January 2008 Updates
Overcoming the Dust of Death
1.30.08 Do you believe that you will rise from the dead? This is a question between your inmost heart and God, of course, but it's an essential question nonetheless.... The ancient prophet Iyov (Job) was faced with this question when he was crushed by seemingly inane and relentless suffering in his life. He was given a choice - as we all are - whether or not to believe that this ephemeral world, with all its complexity and ambiguity, was essentially good or not... In light of his own return to the dust, could he still hold on to the hope that life was glorious and good? In the face of death itself, could Job say "Amen!" to the hope of God's ultimate deliverance -- regardless of his painful circumstances?
The role of the go'el, or redeemer (the participle of the Hebrew word gal'al, "to deliver," "to buy back"), is to do the part of a kinsman and redeem his kin from difficulty or danger. In the social laws of the Torah, the idea of redemption pertains to helping out near relatives from destitution or trouble. However God Himself is called Israel's Redeemer -- the One who will eventually vindicate His people (Isa. 59:20). The Father is "near kin" (or owner) of Israel in this usage of the word. The idea of judgment on Israel's oppressors as a ransom is implied (Isaiah 43:1-3). God, as it were, redeems his children from bondage and slavery. This idea of vindication finds expression in Job 19:25:
Other terms connoting redemption are moshia (yasha), pada, etc. The verb palat is used (mostly in the Psalms) to express the idea of being rescued from trouble (see the Names of God pages for more information).
Job's hope that he would be vindicated is a statement of trust in techiyat ha-metim, the resurrection of the dead. In the end, He (the Mashiach) would rise over the dust of death, thereby killing death itself, and setting those who trust in Him free from its hold. In the end of days, Yeshua will again rise over the dust, standing upon the earth and establishing the kingdom of God forever. Those who trust in Him will be His witnesses. May that day come soon.
Parashat Mishpatim - פרשת משפטים
1.29.08 I updated the weekly Torah portion for this coming Shabbat (Mishpatim) and created a PDF download.
Besides parashat Yitro, this is perhaps one of the MOST CRUCIAL portions of Torah for understanding the terms of the sefer habrit (book of the covenant) that was sprinkled with the blood of bulls and goats and ratified by the 70 zekanim (elders) -- i.e., the OLDER covenant as mediated by Moses at Sinai (also called Chorev).... Understanding how the NEW COVENANT replaces the OLDER COVENANT is critical for being a true child of God and inheritor of the promises given to Avraham Avinu (our father Abraham).
Exactly what was "nailed to the cross," beloved (Col. 2:14)?
The New Covenant is not merely the Sinai Covenant "renewed" but instead constitutes an entirely new way to be in relationship with God. The New Covenant sets us free from the terms of Sinai (by the death of the Testator, see Heb. 9:15) so that we might serve God in a new and better way (see Jer. 31:33; Romans 7:1-6; Hebrews 8:6; Romans 9:31-32; Acts 13:39; and esp. Gal. 4:21-5:1). The entire book of Hebrews in the Brit Chadashah (New Testament) is devoted to this liberating and wonderful truth.
On the Road for a few days....
1.25.08 I updated some more of Psalm 5 on the Hebrew Psalm pages last night....
I will be out of town (and away from the computer) for the next few days. I will be back Monday evening, January 28. Shalom and love to you all, in Yeshua's Name.
Musings about Suffering
1.24.08 It seems many of us are in a state of suffering. Today I updated an article I wrote a few weeks ago (Some Musings About Suffering) and created a PDF file download for you. This article is mostly intellectual, by which I mean that it attempts (in a very brief way) to understand the purpose of suffering. However, in the trenches -- in the white hot moments of pain or distress -- thinking alone is insufficient. This is where koach (power) comes in - and especially that strength of heart that is forged exclusively in the furnace of God's design... Only God Himself has the wisdom to use suffering in our lives to shape our characters, and we must be careful whenever we consider the ailments and struggles of others, since we are not privy to the "sacred crippling" that God bestows upon those called to heal and console others.
Cookie Eating Christian Warriors?
1.24.08 On another note, today I read a disturbing article about some so-called "Christian Warriors" who took the "brave step" of drawing the face of the prophet Muhammad onto a cookie and then eating it on camera. This should go down well.... What stupidity. Is that what it has come to in America-Babylon these days? Have we become "cookie-eating Christian warriors" as we "earnestly contend for the faith" (Jude 1:3)?
Of course that's not what the neo-Evangelical boys of this show (aptly named "Flamethrower") want to portray, since presumably they intend to demonstrate bravado in the face of a politically correct world. But given that our culture is a homogenizing force that inculcates its children to believe that "every one is special" — and therefore uniformly disinfranchizes our true identity as bearers of the image of God – this entirely blase act of "rebellion" indicates more of the same-old, same-old: i.e., utter DISRESPECT for others.
Is there ANYTHING more common today than the cynic who delights in pandering to the inane belief that no one is entitled to have real conviction? Today's jaded culture is stuffed full of prigs who make a pretense of their intellectual abilities — all the while pandering to the nihilistic urge of the greater world (and of Satan himself). It is trendy and fashionable to play the game of the skeptic these days, but (as I've mentioned before), skepticism is "unlivewithable" and betrays itself as irrationalism in the end.
And indeed this is an age of reeling irrationalism. When people get indignant over those who disagree with their mindless metaphysics (e.g., evolutionary theory) or their humanist worldview (e.g., the dogmas taught at public schools, the strident demand to be the arbiter of when life is considered valuable (e.g., abortion, euthanasia, etc.), or the self-exalting expression of nihilistic sexual ethics (e.g., homsexuality)); or when an entire nation can be deluded into believing that murdering other people for the sake of promoting "democracy" or "freedom" is a good thing, we are witnessing serious derangement on a massive scale. Read the newspapers today and consider the glitterati of our culture -- the political leaders, the TV talking heads, the movie and television stars, the "pop" musicians and their lyrics, the best-selling authors, the social pundits, etc. It doesn't take a lot of effort to see beneath the veneer of the language to understand that society is operating from an existential vacuum -- a place of inherent bankruptcy and nothingness...
Today's (faux) intellectuals, for the most part, are romantics who have yet to understand the implications of their heady game of "deconstructing" reality. When it finally catches up to them, it will be too late — and then they will lament their loss and decry their self-deception.
Christians should model love and grace, not inflame the passions of hate and ignorance. The "Flamethrower" kids might be hoping to display courage, but they are simply enabling the sickness and weaknesses of the greater culture that surrounds us. Yeshua said, "Do unto others…" If you choose to live by the sword, you shall die from it.
If you really want to share the good news of God's redemption with Muslims (rather than engage in puerile antics that merely repeat the theme of our sick culture), then show some respect and ask for God's grace, power, and wisdom to guide you, chaverim...
Birthpangs of Mashiach
1.23.08 Have you been sensing, as I have, that we are surely dawning on a new period of history, a time of unbridled terror and darkness -- the so-called chevlei Mashiach, or the "birthpangs of the Messiah"? We need to pray and be spiritual prepared, chaverim... Now is not the time to lose heart, but to exercise even greater trust that the LORD God of Israel is in control and will shelter those who put their trust in Him....
Because the time immediately preceding the coming of Mashiach will be perilous (2 Tim. 3:1-5), some of the Jewish sages have apprehensively said, "Let Mashiach come, but let me not see him" (Sanhedrin 98b). The LORD Yeshua Himself forewarned that the coming Great Tribulation (צָרָה גְדוֹלָה) would be unspeakably difficult, even for those who are among the "elect" (Matt. 24:21-22).
