“”Therefore, let us draw near with a whole heart, in full assurance of absolute trust, having our hearts sprinkled and cleansed of evil thought and our bodies washed with pure water.” ~ Ivrim 10:22
I ‘practiced’ this today. And then I thought of this verse. Let me explain what I mean.
There are times, for me, that it seems nothing I ‘do’ in regard to worship seems to ‘work.’ I do not mean in the sense of ‘feeling goose bumps’ or emoting to any degree. I mean in the sense of finishing prayers, and having absolute “shalom,” even though the circumstances of life have not changed. Don’t get me wrong, many days I do that. But sometimes I think that is quite by accident, and not a cognitive function.
There was a moment in my life, during the hardest year of my life to date, the year I lost both my parents and both my grandparents, mom and dad only six weeks apart, grandmother barely eight weeks later, and grandpa right near my birthday. During all that and the collateral turmoil, I just could not get ‘shalom,’ and I still remember the very spot I was standing when these words came across my lips in a plea from deep within: ” יהוה Ro’i, lo ‘ekh’sar”…. And I ‘gave’ myself over to Him. In a moment, in the blink of an eye, all the angst left me. I stood there in joyful shock, having thought that I’d never have a still mind again. There I stood, in perfect shalom. I will never, ever forget that brief moment, whose ‘shalom’ lasted for quite some time.
But, since then, there have been times when I struggle to get to that place. I slip back into the human habit of thinking it’s G-d’s job to come to me. I slip almost subconsciously into typical human thinking and behavior, forgetting the reality of His Presence, of His Compassion, and His ‘khafetz’ toward His people, His deep, affectionate desire for us to draw near to Him. To delight in HIM. To TRUST that He is waiting there for us, and for us to ‘move’ into Him.
I consciously had to do that again today. The last week or so has been inordinately stressful, for various reasons. Nothing catastrophic, just things of life that must be dealt with, several converging all at once. And I decided, consciously, deliberately, that He is waiting for me to worship Him. To make a move. I was singing a melody I wrote for parts of Tehillah 135 and 115, that starts out “Bless יהוה ,” and then ‘Trust in יהוה ,” speaking to Yisra’el, the houses of Aharon and Levi, and those who FEAR יהוה . The imperative plural for ‘trust’ is ‘bit’khu’. It dawned on me how very similar בִּטְחוּ and בְּתֹוךְ are, ‘bit’khu’ and ‘betokh’. They are, ‘trust,’ and ‘in the midst of’, respectively. They’re similar mostly just phonetically, having two letters the same. But, It just occurred to me that my ‘trust’ is what ‘moves’ me into the ‘midst of’, betokh, the “High Tower,” the “Shield,” the ‘Buckler’, the ‘strong fortress, the ‘ever present help’, that is יהוה .
It really is that simple. One thing I am learning more and more, is that men complicate G-d. Men make it difficult to ‘get to Him.’ Men impede others’ progress in their walk. Yeshua said of the Rabbis that they make proselytes “Two-times the sons of Gehinom” as they are. Men do this, because we all think the ‘systems’ of brilliant men must be ‘the way.’ Nope. HE is. And HIS WAY is simple. His burden is easy. His Torah is a DELIGHT. And HE HIMSELF is so FULL of compassion, and a ‘desire’ to commune with us, and be our comfort.
There really is a paradigm shift in ‘shalom,’ when we come to Him with a ‘whole heart,’ like the verse quoted above says. נִתְקָרְבָה נָא בְּלֵבָב שָׁלֵם Let us ‘draw near with a WHOLE heart. The word for heart there is its full version, ‘levav.’ Two ‘houses’ and a king. The King perhaps ‘joining’ the two houses together. The word there for ‘whole’ is ‘shalem.’ It is the last letters of Yerushalayim, and the root word of “Shalom.” Shalom, in Hebrew, means ‘being complete,’ having need of nothing. The verse I quoted those years ago, ” יהוה “ Ro’i, lo ekh’sar” has a similar idea. “ekh’sar” is sort of an opposite of ‘shalem’. It means ‘lack,’ not complete or whole, unsatisfied. But, in the verse, it is negated by the word ‘lo’. ” יהוה is my shepherd, I will lack nothing.”
