Israel 2016: The Kind Face in the Hijab

For three consecutive days in this Holy Land called Israel I have become acquainted with the immense progress of YHVH’s Kingdom plans.  Over that same period I have become acquainted with how utterly inadequate I am in this process.

Inadequate?  Yes.  Indispensable?  No. 

Jerusalem's Light Rail, venue for more miracles than can one might expect.
Jerusalem’s Light Rail, venue for more miracles than one might expect.

Moses, by his own confession, was inadequate, and the Almighty did not deny his protests.  Yet no one would argue that Moses was indispensable in the process of bringing our ancient people out of Egypt in the First Exodus.  So am I no less indispensable to this process of bringing home the rest of YHVH’s covenant people.

The truth is that everyone is indispensable.  Each man, woman, and child who steps up to the high calling of bringing tangible reality to the Creator’s Kingdom is indispensable.  Each one who shirks that call diminishes the Kingdom in ways that at the moment only the angels know – and weep over.

As I am learning, this is not simply a Christian kingdom, nor a Jewish kingdom, nor a Messianic or Hebrew Roots kingdom, but the Commonwealth of Israel instituted by Holy God.  His revelation comes in multiple pieces and levels and ways.  It comes to Jews, Christians, Hebraic believers in Yeshua, and many others we may not now recognize as fellow Israelites.  It is bigger than we think, but its glory wanes when we think we have it figured out and insist that others endorse our singular view of it.

It is a miraculous Kingdom.  Perhaps not the miraculous that we may expect, such as oceans dividing to make a dry path, or mountains crumbling, or masses of sick people instantly healed.  Those miracles have, do now, and will occur.  Yet the miracles all around us are hardly recognized as such today.  I lived through one a few nights ago, when ten of us Hebrew believers of Christian backgrounds shared a fine supper in the Orthodox Jewish sukka of my new friend Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz.  

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Israel 2016: Different Shades of Right

bfb161018-trip-north

Today we traveled to the Far North.  In a place like Texas that would mean a whole day’s journey.  In Israel it means about three hours in holiday traffic.

Our destination was a place the rest of the world calls an “occupied territory”.  I call it one of the most beautiful and captivating places I have ever seen.  The Golan Heights really are high, rising abruptly from the Jordan Valley in a very short distance.  It was not the first great change in elevation during this journey.  Coming down from Jerusalem to Route 6 along the coastal plain is enough of a descent to cause one’s ears to pop.  The same thing happens once the traveler passes the Horns of Hattin (subject of a future blog post) and descends to Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee.  Then the process happens in reverse on the ascent from the sea to the northern hills, and down again to the Jordan before ascending one final time to the Golan.

A word about these famous biblical bodies of water:  I was not prepared to find the Sea of Galilee to be so tiny.  Comparatively speaking, that is.  Neither was I expecting the Jordan River to be smaller than a McAlpine Creek back home in Charlotte.  Such great things happened around both over the last 5,000 years that I expected something a bit more majestic.  Then again, Israel is a land of tremendous contrast.  The truly great things are the small and humble things, while the big and powerful things often turn out to be woefully inadequate (remember Goliath?).

But I digress.  This is a post about the town of קצרין.

For those who cannot read Hebrew, there is some difficulty explaining exactly where we were.  This town is the capital of the Golan, so one would think that its name in English would have some kind of standard transliteration.  Oddly enough, it does not.  On the road map we were using, on the road signs we passed, and even on the web sites I have checked to verify what I am relating, the name is given in a number of different ways, such as:

Qatsrin

Qatzrin

Katsrin

Katzerin

Katzrin

Even the official website of Israel’s Ministry of Tourism spells the name two different ways!

bfb161018-qatsrin-signWhat are we to make of this?  I suggest it is an illustration of the difference between Greek and Hebrew thinking.  The Greek way would establish one right answer for spelling the name in English.  Every other spelling would be wrong.  In Hebraic thinking, however, there are multiple ways to convey the truth that this particular place is the town we want to visit in the Golan.  The sounds of the two syllables (well, three if one is Southern and drawls) are close enough to the Hebrew in each of the transliterations given above to ensure that the traveler can get to the right place.  Thus there can be many versions of “right” in Hebraic thought.

What, then, is “wrong” in Hebraic thought?  Ah, that would be trying to spell the town’s name as something like Woebegone, Bora Bora, or Cascabell.  Clearly they are wrong in many ways.  How do we know?  Because the sounds rendered in the spoken Hebrew tell us we want a place that sounds like “Cat’s Ring”, so something that sounds like Bora Bora is right out.

This lesson was reinforced in the fellowship we enjoyed with some amazing Jewish Israeli friends in their Sukkah at Qatsrin.  It seems that there are many ways to live out the truth of YHVH’s Word.  The ultimate wrong answer is not opening that Word and letting it soak into the heart and soul.  However, there is a wrong answer that is almost as bad, and that is insisting that one’s own narrow interpretation is the only truth.

For he who is not against us is for us.  (Mark 9:40 NASB)


© 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.

Why Did Tolkien Care About the Jews? | PJ Media

The headstone at the Tolkiens' grave in Oxford, England.
The headstone at the Tolkiens’ grave in Oxford, England.

Somewhere in my boxes full of old photographs there is a picture I took in 1986 while on a pilgrimage to Oxford, England.  The purpose of that trip to England was not to visit Oxford, but to attend a conference with one of my oldest friends (who probably would prefer to remain anonymous).  I was stationed in Germany at the time, and he was in need of a vacation, so we met in England to join other friends at a Christian conference.  When it was over the opportunity arose to see Oxford.  Since we had met two very charming British girls at the conference, and since they shared some of my enthusiasm for Tolkien, they joined us on this journey.

Ah, Tolkien.  He was the attraction to Oxford.  J.R.R. Tolkien’s works have captured my attention since I first read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings at age 11.  Of the handful of authors who shaped my worldview, he and C.S. Lewis share the top position.  It was his grave I particularly wanted to see, after enjoying a pint in his honor at The Eagle and Child, the pub where he, Lewis, and others shared their literary ideas.  The old photograph lost somewhere in the boxes is the one I took of his grave.  One day I will dig it out and put it in an album of good memories.

Tolkien left us far more than good memories, of course.  He has made a lasting impact for good on four generations of English-speaking youth.  That impact shows no sign of slowing – provided youth of the present and future read him, that is.  Watching the cinematic adaptations of his works is not enough.  The depth of Tolkien is not in the action sequences of Elves fighting Orcs and Dwarves hunting dragons, but in the way he weaves the essence of humanity into his stories.  I view this as a gift from the Almighty. 

My guess is that David Goldman would agree.  In this article reposted from PJ Media, he investigates what appears to be a major motivation for Tolkien:  neutralizing the anti-Semitic messages of German composer Richard Wagner.  Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of Nazism knows the high place of Wagner in Adolf Hitler’s esteem.  It should be no surprise that Wagner, like Hitler, despised Jews.  Tolkien did not despise Jews; he despised those who twisted our historical and literary inheritance into something evil to justify the eradication of that which is good.  That is what Goldman relates as he presents the back story of a masterful author’s life work.

Why is this important?  The literary-minded understand.  Words, music, and images capture the soul and shape the mind.  Regarding Tolkien and Wagner, Goldman sums up the point this way:

Wagner’s legacy remains baleful.  Fortunately, many more people know Tolkien than know Wagner, and we may pronounce Tolkien’s project a success.  Unfortunately, Wagner’s hold on the cultural elite remains strong, and influences modern culture in ways of which the popular audience is unaware.  

How did he arrive at this conclusion?  Read on and find out.

And thanks very much to my anonymous old friend, who not only accompanied me on that Oxford pilgrimage long ago, but brought this piece to my attention.

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To My Daughter the Bride: A Lesson in Chosenness

 

My first encounter with a chuppa was watching Norman Jewison's 1971 film adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof. I did not understand at the time the significance of the canopy over the bride and groom. (© 1971 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.)
My first encounter with a chuppa was in Norman Jewison’s 1971 film adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof. I did not understand at the time the significance of the canopy over the bride and groom.  (© 1971 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

Yesterday morning, as I reviewed the news over breakfast, something unusual caught my eye.  It wasn’t actually a news item, but it did appear in one of my usual news sources.  There on the sidebar of The Times of Israel web page was this article with the title, “To My Daughter Under the Chupa”.  As soon as I saw it, I thought, “Hey!  In about a month I’ll have a daughter standing under a chupa.  Maybe I should read this.”

I did read it, and I was greatly blessed.  It is the speech Rabbi Shmuley Boteach presented recently at the wedding of his daughter.  What I found in his remarks was something I have come to expect in Jewish biblical exposition:  a profound depth of truth and wisdom that not only supports, but to a great extent completes what I learned in my Christian upbringing.

Perhaps it would be good to explain what a chupa is.  It can also be spelled chuppa.  The Hebrew pronunciation is difficult for an English speaker, but saying “hoopa” is close enough.  One reputable Jewish source explains the chuppa this way:

The chuppah is a tapestry attached to the tops of four poles.  The word chuppah means covering or protection, and is intended as a roof or covering for the bride and groom at their wedding.

The chuppah is not merely a charming folk custom, a ceremonial object carried over from a primitive past.  It serves a definite, though complicated, legal purpose:  It is the decisive act that formally permits the couple’s new status of marriage to be actualized, and it is the legal conclusion of the marriage process that began with betrothal. . . .

Chuppah symbolizes the groom’s home, and the bride’s new domain.  More specifically, the chuppah symbolizes the bridal chamber, where the marital act was consummated in ancient times.

– Chabad.org, The Bridal Canopy (Chuppah)

This helps explain what I mean when I say that Jewish learning complements my Christian learning.  What I mean in this case is that the pastors and teachers I have been blessed to know have consistently taught me that I am part of the Bride of Christ.  What they did not teach me was what that means.  To understand this requires a Hebraic perspective that takes into account the entire record of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.  That is where the Jewish learning comes in.  The rabbis know that Israel is the chosen of God, and that He will betroth her as His bride.  What the rabbis and the pastors together could not have known until now is that this blessed betrothed one, the Israel of the rabbis and the Church of the pastors, is the same corporate body of believers joined together in the covenant sealed with the blood of YHVH’s Anointed.

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Will I ever be enough for you, Israel?

IsraelSomewhere in the prophets, just before God talks about the terrible things that happen when Israel is attacked in the Last Days and Messiah comes in the nick of time, there is this promise of restoration:

“I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph, and I will bring them back, because I have had compassion on them; and they will be as though I had not rejected them, for I am the Lord their God and I will answer them.  Ephraim will be like a mighty man, and their heart will be glad as if from wine; indeed, their children will see it and be glad, their heart will rejoice in the Lord.  I will whistle for them to gather them together, for I have redeemed them; and they will be as numerous as they were before.  When I scatter them among the peoples, they will remember Me in far countries, and they with their children will live and come back.  I will bring them back from the land of Egypt and gather them from Assyria; and I will bring them into the land of Gilead and Lebanon until no room can be found for them.  And they will pass through the sea of distress and He will strike the waves in the sea, so that all the depths of the Nile will dry up; and the pride of Assyria will be brought down and the scepter of Egypt will depart.  And I will strengthen them in the Lord, and in His name they will walk,” declares the Lord.  (Zechariah 10:6-12 NASB)

What are we to make of this?  It sounds like a prophecy about Israel, but the word Israel does not appear in this passage.  In fact, Israel is not named at all in Zechariah 10.  Unless we know that Judah and Joseph and Ephraim are all parts of Israel, we would have no clue who is the subject of this chapter.

But then we know that Judah and Joseph and Ephraim are all parts of Israel, do we not?

Or do we?

Ask an average person that question and the answer may be a shoulder shrug, a blank look, and words like, “The Jews are Israel.”  The assumption is that “Israel” and “Jewish people” are synonyms.  They mean the same thing.  Israel is Jewish and the Jews are Israel.  Period.  Anyone who claims to be Israel must either be Jewish or be in the process of becoming Jewish.  That is the consistent understanding of Christians and Jews and Muslims and anyone else who cares to offer an opinion.

But that consistent understanding is consistently incorrect.

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