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.

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.

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Hebrew Word of the Week: Pray

Hebrew Word of the Week: Pray

Word of the Week

Mefalel

Hebrew

This week, I want to take a look the verb meaning “pray” in Hebrew. It looks like this:

מְפַלֵּל

“Yih’yeh zeh mam’niy sheaniy tzariykh’ l’haf’siyk l’hit’palel bish’viyl’kha.”

“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)

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Ahavah

Ahavah

Word of the Week

Ahavah

 

Hebrew

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.

That is the very definition of ahavah.

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Offerings to God: A Messianic Perspective

Offerings to God: A Messianic Perspective

For premillennialists (those who believe that Jesus will have an earthly reign after the rapture of the church), it’s difficult to understand why there would be animal sacrifices during the millennial reign. After all, Hebrews 10 makes it very clear that God does not desire sacrifices and that Jesus’ death was the ultimate sacrifice once for all.

When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law),  then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second.  And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:8-10)

  “And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to Him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be His

servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast My covenant—these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered (Isaiah 56:6-8).”

Perhaps the best description of the Holy Temple of the Millennial Kingdom occurs beginning in Ezekiel 40. In Ezekiel 43:18-46:24, God gives explicit instructions concerning sacrifices and how they will be performed. So we know that there will be animal sacrifices then. In fact, without them, Daniel 9:27 would have to be completely misconstrued.

“He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an

abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him (Daniel 9:27).”

So why would God set up animal sacrifices in the Millennial Kingdom?

First, it is important to note that Jesus’ sacrifice offered the perfect atonement for all the sins of mankind from the beginning of time until the end of time. Do not think for one minute that sacrifices made in the Old Testament took away the sins of the Israelites. According to Scripture itself, that would be impossible.

But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins (Hebrews 10:4).”

The reason most Christians don’t agree that there will be sacrifices once Jesus is reigning is because they don’t understand what sacrifices were supposed to do. Animal sacrifices were designed to make men face their sins and realize that they were in need of God. The sacrifices were meant to bring the Israelites to repentance.

The Hebrews of early Judaism were not cold, unfeeling people. They actually loved their flocks, sometimes allowing kids and lambs inside their own houses, particularly before Passover. That Paschal lamb was taken into the house four days before it was to be slaughtered. These Jews, as I said, loved their flocks. (That’s precisely why Jesus used the analogy of taking care of sheep and calls us the sheep of His hand.) If you have a pet, you know how fond of them people can be. Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m NOT saying that the Jews looked at the Paschal lamb as a pet—far from it! But having an innocent, baby animal in your home for a protracted period of time brought them severely up against the seriousness of their sin. It would require an animal being slaughtered on their behalf, shedding its own blood when it had done nothing wrong. In fact, it was to be a perfect lamb.

Sacrifices were never provided to win God’s favor.

The Psalmist  makes it abundantly clear that the sacrifices that God has regard for are a contrite heart and a humble spirit. Those, God will accept. God made the animals for His and mankind’s enjoyment. And the very first sin caused an animal to be sacrificed to cover man’s sin, not take it away!

For You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; You take no pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise (Psalm 51:17).” “The LORD God fashioned garments from animal skins for Adam and his wife, and clothed them (Genesis 3:21).” 

So what will the sacrifices do in the Millennial Kingdom?

The exact same thing they did in the Old Testament. God has never delighted in the shedding of blood. Sacrifices are not pleasing to Him. They will be then as they ever have

been for mankind’s benefit. To bring us up short and show how serious it is to violate God’s commands.

Sin separates us from God. When the sacrifices on the altar in the New Kingdom take place, in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year.

The saints who are ruling with Jesus in that time will not be offering sacrifices even as a reminder of past sins. Because when a person—whether Jew or Gentile—receives light and life through Jesus’ sacrifice, that person is made completely new. The sinner he was no longer even exists. He does not need a reminder of sin, because sin belonged to a different creature, and because he will joyously be serving God as a creation who no longer sins.

 

And that’s Good News!

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).”

