1 Kefa 5:8-13

Shepherds of the Flock ~ Part 2

In my last post, we began to explore the topic of Shepherds of the Flock ~ Part 1 in 1 Kefa 5:1-7. This post concludes our study of 1 Kefa by looking at the Conclusion and Final Greeting in 1 Kefa 5:8-13.

Conclusion

Stay sober, stay alert! Your enemy, the Adversary, stalks about like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

The Adversary is HaSatan, who is real (Mat. 4:1ff) and should be resisted (see next verse and James 4:8). The Believer must transfer his anxieties to God and develop a constant watchfulness, particularly for the devices of his enemy HaSatan. In Jewish tradition, HaSatan accused God’s people before God’s throne day and night (except, in later accounts, on the Day of Atonement). [1]

Lions were viewed as the most ferocious and mighty beasts, and from Psalm 22:13, they came to be used as figures for enemies of God’s people. In the time of Nero, Believers were fed to some literal lions as well. The small, isolated Messianic communities could take heart that their other spiritual siblings – starting with the communities Kefa knew in Rome were experiencing the same trials until the end, as we see in verse 9.

Stand against him, firm in your trust, knowing that your brothers throughout the world are going through the same kinds of suffering. 10 You will have to suffer only a little while; after that, God, who is full of grace, the one who called you to His eternal glory in union with the Messiah, will Himself restore, establish, and strengthen you and make you firm. 11 To Him be the power forever and ever. Amen.

Kefa warned Believers to be aware of HaSatan’s deceitful practices and to resist him. Such behavior is fitting for temporary residents of this world.

God will restore, strengthen, and establish you. Kefa offers his audience a final word of comfort. He reminds them that God will empower and ultimately glorify those who remain steadfast in their faith under the weight of their present suffering.

Final Greetings

12 Through Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written you briefly, encouraging you and giving my witness that this is God’s true grace. Stand firm in it!

Silas (some translations use Silvanus, which is the full Roman name) served as a scribe. Most letters were written through the agency of scribes. As a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37), Silas presumably came from a reasonably well-to-do Jewish family that provided him an excellent literary and rhetorical education; Kefa may have given him some degree of freedom in wording the letter. [2]

13 Your sister congregation in Bavel, chosen along with you, sends greetings to you, as does my son Mark. 14 Greet each other with a kiss of love. “Shalom aleikhem!” to all who belong to the Messiah. ~ 1 Kefa 5:1-12 (CJB)

At one point, Yochanan Mark abandoned Sha’ul and Bar-Nabba (see Acts 13:5, 13), with the result that Sha’ul and Bar-Nabba split over whether to take him with them again, and Sha’ul took Silas instead.

Bavel was a common euphemism for Rome among Jewish writers seeking to avoid censorship and worse.

Shalom aleikhem means “Peace be upon you,” a standard Hebrew greeting then and now. Kisses were a common affectionate greeting for close friends and relatives.

In my next post, we will begin to explore Kefa’s Second Letter, which focuses on Messianic Gentiles.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament.

[2] Ibid.​

1 Kefa 5:1-7

Shepherds of the Flock ~ Part 1

In my last post, we explored the topic of Suffering As A Believer in 1 Kefa 4:12-19. In this post, Kefa closes his first letter by offering encouragement to the Shepherds of the Flock in 1 Kefa 5:1-7.

Therefore, I urge the congregation leaders among you, as a fellow-leader and witness to the Messiah’s sufferings, as well as a sharer in the glory to be revealed:

Kefa writes the congregation leaders (elders) humbly, as a fellow-leader, not as a superior, even though he personally was a witness to the Messiah’s sufferings. Elders, older and wiser men skilled in judging cases, ruled in most Israelite towns in the Tanakh. In the Brit Hadashah, elders held a respected place in the synagogues, from which the churches took over this form of leadership.

