Shavuot (Pentecost)

God’s Appointed Times

We will take a break from our series on the Yesha’yahu and return to God’s Appointed Times ~ Shavuot (Pentecost). In 2019, Shavuot will be observed by Jewish Believers beginning at sundown on Saturday, June 8th. Christians will be celebrating Pentecost on Sunday, June 9th. Essentially, Jews and Christians will be celebrating on the same weekend, albeit for slightly different reasons.

Scriptural Basis

15“‘From the day after the day of rest — that is, from the day you bring the sheaf for waving — you are to count seven full weeks, 16until the day after the seventh week; you are to count fifty days; and then you are to present a new grain offering to Adonai. 17You must bring bread from your homes for waving — two loaves made with one gallon of fine flour, baked with leaven — as firstfruits for Adonai. 18Along with the bread, present seven lambs without defect one year old, one young bull and two rams; these will be a burnt offering for Adonai, with their grain and drink offerings, an offering made by fire as a fragrant aroma for Adonai. 19Offer one male goat as a sin offering and two male lambs one year old as a sacrifice of peace offerings. 20The cohen will wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before Adonai, with the two lambs; these will be holy for Adonai for the cohen. 21On the same day, you are to call a holy convocation; do not do any kind of ordinary work; this is a permanent regulation through all your generations, no matter where you live.” (Vayikra [Leviticus] 23:15-21)

Basic Description

Shavu’ot was one of three festivals (Pesach/Matzah & Sukkot being the other two) appointed by Adonai where all Jewish males were to go up to Jerusalem. Shavu’ot means “weeks.” It comes exactly fifty days after Pesach. In Greek, we have come to know it as Pentecost. Pentecost means “fifty.” It was an agricultural festival to celebrate the latter fruits of the spring harvest. Recall that Yom HaBikkurim (First Fruits) immediately following Pesach celebrated the barley harvest and, as Believers, we recognize it as the resurrection of Yeshua – the first fruit from the dead. Shavu’ot celebrates the thanksgiving for the wheat harvest symbolized by the two loaves of challah.

Observance

The two loaves of challah were brought into the Temple and with great ceremony, waved in every direction before Adonai. In addition, blood sacrifices were offered to cover the sin of the people. Since sacrifices can no longer be made with the destruction of the Second Temple, the modern Jewish observance of Shavu’ot has changed. Rabbis calculated that Moshe received the Torah at Mount Sinai on Shavu’ot. Hence, the rabbinic name for Shavu’ot is Zman Matan Torateynu (the Time of the Giving of the Torah).

The custom of decorating the synagogue in greenery, flowers and baskets of fruit to symbolize the harvest aspect of Shavu’ot; the practice of marking the holiday with a meal featuring dairy products in recognition of Scripture being described as the pure milk of the Word (I Peter 2:2); and the inclusion of the Megillah (scroll) of Ruth in the service are all the primary reminders of Shavu’ot’s agricultural prominence.

But Ruth’s story sounds another theme, one more relevant to the celebration of Shavu’ot by modern Jewish people and Messianic Believers. When her husband dies, Ruth – a gentile – elects to stay with Naomi, her mother-in-law, telling her “your people will be my people, and your God will be my God” (Ruth 1:16) binding herself willingly to the people Isra’el. Ruth’s story is one of commitment to the Jewish people freely made and to the covenant with God that is the core of the Jewish religion and experience. Like Ruth, the gentile woman who was in the lineage of Yeshua, we have voluntarily said to our fellow Messianic Jewish believers your people will be my people, your God will be my God.

Shavu’ot celebrates the most important moment in the Mosaic covenant – the giving of the Torah to Moshe and its acceptance by Isra’el at Sinai. Shavu’ot has come to be dedicated to the idea of Torah study and Jewish education. Traditional Jews stay up all night on the first night of this festival studying the Torah. In keeping with the theme of Jewish education, Shavu’ot has traditionally been the time when many Jewish schools mark graduation.

Messianic significance abounds in this festival. From God’s perspective, the time of great harvest when large numbers of Jewish believers and later Gentiles came into a personal relationship with Him was initiated at Shavu’ot immediately after Yeshua’s resurrection (Acts 2:40-43). The two leavened loaves of Shavu’ot may, therefore, symbolize Jew and Gentile presented to God and now part of His family. God set us free from slavery to sin by placing His Spirit in us to enable us to live as He intended (Romans 8:1-4). Hence God visibly placed His Ruach HaKodesh in Yeshua’s followers on that important Shavu’ot centuries ago (Acts 2:4).

The coming of the Ruach HaKodesh served as the completion of Pesach, the completion of our atonement, in the sense that through the Ruach, God gives us the power we need to overcome our tendency to do evil.

The theme of Shavu’ot can be best summed up by the word revival. Isra’el was called to praise God for the first fruits of the ground, knowing that these early fruits assured the latter harvest. This also applies to the spiritual Kingdom of God. The first fruit of believers at Shavu’ot virtually guarantees a revival in the latter-day spiritual harvest for Messiah. Now we can understand why God included Shavu’ot in the three required festivals for every Jewish male. He had gathered Jewish men from throughout the region to hear the Good News of Yeshua in their own language. They would take that message back home with them to tell their families and friends. As Pesach speaks of redemption, Shavu’ot speaks of revival. The message of Shavu’ot is one of great hope and joy. It was a message heard and accepted by 3,000 Jewish people on that special Shavu’ot (Acts 2:41). Note that 3,000 Jewish people died because of their rebellion of worshipping the Golden Calf at the giving of the Torah.

When Is the Biblical Feast of Shavuot?

Many people desire to know the actual Biblical date for Shavu’ot. It is the only feast that God did not say fell on a specific date in the Hebrew calendar. Rather He gave a formula for calculating the day. Though the traditional Jewish community will celebrate Shavu’ot according to that traditional calculation, there is a difference of opinion on the matter. In the first century, the Pharisees and Sadducees differed on the date that Shavuot was to be celebrated. The question arose over which Sabbath does Firstfruits (see Vayikra 23:9-14) take place after the day after Pesach, which is generally considered a Sabbath or the regular seventh day Sabbath, i.e. Saturday during the week of Pesach?

The Pharisees claimed the correct day was the day after the first day of Matzah, the sixteenth of Nisan. The Sadducees taught that the correct day was Sunday, the day after the weekly Sabbath. Since the writings of the Pharisees survived and developed into traditional Judaism, their opinion is accepted in modern Judaism.

But who is biblically correct? Remember, the Scriptures state, “you are to count seven full Sabbaths until the day after the seventh week; you are to count fifty days.” (Leviticus 23:15-16).

For it to be the day after the seventh Shabbat, the initial Sabbath would have to be the weekly Sabbath. So, it would appear the Sadducees were right. Consequently, I believe that the Sadducees got this one correct. Amazingly, the year that Yeshua died, the sixteenth of Nisan fell on the Sunday, which is the day after the Sabbath for the Sadducees as well. God worked it out that neither group would have a reason not to recognize Yeshua as the Firstfruits of the Resurrection.

In my next post, we will return to our series on Yesha’yahu.

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The Throne of God and Yesha’yahu’s Commissioning ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’yahu 6:8-13

In my last post, we began to look at Yesha’yahu taken to the Throne of God in Yesha’yahu 6:1-7. In this post, we will look at Yesha’yahu’s Commissioning in Yesha’yahu 6:8-13.

8 Then I [Yesha’yahu] heard the voice of Adonai saying, “Whom should I send? Who will go for us?” I answered, “I’m here, send me!”

Who is us in this verse? In my humble opinion, this is the same us in B’resheet (Genesis 1:26) God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Yesha’yahu’s readiness to serve contrasts with the reluctance of Moshe and Yirmeyahu (Exodus 4:1-17; Jeremiah 1:6). He didn’t passively say, “Lord, if You want, You can use me.” Rather, the original text indicates he said, “Behold me. Look at me, Lord.” Thus, with the enthusiasm of an eager first-grader who knows the answer, Yesha’yahu raised his hand to get the Teacher’s attention and said, “I’m here, send me!”

It has been said that Yesha’yahu’s calling can be summarized as Woe, Lo, and Go.

  • “Woe is me, “Yesha’yahu said in verse 5.
  • “Lo, this iniquity is taken away,” the s’rafim said in verse 7.
  • “Go,” the Lord said in verse 9. [1]

9 He said, “Go and tell this people: ‘Yes, you hear, but you don’t understand. You certainly see, but you don’t get the point!’ 10 “Make the heart of this people [sluggish with] fat, stop up their ears, and shut their eyes. Otherwise, seeing with their eyes, and hearing with their ears, then understanding with their hearts, they might repent and be healed!”

Yesha’yahu was a prophet with a message of judgment. God’s commission recognized that, because of its sin, Isra’el’s healing could only come about through their punishment. Yeshayahu’s message from God would serve only to distance them even more from God.

What does the Lord say to you about your calling? What has He commissioned you to do for Him? Will you go? Whether that means across the seas or the street, around the block or the office, will you tell people about the One who saved your soul? Will you make talmidim (disciples)?

God wanted Yesha’yahu to speak His Word and to be His witness so that people might see how they were either rejecting or responding to Him. Our calling is not to be successful in ministry. Our calling is simply to be obedient to the Master. Those who are elected will respond. Others won’t.

This passage is quoted or referred to by Yeshua in Matthew 13:14-15; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; and John12:40. Sha’ul quotes it in Acts 28:-26-27. Yesha‘yahu said these things because he saw the Sh’khinah of Yeshua and spoke about him. ~ John 12:41 (CJB) It seems to me that such repetition makes it important to grab ahold of and respond to our calling as talmidim makers.

11 I asked, “Adonai, how long?” and he answered, “Until cities become uninhabited ruins, houses without human presence, the land utterly wasted; 12 until Adonai drives the people far away, and the land is one vast desolation. 13 If even a tenth [of the people] remain, it will again be devoured. “But like a pistachio tree or an oak, whose trunk remains alive after its leaves fall off, the holy seed will be its trunk.” ~ Yesha’yahu 6:8-13 (CJB)

From the start, Yesha’yahu knew that his message would not lead God’s people to repentance. They would experience destruction. Even so, a remnant would survive. This remnant is pictured as the trunk remains alive after its leaves fall off. How long would the heart of the nation be hard, the eyes of the nation be blind? Until they were carried captive into Babylon. When Nebuchadnezzar carried the Jews captive into Babylon, one-tenth were left to care for the land (2 Kings 25:12, 22). Thus, this prophecy was fulfilled perfectly.

In my next blog, we will move on to The Sign of Immanuel in Yesha’yahu 7.

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

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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The Throne of God and Yesha’yahu’s Commissioning ~ Part 1 ~ Yesha’yahu 6:1-7 

In my last post, we concluded our examination of the last of The Six Woes and Judgments of Isra’el ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 5:22-30. In this post, will look at Yesha’yahu taken to the Throne of God in Yesha’yahu 6:1-7.

Most prophets record a time when God called them to their ministry. Moshe received God’s call at the burning bush (Exodus 3). Jeremiah heard God tell him that he had been chosen from the womb to deliver a message of judgment and salvation to the nations (Jeremiah 1:4-10). Ezekiel experienced an incredible vision while he was in exile in Babylon (Ezekiel 1:4-3:27). Yesha’yahu received his commissioning vision in the Temple, but in his vision, the Temple was transformed into the Throne Room of Heaven itself.

