Posts Tagged With: Holy Spirit

Fruit Loops

photo (1)When describing her experience with the Messi-antics movement at a recent women’s retreat, my new friend, Deborah F., used the most clever analogy to describe the people she encountered. She called some fruit loops, some fruit punch, and others fruit snacks. Therefore, I must give her credit for inspiring me with this post. Thanks Deborah, I’m very grateful that the Father saw fit for our journeys to cross paths and I look forward to a great friendship.
 

 Fruit of the Spirit

There is no mystery that the followers of the God of Israel and His Messiah are supposed to produce godly fruit. After all, that is how we are told we will know one another… by their fruit. But there is some controversy as to what that fruit will look like. Regardless of your view, if you follow the God of Israel, we can all agree to this:

Gal. 5:22-26 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (23)  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  (24)  Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  (25)  If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.  (26)  Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.

Fruit is definitely associated with our deeds or works in Scripture. And what we do (and don’t do) matters greatly to the King of the Universe. But this post isn’t about what commandments we are to keep or how much or how little Torah we are to observe. It is about the fruit of the Spirit.

If we belong to the Messiah, there should be nine obvious qualities that perfume everything we do. If these qualities are NOT present, then we are missing the mark and are in need of repentance. Thus, as people of the “Book”, we should be great “fruit inspectors”. We should well know the difference between good and bad fruit, works, or deeds. But sadly, there is an awful lot of stuff out there that poses as fruit that in reality is nothing more than human flesh.

Unripe Fruit

Ironically, I have noticed that many of those that are returning to the Torah of Messiah struggle with producing real fruit.  It’s as if they have forgotten the weightier matters of Torah as they learn to keep Shabbat, festivals, and kashrut (dietary laws).

My personal experience and opinion on this phenomenon is that what occurs is an “over” purge. Like throwing the baby out with the bath water. Seeking to rid your life of error requires you to revert back to an immature state. It’s one in which you must separate and discern the basics all over again — except this time, the arrangement and configuration is different than what you first believed.

The paradigm of living outside of the Torah most your life produces different works or deeds (and beliefs) than one that has been nurtured from birth inside of a Torah lifestyle. Thus, coming into the knowledge of a whole new worldview requires you to search out every nook and cranny of your walk and reassess its relevance and godliness. It’s difficult. This is not something you want to ever experience again. You want to know that you know what you know! And why. And where. And when. And how. Many people that have experienced such a profound paradigm shift have told me, “It’s like being born again—- again!”  And I must agree with that statement. The experience is very much like this for non-Jewish people who embrace the fullness of God’s Word AND keep the testimony of Yeshua.

This process requires a period of separation and examination. Things you thought you knew have been turned on their head and others have been revealed to be flat out lies! Thus, there is also a great level of caution and dare I say, doubt, when it comes to receiving new information OR embracing old information. Everything is weighed in the balance and sometimes that scale is unwittingly unjust.

If you happen to meet someone in this process (for some it can take years), their behavior may have been perplexing to you. You see they are keeping “truth”, but the fruit is inedible. I have come to realize that these are all maturity issues. Hopefully, they will move from a place of separation to a place of gathering. For separation that doesn’t lead to gathering of like kind and unity, is nothing more than death.[1] You might know about the Sabbath, feast days, dietary laws, and even the Hebrew language, but if you cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit, then you are a baby. Your fruit isn’t ripe and should not be eaten by ANYBODY. Partaking of your fruit will only produce stomachaches and diarrhea. In other words, your antics make people sick.

Fruit Punch

The simple truth is that all the Torah observance in the world doesn’t matter and profits you nothing if you do not FIRST walk in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Those that try to force others to accept their idea of obedience or observance are like a rebellious toddler trying to get her way. She thinks she knows what’s going on, but really she knows nothing.

They use their Bibles to PUNCH others in the face. They especially like to beat up on those still in the church or denominational Christianity. Any fruit they may possess is not eaten but used as a weapon of war. My Mom calls them watermelon throwers. A watermelon can be refreshing and healthy if eaten one bite at a time, but if thrown at the head, it can cause considerable damage, even death. Be careful where you think you stand, lest you fall.[2]

When will we stop beating people up with our truth? Fruit punch has very little real fruit juice in it. Most of it is chemicals, colored dyes, and corn syrup. It’s not healthy and gives the Body no sustenance. The same is true for those that try to bully the Body into doing things “their way”. If it’s all you consume, it will “kill” you. (This is why the letter of the Law must be balanced with the Spirit. The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.)

Fruit Snacks

I think most people will find themselves in this category at some point or another. Fruit snacks also contain some real fruit juice but with the addition of dyes and artificial flavorings. Sometimes real fruit gushes out and other times it’s just a bunch of junk.

I freely admit I’ve been nothing more than a fruit snack at certain times in my life. However, I’m better than I used to be and with Abba’s continued mercy and grace, I grow every day. A fruit snack person is very similar to the unripe fruit people in that they lack maturity. They differ in that they also have a weaker foundation in the Word of Truth.

Fruit snacks aren’t as annoying as some of the other fruit people, but written right on their labelling it clearly says, “Not intended to replace fruit in the diet.[3] We need more vitamins and nutrients than these people can offer us. We might find them cute and entertaining in the short term, but they just can’t go the distance. They will run out of gas because they are not filled with the Ruach (Spirit). When their gas goes, so does any semblance of fruit.