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The King is in the Field

The King is in the Field

Complete Jewish Bible Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) 5:9 says: “But the greatest advantage to the country is when the king makes himself a servant to the land.”

A Paradox: Holiness among the common.

Elul is the 12th month of the Jewish year, a period of paradox just before the new year and high holy days begin. It is a time of introspection, when Jews examine their hearts and repent for their sins. At the same time, it is when God showers His mercy on them.

[bctt tweet=”The month of Elul in the Jewish calendar is a paradox; holy days filled with work.” username=”suzi59344978″]

In Judaism, there are holy times and there are “profane” (or common) times. The entire month of Elul is considered holy. I once heard it called “a haven in time, a city of refuge from the ravages of material life.” I love that analogy because it reminds me that in the end days, God will make a place of refuge for those who believe in Him.

Psalm 27:5: “For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock.”

The name Elul is an acronym.

Elul is pronounced eh-lool. It is spelled (in Hebrew) aleph-lamed-vav-lamed. These letters represent acronyms that convey spiritual aspects of life during this special, unusual period of time. (In 2018 the month of Elul begins at sundown on August 11 and ends at sundown of September 9.)

“Eina L’yadi V’samti Lach” means that the Messiah will have express knowledge of the Torah, and so this is a time for studying Torah for Jews as well. As Christians and Messianic Jews, we know that Yeshua (Jesus) is the Word of God. He proclaimed that He came not to abolish the law (Torah) but to fulfill it. 

In John 1:1 we read: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Then we find His words concerning the law in Matthew 5:17 where He says: “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.”

[bctt tweet=”The Talmud says, divrei torah koltin (the study of Torah provides refuge).” username=”suzi59344978″]

Interestingly, The Talmud says, “divrei torah koltin” (the study of Torah provides refuge).

The next acronym is “Et L’vavcha V’et L’vav” meaning “teshuvah” or repentance. This refers in Elul to turning back to God, repenting of our sins and seeking God’s ways. Believers in Yeshua know that they are given everything necessary to live life in a godly manner according to 2 Peter 1:3, and that they are already forgiven for their sins both past and future. We know that it is God’s lovingkindness, His mercy, that brings us to repentance (Romans 2:4).

Photo by GoodMan_Ekim on Creative Commons

Next comes the acronym “Ani L’dodi V’dodi Li.” This comes from the Song of Songs 6:3 and translates to “I’m my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine.” It speaks of love and commands “avodah” (prayer) during this holy month as well.

The fourth acronym is “Ish L’rei-eihu U’matonat L’ev-yonim,” which means gemillut/chassodim (charity/kindness). God’s people are focused on taking care of the poor and treating everyone with kindness.

Finally, there is one more acronym which I find particularly interesting. First of all, you have to read it backwards to get the acronym right. “L’Hashem Va-yomru Leimor Ashirah” which comes from Exodus 15:1, singing to the Messiah.

But what does all this have to do with the king being in the field?

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi has a metaphor that helps explain the paradox of Elul being a holy month yet made of workdays (work is commonly forbidden during holy times such as the Sabbath and festivals of God).

Imagine a king in Israel. If you, being a common person, wanted an audience with him, you’d have to travel to Jerusalem from wherever you are. You’d have to pass through all the gates and checkpoints, go through all the ministers and secretaries (all the bureaucracy) before you could be granted an audience. Then you would have to behave in a specific way, use specific language, and follow a specific dress code. That’s the way it is on common days.

[bctt tweet=”But in the month of Elul, the king leaves his palace and stands in the field with the common people.” username=”suzi59344978″]

But in the month of Elul, the king leaves his palace and stands in the field with the common people. They can approach him freely, even in the midst of their work, and he will listen to them with a smiling face and open arms. Even the highest ranking person in his court does not have this kind of access to the king when he is in his palace. But for this one month, the king is in the field.

As we celebrate this month of holiness in our common workaday world, remember that the reason this is a holy month is because God is with us (Immanuel)!

As Yeshua said, “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).”

Yes, the King in in the field!

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