Fox Byte 5775 #37: Sh’lach L’cha (Send For Yourself)

שְׁלַח־לְךָ

The Meeting of Dido and Aeneas Sir Nicholas Dance-Holland
The Meeting of Dido and Aeneas
Sir Nicholas Dance-Holland

About the time that Gideon of Manasseh delivered Israel from oppression of the Midianites and Amalekites (Judges 6:1-8:35), a war of (literally) epic proportions took place on the northwest coast of what is now Turkey.  The Trojan War really did happen, but the conflict was already wrapped in myth and legend when a Greek poet known only as Homer published The Iliad sometime around 750 BCE, four centuries after the war’s generally accepted dates of 1194-1184 BCE.  Homer’s epic inspired a number of classical works telling the tales of the Greeks and Trojans, including a sequel published in Latin seven hundred years later.  When the Roman poet Virgil wrote The Aeneid, he probably had a political agenda in mind.  His story is that of Aeneas, a Trojan hero of the royal family who escaped the destruction of the city and led a band of refugees in a journey that eventually resulted in their settlement at the mouth of the Tiber River in Italy.  There they became part of the story of Rome, a city which began as a colony of Alba Longa, the capital of the new kingdom Aeneas and his descendants founded.  Thus Rome could trace its origins at least in part to Troy.  More importantly, the family of Julius Caesar traced its genealogy to Aeneas, giving it a claim to royalty that helped Caesar’s nephew Octavian consolidate his power as Caesar Augustus.  Whether true or not, Virgil’s epic, written early in Augustus’ long reign, cemented the link of the Caesars with Aeneas and Troy in the minds of Romans, making it one of the most successful pieces of literary propaganda ever published.

Even if the Caesar’s claims were falsified, and even if Aeneas never existed outside of classical literature, his tale is an illustration of the remnant:  those who remain.  Whether it is Ishmael surviving to tell the story of Captain Ahab and Moby Dick, or Job’s servants fleeing disaster to report to him (Job 1:13-22), fact and fiction throughout the human experience have featured a fortunate few who escape.  The remnant has the task of carrying the memory of those who went before, of rebuilding what they lost, and of achieving their ultimate destiny.  These remnant tales would have little impact on us if they were not a common feature in reality.  The remnant is a continuous reminder in Scripture that God’s judgment is tempered with mercy in the expectation that a people will at last be able to step into the fullness of the promises YHVH has spoken from beginning of time.

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Fox Byte 5775 #36: Beha’alotcha (In Your Going Up)

בְּהַעֲלֹתְךָ

Stephen R. Donaldson (Photo by  Danacea on Flickr.com via via Wikimedia Commons)
Stephen R. Donaldson (Photo by Danacea on Flickr.com via Wikimedia Commons)

In a response to a reader’s question about his works, author Stephen R. Donaldson provided this enlightening comment about the motivation behind his writing:

I’m a storyteller, not a polemicist.  As such, my only mission is to help my readers understand my characters and appreciate what those poor sods are going through.  (Stephen R. Donaldson Official Website, February 23, 2004)

Donaldson’s best known writings might be categorized as postmodern American science fiction and fantasy literature.  The worlds he creates are not the pristine, archetypical fantasy worlds of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, but darker realms that mirror our present ambiguous reality.  Donaldson explores human nature in a secular, relativistic world detached from the moral underpinnings of Christian civilization.  Good and evil manifest in the worlds he creates, but they are often uncomfortably intertwined so as to be nearly indistinguishable.  Such is the case with his most famous protagonist, the anti-hero Thomas Covenant.  In ten novels published over the span of 36 years, Donaldson follows Covenant through three epic quests in The Land, the world of his creation where magic and Earthpower shape the lives of mortals.  Covenant is one of the most unlikely heroes in the history of literature:  a leper living in present-day America who is magically transported to The Land to save it from destruction by Lord Foul the Despiser.  He wears a wedding band of white gold, the source of Wild Magic, which is the greatest power ever known in The Land.  He does not know how to wield this power, nor does he desire to do so, yet the dire circumstances of The Land compel him to find a way.  Each victory comes at a cost.  Ultimately it is Covenant himself who pays the greatest price, and thus he earns not only sympathy, but redemption.

We learn much about power in White Gold Wielder, the last novel of The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.  The Elohim, supernatural beings who keep watch over the Earth, “silence” Covenant, placing him in a catatonic state so he will not use his ring unwisely and risk destruction of the world.  After Covenant is revived by his companion Linden Avery, Findail of the Elohim explains their actions to her:

The ring-wielder we silenced, not to harm him, but to spare the Earth the ill of power without sight . . . Thus the choice would have fallen to you in the end.  His ring you might have taken unto yourself, thereby healing the breach between sight and power.  Or perhaps you might have ceded the ring to me, empowering the Elohim to save the Earth after their fashion.  Then would we have had no need to fear ourselves, for a power given is altogether different than one wrested away.

Findail’s declaration, “a power given is altogether different than one wrested away,” is a restatement of something taught long ago by One Who understood power:

But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.  It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”  (Matthew 20:25-28 NASB)

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If Not the Blood of Yeshua, What Brought Ruth “Near” to the G-d of Israel?

Landscapte with Ruth and Boaz Joseph Anton Koch (from "Bible Paintings, Ruth, Naomi, Boaz, Womeninthebible.net)
Landscapte with Ruth and Boaz
Joseph Anton Koch
(from “Bible Paintings, Ruth, Naomi, Boaz”, Womeninthebible.net)

Once again Peter Vest of Orthodox Messianic Judaism has provided thoughtful material worthy of consideration.  In a blog post published earlier this week he invited discussion on the question of whether Israel includes Gentiles brought into covenant with the Living God by the Blood of Messiah Yeshua.  What I appreciate most is how he uses the account of Ruth the Moabite, the most significant example of a foreigner who became part of Israel long before Yeshua’s work of redemption on the cross.  This is timely since Ruth is the Scripture traditionally studied at Shavuot (Pentecost), which falls on May 23-24 this year.  It is with the understanding that people from the nations are indeed brought into God’s nation of Israel that the First Ephraimite/Northern Israel National Congress will convene on the day after Shavuot to discuss how to walk out our identity as YHVH is restores the Whole House of Israel just as He promised.


If Not the Blood of Yeshua, What Brought Ruth “Near” to the G-d of Israel?

Posted on Orthodox Messianic Judaism, May 3, 2015

by Peter Vest

So I’ve been wondering about this since last evening…

Ruth the Moabite became an Israelite.  What initiated her into the People of Israel?  Her faith, G-d’s grace, right?

Ephesians 2 says that Gentiles are saved by grace and brought “near” by the blood of Yeshua so that they are citizens in Israel.  In other words, Gentiles should rejoice because they can join the People of Israel and have salvation, receiving in faith that which is given by grace.

But didn’t Ruth also join the People of Israel and have salvation?  Receiving in faith that which was given to her by the grace of G-d?

So Ruth received the benefits specified in Ephesians 2 before the New Covenant was ever given?

Here’s the real question that I’ve been leading up to:

It is written that the New Covenant is made only with Israel.  Yet Israel includes even Gentiles like Ruth who had not accepted Yeshua as the Messiah, Gentiles who belonged to Israel simply because they rejected idolatry and accepted both the G-d of Israel and the People of Israel and proceeded to live according to the Way of Life defined in the Torah of Moses (“…if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in His ways. So all the peoples of the earth will see that you are called by the name of the LORD…” Deut. 28).

QUESTION:

So doesn’t that mean that the “Israel” with whom the New Covenant was made includes Gentiles (since Israel has always included Gentiles such as Ruth)?


© Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog, 2015.  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.

Fox Byte 5775: Matzot (Unleavened Bread)

מַצּוֹת

The Ossuary of Douaumont, final resting place of over 130,000 unidentified French and German soldiers whose bodies were broken in the great Battle of Verdun, February 21-December 18, 1916.
The Ossuary of Douaumont, final resting place of over 130,000 unidentified French and German soldiers whose bodies were broken in the great Battle of Verdun, February 21-December 18, 1916.

It was in May of 1986 that I first visited the great World War I battlefield at Verdun.  Along with Auschwitz, Verdun is on my Top 10 list of places every human being should visit to learn the extent of evil that people can inflict on one another.  Over the course of 10 months in 1916, nearly 2,500,000 French and German soldiers flung death at one another.  Total casualties cannot be known, but the estimates range nearly as high as one million, of whom 300,000 were killed in action.  The toll does not end with the soldiers; over the course of the battle nine French villages ceased to exist, and an area the size of Manhattan suffered such devastation that the French government deemed it unrecoverable and left it to nature to repair.  To this day much of the battlefield remains a poisoned wasteland and graveyard for over 100,000 missing soldiers of both sides.

France has done its best to honor the dead.  In 1932 President Albert Lebrun opened the great Ossuary at Douaumont, one of the villages destroyed in the battle.  The Ossuary ranks among the most impressive monuments of Western civilization, attempting both to remember and honor the dead, and to remind the living of their sacrifice.  Some might consider the reminders grotesque.  Beneath the Ossuary is a crypt which contains the bones of at least 130,000 unidentified French and German soldiers.  They are there for all to see, together in death, having surrendered their lives that the lives of their nations might continue.  Of course their nations did continue , and still do, although much diminished and much broken, even as the bones of their lost sons and daughters.

Looking at these bones one might be reminded of another collection of bones – the ones Ezekiel saw in his vision (Ezekiel 37:1-14).  Can these bones live?  The Lord knows.  In some strange way the bones resemble matzah, the unleavened bread broken and eaten during this seven day feast after the Passover.  Perhaps that is part of the reason the Jewish sages paired Ezekiel’s vision in the Valley of the Dry Bones with the Torah readings for the Passover season.

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Fox Byte 5775: Pesach (Passover)

פֶּסַח

Tolkien in 1972, in his study at Merton Street (from J. R. R. Tolkien. A Biography by H. Carpenter; accessed on lotr.wikia.com)
Tolkien in 1972, in his study at Merton Street (from J. R. R. Tolkien. A Biography by H. Carpenter; accessed on lotr.wikia.com)

Professor J.R.R. Tolkien insisted that there was no hidden meaning behind his works on Middle Earth.  Such was his assertion in his Foreword to The Lord of the Rings:

I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence.  I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers.  I think that many confuse ‘applicability’ with ‘allegory’; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.

– J.R.R. Tolkien, Foreword to the Second Edition of The Lord of the Rings

Yet there are allegorical elements throughout his writings, however unintended.  Tolkien’s Catholic world view infused his work with well-known Christian concepts such as atonement, salvation, redemption, and fulfillment of prophecy.  A consistent story line appears throughout his writing, repeated on several levels.  It is the story of paradise defiled, of blessed people tempted by evil into betrayal of their calling, of their exile and dissolution, and their restoration at last after the struggles of their exile produce the required degree of contrition and of resolve to live up to their destiny.  In The Silmarillion the tale plays out in the long defeat of the Noldor in their forlorn quest to regain the Silmarils from Morgoth the defiler of Middle Earth.  The cycle ends and begins anew in their redemption beyond all hope by the Valar, the powers over the earth who had exiled the Noldor from the blessed realm of Valinor because of their rebellion.  In The Hobbit it is the restoration of the House of Durin as the Dwarves under the leadership of Thorin Oakenshield set in motion the events that bring the death of the great dragon Smaug and the coronation of a new Dwarf King Under the Mountain.  And in The Lord of the Rings it is the return of Aragorn as King Elessar of Gondor, restoring the long lost (and nearly forgotten) kingdom of the Númenóreans after the defeat of Sauron, Morgoth’s chief lieutenant.

Among the many things we learn from Tolkien is that things happen in cycles.  Life is cyclical, not linear.  What happens to the fathers happens to the sons, and what has come before will come again.  Whether he realized it or not, that is the Hebraic way of looking at the world.  And it is quite biblical.  As Solomon, the son of David, teaches us:

That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done.  So there is nothing new under the sun.  (Ecclesiastes 1:9 NASB)

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