כִּי־יֵשׁ תִּקְוָה (but there is hope): "What is man to do to be spared the pangs of Mashiach? Let him engage in Torah study and gemilut chassidim (acts of lovingkindness)" (Sanhedrin 98b). As followers of Yeshua, we understand that (in this life) there will always be tribulation of some kind or another (John 16:33), but also we lay hope in God's deliverance from the wrath to come upon all the earth (1 Thess. 5:9) -- even if we live in the midst of modern day Babylon....
Hoy ki gadol ha-yom ha-hu me'ayin kamohu, v'et-tzarah hi le'ya'akov, u'mimenah yivashe'a
Alas! That day is so great there is none like it; it is the time of Jacob's Trouble; yet he shall be saved out of it. (Jer. 30:7)
Parashat Yitro - פרשת יתרו
1.21.08 I updated the Torah portion for this coming Shabbat (Yitro), which includes the awesome account of the giving of the Ten Commandments (aseret hadevarim).
First Draft Finished!
1.20.08 Baruch HaShem! After untold amounts of time and energy, I have finally finished the first draft of my new book manuscript this weekend. It's now off to the publisher for some editing. Please pray with me that this new book will bless many lives.... I also have plans to release a sequel to the Intro to Hebrew book I did for Zola Levitt. I hope to include more grammar and exercises, plus an audio CD to accompany the book. Please pray that this project will go forward to the glory and praise of our LORD. Todah, chaverim......
First Temple Seal Found?
1.17.08 Today I read a fascinating article about the discovery of a stone seal that dates back to the time of the First Temple. The seal, found during an archeological excavation just outside the Old City section of Jerusalem, has the name Temach inscribed in Ketav Ivri (First Temple Script). Nehemiah 7:55 identifies Temach as a group of Temple servants who returned to help rebuild the Temple after the Babylonian Exile.
According to the Jerusalem Post report, the seal is engraved with two bearded priests standing on either side of an incense altar with their hands raised toward the moon. There is some question whether this depicts a Babylonian cult scene or something else. At any rate, I thought this was interesting enough to post here, since you can see the Hebrew script that was commonly used before Ezra the Scribe standardized Ketav Ashuri (the Aramaic-style lettering) for the Jewish people.
Note that Yeshua endorsed Ezra's compilation of Tanakh (the threefold division of the Jewish Scriptures into Torah, Prophets, and Writings) and also the sanctity of Ketav Ashuri, since He referred to kotzo shel Yod - the tiniest stroke of the Yod (i.e., "tittle" in Matt. 5:8; Luke 16:17), a phrase that would not apply to the ancient-style script.
New Hebrew Mediation
1.15.08 I'm still at work writing my new book, but today I added a new Hebrew mediation (Irony and Redemption) based on Psalm 111:9: "He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name!" I hope you will find it encouraging as you consider "the unsearchable depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!" (Rom. 11:33; Psalm 145:3).
Tu B'Shevat (New Year for Trees)
1.14.08 The 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat -- called Tu B'Shevat -- is observed in Israel as a sort of national Arbor Day, or "New Year for Trees." This year Tu B'Shevat falls on Tuesday, January 22 (2008).
Though it occurs in January/February on the Gregorian calendar, Tu B'Shevat traditionally marks the first day of Spring in Israel, too (since the earliest-blooming trees begin a new fruit-bearing cycle). Often this day is commemorated by reciting a blessing, eating some of the fruit of land, and perhaps even planting a new tree.
Trees are one of the most beautiful things in the world to me, and if you would like information about planting a tree in Israel (perhaps to help beautify the Promised Land or to commemorate a loved one), contact the Jewish National Fund for more information. (Note, however, that this year is Shemittah -- a year of Sabbatical rest for the land -- and therefore the trees will not be planted in Israel until the following year.)
Parashat Beshalach - פרשת בשלח
1.13.08 I updated the Torah portion for this coming Shabbat (Beshalach), which is the fourth portion of sefer Shemot ("Exodus").