Sha’ul writes about the glory to be revealed: “I don’t think the sufferings we are going through now are even worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us in the future.” ~ Romans 8:18.

shepherd the flock of God that is in your care, exercising oversight not out of constraint, but willingly, as God wants; and not out of a desire for dishonest gain, but with enthusiasm;

Kefa is faithfully transmitting Yeshua’s command to him to shepherd the flock in Yochanan 21:16 by exercising oversight … willingly. Some elders take too little responsibility so that their congregations remain undisciplined.

The image of a shepherd is that of a concerned guide, not of a severe ruler (although shepherds’ image had been applied to rulers in parts of the ancient Near East). Charges of illegitimate gain were often made against moral teachers in the ancient world, and Believers needed to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. (Like certain officials in the Jewish community, these Messianic leaders distributed the funds for the poor.)  [1]

also not as machers domineering over those in your care, but as people who become examples to the flock. 

If it is true that the Messiah wants followers who will follow, He also wants leaders who will lead – but not as machers. The word macher is Yiddish for “big shot, real operator,” with the overtone of trying to take charge; the perfect example is Diotrephes in 3 Yochanan 9–10[2]

Then, when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive glory as your unfading crown.

In ancient texts, a chief shepherd appears to have been an overseer of a group of other shepherds, although they were usually not well-to-do themselves. Crowns were garlands given to victors of athletic contests, benefactors, or other heroes, and they were perishable; those faithful to Yeshua would receive an imperishable crown. [3]

Likewise, you who are less experienced submit to leaders. Further, all of you should clothe yourselves in humility toward one another because:

“God opposes the arrogant,
but to the humble, he gives grace.”

Elders have special responsibilities to tend the flock, but they must watch the spirit in which they do it. Younger men must submit to elders, and both groups must develop the grace of humility, which is the only befitting attitude before God.

Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God so that at the right time, He may lift you up.

Following on Proverbs 3:34, cited in 1 Kefa 5:5, Kefa urges believers to humble themselves before God. In the Tanakh, this idea often meant repenting, sometimes when facing impending judgment or learning one’s complete dependence on God. Here the sense includes embracing and accepting the suffering until God provides the way out (cf. Jer. 27:11).

Throw all your anxieties upon Him because He cares about you.

Although the promise of complete relief from persecution is in the future, Kefa encourages Believers to pray and trust God’s love for them in the present. Jews learned to see God’s love in Isra’el’s sufferings as disciplines of love. Still, most pagans, who bartered sacrifices and vows to get benefactions from the gods, had difficulty with this concept.

We know that the Creator and Ruler of the universe cares about us.

In my next post, we will conclude our study of 1 Kefa by examining the conclusion and final greeting in Shepherds of the Flock ~ Part 2 in 1 Kefa 5:8-13.

Click here for the PDF version.

 

[1] The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament.

[2] Jewish New Testament Commentary.

[3] The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament

1 Kefa 4:12-19

Suffering As A Believer 

In my last post, we examined the topic of Being Stewards of God’s Grace in 1 Yeshua 4:1-11. In this post, we explore Suffering As A Believer in 1 Kefa 4:12-19.

Kefa elaborates on what it means to share in the sufferings of Yeshuapicking up on his thoughts from 1 Kefa 3:12–22. Kefa again returns to the theme of suffering. No one looks forward to suffering. We want to reign with Yeshua, not suffer with Him. But to reign with Yeshua in glory, we must suffer with Him now. Whatever form of suffering God calls you to, do not be surprised but rejoice instead so that you may also rejoice with great joy when He returns.

12 Dear friends, do not regard as strange the fiery ordeal occurring among you to test you, as if something extraordinary were happening to you.

Kefa says do not regard as strange the fiery ordeal occurring among you to test you. Yeshua said that suffering would come to His followers (see Matt. 5:11–12; 10:24–25). We have already seen in 1 Kefa 1:6-7 that suffering and the refinement it brings to a Believer’s life.

13 Rather, to the extent that you share the fellowship of the Messiah’s sufferings, rejoice; so that you will rejoice even more when his Sh’khinah is revealed.

We share the fellowship of the Messiah’s sufferings as we identify with Yeshua. Believers learn what it means to be like Him in their anguish. They can have joy because they honor God through their suffering and know that God will vindicate their faithfulness one day (vv. 18–19).

Do not only brace for afflictions but rejoice in them, sharing the fellowship of the Messiah’s sufferings. For just as the Sh’khinah (God’s manifest glory) once rested on the Temple in Yerushalayim, now the Spirit of the Sh’khinah is resting on you, since “your body is a temple for the Ruach HaKodesh who lives inside you” (see 1 Cor. 6:19). The Sh’khinah was revealed as Yeshua’s at His first coming (John 1:14–15); it is the same as the glory to be revealed” (5:1) at His second coming (Titus 2:13).

14 If you are being insulted because you bear the name of the Messiah, how blessed you are! For the Spirit of the Sh’khinah, that is, the Spirit of God is resting on you!

In Matthew 5:11-12, Yeshua, preaching the Sermon on the Mount, warns against insults and persecution. In the first century, believers living throughout the Graeco-Roman world likely experienced discrimination and varying degrees of ostracism because of their faith. Many still do today. Yet, in Matthew’s passage, Yeshua says how blessed we are.

15 Let none of you suffer for being a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or a meddler in other people’s affairs.

Kefa identifies a wrong kind of suffering: suffering for the sake of evil criminal activity. He discourages this kind of suffering, which comes as a consequence of sin. Kefa mentions two sins (evildoer or a meddler) that can result in social persecution, but not necessarily criminal prosecution. Believers should avoid behavior that is dishonoring to other people in general.

16 But if anyone suffers for being Messianic, let him not be ashamed; but let him bring glory to God by the way he bears this name. 17 For the time has come for the judgment to begin. It begins with the household of God; and if it starts with us, what will the outcome be for those who are disobeying God’s Good News? –

For the time has come for the judgment to begin likely refers to future judgment at Yeshua’s return rather than present sufferings. Those who suffer for Yeshua’s sake can be confident that God’s judgment will validate their hardship. Kefa lives in the era between Yeshua’s resurrection and return. Thus, the judgment is imminent and has in many ways begun, since the time to choose Yeshua is now.

The household of God evokes the building metaphor from 1 Kefa 2:4–5 and refers to the family of Believers in Yeshua. Kefa maintains that God will judge all people impartially and stresses that He will begin with His people. All people will be held accountable for their actions, even though God will grant mercy to those who chose the path of faith in Yeshua.

18 “If the righteous is barely delivered,
where will the ungodly and sinful end up?”

Kefa draws on the Septuagint (ancient Greek Tanakh) version of Proverbs 11:31 to remind his audience of the high cost of following Yeshua in a world that condones sinful behavior and reviles the name of Yeshua. Just as Yeshua faced sufferingbeing mocked, beaten, and crucifiedto make the gift of salvation possible, Believers must faithfully follow their Lord until the end of their lives or Yeshua’s return. This is not because their salvation depends on itYeshua alone saves them (1 Kefa 1:3–12)but because others may come to Yeshua due to their model of faithfulness. Ungodly and sinful are those who do not walk the path of faith and experience the full ramifications of their sin when God judges all humanity.

19 So let those who are suffering according to God’s will entrust themselves to a faithful Creator by continuing to do what is good. ~ 1 Kefa 4:12-19 (CJB)

We have our marching orders through troubling times: Remain Faithful!

In my next post, we conclude our study of 1 Kefa as he encourages the Shepherds of the Flock with some concluding remarks of his own.

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1 Kefa 3:17-22

Undeserved Suffering ~ Part 2

In my last post, we began to explore Undserved Suffering ~ Part 1 by how to witness to non-Believers in 1 Kefa 3:13-16. In this post, we conclude the topic of Undeserved Suffering ~ Part 2 in 1 Kefa 3:17-22.