1 In the year of King ‘Uziyahu’s [Uzziah] death, I saw Adonai sitting on a high, lofty throne! The hem [most translations use train] of his robe filled the Temple.

‘Uziyahu is believed to have died in 739 BCE. This is a critical juncture in history. In 740-738 BCE Assyrian King Tiglath- Pileser III made his first campaign into the west. This is the beginning of a serious military threat that will eventually bring about the downfall of the northern kingdom, Isra’el, the destruction of the capital city of Samaria (along with many other cities of Isra’el and Y’hudah) and the deportation of large segments of the population. The Assyrians are on the brink of establishing the empire that will dominate the ancient Near East for over a century.

Second Chronicles 26:8 tells us that ‘Uziyahu was known worldwide as a king who brought peace and prosperity. He was an inventor. He built up his army to be a powerful force. He was a man who walked with the Lord and was strengthened by the Lord.

The Essentially Holy Place (Holy of Holies) was viewed as the Throne Room of the Lord, so it is logical that the vision is set in the Temple complex. The Ark of the Covenant is portrayed as the footstool of His Throne.

The word translated train by many refers to the hem. It is the richly decorated and distinctive border around the high priestly robe (see comments on Exodus 28:31-35). The hem was used as a mark of identity for people of rank such as priests and kings.

2 S’rafim [Seraphim] stood over him, each with six wings — two for covering his face, two for covering his feet and two for flying. 3 They were crying out to each other, “More holy than the holiest holiness is Adonai-Tzva’ot! [1] The whole earth is filled with his glory!”

The s’rafim were angelic creatures of great power and importance. Their name means “burning ones,” and the implication of fire evokes thoughts of danger and mystery. Covering their eyes shielded them from the brilliance of the divine glory. Covering their feet may have been a posture of submission.

More holy than the holiest holiness [2] is an emphatic or superlative phrase which points to God’s character. He is completely separated from anything profane or sinful. His sovereignty is underlined by the fact that His glory filled the whole earth.

4 The doorposts shook at the sound of their shouting, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 Then I said, “Woe to me! I [too] am doomed! – because I, a man with unclean lips, living among a people with unclean lips, have seen with my own eyes the King, Adonai-Tzva’ot!”

In Amos 9:1 the shaking of doorposts or thresholds indicates the beginning of demolition. If this was the case, the smoke could be the result of destructive forces at work.

In the presence of such holiness, Yesha’yahu felt the weight of his sinfulness. In the first five chapters, he was saying, Woe unto you. Woe unto you. Woe unto you. But when he saw the Lord, he said, Woe to me. That’s always the way it is. When Kefa realized who Yeshua was, he fell in his boat and said, Get away from me, sir, because I’m a sinner! ~ Luke 5:8 (CJB) When Yochanan saw the Lord on the Isle of Patmos, he fell as though he were dead (Revelation 1:17).

6 One of the s’rafim flew to me with a glowing coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 He touched my mouth with it and said, “Here! This has touched your lips. Your iniquity is gone; your sin is atoned for.” ~ Isaiah 6:1-7 (CJB)

God prepared Yesha’yahu by cleansing his lips, the instrument by which he would execute his prophetic task. He did this symbolically by having one of His s’rafim touch the prophet’s lips with a burning coal. Fire can purify (Numbers 31:22-23), and this burning coal was taken from the altar where sacrifices were offered to atone for sin (1 Chronicles 6:49).

As the coal touched the area where Yesha’yahu was plagued, it wasn’t to burn him up but to build him up. It cauterized the flow of iniquity from his lips. When we come to a place of saying, “Lord, woe is me. This area of my life is undone. My mind is impure. My speech is cutting. My eyes are wandering. My hands are evil”—whatever might be your area of weakness, the Lord will send a coal from off the altar. If you’ll humble yourself before Him and be open to Him, He’ll cauterize that area – just as He did with Yesha’yahu. [3]

I have always struggled with the idea of having a burning coal applied to my lips. I can recall having my tongue stuck on a freezing flag pole as a kid and getting it unstuck was no fun. When I grew older, I developed a bad case of being a “potty-mouth.” It wasn’t until the Ruach got ahold of me and pointed out scripture that I was convicted of my sin.

In my next blog, we will move on to Yesha’yahu’s Commissioning in The Throne of God and Yesha’yahu’s Commissioning ~ Part 2.

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[1] See the Glossary page above.

[2] Unlike English, Hebrew does not have an equivalent phrase for good, better, best. Consequently, the phrase more holy than the holiest holiness (literally Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh in Hebrew) serves that purpose.

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

Elisha ~ Part 14

In my last post, we continued to explore the ministry of Elisha by looking at 2 Kings 5:11-15, where we learned about Na’aman as he first Resists and Then Trusts the Lord. In this post, we continue with Na’aman as he Serves the Lord in 2 Kings 5:15-19a.

15 Then, with his [Na’aman]whole retinue, he returned to the man of God, went and stood before him, and said, ‘Well, I’ve learned that there is no God in all the earth except in Isra’el; therefore, please accept a present from your servant.’ 16 But Elisha answered, ‘As Adonai lives, before whom I stand, I will not accept it.’ And despite his urging him to take it, he refused. 17 So Na‘aman said, ‘If you won’t take it, then please let your servant be given as much earth as two mules can carry; because from now on, your servant will offer neither burnt offerings nor sacrifices to other gods, but only to Adonai. 18 Except this, and may Adonai forgive your servant for it: when my master goes into the temple of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand, and I bow down in the temple of Rimmon — when I bow down, may Adonai forgive your servant for this.” 19 Elisha said to him, ‘Go in peace.’” ~ 2 Kings 5:15-19a (CJB)

Na’aman Serves the Lord

Like every new Believer, Na’aman still had a lot to learn. He had been saved and healed by trusting in God’s grace, and now he had to grow in grace and faith and learn how to live to please the God who healed him. Instead of hurrying home to share the good news, Na’aman returned to the house of Elisha to thank the Lord and His servant. That meant traveling another thirty miles back from the Yarden River, but he must have rejoiced during the entire trip. It was natural for him to want to reward Elisha, but had the prophet accepted the gift; he would have taken the credit to himself and robbed God of His glory. He also would have given Na’aman, a new convert, the impression that his gifts had something to do with his salvation ~ NOT!

Na’aman was starting to grow in his understanding of the Lord, but he still had a long way to go. Elisha refused his gifts, but Na’aman asked if he could take some native soil with him to Syria to use in his worship of Adonai. In those days, people had the idea that the gods of a nation resided in that land, and if you left the land, you left the god behind. However, Na’aman had just testified that Adonai was God in all the earth! However, taking that soil was a courageous act, because his master and his friends would surely ask Na’aman what it meant, and he would have to tell them of his faith in the God of Israel.

In his second request, Na’aman showed unusual insight, for he realized that the king would expect him to continue his official acts as the commander of the army. This included accompanying the king into the temple of Rimmon, the Syrian equivalent of Ba’al. Na’aman was willing to perform this ritual outwardly, but he wanted Elisha to know that his heart would not be in it. Na’aman anticipated that his healing and his changed life would have an impact on the royal court and eventually lead to the king’s conversion. I know from personal experience that instead of criticizing Believers who serve in public offices, we need to pray for them because they face tough decisions.

It is interesting that Elisha did not lecture him or admonish him but just said, Go in peace. This was the usual covenant blessing the Jews invoked when people were starting on a journey. The prophet would pray for him and trust God to use him in his new ministry in Syria. Na’aman’s tzara’at was gone, he still had the treasures, he carried soil from Israel, and he knew the true and living God.

In my next post, we continue to explore the life of Elisha. In this post, we continue to examine 2 Kings 5:19b-27 were we learn that Geichazi Lies to Himself, Na’aman, and Elisha.

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Eliyahu ~ Part 11

In my last post, Eliyahu encounters The Enemies Message of Danger in 1 Kings 19:1-4. In this post, Eliyahu hears The Angels Message of Grace in 1 Kings 19:5-8.

Don’t Worry Eliyahu; I Have Your Back

Recall that in our last passage Eliyahu ran from Izevel, sat under a broom tree, prayed and pouted and ask God to relieve his misery by taking him home. I can certainly relate to him given his immediate circumstances.

5 Then he lay down under the broom tree and went to sleep. Suddenly, an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat!” 6 He looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on the hot stones and a jug of water. He ate and drank, then lay down again. 7 The angel came again, a second time, touched him and said, “Get up and eat, or the journey will be too much for you.” 8 He got up, ate and drank, and, on the strength of that meal, traveled forty days and nights until he reached Horev the mountain of God.” ~ 1 Kings 19:5-8 (CJB)

God’s miraculous provision was resumed, this time purely for the prophet. After Eliyahu ate and rested, he returned to the place where the covenant had been given to Moshe, Mount Horev. There, Eliyahu would have his faith renewed by God’s presence.

When the heart is heavy, and the mind and body are weary, sometimes the best remedy is sleeptake a nap! Nothing seems right when you’re exhausted. But while the prophet was asleep, the Lord sent an angel to care for his needs.

The angel had prepared a simple but adequate meal of fresh bread and refreshing water, and the prophet partook of both and lay down again to sleep. We aren’t told how long the Lord permitted Eliyahu to sleep before He awakened him the second time and told him to eat. The Lord knew that Eliyahu planned to visit Mount Horev [1], one of the most sacred places in all Jewish history, was located about 250 miles from Be’er- Sheva, and he needed strength for the journey. Eliyahu obeyed the messenger of God and was able to travel for forty days and nights on the nourishment from those two meals.

When we review God’s ministries to Eliyahu as recorded in 1 Kings 18 and 19, you see a parallel to the promise in Isaiah 40. “But those who hope in Adonai will renew their strength; they will soar aloft as with eagles’ wings; when they are running, they won’t grow weary, when they are walking they won’t get tired.”~ Isaiah 40:31 (CJB)

For three years, the prophet had been hidden by God, during which time he waited on the Lord. When the Lord sent him to Mount Karmel, He enabled Eliyahu to soar aloft as with eagle’s wings and triumph over the prophets of Ba’al. After Eliyahu prayed and it began to rain, the Lord strengthened him to run and not be weary (18:46), and now He sustained him for forty days, so he could walk and not get tired (19:8). Eliyahu wasn’t wholly living in the will of God, but he was smart enough to know that he had to wait on the Lord if he expected to have the strength for the ministry and for the journey that lay before him.

In my next post, we continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu. In this passage, Eliyahu hears the Creator’s Message of Power in 1 Kings 19:9-14.

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[1]Horev is another name for Mount Sinai. If Sinai is to be found down in the southern region, he must travel another two hundred plus miles and could therefore easily take forty days. It is true that a caravan could often make seventeen to twenty miles a day, but Eliyahu is not accustomed to this type of travel and is traveling on his own. Five miles per day under such conditions in this climate would not be unusual. ~ The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament.

Eliyahu ~ Part 10

In my last post, we learned that the Rain Returns to Israel in 1 Kings 18:41- 46. In this post, Eliyahu encounters The Enemies Message of Danger in 1 Kings 19:1-4.

