There is a joke from World War II that no longer makes sense without some explanation. It is said that a foreign student at an American university wrote an essay about General Douglas MacArthur. In the early months of 1942, as MacArthur presided over a doomed defense of the Philippine Islands, he was ordered to leave his command and go to Australia, there to organize the multinational Allied force that would halt Japanese expansion in the South Pacific. At his departure, MacArthur reportedly promised the people of the Philippines and his Filipino and American troops that he would one day come back with an army to liberate them – which he did two years later. On that momentous day in 1942, though, all he could do was promise, “I shall return.”
Those were inspiring words to Americans about to lose their forward bases and their largest military force in the Far East, and who could not bear to lose with them one of the most senior officers of their Army. MacArthur’s words inspired this young foreign student as well. However, his knowledge of English being imperfect, he conducted his research in his native tongue, and therefore committed an unfortunate faux pas when he presented his paper. Standing proudly in front of his peers, the young man said, “I write about Douglas MacArthur, who said those famous words, ‘I’ll be right back!’”
What is the proper response in such a situation? If there is no offense, then laughter erupts. However, if the hearers take offense, then they respond in anger.
It may be that neither is the proper response. If the one who made the error is trying to communicate in good faith, then the audience should give grace, seek to understand the true message, and help the author overcome the error. That is the point behind King Solomon’s wise words:
Solomon’s observation is rooted in a Torah principle:
You shall not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind, but shall fear your God: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:14 NKJV)
Jewish sages understand that this principle refers not only to the physically deaf and blind, but also to people who cannot hear or see things clearly. Perhaps they are not present when something is said, or perhaps they do not have the language or experience to grasp the intricacies of a subject under discussion. Consider, for example, a man who is brilliant in his native language, but struggles to order a cup of coffee in English, and is laughed to scorn by those who do not realize the importance of being kind to strangers (another Torah principle).
To be honest, Jews are strangers to me, and I am a stranger to Jews. Although I identify as a Hebrew Roots follower of Messiah Yeshua, I have yet to grasp the intricacies of Judaism. The more Jews I meet and get to know, the more I begin to understand, but always what I say and do is tempered with the fear that I may give offense in some way that I had never anticipated.
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.
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.
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:
What 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.
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.
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.
Somewhere 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.
On December 4, 2015, the B’Ney Yosef Region 35 Conference convened at Camp Copass in Denton, Texas, for the purpose of bringing together people in the central part of the United States to seek YHVH’s direction about His Kingdom work at this time. The initial concept was to continue in the spirit of the First B’Ney Yosef National Congress in the interest of building Ephraimite (Israelite) identity among believers in Messiah Yeshua. The Holy Spirit quickly expanded that concept into a call for repentance within the Hebrew Roots/Two House movement and reconciliation with other parts of the body of Messiah, particularly with our Christian brethren. That was the motivation for this address which opened the conference.
The best boss I ever had was the man under whose supervision I served the last time I was in Iraq. He was also the most profane man I have ever met. The name of Jesus Christ was for him but one weapon in a formidable arsenal of expletives. Not a single day passed that some outrage did not fall from his lips, causing my ears to burn and my heart to wonder how long I would have to endure such offense. And yet I continued in his service, not merely because I had no choice (both of us, after all, were soldiers assigned to serve together), but because God gave me grace to look beyond the offense to see and benefit from the substantial qualities he possessed. Those qualities included an encyclopedic knowledge of intelligence functions and procedures based on decades of hard experience. He possessed as well a dogged determination to persevere through all opposition and achieve success in whatever goal he or his superiors established. That determination sprang from his undying loyalty to the United States of America, and to his belief in the ultimate good of our mission in Iraq. Yet none of that would have mattered in the least had this man lacked the greatest quality of all: he regarded every person as having intrinsic value, and as a potential ally in achieving the goals set before him. He may have spoken roughly, and even in private moments vented his frustration and anger, but he never diminished the value of the human beings in his charge, nor of those under whom he served.
We had occasion to work with military and civilian officials from a number of services and agencies. Whether they were Army like us, or Marines, Air Force, or Navy, they were all “great Americans” in my boss’s opinion – if for no other reason than because they had volunteered to wear the uniform and be deployed to a Middle Eastern war zone. He could not call our British, Australian, and German colleagues “great Americans”, but he did hold them in high esteem – while at the same time recognizing that the highest priorities for each of them were the interests of their own nations, not those of the United States. The true professionals among us, regardless of nationality, recognized this. We knew that at times there would be questions we could not ask and answers we could not give, but whenever and wherever possible we helped one another.
That “great American” description did extend to the civilian intelligence professionals we encountered. Those men and women represented nearly all of the 16 agencies of the U.S. Intelligence Community. The ones you would expect were all there: each of the agencies of the military services, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the State Department. Our office dealt mostly with the CIA, whom my boss lovingly called, “Klingons”. Like our foreign counterparts, they, and all the other intelligence agencies, had their own priorities which were not necessarily the same as ours in the Department of Defense. Their vision of how to support the national interests of the United States sometimes clashed with ours, and the means and resources at their disposal often put them at an advantage over us. We had much reason to distrust them, but we had even more reason to work with them – just as the Start Trek heroes found reason to cooperate with the Klingons to defeat their common enemies.
We laugh at the description of the CIA as Klingons, but long before I arrived in Iraq I understood exactly what my boss meant. Early in my tenure in Washington, DC, I had occasion to work with the CIA on a joint project. Most of the people with whom I worked were intelligence analysts, people not very different from myself. They were well educated, often from privileged backgrounds, highly academic (a reflection of the CIA culture), and professionally courteous. As part of our project we had to consult with a different type of CIA employee. This person was not an analyst. Intelligence analysts look at information from various sources and put it together in different ways to understand what it means. They are the friendly face of the CIA. There is another face, however, and it is not very friendly. That face belongs to the operators, the men and women who go about the difficult business of collecting the information. They are consummate professionals, very good at what they do, but they are not the kind of people you would want in your social circle. Quite often the name by which they introduce themselves is not the name their parents gave them at birth. In the course of their duties they will have to do some questionable things, and perhaps even some very unpleasant things, to acquire information their agency has commissioned them to gain.
This was the kind of person with whom we met in that office on the CIA campus in Langley, Virginia long ago. He was an impressive man, and one whom I admired for his courage and devotion to his country. I could tell without asking that he had suffered much personal loss in service to the nation, and that my own poor service paled in comparison to his. Yet we could not be friends, and we would have difficulty working together as colleagues. His world was one I could not enter, and my world was one he would not find comfortable. Nevertheless, my work could not continue without him, and without me his work would have no meaning. That is why I have never forgotten the man, although our paths have never crossed since that day.
What would happen if this vast intelligence community in the service of the United States of America ceased to function as designed? What if the various individuals and organizations within it forgot that they were all Americans, and instead placed their own personal agendas, or the name and reputation of their own agencies and services, above the interests of the country? That is not a rhetorical question; I can tell you what would happen. I have seen it. What happens is a fragmentation of the national intelligence establishment.
For the most part that establishment consists of good, honest people trying to do the best they can with limited resources and time. They have a tendency to focus exclusively on the work right in front of them, whether it is office administration, counterterrorism analysis, national technical means of information collection, the number of tanks in the Russian Far Eastern Military District, or poppy production in Afghanistan. They forget that there is a wider world out there, and that their work is but one small piece in a very, very big puzzle. It does not take much to convince them that their piece is the most important. Once convinced, it is but a small step toward competing with others to gain a greater share of attention and resources. Having entered that arena, it is nothing to begin pushing others aside in ever more aggressive ways, taking resources and people away from them so that one’s own piece of the puzzle grows in size and importance, and the competitors’ pieces shrink, or disappear altogether. In time the picture that emerges is distorted at best, magnifying certain things to the extreme, diminishing others, and ignoring important bits that would otherwise tie together the seemingly contradictory reports from various sources. That is the picture which goes before high level decision makers like the commanders of our forces in the Middle East, and even the President himself. Is it any wonder, therefore, that we have national disasters such as the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001?
My lesson from this should be clear. National defense is a team effort. I know my part of the effort, and my job is to do it to the best of my ability. I do not know most of the millions of others involved in the effort, nor do I understand what they do. I could not do what most of them do, nor could most of them do what I do. Very few of them could be considered my friends, and most of them would probably never want to associate with me anyway. Nevertheless, we need each other: every warrior, every clerk, every mechanic, every technician, every lawyer, every cook, every aviator, every logistician, every sanitation worker. If we do not find a way to cooperate, then this living, breathing organism we call the National Defense Establishment will fail, and with its failure the United States of America fails.
Is this any different from the living, breathing organism known as the Body of Messiah?
Isaac Asimov could have written I, Robot without Karel Čapek’s help, but he would have needed a different word for the artificial life forms featured in his writing. Asimov’s robot stories shifted the paradigms of science fiction by exploring the unintended consequences of creating something smarter and stronger than a human, but without a human’s ethical configuration. For over half a century he probed dark and difficult territory, asking questions and spinning scenarios that remain disturbingly applicable to our present reality. Yet Asimov neither invented the word “robot”, nor initiated the inquiry into the potential nemesis of unbridled technological innovation.
Bad things happen when man plays the role of God, as Mary Shelley demonstrated in 1818 with her first novel, Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus. Shelley brought the question into the modern era, but it was Karel Čapek who mechanized it. Čapek’s play R.U.R. (Rossumovi univerzální roboti; Rossum’s Universal Robots) was a success from its first performance in 1920. The play introduced international audiences to the Czech word robota, meaning hard work, a word rendered into English as robot. The play is not a comedy; in Čapek’s imaginary world the robots are manufactured life forms designed to assist humans, but eventually they rebel and extinguish all human life.
Čapek revived this scenario in War with the Newts, a novel published in 1936 as satire on the hypocritically self-serving international system which enabled Nazi Germany’s dismemberment of Czechoslovakia two years later. It is a humorously dark tale about a race of sentient amphibian creatures discovered in the waters of Indonesia. The newts prove to be swift learners and adept at a multitude of tasks, making them ideal candidates for exploitation not only as workers, but also as undersea warriors. In time the newts, like the robots, rebel, destroying the dry land and turning it into shallow waters suitable for their environmental needs. The nations of the earth find themselves in a war for survival against a global amphibian army. It is a war humanity will not win, but Čapek reveals that the victorious newts will turn on themselves and become the instruments of their own destruction, leaving a remnant of mankind to rebuild the planet.
It is frightful to contemplate the end of one’s world, particularly when the end is justly deserved. Asimov, Shelley, and Čapek relate scenarios of judgment resulting from mankind’s own selfish shortsightedness – playing God, if you will. The element of terror they invoke lurks in the revelation that the instruments of judgment are the works of our own hands. As usual, art imitates life. YHVH renders judgment on those who disregard His standard of righteousness and set up standards of their own – playing God, if you will. Judgment brings a sentence of destruction and death, which is terrifying enough. What makes it more chilling is to learn the name of the one who will bring about the anticipated death and destruction. About 35 centuries ago, the doomed Canaanite civilization experienced that very thing shortly after Moses spoke these words:
It is the Lord your God who will cross ahead of you; He will destroy these nations before you, and you shall dispossess them. Joshua is the one who will cross ahead of you, just as the Lord has spoken. (Deuteronomy 31:3 NASB)
This week The Barking Fox celebrates one year since entering the blogosphere. It is exciting to see how many places this blog has reached thanks to the miracles of modern technology, but it is even more exciting to consider the many people I have encountered through the blog and related activities. One of those people is Ken Rank of United 2 Restore. I first heard of Ken last spring through the video he made with Hanoch Young on the reunification of Judah and Ephraim. Since then I have enjoyed reading his posts on Facebook and elsewhere, and have appreciated the work he and Hanoch are doing to raise awareness of the connection Jews and Christians share as Israelites. In fact, that connection is at the root of the theme for The Barking Fox in 2015. In this coming year, the Fox will ask the same question the Apostles asked Yeshua during their last conversation with Him: “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6) The answer we seem to be hearing these days is that the restoration depends on where we pin our identity. And that is exactly what Ken addresses in this short article.
It has been more than 500 years since Christopher Columbus mistakenly identified the indigenous peoples of the Americas as “Indians”, and yet that name has remained the popular collective label for the many hundreds of nations more accurately identified by their own names, such as Arawak, Pequot, Lakota, Yaqui, Quechua, and Navajo. Many of these nations have ceased to exist, the victims of disease, war, enslavement, and cultural genocide. Others have come into existence as dispersed and diminished peoples have merged to make new nations. Still others have persisted in their identity to this day, enduring beyond hope as distinct peoples. All of those things describe the Seminole Nation, which now resides in the states of Oklahoma and Florida. The Seminoles did not become a distinct people until late in the 18th century, when remnants of the Muskogee (Creek) and other peoples of Florida and what is now Georgia and Alabama combined to form a new nation. The Spanish called them cimarrones, meaning runaways, or free people. This term referred to the fact that the tribe included many escaped slaves, both African and Native American, who had joined with others from broken, scattered tribes. In the Muskogee tongue, cimarrones became semulon-e, and eventually Seminole.
This people who originally were not a people soon developed a strong sense of national identity which compelled them to resist all efforts to conquer them. They fought against the Spanish, the English, the Creeks, and, inevitably, the Americans. Three bitter wars from 1817 to 1858 left the Seminole Nation broken and divided, but still unconquered. Most of the surviving Seminoles were removed by the United States government to Oklahoma, but a remnant remained in the swamps of southwestern Florida, where they remain to this day. The Florida Seminoles are unique among Native American peoples in that they alone have never signed a treaty of peace with the United States. Those who were removed to Oklahoma may have agreed to peace with the U.S., but they maintained a fierce independence in their new land. Efforts to integrate them into the Creek Nation of Oklahoma met with determined resistance. In time the Seminole remnant in Oklahoma reestablished their tribal identity, and today exist as a separate and distinct nation.
It may come as a surprise, but the greatest story in the Bible is about a nation created from a people who were not a people. The tale begins with the account of Joseph and his brothers, but the story as yet has no ending.