Category Archives: Covenant Studies

PROOF: The Sinai Covenant is NOT THE Relationship Covenant

THE RELATIONSHIP COVENANT?

In the last blog article, I argued that “the relationship covenant” of the Hebrew Scriptures/ Old Testament is the Abrahamic Covenant – not the Mosaic Covenant (see article, “The Promise of a Lamb: The Connection Between Abraham and the Cross“).  In this article, I would like to build on that, by proving and demonstrating from the Scriptures themselves that the Sinai Covenant is not, in fact, the relationship covenant.  Although it does serve other purposes, such as –

  • to mold Israel into a model nation within God’s Kingdom for the other nations of the world;
  • to provide Israel with instructions for operating as a nation;
  • to function as a wedding covenant between God and His Bride;
  • to provide God’s people with “wisdom and understanding” (Deuteronomy 4:6);
  • to provide a written description of the Messiah (John 5:45-47);
  • to provide a working definition of what makes God happy and what upsets Him (i.e, sin); and
  • to function as an evangelistic tool to bring people to God (Deuteronomy 4:6-8).

Obviously, God’s laws, commandments, ordinances and judgments are much more than just a list of “Do’s and Don’ts.”  Also, in contrast with popular opinion, God’s Law is not what establishes one’s relationship with God, rather it guides, teaches, and instructs what one is to do and believe once one is already in a relationship with Him, and this can be easily demonstrated from the Torah (first five books of the Bible) itself.

WHY DOES THIS MATTER?

This is important in order to have a proper perspective of the Torah (God’s commandments) and its role within the overall Scriptures.  Since the second century, C.E., Christians began to have an erroneous perspective of the Torah (God’s Law) due to their separation from their Jewish roots (due to actions on both sides).  They began to teach that Yeshua/Jesus died and rose again to do away with the Law of God; that it had ended at the cross.  However, as I want to show here, what would be the point of that if the Mosiac covenant is NOT, in fact, the relationship covenant?  Also, how can His death and resurrection free me as a non-Jew from the Law of God since, according to Scripture, unbelieving gentiles (non-Jews), are not under the Law of God (Mosiac covenant)?

remember that you [gentiles/non-Jews] were at that time separate from Christ [Messiah], excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers [foreigners] to the COVENANTS OF PROMISE, having no hope and without God in the world. (Ephesians 2:12, Emphasis Mine)

The phrase “covenants of promise” would most definitely include the Mosiac covenant. Consequently, when I was an unbelieving non-Jew (or “gentile”), I was a “stranger (or foreigner) to the covenants of promise,” which meant that I was not under them; as a result, Rav Sha’ul (Paul) writes, I had “no hope” and was “without God in the world.”  This was my condition in the world before I came into an intimate relationship with the Messiah Yeshua/Jesus.

You see, in order to be redeemed from something, you FIRST must be under it.  If you are not under it, you can’t be redeemed from it.  Therefore,  gentiles who are not in submission to the Lordship of Christ (Messiah) can not be redeemed from “the covenants of promise” (including the Mosaic covenant) since they are NOT under them.

But Rav Sha’ul’s (Paul’s) argument does not end there.  He then continues,

But now in Christ Jesus (Heb. Moshiach Yeshua) who formerly were far off have been brought near (or made a part of) by the blood of Christ (Messiah). (Ephesians 2:13).

In other words, rather than the death and resurrection of Messiah removing us from the previous “covenants of promise” (as Christians have traditionally taught), it “brought us near” or made us a part of Messiah and the biblical covenants of the Tanakh (“Old Testament,” including the Mosaic Covenant), and in so doing, also made us a part of “the commonwealth of Israel.”  The exact opposite of what Christianity has traditionally taught.  However, there is a law that every human being, whether Jew or non-Jew (“gentile”), has been born under, and that God, from the very beginning, has seen as bondage, and that is the law of sin and death, and it is from this law that Yeshua/Jesus died to set us free from its power and control over our lives, so we can now live in intimacy with God and Him, and be able to walk in obedience to the Scriptures.

Some may believe that in spite of this argument that the Mosaic covenant is still the relationship covenant of the Tanakh/Old Testament.  Fair enough, let me give you at least three reasons from the Scriptures why the Mosaic Covenant could not be the relationship covenant of the Tanakh/Old Testament.

THE RELATIONSHIP PRE-EXISTED SIANI

First of all, Israel was already in a relationship with God before Mount Siani, so how could Siani be the place where that relationship began when the relationship was already there? For example, prior to Israel reaching Mount Siani, God is already involved in doing the following with Israel:

  • God hears their groaning due to the intensity of their slavery, and remembers His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exodus 2:23-24);
  • God communicates with Israel through Moses and protects Israel during the plagues (Exodus 6-12);
  • God is leading Israel as a pillar of smoke in the daytime and a pillar of fire at night (Exodus 13:17-22);
  • God is defending Israel from the Egyptians (Exodus 14);
  • God is providing for the needs of Israel [food, water] (Exodus 15:22-16:21; 17:1-7);
  • God is teaching Israel about the Passover (Exodus 12-13) and the Sabbath (Exodus 16:22-30).

And all of this occurs before Israel even gets to Mount Siani.  So how is Siani the beginning place of Israel’s relationship with God, if God is already involved in a relationship with Israel before they even get to Mount Siani?  Also, how is the foundational commandments for the Sabbath and Passover part of the Mosaic covenant when these are given BEFORE Israel ever reaches Siani?

SIN OF THE GOLDEN CALF

The next evidence that the Mosaic covenant is not the relationship covenant can be seen in the intercession that Moses presents to God after Israel’s sin with the golden calf. Contrary to the classic film, The Ten Commandments, starring Charlton Heston, Moses was not up on Mount Siani THE FIRST TIME receiving the commandments when Israel commits the sin of idolatry with the golden calf.  This movie’s presentation implies that Israel sinned in ignorance since Moses had not brought the commandments down from Siani yet when this sin was committed.  However, as I will show, this clearly contradicts the biblical record.

According to Scripture, Moses goes up on Mt. Siani the FIRST TIME, and he receives from God orally the Ten Commandments, as well as laws and commandments regarding the proper treatment of slaves, personal injuries, property rights, various other laws, laws regarding the Sabbath and the land,  the three national feasts, and the conquest of the land (Exodus 20 – 23).  Moses then comes down from the Mount, tells the people “all the words of the LORD” (Exodus 24:3), and the people positively respond to the instructions, teachings, laws and commands by saying,

All the words which the LORD has spoken we will do! (Exodus 24:3)

So the people were, in fact, informed of the requirements God had of them.  Not only that, but Moses “wrote down all the words of the LORD” (Exodus 24:4).  This means that Moses had written out everything that God had told him – including the Ten Commandments – BEFORE God engraved them on tablets of stone.  And Israel would have had this written document with them at the base of the mountain when Moses went up the mountain again to receive the tablets.  They could have reviewed these documents any time they wanted, so how could they have not known what God expected of them?

Not only did Moses tell the people God’s expectations and write down everything, but they also sealed the people’s agreement with a blood covenant.  They offered up burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as peace offerings.  So Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls (Exodus 24:5-6), and then it says,

Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” (Exodus 24:7)

So Moses told them God’s expectations TWICE and they agreed to it TWICE.  Then Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel go up onto the mountain and have a covenant meal to solidify the covenant with God, and Moses writes,

and they saw the God of Israel; and under His feet there appeared to be pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself. Yet He did not stretch out His hand against the nobles of the sons of Israel; and they beheld God, and they ate and drank. (Exodus 24:10-11)

After them hearing God for themselves (Exodus 20), Moses recounting God’s instructions, laws and commands twice and them agreeing twice, Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders physically see God themselves, and then eat and drink while sitting up there seeing Him before they go down the mountain.

Then God has Moses come up the mountain again, but this time to receive the two stone tablets with the Ten Commandments on them, as well as to receive the instructions, laws and commands regarding the Tabernacle, its various elements, the Levitical priesthood, and more on the Sabbath (Exodus 24:15 -31:18).  Consequently, it is while God is nearing the end of all these instructions, laws and commands regarding the Tabernacle, priesthood and Sabbath that Israel commits the sin of idolatry with the golden calf (Exodus 32:1-10).  Consequently, the Tabernacle and the priesthood are not the result of Israel’s sin with the golden calf, as I’ve heard erroneously taught several times by Christian ministers, since God was completing His instructions on these when the sin of the golden calf was being done.

MOSES’ INTERCESSION FOR ISRAEL

It is after God informs Moses of this heinous sin by Israel that Moses begins interceding for Israel.  God was so angry about their sin that He was willing to wipe them all out and start all over again with Moses, as God had begun with Abraham (Exodus 32:7-10).

Moses begins interceding by stating that if God destroys all the people of Israel, then the Egyptians will think that God delivered them and brought them into the wilderness with the evil intent of destroying them (Exodus 32:11-12).  This would, of course, impugn God’s character among the Egyptians, especially since He had gone through all the trouble with the plagues to demonstrate His character and power among them.  However well formulated this line of reasoning may seem, it did not change God’s mind.

Then Moses brings up the covenant that God made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  It is only after he reminds God of His covenant with the patriarchs that He changes His mind.

Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You did swear by Yourself, and did say to them, “I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.  So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people. (Exodus 32:13-14)

If the Mosaic covenant was the relationship covenant, then why didn’t Moses bring that covenant up?  I mean, God was going to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.  Their relationship with Him was definitely in trouble, yet Moses does not even say, “Hey, God, don’t you remember the covenant we just made with You?  Remember all the sacrifices?Remember Aaron and I, Nadab, Abihu and the seventy elders coming up and having a meal here?”  But he doesn’t.  Why?  Because the Mosaic covenant is not the relationship covenant, but the covenant that God made with Abraham in Genesis 15. (Again, see my article, “The Promise of a Lamb: The Connection Between Abraham and the Cross“)

‘TIL THE LAST DAYS

A third reference which clearly demonstrates that the Mosaic covenant is not THE relationship covenant is found in Deuteronomy 4.  In this passage, God prophesies what will happen to Israel in the future:

And the LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you shall be left few in number among the nations, where the LORD shall drive you.  And there you will serve other gods, the work of man’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell. (Deuteronomy 4:27-28)

But even though this will be the case, God makes Israel a promise of restoration:

But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.  When you are in distress and all these things have come upon you, IN THE LATTER DAYS, you will return to the LORD your God and listen to His voice.  “For the LORD your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you nor destroy you nor forget the covenant WITH YOUR FATHERS which He swore to them. (Deuteronomy 4: 29-31)

Notice that this promise is good, even to “the latter days” or “the last days.”  This is an example of a passage that has not been fully fulfilled in the Law of God.  The other interesting thing to notice is the phrase “the covenant with your fathers.” Who are “the fathers,” according to Scripture?  “The fathers” is a biblical term for the three patriarchs of Israel: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel (Exodus 3:15-16; Exodus 4:5; Deuteronomy 6:10; Deuteronomy 9:5; Deuteronomy 29:13; and Deuteronomy 30:20).

Ask yourself the question, “Why is God going to remember that particular covenant, even when someone confesses their sin before God?”

If they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their forefathers, in their unfaithfulness, which they committed against Me, and also in their acting with hostility against Me – … then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and I will remember also My covenant with Isaac, and My covenant with Abraham as well, and I will remember the land. (Leviticus 26:40, 42)

Notice what covenant is God remembering when people confess their sins: the covenant He made with the three patriarchs of Israel – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – that was established in Genesis 15, and then handed down to Isaac, to Jacob, to Joseph, and then renewed with Israel when they reached Mount Siani.  It was this same covenant, found in Genesis 15, that Yeshua/Jesus fulfilled when He died on the cross and was resurrected again on the third day:

And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers [Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob], that God has fulfilled this promise to the children in that He raised up Jesus [Yeshua],… (Acts 13:32-33a)

This is a small part of the sermon preached by Rav Sha’ul (Paul) on his first missionary journey in the synagogue of Pisidian Antioch.  Notice that he connects the “good news” with “the fathers” and the resurrection of Yeshua/Jesus.  By doing this, he is arguing that the resurrection is, in fact, the fulfillment of God’s promise to the fathers.

Going back to the passage in Leviticus, notice that Moses does not say that God will remember the covenant of Siani or Horeb when people confess their sins – but the covenant of the fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This, of course, ties in with Rav Sha’ul’s (Paul’s) presentation of the good news: that God had fulfilled His promise to the fathers through the death and resurrection of the Messiah.  The Mosaic covenant then did not begin the relationship, but instead, it built upon the foundation of that relationship (Genesis 15), intensified the intimacy of the relationship, and then explained the responsibilities and privileges of those who would choose to participate in that relationship more fully.

MARRIAGE – AN EXAMPLE

My relationship with my wife did not begin the day we were married, rather we began to get to know one another socially, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually while we were dating.  However, when we got married – a type of covenant – we intensified the relationship by intensifying the relationship in all areas, including becoming one physically, which was not part of the original dating relationship.  In the same way, God intensified His relationship with His Bride, Israel, at Siani, but not to the extent He desired since Israel pulled back from Him and committed the sin of the golden calf.  The full extent of the level of intensity that He desired would begin to occur centuries later in the Upper Room (see Acts 2:1-4).  Even today, God is still working on developing the level of intimacy He desires among His people.  It is a level of intimacy that has not yet been fully realized or reached.

FINAL QUESTION

Did Yeshua/Jesus die to do away with or annul God’s law?  No, what would be the point of that since God’s law is not the foundation of a relationship with Him?  There is no reason to do away with it, annul it, or replace it.  Instead, Yeshua/Jesus died to deal with the sin issue, and to free us from the power and control of the law of sin and death.  God’s laws, commandments, statutes and judgments were given to teach us, God’s people, how to live in this world with Him and with one another.  They did not establish the relationship, they merely expounded upon and explained our obligations and privileges as participants within that relationship.

 

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The Promise of a Lamb: The Connection Between Abraham and the Cross

The secret of the LORD is with them that fear Him, and He will show them His covenant.” ++ (Psalm 25:14)

A HIDDEN COVENANT?

There is a “hidden” covenant alluded to in Psalm 25 since it is “the secret of the LORD” that He will “show” those who “fear Him”?  The word translated “secret” is the Hebrew word sodh, and it carries with it the idea of “secrets” or “mysteries” that is often shared between those who are in a close, intimate relationship.  But what is this “secret” or “mystery” and which “covenant” does it deal with?  And why will the “covenant” need to be “shown” to them?  Aren’t all of God’s covenants clearly discussed and described in Scripture?

A FRIEND’S CHALLENGE

It was back in the late 1980’s, and I was beginning to get pretty heavy in studying the Jewish Roots of the Christian faith.  This was before I had ever heard of the Messianic Movement or of any any such groups.  All I knew was that the Lord was revealing things to me from the Torah (five books of Moses), and I was seeing how they made the whole Bible come alive for me in ways like I had never experienced before.  And I was so excited about these discoveries that I was trying to share them with family and friends.

Everyone around me thought that I had lost my mind, including a close friend of mine, who challenged me to go back and re-read the book of Galatians in the New Testament.  I decided that I would go above and beyond that.  I got out my Greek New Testament and my dictionaries and concordances, and I went verse-by-verse, and I re-translated the entire book from the Greek language to English, but I tried to do it from the mindset of an Orthodox Jew, which Rav Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) was, from the first century.  It was during this process that I stumbled across God’s “hidden” covenant.

A PROMISE?

The term that caught my attention was “promise.”  It is a term that’s repeatedly used by Rav Sha’ul (Paul) in his teachings and writings.  For example,

And now I am standing trial for the hope of THE PROMISE made by God to our fathers; (Acts 26:6; Emphasis Mine)

What “promise” is he referring to, and who are “our fathers”?  I wondered.  But then as I continued my translation of Galatians, I came across this portion of the letter:

What I am saying is this, the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. (Galatians 3:17)

There it was again, “the promise.”  I began to wonder, what was this “promise”?  Obviously, it was not part of the covenant that God made with Israel at Mount Siani since it came 430 years before that event.  I kept reading.

For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise. (Galatians 3:18)

In both Romans and Galatians, the one individual that Rav Sha’ul (Paul) refers back to repeatedly is Abraham.  The promise that he spends so much time talking about and discussing has to do with a promise that God gave to Abraham.  But what promise?  The following is what God’s Spirit revealed to me as I researched this further.

GOD’S CALLING OF ABRAHAM

In my previous post, “The Life of Abraham: An Important Lesson for Every Believer,” I mentioned that we see four principle stages illustrated in the life of Abraham: God’s calling of him, a time of development of that relationship, God entering into covenant with him, and then, afterwards, God requiring obedience of him as a way of walking out and expressing that relationship.  I also mentioned that any individual who seeks a relationship with God will go through the same basic stages.

In God’s calling of Abraham, there’s an illusion to this promise, which comes at the end of God’s promise to bless him:

And I will bless those who bless you, and the ones who curses you I will curse.  And in you shall all the families of the earth shall be blessed. (Genesis 12:3)

Notice it says that “all the families of the earth,” meaning Jew and non-Jew alike, will “be blessed” in “you” (Abraham).  Have you ever wondered, “How do I find my blessing from God in Abraham?”  I did.  This same verse is quoted by Rav Sha’ul (Paul) in the book of Galatians:

And the Scripture foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles (non-Jews) by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the Nations shall be blessed in you.”  So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. (Galatians 3:8-9)

So this last line in Genesis 12:3 is in some way connected to the gospel (or “good news”) preached by Yeshua/Jesus, the early disciples, and by Rav Sha’ul Paulus (Paul).  But the connection was still unclear.  It wasn’t until I got to chapter 15 of Genesis that God revealed to me the connection.

GOD’S COVENANT WITH ABRAHAM

As i mentioned in my previous post “The Life of Abraham,” the covenant process begins with a question about how Abraham would know that God would indeed give him the land.  Although I did not get real detailed in that post, I need to now in order for you to see “the promise” and its connection to the good news proclaimed throughout the B’rit Chadasha (“New Testament”), particularly in the writings of Rav Sha’ul (Paul).

