Observing Purim ~ 2021

Introduction

Purim commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people from destruction in the reign of the Persian King Ahasuerus, or Xerxes I, as recorded in the Book of Esther. Held on the 14th and 15th days of the Jewish month of Adar, it is celebrated by feasting and merriment, almsgiving, sending food to neighbors and friends, and chanting the text of Esther. Although this is not a time appointed by God for remembrance, it is perhaps the most joyous day of the Jewish year, with masquerades, plays, and drinking of wine even in the synagogue.

In 2021, Purim is celebrated on February 26th & 27th.

Setting

The story of Esther takes place in Sushan, an ancient royal city of the Persian Empire, approximately 150 miles north of the Persian Gulf in modern Iran. It is the traditional burial site of the prophet Daniel. The events took place in approximately 465 BCE after the Jewish people returned to Jerusalem from their Babylonian captivity by King Cyrus.

Significance for Today

The Book of Esther is a story of teamwork that shaped a nation and a study of survival of God’s chosen people. The relationship between Esther and Mordecai vividly portrays the unity that Yeshua prayed for His disciples to experience. The success of their roles, even their very survival, depended upon their unity.

The Book of Esther reminds us that God destroys those who try to harm His people. From this, we are reminded that He is faithful to destroy HaSatan and that His sovereign purposes ultimately prevail.

The Book of Esther has been called the ‘secular’ book of the Bible. It is the only book that does not mention or even allude to God. However, His imprint is obvious throughout. Esther’s spiritual maturity is seen in her knowledge to wait for God’s timing to make her request to save her people and denounce Haman. Mordecai also demonstrates maturity in seeking God’s timing and direction for the right time to have Esther disclose her identity as a Jew.

As we have been learning as we discover the Jewish roots of our faith, having a firm foundation of the Tanakh opens the Brit Hadashah up to a deeper understanding of our faith.

Jewish Observance of Purim

  1. Listen to the Megillah: To relive the miraculous events of Purim, we are to listen to the reading of the Megillah (the Scroll of Esther) twice: once on Purim eve and again on Purim day.
  2. Give to the Needy (Matanot La’evyonim): Concern for the needy is a year-round responsibility, but on Purim, it is a special mitzvah (commandment) to remember the poor. Give charity to at least two (but preferably more) needy individuals on the day of Purim. Giving directly to the needy best fulfills the mitzvah. If, however, you cannot find poor people, place at least several coins into a charity box. As in the other mitzvahs of Purim, even small children should fulfill this mitzvah.
  1. Send Food Portions to Friends (Mishloach Manot): On Purim, we emphasize the importance of Jewish unity and friendship by sending gifts of food to friends. Send a gift of at least two kinds of ready-to-eat foods (e.g., pastry, fruit, beverage), to at least one friend on Purim day. Men should send to men and women to women. The gifts should be delivered via a third party. Children, in addition to sending their gifts of food to their friends, make enthusiastic messengers.
  1. Eat, Drink and be Merry: Purim should be celebrated with a special festive meal on Purim Day, at which family and friends gather together to rejoice in the Purim spirit. It is a mitzvah to drink wine or other inebriating drinks at this meal.
  1. Special Prayers (Al Hanissim, Torah reading): On Purim, we recite the Al HaNissim prayer in the evening, morning, and afternoon prayers, as well as in the Grace After Meals. In the morning service, there is a special reading from the Torah Scroll in the synagogue.”And (we thank You) for the miracles, for the redemption, for the mighty deeds, for the saving acts, and for the wonders which You have wrought for our ancestors in those days, at this time – in the days of Mordecai and Esther, in Shushan the capital, when the wicked Haman rose against them, and sought to destroy, slaughter and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in one day, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar and to take their spoil for plunder. But You, in Your abounding mercies, foiled his counsel and frustrated his intention, and caused the evil he planned to recoil on his head, and they hanged him and his sons upon the gallows.”
  1. Torah Reading of “Zachor”: On the Shabbat before Purim, a special reading is held in the synagogue of the Torah section called Zachor (“Remember” – Deuteronomy 25:17-19), in which we are enjoined to remember the deeds of (the nation of) Amalek (Haman’s ancestor) who sought to destroy the Jewish people.
  1. The Fast of Esther: To commemorate the day of prayer and fasting that the Jewish people held at Esther’s request, we fast on the day before Purim, from approximately an hour before sunrise until nightfall.
  1. The “Half Coins” (Machatzit Hashekel): It is a tradition to give three half-dollar coins to charity to commemorate the half-shekel that each Jew contributed as his share in the communal offerings in the time of the Holy Temple. This custom, usually performed in the synagogue, is done on the afternoon of the “Fast of Esther” or before the reading of the Megillah.
  1. Purim Customs: Masquerades and Hamantashen: A time-honored Purim custom is for children to dress up and disguise themselves-an allusion to the fact that the miracle of Purim was disguised in natural garments. This is also the significance behind a traditional Purim food, the hamantash-a pastry whose filling is hidden within a three-cornered crust.

Summary of the Story

The Book of Esther tells of the deliverance of the Jewish people of Persia from destruction and of the institution of the Feast of Purim as the annual commemoration of this event. Esther is an orphaned Jewish maiden raised by her older cousin Mordecai. (As an aside, there is some dispute amongst the various Bible translations as to whether Mordecai was Esther’s uncle or cousin. Irrespective, she was an orphan, and Mordecai raised her as his daughter.) She is selected from among the most beautiful maidens of the Persian Empire to be the queen of King Ahasuerus (Xerxes I), replacing the banished Queen Vashti, angered by Mordecai’s refusal to pay him homage, Haman, the king’s ambitious chief minister, plots to destroy Mordecai and all his people. He persuades the king to issue an edict authorizing a massacre of all the Jews in the realm on the ground that they do not keep the king’s laws. Mordecai urges Esther to persuade Ahasuerus to rescind the decree. Esther, risking execution by appearing unbidden before the king, exposes the intrigues of Haman, after that Ahasuerus orders Haman hanged and appoints Mordecai as his chief minister. The king then reverses his edict, allowing the Jews to destroy their enemies throughout the empire. On the appointed day, they carry out bloody vengeance. Finally, to celebrate their delivery, Mordecai and Queen Esther decree the annual feast of Purim.

