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 bed 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
We see it every day on television or on 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.”
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 nikud). 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…
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-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!
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.
Let’s start out by defining what a promise is. In 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 forthesinsofthewholeworld.
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 to 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)
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) as well as what we would call “serifs” in English. Serifs are the tiny lines that encapsulate a letter in a certain font. (This font is “sans-serif,” which means without serifs. Look at Times Roman for an example.)
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.”
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.
“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.
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.
“As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you.” 1 Samuel 12:23
I chose the verb to pray instead of the noun prayer because it is something we should be doing all the time.
It is interesting to note that God did not make prayer a mitzvah (commandment or good deed). Yet we somehow know deep in our hearts that we always ought to be praying to God. Praying is a part of who we are as we are made in God’s image. He communicates to us and by extension, we should be praying to God. God is a god of communication, and since we are in His image, we, too, are creatures of communication.
Although we see people praying at set times (like Daniel and David), yet God has not set a specific time or number of times during the day, to pray.
Were a person to know the time when, if they pray, they will be answered, they would leave off other times and pray only then. Accordingly, the Holy One said: For this reason I do not let you know when you will be answered, so that you will be willing to pray at all times, as is said, ‘Put your trust in God at all times’ (Psalms 62:9)” (Aggadah Bereshit 77).
Praying should be as automatic as breathing. It is a way of life, not mere moments in time. Pray without ceasing, says 1 Thessalonians 5:17.
“Then the king said to the man of God, “Intercede with the Lord your God and pray for me that my hand may be restored.” So the man of God interceded with the Lord, and the king’s hand was restored and became as it was before.” 1 Kings 13:6
Why did the people of other nations come to the Hebrews for prayer? Because they knew that the God of the Hebrews heard His children when they prayed. Their own gods were incapable of hearing, but they knew that the Hebrew God not only heard prayer, He answered it as well.
Making prayer as automatic as breathing requires devotion. It is an acknowledgment of the world as it truly is.
“For prayer is not the shutting of one’s eyes to reality. It is the glimmer, the intimation, the daring which leads to the transcending of reality” (Jakob Petuchowski)
It is a recognition that not are we small and limited in the universe, but that we also have the capacity for goodness and greatness. We seem insignificant but have the attention of Almighty God. We are not alone, nor are we helpless. God is just a breath away.
“The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness (Jeremiah 31:3).”
“If prayer is pure and untainted, surely that holy breath that rises from your lips will join with the breath of heaven that is always flowing into you from above.”
(From the Hasidic work Keter Shem Tov, as adapted in Your Word Is Fire, by Arthur Green and Barry Holtz)
In Hebrew, the word we translate love is a•ha•VAH (אהבה).
Interestingly, it is both a verb and a noun. The root of the word is אהב, which means to give.
In most of the English-speaking world, love is thought to be an intense longing for another person, a feeling that is crucial to our well-being. But that only begins to scratch the surface of what ahavah truly means.
Jewish people in the past regarded love as something you did, not as a feeling. In the most sacred prayer, foundational to Judaism, we are commanded to love God.
אוהב את אלוהים
It reads (in English): “Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God, the Lord is one.” It comes from Deuteronomy 6:4.
To pronounce it in Hebrew, you would say: Shema Yisrael, Adonai eloheinu Adonai ehad.
It continues by saying “and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and with all your might.”
Now God is not so capricious as to command us to have a feeling. We really have not much control over our feelings, but we have nearly total control over our actions.
That’s when ahavah ceases to be a noun and becomes a verb.
A verb is an action word, something we do. So when we are commanded to love, we are not commanded to feel. That’s a different verb.
The Jews see ahavah as a form of giving. We think that we give because we love. But in essence, it’s the opposite. We love because we give. We love our children because we give to them. We give them life, food, clothing, education, gifts, etc. We shower gifts on those we love, and we tend to think that we do it because we love them.
The Jewish perspective is different. To foster love, according to the late Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler, we must be generous. If we extend what we have in our hands and our hearts, love will grow. He explains that giving to another human being is an extension of ourselves. Our soul (Hebrew NE•fish) becomes knit with one another. David and Jonathan loved each other, and their hearts were knit together.
1 Samuel 18:1 says “As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.”
Giving ourselves to another creates a bond that in the spiritual is a real thing. The proof of that is the pain we feel when our soul is torn from another when relationships split up. We “become one flesh” when we marry. Divorce or the death of a spouse renders the soul in the most intense pain you can endure.
To love, we must first be generous. To be truly generous, we need to give without self-interest. If we give expecting anything in return (including love), it is a transaction. Yet when we transcend the selfish self and share or give something that is dear to us without any thought of recompense, it triggers love. It doesn’t matter what we are giving—it is the selflessness in giving that elicits a love response.
To give ahavah (which means give in its root form), we bridge the gap between souls and start the process of soul-merger.