Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Lost Sheep

In Turn to HIM, I wrote that the parable given by Yeshua of the prodigal son could be explained thusly: 

The Jewish people are the prodigal son while the Gentile church are the son who stayed home.

I now believe this is in error. (I will hopefully correct this in the manuscript at some point but for now it will need to suffice that I correct this error here on the blog.)

I now believe that the parable deals with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. That is, the lost sheep of the house of Israel (who were dispersed and divorced by the LORD due to their unfaithfulness) are the prodigal son, while the house of Judah are represented by the son who stayed home.

Gentiles are among the lost sheep as the house of Israel were dispersed among them (and many lost their identity as Israelites), but they are not the focus of the parable. This seems completely obvious to me now and it's amazing to me that I got it so badly wrong for so long.

What's more, Yeshua tells us directly in Matthew 15:

"I was only sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."

In addition, Yeshua instructs his disciples in Matthew 10:

"Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." 

Seems pretty obvious when you really think about it, no?

And this leads to a further conclusion, and an important one. If anyone should still need good reason not to proselytize-especially to members of the house of Judah-this is it. Yeshua didn't come for them but to bring the lost sheep back. Later, the house of Judah and the house of Israel will be reunited-and this is already beginning. But the message and purpose of Yeshua's coming is for the lost sheep of the house of Israel-those who were dispersed. He tells us so!

So don't worry if the house of Judah rejects Yeshua's mission because it makes perfect sense that they might reject Yeshua's mission. Not only for the reason that the misguided Christian church (which Yeshua never came to setup) persecuted Jews throughout history, nor only for the reason that they have so much of Judaism so wrong, but for the reason that His mission wasn't for them to begin with. And, this isn't to say that all of the house of Judah do reject Yeshua's mission or deny its validity, it's just to say that it's not a big deal if the house of Judah does. 

The house of Judah and the house of Israel have suffered each from adding to Scripture and taking away from Scripture. Judah added more (on the whole) and Israel took away more (on the whole). Examine the parable of the prodigal son and you will see how this was all revealed by Yeshua.

Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the LORD.

יהוה הוא ישועה

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

I thought I knew how to pronounce The Name and then...

I thought I knew how to pronounce The Name (YHWH) and then I read this page by Michael McHugh:

He also has videos, which are perhaps easier to follow if, like me, you're not fluent in Hebrew.

This is truly humbling and enlightening. So much I don't know. Thank you Michael!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Tribalism is death

Does YHWH consider a person holy because of their blood or because of their actions?
This question, which at first may seem merely rhetorical, is in fact a serious question. It's serious because too many believe they are part of a 'holy race' simply because of their blood, their genetics. Yet when you ask this serious question it should become obvious that YHWH isn't interested in your blood line or genetics, but what you do with it.

Unfortunately, it isn't obvious to everyone and because of this there has developed a twisted sense of tribalism. Twisted because some may have the false idea that they are special and therefore exist outside the normal scope of human condition. In short, they feel they are chosen and therefore-that's enough.

But this notion is absurd and is clearly against scripture. The sages knew this to be true. In Jacob Neusner's book on the theological system of Rabbinic Judaism, he points out (perhaps without meaning to) that there is no God-given oral Torah (if you still believe that the so-called Oral Torah was God-given you really should study Neusner's work), and that as far as the sages were concerned, the conditions for being an Israelite are not bound up in blood but in relation ship to Torah:


Before you think I'm advocating anything akin to replacement theology, let me be clear: I'm not. Replacement theology is abhorrent to me. However, it should be considered: was YHWH simply trying to preserve the bloodline of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Or, was He trying to keep the Israelites pure in the sense of their worship and actions? It seems clear that it is the latter which is of most concern. After all, how many times does the LORD instruct the Israelites to steer clear of marrying foreign women so that they don't fall into adopting their practices? How often does He warn them not to leave any of the Molech worshipers in the land because He doesn't want them to be polluted once again by idol worship?

In other words, it's very little to do with trying to preserve 'precious genes' or genealogy. The important thing is preserving YHWH's teachings and the way of living that was instructed. So why is tribalism death? Because it's misguided, leads to absurd violence, to inbreeding that can cause birth defects (some of which was prohibited by Torah anyway-likely for that reason), to a false sense of superiority and self-confidence. But most importantly, because it leads away from the truth which should be a focus on right action and holy living-not tribe and blood lines. 

