Category Archives: Judaism

Apostle Paul and the Law

Apostle Paul and the Law

“I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets.” Acts 24:14b (NKJV)

The above quote is Apostle Paul’s own words before he left Israel for his final journey to Rome and his eventual death. It would seem to me all of his statements in his various letters should be interpreted in the light of this confession. Paul was neither teaching nor implying that grace replaced the Law.

In my opinion, grace and the sacrificially shed blood of Messiah made provision for the keeping of the Law—of God’s standard of righteousness. Paul does establish that keeping the Law does not earn salvation, but it is the door opener to blessing. Keeping the law is not a substitute for faith in the work of Messiah Yeshua on the cross, but a consequence of it.

Yeshua is the Living Word, the Logos. He is God as well as man. He in effect being God gave the law to Moses and the people gathered at Mt Sinai. During His earthly ministry as a man He amplified and emphasized the law. He never diminished or railed against the word He brought on Sinai. He only spoke against the abuse and manipulation of the word by the religious leaders of the day, or of any day. He proclaimed the consequence for those who taught against the word in Matthew 5:17-20 (NKJV) “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Yeshua came to confirm the prophets and the law. Fulfill does not imply either the words spoken by the prophets or the truth of the law is now of no consequence, that would be to destroy. The prophets and the law has even more significance because Yeshua has come as prophesied by the prophets and the law, in effect validating them.

Apostle Paul, being educated as a Rabbi, was all too familiar with the abuse of the law being made by the spiritual rulers of the day. He saw the fallacy of the pharisaic teaching that by scrupulously following the letter of the law was somehow pleasing to God and would gain eternal reward. As Yeshua taught, Paul taught, that Spirit-empowered keeping of the law was what mattered and pleased God; that could only be done through a personal relationship, a born again experience, with the Lawgiver.

KB
7/1/20

Assimilation

Assimilation

Whether a believer by faith in Christianity, Judaism or Islam the question of the degree of assimilation is always present. How willing is the individual to modify his faith to gain commonplace in the society in which he finds himself? Down through the centuries this dynamic has been faced at various times by people in each of these three major faiths. Christianity was born under the shadow of this challenge as was Judaism. From my understanding, Islam was founded apart from this initial challenge to belief. At its founding, pagan Roman rule was in steady decline with Christian governance in the ascendency. The Muslims waged jihad and established Islam as their governmental authority almost from the beginning of the faith. It was not until Christian- proclaiming forces eventually gained dominance that the question of assimilation ever had to be faced by the Muslim believer.

Islamic law leaves no room for a Muslim to live permanently under non-Islamic rule. It would seem it’s the duty of every good Muslim to promote the establishment of Islamic law in the country in which they live. They cannot in good conscience pledge allegiance to a non-Islamic sovereignty.
The world view of Islam is that the world is to be totally Islamic—no exceptions. You can’t aspire to world domination by respecting the values of the people you seek to dominate. It would seem therefore that assimilation is not an option for a faithful Muslim.

The history of the Christian faith has been marred by periods of misapplied understandings of world domination and conversion. While the message of the scripture is that all might be saved through faith in Yeshua (Jesus) there is no command that this is to be a forced or mandated faith. It is a choice. In the sad history of the organized church the Catholics and Protestants have from time-to-time forced the conversion of unbelievers. I find no such mandate in scripture.

Today’s Judaism, having its roots in the Babylonian exile in 700 BC, has not interpreted scripture to envision world domination by forced conversion. It is true that the Israelites’ possession of Canaan after the desert sojourn and departure from slavery in Egypt was brutal. This was a one-time event. The scripture does not promote forced conversions. Just the opposite—the Israelite is, as is the Christian, to be the light of the world, drawing people out of the darkness.

Whereas Islam mandates its universal establishment by its followers now, at this present time, Christianity looks to the millennial reign of Yeshua as the time of world governance. It would seem Judaism sees only the promised land of Israel as of world governance significance. Not that it would rule the world, but that the world would seek the leadership role of the nation.

The question of assimilation into the culture in which you find yourself then seems to be: for the Muslim, it is not possible; for the believing Christian and Jew it is one of degree. For the Christian he is to be in the world, but not of it. I would say that it is the same for the Jewish believer. Each is to be salt and light.

How then does the Christian relate to the Muslim whose creed does not permit him to be assimilated, but to be the assimilator by force? This question must be answered in light of today’s migration of Muslims around the world. As Americans the question is the receiving of refugees from countries with professed hostility to our country.

The most difficult scripture for the Christian response is found in Matthew 5:43-45:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

When the whole admonition from Yeshua is read in context it would seem that rain and sun equals love but love is not bringing someone who wants to murder you into your house. That is showing a lack of love for your family, for your community. To love your enemy is a heart attitude. It is the opposite of hate. To do good to and pray for a person is a long way from bringing that person under your roof. God loves every one of His creation, yet there is a day of judgment when He in effect turns His back on those with whom He has been long-suffering and shown grace, but who have resisted and rejected that offer.

All through history and especially during the early second millennium forced conversions were the purview of the Muslims and Christians depending on who was in power. These converts were called crypto believers. They were outwardly “assimilated” into the faith into which they were forced, but there was no heart transaction. Apologists for each of the three faiths found forgiveness for the false conversions when subsequently repented.

