The Daniel Dilemma—Who Am I?

The Daniel Dilemma—Who Am I?

The Attempt to Rename Me

When I was a child, I (and all my friends) wanted new names. We chose for ourselves names that evoked fantasies about great strength or mystical powers or whatever captured our fancies. My best friend, whose last name was Ball, desperately wanted to be called Crystal. But it wasn’t what we called ourselves that really mattered; it was what we answered to.

Written in the Stars

In The Daniel Dilemma, Chris Hodges talks about naming his children. He and his wife chose a Biblical name and a family name for each of their children, naming them intentionally. So did my husband and I. Our children’s names mean “Ruler / God has been gracious,” “Grace / Pure,” “Victorious / Friend,” “Descender / God is my judge,” and “Clear / Consecrated.” Some of them have grown up into their names, and others—not so much. Still, they are young and God isn’t finished with them.

My given name is Susan Elaine, which means Lilly / Light. As I began to grow in God’s word, I was struck by the fact that when God changed Abram to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah, the meaning of their names didn’t change as much as the added “ah” was the breath of God. That’s when I changed my name to Susannah. The meaning is still the same, but the spelling includes the breath of God.

But we adopt many names throughout our lives. Sometimes we allow circumstances to define us. We take on the name of a disease, tragedy, rejection, betrayal, and words that tell us who we are like “stupid” or “fat.”

We can let the culture around us define us, or we can call on God to tell us who we are. Satan would love to persuade you that you are not who God says you are. And if we listen to him, we will live out what he says.

But by the same token, if we listen to what God says, we can live out His name for us. Which do you choose?

The Daniel Dilemma Week 2

The Daniel Dilemma Week 2

Right? Or Righteous?

As we look into Daniel’s residency in Babylon, we find him mired in a culture that has the dubious distinction of being known as one of history’s most decadent. It was in this context that Daniel—”God is my judge”—proved his faith. Despite the rebelliousness and moral decline of his own people, Daniel remained steadfast.

After the reigns of David and his son, Solomon, the people of Israel split into two kingdoms: the Northern Kingdom comprised ten tribes and the Southern Kingdom included Judah and the tribe of Benjamin (Daniel’s tribe). The Northern Kingdom began worshipping idols. Despite God’s repeated warnings through His prophets, the people ignored God and continued on their path to destruction. Finally, God sent Assyria to take them captive. The kingdom was destroyed.

Even with the northern tribes’ example, the people of the Southern Kingdom did not learn. Ignoring their own prophets, they slid into idol worship, too. That’s when God sent Babylon to capture them. The “nation” of Israel was no more.

But God always preserves a remnant for Himself and it was Daniel’s part to exemplify that remnant. Through all the times of his captivity, he never caved to pressure or threat. Instead, he trusted God and left himself in God’s hands. Was God trustworthy? Indeed!

Daniel was probably a teenager when he was taken to Babylon, perhaps sixteen years of age. He lived the next seventy years of his life in a pagan culture that shifted through the reigns of four different emperors. Each emperor saw himself as a god, but Daniel’s faith never wavered. His God was always God.

Why was it so important for Daniel to be respectful yet uncompromising? God granted Daniel great influence with the Babylonian emperors because of his steadfast faith. He saw friends subjected to the torture of the fiery furnace and was himself tossed into the lion’s den. But through it all, Daniel was faithful to God and God was faithful to Daniel (and his faithful friends). In the end, his influence allowed Israel to return from their captivity.

In today’s culture, there is great pressure to tolerate everything. But the American language continues to evolve, changing definitions to accommodate Satan’s agenda. Making words mean something different is one way to change society, and today tolerate actually means embrace.

This is where the rubber meets the road. Daniel had the key: respect and resolution. He did not disrespect anyone, yet he was resolute in his faith toward God. He didn’t have social media to present a scathing judgment against those who didn’t believe as he did, but he also didn’t compromise God’s standards so that he would be received by those with whom he differed. In fact, it was because of his uncompromising behavior that he gained influence with those in power. Even when plots were hatched against him and his very life was threatened, Daniel continued to trust and glorify God. When God came through for him—and He always did—the powers that were had no choice but to recognize His God.

Influence. Today it is defined to mean the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself. Tomorrow it may be hijacked to mean something completely different. What will always be true is that godly character in the midst of a perverse generation will effect a profound change.

Be the change.

The Daniel Devotional

The Daniel Devotional

Week One: 1 January 2020 | 4 Tevet 5780

This weekly devotional is taken from the insights I gained from reading The Daniel Dilemma, by Chris Hodges (with a forward by Lysa TerKeurst). If you would like to read along with me as I take this year to study how to “Stand firm and love well,” you can purchase the book from this link at Amazon. There is also a study guide, but I will not be using it as I study this book.


Truth without grace is mean.
Grace without truth is meaningless.
Truth and grace together are good medicine.

Chris Hodges
Author, The Daniel Dilemma

Our world is in chaos. How do we hold to the truth in love?

The Woman Caught in Adultery

Looking for a reason to condemn Yeshua, the Jewish leaders had dragged a hapless woman from the very bed in which she and her lover lay (notice that only she was accused of adultery). Was this a set-up? Most assuredly. But the Jews weren’t setting up the woman—they were setting up Yeshua. 

The Pharisees themselves probably weren’t guilty of being the sex partner; they kept strictly to the law. But it was likely they who convinced someone to take this woman to be so that they could catch her in the act. His identity was protected. Hers was not.

As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”

They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger.

John 8:3-6 NLT

Yeshua was not concerned about her sin as much as He was about the sins of the Pharisees. “Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools” (Romans 1:22 NLT). They were the leaders of the people; what they said and did would be accepted as  right.

But Yeshua showed a better way.

They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”

Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman.

Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

“No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

John 8:7-11 NLT


The woman caught in adultery

We see it every day on television or in social media. Words designed to assassinate character and ruin lives. If we enter into that conversation (and we must), then we should learn how to do it in love and with compassion not only for those who are maligned, but for those who malign as well. Only when we are willing to make the Word of God (Yeshua) our standard will we be able to help calm the chaos.

There is a balance to be sought here. We must balance the word of truth (God’s standard) with the reality of His love and His grace to cover our sins. 

How can we expect those who are lost to ever come to Jesus if what we say is: “You are sinful and going to hell.” In essence we are telling sinners that God’s love doesn’t cover their sins unless they are like us.

We become paralyzed by extremes. Either we are battle weary and give in by accepting everything, or we polarize and refuse to participate. Yet there is another way. This devotional study will focus on a man who was thrust into a culture surprisingly very much like our own. He discovered how to stand firm and still be the calm in the cultural storm. His name was Daniel, meaning “God is my judge.” Because ultimately, He is.

Why Learn How to Read and Write Cursive in Hebrew?

Why Learn How to Read and Write Cursive in Hebrew?

Occasionally, I’ll have a Hebrew student who insists that he (or she) doesn’t see the need to learn both block script and cursive script when studying Hebrew. When I hear that, I have one response.

“You don’t have to learn both ways, but if you don’t you are cheating yourself.”

Yes, it’s true that most printed materials in Israel are written in block script (and usually without vowel points, called nikkudot). However, private correspondence is usually written in cursive. Many labels are also written in cursive, so shopping might be a bit difficult if you only read block script. And then there’s graffiti…

You can buy this coffee mug from Israeli-t.com
You can buy this coffee mug from
Israeli-t.com

One of my students who didn’t want to learn cursive sent me a bit of graffiti she saw on a wall, and she had no idea what it said. So she asked me to translate for her. It literally means “the people of Israel are alive,” but is usually translated “Israel lives.”

The thing is, Hebrew doesn’t have upper-case and lower-case letters. It has only one alphabet and all the letters have the same “x-height.” It does have some ascenders and descenders, such as in the letters khaf sofit (ך) and lamed (ל), which go slightly above or below the baseline, but most of them fit neatly between a top line and a bottom line. (Actually, Hebrew “hangs” from the topline rather than sitting on a bottom line as English does.)

When we learned English in elementary school (or kindergarten), first we learned block print (I learned the stick-and-ball method) and we learned both upper-case and lower-upper-case letters. Call that 2 alphabets since there are two forms of each letter. Then, later on, we learned cursive, which also has two forms. So that’s a total of 4 alphabets we learned so we could read and write English.

Hebrew only has one set of forms for each of two scripts, block and cursive. Learning to read and write in Hebrew cursive should certainly be no more difficult than learning to read and write in both block and cursive scripts in English!

Which Promises Belong to Christians?

Which Promises Belong to Christians?

Can Christians Claim Promises Made to Israel?
Can Christians Claim Promises Made to Israel?


I recently read a post regarding the promises in the Bible. It said that some of the promises were made only to the nation of Israel and some only to Christians.


I disagree.


Let’s start out by defining what a promise is. It the Tanach (Old Testament), the word translated “promise” is דָבַר (da-bar), which means “speak or promise.” It first appears as promise in Genesis.


“For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD
 by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD
 will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”

Genesis 18:19 (NIV, emphasis added)


This was a promise to an individual, specifically Abraham. God had promised a child through Sarah who would be called “the son of promise.” Now, if you look at the promise as one of the flesh, you don’t foolishly think that you will have a baby at 90 or 100.


But if you recognize that Scriptures in the Tanach are spiritual as well as temporal, you can see that the promised son, Isaac, was a type and a shadow of the Son of Promise who was yet to come, Jesus of Nazareth. That promise was made to the entire world.


He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 2:2 (NIV, emphasis added)



Isaac’s near-sacrifice was a type and shadow of the sacrifice Jesus would make for the whole world. Abraham believed God’s promise to make his offspring a blessing to all the families of the earth (Acts 3:25). He did not hesitate to do all God spoke (דבר) to him because he understood that God’s promises are yes and amen.


“For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.”

2nd Corinthians 1:20 (NKJV)


Next, we have to look at whom the promises apply. The article I read divided them into those for Jews and those for Christians. The problem with seeing things that way is that it ignores the Book of Romans


“For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same LORD is Lord of all, bestowing His riches on all who call on Him.”

Romans 10:12 (ESV)


What are His riches but the promises made to His people?


The next chapter in Romans describes to us who His true church is.


“But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.”

Romans 11:17-18 (ESV)


Yes, I realize that salvation is the issue here and that Jews and Gentiles alike gain salvation in the same way. But what may not be so apparent is that Gentiles are grafted into the same tree that represents the nation of Israel. Jews who believe in Yeshua haMashiach (Jesus the Messiah) remain Jewish and all the promises relevant to them as Jews still remain. They do not leave Judaism behind and become Christians, as though it were a separate way. There is only one way, through Jesus. The law never was meant to save them—in fact, it could not—yet Jesus diligently kept God’s law.


“…since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the Law by this faith? Absolutely not! Instead, we uphold the Law.”

Romans 3:30-31 (Berean Bible)


There is a great misunderstanding about what Jesus came to do. Most Christians think that the law has been done away with, but according to Jesus Himself, that is not true.


“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

Matthew 5:17-18 (NKJV)


Zayin represents a man with a crown on his head
Zayin represents a man with a crown on his head


A “jot” is the smallest letter of the Hebrew alef-bet, called variously yud or yod. A “tittle” is the crown-like marking above some of the letters (particularly the letter “zayin,” which represents a man with a crown upon his head).


Jesus was saying that He was making the law “full.” The Jews kept the letter of the law but ignored the weightier matters. That is why He said the following.


“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.

Matthew 5:21-22 (NKJV)


Therefore, the law and the prophets were not done away with; in fact, Jesus kept all the laws to the letter. He did not, however, put restrictions upon the people that came from the traditions of man instead of from God.


If a Jew becomes a believer in Christ, he does not cease being a Jew. When a Gentile becomes a believer in the Jewish Messiah, he does not become a Jew. Instead, both of them become something entirely new—followers of the living God.


“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.”

Romans 8:16-17


To sum it all up, there is one Scripture in particular that states it all quite clearly.


“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, killing the hostility.”

Ephesians 2:11-16 (NKJV)


If we are separate from Jews who believe in Messiah yet retain the promises given to Israel, then the wall has not been torn down and the “one new man” does not exist.


There is no Christianity apart from Christ’s own faith and He is a Jew and heir to all the promises. When we are saved, we become heirs of all the promises because there is no difference between Jew and Gentile. If anyone can claim the promises of God, it is Yeshua Himself, and we in Him.

[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column]
[/et_pb_row]
[/et_pb_section]

Thoughts on Eternal Security

Thoughts on Eternal Security

Iron sharpens iron

Recently during a Bible study with friends, the subject of “once saved, always saved” arose. I expressed that I believed that once you were saved you could not “lose” your salvation. One of the other members did not agree. She was fully convinced that you could, indeed, lose your salvation and pointed out several verses of scripture that were difficult passages to argue with.

My constant prayer is that the Holy Spirit will enlighten my understanding, give me the mind of Christ, and direct my thoughts, words, and actions. I told my friend that I would go do some soul-searching and Bible reading to see if I had simply believed what I had been taught, if my understanding of scripture was inaccurate, or if my belief was well-founded.

Define that, please

I did a lot of praying and reading. Why did I believe that I couldn’t lose my salvation? I decided I needed to understand the Biblical definitions of some key words.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

What does eternal mean? Taken from the Greek word aiōnios, it means in this context everlasting, without end, never to cease. The other two meanings don’t fit the context (click link G166 ).

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting G166 life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” (John 5:24)

Both times, and in fact 17 times in the book of John alone, the word eternal means “without end.”

So then I needed to understand what it meant to believe. There are a lot of meanings for the Greek word pisteuō g4100, and unfortunately, many think that someone who adheres to “once saved, always saved” includes the meaning of the word which is translated “mere acknowledgment of some fact or event: intellectual faith.” Of course—and quite honestly—I do not believe that someone who says “magic words” is saved. Instead, and I think more biblically, this definition is more appropriate. “Used especially of the faith by which a man embraces Jesus, i.e. a conviction, full of joyful trust, that Jesus is the Messiah — the divinely appointed author of eternal salvation in the kingdom of God, conjoined with obedience to Christ.”

What does it mean to be conjoined? For this one, we need a regular dictionary, since the word is not in the Bible, though the concept is. The Dictionary.com defines conjoined as “joined together, united, or linked.” Not just acquaintances, but deeply associated like brothers.

“Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;” (John 8:31)

Believers—true followers of Jesus—continue g3306 in His word. Jesus said His disciples indeed continued. They did not depart (except Judas). The Greek word menō is defined as “a primary verb; to stay (in a given place, state, relation or expectancy):—abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand.”

So now I have a better understanding of what Jesus meant when He told Nicodemus that those who believed in Him would have eternal life. Those who joined themselves to Jesus in unity and continued in His word were His disciples.

So what about those hard passages?

My friend was fully convinced because there are passages that seem to say if you start down the path with Jesus and then fall away, you can’t be redeemed again. And she’s right—kind of.

“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” (Hebrews 6:4-6)

What does “to fall away” actually mean? Another word for it is apostasy. John MacArthur defines apostasy this way. “Apostasy can be defined as someone who, with full knowledge of the gospel, full knowledge of the message of Scripture, turns against it in a final act of rejection” (emphasis mine).

Two people in the New Testament who immediately come to mind are Judas and Demas. Judas spent three years in the company of followers of Christ, seeing all the evidence of His messiahship, with all His teaching and miracles. Yet Jesus called Judas a devil! Judas hadn’t yet betrayed Christ, but Jesus knew that he wasn’t a true believer, despite having been enlightened, having tasted of the heavenly gift, and having partaken of everything the other disciples had. He ministered with them, ate with them, fellowshipped with Jesus, yet was not of them.

Demas was ministering with Paul until he (Demas) quit. He didn’t continue, though he had followed Paul and heard his teaching and saw the miracles Paul performed. He heard, saw, tasted… but didn’t continue. He didn’t fall away, he simply walked away.

So the impossibility of being renewed again unto repentance is because all that can be said has been said and all that can be done has been done and yet it was all eventually rejected. There is nothing else left for that person. Jesus cannot be sacrificed again for them; His sacrifice was once for all.

“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” (1 John 2:19)

This scripture shows that continuing with them was what would confirm their discipleship. How long to continue? Until the end.

“While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.” (John 17:12)

Perdition is the Greek word apōleia, meaning the destruction which consists of eternal misery in hell. Judas’ very nature was perdition. He was never a true believer, as demonstrated when Mary poured the expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet.

“This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.” (John 12:6)

Now let’s look at another hard scripture.

“And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)

If you take this scripture alone, it appears to say that once you start walking with Jesus, if you reconsider, you have fallen away. But does it?

Let’s look at the scriptures immediately before it.

“And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.” (Luke 9:57-61)

Each one of these men called Jesus Lord. Each one of them said they would follow Him. Note that these men made “professions of faith” and yet did not follow Jesus, though they said it was their intention. Did they really fall away? From what? How can you “fall away from the faith” if you never truly even had it?

In the parable of the wheat and the tares, the servants couldn’t tell the difference between them. The Master told them not to tear them out lest they also tear out the wheat. They grew up together until the harvest, and then the tares were burned. Only the Master knew which were tares and which were wheat. We, as servants, are not called to make that distinction.