This is deeper probably than I can convey herein… but I hope this helps someone whose mind ‘lacks’ shalom. Bit’khu is ‘confidence’, being translated as trust. I hope someone is able to ‘move’ a little closer, realizing you settle your heart by KNOWING He is also coming to you….
“Therefore, endure hardships as a good soldier of Yeshua HaMashi’akh. No man can be a soldier and also entangle himself with the things of this life, if he would please him who has chosen him to be a soldier. And if a man also strives to win a contest, he is not crowned except he competes according to the rules.”
I have been praying for a few days now of what next to write. Usually, I am compelled by something, some thing I read or heard, some experience I had with a person, some thought that plagued my mind, good or bad. This week has been very different. This week, my wife and I are making a monumental, life-changing decision, and the ‘war’ has been to make certain Abba is guiding us. We came to shalom early in the week, and now we just have to walk through it in TRUST.
But, other things have been in my prayers, and in my dreams. And I sometimes beg Abba to assure me He is with me, and guiding me. And each time, I am compelled simply to ‘trust,’ and then reminded of a scripture to that effect. Sometimes that’s tough, but, THAT is the ‘confidence’ of a true SOLDIER. After having read the verses cited above, I again thought of this verse: “Adonai gives the word; those who declare the good news are a great army.” [Tehillah 68:12] I have come to love that verse.
In the verses above, from Timote’us Bet 2:3-7, the word for soldier is “Khayal,” which in that context is literally ‘valiant one.’ It is from this word the Eishet Khayil comes, from Mishlim 31:10, the ‘valiant woman’, or ‘virtuous wife’. In order for one to be a valiant one, a soldier for Yeshua, he must realize he is CHOSEN, and did NOT choose G-d. He must not entangle himself in the ‘things of this life,’ but strive to please the ONE who chose him. He must play by the rules….
I firmly trust that the rules are the mitzvot of the Torah, RIGHTLY elucidated by Yeshua’s life and words, NOT by MEN who pervert them. But, there are many who SAY they ‘trust’, but they do not ‘do’. But, the worst person is one who SAYS he is following G-d, Yeshua, and/or His Torah, and yet HAS NO COMPASSION, and chooses to sit in judgment over his brother.
We’ve had those high-minded individuals to leave our congregation, and then run us down publicly, saying we hate Jews, simply because we choose Yeshua’s instruction over the Rabbis’. They cannot ‘see’ the GOOD that our congregation does. They are blinded by their religious pride. And they bring a bad name to us by speaking negatively about us, by name. They would think I am herein doing the same, but do you see me ‘naming’ anyone, trying to bring a bad reputation to their person or congregation? No. I’m simply pointing out what we go through, what has been done to us, by people who benefitted from us. [Tehillah 41:10, 55:14-15, 109:3-5]
It is a tough road to walk, to expose the liars and charlatans in the ‘believing’ community, the lies of the Rabbis who REJECT YESHUA, the lies of ‘two-house’ teachers who divide the body according to DNA, and the false prophets out there, without also appearing to be committing ‘lashon harah’, the ‘evil tongue.’ But, I take comfort in Sha’ul and Kefa, who at times NAMED liars by name! And in Yeshua, who called the Rabbis ‘vipers’, whitewashed tombs full of dead men’s bones’, TO THEIR FACES.
The simple truth is we live in the LAST of the LAST days, and liars and false prophets run amuck. The Messianic community is SWAMPED with identity religionists of all persuasions: Jew-only Rabbinic Messianics, Two House Jews and Gentiles, Brit Am, Black Israelite, Hebrew Roots, Christians, all of whom DIVIDE the body. We, tiny little Bat-Tzion, are attempting to thread the needle. We TRUST that we can indeed put the rope through the eye of the needle, by shredding it down to its smallest parts, binding them together IN LINE behind Messiah Yeshua alone, by discarding SELF identity, and BEING Ekhad in Messiah Yeshua ALONE. Those who ‘think’ themselves spiritually ‘rich’ refuse to do so. They prefer their identity religion. They prefer the twisted teachings of men.
