We Are Bereans

Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.
Acts 17:10-11

What's New

 

Ruminations

Rumination #16: Why did HaShem reveal the Sabbath before the Sinai revelation?

The common complaint against the Torah, by otherwise well-meaning evangelicals, is that believers are no longer "under the Sinai covenant" which of course raises many questions for the ardent student of the Word.

What do they mean by the word "under"? Are we "under" any instructions from G-d, and if so, which ones? Or course when someone brings up the "which ones" argument, you should immediately know the outcome of the conversation. To such a person, the problem is not the G-d-given revelation of right and wrong (i.e., the commandments), their problem is what they perceive as the "Jewish" ones. Hint: there is no such thing as "Jewish commandments," and anyone claiming such is directly (and possibly intentionally) contradicting numerous passages in Scripture.

What is meant by "Sinai Covenant"? Is this to be differentiated from the covenant that follows the Sin of the Golden Calf? Or the covenant made on the plains of Moab (from which we get the name "Deuteronomy" [second law])? Clearly, this kind of theology may be deeply invested, but it is not well-thought out. It is no small matter to convince such folks that defining the "Sinai Covenant" as the "Old Covenant" is simply a theological machination.

But a bigger problem for the whole argument about being "under the Sinai covenant" is this: what about the Sabbath? The Sabbath is only reiterated in the Ten Words uttered at Sinai; but that is not where it is first found. It is of course found first in Genesis 2:2. As all Sabbath-keepers know, the Sabbath first relates to HaShem's work of creation. But the first commandments associated with Sabbath-keeping are given in Exodus 16, where the Sabbath is connected to the daily provision of manna.

So they gathered it [manna] every morning, every man according to his need. And when the sun became hot, it melted. And so it was, on the sixth day, that they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one. And all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. Then he said to them, "This is what HaShem has said: 'Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to HaShem. Bake what you will bake today, and boil what you will boil; and lay up for yourselves all that remains, to be kept until morning.'"
Exodus 16:21-23

It seems pretty simple. It is a sad thing that this lesson is lost on so many who claim to know Messiah. Incidentally, this passage shows clearly that merely "having services on Saturday" is not "keeping the Sabbath." Weeks before the revelation at Sinai, HaShem gave us a very simple commandment. But we failed and continue to fail to listen.

Now it happened that some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather, but they found none. And HaShem said to Moses, "How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws? See! For HaShem has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day."
Exodus 16:27-29

Today, we are no better. It seems only the most observant think twice about this clear teaching. Thankfully, there are a few who simply obey every word the HaShem speaks.

So the people rested on the seventh day.
Exodus 16:30

Why did He reveal the Sabbath before His commandments? Beloved, He tells us that is connected to His daily provision, and it is connected to all of the rest of His commandments.

Then HaShem said to Moses, "Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not."
Exodus 16:4

No, the Sabbath was not given at Sinai. The Sabbath was given distinctly before the Sinai revelation, thus silencing the antinomian critic of the Torah. But the real "test" of the Sabbath is this: trusting and obeying Him day by day. It is thus no wonder that for those that turned away from the commandments of HaShem, the first to be jettisoned was... the Sabbath. They failed the test.

Let us be diligent in truly keeping the Sabbath.

 

We Are Messianic Disciples

And Yeshua came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, immersing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:18-20

Matthew 28:18-20 tells us what a faithful disciple of Messiah Yeshua is: someone who makes more disciples of Messiah. Someone who teaches others to do all that Messiah commanded, immersing them into Messiah Yeshua, as His disciples. We recognize that as faithful Jews, Yeshua and His first disciples were blameless in obedience to all of Scripture – even that which later variations of Christianity rejected as the “Old Testament.”

With regard to historical Christianity’s practical abandonment of three fourths of the Bible, we “Messianics” might immediately say that we are not therefore disciples of Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Catholics, or any other Christian sect.

However, there is another concern with whom some “Messianics” align themselves. We are not disciples of Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Chasidic, Talmudic, or Mishnaic Judaism either.

We are disciples of Yeshua.

We recognize from Matthew 16:19 that Messiah’s first disciples are our Sages. We are not disciples of Hillel, Shammai, Akiva, Meir, Judah the Prince, RASHI, RAMBAN, RAMBAM, the Ba’al Shem Tov, Nachman of Breslov, or Schneur Zalman of Liadi.

We are not Baptists, Catholics, or Lutherans. Nor are we Breslovers, or Lubavitchers.

We are disciples of Yeshua.

While we may admire and even study men and women from various backgrounds, and attempt to emulate them, we are not their disciples.

Read more....

 

The First Slip

Over the years some have complained that I am too “rabbinic” in my teaching. Perhaps some of that is because I have often cited Jewish teachers – many of them, from Hillel to Heschel.

The sages of Israel add deep understanding and context to the Bible - especially the Apostolic Scriptures [New Testament]. The writings of the sages provide an insider’s look into the language and culture of the first disciples of Yeshua. While the Oral Torah contained in the Mishnah, Talmud, Tosefta, and Midrashim do not control me, they most certainly inform me. Even later works such as the Zohar, and commentaries from Rashi and Ramban add better understanding to not only the words of the Apostles, but even the Master, Yeshua Himself.

However, to doubt or to ignore the Apostolic Scriptures is the first slip on a slippery slope.

It is actually quite predictable. Read more....