17 For if God has in fact willed that you should suffer, it is better that you suffer for doing what is good than for doing what is evil. 18 For the Messiah himself died for sins, once and for all, a righteous person on behalf of non-righteous people, so that he might bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh but brought to life by the Spirit; 19 and in this form, he went and made a proclamation to the imprisoned spirits,

On the flesh and the Spirit in verse 18, the idea is that Yeshua was resurrected by the Spirit of God, by whom also he went (presumably after the resurrection) to proclaim triumph over the imprisoned spirits. Of the many views on this text, the three main ones are (1) that between His crucifixion and resurrection, i.e. on Saturday, Yeshua preached to the dead in Sheol (the view of many church fathers); (2) that Yeshua preached through Noach to people in Noach’s day (the view of many Reformers); (3) that before or (more likely) after his resurrection, Yeshua proclaimed triumph over the fallen angels (the view of most scholars today). [1]

Kefa compares the Believers with Noach and his family, both being righteous minorities persecuted by wicked neighbors, and both being delivered from the forces of darkness through trusting God and obeying Him.

20 to those who were disobedient long ago, in the days of Noach, when God waited patiently during the building of the ark, in which a few people – to be specific, eight – were delivered by means of water. 21 This also prefigures what delivers us now, the water of immersion, which is not the removal of dirt from the body, but one’s pledge to keep a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah. 22 He has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities and powers subject to him. ~ 1 Kefa 3:13-22 (CJB).

Ancient Judaism sometimes used the flood as a prototype of future judgment, as in 2 Kefa 3:6–7. The emphasis on the salvation of few would encourage Believers who were a persecuted minority. God’s patience reflects Genesis 6:3 and is mentioned in connection with the final judgment in 2 Kefa 3:9.

The act of faith indicated in immersion, rather than the physical cleansing, was what was significant; immersion was an act of conversion in ancient Judaism, but Judaism insisted on the sincerity of repentance for it to be efficacious.

Authorities and powers were angelic rulers over the nations, of which Jewish texts often speak (see Eph. 1:21–23). Thus even the evil powers behind the rulers who persecuted Believers had been subdued, and the final outcome was not in question. [2]

In this fallen world, all people suffer. But it is better to suffer for doing goodif God wills itthan for doing evil. Again, Kefa reminds them (see 2:21-25) that Yeshua is their supreme example of Godly suffering. He suffered for sinsyour sins and mineto bring us to God (3:18). He visited the devil and his followers in the spiritual realm and proclaimed His victory over them (3:19). Then He was raised from the dead and seated at the right hand of God with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him (3:22). And if you know Yeshua, you were raised with Him (see Eph 2:6). So your present suffering doesn’t compare to the victory you have and will have, through Yeshua.

In my next post, we will learn about Being Stewards of God’s Grace in 1 Kefa 4:1-11.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament.

[2] Ibid.

1 Kefa 3:1-7

Wives and Husbands

In my last post, we explored the Submission of Slaves to Masters. In this post, we learn about Wives and Husbands.

In the same way, wives, submit to your husbands; so that even if some of them do not believe the Word, they will be won over by your conduct, without your saying anything, as they see your respectful and pure behavior.

In the same way as citizens with their government and slaves with their masters as we have learned in the previous two posts, believing wives should exemplify the principle of 2:12 with their husbands by submitting to them. In other words, do not be a noodge or a nudnik (Yiddish for “nag” and “bore”). For they will be won over to being curious about the Messiah, they already know you believe in by your conduct, without your saying a word, as they see your respectful and pure behavior. Then, when you have an interested audience, you can speak! This is equally true for husbands.

Your beauty should not consist in externals such as fancy hairstyles, gold jewelry, or what you wear;

Hair was braided in elaborate manners, and well-to-do women strove to keep up with the latest expensive fashions. The gaudy adornments of women of wealth, meant to draw attention to themselves, were repeatedly condemned in ancient literature and speeches, and Kefa’s readers would assume that his point was meant in the same way. It doesn’t appear that much has changed these last 2,000 years.

 rather, let it be the inner character of your heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit. In God’s sight, this is of great value.

Ancients considered a meek and quiet spirit a prime virtue for women. Many moralists advised this attitude instead of dressing in the latest fashions to attract men’s attention, a vice commonly attributed to aristocratic women but imitated by those who could afford to do so. [1]

This is how the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves and submit to their husbands,

Moralists typically added examples of such quietness to their exhortations; they especially liked to appeal to the distant past’s matrons, who were universally respected for their chaste behavior compared to many of the current models in Roman high society. Jewish readers would think, especially of the great matriarchs, extolled for their piety in Jewish tradition: Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah, Sarah being most prominent. The readers may think about head coverings that were prominent in much of the East, meant to render the married woman inconspicuous. [2]

 the way Sarah obeyed Avraham, honoring him as her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not succumb to fear.

Honoring him as her lord… Midrash Tanchuma states: “Abraham’s wife honored him and called him ‘Lord,’ for it is written that Sarah said, ‘My lord is old’ (Genesis 18:12). But, conversely, God commanded Abraham to honor his wife by calling her ‘princess’; for that is the meaning of her Hebrew name ‘Sarah’ (Genesis 17:15).” [3]

You are her daughters. As Abraham is the father of all Believers, his wife Sarah is appropriately singled out as the mother of believing women. She is an example for them, just as Abraham is for all Believers. Being a bat (daughter of) or a ben (son of) someone implies having those personal qualities in Hebrew.

Do not succumb to fear. This is a call to give up neurotic anxiety. The anxious feelings may not go away, but one can gain a right perspective on them, not by suppressing them and denying their existence, but by acknowledging them while at the same time experiencing that God’s peace, His shalom, a fruit of the Ruach. Seek God’s rulership instead of dwelling on anxious thoughts and worries.

You husbands, likewise, conduct your married lives with understanding. Although your wife may be weaker physically, you should respect her as a fellow-heir of the gift of Life. If you don’t, your prayers will be blocked. ~ 1 Kefa 3:1-7 (CJB).

Husbands, conduct your married lives (the term includes the sexual aspect but is not limited to it) with understanding. This fits with Co 3:19 (“Husbands, love your wives, and don’t treat them harshly”) and Ep 5:25–33.

Respect her as a fellow-heir of the gift of life; compare Ep 5:21.

If you don’t, your prayers will be blocked. This is a portentous warning. A man who does not respect his wife might try to retreat into prayer, but he will be unable to have much of a spiritual life so long as he does not love, understand and honor his wife. Any husband who has attempted to pray privately while amid a fight with his wife should agree.

We will learn about Doing No Evil in 1 Kefa 3:8-12 in my next post.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Jewish New Testament Commentary.

1 Kefa 2:18-25

Submission of Slaves to Masters

In my last post, we explored A Call to Good Works. In this post, we learn about the Submission of Slaves to Masters.

This passage addresses household slaves, who often had more economic and social mobility than free peasants did, although most of them still did not have much. Field slaves on massive estates were more oppressed. Kefa’s advice to the household servants of 2000 years ago that they should bear up even under undeserved punishment can be applied, with the necessary changes, by today’s employees. In this, the Messiah serves as our example since He fulfills Isaiah’s prophecies concerning the suffering servant. The central such passage is Isaiah 52:13–53:12.

18 Household servants, submit yourselves to your masters, showing them full respect – and not only those who are kind and considerate, but also those who are harsh. 19 For it is a grace when someone because he is mindful of God, bears up under the pain of undeserved punishment. 20 For what credit is there in bearing up under a beating you deserve for doing something wrong? But if you bear up under punishment, even though you have done what is right, God looks on it with favor.

Except for those slaves who were able to save enough money on the side to buy their freedom (which many household slaves could do), slaves were not in a position to achieve freedom. Although slaves and masters cooperated in many households as members of a typical family, laws viewed slaves as property and people, and some owners abused them as property; nearly all owners treated them as socially inferior. [1]

21 Indeed, this is what you were called to; because the Messiah too suffered, on your behalf, leaving an example so that you should follow in His steps.

22 “He committed no sin,
nor was any deceit found on His lips.”
[2]

23 When He was insulted, He didn’t retaliate with insults; when He suffered, He didn’t threaten but handed them over to Him who judges justly.