Several times this week, I have been asked to ‘clear the air’ on one teacher or another, or one doctrine or another, in private. This is exactly why we, our congregation, are attempting to create the liturgy needed for TRUE Messianic Congregations, those who identify in and follow the ONLY Rabbi, Yeshua HaMashi’akh, the Son of G-d. And to create a fellowship of Messianic Peshitta congregations, and a ‘yeshiva’, to teach others the Peshat [simple] way to study scripture. G-d really DOES make His Word very plain. MEN complicate it. They TWIST it for their selfish reasons. [Kefa Bet 3:14-17, Filipim 1:15-18]. Abba does indeed work in the midst of that, and save many. But, HE is also calling HIS ARMY OUT of Bavel, OUT of ‘confusion,’ and to TRUTH. And His Truth is unimpeachable. It stands, regardless of what men do.
To get that accomplished, there have been many challenges. And so few people respond to our PLAIN message, because we do NOT tickle their itching ears, but, at times, as one reader put it, send a ‘freight train’ barreling down on them. The blast of the Shofar is indeed OFFENSIVE to someone who is ASLEEP. Or, who is ignoring the warning of being led astray in the battle.
How do you, reader, think that Yeshua said the words he said in Luka 4, where he told His hometown, Jewish brothers and sisters, and the friends He grew up with, that they, religious Israel, were rejecting Him? Did He yell? Did He speak like a pretentious auntie to a baby, or did He simply plainly speak? That is all we have ever done. Yet so few respond, except to run us down publicly, as if they have nothing better to do. As if we are their enemy, and did some grave offense to them personally. Even though I personally have NEVER named anyone I know personally in any public forum, nor even hinted anything about them in my conversations, publicly or privately. They simply are not that important to me.
It truly has grieved me this week, the way people treat each other publicly. The way religious people run other religious people down, by name, in an effort to draw people away from someone, for a personal victory of vanity. The way politicians mock each other and insult each other. The way personal friends hold grudges and ‘hint’ at them on fb, hoping to raise their ire, and all the ways people are just stinking selfish. Yeshua made the following statement to the Rabbis, who represent all that is wrong with religion, who, today, along with most religious leaders of all ilks, represent the Great Harlot of Bavel, who lead His people into confusion: “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire compassion and not sacrifice;’ for I came not to invite righteous men, but sinners.” The problem with most religious people, is that they think they are no longer sinners. I think I’d prefer to compete with Sha’ul and echo his saying: “It is a trustworthy saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Yeshua HaMashi’akh came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”
We are going to form a fellowship [brotherhood] of Messianic Peshitta Congregations.
Some years back, when my wife and family and I first moved to the Houston area, we were a bit alone in the faith. We were frustrated after having joined ourselves to two congregations, both of which were full of discord and sin [at the highest levels]. I’m not talking ordinary, every-day sin, such that we all commit, but those sins that are not supposed to be present in the Body of Messiah for very long [Gal 5, 1 Cor 5-6]. We bowed out quietly and began just to pray.
During that time, in both those congregations, we were already keeping His Sabbath, and the feasts, but there was no local congregation close enough to warrant going each week for fellowship and assembly. A friend from back home called one day, and I was telling him my frustration and spiritual ‘loneliness,’ but while I was telling him, I said, “I can’t find any real brothers, so I’m going to go out and make some…!” He said, somewhat ‘prophetically,’ “Now you’re talking like your Father.”
For the last few years, as others have moved in, and as our congregants have travelled or moved away, and have looked for similar fellowship, we have found it difficult to find. So, the same ‘unction’ came upon us, “We are going to make brothers.” Are we not given similar power of ‘creation,’ and is not the B’sorah a life-giving event?
We know, by those who have communicated with us from remotest parts, that there is a need out there for help in establishing Messianic Congregations, especially those that differ from ‘mainstream,’ in regard to following the UNBELIEVING Rabbis who reject Yeshua, versus the Scriptures. That is why we [Congregation Bat-Tzion] and our ‘affiliates’ who are remote, have begun to call ourselves “Messianic Peshitta Jews,” meaning we follow the PLAIN MEANING of the Text, and Yeshua ALONE is our Rabbi. We happen also to use the Aramaic Peshitta texts as our primary source scriptures for the Brit Khadashah. So, the name fits very well.
