A Gentile Passover

The Lord gave Moses and Aaron further instructions in regard to strangers and servants desiring to keep the Passover, that all males must be circumcised. This is why circumcision was such a hot topic in the early church discussion in regards to expectations placed upon gentile believers.

And when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it.   Exodus 12:48.

Paul resolved the issue:  for he is not a Jew which is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew which is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God.     Romans 2:28 & 29.

Note the clear symmetry between the two verses right up to “in the spirit and not in the letter”.  But then Paul adds this final clarification; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

When our heart is circumcised, we can say like Paul: 

For do I now persuade men or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.                                  Galatians 1:10.

But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men but God, which tries our hearts.                   1 Thessalonians 2:4.

Some translations change this to “God, who tries our hearts.” Granted, He certainly does try us, but the point Paul is making is that the test of a circumcised heart is to put ourselves to this question, am I pleasing men or God.  This is the issue which tries our hearts.

Twice Paul makes an interesting statement in 1 Co 1:31 and 2 Co 10:17, “let them that glory, glory in the Lord.”  The statement suggests that he is quoting a verse from the Old Testament. In actuality, he is  paraphrasing a passage from the prophet Jeremiah. Paul is attempting to remind them of instructions he gave while he was with them. 

Paul’s stay in Corinth is chronicled in Acts 18.  He reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks…then he continued there for 18 months! “teaching the Word of God among them”.   v.11.   

So let’s look at the text from Jeremiah that Paul would have been teaching from to apply this paraphrase he uses “to glory in the Lord.”

Thus saith the Lord, let not the wise glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty glory in his might, let not the rich glory in his riches: but let him that glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord which exercise loving-kindness, judgment and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.                     Jeremiah 9:23 & 24.

Now let’s jump back over to 1 Corinthians: for you see your calling brethren how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty, and base things of the world and things which are despised God has chosen, yes and the things which are not to bring to naught things that are; that no flesh shall glory in His presence.                                                                                                        1 Corinthians 1:26-29.

Try to set aside the obvious inference that the church is made up of foolish, weak, base and despised members and hear the echo of Jeremiah 9 in this passage. So what was Paul teaching on by using Jeremiah 9 as his text?   Let’s continue through the final two verses:

Behold, the days come says the Lord, that I will punish all of them which are circumcised with the uncircumcised, and all that are in the utmost corners, that dwell in the wilderness: for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart.   Jeremiah 9:25&26.

In the time of Jeremiah, all the people of Israel had become blind to God’s Word.  Even as Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

For unto this day when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it (the heart) shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.         2  Corinthians 3:15-17.

The blindness of the uncircumcised heart is a paramount issue. For the Lord has set a day when the veil will be lifted from the hearts of Israel. This an opportunity to look at the first of the mysteries of God revealed in Christ that Paul speaks of:

Let a man so account of us as ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful.                                               1 Corinthians 4:1&2

In order to be a faithful steward, a saint must know what these mysteries are of which Paul speaks.

For I would not brethren that you should be ignorant of this mystery, less you should be wise in your own conceits, that blindness in part has happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.                  Romans 11:25.

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Blot Out A Remembrance

Then the Lord said to Moses, Write this for a memorial (zikrown) in the book and recount it in the hearing of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance (zeker) of Amalek from under heaven.                                                             Exodus 17:14.

While a memorial (zikrown) exists to help perpetuate a memory (zakar); a remembrance (zeker) refers to the effect the memory has on a person, or people. For example, the memorials of the Confederacy continue to be controversial in the South. Statues of Civil War heroes have been removed. The Confederate flag, the most visible memorial of that period, has been banned from flying over municipal and state buildings. This has been necessary, because the remembrances associated with them are polarizing to society. Ideally, memorials should unite the people in a society. For the Memorials found in the Torah, the purpose is to bind the people to God.

Notice the verse states that this memorial exists for the sake of Joshua. The incident with Amalek occurred shortly after passing through the Red Sea. So God intends to settle this issue later, by the hand of Joshua. This ultimately will not take place until much later.

Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you were coming out of Egypt, how he met you on the way and attacked your rear ranks, all the stragglers at your rear, when you were tired and weary; and he did not fear God.  Therefore it shall be, when the Lord your God has given you rest from your enemies all around, in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance, that you will blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. You shall not forget.                  Deuteronomy 25:17-19.

Now forty years later, Moses addresses the next generation on the steppes of Moab in preparation for entering the promised land. The older generation who came out of Egypt has all passed away. The text says “zakar Amalek”, and the translation implies that the people are being instructed to remember this incident. This would not be the case, for any part of the narrative of Exodus would have been a part of the narrative of stories told by the adults to the children they were raising. The stories involving Amalek were not just about a merciless attack, but also a rousing tale of Joshua and a group of valiant men who went out against them. They could not prevail unless Moses held his staff above them on the overlooking mountain. The correct translation, therefore, would be ‘you have been perpetuating the memory of Amalek’. With this story comes the concern over the remembrance of what the Amalekites did in attacking the weakest of the people. God is dealing with bitterness, hatred and the desire for vengeance.   This is the remembrance which must be blotted out. 

The avenging of blood is one of God’s priorities and the Law of Moses required the establishment of sanctuary cities for a man to flee to if he witnessed an accidental death. If he feared that he would be held accountable for the death by a family member; ‘the avenger of blood’ would seek to slay him.  (Deuteronomy 19, Joshua 29).

Vengeance is Mine, and recompense…Deuteronomy 32:35.

The avenging of blood has to be handled only in accordance with God’s instructions. Once the vengeance has been granted, the remembrance must be blotted out. The final word of the text in Deuteronomy 25:19 is ‘shalach’ and means ‘forgotten, to become oblivious to’, and yet the translator decides to translate into the exact 180 degree opposite, saying ‘Do not forget’!. Thus the instruction becomes, ‘do not ever let go of that bitterness, that hatred! No! That is not God’s Will for the heart of man, and especially His people. The instruction is shalach! Let it be forgotten!. Blot out the remembrance. This was not a plan for genocide, this was a plan for healing the hearts of man. This is God’s heart for man. Not vengeance.

The Book of Life

In a recent discussion,  we reflected on the meaning of Jesus’ statement: 

And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you’…Matthew 7.

I would like to elaborate on how this relates to the topic of memorial and remembrance. These words share a common root, and as a result are often mistranslated; memorial rather than remembrance, and vice versa.

The root word ‘zakar’ is mostly translated remembered or remember, and this demonstrates the real difficulty with Bible translation in general. Translators are determined to find one English word to represent the one Hebrew word, which is essentially impossible.

For example, the first time we see zakar in scripture is in Genesis 8:

Then God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the animals that were with him in the ark.

Finding difficulty in the idea of God ‘remembering’ something when He knows everything, I concluded that this was just a way of expressing God taking action in the affairs of man. This satisfied my understanding for a season, until studying Memorial and Remembrance. These three words form a three corded rope for understanding God’s covenant interests.

 The correct understanding of zakar is expressed by the definition:

‘To perpetuate the memory of’.

This now expresses Genesis 8:1 as ‘God perpetuated the memory of Noah (and mankind) and all creation.’   For another example:

And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her.          1 Samuel 1:19. 

In restoring her fertility, God perpetuated the memory of Hannah, who gave birth to the great prophet and judge Samuel. Rachel, Hannah, Mary and Elizabeth are ‘memorialized” in the narratives of scripture, not just as mothers to famous men, but women of great faith and boldness in prayer.  Therefore, ‘the remembrance of them’ is the resulting inspiration throughout the generations.

Now, to being known by the Lord.

But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.     Revelation 21:27.

Jesus told his disciples;

Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.   Luke 10:20.

Those who serve the Lord, who are the called, and the elect and the faithful (Revelation 17:14.) are ‘memorialized’ in heaven. Only they will be among those who hear ‘well done, my good and faithful servant.’

The Word of Our Testimony

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not be afraid or worry about their threats. Instead sanctify Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks you a reason(logos) for the hope that is in you,  yet with humility and reverence—keeping a clear conscience so that, whatever you are accused of, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Messiah may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good (if it is God’s will) than for doing evil.                          1 Peter 3:13-17.

