Hebrew Word of the Week: B’rachach

Hebrew Word of the Week: B’rachach

Word of the Week

B'rachah

Hebrew

What does it mean when the Bible says that God blessed someone? That word is בְּרַכָה, pronounced b’ra-chah.

“Zachar vun’kevah b’ra’am vayevarekh atem vayikra et shemam adam beyom hibaram — Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created (Genesis 5:2).”

B’rachah means blessing.

But what does blessing mean? In most places in the Hebrew Bible (the Tanach), blessed means to kneel in adoration before God, or to receive a benefit from God.

In the 1st chapter in Genesis, on the sixth day of Creation, God ascribed a blessing to Adam and Eve, charging them with being fruitful and stewarding His creation. They were recipients of a blessing from God that was to be poured out on the work of God’s hands.

In a religious context, “to bless” is commonly defined as bestowing divine assistance, favor, or power on someone. Thus, “blessing presupposes a benefactor [God, who grants the blessing] and a recipient, and not infrequently there is a mediator who pronounces or confers the prospect of blessing from God to a human recipient.” In ancient Israel, this “mediator” who verbalized “the prospect of blessing” was most often a prophet or priest. Dana M. Pike, “’I Will Bless the LORD at All Times’: Blessing God in the Old Testament.”

God has bestowed blessing on all of His creation in a general dispensation of His grace. Yet, in some instances, He gave special blessings to certain people.

An interesting aspect of this is that when God blessed certain people, He gave them the authority to bless others.

Then God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Padan Aram, and blessed him.  And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name.” So He called his name Israel.  Also God said to him: “I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body. The land which I gave Abraham and Isaac I give to you; and to your descendants after you I give this land (Genesis 35:9-12 NKJV).”

God Almighty also declared to Abraham “Veheyei berachah–You will be a blessing.” Because of that, Abraham was allowed the Divine right to bless whomever he wished. Through him, the world now had a model of how people were to bless each other.

“And Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac. But Abraham gave gifts to the sons of the concubines which Abraham had; and while he was still living he sent them eastward, away from Isaac his son, to the country of the east (Genesis 25:5-6).”

When Abraham gave Isaac “all that he possessed,” it wasn’t simply his material wealth that he transferred to his son. He also passed on his spiritual wealth, in fact, the very essence of who he was became Isaac’s possession. Abraham’s world view, his personality, even his own demeanor, he bequeathed entirely to Isaac. Of immensely more value than his cattle, sheep, and other material riches, Abraham gave Isaac the most valuable thing anyone can give to anyone else. And then he gave Isaac the right to bless others as he willed.

The blessing—b’racach of God—means that each believer is privileged to receive God’s favor and thus become himself an extension of God’s grace.

 

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You Are God’s Best Friend

You Are God’s Best Friend

You Are God’s Best Friend

The loneliest place in all the world is where you are right now, if you have no special friend. A best friend is someone with whom you can be perfectly at ease and who hears you and knows you fully without judging you.

 

Who is that for you?

Imagine yourself walking down a street in the fall, with beautifully colored fallen leaves swirling around your feet and the light that amazing gold that only happens in autumn. You are so comfortable with your friend at your side that you don’t apply any filters when you talk. You say exactly what’s on your mind, and so does your friend. Together, you enjoy an intimacy in communication reserved for just you two.

In the Amplified Bible, Paul is thanking his friends at Philippi for their fellowship just as much as for their contributions as they help him spread the gospel. He recognizes that we are not meant to walk this path alone, because if we did, we would miss the amazing splendor that God has created in the fellowship of other believers. In other words, instead of the beautiful day of the fall with all its golden glory, we would see the ugliness of the fall where sin has corrupted everything that surrounds us.

Philippians 1:3-5 reads: “I thank my God in every remembrance of you,  always offering every prayer of mine with joy [and with specific requests] for all of you,  [thanking God] for your participation and partnership [both your comforting fellowship and gracious contributions] in [advancing] the good news [regarding salvation] from the first day [you heard it] until now (AMP).”

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That’s the kind of relationship God longs to have with you. You say exactly what’s on your heart with no fear of reprisal or recrimination. You have His full attention and He understands even better than you do what you’re trying to say. His smile warms His eyes as He looks at you with perfect, genuine love.

If you’re struggling to believe that God wants this kind of “BFF” relationship with you, then you haven’t fully understood your status as a child of the high King. When Jesus died, He did so to resurrect you from death to life. His substitutionary death paid every penalty for every sin you’ve ever committed or ever will commit.

Your communication with God is without restraint because He has completely remade you in His image.