One matter Kefa repeatedly addresses in this letter is how Believers should understand and respond to suffering. Though he will have much more to say on this, Kefa’s most important reminder is that we are called to suffer because Yeshua also suffered for us, giving us an example so we may follow in his steps. Yeshua is the perfect example of someone enduring unjust suffering since He alone is sinless. Rather than returning evil for evil, He entrusted Himself to the one who judges justly.

24 He himself bore our sins in His body on the stake, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness – by His wounds you were healed. 25 For you used to be like sheep gone astray, but now you have turned to the Shepherd, who watches over you. ~ 1 Kefa 2:18-25.

We must also remember that Yeshua’s suffering was unique. He was more than a mere example. He suffered as our substitute to win our salvation. He himself bore our sins. Yeshua not only died because we are sinners (we all have a sinful nature), but He also died for every wrong we have committed or will commit: whether in thought, attitude, or action.

Why would He do that? So that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness. Righteousness is the standard that God requires. If you are saved, Yeshua gave you the ability to turn sin off and turn righteousness on.

To quote Tony Evans, “The devil does not want you to know you can make such a switch and definitely does not want you to do it. But we can say “no” to sin and “yes” to righteousness: “no” to Satan’s agenda and “yes” to God’s.” [3]

We will learn about Wives and Husbands in 1 Kefa 3:1-7 in my next post.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1 ] The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament
[2] Isaiah 53:9
[3]  The Tony Evans Bible Commentary.

1 Kefa 1:13-25

Called to Be Holy

In my last post, we explored what Kefa describes as A Living Hope. In this post, we explore how Kefa says we are Called to Be Holy.

13 Therefore, get your minds ready for work, keep yourselves under control, and fix your hopes fully on the gift you will receive when Yeshua the Messiah is revealed. 14 As people who obey God, do not let yourselves be shaped by the evil desires you used to have when you were still ignorant. 15 On the contrary, following the Holy One who called you, become holy yourselves in your entire way of life; 16 since the Tanakh says,

“You are to be holy because I am holy.” (see Leviticus 11:44-45)

Get your minds ready for work. Be mentally prepared for opposition, distractions, temptations, and unexpected setbacks. Refusing to be shaped by the evil desires you used to have when you were still ignorant of Yeshua the Messiah are necessary in order to heed Kefa’s main exhortation, namely, to become holy yourselves in your entire way of life.

17 Also, if you are addressing as Father the one who judges impartially according to each person’s actions, you should live out your temporary stay on earth in fear.18 You should be aware that the ransom paid to free you from the worthless way of life which your fathers passed on to you did not consist of anything perishable like silver or gold;

The worthless way of life which your fathers passed on to you. This is neither pagan idolatry nor the Mosaic Law as set forth in the Tanakh, but the perversion of the Torah into an oppressive, legalistic way of life which your fathers, the Jewish establishment passed on to you Jews who have come to believe in Yeshua the Messiah. This interpretation assumes that Kefa is addressing Messianic Jews and Messianic Gentiles identifying with them, rather than Gentiles retaining a pagan mindset, whose former worthless way of life would have consisted of idol-worship and gross immorality.

Kefa is repeating what he said to the legalizers at the Jerusalem Conference, Why are you putting God to the test now by placing a yoke on the neck of the talmidim which neither our fathers nor we have had the strength to bear? (see Ac 15:10).

19 on the contrary, it was the costly bloody sacrificial death of the Messiah, as of a lamb without defect or spot.

A lamb without defect or spot. Starting with the lamb offered by each family at the time of the Exodus (Exodus 12:5), all sacrifices had to be without blemish. Yochanan the Immerser calls Yeshua“God’s lamb! The one who is taking away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Yeshua was a lamb offered as a sin offering to atone for our sins according to the Torah (Ro 3:25–26, 8:3–4); He was also the final Pesach lamb. In the past He died; in the present, we share His life; and, in the future, He will return as “the slaughtered Lamb” (see Rev 5:6; Isaiah 53:7, and Acts 8:32) who, because He was without, is worthy to open the scroll with seven seals and to rule the Kingdom of God as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David” (Rev 5:5). In Him the Lamb and the Lion “lie down together” (Isaiah 11:6–7) by virtue of being one and the same person, Yeshua the Messiah.