If I can find the time in the next few days, I will add some additional pashanut on this important portion of Scripture.
Praise God with me!
1.13.08 Today I updated the Year 2007 Archive Page (a sort of "Year in Review" for Hebrew4Christians) and I am simply amazed. Only the LORD God of Israel, blessed be His Name, is to receive credit and glory for sustaining me and helping me to do this avodah.... It is my most earnest prayer that He is magnified and revealed clearly at this site. I thank You, LORD, for your strength and Your provision, and for helping me with this site. B'Shem Yeshua Adoneinu - Amen.
And a special word of thanks to those of you who have shown me gemilut chassidim by offering a kind word or a donation to keep me going over on this side of the monitor (you know who you are!). Truly, working on this site is a full-time job, and there have been times when I wanted to simply quit, but then the LORD would prompt someone to send me a note of encouragement or a donation and my spirit would be revived. This site exists because of friends (chaverim) like you. Please know that I am grateful for your support and love....
New Book Project Continues
1.11.08 I have been especially busy the last week trying to get the manuscript for my new book completed (I am getting close to having the official "first draft" finished). Since this is a book that is written in both English and Hebrew, there are a lot of formatting challenges to contend with (and spell-checking in virtually impossible, too). Though I am excited to be writing a new book, I am also exhausted and in pain (my shoulder and back still hurt quite a bit, especially after longer periods of writing). Your prayers are sincerely appreciated, chaverim.
Pedut Olam - Everlasting Redemption
1.07.08 I am still working on the new book, but today I found some time to add a few more Hebrew glossary entries to the site. One word in particular -- pedut (ransom, redemption) -- really struck me because of its connection to this week's parashah (Bo) and also the concept of Pidyon HaBen I wrote about the other day.
Pedut refers to the transfer of ownership from one to another through payment of a price or an equivalent substitute (as in the redemption of a slave). When Adonai delivered Israel from servitude to Egypt, He did so at the "price" of the slaughter of all the firstborn (bechorim) of Egypt, man and beast (Exodus 4:23; 12:29). Consequently the Exodus event was to be commemorated by the Jewish people through the consecration of the firstborn of man and beast to the Lord (Exodus 13:12). The Jewish people were the firstborn of God (Exodus 4:22) and had been redeemed by the LORD (Deut. 15:15; 24:18). Later this idea of redemption included the idea of deliverance from sin (Psalm 130:7-8). Redemption became a spiritual concept that applies to the entire world through the infinite ransom of Yeshua the Mashiach for the sins of the world. This is called pedut olam (everlasting redemption) in Hebrews 9:12.
pedut shalach amo - "He sent a ransom for His people" (Ps. 111:9a)
Parashat Bo - פרשת בא
1.06.08 I updated the Torah portion for this coming Shabbat (Bo), which is the third portion of sefer Shemot ("Exodus").
I am really busy trying to get my new book manuscript finished for proof-reading. This weekend alone I spent close to 25 hours working on the text (and I still have another 100 hours or so to go before I have a first draft ready). Your prayers help me, chaverim, since I am still dealing with chronic pain issues and fatigue. From my heart to yours - thank you!
New Book Project
1.03.08 I have been writing a new book over the last few months, and I was hoping to get the manuscript to the publisher before the end of the year... This past week I spent over 50 hours working on it and I'm exhausted. My wife and son are also both sick with colds, and I am fighting one myself, but I am eager to get the material finished as quickly as possible. Your prayers for this work are sincerely appreciated, chaverim! Thank you.
Parashat Va'era - פרשת וארא
1.01.08 Happy (civil) New Year, chaverim! I updated the weekly Torah portion for this coming Shabbat (Va'era), which is the second portion of sefer Shemot ("Exodus").
I hope to add some additional commentary to this reading later tonight, though I have been very busy over the last couple days and will be busy again tonight. May this coming year be a year of growth and blessing to all of you.