Danger, Danger Eliyahu

“1 Ach’av told Izevel everything Eliyahu had done and how he had put all the prophets to the sword. 2 Then Izevel sent a messenger to say to Eliyahu, “May the gods do terrible things to me and worse ones besides if by this time tomorrow I haven’t taken your life, just as you took theirs!” 3 On seeing that, he got up and fled for his life. When he arrived in Be’er-Sheva, in Y’hudah, he left his servant there; 4 but he himself went a day farther into the desert until he came to a broom tree. He sat down under it and prayed for his own death. “Enough!” he said. “Now, Adonai, take my life. I’m no better than my ancestors.” ~ 1 Kings 19:1-4 (CJB)

Before getting into our passage, let’s pause for some historical perspectives. It encourages me when I read Eliyahu was only a human being like us, yet he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and no rain fell on the Land for three years and six months.” ~ James 5:17 (CJB) When James wrote those words, he undoubtedly had 1 Kings 18 and 19 in mind, for in these chapters we see Eliyahu at his highest and at his lowest.

We can learn from our defeats as well as their successes. Furthermore, by studying passages like 1 Kings 19, we’re reminded to give glory to the Master and not to His servants (1 Corinthians 1:27-29). We’re also told to prepare for what may happen after the victories God gives us. How quickly we can move from the mountaintop of triumph to the valley of testing! We need to humble ourselves before the Lord and get ready for the trials that usually follow the victories.

Warren Wiersbe opines:

If Eliyahu could have described to a counselor how he felt and what he thought, the counselor would have diagnosed his condition as a textbook case of burnout. Eliyahu was physically exhausted and had lost his appetite. He was depressed about himself and his work and was being controlled more and more by self-pity. “I only am left!” Instead of turning to others for help, he isolated himself andworst of allhe wanted to die. The prophet concluded that he had failed in his mission and decided it was time to quit. But the Lord didn’t see it that way. He always looks beyond our changing moods and impetuous prayers, and He pities us the way parents pity their discouraged children (Psalm 103:13-14). The chapter (19) shows us how tenderly and patiently God deals with us when we’re in the depths of despair and feel like giving up. [1]

The chapter begins with Eliyahu running away and trying to save himself. Then the prophet argues with the Lord and tries to defend himself. Finally, he obeys the Lord and yields himself and is restored to service. In all of this, Eliyahu was responding to four different messages.

The Enemy’s Message of Danger

When the torrential rain began to fall, Izevel was in Yizre’el and may have thought that Ba’al the storm god had triumphed on Mount Karmel. However, when Ach’av arrived home, he told her a much different story. Ach’av was a weak man, but he should have stood with Eliyahu and honored the Lord who had so dramatically demonstrated His power. But Ach’av had to live with Queen Izevel, and without her support, he knew he was nothing. If ever there was a strong-willed ruler with a gift for doing evil, it was Izevel. Neither Ach’av nor Izevel accepted the clear evidence given on Mount Karmel that Adonai was the only true and living God. Instead of repenting and calling the nation back to serving the Lord, Izevel declared war on God and His faithful servant Eliyahu, and Ach’av allowed her to do it.

Why did Izevel send a letter to Eliyahu when she could have sent soldiers and had him killed? He was in Yizre’el, and the deed could have been easily accomplished on such a wild and stormy night. Izevel wasn’t only an evil woman; she was also a shrewd strategist who knew how to make the most of Ba’al‘s defeat on Mount Karmel. Ach’av was a quitter, but not his wife!

Eliyahu was now a very popular man. Like Moshe, he had brought fire from heaven, and like Moshe, he had slain the idolaters (Leviticus 9:24; Numbers 25). If Izevel transformed the prophet into a martyr, he might influence people more by his death than by his life. If Eliyahu disappeared, the people would wonder what had happened, and they would be prone to drift back into worshiping Ba’al and letting Ach’av and Izevel have their way.

Izevel may have suspected that Eliyahu was a candidate for a physical and emotional breakdown after his demanding day on Mount Karmel, and she was right. Her letter achieved its purpose and Eliyahu fled from Yizre’el. In a moment of fear, when he forgot all that God had done for him the previous three years, Eliyahu took his servant, left Israel, and headed for Be’er-Sheva, the southernmost city in Y’hudah.

For three years, Eliyahu had not made a move without hearing and obeying the Lord’s instructions (17:2-3, 8-9; 18:1), but now he was running ahead of the Lord to save his own life. When God’s servants get out of God’s will, they’re liable to do all sorts of foolish things.

But why flee to Y’hudah, especially when Jehoram, king of Y’hudah, was married to Ach’av‘s daughter Athaliah (2 Kings 8:16-19; 2 Chronicles 21:4-7). This is the infamous Athaliah who later ruled the land and tried to exterminate all of David’s heirs to the throne (2 Kings 11). The safest place for any child of God is the place dictated by the will of God, but Eliyahu didn’t stop to seek God’s will. He traveled 90 to 100 miles to Be’er-Sheva and left his servant there. If the enemy came after Eliyahu, his servant would be safer someplace else. Furthermore, if the servant didn’t know where Eliyahu was, he couldn’t inform against him.

Be’er-Sheva had a special meaning to the Jews because of its associations with Abraham (Genesis 21:22, 33), Isaac (26:33), and Jacob (46:1). The broom tree flourishes in the wilderness and provides shade for flocks and herds and travelers. The branches are thin and supple like those of the willow and are used to bind bundles. The roots of the plant are used for fuel and make excellent charcoal (Psalm 120:4). As Eliyahu sat under its shade, he did a wise thinghe prayed, but he didn’t pray a very wise prayer. “Enough!” he said. “Now, Adonai, take my life.” Then he gave his reason: “I’m no better than my ancestors.” But God never asked him to be better than anybody else, but only to hear His Word and obey it.

