53 Weeks Past the Cross – Happily Ever After?

Looking Through a New Lens
53 Weeks Past the Cross – Happily Ever After?
By Terrie C

I used to cringe when someone would quote this Scripture:

~For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says YHVH, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.~ Jeremiah 29

I cringed because plenty of devout  believers didn’t have glorious endings. Plenty are facing inglorious endings as I type.

It was a great catch-verse, and used often in the “name it and claim it” cliques. Christianity teaches that every line of Scripture was addressed to every believer. A good ending, guaranteed. Scripture and history, though, paint a different picture. From my first read-through of the Bible more than ten years ago, I took notes pertaining to who was speaking and who was being spoken to. It matters, doesn’t it? Moses closed his eyes to this world without having stepped foot in the land that was promised to him. Job was given back double what he lost, but if you’ve ever lost a loved one, you know they cannot be replaced. Plenty of God-loving men in Scripture had unhappy endings. Plenty of God-loving men (and women) outside of Scripture have had unhappy endings. Whenever Jeremiah’s Scripture was used in a “prosperity” teaching or a “you can do it!” teaching, I would think to myself “Yeah, tell that to the Jews in the holocaust!” I confess that wasn’t a very godly thing to think, but it’s what I thought, nonetheless. In fact, I struggled a lot with the way the Jewish people have been persecuted through the years, and the nonJewish, as well. Clearly Scripture promises believers salvation. It befuddled me to wonder why it seemed as though sometimes God came through for His people, and sometimes He didn’t. I have gained enough wisdom to know the error is in my understanding, but I did not know how to overcome it, or gain that understanding. God brought me some in a most unusual way. I love when He does that, don’t you?

The first thing he set before my eyes was a post about the holocaust. The author of the post said men ask where God was during this dark time in human history, but that’s not the right question. The question should be, “Where was man? Where were the men who were supposed to a light to the nations? Where were the defenders of the oppressed? Where were the lovers of their neighbors? Where were the just men?” That really gave me something to chew on! Such fantastic questions! Where were they, indeed? I was so grateful for that insight, but God wasn’t done. He wanted to make sure I knew He was teaching me something! Next, He allowed me to cross paths with a survivor from a concentration camp. We “clicked” right away and began corresponding. With her kind and gentle spirit, she gave me glimpses into what she refers to as “the house of death””. Her stories and poems broke my heart, but also showed me something I had been missing. She showed me that sparks of love and hope live in the darkest places. She taught me that beauty was even more appreciated when there was so little of it. Through her writing, I learned that a soul could love and value a smooth pretty stone when it was the only possession they had. Finally one day, I worked up the nerve to ask her how they didn’t give up on God, even after they’d watched their families murdered. I know I will chew on her answer for the rest of my life.

She gave the answer straight from her daily prayers. This is what she prays:

“You led us through water and fire and who should die. We are still the people who call you One.

You led us through water and fire and who should die. We are still the people who say the ‘Shema’ three times a day.

You led us through water and fire and who should die. We are still the people who bless Your Name.”

Now, that might be a Jewish flavored prayer, but it is also straight out of Tanakh. We can sure glean wisdom in it!  He is the God who leads us through water and fire. Knowing water and fire are part of our journey, the question is then thrown back on us. Why do we give up on God when the water is high and the fires are blazing? Is He only a good God when our life is good? What if “prosperity, blessings and abundance” aren’t within our reach in this lifetime? What if our struggle is for His story or glory, and not our own? Do we stop serving God and go our own way? Don’t those who died without ever renouncing God’s Name make such an impact on us still today? This is another area where Christianity left “bloodstains from Jesus” on us! They teach that it’s all about us, but Tanakh teaches that it’s all about YHVH. We forget that, don’t we?

The last interesting thing about my “lesson” in suffering is that the answer has been inside of me for a whole year now, and I never connected it to my non-understanding of the holocaust, or in God’s people suffering in general. When I walked away from the cross and realized I would be judged on my own merit instead of on Jesus’, I said this in my prayers:

“Even if I do not merit citizenship in the World to Come, I still call you God and call your Torah perfect. I will do my best to walk in it and walk it out!”

