Tag Archive | Apostle Peter

Looking Like Joseph

Enrique Simonet, Flevit super illam (He wept over it). (Prado Museum, via Wikimedia Commons)

How do we evaluate dreams and visions? Like everything else, we test them to Scripture.

There is no question that God sends these Divine communications to people. There is also no question that there are alternative sources of dreams: satanic influences, mind-altering drugs, wild imaginations, or even the aftermath of a wrestling match with disagreeable food. That is why we evaluate everything according to the standard of Scripture to see if it is consistent with the Word of God. Not everything will stand up to that standard, which is why we must be careful to sift the legitimate messages from the deceptive, the irrelevant, and the just plain loony. This is important because we now live in the time when the words of the prophet Joel are coming to pass:

It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. (Joel 2:28-28, NASB)

It has been nearly two thousand years since the Apostle Peter verified that humanity had entered the era when Joel’s prophecy was coming into fulfillment (Acts 2:14-21). Where are we now on the timeline of fulfillment of all prophecy – especially the ultimate redemption of Israel, YHVH’s covenant nation? That is something addressed in this vision related by my friend Jesse Jury (Jesse ben Yosef).

I first heard Jesse’s account of this vision while recording an interview of him and his wife, Amy, for the B’ney Yosef North America radio program, Reunion Roadmap. The podcast of that interview is available at this link:

https://bneyyosefna.com/2017/08/14/byna-radio-reunion-roadmap-august-12-2017/

It is worth hearing, not only for Jesse’s vision, but for the insights he and Amy share on a life of walking in Torah with Yeshua, and for the other enjoyable elements of the show. What you will read below is Jesse’s full account of the vision which he posted recently on his blog, Torah Driven Life. You will see that he has attempted to evaluate the vision according to Scripture in the interest of finding an interpretation, and understanding its validity. Maybe you will be able to find more meaning as you do your own testing of this word by the Word of God.


Looking Like Joseph

Jesse ben Yosef
Originally posted on Torah Driven Life, August 9, 2017

As Shabbat started on Av 13, in the Gregorian year 2017, the Ruach HaKodesh came over me, and I began sobbing uncontrollably with joy over the restoration of the sons of Joseph. What I am about to share was so overwhelmingly “real” to me that I cried not only in the evening, but in the early morning of Shabbat as well. It was as if the Father cracked the door, ever so slightly, to share with me a portion of His grief, as well as His excitement, over the separation of Ephraim from the flock of Israel, as well as our coming restoration. One thing in particular that stood out from this prophetic “download” was an emphasis on “looking like Joseph,” which I will explain as follows.

It began with a vision of the heavenly throne room, in which the angels had assembled themselves before the Father. He commanded them, “Go, and bring Me My firstborn son Ephraim, for I long to see his face yet again.”

And the angels left, and searched over the face of the whole earth, and returned back to the throne room, empty handed. They said to the Father, “We cannot find Your son.”

But He would not accept it, and He sent them out many more times, saying to them each time, “Go, and find My son, and bring him back to Me, that I may look upon his face yet again.” But each time, they came back more confused than they were the time before.

“We cannot find Your son.” they said to the Father yet again. “We have searched over the top of the highest mountain, and in the depths of the deepest valleys, and Your son is nowhere to be found.”

“Of course you can’t yet find him,” the Father said, “Because he no longer looks like Joseph. When the time comes when he looks like Joseph, then you will be able to find him.”

The final word that I received from the Father was that the time of the ingathering would be very soon.

An Explanation

After the vision had ended, the first Scripture which came to mind was Matthew 24:30-34, “And then will be seen the signal of the Son of Man in heaven: and then will all the tribes of the earth mourn, when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great trumpet and they will collect together His elect from the four winds, from one extremity of heaven to the other. Now learn an illustration from the fig tree. As soon as its branches become tender and its leaves shoot forth, you know that summer is coming on. So also, when you perceive all these things, you know that He is near, even at the door. Truly, I say to you, that this generation shall not pass away, until all these things shall come to pass.”

First, we see that it is not Yeshua directly who gathers in His lost sheep, but that the Father sends forth His angels to do the ingathering in the last days. This is literally what I saw in my vision, with the angles assembled, looking for Ephraim, but unable to see him, because he did not yet look like Joseph.

Secondly, Yeshua then compares the ingathering to branch of the fig tree, which– when it begins to bud and bear fruit– is the sign that the harvest is approaching. The branch is used here as a euphemism for Ephraim, and specifically recalls the stick of Joseph in Ezekiel 37. When the stick of Joseph becomes tangible, visible, and identifiable– when the wheat and the tares are distinctly known from one another– this is when the Messiah returns and sends out the gathering angels.

And lastly, Yeshua says that “this generation shall not pass away until these things shall come to pass.” I believe He is referring to the generation of the fig tree, the budding branch of Ephraim, the stick of Joseph. And I believe that WE are that generation.

When I shared the vision with my wife, she brought to mind the parable of the Wheat and the Tares from Matthew 13:24-30, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. And while people were asleep, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. And when the plant shot up and bore fruits, then the tares also appeared. And the servants of the householder came, and said to him, ‘Our lord, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where did the tares that are in it come from?’ And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Is it your pleasure that we go and gather them out?’ And he said to them, ‘No, lest while you gather out the tares, you also eradicate the wheat with them. Let them both grow together until the harvest; and at the time of harvest, I will say to the reapers, “Gather out the tares first, and bind them in bundles to be burned; but gather the wheat gather into my granary.”’”

In this parable, it is seen that “the wheat” and “the tares” are indistinguishable from one another for a long course of time, where they will “both grow together until the harvest.” And at that time, “the servants of the householder” are commanded to separate the two, and bring the wheat into the granary. Now what makes this parable fascinating is when it is examined from an agricultural perspective. The similarity between these two plants is striking; the tares, called “false wheat” in some regions, resemble the wheat nearly identically throughout its growth cycle, and is only discernible from it at the end, when the wheat bears fruit, but the tares do not. And because of its fruit, the heads of the wheat become heavy, and literally “bow down” due to the weight of the grains, indicating a metaphoric resemblance of humility, as opposed to the tares, which stand proud, bearing no fruit.

What does it mean to “look like Joseph?”

As mentioned above, the time of the ingathering would come very soon. He did not give me a tangible date, but the impression I had was that these were events that He was putting into motion in the relatively immediate future. And in the meantime, our calling is to “look like Joseph” with every ounce of our being, by exhibiting good fruit, by showing humility, and by living the fruit of the spirit: “love, joy, peace, endurance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and patience,” (Galatians 5:22) not only as individuals, but also in our families, our communities, and our Ephraimite nation. For me, the ultimate picture of Joseph’s character, revealed in the Torah, is his response to his brothers in Genesis 45 for having sold him into slavery. He did not respond with judgment, nor malice, nor a will for vengeance; but rather with forgiveness, with love, with compassion, and with sincere concern for the well being of his family– that same family which had betrayed him twenty-two years prior.

So when the Father tells me that we need to “look like Joseph,” this is what that means to me. I look forward to hearing what this means to you in the comments below.

Source: Looking Like Joseph. If you like what you’ve read, drop by Jesse’s blog and leave a comment.


© Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog, 2017.  Permission to use and/or duplicate original material on The Barking Fox Blog is granted, provided that full and clear credit is given to Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Israel 2016: A Lesson in Being Peculiar

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;  (I Peter 2:9 KJV)

The Church of All Nations, traditional site of the Garden of Gethsemane.

The Church of All Nations, traditional site of the Garden of Gethsemane.

The meaning of “peculiar” has changed somewhat since the publication of the King James Bible four hundred years ago.  In 1611 it meant special, set apart, treasured – in other words, holy.  Today it means odd, strange, or out-of-place, which is why the New King James uses the word “special” instead of peculiar.

