Category Archives: Yahweh

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.

Sins of the Fathers

Sins of the Fathers

In the Torah portion Chukat (Num 19:1-22:1) we find the Israelites for the second time approaching the river Jordan and entry into the promised land. But again as over 40 years ago they cry out, “If only we had died when our brethren died before the Lord! Why have you brought up the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness, that we and our animals should die here? And why have you made us come up out of Egypt, to bring us to this evil place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates; nor is there any water to drink.”(Nu 21:3-5) How many times has Moses heard this grumbling lament from God’s chosen?

The first time is recorded as being sometime in the second month after their miraculous deliverance from Egypt; after the manna starts falling and quail has been provided. They’re thirsty and cry out, “Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” (Ex 16:2)

You might ask, “How could this new generation have possibly forgotten all the lessons learned for disobedience, rebellion, idol worship and lack of faith that has been experienced these past forty years?” The answer would seem to me to be one of sowing and reaping. It was Yahweh’s judgment in Numbers 14:29 that: “The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above.” Couple this with Yahweh’s pronouncement in Exodus 34:7 after the golden calf incident: , “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” (italics added) –the sins of the fathers would come home to roost—there would be a reaping.

At the time of this last iteration of water lack complaint, the entire assembly which had engaged in the pilgrimage of faithless wanderings was gone. Every one who had been twenty years of age or older was gone. Only Caleb and Joshua remained. Even Miriam and Aaron were gone. Moses’ denial of entry into the promised land was sealed. As an aside I questioned how Eleazar was still on the scene (Nu 26:1). Was he not clothed in priestly tunic along with his father, Aaron, and his brothers Nedab and Abihu? (Ex 29:9) Yes, he was, but he must have been less than 20 at the time of the Sinai census.

Back to my theme. We can so easily see the failings of the fathers from the perspective of Moses’ recording of the historical events which occurred as many as 3500 years ago. We can take admonition as to the need to avoid idol worship, disbelief and rebellion, but there is one other truth we must also come away with: the urgency as fathers and mothers to warn, admonish, cajole, entreat, implore, oh, yes, and pray for our children that they not walk in our sin—in the sins of their fathers.

In Yahweh’s pronouncement in Exodus 34:7, the operative word is visiting. This changes the charge from sin being a certainty to one that says our children and our children’s children will be visited. They will be tempted to sin as we have sinned—including their generational history of sin..

I submit that one of two things happened in the forty years of desert wanderings by the Israelites. Either the fathers were so self-absorbed and fatalistically oriented that they did not practice the instruction of the Shema and teach their children. Or, the children did not heed the teaching and admonition and failed as the opportunity (temptation) to repeat the sins of their parents were presented to them (visited upon them). The Shema is the ancient prayer/command from Deuteronomy 6:6-9 prayed today in Judaism and by Messianic believers alike. It says we are to teach our children.

An additional observation can also be made of the responsibility of our teen agers. Eleazar, the High Priest, at the time of the crossing over of the Jordan, was by then a man at least in his 50’s. He, along with all his contemporaries who were in their teens at Sinai and who also observed the response to the spies’ report, could have been a powerful influence on this second and third generation preparing to enter the promised land. They were now the leaders. Their voices should have forcefully warned the community of the danger of challenging Yahweh and Moses’ leadership. The record seems silent—the visiting was again successful. Today’s teens must not be oblivious to what is happening outside their world. They must observe and prepare for that day when their voice should be sounded to avoid the mistakes of our spiritual history—our sin.

Yahweh has made every provision for us to take heed and take a positive action. Has not the blood of Yeshua given us a perfect shield against the forces of the visit? Yes, but as with every generation, the human spirit must be alert and active, the will exercised to withstand successfully the attack of the visit—the sins of the fathers. The blood of Yeshua will stop the “visitors” from becoming “residents.”

Feast of Unleavened Bread

Feast of Unleavened Bread

Leviticus 23:4-8
” The Passover and Unleavened Bread
“These are the feasts of the Lord, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times. On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the Lord’s Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; seven days you must eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it. But you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord for seven days. The seventh day shall be a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it.’ ”

The clear distinction between the observance of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread as two separate events is established in the above verse in Leviticus. Other references, including the original instructions in Exodus, do not clearly identify the celebration of the historic experience as two different events. The clear separation of the feasts into two separate experiences makes sense to the Messianic. The Passover, where the power of the blood is so clearly the essence of the memorialization, is very precious. It is this powerful symbolism that provides the backdrop for the prophetic appearance of Messiah Yeshua fifteen hundred years later. It is His shed blood that is so clearly the foundation of our salvation—of our being set free from the bondage of slavery—our sin.

Following this foundation of freedom from sin laid by the shed blood comes the seven days of consecration to the leaven-free life—the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It is no surprise that Yahweh choose the number seven for the duration of this feast. This is often called the number of completion. This seven days of leaven-less living can be a metaphor for an individual’s life cycle. We enter our spiritual life cycle being “saved” by the blood. We celebrate each day of the life cycle through “sacrificial” obedience to God, concluding the life cycle with a final celebration. It is interesting that the first and last day of the feast is a Sabbath—a day of rest. The first day we “rest” from our sinful past, with thanksgiving to Father who has given us the day of rest. Finally, the seventh day of our life cycle is likewise a rest—a transition from the cares of this world to the eternal joy of our Creator’s presence.

The scriptures give no clue as to how to observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, except that it is a “feast” and it is “unleavened.” There is one other hint in the word—a daily burnt offering is to be made for each of the seven days. To me this implies that in the austerity of leaven-free there is an attitude of bringing pleasure to Father. Additionally, it must be observed that each day with the burnt offering there is shedding of the blood of the sacrifice. This involves a continual transfer of the offeror’s spirit into the animal whose blood is then placed on the altar. In the Messianic understanding, we have the indwelling presence of Messiah, His tabernacle and altar is within our heart. Therefore, our offerings are still with the power and authority of the blood, but it is with His shed blood that they are made. The same transfer of our leaven (sin) is to Him and brought under His blood on our altar. The same fragrant aroma of the offering arises to Father. It is not the altar that is important it is the offering.

Speaking of the altar, the first instructions from Yahweh through Moses at Sinai for altar construction were simple: if you use stone—no cut stone! (Ex 20:25) Could that mean we are not to lean to our own understanding in our offerings to Father? Keep it simple—what He wants is the unembellished offering of that what separates us from Him. And He wants our praises of thanksgiving for the provision of the blood that makes those offerings acceptable. But, I digress. Let’s get back to the feast.

How far the Israelites got by the end of the first seven days after leaving Egypt cannot be precisely determined. They probably got underway before sundown on 14 Abib (Nisan). Certainly their first meal of unleavened bread was no sooner than the beginning of 15 Abib, after sundown of the 14th. They had traveled from Ramses to Succoth, maybe as little as 8 miles (Ex 12:37-38), but remember there were hundreds of thousands of people and animals involved. They then proceeded to Etham and from there to the seashore of the Red Sea. To me it would be highly significant if during the first seven days (the prescribed time for the feast) the Israelites experienced the ardors of desert travel, the challenge of the pursuing Egyptians and the triumphant crossing of the sea on dry ground—a symbolic life cycle.

This scenario so depicts our spiritual walk: saved by the blood, embracing the leaven-less lifestyle, experiencing seemingly overwhelming opposition from the enemy and finally crossing into the eternal kingdom on dry ground. This ostensible austere lifestyle is all the while accompanied by Father’s magnificent presence as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of flame by night. We only need the spiritual eyes to see His manifesting provision in our day-to-day life.

Rather than suggesting a menu and Haggadah for the feast, let me say it should be festive, celebratory—need I say leaven-free. Encourage, during the meal, spontaneous remarks of testimony of the power of the blood, the revelation of leaven, the power of the cloud and fire, the experience of the daily offering, reflections on the spirit-led life, everything honoring Father in the transpiring of the life cycle is appropriate. This meal should be an extended time of sharing and conviviality.

Of course, the host or designated person, should give instruction, which might include the reading of this article. Opening and closing prayer with affirming prayer and praise for the testimonies given is to be warmly encouraged. This is a celebration of the “escaping” of the bondage of slavery (sin)—the shed blood of Messiah Yeshua is the door opener—enter in with enthusiasm.

Kennedy Brown
Gerizim
April 22, 2016

Passover Considerations–2016

Passover Considerations—2016

We, as Messianics, do not observe the solstice event of Easter as the observance of Messiah Yeshua’s passion. We do observe Passover as being the biblically chronicled time of Messiah’s death. Although we are not commanded by scripture to observe Messiah’s death it is so inextricably linked with Passover and our eternal relation with Creator Yahweh that we cannot ignore the linkage.
It is important to be able to give proper observance to both.

Therefore, it is essential that we understand what is the message of the Feast of Passover. The use of “passover” even in scripture seems at times to merge the two events without always a clearly distinction. The first being the passover by the Death Angel of the houses of the Israelites that were blood identified. The blood that was used came from specially selected lambs that were all slain at the same time. The second event is the Feast of Unleavened Bread. That this observance was to follow the next day after the Passover was not necessarily experientally obvious at the time. However, it immediately became a commanded feast. (Ex 12:1-28 and 13:3-10)

There are likewise two events concerning Messiah Yeshua where the distinction is blurred. The prevalent practice in the Christian church and probably spilling over into Messianic thinking is the magnification of the crucifixion of Messiah. To me it is a subtle but very important distinction that is to be made. Was it the death of Yeshua, Son of God, and His resurrection that is to be the essence of observance or the shedding of the blood of the Lamb of God?

It is here that I see the symbolism of the original Passover as being the clue. In the first observance in Egypt the lamb was slain, but NOT as an altar sacrifice. It was the blood of the lamb that was the source of salvation for the Israelite first born. The lamb was roasted and consumed by those protected by its blood. There is no mention of an altar or offering to Yahweh. The lamb that remained was to be burned and not kept over. This act was a faith statement. Leftovers wouldn’t be needed tomorrow because we had our sandals on, staff in hand and were leaving the bondage of slavery. The symbolism can be further understood as representing Yahweh’s provision for our earthly, physical needs (roasted lamb) as well as our eternal, spiritual wellbeing (the blood of the lamb exempting us from death).

It is interesting that Yeshua said we are to “eat my flesh” (John 6:54) Is He drawing a parallel to the Passover lamb? He also said in the same verse in John, “drink my blood.” Was that a dramatic metaphor for saying to apply His blood to the doorposts and lintel of our hearts? I believe so. God has never suggested human sacrifice. Yes, He asked Abraham to “sacrifice” Isaac, but He did not require it. He provided a ram for the sacrifice. It was a test of faith, of obedience. The Torah specifically speaks against the practice of human sacrifice. (Lev 20:1-5)

It may seem I am splitting hairs in the distinctions I make, but please follow me to understand why I am so desirous of the right emphasis. I do not believe Yahweh sent His Son to be sacrificed. He knew that Yeshua would suffer, that His blood would be shed. Of course, all knowing, He knew he would die. But it was really Sin that took Yeshua’s life. It was not God sacrificing His Son except to the extent He sent Him knowing what the outcome would be, as did Yeshua. It was our sin which required the shedding of the divine, unimpeachable blood for the removal of our sin. No reproach or condemnation can ever question the cleansing of sin washed away in this blood. (Rev 1:5) It was far removed from the shedding of the blood of animals. Without it there could be no assurance of enjoying the holy presence of the Father.

I am not endeavoring to diminish the “sacrifice” of Yeshua in the passion of the last supper, the Garden of Gethsemane, the trial, beatings and piercings, but to reemphasize the shedding of the blood. Had there been no shedding of blood the death of Yeshua would have accomplished nothing in terms of our eternity. His death would have been that of just one more martyr of the faith. The Torah clearly says in Lev 17:11 “it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” It is reaffirmed in Hebrews 9:22, “without the shedding of blood there is no remission.” In Rev 1:5 it says, “To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood.” The fact of the crucifixion, death and resurrection was certainly a testimony that Yeshua was God come in the flesh, but had His blood not been shed we would still be dead in our sin.

All this to say I feel we must take a different tack, as Messianics, from the Rabbinic view of the Passover observation as a “feast of celebration.” My understanding is that in today’s observance the first night of, while not necessarily requiring the blood of a lamb to be shed, is deeply contemplative. Emphasis is to be on the shed blood and especially the shed blood of the Lamb of God. I see each redeemed believer as first born—blood bought, sanctified and set apart unto Yahweh. Interestingly this 14th day of Abib (Nisan) is not a Sabbath. Do you suppose that means we are never to rest from knowing and acting on who we are in Messiah and the work His blood has done?!

The Feast of Unleavened Bread (FUB) commences the next evening at sundown. This would be after sundown on the 14th which is then the 15th . I believe the daylight of the 14th (that is the daylight hours that follow the passover of the Death Angel) is then for the removing of leaven and meal preparation. We, in practice, actually use all seven days of FUB for leaven removal—not physical leaven but those spiritual ingredients of leaven in our lives. We have taken the Torah instruction to make an offering by fire each of the seven days of FUB (Lev 23:8) to include this discipline. There is no sweeter savor to Father, I’m sure than giving His Spirit opportunity to bring under the blood those things in our lives that would separate us from His presence. As priests and kings the altar in the tabernacle of our spirit (heart) should carry this fragrance to Father. (Rev 1:6)

Sequentially then, first comes the shedding of the blood. The Passover meal is simple so it does not distract from the introspective appreciation of the original exemption in Egypt from death; from the inescapable parallel to our personal encounter with the shed blood of Yeshua. Then, the second event (FUB) is in effect a celebration of freedom from slavery (first in Egypt, then from our individual sin). This is tempered by seven days of spiritual “sacrifice” being placed on the altar of the tabernacle jn our heart. Lastly, comes the final feast on the seventh day—it being a Sabbath-a recognition of the promise of rest in the presence of Yeshua. This rest having been purchased by His blood. The rest being symbolic of a life cycle of leavenless living.

May Yahweh bless you as you explore anew the beauty and depth of Passover.

Kennedy Brown
Gerizim
April 19, 2016

A Lament for Bezalel

A Lament for Bezalel, Chosen of Yahweh
Parshat Vayakhel, especially Exodus 35:30-35

Bezalel, O Bezalel, you by Yahweh commended
To craft the work of His own designation−
Chosen alone from all the Hebrew nation
Upon whom the Spirit of God descended.

That you were a young man, it is surmised,
Yet with the engraver’s eye and jeweler’s skill
You wrought wonders−the tabernacle to fill.
Everyone except Yahweh was surprised.

Bezalel, anointed by Yahweh in Sinai land,
Tell us, now, what is your great reward?
You surely fell as though slain by sword;
Your bones remain in the desert’s sand.

Was it the spies’ report with which you agreed−
Or your lust for a Midianite maiden fair?
What fatal sin will your eternal records bare?
Was there not a lesson Yahweh’s children need?

A lament, O Bezalel, I now humbly offer:
Though my giftings flow from God’s own hand,
I too may find my bones in desert sand.
“Run the race to win”−that my reward not suffer.

Kennedy Brown
Gerizim
Erev Shabbat, March 4, 2016

While reading the Torah portion, Vayakhel, I was impressed with all the favor of Yahweh that resulted in Bezalel being called and equipped for construction of the tabernacle. Aleph Beta makes it even more impressive in that the past tense is used in describing Bezalel’s preparation as being from the “days of Creation.”

But then the reality hit me that Bezalel did not go into the promised land. He died with his generation in the desert wilderness. That is what can tritely be called a “sobering experience!” One which could call for some sober introspection.

I trust the “lament” somewhat captures this reality.