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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The Purpose of the Holy Spirit

A French farmer sows wheat in his field in the aftermath of World War I, bringing new life where there was death. This timeless action has instructed us for millennia of the work of God in bringing life to and through the kingdom of Israel which He sowed into the world. (Photo reproduced from Forward-March! The Photographic Record of America in the World War and the Post War Social Upheaval, Disabled American Veterans of the World War, Chicago, 1934)
A French farmer sows wheat in his field in the aftermath of World War I, bringing new life where there was death. This timeless action has instructed us for millennia about the work of God in bringing life to and through the kingdom of Israel which He sowed into the world. (Photo reproduced from Forward-March! The Photographic Record of America in the World War and the Post War Social Upheaval, Disabled American Veterans of the World War, Chicago, 1934)

Not that long ago, the men’s Bible study I am blessed to attend spent several months going through the Gospel of Mark.  One morning we looked in depth at the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:1-25).  Our leader astutely pointed out the words of Yeshua:  “Do you not understand this parable?  How will you understand all the parables?” (Mark 4:13 NASB)  His conclusion, with which I agree, is that this parable is the key to understanding all of Yeshua’s parables, and thus everything He taught.  Yet for all our analysis of this parable over the centuries, it seems that we may have missed something very important.  What we have been missing dawned on me as we discussed Mark 4 on that day, and as we parted company I asked, “What if this parable is about the restoration of the entire Kingdom of Israel?”

We were not able to investigate that question at that time, but I have pondered it ever since.  The applicability of the Parable of the Sower to the Lost Tribes of Israel comes into focus when we consider the prophecy of Hosea.  We learn in Hosea’s first chapter that he speaks to the House of Israel, the Northern Kingdom which became the Lost Tribes.  Because of their unfaithfulness to YHVH, He judged them by removing them from His Presence and scattering them into the nations.  Yet He promised to bring them back to the Land as His people once again, as He said through Hosea:

 “It will come about in that day that I will respond,” declares the LORD.  “I will respond to the heavens, and they will respond to the earth, and the earth will respond to the grain, to the new wine and to the oil, and they will respond to Jezreel [“God sows”].  I will sow her [Israel] for Myself in the land.  I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, and I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’  And they will say, ‘You are my God!’”  (Hosea 2:21-23 NASB, emphasis added)

Ephraim [Israel] is a trained heifer that loves to thresh, but I will come over her fair neck with a yoke; I will harness Ephraim, Judah will plow, Jacob will harrow for himself.  Sow with a view to righteousness, reap in accordance with kindness; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord until He comes to rain righteousness on you.  (Hosea 10:11-12 NASB)

There is much to investigate regarding this connection of the restoration of Israel with the Parable of the Sower.  My friend Ken Rank of United2Restore has made a good start by looking at the role of the Holy Spirit in this process.  His article is reproduced here from a recent post on Facebook.

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Fox Byte 5775 #13: Shemot (Names)

שְׁמוֹת

Map of the realms of Middle Earth.  Tolkien fans are familiar with the kingdom of Gondor, in the south opposite Mordor.  Less familiar, but no less important, is the kingdom of Arnor, which at one time incorporated most of the region of Eriador.  (Source:  The HD Wall)
Map of the realms of Middle Earth. Tolkien fans are familiar with the kingdom of Gondor, in the south opposite Mordor. Less familiar, but no less important, is the kingdom of Arnor, which at one time incorporated most of the region of Eriador. (Source: The HD Wall)

No one remembers the kings of Arnor.  Why should they?  After all, they existed only in the imagination of J.R.R. Tolkien.  Yet if they had never existed there, the world would never have become acquainted with Aragorn, or with the Hobbits who helped him reestablish his kingdom.  The great drama of Middle Earth is now etched in popular culture thanks to the cinematic artistry of Peter Jackson.  It is a great credit to Jackson and his team that they drew from the deep wells of Tolkien’s works to portray the indispensable back-story of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, but that story probably escaped the notice of most of the audience.

In Tolkien’s world, the noblest people among the Men of Middle Earth were the Númenóreans, a people whose kingdom in the midst of the sea was destroyed by a great flood like that which inundated the legendary Atlantis.  Under the leadership of Elendil and his sons Isildur and Anárion, the survivors of Númenor established a new kingdom in the western part of Middle Earth.  Elendil divided his realm, placing Anárion on the throne of the Southern Kingdom of Gondor, and retaining for himself the title of High King as he ruled over the Northern Kingdom, Arnor.  When Elendil died, Isildur took his place as High King, ruling from Arnor.  Over time Arnor declined and failed, but the line of Isildur continued through the Dúnedain, or Men of the West, a diminished and scattered people known more popularly as Rangers.  Gondor continued on in great strength, but the line of kings descended from Anárion ceased when the last king, Eärnur, died childless.  Tolkien thus created a great irony in his literary world:  a king with no kingdom, and a kingdom with no king.

This is the setting for The Lord of the Rings.  Those who have seen the movies know that Aragorn the Ranger eventually became king of Gondor, but few realize that his coronation was the culmination of the long-awaited rebirth of the Númenorean realm and reunification of the Northern and Southern kingdoms.  Those events could never have happened if the Dúnedain had ceased to exist.  According to Tolkien’s work, they remained few in number after the destruction of Arnor, but their vigilant watch ensured a measure of peace in the lands of the North.  Although all but forgotten by the people of Gondor, the Dúnedain worked quietly behind the scenes to strengthen the Southern Kingdom’s stand against the growing evil of Sauron.  Then, when all hope seemed lost, the heir of Elendil appeared in the greatest hour of need, bringing new life to long-dead hopes and dreams.

