the concept of clean hands to a much higher level, as it concerns the need for a pure heart:

“A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it. For He has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully. He shall receive a blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face—even Jacob. Selah. Lift up your heads, O gates, and be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in! Who is the King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O gates, and lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in! Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, He is the King of glory. Selah” (Psalm 24:1-10).

From the opening verses of Ki Tisa, the Lord communicates some universal principles regarding individual responsibilities, and how He wants people to approach Him. So while contemplating the balance of this reading, it will be personally edifying for us to reflect upon just how well we are accepting our individual duties before the Lord and how we are seeking Him. If our hearts are focused on the things of this world, or we have impurities impeding our relationship with Him—perhaps this would be an appropriate time for us to confess our transgressions. For in further reading, we will not only discover how the Lord deals with idol worship, but most crucially that He is a compassionate and merciful God who is slow to anger. He is surely willing to forgive those who faithfully come to Him with a broken spirit and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17).

Idol Worship

Once the issues of personal responsibility and properly approaching the Holy One are addressed, we see various instructions about the fragrant anointing oil with some prohibitions about its usage, a brief description about the artisans designated to make the Tabernacle and the elements of priestly, and a reminder about the importance of remembering the Sabbath rest (Exodus 30:22-31:18). After this, Ki Tisa turns to focus on the tragic golden calf incident. The Israelites were unaware that Moses was receiving two tablets with the testimony of God etched by His own finger, on what would be his first ascent of Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:16-18). But being accustomed to his role as mediator, while viewing from a distance the glory of the Lord like a consuming fire in a cloud shrouding the mountaintop, some became frightfully anxious about his lengthy absence. At this relatively early stage in the desert sojourn, it is safe to say that the faith of the Ancient Israelites was being tested.

After a number of weeks, a segment of the impatient population turned to Aaron, the designated leader in Moses’ absence, and they made an idolatrous request of Aaron to make a tangible “god” which they could follow. In much of the Ancient Near East, the bull was a symbol of lordship, leadership, strength, vital energy, and fertility—and was either deified and worshipped, or used to represent fertility. Aaron complied with their demand. Ironically, not yet aware of the silver half-shekel requirement that was to be instituted, Aaron without any apparent resistance to this unfaithful appeal, perhaps fearing for his own life, asked the people to donate their gold jewelry for the fashioning of a molten calf:

“When He had finished speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God. Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, ‘Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ Aaron said to them, ‘Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.’ Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.’ Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, ‘Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.’ So the next day they rose early and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play” (Exodus 31:18-32:6).

It is difficult to fathom why Moses’ older brother Aaron succumbed to this demand. After all, Aaron had been with Moses from the very beginning of his role as deliverer of Israel, being used as the spokesperson (Exodus 4:14-16) for the inarticulate Moses. Aaron had witnessed all the miracles, from the courts of Pharaoh to an intimate Mount Sinai dinner with the Holy One (Exodus 24:9-11). Aaron’s personal involvement in, or observation of, the Lord’s activities, required him to know that the Lord forbade the making of idols (Exodus 20:3-4). Yet, because of either social pressure or the threat of physical harm, Aaron not only requested the gold jewelry, but he also fashioned the golden calf—even though he later protested to Moses that the golden calf simply emerged from the fire (Exodus 32:24). Aaron’s direct participation and culpability, for these idolatrous acts, were later confirmed during Moses’ reiteration of these events in the Book of Deuteronomy. Apparently, the Lord was about to execute judgment on Aaron, but Moses interceded for him:

“The LORD was angry enough with Aaron to destroy him; so I also prayed for Aaron at the same time” (Deuteronomy 9:20).

In studying the incident of the golden calf in a variety of Torah commentaries, one discovers different interpretations found in assertions made by the Jewish Sages, which in various degrees are intended to provide excuses for Aaron’s actions.[7] Whether it is blaming the idol worship on the non-Israelite “mixed multitude” (Exodus 12:38) that departed Egypt, or avoiding the threat of death, Aaron was involved in the sin and still bore some guilt.

