Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones. (Psalm 116:15 NASB)
© 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.
Those who have leprosy might as well be dead. Never mind that the disease we call leprosy today may or may not be one of the skin diseases meant by the Hebrew word tzara’at (צָרַעַת). The fact is, whoever had it was cut off from the community:
Now the leper on whom the sore is, his clothes shall be torn and his head bare; and he shall cover his mustache, and cry, “Unclean! Unclean!” He shall be unclean. All the days he has the sore he shall be unclean. He is unclean, and he shall dwell alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp. (Leviticus 13:45-46 NKJV)
Think about that for a moment. Lepers could not go home. They could not have any kind of normal relationship with their family members, friends, business associates, or anyone else with whom they interacted before the cursed condition fell upon them. It did not matter what station of life the leper occupied; whether peasant or king, the disease cut them off from the life of the nation. Even mighty King Uzziah of Judah learned that. Although he reigned for 52 years in Jerusalem, the leprosy he contracted in the midst of his reign meant that he was king in name only:
King Uzziah was a leper until the day of his death. He dwelt in an isolated house, because he was a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the Lord. Then Jotham his son was over the king’s house, judging the people of the land. (II Chronicles 26:21 NKJV)
How can a person shepherd the people of God when he is cut off from the House of God? Is there any hope for him, or for the people he is anointed to lead?
Yes, there is hope. That is why the Torah portion Metzora (The Leper; Leviticus 14:1-15:33) provides elaborate detail on the procedures for cleansing lepers. Once healed, the priests help them through this process to restore them to their place in society. In a certain sense, this is a resurrection from a type of death, and thus it is a symbol of what Messiah will do.
A continuous source of amazement for me is the fact that many of the men and women who have contributed substantially to my spiritual growth most likely would not be comfortable sitting in the same room with one another.
Perhaps it should not be a surprise. Inspiration for my life has come from Baptist Christians, Presbyterian Christians, Anglican Christians, Catholic Christians, Pentecostal/Charismatic Christians, Messianic Jews, Orthodox Jews, Reformed Jews, and Hebrew Roots Torah teachers of many different streams. It is amazing what these people have in common. It is more amazing what divides them, and how senseless that division is in the long run.
What fellowship, for example, does D.L. Moody have with R.C. Sproul? That is a question most readers could not answer, not having a clue who either of those esteemed gentlemen are. Had they been contemporaries, however, the simple tenets of Moody’s evangelism (“Ruined by the Fall, Redeemed by the Blood, and Regenerated by the Spirit”) would clash with Sproul’s elaborate Reformed reasoning.
We might say similar things of many, many others – even of the two authors who have had the greatest influence on my life. It just so happens that they were contemporaries, serving as professors in related fields at prestigious English universities. It is no secret that J.R.R. Tolkien was instrumental in bringing C.S. Lewis out of atheism and into a relationship with Jesus Christ (Yeshua the Messiah). Yet Tolkien was disappointed that he could get Lewis no closer to what he considered true Christianity (Roman Catholicism) than the Anglican Church. And yet the two remained friends and colleagues, greatly influencing each others’ literary and other works.
This begs the question: If Tolkien and Lewis could get along, why is it that Hebrew Roots believers have trouble getting along with one another? Or why is it that traditional Christians and Messianic believers of all stripes find it easier to condemn one another rather than support and pray for one another? Or why do Christians and Jews have such difficulty accepting one another as part of the same covenant people of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? It seems that our divisions are doing more work for the enemy of our souls than the good we hope we are doing for the Kingdom of our God.
In the interest of helping to correct this tendency, I am pleased to share an article recently published by Messianic Jewish leader Daniel C. Juster. Much of my understanding of the Hebrew Roots (or Jewish Roots, as he would say) comes from Dan Juster. I have been blessed to sit under his teaching and to be discipled by this writings.
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.
Connecting the dots in Scripture can be lots of fun – and challenging. The fun part is the “Aha!” moment when something finally makes sense. The challenging part is when that “Aha!” moment presents a different picture from what we have learned all our lives. Do we take that new revelation and run with it, knowing it can make waves, or do we set it aside and hope that it never comes up again?
This second offering of Pictures for Pondering may be a challenge. As with the first edition, posted last spring, these are images from Bible passages prepared originally for posting on YouVersion (the Bible App). The first edition presented some interesting perspectives on the Kingdom of Heaven, Law and Grace, and prophecy, but also some whimsical illustrations. This time there is an attempt at a unifying theme. Part of the challenge is identifying that theme. The other part is investigating it from Scripture to see if it is so.
Jesus was perhaps the greatest Torah teacher of his day.
Think about that for a moment. We do not often consider the fact that Yeshua haMashiach (Jesus Christ) taught from the Torah, and that he was recognized by Jewish leaders as a great teacher. It began in his youth, when at the age of 12 he astounded the doctors of the Law (Torah) in the Temple (Luke 2:41-52). When he entered into public ministry, the teacher of Israel himself came to inquire of Yeshua about spiritual matters (John 3:1-21). His greatest oration, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-7:29), was in fact an extensive midrash on the Torah and its application in daily life. That is why Yeshua stated early in that sermon that he had not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it – meaning to teach it correctly and live out its full meaning (Matthew 5:17-20).
This should lead us to the conclusion the Torah was given not only to the Jews, but to all of God’s people. In fact, the Torah applies to every person on earth, or at least it will when Messiah reigns from Jerusalem. How else are we to understand such passages as this one from Isaiah?
Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. (Isaiah 2:2-4 NKJV, emphasis added)
Notice the key to Isaiah’s oft-quoted prophecy: universal peace does not happen until after the nations of the earth submit to the judgment of YHVH’s Messiah and learn and obey the Law (Torah) which he shall teach.
Many dry bones lie scattered across Tennessee. Tens of thousands of them found their resting places during the tumultuous years of the American Civil War. Perhaps it is fitting, therefore, that Tennessee served as the place where the dry bones of the House of Yosef (Joseph) began to come back to life in North America.
This is a prophesied event, of course. More accurately, it is a prophesied process – the single greatest topic of prophecy in the entire Bible. Israel, the nation Almighty God established in covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, split into two pieces and died many hundreds of years ago. Judah, the part of that nation which we know now as the Jewish people, retained knowledge of its identity, and in 1948 returned to life as the State of Israel. The other part of the nation, however, has never come back to life.
Are we living in the time of the end that humanity has anticipated for millennia? It seems so, at least according to the wars and rumors of war and all the other signs students of prophecy have expected. Yet it is also the time of the beginning. In Messiah Yeshua’s discourse recorded in Matthew 24 and Mark 13 He spoke of these things as birth pangs. What is being born? Isaiah helps us understand:
Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a land be born in one day? Can a nation be brought forth all at once? As soon as Zion travailed, she also brought forth her sons. “Shall I bring to the point of birth and not give delivery?” says the Lord. “Or shall I who gives delivery shut the womb?” says your God. (Isaiah 66:8-9 NASB)
Isaiah and Yeshua speak of the birth, or rebirth, of the nation of Israel, YHVH’s chosen people through whom He will work redemption for all nations. Part of that nation has already come into being: the Jewish part known as the State of Israel, which is the restored House of Judah. What the world is awaiting now is the restoration of the rest of the nation: the non-Jewish tribes of the House of Joseph, also called the House of Ephraim, who have had no national existence since the Assyrian Empire annihilated the Northern Kingdom of Israel over 2,700 years ago. And yet Scripture addresses the rebirth of Ephraim and their reunification with Judah more than any other prophetic topic. The Almighty Himself even stakes His own Name and reputation on fulfilling this mighty act (Deuteronomy 7:7-8; 9:5-6; Jeremiah 16:14-21, 32:41-42; Ezekiel 36:22-32). The “time of the end” therefore must really be a “time of the beginning” as these children of Joseph (in Hebrew, b’ney Yosef) awaken to their identity and begin to come together as a nation once again.
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.
Let us think about language for a moment. There are many people around the world who consider themselves followers of Jesus Christ, but who prefer to call Him by His Hebrew name, Yeshua, and by His Hebrew title, Messiah (Moshiach, the Hebrew term for Christ). These people may be classified as Messianic Jews if they are Jewish, but most of them are not. They are non-Jews, people whom others would call Gentiles, but who resist that term because they understand that their faith in Messiah Yeshua takes them out of the category of “Gentile” (meaning “of the nations”) and into the category of “Hebrew” (עִבְרִי, Strongs H5680). The term “Hebrew” derives from the father of our faith, Abraham the Hebrew (Genesis 14:13), the man who answered YHVH’s call to cross over the Euphrates River and leave his homeland in Mesopotamia to inherit the Promised Land of Canaan (Genesis 12:1-9). According to the Apostle Paul, everyone who acquires new life offered by the grace of YHVH through faith in Messiah Yeshua similarly crosses over from death to life and inherits the identity of a son or daughter of Abraham (Ephesians 2:1-21; Galatians 3:1-29). For that reason, these non-Jewish Yeshua followers are rightly called “Hebrews”, or “Hebrew Roots believers”. They are also entitled to the identity of “Israelites”, because Israel is the name of the nation YHVH established through Abraham’s descendants.
We would not call these people Christians in the traditional sense because they have left behind many of the characteristics of Christianity. Make no mistake, they have not walked away from Jesus Christ as the author and finisher of their faith, nor have they walked away from the New Testament as Scripture delivered by Holy God to humanity through His designated messengers. They merely prefer to call Jesus Yeshua, and to refer to the New Testament as the Apostolic Writings, or by the Hebrew term Brit Chadashah (New Covenant). For that reason it is incorrect to classify these persons as Jews. For one thing, they are not born Jewish and do not claim any physical descent from Jewish ancestors. For another, they have no desire to convert to Judaism, which really would require leaving Jesus behind. They see themselves as part of the nation, commonwealth, and kingdom of Israel along with Jews and Christians. This commonwealth exists because of three things:
- Our mutual faith in YHVH, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob;
- Our adherence to the same body of Scripture (well, everything from Genesis to Malachi at least);
- Our hope in the same Messiah (even though some do not yet recognize who that Messiah is, and others do not fully understand what Messiah is to do).
Having now defined who we Hebrew Roots believers are, let us consider something of what we believe. Or, more accurately, what we do not believe. This is something that requires considerably more attention than this blog post can provide. The immediate motivation is a post written by my friend Pete Rambo which he titled, “How To: Building Bridges with the House of Judah”. Pete has much to say about the issue of language, noting how the use of certain terms can create offense and division simply because they mean different things to different people. As usual, Pete invited discussion from his readers. Here is my contribution: