Posts Tagged With: Faith

NEWS FLASH!

Dear readers,

I am so thankful for each one of you and I pray for you everyday! I have two announcements that I hope you will join me in prayer  about. First, I’m headed to Israel on March 19th! I am in awe of the provision and tender leading of the Ruach HaKodesh as I make my first pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I hope to share with you some of the insights I’ve been gleaning as I prepare for this trip and the many wonders I’m sure to experience once I get there. I also hope to share pictures here and on Grace in Torah’s Facebook page, so keep your eyes peeled for those. (:

Second, I am honored and humbled to be a new cohost on Hebrew Nation Radio’s (HNR) new morning show, RENEWED. Dr. Deborah Wiley and I will be on air every Wednesday 8-10am PST (11-1pm EST) beginning on April 5th, 2017. Dr. Deborah Wiley is the Senior Pastor of Oasis Life Center in California and she currently has an evening program on HNR called Dr. Deb Today. You can read more about Deborah and her ministry by clicking here. We have had some great conversations about our new program Renewed. It amazes me how Abba puts people together, in our case from one coast to another, with a shared vision. We hope to present the listeners with a unique and edifying program.

While we will showcase teachers and authors, the heart of our program will be YOU. We plan to feature the testimonies of everyday people. Now more than ever, the world and our brethren need to hear the words of our testimony, for that is how faith is built. It is through hearing and the blood of the Lamb that we overcome the enemy. Moreover, it is our faith that establishes the Torah (Law). I don’t know about you, but just hearing about the wondrous works of Elohim (God) in the lives of my brothers and sisters encourages me and increases my faith like nothing else. It reinforces the beautiful Truth (Word) that I treasure and delight.

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony… (Rev. 12:11)

But not all heeded the Good News. For Isaiah says, “Adonai, who has believed our report?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Messiah. (Rom. 10:16-17 TLV)

Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law. (Rom. 3:31)

Due to the uniqueness of this endeavor, if you have a testimony that you’d like to share with us, please write us at renewedhnr@gmail.com or on Renewed’s Facebook page. You may also use Grace in Torah’s contact email: gracentorah@gmail.com. We are interested in both small/short testimonies and lengthier ones of any miracle, work, sign, or wonder that YHWH has performed in your life. The Body needs YOU. Each soul is vitally important to the Kingdom. If the Word of your testimony helps just one person, it is worth far more than gold and silver! Even the little nudges of the Ruach HaKodesh saves lives and changes hearts.

I’ll be posting more about this soon, but for now, I covet your prayers for both my trip to Israel and the new program Renewed.

[YHWH] redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; Who satisfies your years with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle. The LORD performs righteous deeds And judgments for all who are oppressed. (Psalm 103:4-6)

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Under the Covers

Taking Refuge in the Fall Feast Days

sukkah

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold”. Psalm 18:2

All quotes taken from the NASB unless otherwise noted.

One thing that all people have in common is the desire to feel safe, secure, protected, and sheltered. As a matter of fact, one of our strongest survival instincts is to find or build a shelter. We desire a covering to protect us from the wind, rain, cold, wild beasts, and other elements of nature. Our Creator placed these instincts within each one of us. These desires prolong our lives and ensure the survival of mankind. If the natural world, including our innate instincts, is to teach us spiritual truths[1], then what do these most basic drives teach us about our relationship to God?

When do we desire to be “covered”? Is it not when we are cold, sick, tired, frightened, distressed, or even depressed? Conversely, we may desire to be “covered” when we are praying and worshipping, and when we are nursing a child or being intimate with our spouse. Ironically, all of these instances are related when we look into the Word of God. Certain aspects of our emotional, spiritual, and physical lives require a shield of protection. Whether the “covering” protects us from danger, comforts our ailments, or covers our nakedness, it is a type of shield, hedge, and defense. In other words, it is the protection that we all need and desire. Abraham, our father in faith, was assured that this “shield” he desired would be provided.

After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great. (Gen. 15:1)

The Hebrew word for shield in this verse is magen (mem, gimel, nun) and it does indeed mean a shield of protection. What is fascinating is that it comes from the same root as garden or gan (gimel, nun). The Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible describes this word pictographically as “a gathering of seeds”. This is easy to relate to a garden, but how does it relate to a shield and other cognates like protection and a basin? A garden, such as the Garden of Eden, is a protected place; it is surrounded on all sides. Likewise, a basin has a ledge or hedge about it. These concrete images give us a vivid picture of what it means for YHWH to “shield” or protect us.

You see, it is not that there is no danger, predators, or enemies; rather, it is that there is a covering of protection that surrounds us. This shield is clearly depicted when HaSatan observes the life of Job.

Then Satan answered the LORD, “Does Job fear God for nothing? “Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. (Job 1:9-10)

The Hebrew word for hedge in this verse is suk, the root for sukkah (booth, shelter, covering). Our gracious Father had placed a “spiritual” sukkah around Job and all that was his. Since we are in the Season of our Joy, the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot, I find that it is most appropriate that we understand how the moedim (particularly the fall feasts) portray this heavenly covering that YHWH provides for us.

