Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Leter 434 (The Watchman's Teruah)

Shalom Fellow Israelite, Sept. 18, 2009

Our first stop in the United States this past summer was in Oregon, where we were invited to a conference called "Love for Israel", with the main theme being "The Watchman". As we were examining the scriptures to use for our breakout session, YHVH led us to Habakkuk 2:1-2: "I will stand on my watch and set myself on the rampart, and watch to see what He will say to [literally "in"] me, and what I will answer when I am reproved. Then YHVH answered me and said: 'Write the vision and make it plain on tablets that he who reads it may run".

The watchman comes up with this statement against the backdrop of Chapter One, where we find him observing what is taking place in his own backyard, with hostility, iniquity, wickedness, strife, contention, lawlessness, and perverted justice being commonplace (see vs 1-4). But instead of attending to his task, the bewildered watchman lodges his complaint before YHVH, who apparently is not being moved by this evil. However, YHVH is about to address His messenger's grievance, but will do so in an unexpected manner. Thus He proceeds to declare: "Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days-- You would not believe if you were told" (1:5).

YHVH then goes on to describe in detail the astonishing phenomenon to which He had just alluded, that is, the "Chaldeans" whom He had been raising up. In today's geopolitical terms the land of the Chaldeans is the heartland of Islam. Here is how YHVH depicts this people group: "… fierce and impetuous people who march throughout the earth to seize dwelling places which are not theirs. They are dreaded and feared. Their justice and authority originate with themselves. All of them come for violence ("hamas"). They collect captives like sand. They mock at kings, and rulers are a laughing matter to them. They laugh at every fortress…" (1:6-10). Responding to this prediction, the prophet/watchmen intones: "You, O YHVH, have appointed them to judge; and You, O Rock, have established them to correct…" (v. 12b). The watchman is now gaining understanding how the Judge of Israel will be dealing with His people who have strayed from His ways.

These "Chaldeans" are portrayed as hunters who are laying nets in order to capture their pray: "They take up all of them with a hook, they catch them in their net, and gather them in their dragnet. Therefore they rejoice and are glad. Therefore they sacrifice to their net, and burn incense to their dragnet…Will they therefore empty their net and continually slay nations without sparing?" (1:15-17 emphasis mine). The Hebrew word for "net" here is "cherem", being the very word that is used in Malachi 4:6: "And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children [Heb. – "sons"], and the hearts of the children [Heb. – "sons"] to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a "cherem" [generally translated "curse"].

Interestingly, the watchman, as he is described in Chapter Two verses 1-2 is watching to hear what YHVH would speak ("into him", as mentioned above). How does one watch to hear? Obviously YHVH is putting his messenger through a season of training. To be well prepared for his task he needs to become one with the vision. In fact, he is also being reproved, so that he would become the very "proof" of this vision (similarly, "proof" is also embedded within the Hebrew noun used here for "reproof"). Therefore when time comes for passing on the message, there will be an impartation, or infusion, of the vision. The vision will be so clear, that there will be no guessing as to what is being seen and heard. What's more, in the injunction of making the message "plain on tablets" (2:2) is a hidden reference to the Torah, as if YHVH is responding to the prophet's earlier complaint, "the Torah is ignored" (1:4). "Making plain" is "ba'er", which is used only in Deuteronomy 1:5 and 27:8, in both cases in relationship to Moses expounding on the Torah. The verb b.e.r. shares its root with the noun "be'er", which is a "well". Thus, the elucidated words of the Torah are likened to deep and thirst-quenching water. Additionally, the watchman is told to inscribe these Torah-based words on "lu'chot", tablets, the very same word used for the tablets that Moses brought down from the Mountain, as well as for the "tablets of the heart" (ref. Is. 30:8; Jer.17:1). Could these references to Torah also have something to do with the above-mentioned Malachi 4:4, where YHVH charges His people to remember the Torah of Moses and its commands and warns of the consequences of turning away from them?

Once the watchman is fully prepared to pass on the vision, "the one who reads it may run" (2:2b) with a good cause, because he is to issue a warning to YHVH's people, to turn from their evil and wicked ways. Hence they are described as "… the proud one, his soul is not right within him…Furthermore, wine betrays the haughty man, so that he does not stay at home. He enlarges his appetite like Sheol, and he is like death, never satisfied. He also gathers to himself all nations and collects to himself all peoples. Will not all of these take up a taunt-song against him, even mockery and insinuations against him, and say, 'Woe to him who increases what is not his-- For how long-- and makes himself rich with loans?' Will not your creditors rise up suddenly, and those who collect from you awaken? Indeed, you will become plunder for them. Because you have looted many nations, all the remainder of the peoples will loot you-- Because of human bloodshed and violence done to the land, to the town and all its inhabitants. Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house to put his nest on high to be delivered from the hand of calamity! You have devised a shameful thing for your house by cutting off many peoples; so you are sinning against yourself" (Hab. 2:5-10). This text is quite descriptive of what have been standard practices within the Judeo-Christian nations. The prophet Jeremiah warns that YHVH will first send the fishers, and then the hunters (ref. Jeremiah 16:16), which is once again a reference to Islam, as both Ishmael and Esau were hunters.

Will Ephraim, who has been dubbed "a watchman with my Elohim, a prophet;" (Hosea 9:8), pick up the mantle and follow through? Or will he be "a snare of a fowler in all his ways, [with] hatred in the house of his Elohim" (cont. Hos. 8)? Will he be the watchman/guard on Mount Ephraim who calls out, "let us go to Zion to YHVH our Elohim" (Jer. 31:6)? Or will he be likened to the "blind watchmen" and the "dumb dogs" who are "greedy" and "not satisfied" (Is. 56:10,11), much like those who were described above in Habbakuk 2:6,8,9 and 10?

At the Portland conference Ezekiel 33:7 was used as a launching pad: "Son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me". These words are couched in the following solemn context: "Son of man, speak to the children of your people, and say to them: 'When I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from their territory and make him their watchman, when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet [shofar] and warns the people, then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet [shofar] and does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be on his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet [shofar], but did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But he who takes warning will save his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet [shofar] , and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman's hand" (Ezekiel 33:2-6).

On this Yom Teruah may the watchmen attend to their task and stand on the ramparts with the silver trumpets and shofars and blow a clear and distinct call to repentance (Daniel 9: 4-19; Nehemiah 1: 5-11; Nehemiah 9: 5-38)!

With a very sobering Shabbat Shalom and Chag Same'ach,

Friday, March 23, 2012

Gentile exposted


Psalm 83:2-4: "For behold, Your enemies make a tumult; and those who hate You have lifted up their head. They have taken crafty counsel against Your people/am, and consulted together against Your sheltered/hidden/treasured ones. They have said, 'Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation/goy, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more'" (Psalm 83:2-4 emphasis added).

For a number of years now I have had cause to suspect the usage, in the English translations, of the Hebrew word "goy" and "goyim." The more I thought and prayed about it, the more I began to be alarmed, especially after reading Psalm 83. Indeed, if the enemies of Israel want to cut us off from being a nation/goy, what better way of doing it than through a change in the definition or translation of words? If, for example, "goy" is understood to mean a non-Jewish person, heathen, or gentile/non-Israelite, then Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob's progeny/seed, who according to YHVH's promises were supposed to be a "goy gadol" (great goy) and m'lo-ha-goyim (fullness or multitudes of nations), would actually turn out to be non-Jewish individuals, heathens, and gentile/pagans. Does not that sound like replacement theology?

Who would be interested in replacing the Israelites as a "nation" and a "company of nations"? The Web Encyclopedia, Wikipedia, provides us with a non-too-subtle hint as to one of the greatest enemies of the Elohim of Israel and His chosen nation/goy, Jacob.

From Wikipedia: "The term Gentile (from Latin gentilis, by the French "gentil", female: "gentille", meaning of or belonging to a clan or tribe) refers to non-Israelite peoples or nations in English translations of the Bible. The Greek word ethnos was translated gentiles when the context for the base term 'peoples' or 'nations', Hebrew, גוי (goy) and נכרי (nokhri) in the Hebrew Bible and the Greek word ἔθνη (éthnē) in the New Testament, indicated non-Israelite peoples or nations. The term gentiles is derived from Latin, used for contextual translation, and not an original Hebrew or Greek word from the Bible. Following Christianization of the Roman Empire, the general implication of the word gentile became "non-Jew." [The Jews at the time represented "the nation of Israel" including the lost, or hidden treasure of YHVH.]