THE COVENANT PROCESS

In response to Abram’s (later changed to Abraham) question, God instructs him to get the following animals: a three-year-old heifer, a three-year old she goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtle dove and a young pigeon.  Except for the two birds, He instructed him to cut the animals in half lengthwise and to put one half of the body on one side and the other half of the body directly across from it, making an aisle in the middle between the two parts.  The two birds were not cut in half but remained whole.

This particular covenant was well known to Abram, and, in fact, it is also used partially again by the officials of Jerusalem and Judah in Jeremiah 34:18-20, but they violated the covenant, in contrast to God who always keeps His covenant.  But according to some researchers, elements of this covenant process is still used by some tribes in Africa.

The two parties would then make a figure eight as they walked between each of the pieces, making the sign of infinity, and then they would meet in the middle.  This walk is known as “the walk of death” since this is a life and death agreement that the two parties are making with one another.  Then when they meet in the middle, the two parties would then exchange vows and curses.  Again, this was an UNBREAKABLE covenant, and if Person A did violate the covenant, then PERSON B was to chase down and kill Person A in a physically violent and painful way as symbolized by the cut up animals that each of them had just walked through.

During the exchange of vows, for example, they would —

  • Exchange coats.  A coat was a symbol of one’s status and authority.
  • Exchange belts.  A belt contained one’s weapons, and in exchanging them, they would say, “I shall teach you and protect you”.

After making these vows of what they would do to bless the other, then they would exchange curses of what would happen if the other would break the covenant, including killing the other in a physically violent and painful way as previously stated.

THE PHYSICAL MARK (OR SIGN)

After the exchange of vows and curses, there would be physical mark that was made.  Usually, each of the two parties would cut their right hand and then bind them together to formulate them into one new family.  As their right hands were bound together, they would raise it and swear by the blood of their tribes and families, an oath was made, followed by the statement, “I will never leave you or forsake you, so help me God.”

SIGNS OF MEMORIAL

After this, this some stones would be set up as a memorial or marker of the covenant that had been made that day.

COVENANT MEAL

Upon completing the covenant process, then the two groups would enjoy a meal together, further making the two parties one, since the same food becomes part of the bodies of both parties.  During this meal, the elders would feed one another and say, “This is my body, take eat,” meaning “I’ll die and let you eat my flesh before I will let you starve.”  And then, they would feed each other wine, representing the essence of life, saying, “Everything that I have is yours, even my sons, daughters, food, possessions, everything.”

A SPECIAL CREATION?

This is what Abraham was expecting to do with God.  However, when the time came for Abraham and God to participate in the covenant ritual, the Scriptures state, that God placed Abraham “in a deep sleep” (Genesis 15:12). This same phrase is used in Genesis 2 when God places Adam “in a deep sleep” and then creates Eve (Heb. Chavah; Genesis 2:21).  In using this phrase, there is an indication in the text that God is about to do some creative work here.

In a vision, Abram saw a burning furnace and a flaming torch pass between the pieces.  Both Jewish and Christian commentators agree that these two images represent God.   But what I found interesting is that the Scriptures says, “In the same day, the LORD made a covenant with Abram…” (Genesis 15:18a).

Now every text that I have seen written on this portion of Scripture has stated that by God walking between the pieces alone, He was changing the essence of the covenant from a conditional one to an unconditional one since Abram did not take part in the covenant process.  In essence, this covenantal process was just an elaborate way for God to tell Abram, “I promise.”  However, I believe that there is more here than what they see.

WHY DIDN’T GOD ALLOW ABRAM TO PARTICIPATE?

The one question I had was, Why didn’t God allow Abram to participate in the ritual with Him?  I discovered that if He had, then when Abram died, then the covenant would have died with him.  However, since God is an eternal Spirit and does not die, then by God walking through the pieces, He makes this covenant eternal, just as He, Himself, is eternal.

WHAT ARE THE LEGAL RAMIFICATIONS?

But if God walked through the pieces Himself since Abram was “in a deep sleep,” what were the legal ramifications for God, since the text says, “On that day, God entered into a covenant with Abram”?  I believe that the commentators are wrong when they say that this is just an elaborate promise.  I believe that God walked through the pieces not only for Himself, but also for Abram.  In essence, He became Abram’s legal proxy.  So by doing this, God took upon Himself not only His own legal obligations to satisfy the requirements of the covenant, but Abram’s as well.

  1.  What did this mean for God?  First of all, by doing this, God was promising to keep
    and to maintain the promises He made to Abram and to his seed.  Also, it meant that He was promising to give Abram and his seed all that He is, His Spirit, His characteristics and strength, His possessions and resources, as well as God’s enemies now became Abram’s.  We see the same thing happen when two people get married, another type of covenant.  What was mine, became my wife’s, and what was my wife’s became mine.
  2. What did this mean for God as Abram’s Legal Proxy?  It meant that God was taking upon Himself the responsibility to make sure that Abram and his seed maintained and kept the covenant.  This explains the giving of the Torah at Mt. Siani, the sending of the Prophets and their constant plea for the people to return to the Torah, the need for the B’rit Chadasha (“new covenant”), and for the giving of the Holy Spirit (Heb. Ruach HaKodesh), so that “the seed of Abraham” could be empowered and equipped to walk in obedience to the covenant.But it also meant that if Abram or Abram’s seed should break the covenant, that God would have to die a physically painful and violent death represented by the cut up animals that He walked between.  God had walked these pieces alone.  Abram was “in a deep sleep,” so God took upon Himself in this legal act to suffer the penalty of death for the sins of Abram and his seed.

But not only that, but Abram’s assurance of the Promised Land, as well as all the other promises God made,  was also based upon the act of God walking between the pieces, His act and promise of legal proxy.

ON WHAT DAY DID GOD MAKE THIS COVENANT WITH ABRAM?

What I found really interesting was on what day this covenant was made – Passover.  Although it was made 430 years before the day became known as “Passover” in Exodus 12, it was on this “self-same day” as when this covenant was made.  For before God walked between the pieces, God prophesied the following to Abram:

Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years.  But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve; and afterward they will come out with many possessions. (Genesis 15:13-14)

Did this happen?  Yes, the book of Exodus begins by describing how after Joseph died, there arose a king who did not know Joseph and enslaved the people of Israel.  And it then goes on to describe how God liberates His people from Egypt using Moses as His mediator. And it is in Exodus 12, after the last plague against Egypt, the death of the firstborn, that the Scriptures say,

And it came about at the end of the four hundred and thirty years TO THE VERY DAY, that all of the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt. (Exodus 12:41; Emphasis Mine)

On the very day that God promised Abram that his descendant would “come out with many possessions,” God liberated His people in the Exodus from Egypt.  Rav Sha’ul (Paul) also refers to this in his letter to the congregation in Galatia,

What I am saying is this, the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise.(Galatians 3:17-18)

Therefore, the covenant that God made with Abram happened on Passover – before it was called Passover, and He fulfilled His promise to Abram on the same exact day that He made it, although 430 years later.

DID ABRAM AND HIS SEED BREAK THE COVENANT?

But what about the promise that God made when He walked between the pieces?  Did Abram or any of his seed violate and break the covenant?  The answer is yes, they did.  We know from the testimony of Scripture that Abram’s seed, or descendants, did, in fact, break the covenant on numerous occasions.  One of them being the sin of the golden calf, described in Exodus 32.  Consequently, if Abram and His seed did break their covenant with God, then the question we would wonder if how is it possible for God, who is an eternal Spirit, to keep His covenantal obligation to to die a physically painful and violent death?

It should also be remembered that the Scriptures state, “On that day, God entered into covenant with Abram.”  So the covenant was made between God and Abram and his seed.  So since it was Abram’s seed, or descendants, who violated the covenant on a number of different occasions, then justice would demand that someone representing the seed of Abraham should likewise pay the penalty of those violations.

GOD’S SOLUTION.

God’s solution to this dilemma is found in the writings of the B’rit Chadasha (“New Testament”), and it is commonly referred to as the incarnation.  God sends an angel to a young virgin girl named Mir’yam (Mary) in the village of Nazareth:

Do not be afraid, Mary: for you have found favor with God  And behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus [Heb. Yeshua].  He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His Kingdom will have no end. (Luke 2:30-33)

Through the incarnation, the child born to Mary would be both God and a Jew, a physical descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, thereby representing both sides of the covenant in Genesis 15, God and Abram and his seed.  Just as the first anointed one mentioned in Scripture is Aaron, the Priest, and then later the various kings, Saul, David, and Solomon, so the Messiah came first to be a priest, offering Himself as a sacrifice for the sins committed by Israel and the nations, in fulfillment of God’s promise of walking between the pieces, and then in the next coming, He shall indeed comes as King and reign over Israel and the nations.

This is why Yeshua/Jesus had to die such a physically violent and painful death, and why it had to happen on Passover, on the very day that God walked between the pieces, although two millenniums later. This is why Rav Sha’ul (Paul) states in Acts 13:32-33,

We tell you the Good News: what God promised our fathers [Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob], He has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus (Heb. Yeshua)

Rav Sha’ul (Paul) refers to this promise again in his trial before King Agrippa, as I stated previously,

And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our fathers that I am on trial today. (Acts 26:6)

Finally, Yeshua/Jesus Himself refers to the fact that Abraham witnessed His coming and His death:

Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing My day; he saw it and was glad. (John 8:56)

Question:  “When did Abraham see the day of Yeshua/Jesus?”

Answer: “When he saw in a vision God passing between the pieces.”

Question:  “What about the non-Jewish world?  How do they have a part in this?”

Rav Sha’ul (Paul) answers this question.  He writes,

Understand, then, that those who believe are the children of Abraham (Galatians 3:7)

If you belong to the Messiah, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:29)

Notice that Rav Sha’ul (Paul) did not write, “If you belong to the Messiah, then you are heirs according to the promise,” but “If you belong to the Messiah, then you are Abraham’s seed,” and it is when we are part of the seed of Abraham, having accepted God’s fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant in and through Messiah, that we then become “heirs according to the promise.”

So by belonging to the Messiah, whether one is a Jew or a non-Jew, we are made a part of this renewed covenant that God has fulfilled in and through the death, burial, and resurrection of the Messiah.  And in addition, the promise of God’s own Spirit, living on the inside of those who are part of this renewed Abrahamic covenant, is also made available to all who will believe:

He redeemed us in order that the blessings given to Abraham might come to the Nations through the Messiah Yeshua, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit (Galatians 3:14).

And it was Shi’mon Petros (Peter) who said in his sermon on that first Shavuot (Pentecost) after Messiah’s death, burial, and resurrection, when Shi’mon Petros (Peter) and the other disciples of Yeshua/Jesus had received the baptism (the full immersion) of the Holy Spirit (Heb. Ruach HaKodesh)::

Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Yeshua HaMoshiach (Yeshua/Jesus the Messiah) for the forgiveness of sins.  And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The Promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, and for all whom the Lord our God will call. (Acts 2:38-39)

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

What will you do with God’s gift, the fulfillment of His promise to the fathers?  Will you accept it and begin to enjoy intimacy with God, the living of His Spirit on the inside of you, and His other blessings as part of the fulfilled Abrahamic covenant?  The covenant is open to all who will come, whether Jew or non-Jew.  And with each person that comes to God, accepting His fulfillment of His promise to Abraham, then God’s promise to Abraham comes closer to its complete fulfillment:

And in you shall all the families of the earth be blessed. (Genesis 12:3)

If you wish to receive this promise, pray the following:

Father, forgive me of my sins.  I accept the gift that you have given, the fulfillment of your promise to the fathers by Yeshua (Jesus) coming and dying on the cross for my sins, and I ask you to come into my life and fill me, so that I might experience the intimacy and blessing of covenant that Chris has described in this article.  I, like Abraham, want to have such a close relationship with you that I too might be called “a friend of God.”  Thank you Lord for your gift, in the name of the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus).  Amen.

If you prayed this prayer and have asked God to make you a part of His fulfilled Abrahamic covenant, please email me at followingmessiah@gmail.com, so that I might pray with you once more and answer any further questions that you might have.


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The Life of Abraham: An Important Lesson for Every Believer

There’s an error being taught in many churches, which is that the Tanakh (or “Old Testament”) teaches “works righteousness;” whereas, the New Testament (Heb. B’rit Chadasha) teaches “salvation through grace through faith.”  The fact is, that “grace through faith” is God’s modus operandi and is seen throughout both the Old and New Testament, not just the New Testament alone.  And this truth is clearly seen when one examines and studies the life of Abraham.

GOD CALLS ABRAM

First of all, God’s relationship with Israel did not begin at Mt. Siani, but with Abram.  God speaks to Abram (later called Abraham), after his father death in Haran (Genesis 11:31-32):

Now the LORD said to Abram,  “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives, and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you; and the one who curses you I will curse.  And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. (Genesis 12:1-3)

Notice here that God does not use the term “covenant,” but He promises Him these things.  As a result of these promises, Abram then leaves Haran to go to the land which the LORD promised him.  This is where God begins the process of building his relationship with those who would constitute the people of Israel.

GOD REAFFIRMS HIS PROMISE WITH ABRAM

It is not until three chapters later that God enters into covenant with Abram.  The chapter begins,

After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.” (Genesis 15:1)

Abram responds to the word of the LORD by questioning the LORD.  Apparently, sufficient time has passed to where Abram is questioning whether the LORD’s promise of children is actually going to happen.

And Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus [Abram’s servant]?”  And Abram said, “Since You have given no offspring to me, one born in my house [his servant] is my heir.” (Genesis 15:2-3)

Abram here is telling the LORD, since you haven’t kept Your promise to give me offspring, then the only one who is going to end up inheriting from me is Eliezer, my servant.  I am sure waiting all this time has been frustrating for Abram, but notice that the LORD does not get on Abram’s case for his statement here.  Instead, He reaffirms His promise and then takes Abram outside for a visual to assist His faith.

Then behold the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “This man will not be your heir; but one who shall come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.”  And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” (Genesis 15:4-5)

It is immediately after these two verses, when we find the statement,

Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him for righteousness. (Genesis 15:6)

This same verse is quoted by Rav Sha’ul Paulus [Paul] three times in the New Testament (Heb. B’rit Chadasha), Romans 4:3, 22, and Galatians 3:6, and once by the brother of Yeshua/ Jesus, James (Heb. Ya’acov), James 2:23.   Why do both Rav Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) and Ya’acov (James) quote this reference in Genesis?  Because it is the first time that the root form of the word “faith” appears in Scripture; therefore, this first occurrence establishes its basic, fundamental meaning.

GOD ENTERS INTO COVENANT WITH ABRAM

Immediately after making this great faith statement of the Scriptures, God promises Abram that He would also give him the land (Genesis 15:7).  What has intrigued me about Abram is that he can believe God for a son (an heir), but when God promises him the land, he wants some assurances:

And he said, “O Lord GOD, how may I know that I shall possess it?” (Genesis 15:7)

This question prompts God entering into covenant with Abram.

So He said to him, “Bring Me a three year old heifer, and a three year old female goat, and a three year old ram, and a turtle dove, and a young pigeon.”  Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, and laid each half opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds.” (Genesis 15:9-10)

Now when it came time for Abram to enter into this covenant process with God, notice what it says in verse 12:

Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram;… (Genesis 15:12).

Abram did not participate in the covenant ritual at all.  The Scriptures are clear, “a deep sleep fell upon Abram.”  Instead, five verses later, we read,

And it came about when the sun was set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces. ON THAT DAY the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I have given this land.  From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates:….” (Genesis 15:17-18; emphasis mine)

There’s a lot more to this covenant than meets the eye, but what I want to focus on in this article is that both Jewish and Christian theologians agree that the “smoking oven and flaming torch” represent God, who passed through the pieces alone.  Abram did not participate as I said.  God did it for him.  Isn’t this a picture of God’s grace?  The fact is, if Abram had participated in the covenant, then when Abram died, the covenant would have become null and void.  However, by God performing this covenant by Himself, the covenant remains eternal since God does not die, being an eternal Spirit.  Therefore, the promise of the land to the descendants of Abram (Israel) is likewise eternal.

GOD REQUIRES OBEDIENCE

It is AFTER this covenant of grace found in Genesis 15 when God requires two things of Abram:

Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty [Heb. ‘El Shaddai]; Walk before Me, and be blameless.” (Genesis 17:1)

The first thing that God requires is that Abram live “blameless” before him.  You see obedience is to be an outward expression of our relationship with God.  Our obedience does not result in relationship, but our relationship with God should result in us obeying God.  And it is our obedience to God that results in us being blessed by God.

LEGALISM VS. OBEDIENCE

There is another error that’s commonly taught, which is that the blessings of God come upon those who simply believe.  This, however, is not seen or taught in Scripture.  The blessings of God ALWAYS follows obedience.  Now obedience does not mean just going through the rituals, but it means obeying God from our hearts.  If our heart is not involved, then it is not true obedience.   Consequently, you can have two people do the same exact thing, and for one person, it will be empty ritualism, and for the other person, it will be obedience.  What distinguishes the two is the heart:  Is the person motivated by their love of God?  Therefore, from the outside, there’s no way to watch someone and know whether their behavior is legalism (or empty ritualism) or if it is obedience.  Only God knows.

THE MOUNT SIANI CONNECTION

I personally believe that the covenant given at Mt. Siani is a further development and explanation of what God meant when He told Abram to walk “blameless” “before Me.”  There isn’t any further explanation of what God meant by walking “blameless.”  It is implies through the lack of discussion that Abram understood, at least to some extent, what this requirement entailed.

GRACE AND OBEDIENCE

In addition, it is important to note that this requirement to live blamelessly before God came AFTER the covenant of grace, seen in Genesis 15.  Obedience did not come BEFORE Grace, but AFTER WARDS.  FIRST GRACE, THEN OBEDIENCE.  That is, and has always been, the biblical model.

THE COVENANT OF CIRCUMCISION

Although there is a lot more in this chapter I could touch up, what I want to focus on instead is that in addition to the requirement to walk blamelessly before Him, God also gives Abram the following requirement:

God said further to Abraham (his new name now), “Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations.  This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised.  And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.  And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations,… (Genesis 17:9-12a)

Notice that circumcision is also required in addition to walking blameless before God. These two things are required of Abraham AFTER the grace covenant of Genesis 15.  This issue of circumcision is an interesting one, but one which cannot be handled in just a few lines.  So I will hold off for another time.