“Then God [plural elohim] said, “Let Us [plural pronoun] make man in Our [plural pronoun] image, according to Our [plural pronoun] likeness.” Genesis 1:26

God was complete before He began to create. He did not need to make man for His own companionship; the Triune God had complete, perfect fellowship as an attribute of His character. So when He made man in His image, He created a being that would crave the companionship that He, Himself, enjoyed in the Godhead. Then, He created woman.

So that made two: man and woman (human fellowship). But God’s image is trinitarian, so in order to make man in His image, a third was needed. And that third is God Himself.

Can you even imagine God the Father not sharing all things with God the Son and God the Holy Spirit? Of course not! Therefore, as part of the fellowship God has created, He will likewise share all good things with you. Your communication with God need not be fearful or restrained. Believe me, God has already heard it all—and He has forgiven it all.

Now when you walk down that street with your best friend, remember that God is there with you. Share whatever is on your heart and don’t hold back. Communication with best friends is a unique treasure that God wants to share in its entirety with you.

Let go! Talk to this “best friend forever” in what is truly an eternal friendship. 

 

 

God is talking. Are you?

“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you (John 15:51 ESV).”

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Resurrection of Jesus: What Is It All About?

Resurrection of Jesus: What Is It All About?

Was Jesus truly resurrected from the dead, and does it really matter?

The case for

Christ’s

resurrection is not based merely on an empty tomb.

Does Jesus’ resurrection—real or hoax—really matter?

“If Jesus has not been raised, then our faith is worthless; and we are to be pitied above all men (1 Corinthians 15:14).”

Some people really don’t think it matters whether or not Jesus was actually raised from the dead. They think that whatever actually happened back then, Jesus showed us a moral way to walk our lives out and we ought to follow Him as a teacher, if not as the Messiah.

The problem with that thinking is that if Jesus said He would rise from the grave after three days and then He did not do it, you can’t really call Him a “good teacher.” That’s because people who lie are called liars, not “good.” He made no pretense about who He was and what He came to do. He also made it very clear what is expected of His followers.

Either you believe all of what He said or you believe none of what He said. You can’t pick and choose. This is the One who claimed to BE GOD.

Christianity requires faith—but not blind faith.

blind faith

Photo courtesy of Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash

There are those who have tried (unsuccessfully) to argue that although there is more than enough historical evidence to verify Jesus’ claim to have been resurrected from the dead, that He never really died. They subscribe to the “Swoon Theory” that says He never actually died, but swooned due to blood loss and shock. Incredible as it seems, they theorize thus:

 

Jesus never really died; He only appeared to die. In fact—they claim—He merely fainted from loss of blood and shock. When He was then removed from the cross, He was placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, one of the leading Jews.

Now here’s where it gets really interesting (and totally unbelievable).

Jesus revived due to the coolness of the tomb. (Current medical advice for someone suffering from shock is to keep them warm, not cool.) Despite the fact that He had lost enormous amounts of blood from the scourging, the crown of thorns, and the nails themselves, and despite the fact that He had no medical help (today, fluids and oxygen are given to the patient), He nonetheless revived on His own. Then He unwrapped the cloths that tightly bound Him (and which weighed in the area of 100 pounds due to spices in the burial cloth), neatly folded the cloth that covered His face, got up in total darkness and walked on nail-pierced feet to the tomb entrance. (Medical science tells us to loosen restrictive clothing on someone in shock to enable them to recover. Jesus’ burial clothes were tightly wrapped around His body, pinning His arms to His sides.)

There, even though He had collapsed on the way to the cross and someone else had to carry His cross for Him, He had revived enough to roll away a stone—from the inside!—and walk unnoticed past the guards. After that, He continued on those maimed feet to where His disciples were, appeared in a locked room, and announced to them that He had risen!

To roll the stone away would have not been possible for one man inside the tomb, anyway (unless he was God, which makes everything else moot anyway). The round stone would have been 4′ to 6′ in diameter to cover the entrance. It would have weighed between 2,000 lbs and 4,000 lbs. It took two men to roll it into place. Not only did they have the stone itself to grip, but tombs were hewn out of the rock with a groove that would slant downward as the stone was rolled into place. To remove the stone would require rolling it uphill. This, they posit, was accomplished by a severely dehydrated, severely wounded man with nothing to grip onto inside the tomb. And He did it with hands that had been pierced with 5″ nails. Even if you go with the theory that the nails pierced His wrists, how would that make it more likely?

And that was only the beginning of His post-resurrection appearances.