One last thought

“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:22-23)

I believe there are many who call themselves Christians but do not “continue in His word.” They perform many good deeds and preach as though they are truly His followers. But they do not continue! At some point they deny the faith that they have earlier espoused, thinking that all the good deeds they’ve done will allow them to depart from His word. This final denial cuts a person off from salvation. That is the “falling away” of which the Bible speaks, in my opinion. Constantly being fearful of losing your salvation cannot be what Jesus had in mind. How many times did He say “fear not”?

Perhaps you still don’t believe in eternal security. But please, don’t live in eternal insecurity!

If you are saved, you will continue to the end, even if you have doubts. Your inheritance is guaranteed by the Holy Spirit who has put His seal on you. Once He bestows on you eternal life, it is for eternity.

“And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: AND, LO, I AM WITH YOU ALWAY, EVEN UNTO THE END OF THE WORLD. Amen (Matthew 28:17-20
Two Pool Healings

Two Pool Healings

two pool healings
The city of Jerusalem in 1st century AD (Yeshua’s day) with the pool at Bethesda and the pool at Siloam indicated by red circles.

Yeshua healed at two pools. What is the difference?

John 5:2-9 TLV: Now in Jerusalem there is a pool by the sheep gate, called Bethzatha in Aramaic,[a] which has five porches. In these a crowd of invalids was lying around—blind, lame, disabled. ()[b] 5 Now a certain man had been an invalid there for thirty-eight years. Seeing him lying there and knowing he had been that way a long time, Yeshua said to him, “Do you want to get well?” The invalid answered Him, “Sir, I have nobody to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up. While I’m trying to get in, somebody else steps down before me!” Yeshua tells him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk!” Immediately, the man was healed! He took up his mat and started walking around. Now that day was Shabbat,

Footnotes:

  1. John 5:2 Lit. in Hebrew. Bethesda (Heb.) means House of Mercy. Bethzatha (Aram.) means the place of poured out water.
  2. John 5:4 ASV adds: They waited for the water to be moved. Other mss. also add verse 4: because an angel of the Lord sometimes went to the pool and moved the water. Then, whoever went into the water first was healed from whatever disease he had.

Why this is relevant to me (and maybe you)

Recently, I received a healing from the Lord that delivered me from a life of being a cripple to walking totally unassisted after receiving a prognosis from my doctors that I would never again walk unassisted. (Read the story here.) I will not reiterate it here, but I want to show you something I have recently learned that will add a great deal of insight into what I believed happened.

First, we need to look at the location of two of Yeshua’s healings, both at pools in Jerusalem, and compare them. The first happened at the pool of Bethesda, as iterated above. I want you to look at the location of the pool of Bethesda in the map at the top of this post. As you can see, it is to the right of the Temple, just outside, and in front of the Roman Fortress of Antonia. Before we go on to the next healing, I want to tell you a little about the geography of the city.

In 37 BCE, Herod the Great conquered Jerusalem. He rebuilt the Second Temple and expanded the surrounding complex, adding new walls to the city that enclosed the area that was previously outside the walls of Jerusalem. (By the time of Yeshua’s ministry, Herod Antipas was in power. He was Herod the Great’s grandson.)

The beliefs of Rome involved many gods, including one called Asclepius, who was the son of Apollo and the deity credited with healing. His symbol was a staff with a serpent entwined about it. Maybe you recognize it as a modern-day symbol of medicine. (Many people mistakenly think it comes from the Old Covenant story of the bronze serpent in the story of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness.)

The location of the pool of Bethesda was outside the actual confines of the Temple and the old city of Jerusalem. It was a pool where the people who worshipped Asclepius as the god of healing came to be healed. (The explanation of the angel stirring the water was added on and is not in the older manuscripts, so chances are the scribe who added it was trying to make sense of the story. In fact, if the pool did stir, it was more likely that the stirring was caused by the serpents that were allowed to swim in the water believing that they would hasten healing.)

In addition to being outside the city proper, the pool at Bethesda was right in front of the Roman Fortress of Antonia. This is important to know because it is likely that the fortress protected the pool and its pagan god.

What happened at the Pool of Bethesda

Would it make sense that Yeshua, a devout Jew, would be walking in a pagan site of healing, around the pool of Bethesda? Well, yes. In fact, Yeshua often went where the “proper Jews” would never set foot, because they were concerned about defilement. Yeshua never had that fear. In Luke 11:7-17, we have the story of Him raising a dead boy and giving him back to his mother. It specifically says that “He touched the bier.” In the understanding of the Pharisees, Yeshua would have therefore been ritually unclean. However, Yeshua doesn’t consider this at all.

So to see Him walking in a pagan site would be well within the realm of possibility. In fact, He came to call sinners to repentance, and what better place than where they were gathered? In fact, Yeshua testifies that the man at the pool at Bethesda is a sinner. He tells him in John 5:14: 14 Afterwards, Yeshua finds him in the Temple. He said to him, “Look, you’ve been healed! Stop sinning, so nothing worse happens to you.”

What happened at the Pool of Siloam?

John 9:1-7 . As Yeshua was passing by, He saw a man who had been blind since birth. His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?” Yeshua answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned. This happened so that the works of God might be brought to light in him. We must do the work of the One who sent Me, so long as it is day! Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, He spat on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud on the blind man’s eyes. He told him, “Go, wash in the Pool of Siloam” (which is translated Sent). So he went away, washed, and came back seeing.

In this story later in the Book of John, Yeshua heals a man born blind. (Are the Master’s disciples remembering the man at the other pool whom Yeshua said was sick because of his sin?) This man was not guilty of a sin, and he was told to wash in the pool of Siloam. Why?

The pool of Siloam was the pool from which the priests got water for ritual purposes. If you look at the Temple in the map above, it is quite clear that the pool of Siloam was quite a distance further than the pool at Bethesda. Yet instead of just stepping through the Sheep Gate which was right beside the pool of Bethesda, the priests would make the trek through the city to the pool of Siloam. That makes sense when you realize that Bethesda was the site of a pagan pool and not a sacred one.

Why was one man a sinner and the other not?

We don’t actually know what sin the man at the pool of Bethesda committed, yet it certainly could have been unbelief. This man was a Jew because later on, we find him in the Temple. So why was he at a pagan place looking for healing? The man had been ill for thirty-eight years. He spent at least his recent time at the pool of Bethesda, where it was said that miraculous healing occurred. Yet he wasn’t healed. He couldn’t get into the water quickly enough “when it was stirred,” so when Yeshua asked him if he wanted to be healed, he answered in a way that meant he hoped Yeshua would get him into the pool. He did not know who Yeshua was.

So what does Yeshua do? He simply tells him to get up, take up his bed, and walk. The man walks away without the benefit of the pool’s miraculous healing without even knowing who it was who healed him. It wasn’t until later when Yeshua tells him to stop sinning lest something worse come upon him that he finds out Who his healer is.

By contrast, the man at the pool of Siloam wasn’t even waiting to get healed. He was simply beside the way. Yeshua informs His disciples that the man is not guilty of sin and neither are his parents. Then He touches the man and tells him to wash in the pool at Siloam, and the man returns, seeing.

What this says to me.

A week or so before God healed me, He brought the man at the pool of Bethesda to my mind. In response, I considered, did I want to be healed? While that may seem strange, I thought about how I had aligned my thoughts with those of my doctors who said I would not walk again. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I didn’t believe that God could heal me. I even told my doctors point blank, “You don’t know my God!” But while others were praying for my healing, I was actually praying for peace in case God could get more glory that way. (How that would happen I had no idea!)

In retrospect, I now wonder if I wasn’t accepting the words of the doctors and identifying myself as a cripple. Once I looked at the man at the pool of Bethesda, I came to an understanding: I wanted to be healed. So I quit thinking the thoughts of the doctors and asked God to heal me.

And you know what? He did!

Now I take to heart what Yeshua told the man: Go and sin no more lest something worse happen to you.

Disclaimer: please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that availing yourself of medical means of healing is wrong. I am not telling you to quit taking your medicine or think that you are in sin for going to the doctor. God answered me according to His plan for me; He will answer you according to His plan for you.

Hebrew WOW: נעלב

Hebrew WOW: נעלב

To be offended
To be Offended

Ne-elav means to be Offended

It happened again. I allowed a measuring spoon to fall into the garbage disposal and it got bent out of shape. When my husband said, “Sweetie, again?” I got bent out of shape. Not my intention, for sure, but as they say, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

This time, though, I immediately went to God in prayer. In my spirit, I groaned, why am I so easily offended? I want to flow in Your love, and an easily offended spirit isn’t there.

“It is not rude; it is not self-seeking, it is not provoked [nor overly sensitive and easily angered]; it does not take into account a wrong endured.” (1 Corinthians 13:5 AMP)

We know that “the love chapter” in 1st Corinthians tells us that love is not easily offended. The Greek word for “offended” is παροξύνω (pronounced paroxynō), and means easily provoked to anger, irritated, or offended.

So how does the Tanach (Old Testament) treat this idea?

