Observing Purim ~ 2021

Introduction

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

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

Setting

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

Significance for Today

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

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

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

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

Jewish Observance of Purim

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

Summary of the Story

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

3 Kefa 1:1-7

The Day of the Lord Will Come ~ Part 1

In my last post, we continued to unpack Kefa’s denunciation of False Prophets and Teachers ~ Part 2 in 2 Kefa 2:12-22. In this post, we move on to the last chapter of Kefa’s letter to the saints to learn that The Day of the Lord Will Come in 3 Kefa 1:1-7.

In this chapter, Kefa describes the coming of the Day of the Lord, the destruction of the world with fire, and the hope of a new heaven and earth.

Dear friends, I am writing you now this second letter; and in both letters, I am trying to arouse you to wholesome thinking by means of reminders; so that you will keep in mind the predictions of the holy prophets and the command given by the Lord and Deliverer through your emissaries.

First Kefa is obviously the first letter. Predictions of the holy prophets, either those of the Tanakh or recent Brit Hadashah prophets (Acts 11:27). The rest of the chapter suggests the latter, even though at 1:19, “the prophetic Word” refers to the Tanakh. Kefa regards the command given by the Lord and Deliverer through your emissaries as having as much authority over Believers’ lives as the predictions of the holy prophets, as is also clear from v. 15.

Your emissaries reference those who founded the church Kefa addresses, and perhaps more particularly some of the other 11 emissaries and Sha’ul. (Mark 3:13–19; Acts 1:12–14; 9:1–19; compare 2 Pet 3:14–16).

First, understand this: during the Last Days, scoffers will come, following their own desires and asking, “Where is this promised ‘coming’ of his? For our fathers have died, and everything goes on just as it has since the beginning of creation.”

The last days to which Kefa is referring to things happening in his day. This phrase describes the time between Yeshua’s ascension to heaven (shortly after His resurrection) and the time when Yeshua will return again (see Acts 2:17; Heb 1:2). Scoffers refer to people disputing the truth of Yeshua’s return (His second coming); this may be a reference to the false teachers. Following according to their own desires includes the false teachers and their followers who acted like they had a form of godliness, but they lacked the transformative power of Yeshua in their lives; their decision to repeatedly choose and condone sin showed that they did not understand Yeshua.

Where is this promised ‘coming’ of his? The scoffers point to the fact that Yeshua has not yet returned as evidence for their understanding of the world. In the scoffers’ view, God is not going to intervene and judge.

But, wanting so much to be right about this, they overlook the fact that it was by God’s Word that long ago there were heavens, and there was land which arose out of water and existed between the waters,

There was land which arose out of water, refers to Gen 1:9–10, where dry land emerges from the waters, which in the ancient worldview, now surround the land (with water above the sky, below the land, and beside the land). This description reflects common cosmological beliefs in the ancient world. [1]

 and that by means of these things the world of that time was flooded with water and destroyed. It is by that same Word that the present heavens and earth, having been preserved, are being kept for fire until the Day of Judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed. ~ 2 Kefa 3:1-7 (CJB)

Kefa uses the example of God sending the flood in response to humanity’s great wickedness to show that things have indeed changed since creation, contrary to the scoffers’ beliefs. By the same word that created the world and brought the flood, God will intervene in human history again by destroying the present heavens and earth with fire and bringing a Day of Judgment and destruction of the ungodly. So, don’t scoff, saying, “I don’t see God.” Those who do so have forgotten what He has done. When God is ready to invade your situation, He can reorganize reality and bring the solution to your problem.

In my next post, we will complete our study of The Day of the Lord Will Come ~ Part 2 in 2 Kefa 3:8-13.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1]  Faithlife Study Bible.

2 Kefa 1:8-15

Confirming Your Calling and Election ~ Part 2

In my last post, we began to unpack Kefa’s second letter verse by verse. In this post, we continue to explore the subject of Confirming Your Calling and Election ~ Part 2 in 2 Kefa 1:8-15.

For context, let me include 2 Kefa 1:5-7 that we studied in my last post: For this very reason, try your hardest to furnish your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with perseverance, perseverance with Godliness, Godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

Knowing his death is quickly approaching (see verse 14 below), Kefa urges his audience to examine their faith so that they will remain established in the truth and indeed be part of Yeshua’s Kingdom.

For if you have these qualities in abundance, they keep you from being barren and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah. Indeed, whoever lacks them is blind, so shortsighted that he forgets that his past sins have been washed away.

Useful and fruitful Believers have an abundance of the qualities mentioned in vv. 5–7. On the other hand, those who lack them are barren and unfruitful because they have forgotten the cleansing from their past sins; they deliberately forget the background from which God delivered them. “Past sins” refers to sins committed before professing faith in Christ.

10 Therefore, brothers, try even harder to make your being called and chosen a certainty. For if you keep doing this, you will never stumble. 11 Thus, you will be generously supplied with everything you need to enter the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Deliverer, Yeshua the Messiah.

Try your hardest (v.5) and try even harder to add these qualities to your faith. Faith saves, but not if so-called “believers” are merely passive spectators of their salvation and fail to make their being called and chosen a certainty. Instead, they deceive themselves into thinking they are saved when they are not. The only way to be certain one will enter the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Deliverer Yeshua the Messiah, is by letting God act through you as you develop the qualities named in vv. 5–7.

If you do allow God to act through you two results, follow:

  1. You will never stumble.
  2. You will receive a glorious entry into the eternal Kingdom.

12 For this reason, I will always remind you about these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you already have. 13 And I consider it right to keep stirring you up with reminders, as long as I am in the tent of this body.

Based on the future hope of entry into the eternal Kingdom, Kefa determined always to remind his readers of teachings that they might otherwise lay aside despite his conviction that they were well-grounded in the truths they had been taught. Though they were established Believers, their lifestyles left much to be desired. As long as he was in the tent of this body (alive in the human body, a temporary dwelling place for this life), Kefa determined to continue stimulating his readers by way of reminder.

14 I know that I will soon lay aside this tent of mine, as our Lord Yeshua the Messiah has made clear to me. 15 And I will do my best to see that after my exodus, you will be able to remember these things at all times. ~ 2 Kefa 1:8-15 (CJB).

Kefa’s purpose in writing this letter was to remind Believer’s about these things, even though they knew them and were established in the truth (1:12). His urgency to issue the reminder stemmed not from any failure on the part of Believers but the impending reality of his own death, about which Yeshua made a clear prophecy (1:14; see John 21:18-19).

According to tradition, Kefa was crucified upside down, saying he did not deserve to be crucified right side up like his Lord. [1]

In my next post, we will move on to explore Yeshua’s Glory and Prophetic Word in 2 Kefa 1:16-21.

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[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary.

2 Kefa ~ An Introduction

In my last post, we completed our study of 1 Kefa. In this post, we begin our study of 2 Kefa. Before we start going verse by verse, let me share some background material from various commentaries to get us started, and then look at 2 Kefa 1:1-2.

Introduction to 2 Kefa

Second Kefa emphasizes practical Messianic living. As the Messianic movement gained steam, Messianic communities began to encounter more false teachers in their midst. Kefa cautioned Believers to beware of false teachers with their bogus doctrines and lascivious lifestyles. Against this view, 2 Kefa argues that the Day of the Lord is undoubtedly coming and that Believers should live in light of this truth.

The temptation to a sinful lifestyle so concerned Kefa that he followed up with this one shortly after his first letter. Kefa also warned against denials of Yeshua’s return with its accompanying judgment. He urged his readers to make every effort to grow in the Messianic faith’s knowledge and practice.

Authorship & Date

Regarding authorship, 2 Kefa is one of the most disputed letters in the Brit Hadashah. The style differs so much from 1 Kefa that the same person could not have written both unless he were purposely trying to alter his style. But Kefa could have given literary freedoms to a different scribe (1 Kefa 5:13) for each, with the second being more accustomed to a bombastic style. The attestation for 2 Kefa is weaker than that for most other Brit Hadashah books but more substantial than that of early Messianic books that did not become part of the canon for the Brit Hadashah.

The author of 2 Kefa plainly identified himself as the emissary Kefa:

From: Shim’on Kefa, a slave and emissary of Yeshua the Messiah. To: Those who, through the righteousness of our God and of our Deliverer Yeshua the Messiah, have been given the same kind of trust as ours: ~ 2 Kefa 1:1 (CJB)

The letter contains several personal allusions to Kefa’s life. He mentioned that his death was close (1:14), described himself as an eyewitness of the transfiguration of Yeshua (1:16–18), quoted the words of the voice from heaven at this event (1:17), indicated that he had previously written to the letter’s recipients (whom he called “dear friends” in 3:1), and also called Sha’ul “our dear brother” (3:15). This suggests that the author was close to Sha’ul. Such references point to Kefa as the author.

Many contemporary scholars, however, reject Kefa as the author of this letter. They argue the following:

  1. The personal references to Kefa’s life are a literary device used by someone who wrote under the emissary’s name to create the appearance of authenticity.
  2. The style of Greek in 2 Kefa is different from that of 1 Kefa.
  3. The reference to Sha’ul’s letters as a collection (3:15–16) points to a date later than Kefa’s lifetime.
  4. SecondKefa was dependent upon Jude. If this is true, Kefa’s authorship is problematic.

In response to these objections, one should consider the following:

  1. The early church soundly rejected the practice of writing under an apostolic pseudonym, regarding it as an outright forgery.
  2. Kefa may have had help in writing 1Kefa5:12 and not in writing 2 Kefa, a situation that would lead to different styles in his Greek.
  3. Rather than the whole collection, Kefa may have referred only to those Pauline letters that were known at the time of writing.
  4. Kefa may have borrowed some from Jude, or both may have used a common source of this evidence suggests that 2 Kefa should be accepted as authentic.  [1]

As for me, I am persuaded by those who originally compiled the canon as to its authenticity.

If Kefa authored 2 Kefa, it must have been composed by the mid-60s CE, when he was martyred in Rome.  [2]

Structure

To: Those who, through the righteousness of our God and of our Deliverer Yeshua the Messiah, have been given the same kind of trust as ours:

Second Kefa is a general letter with a typical salutation, main body, and farewell features. Its style is that of a pastoral letter, driven by the recipients’ needs, rather than some formal treatise.

After the greeting, Kefa reminds his audience of their Messianic identity – as those saved from their sins by Yeshua – and calls them to be godly people who live as if Yeshua’s return is a reality (1:3-21). Kefa then warns about false teachers motivated by greed and lust rather than by love for God (2:1-22). Much of this section and the start of the next section have strong similarities with the letter of Jude (compare 2 Kefa 2:1–18; 3:1–3 with Jude 4–18). There are several explanations for these overlaps: 2 Kefa relies on Jude, Jude relies on 2 Kefa, or both Jude and 2 Kefa rely on a common source (perhaps oral tradition).

Kefa then offers an additional argument against false teaching, assuring his readers that Yeshua will surely come again (2 Kefa 3:1–13). The letter closes with a final instruction for the Believers to depend on what they know to be true, refusing to be led astray by the false teachers (3:14–18).

In my next post, we will explore Confirming Your Calling and Election in 2 Kefa 3-15.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] CSB Study Bible: Notes.

[2] Faithlife Study Bible.

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 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 4:1-11

 

Being Stewards of God’s Grace

In my last post, we concluded the topic of Undeserved Suffering ~ Part 2 in 1 Kefa 3:17-22. In this post, we explore Being Stewards of God’s Grace in 1 Kefa 4:1-11.

Therefore, since the Messiah suffered physically, you too are to arm yourselves with the same attitude. For whoever has suffered physically is finished with sin, with the result that he lives the rest of his earthly life no longer controlled by human desires, but by God’s will.

Arm yourselves borrows soldiers’ imagery arming, training, or otherwise preparing themselves for battle and possible death. Those who died with Yeshua through faith (cf. 2:24) are genuinely prepared to suffer with Him in any other way, including martyrdom.

For you have spent enough time already living the way the pagans want you to live – in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, wild parties, and forbidden idol-worship. They think it strange that you don’t plunge with them into the same flood of dissoluteness, and so they heap insults on you.

Recall that the letter as a whole is meant for Messianic Jews and Messianic Gentiles who identify with them. But just as earlier, Kefa addresses the Jewish Believers specifically (1:18), so here he speaks to the GentileBelievers. Today’s world is not so different from Kefa’s. Many Believers face the same kinds of temptation, ridicule, and rejection by their friends and family, who think it strange that you try to follow God’s priorities instead of theirs.

But they will have to give an account to Him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. This is why He was proclaimed to those who have died; it was so that, although physically they would receive the judgment common to all humanity, they might live by the Spirit in the way that God has provided.

According to John 5:21 and Romans 2:16, Yeshua HaMashiach is the one who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. As a result of trusting in Yeshua, we might, by the Ruach HaKodesh’s power, live holy lives of joy before death, and, after death, we have the joy of eternal life with God. This passage, like 1 Thess 4:13–18, provides Believers with comfort over friends who have died, as well as an answer to pagans mocking them for exchanging worldly enjoyment merely for the grave (vv. 3–4).

Some have interpreted v. 6 to mean that Yeshua proclaimed the Gospel to persons who had already died (or to their spirits, 3:19) so that they had an opportunity to be saved. To those who prefer to lead selfish and sinful lives, ignoring God, this “second chance theory” appeals. However, the only support in the Brit Hadashah for such an understanding comes from verses at least equally problematic. On the contrary, Hebrews 9:27, agreeing with v. 5, says that human beings have to die once, but after this comes judgment, not another opportunity to accept the Gospel. Persons who believed as much of God’s truth as had been revealed and then died before Yeshua came joined those who would be saved through Yeshua’s atoning death later on; this is clear from Hebrews 11, especially Hebrews 11:39 -40.

There is a marked contrast between suffering in the flesh and indulging in the flesh. Yeshua’s example should lead to the former’s ready acceptance when God wills it and the latter’s firm rejection. Those who indulge in human passions must be prepared to render an account to the divine Judge.

Believers are to have the same attitude toward suffering that Yeshua had. We are to live our remaining days for God’s will and no longer for human desires (4:1-2). Kefa lists the kinds of ungodly behavior that unrestrained humanity desires (4:3). Not only do non-Believers do these things, but they also slander Believers because they don’t engage in such wild living with them (4:4). But they don’t realize they will give an account one day to the one who will judge the living and the dead (4:5). Which is worse, being slandered by the ungodly or by being judged by God?

Between Yeshua’s crucifixion and resurrection, He preached to people who had died, proclaiming His salvation to Tanakh Believers in preparation for His leading them to paradise (see Eph 4:8-10). It was also the victorious proclamation of the victory of the cross over sin and HaSatan’s authority (see Col 2:14-15).  [1]

The accomplishing of the goal of all things is close at hand. Therefore, keep alert and self-controlled so that you can pray. More than anything, keep loving each other actively; because love covers many sins.

Time is short; the end of all things is near. You and I are on death row; our fuses are burning out. So, how should we live? From God’s viewpoint, time is the boundary of opportunity. Kefa explains how to make the most of the opportunity you’ve been given. At the top of the list is prayer. It replaces self-focus with a God-focus. It reminds us who we are and – more importantly – who we are not.

Love covers many sins. There are two alternative interpretations: (1) Love makes you willing to forgive others’ sins and overlook their faults. (2) At the final judgment, God will forgive many of your sins if you keep loving (compare Luke 7:47, Matt. 25:31–46).

Welcome one another into your homes without grumbling.

Hospitality was receiving others, especially taking in travelers of the same faith who needed a place to stay. As generally in antiquity’s ethical ideals, lodging and provisions were to be provided generously, not grudgingly.

10 As each one has received some spiritual gift, he should use it to serve others, like good managers of God’s many-sided grace – 11 if someone speaks, let him speak God’s words; if someone serves, let him do so out of strength that God supplies; so that in everything God may be glorified through Yeshua the Messiah—to him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen. ~ 1 Kefa 4:1-11 (CJB)

We are to serve others based on the spiritual gift(s) we have received. Full-service gas stations are hard to find today. Most are self-service. Unfortunately, many attend church like a self-service station. They fill up on preaching and go home until they need more fuel. But God intends His church to be full service with each member providing for the well-being of others. We are stewards of God’s grace. We manage something precious that we received but don’t own. And since you are a receptor of grace, you ought to be a conduit for grace. So whatever your spiritual gift, it’s all about God – not you. Whether you speak or serve, it should be done with God’s Words and the strength God provides so that God may be glorified through Yeshua in everything. Do you serve your boss with more excellence than you serve God? Eternal glory and power belong to just one of them (4:11). [2]

In my next post, we will learn about Suffering As A Believer in 1 Kefa 4:12-19.

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[1]  The Tony Evans Bible Commentary.

[2] Ibid.

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 3:13-16

Undeserved Suffering ~ Part 1

In my last post, we learned that we are commanded to Do No Evil. In this post, we explore the topic of Undeserved Suffering. This passage flows naturally from our last post covering Do No Evil (3:8–12).

13 For who will hurt you if you become zealots for what is good? 14 But even if you do suffer for being righteous, you are blessed! Moreover, don’t fear what they fear or be disturbed,

Kefa alludes to the language of Isaiah 8:12-13, where God assures the prophet that he need not fear what the rest of his people feared but should trust in God alone.

1but treat the Messiah as holy, as Lord in your hearts; while remaining always ready to give a reasoned answer to anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you – yet with humility and fear,

We should always be prepared to share our testimony (hope) that we have in the Messiah. Charles F. Stanley has this encouragement:

You don’t have to seek a listening ear. God will bring open ears to you as He leads, and He will give you the words to say under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. [1]

16 keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are spoken against, those who abuse the good behavior flowing from your non-ion with the Messiah may be put to shame.

Verses 15 & 16 tell when, how, and to whom a Believer should proclaim the Gospel. David Stern [2] shares the following advice:

When should you proclaim the Gospel – and when not?

Although you should always be ready to give a reasoned answer, you need to speak only when someone asks you to explain the hope you have in you. Not everyone asks. Believers who feel compelled to introduce the topic of their faith into every conversation with a non-Believer can relax!On the other hand, if someone wants to hear about the faith, a Believer should not remain silent. The relationship between words and deeds in witnessing to your faith is that your actions, attitudes, and lifestyle are to show non-Believers that the Ruach is at work in your life so that they begin to ask questions.When they ask such questions, you should be ready to give a reasoned answer. You cannot carry out the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19–20) without both aspects of witness – words and deeds. Words without deeds are empty and hypocritical, as Kefa recognizes when he writes that we must keep a clear conscience and display good behavior. But deeds without words do not explain what people need to know about Yeshua to be saved.There are times when one should not wait to be asked. Sometimes it may be necessary to proclaim the Gospel to people who do not want to hear it. There may be no possibility of delay; the urgency of the situation may compel witnessing.

How should you proclaim the Gospel to those who want to know?

With a reasoned answer. A reasoned answer draws on objective evidence and uses rational arguments. More than that, a reasoned answer about Messianic faith must be consistent with Scripture; and, it should actively use Scripture.A reasoned answer may include such subjective aspects of your personal testimony about how much better you feel since knowing Yeshua or ways in which God has blessed you, for these things are facts concerning you. But it must deal primarily with the facts that concern everyone, including your questionerGod exists, God made us, we sinned, we are under sentence of death, God sent Yeshua to atone for our sin, God resurrected Him, He is coming back, we must trust in God and his Messiah to be saved and have eternal life, Israel’s national salvation comes only through Yeshua the Messiah.It would help if you did it with humility and fear, keeping a clear conscience. How tempting it is when engaging in evangelism to set humility aside! After all, aren’t your answers right and theirs wrong? (It is tempting to think so.) One reason for being humble is that you should be embarrassed by the fact that the lives of even the most saintly Believers fall short of their preaching, let alone the lives of the worst! We preach a Gospel of perfection, and none of us is perfect. Therefore, if we are without humility, we contradict our own message.The fear we should have is not that the person we are talking to will react negatively to our message. Our job is to proclaim the truth of the Gospel; whether he receives it or not is his responsibility (Ezekiel 33:7–9). Nor are we to fear persecution, as Kefa reiterates throughout this letter. Instead, we are to fear God, who holds us accountable. Keeping a clear conscience. You keep your conscience clear by displaying only the good behavior flowing from your union with the Messiah. As noted, this is the “deeds” side of your witness.