Faith: The Better Way ~ Part 6

Messianic Jews 12:18-29
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we continued on our topic of the Trust and the Believer by looking at Exhortation to Endurance in Messianic Jews 12:12-17. In this post, we wrap up with the topic of the Trust and the Believer in Messianic Jews 12 by exploring a Final Warning Against Apostasy in Messianic Jews 12: 18-29.

18 For you have not come to a tangible mountain, to an ignited fire, to darkness, to murk, to a whirlwind, 19 to the sound of a shofar, and to a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further message be given to them – 20 for they couldn’t bear what was being commanded them, “If even an animal touches the mountain, it is to be stoned to death”; 21 and so terrifying was the sight that Moshe said, “I am quaking with dread.” 22 On the contrary, you have come to Mount Tziyon, that is, the city of the living God, heavenly Yerushalayim; to myriads of angels in festive assembly; 23 to a community of the firstborn whose names have been recorded in heaven; to a Judge who is God of everyone; to spirits of righteous people who have been brought to the goal; 24 to the mediator of a new covenant, Yeshua; and to the sprinkled blood that speaks better things than that of Hevel.

25 See that you don’t reject the One speaking! For if those did not escape who rejected Him when He gave divine warning on earth, think how much less we will escape if we turn away from Him when He warns from heaven. 26 Even then, His voice shook the earth; but now, He has made this promise: “One more time I will shake not only the earth but heaven too!” 27 And this phrase, “one more time,” makes clear that the things shaken are removed since they are created things, so that the things not shaken may remain. 28 Therefore, since we have received an unshakeable Kingdom, let us have grace, through which we may offer service that will please God, with reverence and fear. 29 For indeed,

“Our God is a consuming fire!”  ~Messianic Jews 12:18-29 (CJB)

This passage is a contrast between the old and the new. It is a contrast between the giving of the law on Mount Sinai and the new covenant of which Yeshua is the mediator. Through Messianic Jews 12:21 the story echoes that of the giving of the law on Mount Sinai. See Exodus 19:16-20, 20:15-18(18-21); Deuteronomy 4:10-13.

In the giving of the law at Mount Sinai, three things are stressed.

  • The sheer majesty of God,
  • The absolute unapproachability of God, and
  • The sheer terror of God.

Then in Messianic Jews 12:22 comes the difference. The first section deals with all that man can expect under the old covenant, a God of lonely majesty, complete separation from humanity, and prostrating fear. But to the Believer, we have a new covenant and a new relationship with God. Messianic Jews makes a kind of list of the new glories that await the Believer.

A theophany (an appearance of God to mankind) was often accompanied by fire (Exodus 13:21, Judges 13:20, 1 Kings 18:38), darkness (Genesis 15:12; Exodus 10:21-22, 14:20; 1 Kings 8:12; Joel 3:4(2:31); Amos 5:18) and a whirlwind (Nahum 1:3; Job 37:9, 38:1; Zechariah 9:14).

The sound of a shofar will be heard at the end of days at the final manifestation of God (Isaiah 27:13, Zechariah 9:14), identified more specifically in the Brit Hadashah as the Messiah’s second coming (Matthew 24:31, 1 Corinthians 15:52, 1 Thessalonians 4:16).

When God gave the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5:6-18), called the Ten Words in the Torah (Deuteronomy 4:13), all the people of Israel heard His voice, and those words made the hearers beg that no further message be given to them, but only to Moshe as their representative. This is described in Deuteronomy 4:10-13, 5:20-25 and 18:16-17 (which comes in the middle of Deuteronomy 18:15-19, where God promises to raise up a prophet like Moshe; according to Acts 3:22-23 Yeshua fulfills this prophecy).

Moshe said, “I am quaking with dread.” Not only the people were frightened, but Moshe was as well. However, by quoting a remark which Moshe made not on Mount Sinai but upon returning and discovering the golden calf (Deuteronomy 9:14-19), the author of Messianic Jews shows us that as a result of Moshe’s personal experience with God, he developed a healthy fear of God (Proverbs 1:7, 9:10) which lasted not only while he was receiving the Torah, but also afterwards – indeed throughout his life. And the author’s point is that it should be so with all of us – those who begin well with Yeshua should not slack off later.

In verses 22-24, the author lists eight things to which you have come.

  1. Mount Tziyon is where King David placed the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 6:2); in the Brit Hadashah, Yochanan sees Yeshua, the Lamb, “standing on Mount Tziyon” (Revelation 14:1). Already in the Tanakh Mount Zion is identified with the whole of the city of the living God.
  1. But the identification transcends earthly Yerushalayim and applies to the even better heavenly Yerushalayim (Galatians 4:25-26, Revelation 21:2), about which the author has more to say at 11:10, 13-16; 13:14. The idea that what is seen as spiritual truth here on earth is but the shadow of the heavenly original pervades this letter.
  1. Myriads of holy angels: God “came from the myriads of holy ones” in heaven to give the Torah on Mount Sinai (Deuteronomy 33:2). From Messianic Jews 1:14, Daniel 7:10, Luke 2:13-15 and Revelation 5:11-12 we learn that their festive assembly consists in ministering to God and His people.
  1. A community of the firstborn (which I have identified as the Kehilah or assembly of Believers) whose names have been recorded in heaven in the Book of Life (see Revelation 20:12b).
  1. A Judge who is God of everyone. There is no escaping God “the righteous Judge” (2 Timothy 4:8); many Brit Hadashah and Tanakh passages attest to a final Day of Judgment for all.
  1. Spirits of righteous people (11:4, 7, 33) who have been brought to the goal (7:11) along with us (11:39-40) by Yeshua, the Completer of our trusting.
  1. The mediator of a new covenant is Compare Messianic Jews 7:22, 8:6-13.
  1. The sprinkled blood of Yeshua. That speaks better things than that of Hevel (see 11:4). Hevel was the first to die (Genesis 4:3-10), Yeshua the last (since his death is timeless); Yeshua’s blood brings life (Leviticus 17:11), Hevel’s brought only death.

Since I have written at length on the issue of apostasy, I would refer you to my series on Eternal Security here.

Let us have grace. Let us accept God’s gracious gift of His Son, whose sacrificial death graciously atones for our sin – rather than continue adherence to the now-defunct animal sacrifices for sin, or any other form of trying to persuade God to reward our works by considering us righteous. The animal sacrifices, though prescribed initially by God’s grace, have become works righteousness now that Yeshua’s sacrifice for sin has taken place since they no longer avail for anything.

Remember, “Our God is a consuming fire!”  

In my next post, we begin to look at the final chapter of Messianic Jews. Chapter 13 presents us with two last topics: Exhortations and Warnings and Personal References and Benedictions.

Click here for PDF version.

Faith: The Better Way ~ Part 5

Messianic Jews 12:12-17
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we continued on our topic of the Trust and the Believer by looking at Messianic Jews 12:3-11 ~ Chastening for Spiritual Developments. In this post, we will move on to Exhortation to Endurance in Messianic Jews 12:12-17.

12 So, strengthen your drooping arms, and steady your tottering knees; 13 and make a level path for your feet; so that what has been injured will not get wrenched out of joint but rather will be healed. 14 Keep pursuing shalom with everyone and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one misses out on God’s grace, that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble and thus contaminates many, 16 and that no one is sexually immoral, or godless like Esav, who in exchange for a single meal gave up his rights as the firstborn. 17 For you know that afterwards when he wanted to obtain his father’s blessing, he was rejected; indeed, even though he sought it with tears, his change of heart was to no avail. ~ Messianic Jews 12:12-17 (CJB)

With this passage, the author to the Messianic Jews comes to the problems of everyday Messianic life and living. He knew that sometimes it is given to us to mount up with wings as an eagle; he knew that sometimes we are enabled to run and not be weary in the pursuit of some great moment of endeavour; but he also knew that of all things it is hardest to walk every day and not to faint. Here he is thinking of the daily struggle of the Messianic way.

The contrast between Messianic Jews 12:1 and 12:13 is striking; the author no longer offers a pep-talk with advice to keep running but concerns himself with those who can barely walk because of physical and social disadvantage, emotional injury or be spiritually backslidden.

Strengthen your drooping arms: gradually increase your spiritual capacity for trust-grounded obedience to God. Steady your tottering knees: get hold of your emotions, stop fearing the world. Make a level path: “He restores my inner person. He guides me in right paths for the sake of his own name.” Psalm 23:3 (CJB) For your feet:  Of the wicked, Isaiah writes, “Their feet run to evil, they make haste to shed innocent blood (Isaiah 59:7). But of God’s servant He writes, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the bringer of Good News, announcing peace… and deliverance!” (Isaiah 52:7).

Someone who is hurt in any of these ways and neglects himself will have what has been injured get wrenched out of joint,“so that in the end, the person is worse off than he was before” (Matthew 12:45). But, if we give out situation proper spiritual attention, what has been injured will be healed.

Holiness without which no one will see the Lord. The warning which climaxes at verse 29 (which we will explore in my next post) begins here. Those who fail to heed it, who suppose that mere intellectual acknowledgment of God’s existence and Yeshua’s Messiahship, unaccompanied by good deeds and submissiveness to God, will “get them into heaven” are in for rude awakening and disappointment.

Keep pursuing shalom with everyone is reminiscent of Romans 12:18.

The root of bitterness again reminds us of the Tanach. When presenting the covenant to the people of Israel (Deuteronomy 29:1), Moshe warned lest there be among you [anyone] whose heart turns away from Adonai… to serve other gods,… a root that bears gall and wormwood” (instead of “the peaceful fruit of righteousness,” Messianic Jews 12:11), “and it come to pass that when he hears the words of this curse” (Deuteronomy 28:15-68), “he blesses himself in his heart and says, ‘I will have peace, even though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart….’ Adonai will not be willing to pardon him” (Deuteronomy 29:17-20).

Speaking of Esav, even though he sought it with tears, his change of heart was to no avail. As rendered, this says that even though Esav had a change of heart between Genesis 25:27-34 and Genesis 27:30-41, it did not avail in getting his father Yitz’chak to bless him with the blessing reserved for the firstborn son.

Even if the change of heart spoken of was Esav’s, not Yitz’chak’s, there is no implication either here or in Genesis that Esav ever truly repented. His tears did not flow from the kind of pain that, “handled in God’s way, produces a turning from sin to God which leads to salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Rather, his “repentance” was only in valuing his rights as the firstborn (Genesis 27) instead of despising them (Genesis 25).

We need to remember that there is a certain finality in life. If like Esav, we take the way of this world and make material things our final good, if we choose the pleasures of time in preference to the joys of eternity, God can and will still forgive, but something has happened that can never be undone. There may be certain things in which we cannot change our mind but must abide forever by the choice that we have made.

It is never too late, God’s arms are always open, it is still “his purpose that… everyone should turn from his sins.” (2 Kefa 3:9)

In my next post, we look at a Final Warning Against Apostasy in Messianic Jews 12: 18-29.

Click here for PDF version.

Faith: The Better Way ~ Part 4

Messianic Jews 12:3-11
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we moved on to a new topic entitled Trust and the Believer covering Messianic Jews 12. We begin with Messianic Jews 12:1-2 – Yeshua ~ Our Example. In this post, continue on our topic of the Trust and the Believer by looking at Messianic Jews 12:3-11 ~ Chastening for Spiritual Developments.

3 Yes, think about Him who endured such hostility against Himself from sinners so that you won’t grow tired or become despondent. 4 You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in the contest against sin. 5 Also, you have forgotten the counsel which speaks with you as sons: “My son, don’t despise the discipline of Adonai or become despondent when he corrects you. 6 For Adonai disciplines those he loves and whips everyone he accepts as a son.” 7 Regard your endurance as discipline; God is dealing with you as sons. For what son goes undisciplined by his father? 8 All legitimate sons undergo discipline; so if you don’t, you’re a mamzer and not a son! 9 Furthermore, we had physical fathers who disciplined us, and we respected them; how much more should we submit to our spiritual Father and live! 10 For they disciplined us only for a short time and only as best they could, but He disciplines us in a way that provides genuine benefit to us and enables us to share in His holiness. 11 Now, all discipline, while it is happening, does indeed seem painful, not enjoyable; but for those who have been trained by it, it later produces its peaceful fruit, which is righteousness.” ~ Messianic Jews 12:2-11 (CJB)

The author of the Messianic Jews uses two very vivid words when he speaks of being despondent or growing tired. They are words frequently used by an athlete who collapses after the final surged to win the race. So Messianic Jews is in effect saying: “Don’t give up too soon; don’t collapse until the finish line is passed.”

Compare verse 4 with what the author wrote in Messianic Jews 4:15, which says of Yeshua, “In every respect, he was tempted just as we are, the only difference was he did not sin.”