The combination of emotional burnout, weariness, hunger, and a broad sense of failure, plus lack of faith in the Lord, had brought Eliyahu into a deep depression. But there was also an element of pride involved, and some self-pity, for Eliyahu was sure that his courageous ministry on Mount Karmel would bring the nation to its knees. Perhaps he was also hoping that Ach’av and Izevel would repent and turn from Ba’al to God. His expectations weren’t fulfilled, so he considered himself a failure. But the Lord rarely allows His servants to see all the good they have done because we walk by faith and not by sight, and Eliyahu would learn that there were 7,000 people in Israel who had not bowed to Ba’al and worshiped him. No doubt his ministry had influenced many of them.

In my next post, we continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu. In this passage, Eliyahu hears The Angels Message of Grace in 1 Kings 19:5-8.

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[1] Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament

Eliyahu ~ Part 9

In my last post, we explored Eliyahu’s confrontation with the Prophets of Ba’al in Eliyahu’s Finest Hour ~ Let the Fire Fall in 1 Kings 18:30-40. In this post, we learn that the Rain Returns to Israel in 1 Kings 18:41- 46.

Let It Rain, Let It Rain, Let It Rain

41 Then Eliyahu said to Ach’av, “Get up, eat, and drink because I hear the sound of heavy rain.” 42 Ach’av went up to eat and drink, while Eliyahu went up to the top of the Karmel. He bowed down to the ground and put his face between his knees. 43 “Now,” he said to his servant, “go up, and look out toward the sea.” He went up, looked, and said, “There’s nothing there.” Seven times he said, “Go again.” 44 The seventh time, the servant said, “Now there’s a cloud coming up out of the sea, no bigger than a man’s hand.” Eliyahu said, “Go up, and say to Ach’av, ‘Prepare your chariot, and get down the mountain before the rain stops you!” 45 A little later, the sky grew black with clouds and wind; and heavy rain began falling; as Ach’av, riding in his chariot, made for Yizre’el [Jezreel]. 46 The hand of Adonai was on Eliyahu; he tucked up his clothing and ran ahead of Ach’av to the entrance of Yizre’el.” ~ 1 Kings 18:41-46 (CJB)

Two final miraculous events occur on this day: (1) the coming of the rain as a result of Eliyahu’s prayer and (2) Eliyahu’s supernatural strength in leaving the scene and passing Ach’av’s chariot before the storm. Typically, the act of preceding the king’s chariot could have been a friendly overture. It was an act of honor to the king and a tribute to the runner to be permitted to run before the king. But if this was Eliyahu’s intent, it was lost on Ach’av and was his word that stopped the rain and only his word could start it again (17:1). He was referring to the power of his prayers, the words that he spoke to the Lord (James 5:17-18). It had been a long and disappointing day for King Ach’av, and Eliyahu sent him to his retainers to get something to eat. Eliyahu went to the top of Carmel to pray and ask the Lord to send the much-needed rains.

Eliyahu’s unusual posture was almost a fetal position and indicated the prophet’s humility, his great concern for the people, and his burden for the glory of the Lord. Unlike the answer to the prayer at the altar, the answer to this prayer didn’t come at once. Seven times Eliyahu sent his servant to look toward the Mediterranean Sea and report any indications of a storm gathering, and six of those times the servant reported nothing.

Imagine how disappointed the servant and Eliyahu must have been.

The prophet didn’t give up but prayed a seventh time, and the servant saw a tiny cloud coming from the sea. This is an excellent example for us to follow as we “watch and pray” and continue to intercede until the Lord sends the answer. We have to be persistent in our prayers.

The little cloud wasn’t a storm, but it was the harbinger of the rains that were to come. Eliyahu commanded the king to mount his chariot and return to his palace in Yizre’el as soon as possible. We aren’t told how he broke the news to Izevel that Baal had been publicly humiliated and declared to be a false god, and that the prophets of Baal that she supported had been slain. But neither the drought nor the famine had brought Ach’av and Izevel to repentance, and it wasn’t likely that the fire from heaven or the coming of the rain would change their hearts (Rev. 9:20-21; 16:8-11). All the evidence notwithstanding, Izevel was determined to kill Eliyahu (19:1-2).

Strength for the Journey

Soon the heavens were black with clouds, and great torrents of rain began to fall on the land. The Lord not only proved that he was the true and living God, but He also put His approval on the ministry of His servant Eliyahu. Eliyahu had neither chariots nor retainers to drive them, but he did have the power of the Lord, and he ran ahead of Ach’av and reached Yizre’el ahead of the king. This was quite a feat for an older man and in itself was another sign to the people that God’s mighty hand was upon His servant.

Yizre’el was between fifteen and twenty miles from the Karmel area. This fifteen-acre site was situated at the southeastern entrance to the Jezreel Valley between the Hill of Moreh and Mount Gilboa. It was here that Ach’av had built a winter capital. Excavations have unearthed a sizeable royal enclosure from this period occupying a significant portion of the mound. [1]

God had chastened His people with drought and famine but had cared for His special servant Eliyahu. God had sent fire from heaven to prove that He was the true and living God. Now He had answered the prayer of His prophet and had sent the rains to water the land. You would think that Eliyahu would be at his very best spiritually and able to face anything, but the next chapter records just the opposite. As great a man as Eliyahu was, he still failed the Lord and himself.

In my next post, we continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu. In this passage, we encounter The Enemies Message of Danger in 1 Kings 19:1-4.

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

Request for Prayer, Personal References and Benedictions

Messianic Jews 13:18-25
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we explored the Warnings in Messianic Jews 13:7-17. In this post, we conclude our examination of Messianic Jews by studying a Request for Prayer, Personal References and Benedictions in Messianic Jews 13:18-25.

