The Christian Torah in A Nutshell ~ A Wrap-up

Since December 9, 2015, other than during the Jewish feasts and festivals, most of my teachings have concentrated on sitting at the feet of Yeshua and listening to Him as He taught His talmidim.  Our source document has been the Gospel of Matthew (Mattityahu).  The “Word in Life Study Bible” calls the Gospel of Matthew the Christian Torah.”

It’s time for us to move on from here and dive deeper into God’s Word.  However, since we have several new followers who haven’t been here from the beginning of this study and for those of us who may have forgotten what we learned, I want to take this opportunity to summarize where we’ve been.

Needless to say, this post will be rather lengthy given that I will be summarizing almost 80 posts.  So, here is the link to the PDF version.

I started my defining what a Biblical talmid is:

  1. One who is following the Messiah – has made Yeshua the Lord of their life. (Luke 9:3; John 8:31)
  2. One who is being changed by the Messiah – is becoming like the Messiah in attitude and action. (John 15:8; Romans 8:29, Galatians 4:19; 5:22-23; John 13:35)
  3. One who is committed to the Mission of the Messiah.  (Messiah’s mission is to save a lost world by installing a ministry of reconciliation and service to others.) (John 15:8; Matthew 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:19-20)

Continue reading “The Christian Torah in A Nutshell ~ A Wrap-up”

What Does Yeshua Say About the End Times – Part 13

In my last post, we begin to conclude our exploration of what Yeshua has to say about the End Times in the Christian Torah. In this post, we will conclude that exploration.

The judgment described here in Matthew 25:37-46 is different from the Great White Throne judgment of Revelation 20:11-15.  Perhaps some time in the future we will look at that judgment more closely.

The Final Judgment ~ Part 2

 Final Judgment

“Then the people who have done what God wants will reply, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and make you our guest, or needing clothes and provide them?  When did we see you sick or in prison, and visit you?’  The King will say to them, ‘Yes! I tell you that whenever you did these things for one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did them for me!’  Then He will also speak to those on his left, saying, ‘Get away from me, you who are cursed! Go off into the fire prepared for the Adversary and his angels!  For I was hungry and you gave me no food, thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, a stranger and you did not welcome me, needing clothes and you did not give them to me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’  Then they too will reply, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, thirsty, a stranger, needing clothes, sick or in prison, and not take care of you?’  And he will answer them, ‘Yes! I tell you that whenever you refused to do it for the least important of these people, you refused to do it for me!’  They will go off to eternal punishment, but those who have done what God wants will go to eternal life.” ~ Matthew 25:37-46

We left off in my last post by examining Matthew 25:36-36.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you made me your guest, I needed clothes and you provided them, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me’  ~ Matthew 25:31-36.  The righteous are surprised at the King’s words.  He commends them for their acts of kindness to Him, but they realize that they did not have opportunity to do such kindnesses to Him directly, but to His people. [1] Continue reading “What Does Yeshua Say About the End Times – Part 13”

What Does Yeshua Say About the End Times – Part 12

In my last post, we finalized our study of the Parable of the Talents.  In this post, we will begin to conclude our exploration of what Yeshua has to say about the End Times in the Christian Torah.  Once again, I have divided the exploration of the Final Judgment into two parts.

The Final Judgment ~ Part 1

 This so-called “parable of the sheep and goats” is not truly a parable but a metaphor around which Yeshua builds His message of judgment and salvation.

sheeps and goats

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, accompanied by all the angels, He will sit on His glorious throne.  All the nations will be assembled before Him, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates sheep from goats.  The ‘sheep’ He will place at His right hand and the ‘goats’ at His left.  Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take your inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you made me your guest, I needed clothes and you provided them, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ ” ~ Matthew 25:31-36

He will sit on His glorious throne.  This speaks of the earthly reign of Yeshua described in Revelation 20:4-6.  This judgment precedes Yeshua’s millennial reign, and the subjects seem to be only those who are alive at His coming. Continue reading “What Does Yeshua Say About the End Times – Part 12”

What Does Yeshua Say About the End Times – Part 11

In my last post, we began to look at the Parable of the Talents and what transpired with the first two servants.  In this post, we will conclude the parable by examining the third servant who was given only one talent.

The Parable of the Talents ~ Part 2

One

“Now the one who had received one talent came forward and said, ‘I knew you were a hard man. You harvest where you didn’t plant and gather where you didn’t sow seed.  I was afraid, so I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here! Take what belongs to you!’  ‘You wicked, lazy servant!’ said his master, ‘So you knew, did you, that I harvest where I haven’t planted? and that I gather where I didn’t sow seed?  Then you should have deposited my money with the bankers, so that when I returned, I would at least have gotten back interest with my capital!  Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has ten.  For everyone who has something will be given more, so that he will have more than enough; but from anyone who has nothing, even what he does have will be taken away.  As for this worthless servant, throw him out in the dark, where people will wail and grind their teeth!’” ~  Matthew 25:24-30

We can only speculate how this last servant reasoned.  All we know is that he was afraid.  Perhaps this last servant was thinking only of himself.  He hoped to play it safe and protect himself from his hard master, but he had accomplished nothing for him.  His words to the master reveal a self-centered character.  He accused his master of being hard and exploiting the labors of others.  You harvest where you didn’t plant and gather where you didn’t sow seed. Continue reading “What Does Yeshua Say About the End Times – Part 11”

What Does Yeshua Say About the End Times – Part 10

In my last post, we explored the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids in Matthew 25:1-13.  I this post, we will unpack the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30.  This parable explains how Yeshua’s talmidim are to stay alert (Matthew 25:13) during their wait for His return. While the previous parable about the wise and sensible bridesmaids stressed readiness, this parable focused on using the waiting time well.  Due to the length of this parable, I’ve decided to unpack it in two separate posts.

The Parable of the Talents ~ Part 1

Talents

“For it will be like a man about to leave home for awhile, who entrusted his possessions to his servants.  To one he gave five talents [equivalent to a hundred years’ wages]; to another, two talents; and to another, one talent — to each according to his ability.  Then he left.  The one who had received five talents immediately went out, invested it and earned another five.  Similarly, the one given two earned another two.  But the one given one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.  “After a long time, the master of those servants returned to settle accounts with them.  The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the other five and said, ‘Sir, you gave me five talents; here, I have made five more.’  His master said to him, ‘Excellent! You are a good and trustworthy servant. You have been faithful with a small amount, so I will put you in charge of a large amount. Come and join in your master’s happiness!’  Also the one who had received two came forward and said, ‘Sir, you gave me two talents; here, I have made two more.’  His master said to him, ‘Excellent! you are a good and trustworthy servant. You have been faithful with a small amount, so I will put you in charge of a large amount. Come and join in your master’s happiness!’  ~ Matthew 25:14-23

The man about to leave home for awhile was obviously wealthy enough to have servants and to have an amount of money that he wanted invested and multiplied while he was gone.  He would be gone a long time and did not want his assets to lie fallow during his absence.  The master divided the money (talents) among his servants according to their abilities.  While the English word talent has come to mean a natural ability, the Greek word talanton simply means a sum of money.  Each of three servants received different amounts of money according to his ability. The first received five talents of money, the second two talents, and the last one talent.  (As we learned in Forgiveness ~ Part 2, a talent was a lot of money, in excess of $600,000 US.)  No one received more or less than he could handle. Continue reading “What Does Yeshua Say About the End Times – Part 10”

What Does Yeshua Say About the End Times – Part 7

In my last post, we began to unpack Yeshua’s teaching regarding the Coming of the Son of Man. In this post, we continue to explore the signs He shared with His talmidim to identify the beginning of His millennial rule.

The Lesson of the Fig Tree

fig tree

“Now let the fig tree teach you its lesson: when its branches begin to sprout and leaves appear, you know that summer is approaching.  In the same way, when you see all these things, you are to know that the time is near, right at the door.  Yes! I tell you that this people will certainly not pass away before all these things happen.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” ~ Matthew 24:32-35

Again, using a parable, Yeshua answered the talmidim’ question regarding Yeshua’s Second Coming (Matthew 24:3).  The talmidim, like anyone living in Israel, knew when summer would come by observing the twigs and leaves of fig trees.  Fig trees lose their leaves in winter (while most of the other trees in Israel do not), and they bloom in late spring (many of the other plants bloom in early spring).  Yeshua chose the fig tree for this peculiarity; since its buds come late, it was a perfect example to picture the delay of the Second Coming.

The dry, brittle twigs getting tender with rising sap and the leaves coming out were certain signs that summer was near.  Inherent in this process is patient waiting.  There is no hurrying the natural cycle of the fig tree.  So all believers must patiently await the Second Coming.  In the same way that they could interpret the season by the leaves on trees, so the talmidim could know when these significant events would occur.  When they saw all these things (referring to the events described in previous verses), they would know that the destruction of Jerusalem would soon follow.

Some scholars feel that the phrase the time is near refers to the coming desecration of the Temple.  But this interpretation makes too abrupt an interjection in Yeshua’s thought.  Because Yeshua was reassuring the talmidim, it makes more sense that Yeshua was speaking of His Second Coming.  Therefore, this verse means that the second coming of Yeshua is both certain and near.  The fulfillment of Yeshua’s prophecy would assure the talmidim that the other prophecies he had given regarding the end times would also come true.

The solemn phrase yes, I tell you introduces an important truth, an assurance like an oath.  There are three views of the meaning of this verse: (1) It refers only to those alive at the time Yeshua spoke who still would be alive at the destruction of Jerusalem; (2) it refers to the end times only; (3) it refers both to the destruction of Jerusalem and the end times, the destruction of Jerusalem containing within itself the elements of the final end times.

Yeshua singled out this people (or generation) using the Greek word genea, which can refer both to those living at a given time as well as to race or lineage (therefore, he would be speaking of the Jewish race).  That makes the third view above most likely.  Yeshua used genea here to mean that the events of 24:1-28 would occur initially within the lifetime of Yeshua’s contemporaries.  Not that all the problems would stop at the end of their lifetimes, but that all these things would be under way, verifying what Yeshua had said.  Yeshua explained that many of those alive at that time would witness the destruction of Jerusalem.  In addition, the Jewish nation would be preserved and remain on earth, so Jews also would witness the end-time events (see also 16:28).

There could be no doubt in the talmidim’ minds about the certainty of these prophecies.  While heaven and earth as we know them would eventually come to an end, Yeshua’s words (including all His teachings during His time on earth) would never pass away into oblivion.  They were true and would remain for all eternity.

This chapter opened with the talmidim admiring the durability and beauty of the Temple.  But Yeshua countered with a different vision of durability:  Only His words endure; only the truth of God survives.  History is the story of change, the rise and fall of empires, the coming and going of societies, which, for a time, happened upon some happiness, then floundered upon some folly.  What survives all this change?  Not temples, not governments, and not even believing saints (who get sick and die like everyone else).  Only God’s Word endures.  On that alone we stake everything.  God’s promises endure forever, and all who belong to Yeshua share in them.  Take hope.  Yeshua alone leads through change to a bright and buoyant future, full of everything good.

In my next post, we will learn that Yeshua warns everyone that no one knows the day or hour of His return.

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Forgiveness ~ Part 2

To Be Like Yeshua Means – To Understand Who Is the Greatest in The Kingdom

In my last post, we introduced the concept of forgiveness.  In this post, we’ll exam another parable that states Yeshua’s teaching on forgiveness.

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

“Because of this [Yeshua’s instruction to Kefa to forgive seventy times seven], the Kingdom of Heaven may be compared with a king who decided to settle accounts with his deputies. Right away they brought forward a man who owed him many millions; and since he couldn’t pay, his master ordered that he, his wife, his children and all his possessions be sold to pay the debt.  But the servant fell down before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’  So out of pity for him, the master let him go and forgave the debt. But as that servant was leaving, he came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him some tiny sum. He grabbed him and began to choke him, crying, ‘Pay back what you owe me!’  His fellow servant fell before him and begged, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’  But he refused; instead, he had him thrown in jail until he should repay the debt.  When the other servants saw what had happened, they were extremely distressed; and they went and told their master everything that had taken place.  Then the master summoned his servant and said, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt just because you begged me to do it.  Shouldn’t you have had pity on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’  And in anger his master turned him over to the jailers for punishment until he paid back everything he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat you, unless you each forgive your brother from your hearts.” Matthew 18:23-35

This parable is recorded only in Matthew and illustrates the need for unlimited forgiveness in the body of Yeshua.  The Believers, already part of the Kingdom of Heaven must therefore forgive in the following manner.  The presiding king decides that he wants to go over the books with his accountant and settle up on accounts receivable and accounts payable.  These deputies probably would be court officials, powerful men in their own right.  These were not slaves or servants in the strict meaning of the words, yet they were subservient to the king.  Until modern times, kings had absolute power over their subjects. Continue reading “Forgiveness ~ Part 2”

Honesty

To Be Like Yeshua Means – To Understand Who Is the Greatest in The Kingdom

In Matthew 18, Yeshua rebuked His talmidim for their pride and desire for worldly greatness, and He taught them the three essentials for unity and harmony among God’s people, i.e.  humility, honesty and forgiveness.   In my last two posts, we looked at the issue of humility.    But, we don’t always practice humility; do we?  There are times when, deliberately or unconsciously, we offend others and hurt them.   Even the Torah recognized “If by mistake you fail to observe all these mitzvot that Adonai has spoken to Moshe.”  Numbers 15:22; and David prayed to be delivered from “…unintentional sins?  Cleanse me from hidden faults.”  Psalm 19:12

In this post, we will look at the second of Yeshua’s essentials for unity and harmony – honesty.

“Moreover, if your brother commits a sin against you, go and show him his fault — but privately, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother.  If he doesn’t listen, take one or two others with you so that every accusation can be supported by the testimony of two or three witnesses.  If he refuses to hear them, tell the congregation; and if he refuses to listen even to the congregation, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax-collector.  Yes! I tell you people that whatever you prohibit on earth will be prohibited in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.  To repeat, I tell you that if two of you here on earth agree about anything people ask, it will be for them from my Father in heaven. For wherever two or three are assembled in my name, I am there with them.” Matthew 18:15-20

These are Yeshua’s guidelines for dealing with those who sin against us.  These guidelines were meant for Believers (not un-believers) and for discipline and conflict resolution in the context of the congregation, not in the community at large.  These steps are designed to reconcile those who disagree so that congregation members can live in harmony.

Yeshua explained that the person who has been offended must first go and show him his fault — but privately, just between the two of you.   A personal confrontation, carried out in love, will allow the sinning member the opportunity to correct him or herself.  However, the person doing the confronting ought to be very certain of his or her accusation and that he or she is doing this out of true humility with a view to restoration of the other (see Galatians 6:1-4).

This call to confrontation is not a license for a frontal attack on every person who hurts or slights us.  Many misunderstandings and hurt feelings can be solved at this stage.  This saves congregational leaders from getting involved in everyone’s personal concerns.  Personal confrontation also keeps Believers from gossiping with one another.  Instead, Believers are to be mature enough to go directly to the source and deal with the problem at that level.  When someone wrongs us, we often do the opposite of what Yeshua recommends.  We turn away in hatred or resentment, seek revenge, or engage in gossip.  By contrast, we should go to that person first, as difficult as that may be.  Then, as we will learn in the next post, we should forgive that person as often as he or she needs it (18:21-22).  This restores relationships.

If the personal confrontation yields nothing and the confronted person doesn’t listen, then the offended person should proceed to step two.  In this step, the confronter should take one or two others with you so that every accusation can be supported by the testimony of two or three witnesses.  This is backed up by the Torah in Deuteronomy 19:15 which says: “One witness alone will not be sufficient to convict a person of any offense or sin of any kind; the matter will be established only if there are two or three witnesses testifying against him.”  These others also ought to help in reconciliation at this second meeting, hoping to settle the matter privately.  An erring person might be willing to listen to the wise counsel of these others.

