Sheol & Yeshua

Sheol would gather all people to itself if left to its own ways but that has been interrupted by the work of Yeshua.

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Growing the Kingdom

Matthew 13:31-32 (NASB): He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”

The mustard seed is very small, smaller than a grain of rice, but has a big impact both in size and in how much it produces. This parable Yeshua tells is also small but with a much bigger message. It’s only two verses, 63 words in the NASB, but it teaches us a great truth that is larger than it first seems.

The setting is similar to the Parable of the Sower earlier in Matthew 13. There is a sower, there is seed, there is a field and there is the act of planting. But the Parable of the Sower is intended to teach us about ourselves; how we hear and react to the Word of G-d. This parable is meant to teach us about the Kingdom of Heaven.

The mustard seed is introduced as the smallest seed of those planted in a garden. While very small, it can grow into a plant so large, between 3-10 feet tall, that it is easily the size of a small tree. Birds will even come and make their nests in its branches.

It’s also said to be an invasive plant. Once it gets in your garden, it can be hard to get rid of. This speaks to the tenacity of the Kingdom, that it will not be stopped. 

But the seed must first be planted. While we share the Word, it is the Spirit who sows the seed, putting it into the good soil found in this world. Like the Parable of the Sower, the good soil is the heart of the believer that accepts and walks out the Word of G-d.

This emphasizes that the Kingdom of Heaven is spiritual in nature. Although the crowd of listeners was looking for physical deliverance from Rome, Yeshua was, as always, more concerned that they would be spiritually fit for the Kingdom.

The Kingdom had, to this point, been confined mostly to Israel. While we do read of Gentiles like Ruth and Naaman the leper coming in, to this time it’s generally been the Jews that have accepted the ways of Adonai.

Here, Yeshua is saying that the Kingdom will grow larger than it was before. The City that Abraham looked for, whose Builder and Maker is Adonai (Hebrews 11:10), will expand and become much greater.

The covenant made with Abraham, that his descendants would be more numerous than the sand on the beach or the stars in the sky, was about to kick into overdrive.

How would this happen? While the Kingdom of Heaven is spiritual, it’s always linked to Israel. But Israel was living under an oppressive Roman rule. They were not free to build up and expand their kingdom. The Jews had never been a large people. Their numbers never amounted to much compared to other nations. There has to be a plan to grow and expand Israel.

The parable tells us the mustard plant is large enough for the birds of the air to nest in.

There are many verses in Scripture, including in the Parable of the Sower, where birds are the enemies of the Word that try to destroy it. They are represented as birds of prey or scavengers that attack men at every chance.

But there is one other reference to birds that closely matches the quote in our parable. It’s found in Ezekiel and talks about the restoration of Israel from exile.

Ezekiel 17:22-24 (NASB): Thus says the Lord God, “I will also take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar and set it out; I will pluck from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one and I will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. On the high mountain of Israel I will plant it, that it may bring forth boughs and bear fruit and become a stately cedar. And birds of every kind will nest under it; they will nest in the shade of its branches. All the trees of the field will know that I am the Lord; I bring down the high tree, exalt the low tree, dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish. I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will perform it.”

This prophecy refers to the Messiah. He is the one broken off the top of the cedar and planted on the high mountain of Israel. He has become the stately cedar that provides shelter and protection for those who come to Him.

Yeshua was broken off. He was cut off early from his people and raised up on a mountain outside of Jerusalem. This resulted in an expanding of the Kingdom. Ezekiel says that birds of every kind will nest under this tree. The Gentiles from the nations are welcomed into the Kingdom and can find rest inside.

By putting our faith in our Creator, by accepting his Word as truth and believing that he will do as he says, we can dwell with him.

This is our calling. To remember the sacrifice our Messiah made to deliver us from the kingdom of this world and bring us into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Blessed are You, O L-rd, our G-d, Ruler of the Universe, who expands Your Kingdom to include all nations.