Tight Places

Before we explore the heavenly hedge of YHWH, it is imperative that we understand what is outside the protected place. Nowhere in the Bible are we promised a life without trials, tribulations, and hardships. While some naïvely teach the contrary, the truth is that without the proverbial “thorn in our side” we would never learn to rely on God’s grace and mercy. Sadly, our trust would be nothing more than self-reliance which would result in an empty, anxious, and lifeless walk.

The Hebrew word tsar is usually translated as enemy(-ies), adversaries, trouble, distress, affliction, and tribulation. But what it really implies is a “tight place”. It is literally something that presses or weighs upon you. In fact, it is the root word for Mitzrayim (Egypt). Egypt was certainly a place where the Israelites had heavy burdens laid upon them. YHWH redeemed them from this bondage with a mighty hand and brought them into the wilderness with a promise: a land flowing with milk and honey.

This is what happens to us when YHWH redeems us from the bondage of sin and death. We, like our ancient Israelite counterparts, have the promise of the “Land” that flows with milk and honey. What we tend to skip over in our theology and in our thinking is the wilderness. Once we are “saved”, we assume all is well — heaven awaits our arrival. But this isn’t the end of the story; it is the beginning! We must first endure the wild and dangerous wilderness. It is harsh, hot, and dry. It is treacherous. It is uncultivated and infertile. It will require us to relinquish everything over to a holy God just to survive. And the testimony of our ancient brethren proves that not everyone endures the trials of the desert.

The seemingly broadness of the wilderness becomes a tight place of pressing. But this “pressing” isn’t like the bondage of Egypt, sin, or death (though sometimes it may feel that way). Instead, we find ourselves being squeezed and molded by the Potter’s Hands into the image of the Son. While we may have left Egypt, we discover that Egypt is still in us. And so we have similar adages even in English to express this all too painful truth: “You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl”. But our Great Elohim sets out to do what we consider impossible. He not only removes us physically from the bondage of Egypt, He also removes Egypt from within us.

If we pay close attention, it becomes evident that while it is amazingly miraculous how He redeems a whole nation from the bondage of slavery, it is even more amazing how He removes Egypt from us! This is the lesson of the wilderness. And this is the reason we celebrate Sukkot, the last pilgrimage festival on YHWH’s holy calendar.

‘You shall thus celebrate it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. ‘You shall live in booths for seven days; all the native-born in Israel shall live in booths, so that your generations may know that I had the sons of Israel live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.'” (Lev. 23:41-43)

By yearly walking out YHWH’s cycle of divine appointment times (feast days), we are reminded not only of our past and present, but of our future hope. These guideposts encourage and strengthen us; thus, providing the coverings and shelters that protect us from the scorching heat of the desert. They press us to be sure, but they also shield us as we are molded into the image of Yeshua.

Those of you that have committed to follow our Holy Elohim and walk in His “ancient paths” have most likely discovered that while there is great joy and fulfillment in meeting the Creator at His appointed times, there is also great testing, pressing, and often distress. It is hard! Our immaturity may cause us to assume that perhaps the difficulty is a sign that we are on the “wrong” path. But Yeshua reminds us that the true path is “narrow”; it is a tight place! We must expect to be pressed. We learn that the easy way is in reality the “broad” path.

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Mat. 7:13-14)

I am always baffled by the multitudes that teach the opposite of what Yeshua and Scripture clearly reveals. Therefore, if you find yourself being pressed in on all sides when YHWH’s appointments come around, rejoice! You are indeed on the narrow and tight path! Consider that the Father is pruning and shaping you into the image of Yeshua and at the same time He is expelling the Egypt that remains in your members. This brings new meaning to the phrase, “It hurts so good!”

The Hedge

Our tight places cause us to cry out to the Most High and He becomes the Strong Tower of Refuge that satisfies our distressed souls.

To the chief Musician on Neginoth, A Psalm of David. Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress (tzar); have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer. (Ps. 4:1 KJV)

The above verse depicts David crying out to God when he finds himself in a tzar (a tight place of pressing). Many translations simply say God brings “relief” to his distress, but the King James Version actually captures the Hebrew much better. Notice it says that God enlarges or broadens David. This is exactly what YHWH does for you and me. Just when we think we can take no more, He broadens us just enough that we sigh with relief. The Refiner’s Fire is hot, but it is fueled by the cool spiritual heat of heaven. Unlike the pressing of sin and death, the hot coals of heaven’s altar only burns our impurities. There is a promise of Life, not death.

The hedges found in the fall moedim (feast days) teach us all about the cool heat of the shamayim (heavens in Hebrew, but literally “fire-waters”). These fires burn wickedness and flesh in righteous judgment. When we are covered by the blood of the Lamb, we can withstand these fiery trials.

Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1Cor. 3:12-16)

Thus, we must learn to rejoice when we find ourselves in the heavenly fire. If you have heard the great blast from the heavenly shofar and eternity burns in your heart, you are already aware that the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah) has awakened you to the approaching bridegroom. But, in order to have enough oil, you will be pressed and crushed like the olives that fuel our lamps. Therefore, rejoice Bat Tzion (Daughter of Zion)!

Though it may seem odd that part of our covering is in fact heavenly fire, and that it sometimes hurts, we know that it cleanses us so we may eventually enter the bridal chamber. This brings us to the most solemn and holy day on YHWH’s calendar, the Day of Atonements. This is judgment day. If you are burning in a holy fire right now, rejoice, for your judgment day will also be your wedding day. Like the High Priest, you are covered and clothed in the red blood of the slain Lamb that appears as pure white light. Anointed with precious oil, enveloped with rich, sweet clouds of incense, eyes illuminated with only the holy seven tongues of fire of the golden menorah of YHWH’s Spirit, the bride is brought under the heavenly chuppah[2] and is forever bound in matrimony to her King. This hope is why we endure. And there is more to this promise; Sukkot awaits us.

The Sukkah

The fragile and flimsy appearance of the sukkah is the epitome of weakness to the natural man. See through walls and a leaky roof do not scream comfort or security — the thing we most long for. But, this is the structure that God beckons us to enter. Outside there are real threats, real enemies, and real elements. When we look at the sukkah, we cannot possibly see how this rickety thing is going to protect us from so many dangers. Surely the more permanent house we’ve built with our own hands offers more protection.

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’ “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. “The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell–and great was its fall.” (Mat. 7:21-27)

Only the House that YHWH builds is founded upon the Rock. All other structures are built on sand. When testing, trials, and storms arise (and they always do), only YHWH’s sukkah will remain standing. Thus, we are faced with a seeming paradox. What appears strong to us is in fact weak, and what appears weak is strong!

We must be willing to leave the “appearance” of security and embark on a treacherous journey through the wild with our bridegroom. He is mysterious and magnificent. He isn’t safe or tame. The real question is, “Do you trust Him anyway?” His promise isn’t a life sheltered from life itself. No, the promise is abundant life. An abundant life is abundantly full. But full of what?

It’s not full of worldly riches and things that will pass away. It’s full of experiences, challenges, and well… life. The Hebrew letter nun means life and its pictograph is a fish in movement. The journey is wild and rushing like a river. It tosses you here and there. Up and down. Side to side. Are you afraid? Don’t be. YHWH’s love is relentless and constantly moving. It is exciting, but it is not comfortable. Comfort is complacent and lifeless.

Our natural man and instincts hates this “uncontrolled” God that we serve. It is foolishness to them. Yet, this reckless abandon is exactly what YHWH desires from us. He calls us into the wilderness, the great unknown wild. It is there He speaks tenderly to us — in the midst of our vulnerability.

“Go and proclaim in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD, “I remember concerning you the devotion of your youth, The love of your betrothals, Your following after Me in the wilderness, Through a land not sown. (Jer. 2:2)

This is our covering at Sukkot. Following YHWH in the wilderness, through a land not sown. If we love Him, we will follow. Though we are vulnerable to the wildness, our little movable shelter sustains us with the promise that One day, we will have a permanent home with our Beloved.

Is this not what real faith (trust) is all about? Are we not called to be strong and courageous in the face of life’s many uncertainties? Do you trust Him…anyway? In light of all this, the sukkah becomes a beacon, a landmark for what faith actually is! When you sit in your sukkah this year, look at its flimsy walls, partially thatched roof, and open door. It may look like it offers little protection and is anything but secure, yet we know YHWH’s sukkah is the perfect shelter for the wild world He created. Experience it with Him. The promise isn’t a life without danger; the promise is that He will walk through it with you. Follow wherever He goes, for there is a special prize for those that serve and follow Him with reckless abandonment.

And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps. And they *sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth. These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb. (Rev. 14:2-4)

Oh dear one, don’t you want to learn this song and serenade the King of Kings? It will cost you everything, but you will be given all. The sukkah will be replaced with the New Jerusalem. Enjoy it while you can. Experience the wild and untamed King that we serve. Do hard things. Be stubborn in only one thing: in your reckless abandon to the Most High. Run into the flapping tents walls and snuggle up under the canopy of the stars and palm branches. Smell the sweet incense and look for the golden glow of the menorah. It’s all here—right now. Just open your eyes and ears. When the bottom drops out from under you, know that you are simply moving onto a new and exciting adventure with YHWH. Our duty is to remain steadfast, period. We don’t have to understand all the “whys” of life; we must simply trust Him like a child.

There is good news. Jerusalem of Gold awaits the pitter-pat of your precious little feet! Every tear will be wiped away! Then those things that are hidden will be revealed; we will realize that YHWH had every second, every circumstance, and every nuance under His direction and control. And we will know that all along we were indeed covered in perfect security with His heavenly pinions.