We have been working on liturgy that will help congregations get there feet on the ground a whole lot more quickly. A Siddur for orderly Shabbat worship, a Madrikh for lifecycle events, a Haggadah for a Messianic Pesakh Seder, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah Curriculum/Systematic Theology, a Megilah for a Messianic Purim celebration [about to publish], and finally “HaDavar”, an English translation of the Hebrew Masoretic text of the Tanakh and the Aramaic Peshitta text of the Brit Khadashah. All of these will be available soon for public consumption. And then, we will begin to help others form and shore up their Messianic Peshitta congregations. Look for details soon, an upcoming website, that will help simply to develop fellowship, make each other aware of our existence, share our struggles, and pray for and support one another, as is fitting for the Body of Messiah.
Be in prayer about this, Bat-Tzion, and for those who ‘feel’ alone in the faith. You are NOT!
Each week, I do a ‘drash’ at our Synagogue, where I ‘seek out’ and teach from the weekly Torah portion that Jews and Messianic believers the world over are reading during the week [hopefully!]. Many have asked me in times past, early on in the week, what specific scriptures will be read from the Bimah, and what will the subject of the ‘drash’ be…. and usually, I have to say, “I don’t know,” because I usually don’t, until that Shabbat morning when I rise early with Messiah and make my notes.
This week, as soon as I read that portion, I ‘knew’ what we would be discussing in our drash, and what scriptures we would read. This has only happened once before, that I can remember, over the last eleven years. And, I’ve promised to keep my drash ‘short,’ because of other things our congregation needs to do this Shabbat. Hopefully, the impact of what is delivered will be as powerful as I feel it right now in my own heart and life…..
“O, You rich men, weep and howl for the miseries which shall come upon you! Your riches are destroyed and rotted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are tarnished, and the rust of them will be a testimony against you, and will eat your flesh. The treasures which you have heaped together will be as fire to you for the Akharit HaYamim. Behold, the wage of the laborers who have reaped your fields, that which you have fraudulently kept back, cries; and the cry of the reapers has already entered into the ears of יהוה Tzeva’ot. For you have had your luxuries on earth and have been greedy; you have fed your bodies as for the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered HaTzadik, and yet he does not resist you. But my brethren, be patient until the coming of יהוה , just as the husbandman waits for the precious crop of his field, and has long patience for it, until he receives the early and the latter rain. You be patient also; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of Adoneinu is at hand.”
I recently completed the “Messianic Megilah for Purim,” which is an abridged version of the book of Eisteir, the source of the Purim celebration, and it has questions and commentary to make the Shpiel a teaching opportunity, as well as jubilant and fun for children and adults. Eisteir is an underrated book in scripture, and gets very little attention. I have since decided to teach this book, using the Megilah as a guide, during our Congregation’s Torah Study, after the next study, done by Paul Torason over his book, “These Things You Should Have Done,” is completed.
The book of Eisteir is replete with Messianic overtones concerning both the “Former Rains” and “Latter Rains” of Messiah’s ministry on earth. The primary spirit dealt with in the book is that of anti-Semitism, rooted in ‘Sheker HaMashi’akh,’ going all the way back to the beginning of the history of Yisra’el. Our upcoming study will likely link the book of Eisteir to Ezrah and Nekhem-Yah, as the episode of Eisteir probably occurred between the 6th and 7th chapters of Ezrah. Having taught the book of Ezrah concerning ‘spiritual warfare’ some years ago, and seeing how closely related anti-Semitism and Sheker HaMashi’akh are, it is fitting to teach these things again, as we creep ever closer to the last of the Akharit HaYamim.
The passage above, from Ya’akov Chapter 5:1-8, was ‘fresh’ in my reading scripture one day on the bus as I rode in to work. The book of Ya’akov was written to the Jewish believers in Messiah who were scattered throughout the Aramaic regions east of Yisra’el. But, this passage seems to have been written to someone else? It is addressing the wealthy WITHIN THE BODY Of BELIEVERS! Our sacred scriptures are not written to the world, but only to those who trust in Elohim! The world mocks the scriptures, and denies them, and fights against them. The intended audience of the Words of Elohim, in general, are for those who say they trust in Him! And if one checks the context of this passage, the previous chapter is addressing congregants who are wealthy, how they are treated versus the poor, et cetera. This passage is written to believers, proven by the last statement, “But my brethren…” which is a reminder to hold out to the return of Messiah, continuing to trust AND obey HIM.
So, how can these previous words of warning apply to believers? Should unbelievers hear these words and heed them? Of course. But, we know they will not. That is the nature of unbelievers: they deny the Words of G-d. But, the warning goes out to them as well, and that is who I first thought of in the reading of it. But, it also occurs to me that there are many believers, or those who profess to believe, who need to hear this dire warning, especially in the day in which we live. And especially in the lavishness of our lives, even among the most obedient of believers. We cannot allow our success and worldly comforts distract us from the grander scheme of things! It is so EASY to forget how very brief this life is, and how very critical to salvation the B’sorah is, and the need for our constantly declaring its Truth, ‘hearing’ it ourselves, as well as causing others to ‘hear’. We are supposed to be living for and looking for the day of His return. No matter that it has been 2,000 years since these words were written.
The first part of this prophecy about the wealthy deals only with the wealth, how fleeting and useless it is, and how it is a snare to those who possess it. And how they will suffer for robbing their laborers. That probably, admittedly, does not apply to most believers, but it does to some. I’ve seen and been the victim of those robbing myself and others, professed believers who owed me wages they did not pay. But, by and large, the average person does not fit in this category. But, the two passages that stood out are toward the end of what I cited, before the reminder to remain faithful comes. The first: “you have fed your bodies as for the day of slaughter.” Some people will not understand that passage. But, as a boy, I grew up on a little ‘ranch,’ and we kept hogs. The sole purpose of those hogs was to get fat, so that we could slaughter them near winter and have a freezer full of meat. Ya’akov is here saying that these people to whom he writes are fattening themselves as if for the same purpose. Pigs eat whatever you put in front of them; whenever you put it in front of them. I personally believe this sentence is given for layers of interpretation. First, we are in the last days, and those who do ‘have’ are certainly obsessed with eating, so much so that the ‘diet industry’ is making a fortune off of those who are trying to keep on eating yet look more slim. They literally want their cake, and to eat it too. But, also, the ‘consumption’ of spiritual junk food is run amuck in our day. We ‘take in’ far too much bad information, ideas and images that go against the design of G-d, and we just keep on doing it. We ‘feed’ on it incessantly, instead of consuming HIS WORD. It is no wonder we have an epidemic of adultery and fornication, divorce, alcoholism, homosexuality, transgenderism, drug addiction and deaths, suicide, and on and on. Our spiritual diets are fattening us for the day of slaughter, and no one wants to ‘step back’ and take an assessment. Right thinking is all but gone!
The next statement of note was: “You have condemned and murdered HaTzadik, and yet he does not resist you.” This would appear at first to have been written only to the lost. But, we MUST remember, it is OUR sin, MY sin [insert yourself here] that nailed Him to the tree! Further, Sha’ul reminds us that anyone who continues to LIVE IN SIN after he has tasted of the heavenly gift TRAMPLES the BLOOD of BEN HaELOHIM under foot, and spurns the covenant of that shed blood. [Ivrim 10:29]
We are indeed in the “Akharit HaYamim,” and have been for 2,000 years. But, we who live now are at the end of the end. Yes, there have been so many wing-nut, false prophets who have caused many to be jaded, crying ‘wolf’ about his return and making the community of faith look foolish at times, but, that does not detract from the hard truth that Messiah is about to come back. Our scriptures predicted that people would be jaded due to false prophets wrongly predicting His Return [2 Tim 2:18], and also about those who mock as a result of that! [2 Peter 3:3-8] As a matter of fact, Yeshua Himself said that He will come in such an hour as ‘you think not.’ Is it possible that that hour, that moment, people have finally given up on His Return, precisely because they are jaded as a result of the confusion of false prophets and lukewarm believers?
His return is indeed at hand. How soon? I’m not certain, but I refuse to be jaded and numbed by all the junk out there, and end up not being prepared. I am looking forward to this Purim, the next celebration on our calendar, more than I ever have. Writing that little Megilah has done a lot for me, and I anticipate His coming with great excitement, and cannot wait to reinvigorate those who come to the Shpiel with more understanding of where we are, in the “Latter Rain.”