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.
We assume that the older brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son was the one with the birthright, but what if the father had given it to the younger brother? If that’s the case, then redemption takes on a whole new level of meaning.
© 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.
Thinking is hard. If it were not hard, then more people would do it.
In truth, all of us prefer to remain in our comfort zones, where familiar things surround us – including familiar answers to questions and familiar solutions to familiar problems. Most likely this preference for the familiar, the things we know and can deal with well enough, is a big reason few people take an active role in making the way for Messiah to come.
That last statement is bound to generate opposition. Those who view it from the Christian side (including Messianic and Hebrew Roots believers) will say that Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ) is the Messiah (Christ means Messiah, by the way), that he has come once, and that he will be coming back. Those who approach from the Jewish side say that Messiah is yet to come. The point of this article is not to address either perspective, but to consider something both have in common: the faithful expectation that Messiah Son of David is coming as King of Israel to rule the nations from Zion.
If we all have this common expectation, then it would be wise to consider what that future Messianic realm will look like. Maybe we should even consider what we have to do to make it happen.
This is where we run into the hard part. We have to think about it, and that is scary and uncomfortable. Those of us who have come from the Christian side have lived our lives expecting Messiah to return and fix everything. According to our expectations, there is no effort required on our part to bring him here; he just shows up one day according to some predetermined timetable God established from the beginning. To think, like our Jewish brethren, that we have responsibility for creating the conditions for Messiah’s coming (or return) requires a major paradigm shift. It means we must step out in faith and do things that we usually leave up to God alone.
But then, that is the consistent testimony of Scripture –
- Noah had to do things to secure the salvation of his family (such as think about how to follow the instructions God gave him to build that very large boat, and then actually do the work).
- Abraham had to do things to receive the promises God gave him (such as pack up and leave comfortable, civilized Mesopotamia, and go to a hostile foreign land – first in Syria, and then in Canaan).
- Moses had to do things to receive God’s instructions for the nation of Israel (such as walk to Egypt, then convince the elders of the people that God had spoken to him, and then seek an audience with Pharaoh – and that was only the beginning of the work he had to do!)
There are many more examples summarized in Hebrews 11. The people in that “Hall of Faith” chapter deserve praise not because they sat around waiting for God to move, but because they got up and did the moving themselves in response to God’s promises. As they moved, He provided direction, resources, help from others, and miraculous intervention when necessary. Yet would YHVH have done so if they had not invested their own blood, sweat, treasure, and intellectual effort?
Probably not. In fact, when God’s people sat around waiting for Him to move, He had to take extreme action just to get them off their backsides and into motion! We see that in the record of the apostles. Even though Yeshua had told them to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, they were content to remain in Jerusalem until God raised up a man named Saul of Tarsus who forced them out (see Acts 8).
Which brings us to the dilemma of the present day. Are we really at the “end of the age”, when Messiah is about to show up? If so, what does that mean? More importantly, what are we to do about it? How do we prepare for Messiah’s reign in what will be a very real Kingdom centered in a very real place called Jerusalem? What will this Kingdom look like? How will it resemble what we know today in the modern nation-state system? How will it be different?
The Bible contains so many comforting words of assurance that everything will be all right in the end. It contains a number of frightening words as well, but our preference is to avoid those, thinking that they must apply to someone else. Consider, for example, this familiar passage by the Apostle Paul:
But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. (I Thessalonians 5:1-6 NKJV)
We like to think of ourselves as those who will not be caught off guard. After all, what would it mean if we are among those caught unaware when sudden destruction comes?
But what if the apostle’s words are intended to warn those among God’s people who are not paying attention? Paul seems satisfied that his correspondents in Thessalonica are sufficiently alert, but can he say the same about their brethren elsewhere – or perhaps us today, two thousand years removed from his personal instruction? His friends in Thessalonica probably understood that his words about those who say, “Peace and safety!” referred to prophecies Jeremiah and Ezekiel had spoken about the people of God who paid no attention to the signs of the times and refused to repent when YHVH sent them warning (see Jeremiah 6:9-15, 8:8-12, and Ezekiel 13:15-16).
Surely the apostle was also aware of Messiah Yeshua’s parable about the Ten Virgins – all of whom went to sleep while waiting on their Bridegroom (Matthew 25:1-13). The difference between the wise and the foolish was not their degree of vigilance, but their degree of preparation. That, too, is something we should heed.
Consider what happened on December 23, 2016 (23 Kislev 5777 in the Hebrew calendar). That was the day United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 declared illegal anything Israeli that exists beyond the 1967 borders of Israel. That means not just the communities that have grown up on unoccupied and unowned land in Judea and Samaria (commonly called the West Bank), but neighborhoods in the neighborhoods of East Jerusalem where friends of mine live. It means as well the Temple Mount and the Kotel (Western Wall), the holiest sites in Judaism and the places God Himself has established as His own.
While the world slept, plans went forward to divide the land God reserved as His own special place (Deuteronomy 11:10-12).
© Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog, 2016-17. 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.
There is no doubt that God works in big, dramatic ways. The problem for most of us is that we are so inclined to expect Him to do so that we miss the miracles happening right in front of us. For example, consider this prophecy we read about in Jeremiah:
“Therefore behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “that it shall no more be said, ‘The Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt,’ but, ‘The Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north and from all the lands where He had driven them.’ For I will bring them back into their land which I gave to their fathers.” (Jeremiah 16:14-15 NKJV)
This is the Second Exodus. It is so important that YHVH had Jeremiah record it twice (see Jeremiah 23:7-8). In fact, this restoration of the entire nation of Israel is the largest single prophetic topic in all of Scripture. Yeshua’s disciples asked Him about it just before He left them (Acts 1:6). The reason they asked was that He had accomplished so many other Messianic prophecies, but since He had not restored the Kingdom to Israel, and so they wanted to know when He would do so.
By the way, that is also a question our Jewish brethren have – if Yeshua of Nazareth really is Messiah, why is Israel not completely regathered from the nations with a son of David ruling over them from Zion? It’s a valid question. Those of us from the Christian side of the house are satisfied with the answer that Messiah comes twice: first as the Suffering Servant (Messiah son of Joseph), and then as the Conquering King (Messiah son of David). Our Jewish brethren are not satisfied with that answer, which is why the greatest test before us all in this day is whether we can still get along on terms of mutual acceptance and respect in the expectation that God Himself will reveal the full answer to all of us in His timing.
As for the Second Exodus, we are prone to expect that it will unfold in ways similar to the First Exodus. You know: the prophet and his brother confront the mighty dictator, supernatural judgments rain down from heaven, the seas split, and the people are delivered. That sort of thing.
But what if the Second Exodus happens differently? What if it’s not so dramatic? Would we still recognize it as a miracle? Would we praise God because He had done something even greater than the Exodus from Egypt?
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.
Response by Bob Parham
So far, reasons 1 and 2 are facts: There is no temple and there is no peace with Israel’s enemies. Objection Number 3 is an indisputable fact, too. The Land is (and has been) defiled. But a couple of really good questions would be: “When did the land become defiled?” and “Has the Land’s defilement ever made a difference in Yah’s expectations that we would obey His commands?”
When did the land become defiled? Obviously it was defiled before the Israelites ever entered it. (Yet they DID enter it.)
Leviticus 18 – (25) And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants. (26) Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you: (27) (For all these abominations have the men of the land done, which were before you, and the land is defiled.)
It is clear that the Land had been defiled as early as the book of Leviticus. I believe that Scripture would prove it out that the Land has continued to be defiled through the time of the Prophets, through the time of Yeshua, and even up to today!
Jeremiah 2 – (7) I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce. But you came and defiled my land.
Jeremiah 3 – (8) And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also. (9) And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks. (10) And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the Lord.
And a second very important question would be: “Because the land has pretty much always been defiled, did that cause the commands concerning the pilgrimage feasts to end as quickly as they were given?”
When Yeshua was in Jerusalem, was the land defiled? YES!
When He went to the temple, was it defiled? YES!
Matthew 21 – (12) Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. (13) “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’ (14) The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them.
Yeshua walked right over, through and past the defilement to complete His mission.
Aren’t we told to walk as He walked? (1 John 2:6)
Yeshua understood that the land being defiled (or even the Temple being defiled) has never had the POWER to change or end YAH‘s commands! Remember Yah’s promise to Solomon that Yah’s heart and eyes would be there forever?
1 Kings 9:3 – And YHWH said unto him, I have heard thy prayer and thy supplication, that thou hast made before me: I have hallowed this house [the Temple], which thou hast built, to put my name there for ever; and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually.
2 Kings 21:7 – … in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever: (See 1 Kings 11:36, etc)
2 Chron 33:4 – . . . YHWH had said, In Jerusalem shall my name be for ever.
It strikes me as rather odd (not to mention illogical) that the very same people who believe we should NOT observe the feasts in Jerusalem ‘because the land is defiled’ or because Israel’s government is ‘satanic’ WILL observe the feasts in countries like the USA that regularly and even proudly defy YHWH and His Torah.
FOR EXAMPLE, here in Aqaba, Jordan, do you know what the Muslim people were doing just before the feast of Sukkot? They were making animal sacrifices all over Jordan – in their yards or driveways – while facing Mecca. According to Torah, the people in this land were participating in sacrifices to goat demons when they sacrificed anywhere they wanted! (Lev 17:7) Surely this would and did defile the land, right?
Or how about the U.S., where a baby is aborted every 26 seconds (over a million American babies every year), and as hazardous waste, the babies are literally passed through the fire, just as the children were passed through the fire to Molech in the Bible. Surely this defiles the land there, as well.
In Jerusalem, on the other hand, almost the entire city is shut down in observance of each Feast and Shabbat, and the people quite literally dance in the streets in joy because they are free to worship the Living God in His Own City!
May we be like our King Yeshua, who walked right over, through and past the defilement to complete His mission: the loving and obedient worship of the Father and the unity of the brethren.
When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. John 15:10 NLT
© Bob Parham, Sue Wyatt and The Lamb’s Servant Blog, 2016. Permission to use and/or duplicate original material on The Lamb’s Servant Blog is granted, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sue Wyatt and The Lamb’s Servant Blog, as well as to the original author (in this case Bob Parham) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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.