Fear not son or daughter of Abraham, for I, YHWH, am a shield and a covering sukkah to you. Your reward for walking through the tight places and trusting me even when your circumstances appeared bleak will be great. For you will see my sukkah with new spiritual eyes and know that no other earthly structure could have ever sustained you. my paraphrase of Gen. 15:1


[1] 1 Cor. 15:46

[2] The wedding canopy or covering. The chuppah is meant to symbolize the sukkah: http://www.jweekly.com/article/full/30529/think-of-sukkot-as-a-joyous-wedding-under-the-chuppah/

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Torah Portion: Shlach L’cha

Torah Portion for June 1st, 2013

Numbers 13:1-15:41; Joshua 2:1-24; Heb. 3:7-19

Hebrew Names

Anytime there is a long list of Hebrew names or genealogies given in scripture, many are tempted to just skip over them and move on to the “meat” of the story. How sadly mistaken they are! Hebrew names have meaning and they usually tell a beautiful story. The list of names given for the spies is no exception. First, the tribes are not listed in their birth order, a hint that should stand out to the reader. Here is the list with the corresponding Hebrew meaning.

  • Shamua —-  Name, character
  • Shaphat —-   To judge
  • Caleb —-     Like the heart
  • Yigal —-     He redeems
  • Hoshea —-   Salvation; saves
  • Palti —-  My deliever
  • Gadiel —-  El (God) of the assembly; troop; army
  • Gadi —- My good fortune
  • Amiel —-  El (God) of my people
  • Setur —- Hidden, concealed
  • Nakhbi —- Refuge
  • Geuel —- El (God) is exalted; lifted high

This is the story hidden in the Hebrew names of the 12 spies.

The Name of the judge of our hearts redeems and saves, for He is our deliverer. The God of our assembly is our good fortune. The God of our people conceals us in His refuge. Exalted be our El (God)!

Thus, Hebrew never ceases to amaze me….

The Spies and a Pinch of Fear

Shlach L’cha literally means “send for yourself”; in our case this refers to Moses sending out 12 men to “spy out” the land of Canaan. The Hebrew word for “spying out” in verse 2 is “toor” (tav, vav, reysh). It would be better defined as “seeking out, touring, or exploring”. In fact, our English word “tour” sounds exactly like the Hebrew word in question. Could it be derived from “toor”? Perhaps. Consider for a moment the difference between touring/exploring and spying. The latter implies something much more strategic and militant while the former implies something much more casual.

The irony is that Moses actually did send the men out as “spies” on a military reconnaissance mission regardless of the true meaning of the Hebrew “toor”. (Num. 13:17-20) We all know that this mission will end up costing Israel a 40 year longer stay in the wilderness. What I hope to show you is that this mission was doomed from the start. While our portion seems to be unclear as to whose idea this mission is attributed to, Deuteronomy 1:22-23 gives us the rest of the details. Once again it was the people’s lack of faith in the promises of YHWH that cost them dearly. Even though YHWH had told them to go and take possession of the land and to do so without FEAR———they did exactly the opposite. (Just as we often do!)

Even Moses was caught up in their “fear”. In Dt. 1:23, Moses says their idea of a recon mission also pleased him. The problem was that their spiritual eyes were closed. In the natural, the people of Canaan were strong and many. Their cities were large and fortified. Yet the land was good——- flowing with milk and honey——-just as YHWH had promised. But, the majority couldn’t see past the obstacles. There was a GIANT stumbling block in their path——– the enemy. The problem seemed too large and too difficult for them to overcome.

How often do we feel this way about various circumstances and problems in our own lives? How often are we like the 10 spies after taking a survey of our own circumstances? It is impossible from our perspective. We justify our lack of faith by telling ourselves or saying that we are being sensible or realistic. Perhaps we even conclude that the promise isn’t really for us.

The real enemy is FEAR. This Shavuot (Pentecost [2011]) Dr. Hollisa Alewine  spoke at our congregation about the Creation Gospel. One point that really stuck out for me was the seventh branch on the menorah. This branch in her thematic study corresponds to the 7th day of creation (Shabbat), the feast of Sukkot, the Spirit of Yirat Adonai (Fear of YHWH), and the church of Laodicea in the Book of Revelation. She pointed out that when we fear anything other than YHWH, we are operating from the wicked lamp[1]. In other words, when we fear man or circumstance we can only produce bad fruit.

How I struggle with this! There is fear of the unknown, fear for the future, fear for our children, fear for our nation, fear for our finances, fear for our health, fear of death, fear of what others think, fear of ridicule, fear of weather, fear of government, fear of our enemies, fear of…… you name it. I personally suffer from occasional anxiety. This is a form of fear whether it begins with physical imbalances or not. But we are called to be overcomers and we are told over and over in scripture to “fear not”! I’d have to guess that this is one commandment that even Torah keepers struggle with regularly. Sadly, ungodly fear is usually justified one way or another. As Dr. Alewine said on Shavuot, “There are boogers around every corner!”

Once again we find ourselves wearing the very shoes of our Israelite counterparts. We are just like them. Although we’d all like to think that we would be like Caleb or Joshua, we really are more likely to be one of the ten bringing a bad report and causing even more of our brothers and sisters to falter with us.

There is only one remedy of our malady: we must learn to fear YHWH and fear Him alone. After all, the beginning of wisdom is the fear of YHWH. (Ps. 111:10; Pr. 9:10)

Creation Gospel’s Seventh Branch

Shabbat

This portion has caused me to mediate on the menorah and the thematic counterparts to Yirat Adonai (Fear of YHWH). I’d like to begin with Shabbat. Shabbat is the day YHWH set apart for rest. It is holy, it is a sign, and it is the seventh day of the week. Yeshua declares Himself  “Adonai (Lord) of the Shabbat day” (Mt. 12:8; Mk. 2:28; Lk. 6:5) What are we really resting in on this day? The finished work of Messiah. There can be no fear when we are resting in Him. Selah. There is nothing like entering in to worship the King of the Universe at His appointed time: Shabbat. Sure we can experience sweet worship any day and at any time, but there is something different about that worship when He appoints it; when He has declared that time sacred. There is absolutely no fear (of man & circumstance) when we adore and show our love to our King. (1 Jn. 4:18)

Sukkot

Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) is the seventh feast and it lasts for  seven days. Therefore, it is thematically linked to the 7th branch of the menorah and Shabbat. (In the Creation Gospel model) There is no coincidence that this feast commemorates the children of Israel living in tents/booths in the wilderness. Since the setting of our portion is the wilderness and the sin of the evil report by the ten spies, it becomes even more apparent that we need to learn from their example. (Heb 4:11; 1 cor. 10:5-6; Heb. 3:8-10)

Sukkot is also called the Season of our Joy. It is the last of the 3 pilgrimage feasts and looks forward to the future millennium when the overcomers shall rule and reign with Yeshua for 1000 years. This is a pictured in Caleb and Joshua. We desire to persevere and come into the Promised Land! We cannot do this without Yirat Yahweh.

Yirat YHWH

The seven spirits of God are given to us in:

Is. 11:1-2  And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:  (2)  And the spirit of YHWH shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Yahweh

These are the attributes of the one Spirit of God. As stated earlier, the fear of YHWH is the beginning of wisdom. Therefore, we cannot reach the last branch of the menorah without first experiencing the first branch: wisdom. This branch is thematically linked to Pesach (Passover), day one of creation, and the church at Ephesus. We all must first apply the lamb’s blood to our doorposts to begin our journey of redemption, sanctification, and eventual restoration.

Fear of anything other than YHWH is of the enemy. It is a lack of trust and faith in our Adonai. The following quote comes from the corresponding Deuteronomy text for our portion. Moses is recapping the mistake of the spies.

Dt. 1:28-32  Whither shall we go up? our brethren have discouraged our heart, saying, The people is greater and taller than we; the cities are great and walled up to heaven; and moreover we have seen the sons of the Anakims there.  (29)  Then I said unto you, Dread not, neither be afraid of them.  (30)  YHWH your God which goeth before you, he shall fight for you, according to all that he did for you in Egypt before your eyes;  (31)  And in the wilderness, where thou hast seen how that YHWH thy God bare thee, as a man doth bear his son, in all the way that ye went, until ye came into this place.  (32)  Yet in this thing ye did not believe YHWH your God

If the children of Israel had feared YHWH and not the inhabitants of the land, things would have been much different. How often would our circumstances have been different if we had only trusted in our God, YHWH? Perhaps we too are often left in our own wildernesses for an extended amount time when our breakthrough was just past the Canaanites that we were too afraid to fight.

Laodicea

Laodicea was the seventh and last assembly written to in Revelation. Please read Revelation 3:14-22. Laodicea means “justice of the people”. Already we have a problem; YHWH/Yeshua is our law-giver, He is our judge, and He metes out the only righteous judgment. Laodicea is thematically linked to Shabbat, Sukkot, and the spirit of the Fear of YHWH.

Notice that Yeshua mentions no clean works for this assembly. Instead, He says they are neither hot nor cold and this makes Him want to vomit. Wow. Essentially, they are lukewarm; lukewarm is a mixture of hot and cold. The Laodiceans probably feel they are “just right” or very comfortable. As a matter of fact they say just that:

Rev. 3:17-19  For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.  (18)  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.  (19)  Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.

The assembly of Laodicea believes she is prospering and doing well. Sadly, she is seriously mistaken and is quite blind. Because this assembly has material wealth, their every need is met by their own works or prosperity. Having great prosperity is synonymous with godliness in the eyes of this church. (Sound familiar, America?) Yet, Yeshua couldn’t commend them on even one clean or good work.

Their worldly desire for prosperity had actually left them wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. Yet they didn’t even know it!! Think about this. Yeshua is obviously speaking of their spiritual condition. They think all is well and they don’t even have clothes to wear! He encourages this church to buy “gold” (a play on their worldly lust for $$) refined by His fire.

What is this gold Yeshua speaks of?

Ps. 19:7-10    The law (Torah) of YHWH is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of YHWH is sure, making wise the simple. (8)The statutes of YHWH are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of YHWH is pure, enlightening the eyes.  (9)  The fear of YHWH is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of YHWH are true and righteous altogether.  (10)  More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

It was almost as if David wrote this Psalm just for the Laodiceans. He tells us what is perfect and converts our souls——- YHWH’s Law (Torah). This is because the Torah tells us what sin is; therefore we may turn and repent! What is the remedy for blind eyes? According to David, it is the commandments of Adonai. It is apparent so far that even though the Laodiceans believed that they were “good” and lacked nothing, they didn’t have YHWH’s Torah in their hearts. Otherwise, their eyes would be open to their sin and they would realize their wretched condition and repent.

Moreover, this Psalm speaks of YHWH’s judgments. The very name of this assembly (remember, Laodicea means justice of the people) speaks volumes about their source of authority: the people. The people decide what is best, what is good, what is prosperous. But, we see that they are blind! YHWH is the only righteous judge. He decides what is good, not us. He decides what is holy, not us. He decides how He is to be worshipped, not us. Doing things His way, walking out His Torah (instructions), fearing Him and not man, and setting Him as our judge and not man or religious institutions is more desirable than much fine gold and sweeter than honey. Repent! Turn back to Him, His ways, His Torah, and receive fresh white garments and salve for your eyes.

But Yeshua has more to say to Laodicea. He stands at the door and knocks and desires to “dine” with the Loadiceans. In Hebrew thought, this is a direct reference to a covenantal meal. What meal does Yeshua desire to eat with us? The marriage Supper of the Lamb at our future Sukkot! This meal is also thematically linked to the Pesach (Passover) seder———— the beginning of our redemption where a meal is first shared. Passover is our redemption, Shavuot is our betrothal, and  Sukkot is our marriage and consummation. (All 3 pilgrimage festivals)

Rev. 22:14  Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

Rev. 22:17  And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come.

Caleb & Joshua

Caleb and Joshua saw the exact same things as the other 10 spies, yet their report was positive. They tried to quiet the fear of the people with their optimism, but the people would rather wallow in their own fears to the point that they prepared to stone Caleb and Joshua (14:10) just to get them to shut-up. Misery truly does love company and Caleb and Joshua were uninvited guests. But the people didn’t govern the lives of Caleb & Joshua———- YHWH did and it was His glory that came to their rescue!

Again, we are just like the Israelites. I know many people that truly wish to shut the mouths of those that are eternally optimistic. They would rather discuss the new scary booger they spotted on the internet and the big booger in the White House or the millions of boogers in the Middle East. Some think that big black helicopter boogers are watching their every move; others are worried about one world boogers, and even more fear famine and stock pile so green slimly boogers never touch them. Boogers are everywhere and they are big, they have fortified cities, and they even live in the Land of milk and honey. Just change booger to Canaanites or name your own favorite scary booger. They are all fear of man or circumstance.

One thing is certain: Caleb and Joshua were more afraid of YHWH than big, slimly, green boogers! They are our positive model and example. In order to be like Caleb and Joshua, we don’t have to walk around with our head in the clouds; we see everything the other 10 see. The difference is in who we fear most. If we fear YHWH more than men or our circumstances our spiritual eyes will be open and we too will say, “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it!” (13:30)

We will also encourage our brethren, “Only do not rebel against YHWH. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and YHWH is with us; do not fear them.”

If we would fear YHWH, that obstacle would become our ‘bread’. It will feed us! It will give us strength and sustain us. Why? Because any time we trust YHWH we exercise our faith and prosper spiritually. Hence, our faith removes the shadow of protection from our enemies and we become victorious.

I know I still have much to learn in this area, but I desperately want to be like Caleb and Joshua. We can’t let our eyes deceive us or focus on what “appears” to be happening in the natural. Just because I can see that big gooey booger hanging over my head doesn’t mean that it’s there to harm me. If I start telling everyone that any day that booger is going to fall on my head————– well then it just might!! I fear the booger more than YHWH.

However, if I believe YHWH loves me and has my best interest at heart and that He would never let a booger hang there day after day without a GOOD reason then my fear is alleviated, I’m not spreading fear to my fellows, and one day YHWH might just show me that the booger was the glue that kept the chandelier from falling on my head. You see in this way, it sustained me (it became my bread).

The truth is that anything we fear we have made holy. We have set that thing apart. Think about something you fear or worry about often. By focusing on the circumstance or thing it has become holy or set apart and has displaced YHWH’s rightful place in our lives. When we are tempted to dwell on our circumstances we must remind ourselves that YHWH sits on the throne———- not our finances, our health, our enemies, or our families.

There is one last important detail about this story. After the 10 spies that gave the evil report died from a plague sent by YHWH, the people repented and decided they would now do what YHWH had said and take possession of the Land. BUT the consequence to their sin was 40 more years in exile in the wilderness. Actually, their lack of faith cost them the Promised Land altogether; in as much as those 20 years and older would all die in the wilderness before their children would enter the Land.

I think this happens with us as well. YHWH tells us to do something. We are afraid. We take a survey of the situation and we are even more afraid. Boogers are everywhere; we’ll never make it. We begin telling others of the booger danger. We are out of line and in sin. We suffer because of our lack of trust. Suffering brings us to our senses and we repent. Now we think we will go and do what YHWH had said. But it’s too late. YHWH is no longer with us in this situation. He has moved on to something else. If we go anyway, the boogers will beat us down as far as Hormah. (14:45)

Tzit-tziot

We must follow the cloud. Turn when it turns, stay when it stays. In the last part of this Torah portion, the commandment of wearing the tassels, fringes, or tzit-tziot are given. This is a physical commandment about an article we are to wear on our persons. YHWH is clear as to “why” He initiates this statute.

Speak to the sons of Israel, and tell them that they shall make for themselves tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and that they shall put on the tassel of each corner a cord of blue. “It shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, so as to do them and not follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you played the harlot, so that you may remember to do all My commandments and be holy to your God. “I am the LORD your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt to be your God; I am the LORD your God.”(Num. 15:38-41)

Do you remember the Hebrew word “toor” translated as “spies” at the beginning of our portion? The high-lighted text above uses the same Hebrew word “toor” for ‘seek/follow after/search/go about’. Moses sent men to “spy” out the land of Canaan. YHWH issues us a command to wear a cord of blue on the four corners of our garments, so that in seeing the blue cords we are reminded NOT to “spy” with our own hearts and eyes. Doing so makes us a harlot. When we fear anything other than YHWH it becomes our god, thus we commit spiritual adultery.

Though our eyes or even our hearts may perceive boogers or even enticing lusts, we mustn’t stray from our God or His commandments. Wearing tzit-tziot is a physical reminder of a spiritual reality. The blue cord reminds us of the heavenly tabernacle, our heavenly priest, and our heritage as a kingdom of priests. Priests are witnesses to YHWH———– not boogers. We can choose to see boogers or we can choose to fear YHWH our Elohim.

It is important also to realize that when we trust in YHWH our savior, He protects us. He is truly our deliverer and our refuge. Remember the story told in the Hebrew names of the spies? YHWH conceals us from all the boogers. We are His special treasure, if we will learn to Fear Him.

If we look at Caleb and Joshua’s names alone in Hebrew, the message of the ‘good’ spies is clear. Joshua is a cognate of the Hebrew word Yeshua or “salvation”. Caleb’s name in Hebrew (kalev) is a contraction of two words: kal, meaning all and lev meaning heart. If we put these names together, we get “Yeshua Saves My Heart!

But Caleb’s name has even deeper implications. The lev in Hebrew is not the physical blood-pumping heart but is more akin to the mind. Truly it is our minds that need saving. Joyce Meyers is right about one thing: the battle truly does begin in the mind. A saved mind CAN overcome as Joshua and Caleb did!

Even more interesting is that the name kalev (Caleb) is a derivative of the Hebrew word for ‘dog’ (kelev). Remember, Caleb’s name literally means “all heart“. You see, Caleb followed YHWH wholly with all his heart. Caleb’s name certainly fits his character! Is that not also the nature of dogs? They seem to always come back to their master… they are “all heart”.

While dogs typically have negative connotations in scripture, this sheds new light on Yeshua’s comments about the “dogs eating the crumbs that fall from the master’s table[2]. Could this be an allusion to the fact that no matter who you are or where your from, if you seek the Master with all your heart, you too will have bread from the Master’s table? And what about the our two “good” spies, Caleb and Joshua? It is only their tribes (Judah and Ephraim/Israel) that are mentioned by name in the New Covenant[3], and their names together suggest: to follow Yeshua with all their heart!

May we become a generation of Caleb’s and Joshua’s!


[1] Proverbs 6:16-19

[2] Mt. 15:22-28; Mark 7:24-30

[3] Jer. 31:31; Hebrews 8:8 I’m not implying here that the other tribes or even those from among the nations are lost and don’t have a covenant, but rather as these verses attest, that we are joined (grafted-in) with one of these two houses of Israel which the Father is making into one New Man. (Rom. 11; Eph. 2)

Categories: Torah Portions | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Emunah

emunah

What is Biblical Faith?    

Now FAITH is the SUBSTANCE of things hoped for, the EVIDENCE of things not seen. (Heb. 11:1 KJV)

According to the Book of Hebrews, faith has substance and evidence. It is not an abstract or intangible concept. The apostle Sh’aul (Paul)[1] had a lifetime of experience in 1st century Judaism. He used the Tanakh or Old Testament as his foundation in doctrine and theology. In other words, his understanding of “faith” had been clearly established in the Tanakh. It was not redefined in the Brit Chadashah or New Testament. This is why he then goes on in this passage to explain this “faith” to us starting with Bereshit or Genesis.

If we read Hebrews 11, we notice that each of the great men and women of faith have TWO things in common.

  1. They had faith.
  2. They acted upon that faith.

So, what was their “faith”? Many would assume their faith was their belief or trust in God, and this would be partially true. But if we allow the Scriptures to define this term, we will get a much fuller understanding of biblical faith and hopefully it will change our walk with the Master and the brethren and enrich our lives.

The Hebrew word most often translated as faith is emunah. Jeff Benner’s Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible[2] defines emunah as:

The Hebrew root aman means firm, something that is supported or secure. This word is used in Isaiah 22:23 for a nail that is fastened to a “secure” place. Derived from this root is the word emun meaning a craftsman. A craftsman is one who is firm and secure in his talent. Also derived from aman is the word emunah meaning firmness, something or someone that is firm in their actions. When the Hebrew word emunah is translated as faith misconceptions of its meaning occur. Faith is usually perceived as a knowing while the Hebrew emunah is a firm action. To have faith in God is not knowing that God exists or knowing that he will act, rather it is that the one with emunah will act with firmness toward God’s will.  AHLB# 1290-C (d1)

This is the same root for the word A-men; it means to affirm something or stand firm. It is also the root of the word emet, which is truth. Therefore biblical faith is firm and secure. Its actual foundation is truth. In other words, it is remaining steady and holding firm to that which is true. This truth to which we are to cling is not a mental assent to a set of propositions about God or the bible. Instead, it is clinging firmly to the faithfulness of God and His promises found in His Word, which is truth[3].

The difference may seem subtle, but it has far reaching implications. You see, our faith is not just a set of mental beliefs about God and/or the Bible. Faith is not encompassed by confessing or believing a particular creed or doctrine. Faith is much more than a proposition. It is a commitment to a promise: like those enumerated in Hebrews 11, we will live according to God’s commandments, trusting in God’s promises. In other words, biblical faith is faithfulness .

Real (biblical) faith produces action. This is why James could say:

Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.  (18)  But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”  (19)  You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.  (20)  But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?  (21)  Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?  (22)  You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected… (Jam. 2:17-22  NASB)

James wasn’t proclaiming a works type salvation. He was speaking to those that had already been redeemed by the blood of Mashiach (Messiah). He also wasn’t declaring that works maintained one’s salvation. What James was very succinctly asserting is that, if a person has REAL faith, it will produce action or works. A mere mental assent or knowledge about God is not enough —– for even demons have that kind of faith. He then proceeds to give us examples of real biblical faith.

Hellenization[4] had already taken root by the time of the first century. In other words, the people of God had a few centuries in which their Hebraic culture had mixed and mingled with Greek culture, language, and thought. These two cultures were/are polar opposites. Many Brit Chadashah or New Testament writers had to combat this mixed mindset on a day to day basis.

James was making a distinction between the esteemed gnosis (knowledge) mindset that was proliferated within the Greek culture with the “doing” or action oriented culture of the Hebrews. The Hebrew is concerned with practice, the Greek with knowledge. Right conduct is the ultimate concern of the Hebrew, whereas right thinking is that of the Greek. To the Hebrew, a person acts out what they really believe. Unbelief, then is failing to act righteously. These concepts are all interconnected in a Hebraic mindset, whereas they are compartmentalized in Greek thought.

Many of the great theological debates that have raged throughout the centuries would finally find rest if God’s people embraced the Hebrew culture and mindset. After all, this is the people, language, culture, and setting He sovereignly chose to work through.

In light of all this, we see that faith is something we practice, not just agree with. Faith is exercised. It is something we use. It is something given to us by the Creator. It is a gift. Paul explains it this way in Ephesians:

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;  (9)  not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.  (10)  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Eph. 2:8-10  NASB)

Notice first, that it is by God’s grace, His loving-kindness – His mercy, that we are saved through faith. It is through our faith — our active trust in God — that we are saved. The fact that we have this faith is because of God’s grace. It is a gift from the Creator. We cannot do something to earn this gift. However, as verse 10 clearly points out, this gift bestowed upon us —- through our faith—- will produce good works. This is how the saved will walk or live. If we proclaim that God has “saved” us, fruit (works) will be forthcoming. This is the nature of biblical faith.

Now FAITH is the SUBSTANCE of things hoped for, the EVIDENCE of things not seen. (Heb. 11:1 KJV)

Can you now see how faith has substance and evidence? Trusting in the promises and Word of God is what we hope for and the things we cannot see with the natural eye. Our actions (faith) are the substance and evidence. It is the things we say and do — because we trust. They are tangible. We use our 5 senses as we exercise our faith. We walk it out in our daily lives. Faith is our response to God.

A-men


[1] Or your choice for the writer of Hebrews.

[3] Ps. 119:42-44, 160, Jn. 17:17, 1 Jn. 3:18

[4] Hellenization (or Hellenisation) is the historical spread of ancient Greek culture or Hellenistic civilization, and, to a lesser extent, language, over foreign peoples conquered by Greece or in its sphere of influence, particularly during the Hellenistic period following the campaigns of Alexander the Great of Macedon. The result of Hellenization was that elements of Greek origin combined in various forms and degrees with local elements. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hellenization

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