THE BIBLICAL PATTERN

Consequently, when we study the life of Abraham, we discover the development of an interesting pattern:

— God’s Call
— A time of development of one’s relationship with God
— God’s covenant of grace with them
— God’s requirement of obedience

Again note that the requirement of obedience FOLLOWS the covenant of grace; it does not precede it.  This same pattern is seen repeatedly throughout the Scriptures.  For example, it is seen in the life of Moses and the children of Israel, it is seen in the life of David, and it is even seen in the life of Yeshua/Jesus and His early disciples.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER

Consequently, then, although I have found the repetition of this pattern throughout the Scriptures, there are some things I have yet to figure out.  For example,

  • At what point do we recognize God’s call on our life?  When we first feel convicted and start thinking about God or is it when we go to the altar to give our lives to Him?
  • At what point do we enter into covenant with God?  What is that moment in the life of the believer?
  • What is “getting saved”?  Is it responding to God’s call or is it entering into covenant with God?  Or is entering into covenant with God something that occurs after “we get saved” in our walk with God?  If so, what is that? and when does it happen?

As you can see, these questions can provoke a lot of discussion.  But even though I am still struggling with these questions in my own mind, I do know that obedience comes as a result of my relationship to God; it does not bring about that relationship. Therefore, the doctrine that the Tanakh (or Old Testament) teaches “works righteousness” definitely cannot be seen or proven in the life of Abraham.


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Marriage: A Picture of Covenant (Part 1)

Because the LORD has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant” (Malachi 2:14).

COVENANT – A COMMON MISPERCEPTION

In the last article, I introduced the idea that our relationship with God is rooted and founded on covenant, and even though this is seen throughout the Tanakh (“Old Testament”) and the B’rit Chadasha (“New Testament”), the focus of the covenant is not really understood by many people.  Many articles have been written looking at the process of covenant, and all of the various steps that were involved in the making of covenant.  As a result, many people view covenant as a “legalistic process” that detracts one from one having a relationship with God.  But in looking at covenant in this way, they’ve miss the point.  Just as a marriage ceremony may be quite elaborate and detailed, the focus of the ceremony is not about all of the elaborate details, but about the movement of a couple’s relationship to something much more deeper and intimate, and the same is true of covenant.

AN UNFORGETTABLE MOMENT

As the quote from Malachi above points out, marriage is a type or picture of covenant.  It’s a life-changing moment in the lives of people, and this was true for me as well.  I’ll never forget the moment.  Karen and I were making minimum wage jobs at the time, and we could not afford an elaborate wedding.  In fact, it took both of us contributing several payments to afford our wedding bands.  To be able to make our wedding more affordable, we decided to get married in my apartment, which I had rented just shortly before.  It gave us a chance to fix it up, even though neither one of us spent the night there until our wedding night.

The day of our wedding was Friday, December 12, 1981, at 11:00.  We were married in front of our sliding glass doors, which had those long white, free-swinging, vertical Venetian blinds.  In the middle of it, we had placed two artificial blue bells with white ribbons for decoration.  Our apartment was very small, so we only had room for the immediate family, and we had rented a nearby VFW Hall for the reception.  When the moment came for Karen to come out of our soon-to-be bedroom, she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.  We had recorded my dad playing the Wedding March on his accordion, and as the tape played, it was still the best moment of my life.

Our marriage ceremony was rather simple in comparison to some I’ve attended, which were much more elaborate.  But regardless of the simplicity or elaborateness of the wedding, the focus of the ceremony is on the couple and their relationship.

MARRIAGE – ROOTED IN THE CREATION OF ADAM

In order for us to understand the depth and context of marriage as God intended it, we must understand it within the context of the creation of Adam.

Thus God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;…” (Genesis 1:26a).

First of all, the word translated as “man” in the Hebrew text is the word ‘Adam.  ‘Adam was created in the “image” and “likeness” of God.  It then goes on to say in verse 27,

And God created man (‘Adam) in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female created He them.

What is interesting about this verse is that it is written in poetic form, and you can even hear the poetic rhythm of the verse in English.  If we break the poetic form down, we discover that the first two lines are repetitions of one another; it is just for the most part that the word order has been changed.

And God created man in his own image
in the image of God created He him…. (Genesis 1:27a)

Why say the same thing twice?  I believe that as we learn later in Scripture, “by the mouth of two or three witnesses a thing is established.”  This teaching began as a means of establishing truth in a murder trial (Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 17:6), but then, a couple of chapters later, it was applied as a principle for establishing something as truth for any type of crimes (Deuteronomy 19:15). But then, by the time period of the Second Temple period of the first century, C.E. (i.e., the time period of the “New Testament”), it was used as a general principle for establishing something as truth (Matthew 18:16; John 8:17; 2 Corinthians 13:1; and Hebrew 10:28).  So by repeating it, God is establishing this truth as a reality, that “man (or Adam) is created in the image of God,” but also, repetition is used for the sake of emphasis as well.  So God is not only establishing this truth, He is emphasizing it.

A BIT OF ANALYSIS

The following section gets a bit analytical, but the analysis, I believe, is important.  By taking the time to analyze what I am reading, I have found important details and truths seen in the biblical text that most people just skim over.  The ability to analyze various types of texts takes a lot of time and practice, so please do not get discouraged if you have not seen any of the following before.  Be encouraged to know this type of analysis is possible, and it will deepen your knowledge of the Word as it has mine over the year.

I believe one of the things that should be taught within the church is analysis.  Instead, though, we spend more of our time focusing on getting our quota of chapters read for the day or we hear people repeatedly say, “The Bible is so simple a child could understand it,” but this implies that there’s no depth to the Scriptures or that none of it is difficult to comprehend.   However, anyone who has read the book of Leviticus, the visions of Ezekiel, or even the book of Revelation are well aware this is not true.  So let’s begin this process of analysis by looking at the first two lines of Genesis 1:27,

…in the image of God He created him;
male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27b)

These two lines are the most poetical part of the verse, even in the English.  The poetical structure that’s used here is known as Hebraic parallelism.  This is where the one line develops or further defines a word or concept in the following line.  Let’s look, for example, at Psalm 103:1,

Bless the LORD, O my soul;
and all that is within me, bless His holy name.

Notice, for example, the phrase “Bless the LORD” in the first line is equated with “bless His holy name” in the second line.  Both phrases begin with the word “bless,” but then, by writing this in parallel form, David here is equating the phrase “the LORD” with “His holy name.”  I believe the equating of these two phrases could be used as a basis for an interesting discussion about how God and His name are one.  For one thing, just as God is holy, so is His name, and, as a result, we are to treat it as such.

But also note that in the first line, the concept of “soul” is further defined in the second line as “all that is within me.”  This could likewise raise an interesting discussion about how the Hebraic concept of “soul” in the Tanakh (“Old Testament”) = “all that is within me” – differs from the Greek concept of soul, which is “the immaterial part of us that lives forever.”  So in examining this brief example, we can see that David makes use of this poetical structure to not only encourage us to “Bless the LORD” and “His holy name,” but to also define for us the Hebraic concept of the “soul.”

This same technique is being used here in lines 2-3 of Genesis 1:27,

…in the image of God created He him;
male and female created He them.

In these two lines, we see repetitions used again.  For example, “created” in the second line is equivalent to “created” in the third line, and “He” in the second line is equivalent to the “He” in the third line.  That is pretty easy to see.  However, where it gets really interesting, though, is in the next two pairs:

in the image of God” = “male and female
him” = “them

In these two subsequent pairings, we can see that the phrase “in the image of God” in the second line is made equivalent to the phrase “male and female” in the third line, and the word “him” [i.e., Adam] in the second line is made equivalent to the word “them” in the third line.  Adam was created “in the image of God” which was comprised of both “male and female,” and the “him” was, in reality, a “them.”  This may surprise many people to learn, but this idea is again reiterated and made more explicit in Genesis 5:2,

He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day that they were created.

Again, the word translated in English as “Man” is the Hebrew word ‘Adam.  They, “male and female” was “created” by God and “blessed” by Him, and it was He who named them ‘Adam, or “Man.”  So here, again, we can clearly see that the Scriptures are teaching us that in ‘Adam,  there was “male and female”…”in the day that THEY were created” [emphasis mine].  This tells us that the woman was not an afterthought in the creation process, but she was right there in ‘Adam, just like the man.

A REMEZ – A HIDDEN ALLUSION

In the rules of interpretation that we see illustrated within the Scriptures, including the B’rit Chadasha (“New Testament”), there is an interpretative form that’s known as a remez, which means that a deeper reality or truth is in some way being hinted at, illustrated or in some way alluded to within the text.  In this case, we can gain the remez understanding of the text by examining the following two statements:

  • Adam was created “male and female”
  • Adam was created “in the image of God”

Consequently, then, we can see that “the image of God” is seen in the composite unity of “male and female.”  Adam was created to reflect the “image and likeness of God” in the earth, and that image and likeness was comprised of “male and female.”

DOES THIS MEAN THAT GOD IS BOTH A “HE” AND A “SHE”?