When Fences Become Walls

And HASHEM said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to HASHEM to look and many of them perish. Also let the priests who come near to HASHEM consecrate themselves, lest HASHEM break out against them.” And Moses said to HASHEM, “The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai, for you yourself warned us, saying, ‘Set limits around the mountain and consecrate it.”
Exodus 19:21-23

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for G-d has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the L-rd is able to make him stand.
Romans 14:1-4

“Children want boundaries.” You have heard that, or perhaps you have said it yourself. It is true of course. Human beings seem to almost crave limits to our behavior. No doubt this part of our G-d-given conscience – our sense of “right and wrong.”

Let’s be honest though, our conscience is not the same thing as right and wrong – it simply is our sense of what we think is right and wrong. Sadly, some people seem to have no conscience at all, and it is equally sad when some think everything is wrong.

When Conscience Becomes a Choice

In order for our conscience to be a positive tool in our relationship with HaShem, we need to be careful what choices we make in establishing new (or new to us) “fences” (boundaries put up to protect particular commandments) and how we maintain a distinction between those fences and the written commandments of HaShem. Once a standard is a part of our conscience, it is difficult to undo that without damaging our conscience.

It is common in newly observant communities for individuals to grab hold of standards that are new to them. This can be very good. The danger is when individuals make these fences matters of conscience. This is a matter of choice if the fences are not clearly distinguished from the actual commandments of HaShem. “So, if the standard is upheld, and the individual conscience is not offended, what is the downside?” you might ask. The dangers are:

  • An ever-increasing more-observant-than-thou attitude
  • Adding to your personal “I will be offended if…” list
  • Your children as they grow older may have difficulty distinguishing between HaShem’s commandments and your newly established fence
  • By choice, becoming the “weaker brother”

Safely Embracing Fences

In the case of neighbors with literal fences along a property line, it is easy to understand that one neighbor cannot move the fence without affecting the other. This is also the case of “fences around the Torah.” To best understand how to safely embrace fences, we must remind ourselves what fences are and how they might affect others. A fence is a standard that is beyond of the literal words of HaShem. Notice, that man did not initiate the fence around Mount Sinai in Exodus 19 to keep the people safe. HaShem commanded that it be built. So the Exodus 19 model does not apply to “fences around the Torah” – that is, unless you are also willing to disregard the very sober words in Deuteronomy 4:2:

You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of HaShem your G-d that I command you.
Deuteronomy 4:2

Yeshua alludes to this in His admonition:

And why do you break the commandment of G-d for the sake of your tradition?
Matthew 15:3b

I am very encouraging to people who want to embrace Jewish tradition, making the lifestyle of Judaism, their own. I offer this personal caution however: as you adopt traditional halacha and make it your own, do not make the traditional halacha a matter of conscience. That is truly your choice. Distinguish between the literal commandment, and the traditional “how to” in walking out that commandment. Here are my personal recommendations:

  • Context. Do your best to mirror the community in which you find yourself. If your community does not adhere to your newfound fence, be careful to not promote it as a community standard. Do not broadcast your fence. It is personal, or for your family only. On the other hand, be careful to reflect the community in which you are currently a part. Do not offend your brothers and sisters by what you permit or by what you forbid.
  • If you have children, as they get older, make it clear that your “family rules” are not “more right” than any other families' rules.
  • Be gracious. Recognize that everyone errs in some way. Make sure you do not begin to look down on those who do not share the same fences that you do.
  • Remember Romans 14:4:

Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the L-rd is able to make him (and you) stand.
Romans 14:1-4

Don’t let your fences become walls. Walls that keep out the blessing of a healthy relationship with HaShem, or walls that make your circle of brothers and sisters ever more small.

Moadim Apps for iPhone, iPad, and Mac

  • I have free apps in the iTunes App Store and the Mac App Store: Moadim for iPhone, for iPad, and for Mac
  • All Scripture passages are displayed in English, in a modified version of the World English Bible (public domain). Compete text of the Torah is included, broken down by weekly parasha. Parashiot follow Ashkenazi Diaspora rules.
  • All Holy days, Sabbaths, New Moons, and fast days are identified, along with the traditional Scripture passages
  • Moadim HD for iPad and Moadim for Mac have full calendar view
  • Includes prayer times (including candle lighting and havdalah) for any date from your location (or lat/long)
  • Direct access to Bereans Online Torah commentary

Read More...

The Mideast Update News Site

In 2007, my eldest son moved to Jerusalem working as a journalist and writer. Since then he has done interviews with government officials, academics, and "the man on the street." Joshua maintains a news web site that draws from his contacts in the middle east: the Israeli government, middle eastern universities, and public relations outlets. His reporting, analysis, and insights are unique in reporting on Israel and the middle east.

Check it out: www.themideastupdate.com

Daily Aliyah App for iPhone/iPad

My friend Brock Wright has written an iPhone/iPad app called "Daily Aliyah" that displays the Torah and haftarah portion for the current week, as well as the daily aliyah for the day of the week. Get it for free in the iTunes App Store.

Wise Messages App for iPhone

  • This little app will use your iPhone's notifications to remind you of Scripture, wise sayings, and quotes at set intervals or random times
  • Chose from different sources such as Proverbs, Pirkei Avot, Letter for the Ages, etc.
  • Import your own list of encouraging reminders to display
  • Customizable

Read More...

 

 

 

 
Get Started with Bereans Online

 

Read articles from a Hebraic perspective: