Haftarah Terumah

Haftarah Terumah

“God’s Earthly Tabernacle”

1 Kings 5:26-6:13


by Mark Huey

In Terumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19), the details of the wilderness Tabernacle, which will house the presence of God, are related. Its opening verses not only describe the variety of materials required for construction, but most importantly refer to the stirred hearts that willingly offered the resources:

“Tell the sons of Israel to raise a contribution for Me; from every man whose heart moves him you shall raise My contribution. This is the contribution which you are to raise from them: gold, silver and bronze, blue, purple and scarlet material, fine linen, goat hair, rams’ skins dyed red, porpoise skins, acacia wood, oil for lighting, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, onyx stones and setting stones for the ephod and for the breastpiece. Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it” (Exodus 25:2-9).

The balance of the parashah gives instructions to Israel so that the constructed sanctuary would be a suitable place for the Holy One to dwell among His people. Unsurprisingly, when the Sages were determining a parallel passage for Terumah, they turned to the description of how Solomon’s Temple would be built. In 1 Kings 5:26-6:13, there is an emphasis placed upon the labor demands, the management of the construction project, the timing, the dimensions, and the implements used. While King Solomon was given wisdom by God, it was his father King David who was actually responsible for conceiving the plans and designs of the structure, and the implements for worship:

“Then David gave to his son Solomon the plan of the porch of the temple, its buildings, its storehouses, its upper rooms, its inner rooms and the room for the mercy seat; and the plan of all that he had in mind, for the courts of the house of the LORD, and for all the surrounding rooms, for the storehouses of the house of God and for the storehouses of the dedicated things” (1 Chronicles 28:11-12).

As you read through the details describing the construction of the First Temple, you might note one significant difference in comparison to the construction of the wilderness Tabernacle. Despite the wisdom given to Solomon and a time of peace with potential adversaries present, in order to build the Temple, it is apparent that Solomon was required to use forced labor. The freewill offerings of the wilderness generation and the obvious supernatural gifting of the Tabernacle, its implements and accoutrements, and the craftsmen employed, are not noted. Instead, there is an emphasis on this as a massive public works project, with all of the moving parts and infrastructure needed to complete the task:

“The LORD gave wisdom to Solomon, just as He promised him; and there was peace between Hiram and Solomon, and the two of them made a covenant. Now King Solomon levied forced laborers from all Israel; and the forced laborers numbered 30,000 men. He sent them to Lebanon, 10,000 a month in relays; they were in Lebanon a month and two months at home. And Adoniram was over the forced laborers. Now Solomon had 70,000 transporters, and 80,000 hewers of stone in the mountains, besides Solomon’s 3,300 chief deputies who were over the project and who ruled over the people who were doing the work” (1 Kings 5:12-16).

For comparative purposes, reflecting upon how God used workers to build His mobile sanctuary, and then His more permanent structure in Jerusalem, allows one to realize that He is intimately involved in the details. Whether He is communicating His construction plans through Moses or David, the fact remains that He uses human instruments to not only receive His instructions, but also implement them using the appropriate materials. After all, when there is something being built to house the glory of God on Earth, a significant degree of holiness is attached to it. This is verified by the fact that Solomon’s construction crew was compelled to avoid the use of construction tools at the site of the Temple. Apparently, the precept established centuries earlier in the wilderness not to use tools on the Tabernacle altar, was being honored by those chosen to construct the Temple:

“You shall make an altar of earth for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause My name to be remembered, I will come to you and bless you. If you make an altar of stone for Me, you shall not build it of cut stones, for if you wield your tool on it, you will profane it. And you shall not go up by steps to My altar, so that your nakedness will not be exposed on it” (Exodus 20:24-26).

“The house, while it was being built, was built of stone prepared at the quarry, and there was neither hammer nor axe nor any iron tool heard in the house while it was being built” (1 Kings 6:7).

It appears that both of these ancient generations were not only aware of the holiness attached to these structures, but were very serious about their specific roles in the construction programs. The concluding remarks recorded in our Haftarah selection summarize the primary reason for the construction of the Temple:

“Now the word of the LORD came to Solomon saying, ‘Concerning this house which you are building, if you will walk in My statutes and execute My ordinances and keep all My commandments by walking in them, then I will carry out My word with you which I spoke to David your father. I will dwell among the sons of Israel, and will not forsake My people Israel’” (1 Kings 6:11-13).

Clearly, what the Holy One desires to do is to dwell among an obedient people, who not only walk in diligent remembrance of His commandments, but also walk in His ways and learn from these commandments. The God who glorifies Israel will not only have Him living in their midst, but He promises to never forsake them. What a wonderful promise! But did you notice the if caveat weaved into the exhortation? Can you discern the nuance between dwelling and living among the people, and Him forsaking them? Let me explain.

God’s love for His people and His promises to them are irrevocable. He does not lie, nor can He lie (Numbers 23:19). Yet there is a great distinction to be made between dwelling with someone, and simply not forsaking him from a great distance. In more tangible terms, imagine that you have a very wise and godly grandparent or great-grandparent who actually lives with you in your home. Consider how you would have the opportunity to not only consult with this person, but also be mindful of his or her needs, recognizing that he or she is monitoring all that is going on in the household. Since you respect, and to a certain extent revere, the wisdom and counsel of this elderly person—who is intensely interested in your well being and success—you take the liberty to frequently seek advice and counsel, and perhaps even prayers, when it comes to vital decisions or situations. Since you value their input into your life, you want to please them by your behavior. You want to demonstrate your own growing wisdom and maturity to them via a life that is pleasing to the Lord you both serve. If you have ever had an elderly person live with you, then perhaps you can identify with how his presence adds a valuable dimension to home life.

On the other hand, if you have a grandparent or great-grandparent who lives a great distance away, where you are only seeing them occasionally, you do not have the direct input that comes from close proximity. Your relative is not living with you and interacting with you on a daily basis. However, because he or she continues to love you and wants you to succeed and have a wonderful life, he or she will never forsake you. Your relative might pray for you at a distance and always be available for advice if you call them. Your relative will not necessarily force himself or herself upon you. Being older and wiser, your relative will know from life experience that trying to force opinions on a younger person is not usually successful, unless and until the younger person actually comes to them with questions for advice. In a similar way, this is what the Lord does, especially if a wayward child fails to obey the basic precepts, ordinances, laws, and ways which have been articulated to receive His blessings. What often happens, unfortunately, is that those who are not walking in God’s ways do not necessarily want to communicate with godly people, or by extension God Himself.

We see the pattern established from these ancient texts. God really wants to dwell with us on our “wilderness” journey, and even more so when we finally settle down at a more permanent location. We are specifically told in the Apostolic Writings that the very presence of God, by His Holy Spirit, takes up residence inside of us as redeemed individuals, who then compose the corporate Tabernacle or Temple of God (Romans 12). Upon receiving a heart of flesh endowed with the Holy Spirit, Believers actually become vessels who are set-apart for the righteous acts which the Holy One will accomplish through us. What a great responsibility and honor to be so chosen to be His representatives on Earth! The desire to dwell in His children (1 Corinthians 6:19) is similar in Moses’ and David’s era, as it is in the era that Jeremiah foresaw as he foretold the New Covenant that would be manifest:

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

God promises that He will give His children a new heart of flesh, and place His Spirit inside of them so that they can obey Him:

“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

Those who have the Holy Spirit are able to abide with God, keep His commandments, and most significantly manifest His love to others. God’s people are able to function just like the Tabernacle or Temple was to originally house His presence. As Yeshua tells us,

“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 14:16-21).

Our challenge is to recognize that we make up the Temple of God—something far greater than a structure built by the hands of humans. We have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, who like that elderly grandparent, is available for counsel without imposing His will. The Lord is still looking for stirring hearts who willingly, not under force, desire to know Him and serve Him with all of their might. May we be blessed to seek Him with all of our hearts!


This teaching has been excerpted from Torahscope Haftarah Exhortations by William Mark Huey.

Haftarah Mishpatim

Haftarah Mishpatim

“Free to Believe in Blood Covenants!”

Jeremiah 34:8-22; 33:25-26


by Mark Huey

The lengthy list of ordinances that is outlined in Mishpatim (Exodus 21:1-24:18) involves Moses delivering important instruction to Israel, and we see the people openly declare their intention to obey God. In an elaborate sacrificial ceremony, Moses took blood from the burnt and peace offerings and sprinkled first the altar, and then the very people who have promised to obey the words of the Lord:

“Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the LORD and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, ‘All the words which the LORD has spoken we will do!’ Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. Then he arose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain with twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. He sent young men of the sons of Israel, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as peace offerings to the LORD. Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and the other half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, ‘All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!’ So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words’” (Exodus 24:3-8).

This dramatic sprinkling exercise affirmed previously established patterns (Genesis 15:10) that in order to ratify a covenant, there must be a blood sacrifice associated with it. Over a thousand years later, the author of Hebrews makes reference to what we see in this week’s parashah, comparing and contrasting it to the atoning blood sacrifice of Messiah Yeshua:

“Therefore even the first[1]…was not inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the Law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, ‘THIS IS THE BLOOD OF THE COVENANT WHICH GOD COMMANDED YOU’ [Exodus 24:8]. And in the same way he sprinkled both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry with the blood. And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these” (Hebrews 9:19-23).

In the narrative of the Holy Scriptures beginning in Genesis and into the Apostolic Writings, the message is consistent in that there is a distinct spiritual connection between blood sacrifices and covenants established with the chosen people of God.

As this week’s Torah teaching begins, the first ordinance detailed after the Decalogue has been given deals with the provision to emancipate the Hebrew slaves from bondage.[2] The theme of setting the captives free from slavery, as epitomized in the miraculous physical escape from Egyptian slavery, points to the ultimate deliverance from spiritual human bondage to sin. God communicates some profound truths to the Israelites about slavery, and the commandments given to slave owners require them to release their slaves in the seventh year, after six years of service to them. It is mirrored by a pattern of working six days followed by the Sabbath day, or working the soil for six years and then giving it a rest in the seventh.

Slavery, in and of itself, is not being condemned because selling oneself into slavery was simply a part of the Ancient Near Eastern economy, similar to what indentured servants experienced in colonial American times. It was very much like taking on debt today. Since sophisticated financial instruments were not in use at the time, instead, a man would basically sell his services to a slaveowner in order to slowly gain some financial wherewithal. The one unique aspect of Hebrew slavery was the requirement to release the slaves every seventh year. Emancipation so that a man could choose to live free of the constraints of bondage was the commanded goal. This is elaborated upon as the portion commences:

“Now these are the ordinances which you are to set before them: If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years; but on the seventh he shall go out as a free man without payment. If he comes alone, he shall go out alone; if he is the husband of a wife, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master gives him a wife, and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall belong to her master, and he shall go out alone. But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man,’ then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently” (Exodus 21:1-6).

Some of the particulars about how to handle preexisting marriages and those arranged during the time of service are delineated. Without getting into all of the specifics, suffice it to say that when someone was in bondage, all that was near and dear to the man was under the same obligation to the slaveowner.

Hebrew slavery, being a mutually beneficial economic system for both the slaveowner and the slave, did not have the physically cruel aspects often associated with different types of slavery most have read about in different cultures. In fact, note how the choice is given to the slave who is being offered his freedom, and the response regarding his love for his master. In this opening ordinance description about slavery, the concept of willingly becoming a permanent bondservant is stated. The offer of freedom comes to the slave as the choice to leave is given. If the slave loves his master and his wife and children, whether preexisting or given during his tenure, then upon the slave’s desire to serve his master, he willingly states and makes a total commitment to his master. A ceremony where the master brings the slave before God and pierces his ear with an awl to the doorpost of the master’s house is performed. This marks the slave and symbolizes permanent service to his master.

The slave can willingly choose to be a bondservant to his master. The transference of one leaving bondage from Egyptian masters to Hebrew masters to ultimately serving the Holy One of Israel is vaguely outlined. In some respects, one can almost see the progress of going from the bondage of sin, obeying God like being trained by a tutor, until recognition that perfect human compliance to His laws is impossible. Paul communicated this to the Galatians:

“Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Yeshua the Messiah might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Messiah, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Messiah Yeshua” (Galatians 3:21-26).[3]

It is not until the Apostolic period that one is more familiarized with the concept of being a bondservant to the Holy One of Israel. The process of being set free from the bondage of sin is responded to by making a total commitment to serving the One who set you free. Obviously, the most perfect example of a bondservant to the Most High is the Messiah Yeshua:

“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Messiah Yeshua, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped [exploited, NRSV],[4] but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8).

The Apostles of the Messiah consistently referred to themselves and one another as bondservants.[5] These followers of the Messiah Yeshua were totally surrendered to the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives, and they had each, effectively, allowed their ears to be pierced to the execution cross and the truths communicated by the atoning work He had accomplished. How critical is it that humanity understand that everyone has to be a slave to something? You are either going to be a slave to sin—or a slave to the righteousness only available through belief in the redeeming work of the Messiah. These are the only two options, and God in His mercy toward humanity attempts throughout His Word to illuminate this critical reality right from the beginning of His list of ordinances following the giving of the Decalogue. In many ways this initial ordinance, being described so soon after the Ten Commandments were given, allowed one to conclude that part of God’s plan for His people is that they relinquish their bondage to the Egyptians and instead willingly migrate to become bondservants to Himself.

Clearly by the time of Jeremiah’s generation, the Haftarah passages that the Sages chose to reflect upon—as they dealt with all of the ordinances instituted in the early weeks of the wilderness sojourn—it is understood that these slavery ordinances had not been followed by Israel for many generations. In fact, Jeremiah reminded those of his generation about the very blood covenant that spoke initially about the release of the slaves from bondage in the seventh year. His admonition was that the succeeding generations did not obey or incline their ears to this ordinance:

“Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD God of Israel, “I made a covenant with your forefathers in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, saying, ‘At the end of seven years each of you shall set free his Hebrew brother who has been sold to you and has served you six years, you shall send him out free from you; but your forefathers did not obey Me or incline their ear to Me’”’” (Jeremiah 34:12-14).

The consequences of disobedience are going to be devastating. Jeremiah described a brief time of revival or return to the ordinances by King Zedekiah, as the threat of Babylonian attacks approached:

“The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD after King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people who were in Jerusalem to proclaim release to them: that each man should set free his male servant and each man his female servant, a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman; so that no one should keep them, a Jew his brother, in bondage. And all the officials and all the people obeyed who had entered into the covenant that each man should set free his male servant and each man his female servant, so that no one should keep them any longer in bondage; they obeyed, and set them free. But afterward they turned around and took back the male servants and the female servants whom they had set free, and brought them into subjection for male servants and for female servants” (Jeremiah 34:8-11).

This act of desperation did not last long. In short order, the willingness to set the slaves free subsided, and they were brought back into subjection. The concluding verses of Jeremiah 34 detailed the horrific consequences of not obeying God’s ordinances regarding the release of the slaves:

“‘Although recently you had turned and done what is right in My sight, each man proclaiming release to his neighbor, and you had made a covenant before Me in the house which is called by My name. Yet you turned and profaned My name, and each man took back his male servant and each man his female servant whom you had set free according to their desire, and you brought them into subjection to be your male servants and female servants.’ Therefore thus says the LORD, ‘You have not obeyed Me in proclaiming release each man to his brother and each man to his neighbor. Behold, I am proclaiming a release to you,’ declares the LORD, ‘to the sword, to the pestilence and to the famine; and I will make you a terror to all the kingdoms of the earth. I will give the men who have transgressed My covenant, who have not fulfilled the words of the covenant which they made before Me, when they cut the calf in two and passed between its parts—the officials of Judah and the officials of Jerusalem, the court officers and the priests and all the people of the land who passed between the parts of the calf—I will give them into the hand of their enemies and into the hand of those who seek their life. And their dead bodies will be food for the birds of the sky and the beasts of the earth. Zedekiah king of Judah and his officials I will give into the hand of their enemies and into the hand of those who seek their life, and into the hand of the army of the king of Babylon which has gone away from you. Behold, I am going to command,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will bring them back to this city; and they will fight against it and take it and burn it with fire; and I will make the cities of Judah a desolation without inhabitant’” (Jeremiah 34:15-22).

Instead of releasing the slaves per the ordinances detailed in Mishpatim, the Lord says He will release the sword, pestilence, famine, and terror upon the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Eventually, those who are fully aware of the covenant which required the sacrifices will be given into the hands of their enemies. Their dead bodies will be food for the birds of the sky and the beasts of the Earth. Ultimately, Jerusalem will be burned and the land will become desolate without inhabitants. This is not a very pretty picture of the penalties incurred as a result of disobedience!

The scene of devastation to reflect upon—as one considers the lack of obedience to just the slave emancipation ordinance—is not what the Sages want us to dwell upon. In order to end this week’s Haftarah on a more upbeat note, a reference to God’s ultimate restoration of Israel directs our thoughts back to Jeremiah 33:25-26:

“Thus says the LORD, ‘If My covenant for day and night stand not, and the fixed patterns of heaven and earth I have not established, then I would reject the descendants of Jacob and David My servant, not taking from his descendants rulers over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But I will restore their fortunes and will have mercy on them” (Jeremiah 33:25-26).

Lamentably, God’s chosen people have a tendency to disobey His rules. The consequences of disobedience are described in great detail in the Tanakh and Apostolic Writings. While there is comfort in knowing that God will eventually restore Israel and demonstrate great mercy to His people—how much more significant is the knowledge that a blood covenant has been completed which gives all who believe an assurance that His promises will be kept? The fact that God the Father was willing to sacrifice His Son, our sacrificial Lamb, in order to pay for the penalty of our sin is very reassuring. But do not take it for granted! Denying it has severe consequences, especially if you have believed upon it and then despised it as ineffectual:

“How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, ‘VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY.’ And again, ‘THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.’ It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:29-31; cf. Deuteronomy 32:35; Deuteronomy 32:36).

While we might proclaim that we have become bondservants of the Most High following in the footsteps of the Apostles, the fact remains that none of us, despite our protestations, loves the Lord perfectly. We all fall short of His glory and sin. As the Apostle John writes, we all continue to sin regardless of our professed desires. But in case we think all hope is lost, he does give us a prescription for cleansing ourselves when we do 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 1:8-10).

Praise God that the Word—from Exodus to Jeremiah to the Apostolic Writings—is in us! Praise Him that He has given us His ordinances so that these great tutors will lead us to the conclusion that we need a Savior. And above all of this, praise God that He sent His Son, the perfectly sinless Bondservant, whose blood, sprinkled upon the altar and covering our sin, continues to intercede for us and His people. Thank God we are free to believe! To Him be all the glory!

NOTES

[1] Grk. Eiche men oun [kai] hē prōtē; most likely a reference to not “covenant,” but instead “priesthood.”

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

[2] Exodus 21:1-11.

[3] Consult the chapters “Addressing the Frequently Avoided Issues Messianics Encounter in the Torah” and “The Message of Galatians” in the Messianic Torah Helper by Messianic Apologetics (forthcoming 2011), for discussions about both slavery in the Ancient Near East and the role of the “tutor” in Galatians 3:21-26.

[4] While sometimes rendered as “grasped” (2:6, NASU/NIV), the noun harpagmos best means “someth. to which one can claim or assert title by gripping or grasping, someth. claimed” (Frederick William Danker, ed., et. al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, third edition [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000], 133).

[5] Acts 4:29; Romans 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:7, 4:7; Titus 1:1; James 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1; Jude 1.


This teaching has been excerpted from Torahscope Haftarah Exhortations by William Mark Huey.

Haftarah Yitro

Haftarah Yitro

“Smoke-Spoken Revelation”

Isaiah 6:1-7:6; 9:5-6[6-7] (A); 6:1-13 (S)


by Mark Huey

Encountering the Living God is an awesome experience no matter when it occurs. In this week’s Torah portion (Exodus 18:1-20:23[26]) and its corresponding Haftarah reading, two eyewitness accounts—those of Moses and Isaiah—depict their personal experiences of theophany. We have the privilege of comparing and meditating upon them, being encouraged that we too can see God in all His glory!

First in Yitro, we find Moses receiving wise organizational counsel from his father-in-law, as the infant nation of Ancient Israel began its wilderness crawl and transformation into a kingdom of priests. In short order, Yitro’s instructions on how to handle disputes and delegate the work of serving in order to lead the people,[1] are followed by the Ten Words spoken directly to Moses on a smoke-shrouded Mount Sinai by the Lord.[2] These essential commandments on how to love God and one’s fellow established the foundational preamble for the rest of Israel’s constitution found in the balance of the Torah.

For comparative reflective purposes, Isaiah’s testimony came several centuries later as the holy nation was reeling from disobedience and found itself on the precipice of judgment. In the smoke-filled Temple of God that the Prophet Isaiah envisioned, he received further revelation about not only his calling, but the judgment coming to a dim-eyed and dull-of-hearing unholy Israel. Thankfully, our Haftarah reading concludes with a description of the future Kingdom of God established on justice and righteousness that will last forever.

There is little doubt that while many in today’s world may not know the exact details of the Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai, their impact on how Western Civilization has legally and morally developed is unparalleled. Part of God’s plan for the Creation was to set-apart a specific group of people for His own possession who would be His voice-obeying, covenant-keeping, kingdom of priests and holy nation. Moses heard and recorded the following in the third month of Israel’s wilderness sojourn:

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

Furthermore, to confirm to the Israelites that Moses was His vessel to deliver His Word to them, the Lord told Moses that there would be a visible and audible recitation of His Instruction to make it perfectly clear that Moses was the intermediary:

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Behold, I will come to you in a thick cloud, so that the people may hear when I speak with you and may also believe in you forever.’ Then Moses told the words of the people to the LORD” (Exodus 19:9).

When the day of reckoning came after the warnings were adhered to, the presence of visible smoke, accentuated by thunder, lightning, a quaking mountain, and the sound of the trumpet—generated great fear among the Israelites assembled:

“So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder” (Exodus 19:16-19).

After the Decalogue was communicated, the people of Israel declared that listening to the voice of God was so frightening that they would prefer to have Moses listen for them instead because they feared death:

“All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. Then they said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.’ Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.’ So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was” (Exodus 20:18-21).

We see that the primary reason why God spoke forcefully from the smoke-laden mountain was to instill a fear of Himself so that the people would not sin.

By the time we witness the Prophet Isaiah’s experience in the smoke-filled Temple, God’s people were on the verge of judgment, requiring Him to appoint another vessel to deliver His words—this time words of rebuke:

“In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.’ And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke” (Isaiah 6:1-4).

This theophany of God’s Throne occurred at a time when both the Southern and Northern Kingdoms of Israel were not obeying the voice of the Lord and following His commandments. Isaiah responded to the Lord’s question about who He should send with the hard words of judgment, exclaiming hineni shelacheini, “Here am I. Send me!”:

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’ He said, ‘Go, and tell this people: “Keep on listening, but do not perceive; keep on looking, but do not understand.” Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull, and their eyes dim, otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed.’ Then I said, ‘Lord, how long?’ And He answered, ‘Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant, houses are without people and the land is utterly desolate, “The LORD has removed men far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. Yet there will be a tenth portion in it, and it will again be subject to burning, like a terebinth or an oak whose stump remains when it is felled. The holy seed is its stump”’” (Isaiah 6:8-13).

The judgment on the disobedient people was manifest in insensitive hearts, dull ears, and dim eyes—resulting so that they would not understand with their hearts, hear with their hears, or see with their eyes in order that they might return and be healed. God is preparing to judge the disobedient, but there will always be a remnant—perhaps as large as a tenth—similar to the stump of a tree. After the various judgments are completed against disobedient Israel, there would be a future time when a child to be born will inaugurate in the era of justice and righteousness:

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

Messiah Yeshua has come and has initiated a reign where lasting peace, justice, and righteousness will be established and maintained forevermore over not only the world, but the whole of Creation. Such a reign begins in our hearts today! It is our responsibility as Believers to make sure that we are performing our call as a part of His Kingdom of priests (1 Peter 2:9) where we can see that His reign has begun in the lives of others before He returns to Earth and judges those who fail to repent. Despite the different tests that His people down through the ages have had to face, often because of disobedience, a zealous remnant of the faithful has always been present. Is it possible that in our obedience to Him today, we can see that more than a remnant might be saved?

Those of us living today need to regularly envision the stark scene of Mount Sinai covered in the smoke of God’s presence, or His Temple filled with the smoke of His glory. In so doing, we place the attention of our hearts and minds upon that future day when God will be “all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28). May we persevere until that glorious time!

NOTES

[1] Exodus 18:17-27.

[2] Exodus 20:1-17.


This teaching has been excerpted from Torahscope Haftarah Exhortations by William Mark Huey.

Haftarah B’shalach

Haftarah B’shalach

“Singing Prophetesses”

Judges 4:4-5:31 (A); 5:1-31 (S)


by Mark Huey

This week’s deliverance of the Ancient Israelites from the clutches of Egypt is completed, as the dramatic destruction of the Egyptian charioteers in the Red Sea highlights God’s miraculous activities during the escape and early weeks of the Exodus from Egypt. Our Torah portion (Exodus 13:17-17:16) portrays visible and tangible evidences of God’s presence and provision. The ubiquitous pillars of cloud and fire that led and protected Israel from the vengeful Egyptians, not only manifested themselves, but they became a guiding fixture during the wilderness journey.[1] Additionally, bitter water was made potable, with sweet water emerging to slake the Israelites’ thirst.[2] Eventually, the arrival of the daily provisions of manna, separating out the Sabbath as a day of rest, provided nourishment for the next forty years.[3] Finally, the never-ending war with the Amalekites is noted, as Joshua prevailed in this early battle.[4]

With all of these extraordinary events, it may be curious to us that the Sages focused on Miriam’s singing praises of victory over the Egyptians, connecting it to a song of victory song by Deborah in the Book of Judges. Both Miriam and Deborah are labeled as prophetesses, providing a connective link that draws our Torah reading and Haftarah passage together:

“Miriam, the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took the timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dancing. Miriam answered them, ‘Sing to the LORD, for He is highly exalted; the horse and his rider He has hurled into the sea’” (Exodus 15:20-21).

“Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. She used to sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the sons of Israel came up to her for judgment” (Judges 4:4-5).

Drawing a parallel between Miriam and Deborah at this relatively early stage in the annual Torah reading cycle, gives the Messianic student an opportunity to be reminded of the critical roles gifted women have had and continue to have in the Body of Messiah. The fact that these Scriptures cite both Miriam and Deborah, associating these women with the office of “prophetess” or neviah, means that they possess the same authority and responsibility that similar male prophets have been given down through the ages. God looks at His chosen vessels without prejudice regarding their sex, nationality, or station in life. This is why the Apostle Paul can so confidently assert,

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Messiah Yeshua” (Galatians 3:28).

The outpouring of God’s Spirit is something that is absolutely gender blind:

“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh [kol-basar]; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions” (Joel 2:28, RSV; cf. Acts 2:17).

Recognize that up to this point in the Torah, the reference to a prophet or navi has only occurred twice. The first time navi appears is in a reference describing Abraham as a prophet, as God warned Abimelech in a dream (Genesis 20:7), and the second time navi appears is when the Lord designated Aaron as Moses’ prophet before Pharaoh (Exodus 7:1).

The third time the specific office of “prophet”—in this case “prophetess”—appears, is found in Exodus 15:20, as Miriam was recognized as a neviah. Miriam had, of course, played a pivotal role in the early life of Moses, being credited with saving Moses from Pharaoh’s death edict, and then actually giving him to the daughter of Pharaoh:

“Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a daughter of Levi. The woman conceived and bore a son [Moses]; and when she saw that he was beautiful, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got him a wicker basket and covered it over with tar and pitch. Then she put the child into it and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile. His sister [Miriam] stood at a distance to find out what would happen to him. The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the Nile, with her maidens walking alongside the Nile; and she saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid, and she brought it to her. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the boy was crying. And she had pity on him and said, ‘This is one of the Hebrews’ children.’ Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go and call a nurse for you from the Hebrew women that she may nurse the child for you?’ Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Go ahead.’ So the girl went and called the child’s mother. Then Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Take this child away and nurse him for me and I will give you your wages.’ So the woman took the child and nursed him” (Exodus 2:1-9).

As the older sister of Moses and sister of Aaron, the recorded high point of her life could easily have been when Miriam was called a “prophetess” and she led the women of Israel in song and dance after the deliverance through the Red Sea (Exodus 15:20-21). It was only later during the trek in the wilderness where we see a somewhat tragic description of Miriam’s actions, when she and Aaron questioned the judgment of Moses for having married Zipporah (Numbers 12:1-2). If one is to attribute this “fall from grace” solely to her being a female, then it is notable that she did not commit the offense alone, but in tandem with her brother.

To emphasize the reality that women have had vital ministerial capacities down through the ages, our Haftarah selection reflects on one of the most notable heroic woman appearing in the Tanakh. The opening verses of Judges 4 describe the predicament in which Israel found itself, as the nation once again slid into evil ways:

“Then the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, after Ehud died. And the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; and the commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-hagoyim. The sons of Israel cried to the Lord; for he had nine hundred iron chariots, and he oppressed the sons of Israel severely for twenty years” (Judges 4:1-3).

The Canaanite ruler Jabin was oppressing Israel precisely because of its sin, yet the people cried out to God to deliver them. We are introduced to the prophetess Deborah, a judge of Israel, who was responsible for seeing that the Canaanite army was subdued:

“Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. She used to sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the sons of Israel came up to her for judgment. Now she sent and summoned Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh-naphtali, and said to him, ‘Behold, the LORD, the God of Israel, has commanded, “Go and march to Mount Tabor, and take with you ten thousand men from the sons of Naphtali and from the sons of Zebulun. I will draw out to you Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his many troops to the river Kishon, and I will give him into your hand.”’ Then Barak said to her, ‘If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go.’ She said, ‘I will surely go with you; nevertheless, the honor shall not be yours on the journey that you are about to take, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hands of a woman.’ Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh. Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali together to Kedesh, and ten thousand men went up with him; Deborah also went up with him” (Judges 4:4-10).

Judges 4 gives us all the details of the orders of Deborah and the actions of Barak, as her leadership was followed and Israel’s oppressors were defeated. As the chapter concludes, another Israelite woman, Jael, was given notable credit for slaying Sisera who was the commander of the Canaanite army (Judges 4:21-22). Obviously, the men of Israel were not only commanded and encouraged by Deborah, but the spoils of slaying the opposing leader were reserved for Jael, wife of Heber.

For years, men seeking to assert authority over women have taught that these actions by women should be taken as a rebuke of men for not performing their duties and responsibilities to lead properly. But if you take these actions and compound them with the recorded exploits of gifted and called women who appear throughout the Scriptures, we see a less prejudicial and more balanced perspective.[5]

Continuing in Judges 5, the parallels between Miriam’s singing and Deborah’s singing are present. Praise to God for deliverance from the oppressive Canaanites is detailed in poetic terms:

“Hear, O kings; give ear, O rulers! I—to the LORD, I will sing, I will sing praise to the LORD, the God of Israel” (Judges 5:3).

Both the Song of the Sea (Exodus 15:1-20) and Deborah’s song (Judges 5) have been memorized and sung by God’s people in order to give praise to Him and implore Him for His mercy and compassion. While not only chronicling some of the details, Israel is reminded that there is no other like the Almighty. Ultimate credit is given to Him, even though the human instruments of His deliverance—both men and women—had to perform their roles in each episode. Recalling the exploits of both Miriam, and in particular Deborah here in our Haftarah reading, allows us to reflect briefly on not only two other women cited in the Tanakh as prophetesses, but also three women who the Sages considered to have this gifting (even though it is not specifically declared as such in the Holy Scriptures). Huldah and Noadiah were noted prophetesses, yet with very little recorded about their lives:

“So Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Achbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe (now she lived in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter); and they spoke to her” (2 Kings 22:14).

“Remember, O my God, Tobiah and Sanballat according to these works of theirs, and also Noadiah the prophetess and the rest of the prophets who were trying to frighten me” (Nehemiah 6:14).

On the other hand, Hannah, the mother of Samuel, Abigail the wife of King David, and of course Queen Esther, have all been considered “prophetesses” in the Rabbinic tradition for a total of seven women in the Tanakh (b.Megillah 14a). This is important to note, because despite the elevation of the Matriarchs Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel and Leah—women have frequently not been given a balanced position in the history of theology, as it has been dominated by male interpreters and leaders down through the ages (be those interpreters or leaders Jewish or Christian).

By the time one gets to the era of Messiah Yeshua, it is noted that He, as recorded in the Gospels, not only treated women equitably, but has women among His intimate followers. It is probably not unimportant that the Lord declared Himself to be the “resurrection and the life” to women, and that women were some of the first to actually recognize Him as the Messiah:

“Martha therefore, when she heard that Yeshua was coming, went to meet Him, but Mary stayed at the house. Martha then said to Yeshua, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.’ Yeshua said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to Him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Yeshua said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Messiah, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world’” (John 11:20-27).

Here in this passage, our Lord Yeshua, the Son of God, not only chose to declare who He was as “the resurrection and the life” to Martha, but He also demonstrated His power by raising Lazarus. There are many other examples of women in vital roles in the Apostolic Writings with the same gifts of teaching, prophesying, and leadership that rightfully cause many to conclude that throughout God’s Word—women have been used mightily in His work in the created order.

This week we are all challenged to consider the actions and lives of two singing prophetesses. If we spent more time analyzing the roles of women used by God in Scripture, we would discover that they have done more to promote the work of God than carry a good tune! Let us thank the godly women in our lives, and encourage them to reach for high spiritual achievements—as joint heirs and equal partners in the work of the Kingdom!

NOTES

[1] Exodus 13:21-22.

[2] Exodus 15:22-27.

[3] Exodus 16:1-7.

[4] Exodus 17:8-16.

[5] For a useful discussion, consult Craig S. Keener, “Women in Ministry: Another Egalitarian Perspective,” in James R. Beck, ed., Two Views on Women in Ministry (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), pp 205-248.


This teaching has been excerpted from Torahscope Haftarah Exhortations by William Mark Huey.

Haftarah Bo

Haftarah Bo

“God Rules”

Jeremiah 46:13-28


by Mark Huey

As the continuing saga of Israel’s departure from Egypt proceeds, this week’s parashah (Exodus 10:1-13:16), entitled Bo or “Go,” describes God’s final three judgments upon Egypt and the first description of the Passover instructions. Freeing the Israelites from the clutches of Pharaoh is so difficult that extreme measures are taken, so that future generations will know of God’s exploits against those who do not recognize His sovereignty. The explanation of the plague of locusts,[1] the three days of darkness so heavy that one could feel it,[2] and the death of the firstborn are described in detail.[3] The Sages noted parallels in the words of Jeremiah, who described another time of judgment upon Egypt as Nebuchadnezzar expanded the influence of Babylon. We find a contrast between punishments meted upon Egypt, and the ultimate deliverance of the Jews who were to be taken into Babylonian captivity for only a limited time:

“‘I shall give them over to the power of those who are seeking their lives, even into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and into the hand of his officers. Afterwards, however, it will be inhabited as in the days of old,’ declares the LORD. ‘But as for you, O Jacob My servant, do not fear, nor be dismayed, O Israel! For, see, I am going to save you from afar, and your descendants from the land of their captivity; and Jacob will return and be undisturbed and secure, with no one making him tremble. O Jacob My servant, do not fear,’ declares the LORD, ‘For I am with you. For I will make a full end of all the nations where I have driven you, yet I will not make a full end of you; but I will correct you properly and by no means leave you unpunished’” (Jeremiah 46:26-28).

The Exodus account and the ten judgments that provide the Israelites release from Egyptian servitude, can be contrasted with those who follow human leaders versus those who know the Creator God. Jeremiah understood these two options, describing the Pharaoh of Egypt as a big noise, compared to the Lord of Hosts who loomed like a prominent mountain:

“They cried there, ‘Pharaoh king of Egypt is but a big noise; He has let the appointed time pass by!’ ‘As I live,’ declares the King whose name is the LORD of hosts, ‘Surely one shall come who looms up like Tabor among the mountains, or like Carmel by the sea’” (Jeremiah 46:17-18).

Let’s face it: the immutable Master of the Universe is not impressed by mere mortals, pretender gods, or some part of the created order that human beings elevate to godlike status. If people choose to worship the sun or the moon or elements like the Nile River or various creatures—or anything other than the Holy One of Israel—they are deceived and are following after false gods. In our Torah reading as the Lord is describing the procedure for avoiding the death of the firstborn, He states that a major part of what He is doing is to judge the gods of Egypt:

“For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments—I am the LORD” (Exodus 12:12).

The jealous God of Creation (Exodus 34:14) will not share His glory with anything that He has made, or anything that humanity misconstrues to be worthy of worship. The Egyptians discovered this in a very graphic way during the period of the Exodus, and later when they were enticed into an alliance with Judah prior to the Babylonian invasion. What is interesting is that even with these historical precedents duly recorded for us in Scripture, there is a coming time when these lessons are going to have to be repeated as the world will once again turn to leaders or other created things for so-called deliverance.

As seen in the Book of Revelation, there are similarities between the judgments upon Egypt in Exodus, and what transpires against the entire world when the Time of Jacob’s Trouble (Jeremiah 30:7) occurs at the End of this Age. Note some of the parallels between the ten judgments upon Egypt, and the seven bowls of wrath seen in Revelation 16:

“Then I heard a loud voice from the temple, saying to the seven angels, ‘Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.’ So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth; and it became a loathsome and malignant sore on the people who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image. The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became blood like that of a dead man; and every living thing in the sea died. Then the third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of waters; and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters saying, ‘Righteous are You, who are and who were, O Holy One, because You judged these things; for they poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. They deserve it.’ And I heard the altar saying, ‘Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.’ The fourth angel poured out his bowl upon the sun, and it was given to it to scorch men with fire. Men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues, and they did not repent so as to give Him glory. Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became darkened; and they gnawed their tongues because of pain, and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores; and they did not repent of their deeds. The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river, the Euphrates; and its water was dried up, so that the way would be prepared for the kings from the east. And I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs; for they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty. (‘Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame.’) And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon. Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne, saying, ‘It is done.’ And there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder; and there was a great earthquake, such as there had not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty. The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath. And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And huge hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, came down from heaven upon men; and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because its plague was extremely severe” (Revelation 16:1-21).

