The Seeds of Today’s World have been Sown; The Stage Set
As the solar year comes to a close with terrorism on the rise and an uncertain future looming ahead of us, we read the concluding chapter of the first book of the Torah. Endings require summations – sort of an accounting of where we stand and where we are headed.
Fifteen years have passed since the dawn of the 21st Century. Just as we entered the new century, our comfort zones were rattled by the attacks of September 11, 2001, serving as a unwelcome precursor of events to come; a rude awakening to the world in which we now live.
To understand and make some sense of these turbulent times – both the physical times and the spiritual ones – we must look behind the scenes, into the historical forces which have led to and shaped our current universe. We need to travel beyond these world shaking events study the spiritual events of these times, as related in the weekly Torah portions that we have been reading these last months…
To read more of this post from Meaningful Life Center, pleaseclick here
Due to some pressing concerns, I am going to take a break from commenting on the Torah portions. During this period, I hope to re-organize some of the longer pieces into more manageable bites to help new people study and grow.
In today’s post, I wanted to share some recent happenings in our household that made us go back and look at all of the Scriptures concerning the Sabbath, which you can find posted here.
AP photo by Markus Schreiber
In between the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks and the December 2015 shooting in San Bernadino, at 4 a.m. one morning I heard Abba whisper, “Above all, keep My Sabbaths.” In prayer later, Abba reminded us that to keep Shabbat means to guard it intentionally, intently, and vigorously,. He reminded us that a guard–a soldier– is fully dressed, fully armed, and fully alert–ready at all times to deal with intruders.
Now, honoring the Sabbath is definitely a priority in our home–and has been for years. But, a few weeks ago, circumstances arose on Sabbath morn that tempted us to do something that we thought would demonstrate love to a “neighbor.” However, the outcome proved that we had acted unwisely. At the end of the day, much to our chagrin, it was clear that our blessed Sabbath had been stolen from us. The next morning, before we bowed our heads before Abba, we rehearsed the circumstances of the day before and realized we had not prayed before we acted. We had just assumed.
Thankfully, nothing tragic resulted. Abba mercifully let us experience chaos and confusion, as well as disappointment and embarrassment. The person we were attempting to help did not appreciate our efforts in the least, we got lost along the way, and we were sent back home with our “good ideas.”
It was very obvious that Abba was trying to get our attention. I went to bed exhausted and feeling defeated. The next morning at 4 a.m. I heard His voice clearly, “Above all, keep My Sabbaths.”
As we drew near to Him that morning to repent for acting out of human reasoning the day before, Abba reminded us that the Jews who kept Shabbat in Paris were at home safe and sound during the attacks. Further, He reminded us that Messianic believer Nicholas Thalasinos had lost his life at a Christmas party at the Health Department where he worked in San Bernadino—not exactly a kosher event for one who professes to embrace God’s Torah as a lifestyle.
It seemed that Abba wanted us to know that, in this day and hour, it is more important than ever to make sure we are where we are supposed to be, and to be who we are supposed to be–moment-by-moment. He reminded us that, more than the Jewish people have kept Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept them. We ended our prayer by thanking Him for the faithfulness to the Jews throughout history who have guarded His holy days and holy ways and, as well, preserved the Hebrew Scriptures so that we can hold them in our laps. We humbly thanked Him for being so merciful to reveal the blessings of His Sabbaths to the gentiles and to hide us under His talitwhile we learn to walk with Him.
A couple of days ago I came across a true account on chabad.org that I had read some years ago in Small Miracles for the Jewish Heart about a young lady whose life was preserved because, above all, she kept the Sabbath. I hope it will be as meaningful for you as it has been for me. Shalom!
Twenty years ago I realized that I had fallen for a lie. It was the so-called American Dream. My parents’ mantra had been, “You are smart. You are a hard worker. You can be anything that you want to be.” The culture told me, “Work hard, make a plan, set a goal, meet the goal, be happy.” Well, I did those things and the end result was that though I had everything a person could desire, nice home, fat retirement account, net worth of $1 million plus, I was pretty miserable.