Verses 3-4 stress the essential costliness of Messianic faith. It cost the lives of the martyrs; it cost the life of Him who was the Son of God. Something that requires so much cannot be discarded. A heritage like that is not something that a man can hand down tarnished. These two verses make the demand that comes to every Messianic: “Show yourself worthy of the sacrifice that men and God have made for you.”

The author of the Messianic Jews sets out still another reason why we should cheerfully bear affliction. He has urged them to endure it because the great saints of the past have suffered from it. He has advised them to experience it because anything they may have to face is a little thing compared to what Yeshua had to bear. Now he says that they must take hardship because it is a discipline from God and no life can have any value apart from obedience.

Become despondent in verse 3 anticipates Proverbs 3:11-12 quoted in verses 5-6 of our text.

God is dealing with you as sons. Israel collectively is God’s son (Exodus 4:22, Hosea 11:1, Matthew 2:15, Romans 9:4); but more than that, each Believer, Jewish or Gentile, is individually God’s son, by virtue of being united with God’s only-begotten Son, Yeshua the Messiah (Romans 8:14-19, 29; Galatians 4:1-7; Revelation 21:7).

In rabbinic Judaism, the Hebrew word mamzer is a technical term referring to the child of a marriage prohibited in Leviticus 18. Popularly it means “illegitimate son,” and like “bastard” it can express strong contempt.

The discipline of God, our spiritual Father, produces holiness (see v. 14) and righteousness (Messianic Jews 5:13; 10:38; 11:4, 7, 33).

A faithful father always disciplines his child. It would not show love to let a son or daughter do what he or she likes. We submit to our earthly father’s discipline which is imposed only for a short time until we reach maturity. The earthly father is whom we owe our bodily life; how much more should we submit to the discipline of God to whom we owe our immortal spirits and who, in His wisdom, seeks for our highest good.

In my next post, we will move on to Exhortation to Endurance in Messianic Jews 12:12-17.

Click here for PDF version.

Faith: The Better Way ~ Part 3

Messianic Jews 12:1-2
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we concluded our topic on the Definition and Illustration of Trust by exploring the Trust of the Judges and the Prophets in Messianic Jews 11:32-40. In this post, we move on to a new topic entitled Trust and the Believer covering Messianic Jews 12. We begin with Messianic Jews 12:1-2 – Yeshua ~ Our Example.

1 So then, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us, too, put aside every impediment — that is, the sin which easily hampers our forward movement — and keep running with endurance in the contest set before us, 2 looking away to the Initiator and Completer of that trusting, Yeshua — who, in exchange for obtaining the joy set before him, endured execution on a stake as a criminal, scorning the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” ~ Messianic Jews 12:1-2 (CJB)

Chapter 12 is one of the most significant, moving passages of the Brit Hadasah. In it, the author has given us a perfect summary of the Messianic life. In addition to completing the discussion of trusting he began at 10:35, verses 1-4 introduce the idea that Believers in Yeshua are running in a contest against sin (verses 1, 4), a competition which calls for endurance (verses 1-3, 7). Having endurance means regarding the pains, setbacks and troubles which are inevitable in a Believer’s life (Acts 14:22, Yochanan 16:33) as the discipline of Adonai (verses 5-13 constitute a sermon on this subject ~ the text is verses 5-6, the three points are verses 7-8, 9-10, 11-13). Only then will we be displaying the “trust-grounded obedience” (Romans 1:5, 16:26) which is the goal of the Besorah.

The contest has been set before us; it is the “life of good actions already prepared by God for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). Sha’ul used sports metaphors when he wrote to Greeks (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Philippians 3:12-14, 2 Timothy 4:7-8), for whom athletic contests were an essential part of life. But the author of this letter is writing to Messianic Jews, for whom, at the time, such games smacked of Hellenistic paganism. The sports-metaphor language of verses 1-4 returns in verses 11-13, where the author compares believers with athletes in training who care for their injuries to remain active sportspeople.

Looking away, like a runner with his eye on the finish line, to the initiator and completer of our trusting, YeshuaThe theme of Yeshua as beginning and end, aleph and tav are found at Revelation 1:8, 21:6, 22:13. We are to emulate His endurance. He, in exchange for obtaining the reward of the joy set before him, endured execution on a stake as a criminal, scorning the shame, sat down at the right hand of the throne of God, i.e., “in the place of honor by God’s throne” (Living Bible).

  • In the Messianic life, we have a goal. We are all pilgrims forever moving toward the goal set before us. The goal is nothing less than to become like Yeshua.
  • In the Messianic life, we have an inspiration. We have the thought of the unseen cloud of witnesses: and they are witnesses in a double sense. For they have witnessed their confession to Yeshua and they are now witnesses to our performance.
  • In the Messianic life, we also have a handicap. If the greatness of the past encircles us, we are also encircled by the impairment of our sin. There may be habits, pleasures, self-indulgences, associations which hold us back. We must shed them as the athletes shed their tracksuits when they go to the starting-mark, and often we will need the help of Yeshua to enable us to do so.
  • In the Messianic life, we have a means. That means is steadfast endurance. It is a determination, unhurrying and yet undelaying, which goes steadily on and refuses to be deflected. Obstacles do not daunt it, and discouragements do not take its hope away. It is the steadfast endurance which carries on until in the end; it gets there.
  • In the Messianic life, we have an example. That example is Yeshua For the goal that was set before Him, He endured all things; to win it meant the way of the Cross.
  • In the Messianic life, we have a presence, the presence of Yeshua. He is at once the goal of our journey and the companion of our way; at once the one whom we go to meet and the one with whom we travel.

As Barcley has said: The wonder of the Messianic life is that we press on surrounded by the saints, oblivious to everything but the glory of the goal and forever in the company of Him who has already made the journey and reached the goal, and who waits to welcome us when we reach the end.

In my next post, we will move on to our topic of the Trust and the Believer by looking at Messianic Jews 12:3-11 ~ Chastening for Spiritual Developments.

Click here for PDF version.

Faith: The Better Way ~ Part 2f

Messianic Jews 11:32-40
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we examined the Trust of the Israelites and Rahab in Messianic Jews 11:29-31. In this post, we move on to explore the Trust of the Judges and the Prophets in Messianic Jews 11:32-40.