The similarities between the original Exodus judgments and those at the End of the Age include sores from the pestilence, bloody seas and rivers, a judgment upon the Nile and Euphrates Rivers, darkness and sun changes, earthquakes and hailstones. God, in essence, will use the created order to execute His punishment at some future time, just like He has done in the past. This pattern of punishment described in Revelation, while not necessarily exact, does warn us that these events will eventually take place. It is imperative for those of us who know the Holy One of Israel and who are studying His Word, that as we review passages from Exodus and Jeremiah and consider prophecies from the Book of Revelation, that we are mindful of our task to point people to the only solution to the problems to come.

In this week’s parashah, the physical acts of slaughtering a lamb at the designated time, and taking some of the blood and wiping it on the doorposts and doorframe of the house, were the instruction to avoid the death angel (Exodus 12:7, 22-23). By faithfully obeying this command, the Israelite homes, and all of the livestock, were protected from the death of the firstborn that God used as His final judgment to get Pharaoh’s attention.

Similar to the Exodus, those of us living today have another event, which took place nearly two thousand years ago, which requires our faithful heartfelt acceptance in order to avoid eternal separation from our Creator. This is, of course, trust in the atoning work of the Messiah Yeshua, our Passover Lamb who paid the penalty for not only our iniquities, but our fallen nature in Adam. There in Jerusalem, hung on a tree (Deuteronomy 21:23; Galatians 3:13), pierced for our transgressions (Zechariah 12:10), He bled and died for us. He was buried and received the punishment that our transgressions merited. He was resurrected and ascended to the right hand of the Father in Heaven.

Now if we believe in the Messiah Yeshua as our Savior and Redeemer, we do not have to turn to human leaders or nations for our deliverance and salvation. Instead, we turn wholly to Him and to Him alone for what is required for eternal life! He rules from Heaven above! If you want to spend eternity with Him, then you must believe in Him with all your heart in order for God’s Spirit to take up residence in your new heart of flesh. Eventually in His timing alone, just like the Ancient Israelites in Egypt or the Jews who were exiled to Babylon, His greater plan of salvation and deliverance will be realized. The Prophet Ezekiel says,

“For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. You will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God” (Ezekiel 36:24-28).

How this all will take place is something only to be considered in the Lord’s timing. We each often have to remember that the Ruler not only rules, but He makes the rules—including the time of the final ingathering. In the meantime, our responsibility is to witness to a lost and searching world. Living a life that is pleasing to Him, and proclaiming the good news pointing to Him, are required of each of us. Looking at passages of Scripture like the above on a consistent basis, so that we are reminded of our duties and obligations, helps immeasurably. Pretending these truths do not exist, or are only to be considered by those in full time ministry, is not an excuse.

Pharaoh and the Egyptians, and a multitude of others down through the centuries, discovered that the Creator God rules regardless of whether human beings recognize it or not. Denying truth does not change or alter truth. Ignoring the rules of salvation according to the Scriptures has devastating consequences. One might think that if those in unbelief could only ask someone who has died in unbelief what happens, things would be different, but not even a man having come back from the dead could have convinced another’s brothers to change their ways—if the Scriptures had not been able to convict them:

“And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead’” (Luke 16:27-31).

We have a Savior who raised from the dead! Believe in Him and His work! He is seated at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:32-34) and He rules (Matthew 28:18)!

NOTES

[1] Exodus 10:1-20.

[2] Exodus 10:21-29.

[3] Exodus 11:1-10.


This teaching has been excerpted from Torahscope Haftarah Exhortations by William Mark Huey.

Haftarah V’eira

Haftarah V’eira

“God’s Discipline”

Ezekiel 28:25-29:21


by Mark Huey

The common themes that rise up in this week’s Torah reading, V’eira (Exodus 6:2-9:35), and its connected Haftarah selection, accentuate the first return and the future eschatological return of Israel to the Promise Land—contrasted with the ancient judgments on Pharaoh’s Egypt. The opening verses address what is commonly understood to be, from Ezekiel’s perspective, a distant return of Israel to the Promised Land after he looks back from what has taken place via the Babylonian captivity. Here, we read that God will not only gather Israel from all the nations where the people have been scattered, but He will also execute judgments upon all who scorn them:

“Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘When I gather the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered, and will manifest My holiness in them in the sight of the nations, then they will live in their land which I gave to My servant Jacob. They will live in it securely; and they will build houses, plant vineyards and live securely when I execute judgments upon all who scorn them round about them. Then they will know that I am the LORD their God’” (Ezekiel 28:25-26, NASU).

It is critical to recall that during Ezekiel’s time, when the geopolitical climate had come against Ancient Judah, that God raised up the idolatrous Babylonians as His instrument to judge the idolatrous Judahites. Judah’s king decided to desperately call upon a military alliance with Egypt, in order to avoid what was ultimately God’s punishment. This action neither prevented nor deterred God’s judgment. While much of Ezekiel leads one to consider the judgment upon Israel, Ezekiel’s oracles actually include a series of judgments that God will enact upon those whom He has used to judge His people or those who may think they will benefit from their downfall. Ezekiel chs. 29-30 detail how God will punish Egypt. Ezekiel’s warning—both for then in ancient times, and now as we consider things happening in the Middle East today—is something Believers should contemplate as we look to the Holy One, the only Source for our deliverance and salvation.

This week, as we contemplate the first seven judgments upon the stiffening neck of Pharaoh, which were transferred to Egypt and its people—we are reminded that the consequences of opposing the Creator are devastating. Pharaoh not only suffered, but the entire country he led also suffered. Can you imagine all of the individuals and families of Egypt which were affected by Pharaoh’s decisions to prevent the Ancient Israelites from leaving Egypt for a time of worship outside the confines of Goshen? While the narrative of Exodus focuses on broad subjects in describing the various judgments, if you place yourself as a subject or family under Pharaoh’s authority, think about how you would be personally judged for the actions of your leader. In a similar vein as you review the history of the Southern Kingdom and its subsequent exile in the timeframe of Ezekiel’s prophecies, we find leaders who depended on outside nations for their protection and survival rather than the Almighty. Consequently, the chastisement of the Southern Kingdom occurred as Babylonian hordes sieged Jerusalem and took a substantial number of the people into captivity.

Reading the statements of Ezekiel in the preceding and following verses regarding God’s judgment on the nations, the implication is seen that Israel is not immune from the discipline of God. In fact, as Biblical history and Scripture reflect, God’s people are purposely disciplined as a matter of His love. The principle of lovingly chastising a person, or even a nation for its errant ways, was known by the ancients who believed in the Lord. Consider the thoughts of Job, who certainly understood the concept of being disciplined by the Almighty:

“Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves, so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty” (Job 5:17, NASU).

Job understood God’s perfect plans for His creatures, declaring to his companions this ultimate vow during his many personal trials: “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him” (Job 13:15a, NASU).

In a like manner, Proverbs echoes this same understanding about a connection between a loving God and the object of His affection:

“My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD or loathe His reproof, for whom the LORD loves He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:11-12, NASU).

The author of Hebrews cites these two verses, as he exhorts his fellow Believers during a time of great trial and tribulation in the mid-to-late First Century. Note in this passage what the end result of this discipline is to be:

“And you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, ‘MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM; FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.’ It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:5-11, NASU).

Here we are told that the profitable yield of discipline is the peaceful fruit of righteousness. While the chastisement might not be seen as joyful, but rather as sorrow and remorse, the ultimate purpose is to draw people into a place of walking right with the Almighty.

In this week’s reading, we see that God uses nations to reprove and admonish His people. As our Haftarah selection winds down, we see that both Egypt and Babylon were pawns in the hands of the Eternal One as He chastised His people, and to a certain extent, gave these pagan nations some temporal rewards. However in the end, after the judgment was concluded, Israel was given hope. The House of Israel will be drawn into a fuller understanding that the Almighty is the Lord of all, despite some temporary “spankings”:

“Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will give the land of Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. And he will carry off her wealth and capture her spoil and seize her plunder; and it will be wages for his army. I have given him the land of Egypt for his labor which he performed, because they acted for Me,’ declares the Lord GOD. ‘On that day I will make a horn sprout for the house of Israel, and I will open your mouth in their midst. Then they will know that I am the LORD’” (Ezekiel 29:19-21, NASU).

In the opening verses of this Haftarah reading, we are given hope that God will eventually return a scattered people of Israel to their homeland. The concluding verse is that they will ultimately know that He is the Lord. Lamentably in the interim, it appears that the pattern will continually evidence how various nations and the decisions of leaders bring about the chastisement necessary to draw us to Him. This is a pattern that God has faithfully used down through the centuries. As we look at the current landscape of world affairs in our era, it appears He will use it again.

The good news is that if we understand that as a loving Father, His discipline is for our good, we will be changed into sons and daughters who walk in righteousness before Him. In so doing, we will be a light to others (Isaiah 42:6), and people who come into our presence will know we are different. No matter how difficult the judgments become, God will always preserve a righteous remnant who will shine forth His truths—until the Messiah returns to rule and reign from Jerusalem:

“Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:3, NASU).

May we be so privileged to shine, as we, by example, lead many to righteousness!


This teaching has been excerpted from Torahscope Haftarah Exhortations by William Mark Huey.

Haftarah Shemot

Haftarah Shemot

“Calling All Saints”

Isaiah 27:6-28:13; 29:22-23 (A);
Jeremiah 1:2:3 (S)


by Mark Huey

The obvious leap in time, from the end of Genesis to the opening of Exodus, makes this a logical point of separation as the Torah is sub-divided into five separate books. The previous focus on the families of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their offspring shifts, as their descendants have multiplied significantly while residing in Goshen. The exact number of years from when Joseph died to when Moses was born is debatable, but it is certainly a number of generations as the new Pharaoh was not knowledgeable about the earlier redeeming works of Joseph:

“But the sons of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly, and multiplied, and became exceedingly mighty, so that the land was filled with them. Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph” (Exodus 1:7-8, NASU).

