As The Barking Fox and others have noted in recent days, this is the season of repentance. Why? Because of all the Appointed Times of the Almighty (also called the Feasts of the Lord), the most holy day is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The 40 days prior to that day are the best time for YHVH’s people to examine themselves and make every effort to remove any hindrances to their relationship with their God and with one another.
There are many excellent resources to help those who are taking this seriously. One is the B’ney Yosef North America 40 Days of Repentance daily meditations. Here is another: a voice stilled long before it should have been, but never silenced.
Keith Green ministered to me and to multitudes of young people in the ’70s and ’80s. He was the voice of those in our generation who longed for a deeper, genuine walk with Yeshua (Jesus), the Messiah who promised to introduce us to the Father of all life (John 14:6-7). The seeds planted through Keith’s ministry in music are still bearing fruit. Listen now to this offering from his works – the sound of a heart yearning for repentance.
What does it mean to repent? How much repentance is necessary? Perhaps it means far more than we think, and perhaps there is much more need to repent than we may understand. This is not a casual thing – especially in this increasingly chaotic time.
It is no coincidence that the first major initiative of B’ney Yosef North America is a call to YHVH’s people to examine themselves thoroughly in a humble, repentant attitude at this season moving into the High Holy Days (Rosh Hashana/Feast of Trumpets, Yom Kippur/Day of Atonement, Sukkot/Feast of Tabernacles). In this, as in many other areas, we are grateful for the understanding we have gained of repentance from both Christian and Jewish sources. The details of repentance, or teshuva, is something our Jewish brethren understand very well; our Christian brethren understand that repentance is made complete by the atoning work of Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ).
These two perspectives are two halves of a picture that is only now beginning to come into focus. These short daily meditations are one means of acquiring that focus. As of this posting, we are already one week into the 40 Days, but it is a simple matter to jump in at any point. Whatever you do, take time in this season to ask the Almighty for revelation on how to make things better in your relationships with Him and with others.
As we proceed through these forty days of repentance, through the month of Elul and into Tishri through Yom Kippur on 10 Tishri, we are going to look at what happens to our hearts when we are unrepentant. In other words, what we are introducing into our lives and our relationships when we do NOT repent. [please click on the link below to continue reading]
What is the purpose of a covenant if the parties in it do not keep their ends of the agreement? The parties enter into a covenant expecting certain results, but those results cannot come about if the covenanters fail to do what they said they would do, or do what they agreed not to do. With that in mind, look at what the New Covenant says:
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34 NASB, emphasis added; see also Hebrews 8:8-11)
This is YHVH’s part of the New (or Renewed) Covenant. He enters into this agreement with the entire nation of Israel, promising to put His Law (or Torah) on the hearts of the people so they will live as He created them to live. Then He will be the God of Israel, and they will know Him intimately.
This is the New Covenant that has come into effect by the redemptive work of Messiah Yeshua’s atoning sacrifice, and it applies to all who accept this gift of salvation offered by YHVH. What, then, is our part of the bargain? Do we agree to sit around for eternity, enjoying an endless party at God’s expense, and literally living happily ever after? Not exactly. Eternal life and the joy of the Lord are the rewards of keeping this bargain with God, but our part of the agreement involves things like this:
Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You. (Psalm 119:11 NKJV)
By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. (I John 2:3-6 NASB)
In other words, our part of the covenant is to learn the Word of God and do what it says; His part is to help us in this process. That is the purpose of His Holy Spirit, the Gift of God to make our hearts ready to receive His truth, which He writes on our hearts (John 14:16-26; Ezekiel 11:19-20; Deuteronomy 30:6-8).
Here is a tool to help God’s covenant partners keep their part of the agreement. This is a Bible reading plan that goes through the entire Bible in one year, but in a slightly different way. This plan is a combination of the Jewish and Christian approaches toward the Scriptures.
The Jewish approach is to read through the Torah (the books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) in weekly portions, combined with selections from the Haftorah, which are selected readings from the Prophets and other books of the Tanakh (Old Testament). The Torah cycle begins after the Fall Feasts of Yom Teruah (Trumpets, also called Rosh Hashanah), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), and Sukkot (Tabernacles) and goes through the entire year to the next occurrence of the Fall Feasts. This year the cycle begins the week of October 4-10. In this reading plan the Torah cycle is broken down into daily portions as one would normally find in any Jewish or Messianic reading plan. The weekly Haftorah readings occur each Shabbat (Sabbath), with additional Haftorah selections for the Feasts appearing at those special times during the year.
One Christian approach to reading the Bible is to go through all 66 books of the Tanakh and Apostolic Writings (New Testament) every year. This plan does that also. All of the Tanakh, starting with Joshua and ending with Malachi, as well as the Apostolic Writings from Matthew to Revelation, appear as daily portions along with the daily Torah and weekly Haftorah readings. There is no intentional connection of these daily readings with the Torah portions, just a straightforward presentation of each book in bite-sized portions in the order they appear in the Christian canon.
If you are in search of an organized approach to the Word of God, maybe this can help. Whatever you do, please do get into the Word so that it can get into you!
What is this fascination with the possibility of life beyond this planet? Are we so insecure in our human existence that we cannot bear the thought of dwelling on the only inhabited territory in the entire universe? Or is it, perhaps, a deep-seated sense of being incomplete in ourselves? Whatever the reason, since the dawn of human existence we have sought for something, or Someone, beyond ourselves who shares our experience of sentience and can explain it to us.
For over a century the search for the Interstellar Other has found expression in science fiction. Novelists like H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Arthur C. Clarke have made their marks on several generations of impressionable youth, yet the massive explosion of science fiction onto popular consciousness came not with books, but with movies. Clarke’s collaboration with Stanley Kubrick in the 1968 film2001: A Space Odyssey took science fiction movies to a new level. It combined world-class writing with world-class filmmaking to proclaim to audiences that we are not alone, but in so doing left more questions than answers. Ten years later, Steven Spielberg sought to answer some of those questions inClose Encounters of the Third Kind, proposing that the Interstellar Others have been visiting earth for a long, long time, and asserting that humanity had reached a point where these advanced beings could take us into their confidence and educate us further. Movies produced over the next generation investigated different aspects of this question. Some, like M. Night Shyamalan’s 2002 thriller,Signs, explored the dark possibility that alien visitors are not friendly. Signs clings to the hope that humanity can defend itself from alien intruders, and that the hostile encounter restores a sense of purpose we did not know we had lost. And then there isKnowing, a 2009 drama in which Dr John Koestler, played by Nicholas Cage, embarks on a search for the meaning behind clues predicting one global disaster after another. He learns at last that he can do nothing about the disasters; they themselves are clues all-knowing alien watchers have tracked through time to warn humanity about the imminent destruction of our planet in a massive solar flare. The aliens have no intention of letting the human race pass into extinction. Their clues guide people like Koestler in gathering children so the aliens can take them to a place of safety where humanity can begin again.
A recurring motif in these science fiction films is the search for meaning behind the evidence of alien presence. In 2001 the evidence is a mysterious monolith, and in Close Encounters it is the connection of unexplainable phenomena across the globe. In Signs it is the appearance of crop circles, and in Knowing it is the incomprehensible code of numbers and letters scratched by a child and left in a time capsule. The story tellers would have us believe that the answers to human existence are all there if we can only decipher the patterns.
The science fiction story tellers are correct in that an Interstellar Other has left patterns for us to decipher. What they have missed is that the Interstellar Other is the Holy One of Israel. His clues are in Torah, and His answers are in the rest of Scripture.
Is the world as we know it about to change? How is it about to change? And when is this change going to happen?
To the first question I respond with an unqualified yes. To the second I can only say, “In ways that no one expects – not even the most careful and prayerful observers.” Regarding the third question, I submit that it is changing even now. As a historian, political scientist, and former military professional, I can assert that the global political, economic, and military system of planet is undergoing a massive realignment such as has not occurred since World War I, and most likely not since the advent of the modern nation-state system in the 17th century. That is the subject of two blog series published byThe Barking Fox in 2014 (“When Empires Die: Thoughts on the Centennial of World War I”; and“The Shemitah and the Yovel: Examining the Relevance of God’s Appointed Times”.
One sign of change is that people are now talking more openly about things that until recently were only whispered in secret. For example, in two weeks a gathering of mature, dedicated, sincere followers of Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ), along with a number of reputable Jewish colleagues who do not agree with Yeshua’s Messiaship, are meeting in Israel to discuss how the growing Messianic/Hebrew Roots Movement among non-Jewish believers is part of YHVH’s promised restoration of the “Lost Ten Tribes” of Ephraim (Northern Israel). Such a thing would have been laughable a few short years ago, but now there is genuine reason to believe the prophesied restoration of the entire nation of Israel is in motion.
That is a happy example of these changes now discussed openly. A not-so-happy example comes from what would be considered “conspiracy theory”. Is a global conspiracy about to enthrone a totalitarian regime that will bring down the nations of the world, and our personal freedoms as well? If so, what are we to do? Or can we do anything?
I have paid some attention to these rumors of conspiracy over the years in the interest of seeing whether there is any substance to them. Perhaps there is. What is certain is that events in the United States and elsewhere in the world are moving in directions that have brought great concern among people I respect and consider knowledgeable. Recently I have had conversations with family, friends, and associates that indicate they are all watching developments and wondering what it all means. I have no specific answers, but I can pass on something that might help. Bonnie Harvey ofHebrew Nation News has published an article which looks at several streams of reporting on events that seem to point to aculmination point of some kind this coming September. Is there any substance to this? Let the informed and prayerful reader decide.