Posts Tagged With: mouth

Parched Ground

How do we display the image of Elohim (G-d) in the earth?parched ground

Recently, I participated in an online correspondence class with a rabbi. In it, he made mention of the davar (word) and its relationship to the midbar (wilderness/desert). I know many of you are already familiar with this connection, but for the sake of those who are not, I will briefly explore this notion. In Hebrew, the root of midbar (desert) is davar (word). In other words, the wilderness comes directly from the Word. Being in the desert is akin to receiving the Word. Or to be more precise, the wilderness is where YHWH’s Word is tested in us. In the Torah, the Book of Numbers chronicles the Children of Israel’s wanderings in the desert. Thus, quite fittingly, this book is called BaMidbar or “in the wilderness” in Hebrew.

When YHWH miraculously removed ancient Israel from Egypt or when He rescued us from the figurative house of slavery (sin and death), where did He take them or us? Was it straight to the Promised Land? Or was it into the desert or wilderness? The fact that we all must face a literal or figurative desert upon being saved sounds counterintuitive at first. What do we need to learn in wilderness? I think Bill Cloud said it best (I’m paraphrasing Bill here): “God can remove us from Egypt, but we find that Egypt is still in us.” In other words, salvation, deliverance, and sanctification are ongoing processes. The desert becomes a type of threshing floor for our souls. All that offends is refined, purified, and threshed in the scorching sands of the desert. The Word that began a good work in us continues its commission to test and humble us. The difficulty and the pain of the wilderness “does good” for us in the end. For Abba, this is a labor of love.

“He led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water; He brought water for you out of the rock of flint. “In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end. (Dt. 8:15-16)

But the desert has one more vital message to teach us. It is in our wilderness where G-d speaks. In the ups and downs of the desert, we learn to discern the difference between the Shepherd’s voice and the enemy’s crafty imitation. When we are stripped of all the comforts of Egypt, we finally reach the end of self. It is there, in the midst of what appears to us as chaos and disorder, that the G-d of order speaks kindly to us and lifts our weary heads. With no more worldly distractions, the Word reveals what is in our hearts. Each revelation offers us an opportunity to repent and return to the Master’s loving embrace.

Ones That Speak

While all the above is fascinating, even if a little scary, that’s not what struck me in the Rabbi’s lesson. He mentioned that one way we are like G-d is in the fact that we have the faculty of speech. We are the only creatures in His vast creation that, like Him, have words. We are medeber (ones that speak). Think about this for moment. In the same way that davar and midbar are connected, so is medeber. This means that we are not ONLY “ones that speak”, but “ones like a desert”.

Have you ever thought of yourself as a desert? Maybe our souls have felt dry or parched during a great trial, in the midst of mourning, or while suffering for righteousness sake or on account of our own sins. But have you ever considered that our wilderness journey should be as close and familiar to us as speech?

We were not only meant to speak, but we were meant to drink like the parched earth of a desert. Consider the many passages that urge us to partake of the Living Waters.[1] Or think about how the Word of G-d is figuratively referred to as rain or water.[2] We should be like the thirsty ground, eagerly waiting for the gentle rain of Abba’s Word. Considering that Adam was formed from the dust of the ground, this makes perfect sense. Mankind is essentially dirt or dust. And the ground NEEDS the heavenly rains like we NEED the words of our heavenly Elohim.

Dirt and Seeds

seed-plant-life-garden-grow-dirt-wide.1200w.tnWe are, at our core, the substance (dirt) in which seeds can be planted in order for New Life to grow. The Word is equivalent to a Seed in Scripture.[3] Coincidence? I don’t think so. If words are seeds, we should be careful what we allow to take root in our soil or dirt. I believe these words or seeds can come from three places: G-d, the enemy, and ourselves.

Thus, the enemy’s word is a seed. The words we speak are seeds. The words others speak are seeds. But the only Seed that is always truth and always produces life is the Word of YHWH. The question is how do we know, and I mean without a doubt know that we know, whether the seed we are receiving is G-d’s Seed?

This is where the dry, dirty side of our essence comes in to play. In order to hear or receive the Word of Adonai, we must become like a desert. All distractions and things that vie for our attention must be removed in order for us to really hear or shema YHWH. In the wilderness, our nephesh (flesh) is denied worldly pleasures and conveniences. One reason that fasting is so effective is because it strips the nephesh of gratification. Any time our nephesh (with all its thoughts, desires, and appetites) is ruled over by our younger (new) spirit-man, our connection to YHWH is strengthened. And our flesh serves us rather than us serving it.

Whose Voice?

speakingMany times, we listen to the voice of our own desires rather than the Words of YHWH. Like the Tree of Knowledge, it speaks both good and evil. We know this voice so well that we often mistake it for the Holy Spirit (especially when its speaking “good”). Let’s face it, when it seems as if we will get to avoid suffering in a dry desert, our voice (or even the voice of the enemy) sounds like good counsel to our itching ears. This is why various people can all claim to be hearing from the One Holy Spirit, yet will have conflicting ideas, agendas, and doctrine. We are ones that speak, but rarely are we willing to become a desert. We must learn to submit to the wilderness and allow the Word to test us.

Emptying ourselves of our own desires (even those we deem good and profitable or even godly) is the key to becoming the image of Elohim in the earth. You want to love YHWH with all your heart and love your neighbor like yourself? It will cost you flesh and bone. Are we willing to suffer for YHWH and our neighbor?[4] Or would we rather cause others to suffer so that we can have things our way? Do we open our mouths and speak life (healing/shalom) to others or do we use our speech to persuade others to do things the way we like it or see it? Which voice is the Holy Spirit and which is the voice of our own nephesh (soul)?

The acquisition of treasures (desires of our hearts/flesh) by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor, the pursuit of death. (Pr. 21:6 added parenthesis mine)

 

If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. (Jam. 1:26)

Watch Your Mouth

He who guards his mouth and his tongue, Guards his soul from troubles. (Pr. 21:23)

shut your mouthOur mouths cause us more trouble than any other member of our bodies.[5] Is this because we only desire to be ones that speak and not ones like a desert? After all, you can’t speak AND drink at the same time! Interestingly, if we fail to choose to become a humble desert before YHWH, He will take us there kicking and screaming. Our only choice in the matter is the method of how we arrive and how we act once we get there. YHWH’s Word is ALWAYS tested in the wilderness/desert.[6] Consider the many judgments that result with the people and the land becoming desolate. In these cases, Abba’s judgment has in effect “shut our mouths”.[7]

Is Adonai just an angry tyrant or does He know something that we desperately don’t want to accept? The Bible says that G-d is Love and that He chastises those whom He loves.[8] He takes us to the desert because He knows that the testing of the wilderness will reveal our hearts. We need to face the serpent on the pole, so that we may be healed and saved. The serpent is the voice of our own selfish desires. It is the crafty forked tongue that whispers both good and evil. When we heed its voice rather than Adonai’s, we are stung with its venom and take the fast track toward death.

This is why we must die daily like the lamb offerings in the Tabernacle and the Temple. Our beast must be brought to the altar. Like all creatures, the beast doesn’t submit easily. It is excellent at convincing us (with its mouth) that all is well. The smooth words of the serpent appeals to our feelings of entitlement, self-righteousness, and piety. The beast does not like to identify with suffering or humility. But like Cain, we are told to MASTER this impulse.

Hearing-GodWe do this by becoming what we were created to be. We are a desert; a vast wilderness laid bare for all of heaven to see and judge. In this position, we are no longer mouths that speak to justify or coerce; rather, we become a sponge that soaks up the words of life. Though the Living Word kills the flesh, it quickens the spirit.

This is the key to humility, hearing from Abba, and loving our neighbor sacrificially. It is also what molds and shapes our clay vessels into the image of our great and loving Elohim. If we really got this we would no longer scorn our fiery trials or fear the seemingly empty places of life. Instead, we would prostrate ourselves under the heavens and allow the Word to truly divide between our soul (nephesh) and spirit.

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. 
And there is no creature hidden from His sight, 
but all things are open and laid bare 
to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. 
(Heb. 4:12-13)

[1] Jer. 2:13; 17:13, John 4:10-11, Rev. 7:38

[2] This post speaks about the early and latter rains.

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. (Is. 55:10-11)

“So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth.” (Hos. 6:3)

So that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word. (Eph. 5:26)

[3] Luke 8:11

[4] Suffering for Righteousness’ Sake

To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For, “THE ONE WHO DESIRES LIFE, TO LOVE AND SEE GOOD DAYS, MUST KEEP HIS TONGUE FROM EVIL AND HIS LIPS FROM SPEAKING DECEIT. “HE MUST TURN AWAY FROM EVIL AND DO GOOD; HE MUST SEEK PEACE AND PURSUE IT. “FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD ARE TOWARD THE RIGHTEOUS, AND HIS EARS ATTEND TO THEIR PRAYER, BUT THE FACE OF THE LORD IS AGAINST THOSE WHO DO EVIL.” Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. (1 Peter 3:8-17)

[5] James 3

[6] Think about Moses and Yeshua. Were they each not tested in the wilderness? What about Paul? Can you recall a period where he was tested in the desert? Consider the Children of Israel, Job, David, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, and others. Can you connect these righteous men with both suffering and the desert/wilderness? Does the Bible give us examples of those who willingly flee to the desert and those who are taken there against their will? What is the difference between these two experiences? What is similar about these experiences? It seems as though we ALL must experience the wilderness. The question is: Will we go willingly or by force?

[7] Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God. (Rom. 3:19)

[8] FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.” (Heb. 12:6)

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Torah Portion: Tazria and M’tzora

Lev. 12-end of 15

Tradition

Tazria, (she conceives) and m’tzora (a leper) are this week’s double Torah portion. This study will focus on the latter. To avoid some confusion, I first want to explain a couple of Hebrew terms. Leprosy as the disease we know today is not what is being referred to in the Bible according to every authority I have checked. Instead, it is referring to skin infections that would result in welts. Translator’s have often followed the King James Bible interpretation and used the English word leprosy. Do keep in mind that this is a misnomer. The Hebrew word m’tzora is simply the word tza’ra’at with a mem prefix. The prefix changes the root verb form, tza’ra, to a noun meaning: one with skin infection.

M’tzora or one with a tza’ra’at (skin disease) is often regulated by the Sages and modern Jewish authorities to an affliction caused by the spread of malicious gossip or slander. This particular type of gossip differs from lashon hara or the evil tongue. Instead, m’tzora comes about when one spreads lies and untruths in order to defame or hurt another person. Lashon hara is general gossip; its focus is on the use of true speech for a wrongful purpose, rather than a falsehood resulting in harm.

M’tzora is traditionally associated with malicious gossip for the following reasons. “Motzi shem ra” is a Hebrew phrase that means spreading or putting out a bad name. Some shorten the phrase to “motzi ra” which is closer linguistically to m’tzora and means one that spreads or puts forth evil. Since these phrases share linguistic similarities with m’tzora, the Sages have considered leprosy (skin disease) a punishment for the sins of slander and malicious gossip. They teach that gossip is like leprosy because it is highly contagious. Rabbi Israel Salanter taught that the laws of leprosy and gossip follow the portion containing the dietary laws to teach us to be as scrupulous about what comes out of our mouths as we are about what goes into them.

The Sages designate a total of seven types of antisocial behavior that God punishes with tza’ra’at. They are listed in Proverbs 6:16-19. (For those of you familiar with the Creation Gospel workbook 2 by Dr. Alewine, this will be particularly interesting.)

 (16)  These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:

(17)  A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,

(18)  An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,

(19)  A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.

All these attributes are hard to punish in a court of law, therefore YHWH is said to inflict tza’ra’at on those that practice such behavior. Examples are Miriam being struck with leprosy after speaking against Moses (Num. 12:10). Moses is afflicted with leprosy for speaking ill of the Israelites (Ex. 4:1, 6) Korah and his cohorts and all their goods while not afflicted with a skin disease were swallowed up by the earth after speaking against Moses and the priesthood. (Num. 16) Along with Korah there arose a plague on the people that continued to speak out against Moses; 14,700 Israelites lost their lives. King Uzziah followed the ways of Korah when He became prideful and entered the house of YHWH to offer incense though he wasn’t of the priestly order. He broke out in leprosy (skin disease) and remained in that state unto death. (2 Chron. 16, 19)

Many rabbis believe that these skin conditions, garments, or homes with mold were not of any of the typical diseases or fungi of today. Rather, these were regulated to the period when there was a standing and functioning temple. They believed these plagues, negaim, were to bring the afflicted to repentance and ritual purity, without which one couldn’t enter into the divine presence.

While some may dispute the rabbis deduction that m’tzora is likened to evil speech, there are some other convincing tidbits that tilts the scales in their favor. If the natural is supposed to teach about the spiritual, then it cannot be a coincidence that one afflicted with tza’ra’at had to cover his or her MOUTH.

Lev 13:45-46  “The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’  (46)  He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp.

The m’tzora had to cover his/her MOUTH and cry out “tamei, tamei”, that is translated as ritually unclean. Furthermore, this person had to live ALONE and OUTSIDE the camp. Why cover the mouth? Could this allude to the unclean things that have come forth out of his/her mouth in the form of malicious gossip or slander? Having to live alone outside of the community of Israel could “spiritually” be likened to those Paul referred to as not inheriting the Kingdom. Any cleansed leper had to be washed and sanctified just as we are.

1Co 6:9-11  Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,  (10)  Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.  (11)  And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Adonai Yeshua, and by the Spirit of our God.

 Practical Application

The real question for Messianic believers is how we can or should apply these lessons in tazria and m’tzora to our walk with the Messiah. The Brit Chadashah teaches us that we are now the temple and where the Holy One, blessed be He, resides. (1 Cor. 3:16-17; 6:19; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:21) If this is the case, how does YHWH dwell in us when we are in a state of ritual impurity? Or how does He remain in us when we sin or fall short?

Yeshua healed the woman with the issue of blood and He cleansed her. (Mat. 9, Mark 5, and Luke 8) Her impurity wasn’t transferred unto Him as would have been the case if He were a mere man according to Torah. Yeshua also cleansed lepers. (Mat. 8, Mark 1, Luke 17) It was prophesied that the Messiah would cleanse the lepers. Leprosy in Hebrew is often categorized as a plague or negaim. (Is. 35:5,6; 61:1; Mat 10:8, 11:5; Luke 7:22)

But, according to Torah how is it that this transfer or cleansing takes place? These are hard questions. I cannot help but to think back to the prophesy in Jeremiah where YHWH promises to “cleanse” His people.

Jer 33:7-8  And I will cause the captivity of Judah and the captivity of Israel to return, and will build them, as at the first.  (8)  And I will cleanse (tahor—make ritually clean) them from all their iniquity (avon— punishment), whereby they have sinned against me; and I will pardon all their iniquities, whereby they have sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against me.

If the natural is a picture of the spiritual, then Yeshua certainly has the authority and power as our high priest to cleanse us of ritual impurity. After all, flesh and blood does not inherit the Kingdom. We need not worry about our fleshly ritual state to enter in the kingdom. Corruption must first take on incorruption. In other words, these flesh and blood bodies that can become ritually unclean, must be shed before we enter the fullness of the Kingdom of G-d.

1Co 15:50  Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.

However, I would be remiss to simply ignore the practical applications we can apply in this double portion. Although, I do have a caveat: we must be careful to stay balanced when it comes to laying down particular halachah (“our walk” or doctrine for living) in these areas, given their propensity to ambiguity. Mercy must be exercised in great measure to our fellow brethren as mercy is NOT an ambiguous mitzvah and is a much greater commandment.

We can follow most of the biblical restrictions after childbirth, during menstruation, and for sexual relations. Obviously, we cannot offer sacrifices, but we can abstain from marital relations for the prescribed amount of time. We can also immerse in a mikvah to symbolize our cleansed state after childbirth, menstruation, sexual relations, or other natural emissions. But, that is where basic application ends for these Torah portions. First, we do not have an earthly functioning temple or priesthood. We cannot offer the required sacrifices. We cannot stand in the place of the priest and “judge” skin conditions; especially given the fact that today’s afflictions may have no semblance to those mentioned. To put it succinctly, we cannot make halachahic rule for our communities on issues we can’t possibly properly judge. This is an area where we must place our trust in faith in the cleansing work of Messiah, Yeshua.

Sometimes I think Messianic believers in their zeal for the Torah forget (unintentionally) about the LIVING Torah. Yeshua’s priesthood differs from the Levitical priesthood. I believe the book of Hebrews tries to explain this to believers living without a temple. What has changed under the Renewed Covenant is the priesthood. Therefore, many of the rituals and sacrifices now have to be understood to be functioning in the heavenly tabernacle on our behalf. (Heb. 8) Our High Priest forever lives and makes intercession for us. (Heb. 7:25)

The Levitical Priesthood is a natural picture of the spiritual heavenly priesthood. As we study the Levitical Priesthood in the Torah, we should be ever mindful of the greater priesthood that IS currently functioning and operating on our behalf today.

Heb 9:13-14  For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:  (14)  How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

The above verse should shore up any misunderstandings we have about the practical application of this week’s parashah. It is the BLOOD of Messiah that cleanses us. We need not seek out an earthly priesthood or temple to accomplish what our heavenly Priest has already done for us. However, this doesn’t negate the fact that the Levitical Priesthood was made as an everlasting Covenant of Salt. (Num.18:19)

Perhaps Yeshua has placed us in a state of perpetual ritual purity until He finally redeems also these flesh and blood bodies. I’m not sure; there are many variables to consider. But I do know that His blood has washed the repentant believer of sin(s). (Rev. 1:5) Living waters (mayim chayim) were required in the ritual of cleansing the lepers/skin diseases. (Lev. 14:6) We know living waters comes forth from Messiah. (John 4:10,11) And this same living water is said to flow from us if we have His Spirit. (John 7:38)

Spiritual Application

What we can do is search out the spiritual application of these portions. It seems to me that the rabbis may have some wisdom yet again in this area. Perhaps we should be focusing on what comes out of our mouths and how that affects our physical bodies and life situations. Our particular circumstances may be a direct result of our big, fat mouths.

Mar 7:14-16  And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand:  (15)  There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.  (16)  If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.

Mar 7:20-23  And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.  (21)  For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,  (22)  Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:  (23)  All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

Messiah, to those that have an ear to hear, explains what it is that defiles us: the words that come out of our mouths. May we be a people with clean lips that need not cover our mouths shouting, “UNCLEAN, UNCLEAN”!

Perhaps, the primary lesson to be learned here is so simple that we miss it. If  tza’ra’at or worse breaks out on a person that speaks against Moses or the Levitical Priesthood, how much more so on those that speak against Messiah and the Melchisedec Priesthood? Selah.

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