So, Yeshua’s advice for keeping peace in your relationships is:

  • Don’t ignore conflict; address it.
  • Don’t exaggerate conflict; solve it with the least possible publicity and public scrutiny.
  • Don’t abandon conflict; pursue it to resolution.
  • Don’t fence yourself in by conflict; taking two or three witnesses requires that you also are open to reproof and correction.
  • Don’t recycle conflict; once resolved, let it go and get back to your life.

Congregational Discipline

If the additional witnesses don’t bring about reconciliation and he refuses to hear them, then the third step is to tell the congregation The objective at this point still is not disciplinary action but helping the sinning person to see his or her fault, repent, and be restored.  Even the law of love has its limit.

The fourth and last step is to disassociate from that person.  Some have construed this advice to be the final step of ex-communication.  The goal, even through this difficult act, is to help the person see his or her sin and repent.  The goal of discipline should always be teaching correct behavior.  It should never be for punishment!  Sha’ul recommended such action to the congregation in Corinth (see 1 Corinthians 5:1-13; 2 Corinthians 2:5-11; 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15).

The person should be treated as a pagan or a tax collector; such people were shunned by the Jews.  Matthew recorded this saying for his Jewish audience who would understand the metaphor for the kind of avoidance Yeshua demanded in this situation.  In the phrase treat him as you, the word you is singular – while the decision of the congregation is made corporately, the avoidance is acted out at the individual level.

While all people in the congregation are sinners saved by grace, and while no congregation will ever be free of members who commit sin, the person described here has a huge blind spot to sin, and many people can see it.  Yet this person refuses to listen to those whom God sends to help.  In the congregation, Believers are to teach, challenge, encourage, admonish, help, and love each other.  But there can be no true fellowship with a Believer who refuses the loving guidance of his or her fellow congregation members.

“Yes! I tell you people that whatever you prohibit on earth will be prohibited in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.”   This verse parallels the similar authority given to Kefa and the talmidim in Matthew 16:19.  Here the authority belongs to the congregation – the words you in this verse are plural.  The words prohibit and permit refer to the decisions of the congregation in conflicts and discipline.  Among Believers, there is no court of appeals beyond the congregation.  Ideally, the congregation’s decisions should be God-guided and based on discernment of His Word.  Believers have the responsibility, therefore, to bring their problems to the congregation, and the congregation has the responsibility to use God’s guidance in seeking to discipline members.  Handling problems God’s way will have an impact now and for eternity.

“To repeat, I tell you that if two of you here on earth agree about anything people ask, it will be for them from my Father in heaven.  For wherever two or three are assembled in my name, I am there with them.”   In context, the application of this verse applies to matters of congregation discipline.  Other verses apply to prayer in general (21:22; John 14:13-14; 15:7-8, 16).

Some scholars explain that the two or three who agree refers directly back to the previous verses (especially Matthew 18:16) – the people in the confrontation (the offender and the one offended, or the group brought in at step two).  These people come into the confrontation, and God stands behind them as they work through their disagreement.  If the matter must go before the congregation, God is there helping those in agreement to deal with the sinning member as they ought.  Indeed, God may be using the people to “chase down the lost sheep,” so to speak, and bring him or her back “into the fold.”  Yeshua looked ahead to a new day when he would be present with His followers not in body but through His Holy Spirit.  In the congregation, the sincere agreement of two people is more powerful than the superficial agreement of thousands because the Ruach HaKodesh is with them.  Two or more Believers, filled with the Ruach, will pray according to God’s will, not their own; thus their requests will be granted.  In context, if the focus of their prayer is the repentance and restoration of the sinning believer, then that meeting of two or three concerned Believers will have tremendous power when they realize the promise that God is there with them.

In congregational discipline, not only must there be the authority of the Word, but there must also be prayer (Matthew 18:19).  The word agree in the Greek gives us our English word “symphony.”  The congregation must agree in prayer as it seeks to discipline the erring member.  It is through prayer and the Word that we ascertain the will of the Father in the matter.  Finally, there must be fellowship (Matthew 18:20).  The local congregation must be a worshiping community, recognizing the presence of the Lord in their midst.  The Ruach of God can convict both the offender and the congregation, and He can even judge sin in the midst (Acts 5).

There is a desperate need for honesty in the congregation today.  “Speaking the truth in love” is God’s standard (Ephesians 4:15).  If we practice love without truth, it is hypocrisy.  But if we try to have truth without love, it can be brutal.  Yeshua always taught the truth in love.  But, keep in mind that humility must come before honesty.

I have only been involved in one congregational disciplinary meeting and that was many years ago.  I would be interested in knowing if any of my readers of this blog have participated in such a meeting.  I’m assuming that it is very rare, but you all know what happens when we assume.

In my next post, we will focus on Yeshua’s teaching on forgiveness from Matthew 18.

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Yeshua Wraps Up His Teaching In Parables

To Be Like Yeshua Means – To Understand the Parables of the Kingdom

In my last post, we completed Yeshua’s teaching in parables.  In this post, we look at His concern about if His talmidim understood them.  of the Kingdom.  Understanding also involves responsibility.

“’Have you understood all these things?’ ‘Yes,’ they answered.  He said to them, ‘So then, every Torah-teacher who has been made into a talmid for the Kingdom of Heaven is like the owner of a home who brings out of his storage room both new things and old.’” ~ Matthew 13:51-52

After Yeshua had given the parable of the weeds in the field, the talmidim came asking Yeshua to explain what He had told them (Matthew 13:36).  They did not understand.  After giving an explanation, Yeshua asked if they understood.  They answered “Yes.”

Understanding is the core of discipleship, for only Yeshua’s true followers are given the ability to understand, as Yeshua had explained earlier (Matthew 13:13-15, 19, 23).  Because the talmidim understood, so then, Yeshua said, they were the Torah-teachers in His Kingdom.  In other words, the current teachers of religious law did not understand, so their teaching was invalid.  The talmidim had been made into a talmid for the Kingdom of Heaven.  They understood God’s real purpose in the law as revealed in the Tanakh; therefore, they had a real treasure.

The talmidim would bring this treasure out of his storage room in that their responsibility would be to share what they had learned with others.  The talmidim had gained this treasure through Yeshua’s instruction, so they were able to understand and use the best of older wisdom as well as the new insights that Yeshua brought to them.  True teachers see the value of both old and new.  The Tanakh points the way to Yeshua, the Messiah.  Yeshua always upheld the authority and relevance of the Scriptures.  Those who understand Yeshua’s teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven receive a double benefit.  This was a new treasure that Yeshua was revealing.  Both the old and new teachings give practical guidelines for faith and for living in the world.  The religious leaders, however, were trapped in the old and blind to the new.  They were looking for a future kingdom preceded by judgment.  Yeshua, however, taught that the Kingdom was now and the judgment was future.  The religious leaders were looking for a physical and temporal kingdom (brought on by military strength and physical rule), but they were blind to the spiritual significance of the kingdom that Yeshua had brought.

Yeshua wants us to understand God’s truth, and that is not easily or quickly done.  Learning about God’s truth in all its richness and diversity is a lifelong process.

The Lord Added These Final Two Verses to Remind Us of Our Responsibilities

Some of us must be scribes who discover the truth.  The scribes began as a noble group under the leadership of Ezra.  Their purpose was to preserve the Law, study it, and apply its truths to daily life.  Over the years, their noble cause degenerated into a routine task of preserving traditions and man-made interpretations, and adding burdens to the lives of the people (Luke 11:46-52).  They were so wrapped up in the past that they ignored the present!  Instead of sharing living truth from God’s Word, they merchandised dead doctrines and embalmed traditions that could not help the people.

As Believers, we do not search after truth, because we have truth in God’s Son (John 14:6) and God’s Word (John 17:17).  We are taught by the Spirit of Truth (John 16:13) who is truth (1 John 5:6).  We search into truth that we might discover more truth.  We are scribes – students – who sit at the feet of Yeshua and listen to His words.  One joy of the Believer’s life is the privilege of learning God’s truth from God’s Word.  But we must not stop there.

