November 2007 Updates
Hebrew Audio Quality Improvements
11.30.07 I improved the sound quality for Psalms 1, 2, 3, and 4 (I changed the sampling rate to make them clearer and also remade the MP3 downloads to make them higher quality for those of you who wish to listen using an IPod or CD). Going forward I will attempt to make the sound better still, but there is a tradeoff between good sound quality and file size (the better the sound, the larger the file size -- but consequently, the slower the page will load). Please be patient as I work through the technical issues. And please pray for this work... Most of it is done late at night or whenever I can find the time. I am still dealing with physical pain, too, so the effort required seems almost double what it used to for me. Todah rabbah chaverim...
I also added additional drash to Psalm 4 today as well. You might need to press F5 (refresh) to see the changes. Shabbat Shalom!
Psalm 4 in Hebrew
11.29.07 I have begun adding the Hebrew text (with audio and commentary on each pasuk) to Psalm 4 on the site...
Psalm 3 in Hebrew
11.28.07 I updated the rest of Psalm 3 in Hebrew. This is a wonderful psalm that tells of the LORD as sar yeshuah - the captain of salvation. Even in the midst of the hard circumstances of his son Absalom's rebellion (and Israel's mutiny), David banished fear and trusted in the salvation of the LORD.
New Hebrew Meditation on Isaiah 9:6-7
11.27.07 Since many Christians will soon be celebrating Christmas, I wrote a new Hebrew mediation (The Promised Child and Son) that considers a verse commonly invoked during many Christmas ceremonies, namely, Isaiah 9:6-7:
Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
Many Christians regard this verse as being fulfilled in Jesus, and while this is ultimately true, we need to be careful to make certain qualifications when we affirm this. Some Christian theologies teach that when Jesus ascended to the right hand of God (after His resurrection), He also sat down on the throne of David, and they therefore conclude that the Davidic kingdom has been inaugurated. An implication of this is that the Church is now "spiritual Israel," a spiritual kingdom on earth. But note that Isaiah's prophecy of this promised son says (v7): "Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore."
If we read the various promises given to Israel in the Scriptures in a plain, straightforward manner, however, we are left with a bit of a problem. Either God has "changed His mind" regarding the covenants He made with the Jewish people (e.g. the promises given to Abraham, Moses, David, and the New Covenant), or He has "transferred" the covenants to the Church, which now represents "true Israel." After all, isn't a true Jew who is one inwardly, as Paul said, and doesn't the New Testament teach that God now only relates to people by means of the New Covenant?
But what does the New Covenant (foretold in Jeremiah 31) actually say? Let's revisit the passage:
Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."
Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar- the LORD of hosts is his name: "If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the LORD, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever." Thus says the LORD: "If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth below can be explored, then I will cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done, declares the LORD" (Jer. 31:31-37; cp. Hebrews 8:8-12).
I have written about this topic before, but suffice it to say here that it is my settled conviction that God has not forsaken the Jewish people, even though there is a "partial hardening" of their hearts until the fulness of the Gentiles is complete (see Romans 11 for the details). Israel indeed has a future and a New Covenant hope, and while Isaiah 9:6-7 gloriously applies to Jesus, the promise has its ultimate fulfillment upon His return to Jerusalem to establish the Messianic Kingdom of God on the earth (Jer. 23:5-6, 33:15; Ezekiel 47:13-48:29, Ezekiel 48:30-35; Acts 1:6-8; Acts 15:14-17, etc.). Like many of the promises we treasure in Scripture, this one too has an "already-not-yet" status...
"Unto us a child is born" therefore refers to Jesus' first advent as Mashiach ben Yosef, our Suffering Servant, and "unto us a son is given" refers to Jesus' second advent as Mashiach ben David. Just as the patriarch Joseph was finally revealed to the Jewish people as a type of mashiach and savior (though they had initially betrayed him and rejected him), so will Jesus be revealed as both Mashiach ben Yosef and Mashiach ben David in acharit haymim (the end of days). Then will come true the hope of the Apostle Paul who wrote, "And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer who shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob" (Romans 11:30).
Parashat Vayeshev and the Suffering Servant
11.26.07 I updated the weekly Torah portion for this coming Shabbat (Vayeshev) and created a PDF file download.
This week's parashah begins with Jacob finally settling in the land promised to Abraham and Isaac with his 12 sons, but quickly turns to the story of Jacob's favorite son Joseph, who was 17 years old at the time. Joseph is a picture of Yeshua (Jesus) as Mashiach ben Yosef (Messiah son of Joseph) regarding His first advent as our Suffering Servant. The analogue between Joseph and Yeshua is rich indeed.
11.24.07 I am working on adding Psalm 3 in Hebrew to the site. I added a number of comments to the first four pesukim (verses) late this evening. I am still in pain and having trouble sleeping; the Psalms give me great comfort.
11.21.07 Our sincerest wish and prayer for you - to have a joy-filled time of reflection during the Thanksgiving Holiday, taking care to enumerate the many blessings that the LORD God of Israel has bestowed upon you.
A basic principle in Bible interpretation is to note repeated occurrences of a word or phrase. This is sometimes referred to as the "law of recurrence." The assumption here is that since God is the Consummate Communicator, if a word or phrase is restated in Scripture, there is surely a good reason. In some cases the function appears to be didactic (such as the two sets of instructions given for building the Mishkan (tabernacle) in Exodus; in other cases it appears to be exclamatory: God doesn't repeat Himself without the intent of getting our attention.
Now this exact phrase, hodu la-donai ki-tov, ki le'olam chasdo ("Give thanks to the LORD for He is good, for His stedfast love endures forever") appears no less than 5 times in Scripture (1 Chr. 16:34; Psalm 106:1; Psalm 107:1; Psalm 118:1,29; Psalm 136:1). Since the genre of each of these instances is tehillah (praise), it is clear that the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) is emphasizing something of great spiritual significance, namely, God's goodness to us -- His chesed -- is profound reason for us to give Him thanks (in Psalm 136, the refrain, "ki le'olam chasdo" occurs 25 times, as well as elsewhere in Scripture, for example Ezra 3:11; Jer. 33:11).
The verb hodu is the imperative of yadah, and therefore could also be understood as "confess" or "acknowledge" that the LORD is good. We also get from this root the Hebrew word todah, meaning "thank you."
The Thanksgiving Holiday certainly has its roots in the Jewish tradition of giving thanks to God. How much more should we, who are trusting in God's chesed as expressed in the gift of His Son Yeshua, give heartfelt thanks?
Note: Chanukah begins Tuesday, December 4th (at sundown) this year!
Another Kierkegaard Article
11.20.07 Probably no modern Christian thinker has affected me more than Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855). Today I added an excerpt from his work "The Sickness Unto Death" that provides an incisive analysis of the modes or ways we choose to embrace our existence. Although it's not "light" reading, it is certainly worth the effort to understand Kierkegaard's thought (the translation (from the Danish) by C.E. Moore is especially easy for modern English speakers). We all stand at the "crossroads" of the eternal and the temporal, and we can only know ourselves for what we are when we surrender to God for each irrepeatable choice of our lives.
If you are troubled, remember: Ki yesh tikvah...
Parashat Vayishlach - Wrestling with God
11.19.07 I updated the weekly Torah portion for this coming Shabbat (Vayishlach).
This portion includes the story of how Jacob, as he was returning to his home town of Chevron after fleeing from his uncle Laban, encountered the Angel of the LORD and "wrestled" with Him. During the "grappling" the Angel injured Jacob's thigh, but Jacob refused to release his hold until the Angel blessed him. The Angel then asked him, "What is your name?" And he said, "Jacob" (Ya'akov). The Angel then declared to him, "Your name shall no longer be Ya'akov ("heel holder" [of Esau]) but Yisrael ("contender with God"), for as a prince (sar) you have striven (sarita) with God and with men and have prevailed" (Gen. 32:28).
After overcoming the clutches of his brother Esav, Jacob (now dubbed Israel) went to a place near Shechem and set up an altar dedicated to El Elohei Yisrael - God, the God of Israel:
Notice that after Jacob encountered God and wrestled with him, he was wounded so that he walked with a limp... And so it is with the walk of faith. Who among us has not been broken before coming to know the LORD? As Tozer reminds us, "It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply." Beauty for ashes, chaverim....
I should add something here.
As I consider Jacob's life -- and how he was wounded before he could return to the land of promise -- I am somewhat saddened. After all, his homecoming was painful, to say the least. Along the way, his beloved wife Rachel died while giving birth; his hip was permanently dislocated as he wrestled the Angel of the Lord; his meeting with his brother Esav was a frightening ordeal; and when he finally made it back home to Chevron, he discovered that his mother Rebekah had died. His father Isaac soon died afterward....
Our way in this world is often painful, and our "education for eternity" often causes us heartache. The LORD Himself, however, is our great consolation, and yesh ohev davek me'ach - "there is a lover who cleaves more than a brother" (Prov 18:24b).
More Hebrew Psalms!
11.16.07 I revised Psalm 1 by adding additional notes for each pasuk (verse). This is a great psalm, and I encourage you to study it with zerizut (zeal, passion). Shabbat Shalom, chaverim.
11.16.07 I have added some additional Psalms to the new Hebrew Psalms pages. Please note that this is a work in progress: I am simply trying to get the Hebrew text in place (as well as creating the audio files); I am not including commentary on the individual Psalms at this point (though I hope to do so later). I hope these pages will be helpful to those of you who are studying Hebrew or who wish to practice your reading skills.
New Section on Hebrew Psalms
11.15.07 I am still in a lot of pain, but I managed to add Psalm 2 (and part of Psalm 3 and Psalm 27) to the new Hebrew Psalms pages. I will add additional Psalms as I find the time, b'ezrat HaShem. I also have been adding a considerable number of new Hebrew words to the Glossary Pages.
Note: Chanukah begins on December 4th this year!
Anti-War but Pro Israel? Huh?
11.14.07 It's always risky discussing politics, especially in this umbrageous day and age, but recently someone asked me how I could support someone like Dr. Ron Paul when he doesn't support Israel financially or militarily. My short response was that while I love Israel and emphatically believe in her future, I certainly don't think that she needs America to defend her. No indeed: Israel's defense comes from the LORD God of Israel Himself. It's His land, after all, and His promises are sure:
ki-li ha-artez ki-gerim v'toshavim atem
For the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me (Lev 25:23b)
The political problems we are seeing today (including the ill-omened Annapolis "peace talks") are the result of secular governments and their schemes (such as the Olmert and Bush administrations as well as various factions of militant Islam). God Almighty has no problem defending His land -- and it behooves us to remember that He counts the chariots of men as less than nothing:
kol-ha-goyim k'ayin negdo
me-efes vatohu nechshevu-lo
All the nations are as nothing before him,
they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness. (Isa 40:17)
It seems to me that, as followers of Yeshua, we should take rather seriously His commandment to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us (Matt 5:44). The very life of Yeshua during His advent as Mashiach ben Yosef demonstrates this principle (Isa 53:7; John 19:9-11; Matt. 16:21; Luke 9:22; John 13:34-5; Rom. 13:8; 1 Peter 2:23; 1 Thess. 5:15; 1 John 3:11; 3 John 1:11). There is nothing more powerful than love, and no evil can truly befall the tzaddik whom the LORD loves.
Moreover, consider the method of warfare that the LORD used in Israel's past. In Exodus 14:14 (among other places), we read that the LORD would fight for Israel, and that the people only were required to walk in trust of the LORD's deliverance. As King David said:
Adonai ori v'yishi, mimi ira?
Adonai ma'oz-chayai, mimi efchad?
bikrov alai m're'im le'ekhol et-b'sari
tzarai v'oyvai li hemah khashelu v'nafalu
im-tachaneh alai machaneh lo-yira libi
im-takum alai milchamah b'zot ani vote'ach
The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh,
they stumbled and fell.
Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear:
though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident. (Psalm 27:1-3)
As James the Righteous said, "From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?" (James 4:1). The horrors of modern day warfare, especially as they are waged by secular and godless governments, are a sacrilege to the love and grace of God as revealed in Yeshua. The primary reason human beings tend to rely on such carnal weapons of warfare is because they are devoid of real faith that God is there and will vanquish the enemy on their behalf. We must remember that God has "no cause" of which we can be a part -- except that of surrendering our lives to the truth of His love.
ki la-Adonai hamilchamah
For the battle belongs to the LORD (1 Sam 14:47)
Addendum: I was grateful to read that some Israelis also favor a Ron Paul presidency. For more on this, see Shmuel ben-Gad's article: "Why Zionists Should Support Ron Paul" here. Please note the distinction between Peoplehood and Statehood. We can consistently support the Jewish people while questioning the political (and secular) state of Israel.
Ka'as and Yissurim...
11.13.07 Someone wrote me today and asked how I was doing. That's an awkward question to field, since I want to be honest about my yissurim (suffering) without falling into self-pity. On the one hand I am really hurting. The pain is unrelenting and searing... It's especially tough because I have no sick time left at my job and therefore I have to sit with ice packs on my shoulder/neck at work. The pain makes working difficult; almost every word I type hurts. Sleep is difficult, too. On the other hand, it certainly could be worse. I understand there are many people all over the world who are in a state of pain worse than mine, not to mention the greater tza'ar ba'elei chayim - the pain of all living creatures.
At any rate, I do need to "kvetch" about something.... I often wonder why Exodus 20:15 is so difficult for some people to understand? Today I happened upon a web site (a Messianic Ministry I will leave unnamed) that blatantly copied off my work and presented it as their own. This sort of thing gets me very angry, for a variety of reasons, and demotivates me to continue this work. Yid mit Tzuris.
Alas, it is the "flesh" within me, surely not the Spirit of our LORD, that is agitated by all this. If I were more like our beloved Yeshua, I would not mind in the least, since He always gave freely and never complained... May it please God to help me let go.
11.12.07 I updated the Torah portion for this coming Shabbat (Vayetzei) and also added some additional entries to the Hebrew Glossary pages.
This marvellous parasha includes Jacob's famous dream of a ladder set on the earth that reached to the heavens (sullam). Yeshua (Jesus) spoke of this ladder in John 1:51. Just as Jacob saw the ladder ascending to heaven with the angels of God ascending and descending upon it, so Yeshua tells Nathanael that He is the very Ladder to God, the true sha'ar hashamayim - the Way into heaven (John 14:6).
Yeshua is the Ladder... Heaven has indeed been opened and is mediated by the Life and grace of Messiah as our Bridge to God. Jacob dreamed a dream, but Yeshua became the Substance of that dream by willingly becoming the Promised Seed of Jacob. It is through Yeshua, the Promised Seed, that all the nations of the earth are blessed.
Yeshua is the true Temple or "house of God" (bet Elohim) and its Chief Cornerstone (Rosh Pinnah) (Matthew 21:42). He is the divine communication (Word) from heaven to earth. The Son of Man is God's link with the children of Adam (Dan. 7:13; Matt. 26:64). Yeshua is the new Bet El (Bethel), God's dwelling place (Gen. 28:17; John 1:14). Nathanael and the other disciples witnessed the glory of God come down to mankind in the Person and Life of Yeshua the Mashiach. Just as Jacob awoke and realized he was in the awesome presence of God, so Nathanael realized that he was in the presence of the very LORD of the universe!
Heaven stands wide open and now the grace of God is available for every person who believes in the Son of Man. Yeshua is the Bridge. You can come into God's presence by means Him. He is the "door" and the "gate." No one comes to the Father except through Him. Ask Him to connect you with the infinite and loving condescension of heaven today.
PS. On a personal note: I am still suffering on account of my neck/shoulder pain. I am in physical therapy, but it doesn't seem to be helping much. Please offer up a prayer for me, chaverim. Thank you.