So the question facing Judaism and Christianity today remains how to treat the influx of Muslim Islamists who cannot make a heart confession of allegiance to the sovereign nation where they seek asylum? Could it be the strategy of Islam is to, in effect, by appealing to the American largess and naivety be sending us a Trojan horse? The plight of the Muslim refugees makes a powerful TV appeal to open our doors to the oppressed. I do not believe ever in our history have we faced such a challenge.

The solution cannot be offered by rational thought as it involves faith which to the rationalist is not necessarily logical. Both Christian and Jewish believers must appeal to Yahweh who initially established the dynamic between Ismael and Isaac—between Jacob and Esau. What was His grand plan for the division in the first place?

In the interim, while seeking Divine guidance, there can be a tolerance, but not an expected true assimilation of the Islamic immigrant. If the Muslim is admitted to this country, recognizing the caveat with which he enters, he can be accepted; he can be “loved;” he can experience the rain and sun this Christian land offers.

Old Wineskins-New Wineskins-Old Wineskins

The old wineskins decried by Yeshua never were Father’s plan. There was from the beginning to be one wineskin. It was a proper receptacle for all the wine flowing from the Winemaker’s vineyard. It was to be cared for by Yahweh’s chosen—the one new man—Jew and Gentile. It was to be embraced as one law as given and interpreted by the God-man, Yeshua. It would seem today there are now two old wineskins: Judaism and the Church. The Messianic may well be the catalyst to merge the two wineskins into one vital, life-giving, blood bought-Divine reality.

A thought from my forthcoming book Messianic Travels

When Clothes Don’t Make the Man

It’s a trite saying that clothes do make the man, and trite sayings often have a ring of truth. Clothes can at least help make the man and that may be true of the phylacteries worn by some observant followers of Judaism. There may be a deeper truth for those who observe the commands of God yet look to His revelations expressed through His manifested self as Yeshua.

The Shema (Hebrew for listen or hear–Deu 6:4-9) says we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our strength. Many who practice Orthodox Judaism today wear phylacteries (Tefillin in Hebrew), at least during prayers. These are small leather boxes containing a portion of the Torah. They are worn in a strict interpretation of the Shema which says in verse 8: You shall bind them (the Words of Torah) as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. As I understand it, this injunction has been defined by the Talmud (recorded Rabinnic oral opinions of Torah) as the literal wearing of the phylacteries.

Yeshua (Jesus) in His earthly ministry often spoke of the “heart” of the Torah message. He saw beyond the legalistic observance of a particular passage to its practical application. For example, He said, paraphrased, “Torah says you shall not murder, but rather being angry with your brother without cause renders you liable for judgment—even calling your brother a fool.” Mat 5:21-22

I think it’s fair to say then that there is more to the directions of the Shema than to literally bind the word on your hand and between your eyes. In Yeshua’s theme of revealing the depth of an instruction, perhaps we could better say, “Everything I turn my hand to and every thought that goes through my mind will be guided by and be a demonstration of my love for God.”

Referring back to the first verse of Torah–the use of my hand is symbolic of my strength. The use of my mind is symbolic of my soul. Wearing the phylactery between the eyes implies the mind, but the Shema goes further and adjures loving God with the soul which is defined as being the mind, will and emotions. If we bring our emotions into the “love” formula of loving God we start coming very close to Yeshua’s speaking of the root of murder as anger and name calling. You can’t call your brother a fool while loving God. The apostle John further underlines this truth:

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:20-21

The boxes strapped to your hand and forehead can serve as reminders, but the practice of the Shema, Yeshua-style, would be evidenced, daily, 24/7 in our (my) every thought, action, deed and especially spoken word. How many things do we do (wear) that would give the impression from outward appearance that may not be a true representation of the love of God? We have to be careful we’re not relying on our “clothes” to make the man!

Let today be the day–it’s a new moon

Since sundown last night (8/15) it is the first day of the Hebrew calendar month of Elul. I have intended to be a more faithful observer of the new moons*–God’s cyclical, visual reminder of His plan of creation. The observance of each new moon can be an ongoing checklist of the spiritual progress we have made since the last celebration. It is commonly said it takes 28 days of doing to form a new habit. Just so happens that a typical moon cycle is 28 days!
From the Wikipedia excerpt below we find Judaism starts preparing for the fall feasts with the blowing of the shofar on 1 Elul and daily thereafter for the entire month. It represents a call to self examination and repentance in preparation for Rosh Hoshana, Yom Kipper and Sukkoth. It would seem even with our busy, frenetic western lifestyle we could give God a time daily to listen to His voice. That’s my resolution this first day of Elul.
From Wikipedia search “Elul” In the Jewish tradition, the month of Elul is a time of repentance in preparation for the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The word “Elul” is similar to the root of the verb “search” in Aramaic. The Talmud writes that the Hebrew word “Elul” can be expanded as an acronym for “Ani L’dodi V’dodi Li” – “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (Song of Solomon 6:3). Elul is seen as a time to search one’s heart and draw close to God in preparation for the coming Day of Judgement, Rosh Hashanah, and Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur.[1]
*If you’re questioning a new moon observance, as I have, I’ll soon be posting my consideration of the the applicable scripture.