No, absolutely not!  To possess gender (“He” or “She”), one must have a physical body, but “God is Spirit” (John 4:24).  However, it does mean that the One God contains within Himself both masculine and feminine traits and qualities, and yet He is One Spirit. And it should be noted that in both the original Hebrew and Greek texts of Scriptures, God is consistently referred to by the pronoun “He.”

However, what is interesting to me is that the Hebrew word for “Spirit” is in the feminine form, and if we look at many of the characteristics or traits of the Ruach Hakodesh (“Holy Spirit”), they are characteristically “feminine”:  He guides us, teaches us, comforts us, encourages us, etc., but as I previously stated, this does not mean that God is “feminine,” and should be called “She,” but it does indicate, as I said, that God does possess what we would traditionally characterize as “feminine qualities.”

But at the same time, He also possesses what we would traditionally characterize as “masculine” qualities and traits.  For example, He’s our “Heavenly Father,” who loves and cares for us, but He is also assertive, aggressive, He makes war (see Exodus 15), He conquers, etc.   Also, another picture of God’s “masculine” traits and qualities can be see in the B’rit Chadasha (“New Testament”), where God’s Spirit is pictured as “seed”:

No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in Him; and He cannot sin, because He is born of God. (I John 3:9).

The Greek word that’s used here for “seed” is the word sperma; it is from this Greek word that we derive the English word “sperm.”  Please do not take this reference to “sperm” or “seed” literal to mean something physical; remember, God is Spirit, not physical, so this illusion must likewise be seen spiritually.  But notice the interesting parallel, we are “born of God” when God’s “seed” (His Spirit) enters into us, and physical human life is produced when the male “seed” (or sperm) enters into the woman.

Consequently, we can clearly see, then, what God is in Spirit – One being consisting of both masculine and feminine traits and qualities – He created Adam in flesh.

THE FORMATION OF THE WOMAN

Before we get into what all this means, let’s look at the next important step in God laying the foundation for marriage, the formation of woman.  In Genesis 2:18, we read,

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him?”

While we were dating and even engaged, my wife would write this verse on the back of the envelopes of the letters she wrote me.  I think she was hinting.  But there’s been a lot of discussion about the meaning of the Hebrew word k’negdo (translated as “suitable”).  It comes from the root word nagad, which means “in front of,” “in sight of,” or “opposite to.”  Through the use of this word here in verse 18, it implies a coming change to this single entity called “Adam” so that a part of him will now be “in front of” of him or “in sight of” him or “opposite to” him, in contrast to being an intricate part of him.

RIB OR SIDE?

Then in verse 21-22, we read,

So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man (Heb. Adam), and he slept; then he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh at that place.  And the LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man (Adam), and brought her to the man (Adam). (Genesis 2:21-22)

The Hebrew word translated as “rib” is the Hebrew word tsela, a feminine form of the noun, and it can be translated as either “rib” or “side.”  Obviously, there’s a big difference between just removing a “rib” as opposed to removing an entire “side” from Adam.

I remember seeing this same discussion many years ago in the movie Yentl (1983).   After her father’s death, Yentl (played by Barbra Streisand), an Ashkenazi Jewish girl in early 20th century Poland, masquerades as a man, so that she could go to the Yeshiva to study Talmud and other rabbinical writings and studies, and when asked for her name, she chooses for her “male role” her late bother’s name, Anshel.  Once she arrives at the Yeshiva, “Anshel” becomes friends with one of the other rabbinical students by the name of Avigdor (played by Mandy Patinkin).  It is during one of their daily walks and arguments with one another that “Anshel” enters into an argument about how this word tsela should be translated and the importance of that meaning for relationships between men and women.  “Anshel” attempts to argue the position that it should be translated as “side,” indicating the equality of the two genders; whereas, Avigdor maintains the traditional translation of “rib.”  But the fact is, as this scene illustrates, the Hebrew word tsela can be translated either way.

In this particular case, I believe the evidence supports the idea of “side,” rather than “rib.” Since Adam was made “male and female,” and “a part of Adam” was to stand “in front of” him, “in sight of” him, or “opposite to” him,  I strongly favor the word “side” over the traditional translation of “rib.”

THE MAN’S RESPONSE

Additional evidence for this position can be seen in examining the man’s (Adam’s) response when God brings him the newly formed woman.  It is in scene where this same deeper truth is again alluded to within the text:

And the man said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man.” (Genesis 2:23)

Notice the man (Adam) did not just say, “This is now bone of my bones,” which is what you would expect if all that God removed was “a rib,” but instead, he says, “This is now bone of my bones, AND flesh of my flesh” [emphasis mine].  This indicates the removal of more than just a “rib” bone.

It is also after this statement that we see in the Hebrew a word change for the man.  Biblically, whenever someone’s name or word used to refer to them is altered or changed, it indicates some important change has occurred within the individual; for example, we see this in such name changes as ‘Avram (“Abram”) to ‘Avraham (“Abraham”), Hoshea (or Oshea) to Y’hoshua (“Joshua”),  Shi’mon (“Simon”) to Petros (“Peter”), etc.

She shall be called Woman (Heb. ‘ishah), because she was taken out of man (Heb. ‘ish).  Therefore, a man (‘ish) shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife (‘ishah), and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:23-24)

What is interesting about the term “Adam” in the Hebrew is that it is a plural noun, which further indicates Adam being a single entity comprised of a plurality,  which the Bible describes as being “male and female.”  However, the terms ‘ish (“man”) and ‘ishah (“woman”) are both singular nouns.  Adam, originally consisting of a plurality, has now become two separate single entities, or what we now know today as “a man” and “a woman.”

It is after this separation of the original Adam into two entities, the man and the woman, that we read the traditional line that’s recited in most weddings:

Therefore, the man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)

In other words, as a result of this separation occurring, the man (Heb. ‘ish; “the masculine aspect or side of Adam”) is to “cleave” to his wife (Heb. ‘ishah; “the feminine aspect or side of Adam”), and the two together are to “become one flesh.” It does not say that they are to remain as two separate entities under one roof, but out of their desire, passion, and love for one another, they are to “cleave” to one another, and through this process of “cleaving,” they are to “become one flesh,” or to put it another way, they are to reconstruct the original Adam, who was made “in the image and likeness of God.”

I know this is deep, but this is an important truth that we need to understand if we want to understand the biblical view of marriage and the truths taught in the rest of Scripture.  One rabbinical teaching that reflects this same idea is the statement, “A man cannot be a man without a wife.”  Now in English, this statement is often misunderstood as being “chauvinistic;” however, in Hebrew it makes complete sense: “A man (‘ish) cannot be a man (Adam) without a wife (‘ishah).  In other words, ‘ish + ‘ishah = Adam.

In other words, each man and woman are not the full image of God, but half of His image, and in the marriage relationship, these two parts of His image are being joined together to formulate the full image.  This process of “joining together” the two halves of His image is a process that occurs throughout the marriage relationship, it does not just instantaneously “happen” because the man and the woman says, “I do.”  Although the relationship of the couple began to evolve when they were dating, it is after the wedding ceremony when this process really becomes deeper and more intensified.

THE PRIMARY PURPOSE OF MARRIAGE

The primary purpose of marriage, then, is not the propagation of the human race, as I’ve heard often argued, although it is one of the purposes.  Rather in and through the marriage bond, a man and a woman are to come together in “oneness” (Heb. echad) in every area of their lives (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, financially, and socially).  Why?  So they reconstruct the original Adam who was made “in the image and likeness of God.” So that through their unity, the “image of God” may be seen in the earth through their relationship, their passion, their desire, and their love for one another. However, in many marriages, the “image of God” is not being seen.  Why? Because the more that a man and a woman seeks to be their own individual beings, the more they oppose God’s desire that they become “one flesh” and, therefore, reflect “His image and likeness.”

Another reason for this is because it teaches us that the “image of God” is seen when we come together as a “corporate unity.”  For example, in Psalm 133, it teaches us that –

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious [anointing] oil upon the head, coming down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard, coming down upon the edge of his robes.  It is like the dew of Hermon, coming down upon the mountains of Zion; For there the LORD commanded the blessing – life forever.

Notice, that unity is “good” and “pleasant,” and that it is compared to the anointing and the blessing of God.   We also see this emphasis on unity (or oneness) in John 17, when Yeshua/Jesus prays,

I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those also who [continue to] believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me.  (John 17:20)

Notice that the prayer of Yeshua/Jesus is that we, as His followers, may be one with God and with one another, even as He and the Father are One.   And it would be through our oneness with God and one another that the world would finally believe that God was the One who sent Yeshua/Jesus the Messiah.  Consequently, all the divisions and schisms in the church work in opposition to the desire and prayer of Yeshua/Jesus.   And where do we begin to learn about the importance of corporate unity?  The marriage relationship.

DOES THIS MEAN THAT THE WOMAN SHOULD DO WHATEVER THE MAN SAYS?

To bring about this oneness, does this mean that the woman should “submit” and just do whatever her husband tells her?  No, this is a common misinterpretation and misapplication of certain teachings of the Bible regarding the marriage relationship.   God does not indicate in His Word that He expects the woman to become a “door mat” and simply lie down and let the man walk all over her, nor does this mean that she should lose her own identity, while he maintains his.  Instead, this process of “joining together” the two halves of God’s image into One equally involves the effort of both the man and the woman.  Both of them together need to work on “melting together” their identities, their desires, their needs, their wants, their goals, etc., to formulate this new single creation.   Both the man and the woman may lose certain aspects of themselves within this process, but they also both gain something through this process: the knowledge, gifts, talents, and strengths of the other.  If this is done God’s way, rather than our own way, it is a “win-win” situation for both the man and the woman.