Often, they just won’t let the Spirit of Adonai have full reign of their lives. Unfortunately, this means there is still a lot of junk that needs to be worked out of them. (Flesh) The trials of life are meant to goad us unto maturity. Fruit snacks usually resist this process. May they learn to produce fruit in keeping with repentance[4] and leave all the sugar, fluff, and “fakeness” behind.

Fruit Loops

I think this is by far the most bizarre of the bunch. I think of a fruit loop as someone that’s way out in left field. These guys believe they have discovered or cornered the truth. (They’ve found the secret “loopholes” everyone else has missed!) As such, they are usually in the corner of the field yelling to everyone else that home base is really in left field. For example, they may claim that Sabbath is actually on a different day of the week than Saturday. Some people may call them LUNAtics, but I think the term fruit loop is more fitting.

Often, they are gung ho on observing some “new” thing (secret revelation). Or, perhaps they believe they have figured out the Creator’s “correct” calendar— and all others are false. They forget that Judah not only holds the scepter and authority on these issues, but they childishly blow off centuries of wisdom, care, and diligence that only the Jewish people have maintained for the rest of us.

Sadly, fruit loops do not contain ANY real fruit. They might look and taste good, but again there is no real sustenance. You can eat and eat them and still starve to death. Fruit loops sometimes engage in fruit punch tactics when dealing with the Body. But instead of throwing a watermelon (real fruit) they want you to eat a sugary substitute (falsehood). Beware!

Fresh Fruit

There is nothing more succulent to our taste buds than fresh, ripe fruit. (Non GMO and organic, of course!) Consider for a moment not only how sweet, juicy, and tasty real fresh fruit is, but what it does for our bodies. Real fruit gives LIFE to our being. It nourishes, sustains, and sates hungry souls.

fruitNow let’s think back to the fruit of the Spirit. Truth (the Word) can only nourish, sustain, and satisfy a hungry soul if it is given in the form of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If these qualities are not present, the fruit tastes bitter, it has added ingredients, and it cannot produce LIFE.

This is such a simple concept. Why do we have so much trouble “getting” this? Why do we walk over to the dessert table and CHOOSE junk or the likeness of fruit instead of the real thing? I think it is because we have been fed the artificial stuff for so long that we no longer can tell the difference; or worse, we actually prefer it.

By the way, where we seem to lack the most discernment is when examining our OWN fruit. We might be producing fruit punch, fruit snacks, and fruit loops and really believe it is proper. But, it’s very simple. Does my walk, life, and mouth produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? Remember, this isn’t a box of cereal; you don’t get to choose which qualities you will produce. The fruit is singular. It’s ONE fruit with nine beautiful qualities. If something is lacking, it’s not the real thing. (Think GMO)

Answer for yourself:

  • Am I loving? Do I grant others mercy and forgiveness when they hurt me?
  • Do I have joy? Or do I wallow in pity, regret, and anger?
  • Do I have peace? Or am I a discontent murmurer and complainer?
  • Am I patient? Or do expect to have everything go “my way”?
  • Am I kind (even to those who are unkind to me)?
  • Do I act with goodness (to benefit others and not myself)?
  • Am I faithful to YHWH and others? Can others count on me or am I unstable?
  • Am I gentle and respectful with others? Or am I judgmental and hyper critical?
  • Do I have self-control? Or am I ruled by my emotions?

If our walk fails to produce even one of these qualities, then there is need for REPENTANCE. I don’t know about you, but I have some more work to do…


[1] These ideas were first impressed upon me while learning the Creation Gospel by Dr. Hollisa Alewine.

[2] 1 Cor. 10:12

[3] http://www.generalmills.com/Home/Brands/Snacks/Fruit%20Snacks/Brand%20Product%20List%20Page.aspx#{FC107858-D028-4A34-AF2B-BB1714F13E12}

[4] Mat. 3:8-10  “Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance;  (9)  and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.  (10)  “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Categories: Messianic Issues, Musings | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

The Teaching of Balaam


This article was originally a Torah commentary. Because of the flow of the story, it actually involves three portions, Balak, Pinchas, and Mattot. You can see all the scripture references in this footnote.[1] The entire focus of this study is on the Teaching of Balaam. Thus, I felt it was better suited as topical article. I fully believe that the teachings of Balaam are alive and well in our assemblies and we are unaware. My desire here is to look at what the Word has to say on this subject so that we are empowered to remove this wickedness from our own hearts and assemblies. Those of you familiar with Dr. Alewine’s Creation Gospel model will also find this article helpful as it is the foundation behind my thinking.

The Story

Near the holy place, where the Ark dwelt, an Israelite sees a beautiful woman. Her eyes tell him everything he wants to know. He approached her; and as they say, “the rest is history”. Out of nowhere, a holy man named Pinchas bounds toward the couple with a spear raised high in the air. The couple, already in the throes of passion, doesn’t even see him coming. Pinchas releases the spear with great force and it skewers the couple like a human kabob; first the Israelite and then the woman beneath his naked body. The deadly plague grinds to a halt and the masses are spared.

Torah portion Balak ends like the scene out of a graphic action/drama movie. It’s pretty explicit, but that’s exactly how the drama is presented to us in the Hebrew text. This Bible story is definitely for mature audiences only!

pinchasYet this brazen act by Pinchas not only stayed the plague that had broken out on the people, but earned him a permanent covenant of peace and a covenant of perpetual priesthood before YHWH. Wow. The seriousness of the peoples’ sin is illustrated by the harsh and detailed judgment mete out by Pinchas. Thankfully, we know who and what placed Israel in this position. Balaam could not curse what YHWH had blessed, but he sure knew how to work around the system or find the loopholes.

If you only read parsha Balak, it may not be very clear exactly what the prophet Balaam did that was horrible enough to earn him a name that is forever associated with wickedness. (Micah 6:5, 2 Peter 2:1-22, Jude 11, Revelation 2:14-15) After all, YHWH did let Balaam go to Balak and he only blessed the Children of Israel. Surely, there is more to this prophet than hearing a talking ass. So, what happened? We learn the rest of the story two portions later in Mattot.

Num. 31:15-16  And Moses said to them, “Have you spared all the women?  (16)  “Behold, these caused the sons of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, so the plague was among the congregation of the LORD.

At some point in his dealings with Balak, Balaam gave him some wicked advise. The fees for divination and recognition are indeed a mighty snare. Balaam found a way (so he thought) to have his cake and eat it too. Balaam could truly hear the voice of YHWH, but he did not fear or reverence the Holy One. He obviously told the Midianite king how to get around the Word of YHWH. What do you do when you want to curse what God has blessed? You put a stumbling block before the other person’s feet; a temptation that is almost irresistible. And there has never been a greater temptation for a man than a scintillating woman.

Causing a brother or sister to stumble, especially on purpose, is equivalent to high treason in YHWH”s economy. Balaam may have earned the respect and the wealth of a pagan king, but YHWH brought judgment to his door rather swiftly. Again from Torah portion Mattot:

Num. 31:8  They killed the kings of Midian along with the rest of their slain: Evi and Rekem and Zur and Hur and Reba, the five kings of Midian; they also killed Balaam the son of Beor with the sword.

Jos 13:22  The sons of Israel also killed Balaam the son of Beor, the diviner, with the sword among the rest of their slain.

The Israelites ended up killing Balaam with the sword. Now, let’s fast forward all the way to Book of Revelation. Yeshua has some interesting things to say to the assembly at Pergamum.[2] This is a little lengthy, but I urge you to read each verse and notice the parallels of word usage.

Rev 2:12-17  “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this:  (13)  ‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.  (14)  ‘But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality.  (15)  ‘So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.  (16)  ‘Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.  (17)  ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.’

What sort of judgment comes to our door when we go the way of Balaam? A quick and piercing double edged sword. The sword of Truth is in Yeshua’s mouth; it is the Holy Word of God.

Heb. 4:11-12  Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.  (12)  For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

The corrupt couple was pierced by the Word of YHWH (sword) by the hand of Pinchas. Balaam received the same judgment as those he placed a stumbling block before and it came swiftly. There was no mercy for either party. Wow, that all sounds so harsh. I’m not writing to put an unholy fear in your bones, but to point out the actual sin and penalty that occurred in these portions. The Holy One included quite few verses warning us about the teaching of Balaam; therefore, His desire is that we learn from these examples in order to avoid this type of judgment.

So, what did Balaam teach?

wolf-sheepYeshua says he taught the people to “eat food sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality”. Fortunately, we have more clues given to us in 2 Peter and Jude.

2Pe 2:15-17  forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;  (16)  but he received a rebuke for his own transgression, for a mute donkey, speaking with a voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet.  (17)  These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved.

Balaam wanted a REWARD. He had a problem with a lust for recognition and wealth. This lust caused the prophet to try and profit off the people of YHWH. Let’s look at the metaphors that Peter uses to describe the followers of Balaam. What is a spring without water? It is a natural well that fails to give forth the waters of Life. Wells, springs, and water are all idioms for the Holy Spirit, Wisdom, and the righteous woman (Bride). In other words, there is indeed a spirit at play here; it’s just not the Holy Spirit. It brings death rather than life. Mists driven by a storm gives us a similar picture. Jude uses equivalent expressions in his warning; thus, the action/spirit we are to avoid is definitely cohesive in the minds of the writers of the Holy Bible.

Jude 1:11-13  Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.  (12)  These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted;  (13)  wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.

Again, we see that reward or pay is what drives the spirit of Balaam. But what is scary is that these followers of Balaam are not outside the assembly; they are in the midst of even our feast celebrations! These people lack sacrificial love and only really care for themselves. Like Peter, Jude compares them to something that should bring life and water, but they do not. They are “clouds without water”. Instead of being driven by the wind of the Ruach HaKodesh, they are powered by another wind/spirit. Thus, they are incapable of producing holy fruit. They are not the “stars” of Abraham’s seed; in fact, they are the tares among the wheat — ready to be burned and reserved for black darkness.

So, if all this is true, we should be able to pick a follower of Balaam out in heartbeat, right? Wrong. If it were that easy, there would be no need for all the warnings given to us in Scripture. I believe there is a very specific reason why it is so difficult. And, most of you won’t like my answer. The difficulty we have, or you might say our lack of discernment in this area, is because we each struggle with the same temptations that are encompassed in Balaam. I will let Jude explain:

Jude 1:14- 19 (14)  It was also about these men that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones,  (15)  to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”  (16)  These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.  (17)  But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ,  (18)  that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.”  (19)  These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve ran into many grumblers, fault finders, and divisions in those groups returning to YHWH’s Torah. As a matter of fact, I have to admit that in my earlier years of this walk, I even participated in such things all in the name of holiness. I know it’s terrible, but it’s the sad truth. At the time, I would have thought I was anything but a follower of Balaam!

What I have learned (and often write about) is this very dichotomy between the Truth and a Lie. Between a man and the beast. Between the harlot and the righteous woman. Between the Spirit and the flesh/evil inclination or a wicked spirit. Between a Prophet and a Diviner. Between a Sheep and Goat. Between the Wheat and Tare. You get the point. As it turns out, the difference is often “subtle” and the battle ground is most often within — not outside of a person.

Close, But No Cigar

There are seven wicked spirits that counterfeit the seven holy spirits of YHWH (Pr. 6:16-19, Is. 11:2). In Holy Writ, we are constantly forced to deal with two brothers, two women, two houses, two “ways”. One is always righteous and one is always wicked. Nevertheless, they often can be found in the same places, doing similar things, wearing similar clothes, and calling to the same people. King Solomon the Wise, tried in earnest to teach his son and us this very simple truth. The enemy truly masquerades as an angel of light. (2 Cor. 11:14)

But what is not always immediately apparent is that this duplicity is within us! Overt wickedness is easy to detect if you know the Word. But, a heart set on self-righteousness, pride, and grandeur is not always so obvious. This is because we cannot escape our flesh or nephesh — the part of us that is shared with the beasts of field. Like them, we have instincts and a desire to survive at all costs. We get hungry, thirsty, tired, and sexually aroused and seek to gratify these appetites. At our core, the flesh seeks to preserve self.

Contrary to the old Greek philosophers, this does not mean that the nephesh is evil. It serves a godly purpose even in the lives of a holy people. Without it, we’d be no earthly good. We must eat, drink, sleep, and procreate or our species would die off. But, these passions are not to be what rules a child of the Most High; the Holy Spirit must sit at the helm of our ships.

Balaam was ruled by an unholy spirit fueled by his flesh/nehpesh. Though there was a part of him that could hear YHWH’s voice, the desire to please his own desires was much stronger. Have you ever “given in” to the desires of your flesh? I know I have and sadly sometimes still do. No one is exempt from this dilemma. It is a daily battle.

Let’s take the story of Balaam for example. How many of you read this story, realized the utter wickedness of his actions, and associated YOURSELF with Balaam? I would gander that very few, if any, of you did. Our nephesh always makes excuses or justifies its actions. It’s never wrong in its own eyes. This is why it’s so hard to come to a place of repentance or even “hear” the gospel unto salvation. The flesh is always concerned that it will be uncomfortable, restricted, or robbed of pleasure and fun.

The real lesson we are to learn from Balaam is to recognize these “negative” attributes in ourselves, correct them, and help others to do the same. The Bible brings correction, but it is mostly to us as individuals. Rarely is our job to point the finger at another. There is a time for this (which we see in Pinchas), but having a burning desire to do so more often exposes a nephesh ruled person. The nephesh always wants negative attention to be on someone else, because self-preservation is all it really cares about.

Thus, I put together the following chart for your personal introspection. If all you can “see” when perusing it is someone else’s sin, then you’ve just revealed the one seated on the throne of your heart. Here’s a clue, it’s not the Holy Spirit; it is the beast (nephesh). But fret not, you are not alone. Kick the beast down and bring it into obedience to the Ruach HaKodesh!

Balaam/Beast                                                                   vs.                             Holy Spirit/Man

Lusts for profit


Seeks to produce godly fruit


Desires recognition from others


Seeks to please YHWH


Looks for loopholes to obedience



Hears and obeys because of love


Urges others to compromise or conversely to be rigid and merciless (in the name of holiness) Strong sensations of either greasy grace, or a controlling Torah Terrorist. Extremist on either side of the scale.
Urges others to obey, but is tempered with compassion, mercy, and patience. Constantly seeking balance in all things. Allows freedom within the boundaries of Torah.

Killed by the Sword


Lays flesh on the altar by allowing the Sword of the Word to purify the heart.


Tries to get YHWH do go along with his desires/will.


Accepts the will of the Sovereign of the Universe and knows it is best even if it hurts.


Appears righteous (clouds without rain)


Does righteousness (joins the great cloud of witnesses)


Speaks blessings to others, but counsels curses in the dark.


Speaks blessings to others and means it.


Hears and turns into the way of the harlot.


Hears and turns into the way of wisdom (righteous woman).


Takes pleasure in immorality. May even participate behind closed doors. (hidden/dark)


Runs from immorality. (Like Joseph)


Uses flattery for personal gain/promotion.


Speaks truth, allows YHWH to promote them.


Grumbles and Complains (gossip/slander) which drags others into their derision against people, leadership, and assemblies. This happens under the banner of no compromise, holiness, and righteousness.


Turns from gossip/slander/lashon Hara. Knows that complaining about the way things are done, the leadership, other people, or families is only following the way of Cain, Korah, and Balaam.


Brings strife and division as a result of the above. Seeks to attract others unto themselves. Desires cookie cutter versions of belief and thought with Self as the head. They split and divide families, friends, and assemblies in the name of holiness. No unity. The house is continually being torn down. New group often latter splits again as a result of the same spirit at work. Strong sensation of feeling unwelcome, unholy, and condemnation. Run!


Seeks mercy, compassion, loving-kindness, and patience with family, friends, leadership, and assembly. Manages to disciple and mature new comers rather than condemn them for ignorance in matters of obedience. Seeks to build others up. (A wise woman builds her house) There is an overt sense of love, belonging, and warmness in these groups. Critical and judgmental spirits are not welcome.


Loves the wages of unrighteousness. Loves being right. Loves putting others in “their place”. Looks for ways to profit from the sheep.


Loves YHWH and the Body. Seeks to produce the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.


In a nutshell, Balaam teaches you to turn in to the house of the harlot[3] by appeasing the appetites of the flesh. What feels good and right is truth to a Balaam. Going the way of Balaam is serving or demanding to have your own preferences, desires, wants, and gain. It is the opposite of a humble, caring, patient, and loving servant of the Most High.