One thing that flies in the face of that theory is that medical science can show that those who are crucified die from a combination of hypovolemic shock, exhaustion asphyxia, and even acute heart failure. The soldiers stuck a spear in His side, and what came out was blood and water. Medical professionals today say that in most probability, what John saw was blood and the clear fluid that surrounded Jesus’ heart. The spear would have pierced both the lungs and the heart. Without modern medicine, no one would have survived this final assault on His body. (For a look at a documented case of survival after crucifixion, see Josephus’ description. It is not clear to exactly what he was referring when he cited crucifixion.)

Here are just a few of the scriptures that prophesy Jesus’ death and resurrection.

One thing that is irrefutable: neither Jesus nor His disciples could orchestrate the fulfillment of the over 100 prophecies that He did, indeed, fulfill, including the one that hundreds of years before crucifixion was invented said His hands and feet would be pierced !

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PROPHECY:

Isaiah 53:3 says, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”

FULFILLMENT:

John 1:10-11 says, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” 

PROPHECY:

Psalm 41:9 says, “Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.”

FULFILLMENT:

Mark 14:10 says, “Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them.” 

PROPHECY:

Zechariah 11:12 says, “I told them, ‘If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.’ So they paid me thirty pieces of silver.”

 

FULFILLMENT:

Matthew 26:14-16 says, “Then one of the Twelve – the one called Judas Iscariot – went to the chief priests and asked, ‘What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?’ So they counted out for him thirty silver coins.” 

PROPHECY:

Isaiah 53:7 says, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”

FULFILLMENT:

Mark 15:5 says, “But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.” 

PROPHECY:

Psalm 22:1-2 says, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.”

FULFILLMENT:

 Matthew 27:46 says, “About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ – which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'” 

PROPHECY:

Psalm 22:7-8 says, “All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: ‘He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.'”

FULFILLMENT:

Matthew 27:41-44 says, “In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, I am the Son of God.’ In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.” 

PROPHECY:

Psalm 22:15 says, “My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.”

FULFILLMENT:

Matthew 27:48 says, “Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink.” 

PROPHECY:

Psalm 22:17-18 says, “I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.”

FULFILLMENT:

John 19:23 says, “When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.”

Want more evidences in prophecy?

Here’s a more extensive list of prophecies that Jesus has already fulfilled. With the historical verity of these, you can rely on the rest of the Word of God to continue being true.

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God’s Search and Rescue Team

God’s Search and Rescue Team

God’s Search and Rescue Team

What do you think of when you hear the term “spiritual warfare?” Do you imagine Buffy the Vampire Slayer using martial arts to injure and maim evil spirits? Or do you picture Elisha  praying that God would open his servant’s eyes?

Many people think of deliverance as a synonym for spiritual warfare and then visualize a scene from The Exorcist. They draw back in fear when they think of casting demons out, afraid of what they don’t understand.

This spiritual battle often takes place in the mind and the enemy attacks us and attempts 

“The weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood]. Our weapons are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. (2 Corinthians 10:4 AMP).”

to get us to rely on our own strength to defeat his evil lies. But we know that Mark 16:17 says “In my name shall they cast out devils.” In whose name? Jesus’ name, of course!

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If you were bullied as a child, you may know what it feels like to stand up to the bully when your big brother stands behind you. That fear-mongering scoundrel backs down really fast when he’s no longer the big guy, doesn’t he? Well, fighting spiritual battles are the same 

thing. An evil that is taunting you and trying to fill your head with his lies dances around in front of you until your Big Brother shows up. And then the evil one flees.

“O Lord, open his eyes so he can see (2nd Kings 6:17)! ”

When Elisha was living in the city of Dothan with his servant, an enemy king’s army came to surround him and capture Elisha so he could no longer counsel the king of Israel. When the servant got up in the morning, there was the king of Aram’s army with horses and chariots surrounding the city. In a panic, he asked his master, “What shall we do??”

What Elisha did NOT do is run, nor hide, nor attempt to negotiate with the enemy. Instead, in complete confidence, he simply prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes so he can see (2nd Kings 6:17)! ” And immediately the servant saw the LORD’s army standing on the hills. Can you imagine what that must have looked like? Michael, the archangel, standing with the LORD’s army in full battle array. Elisha was right when he said, “Those who are with us are greater than those who are against us (2nd Kings 6:16).”

The Lord’s army is there to do battle. So what are you to do? Don’t you have some part in this great battle, too?

Why, yes, you do! Your job is to be chaplain to the troops who have been fighting the battle. You bring God’s light and word into the fray and deliver lost souls to God. You speak the words of light and heal and cleanse every warrior who cries out in distress. You walk around behind enemy lines, delivering the prisoners of war held there by the enemy’s tactics. But you are not walking alone! God is there with you, to lead His children into freedom, and because God is there with you, there is nothing the enemy can do to stop you.