Rav Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) explains this process by using the word “subject.”

and be subject to one another in the love of Christ [Messiah]. (Ephesians 5:21)

It is after this verse that he goes into more depth as to what constitutes this process of “subjecting” ourselves one to another.  However, it should be said that some have abused the Scriptures by emphasizing Ephesians 5:22, “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord,” while ignoring verse 21 above, as well as what is taught in verses 25 and 28-29:

Husbands, love your wife, just as Christ [Messiah] also loved the church [His Bride] and gave Himself up for her;…So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies.  He who [continues to] loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ [Messiah] also does the church, because we are members of His body.

If we look at the Scriptures as a single whole revelation, rather than just the parts that we tend to like, than we see that this process of subjection is to one another as we subject ourselves to God and His Word is venue by which God will bring about the oneness He desires in our lives and in our marriage relationship.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?

Why is it so important that married couples should seek oneness, rather than separation. I believe it’s for several different reasons, but the most important three is

  • Through our oneness with one another, we will fulfill God’s desire for marriage – that our marriages become a physical picture or representation of Him within the earth;
  • Through our oneness with one another that we will present within and through the depth, passion, and love expressed for one another in our marriage unions, a picture of the type of relationship that God desires with us.  Throughout the Scriptures, God refers to Himself as our “Husband” and His people as “His Bride.”  I want to examine this idea further in the next article because by looking at our relationship with God within the context of marriage, we gain a better perspective and understanding of what type of depth of relationship that He desires from us; and
  • Through our oneness with one another, we will experience a depth of self-fulfillment and satisfaction that we would not have initially believed possible.

IS MY MARRIAGE PERFECT?

In examining these goals and what I have described as God’s desire for marriage, some may wonder if my wife and I have attained this ideal of marriage.  No, but it has gotten a whole lot better, particularly over the last few years.  There are many times when we get angry, frustrated, and say or do something we shouldn’t, or even try to exert our own will in the situation, rather than seek the oneness that God desires. However, I will tell you, my marriage continues to improve with each passing day.  Indeed, I would describe it as “a fine bottle of wine that has finally fermented and has reached that age where it is enjoyable to the taste.”  But even though there are areas in our marriage that we are still working on (e.g., selfishness, pride, stubbornness), we know the goal that God has presented within His Word, and we continually seek to move towards it each and every day.

GOD CARES ABOUT YOUR MARRIAGE

Just as God cares about my marriage with Karen,  He also cares about yours.  Perhaps, your marriage is closer to that of a “war zone,” as opposed to a loving, passionate union of two people seeking to “become one.”  We can relate.  There were many years where “a war zone” would have been a perfect picture of our relationship with one another,  but once we actually allowed God to come into it,  He began working with each of us individually and then with us together, and we now have a marriage we wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.  In regard to our marriage, God spoke to us prophetically through His Spirit, and this what He said,

Yes, you have been very unstable minded, but that was due to you and your wife being unstable with one another, says God.  I could not do what I have needed to do with your lives a mess, says God Almighty.  I cannot and could not be a Holy God living inside a temple that was living in such disharmony and confusion as the two of you were.  Things were not good, but your minds and hearts yearned to do what was right in My eyes, but you two were like fighting bears and lions, trying to tear each other apart from the very core of your being.  You could not see Me through all of your discord and disharmony, says God, and you were so unhealthy while trying to serve Me. (“God’s Calling of My Husband and I into Ministry”)

Disharmony, division, on-going fighting and hostility in a marriage will not only make your lives miserable, but it keeps you from seeing God and from Him using you and your spouse.  Consequently, we need to strive for Oneness with one another.  As a result,  we know from experience that if you invite God into your marriage and into each of your lives, read and study His Word, and submit yourself to the leading of His Spirit, He will transform your “war-torn home” into a loving environment that you and your spouse will continually crave and desire, and that He can bless and use.

Therefore, all marriages are important to God because He designed them to be so much more than what most of us live and experience in our day-to-day lives.  But I want to invite you to take the first step to bring a change to that, invite the LORD into your lives and home.  Say this prayer with me (or something similar):  Is this prayer some “magic formula” that will suddenly make things better?  No, but it is the first step.  Remember, learning to do things God’s way is a process, but it is a process that always begins with repentance and submitting ourselves to God and His Word.

PRAYER

Lord, my marriage and life is a shambles.  We are continually fighting and tearing one another apart.  I have tried to bring peace to it, but it hasn’t worked.  Lord, I want the kind of marriage that’s taught here in your Word and that Chris has described.  Lord, I know that You are not a respecter of persons, and that if you can change Chris and Karen’s marriage, I believe You can change mine.  

Lord, I invite you now to come into my life and into my marriage.  I open every door of my life to You.  Forgive me of my sins.  Lord, I embrace your gift of salvation that Yeshua/Jesus provided for me by dying on the cross.  Lord, I ask You to please change whatever needs to be changed; remove whatever needs to be removed, and please add whatever needs to be added to my life and my marriage.  I submit myself entirely to You, Your Word, and the leading of Your Spirit.  

Thank You, Lord, for what You are about to do.  In Yeshua’s/Jesus’ name, Amen.

If you have prayed this prayer, I would like to hear from you.  Please email our ministry at followingmessiah@gmail.com, so that we can pray with you again and begin you on your journey to a new life and marriage.
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The Gospel of the Kingdom: A Basic Introduction

“But He [Yeshua/Jesus] said to them, ‘I must preach the Kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose”Luke 4:43.

THE KINGDOM OF GOD

The kingdom of God/Heaven was the central theme of everything that Yeshua/Jesus did and taught, but not only that, but according to Him in Luke 4:43, it was the purpose for which He was sent.  But what is “the kingdom of God/Heaven”?  If we look through the Bible, we will not find it defined anywhere in the text.  However, throughout the Scriptures, God is referred to as King.  For example,

Heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God, for to Thee do I pray. (Psalm 5:2)

The LORD is King forever and ever; nations have perished from His land. (Psalm 10:6)

I am the LORD, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King. (Psalm 43:15)

In Hebrew, the word for “King” is melekh, and what a King does is He malaks (rules or reigns), and His malak is His malkhuth (or Kingdom).  In other words, in English, the word “kingdom” is a noun (it’s a place), but in Hebrew, it is much more dynamic; it is an active verb (an action).

THE CLOSEST EQUIVALENT

The closest equivalent to the phrase “the kingdom of God” is found in I Chronicles 29:23:

And of all my sons (for the LORD has given me many sons), He has chosen my son Solomon to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the LORD over Israel.  [emphasis mine]

The phrase “the kingdom of the LORD” is the English translation of the Hebrew malkhut YHWH.  The four letters, YHWH, denote God’s covenantal name, and by the time of the Second Temple period of the first century, C.E., the name YHWH was only used by the High Priest in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur (“the Day of Atonement”).  Consequently, to make reference to God, other terms – referred to as “evasive synonyms” – were used in place of His name, for example, “heaven,” “God,” or “Power.”  Therefore, the phrase “the kingdom of YHWH” in I Chronicles should be seen as equivalent to the terms “kingdom of God” and “kingdom of heaven.”

LAW OF FIRST MENTION

One of the rules that is used when interpreting Scripture is known as “The Law of First Mention.”  This means that if we want to understand the basic, primary meaning of any term, we must examine it the first time we find it used in Scripture, and then from that point forward, see how the idea is developed and built upon; however, later developments of the idea may never violate or contradict its original base meaning.

THE FIRST MENTION OF THE KINGDOM

The first reference to God’s Kingdom is found at the end of “The Song of Moshe (Moses)”:

And the LORD shall reign forever and ever. (Exodus 15:18)

The phrase “shall reign” in English seems to denote a future time period; however, the phrase in Hebrew is much more dynamic and active: YHWH yimlokh l’olam v’ed (“YHWH reigns forever and ever”).  It is not that YHWH (“the LORD”) shall reign, but that He has reigned, He is reigning, and He shall ever reign forever and ever.

What is interesting about the context of this first reference is that it occurs in a song sung by Moshe (Moses) to God glorifying Him over the victory that He had just demonstrated by His defeat of the kingdom and military of Egypt.  In other words, the context is a political one, rather than a religious one.  God’s Kingdom is political, it has a king, who rules and reigns over His dominions (all that He has created), and He rules and reigns over those within His kingdom through the use of His teachings, commands and laws found throughout the entire Bible (from Genesis 1:1 to the end of Revelation).

A COMMON MISUNDERSTANDING

A common misunderstanding that many people have is that if they can obey all of God’s laws, then those acts of obedience will result in them being citizens of God’s Kingdom. But this is not true on several levels.