The point of this language, both in I Peter and in the Torah passages Peter references (Exodus 19:5-6; Deuteronomy 14:1-2, 26:18-19), is that YHVH has designated the people of Israel as His own possession.  As such, Israelites will think, eat, speak, dress, and act differently than the rest of the world.  The fact that Peter draws on the Torah for his exhortation to First Century followers of Yeshua testifies to his belief in direct connection between them and Israel.  Paul agrees, which is why he says that we who take advantage of the grace offered through Yeshua’s redemptive work are adopted or grafted into the covenant people of Israel and become part of Abraham’s seed (Ephesians 2:8-13; Romans 11:16-27; Galatians 3:29).

As sincere Christians in traditional churches, we already had some measure of distinction from the world as we tried to speak kindly, treat one another nicely, refrain from vices, go to church regularly, and study the Bible.  All of that established us as different from “unchurched” people.  Observant Jews are also distinctive from the rest of the world in that they dress and eat differently, observe the Sabbath and the Feasts of the Lord, and make a concerted effort to take care of one another.  So what happens when sincere Christians start looking like observant Jews?

That is a lesson we learned yesterday in our walk around Jerusalem.  As Hebrews, we wear tzittzit in observance of the commandment in Numbers 15:37-41.  Many of us have also adopted the Jewish custom of keeping our heads covered, either with a kippa or with a hat of some kind.  This is normal in Jerusalem, where many varieties of tzittziyot and head coverings – as well as other dress – come together in an eclectic Jewish blend.  What made us peculiar even here, however, was what we did.

American Hebrews gathered in the Garden to study the Bible.

American Hebrews gathered in the Garden to study the Bible.

In our wanderings, we made our way to the foot of the Mount of Olives to read and discuss some scripture passages at the traditional site of the Garden of Gethsemane.  That in itself is peculiar:  why would these “Jewish” people want to go to a site associated with the Christian Jesus?  The garden is in the courtyard of the Church of All Nations, a Catholic church and a regular stop for Christian tour groups.  As we gathered on the edge of the garden and discussed the various events associated with the Mount of Olives, we received many puzzled looks from the groups who filed by us.  The quizzical looks continued when we left the garden as Arab vendors and Jewish pedestrians wondered the same thing:  why are these “Jews” going to a church?

The answer, of course, is not that we are trying to be Jewish, but that we are finding our own way in this appreciation of the whole Word of God.  

It is a peculiar journey.

(For the curious, the passages of interest included II Samuel 15 and Zechariah 14, which we discussed in the context of King David’s story prefiguring the life, ministry and second coming of Messiah Yeshua, the Son of David).  


© Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog, 2016.  Permission to use and/or duplicate original material on The Barking Fox Blog is granted, provided that full and clear credit is given to Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Finding Israelite Identity in the New Covenant

©Harper Collins Christian Publishing. Used by permission.

ReverendFun.com.  © Harper Collins Christian Publishing.  Used by permission.

Language is a perilous thing.  It can unite us, but quite often it does the opposite.  That, by the way, was God’s intent.  We know that from the story of how He created the different languages of the earth as presented in Genesis 11:

Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words.  It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.  They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.”  And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar.  They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”  The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built.  The Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language.  And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.  Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.”  So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city.  Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.  (Genesis 11:1-9 NASB, emphasis added)

Ever since then that curse of language has been with us.  And, by the way, so has the curse of nations.

Curse of nations?  Yes, it does seem to be a curse.  It would seem that the Lord did not intend for humanity to be scattered and separated across the face of the planet in competing factions.  Nevertheless, nations were His idea.  The story of the Tower of Babel explains why.  You’ll notice that mankind also had an idea of uniting themselves as one people, but their idea was not the same as the Almighty’s.  They wanted to be a single, unified power that could challenge YHVH for sovereignty over this planet.  Since these people lived in the generations immediately after the Great Flood, we can suppose that some of them harbored a little resentment at God’s destruction of the pre-Flood civilization.  Maybe they thought they could do things better than their ancestors, perhaps by building a strong defense that could ward off any further Divine intervention in human affairs.  Now since our God does not change (Numbers 23:19; I Samuel 15:29; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17; Hebrews 13:8), and since the eternal governing principles of the universe which He established do not change (Psalm 119:44; II Kings 17:37; Matthew 5:18, 24:34-35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33), He had to do something about this blatant rebellion.  There can only be one God, after all. 

The problem with sin is that it seeks to create many gods – in fact, as many as there are human beings on the earth.  That is at the heart of Satan’s insidious deception spoken to our mother Eve:  “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  (Genesis 3:5 NASB)  Tragically, the way our Creator dealt with the deception before the Flood was to destroy humanity.  I would surmise He had little choice in the matter since all of humanity apparently was united as a single people, most likely under satanic leadership (not unlike the world we are anticipating at the end of this age when Messiah returns).  To make sure He did not have to make a complete end of the human race this time around, the Lord God created nations and then scattered them across the earth.  If they were divided in language, they would soon be divided in every other imaginable way, and the resultant wars and rumors of wars would ensure that a united human empire would not arise to defy the Living God until the end of days.  In the meantime the Living God could go about the process of cultivating His redemptive work in human hearts while they remained in the nations.

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Fox Byte 5775 #41: Pinchas (Phinehas)

פִּינְחָס

One of the great depictions of American historical events is John Trumbull’s painting, Declaration of Independence, which hangs in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol.  The scene captures the moment on June 28, 1776, when the five men who drafted the Declaration present their work to the Continental Congress.  Of the 56 signers of the Declaration, 42 appear in Trumbull’s work, the others having died before he could obtain their images.  The painting also depicts five men who did not sign, including Robert Livingston of New York.  Livingston was one of the men who drafted the Declaration, but New York recalled him from the Congress before he could sign his work.  In Trumbull’s painting Livingston appears in the center of the drafting committee, with Roger Sherman of Connecticut on his right and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia on his left.  Americans may not remember the distinguished men from Connecticut and New York, but they do remember Jefferson and John Adams of Massachusetts, two future presidents.  Jefferson and Adams embraced different visions of how to govern the infant American Republic, and even though they became political rivals, they remained friends until their deaths on the same day, July 4, 1826. 

There is a legend that Jefferson paid Trumbull to paint his foot on top of Adams’, but it is only a legend.  The two men’s feet are close together in the picture, and as time and dirt wore away at the painting it came to appear that Jefferson’s foot was resting on Adams’.  That is not the only oddity in Trumbull’s work.  Like many works of art it is not entirely accurate, but is effective in capturing the spirit of the moment and of the age.  So also is 1776, a musical play which humorously explores the events during that fateful summer of American independence.  Howard DaSilva dominates the film version with his portrayal of Dr. Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania.  If we are to believe the movie, independence was Adams’ idea, and the declaration was expressed in Jefferson’s words, but it was Franklin who brought it into being with his wisdom, wit, and ability to achieve consensus.  1776 embellishes the story with fictional dialogue, but it captures a number of famous quotes by the Founding Fathers, including Franklin’s immortal words:  “If we do not hang together, we shall most assuredly hang separately!”

Dr. Franklin spoke a warning to a people facing the threat of political extinction before they could become a nation.  Long before Franklin uttered his warning, Yeshua of Nazareth spoke the same truth to the people He had come to redeem from the threat of extinction by the enemy of their souls:

And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand.  (Matthew 12:25 NASB; see also Mark 9:38-40; Luke 9:49-50, 11:16-23)

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Fox Byte 5775 #39: Chukat (Decree Of)

חֻקַּת

Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) instructs Daniel (Ralph Macchio) in the art of karate in the 1984 movie, The Karate Kid.  (Photo from a review by Roger Ebert, January 1, 1984)

Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) instructs Daniel (Ralph Macchio) in the art of karate in the 1984 movie, The Karate Kid. (Photo from a review by Roger Ebert, January 1, 1984)

Is it possible to be a hero without paying a price?  A hero is one who does something worthy of esteem on behalf of someone else, and that requires sacrifice.  Sometimes it requires the sacrifice of a life, and sometimes merely the sacrifice of time and attention.  Sometimes heroes save nations, and sometimes they save little children from tears of embarrassment, pain, or grief.  Every act of salvation, no matter how small, entails a sacrifice that someone offers willingly.  And that is what makes a hero.

We learn about heroes in The Karate Kid, a 1984 film starring Ralph Macchio as Daniel Larusso, a fatherless teenager very much in need of a hero.  Daniel suffers a vicious beating by boys from a local martial arts school.  He is saved by a humble janitor, Mr. Miyagi (played by Noriyuki “Pat” Morita), who drives off the attackers with a masterful display of karate skills.  Before long Mr. Miyagi agrees to teach karate to Daniel.  The instruction begins when Miyagi assigns Daniel a number of hard tasks.  First he must wash and wax Miyagi’s antique automobiles, using special hand motions to “wax on” and “wax off”.  Then he must sand the walkway around Miyagi’s house, paint the fence around the property, and finally paint the house itself.  Each task features a specific set of hand motions.  After days of arduous labor, Daniel complains that he has learned nothing about karate while working like a slave.  Miyagi responds by having Daniel perform the hand motions for each task.  He then throws punches and kicks at Daniel, demonstrating that “wax on, wax off”, “sand the floor”, “paint the fence”, and “paint the house” have trained the boy to defend against attacks from many angles.  As he blocks Miyagi’s attacks, Daniel realizes the truth:  his faithfulness in seemingly unconnected menial tasks has made him ready for further instruction and greater responsibility in the art of karate.

In time Daniel becomes competent at karate and confident in himself as Miyagi’s training transforms him from a self-absorbed braggart into a self-controlled warrior.  In the concluding scenes he enters a martial arts tournament where he faces the boys who first attacked him.  Each is a formidable opponent, yet while Daniel learned karate as a means of disciplining himself in service of others, they had learned it as a means to exalt themselves over the weak.  They do not realize that the humble attitude Miyagi cultivated in Daniel has made him stronger and better able to withstand pain and suffering.  Their combined efforts at wounding and weakening Daniel only help him discover deeper wells of strength which in the end bring him victory.

This is a life lesson few are willing to learn.  Either we walk humbly in the confidence of our King, or we get eaten by our adversary.  As the Apostle Peter says:

You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.  Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.  Be of sober spirit, be on the alert.  Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  (I Peter 5:5-8 NASB)

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Fox Byte 5775 #31: Emor (Say)

אֱמֹר

Queen Guenevere (Cherie Lunghi) and King Arthur (Nigel Terry) in the 1981 John Boorman film Excalibur.  (Photo from obituary of Nigel Terry, 1945-2015, at The Telegraph)

Queen Guenevere (Cherie Lunghi) and King Arthur (Nigel Terry) in the 1981 John Boorman film Excalibur. (Photo from obituary of Nigel Terry, 1945-2015, at The Telegraph)

At some point between the withdrawal of Rome’s legions in 410 CE and the advent of Saxon England in the 6th Century, a Celtic chieftain named Arthur restored a measure of order to Britain.  Arthur’s reign occupied a bubble in time, set apart from the chaos that preceded and followed it.  Although the mists of time shroud the truth of Arthur’s career, the legends born of that truth still inspire us 1,500 years after his passing.  Who cannot admire a king so good, so wise, so honorable, and so humble that his very presence compels the allegiance and obedience of all good people?  Such a king is invincible, for no evil thing can overcome him.  If Arthur has a fault, it is that he bestows his love too freely and trusts too completely.  And in this we find the enduring tragedy of King Arthur.  His downfall and the end of his shining kingdom of Camelot came not at the hands of an enemy, but through his beloved bride and his greatest friend.  We rejoice with Arthur that he finds in Guenevere a queen of exquisite purity, grace, beauty, wisdom, and kindness, and we rejoice still more when he is joined by Lancelot, the epitome of knightly honor, courage, and fidelity.  How it wounds us when Guenevere and Lancelot cannot remain true to their king, but fall to the attraction they have for one another.  Their adulterous affair ruins the king and the kingdom with him.