Living in American Babylon...
11.9.07 Today I read an article by Hal Lindsey that pointed out the following:
- Crude oil prices hit an all-time high this week, closing above $98 a barrel for the first time in history.
- The U.S. dollar is at an all-time low.
- The Chinese are considering abandoning the U.S. dollar as their national reserve currency.
- The U.S. national debt topped $9 trillion for the first time in history (paying this back at a rate of a dollar a second, the U.S. could be debt-free in 288,000 years, i.e., the year 290,007).
None of these things surprises those who've been following the various cultural trends and machinations at work in the world. What is noteworthy, however, is that the "time of reckoning" seems nearly upon us, a time when things will radically change here in the USA. It has become clearer and clearer that the infamous day of September 11, 2001 (i.e., 9-11) marked the beginning of the end for the USA. Everything has unraveled since then. 9-11 was "the" defining moment of the "new age" of terror, with the Twin Towers a sort of "glyph" meant to signal the beginning of global fascist control over all the peoples of the earth. And isn't it surprising that much of the chaos centers on the ancient land of Bavel (i.e., Iraq), the place of the original migdal-Bavel - the Tower of Babel?
Migdal Bavel was a tall, fortified tower (ziggurat) that gave the illusion that "the power of the gods" was on their side. It represented a place "to make a name" and to demonstrate human power. In sort, migdal Bavel has become a symbol of proud humanism and the attempted apotheosis (deification) of human beings.
There are a few terms that pertain to eschatology, the study of "the last things" (from the Greek word eschatos which means "end" or "last"). These include acharit hayamim (the end of days), chevlei Mashiach (the birth pangs of the Messiah), and ikvot Meshicha (the footsteps of the Messiah).
The time immediately before the appearance of the Messiah is called ikvot Meshicha, the "footsteps of the Messiah" (a term taken from Psalm 89:51). According to traditional Jewish sources (Pesachim 54b; Midrash Tehilim 9:2), no one knows the time when the Messiah will appear. This accords with the teachings of Jesus and His apostolic witnesses (Matt. 24:36-44; 1 Thess 5:1-3; 2 Pet. 3:10; Rev. 3:3). The condition of the world during acharit hayamim (the end of days) will be grossly evil (2 Pet. 3:3; 2 Thess. 2:3-4, 2 Tim. 3:1-5). The world will undergo various forms of tribulation, called chevlei Mashiach - the birth pangs of Mashiach (Sanhedrin 98a; Bereshit Rabba 42:4, Matt. 24:8). The Zohar (Zohar II:8a) notes that during this time there will be prosperity, technological discoveries and advances, propagation of mystical teachings, and many signs and miracles. This also accords with the teachings of the Brit Chadashah (i.e., the Olivet Discourse of Matt. 24-25).
Though of course "no one knows the hour" of Jesus' return, it's amazing to consider that many Muslims are awaiting the coming of their Mahdi, many Orthodox Jews are awaiting their messiah, and many Christians are expecting the return of Jesus. Jerusalem has indeed become a "cup of trembling" (Zech 12:2-3) to the nations. It surely seems like the stage is set for the coming "end of days."
Considering such matters is a sober business, but it should always be attended with the hope we have in Yeshua (Rom. 8:24). This world is not our home (Phil 3:20; John 14:1-3; Heb 11:10), and part of the spiritual education of life is to wean us from seeking lasting happiness here.
For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:14-16)
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is (Ephesians 5:15-17).
As you consider these things, call upon the LORD and ask Him to help you be ready for the days to come... He will never leave nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
11.7.07 I added another 30 or so Hebrew words to the Hebrew Glossary pages today. I'm still in a state of yisurim (suffering), but working on the site helps me focus on things other than pain. Your tehillim for my refuah shleimah are deeply appreciated, chaverim.
Are you one of the "Unchosen Chosen"?