The misery was beyond my understanding. My career was the envy of every other Realtor in the county where I worked. Along with the builder that I represented, I had been handed an absolute goldmine. With seven solid years behind us, we were poised to open a 500 lot golf course subdivision in a highly desirable area just outside of Charlotte, NC. Yet, all I could think about at the awards banquet in December 1994 was the dread of having to trudge through another year with a smile on my face.
I can never thank God enough for introducing Himself to me the following June as “the God who sees” and the “the God who provides.” A few months later I locked the office door for the last time and went home. Before I left, as I took down the framed certificates and awards, and piled the trophies into boxes, I remember thinking that if it was all piled up and set ablaze, the evidence of an 18 year career would disappear in a minute or two.
Years later, I realized that my problem had been an identity crisis. I had been trying to make myself into something and the result was an idol on a billboard that I bowed down to every day but could never satisfy. My blessed Father intervened and sent me 9000 miles away from family and culture for two years to Zimbabwe begin to teach me who I am in Him as a citizen of the Kingdom. He began by challenging me to read through the Bible, large sections every day, year after year. Soon, broad themes began to unfold that I had never been introduced to in church.
Like keeping Sabbath, for example. By assembling every passage concerning the subject, I began to get an idea of how precious it is to God and understand how wounded He is that we have disregarded His instructions concerning it. Here is the compilation. That exercise was such an eye opener for me that it soon became a habit for me to assemble everything He has to say on many other subjects. (It is a very simple procedure with free software from E-Sword.)
When one isolates “the whole counsel of God,” as Paul puts it (Acts 10:27) on any subject, God’s expectation usually comes into sharp focus. At times, it clashes with what we have been taught and, admittedly, that can be pretty scary. But, I told God in the fall of 1995 after I realized how deceived I had been about the American Dream, “I never want to be deceived again! I want the TRUTH and I don’t care how much it costs me.”
I had no idea then what I was saying. And I have to tell you that I have since then encountered things that I didn’t really care to learn, which made it necessary for God to whisper to me, “My child, do you still want the TRUTH?
Yes, indeed, the search for truth can be a bit frightening. It requires testing what one believes to be true against the perfect Word of God. It also means testing other paradigms that may seem strange. But, we can do that with confidence that God is our Helper. Jesus told His disciples He would send the Comforter to “guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).
Think on that one for a minute. The disciples had walked with God-in-the- FLESH for 3-1/2 years and yet there was still truth for them to encounter? The Bible clearly defines truth. The psalmist wrote, “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever. (Ps. 119:160) “Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth. (Ps. 86:11).
Jesus prayed for His disciples, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Thy word is truth” (John 17:17). Jesus quotes the psalmist, thereby putting His seal on the conclusion.
Why is the search for truth so important? It is because truth brings freedom from bondage, sickness, pain, heartache, and burdens. Eight times Moses exhorts the children of Israel that God gave His instruction, “that it may go well for you.”(Deut. 4:40, 5:16, 5:33, 6:3, 6:18, 12:25, 12:28, 22:7)
Eight, in Hebrew thought is the number of new beginnings. So, we should pay very close attention. Moses was instructing the Joshua Generation who were about to go into the land that God promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that if they obeyed, things would go well for them. But, like their forefathers, whose carcasses were strewn in the desert, they did not listen.
David was a great warrior king with a shepherd’s heart who loved God and loved God’s people. He was filled with the Holy Spirit (Ps 51:11) and had much favor from Heaven. With all of that, we have to wonder why he had to suffer so much in regard to family matters.
Two of David’s sons tried to wrest the throne from him, to his great grief and their destruction. One of his sons raped one of his daughters. His son Solomon totally disgraced himself and all Israel by having 700 wives and 300 concubines that ultimately led him to build temples to foreign gods and sacrifice his children to Molech. This resulted in God splitting the Kingdom and giving the Ten Tribes into the hands of a king who would set up TWO golden calves! What a mess!
Perhaps David’s family history would have been different if he had paid more attention to God’s instructions. For example, it is forbidden for a king to “multiply wives.” (Deut.17:17) God intended man to have only one wife from the Garden of Eden; yet, David had at least nine. Had he meditated on the miserable account of Jacob’s dysfunctional family, which consisted of four wives and their children (a cultural norm, but not God’s best), David could have avoided the competition, jealousy, and contempt in his own household.
But, are we any better? What chaos, pain, heartaches, grief, and burdens have we made our children suffer because we would not listen?
The Torah commands a king to personally write his own copy of the Torah and to read it all the days of his life (see Deut. 17:18-19). While David may have failed to keep this commandment, we can be assured that King Messiah most certainly kept it!!
Should we do any differently?
If we are willing, the Holy Spirit will lead us into “all truth.” But, we have to be willing to eat the unleavened bread, the word of God minus traditions and opinions. Truth is Jesus and Truth is His Word. They are one and the same, the “whole counsel of God.” Not that I think in any way that I have arrived at “all truth.” I have had to backtrack several times in my quest, after being alerted by the Holy Spirit that I had settled for “tradition” or “opinion” rather than truth. May our prayer and resolve be to never stop short of it.
Faith like Abraham’s is costly. It requires giving up culture, father’s house, comfort zone, the right to choose where to live, where to go, and what to do when you get there. It means walking by the voice of God alone [His written word and His personal, private, jealous guardianship] regardless of what anyone else says. It is not easy, nor is it comfortable. But, it is well worth it because, even in the face of chaos or confusion, when you know you are in alignment with His Word, and when you know you have heard His voice, you can remain steady in the trial, even at Mount Moriah. “…Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws” (Gen. 26:5). What a legacy!
I am fond of saying that we who have multiple copies of God’s word, wondrous tools to dig into it, and more leisure time than any previous generation to take advantage of these things, are the most blessed people who have ever lived on the planet. Dear friends, to whom much is given, much is required! We will be held accountable for all of the contents of our Bibles.
In closing, “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” (John 21:7) exhorts us to keep God’s commandments. Could that be one reason Jesus so loved him so much?
And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. (1 John 2:3)
Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (1 John 2:4)
…and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. (1 John 3:22)
Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. (1 John 3:24)
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. (1 John 5:2)
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. (1 John 5:3)
And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. (2 John 1:6)
How did we miss this for so long?
Please, please consider putting away the daily devotions and commentaries for a while. Let the TV rest for a season. Leave the computer, magazines, and cookbooks. Come aside for a while and immerse yourself in the Bible–and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into all truth.
I will close with the beloved disciple’s fervent prayer. “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul” (3 John 1:2).
My experience in the twenty-plus years that I have been pursuing Sabbath-keeping bears out that if I want a peaceful home, if I want Yeshua to fight my battles and be my rear guard, it is up to me to prepare for and honor His holy day. The promise is that if we do so, He will cause us to delight in Him and to ride on the high hills of the earth (Isaiah 58:13-14) and give us a name better than sons and daughters (Isaiah 56:1-8). In this post you will find a collection of all of the verses and passages that speak of the Sabbath and the Seventh Day, some 200 references. I invite you to spend time meditating on them. You might be surprised, as was I, at the calamity which Abba says came upon Israel and Judah for their lack of taking the fourth commandment seriously.Could it be that as Christians, the source of our sickness, financial lack, family chaos, national woes, and strength of our enemies be because we refuse the 4th commandment?
Held up to Scripture, neither brand of Replacement Theology fits the patterns and promises that God has given us in His Word. For example, the Scripture says, “For the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). Where do the prophets foretell that God will forsake or replace His chosen people? Where can we find a covenant with the gentiles?
Three times Scripture declares that God’s covenant with Israel is for “a thousand generations.” This is crucial because Jesus, Moses, Paul, and the author of the Book of Hebrews all endorse the principle that a matter is established by “the mouth of two or three witnesses.” (see Deut. 17:6, 19:15, Mat. 18:16, 2 Cor. 13:1, 1 Tim. 5:19, Heb. 10:28).
Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations. (Deut. 7:9)
Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered, O offspring of Abraham, his servant, children of Jacob, his chosen ones! He is the LORD our God; his judgments are in all the earth. He remembers his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant that he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac, which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan as your portion for an inheritance.” (Psalm 105:5-11)
O offspring of Israel his servant, children of Jacob, his chosen ones! He is the LORD our God; his judgments are in all the earth. Remember his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant that he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac, which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan, as your portion for an inheritance.” (1 Chron. 16:13-18)
The books of the prophets are filled with references that at the end of days God will gather His people from the ends of the earth and return them to the Promised Land. This regathering will be from all twelve tribes, not just the Jewish people, one tribe. Replacement theology entered into Christian doctrine because, for most of history, “Israel” was understood to be the equivalent of “the Jews.”
But, ever since the Jews began their return to the homeland, God has been awakening people all over the earth to the fact that anyone who is in covenant with Him has been grafted in to redeemed Israel. This is exactly what Paul teaches in the book of Ephesians when he declares that though the “uncircumcised,” who are “saved by grace through faith,” were once “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise,” they are now “fellow saints and members of the household of God built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone.”
What many have missed until now is that the name of the household of God is Israel. God calls Himself “the God of Israel”over 200 times. The redeemed remnant of Israel is the Body of Jesus/Yeshua, not to be confused with the modern state of Israel, although many there are certainly a part of redeemed Israel. Redeemed Israel includes all of the saints from Genesis to Revelation.
If God is our Father, and, if He is the Father of the Jews, then we are family, even if we don’t see eye to eye. Many Jews believe in Messiah and are panting for His appearance. The reason they don’t recognize our Jesus is mostly our fault, as we discussed in Torah portion Miketz 2015. Have they made mistakes, too? Yes! We have to stop pointing fingers. We have to repent, forgive, and reconcile. We have to forgive like Joseph did. We have to start acting like family as this world grows darker. We need each other! When Messiah comes, He will straighten out the errant thinking on both sides of the “narrow way.”
Note that Paul asserts that the “household of God” is built on the prophets, on Jesus, and on the apostles. With this statement, Paul presents three witnesses. Therefore, any interpretation of Paul’s writings that does not align with Jesus and the prophets needs to be reevaluated.
Starting with Moses, the prophets foretell that in the end of days God will give Israel a heart to obey Him.
“And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the LORD your God has driven you, and return to the LORD your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul, then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you. If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there he will take you. And the LORD your God will bring you into the land that your fathers possessed, that you may possess it. And he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. And the LORD your God will circumcise your heartand the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. And the LORD your God will put all these curses on your foes and enemies who persecuted you. And you shall again obey the voice of the LORD and keep all his commandments that I command you today. (Deut. 30:1-8)
A new heart for God’s people is what the New Covenant is all about, according to both Jeremiah and the writer of the Book of Hebrews.
“… I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel! Behold, I will bring them from the north country and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the pregnant woman and she who is in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here. With weeping they shall come, and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back, I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble, for I am a father to Israel… “Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.’ For the LORD has ransomed Jacob and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him…(see Jer. 31:1-10)
‘Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people’ (Jer. 31:31-33).
The writer of Hebrews quotes Jer. 31:31-33 almost verbatim: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Heb. 8:8-10).
The writer of Hebrews declares that the problem was with God’s people, not with His covenant. Quoting Jeremiah, he explains that God will correct the problem by giving His people new hearts. We know this part of the New Covenant is still yet to be fulfilled because both writers declare that when it happens we will have no need to teach our families and our brothers, for everyone will know Him. “And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” ( Jer. 31:34, Heb. 8:11-12)
What a glorious day that will be! We also know that this is a future fulfillment because God promised Abraham that his descendants would be as the stars of the sky and the sand of the sea. The Jewish people claim to be roughly 14 million in number today, approximately .2 percent of the world’s population. Does that sound like the sand of the sea? Where are the rest of Abraham’s seed? Please consider watching “The Lost Sheep” by 119 Ministries.
The prophet Ezekiel also bears witness that God will give His people a new heart. “But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came. Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. And I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations” (Ezekiel 36:21-28).
Actually, Ezekiel alone gives us three promises of a new spirit and a new heart. (11:19, 18:31, 36:26)
Jeremiah promises that when Israel receives her new heart, she will return to God with her whole heart.“I will set my eyes on them for good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up, and not tear them down; I will plant them, and not pluck them up. I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart” (Jer. 24:6-7).
Even more exciting, when this happens, God promises to do something with His whole heart! “I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.“ (Jer. 32:41)
Isaiah paints Israel as barren widow, “briefly forsaken,” who will bear much fruit from the “Lord of Hosts,” her “husband” and “maker.” (read chapter 54). Hosea tells us that Israel will be betrothed to Him “forever” in “righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy.” (see Hosea 2:19-20).
So, as you see, we find many witnesses in the prophets that God has not abandoned Israel or “chosen” someone else. Does Jesus Himself give any indication that God’s plan for Israel would cease or be replaced? To the contrary, He demonstrates that the Old Testament is His source of doctrinal authority when He says, “The Scripture cannot be broken,” (see John 10:35).
Further, He declared emphatically that He did not come to abolish God’s law. As far as Jesus is concerned, God’s law will exist so long as Heaven and Earth remain. “”Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat. 5:17-19).
In His oft quoted pleading with His Father prayer that His followers would be one as He and the Father are one, Jesus also prayed, “I have given them your word…sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth…for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth (see John 17:14-19). Here Jesus quotes Psalm 119:160“The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever. Jesus viewed the Old Testament as true and eternal.
It was the Old Testament that Jesus used to reveal Himself to His disciples on the road to Emmaeus after His resurrection. “Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures,” (Luke 24:27). The church has largely failed to convince the Jews that Jesus is their Messiah because the church does not present the Messiah that the Jewish Scripture portrays. For more about this, please see the Torah portion Miketz 2015 for shadows of the Messiah in the Joseph narrative.
Jesus rebuked the priestly aristocrats, the Sadducees, saying “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God,” (see Mat. 22:29). What about us? Do we understand the Scriptures? Do we even understand what the Bible identifies as “Scripture”?
Biblical scholars agree that Paul’s letters could not have been written until at least forty years after Jesus’ ascension and the gospels were not written until at least 70 C.E. The point is that at least one-quarter of the New Testament is direct quotations or references to the Old Testament. Thus, we have to understand that the purpose of the writers is to expound and explain what the writers longed to see, like, for instance, the mystery of the gentiles being grafted into the faith.
Whenever the New Testament uses the term “Scripture” and “Scriptures,” with the exception of one verse, it always references the Old Testament. Oddly enough, that single usage involves a warning from the Apostle Peter in regard to Paul’s letters. You can view that along with the entire list of other usages of “Scripture” and “Scriptures” here.
In conclusion, Replacement Theology stems from a lack of understanding that the covenants and promises given to Abraham, whose seed we are (Gal. 3:29), are eternal. Redeemed Israel is the “one new man” (Eph. 2:15), including both Jew and Gentile who enter into covenant with the God of Israel by repenting of their sins, forsaking the traditions of men that make the word of God of no effect, and walking in His ways.
I know what you are thinking. “But, what about Paul?” That subject is a bit too complex to include here; but, please consider an excellent video by 119 Ministries entitled “The Pauline Paradox Series-Part One”
‘Tis the season for understanding what the season is all about! In a few days much of the world will celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Messiah of Israel and the world whom I have come to know by His Hebrew name, Yeshua. Of course He was not born on the 25th of December, which leads to the question of why that day was selected for the occasion. The answer to that question is not in this blog post. Two years ago this article,Silent Night in September, was the first post to appear on The Barking Fox. Then, as now, it is offered as a resource to the curious about when Jesus was really born.
We are poised for a dramatic climax this week as Joseph’s identity is unmasked. In last week’s cliffhanger, the brothers went to Egypt to buy grain from the brother they had sold, though his Egyptian appearance rendered him completely unrecognizable. Thus, we saw a type and shadow of Messiah stripped of His Hebrew identity. Continue reading Vayigash 2015 (he came near)→
Joseph’s forgiveness not only changed the course of his family; it changed the course of the whole world. If Joseph had not been in Egypt, the Egyptians would have all perished along with Jacob’s family.
Had Joseph not been willing to surrender his hurt, his bitterness, and anger, there would have been no nation of Israel and no Savior born in Bethlehem. As Paul Boese has said, “Forgiveness does not change the past; but it does enlarge the future.” Several years ago, my mother’s decision to forgive also changed the course of my family’s life.
In 1979, when I was 27 years old, my mother phoned her four children and asked us to meet with her. That Friday evening we gathered at my parents’ home to learn that our father had fallen in love with a woman, one year my senior, at his workplace, and that he had left Mom to live with her. We were as shocked as were Joseph’s brothers when he identified himself.
We had been raised in the church. Daddy had even been a Sunday School teacher. When I learned that “the woman” had left a husband and three young children to be with our dad, my astonishment turned to judgment and hatred. Mom, on the other hand, was deeply wounded, but never held a grudge. And, after a period of time, she made the decision that family gatherings must include all of the family. She invited my father and his wife to come to holiday and birthday events, most of which were held at my home. Although I tolerated Nancy, I still nursed hatred in my heart toward her for the pain that she had caused our family.
But, one day, somebody handed me a book. I don’t recall the title or the author; but, if memory serves me correctly, it was a thin red book that could easily be read in one sitting. The author proposed that if a difficult situation or person were placed in one’s life, one could treat the person or circumstances as if it were a tailor-made gift, and thereby receive power over the hurt and frustration. I do not recall it being written at all in a religious context; but, it certainly contained the principles of being grateful for all things and offering complete forgiveness.
My first reaction was to throw the book across the room!
I could not imagine under what circumstances I could ever be grateful for Daddy’s wife. However, the book would not let me go and eventually wrestled me to the ground. To make a long story short, eventually I chose to treat Nancy with respect even though I still harbored resentment. I chose to send her birthday cards and little gifts. I chose to develop a relationship with her. And, over time, the truth is that I came to love her.
Over the years I have searched for the book that led me to forgive my father and his wife; but to no avail. I have come to the conclusion that the same angel that wrestled with Jacob brought me the book and wrestled with me.
The end result of the matter was that near the end of Daddy’s life, for two-and-a-half years, upon their request, I lived with Daddy and Nancy. It happened that he was about to start dialysis three days a week and Nancy’s place of employment was one hour away. We all thought it would be only for a few weeks, until Daddy adjusted to the process and was able to drive himself. That never happened. From the beginning, he left the dialysis center absolutely exhausted. I would drive him home, give him lunch, and help him to bed for a nap that lasted most of the afternoon.
By the grace of God I was free at the time to answer Nancy’s call for assistance–and I knew deep in my heart it was a divine appointment. During those years Nancy and I were knit together closely and she told me more than once that she could not have made it without my help. We laughed a lot as people tried to figure out which one of us was the daughter and which the wife—being so close in age.
Nancy was the perfect wife for Daddy and they had nearly thirty years together. Their kindness and tenderness toward one another was constant, even under some very difficult situations. The great bonus was that God blessed Nancy with training as a physical therapist and gave her a great job working with seniors. As Daddy aged, she took it all in stride, and used her education and experience to manage his deterioration with great grace, much patience, and even humor, until his death. She became–and still is– a very valued member of our family, especially to Daddy’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren, including my own.
We would have missed all of this had not my mother chosen to forgive. Eventually, Mom recognized her fault in the breakup of the marriage and went so far as to write a letter to Daddy and Nancy, as well as to all of her children, to ask forgiveness for not being the wife that the Bible prescribes. Afterwards, I noted a freedom in her that had not been present before and I realized I had come into that freedom myself as I also chose to forgive.
Mom is today in her mid 80’s, in remarkable health and living with zeal and purpose. She has the privilege of being able to relate many miracles of God’s provision and intervention on her behalf. I have often wondered how different that might be if she had chosen not to forgive.
A couple of years ago a family member misunderstood a situation and said some very hurtful things to me. I left without defending myself and came home and wept bitterly due to the sting of his words. On my knees, I remembered Jesus’ example and made up my mind to forgive. Then and there I began to pray blessing upon every area of his life and I did that daily for several weeks. Every time the memory of the hurtful words came back to me, I fought the bitterness and anger that threatened to overcome me by praying blessings out loud upon his health, his home, his workplace, and everything he set his hand to accomplish. I also asked two prayer warriors to pray for me and for the person who hurt me. On his birthday I sent a humorous card and wrote a note to let him know that I did not hold any hard feelings towards him. Within a few months his stance toward me was softened. With a year the relationship was completely restored. In the interim he made a statement that, in effect, echoed Judah’s statement to Tamar, “She is more righteous than I.”
I can also share the testimony of a close friend who chose drastic forgiveness. Upon the tragic death of her daughter and son-in-law, the daughter’s mother-in-law proceeded to make all of the funeral arrangements and all of the arrangements concerning the future of the two grandchildren. My already wounded friend was not consulted in any of these matters; she was merely informed. It was extremely painful and she fell on her face and cried out to God. She felt that He instructed her to take her hands off and trust Him. After a short time of wrestling, she surrendered.
Now, you have to understand, my friend has never been a particularly strong person; but, a great miracle occurred at the funeral home. She absolutely radiated the love of God. She held her head high and was poised and confident. She did not shed a single tear; further, she was so anointed with grace that she ministered to the brokenhearted people who came. I will never forget that night!
As the years went on, she rarely saw her grandchildren. At times she had to battle bitterness and we would pray together. We prayed blessings upon the other grandmother, and not only for her; but for all of her children and grandchildren.
As my friend’s grandchildren became adults, they sought her out. Now, it is obvious that she holds a special place in their hearts, as well as in the hearts of her great grandchildren. I think that people who choose drastic forgiveness hold a very special place in Abba’s heart. Like my mother, my friend has amazing testimonies of God’s protection, intervention, and favor in her life. “Forgiveness does not change the past; but, it enlarges the future.” I can say amen to that!
We are created in the image of God. I think we are most like Him when we can say, even when not asked, “Paid in full! Debt cancelled!” I have another precious friend who knows all about drastic forgiveness. She has a piece of artwork in her home which says, “People need loving the most when they deserve it the least.” Who knows but what God hasn’t specifically arranged for us to be an injured party so that we will plead with Him to restore the person who so desperately needs healing?
So, I ask you today, is there anyone you have not completely forgiven? Is bitterness hiding in your heart? Start to treat them “as if” they are the most precious gift from your Heavenly Father and quietly watch Him transform your world and theirs. Persistently, pray blessings upon their health, their marriage, their marriage bed, their finances, their children, their grandchildren, their future grandchildren, their relationships, their workplace, all of their relationships…etc. It won’t happen overnight; but it will happen. One day you will have a freedom that you cannot imagine. And, one day, you will see the relationship restored.
We ended abruptly last week with Joseph in prison, the cupbearer had forgotten him, and the sages surmised that God added two more years to his time in jail because he looked to the cupbearer for help instead of continuing to trust in God. But, perhaps, circumstances were not yet ripe for Joseph’s reappearance. Continue reading Miketz 2015 (at the end)→
In light of Paul’s admonishment about the “Holy Scriptures” (Rom. 1:2, 2 Tim. 3:15) and, in light of Andy Stanley recently advising the church to “unhitch” from the “Old Testament” perhaps it is good to revisit exactly what the New Testament declares as “scripture.” (Note: this is not in ANY WAY to indicate that the writings of the apostles are NOT inspired of Yah; but rather to make clear that they wholly relied upon the torah, the writings, and the prophets as the Word of Elohim.) What was earth-shaking to me when I completed this study a few years ago is that there is only ONE verse in the New Testament which is not a reference to the Tanach. You might be shocked, as I was, to see what it was.
This document has been compiled with the use of E-Sword to demonstrate that when the New Testament writers made use of the words “SCRIPTURE” or “SCRIPTURES” they were speaking of the Old Testament. Continue reading Exactly what is “Scripture”??→