If we recognize the teaching of Balaam in our own lives (no matter how miniscule), we need to repent and put YHWH back on the throne of our hearts. I have found a great tool that helps me to keep the “beast” or nephesh/flesh in its proper place. That tool is the Jewish practice of Mussar. If you’ve ever used a Chesbon Nephesh (accounting of the Soul) chart to help you find hidden or forgotten sin in your life before Yom Kippur, then you have had a tiny taste of Mussar.

Mussar means correction and is a simple daily practice that guides you to develop or strengthen godly traits such as gratitude, compassion, honor, simplicity, generosity, loving-kindness, responsibility, trust, faith, etc. It only takes a few minutes a day, but the payoff is immense! Hopefully by now, you have a much better understanding of what the teaching of Balaam actually was/is. In closing, I will link to some Mussar resources that are sure to keep Balaam at bay! Don’t wait until you have to hear it from an ass…

Websites:

Riverton Mussar

Aish.org 

Books:

Everyday Holiness by Dr. Alan Morinis

Mussar with the Messiah by Vickie Howard

Expect to see more articles from me on the teachings of mussar in the future. (:


[1] Balak: Num. 22:2- 25:9; Micah 5:6- 6:8; 2Pet. 2:1-22; Jude 11; Rev. 2:14-15

Pinchas: Num. 25:10- 29:40; 1 Kings 18:46-19:21; Ps. 106; John 2:13-22

Mattot: Num. 30:1 -32:42, Jer. 1:1- 2:3, Mt. 5:33-37

[2] Note to Creation Gospel students: Notice that Pergamum is the 2nd assembly. It is on the stem of “separation”. The question becomes, separated unto what? Balaam causes separation unto division — leading to death. We know that separation is only good if it leads to gathering like the third day of creation and the spirit of resurrection.  We see this same picture with the sharp double edged sword. The Word separates the righteous unto life and the wicked, like Balaam, unto death.

[3] Proverbs 7

Categories: Messianic Issues, Torah Portions | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Miriam’s Cup Part II

In Miriam’s Cup Part I, we looked at the rather new custom of drinking WATER from a goblet inscribed with Miriam’s name during the Passover Seder. We explored where this tradition originated and why it may be important to incorporate into your own Seder. We also discovered the strong connection of Miriam with water. In this post, we will look at how the Holy Spirit is also linked to the imagery of water, wisdom, Pesach, and women.

© Lakis Fourouklas

© Lakis Fourouklas

The Three Leaders of Israel and the Godhead

“Indeed, I brought you up from the land of Egypt And ransomed you from the house of slavery, And I sent before you Moses, Aaron and Miriam. (Micah 6:4)

The rabbis teach us that there are three good gifts that were extended to the children of Israel– the well, the clouds, and the manna.  The well was provided due to the merit of Miriam, the clouds of glory because of Aaron, and the manna on account of Moses.[1]

The link between the clouds of glory and Aaron is understandable when considering his specific role. Aaron officiated as High Priest in the Mishkan (Tabernacle) that was perpetually covered with the protective pillar of cloud that shielded it by day.  He also ministered daily at the burning altar, just as the parallel pillar of fire hovered over the Mishkan at night.[2] Moses’ association with the heavenly manna is equally fathomable. He was the lawgiver and became synonymous with the Torah or Word of God. Bread (manna) has long been a symbol for the Torah and the Word.

What might not be immediately apparent is why the rabbis attribute the well or rock that gushed forth water in the wilderness with Miriam. In the Brit Chadashah (N.T.), we learn that the rock that followed them was in fact, Messiah.

For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. (1Cor. 10:1-4)

Is there a contradiction between what Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians and what the rabbi’s say about this “rock” or “well”? I hope to show you the harmony in their teachings with all three leaders (Moses, Aaron, and Miriam) and the glorious gifts (clouds, manna, and the well). In Part I, we started building the foundation as to why Miriam is linked to water. I hope to continue with this premise here. In the Book of Numbers, the water from the rock dries up immediately following Miriam’s death.

Then the sons of Israel, the whole congregation, came to the wilderness of Zin in the first month; and the people stayed at Kadesh. Now Miriam died there and was buried there. And there was no water for the congregation, and they assembled themselves against Moses and Aaron. (Num. 20:1-2)

The Torah seems to beg one to ask the question as to why the congregation had no water immediately following the death of Miriam. In Hebrew, these thoughts run together with a rhythmic flow. Indeed, the people viewed her as a source of life giving waters. Hopefully, you too can make this connection after reading Part I.

Moses, Aaron, and Miriam represented the King of the Universe on the earth. Is it not fitting that there were 3 of them? Isn’t the godhead most often manifested in 3 (Father, Son, Holy Spirit)? Perhaps what may be eating at you is that Elohim would choose a female to represent one of His roles. Moses is clearly the strong father figure to Israel (as Law giver), Aaron is clearly a mediator and priest (like the Son, Yeshua), so Miriam and the life giving waters must represent the Holy Spirit. If you’ve read the Role of Women, this idea isn’t as threatening as it may first appear.

Hebrew students are fully aware that the Spirit of Elohim is always in the feminine form. (This is true of all spirits.) Thus, its not surprising to find God’s Spirit paired with feminine attributes or given to feminine metaphors quite frequently in the Bible. YHWH is neither male nor female, yet He has qualities that we would associate with each sex. This is why it takes BOTH a male and a female to display the image of Elohim in the natural.

The Ruach Hakodesh in Heaven and Earth

To better understand how Miriam, water, and the Holy Spirit can be equivalent expressions, review the first occurrence of Elohim’s Spirit is in Genesis.

The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. (Gen. 1:2)

What is the Spirit of Elohim doing in the beginning? It is hovering or moving over the WATERS. Thus, our first association of the Ruach Hakodesh is with water. The primordial waters are separated into earthly waters (mayim) and heavenly waters (shamayim). Did you notice how waters and heavens sound alike in Hebrew? Can you see mayim in the shamayim?

Interestingly, the word for heavens, shamayim, denotes “fire waters” as it is a compound of the word water (mayim) and fire (esh).[4] We will explore this idea some more in a moment. But first,  look at the word for Spirit in Hebrew: ruach. Most of you already know that ruach is also the word for wind or breath. What might not be immediately obvious is that the air and wind are the heavenly counterparts to the earthly water currents. Wind powers most ocean and air currents. In Hebraic thought these “currents” of the mayim and shamayim reflect one another. Or you could say that “it is on earth as it is in heaven”.

Consider how the birds and fish move, migrate, school, or flock as they follow these currents across the globe — carrying seed. If you find these connections fascinating, I urge you to study Dr. Hollisa Alewine’s Creation Gospel.[5] You’ll never look at creation week or the whole of scripture again without noticing these often repeated themes. Waters and heavens are mirrors of one another; therefore, the notion that the Holy Spirit is both like wind and water is natural in Hebraic thought.

In the Gen. 1:2 verse above, God’s Spirit is moving, hovering, or brooding over the waters. Indeed, the Spirit of YHWH is active like the wind/birds and the water/fish. The Hebrew verb used is rachaph; the AHLB[6] defines it as the following:

Strongs #7363: AHLB#: 2763 (V) Flutter: The stirrings and shakings of a bird in the nest – Flutter: [freq. 3] (vf: Paal, Piel) |KJV: shake, move, flutter| {str: 7363}

Did you notice the tangible picture of a mother bird fluttering, shaking, and stirring her nest? Does this bring other verses to mind about Elohim being a protective mother bird?

“Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, That hovers over its young, He spread His wings and caught them, He carried them on His pinions. (Dt. 32:11)

Like flying birds so the LORD of hosts will protect Jerusalem. He will protect and deliver it; He will pass over and rescue it. (Is. 31:5)

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. (Mt. 23:37)

These movements are mimicked in the word for Passover, Pesach. It is a derivative of the protective fluttering actions of a mother bird.[7] [8] Indeed, our Great Elohim moves, flutters, leaps, and hovers over His Creation and His people like a mother protecting her precious chicks. This nurturing aspect of YHWH is divinely displayed in the female creatures of His creation. The Exodus story and the original Passover speak to our initial redemption, which is the Father calling us out for Himself. The “immature” state of the people (and us!) at this initial point of salvation necessitates the tenderness that can only be offered by a mother. Thus, we see YHWH’s Spirit pesach(ing) over the homes of His newborn chicks in Israel.

Pesach and Baptism

By carefully examining what happened when the “death angel” came through Egypt, we see that the same Spirit of YHWH that protected the Israelites also killed the first born of Egypt.

‘The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. (Ex. 12:13)

Now it came about at midnight that the LORD struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of cattle. (Ex. 12:29)

The Ruach HaKodesh can nurture and protect and at the same time bring destruction on His enemies. The Spirit is truly like the “waters” that we discussed in Part I. The difference is that the Holy Spirit is always acting with righteousness, even in judgment. After the Children of Israel are released from the grip of Pharaoh, they flee to the wilderness. Without a constant and considerable food and water source, the fledgling nation would be sure to die.

What happens is follows:

  • After 3 days without water, they reach Marah. The waters are bitter (undrinkable). Moses casts a branch in the waters and they are “sweetened”. (Ex. 15) This was YHWH testing the people.
  • They then find an oasis at Elim where 12 streams water the 12 tribes. (Ex. 15)
  • The people begin to cry out for food. YHWH provides them with the heavenly manna. (Ex. 16)
  • They reach Rephidim and again cry out for water. YHWH instructs Moses to strike the rock at Mt. Horeb and water gushes out for the people. (Ex. 17)

A person can live far longer without food than water. The beginning of Israel’s wilderness journey seems to center around issues of water. Miracles and judgments happen with water. Rejoicing and praise are performed by the edge of water. Bitter water is sweetened as a test. The twelve tribes each find their own refreshing stream at Elim. A miraculous “rock” becomes a well that can sustain millions. That same rock FOLLOWS them!

Water, water everywhere! Though the children can’t see it in the natural, they are surrounded with life giving water. (Does this remind you of the Rivers of Eden?) Is this not just like the Holy Spirit? We can’t see the “Spirit”, yet it is everywhere. One connection to the Spirit and water that is tangible to most all Believers is Baptism (or immersing in a Mikveh).

Baptism is a natural picture of the work of the Holy Spirit in the very beginning. The movement and separation of the mayim (water) and shamayim (fire waters) is the same moving and separating that happens when we experience this ritual.[9] It may be an outward symbol of an inward work, but to assume the Holy Spirit isn’t directly involved (and often in a very visible way) is not true. The washing and filling is pictured by both the water and the holy fire! Sometimes these are simultaneous experiences, and sometimes they are separate. Nevertheless, they reflect one another like the waters and the heavens and like the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire. Unlike some, I fully believe this process is in continual motion and cyclical even in our individual lives.

But this still leaves us with our original question. Why are Messiah and Miriam both equated to the rock or well of water in the wilderness? Speaking of Messiah, Paul also has this to say:

  For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. (Col. 2:9 KJV)

Elohim is One (Shema Dt. 6:4). When Yeshua walked the earth, He was the tangible form of the fullness of YHWH. Thus, we see Him in numerous places attributing an action to Himself and then declaring that the same action is really from the Holy Spirit or the Father.

Yeshua will not leave us comfortless, He will come to us, yet the comforter is the Holy Spirit.[10] Yeshua gives us Living Waters, but then proclaims that these waters are the Holy Spirit.[11] Just as Moses and even Aaron were prefigures of the Messiah, so is Miriam. The analogies are similar to both Moses and Yeshua being the Law giver. Or both Aaron and Yeshua being the High Priest. Why would it be any different for both Miriam and Yeshua to be the well in the rock?  Therefore, who is right? The rabbis or Paul? The answer is both!

Stay tuned for one last post in this series. My hope is to conclude by filling Miriam’s Cup with the Living Waters and the Mashiach in Part III.


[1] Talmud Bavli (Babylonian Talmud), Tractate Ta’anit 9a:  R. Jose the son of R. Judah says: Three good leaders had arisen for Israel … Moshe, Aaron and Miriam, and for their sake three good things were conferred [upon Israel], namely, the Well, the Pillar of Cloud and the Manna; the Well, for the merit of Miriam; the Pillar of Cloud for the merit of Aaron; the Manna for the merit of Moshe.

[2] Exodus 40:38

[3] See my post The Biblical Role of Women Part V for more on the feminine aspects of the Holy Spirit.

[4] The roots of the word shamayim are אש (esh, fire) and מים (mayim, water) The beginning letter א (aleph) is a silent stand-in for a beginning consonant, nothing more. Dropping it does not change the meaning of the two-letter word. So the Hebrew שמים literally means fire in water. The great Jewish commentator Rashi  says this about Genesis 1:8: The word shamayim is a contraction of [a word for] carrying of water, also [a word meaning] there is water, also esh and mayim, [meaning] fire and water. He blended them with one another and made the heavens from them. For more imagery of fire, see The Biblical Role of Women Part XI.

[5] Thecreationgospel.com

[6] Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible by Jeff Benner

[7] They share the two letter parent root chet, pey; which means to cover (in protective action).

[8] See my post on the Meaning of Passover.

[9] John answered and said to them all, “As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Luke 3:16)

[10] John 14

[11] John 7:38-39

Categories: Moedim, Women | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Miriam’s Cup Part I

miriams cup 3

This Passover season, I have given an often overlooked custom a second glance — well more like a long hard stare! Many of you incorporate the mystical and prophetic Cup of Elijah in your Passover Seders. For Believers in Messiah, this cup takes on even more significance because of John the Baptist. He truly paved the Way for Messiah at His first coming. Since we have already seen this “cyclical” prophecy fulfilled once, hopefully we will better be able to discern the spirit of Elijah in these last days.

If you’ve purchased a special goblet with Elijah’s name written on it to use at your Passover Seder, you may have noticed another more obscure goblet inscribed with Miriam’s name. What is this cup for? Is it just to satiate liberals and feminists? Does this “new” ritual have any redeeming value? My hope is to show you the richness and beauty that this tradition can bring to your Passover table, and perhaps even to your weekly Kiddush.

The Cup of Miriam is not part of a traditional Seder, and I can find no mention of it in any of the feast books that I own. (But, don’t let that deter you from reading on!) According to Risa Borsykowsky[1] , the practice of drinking WATER from a special kiddush cup called Kos Miriam, began with Stephanie Loo Ritari and her Rosh Chodesh Boston group in the late 1980s. Reading through the Exodus, one can find numerous righteous women that played significant roles that led up to the redemption of Israel from Egypt.[2] Mrs. Ritari decided to bring these “hidden” women into the “retelling” of the Passover story to not only honor the matriarchs, but as a tool to make the Seder more comprehensive for women and girls. The most prominent woman of the Exodus story is Moses’ sister, Miriam. Therefore, she will be our focus in this study.

The Bible calls Miriam a prophetess of Israel.[3] She alone ensured that baby Moses would live by following him as he floated down the treacherous Nile River.[4] She watched as Pharaoh’s daughter drew Moses from the water, and then cunningly secured Moses’ own mother as his wet-nurse. She helped sustain the Israelites during their trek across the wilderness and she led them in joyous song and dance to praise YHWH for the miracle of parting the Red Sea. Upon her death, the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron for a lack of life giving water.[5]

Did you notice the many connections of Miriam with water?[6]

Though her name can mean bitterness or even rebellion, the Hebrew also reveals that there is another (positive) side to Miriam. This should give hope to us all, as we each have both a good and evil inclination that wars for supremacy. To learn the duality of Miriam is to understand the ancient contradiction of what it is to be human. We all share the life long struggle between spirit and flesh.

Moreover, we would be wise to consider that other than one bad instance, Miriam’s portrayal of rebellion and bitterness was toward the anti-torah decrees of Pharaoh.[7] She and her family risked their lives by rebelling against Pharaoh. The midwives Puah and Shifrah acted similarly by defying Pharaoh’s edict to kill Hebrew male babies. It is interesting that it was the fearlessness of WOMEN that initially ignited the courage of all Israel. These brave lionesses stood firm and earned a spot forever in the Torah of our Elohim. Why would we leave their stories out of our maggid (retelling of the Passover story)?  Would our daughters not be strengthened to hear year after year that they too have this great potential residing within them?

Miriam and Water

As I was studying the many links between Miriam, water, wells, fountains, the Holy Spirit, the Word, Yeshua, and Living Waters, I could hardly contain my excitement! Miriam is spelled mem, resh, yod, mem. Water is spelled mem, yod, mem.

Did you notice how similar these words are in Hebrew? Miriam is water with an added resh, which is pictographically a head. Thus, her name is literally head or lead waters. This meaning can also be demonstrated another way in Hebrew by looking at Miriam as a compound of two words: mar and yam. These words mean bitter/strong and sea (waters) respectively. Hence again, Miriam is associated with the idea of strong (head) waters.

But what do strong waters imply and what are we to learn from this association? In order to get the full impact of Miriam’s role and name, we must first understand WATER from a Hebraic perspective. Mayim (mem, yod, mem) is a word bookended with two mem(s). The Hebrew letter mem is likened to water, a womb (it’s full of water), strength (as in gushing waters), chaos (again like an ocean), and as a preposition “to come forth from or out of”. This letter is one of a handful that has a sofit or final form when it is written at the end of a Hebrew word. A regular mem is open on the bottom, whereas the final form is closed.

mem

Rabbi Michael L. Munk, in his book The Wisdom of the Hebrew Alphabet on the letter mem, states, “The word mayim, water, with its initial and end mem, one open and one closed, depicts the accessible and the inaccessible – an allusion to the waters at Creation.” Thus, mem also illustrates what is revealed and what is concealed. Add to that the letter at the heart of mayim, yod (a hand, work, or deed), and the Creation waters (and all water thereafter) become the same contradiction that we see in Miriam’s name: a work or deed that has the potential for life (strong living waters) or death (bitterness and rebellion).

Water is a place of darkness and yet, great potential in Creation and in a woman’s womb. It can be as powerful and destructive as a roaring ocean and as gentle and satisfying as a trickling stream. It is at the same time both a life giving necessity and a place where chaos and death reign (like at sea). If you read my posts on Crate Trained Believers and The Devouring Lion, you may have noticed the similar imagery. Gentle AND Fierce.

Interestingly, the Hebrew word for mother, em (aleph, mem), also has the pictographic meaning of strong waters.[8] It seems as though the very fact that women have a womb that can fill with life giving waters connects them to Miriam.[9] Females made in the image of Elohim are “mothers” of all living. However, like our sisters Chavah (Eve) and Miriam, we also have the potential to bring chaos and death. (Like a tumultuous ocean.) One must learn to turn life’s bitter unruly waters into sweet waters of refreshing. By the way, this is also something men need to learn as well, for both men and women are revealed in the woman as the wife and bride of the Lamb.

This is the real Biblical portrayal of Miriam, the sister of Moses. She is truly a mother to the Israelites and a leader of her people.[10] Since the force and strength of her name is better understood, does this lend fresh insight about Mary (Miriam), mother of Yeshua? Isn’t it fitting that Yeshua should come forth from a womb such as this? How about the many other “Mary’s” mentioned in the Brit Chadashah (N.T.)? Will their stories speak a little louder the next time you read them?

There has been a tendency for us to forget that the Body needs both masculine and feminine leadership to keep us in balance and to display the whole image of Elohim (God). It is females that bring qualities such as comfort, nurture, protection, and mothering to the Body of Messiah. They are fierce AND gentle. Without these essentials, we raise nothing more than Devouring Lions.

Miriam is a representation of strength, the womb, mercy, prophecy, and praise. The ancient sages recognized the vital role of women in the Exodus in the Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 9b:

“If it wasn’t for the righteousness of women of that generation we would not have been redeemed from Egypt”

The rabbis recognized the very thing examined above: women were the progenitors of Israel’s redemption from Egypt.[11] I hope that you will include Miriam’s Cup in your Seder or even in your weekly Kiddush as a commemoration of her vital role in the Exodus and as a role model to your daughters, sisters, mothers, and wives. But, if this isn’t enough to convince you, there is so much more! In Part II, we will look at how water is associated with the rock in the wilderness, the Holy Spirit, Wisdom, and Pesach.

 


[2] There is Yocheved, the brave midwives (Puah & Shifrah), Miriam, and Tzipporah. See also footnote 6.

[3] Ex. 15:20

[4] Obviously, the Holy Spirit is what provoked Miriam to do this!

[5] Num. 20:1-2  Then the sons of Israel, the whole congregation, came to the wilderness of Zin in the first month; and the people stayed at Kadesh. Now Miriam died there and was buried there.  (2)  There was no water for the congregation, and they assembled themselves against Moses and Aaron.

[6] D. Hollisa Alewine’s Workbook 5 The Torah Portions Volume 2 –Shemot p.7-21 (2013) offers an interesting perspective on the women of the Exodus and Miriam in particular. If you’re ready to dig deep, buy this series and uncover a multitude of treasures.

[7] Numbers Chapter 12.

[8] See Hebrew Word Pictures by Frank T. Seekins (2003) p. 62

[9] The Hebrew word for womb, racham, ends with the letter mem. This is the same Hebrew word for mercy or compassion. Indeed the watery womb is a place of protection, growth, maturity, and nurture. This word shares the resh and mem with Miriam only adding a chet, which is a fence or boundary that protects.

[10] Micah 6:4  “Indeed, I brought you up from the land of Egypt And ransomed you from the house of slavery, And I sent before you Moses, Aaron and Miriam.

[11] This makes perfect sense considering the “birthing” nature of women.

 

Categories: Moedim, Women | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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