Epistle of Ya’akov (James) ~ 1:2-8

Testing of Our Trust [1] (Faith) ~ Part 1

Regard it all as joy, my brothers, when you face various kinds of temptations;

The specific temptations he addresses in this letter are the poverty and oppression experienced by the poor (1:9–11; 5:1–6; cf. 2:5–6).

Newer translations render this verse: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds. (ESV) Why? Because the Greek word for both trial and temptation is the same. You see, what God will send or allow as a trial to strengthen our faith, HaSatan will seek to exploit to get us to sin. Conversely, what HaSatan throws our way as a temptation, God allows to be a trial. HaSatan wants to use the event to tear us down and wipe us out; God wants to use the same event to show us how faithful He is and how real He can be.

Though Ya’akov’s command was direct and forceful, he did not preach to his audience. He identified with them. He addressed them warmly as my brothers. This mode of address is characteristic of the epistle. He used this familiar form no less than 15 times. Ya’akov’s direct commands are coupled with deep compassion.

It is important to note that Ya’akov did not say that a Believer should be joyous for the trials but in the trials.

Obviously, the question arises: How can a person find joy in trials?

for you know that the testing of your trust produces perseverance. But let perseverance do its complete work; so that you may be complete and whole, lacking in nothing.

Jewish tradition repeatedly stressed the virtue of enduring testings and occasionally stressed joy in them due to trust in God’s sovereignty. It’s one thing to tell your teacher that you know the material; it’s another thing to write the correct answers on a test. Similarly, you may claim to believe and follow God, but how do you respond when he tests your faith and pushes your buttons? God is working to produce perseverance in you. Don’t try to short-circuit a trial by illegitimately seeking to exit it. God is trying to make you spiritually complete and whole. The conflict you experience in the physical world is a means He uses to draw your attention to something in the spiritual world.

Trials can be faced with joy because, infused with trust, perseverance results, and if perseverance goes full-term, it will develop a thoroughly mature Believer who lacks nothing. He will indeed be all God wants him to be.

Ya’akov’s argument may seem logical, but it is still difficult to see how trials can be welcomed with an attitude of joy. Where does one turn for help to understand this paradox?

Now, if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

What should you do when trouble begins? Pray. Ask God for wisdom, which is the ability to apply spiritual truth to life’s circumstances. He promises to give you the wisdom to respond to your trials with maximum spiritual benefit.

Ya’akov’s Jewish audience recognized this as the understanding and practical skill necessary to live life to God’s glory. It was not a wisdom of philosophical speculation, but the wisdom contained in the pure and peaceable absolutes of God’s will revealed in His Word and lived out. Only such divine wisdom enables Believers to be joyous and submissive in the trials of life.

But let him ask in trust, doubting nothing; for the doubter is like a wave in the sea being tossed and driven by the wind.

The image of being driven on the sea was familiar in Greek literature and occurred in Jewish wisdom texts; cf. especially Isaiah 57:20 and the saying about the insincere in Ecclesiasticus 33:2. In the context of Ya’akov, asking for wisdom in faith means committing oneself to obey what God reveals (Jas 2:14–26).

Indeed, that person should not think that he will receive anything from the Lord, because he is double-minded, unstable in all his ways. ~ Ya’akov 1:2-8 (CJB).

Jewish wisdom texts condemn the double-minded or double-tongued person (cf. also 1 Chron 12:33; Ps 12:2); like philosophers, Jewish sages despised the hypocrisy of saying one thing and living another, and speaking or living inconsistently.

How does God communicate this wisdom? Primarily through His Word and secondarily through Godly counsel. So, after you’ve prayed, go to the Scriptures and see what God says about your problem. Then ask Him for help from spiritually-minded people who can teach you how best to apply biblical truth to it. You must, however, approach with trust, doubting nothing or being double-minded (1:6, 8). You can’t go in two directions at once, responding to your problem from a divine perspective and a human one.

We will learn a little more about Ya’akov as we dig into what he says about the Testing of Our Trust ~ Part 2.

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[1] Recall that the Complete Jewish Bible translates the Hebrew word for faith as trust.

Y’hudah (Jude) ~ Call to Persevere and Blessing

In my last post, we explored the Judgment of False Teachers ~ Part 2. We conclude our study of Y’hudah by experiencing his Call to Persevere and His Blessing.

19 These are the people who cause divisions. They are controlled by their impulses because they don’t have the Spirit.

The people who cause divisions again refers to the false prophets and teachers who are dividing the community, seeking the values of society rather than God.

Y’hudah denounces the actions of the scoffers as devoid of God; they don’t have the Spirit. This seems to compare to the false teachers’ claims that they rely on visions, which they argued were from God (v. 8).

20 But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in union with the Ruach HaKodesh. 21 Thus, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for our Lord Yeshua the Messiah to give you the mercy that leads to eternal life.

Y’hudah contrasts you, dear friends, genuine Believers, with the ungodly free thinkers of vv. 4–19 and prescribes four things to do: keep the faith, pray in concert with the Ruach HaKodesh, keep yourselves immersed in God’s love, and wait for Yeshua to bless you with mercy.

22 Rebuke some who are disputing; 23 save others, snatching them out of the fire; and to yet others, show mercy, but with fear, hating even the clothes stained by their vices.

There are three kinds of people who have left the most holy faith (v. 20):

  1. Those who are disputing have closed themselves off to the truth. One can neither teach nor save them, only rebuke them, praying that God will change them.
  2. Others, who have been swept along by the free thinkers, are relatively innocent but in grave danger of falling away. Save them first by snatching them out of the fire, then ground them in the principles of truth.
  3. Yet others have fallen into sin but have not lost their basic teachability so that they may be restored. To them, show mercy, but with fear, hating even the clothes stained by their vices – love the sinner, but hate the sin. Brothers, suppose someone is caught doing something wrong. You who have the Spirit should set him right, but in a spirit of humility, keeping an eye on yourselves so that you won’t be tempted too. ~ Galatians 6:1 (CJB).

Not only must we grow in a relationship with the Lord, but we must also consider our relationships with the rest of God’s family. We must have mercy on those who waver. Some Believers struggle in their faith and need compassion. Others need to be aggressively snatched from the fire, that is, redirected from behavior or relationship that will burn them. But helping the latter, be wise: hate even the garment defiled by the flesh. As sure as clothing contaminated by a leper’s skin could infect you, helping others overcome their sinful tendencies could drag you down with them. Reject the sin; help the sinner.

24 Now, to the One who can keep you from falling and set you without defect and full of joy in the presence of His Sh’khinah (glory)2to God alone, our Deliverer, through Yeshua the Messiah, our Lord – be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen. ~ Jude 19-25 (CJB).

In addressing God as the One who can keep you from falling, the closing prayer follows the theme of vv. 22–23. This passage is one of the greatest of the Brit Hadashah doxologies, comparable with Romans 11:33–36, 16:25–27; Rev. 4:10–11, 5:12–13, 15:3–4.

God keeps you from being fooled by the deceptions of false teachers. He can also keep you from being tripped up so that you stand before Him without blemish and with great joy. No one is sinless. To be blameless means that whatever your failures, they are sufficiently covered. When you stand before God, based on your commitment to the truth, He is going to declare that you look exactly right.

Y’hudah closes by saying that to Yeshua belongs all glory, majesty, power, and authority. It is a reminder that God has the attributes, the position, and the legitimate right to get you through whatever challenges confront and the moral decay in the world around you. [1]

In my next post, we will begin to explore the Creeds of the Kehillah.

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[1] The Tony Evans Bible Commentary.

Y’hudah (Jude) ~ Judgment of False Teachers ~ Part 2

In my last post, we began to explore the Judgment of False Teachers ~ Part 1. This post will continue to explore the Judgment of False Teachers ~ Part 2.

Scripture instructs us to obey the legitimate authorities appointed over us. But false teachers reject authority. In this case, they were accountable to no one but themselves.

Likewise, these people, with their visions, defile their own flesh, despise godly authority, and insult angelic beings. When Mikha’el, one of the ruling angels, took issue with the Adversary, arguing over the body of Moshe, he did not dare bring against him an insulting charge but said, “May Adonai rebuke you.”

Mikha’el is one of two archangels mentioned in the Bible (the other is Gabriel; see Dan 8:16; 9:21; Luke 1:19; Rev 12:7). Others, such as Raphael and Phanuel, are mentioned in early Jewish texts (see 1 Enoch 40:9; 71:8–9). Daniel 12:1 portrays Mikha’el as a special guardian to Israel.

These people refer to the false teachers we encounter in my last post. Although modern Jewish popular ideology holds that angels are a Christian invention reflecting a departure from pure monotheism, the Tanakh speaks of them often, and post-Tanakh Judaism developed an intricate angelology that helps explain this verse. Moreover, the tantalizing brevity of the Tanakh’s account of Moshe’s death and the fact that he was buried in the valley across from Beit-P’or in the land of Mo’av, but to this day, no one knows where his grave is. ~ Deuteronomy 34:6).

Here Y’hudah reportedly alludes to a story included in the Testament of Moshe, a Jewish writing from the beginning of the first century CE. However, some portions of it have survived; the relevant ones have not. However, elements of the legend are found elsewhere. Mikha’el, who, based on Daniel 10:13, 21; 12:1, is regarded in Jewish tradition as Israel’s defender and HaSatan’s opponent.

Instead, in keeping with the warning, Adonai says, ‘Vengeance is my responsibility; I will repay’ (Rom. 12:19); Mikha’el said only, May Adonai rebuke you, echoing God’s rebuke of HaSatan (Zechariah 3:1–2).

10 However, these people insult anything they don’t understand; and what they do understand naturally, without thinking, like animals – by these things they are destroyed! 11 Woe to them, in that they have walked the road of Kayin (Cain), they have given themselves over for money to the error of Bil’am, they have been destroyed in the rebellion of Korach.

The road of Kayin took him out from the presence of Adonai (Genesis 4:16) because he refused to accept God’s advice and did not take advantage of any of the five or six opportunities God gave him to repent (Genesis 4:1–16). Kayin’s road led him to murder his brother Hevel, but murder was not the road itself.

They have given themselves over for money to the error of Bil‛am (Balaam). Numbers 16 reports the rebellion of Korach (Korah) against God’s appointed leader Moshe as a significant threat to the community of Isra’el, eliminated only when God had the earth swallow up Korach and his 250 co-conspirators. Because the false prophets and teachers similarly wish to take on themselves the authority in the Body of the Messiah which God has given to others, Y’hudah says they have been destroyed.

12 These men are filthy spots at your festive gatherings meant to foster love; they share your meals without a qualm while caring only for themselves. They are waterless clouds carried along by the winds; trees without fruit even in autumn, and doubly dead because they have been uprooted; 13 savage sea-waves heaving forth their shameful deeds like foam; wandering stars for whom the blackest darkness has been reserved forever.

In Jewish culture, meals have always been festive gatherings meant to foster love; among Believers in Yeshua, this is seen in Acts 2:42 and 1 Cor 11:21.

Waterless clouds carried along by the winds may be an allusion to Proverbs 25:14, Like clouds and wind that bring no rain, he who boasts of gifts he never gives.

14 Moreover, Hanokh (Enoch), in the seventh generation starting with Adam, also prophesied about these men, saying, “Look! Adonai came with his myriads of holy ones 15 to execute judgment against everyone, that is, to convict all the godless for their godless deeds which they have done in such a godless way, and for all the harsh words these godless sinners have spoken against him.”

Y’hudah quotes 1 Enoch 1:9. 1 Enoch, a compilation of writings by several authors who lived in the last two centuries BCE., is one of the Pseudepigrapha, Jewish books attributed to famous biblical figures, such as Hanokh (Genesis 5:18–24), in the seventh generation starting with Adam (Genesis 5:1). Such attribution was not deceptive but either honorific or a means of identifying the message of the actual author with the character and activity of the supposed one; compare the writer of a historical novel or documentary who puts words in the mouth of George Washington. Y’hudah’s quoting a non-canonical book does not make 1 Enoch inspired Scripture, nor does it disqualify Y’hudah’s letter. Sha’ul quoted pagan authors at Acts 17:28–29 and Titus 1:12, and no one supposes that their works should be included in Holy Writ or Sha’ul’s excluded. [1]

16 These people are grumblers and complainers; they follow their evil passions, their mouths speak grandiosities, and they flatter others to gain an advantage. 17 But you, dear friends, keep in mind the words spoken in advance by the emissaries of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah. 18 They told you, “During the acharit-hayamim (end times), there will be scoffers following their own godless passions.” ~ Jude 1:8-18 (CJB)

The majority of scholars hold that Second Kefa is an expansion of Y’hudah’s letter. Still, these verses suggest that Y’hudah drew on Second Kefa since Y’hudah not only excludes himself from the emissaries of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah but in reciting what they told you, he seems to be quoting 2 Kefa 3:3. A third possibility is that both books partly depend on a common source.

In my next post, we will conclude our exploration of Y’hudah by looking at his Call to Persevere and His Blessing.

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[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary.

Y’hudah (Jude) ~ Judgment of False Teachers ~ Part 1

In my last post, we began to explore this writing of Y’hudah (Jude). We looked at who he was when he wrote the letter, why he wrote the letter, and the conical history of its inclusion in the Bible. This post will continue to explore the letter in more detail beginning with Judgment of False Teachers ~ Part 1.

Y’hudah notes that while he intended to write about salvation, he felt compelled to address the danger confronting his audience – false teachers.

Dear friends, I was busily at work writing to you about the salvation we share when I found it necessary to write, urging you to keep contending earnestly for the faith which was once and for all passed on to God’s people. For certain individuals, the ones written about long ago as being meant for this condemnation, have wormed their way in – ungodly people who pervert God’s grace into a license for debauchery and disown our only Master and Lord, Yeshua the Messiah.

I was busily at work writing to you about the salvation we share. According to David Stern: “as with many books mentioned in the Tanakh that have not survived, our curiosity about Y’hudah’s soteriological [1] treatise cannot be satisfied. This salvation consists of freedom of enslavement, the gift of the Ruach HaKodesh, and the ability to live a pure life – all of which are offered freely because of Yeshua’s death and resurrection. Y’hudah is referring to the salvation that both he and his audience have experienced.

Keep contending earnestly for the faith which was once and for all passed on to God’s people. This suggests that the letter was written in the latter part of the first century when the faith had begun to crystallize. What the ungodly people do is not merely pass on erroneous information but pervert God’s grace into a license for debauchery and disown our only Master and Lord. They no longer recognize Yeshua’s right to command obedience but teach a perversion of Romans 3:28 and Ephesians 2:8–9 instead. A person is considered righteous by God on the ground of professing faith in Yeshua regardless of what sort of works he or she does. Such an attitude quickly results in debauchery and other kinds of antinomianism [2] since it removes the ethical and moral component of faith – faithfulness – trusting.

Written about long ago will be addressed when we look at vv. 14–15in a later post.

God’s condemnation for sin has already been decided. Since the false teachers mentioned here are intentionally and unrepentantly leading others astray, Y’hudah is sure of their fate.