32 What more should I say? There isn’t time to tell about Gid‘on, Barak, Shimshon [Samson], Yiftach [Jepthah], David, Sh’mu’el [Samuel] and the prophets; 33 who, through trusting, conquered kingdoms, worked righteousness, received what was promised, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, had their weakness turned to strength, grew mighty in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead resurrected; other people were stretched on the rack and beaten to death, refusing to be ransomed so that they would gain a better resurrection. 36 Others underwent the trials of being mocked and whipped, then chained and imprisoned. 37 They were stoned, sawed in two, murdered by the sword; they went about clothed in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted, mistreated, 38 wandering about in deserts and mountains, living in caves and holes in the ground! The world was not worthy of them! 39 All of these had their merit attested because of their trusting. Nevertheless, they did not receive what had been promised, 40 because God had planned something better that would involve us, so that only with us would they be brought to the goal.” ~ Messianic Jews 11:32-40 (CJB)

In this passage, the author looks back over the history of his people with name after name of those men who were heroic souls. The whole list is of men who faced incredible odds for God. It is of men who never believed that God was on the side of the big battalions and were willing to take tremendous and even terrifying risks for Him. It is of men who cheerfully and courageously and confidently accepted God-given tasks which, on human terms, were impossible. They were all men who were never afraid to stand alone and to face immense odds for the sake of their loyalty to God. This honor roll of history is of men who chose to be in God’s minority rather than with earth’s majority.

The author singles out the three best-known judges, a general, David the most renowned king, Shmu’el the judge-prophet, and the other prophets.

Gid’on (Judges 6:11-8:35) is remembered for the faith demonstrated when he accepted God’s decision that he should reduce the size of the Israelites’ army from 32,000 to 300 before defeating the Midianites’ force of 50,000 (Judges 7).

Genal Barak (Judges 4-5), though not independent of Dvorah [Deborah] the judge and Ya’el, had faith of his own, for even though he knew that these women would get the glory for the victory instead of himself (Judges 4:9), he led the Israelites in conquering Sisera, Yavin, and the Canaanites.

Shimshon (Judges 13-16) lived much of his life with his eyes, not on the Lord. But after he was blinded he saw clearly enough to pray for strength to destroy the Philistines’ temple; this is what qualifies him for the faith hall of fame (Judges 16:25-30).

At first glance Yiftach (Judges 11:1-12:7) seems an even less likely candidate, but his rash vow to sacrifice the first thing that came out of his house, which turned out to be his daughter, does not detract from the undiluted faith in God which this simple man demonstrated as he defeated the Ammonites.

Through trustingMoshe conquered the kingdoms of Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan (Numbers 21:21-35). Daniel shut the mouths of lions (Daniel 6:1-29). Chananyah, Misha’el, and ‘Azaryah (Shadrakh, Meishakh and ‘Aved-n’go) quenched the power of fire (Daniel 1:6, 3:1-30). Elijah and Elisha were among those who escaped the edge of the sword (1 Kings 19:2ff., 2 Kings 6:31ff.). The widow of Tzarfat and the woman of Shunem received back their dead resurrected through Elijah and Elisha’s ministries (1 Kings 17:8-24, 2 Kings 4:8-37). From the Apocrypha, we learn how in the days of the Maccabees, there were those stretched on the rack and beaten to death, refusing to be ransomed, so that they would gain a better resurrection (2 Maccabees 6:18-31). Yeshua himself was mocked, whipped, chained and imprisoned (Yochanan 19:1-3, Mark 15:1-9); also compare the prophets Mikhayahu (Micaiah, 1 Kings 22:24) and Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah 20:2, 7; 37:15).

Z’kharyah, the son of Y’hoyadah, the priest, was stoned to death (2 Chronicles 24:21).

Being sawed in two was indeed a known form of torturing people to death (2 Samuel 12:31), and according to the first-century partly Jewish, partly Christian book, The Ascension of Isaiah, the prophet Yesha’yahu was killed in this way.

Jeremiah 26:20-23 mentions the prophet Uriah as having been murdered by the sword, and Elijah speaks of others who suffered the same fate (1 Kings 19:10, Ro 11:3).

Went about clothed in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted, mistreated, wandering about in deserts and mountains, living in caves and holes in the ground. The description fits Elijah and Elisha (1 Kings 19:13, 2 Kings 2:14), as well as the pious Jews who fled from the persecution of Antiochus IV in the time of the Maccabees (1 Maccabees 2:38). Yochanan the Immerser wore camel skins (Matthew 3:4) and led a similar life, while Yeshua Himself had “no home of his own” (Luke 9:58).

In other words, the people who trusted God were utterly unrewarded and unappreciated in their time by the rest of humanity. The reverse side of this coin is seen when our author writes that the world was not worthy of them! Worldly people cannot fully appreciate those whose lives are based utterly on trust, because their values are so different. But as soon as worldly people, by God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8-9), take the tiniest step of faith themselves, then the great trust reported in this chapter takes on an altogether different significance for them and becomes a source of inspiration.

Chapter 11 is a homily on 10:35-39. In summarizing the two central themes of Chapter 11, verses 39-40 refer back to the earlier passage, which expresses the necessity of continuing to trust God despite all obstacles and setbacks, physical or spiritual, to receive what had been promised.

On the one hand, all the heroes of faith had their merit attested because of their trusting. For indeed the only meritorious acts there are, are those based on trusting in God, as expounded in Galatians and Romans. The original readers of this letter are to renew their trust in Yeshua’s atoning death; there is no other way for them to attain the reward of eternal life.

Nevertheless, on the other hand, these heroes of faith, even though they kept on trusting, did not receive what had been promised in their lifetime, because God had planned something better, namely, something that would involve us who came later; so that only with us would they be brought to the goal. God’s secret plan for history, including the perfecting of human beings from all times, places and cultures, Gentiles as well as Jews, is glorious beyond imagining.

Only by trusting God can anyone enjoy its benefits.

“Faith in God is more than just believing He exits; it is living with confidence that He will fulfill all His promises and bring salvation to us.”

~ Dr. Charles F. Stanley

In my next post, we will move on to a new topic of the Trust and the Believer beginning in Messianic Jews 12.

Click here for PDF version.

Faith: The Better Way ~ Part 2e

Messianic Jews 11:29-31
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we examined the Trust of Moshe the Deliverer in Messianic Jews 11:23-28. In this post, we move on to explore the Trust of the Israelites and Rachav in Messianic Jews 11:29-31.

