Posts Tagged With: works

Brotherly Love Part I

The next couple of articles will be a two part series by guest poster Kendall Watson. Kendall is not only my sister in Messiah, she is also my sister in the flesh. 🙂 Her heart in this vital message echoes my own. I pray it blesses you during this season of Elul. May we never forget the Spirit of the Commandments, which is Love. – K. Gallagher 

 

img_0360By Kendall Watson

During the month of Elul, it is said that the “Father is in His fields”. He is searching His people and seeking intimacy with His Bride. He longs to be with His children. If only His children would draw close enough to “shema” His voice. That is, if only they would listen and obey. What is His message, you ask? I believe the Father is telling His children to love not only Him but love one another as well. Love is a concrete thought. In Hebrew, love is not just an emotion but also something you do. In other words, someone can say that they love you all day long, but if their actions are not behind those four letters, then the word love means nothing.

In a healthy family, it is natural to love one’s parents. However, the love for one’s siblings is not only different, it is also more difficult. They are the competition for the parent’s affections. Consider what parent’s do for children. When they fall down, parents pick them up. When they cry, a parent’s loving embrace provides comfort and safety. Parents root and cheer for their progeny’s efforts at sporting events. They celebrate every accomplishment of the child as if they were the ones receiving the award. And if there is only one cookie left in the cookie jar, guess who gets to enjoy every bite? Not the adult, of course. Mothers and fathers sacrifice large and small everyday for their children…because they LOVE.

Children don’t generally reciprocate this type of love to their parents. While they certainly love, that love is expressed differently. Parents love, nurture, and discipline with wisdom. In a way, mothers and fathers pour out their very lives to give their children the best opportunities in this world. Over time (in a ideal home setting), the child intuitively learns this truth. This is why the child expects the last cookie, and why the parent usually gives it to them. Even in the most brutal homes, there is evidence from psychiatric studies that the children long for mom’s and dad’s love and approval. In our example, the cookie is simply the child seeking these things.

On the other hand, brothers and sisters don’t love one another quite as sacrificially, do they? Consider your childhood (if you had siblings.) Brothers and sisters aren’t usually very nice or giving. When we fell down, they were usually the one who had pushed us. When we cried, it was usually a brother that had hit us. Over and over again, jealousy takes over siblings in a rivalry. This enmity has its own mantra, “Mom and dad loves me more than you“.

Siblings incite one another with their words. “Oh, you won an award? Well, guess what? Mine is bigger!” Sister ate the last cookie in the cookie jar with a smirk on her face. She smugly thinks to herself, “I’m faster, smarter, and well, just plain better than you kid“.

img_0366Needless to say, contentions among siblings are too numerous to count. Praise the Father for the children that grow out of the immature bickering, and learn to love one another unselfishly. There is much to learn from these family dynamics. Sadly, many never overcome the battles of youth. Instead, they choose (or are forced) to not communicate with family members due to past hurts, jealousy, or other issues.

What spiritual significance can we learn from these life lessons? Loving YHWH is easier than loving our very imperfect and often immature siblings. I submit to you that Moses, Yeshua, and the disciples speak of these very things in the Word. When Yeshua was asked what the greatest commandment was, He answered:

You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it; You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt.22:37-40, Mark 12:29-31,Luke 10:27-28)

This teaching was not new. Those with trained ears heard the words of Moses coming from Messiah’s lips.

” Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” (Deut. 6:4-6)

“You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord”. (Lev. 19:18)

To love the Lord, is to keep His commandments. For it says,

If you love Me, keep My commandments” John 14:15

He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me, And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and reveal Myself to him”. (John 14::21) 

How many times have you quoted these scriptures to a challenger of your beliefs? Maybe you’ve even quoted them to someone that is curious about why you don’t eat pork. Is it wrong to quote scripture? As Paul would say, “Certainly not!” What I am submitting to you is to consider the Spirit behind the commandments. The question I was confronted with not so long ago was, “Who in me, is keeping the commandments?” And the second internal question was, “Is this pleasing to my Elohim?” I hate to admit that I did not get an “A” on this test. My response to the first question was: Me. My answer to the second question was: Yes! Of course! I honestly couldn’t see anything wrong with my answers. I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, at least by the letter.

Torah portion “Ekev” caused me to reevaluate my answers to this “test”. Ekev means heel. The heel is the lowest part of the body. It can be likened to the “nefesh” or “flesh”. For example, Jacob grasped the “heel” of Esau, who is the epitome of the beast or flesh. Jacob overcame the “heel” or flesh and was later named Israel. Hence, in portion Ekev, this is what stood out to me:

“Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth. ‘you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm His covenant that He swore to your fathers, as it is this day”. (Deut. 8:17-19) 

“Do not say in your heart, after the Lord your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to possess this land, whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out before you” (Deut. 9:4) 

“Know, therefore, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people” (Deut. 9:6) 

The Father has delivered us from bondage, brought us to the wilderness to test us and show us love, and now He is giving us land flowing with milk and honey with houses that are already built and vineyards that have already been planted. But, be careful! Don’t forget who delivered you and brought you into this good land. The temptation is to think that it’s all about ME. To put it another way, one may think that they have this “keeping the commandments” thing all figured out.

It’s a deep, slippery pit when we haughtily begin to think, I’m the one following the commandments, so I have to be doing something right.” Or: “Maybe everyone should keep Shabbat and keep kosher just like me. If only everyone could see what I see. Sigh… Then we all could get along. Until then, I’ll separate myself from all these sinners.”

Yikes! Thoughts like this are very dangerous. The Father is the reason ANY of us keep the commandments. It is YHVH that gives us the strength and power to do anything. It is by His mercy that we even see one of these precious “Words” or “Utterances”. When we act out the commandments in our own strength, we are nothing more than a dry, parched branch needing to be burned. Yeshua reiterated this here:

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who remains in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” (John 15:5-6)

Fruit in the Greek concordance is karpos (2590), and can mean “the result of” or “result”. When we read the scripture from this point of view, what Yeshua actually states is, “He who remains in Me, and I in him bears much results. If you do not remain in Me, you are a branch that is withered and needs to be burned”. In the Greek, burned is kayo. [1] While this word is often translated as “burned”, it also means “light”,[2] which is reminiscent of these verses:

“Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your vision is clear, your whole body also is full of light. But when it is poor, your body is full of darkness. Be careful, then, that the light within you is not darkness”. Luke11:34-35 

“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20) 

We as a people, for the most part, focus on the literal application of the above scriptures. We tend to associate these things with those we deem on the “outside”. Few in Messianic circles argue that we each need Yeshua’s atoning sacrifice to inherit Life, which inspires obedience to the commandments. But our zeal often overshadows a vital component to our walk. The temptation is to forget the works of Messiah and focus on our own. When the emphasis shifts from Messiah’s loving salvation to our own works, the resurrection Spirit is left out and all that remains is a bag of fleshy letters. This “other” spirit has the tendency to put burdens on others in the Body because they begin to believe that they “know what’s best”. Unknowingly, the person working in the flesh is taking the life giving Torah and twisting it to bring death to the Body of Messiah.

Could this be one of the spiritual applications of “boiling a young goat in its mothers milk?”

“You shall bring the choice first fruits of your soil into the house of the LORD your God. You are not to boil a young goat in the milk of its mother.” (Ex. 23:19) 

In Part II, we will continue with the notion that boiling a kid in its mother’s milk is rooted in first fruits that are not of Messiah, loving our brother, or the weightier matters of the Torah.


[1] Strong’s G2545

[2] It’s translated as “light” in Matthew: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. (Mt. 5:14-15)

Categories: Moedim, Musings | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 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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