So don't play at identity politics and tribalism. Don't fight among brothers and sisters. Let's preserve peace among ourselves and be humble. Let's remember to keep His commands. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

What Yeshua (Jesus) actually taught about divorce

What you've been taught that Yeshua (Jesus) taught about divorce vs what He actually taught. 

Source by David Bivin.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

What am I?

In Avner Valer's excellent interview with historian David Belhassen there is a section where they discuss the topic, 'Who is a Jew?' Belhassen nails it when he points out that the question shouldn't be 'Who is a Jew?', after all, there were 11 tribes beside the tribe of Judah. Rather, the question should be, 'Who is an Israeli?' (not in the modern state of Israel sense, but as in Who is a son of Israel?). It's amazing that one doesn't hear this point made more often, but then it goes against the grain and rubs many the wrong way. (Another pet peeve of me is that people don't use terms like Anti-Jewish/Anti-Israeli or Anti-Judaic but instead use the broad term Anti-Semitic, when there are plenty of non-Jews/Israelis who are Semitic. But that is another topic...)

Back to my point, there is much truth to what Belhassen says and he's correct that a son of Israel is a son of Israel no matter what. After all, it's in the blood-literally. But I do diverge somewhat with what he says in that there is another view that posits that being an Israelite has more to do with living with and in obediance to YHWH's Torah. This is a view expressed eloquently by the late Jacob Neusner in his work on Rabbinic Judaism. (I should note that while I disagree with much of Rabbinic Judaism, Neusner's discussions of Mishnah and of some of the teachings are very worthwhile to anyone who wants to learn as much as possible about the many Judiasms.) And on another point, the LORD Himself, Blessed be He, spoke to Moses that those who broke the commands given should be cast out from their people. So I would only say to Belhassen, what good does it do to be technically an Israelite by blood but have your people and the LORD against you? In this sense, the LORD can-in effect-remove you from being an Israelite.

From here, things get complicated. According to Neusner, it is those who live with, follow, and study Torah who are Israelites-that is to say, are after God's own heart. But who is included in this? Are Gentiles? 

It would seem that-at least as far as being grafted into the tree-the answer to this question would be a yes. But of course that doesn't mean there isn't a distinction between the two. I suppose an apt analogy would be one tree, many branches.

For my part I struggle with the question, "What am I?" Certainly, I have enough evidence from my ancestry and other clues (see the book Suddenly Jewish to know what I mean by this) to figure that I must have some Israelite ancestors. The Hebrew names that are littered throughout both my Father's and Mother's families gave me an initial shock when I first discovered them. But on the other hand, I don't have 'proof' do I? There are no temple records. Most who would know for certain are long since dead. Lingering anti-Jewish sentiment makes people bury their heads in the sand (again see the book Suddenly Jewish) and not want to discuss it. (I've literally seen ancestry message boards where people detail the denial they have found when trying to get to the bottom of Hebrew ancestry-not pretty.) 

I no longer consider myself to be a Christian. No longer Anglican. No longer Protestant. But I don't see myself as being Jewish either. For one thing, best I can tell my ancestors came from the tribe of Levi, so not a member of Judah. But beyond that I really don't want to embrace tribalism and I certainly don't want to find myself in the grips of someone else's identity politics. No, that is just not for me. So I suppose the best I can do is consider myself an Israelite, given my beliefs. 

But can I? Dare I? It seems so bold, so assertive. Am I really ready to say that? Yet I don't have a good label. Do I need a good and succinct label? 

Here are some sentences that I can't quite reduce to quick labels:

I believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
I believe YHWH is the only salvation.
I believe Yeshua is YHWH.
I believe YHWH is One.

How do I reduce these into a label? I can be assured many wouldn't agree with my using the label of Israelite. Yet, if I embrace the teaching of YHWH Elohim, what does this make me?

'Son of Torah'? (In the Hebrew sense of 'son' I can see this making sense though I think I'd feel pretentious saying this.)

I don't think there is an easy answer to this and I don't want an easy answer. I'm not looking for a new religion. I am areligious in that sense. God doesn't want us to be religious. He wants us to worship Him daily in acts of kindness to others, acts of repentance for our mistakes, and blessings of thanks to He that brings bread from the earth.

To me, these are the essence of Torah, and yes, the essence of the teachings of Yeshua (Jesus). And if living according to Torah doesn't make one an Israelite, then I don't know what does.