20 God knew him before the founding of the universe but revealed him in the acharit-hayamim for your sakes.

God knew him, Yeshua the Messiah, before the founding of the universe. This corresponds to the Jewish teaching that God created the Messiah before He created the world.

But revealed him in the acharit-hayamim (“the end of days”) for your sakes, as Sha’ul said at Eph 1:8–10, 3:3–11.

21 Through him you trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory; so that your trust and hope are in God.

22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth, so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love each other deeply, with all your heart. 23 You have been born again not from some seed that will decay, but from one that cannot decay, through the living Word of God that lasts forever. 24 For

all humanity is like grass,

all its glory is like a wildflower—

the grass withers and the flower falls off;

25 but the Word of Adonai lasts forever.

Moreover, this Word is the Good News which has been proclaimed to you.~ 1 Kefa 1:13-25 (CJB)

We will learn about The Living Stone and a Holy People in 2 Kefa 2:1-10 in my next post.

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Kefa Gets Wet and Declares His Loyalty

In my last post, we looked at Kefa’s Involvement with Yeshua’s Healing of a Woman and Ya’ir’s (Jarius’s) Daughter. In this post, we learn that Kefa Gets Wet and Declares His Loyalty.

Immediately following the feeding of the five thousand, Yeshua had the talmidim get in the boat and go on ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. 23 After He had sent the crowds away, He went up into the hills by Himself to pray. Night came on, and He was there alone. 24 But by this time, the boat was several miles from shore, battling a rough sea and a headwind.

Harsh storms often arise suddenly on the Sea of Galilee.

25 Around four o’clock in the morning, He came toward them, walking on the lake! 26 When the talmidim saw Him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost!” they said and screamed with fear. 27 But at once, Yeshua spoke to them. “Courage,” He said, “it is I. Stop being afraid.”

Belief in ghosts or disembodied spirits was common on a popular level in antiquity, even though the idea of ghosts contradicted popular Jewish teachings about the resurrection from the dead. [1] It is I is the equivalent of saying I Am.

28 Then Kefa called to him, “Lord, if it is really you, tell me to come to you on the water.” 29 “Come!” He said. So Kefa got out of the boat and walked on the water toward Yeshua. 30 But when he saw the wind, he became afraid; and as he began to sink, he yelled, “Lord! Save me!” 31 Yeshua immediately stretched out His hand, took hold of him, and said to him, “Such little trust! Why did you doubt?” 32 As they went up into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 The men in the boat fell down before Him and exclaimed, “You really are God’s son!” ~ Matthew 14:22-33 (CJB)

Such little trust! Kefa has, even though a moment before he had much to get out of the boat. Faith is only present-tense; it does not build up like a bank account (see James 1:6-7). Yeshua’s rebuke restored it and Kefa walked back to the boat holding Yeshua’s hand.

Despite Kefa’s failure to follow through, by beginning to walk on water, he had done something that not even the greatest prophets of the Tanakh had done. Would you or I have faith to get out of the boat in the middle of a storm?

Walking on water might remind readers of Isra’el passing through the Red Sea or the Yarden, but this was a greater miracle. Faith to step into the water could also evoke Joshua 3:13-17.

The talimidim’s confession of Yeshua as God’s Son is not surprising. The title Son of God often serves as a messianic title in the Brit Hadashah, but here it also implies Yeshua’s deity. The talmidim likely interpreted the miracle in light of Job 9:8, which states that Adonai walked on the sea as if it were dry land. Their worship of Yeshua also confirmed their growing recognition of His divine nature.

After they had crossed the Sea of Galilee, Yeshua gave His famous discourse that He was the Bread of Life. Many of the talmidim found this saying too hard to understand or accept. We learn 66 From this time on, many of his talmidim turned back and no longer traveled around with him. 67 So Yeshua said to the Twelve, “Don’t you want to leave too?”