One of many moving interpretations of the Arthurian legend is John Boorman’s film Excalibur, starring Nigel Terry as Arthur, Cherie Lunghi as Guenevere, and Nicholas Clay as Lancelot.  At the high point of the film, all is well in the kingdom except for the perpetual absence of Lancelot.  Because of his attraction for Guenevere, the good knight has exiled himself from court so as to avoid temptation.  Everyone in the kingdom seems to understand this, everyone, that is, except the king himself.  No one speaks of this matter until one day when Sir Gawain (played by Liam Neeson) takes it upon himself to address this blight on Camelot’s perfection.  Gawain accuses the queen of driving Lancelot from the company of Arthur’s knights.  Stung at the assault on her honor, Guenevere turns to Arthur and cries, “Will you not champion me?”  He replies:

I cannot!  I am your King, and I must be your judge in this.  Lancelot must do it.  He also stands accused.  I decree – that at sunrise, two days from now, the champions will meet, and the truth shall be known.  For by the law of God, no knight who is false can win in combat with one who is true.

The trial by combat proves Guenevere’s innocence as Lancelot defeats Gawain, but which the secret is exposed Guenevere can no longer hide her attraction.  Before long she and Lancelot are indeed lovers, leaving Arthur devastated and bringing about the dissolution of Camelot.  Yet in the end Arthur has a chance to restore order by leading his knights in one last, desperate battle against Mordred, his mortal enemy.  On the eve of the battle he goes to visit Guenevere, who has turned from her sin and sought a life of holiness in a convent.  There she has kept Arthur’s great sword, Excalibur, in hope that one day he will take it up again in the cause of justice.  After receiving the sword from her, Arthur bids Guenevere farewell with these words:

I’ve often thought that in the hereafter of our lives, when I owe no more to the future, can be just a man, we might meet.  You’d come to me, claim me yours, know that I am your husband.  It is a dream I have.

Arthur’s dream is the very dream, and the very promise, of the Holy One of Israel.

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Fox Byte 5775 #26: Shmini (Eighth)

שְּׁמִינִי

Marvin the Paranoid Android (voice by Alan Rickman) escorts Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) and Ford Prefect (Mos Def) to the bridge of the Heart of Gold, a prototype ship powered by the Infinite Improbability Drive in the 2005 film adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  (Photo:  TheGuardian.com)

Marvin the Paranoid Android (voice by Alan Rickman) escorts Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) and Ford Prefect (Mos Def) to the bridge of the Heart of Gold, a prototype ship powered by the Infinite Improbability Drive in the 2005 film adaptation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. (Photo: TheGuardian.com)

The problem with great satire is that it can be so irreverent.  Then again, that is the strength of satire:  using humor and ridicule to point out something (usually a shortcoming, hypocrisy, or vice) often overlooked in the routine of living.  Satire can be cruel, and thus must be used with great caution.  If employed properly, it moves the audience to laugh loudly in genuine humor at their own or their society’s expense, and plants seeds for reflection that hopefully will bloom into motivation for positive change.

Or perhaps not.  Sometimes humor exists only for humor.  That is one way to consider the works of Douglas Adams, the late English author best known for his satirical science fiction works, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  It is quite possible that Adams and I could have been good friends, although our worldviews would have generated a continuous wrestling match between us.  To the end of his life he remained utterly convinced in the nonexistence of a Creator, even as I am utterly convinced that there is no god but YHVH.  And yet I can appreciate his masterful use of the English language, his clever story lines, and his penetrating wit, all of which he employed to point out things worthy of our consideration.  Here is one example from the first Hitchhiker’s Guide novel:

The History of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why and Where phases.  For instance, the first phase is characterized by the question How can we eat? the second by the question Why do we eat? and the third by the question Where shall we have lunch?.

This is Adams at his best, using seemingly trivial questions with simple answers to provoke a deeper level of inquiry on the very nature and meaning of human existence.  Perhaps he would be surprised to learn that the Lord God does the very same thing.  The small, simple, seemingly insignificant things are what He uses to test our hearts, to discipline us, and to mature us so we can exercise greater responsibility, and all the time He magnifies His glory through us and through these processes.  Thus, when it comes to distinctions between believers in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the differences usually are much smaller than we may think.  Consider, for example, the attitudes of believers in Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ) regarding the Law, or Torah, of God.  To define this difference, we can use the same pattern Douglas Adams used by asking three simple questions:

When are we to worship God?

How are we to worship God?

What does God say is food?

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Fox Byte 5775: Pesach (Passover)

פֶּסַח

Tolkien in 1972, in his study at Merton Street (from J. R. R. Tolkien. A Biography by H. Carpenter; accessed on lotr.wikia.com)

Tolkien in 1972, in his study at Merton Street (from J. R. R. Tolkien. A Biography by H. Carpenter; accessed on lotr.wikia.com)

Professor J.R.R. Tolkien insisted that there was no hidden meaning behind his works on Middle Earth.  Such was his assertion in his Foreword to The Lord of the Rings:

I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence.  I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers.  I think that many confuse ‘applicability’ with ‘allegory’; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.

– J.R.R. Tolkien, Foreword to the Second Edition of The Lord of the Rings

Yet there are allegorical elements throughout his writings, however unintended.  Tolkien’s Catholic world view infused his work with well-known Christian concepts such as atonement, salvation, redemption, and fulfillment of prophecy.  A consistent story line appears throughout his writing, repeated on several levels.  It is the story of paradise defiled, of blessed people tempted by evil into betrayal of their calling, of their exile and dissolution, and their restoration at last after the struggles of their exile produce the required degree of contrition and of resolve to live up to their destiny.  In The Silmarillion the tale plays out in the long defeat of the Noldor in their forlorn quest to regain the Silmarils from Morgoth the defiler of Middle Earth.  The cycle ends and begins anew in their redemption beyond all hope by the Valar, the powers over the earth who had exiled the Noldor from the blessed realm of Valinor because of their rebellion.  In The Hobbit it is the restoration of the House of Durin as the Dwarves under the leadership of Thorin Oakenshield set in motion the events that bring the death of the great dragon Smaug and the coronation of a new Dwarf King Under the Mountain.  And in The Lord of the Rings it is the return of Aragorn as King Elessar of Gondor, restoring the long lost (and nearly forgotten) kingdom of the Númenóreans after the defeat of Sauron, Morgoth’s chief lieutenant.

Among the many things we learn from Tolkien is that things happen in cycles.  Life is cyclical, not linear.  What happens to the fathers happens to the sons, and what has come before will come again.  Whether he realized it or not, that is the Hebraic way of looking at the world.  And it is quite biblical.  As Solomon, the son of David, teaches us:

That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done.  So there is nothing new under the sun.  (Ecclesiastes 1:9 NASB)

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Fox Byte 5775 #18: Mishpatim (Ordinances)

מִּשְׁפָּטִים

Even hell must abide by the Laws the Creator has established for the seasons.  (It's so cold that now HELL has frozen over:  Michigan town falls victim to record cold temperatures, Daily Mail, January 8, 2014)

Even hell must abide by the Laws the Creator has established for the seasons. (“It’s so cold that now HELL has frozen over: Michigan town falls victim to record cold temperatures”, Daily Mail, January 8, 2014)

How would one describe hell?  Dante does a nice job in his Inferno, depicting levels of escalating unpleasantness corresponding to the earthly misdeeds of the unfortunate sufferers.  It is important to note that Dante’s descriptions, however grotesque, are not without a certain order.  In other words, hell is not complete chaos.  There is an organization, a hierarchy, and a supreme authority that keeps it functioning.  If there were no order then hell would splinter into a million pieces and never cause harm to another soul.  And thus Dante reflects something that Yeshua explained about the infernal realm:

And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand.  If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand?  (Matthew 12:25-26 NASB; see also Mark 3:23-27 and Luke 11:17-22)

This principle of diabolical organization is something C.S. Lewis explains as the rationale for his masterful work, The Screwtape Letters:

I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of “Admin.”  The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid “dens of crime” that Dickens loved to paint.  It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps.  In those we see its final result.  But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice.  Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the offices of a thoroughly nasty business concern.  (C.S. Lewis, 1961.  The Screwtape Letters with Screwtape Proposes a Toast.  New York:  MacMillan.)

If Yeshua and these literary masters are correct, our conclusion is that hell must be organized and lawful, to some extent at least.  But why is that so?  One would think that Satan, the enemy of the Most High God, would do everything opposite what God does.  That would mean he would preside over a completely lawless, chaotic realm.  Yet that cannot be so for a fundamental reason that Satan knows only too well:  without Law, nothing can function.

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Fox Byte 5775 #17: Yitro (Jethro)

יִתְרוֹ

In a tremendous breach of protocol, Queen Esther (Tiffany Dupont) approaches the throne of King Xerxes (Lou Goss).  From the 2006 film One Night with the King (photo:  Box Office Mojo).

The climactic scene of One Night with the King.  In a tremendous breach of protocol, Queen Esther (Tiffany Dupont) approaches the throne of King Xerxes (Lou Goss).  (Photo: Box Office Mojo).

Just because a person enjoys the favor of the king does not mean they can do as they please.  This is not some antiquated concept that no longer applies to modern days.  A king may have the power to take a life, but a president, a general, an employer, or even a parent has the power to revoke privileges, inflict punishment, cut off access, and otherwise make life miserable for someone who gets on their bad side.  Whether the setting is before a throne, in an office, or around a kitchen table, those who disregard the authority figure’s protocol will suffer the consequences.

A timeless example of this principle is in the ancient story of Esther, the Jewish exile who became queen of the mighty Xerxes I (Ahasuerus) of Persia.  When advised of a plot by the king’s Grand Vizier, Haman, to annihilate her people, Esther takes it upon herself to intervene.  Protocol dictates that she cannot come into the king’s presence unless he summons her, yet the situation is urgent and Esther has little choice but to enter the throne room unbidden.  She does so, willing to trade her own life for the lives of the Jewish nation.  Her trust is ultimately in her God, but she goes also in the knowledge that she has the favor of King Xerxes and knows him intimately.  He should understand that she would not break protocol unless she had very good reason.  Perhaps the most stunning portrayal of this story is in the 2006 movie, One Night with the King, starring Tiffany Dupont as Esther and Lou Goss as Xerxes.  In the great climactic scene in the throne room, Esther humbly yet purposefully approaches the king, undeterred by the calls for her death.  She stands at last in front of the throne, raising pleading eyes to the king, and awaits his decision to take her head in payment for her breach of protocol, or extend to her his scepter as a token of forgiveness and continued favor.

We know the rest of the story:  the king extends his scepter and grants Esther’s petition to attend a series of banquets at which she calls on him for salvation from Haman’s wicked plot.  By the king’s command, Haman receives his just reward and Esther and her uncle Mordecai proceed with actions in the king’s name to preempt the genocide.  What we do not often realize, and what Esther and Xerxes themselves probably did not know, is that they were acting on principles that God Himself had established from the beginning, and which He had communicated to His people at Mount Sinai.

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