Once He opens the eyes of those held captive, they can see that what appeared to be their defeat was actually the very thing that led them to victory.

Our relationship with our Lord must be so intimate that we know where He’s going and what He’s doing so we can be part of His heavenly search and rescue team.

Let God do the fighting. Because “greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world (1st John 4:4)!”

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Hebrew Word of the Week: Tikvah

Hebrew Word of the Week: Tikvah

Word of the Week

Tikvah

 

Hebrew

We’ve studied love and faith, so this week we’re looking at another very important word in the character of a Christ-follower: hope.

“We wait [expectantly] for the Lord;
He is our help and our shield.
For in Him our heart rejoices,
Because we trust [lean on, rely on, and are confident] in His holy name.
Let Your [steadfast] lovingkindness, O Lord, be upon us,
In proportion as we have hoped in You (Psalm 33:20-22 AMP).”

The Hebrew word for the verb to hope is pronounced “lik-VOT” (leek-VOTE). That is the hope you do, such as I hope Jesus comes soon.

It looks like this:

 לְקַווֹת (verb)

Then there is the noun, hope, such as in “My hope is in You.”

This is the hope that you possess. The Hebrew word is pronounced “tik-VAH” (teek-VAH) and looks like this:

תִקוָה (noun)

It is interesting to note that the word “hope” (either noun or verb) doesn’t appear in the Bible until the book of Ruth, and then only for Naomi to express her lack of hope. Before that, the word doesn’t show up at all.

In Ezra, Shechaniah (one of the sons of Elam) tells Ezra that though they have transgressed by marrying “strange wives,” he knows there is hope in Israel. This is a word related to the Hebrew noun shown above, something the Israelites recognized as the possibility of God’s favor despite their own sin.

All through the book of Job, the theme of lost hope is woven in like a dark thread in a bright tapestry. Job talks about lost hope, over and again, but in order to lose something you first must have possessed it. So until the catastrophes overtook him, apparently Job hoped in God, as demonstrated in that he made sacrifices on behalf of his children. After the tragedies, Job refuses to blame God as he knows his only hope lies in his Savior.

Psalms is full of hope, as a book of prayers and hymns should be, but Jeremiah goes right back to proclaiming the lack of hope, until Jeremiah 17:7, where he proclaims “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.” The word translated “hope” in this verse is closely related to trust.

But just because the word hope doesn’t appear all that often in the Old Testament doesn’t mean that the Jews lacked a concept of hope. Not at all!

One concept (תִקוָה) is that natural capacity to envision a brighter future. It is the hope that Alexander Pope said springs eternal. It is the kind of hope that correlates with the concept of fear—if you believe that it is nothing more than genetic material designed for the survival of the human species.

Hope springs eternal in the human breast; man never is, but always to be blest.

Alexander Pope

Another concept of hope is found in the Hebrew word תוֹחֶלֶת, pronounced to-KHE-let. This kind of hope in Judaism expresses  a certain expectation, something that we know will happen, even if we have to wait for it beyond the scope of this current life. That is the hope of the Messianic Age, when the Messiah will reign on earth.

So where does this certainty come from? It springs forth from the history of God delivering His people. As He delivered them from bondage in Egypt, He showed Himself to be a Savior. And since His character does not change, once a Savior, always a Savior. We can know for certainty that He will return and deliver His people. That is ensured in His character.

When God created night and day, He did it in the order that causes hope to appear. Darkness represents everything evil and oppressive. Yet the morning follows the darkness. Light shows forth everything good in direct opposition to darkness. As sure as day follows night, God’s deliverance is made manifest in the Messiah, Yeshua.

When Jews arise in the morning, they commonly recite the following prayer: “Blessed are You, O Lord, who gives the heart understanding to discern between night and day.”  He has made us such that we can pull forth hope every single day.

That’s a good prayer to memorize. In Hebrew, it looks like this:

“ברוך אתה, הו אלוהים, אשר נותן את ההבנה הלב להבחין בין לילה ליום.”

To pronounce it, say it this way:

“Ba-RUKH a-TAH, hu el-o-HIM, a-SHER no-TEN et ha-ha-ven-AKH ha-LEV le-hab-KHIN bayn LAI-lah le-YOM.

Jews, Messianic Jews, and Christians alike believe in the imminent arrival of Messiah. As believers in and followers of Christ, we watch constantly for the sign of His return and the fulfillment of the age of the gentiles.

As you study this wonderful word “tikvah,” I pray that you will lean into the Lord’s truth despite what your senses are telling you. Yes, the world is getting worse, but a greater YES is that Yehua HaMashiach is on His way!

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a תקוה.” Jeremiah 29:11

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