Yeshua succeeded in winnowing out those who were not sincere or who found too high the cost of eating his flesh and drinking his blood. Literally, this sounds very cannibalistic. Many must have recalled their history when their ancestors were forced to become cannibals to survive. Fortunately, we now know that He was speaking symbolically of giving up His body and blood on the execution stake to cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

68 Shim’on Kefa answered him, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the word of eternal life. 69 We have trusted, and we know that You are the Holy One of God.” 70 Yeshua answered them, “Didn’t I choose you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is an adversary.” ~ John 6:66-70 (CJB)

Kefa’s confession of Yeshua as the Holy One of God anticipates later references to Yeshua being set apart for Adonai. In the Tanakh, Adonai was called “the Holy One of Israel” (Ps 71:22; Isa. 43:3; 54:5). Kefa’s confession of faith in Yeshua may be compared with Matt. 16:16, Mark 8:29, and Luke 9:20.

In my next post, we pick up our chronological journey of Kefa in the Gospels when he once again asks Yeshua to explain a parable.

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[1] Bible Background Commentary – New Testament.

Rejoice with Yerushalayim ~ Yesha’yahu 66:7-14

In my last post, we learned about The Humble and Contrite Spirit in Yesha’yahu 66:1-6. In this post, we continue to examine the last chapter in the prophecy of Yesha’yahu, learning about Rejoice with Yerushalayim in Yesha’yahu 66:7-14.

7 Before going into labor, she gave birth; before her pains came, she delivered a male child.

The fate of the wicked will not spoil the rejoicing of those who enter Yeshua’s kingdom. Isra’el’s restoration in the Kingdom Age will be accomplished so quickly it will be like a woman delivering her baby before going into labor.

8 Whoever heard of such a thing? Who has ever seen such things? Is a country born in one day? Is a nation brought forth all at once? For as soon as Tziyon went into labor, she brought forth her children.

Tziyon (Yerushalayim) has been described as Isra’el’s mother before. Here the return to Y’hudah after the exile is described as Tziyon giving birth painlessly to many children.

9 “Would I let the baby breakthrough and not be born?” asks Adonai. “Would I, who cause the birth, shut the womb?” asks your God.

In previous passages, God is imagined to be the husband of Tziyon. That idea might also be operative here, but He is pictured as the doctor who delivered Tziyon’s babies. Isra’el’s rebirth is inevitable because God never begins what he doesn’t finish.

10 Rejoice with Yerushalayim! Be glad with her, all you who love her! Rejoice, rejoice with her, all of you who mourned for her; 11 so that you nurse and are satisfied by her comforting breast, drinking deeply and delighting in the overflow of her glory.

Yerushalayim, the mother of the returned exiles, will not only give them birth but will nurse them and give them life.

12 For Adonai says, “I will spread shalom over her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried in her arm and cuddled in her lap.

Yerushalayim will be a place of abundant peace (like a river) and overflowing wealth (like a flood). Adonai, the mother, will care for and play with her children, the returned inhabitants of Yerushalayim.

13 Like someYerushalayim, you will be comforted.”one comforted by his mother, I will comfort you; in 

Likening Himself to a mother, Adonai says, “I’m going to bounce you upon My knee.” He identifies Himself not only as a strong Father but as a tender, nourishing Mother.

14 Your heart will rejoice at the sight; your bodies will flourish like newly sprouted grass. It will be known that the hand of Adonai is with His servants, but with His enemies, His fury. ~ Isaiah 66:7-14 (CJB)

Adonai’s people will flourish, but his enemies will receive His fury.

In my next post, we conclude our study of Yesha’yahu, learning about Final Judgment and Glory of Adonai in Yesha’yahu 66:15-25.

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Observing Purim ~ 2019

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 2019, Purim is celebrated on March 21st & 22nd.

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 were allowed to return 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.
  3. 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. It is preferable that the gifts are delivered via a third party. Children, in addition to sending their gifts of food to their friends, make enthusiastic messengers.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 up 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.”
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.

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