“29 By trusting, they walked through the Red Sea as through dry land; when the Egyptians tried to do it, the sea swallowed them up. 30 By trusting, the walls of Yericho fell down — after the people had marched around them for seven days. 31 By trusting, Rachav, the prostitute welcomed the spies and therefore did not die along with those who were disobedient.” ~ Messianic Jews 11:29-31 (CJB)

By trusting, they walked through the Red Sea recalls the familiar story of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea in Exodus 14:1-15:21.

The author to the Messianic Jews has been citing as examples of trust the great figures of the time before Israel entered into the Promised Land. Now he takes two people from the period of struggle when the children of Israel were winning a place for themselves within the Promised Land.

The first is the story of the fall of Jericho. That strange old story is told in Y’hoshua 6:1-20. Jericho was a fortified city, barred and fortified. To take it seemed impossible. It was God’s commandment that once a day for six days and in silence the people should march around it, led by seven priests marching in front of the ark and bearing shofars. On the seventh day, the priests were to blow upon their shofars after the city had been encircled seven times. So the people shouted, with the shofars blowing. When the people heard the sound of the shofars, the people let out a great shout; and the wall fell down flat; so that the people went up into the city, each one straight ahead of him; and they captured the city. Y’hoshua 6:20 (CJB)

The second story is that of Rachav. It is told in Y’hoshua 2:1-21 and finds its sequel in Y’hoshua 6:25. When Y’hoshua sent out spies to Jericho, they found a lodging in the house of Rachav, a prostitute. She protected them and enabled them to make their escape; and in return, when Jericho was taken, she and her family were saved from the general slaughter. It is extraordinary how Rachav became imprinted on the memory of Israel. James (James 2:25) quotes her as a great example of the good works which demonstrate faith. The Rabbis were proud to trace their descent to her. And, amazingly, she is one of the names which appear in the genealogy of Yeshua (Matthew 1:5).

When the author of the Messianic Jews cites her, the point he desires to make is this ~ Rachav faced the facts and believed in the God of Israel. Rachav believed and staked her whole future on the belief that God would make the impossible possible. When common sense pronounced the situation hopeless, she had the uncommon incite to see beyond the situation. The real faith and the real courage are those who can take God’s side when it seems doomed to defeat.

In my next post, we will continue on our topic of the Definition and Illustration of Trusting by moving on to explore the Trust of Judges and Prophets in Messianic Jews 11:32-40.

Click here for PDF version.

Faith: The Better Way -~ Part 2d

Messianic Jews 11:23-28
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we concluded our examination of the Trust of the Avraham and His Children in Messianic Jews 11:8-22. In this post, we move on to examine the Trust of Moshe, the Deliverer in Messianic Jews 11:23-28.

23 By trusting, the parents of Moshe hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw that he was a beautiful child, and they weren’t afraid of the king’s decree. 24 By trusting, Moshe, after he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose being mistreated along with God’s people rather than enjoying the passing pleasures of sin. 26 He had come to regard abuse suffered on behalf of the Messiah as greater riches than the treasures of Egypt, for he kept his eyes fixed on the reward. 27 By trusting, he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered as one who sees the unseen. 28 By trusting, he obeyed the requirements for the Pesach, including the smearing of the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Isra’el.” ~ Messianic Jews 11:23-28 (CJB)

To the Hebrews, Moshe was the principal figure in their history. He was the leader who had rescued them from slavery and who had received the Law from God. To the author of the letter to the Messianic Jews, Moshe was pre-eminently the man of faith. As with the other great characters whose names are included in this roll or honor of God’s faithful ones, many legends and elaborations had gathered around the name of Moshe, and doubtless, the author of this letter had them also in his mind.

The parents of MosheAmram, and Yoch’eved (Exodus 6:20), hid him by placing him in a basket to float in the Nile so that he wouldn’t be killed according to Pharaoh’s decree. In answer to their faith, Pharaoh’s daughter found him there and raised him as her own son, even employing the child’s actual mother to nurse him (Exodus 2:1-10).

Moshe had every possible advantage Egypt could offer. Jewish tradition maintains that as the adopted child of Pharaoh’s daughter he may even have been in line for the throne. But he also had knowledge of God’s revelation and his own identity as an Israelite and chose being mistreated along with God’s people rather than enjoying the perquisites of his position, until finally (Exodus 2:11-15) he was forced to flee for his life.

He had come to regard abuse suffered on behalf of the Messiah. At the time, Moshe did not know of Yeshua, nor is there evidence that he had specific knowledge of a coming Messiah, Savior or Son of God.  Although he did refer to a Star that would come out of Jacob (Numbers 24:17-19) and to a future prophet like himself (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18-19). In Luke 9:28-38, Moshe knew Yeshua on the Mount of Transfiguration. And, Yochanan 5:46 says that Moshe nevertheless wrote about Yeshua. One may reasonably assume that Moshe suffered on behalf of all God’s promises, both those known to him at the time and those God would make in the future; and, after the fact, it is clear that this implies his suffering abuse on behalf of the Messiah. Sha’ul, in many ways the Moshe of his day, suffered similarly.

By trusting, he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered as one who sees the unseen. There came the day when Moshe, because of his intervention on behalf of his people, had to withdraw from Egypt and had to make all the arrangements for the first Pesach. The account is in Exodus 12:12-48.

In my next post, we will continue on our topic of the Definition and Illustration of Trusting by moving on to explore the Trust of the Israelites and Rahab in Messianic Jews 11:29-31.

Click here for PDF version.

Faith: The Better Way -~ Part 2c2

Messianic Jews 11:8-22
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we began to explore the Trust of the Avraham and His Children in Messianic Jews 11:8-22. We looked at only verse 8. In this post, we continue to examine the Trust of the Avraham and His Children in Messianic Jews 11:8-22 starting in verse 9.

8 By trusting, Avraham obeyed, after being called to go out to a place which God would give him as a possession; indeed, he went out without knowing where he was going. 9 By trusting, he lived as a temporary resident in the Land of the promise, as if it were not his, staying in tents with Yitz’chak and Ya‘akov, who were to receive what was promised along with him. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with permanent foundations, of which the architect and builder is God. 11 By trusting, he received potency to father a child, even when he was past the age for it, as was Sarah herself; because he regarded the One who had made the promise as trustworthy. 12 Therefore this one man, who was virtually dead, fathered descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky, and as countless as the grains of the sand on the seashore. 13 All these people kept on trusting until they died, without receiving what had been promised. They had only seen it and welcomed it from a distance, while acknowledging that they were aliens and temporary residents on the earth. 14 For people who speak this way make it clear that they are looking for a fatherland. 15 Now if they were to keep recalling the one they left, they would have an opportunity to return; 16 but as it is, they aspire to a better fatherland, a heavenly one. This is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. 17 By trusting, Avraham, when he was put to the test, offered up Yitz’chak as a sacrifice. Yes, he offered up his only son, he who had received the promises, 18 to whom it had been said, “What is called your ‘seed’ will be in Yitz’chak.” 19 For he had concluded that God could even raise people from the dead! And, figuratively speaking, he did so receive him. 20 By trusting,Yitz’chak, in his blessings over Ya’akov and Esav, made reference to events yet to come. 21 By trusting, Ya‘akov, when he was dying, blessed each of Yosef’s sons, leaning on his walking-stick as he bowed in prayer. 22 By trusting, Yosef, near the end of his life, remembered about the Exodus of the people of Isra’el and gave instructions about what to do with his bones.” ~ Messianic Jews 11:8-22 (CJB)

After Avram arrived in the land of Cana’an God told him, “I will give this land to your seed” (Genesis 12:7). But later He said, “I will give it to you and your seed forever” (Genesis 13:15). [1]

Avraham lived as a temporary resident, wandering in and out of the Land (Genesis 12:6-10; 13:1-12, 17-18; 14:13-16; 20:1; 21:34; 22:19; 23:4) which God had promised him (13:14-18; 15:7, 18-21; 17:8); so did Yitzchak (Genesis 26:3-4) and Ya’akov (Genesis 35:12, 27). But they all died without inheriting the land God had promised to them personally as well as to their descendants (v. 13). As a matter of fact, the Jewish people have never possessed the entire land that God has bequeathed to them.

Is the promise therefore unfulfilled? No, because Yeshua testified that Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya’akov are still alive (Matthew 22:31-32). When their seed, the Jewish people, come into full possession of Eretz-Israel, as God has promised them, the Patriarchs will be alive to inherit with them.

But perhaps the promise that Avram will inherit the Land has been spiritualized in the Brit Hadashah? Perhaps “the Land” now refers to heaven and not to a piece of real estate in the Middle East? No, because God instructed Avram, “Arise, and walk through the length and breadth of the Land, for I will give it to you” (Genesis 13:17). Obviously, God did not mean for him to walk through heaven. God keeps his promises, He does not renege on them by spiritualizing them into something else.

He was looking forward to the city with permanent foundations. The author is thinking Jewishly, remaining conscious of several levels of meaning. He does not deny the simple sense of the promises concerning the Eretz-Israel, where Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya’akov lived as aliens and temporary residents. But at the same time, he implies that Avraham understood a deeper level of meaning in God’s promise, a meaning relating not only to Eretz-Israel but to earth and heaven. This we learn from the author’s citing the phrase, “aliens and temporary residents on the earth,” from 1 Chronicles 29:15. The last three words could be rendered from the Greek as “in the Land,” according to the context here. But in 1 Chronicles the Hebrew word means “on” not “in,” and the context there makes it clear that “ha’aretz” means “the earth.” [2]

Avraham’s awareness of the deeper meaning gave him the faith to remain obedient to God in the face of not receiving during his lifetime what had been promised, namely, Eretz-Israel. This is why he could aspire to a better fatherland, a heavenly one (compare Philippians 3:20), namely, the city with permanent foundations, of which the architect and builder is God (v. 10), elsewhere called “the city of the living God, heavenly Yerushalayim” (Messianic Jews 12:22; compare 13:14 and Galatians 4:26).

Avraham’s faith was such that he trusted God to fulfill His promise, even if it required miracles, first, of making an aged couple able to have children (Genesis 17:19, 18:11-14, 21:2; compare Ro 4:17-22), and second, of resurrecting Yitzchak from the dead, a possible implication of the story of the ‘Akedah (the “binding” of Isaac for sacrifice by Avraham, Genesis 22:1-19).

Avraham… offered up Yitzchak as a sacrifice. The story of the ‘Akedat-Yitzchak, the “Binding of Isaac,” Genesis 22:1-19, is read in the synagogue as part of the liturgy for the second day of Rosh-HaShanah. The events of the ‘Akedah prefigure the atoning death of Yeshua the Messiah. The ‘Akedah is referred to again in the Brit Hadashah in James 2:21-23.

Although he lived as a highly honored Egyptian entitled to an elaborate tomb, Yosef believed the promises to Avraham that there would be an Exodus. His instructions that his bones be carried to Eretz-Israel (Genesis 50:24-25) were carried out more than four centuries later (Genesis 50:26, Exodus 13:19, Joshua 24:32).

In my next post, we will continue on our topic of the Definition and Illustration of Trusting by moving on to explore the Trust of Moshe, The Deliverer in Messianic Jews 11:23-28.

Click here for PDF version.

 

[1] I can’t pass up this opportunity to impress upon my readers that the Brit Hadashah makes absolutely no sense without reading and understanding the Tanakh.

[2] Jewish New Testament Commentary by David Stern.

Faith: The Better Way ~ Part 2c1

Messianic Jews 11:8-22
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we began to explore what many call The Hall of Faith or as Stern might say The Hall of Trust. We started in Messianic Jews 11:4-7 to learn of the Trust of the Early Patriarchs. In this post, we examine Trust of Avraham and His Children in Messianic Jews 11:8-22. Obviously, this is a massive chunk of scripture to digest in one post so we will begin with verse 8 in this post. That explains the weird numbering system I have had to employ to maintain the topical headings from my old RSV.