A major component of Tolkien’s works is identity:  as long as the Dúnedain and the people of Gondor remember who they are, no enemy can defeat them.  They may be overwhelmed and diminished, but a remnant will remain and will in time prosper anew.  And whether Professor Tolkien realized it or not, his literary works depict something very real in the works of God:  the identity, redemption, and restoration of all Israel.

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Taking God Seriously: Invitation To The First Ephraimite/Northern Israel National Congress

The Vision of the Dry Bones is the most graphic illustration of God's promised restoration of the Kingdom of Israel.  The establishment of the State of Israel opened the way for Judah (the Jewish portion of Israel) to return to the land, but to the way for Ephraim (Northern Israel) is only now beginning to open.  (Ezekiel's Vision, The Coloured Picture Bible for Children, available on Mannkind Perspectives.)
The Vision of the Dry Bones is the most graphic illustration of God’s promised restoration of the Kingdom of Israel. The establishment of the State of Israel opened the way for Judah (the Jewish portion of Israel) to return to the land, but to the way for Ephraim (Northern Israel) is only now beginning to open. (“Ezekiel’s Vision”The Coloured Picture Bible for Children, available on Mannkind Perspectives.)

How seriously do we consider the promises of God?  Do we believe what He said?  Do we believe He will do what He said, no matter how fantastic and impossible?  These questions address the very nature of our professed salvation by faith rather than works.  If we truly believe God is able to save people and nations, then we should believe His promises.  That, after all, is what qualified our father Abraham for esteem in God’s eyes.  As the Scripture says, “Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6 NASB; see also Romans 4:3, 9, 22; Galatians 3:6; James 2:23).  That also is at the heart of God’s many admonitions to us that with Him nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37; Genesis 18:14; Jeremiah 32:17, 27; Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:27; Luke 18:27).  And yet we doubt that God will do what He said, leading to this great question by Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ):  “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8).

We have seen so many acts of God in our day.  No one among watchful Believers has any doubt that we have entered the Last Days.  Although we have at best an incomplete picture of how and exactly when our Creator and Redeemer will carry out His promises at the end of this age, we know we are seeing these things unfold as promised.  Why, then, do we have trouble believing the biggest promise of all:  that God Himself will restore the Kingdom to Israel?

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Fox Byte 5775 #12: VaYechi (And He Lived)

וַיְחִי

José Ferrer as Cyrano and Mala Powers as Roxane in Stanley Kramer's 1950 film  production of Cyrano de Bergerac.
José Ferrer as Cyrano and Mala Powers as Roxane in Stanley Kramer’s 1950 film production of Cyrano de Bergerac.

The timeless appeal of Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac is in its depiction of selfless love.  Cyrano’s bigger-than-life character captures our attention instantly.  How could it not?  He is a man’s man – no one wields a sword as brilliantly, nor as judiciously, as this noble French warrior whose sense of right and wrong guides him to uphold the cause of those less fortunate.  Yet Cyrano is a sensitive soul, the greatest poet of his day, and one quick to win the confidence of the ladies.  Even though his overly large nose draws immediate notice, Cyrano himself is larger than this one glaring defect, and in fact capitalizes on it to win greater acclaim and honor.  But it is that defect which keeps Cyrano from the desire of his heart:  the beautiful Roxane.  Thinking himself unworthy of her, he keeps his distance, and this is the root of the tragedy that unfolds.

When Christian, a handsome cadet, newly assigned to Cyrano’s company, meets Roxane, he cannot help but fall in love.  Sadly, the young man has no skill in the art of courtly romance, and thus must ask Cyrano’s help in wooing her.  Cyrano agrees, seeing in Christian an avenue for communicating his heart to Roxane, even if she will never know the truth.  The plan works.  Cyrano’s words and Christian’s good looks win Roxane’s heart, and the two young lovers are married just as the army goes off to war.  Christian dies a hero’s death, and the broken-hearted Roxane retires to a convent to live out her days in mourning.  Cyrano visits her frequently, bringing news, yet never revealing his secret.  Then one day assassins make an attempt on Cyrano’s life, wounding him mortally as he is on his way to see her.  Knowing he is dying, he asks Roxane if he might read aloud the last letter she had received from Christian before his death.  The words of course, were Cyrano’s; it was but the last of many letters he had penned on the battlefield in Christian’s name, but with his own heart.  As Cyrano recites the letter’s contents, evening draws on and Roxane realizes it has become too dark to read the words.  Then she understands, just as Cyrano breathes his last, that it was he, not Christian, who had been writing to her all along.  With this new understanding, she exclaims, “Je n’aimais qu’un seul être et je le perds deux fois!”  And while the translation may not be exact, the meaning of her words is clear: “I have only had but one love, and yet have lost him twice.”

God, like Roxane, has but one love, and He has already lost that love twice.  Yet the tale of His love’s return is bound up in the account of the 14 blessings Grandfather Jacob pronounces over his sons at the end of his life.

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