In the following passage, Y’hudah recalls three examples from the Tanakh. Each of these examples highlights a particular aspect of the false teachers’ errors: They practiced the sin of unbelief (v. 5), sought authority they did not deserve (v. 6), and they engaged in immoral behavior (v. 7).

Since you already know all this, my purpose is only to remind you that Adonai, who once delivered the people from Egypt, later destroyed those who did not trust. And the angels that did not keep within their original authority but abandoned their proper sphere, he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for the Judgment of the Great Day. And S’dom, ‘Amora and the surrounding cities, following a pattern like theirs, committing sexual sins and perversions, lie exposed as a warning of the everlasting fire awaiting those who must undergo punishment. ~ Jude 1: 3-7 (CJB). [3]

Since you already know all this implies that Y’hudah’s audience is fully informed about the message of Yeshua and the events derived primarily from the Tanakh. All Jewish readers and even most recent Gentile converts knew the Exodus story. That people had experienced God’s redemption did not guarantee that they could not fall away and be destroyed.

In Genesis 6:1-3, the angels that did not keep within their original authority left their assigned place to have intercourse with women.

The transition to S’dom and Amora points to the similarity of the sin of homosexuality and what these angels did in Genesis 6. The destruction of these cities at the SE corner of the Dead Sea is used over 20 times in Scripture as an illustration of God’s judgment during the days of Avraham and Lot (cf. Ge 18:22–19:29).

In my next post, we will pick up our exploration of Judgment of False Teachers ~ Part 2.

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[1] Soteriology is the study of religious doctrines of salvation.

[2] The doctrine according to which Believers are freed by grace from the necessity of obeying the Mosaic Law.

[3] Even though Jude has only one chapter, it is customary to use the “1” nomenclature in front of the verse(s).

2 Kefa 1:16-21

Yeshua’s Glory and Prophetic Word

In my last post, we explored the subject of Confirming Your Calling and Election ~ Part 2 in 2 Kefa 1:8-15. In this post, we examine Yeshua’s Glory and Prophetic Word in 2 Kefa 1:16-21.

Kefa assures his audience that, in contrast to the lies of false teachers that he will discuss later in the letter, the teaching about Yeshua’s return he has passed on is authentic and reliable. Kefa’s preaching is not based on something he made up, but on both his firsthand experience of Yeshua and the truth of Scripture. Therefore, his readers can be confident of its accuracy.

16 For when we made known to you the power and the coming of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, we did not rely on cunningly contrived myths. On the contrary, we saw his majesty with our own eyes. 17 For we were there when he received honor and glory from God the Father; and the voice came to him from the grandeur of the Sh’khinah, saying, “This is my son, whom I love; I am well pleased with him!” 18 We heard this voice come out of heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain.

Like Moshe, Kefa encountered God on a holy mountain. Three of the four Gospel writers report this event, the Transfiguration of Yeshua, when Kefa, Ya’akov, and Yochanan personally saw the majesty of the Messiah made manifest (Mt 17:1–9, Mk 9:2–10, Lk 9:28–36). The words, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him, I am well pleased,” were also heard when Yeshua was immersed by Yochanan the Immerser (Mt 3:17, Mk 1:11, Lk 3:22); and they allude to Psalm 2:7, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father,” itself quoted at Acts 13:33 and Messianic Jews (Hebrews) 1:5, 5:5.

Prophetic Word

Having explained his credentials above, Kefa now introduces his main topic in 2 Kefa 2, dealing with false prophets and teachers.

19 Yes, we have the prophetic Word made very certain. You will do well to pay attention to it as to a light shining in a dark, murky place until the Day dawns and the Morning Star rises in your hearts. 20 First of all, understand this: no prophecy of Scripture is to be interpreted by an individual on his own; 21 for never has a prophecy come as a result of human willing – on the contrary, people moved by the Ruach HaKodesh spoke a message from God. ~ 2 Kefa 1:16-21 (CJB)

Kefa had the prophetic Word set forth by the Tanakh writers concerning God’s precious and very great promises (see v. 4) made very certain. First, his direct experience with Yeshua and his glory (vv. 16–18) made him confident. And second, since many of the words of the Prophets concerning the Messiah had already been fulfilled at Yeshua’s first coming, Kefa could be sure that the rest would be fulfilled at His second coming (this Kefa had known long before; see Acts 3:21).

The import of Kefa’s having the prophetic Word made very certain is that he, not the false teachers of Chapter 2, is the one whose prophecy interpretations should be trusted.

The Day refers to Yeshua’s second coming, but there is also an underlying hint at the Day of Judgment. As the Morning Star is Yeshua the Messiah. This seems to be a reference to Numbers 24:17, “There shall come a star out of Jacob,” taken in Judaism as pointing to the Messiah.

A prophecy of Scripture must be interpreted not based on thoughts rooted in a person’s old nature, such as those of the false prophets of Chapter 2, but based on what the Ruach makes clear about its meaning since Yeshua sent the Ruach to guide Believers into the truth.