18 Keep praying for us, for we are certain that we have a clear conscience and want to conduct ourselves properly in everything we do. 19 And all the more I beg you to do this, so that I may be restored to you that much sooner. 

20 The God of shalom brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep, our Lord Yeshua, by the blood of an eternal covenant. 21 May God equip you with every good thing you need to do his will; and may He do in us whatever pleases Him, through Yeshua the Messiah. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. 

22 Now I urge you, brothers, to bear with my message of exhortation; for I have written you only briefly. 23 Know that our brother Timothy has been released. If he comes soon enough, I will bring him with me when I come to see you. 24 Greet all your leaders and all God’s people. The people from Italy send greetings to you. 25 Grace be with you all.” ~ Hebrews 13:18-25 (CJB)

The author requests his readers to pray that he be restored to them. Imprisonment may be preventing it (verses 18-19), and he offers a benediction for them (verse 21). He fixes the direction of his brief prayer by summing up the six key points of his letter:

  1. God is a God of shalom. By reconciling sinful humanity to Himself through Yeshua, God has taken the initiative in restoring peace, integrity, and wholeness.
  2. Yeshua has been brought up from the dead. He is alive, our cohen gadol forever making intercession for us at the right hand of God.
  3. Yeshua is the great Shepherd of the sheep, both Jews, and Gentiles. This is testified to in many references in the Tanakh and the Brit Hadashah.
  4. Yeshua is our Lord (1:2-4, 8-13; 3:6), who disciplines us for our benefit (12:5-10) and expects obedience (5:9).
  5. Yeshua has come to have this role in God’s administration of world history because He gave his blood to atone for the sins of humanity (1:3, 2:9-15, 9:12-10:14).
  6. Through this blood, Yeshua also inaugurated an eternal covenant, the New Covenant (7:22, 8:5-13, 10:15-18), the Brit Hadashah promised by Jeremiah 31:30-33(31-34).

Bear with my message of exhortation; for I have written you only briefly. This supports the idea that the author is summarizing a series of sermons he previously gave orally to some of the brothers.

Verses 23-24 lend weight to the theory that Sha’ul is the author of Messianic Jews; for although he spent his last days imprisoned in Italy (2 Timothy 4:6-8), by then his co-worker and brother in the Lord Timothy, who had at one time been jailed with him, had been released, so that Sha’ul could write 2 Timothy to him. On the other hand, I will bring him with me suggests that the author was not in prison when he wrote this letter but was free to move about. See my first post in this series here for my take on the authorship.

I will close with this admonition from the author of Messianic Jews:

“Therefore, let us confidently approach the throne from which God gives grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace in our time of need.” ~ Hebrews 4:16 (CJB)

In my next post, I am going to strive to do something I have never, ever done before. My posts (and past sermons) in the past have been thematic or verse-by-verse exegises. In my next series, I’m planning on doing a character study of Elijah. Depending on how that goes, I’ll probably move on to also do a character study of his protégé, Elisha.

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Exhortations and Warnings ~ Part 2

Messianic Jews 13:7-17
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we move on the final chapter of Messianic Jews were we study General Messianic Obligations in Messianic Jews 13:1-6. In this post, we explore the Warnings in Messianic Jews 13:7-17. [NOTE: This post is a little longer, but I did not want to break it up. You may want to click on the link below for the PDF version.]

7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke God’s message to you. Reflect on the results of their way of life, and imitate their trust – 8 Yeshua the Messiah is the same yesterday, today and forever. 9 Do not be carried away by various strange teachings; for what is good is for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods. People who have made these the focus of their lives have not benefited thereby. 10 We have an altar from which those who serve in the Tent are not permitted to eat. 11 For the cohen hagadol brings the blood of animals into the Holiest Place as a sin offering, but their bodies are burned outside the camp. 12 So too Yeshua suffered death outside the gate, in order to make the people holy through his own blood. 13 Therefore, let us go out to Him who is outside the camp and share His disgrace. 14 For we have no permanent city here; on the contrary, we seek the one to come. 15 Through Him, therefore, let us offer God a sacrifice of praise continually. For this is the natural product of lips that acknowledge His name. 16 But don’t forget doing good and sharing with others, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your lives, as people who will have to render an account. So make it a task of joy for them, not one of groaning; for that is of no advantage to you.” ~ Messianic Jews 13:7-17 (CJB)

Stern writes that the references to your leaders in verse 7, 17 and 24 suggest that Chapter 13 was appended as a covering letter accompanying the summary of sermons constituting Chapters 1-12 and was addressed to individuals in the congregation whom the author knew personally. Perhaps they had heard him give this series of sermons orally and had requested a written summary from him. The Greek phrasing seems to imply that the leaders mentioned in this verse had died, perhaps as a result of persecution.

Imitate their trust. It should be more comfortable for the readers to emulate the faith of leaders they had known and loved than that of their distant forefathers (10:35-12:4). Compare Sha’ul at 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Try to imitate me.” The chief argument for imitating these leaders is the results of their way of life.

Verse 8 connects back to those who spoke God’s message to you.  The author implies that they acted on the message then but are forsaking it now. If Yeshua the Messiah is the same yesterday, today and forever; if His sacrificial death remains the only true atonement; if holiness, without which no one will see the Lord,” (Messianic Jews 12:14) comes only through Him; then why are you slacking off or seeking other paths to God? Regain your former loyalty to Yeshua, and behave accordingly!