We are instructed in this passage to “always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks for a reason(logos) for the hope that is in you”.  This verse gives an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the Greek: logos. Over 65% of the time , logos is simply and banally translated word,  giving us the vaguest notion of the meaning that is being conveyed. We have an expression in English to convey the point of getting to the heart of the matter for clarity in conveying the truth. We say that for “all intents and purposes”, something to be true. The Logos of God conveys in a very pure sense His intent and purpose behind His creation. This is why the Son of God is described by John as “The Word”, The Logos. Because of this fact, Jesus can say of Himself:
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Revelation 22:13.

The Truth that the Son of God is His Logos is fully expressed for “all intents and purposes” in this one verse:

“You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.”       Revelation 4:11.

Consider now another example where logos is used, but simply translating as “word” failed to convey enough information, so another choice of words is utilized.

The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen.              Acts 1:1&2.

Here Luke opens his second book by referring to his first book, which we call the Gospel of Luke, as the former account(logos). He refers to his first book as a logos, in which he describes his “intents and purposes”in the opening verses.

Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus(lover and beloved of God), that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.               Luke 1:1-4.

So we see Luke describe his logos as a narrative “set in order” from first to last to convey a “perfect understanding”. This “orderly account” is to insure the certainty of the things that we are instructed and hold fast to in faith.

Now returning to our primary text, if we are to give “our logos for the hope that is in us”, we must establish ourselves firmly in the context of an orderly account based on a perfect (mature) understanding of the word and work of God in our life.

We are to be judged by what is found of us in “the Lambs Book of Life”. Will there be a full account found there, or will we be just a footnote in someone else’s logos. This is exactly what we are being called to do with our life as a narrative of the Work of His Spirit. This is the correct understanding of the statement: “we overcome by the word(logos) of our testimony.
They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word(logos) of their testimony, and they did not love their lives even in the face of death.                      Revelation 12:11.

This is Eternal Life

He said: Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, so the Son may glorify You. Even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, so may He give eternal life to all those You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Yeshua the Messiah, the One You sent.                                John 17:1-3
How do we come to know God and obtain this eternal life? The ones we know; we recognize their voice.

The shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them; and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.            John 10:4.

Whether we are listening to the spoken Word or studying devotionals, praising God or meditating in His presence, the one goal remains constant: to know His voice.  One of the  earliest ways that the priesthood referred to the Lord was “The Voice.”

And when Moses went into the tent of meeting that He might speak with him, then he heard the Voice speaking unto him from above the ark-cover that was upon the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim; and He spoke unto him.                                                                                                                 Numbers 7:89, JPS Tanakh.

The point of this is that we can listen to the Word of God being read aloud or preached, and hear the voice of the Spirit as a living commentary on what is being spoken if we abide in the Spirit. Haven’t you had the Lord drop something into your spirit while listening to preaching?

He has made manifest His Word through preaching.               Titus 1:3.

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.                1 Corinthians 1:21.

How then shall they call on the One in whom they have not trusted? And how shall they trust in the One they have not heard of? And how shall they hear without someone proclaiming? And how shall they proclaim unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who proclaim good news of good things!”                   Romans 10:14&15.

This is why the message must not deviate from what was presented by the first apostles.

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no benefit. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and are life.                                        John 6:63.

But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away. For if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. When He comes, He will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment.         John 16:7&8.

It is always the work of the Holy Spirit to convict someone to repentance.
This is why Paul said:
When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come with excellence of speech or wisdom, proclaiming to you the mystery of God. For I decided not to know about anything among you except Yeshua the Messiah and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.                                                   1 Corinthians 2:1-5.

The public reading of scripture is a true tradition of the Witnesses of Israel.
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to encouragement, and to teaching.          1 Timothy 4:13.
The Message of the Messiah must register to the listener through the Voice of the Spirit, not our own. In this knowledge of God is the continual blessing.

Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.                         Revelation 1:3.

 

He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.                         John 3:29

The Firstborn Son of God

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.  John 1:14.

And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.  Colossians 1:18.

To which of the angels did He ever say: “You are My Son,  today I have begotten You”? And again: “I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son”?   But when He again brings His firstborn into the world, He says “Let all the angels of God worship Him.”   Hebrews 1:5&6.

The love of God was revealed among us by this—that God sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.                     1 John 4:9.

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son,  Jesus Christ our Lord.    1 Corinthians 1:9.

The Voice gives the Most Excellent Glory

For He received from God the Father honor and glory when The  Voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”  And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.         2 Peter 1:17&18.

But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law,  to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!”  Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.   Galatians 4:4-7.

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.   Romans 8:29.

The Most Beloved Verses

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.                      John 3:16-18.

These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.       John 20:31.

The First Confession of Faith

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.             1 John 4:15.

For whoever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?       1 John 5:4&5.

Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.   Romans 1:3&4.

And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.  1 John 5:11-13.

 

 

Wisdom First

Proverbs 4:7 begins: chokmah re’shiyth= “wisdom first”. However, it is translated awkwardly as ‘wisdom is the principal thing’, or ‘the supreme thing’, and then adds; and with all your getting, get understanding. This wordy, over translation can be easily understood with this simple statement:   Wisdom precedes understanding.

In other words, trying to understand the word of God without divine wisdom will always fail, and the results are evident in the range of interpretations obtained by trying to gain understanding through knowledge.

This is why Jesus said: I tell you this truth, you must be born from above.  John 3:3.

This verse is usually mistranslated as ‘born again’ to align with 1 Peter 1:23, but then a footnote is added to inform the reader conveniently ‘or from above’, which is what is actually written. This is critical to properly connect this statement with many other verses on the subject, particularly in regard to wisdom.

Gentle Wisdom from Above

Who among you is wise and understanding? By his good conduct let him show his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not boast and lie against the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, nonspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, not hypocritical.                                        James 3:13-17.

Understanding divine truth requires divine wisdom. This is taught in a simple, childlike way by Jesus; ‘Ask, and you will receive.’ This was also taught by his forerunner, John the Baptist:

John answered, “A man can possess nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven.”                                               John 3:27. 

He then adds later, “The One who comes from above is above all. The one who is from the earth is of the earth, and of the earth he speaks. The One who comes from heaven is above all.  And what He has seen and heard, He testifies to that.”                  John 3:31,32.

The Voice of the Bridegroom

In between these two statements we find a now familiar expression that has been used for discipleship training, stewardship, names of books and outreach ministries. This is the phrase ‘friend of the bridegroom’ and the extraction of that title from context clouds the real significance of the verse.

He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.                                    John 3:29.

The most important point of this statement is for the friend to hear the voice of the bridegroom. This point is brought into clear emphasis by Jesus in His Good Shepherd discourse in John 10. This is critical to receiving the wisdom from above, and is the focus of all devotions. Whether we are praying, singing psalms, studying the word, reading passages aloud or meditating in His presence, the ultimate goal remains consistent, to hear and recognize the voice of the good shepherd, the bridegroom, the Master.

The Fear of God

This relationship of the disciple to his master’s voice provides the correct understanding of ‘the fear of God’. When one first begins to recognize the presence of the Lord and hear the voice, the experience can be a bit unnerving. However, the real fear of God should result from losing that contact. 

The gift of the Holy Spirit develops this relationship, and the proper definition of the fear of the Lord is ‘to maintain a continual awareness of His presence’. Jesus explains this way; ‘abide in Me, and I will abide in you.’                                            John 15:4.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.                           James 1:17.

Now we can properly relate the fear of God to wisdom.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,  and the knowledge of the Holy One (the I Am) is understanding.                                                 Proverbs 9:10.

Yeshua said, “You are from below; I Am from above. You are of this world; I Am not of this world. Therefore I told you that you will die in your sins. If you don’t believe that I Am, you will die in your sins.”                                                      John 8;23,24.

So Yeshua said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I Am. I do nothing by Myself, but speak just what the Father has taught Me.”                John 8:28. 

Then Yeshua said to the Judeans who had trusted Him, “If you abide in My word, then you are truly My disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free!”           John 8:31,32.

Jesus then said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”              John 8:58.

 

 

 

 

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