But since He sent the Ruach to the Believers as a community, be cautious of those who offer “the true word” but avoid subjecting their opinions to other Believers’ scrutiny. Much false teaching both in Kefa’s Day and our own arises from people’s developing their own idiosyncratic interpretations, supposedly hearing the Ruach, but without examining other views or admitting that their own could be mistaken.

Never has a prophecy come as a result of human willing. This is why prophecy should not be interpreted based on one’s preconceptions, own willingness, and thinking. Just as people moved by the Ruach HaKodeshspoke a message from God, so people moved by the Ruach HaKodesh should interpret God’s message.

In my next post, we will begin to unpack 2 Kefa 2 dealing with False Prophets and Teachers. This is a timeless topic that is undoubtedly still very pertinent in our lifetimes.

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The Servant of the Lord ~ Part 3 ~ Yesha’yahu 42:18-25.

In my last post, we began our exploration of The Servant of the Lord ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 42:10-17. In this post, we conclude our examination The Servant of the Lord ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 42:18-25.

Chapter 42 ends with a prophecy that explains why Adonai’s people will experience judgment before they receive the deliverance described in the previous song. In this passage, Yesha’yahu is no longer talking about Adonai’s servant, Yeshua, but His servant, the nation Isra’el.

18 Listen, you deaf! Look, you blind!— so that you will see! 19 Who is as blind as my servant, or as deaf as the messenger I send? Who is as blind as the one I rewarded, as blind as the servant of Adonai?” 20 You see much but don’t pay attention; you open your ears, but you don’t listen.

Isra’el has been given so much, but she’s not seeing. She’s not hearing. Thus, she is indicted for being a people who are blind and deaf.

21 Adonai was pleased, for His righteousness’ sake, to make the Torah great and glorious.

The people’s inability to see and hear Adonai’s instruction was not a failure on Adonai’s part. He magnified His guidance and made it glorious. Only the most spiritually insensitive could miss it. Adonai had even sent the prophets – men like Yesha’yahu and others to make His instruction clearer, but still, they did not obey.

22 But this is a people pillaged and plundered, all trapped in holes and sequestered in prisons. They are there to be plundered, with no one to rescue them; there to be pillaged, and no one says, “Return them!”

When prisons were far off or not available, holes were often used to hold prisoners for a temporary period. Prisons were primarily for detention of individuals awaiting trial or political prisoners, both in Isra’el and Bavel.

23 Which of you will listen to this? Who will hear and give heed in the times to come? 24 Who gave Ya‘akov to be pillaged, Isra’el to the plunderers? Didn’t Adonai, against whom we have sinned, in whose ways they refused to walk, He whose Torah they did not obey? 25 This is why He poured on him His blazing anger as well as the fury of battle – it wrapped him in flames, yet he learned nothing; it burned him, yet he did not take it to heart. ~ Isaiah 42:18-25 (CJB)

Like Isra’el, what will Adonai have to do to finally get us to see that we need to obey His Word? If you’re at a place where you’re wondering why you’re in bondage or why things aren’t working out for you, could it be that there is a point of disobedience or stubbornness in your life? As He did with Isra’el, Adonai loves you enough to allow the fire of His chastening to come upon you so that you might return to Him.

We need to be listening to Adonai speaking to us through His Word and the Ruach so that we can trust and obey.

In my next post, we learn of Isra’el’s Only Savior in Yesha’yahu 43:1-13.

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The Helper of Isra’el ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’yahu 41:16-29

In my last post, we began to explore The Helper of Isra’el ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 41:1-15. In this post, we conclude our exploration of The Helper of Isra’el ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 41:16-29.

In our last post, we stopped at verse 15 which said: “I will make you into a threshing-sledge, new, with sharp, pointed teeth, to thresh the mountains and crush them to dust, to reduce the hills to chaff.” ~ Isaiah 41:15 (CJB)

16 As you fan them, the wind will carry them off, and the whirlwind will scatter them. Then you will rejoice in Adonai; you will glory in the Holy One of Isra’el.

The process of winnowing was usually carried out on hilltops, where the wind carried away the chaff and allowed the grain to fall to the ground. The grain was tossed into the air with wooden shovels or fans.

17 “The poor and needy look for water in vain; their tongues are parched with thirst. I, Adonai, will answer them. I, the God of Isra’el, will not leave them. 18 I will open up rivers on the barren hills and wells down in the broad valleys. I will turn the desert into a lake and dry ground into springs.

The phrase the poor and the needy here refers to Adonai’s down-and-out people whom He has punished. But Adonai will restore them, turning their dry land into a watery paradise.

In our travels through Isra’el in 2000, this is precisely what we see – a reclaiming of the desert. Adonai has undoubtedly given the Isra’el the ability to make a little water go a long way, for areas that were once dry and scorched are now beautiful and blossoming.

19 I will plant the desert with cedars, acacias, myrtles, and olive trees; In the ‘Aravah, I will put cypresses together with elm trees and larches.20 Then the people will see and know, together observe and understand that the hand of Adonai has done this, that the Holy One of Isra’el created it.

When the Zionists began to move back to Isra’el, the land seemed to be either desert or swamp. So they immediately initiated a tree-planting program. They planted eucalyptus in the wetlands, which effectively drained the water. They planted pine trees in the rocky, desert areas, whose roots would break up the rocks and produce soil. In the last 100 years, over two-hundred-fifty million trees have been planted in Isra’el.