We must be talmidim who do the truth.  The scribe emphasizes learning, but the talmid emphasizes living.  Talmidim are doers of the Word (James 1:22ff), and they learn by doing.  It is difficult to keep our lives balanced.  We often emphasize learning at the expense of living.  Or, we may get so busy serving God that we do not take time to listen to His Word.  Every scribe must be a talmid, and every talmid must be a scribe.

We must also be stewards who dispense the truth.  The scribes preserved the Law but did not invest it in the lives of the people.  The treasure of the Law was encrusted by man’s traditions.  The seed was not planted so it could bear fruit.  The spiritual gold and silver was not put to work so it could produce dividends.  As Believers we should be conservative but not preservative.  The steward guards the treasure, but he also dispenses it as it is needed.  He dispenses both the old and the new.  New principles and insights are based on old truths.  The new cannot contradict the old because the old comes out of the new (Leviticus 26:10).  The new without the old is mere novelty and will not last.  But the old does no good unless it is given new applications in life today.

Did you ever imagine that learning is also a way to serve God?  Let your life be full of inquiry, and let each step you take be a means of deepening your faith and love for God.

In my next post, we will begin to look at some instructions on being a Messianic community that Yeshua gave to His talmidim in chapter 18 of Matthew.

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The Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Leaven

To Be Like Yeshua Means – To Understand the Parables of the Kingdom

In my last post, we explored the parable of the wheat and the weeds.  In this post, we will look at the parable of the mustard seed, the leaven and a further explanation of His parables.

The Parable of the Mustard Seed

“Yeshua put before them another parable. ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed which a man takes and sows in his field.   It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it grows up it is larger than any garden plant and becomes a tree, so that the birds flying about come and nest in its branches.’” ~ Matthew 13:31-32

No one parable can completely describe God’s Kingdom in all its aspects, so Yeshua gave several.  Through the parable of the mustard seed, Yeshua explained that his Kingdom would have a small beginning.  Indeed, it began with Yeshua alone and, upon his ascension, was left in the care of twelve emissaries and just a few hundred other talmidim.  Yeshua compared this beginning to the mustard seed, which was the smallest seed that a farmer used.  The mustard seed was so small that it would take almost twenty thousand seeds to make one ounce.

Modern critics have pointed out that the mustard seed is not the smallest seed, and they use this to argue against the accuracy of the Bible.  Yeshua, however, was not making a scientific statement.  Though the mustard seed is not the smallest seed in all of creation, it was used in rabbinic proverbs to designate the smallest of things.

No other seed so small produced such a large plant.  From this very tiny seed would grow a large shrub – the largest shrub among all the herbs that the farmer would plant in his garden.  A mustard shrub could grow ten to twelve feet in just a few weeks.  While that is not technically a tree, Yeshua used hyperbole to stress both the insignificance (smallest) and magnificence (tree) of the Kingdom.  His point was that just as a tiny seed will grow into the largest of garden plants, so God’s kingdom will produce many people who truly believe.  From this small start, the Kingdom will grow into such greatness that when Yeshua returns, it will take over the entire earth.  Yeshua stressed the future greatness of the Kingdom, which then seemed insignificant.  He also showed that the kingdom had small beginnings but would grow and produce great results.

The Parable of the Leaven

“And he told them yet another parable. ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with a bushel of flour, then waited until the whole batch of dough rose.’”  ~ Matthew 13:33

In other Bible passages, “yeast or leaven” is used as a symbol of evil or uncleanness (see Matthew 16:6).  Here it is a positive symbol of growth.  Like the parable of the mustard seed, this parable stresses small beginnings with great growth.  While the seed grows, however, the yeast permeates and transforms; thus, we see another aspect of the Kingdom.  Although yeast looks like a minor ingredient, it permeates the whole loaf.  Although the Kingdom had small beginnings, it would grow to have a great impact on the world.  What the Jews saw as insignificant (the man, Yeshua, and His little band of followers) was actually the start of a great and world-changing event.  Like leaven working its way through the dough, the Kingdom message would spread across the entire world.

Yeshua Provides Further Explanation for His Use of Parables

“All these things Yeshua said to the crowds in parables; indeed, He said nothing to them without using a parable.  This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, ‘I will open my mouth in parables, I will say what has been hidden since the creation of the universe.’ Then he left the crowds and went into the house. His talmidim approached him and said, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.’  He answered, ‘The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world.  As for the good seed, these are the people who belong to the Kingdom; and the weeds are the people who belong to the Evil One.  The enemy who sows them is the Adversary, the harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.  Just as the weeds are collected and burned up in the fire, so will it be at the end of the age.  The Son of Man will send forth his angels, and they will collect out of his Kingdom all the things that cause people to sin and all the people who are far from Torah; and they will throw them into the fiery furnace, where people will wail and grind their teeth.  Then the righteous will shine forth like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let him hear!’”  ~ Matthew 13:34-43

The first half of the quoted verse ~ I will open my mouth in parables ~ follows the first part of Psalm 78:2. The second half ~ since the creation of the universe ~ seems to be an independent rendition of the end of Psalm 78:2.  Psalm 78 reviews Israel’s history from the time of slavery in Egypt to David’s reign.  This psalm was told over and over to each generation so they would not forget God and make the same mistakes as their ancestors.  The things hidden refers to God’s mighty acts in redeeming His people despite their sin and unfaithfulness.

In Matthew 13:1, Yeshua had gone out of the house to sit beside the sea.  There he spoke publicly to the crowds.  Yeshua’s movement back into the house signifies a movement away from the crowds and to private discussion with His talmidim.  Yeshua’s followers had the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom (Matthew 13:11) and the ability to see and hear (Matthew13:16), but they still needed His help in understanding all His words.

Yeshua described the identity of the important parts of the parable of the weeds recorded in Matthew 13:24-30.  Yeshua explained to His listening talmidim that the good seeds are Believers, sown by the Son of Man in the field of the world.  In this world also existed those who were not children of the Kingdom; thus, they were children of the devil, sown by him into this world. At the end of the age, the angels would come and the harvest would begin.

At the end-time harvest, God will separate his people from Satan’s people.  As the harvesters collect the weeds into bundles to be destroyed, so Satan’s works and Satan’s people will be thrown into the fiery furnace.  I should note that the fiery furnace is not a name for hell but is a metaphor for final judgment (see Daniel 3:6).  Yeshua often used the phrase wailing and grinding of teeth to refer to the coming judgment (see 8:12; 13:50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30).  The wailing indicates sorrow or remorse, and grinding of teeth shows extreme anxiety or pain.  Those who say they don’t care what happens to them after they die don’t realize what they are saying.  God will punish them for living in selfishness and indifference to Him.  Yeshua, who has already identified himself as the Son of Man (see Matthew 8:20; 9:6; 10:23; 11:19; 12:8, 32, 40), revealed that He will inaugurate the end of the age and the final judgment.

Those who receive God’s favor stand in bright contrast to those who receive His judgment.  The Kingdom of their Father is another name for the Kingdom of God and Heaven.  Heaven will be a glorious place!

Satan opposes the Kingdom by trying to snatch the Word from our hearts (Matthew 13:4, 19).  But when that fails, he has other ways of attacking God’s work.  These parables reveal that Satan is primarily an imitator; he plants false Believers, he encourages a false growth, and he introduces false doctrine.

So, what lessons can we take away from these three parables from God’s Word:

  1. The work of Satan is hellish.  Renounce him and all his works; hate him and his henchmen with energetic hatred.
  2. The mustard seed will grow; the leaven will diffuse its influence.  He who has begun a good work in you will fulfill it.  Be of good cheer; only believe and plant as many seeds as you can and pray to the Lord of the Harvest to fertilize, water and reap an bountiful harvest.
  3. Think of the great harvest.  “Set your affection on things above.”

In John 10:10, Yeshua warns us that the Adversary (Satan) came to steal our joy, kill us and destroy our lives and those of our loved ones.  But Yeshua came to give us life, life to its fullest measure.  That message is vitally important, so anyone with ears should listen!

In my next post, we will continue to explore the parables of the Kingdom.

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