The opening chapters of the Book of Exodus record the unique calling of the self-acclaimed, ineloquent Moses, to lead the people of Israel into freedom. Some of the Sages found parallels between Moses’ call, and in the special call that was upon the youthful Jeremiah, who was chosen by God to be a prophet to the Southern Kingdom. Notice in these passages the genuine humility of both Moses and Jeremiah, as they each recognized that being a mouthpiece for Him was beyond their human ability:

“Then Moses said to the LORD, ‘Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.’ The LORD said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say.’ But he said, ‘Please, Lord, now send the message by whomever You will’” (Exodus 4:10-13, NASU).

“Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.’ Then I said, ‘Alas, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, because I am a youth’” (Jeremiah 1:4-6, NASU).

Obviously, two servants of the Lord like Moses and Jeremiah had profound impacts during their respective generations. Neither sought their calling, but simply were chosen by the Almighty for works that He prepared for them from eternity past (cf. Ephesians 2:10). Both were faithful to their calls, despite the challenges which came during their lifetimes.

When one views the life of Moses as captured in the opening of Exodus, and compares it to what one learns of Jeremiah in his prophetic ministry, the statement made by the Lord regarding Him accomplishing His stated words, should bring much comfort to the heart. Just read the following acclamation after God supernaturally touched the mouth of Jeremiah, and then gave this youth an incredible assignment to make declarations to nations and kingdoms, with attendant consequences, which was followed by the promise to perform His word:

“But the LORD said to me, ‘Do not say, “I am a youth,” because everywhere I send you, you shall go, and all that I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you,’ declares the LORD. Then the LORD stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me, ‘Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.’ The word of the LORD came to me saying, ‘What do you see, Jeremiah?’ And I said, ‘I see a rod of an almond tree.’ Then the LORD said to me, ‘You have seen well, for I am watching over My word to perform it’” (Jeremiah 1:7-13, NASU).

When God calls people into His purpose and speaks His word into their lives, He is fully able to carry it out. As the old sentiment goes, God is not necessarily looking for your ability, but rather your availability. When you have been touched by God and called into His service, are you willing and able to allow Him to use you for whatever purposes He has created you?

These are important things for us to ponder. When we read about the life of Moses, we discover that he spent a lifetime seemingly discussing various issues with God—problems and challenges that crop up in his sojourn through life. While there is initially some reluctance due to self-perceived inadequacies, over time, God performed the word He confirmed to Moses that He was in charge, simply using him as an instrument for the deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage. Later in Moses’ life, when the time came for the people of Israel to enter into the Promised Land, we find Moses attempting to change God’s word so that he would be able to overcome an indiscretion that occurred when he struck the rock rather than speak to it as directed (Numbers 20:11-12). However, God does not change His word to Moses, but instead reminded Moses that he would receive punishment for his disobedience (Deuteronomy 3:25-26).

Jeremiah’s call was different than Moses’, but substantial nonetheless. Jeremiah was directed to make prophetic statements to not only six different kings of Ancient Judah, but also declarations about many of the nations in the region. We find that Jeremiah remained faithful to his call throughout his life, despite the numerous physical challenges that ensued. In both cases, the supernatural calls and visitations from the Lord, gave both Moses and Jeremiah the intestinal fortitude to persevere through the trials and tribulations of their respective eras.

It is important that you consider the call that God has upon your life. If you are truly born from above, then God has supernaturally transformed your heart of stone to a heart of flesh, and has taken up residence inside of you via the presence of the Holy Spirit. He has created you for a unique purpose in His created order, and none of us gets a pass on not being useful in the Kingdom’s work in some way. By faith in the accomplished work of the Messiah at Golgotha (Calvary), you have a personal responsibility to be a useful vessel in His hands. In the words of the Apostle Paul,

“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, NASU).

By performing the good works He has prepared for us, every Believer has the privilege of accomplishing the call that is upon his or her life.

Moving ahead in the Scriptures, we see many others who were called by God for unique purposes. Paul was one who clearly understood that every saint has a unique place for service unto the Lord, exhorting the audiences of his various epistles to take up their call with all diligence and perseverance:

  • “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Messiah Yeshua, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, ‘LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD’ [Jeremiah 9:24]” (1 Corinthians 1:25-31, NASU).
  • “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Messiah’s gift” (Ephesians 4:1-7, NASU).
  • “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Messiah Yeshua from all eternity, but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Messiah Yeshua, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher. For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (2 Timothy 1:8-12, NASU).

Time after time, Paul constantly encouraged those he was able to touch in ministry, to walk in a manner worthy of their calling, unashamed, without regard to the fact that God often chooses weak and seemingly foolish vessels to confound the purported wise and strong of the world. This does not mean that Believers are weak willed or ignorant people, but rather that they joyfully choose to be weak in their own strength so that God can be strong through them (2 Corinthians 12:9-11).

Thankfully, the Lord has given us the extended testimonies of individuals like Moses and Jeremiah. The testimony of those like Paul confirm that there has been a line of faithful people called by God for His service. As saints who have received the same calling of salvation, it is inherent upon each of us that we continually grow and mature in the knowledge not only of our Messiah Yeshua, but our respective responsibilities and the mission we are to perform. With this in mind, I offer you this given our collective need to be enlightened in every capacity, so that we might all fulfill the call that is upon each of our lives:

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Messiah, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the [assembly], which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:18-23, NASU).

No one called of the Father has an excuse to avoid the works that He has prepared for us in which to walk! He will perform His word whether we believe it or not. Moses, Jeremiah, and Paul all knew it to be true. If you are called, respond accordingly and accomplish much in the Lord! He will receive all the glory!


This teaching has been excerpted from Torahscope Haftarah Exhortations by William Mark Huey.

TorahScope Haftarah V’yechi

Haftarah V’yechi

“Dying Directives”

1 Kings 2:1-12


by Mark Huey

Physical death is the penultimate part of life that comes at the end of whatever amount of time one is given to reside in a perishable body (1 Corinthians 15). Most people do not spend much time contemplating their eventual corporeal end, or what they would want to communicate to loved ones before expiring. However, a few times throughout the reading and study of the annual Torah cycle, the inevitability of a person’s life on Earth coming to a close presents itself for our consideration. V’yechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26), the concluding portion of Genesis, records the closing statements of Jacob and Joseph. The Sages connected this to King David’s dying directives in 1 Kings 2 as the complimentary Haftarah reading. It is beneficial for us as pursuers of God to search out meaningful themes that can help us in our walk with Him, and interactions with others.[1]

What is it about the dying directives of these three significant men in the history of Israel, that is similar or different? Is there something we can learn from these comparisons, which will be useful in our walks with the Messiah today? Is it profitable to pause at times during our Earthly lives, considering our future deaths and what we want our dying words to be?

One would be hard pressed to find three men noted in the Tanakh—other than perhaps Abraham and Moses—who had more profound impacts on Ancient Israel than Jacob, Joseph, and David. Each of these three individuals had a special relationship with the Lord, and to varying degrees received: visions, dreams, revelations, psalms, and even a covenantal promise during the course of their lives. Jacob, the father of the twelve sons who constitute the twelve tribes of Israel, was of course renamed Israel, and both Joseph and David became emblematic types of the Messiah to come. Like both Abraham and Moses, all three are noted for their walks of faith in the Epistle to the Hebrews (11:21-22, 32). When one considers their recorded dying remarks, it can be seen that each of them believed in a resurrection and a future Kingdom to come (Hebrews 11:8-10; 13-16).

Even though Jacob, Joseph, and David had much in common, there are some distinctions which should be noted when one reviews the dying directives of these giants of faith. The author of Hebrews summarized how both Jacob and Joseph demonstrated significant faith in their final days:

By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.[2] By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones” (Hebrews 11:21-22).

In this recollection, the writer of Hebrews mentions the prophetic blessings Jacob bestowed upon his sons in Genesis 49, which follows the earlier blessings placed upon Joseph’s sons Manasseh and Ephraim in Genesis 48. The very last request of faithful Jacob is found in his desire to have his remains buried among his fathers, mothers, and wife Leah in the cave at Machpelah in Canaan:

“All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them. He blessed them, every one with the blessing appropriate to him.  Then he charged them and said to them, ‘I am about to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field from Ephron the Hittite for a burial site. There they buried Abraham and his wife Sarah, there they buried Isaac and his wife Rebekah, and there I buried Leah—the field and the cave that is in it, purchased from the sons of Heth.’ When Jacob finished charging his sons, he drew his feet into the bed and breathed his last, and was gathered to his people” (Genesis 49:28-33, NASU).

It is interesting that after all of the adoptive actions Jacob administered with his grandchildren Manasseh and Ephraim, and the prophetic statements made concerning his twelve sons—his dying request was to be buried in Canaan, the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Was there something about his final resting place that prompted Jacob to ask his sons to return him to the Promised Land? Were the promises that God made to Abraham, and passed down to Isaac and Jacob about this place being where God would place the foundations of His Heavenly city, part of his reasons? Or was the important thing for Jacob simply wanting to be buried with his family? Or is it possible that God put this on Jacob’s heart, so that the land purchased by Abraham would be of utmost importance for Israel down through the ages? Even though the Scripture indicates that when Jacob breathed his last, he was gathered to his people in Sheol (the netherworld),[3] his remains were not transported to Canaan until a few months later. Consequently, the mourning sons and their descendants would forever be attached to the burial site of the patriarchs and matriarchs of Israel.