21 “Present your case,” says Adonai, “Produce your arguments,” says Ya‘akov’s king.

As in verse 1, Adonai used legal language as He challenged the nations and their idols. Ya‘akov’s king is none other than Adonai Himself.

22 Bring out those idols! Have them foretell the future for us, tell us about past events, so that we can reflect on them and understand their consequences. Or tell us about events yet to come, 23 state what will happen in the future, so that we can know you are gods. At least, do something, either good or bad – anything, to make us awestruck and fearful! 24 You can’t! – because you are less than nothing. Whoever chooses you is an abomination!

The idols were ignorant of the future, demonstrating that they were not gods. Indeed, they were nothing.

25 “I roused someone from the north, and he has come from the rising sun; he will call on my name. He will trample on rulers as if they were mud, like a potter treading clay.”

He is King Cyrus of Persia. He is said to be from the east (come from the rising sun) because his homeland was geographically east of Isra’el. On the other hand, he could, at the same time, be from the north because that was the direction from which he attacked Bavel.

This prophecy is one of the most amazing in all of the Bible as we will learn in Chapter 45.

26 Who said this at the start, so we could know, or foretold it, so we could say, “He’s right”? In fact, no one said it; no one foretold it – the fact is, nobody hears what you say. 27 I am the first to declare it to Tziyon, to send Yerushalayim a messenger with good news.

While the idols were ignorant because they did not exist except as wood or stone, Adonai knew the future. Indeed He knew about this from the beginning. The coming of Cyrus was good news to Yerushalayim because his defeat of Bavel would mean that the exiles could come home.

28 But when I look around, there is no one – not a single one can give counsel, who, when I ask, can give an answer. 29 Look at them all! What they do is nothing! Their idols are so much wind and waste. ~ Isaiah 41:16-29 (CJB)

In other words, idols are capable of producing nothing more than hot air. Even that could only be attained by burning them.

In my next post, we conclude our examination of The Servant of the Lord in Yesha’yahu 42:1-9.

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The Servant of the Lord ~ Part 1 ~ Yesha’yahu 42:1-9.

In my last post, we concluded our exploration of The Helper of Isra’el ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 41:16-29. In this post, we begin to examine The Servant of the Lord ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 42:1-9.

Several songs in the latter half of Yesha’yahu focus on the Servant of the Lord (see also 50:4-6; 52:13-53:12). The identity of the Servant is much debated, and most modern commentaries give full lists of options. The context of these verses points in the first instance to Isra’el or Y’hudah filling the role of the Servant. After all, 41:8-9 addresses the nation as the Servant. In answer to the objection that this song’s description of the Servant is much too positive to refer to the nation as a whole, it can be conceded that Yesha’yahu spoke of the remnant that would emerge from the purifying fires of judgment. However, even the postexilic survivors did not live up to the hope expressed in these verses. So what or who is the Servant? Let’s see if we can answer that from our text today.

1 “Here is My Servant, whom I support, My chosen one, in whom I take pleasure. I have put My Spirit on Him; He will bring justice to the Goyim.

This is one of the most beautiful prophecies concerning the coming of Messiah. When Yeshua was baptized, the words were thundered from heaven; This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (Matthew 3:17). The Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) anointed Him at that time, empowering Him for ministry, to accomplish great things for the glory of Adonai. We receive power when the Ruach comes upon us.

Such anointing in the Tanakh granted the recipient the ability to perform a divinely given task, in this case, to bring justice to the Goyim (that’s most of us folks). Adonai commissioned Isara’el with this task beginning with the promises to Avraham that included their being a blessing to the Goyim (see Gen 12:1-3), but it is Yeshua who will perform His Father’s will fit perfectly in this regard. Yeshua’s work of justice included bringing judgment on sinners.

2 He will not cry or shout; no one will hear His voice in the streets.

This speaks of Yeshua’s humility and gentleness. Rather than being loud and obnoxious, rather than drawing attention to Himself, Yeshua was so ordinary in the eyes of men that Judas had to identify Him to the Roman soldiers (see Matthew 26:48).

3 He will not snap off a broken reed or snuff out a smoldering wick. He will bring forth justice according to truth;

The Servant’s work of bringing justice to the world is also characterized by compassion. Like Adonai who would not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah if just ten righteous people could be found there, so the Servant will not crush anyone, provided there is even a glimmer of hope in them.

4 He will not weaken or be crushed until He has established justice on the earth, and the coastlands wait for His Torah.”

The coastlands refer to the distant nations, so it is a way of identification of all the Goyim. The whole earth will heed Adonai’s instruction, bringing justice to the world.

5 Thus says God, Adonai, who created the heavens and spread them out, who stretched out the earth and all that grows from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk on it:

Adonai is not a part of creation; He is its Creator. He is also not a human being, but the One who created human beings. He gave them breath, starting with Adam.

6 “I, Adonai, called you righteously, I took hold of you by the hand, I shaped you and made you a covenant for the people, to be a light for the Goyim,

Adonai had entered into a covenant with Avraham on behalf not only of future Israel but also of the Goyim. But history shows Isra’el’s miserable failure. Again, Adonai’s purposes were fulfilled in the good news of Yeshua. As the light for the Goyim, Yeshua would indeed be the light for the Goyim.

7 so that you can open blind eyes, free the prisoners from confinement, those living in darkness from the dungeon.

Yeshua came to liberate. He came to deliver humanity from the prison of our sin. Therefore, our sins are forgiven totally for all those who confess and believe that He is the Son of God. In the Word, He has given us all the answers to life practically. We get to know the Creator of the universe personally as we study and meditate on His Word and talk with Him in prayer.

8 I am Adonai; that is My name. I yield My glory to no one else, nor My praise to any idol. 9 See how the former predictions come true, and now new things do I declare – before they sprout I tell you about them.” ~ Isaiah 42:1-9 (CJB)

When Yeshua came on the scene, He was able to do what He taught us we should do. “In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they may see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.” ~ Matthew 5:16 (CJB) Without exception, every time Yeshua did a miracle, the people glorified Adonai.

It’s so crucial that, as Yeshua begins to increasingly use us in serving Him, we don’t fall into the subtle temptation of touching the glory, of building a name for yourself. It will wipe us out. Perhaps the fastest way we can undo what Adonai desires to do in your life is to start taking credit for it. Give Him all the glory!

In my next post, we continue our examination of The Servant of the Lord ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 42:10-17.

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The Helper of Isra’el ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’yahu 41:16-29

In my last post, we began to explore The Helper of Isra’el ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 41:1-15. In this post, we conclude our exploration of The Helper of Isra’el ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 41:16-29.

In our last post, we stopped at verse 15 which said: “I will make you into a threshing-sledge, new, with sharp, pointed teeth, to thresh the mountains and crush them to dust, to reduce the hills to chaff.” ~ Isaiah 41:15 (CJB)

16 As you fan them, the wind will carry them off, and the whirlwind will scatter them. Then you will rejoice in Adonai; you will glory in the Holy One of Isra’el.

The process of winnowing was usually carried out on hilltops, where the wind carried away the chaff and allowed the grain to fall to the ground. The grain was tossed into the air with wooden shovels or fans.

17 “The poor and needy look for water in vain; their tongues are parched with thirst. I, Adonai, will answer them. I, the God of Isra’el, will not leave them. 18 I will open up rivers on the barren hills and wells down in the broad valleys. I will turn the desert into a lake and dry ground into springs.

The phrase the poor and the needy here refers to Adonai’s down-and-out people whom He has punished. But Adonai will restore them, turning their dry land into a watery paradise.

In our travels through Isra’el in 2000, this is precisely what we see – a reclaiming of the desert. Adonai has undoubtedly given the Isra’el the ability to make a little water go a long way, for areas that were once dry and scorched are now beautiful and blossoming.

19 I will plant the desert with cedars, acacias, myrtles, and olive trees; In the ‘Aravah, I will put cypresses together with elm trees and larches.20 Then the people will see and know, together observe and understand that the hand of Adonai has done this, that the Holy One of Isra’el created it.

When the Zionists began to move back to Isra’el, the land seemed to be either desert or swamp. So they immediately initiated a tree-planting program. They planted eucalyptus in the wetlands, which effectively drained the water. They planted pine trees in the rocky, desert areas, whose roots would break up the rocks and produce soil. In the last 100 years, over two-hundred-fifty million trees have been planted in Isra’el.

21 “Present your case,” says Adonai, “Produce your arguments,” says Ya‘akov’s king.

As in verse 1, Adonai used legal language as He challenged the nations and their idols. Ya‘akov’s king is none other than Adonai Himself.

22 Bring out those idols! Have them foretell the future for us, tell us about past events, so that we can reflect on them and understand their consequences. Or tell us about events yet to come, 23 state what will happen in the future, so that we can know you are gods. At least, do something, either good or bad – anything, to make us awestruck and fearful! 24 You can’t! – because you are less than nothing. Whoever chooses you is an abomination!

The idols were ignorant of the future, demonstrating that they were not gods. Indeed, they were nothing.

25 “I roused someone from the north, and he has come from the rising sun; he will call on my name. He will trample on rulers as if they were mud, like a potter treading clay.”

He is King Cyrus of Persia. He is said to be from the east (come from the rising sun) because his homeland was geographically east of Isra’el. On the other hand, he could, at the same time, be from the north because that was the direction from which he attacked Bavel.

This prophecy is one of the most amazing in all of the Bible as we will learn in Chapter 45.

26 Who said this at the start, so we could know, or foretold it, so we could say, “He’s right”? In fact, no one said it; no one foretold it – the fact is, nobody hears what you say. 27 I am the first to declare it to Tziyon, to send Yerushalayim a messenger with good news.

While the idols were ignorant because they did not exist except as wood or stone, Adonai knew the future. Indeed He knew about this from the beginning. The coming of Cyrus was good news to Yerushalayim because his defeat of Bavel would mean that the exiles could come home.