In the end, I may never find a proper label. But it is difficult when I think to myself-how do I describe myself? Not just to others but to myself. How do I do that? I've certainly gone through some major identity issues over the last couple of years. I know what matters deep down is what's been revealed to me by His spirit, His voice, His hand. I have been blessed beyond what I could imagine and beyond what I could possible deserve-but then I cannot question Him.

So I will keep looking and keep questioning. I will probably think inwardly-Israelite-while I look for another label. But I will endeavor to put the desire for an easy label somewhere off to the side and try and focus on more important things. I have a feeling He will reveal the answer to me when the time is right. 

Monday, February 27, 2017

Timeline of Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Jesus/Yeshua

In my book Turn to HIM the following to diagrams (of my own design) are included. After much study I have concluded that these timelines best fit what actually happened.

The first diagram independent of our week days so the chronology just represents the passage of time without trying to match up to particular days.

The second diagram includes days of the week.

Let me know what you think by sending me an email or contacting me on Twitter. Please get your free copy of Turn to HIM and purchase it if you want to support this blog. Thanks for reading! Shalom.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The greatest page Jacob Neusner ever wrote

In Judaism in the Beginning of Christianity, Jacob Neusner wrote what is in my opinion the greatest page he ever wrote, anywhere. Reproduced in full, that page is:

The ancient rabbis look out upon a world destroyed and still smoking in the aftermath of calamity, but they speak of rebirth and renewal. The holy Temple lay in ruins, but they ask about sanctification. The old history was over, but they look forward to future history. Theirs, as we see, is a message that what is true and real is the opposite of what people perceive. God stands for paradox. Strength comes through weakness, salvation through acceptance and obedience, sanctification through the ordinary and profane, which can be made holy. Now to informed Christians, the mode of thought must prove remarkably familiar. For the cross that stands for weakness yields salvation, and the crucified criminal is king and savior. That is the foolishness to which the apostle Paul makes reference. Yet the greater the "nonsense"—life out of the grave, eternity from death—the deeper the truth, the richer the paradox! So here we have these old Jews, one group speaking of sanctification of Israel, the people, the other of salvation of Israel and the world. Separately, they are thinking along the same lines, coming to conclusions remarkably congruent to one another, affirming the paradox of God in the world, of humanity in God's image, in the rabbinical framework; of God in the flesh, in the Christian. Is it not time for the joint heirs of ancient Israel's Scripture and hope to meet once more, in humility, before the living God? Along with all humanity, facing backward toward Auschwitz and total destruction, and forward to complete annihilation of the world as we know it—is it not time?
It is time for Jewish and Gentile believers to bury the hatchet and come together in humility to worship the one true and living God. The Holy One, Blessed be He. YHWH. I wish that more on each side of the large divide could study with a humble eye all of the shared history and shared beliefs and set aside centuries of error. Setting aside blame, and looking upon one another as brothers—one the prodigal son, the other the son who stayed put and toiled away—is the way forward.

The works of great scholars such as Neusner and Edersheim shed light on the places where beliefs and practices overlapped in the first centuries on either side of Jesus/Yeshua, and it is on these shared beliefs and customs that we must focus if we are to learn and grow. In the intervening centuries, Judaism and Christianity would become religions, separate and one might even say wholly unrecognizable to what they were in their infancy. This isn't to suggest that Judaism had been static up until the destruction of the Temple. However, it is worth noting that the feud which essentially exists between these two faiths rests on those centuries of misunderstandings and interpretations that most certainly wouldn't be recognized by our first century ancestors in belief.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Torah: can we be observant and what is its purpose?

I'm writing this because it makes me sad to see believers in YHWH Elohim arguing online about Torah (aka the Law) and whether or not we should be 'keeping' it or are 'under' it. Given the beauty of YHWH's teachings to us, the misunderstandings and arguments are a grievance.

Before I continue, I need to establish some definitions. Firstly, by Torah, I'm speaking of the written word, and not the Oral Torah (so-called). I don't argue that Oral Torah doesn't exist, nor that it's not useful in its own unique way, but I do not believe it was handed down from the Almighty to Moses, and from Moses to others. Why do I believe this? Scripture makes it plain to us (e.g., Exodus 24:4) as does the Babylonian Talmud (e.g., Tractate Aboth Ch. 1 pg. 2 Aboth of R. Nathan). In addition, Jacob Neusner makes it clear, perhaps inadvertently, in his book on Rabbinic Judaism that the Oral Torah is a collection of writings which record mankind's struggle to understand and implement the teachings in life.

Second, by the Law (used interchangeably with Torah) I mean Torah (as defined above) and that as teachings/instructions given by the Almighty out of love to guide us in life. A good reference and reading on the nature of the law can be found on the Bible Scholars site (part 1 and part 2) and additional links below. I want to underscore the distinction here because I will only reference Torah; the use of 'the Law' I think has done great damage to the understanding and implementation of YHWH's words and intent.

Those definitions out of the way I endeavor to make the following points:

(1) There is really no way to be 'Torah Observant' and the idea that it is necessary to be so is misguded.

(2) We are not to abandon Torah, but are to live under it. When I say live under it, I mean that we are to study and cherish it, because YHWH gave us teachings so that we may prosper. He tells us as much.

To begin with the first point (1), I say that there is no way to be 'Torah Observant' for the very simple reason that there is no Temple and no Tabernacle within which to carry out all of the Levitical commands. By definition, this means we cannot be 'Torah Observant'. We can try our best to mimic the offerings but we really cannot, and I would argue, should not. The Temple and Tabernacle were commanded to be built in time and space by YHWH for specific purposes in that time and space. That time and space has elapsed and we are now in a new time and space in which the Holy One, blessed be He, has put us. 

Furthermore, and on a more personal and practical level, I'm not going to stone anyone anytime soon. I do not believe that YHWH would want us to do so and if you believe, deep down, that we should if only we could, I encourage you to read scripture carefully, as well as the sources I've provided in this post. I'm also not going to take anyone as a slave, despite there being specific rules and customs regarding slaves in Torah. Think carefully about how these words applied in a very specific way to the Israelites in their time and space, and also how they apply to you in a different but related way, in your time and space.

Now, to segue to the second point (2) should any of us want to be 'Torah Observant' and is that necessary? I would argue that the LORD has made clear that He has always desired for His will to be written on our circumcised hearts (Deuteronomy 10:16; Jeremiah 4:4 and 9:25). Jeremiah 9:25 is especially telling, "The days are coming when I will punish the circumcised yet uncircumcised"). And how can we circumcise our hearts? This is a complicated matter but one thing we must do is study YHWH's teaching, His Torah, and by holding it dear to us-through this we apply what we learn into our actions-showing mercy and kindness to our brothers..

In order to properly understand the reason for Torah an analogy may be helpful. Torah was given in much the same way that strict rules are given to an immature teenager. When the teenager becomes an adult and (hopefully) matures, the commands are not needed to be followed in a strict manner. Why? Because they have been written into the person's heart and soul, and they carry out those rules with all of their strength. As YHWH is our loving Father, can we not understand that this was His intent all along?

We need not argue among ourselves any longer. We should love, study, and cherish YHWH's teachings which he has given to us, but we should not fool ourselves into thinking that the intent was for us to carry a heavy burden He always knew we could not keep perfectly. In the same way that a loving parent gives a child strict rules which they know the child will break, so YHWH gave the children of Israel impossible commands. He wanted them to do their best and he always warned them before he punished them, as a loving Father does, but He knew the best way to teach them and teach us. Furthermore, by Moses' own words, YHWH knew that the Israelites would fail, just as a loving parent knows that his child will fail-yet still loves him.

There is another great danger which I have also seen which is that people want to ignore Torah altogether. This is a mistake. The problem is that we need to strive for correct understanding and application of the teachings of YHWH in the proper context. Our context is today, as we live, in the world in which we live. YHWH understands this and has always understood. Of course He has. There is always something for us in Torah. And by all means, man's commentary on Torah can be very helpful and thought provoking, we just have to make sure we are listening to YHWH, and not men, no matter how good their intentions, because men sin-YHWH does not sin.. 

Therefore, do not push a heavy yoke of Torah onto your brother but show him the easy yoke of Torah study. Why is it easy? Because to study it and understand it removes the heavy yoke of ignorance and helps us to remain faithful to YHWH. And what is the heavy yoke of Torah? To blindly misunderstand and misapply Torah by trying to keep something perfectly which has always been outside mankind's grasp. And no matter what, do not discard Torah as that is the most foolish thing of all. For how can you cast aside instruction, which you have never studied and have not learned, and be wise?


For more on this topic I highly recommend the following books:

His Name is Yawheh by Neil Snyder - I'd categorize this as must-read material for any believer.

The Torah's Goal - One for Israel's great book on the subject. Must-read material also.

Finally, please download your free copy of my book Turn to HIM  and share with family and friends.