First of all, God never intended anyone to obey every single command in Scripture.  There are some commands for Kings, some for the High Priest, some for the priests, some for farmers, and some for men and some for women.  Now, I am not a king, so I am not expected to obey those laws; I am also not the High Priest, the Priest, or a farmer, for example, so I am not expected to fulfill those laws.  And since I am a man, I am not expected to fulfill those laws that are intended for women.  I am only expected by God to fulfill those laws that specifically deal with me.

Secondly, we can obey every single command that does apply, and God is still not obligated to make you a citizen of His Kingdom.  Even in the United States, if an immigrant comes to the U.S. and obeys every single law, his obedience to those laws will not make him a U.S. citizen.  Instead, the U.S. has its own process by which immigrants can become legal U.S. citizens, and the same goes with God’s Kingdom.  Obeying God’s commands will not make you one of His citizens, He has a special process in place by which each individual can become a legal citizen of His Kingdom.

PROBLEMS, PROBLEMS!

The first problem we face in reconnecting with God and His Kingdom is to realize that human beings are born outside of God’s Kingdom.  Adam and Eve (Heb. Chavah) were placed in the Garden of Eden, which is a picture of God’s Kingdom.  However, when they sinned against God’s rule and reign over their lives, they were sent out from the Garden, which then becomes a picture of them being cast out of God’s Kingdom.  They had rejected His rulership and, therefore, since God is a God of love, He honored their desire for self rule.  Love does not impose its self on others, and if people choose separation from God, He will honor that desire.

Secondly, we cannot earn our way back into the Kingdom.  There isn’t anything that we can do, on our own power and abilities, to work our way back in.  Why?  Very simply, because we are dead.  Dead people cannot do anything; they’re dead.  And spiritually, we are dead.  When Adam and Chavah (Eve) sinned (broke God’s laws), they lost their intimacy with God; in fact, the Bible says when God asked Adam where he was, Adam answered,

I heard the sound of Thee in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself. (Genesis 3:10)

Adam and Eve (Chavah) were now afraid.  There was no fear in them before they broke His commands, but now that they had, something inside of them had changed.  They were now afraid of God, they hid from His Presence, and they felt guilt and shame.  The Presence of God that once indwelt them was now gone, and they were no longer connected to the source of life, so they died spiritually.  As a result, they were cast our of the Garden (Genesis 3:23) since God cannot dwell with anything sinful or unholy. Being cast out of the Garden then was a picture of being cast out of God’s Kingdom.

Thirdly, God created us “in His image and likeness” (Genesis 1:26), and when man sinned, that image was distorted, twisted, and corrupted.  Consequently, we no longer reflect God’s “image and likeness” accurately, nor do we have the power to do so because we are spiritually dead.

COVENANT – GOD’S RESPONSE

God’s responds to man’s need is through the use of His covenant.  Unfortunately, many in Christianity only see the covenant in terms of being a “legal process,” rather than understanding that covenant is all about relationships.  Biblically, covenants were made (1) to deepen or intensify an already existing relationship; (2) to resolve relational differences or conflict; and (3) to restore a broken relationship.

Yeshua/Jesus is that covenant.  He came proclaiming the good news of God’s Kingdom, which is that the doorway to intimacy with God and being restored to God’s Kingdom was now open and available through the person of Yeshua/Jesus Himself, and that doorway would be opened for all who would come in faith believing, Jew and non-Jew alike.

Unfortunately, there are many people – Jew and non-Jew – who do not understand the relationship between the covenants that God established in the Tanakh (or “Old Testament”) and the death, burial, and resurrection of Yeshua/Jesus (That’s a discussion for another article).  Most Christians mistakenly view His death as “setting aside,” “doing away” or “putting to death” the previous covenants; however, this is not the case.  He did not set any of them aside, He did not do away with them, nor did He annul any of them, but He filled up (and continues to fill up) their meaning, He re-established them on a historic event (His life, death, burial, and resurrection), and He becomes the new point of entry into these covenants.

By accepting the gift of Yeshua’s/Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins, and His resurrection for our newness of life, we enter into covenant with God: We enter into intimacy with God, We experience His indwelling Presence, forgiveness, and liberation from the power and control of sin that was over our lives, and we enter into greater intimacy, love, forgiveness, mercy, and grace from a loving, Heavenly Father that’s more than any of us could ever possibly imagine, but we also enter into the privilege and responsibilities of one who is in covenant with God, meaning, i.e., that we now become active members of His Kingdom.

THE KING HAS STANDARDS

The Messiah Yeshua/Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, has laid down in the Gospels His standards for those who will make up His Kingdom.  For example, He teaches us in Luke 14, the following standards:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)

To be “poor in spirit” means to be someone who acknowledges your need of Him in your life, that you are incomplete without Him.  Proud, arrogant people who will not come to Him, who will not acknowledge their need for Him, and who will believe that they can live their lives without Him and/or that they are better off without Him will not be those who will make up His kingdom.  Another example of a standard is the following:

If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:26)

Yeshua/Jesus here is using a hyperbole to make the point that He needs to be first place in our lives, and our love for Him should exceed that of our love for our parents, wife, children, siblings, and even our own lives.  “Hate” does not mean have bad feelings towards them, but if a choice has to be made, you would choose Yeshua/Jesus rather than any of your family or even your own needs and desires.  He then reiterates this idea of dying to our own needs and wants with the following:

Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:27)

There is a definite cost to being Yeshua’s/Jesus’ disciple.  He illustrates this by saying:

For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it?  Otherwise, when he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.”  Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and take counsel whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand?  Or else while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks terms of peace.  (Luke 14:28-32)

There is a cost to following Yeshua/Jesus and being His disciple.  This was true of the first century, and it is true today.  He then reiterates the point:

So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all of his own possessions. (Luke 14:33)

All that we possess, even our very life, we must be willing to hand over to Him for Him to use in accordance to His discretion, for His glory and honor.  However, these (and other) standards are often not taught in many churches because they believe that one can accept Yeshua/Jesus as their Savior without making Him Lord.  “Making Him Lord” is a higher level of commitment to Messiah, they say.  However, this clearly violates Scripture.  Rav Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) writes to the congregation at Rome:

If you confess with your mouth Jesus [Heb. Yeshua] as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.  For with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. (Romans 10:9)

As we can see, our salvation is dependent on us accepting Yeshua/Jesus as Lord.  It is not another step, it is THE STEP.  But the word “accepting” doesn’t mean “to mentally accept something to be true,” as we would use the word today, but it means that the reality of that statement must permeate every aspect of our being, so much so that it flows out of our mouths, “for out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34).

BELIEF IS NOT ENOUGH

You see, belief is not enough.  In English, the word “believe” usually denotes “mental agreement,” and although “mental agreement” might be a beginning step, it is not what the Bible means by “believe.”  Biblically, the word “believe” denotes our continuing active trust in and reliance upon God, and there’s a big difference between “mentally agreeing to something said about someone” and “trusting” and “relying upon” that individual.

For example, I can ask you, “Do you believe I would ever hurt you?” and there are many people who know me and would say that they “believed” that, but if I asked them if they would loan me their credit cards, not too many (very few, in fact) would loan them to me.  Why?  Because it doesn’t cost anything to mentally accept something to be true, but trust always costs.

Consequently, it is not enough to mentally accept the possibility that there is a God or to even say we believe in what the Bible says, or even just to say the words “Jesus is Lord,” but that reality must be true in every area of our lives.  If Yeshua/Jesus is truly living in us as Lord, then His image and likeness should flow out of us in every aspect of our lives.  But again, Yeshua/Jesus is a gentleman; He will not invade or take any part of you by force, but you must willingly hand each and every part of your life over to Him to use for His glory and honor in whatever way He sees fit.

“I AM NOT IN CHARGE”

By bending our knee to the Lordship of Messiah and making Him the ruler and king of our lives, we are acknowledging before God and ourselves that we are not in charge of our lives.  He is.  This is what it means to give our lives to Messiah.  Our lives now belong to Him for His use, His glory, and His honor.   This life, this body, and its needs no longer belong to me; they now belong to Yeshua/Jesus.  I am now a steward of them, but I no longer own them.

KINGDOM PEOPLE – OUR CALLING

We have been called to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” to God (Exodus 19:6; I Peter 2:5, 9).  This is not a calling just upon the Jewish people, but upon all people, languages, tongues, and ethnic groups that God brings into His kingdom in and through the Messiah Yeshua/Jesus, the Son of man:

I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like the Son of Man was coming,and He came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him, and to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and men of every language might serve Him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)

Some skeptics or doubters might argue that it is only my opinion that the “Son of Man” spoken about here is Yeshua/Jesus.  But they would be wrong.  Yeshua/Jesus proclaimed it of Himself at His trial in response to the High Priest, who adjured Him “by the name of the living God, that You tell us [the Sanhedrin] whether You are the Christ [Messiah], the Son of God.” And this was His reply:

You have said it yourself; nevertheless, I tell you, hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven. (Matthew 26:64)

Yeshua/Jesus is the Son of Man, and His return is very soon, and we must prepare for His coming and the establishment of His Kingdom here on earth.  It will be a time unparalleled in human history.   And as His people, we are to represent Him and His Kingdom, and live out the teachings, laws, commands, values, and beliefs that He has handed down to us throughout all of His Word, from Genesis 1:1 to the end of Revelation.  For the Scriptures teach us,

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome (or grievous).  (I John 5:3)

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