Additionally, when you review the dying directives of Joseph, the preeminent son of his generation, the precedence established by his father Jacob is followed. On what appears to be Joseph’s deathbed, the desire to be returned to Canaan, and in particular the specific land near Shechem purchased and conquered by Jacob (Genesis 33:19; ch. 34) and promised to Joseph by Jacob (Genesis 48:22; Joshua 24:32), was requested of his brothers:

“Now Joseph stayed in Egypt, he and his father’s household, and Joseph lived ne hundred and ten years. Joseph saw the third generation of Ephraim’s sons; also the sons of Machir, the son of Manasseh, were born on Joseph’s knees. Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am about to die, but God will surely take care of you and bring you up from this land to the land which He promised on oath to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob.’ Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, ‘God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones up from here.’ So Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten years; and he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt” (Genesis 50:22-26, NASU).

We find in further reading that after all the years waiting for the return of Israel to the Promised Land, Joseph’s remains were finally laid to rest in Shechem during the Conquest by Joshua:

“Now they buried the bones of Joseph, which the sons of Israel brought up from Egypt, at Shechem, in the piece of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of money; and they became the inheritance of Joseph’s sons” (Joshua 24:32, NASU).

The parallels between Jacob and Joseph are fairly consistent. Both in their dying moments, they requested, of their heirs, a burial in the Promised Land. From the Hills of Judea where Hebron is located in the south, to the hills of Samaria where Shechem is located in the north, Jacob and Joseph’s remains were eventually laid to rest. These two burial sites were important places recorded during the life of Abraham, who was initially given the promise of the land for his progeny. From the first significant incident recorded after Abraham entered the land west of the Jordan (Genesis 12:6-7), to his ultimate resting place in the caves near Hebron (Genesis 25:8-9), the importance of this land was passed down from Isaac to Jacob to Joseph, and ultimately the Ancient Israelites.

In our Haftarah selection this week, 1 Kings 2:1-12 describes the dying directives of King David, and presents a different approach to the end of a life. David was not concerned about where his remains were going to be interred. But, just like the purchase of land in Hebron and land around Shechem, David had legally purchased the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite for the location of God’s House (2 Samuel 24:16-25). It was there in Jerusalem, the city of David which was situated between Hebron and Shechem, that David was confident his remains would rest. God had promised David an everlasting covenant regarding his progeny (2 Samuel 7:12-17), and instructed David to choose Solomon to be heir to the throne (1 Kings 1).

When you read through this, you find that beyond David encouraging a righteous walk with the Lord, David was concerned about consolidating and insuring the rule of Solomon after his death. Instructions to Solomon about how to resolve old issues with David’s enemies and detractors, dominated his dying directives:

“As David’s time to die drew near, he charged Solomon his son, saying, ‘I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man. Keep the charge of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn, so that the LORD may carry out His promise which He spoke concerning me, saying, “If your sons are careful of their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.” Now you also know what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, what he did to the two commanders of the armies of Israel, to Abner the son of Ner, and to Amasa the son of Jether, whom he killed; he also shed the blood of war in peace. And he put the blood of war on his belt about his waist, and on his sandals on his feet. So act according to your wisdom, and do not let his gray hair go down to Sheol in peace. But show kindness to the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be among those who eat at your table; for they assisted me when I fled from Absalom your brother. Behold, there is with you Shimei the son of Gera the Benjamite, of Bahurim; now it was he who cursed me with a violent curse on the day I went to Mahanaim. But when he came down to me at the Jordan, I swore to him by the LORD, saying, “I will not put you to death with the sword.” Now therefore, do not let him go unpunished, for you are a wise man; and you will know what you ought to do to him, and you will bring his gray hair down to Sheol with blood.’ Then David slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David. The days that David reigned over Israel were forty years: seven years he reigned in Hebron and thirty-three years he reigned in Jerusalem. And Solomon sat on the throne of David his father, and his kingdom was firmly established” (1 Kings 2:1-12, NASU).

Clearly, King David’s last words were much different than the last words of Jacob and Joseph. David seemed to have a number of unresolved issues that he wanted to have dealt with after his death. Imagine being the sons of Jacob at his deathbed requests, or the relatives of Joseph hearing his last request—compared to being Solomon and his entourage hearing the words of King David. Would you rather be responsible for transporting a body back to Canaan for burial, or settling some of your father’s unresolved problems with a rebellious general of the army and a prominent Benjamite citizen who cursed your father (2 Samuel 16)?

The more I dwelt on this topic, the more I thought about the fact as stated earlier that these Scriptures have been preserved for our spiritual edification (2 Timothy 3:16). Is there something we need to learn from these contrasting dying directives, which we can apply to our own situations today?

Jacob, who lived one hundred forty-seven years, seemed to handle his physical demise in a stellar fashion. Recognizing that he was about to die, he took the time to communicate some wonderful things regarding his grandsons to Joseph and the brothers. He also made sure that all of his sons heard his final words about what he foresaw concerning their futures. While some of the words might have been a little discomforting (especially when you consider the statements made to Reuben, Simeon, and Levi),[4] the fact that Jacob made these declarations allowed them to accept their positions in the family. It helped establish order and minimized any potential for bitterness which might erupt among this large and diverse family. In fact, the result was that these twelve distinct tribes were able to maintain their cohesion through the days of the Exodus until they could finally return to the same land where their father would be buried.

Joseph, who lived one hundred and ten years, also gave us a great example of how to be prepared for death today. As it is recorded, Joseph’s brothers were extremely concerned about how Joseph was going to deal with them after the death of Jacob. The brothers were not convinced that the evil they had done to Joseph was totally forgiven. However, Joseph not only forgave all of them, but he thought it was his God-ordained responsibility to take care of the brothers and their families (Genesis 50:15-21). The example of Joseph gives all of us today a great model of how we are to forgive those who have wronged us, and resolve any potential relational conflict that might be real or perceived—long before one’s actual death.

In what appears to be a way to not depart Earth, one can learn from King David what not to do to those around after we are gone. David truly loved and trusted the Lord. Yet at his deathbed, David was not entirely content in letting Him handle any ongoing problems with those whom he continued to have unresolved conflicts with. Palace intrigue must have been bothering him, despite the fact that he had a covenant with God. The transition of power to Solomon was nearing completion. Perhaps the fact that David was not concerned about his funeral arrangements, allowed him to spend time instead worrying about the consolidation of power that Solomon was going to have to perform. Would it have been better for Solomon to have just trusted in the Lord, and not approve the executions of Adonijah, Joab, and Shimei? Did the actions that King Solomon had to consolidate his power impact his style of leadership?

One can ask many questions and surmise a number of scenarios, but the records in Scripture speak for themselves. Personally, I believe that the dying directives of Jacob and Joseph are far more desirable than what transpired on David’s deathbed. Perhaps God can use these passages from Genesis and 1 Kings 2 to give each of us a wake up call on not only the reality of death, but the need to pass on blessings to the next generation without any unresolved conflicts. I believe that if we can do this in our lives, the Lord will not only be pleased, but that we will experience more blessings before we go. Such is an inheritance that cannot be priced!


NOTES

[1] Cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

[2] Editor’s note: The author of Hebrews here relies on the Greek Septuagint in his view of Jacob “leaning on the top of his staff.” The Hebrew Masoretic Text of Genesis 47:31 reads with rosh ha’mittah or “head of the bed,” whereas the Greek LXX has epi to akron tēs hrabdou autou, “on the top of his staff.” These differences may come from the fact that the vowel markings for the Hebrew MT are Medieval in origin, and without them the Hebrew word for “staff,” matteh, is spelled with exactly the same consonants, mem, tet, and heh, as mittah or “bed.” The LXX follows the point of view that Jacob was leaning on his staff as he blessed his sons.

In the scope of meaning, this is a rather small point, but some in the Messianic community have used it to discount the reliability of Hebrews. For further discussion, consult the entry for the Epistle to the Hebrews in A Survey of the Apostolic Scriptures for the Practical Messianic, and the commentary Hebrews for the Practical Messianic, by J.K. McKee.

[3] While there is debate among interpreters as to the exact meaning of Sheol, it is notable that there is specific terminology in Biblical Hebrew for a place of burial or internment: qever. When the Patriarch Jacob heard that his son Joseph had died, he exclaimed, “Surely I will go down to Sheol in mourning for my son” (Genesis 37:35). Strong support for Sheol in the Tanakh being an inter-dimensional holding place for the consciousness of the deceased is realized when Joseph, as one who had apparently been eaten by wild animals (Genesis 37:33), would have had no grave.

[4] Genesis 49:2-7.


This teaching has been excerpted from Torahscope Haftarah Exhortations by William Mark Huey.

Haftarah V’yigash

Outreach Israel Ministries and Messianic Apologetics need your help as we enter into 2020, and the third decade of the Twenty-First Century. This new decade is going to see the Messianic movement have theological and spiritual issues thrust upon it that most are not ready for. We have been preparing for this time for the past several years, and now it is time for us to speak out.

Our overarching ministry theme for this next decade is: How do we not lose the next generation?


Haftarah V’yigash

“Sticks and Bones”

Ezekiel 37:15-28


by Mark Huey

In the past century, there was an old school yard rhyme that was used to ward off the verbal attacks of opponents intent on demeaning schoolmates when physical force could potentially result in after school detention: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Certainly there is some corporeal validity to this retort from spoken taunts or name calling. However, one might argue that the spoken, or even written word, has the residual potential to do far more psychological damage than a broken bone that will mend itself over time. This recent defensive expression came to mind when I considered the messages conveyed by our examinations in the Torah, as the sons of Jacob were rescued from the results of a regional famine in V’yigash (Genesis 44:18-47:27). But even more reflection was stimulated when I considered its corresponding Haftarah selection, which speaks directly of a restored family of all Israel, after depicting a resurrection of dry bones.