28 But when I look around, there is no one – not a single one can give counsel, who, when I ask, can give an answer. 29 Look at them all! What they do is nothing! Their idols are so much wind and waste. ~ Isaiah 41:16-29 (CJB)

In other words, idols are capable of producing nothing more than hot air. Even that could only be attained by burning them.

In my next post, we begin to explore The Servant of the Lord in Yesha’yahu 42:1-9.

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The Helper of Isra’el ~ Part 1 ~ Yesha’yahu 41:1-15

In my last post, we completed our exploration of Comfort for Adonai’s People ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 40:27-31. In this post, we begin to explore The Helper of Isra’el ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 41:1-15.

1 “Keep silence before Me, O coastlands, and let the people renew their strength! Let them come near, then let them speak; Let us come near together for judgment.

Here in chapter 41, it is as if we are looking in on a courtroom scene as Adonai calls worshipers of other gods to state their case. The coastlands refer to far-off lands and thus represent all the nations of the world. The prophets often used the language of the courtroom. Here Adonai will try the nations and their idols. The nations were to keep silence as Adonai presented evidence in support of His case.

2 “Who raised up one from the east? Who in righteousness called him to His feet? Who gave the nations before Him, And made Him rule over kings? Who gave them as the dust to His sword, as driven stubble to His bow?

The one from the east who subdues kings is a reference to Cyrus, King of Persia (see Isaiah 45:1), whom Adonai used to defeat Bavel in 539 BCE. This brought the exile of Y’hudah to an end.

3 Who pursued them, and passed safely by the way that he had not gone with his feet? 

The conquests of Cyrus were quick, and he remained safe until he had extended Bavel’s boundaries.

4 Who has performed and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? ‘ I, the LORD, am the first; And with the last I am He.’ “

Though Cyrus was the human agent behind these predicted events, Adonai took credit because Cyrus succeeded because of His sovereign control. In verses 2-4, Jon Courson believes that the reference is not Cyrus but Yeshua as He is the only true Righteous One, the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last. [1]

Personally, I don’t have a problem thinking it could easily refer to both at the same time.

5 The coastlands saw it and feared, the ends of the earth were afraid; they drew near and came.

The nations are coming before the throne of Adonai.

6 Everyone helped his neighbor, And said to his brother, “Be of good courage!”

The heathen nations are saying to one another be of good courage as they stand in the presence of Adonai.

7 So the craftsman encouraged the goldsmith; he who smooths with the hammer inspired him who strikes the anvil, saying, “It is ready for the soldering”; then he fastened it with pegs, that it might not totter.

In this verse, the craftsman is the one who prepares the mold and creates the cast figurine. The goldsmith attaches the plating and inlay. Then the hammer is used to smooth out and shine the overlay. The last step is difficult to translate because it is full of technical terms, but it appears to refer to the fitting of the peg into the hole in the wooden base. [2]

8 “But you, Isra’el, are My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the descendants of Abraham, My friend.

While the nations felt the wrath of Adonai at the hands of His agent Cyrus, Adonai again would make Isra’el His friend. By calling Isra’el the descendant of Avraham, Adonai called to mind the promise to the patriarch that his descendants would be a great nation (Genesis 12:2). Based on this ancient covenantal promise, Adonai acted to restore His people Isra’el.

9 You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest regions, and said to you, ‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and have not cast you away:

Adonai’s punishment of Y’hudah led to exile in 586 BCE when many of its leading citizens were taken to Bavel and from there scattered throughout the empire. The restoration involved bringing them back from the ends of the earth.

10 Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

Adonai’s statement I am with you is a concise way of describing the covenant relationship between Him and His people. Adonai’s right hand is often associated with His military might, thus His ability to protect His people. The only courage the heathen could draw was from each other. Isra’el’s comfort, on the other hand, came from Adonai Himself.

11 “Behold, all those who were incensed against you shall be ashamed and disgraced; they shall be as nothing, and those who strive with you shall perish. 12 You shall seek them and not find them – those who contended with you. Those who war against you shall be as nothing, as a nonexistent thing.

All those who strive against Isra’el shall perish. In the End Times, countries who wage war against Isra’el are on the wrong team because, according to Matthew 25, treatment of the Jewish nation during the Tribulation will determine what nations move into the Millennium following the Tribulation period.

13 For I, the LORD your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’ 14 “Fear not, you worm Jacob, You men of Isra’el! I will help you,” says the LORD And your Redeemer, the Holy One of Isra’el.

Once again, the inability of the nations to contend with Isra’el was because of divine protection and intimacy (I…will hold your right hand). Isra’el did not have the strength or ability to protect itself, but Adonai would sustain them.

15 “Behold, I will make you into a new threshing sledge with sharp teeth; You shall thresh the mountains and beat them small, And make the hills like chaff. ~ Isaiah 41:1-15 (NKJV)

The threshing sledge was a heavy wooden sledge with stone or iron teeth. It was used to separate the grain from the chaff before the winnowing process. The metaphor emphasizes how thoroughly and violently Isra’el would defeat the nations.

In my next post, we conclude our examination of The Helper of Isra’el ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 41:16-29.

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[1] Jon Courson’s Application Commentary Old Testament Volume 2.

[2] The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament.