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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Fox Byte 5775 #25: Tzav (Command)

צַו

Operating in deadly environments. Clockwise from top: James Franciscus, Gene Hackman, and Richard Crenna in the 1969 space drama Marooned (photo: Movie Hunger); Peter Coyote, Samuel L. Jackson, and Dustin Hoffman under the sea in Sphere (photo: Torrent Garden); Gregory Peck sends John Meillon ashore in the radiation charged atmosphere of San Diego in the film adaptation of On the Beach (photo: Senses of Cinema); Dustin Hoffman in a virus-infected hot zone in Outbreak (photo: ET Online).
Operating in deadly environments. Clockwise from top: James Franciscus, Gene Hackman, and Richard Crenna in the 1969 space drama Marooned (photo: Movie Hunger); Peter Coyote, Samuel L. Jackson, and Dustin Hoffman under the sea in Sphere (photo: Torrent Garden); Gregory Peck sends John Meillon ashore in the radiation charged atmosphere of San Diego in the film adaptation of On the Beach (photo: Senses of Cinema); Dustin Hoffman in a virus-infected hot zone in Outbreak (photo: ET Online).

Consider the fragility of human existence.  We survive within a specific set of environmental parameters – a fixed range of temperature, hydration, radiation, and atmospheric content.  From a cosmic perspective the margin of error is very small; the slightest adjustment in even a single factor, such as the amount of oxygen, quickly moves the environment from pleasant to deadly.  Yet we have learned how to venture into the realm of the deadly when necessary.  Thanks to protective clothing, equipment, and protocols, our species can operate within the vacuum of space, in the ocean’s depths, in the radiation-charged atmosphere of a nuclear reactor, and in the hot zone of an infectious disease laboratory.

We venture into these deadly environments, but we do not live there.  We cannot survive there without observing the strictest standards.  Those who enter these realms understand this.  Astronauts, deep sea explorers, nuclear engineers, and epidemiologists are professionals who have answered the call to highly specialized career fields.  Not all who enter the paths of these professions advance to the point that they can operate confidently in the most dangerous places.  The selection and training standards must be established at the highest possible levels for the simple reason that the slightest error can produce lethal results.  Richard Preston explained this principle in The Hot Zone, an investigative look into the origins of viral hemorrhagic fevers like Ebola.  We learn from his book that the protocols for entering, working in, and leaving an infectious disease lab are elaborate and time-consuming, but necessary.  No amount of caution is excessive when microscopic killers can infiltrate through the tiniest puncture of a protective suit or escape through an improper seal of an airlock.  The viruses create the hot zone, whether it is in the lab or in the human body.  Because of the radical transformative nature of these microorganisms, the highly trained professionals who work with viruses like Ebola in a very real sense act as mediators between them and the general population.

In fact, the role of these professionals is not unlike the role of the Levitical priests.

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Thanksgiving in the Kingdom, Part II

The various offerings for guilt, trespass, or sin were important elements of the Temple service, but they were only a small part of the many types of offerings God specified for His table.  (The Sin Offering, Christian Image Source)
The various offerings for guilt, trespass, or sin were important elements of the Temple service, but they were only a small part of the many types of offerings God specified for His table. (The Sin Offering, Christian Image Source)

More Than Just Sin

At the heart of our misunderstanding of the sacrificial system is the assumption that it is all about sin.  Since the blood of the animals foreshadowed the atonement that would come in Messiah’s sacrifice, and since that atonement came to pass through Messiah’s sinless death on the cross, the assumption is that sacrifices are no longer necessary.  Sadly, such reasoning betrays incomprehension of the reason God instituted sacrifices.  Messiah Yeshua did indeed die as the “Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29-34; see also Isaiah 53 and Revelation 5).  His death most certainly provides the only provision for willful, rebellious sin against our Creator (Genesis 22:6-8; Numbers 15:27-31; Hebrews 10:26-31).  However, the sacrificial system included many more offerings than those which had connection to sin.

If we are to understand the full nature of the Temple sacrifices, we should start with the meaning of the words used for the items offered on the Altar.  “Sacrifice” and “offering” are the usual English translations, and quite often the meanings are not entirely distinct in the minds of English-speaking readers.  The English definition of “sacrifice” refers to something valuable offered, often to a deity, in exchange for something or someone else.  A sacrifice also means something that is “written off”, or lost for good.  In that sense, the olah would be considered a sacrifice because it is a burnt offering intended to be entirely consumed on the Altar.  Yet that is not the intent for everything presented to God, which is why the term “offering” is important.  The Hebrew word in this case is korban (קָרְבָּן; Strongs H7133), a term usually translated as “offering”, but occasionally rendered as “sacrifice”.  Christians should recognize the term from one of Yeshua’s key confrontations with the Pharisees:

He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.  For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, is to be put to death’; but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),’ you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.”  (Mark 7:9-13 NASB, emphasis added)

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Thanksgiving in the Kingdom, Part I

"The Prophecy of the Destruction of the Temple" James Tissot Brooklyn Museum
The Prophecy of the Destruction of the Temple
James Tissot

Doing Business With God

Messiah Yeshua said something very peculiar when His disciples asked for the sign of His return at the end of the age.  He mentioned one unambiguous event that would signal the beginning of what is generally called the Tribulation:

Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.  (Matthew 24:15-16 NASB)

What makes Yeshua’s statement peculiar is not that this Abomination of Desolation first occurred nearly two centuries before He spoke these words, nor that something like it happened again a generation later.  The peculiarity is that this unambiguous sign of Messiah’s return concerns the Temple in Jerusalem and the sacrificial system of worship codified by God through Moses in the Torah.  A consistent theme in Christian doctrine is that the death and resurrection of Yeshua made the sacrificial system obsolete.  Why, then, does Yeshua ratify Daniel’s description of this interruption of the sacrifices as the “Abomination of Desolation”?  Why is it an abomination if the sacrifices no longer matter to God?  Why is it a desolation?  Who or what is made desolate, and why?  These questions direct us to look closer at the sacrificial system of worship so we can understand more clearly how our God does business with humanity.

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When Empires Die: Thoughts on the Centennial of World War I

When Empires Die was originally published June 28-July 28, 2014, as a six-part series.  The original six part format is accessible here.

I.  THE ROAD TO SARAJEVO

Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Duchess Sophie with their three children in 1910
Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Duchess Sophie with their three children in 1910

The world took a giant step toward death on June 28, 1914.  On that day a young atheist shot and killed a prominent Catholic and his wife in an obscure Southeast European city.  Within five years, four world empires were dismembered and two new ones arose in their place.  Within 40 years, three more global empires breathed their last as the new world system spawned in 1914 grew to maturity.  Today, one hundred years later, that world system wheezes with its own death rattle, soon to expire in the process of giving birth to yet another global system which may be the last – and worst – of its kind.

As a historian, a political scientist, a soldier, and an intelligence professional, I cannot let the centennial of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination pass without pausing to remember what his life and death meant to the world.  The circumstances that brought the Archduke and his wife, the Duchess Sophie, to Sarajevo, Bosnia, are not difficult to explain, but to understand the significance of their deaths, both in their day and in ours, requires a detailed explanation.  If that explanation seems too focused on Europe, the simple reason is that Europe in 1914 ruled the entire world.  No nation outside Europe – neither ancient India, nor populous China, nor even the rising powers of America and Japan – was immune to events that shook the state system of the Continent.  If we are to know why the world went to war in 1914, we must look at the major players of that state system.  Only then can we begin to discern what happened to the world in the summer of 1914, and what is happening to the world now in the summer of 2014.

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