11.6.07 Within the Messianic movement, some non-Jewish Christians tend to consider themselves as "second-class" members in the family of God. They often tend to be self-deprecatory, calling themselves "wild olive shoots," "Gentile believers," or even "ger tzedek" (a righteous convert). This is most unfortunate, since it robs these precious souls of their true identity as co-heirs of the Kingdom (Gal. 3:9; Titus 3:7), and it also destroys the unity that Jesus sought to bring among God's people (John 17:20-23; Eph. 2:14-15).
While it's indeed true that ancient Israel was composed of various classes of people (Priests, Levites, Israelites, women, converts, slaves, etc.), it's also clear that Yeshua (Jesus) didn't come to create a "caste system" among His followers. In fact, Yeshua turned things upside-down by saying that the "greatest would be the slave of all" (Mark 10:44; Matt. 18:1-4, Matt. 20:25-28). Whoever would be great in the Kingdom must humble himself and walk hatznea lechet - in childlike simplicity before the Lord. Jesus transposed the all-too-human view of social relationships by inverting the "natural" order. Do you "seek great things for thyself"? Then take hold of your absolute nothingness before the LORD and serve your fellow man (Jer. 45:5). Show gratitude for the gift of life and quit your vain conceits.
The Apostle Paul, undoubtedly the greatest Torah sage of the apostolic period, taught that in the Messiah there "is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female" since we are all one (echad) in the Messiah (Gal. 3:28). But what does this mean? Despite the egalitarian ideal, don't we use these very distinctions to this day? On a fleshly level we certainly do. After all, we clearly distinguish between men and women, rich and poor, and various ethnic identities. We all live with these distinctions in the world of basar - the carnal world that is known through sensuous apprehension. However, "from now on we regard no one according to the flesh" (2 Cor 5:16) but we aim to understand, with the help of God, that a follower of Jesus is briah chadashah - a "new creation." Together we are ish-echad chadash ("one new man") designed to live in unity. k'ish echad, b'lev echad - "like a single person with a single heart."
God is said to be no "respecter of persons" (Acts 10:34, Rom. 2:11). He is able to make the unclean clean (Acts 10:28) and to regard those who were once called "Not My People" as "My People" (Hosea 2:23, Matt. 3:9). Indeed, a true Jew is one who is circumcised inwardly, not merely someone who has undergone brit millah (Deut 10:16, 30:6; Rom. 2:28-29, 1 Cor. 7:19, Gal. 5:6; 6:15; Phil. 3:3, Col. 2:11, etc.). Indeed, Paul insisted that any zechut (merit) obtained either through his yichus (pedigree) or his adherence to the moral law code (yashrut) is accounted as less than nothing in comparison to the imputed righteousness given by means of his relationship with Jesus (Phil. 3:3-8).
So, dear Christian, is it correct to call yourself a "Gentile" believer in Jesus? Is that an adequate label to describe your identity in Him?
Practitioners of rabbinical Judaism (yahadut) refer to themselves as am ha-nivchar - "the chosen people" - based on their understanding of the covenantal relationship with the God of Israel as revealed in the Torah (for example, see Deut. 14:2; Ex. 19:5-6; Deut. 7:7-8; Amos 3:2). A related term is am segullah, a "treasured" people. It's important to understand that this covenant is still in effect (brit olam), though its terms apply only so long as the covenant itself is in force (see Rom. 7:4).
Chosenness doesn't necessarily imply superiority. "Choosing" is invariably perceived as a verb and definitive of what it means to be such a people. That is, the ones who are choosing Adonai and His ways are both am hanivchar and am segullah. Therefore the Apostle Peter refers to Christians as "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession" (1 Peter 2:9, cp. Ex. 19:6, Deut. 7:6). Please note that these words clearly are intended for those formerly called Gentiles, since he adds: "Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people" (1 Pet. 2:9-10). The Apostle Paul likewise understands true Christians to be a "chosen people" (Eph 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13). All true Christians are in b'kehunat Mashiach - in the priesthood of Messiah Yeshua and therefore have direct access to God. This priestly lineage began with Malki-Tzedek (Melchizedek), culminated in the advent of Yeshua, and is passed directly to the believer by means of his or her justification and identification with the Lord Jesus, "who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people (am segullah), zealous of good works" (Titus 2:14).