In this instance, upon the delay of Moses’ return from the mountain, the people insisted that Aaron “make a god” to go before them. The proper, faithful reaction, would have been to refuse the request regardless of the consequences. But this is not what Aaron did. Instead, because Aaron complied with their demands, when the golden calf was presented to Israel, the people actually declared that this “god” had brought them out of Egypt! How absurd this exclamation must have been to Aaron, and many within the crowds who had escaped bondage in Egypt—but such sentiments were enough to prevent a wide number from wanting to worship their new deity. We see a classic example of mixing the holy with the profane, and Aaron should have known better. This is a vivid reminder to Messiah followers today, how it is possible for anyone—including designated leaders—to have a lack of, or lose faith, and fall into error.

Several centuries later, history would repeat itself. When King Solomon died, and his realm was split in two, King Jeroboam of the newly established Northern Kingdom resorted to this same practice of fashioning golden calves. His intention was to divert worship from the Lord in Jerusalem, to the false gods set up in Bethel and Dan, so there would be no demand for reunification with the Southern Kingdom:

“So the king consulted, and made two golden calves, and he said to them, ‘It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt.’  He set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan. And he made houses on high places, and made priests from among all the people who were not of the sons of Levi” (1 Kings 12:28-31).

Apparently, these people did not learn their lesson from the golden calf incident that their ancestors had participated in, and were beguiled by a desperate leader to worship false idols. This should be a warning alarm to all who currently follow the One True God, especially in light of another spoken word. Yeshua the Messiah spoke the following, per the days that would transpire prior to His return:

“And Yeshua answered and said to them, ‘See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, “I am the Messiah,” and will mislead many” (Matthew 24:4-5).

In a similar manner to Aaron invoking the name of the Most High for a feast before a false idol, there are going to be some teachers or leaders who come via the guise of proclaiming Yeshua in some way—but in reality will be misleading people, unable to discern the mixing of the holy and profane. This is why it is imperative that the faithful followers of Yeshua invest the time to truly understand the ways of the Lord in His Word, so that they may avoid being deceived. In the case of the Ancient Israelites in this week’s Torah reading, the result of false idol worship was a devastating death:

“Now when Moses saw that the people were out of control—for Aaron had let them get out of control to be a derision among their enemies—then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, ‘Whoever is for the LORD, come to me!’ And all the sons of Levi gathered together to him. He said to them, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, “Every man of you put his sword upon his thigh, and go back and forth from gate to gate in the camp, and kill every man his brother, and every man his friend, and every man his neighbor.”’ So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about three thousand men of the people fell that day” (Exodus 32:25-28).

The golden calf incident is one of the main examples to be considered from the Torah, as warnings have been issued to all of God’s people throughout the ages (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:11-14). So, as today’s Messianic Believers study the Torah and consider its applications elsewhere, in the Tanakh and Apostolic Scriptures, the multiple warnings that have been issued by God need to be heeded. The fact that every person is individually accountable for his or her own relationship with the Lord—and that people are required to approach Him with cleans hands and pure hearts—should make true worshippers more discerning when tempted by misguided leaders or false teachers.

God’s Merciful Solution

Thankfully, this Torah portion also establishes a foreshadowing of the arrival of the Messiah, often in how a mediator has to bridge the gap between the Eternal and humanity at large. In Ki Tisa, we see how Moses intervened on behalf of the Ancient Israelites, pleading before the Holy One for mercy to be shown to them:

“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, ‘Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!”’ The LORD said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation. Then Moses entreated the LORD his God, and said, ‘O LORD, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, “With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth”? Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind about doing harm to Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people” (Exodus 32:7-14).

It is notable in this passage that the Lord’s first inclination upon speaking to Moses about the rebellious acts of the obstinate Israelites was to eradicate the Ancient Israelites, and to start over with Moses to make a great nation. In capacity as mediator, Moses immediately questioned the Lord’s statement, by reminding Him of His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Then in a statement that has raised eyebrows for centuries, the text states that the Lord “changed His mind.” This passage illustrates for Bible readers, how the role of a mediator before the Father, is ultimately consummated in the atoning work of the Son. He is currently seated at His right hand, interceding:

“Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Messiah Yeshua is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us” (Romans 8:33-34).

Additionally, while noting the critical role of a mediator in God’s plan for the ages, our Torah portion also goes on to reveal some magnificent attributes about Him. After God’s justice is executed by the Levites (Exodus 32:28), Moses still wanted to know more about the One he served. Noting that he had found favor in the sight of the Lord, Moses wanted to know not only the ways of the Lord, but know Him in a more intimate way:

“Then Moses said to the LORD, ‘See, You say to me, “Bring up this people!” But You Yourself have not let me know whom You will send with me. Moreover, You have said, “I have known you by name, and you have also found favor in My sight.” Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people.’ And He said, ‘My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.’ Then he said to Him, ‘If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?’ The LORD said to Moses, ‘I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name.’ Then Moses said, ‘I pray You, show me Your glory!’ And He said, ‘I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.’  But He said, ‘You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!’ Then the LORD said, ‘Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen’” (Exodus 33:12-23).

In this compelling passage, Moses was able to observe some of the glory of the Lord passing by, with only His “back” viewable. In the course of this interaction, the Lord noted that He was gracious and compassionate. This brief description of the mercy of God was followed by a much more complete explanation, after Moses was commanded to return to the mountain with two new tablets. Now, rather than the Lord exclusively producing the stone tablets, the responsibility of mortals to be involved, in the process of receiving the commands, is noted. But beyond the principles communicated, the Lord expanded upon the description of Himself that eloquently detailed His mercy and forgiveness:

“The LORD descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the LORD. Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.’ Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship. He said, ‘If now I have found favor in Your sight, O Lord, I pray, let the Lord go along in our midst, even though the people are so obstinate, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your own possession.’ Then God said, ‘Behold, I am going to make a covenant. Before all your people I will perform miracles which have not been produced in all the earth nor among any of the nations; and all the people among whom you live will see the working of the LORD, for it is a fearful thing that I am going to perform with you’” (Exodus 34:5-10).

The Almighty Creator God is the epitome of love. In all other Ancient Near Eastern societies, when the people worshipping a god or goddess would demonstrate disloyalty—their mythologies describe how great catastrophe and penalties would often immediately come—perhaps by them destroying the nation. Here in the Torah, we do not see this. We see the great disloyalty of the Ancient Israelites who worshipped the golden calf, and the significant restraint of God’s judgment upon His chosen ones.

Faith Contrasted

Ki Tisa commences by emphasizing individual responsibility and accountability for Ancient Israel, with the admonition that approaching the Holy One requires a cleanliness before Him that is more than just physical. It continues with a vivid reminder that faithless impatience can result in following after false idols, and even infect those who are placed in positions of leadership. But the teaching and parallel readings also illustrate that a loving and merciful God will respond to the pleas or actions of a mediator, as was the case when Moses’ pleadings for God’s mercy on Aaron were heeded.

As we each read and reflect upon our parashah for this week, it is crucial to recognize that people are ultimately going to be held accountable for their actions, before a holy and righteous Creator God. But will you be evaluated for punishment, or for the dispersement of rewards for your good works? Many are susceptible to a lack of faith, impatience, impure thoughts, a lack of discernment, and a bevy of iniquities that can seriously impede our relationship with the Holy One of Israel. Hence, it is beneficial to frequently go before the Lord—if and when any thoughts or actions disrupt the blessing of intimate fellowship with Him. The beloved Apostle John honestly described the need for those called into the light of truth, to faithfully confess whatever sin might darken the soul:

“If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Yeshua His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:6-10).

May we all forever embrace this eternal truth!


[1] Exodus 30:11-16.

[2] Exodus 30:22-33.

[3] Exodus 31:1-11.

[4] Exodus 31:12-18.

[5] Exodus 32:11-14; 33:12-23.

[6] Exodus 34:1-35.

[7] Cf. Nosson Scherman, ed., et al., The ArtScroll Chumash, Stone Edition, 5th ed. (Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2000), 495; Nahum M. Sarna, “Exodus,” in Etz Hayim, 531.