Proverbs 17:9 is translated “He who covers an offense promotes love; But he who repeats a matter separates best friends.” However, the word used here is not “offense,” but “transgression.”

Proverbs 19:11 says this: “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger. It is his glory to overlook an offense.” Again, the word translated “offense” is “transgression.”

Only twice in the Tanach does the word מִכְשׁוֹל appear, meaning “offense.” The most well-known passage is in Isaiah 8:14, where the Messiah is called a “rock of offense.”

The same idea, “rock of offense” (σκάνδαλον), in the New Covenant is pronounced “skandalon” and is where we get the English word “scandal.” And what is this scandal? It is that Jews and Gentiles have equality in that they must both approach the Messiah in faith. Works won’t work, so to speak.

To the Jews, who for thousands of years thought that they would be accepted by God based on their own righteousness via their righteous deeds, being put on a par with “unrighteous Gentiles” insofar as their acceptability to God was indeed an offense!

So, to conclude, we should recognize that giving offense or receiving offense is a matter of great seriousness as it is seen as transgression. We can only by God’s grace walk in the kind of love that does not give or receive offense.

And together, we are all on the same footing. Let us not stumble over the truth.

The Aaronic Blessing from an Hebraic Viewpoint

The Aaronic Blessing from an Hebraic Viewpoint

The LORD bless you and keep you: The LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you: The LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26 RSV)

To understand this very special blessing, for which God Himself chose the wording, we must look at the language it was written in. We must take on the mindset of the Ancient Hebrew people and see the meaning of the words from their viewpoint. And when we do, you will see that English doesn’t come even close to the magnificence of this amazing grace.

The red letters are the root forms of the words in Hebrew.
Lines within the words divide them into syllables.

So from an Hebraic perspective, it would be better translated:

YHVH will kneel before you,* giving you gifts, and He will guard you, hedging you about with His protection. YHVH will illuminate you with the entirety of His being, bringing order where disorder was, and He will be your comfort and provide for all your needs. YHVH will lift up His wholeness of being upon you and He will set in place everything to make you whole and complete. * figuratively speaking

In our weekly Havdalah meeting, our Messianic congregation receives the Aaronic blessing as given by one of our pastors or our cantor/rabbi. This is allowed because Yeshua has made us a kingdom of priests and kings to His Father (Revelation 1:6). Therefore, not only can we receive the blessing, but as priests we can speak it over others as well.


Bearing God’s Image and Likeness

Bearing God’s Image and Likeness

וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים נַֽעֲשֶׂה אָדָם בְּצַלְמֵנוּ כִּדְמוּתֵנוּ וְיִרְדּוּ בִדְגַת הַיָּם וּבְעֹוף הַשָּׁמַיִם וּבַבְּהֵמָה וּבְכָל־הָאָרֶץ וּבְכָל־הָרֶמֶשׂ הָֽרֹמֵשׂ עַל־הָאָֽרֶץ׃


“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” Genesis 1:26


zac durant

Photo courtesy of Zac Durant on Unsplash


In what way are we made in God’s image, after His likeness?


The word in Hebrew for image is צֶלֶם (tse-lem). It is from an unused root meaning “to shade.” Figuratively, it means a representative figure. We are to represent Him on this Earth. In the Ancient Near East in Moses’ time (remember he wrote the Torah which contains this verse), an image was believed to bear the essence of the thing it represented. We are to bear God’s essence! If you live in Texas, as I do, you are meant to carry His essence in Texas. If you live in Singapore, you are meant to carry it in Singapore.


God is not repeating Himself when He says “after our likeness.” That’s a different word: דְּמוּת (de-muth). It means—in some way—a similitude. Another word for similitude or likeness is equivalence.  Obviously, we are not equal to God in every respect, but if you look at the very next words, you can see how we are equivalent: we have dominion. By giving us dominion over the earth, we have become like God. He has total dominion, but we have limited dominion.


We resemble God in the way that the moon resembles the sun. The moon is a light in the sky because the sun is shining. We have dominion, but it is a reflected dominion, the way the moon is a reflected light. Without the sun, the moon would be just a dead rock whirling around in space. Without God, our dominion would have no foundation to draw upon.


Hebrew WOW: תוֹם

Hebrew WOW: תוֹם

תוֹם – Seeing Through the Lens of Integrity

through the lens of integrity
Seeing through the lens of integrity

“Moses said to the heads of the tribes of Israel: “This is what the Lord commands: When a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said.” Numbers 30:1-2

Today I asked my husband for a word to explore in Hebrew. His answer was, “integrity.” If I were to choose a word to sum up his character, integrity would fit the bill. So this one is for him.

According to Wikipedia, integrity is the basing of one’s actions on an internally consistent framework of principles.

Our Hebrew word is תוֹם. It is pronounced tome. In the Jewish mindset, integrity is linked to wholeness and perfection.

Rabbi Noah Weinberg posits the following: Imagine you’re successful, rich and famous. You’re on vacation with friends when suddenly terrorists burst into your room, hold a gun to your head and say: “Tell us where your friends are and we’ll release you safely. Otherwise we’ll kill you.”

What do you do?

In Jewish thought, there are three fundamental principles upon which the world stands. They are truth (emet in Hebrew), justice (tzedek) and peace (shalom).

The Talmud tells us: “The signature of the Holy one, blessed be He, is truth.” So together, the three great principles of Judaism come together to form integrity.

But what happens when we fail our integrity? We make a vow (or promise or commitment) to something or someone, but we don’t carry through. Real life interferes, and we fall short of what we had planned. God is very serious about vows, as the book of Numbers shows us.

Remember the story of the Isra’elites right after they’ve defeated Ai and destroyed the city? Some men from a neighboring tribe deceive Joshua and the elders by feigning having come from a foreign country and asking them to enter into a covenant so that the army of Isra’el won’t kill them. Of course, it turns out that although God had told Joshua not to make a covenant with the people who lived in the land, He nevertheless considers their vow made in His name to be valid. The “foreigners” end up as slaves to the Isra’elites (which for them is assuredly better than the death of their nation).

God expects total integrity in our walk. But He also knows our human frailty and forgives. Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

Hebrew WOW: שְׁאוֹל

Hebrew WOW: שְׁאוֹל

A Jewish Perspective on Sheol

Did Jews in the time of Yeshua believe in hell?

Do you?

Ancient thought about sheol (hell) was quite different from Western (Christian) thought, yet Yeshua was a Jew. What did He think?

שְׁאוֹל

(Sheol)

sheol, underworld, grave, hell, pit

the underworld

Sheol-the OT designation for the abode of the dead

place of no return

without praise of God

wicked sent there for punishment

righteous not abandoned to it

of the place of exile (fig)

of extreme degradation in sin

The word sheol, or שְׁאוֹל, in ancient thought meant the world where bad people, or all people, or maybe only some people went after they died. There were so many different thoughts on what happened when you died that you could write a whole book on that subject alone. It has been described as a deep, dark region, as a pit, and as “the Land of Forgetfulness.” Human beings after death, they thought, went to a netherworld called Sheol, cut off from God and man, but still “alive” in some shadowy existence. However, there is no judgment, whether reward or punishment there.

Pessimism was the rule of the day when it came to life after death. Most Jews were “here-and-now” focused and all people came to the same end.

After the destruction of the First Temple, however, the prophets began to speak with more hope about the future.

When the Second Temple was destroyed in 70AD, a theological crisis occurred. It was one thing to claim as the rabbis did—when the Lord’s sanctuary was destroyed and His people were scattered—mip’nei hataeinu, “because of our sins” but it was very difficult to give reasons that good, pious, individual  Jews should suffer also.

Rabbi Ya’akov said: This world is compared to an ante-chamber that leads to Olam HaBa, (the World-to-Come).” In fact, some rabbis taught that the righteous suffered in this world so that their reward in the next world would be that much greater.

So what did Yeshua teach about sheol?

In the Sermon on the Mount where Yeshua’s message was about love, He emphasized that those who were not more righteous than the Pharisees would never enter heaven (Matthew 5:20). He warned that unrepentant sinners would face the fires of sheol. At the end of His Sermon, the kingdom of God and the horrors of sheol are contrasted. Sheol is described as a place of destruction, where the broad road leads. Even professing to know the Messiah, if one continues in sin, won’t save you from sheol. Everyone who does not find the “narrow way” will end up in sheol. He compares the lives of the wicked to those who build their houses upon sand.

So, in essence, we know three things about sheol from the teaching of the first century Jews and from the Messiah Himself:

1. Sheol is the place for deserved punishment, comprises real suffering, and is eternal.

2. Sheol is the place of destruction, likened to death, second death, ruin, and loss.

3. Sheol is the place of banishment, where unbelievers actually realize what they are missing—their purpose in life and in life eternal: to love and glorify God.