Yes, dear and humble Christian, regardless of your lowly ethnic background, or your gender, or your social status in this world, understand that you are chosen of God, precious and elect, and dear to all who call upon the Name of the LORD. You are now Kohanim l'El Elyon - priests of the Most High God - "like living stones being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:5).
11.4.07 I updated the Torah portion for this coming Shabbat (Toldot) and added another 30 or more key words to the Hebrew Glossary pages.
I am still experiencing a lot of pain (despite some medication). I go back to the doctor (again) this coming Tuesday morning. Please accept my thanks and appreciation for your thoughts and prayers for my healing.
Pri Ha-Ruach - The Fruit of Spirit
11.2.07 Traditional Judaism identifies various middot ha-lev (qualities of heart) that attend to a genuinely Jewish life. These include Talmud Torah (studying Scripture), ahavat Adonai (loving God), gemilut chasidim (doing works of righteousness), bikkur cholim (visiting the sick), and so on.
The follower of Yeshua (Jesus) likewise must evidence middot hav-lev, though the Source for such comes directly from the power of the Ruach Ha-Kodesh (Holy Spirit) working within the heart of faith. The priot (fruits) listed in Galatians 5:22-23 represent nine visible attributes of a true follower of Yeshua (Jesus):
Note that these priot are not obtained through self-effort or various attempts at human reformation, but rather are a supernatural outgrowth of the grace and love of God in the life of one who puts their trust in Yeshua as Mashiach. See John 15:1-8. Our lives are sanctified in the manner in which they were initially justified: wholly by faith in the love and grace of God...
The tough question we need to ask ourselves is whether our lives give evidence to the power and agency of the Holy Spirit within us. Strictly speaking, these nine attributes are qualities that only God Himself possesses, since He alone is perfectly loving, perfectly joyful, and so on. But since we are created btzelem elohim (in the image of God) and were given the Holy Spirit to help us resemble our Teacher (Luke 6:40), spiritual fruit should be seen in our own lives (John 14:12; 15:1-8; 26-7). Obtaining such is invariably a matter of faith - trusting that God will help us live our lives in truthful union with Him.
Let's remember to pray for one another and ask the LORD to make each of us fruitful l'shem shamayim - for the sake of the Name of our beloved One.
The Three Pillars
When considering the various middot ha-lev (qualities of heart), a well-known maxim (given in Pirkei Avot 1:2) suggests that the spiritual life must be understood as a three-part balancing act:
Shimon ha-Tzaddik hayah misyarei kheneset ha-gedolah. Hu omeir:
al sheloshah devarim ha'olam omed: al ha-Torah
v'al ha'avodah v'al gemilut chasadim.
Simon the Righteous was from the remnant of the Great Assembly. He used to say:
'On three things the world stands: On the Torah, on service to God (avodah), and on acts of loving kindness (gemilut chasadim).' Avot 1:2
Like a chair that requires at least three legs to function, so we must 1) engage in the study of Scripture, 2) serve the LORD with passion, and 3) truly love another. Please note that each of these "pillars" is stated in the teachings of the Brit Chadashah (e.g., study: Acts 17:11, 2 Tim 2:15); serve God: Matt. 4:10, Matt. 6:24, 1 Thess 1:9, 2 Tim 1:3), love one another: John 13:34-5, John 15:17, Rom. 12:10, Rom. 13:8, etc.). May it please the LORD to conform each of us into the "image of His Son" (Rom. 8:29).
Shabbat Shalom Chaverim... Please remember me (and my family) in your prayers, as I am afflicted and in constant pain. I sincerely appreciate your love and kindness to us.
Gam Zu l'Tovah
11.1.07 I am in pain again today. It is a struggle to write at all. However, I have taken some time to add new entries to the Hebrew Glossary pages. I hope that learning these words/phrases will enrich your Jewish literacy.
Please keep me in your prayers, chaverim. I went to the doctor today and will see a physical therapist next week. I don't like taking medicine, but the pain is unrelenting and highly distracting. Thank you.