"Ethnos" is typically translated "Gentile." But we have to remember that in the Church's understanding even when it is rendered "nation" all too often it is perceived as a non-Israelite. In Damascus a Jew by the name of Ananias had a vision where "… the Lord said to him, "Go, for he [Saul, the former persecutor of the Believers] is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles/ethnos, kings, and the children of Israel" (Acts 9:15). Was Ananias referring to the promises to Abraham, Sarah, and Jacob: "Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body (Genesis 17:6; Genesis 35:11 emphases added)? Was Paul another one who was sent out to the nations to procure the sons of Israel (the "lost sheep") who had become nations and kings? I'm sure Yeshua didn't change his mind when He said that He was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. In the following scriptures Paul writes (quoting from the Tanach): "For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles [ethnos] has come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, there shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob…" (Romans 11:25-26 emphasis added). Again, the usage of "Gentiles" totally takes the reader away from understanding the "mystery of the blindness of Israel." The "fullness of the nations/goyim" is of course quoted from the blessing to Ephraim in Genesis 48:19). Additionally, what does "all Israel" and a "Deliverer who comes out of Zion to turn away ungodliness from Jacob," mean if these expressions have nothing to do with Jacob and his seed or progeny?

A similar case could be made in regard to Peter's commentary, where he quotes from the Tanach (Old Testament) about Israel: "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation/ethnos" (Exodus 19:5-6; 1 Peter 2:9). According to the doctrine of the Catholic Church, the Protestant denominations, and unfortunately the Messianic Jewish churches also, these scriptures apply only to the "once- you- were- not- my- people" (Hosea 1:9-10 words spoken to the northern house of Israel), but now are viewed as the Gentiles who are in the 'holy and universal Church,' and are therefore regarded as the new "Israel of God" or the "one new man." What has enabled Christendom to come to this conclusion is the way that this one Hebrew word - "GOY" - has been tampered with.

My question to you is: Did St. Jerome and the Catholic Church have any reason to introduce a translation of the Bible (the Vulgate) that would eliminate Israel as YHVH's legitimate nation/goy? It is not that Latin did not have a word for nation. As a matter of fact, the origin of the English "nation" comes from the Latin "natio" (close in sound to the Greek "ethno," which is the root word the Greeks used for the Hebrew "goy," as mentioned above).

YHVH defined "goy" and "goyim" when He divided the people and divvied out to them their lands (see Genesis 10:5, 32). Thus the true definition of "nation/goy" has three basic aspects: a people, tribe, or families living on a piece of real estate/land and subject to one government. Thereby we could say that government, people, and land are the necessary components that define a "nation." If we look at the covenant with the forefathers, it always entailed these three: land, a people, and YHVH's kingdom government (or man's).

What is so amazing is that even Jewish-Israel of today, as well as the Messianic Jews do not identify themselves as a "goy." They make use of the term "goy" or "goyim" exclusively for non-Jews or "Gentiles." However, "goy" is still the one Hebrew word that YHVH uses to unite us as one people, and one nation (see Ezekiel 37: 22). Without correcting this obvious mistranslation and misunderstanding, the "one new man" idea of Ephesians 2:15 is a nice concept, but it does not bring about unity. The existence of thousands of Christian denominations attest to this fact; nor does it bear witness to YHVH's faithfulness in keeping covenant with Abraham and the "goy gadol" - "great nation" - that was to issue forth from his loins.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Exodus a legal transaction

Last week's Parasha was called "Bo," a word that most English translations render as "Go." However, "bo" is actually a command form of "come." If I were to ask you to come along with me to go somewhere, I would call out: "Bo!" Perhaps what YHVH was suggesting to Moses, in choosing this particular word here (and in several of the other instances when He sent him to Pharaoh), was that He Himself was going to Pharaoh and wanted His servant to accompany Him. Knowing that YHVH was actually the one addressing Egypt's king would certainly have given Moses a great sense of security.

At that particular encounter, YHVH continued to speak saying: "I have hardened his [Pharaoh's] heart and the hearts of his servants, that I may show these signs of Mine before him" (Exodus 10:1 emphases added). Elohim was telling Moses that although He was taking him along 'for the ride,' everything that was going to take place would be of Him and from Him. Over and over again YHVH reminds His people that He brought them out of Egypt. He never says, "Remember when Moses brought you out of bondage." Through Moses and Aaron YHVH spoke to Pharaoh in first-person: "How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me? Let My people go, that they may serve Me" (Exodus 10:1 Emphases added).

In that Parasha, as well as in the one for this week, there are very important lessons for us to learn about our own spiritual exodus out of bondage to "sin and death," and how the Father provided a Lamb, so that "light" would shine in our tents while the rest of the world is in tangible (feel-able) darkness.
Along with these two Torah Parashot, we should also study Paul's commentary in Romans chapters 5 and 6, where he explains how YHVH redeemed and saved His people from slavery and bondage to the "kingdom of darkness."

In dealing with this topic Paul's 'argument,' aside from being founded on the intimate knowledge that he had of his Elohim and Messiah, is based upon the Torah laws that govern redemption and were fulfilled in Yeshua's death, burial, and resurrection. Had YHVH not acted sovereignly, there would have been no possibility for man to extricate himself from the bondage to Satan's kingdom. YHVH, through fulfilling the legal requirements for "atonement," enabled mankind to receive the grace to be justified and reconciled to Himself. If it were not for the Torah's instructions, we would not even begin to understand and know the love, mercy, and justice of the Elohim of the Hebrews. The Israelites found grace when YHVH delivered them out of Egypt, as YHVH Himself declares: "Thus says YHVH: 'The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness -- Israel, when I went to give him rest'" (Jeremiah 31:2). The mercy or grace of the Father is always part of His justice.

YHVH's laws are active throughout the Torah, but 'behind the scenes' of those rulings is revealed His heart toward His people; for example, Pharaoh and his firstborn had the power to keep Israel under their authority as long as Israel was in their kingdom. The only way that YHVH could remove their influence was to put Egypt's firstborn to death.
He could have also destined the king to the same fate, but in order for this to remain a legal transaction YHVH had to extract "permission" from him to let His people go. Remember, Joseph needed the consent of his boss in order for his family to have land and property in Egypt. This verbal contract could not be broken without both parties' mutual agreement.

The final execution of YHVH's plan in regards to Pharaoh took place while Israel was hidden under and behind the blood of the lamb (on their doorposts). Thus, as they were receiving grace the law was being fulfilled. Similarly, when Yeshua died on the execution stake, YHVH judicially or legally took away Satan's rights over mankind. "Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it " - in Yeshua's death (Colossians 2:15). YHVH disarmed, that is, removed the principalities and powers' authority to rule and reign over humanity. But then He also had to destroy the armed forces that kept these authorities in power. For the Israelites He accomplished this by having them pass through the Reed Sea in order to annihilate Pharaoh's army in the very same place. The (spiritual) counterpart in our life is water immersion (see Romans chapter 6:3-4). Our acceptance of redemption through the blood of the lamb has to be confirmed by being immersed in water (passing through the proverbial Reed Sea).

When our ancestors did likewise and arrived on the other side, they turned around and watched the waters cover and destroy their enemy's army and then sang the Song of Moses (see Exodus 15: 2-19). Upon emerging out of the water every believer should follow suite, by either singing or reading the same Song. If you have never done this, then this week's Parasha gives you the opportunity to reflect back on your immersion and recount this great and awesome act of the Elohim of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. "They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: "Great and marvelous are Your works…(Revelation 15:3).

As mentioned in the beginning, these earth shuttering events were not about Moses or Aaron, YHVH's chosen servants for that time, but about bringing glory to Who was and is the Elohim of the Hebrews.

"So YHVH saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Thus Israel saw the great work which YHVH had done in Egypt; so the people feared YHVH, and believed YHVH and His servant Moses" (Exodus 14:30-31).
In regards to the New Covenant "exodus," may we fear YHVH and believe Him and His Servant/Son Yeshua.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The East Wind

During our stay in Korea we heard of the believers' love for Israel and their faithfulness and devotion to pray for her. However, as we mentioned last week, after further investigation we found that among those so engaged there were many whose motivation for praying and blessings Israel is based on an understanding that whoever blesses Israel will be blessed. Some with a more evangelical inclination are hoping and praying for the Jews' "conversion," and among them there are evangelists who are actively involved in such ventures here in Israel. In a few of the meetings we also addressed those whose interest in Israel was minimal, while there were others whom we spoke to, who have had some teaching on Torah and Hebraic roots.

One group, whose very existence is based on their "mission" to Israel, was addressed by the question, "which Israel are you praying for?" This of course sent a little shock wave through the group, but because they were very open and keen to learn, and wanted to hear more we continued. The teaching took us to Isaiah 8:14: "And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel…" (The word in Hebrew for "both" is "the two" - root sh-n-m - and translated 532 times as "two"). Ezekiel 35 presented us with another example of how our enemies view Israel as two separated nations (goyim): "Because you have said, 'These two nations and these two countries shall be mine, and we will possess them'" (Ezekiel 35:10). In the subsequent chapters of Ezekiel we saw how the prophet went on relating to Israel as two separate entities, until a time of restoration of, first the nation of Judah/Israel, and then the second one (Joseph or Ephraim/Israel. However, as we continued discussing this topic the fact that these two "goyim" were not destined to remain separate, but were to become one nation in YHVH's hand and in the land, became apparent.

As this sharing went on, focusing on the prophetic history pertaining to the nation of Joseph/Israel, one could almost see the hearts of the children beginning to turn back to the fathers (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob). Because most of the time was spent on covering YHVH's faithfulness in fulfilling His covenant promises of multiplicity through the House of Joseph, we could only touch briefly on the prophetic destiny of Judah's nation. We did, however, have opportunities outside of the meetings to talk further, answer questions, and elaborate on specific topics.

In the two Israel-loving churches that we addressed, it was obvious that the congregants had been exposed to the 'standard' Christian doctrine, namely that there is no Israel outside of Judah. In each of those cases, though with a different emphasis, the Spirit led in a call for the participants to take up their responsibility toward Israel/Judah by being a true witness to the Hope of Israel and walking in YHVH's righteousness so as to provoke the natural branches to jealousy. "Sanctification" in the first meeting, and "hope" in the second were highlighted. Thus the challenge was about the kind of witness that the grafted-in "Gentiles" should portray toward God's natural people. We examined Romans 11, where Paul talks about the Gentiles (the "church," as they would have understood it) provoking to jealousy the natural branches through a witness of the righteousness of the Holy Spirit residing within them. We then went to 2nd Corinthians 4 and connected the "treasure in earthen vessels" mentioned there (the life of Yeshua) and His nature of righteousness, to the fruit of the Spirit. We concluded that the witness is His life within the believer, and that when the latter experiences the dying of Yeshua, the life and nature of the Father's Spirit will manifest and bring life to others (see 2 Corinthians 4:11-12). Thus, the testimony of the reality of the Jewish Messiah and His nature of love will be seen through these non-Jewish believers who are called out from the nations and who bear witness to Him by the love they have one for another. Of course the spiritual enemy knows that if he can get the true believers from the nations to continue to walk in the nature of his kingdom through religious pride and self-righteousness, which will obviously kill, steal and destroy relationships, he will succeed in squelching the witness of who the true Messiah is. Neither will anyone be provoked to jealousy, especially not the Jewish people. So we encouraged them to not only pray for the Jewish people and the land of Israel, but for what they understand to be the "church," to mature in Yeshua's nature.

Quite different from any of the above-mentioned, was the meeting we had at Seoul University, where as a rule Christians and non-Christians convene. It was the centrality of the Creator and His purpose in bringing forth this present heaven and earth, which seemed to be called for at that event. Our discussion of the creation account engendered good comments and questions. We give thanks and praise to our Heavenly Father for all that He allowed us to experience and through it all bring glory to our Redeemer and King Messiah Yeshua.