Change the World

Luke 13:20-21 (NASB)

And again He said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.”

We are quickly approaching the festival of Passover. That time when we search through the house to get rid of all the leaven that we can find. Leaven is often used in Scripture to indicate something negative or even sinful. It is a bit surprising then that, in this parable, we’re told the Kingdom of Heaven is like leaven.

This follows the same pattern as the other parables in this series that Yeshua taught on: the mustard seed, the tares in the wheat field and the parable of the sower. In each case, the Word is planted and, when accepted with a hearing and obedient heart, grows to produce an enormous harvest. 

We see the same concept here. The three pecks of flour are said to be an enormous amount. Estimates range from 3 pints to a half bushel. Some commentators believe this to be enough dough to make at least 100 loaves of bread. In any case, it is an astonishingly large amount that you wouldn’t expect only one woman to be baking in her oven at home.

And that’s the point. The dough is meant to represent the world, not just at that point in time but through all of history. Inhabitants of the Kingdom of Heaven come from the foundation of the world to the end of earthly time. Even before the deceiver lied to Adam and Eve, there was an elect chosen by Adonai to populate His domain.

The leaven is compared to the Kingdom. This is the community of the elect who have faith to believe G-d will do what He says. It is the heroes of faith, some of who are listed in Hebrews 11. 

And these called to the Kingdom had an amazing impact on the history of the earth since the beginning. Enoch walked with the Creator so closely that he was taken away by Him. Noah was the means of preserving all life on earth. Esther was placed in a position to save the Jews and the lineage of the Messiah. John, the beloved disciple, wrote a compelling Gospel that has changed countless lives. 

They were put here for a purpose, to be a witness to a dark world of a Light that would come to save. 

Even today we are the elect that walk a godly path, convicting the world with the righteousness of the Messiah that we exhibit. 

Like the small piece of leaven intentionally hidden away in the dough, we live quiet, unassuming lives until called on to act by our L-rd. 

And we do not disappoint.

We are the means of changing the world by the Ruach haKodesh. We are separated from this world even while hidden in it.

Our purpose is to expand the Kingdom of Heaven. The Holy Spirit uses our gifts to sow more seed or hide more leaven in this world so the effect will multiply. We share the Gospel message of our Messiah who has come to seek out and save the lost.

When the end of time comes we’ll see the results of the Kingdom, how the Word that has been invested in this world has taken hold of people and transformed their lives.

Let us not grow weary in this effort.

Blessed are You, Adonai, our G-d, Ruler of the Universe, Who has hidden Your Kingdom in the world that we might know You.

Judging Ourselves

“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5)

As we continue through the 10 Days of Awe before Yom Kippur, we should be reflecting on our lives to see what we need to correct.

1 Corinthians 11:31-32 tells us that if we judge ourselves rightly then we won’t be judged by G-d. Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, the day that, in the teachings of the sages, G-d is expected to judge the world. By judging ourselves rightly against His Word now, we won’t come under His condemnation later.

Matthew 7:3-5 speaks about judging ourselves instead of judging others. It gives us a way to correct our own life so we may better serve our community by encouraging a brother or sister to live a holy life.

The first thing our Messiah questions is why we are even doing this. What are the motives for seeing sin in the life of our brother? Is it because we’re a busybody? As mentioned last week, we are not called to judge critically or harshly. Rather we do so with mercy and for the purpose of turning someone from sin to repentance and restoration.

We are not being commanded to not see the faults in our brothers and sisters, but to look for the right reason. It should be with the purpose of building the ekklesia and restoring a member of the community who has fallen into sin.

We need to restore that person gently (Galatians 6:1). Proverbs 15:1 tell us that gentle words turn away anger but harsh words stir up wrath. We need to speak gently, or without anger and malice, when dealing with a fellow believer. They deserve that respect and care from us. To spew out hateful words may only push them away.