The great chasm and potential animosity that could have developed between Joseph and his brothers, as a result of him being sold into slavery, never really occurred as our Torah portion for this week relates. Instead, the banished Joseph, recognizing the providential hand of God upon his life, mercifully used the circumstances of crop failures to teach his siblings a tremendous lesson about His sovereign hand upon the affairs of humanity. Whether the brothers were able to comprehend and appreciate what had transpired in their generation, is certainly open to conjecture. But no doubt, the maturation of Judah, as he struggled with personal transgressions and issues of life that drew him closer to the Creator, is certainly a contributing part. He unconditionally offered his own life for the life of his brother Benjamin, the final son of Jacob and his beloved wife Rachel:

“Then Judah approached him, and said, ‘Oh my lord, may your servant please speak a word in my lord’s ears, and do not be angry with your servant; for you are equal to Pharaoh. My lord asked his servants, saying, “Have you a father or a brother?” We said to my lord, “We have an old father and a little child of his old age. Now his brother is dead, so he alone is left of his mother, and his father loves him.” Then you said to your servants, “Bring him down to me that I may set my eyes on him.” But we said to my lord, “The lad cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.” You said to your servants, however, “Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you will not see my face again.” Thus it came about when we went up to your servant my father, we told him the words of my lord. Our father said, “Go back, buy us a little food.” But we said, “We cannot go down. If our youngest brother is with us, then we will go down; for we cannot see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.” Your servant my father said to us, “You know that my wife bore me two sons; and the one went out from me,” and I said, “Surely he is torn in pieces,” and I have not seen him since. “If you take this one also from me, and harm befalls him, you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow.” Now, therefore, when I come to your servant my father, and the lad is not with us, since his life is bound up in the lad’s life, when he sees that the lad is not with us, he will die. Thus your servants will bring the gray hair of your servant our father down to Sheol in sorrow. For your servant became surety for the lad to my father, saying, “If I do not bring him back to you, then let me bear the blame before my father forever.” Now, therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad a slave to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers. For how shall I go up to my father if the lad is not with me—for fear that I see the evil that would overtake my father?’” (Genesis 44:18-34, NASU).

It is at this point in our Torah reading that the clear distinction between the two leading sons of Jacob is indelibly marked. Judah, the fourth son of Jacob and Leah, had become the dominant brother of his generation, and ultimately received the mantle of inheriting the line of blessing passed down from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob. On the other hand, the two sons of Jacob and Rachel, Joseph and to a lesser extent Benjamin, maintained a different stature—with Joseph perhaps predominating as a Messiah-like son saving Israel from extinction. Due to Joseph’s position as the viceroy of Egypt and his marriage to Asenath, the daughter of the priest of On (Genesis 41:45), and father of the two sons Manasseh and Ephraim, Joseph eventually received a double portion blessing when Jacob adopted his grandsons (Genesis 48:5), making them joint heirs with their uncles. Consequently, there would be two distinctive strains among the Ancient Israelites: those who become associated with Judah (the Southern Kingdom), and those who became associated with Joseph and son Ephraim (the Northern Kingdom).[1]

The differences between two emerging sectors of Israel began to manifest themselves after Joshua’s conquest of the Promised Land. The Books of Joshua, Judges, and the Historical Books of Samuel-Kings and Chronicles, provide an overview of what transpired as the various iniquities and transgressions of the fathers—specifically worshipping other gods—were passed down and multiplied from generation to generation just as the Torah said they would:

“You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Exodus 20:3-6, NASU).

By the time one arrives at Ezekiel’s generation, the required judgment upon and exile of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms has been dispensed. God has used the Assyrians and the Babylonians to take the Israelites away from the Promised Land, sending many into the nations. The promise of a restoration of the captives to Zion came to Ezekiel in a vision of dry bones coming to life, as they took on sinew, muscles, and flesh (Ezekiel 37:1-14). Then a profound prophecy was made about returning all Israel to the Promised Land:

“‘Then you will know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My people. I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken and done it,’ declares the LORD” (Ezekiel 37:13-14, NASU).

What an awesome vision about Israel’s restoration! The balance of Ezekiel 37, which makes up Haftarah V’yigash, describes aspects of what the sticks of reunification entail. The picture of two inscribed sticks in the hand of the Son of Man is prophetically comforting, when you consider how Judah and his companions and Joseph and his companions, will one day be reunited:

“The word of the LORD came again to me saying, ‘And you, son of man, take for yourself one stick and write on it, “For Judah and for the sons of Israel, his companions”; then take another stick and write on it, “For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim and all the house of Israel, his companions.” Then join them for yourself one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand” (Ezekiel 37:15-17, NASU).

A proper interpretation and application of the specific promises seen in Ezekiel 37:15-28 are things over which many people today do not agree. Some Jewish interpreters believe that the prophecies have been fulfilled. Some Christian interpreters allegorize these prophecies as speaking of ecumenical unity in today’s Church. Various Messianic interpreters often believe that these are futuristic prophecies, and others simply do not want to touch them because of controversy. Those who do touch these prophecies of Scripture are very brave souls indeed!

When one sees the various views present of Ezekiel 37:15-28 in the Messianic movement, you find a great number of sticks and stones of verbal and written accusation. There can be abuse, slander, hatred, strife, and all sorts of evil deriving from various people—simply because you have decided to offer your interpretation of a prophecy speaking of Israel’s restoration. Instead of bringing great comfort and encouragement to God’s people, particularly in the past decade as the Messianic movement has grown significantly, these verses have been used to bring great division. But this is no fault of the Scriptures! It is instead the fault of those who fail to look at Ezekiel 37:15-28 with an attitude closely guided by the Holy Spirit.

It is a shame that every year when we encounter V’yigash, the great reconciliation that took place in Egypt over three millennia ago, and Haftarah V’yigash, which prophesies of the full restoration of the whole House of Israel are read—ancient animosities tend to prevail. Is it possible that the iniquities of the fathers are simply being passed down to the third and fourth generations that are alive today? Are old wounds of Jewish and Christian misunderstanding, pogroms, persecutions, inquisitions, the Holocaust, and prejudice simply being replayed by another set of actors? Is there reconciliation that needs to take place among those today who make up the Messianic movement, namely Jewish Believers who have recognized Yeshua as Messiah, and non-Jewish Believers who have embraced their Hebraic Roots?[2]

While attempts at reconciliation have been made in recent years, the ability to overcome the spoken and written words of contempt has continued to fall short of the goal of universal acceptance. A spiritually edifying and constructive way to approach the issues has often not prevailed. As you read the balance of Ezekiel’s prophecy, you will have to note that many of the aspects of the promised restoration have not come to pass. Most notable is the fact that God’s Sanctuary will be in the midst of the Earth forever! Does anyone honestly argue that this has taken place yet in such fullness? What will it take in order to see it finally take place?

“The word of the LORD came again to me saying, ‘And you, son of man, take for yourself one stick and write on it, “For Judah and for the sons of Israel, his companions”; then take another stick and write on it, “For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim and all the house of Israel, his companions.” Then join them for yourself one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand. When the sons of your people speak to you saying, “Will you not declare to us what you mean by these?” say to them, “Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will put them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand.’” The sticks on which you write will be in your hand before their eyes. ‘Say to them, “Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Behold, I will take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and I will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king will be king for all of them; and they will no longer be two nations and no longer be divided into two kingdoms. They will no longer defile themselves with their idols, or with their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. And they will be My people, and I will be their God. My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them. They will live on the land that I gave to Jacob My servant, in which your fathers lived; and they will live on it, they, and their sons and their sons’ sons, forever; and David My servant will be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will place them and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in their midst forever. My dwelling place also will be with them; and I will be their God, and they will be My people. And the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forever’”’” (Ezekiel 37:21-28, NASU).

In recent years, we have likely seen the beginning of the fulfillment of this prophecy, and many others. The formation of the State of Israel in 1948 was a significant part of this. Jewish people coming to faith in Messiah Yeshua is also quite significant and absolutely required. But now questions are being asked from large numbers of non-Jewish Believers who are drawn to Israel and their Hebraic Roots. What this means has been difficult to ascertain for many.

In spite of many of the challenges that currently exist, the Scriptural references we see in the Torah, Tanakh, and Apostolic Writings indicate that all Israel will be restored. Recognizing all of God’s people as a part of the Commonwealth of Israel (Ephesians 2:11-12) is a good place to start discussing what prophecies like Ezekiel 37:15-28 mean. For as those being brought together will say, “Will you not show us what you mean by these?” (v. 18, RSV). This is a question many people across the broad Messianic community are asking today.

The sticks and bones of Ezekiel are certain reminders that, in time, the prophecies of Scripture will come to pass. Great David’s Greater Son, Yeshua the Messiah, will rule over a restored and reunited people of Israel—composed of native born and fully welcomed sojourner alike—forever. Thankfully, the sticks and stones of ancient generations when the Southern Kingdom and the Northern Kingdom were at war with one another are not being used to break the tender bones of those receiving the Ruach and turning to renewed paths of righteousness. But sadly, we do have some who are hurling invectives that continue to keep the Messianic community divided, and actually do more to deter the restoration process than to accelerate it.

Hopefully, as we revisit these ancient stories about Joseph and Judah, and we re-acquaint ourselves with the prophecies of Ezekiel, the Almighty will bring new revelation to the minds and hearts of those hardened by the words of condemnation. God is able to heal broken bones and even broken hearts. Our challenge is to lay down the sticks, and as His people embrace one another and all with open arms of repentance as the Ruach fills us and leads us.

May He do so quickly!


NOTES

[1] Cf. Genesis 48:19-20.

[2] Interpreting Ezekiel 37:15-28, Joseph Blenkinsopp considers the “immensely problematic issue of Christian-Jewish relations…The attainment of a lost unity may be an eschatological goal but one that no Christian body professing allegiance to the biblical tradition can afford to neglect” (Interpretation, A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching: Ezekiel [Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1990], 175). He, and other interpreters, often view Ezekiel 37:15-28 as a word regarding the unity that is to occur among God’s people both internally within their own denomination, and externally between Christians and Jews.


This teaching has been excerpted from Torahscope Haftarah Exhortations by William Mark Huey.