To whom should you proclaim the Gospel?

To anyone who asks you about the hope you have in you, Jew or Gentile, young or old, poor or rich, since everyone needs salvation (Ro 3:23) and no one comes to the Father except through Yeshua (John 14:6). Some people who ask questions have hardened hearts (see Ro 9:17–21), resist the Gospel with all their might, have no intention of accepting it, and are not interested in reasoned answers. Proverbs 26:4–5 offers this seemingly contradictory advice:

“Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
lest you become like him yourself.<“Answer a fool according to his folly,
lest he be wise in his own eyes.”

The former verse means that you should not let yourself be dragged down to his emotional and spiritual level by engaging in a heated but fruitless debate. The latter tells you that even though an opinionated person is not open to changing his mind, he should be shown that his ideas are not as unassailable as he thinks. Moreover, both verses are taken together also implies that when a reasoned argument is of no avail (“My mind is made up, don’t confuse me with the facts”), you should confront the objector or heckler differently altogether.

True Confession: I put this post together more as a reminder to myself. I don’t often get an opportunity to witness to non-Believers. Now that I am retired, most of my contacts with other people are with Believers.

My next post will cover more ground when we learn more about Undeserved Suffering ~ Part 2 in 1 Kefa 3:17-22.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Seeking His Face Devotional, October 23.

[2] Jewish New Testament Commentary

1 Kefa 3:8-12

Do No Evil

In my last post, we explored about Wives and Husbands. In this post, we learn that we are commanded to Do No Evil.

Kefa concludes his argument from 2:13–3:7 in the verses following 3:8, although this conclusion flows directly into his next argument. It reinforces the sense of mutual consideration Kefa wishes to engender in household relationships, within limitations imposed by the culture he addresses.

Finally, all of you, be one in mind and feeling; love as brothers; and be compassionate and humble-minded, not repaying evil with evil or insult with insult, but, on the contrary, with blessing. For it is to this that you have been called, so that you may receive a blessing. 10 For

“Whoever wants to love life and see good days
must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit,
11 turn from evil and do good,
seek peace and chase after it.
12 For Adonai keeps His eyes on the righteous,
and His ears are open to their prayers, but the face of Adonai is against those who do evil things.”
[1] ~ 1 Kefa 3:8-12 (CJB)

The most pressing need is for unity as Believers, which involves humility and a readiness to develop brotherly love. Retaliation must be exchanged for blessing, a principle which is illustrated from Psalm 34.

Too many congregations are characterized by attitudes and actions that are shameful. But Yeshua told His followers the world would know they are His talmidim if they love one another (John 13:35). Once again, Kefa repeats his Lord’s teaching, telling Believers to love one another. For God’s power and blessings to flow to his people, the Kehilah (church) must live in alignment under King Yeshua. The Kehilah is like an embassy in a foreign land. It’s where the rules and ethics of eternity operate within history.

Before the cross, we are all on equal footing. Therefore, we ought to be compassionate and humble-minded. When insulted, you are to bless so that you may inherit a blessing. God blesses believers with every spiritual blessing in the heavens (Eph 1:3). To access them and see good days, you must place yourself under His rule and authority. That means taming your tongue, turning from evil, doing what is good, and pursuing peace. But those who do what is evil will find Him opposing them.

I deliberately left today’s post short to accommodate my next post which will cover more ground when we will learn about Undeserved Suffering in 1 Kefa 3:13-22.

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[1] Psalm 34:12-16