But we should not be blind to sin no matter where it lies. Especially within the community, in our family, it affects each of us. Joshua 7 tells the story of Achan who brought sin into the community. He caused Israel to lose a battle because he coveted and stole the spoils from the Battle Jericho. These items belonged to the L-rd and were consecrated to Adonai. Achan’s sin resulted in the defeat of Israel and the death of some of her warriors. That sin had to be purged from the camp before Israel could continue the conquest of the Promised Land.

When looking for sin, we are to look first into our own lives. As said before, we are to be our own worst critic so that neither G-d nor man will have to judge us. Scripture is given to us for teaching, correction and training in righteousness. We can use that to correctly identify sin and error in our life (2 Timothy 3:16).

James 1:23 tells us to use the Word as a mirror than can point out blemishes we need to correct. To look into the Word and be a doer of what it says will lead to blessings from Adonai.

If we refuse to take care of ourselves first then we have no authority to care for someone else. This does not mean that we have to be perfect in order to approach someone about sin. But we must recognize and admit that we are also sinners. This is what keeps us humble when dealing with someone else. We realize that we are not far from their position.

But to keep sin in our own lives and try to remove sin from someone else is fruitless. We may be able to convince them to turn because the Ruach HaKodesh will turn their hearts. But it could also open you up to charges of hypocrisy if your sin is brought out while counseling someone with the same sin.

Our sin may even be bigger than we recognize but we can be so intent on finding sin in others that we don’t realize it. This verse speaks of a small speck of dust in or brothers eye but we’re so consumed with their fault that we can’t recognize the beam that is in our eye.

King David found himself in this position after his transgression with Bathsheba. G-d confronted him by sending in the Prophet Nathan who, in 2 Samuel 12, informed him that one of his subjects had stolen a lamb from his neighbor.

David was greatly angered. He was ready to impose the death penalty on an act that, according to Torah, would only have required restitution. His sin had caused him to act unjustly and harshly condemn another while he, himself, was guilty of something far greater.

Nathan told David that his actions gave the enemies of the L-rd occasion to blaspheme. They could point at David as talking about living holy and trusting in Adonai while rejecting His Word and commands. They could claim that G-d was not real since His followers could get away with not obeying Him.

David had become a hypocrite. The term refers to the actors in the Greek and Roman plays that had speaking parts. They were just actors that pretended to do and know about other things. They had no real commitment to the role they played. When the show was over, they became someone else.

In order to remove the beam from our own eye, we must be concerned first with ourselves and our own walk with Adonai. We cannot be like the Greek play actors who had no real knowledge of their part. We must be authenticate. We must be faithful and truthful with Adonai and each other.

Only after confessing and dealing with sin in our own life will we have the proper perspective to approach a brother or sister about the sin in their life.

Once we recognize that we are also sinners in need of forgiveness then we can restore a brother with a spirit of meekness. This should be done first in private and then before the community (Matthew 18:15-17).

We are called to be our brother’s keepers. We are called to live in community and be accountable to our brothers and sisters. Our Messiah died to bring us forgiveness and expects us to forgive and restore others.

Blessed are You, O L-rd, our G-d, Ruler of the Universe, Who judges us with justice, righteousness and mercy.

Pardon, and You Will be Pardoned

Luke 6:37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned;  pardon, and you will be pardoned.

Luke 6:37 is probably one of the most well known verses in the Bible. At least the first three words are. Many people use it to judge and condemn others that they accuse of being judgmental.

The problem, to put it bluntly, is a common desire for us to poke our nose into other people’s business.
As the Reformist John Calvin puts it, “This vice is attended by some strange enjoyment: for there is hardly any person who is not tickled with the desire of inquiring into other people’s faults.” (Calvin’s Complete Bible Commentaries, Kindle Edition, loc. 294499)

Our Messiah warns against this. It is tempting to watch the news and see what is happening in the latest scandal. But we shouldn’t be gleeful when we find someone caught in their sin.

The Compact Bible Commentary puts this a lot simpler. 

“The point of this verse is that the Christian should not have a spirit of carping criticism and fault-finding.” (Compact Bible Commentary, 2004, Thomas Nelson, pg. 671)

It’s true that there may be times when we have to call out a brother or sister for their sin. Scripture has a way to do this that shows respect and discretion by approaching the person on-on-one in order to correct them. Only when correction is refused does it escalate within the community, and never in a public forum involving unbelievers (Matthew 18:15-18).

But instead of seeking out faults in others, we’re called to a higher road. Instead of judging and condemning, we should try to pardon when we can. Pardon, and you will be pardoned.

Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon defines pardon in this verse as releasing a debtor. To not press one’s claim against him.

We are meant to pardon freely when we can. To give up our right to repayment for the offenses another has committed against us.

This falls in line with Matthew 6:14-15:

“14 For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”

Here it’s made clear that our willingness to forgive others is a sign that we’ve been forgiven. If we refuse to forgive then we have no forgiveness from our Father.

What is forgiveness? What does it mean to you?

It humbled me when I looked up this word. I always thought I knew it’s meaning but this really surprised me.

According to Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon, forgive in this verse means to let go, give up, a debt by not demanding it.

This is a valid debt. It’s something legitimately owed. It’s something that belongs to someone and they have every right to claim it.

But, instead, they simply give up that right. For little or even no reason, they decide not to pursue the justice due them.

When we ask friends and family for forgiveness, we’re admitting we owe them something, but we’re simply asking them give up that claim over us.

With that in mind, we should use the words “forgive me” with a lot more care. It shouldn’t be a flippant phrase that comes out of our mouth with little thought. We should consider carefully what claim we’re asking someone to give up on our behalf. 

Imagine a dinner party with 20 of your closest friends. Appetizers, drinks, dinners, desserts, the food is ordered without any concern.

When the waitress presents a very large tab, you look at her and say, “Can you excuse us from paying this bill?”

That’s what we’re doing when we ask someone to forgive us. For whatever reason, we are throwing ourselves on their mercy.

And it’s what we’re commanded to do.

Matthew 5:24 says we need to make things right with our brothers before we come before G-d to seek His forgiveness. This is the way to keep peace and unity in the community. 

Since we’re asking them to release us from a real debt that we owe, we seek forgiveness with humility, sorrow and regret for the wrong committed. We match the request of the tax collector of Luke 18 who cast his eyes down, beat his breast and simply said, “G-d, be merciful to me, the sinner.” 

Not only are we commanded to seek forgiveness from others but also from Adonai.

The prayer that Yeshua taught His disciples asks G-d to forgive us from our trespasses. He is ready and willing to abundantly forgive a penitent heart. He delights in the turning of the wicked towards His path. 

Walking free in the pardon from Adonai brings a peace to our lives knowing that we are not under the condemnation of death. This is what we have asked G-d to take away. It is the bill we have asked him to annul.

And He has taken away the payment of death that we owe Him. That was done through the death of His Son, Yeshua. Since the payment had to be made (not all debts can simply be wiped clean) our Messiah gave His life for us.

The Bible marks this as the greatest love. Laying down your life for another so that they may live.
But to continue receiving G-d’s forgiveness, we must practice forgiving others. This is not to place a condition or work on our salvation. It is a foundational act for a true follower of the Way. One who loves Adonai will forgive.

A mark of all true believers is that we show love for each other. While laying down one’s life for another is the greatest way to show love, forgiving freely is a consistent and obvious way to demonstrate love to others in our community.

This shows the world that we are united in our Savior and committed to each other. It builds up the ekklesia and brings a testimony to a dark world in need of repentance and forgiveness.

As we enter the Ten Days of Awe, let us reflect on acts of forgiveness. Freely we have been forgiven, freely we should forgive.

Blessed are You, O L-rd, our G-d, Ruler of the Universe, Who pardons us by the death of Your Son, Yeshua, so that we might have life everlasting.

The Parable of the Seed

Mark 4:26-29
26 And He was saying, “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; 27 and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows—how, he himself does not know. 28 The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. 29 But when the crop permits, he immediately  puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

This short illustration feels like the most basic of all parables that Yeshua taught. It’s so simple that there’s not a whole lot written about this in the commentaries. But it’s intended to bring out a truth about the Kingdom of G-d.

The Kingdom of G-d refers collectively to G-d’s elect. The one’s who have been brought into His family by the redemptive work of His Son, Yeshua. Matthew 7:21 tells us that only those who do the will of the Father can enter this Kingdom.

When saying the “Kingdom of G-d” in the parable of the seed, Yeshua is not speaking about heaven but about the role of Adonai and His disciples in expanding the Kingdom.

Both have a part to play. We, as his disciples, are expected to go into the world and carry the Good News of our Messiah – that He has paid the price to redeem us. He has freed us from the bondage and condemnation of the law and allowed us to walk in His ways clothed in His righteousness.

We are called to live our lives in such a way as to be witnesses of His work.

Adonai, on the other hand, provides His Spirit that draws and convicts man of sin. Paul wrote in I Corinthians 3:7 that it is G-d alone who causes the saints to grow in their faith. He provides faith for the elect using the seed that we plant.

The man here is a farmer who faithfully sows the seeds into the soil… and then goes to bed.

In other words, he carries on with his normal life while expecting the seed to do what it was made to do, grow and bear fruit.

He’s at a loss to explain how this happens. He doesn’t water it. He doesn’t pull weeds. He doesn’t spray the bugs. (This place sound like heaven!)

He just goes to bed.

He gets up.

Why does he do this?

Because there’s nothing else he can do.

Again in 1 Corinthians 3:7, Paul has planted, Apollos has watered but it is G-d alone who can bring the increase.

The sower watches the field and he sees the seed start to sprout. It grows and develops into a plant in the same type as the seed that was planted.

Crops need to grow before they can reproduce. They need to mature and be healthy. And that is the ultimate purpose of each believer. To further the Kingdom of G-d by helping other disciples reach the point of sowing more seed. To fulfill the final commandment given by Yeshua before He ascended into the heavens.

“Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

There are many different ways of filling this mitzvot. It’s more than being the preacher at the pulpit every service. It can be the singer and songwriter recording godly hymns. It can be the children’s teacher instructing the next generation. It can be a missionary doctor flying into a foreign country. It can be someone who takes time to listen to the worries of a coworker and explain about the One who can carry their burdens.

There are many different ways we can plant and water the precious seed in order to develop disciples for our Creator.

If we’re going to sow the seed and expect to make disciples for Yeshua, then it has to be what was planted in us. It has to be the same Word of G-d that brought us to salvation. We cannot expect a harvest of like-minded disciples if we cast out bad seed. That doesn’t work.

You can’t plant an apple tree and get lemons from it. And you certainly can’t make lemonade out of what you find on that tree!

If you plant false theology then your going to get followers of a false doctrine. And while HaShem may mercifully guide them into the right way, you will be held accountable for your teachings (James 3:1).

A plant doesn’t grow for its own sake. It grows in order to multiply and bear more seed. At the creation of the world, G-d commanded the vegetation, plants, and fruit trees to bear fruit after their own kind with seed in them. The purpose of a plant is to multiply.

Finally the seed has grown and matured. It is harvest time and ready for collection. Now the sower quickly prepares for action, He has patiently waited and watched the fields but now moves immediately into the harvest.

The sower now becomes a worker in the harvest field. He is faithful to the end. He not only planted the seed but he has made himself available for the final effort.

In Matthew 9:35-38, Yeshua travels over Israel and almost despairs at what He finds. “The harvest is plentiful,” He tells His disciples, “but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

May Adonai send out workers into the field. And may He use each of us to expand His kingdom.

Blessed are You, Adonai our G-d, Ruler of the Universe, Who gives the increase so a plentiful harvest may be collected, and provides workers to gather the harvest for His Kingdom.

Rock Your World

Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall through the same pattern of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword — piercing right through to a separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. No creature is hidden from Him, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:11-13 TLV

This week has seen some controversial decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court.
Many conservatives feel we now live in a country ruled by a majority of the nine justices. Whatever they say is now the law despite constitutional safeguards that should prevent such a power grab.

Liberals think the rulings were right and just. That the will of the people and the intent of the laws were upheld. They say this now makes America a better country with everyone more equal.

How should we, as followers of The Way, react?

I spent some time looking through different ministry blogs to get some reactions. What I found ranged from labeling this an”open act of defiance aimed directly at HaShem,” to “God has not gone anywhere.”

Then I came across this quote:
“Allow me to give you the gospel in just two sentences. The good news of Jesus Christ: 1) God is going to get the world that God wants. 2) No matter how much God has got to rock your world to get it.”

Will Willimon, a professor of ministry at Duke University, ended one of his sermons with these words. But it wasn’t about the events of this week. This sermon was from November 2012.

These words speak to us today. God has a plan for the world and He will bring it out in His way.

Scripture tells us about the end times and how evil will flourish. I’m not sure that we are in the immediate end times, things may still get worse, but I think we are at least seeing the beginning of the end.

So what do we do when God rocks our world, our country, our lives, in order to get the world He wants?

We make every effort to enter God’s rest.

The author of Hebrews tells us about the Israelites being led into the Promised Land by Moses. After 400 years of slavery, hard labor and attempted genocide, God was taking them out of Egypt and bringing them into the land flowing with milk and honey.

It would be a contrast to everything they had known for generations. Instead of slavery – freedom. Instead of labor – rest. Instead of death – life. God was getting ready to rock their world.

But the generation that left Egypt couldn’t bring themselves to have faith in God’s promises. They rebelled against Him often in their short journey.

So God promised them that because of their disobedience, they would not enter His rest.

Even today, there are those who hear the Word of God but have no faith to keep it. They do not turn from their sins and seek repentance.

In the Parable of the Sower in the Gospels, this is the seed that is cast by the roadside. The Word is snatched away by the enemy before it can take root.

The author of Hebrews encourages us to make every effort to enter the Sabbath rest of God. It’s the effort, the attempt, to enter the rest that will keep us from disobedience. Our active submission will strengthen and increase the faith that God gives us.

According to David Stern’s Jewish New Testament Commentary, the writer “ties the concept of obedience to that of trusting and being faithful.”

We are to obey the Word of God. It is a living Word that gets down inside of us and lays bear our intentions. It proves whether we are really following God or straying down our own path.

James writes in his epistle that looking into the Word is like looking in a mirror. It shows us how we should live and convicts us when we fall short. We may not like what we see but it’s an honest reflection of who we are.

We may get offended by the Gospel and quickly move on but that misses the point. Instead, we should see if anything is out of place in our lives and bring it in line with God’s desires.

It is good to do this on our own before God does (and He will!). Paul wrote to the Corinthians that they should judge themselves before God has to judge and discipline them. But we can’t measure ourselves against the Bible if we’re not familiar with it. Judging ourselves takes an intimate knowledge of and obedience to Scripture.

Following the commands of God, His Torah, not only strengthens our faith but also shines His light into this darkened world. Our faith and obedience become our testimony that will overcome the evil one.

Don’t be depressed over what has happened this week. God is still in control and this was always in His plan. He will use His elect to bring His Word into the world and convict them of their sins. For some, this will lead to rebellion and more disobedience. But for others, it will bring them to eternal life through Yeshua.

This is my answer about what we need to do. 
Stay in the Word and apply it to your life. Walk a dedicated walk that sets you apart as holy to Him. Let the world see your good works so that whoever will may glorify HaShem.

And while your thinking of ways to obey the Creator remember the commandment to “Rejoice in the Lord always!” Even when God rocks your world.

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who calls us to obey Your commandments that we may enter into Your rest.

In the Beginning

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Gen. 1:1 (ASV, HCSB, KJV*, NET, NASB, CJB, ESV, JPS*, NIV, NLT)

The Holy Scriptures begin with the creation of our universe and detail the formation of the planet Earth. The world was forged in the beginning, before the days were numbered, before there was an evening and a morning.

The rest of creation takes place on a timeline but we are told that the world itself was from the beginning, before time was measured in days.

Even then Adonai had a plan. From the foundation of the world, from the moment it was created, the book of life was written with the names of the saints who would persevere (Rev. 13:8). He already knew those who would be gathered to Him as His own.

The timelessness of G-d is established in this. We sometimes think of eternity as having no end but it also has no beginning. He is before the beginning. To say that He was created or somehow formed is to say that He went through a change. But the Almighty states in many passages that He does not change or alter His ways (Num. 23:19, 1Sam. 15:29, Eze. 24:14, James 1:17). This is the meaning of the name revealed to Moses in Exo 3:14, “ehyeh-asher-ehyeh”, “I will be what I will be.”

The prophets speaks to the eternal plans of Adonai in Isaiah 46:9-11. Our heavenly Father declared the end of time even at its beginning. He spoke of things that haven’t happened yet since they were planned from the ancient times.

While most Bible translations agree on the interpretation of Genesis 1:1, one version shows itself to be different. The Young’s Literal Translation is presented as: “In the beginning of God’s preparing the heavens and the earth–” Gen. 1:1 (YLT)

While using “prepare” instead of “create” may be a mistranslation, it properly hints that Adonai has a purpose for the world. That it is His will that sets everything we know into motion.

G-d not only created the world in the beginning, He also prepared it. It was His design to use the earth to make His glory known and set apart a holy people for His own (Deut. 14:2).

We should remember that He created us, as He created the world, for His own purpose. We are meant to glorify Him and walk holy before Adonai. 

To do this means to love the L-rd our G-d with all our heart, mind and soul. And to love our neighbor as ourself. This was demonstrated in the sacrifice of His Son, Yeshua. who gave His life to redeem us. It was a selfless act that showed love for G-d and us.

To live in this love is the command of our Father. It’s what He expects from His children. To do less is to harbor sin in our lives. If that’s our situation then we need to repent and turn to follow Him.

Blessed are You, Adonai our G-d, Creator of the universe, who calls us from the foundation of the world to honor the Holy Name. 

The Devine Messiah

Then He (Yeshua) said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” John 20:27-28 (NASB)

The apostle Thomas is often remembered as Doubting Thomas. His refusal to believe that Yeshua was resurrected until he actually saw Him, will forever be held against him.

When Yeshua did appear to him and the other disciples in the locked room, He did not condemn or accuse. Instead He gave Thomas exactly what he asked for.

Using the commands “reach,” “see,” and “put” the Messiah overcame his skepticism. The doubting talmidim fell to his knees in worship and proclaimed the risen One to be his L-rd and G-d. The ease this happened with indicates that Thomas was already hopeful, and maybe even eager, to believe that Yeshua was, indeed, the long awaited Son of David.

Normally, being incredulous as Thomas isn’t a bad thing. There are many teachings out there that we should be hesitant to trust. The Scriptures tell us to examine all things, holding on to what is good and shunning what is evil (1 Thes. 5:21).
Thomas, however, had spent years with the Messiah hearing the truth of the Gospel. He should have been ready to accept this without reservation. The miracles and teachings of Yeshua had convinced so many others in a much shorter amount of time. And Thomas had some evidence that what the disciples told him was true due to the resurrection of the saints after the crucifixion.

Instead, he held back, unwilling to put his faith in not only the teacher he just spent years with, but also the Scriptures that he learned during this time.

Until he came face to face with the One who was pierced.

The sight of the Messiah with His wounded hands and side caused his excuses to quickly collapse. At that moment, confronted with the evidence he demanded to see, Thomas became the first apostle to proclaim Yeshua as L-rd and G-d.

For some reason, proclaiming Yeshua as G-d (one with יהוה) is a sticking point with some believers. Just the last few weeks, I’ve come across different Facebook and blogs conversation that question the divinity of our Savior.

Yet the same Greek word, Theos, that frequently applies to Adonai in Scripture is used here to name Yeshua as the Almighty. It is also used by Peter to affirm the deity of the Lamb of G-d in his epistles.

“Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Yeshua Messiah, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Yeshua Messiah.” 2 Peter 1:1 (NASB)

So we are confident that Yeshua is the Messiah, the Word of G-d clothed in flesh (John 1:14). He was, and is, and will be (Rev. 1:8).

Thomas accepted the truth of the Gospel and carried it to his death in India, proclaiming the Good News to those in the far east. Let us not be hesitant to share this wherever we are.

Blessed are You, O L-rd, our G-d, Ruler of the Universe, who sent us the Son of David, G-d clothed in flesh, as the atonement for our sins.

Perseverance of the Saints

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Messiah Yeshua. For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me.” – (Phil. 1:6-7)

The perseverance of the saints is the fifth and final of the five points of Calvinism. It speaks to the promise of G-d to seal us with the Ruach HaKodesh as given in Ephesians 1:13-14.

Here we are told that the Spirit seals us to G-d with a promise. It is a pledge of our inheritance now that we are grafted into Israel. Just as G-d will never turn on Israel so He will never turn on us.

I believe it is due to our being grafted into Israel that we have eternal surety of our salvation.

Adonai’s covenants with Israel and the Patriarchs were decidedly one-sided. His promises were not conditional on anything Israel or their forefathers would do. He has promised to awaken Israel in the final days and restore them to Himself. In the same way, He awakens us from our spiritual sleep to bring us to Him by grafting us into Israel.

We are also told in Romans 8:39 that no created thing can separate us from the love of G-d. Since it is explicit in saying “any other created thing” at the end of a long list of physical and spiritual potential obstacles, we can be certain that Paul is going a bit over the top to strongly emphasize that nothing at all, not even ourselves, can separate us from the love of the Almighty.

Part of the reason we may not accept that we are eternally secure in our Savior is that we don’t always feel like it. This may be due to a temporary fall into sin, life circumstances bringing doubt, or a period of distancing our self from G-d by not praying, studying Scripture, or keeping fellowship.

These times can drag us down and make us ineffective for the cause of the Messiah. It can degrade our relationship with our Creator to the point of almost committing apostasy.

But just as an earthly father would not disown a wayward child, our heavenly Father will not disown us. Instead, He gently and sternly disciplines those He loves to bring them back onto the narrow path to reassure them of His eternal love.

The Apostle Peter went through times like these in his own life and wrote about the importance of keeping the assurance of faith. 

2 Peter 1:3-11 encourages us to make our calling and election sure. We do this by living a life that builds qualities such as faith, self-control, godliness and love among others. These make us useful and fruitful as they increase in our lives, and make us certain about His calling and choosing us.

The writer of Hebrews also makes a case for pursuing the assurance of our salvation. He calls on us as believers to work to show love to HaShem, and to minister to the saints so that we can realize the full assurance of our hope until the end (Heb 6:11).

While assurance of salvation may be necessary to the spiritual health of a believer, it is not essential for salvation. Doubt, to some degree, may always be in and out of our lives while we’re walking this earth, but this weakness of ours will never stop the Father from fulfilling His will of saving His elect.

Yeshua still answered the prayer of the man with the sick child that cried out, “Help my unbelief.” Adonai, likewise, hears and answers the cries of His children even when going through difficult times and temptations.

Blessed are you, Adonai, our G-d, Ruler of the Universe, who preserves His elect for the day of salvation.