8 By trusting, Avraham obeyed, after being called to go out to a place which God would give him as a possession; indeed, he went out without knowing where he was going. 9 By trusting, he lived as a temporary resident in the Land of the promise, as if it were not his, staying in tents with Yitz’chak and Ya‘akov, who were to receive what was promised along with him. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with permanent foundations, of which the architect and builder is God. 11 By trusting, he received potency to father a child, even when he was past the age for it, as was Sarah herself; because he regarded the One who had made the promise as trustworthy. 12 Therefore this one man, who was virtually dead, fathered descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky, and as countless as the grains of the sand on the seashore. 13 All these people kept on trusting until they died, without receiving what had been promised. They had only seen it and welcomed it from a distance while acknowledging that they were aliens and temporary residents on the earth. 14 For people who speak this way make it clear that they are looking for a fatherland. 15 Now if they were to keep recalling the one they left, they would have an opportunity to return; 16 but as it is, they aspire to a better fatherland, a heavenly one. This is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. 17 By trusting, Avraham, when he was put to the test, offered up Yitz’chak as a sacrifice. Yes, he offered up his only son, he who had received the promises, 18 to whom it had been said, “What is called your ‘seed’ will be in Yitz’chak.” 19 For he had concluded that God could even raise people from the dead! And, figuratively speaking, he did so receive him. 20 By trusting,Yitz’chak, in his blessings over Ya‘akov and Esav, made reference to events yet to come. 21 By trusting, Ya‘akov, when he was dying, blessed each of Yosef’s sons, leaning on his walking-stick as he bowed in prayer.
22 By trusting, Yosef, near the end of his life, remembered about the Exodus of the people of Isra’el and gave instructions about what to do with his bones.”
~ Messianic Jews 11:8-22 (CJB)

The Tanakh itself extols Avraham’s faith (Nehemiah 9:7-8), as does Sha’ul (Romans 4, Galatians 3). Our author devotes more space to him than to anyone else, giving no less than four instances of his trusting: his obeying God’s call to leave home for an unknown land (v. 8), his steadfast hoping for the unseen heavenly city (vv. 9-10, 13-16), his trusting God to provide an heir through Sarah despite its natural impossibility (vv. 11-12), and his offering of that heir as a sacrifice (vv. 17-19). The passage may also be divided into these two parts: faith for this life (vv. 8-12), and trust that transcends death (vv. 13-19).

Avraham first appears in Scripture beginning in Genesis 11:26 as the son of Terach. “Then Avram [1]and Nachor took wives for themselves. The name of Avram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nachor’s wife was Milkah, the daughter of Haran. He was the father of Milkah and of Yiskah. Sarai was barren — she had no child. Terach took his son Avram, his son Haran’s son Lot, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Avram’s wife; and they left Ur of the Kasdim to go to the land of Kena‘an. But when they came to Haran, they stayed there.” ~ Genesis 11:29-31 (CJB)

Verse 8 is essentially a summary of Genesis 12:1-5. “Now Adonai said to Avram, ‘Get yourself out of your country, away from your kinsmen and away from your father’s house, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, I will bless you, and I will make your name great, and you are to be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, but I will curse anyone who curses you, and by you, all the families of the earth will be blessed.’ So Avram went, as Adonai had said to him, and Lot went with him. Avram was 75 years old when he left Haran. Avram took his wife Sarai, his brother’s son Lot, and all their possessions which they had accumulated, as well as the people they had acquired in Haran; then they set out for the land of Kena‘an and entered the land of Kena‘an.” ~ Genesis 12:1-5 (CJB)

It has always amazed me that Avram left his homeland with all his possessions and traveled to a land that God would not show him until he got there. Now, my family and I have lived in several parts of the United States, but it has always been a move that was to someplace where we had family members close by. As kids, we learned in school the basic geography of our country, but Avram had no idea where he was going and what it would be like. He certainly didn’t have Google Maps available. By trusting, Avraham obeyed!!! I confess that it is hard for me to put my mind around that kind of trust.

When we have no idea where God is leading us or where he wants us to change in our hearts, listening is the first and most crucial.

~ Dr. Charles F. Stanley

Barclay offers some interesting background information on this dilemma: [2]

Jewish and eastern legends gathered largely round Avraham’s name, and some of them must have been known to the author to the Messianic Jews. The legends tell how Avraham was the son of Terach, commander of the armies of Nimrod. When Avraham was born a very vivid star appeared in the sky and seemed to obliterate the others. Nimrod sought to murder the infant but Avraham was concealed in a cave, and his life saved. It was in that cave the first vision of God came to him. When he was a youth, he came out of the cave and stood looking across the face of the desert. The sun rose in all its glory, and Avraham said: “Surely the sun is God, the Creator!” So he knelt down and worshipped the sun. But when evening came, the sun sank in the west and Avraham said: “No! the author of creation cannot set!” The moon arose in the east, and the stars came out. Then Avraham said: “The moon must be God and the stars his host!” So he knelt down and adored the moon. But after the night was passed, the moon sank, and the sun rose again, and Avraham said: “Truly these heavenly bodies are no gods, for they obey the law; I will worship him who imposed the law upon them.”

The Arabs have a different legend. They tell how Avraham saw many flocks and herds and said to his mother: “Who is the lord of these?” She answered: “Your father, Terach.” “And who is the lord of Terach?” the lad Avraham asked. “Nimrod,” said his mother. “And who is the lord of Nimrod?” asked Avraham. His mother bade him be quiet and not push questions too far, but already Avraham‘s thoughts were reaching out to him who is the God of all. The legends go on to tell that Terach not only worshipped twelve idols, one for each of the months but was also a manufacturer of idols. One day Avraham was left in charge of the shop. People came in to buy idols. Avraham would ask them how old they were and they would answer perhaps fifty or sixty years of age. “Woe to a man of such an age,” said Avraham, “who adores the work of one day!” A strong and hale man of seventy came in. Avraham asked him his age and then said: “You fool to adore a god who is younger than yourself!” A woman came in with a dish of meat for the gods. Avraham took a stick and smashed all the idols but one, in whose hands he set the stick he had used. Terach returned and was angry. Avraham said: “My father, a woman brought this dish of meat for your gods; they all wanted to have it and the strongest knocked the heads off the rest, lest they should eat it all.” Terach said: “That is impossible for they are made of wood and stone.” And Avraham answered: “Let thine own ear hear what thine own mouth has spoken!”

All these legends give us a vivid picture of Avraham searching after God and dissatisfied with the idolatry of his people. So when God’s call came to him, he was ready to go out into the unknown to find him! Avraham is the supreme example of faith.

In my next post, we will continue on our topic of the Definition and Illustration of Trusting by examining further The Trust of Avraham and His Children in Messianic Jews 11:8-22.

Click here for PDF version.

[1] Remember that Avraham (father of many) was originally named Avram (exalted father) until the God changed it in Genesis 17:5.

[2] Barclay’s Daily Study Bible (NT) by William Barclay.