Moreover, Yeshua’s being the same yesterday, today and forever means that He is still Jewish and will return as a Jew. The Messiah has not been transformed into a Gentile. Yeshua was born a Jew, died a Jew and was resurrected as a Jew. He is a Jew now, serving in heaven as a Jewish cohen gadol. He will return as a Jewish king to occupy the throne of his Jewish ancestor David. His humanity makes Him the savior of all, both Jews and non-Jews.

For me, it is essential that we put our trust in Yeshua from the mere fact that He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Do not be carried away by various strange teachings. This is evidence that verse 8 warns against seeking ways apart from Yeshua for reaching God. (Compare Galatians 1:9, 3:1; 1 Corinthians 2:2).

Okay, what is the reference to foods all about? This has nothing to do with whether Messianic Jews should keep kosher, which is not at issue in this book. Moreover, scholars agree that the early Jewish believers observed kashrut. The only question which they needed to solve concerned how Jewish believers should behave at the dining table with Gentile Believers (Galatians 2:11-16).

There are two possibilities for interpreting foods here. The more likely, based on the way in which verse 10 elaborates the subject, is that it refers once again to animal sacrifices, this time somewhat ironically – recall that those who offered ate the animal sacrifices.

The other is that some members of this community thought that eating certain foods would enhance their spirituality. This could be a reference to an early health-food craze. However, one’s spiritual condition of sin is affected by God’s grace appropriated by trusting, not by foods. People who have made these the focus of their lives have not benefitted thereby. Rather, faithfulness to God and Yeshua should be the focus of everyone’s life; this provides eternal benefits.

We, Believers, have an altar. This altar is in heaven; on the heavenly altar Yeshua the Messiah made the once-for-all sacrifice of himself. But the altar is also outside the camp, so that although those who serve in the Tent, the Levitical cohanim, representing the pre-Yeshua dispensation and nonbelievers, may eat the thank offerings and peace offerings, they are not permitted to eat the sin offerings, because the bodies of those animals are burned outside the camp. Since Yeshua was a sin offering, nonbelievers are not permitted to partake of Him unless and until they put their trust in Yeshua.

Many churches today do not allow non-believers to participate in their communion services.

In verses 11-14 the author evokes at least five images here:

  1. Sin offeringYeshua suffered death, and this had the significance of a sin offering in two ways. First, just as the cohen gadol brings the blood of the animals into the Holy Place, so Yeshua suffered death in order to make the people holy through his own blood. Second, just as the bodies of the animals used for a sin offering are burned outside the camp, so Yeshua’s death took place outside the gate of the city of Jerusalem, which replaced the camp in the wilderness.
  2. Impurity: Just as lepers and other people declared impure had to remain outside the camp in disgrace, so Yeshua was wrongfully regarded as unclean and suffered death with disgrace by being executed as a criminal on a stake outside the gate at Gulgolta.
  3. Separation: Being outside the camp in disgrace implies not only impurity but separation from the Jewish people. Yeshua is indeed separated; however, His separation is in fact not from the Jewish people, due to impurity, but unto God, due to His holiness; so that His separation from the Jewish people is wrongful, illusory and not disgraceful. Moreover, he can make the Jewish and Gentile people holy through his own blood, ending their genuine and justified separation from God due to sin. Messianic Jews, who go out to him who is outside the camp to share his disgrace, remain, like him, part of the Jewish people, even though, like Him, we may not be so regarded. Like Yeshua, we experience the pain of exclusion; but we must stand with Him and not seek respect or inclusion on any terms except God’s.
  4. Red Heifer: The reference to Yeshua’s making the people holy through his own blood recalls Messianic Jews 9:11-14, which mentions the red heifer. The body of the red heifer too was burned outside the camp; by suggestion, then, Yeshua is also our red heifer.
  5. Permanent city: Having mentioned the gate of the city, the author returns to the language of 11:9-10, 13-16; 12:22 in reminding us believers that we have no permanent city here but seek the one to come, heavenly Jerusalem. There is no implication of otherworldliness, in the sense of neglecting the needs of this world; instead, we live simultaneously in both the ‘olam hazeh and the ‘olam haba.

We are not accustomed to using the word sacrifice except metaphorically, but the author here may be referring to real, physical thank-offerings. This would be consistent not only with the context of verses 10-16 but also with the End-Time prophecies of Jeremiah 33:11, the Messianic prophecies of Malachi 3:1-4 and with rabbinic Jewish understanding. Does that mean we will be able to have BBQ’s in Heaven still? I certainly hope so!!

But for two reasons it seems at least equally likely that he is, in fact, speaking of metaphorical sacrifices, like Sha’ul at Romans 12:1-2. First, lips that acknowledge His name should offer God a spiritual sacrifice which consists of praise. Second, doing good and sharing with others are spiritual sacrifices with which God is well pleased.

Obey your present leaders and submit to them. Many who call themselves believers in the Bible are unwilling to live by this verse of inspired Scripture; possibly because of fear and distrust of authority figures or excessive individualism (read self-centeredness). They are rebellious, undisciplined, and unwilling to be part of a team to accomplish the work of the Body of the Messiah. Such people should acknowledge this attitude as sin and seek the Body’s help and counsel in overcoming it.

On the other hand, some leaders misuse this verse to exploit their charges, to brainwash or to force them to submit to unreasonable and ungodly demands.

But the verse itself encourages cooperation between leader and led for the good of the led and the glory of the Lord. On the one hand, your leaders have work to do: they keep watch over your lives. Moreover, they are not their bosses: they will have to render an account of their stewardship to the great Shepherd of the sheep, our Lord Yeshua (see verses 18-21). On the other hand, you who are being led can make it a task of joy for them, not one of groaning; and it is to your advantage to do so.

In my next post, we conclude our study of Messianic Jews through Prayer, Personal References, and Benedictions in Messianic Jews 13:18-25.

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