I still pray that sometimes. When we can love God more than our own comfort or desires, perhaps it’s then that we know we are truly walking with Him. In Him.  When we love Him when every wall has crumbled in our own world, we experience a facet of Him that we miss on sun-shiny days. When we love Him in the water and fire, we can count on Him to lead us through it. Even in the valley, where death’s shadow is cast on us, He is there. No matter my ending while wearing this coat of flesh, it is not my ending, and He is good. I’m sure it’s the same for the souls who died still loving and trusting Him. Like my prayer, they must have prayed “Even if I suffer, I call You God and I call You good!” It was not their ending just because we didn’t see their salvation. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that they did see it! I can’t say that I have a complete grasp on the concept of suffering, but I am so much closer than I was a few weeks ago! I guess it will take all of this life and then some to understand His ways. Life sure is different here on this side of the cross!

“See” you next week! ~Terrie C

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To Slaughter a Lamb for Passover

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Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By William J Jackson

We are commanded to remember the Passover or Pesach (Exodus 12:14, 24, Deuteronomy 7:19, 16:3).  In doing this, some are willing to take it all the way and sacrifice a lamb for this sacred holiday, while others, who are more rabbinic, are not even willing to even eat lamb on this day. These two views are so diverse; we need to ask ourselves where is the plumb line on this issue?  We do already know the plumb line between us and God, and that would be His word – the Tanakh. So let’s delve into God’s word and find the answer.

PESACH-blood-on-the-door

In Exodus 12 we see the first Passover.  The night that the sacrifice of the lamb was made by each family and the blood was smeared on the door post so that Adonai would “pass over” that home and allow the first born to live. As Exodus 12:14 states “It should be kept as a feast to the Lord…”  So the people did the slaughter in their own homes, not the priest doing it in places of worship (Tabernacle or Temple).  This was because the Levitical Priesthood would not be established until Exodus 32 and Numbers 1:48-53, nor was a place of worship established.  Like with the priesthood a place of sacrifice wouldn’t be established until after the crossing of the red sea, and after the ten commandments were handed down at Mount Sanai.  We hear about the Tabernacle for the first time in Exodus 25.  It seems that God introduced this organizational pieces after he established the Israelites as His chosen people (Exodus 19:5). Before this time, all the Patriarchs sacrificed wherever they pleased (Genesis 22:13, Genesis 31:54 and Genesis 46:1).

1aanima sacrifice

A year later, after the Israelites sacrificed that lamb in Egypt, Leviticus 17 tell us that all sacrifices would be done at the Tabernacle.  Later, this Tabernacle will become a Temple1.

atonement

Over 40 years after Leviticus established the place for the sacrifice Deuteronomy 12 reestablishes that the Israelites will only sacrifice places God designates (V4).  HaShem appears very focused that Israel will not worship Him in the same way the Canaanites worshiped their pagan gods by making sacrifices wherever they choose.  This is echoed in Deuteronomy 16.

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Over 700 years after the Israelites entered the Promise Land, we read 2 Chronicles 30 and see them participating in the Passover.  This is after years of not worshiping HaShem and engaging in pagan rituals. As established in Leviticus the people did not do Passover at home, they all assembled in Jerusalem probably at the Temple.  It appears the people were responsible for purifying themselves before sacrificing the lamb/goat.  Many did not, so at this point the priests stepped in to do the slaughter.  Still some Israelites did the slaughter on their own without being purified.  The King prayed to HaShem for them and HaShem pardoned the people (V18-20). The Jewish Encyclopedia under “Three Groups of Laity” gives us some historical insight into the processes that might have taken place2.

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Although we do not have the Temple for sacrifices nor is the Levitical priesthood in place as established by Tanakh, can we still eat lamb to commemorate the Passover?  There are those in rabbinical circles that would say no.  They are going off the code of Jewish law (Shulhan Arukh), established in 1565 CE.  This was done by the Jewish community to acknowledge that the temple sacrifice was no longer done3. We need to remember that this is not Tanakh but a man made doctrine that some use as a manner to reverence HaShem.

Another point we should note is that the sacrifice of the lamb was not a sin sacrifice but one of faith.  The Christian community sees the Passover lamb as a sin offering and suppose that this is their messiah. But let us hearken back to Exodus 12 where if you believed in God you would have slaughtered a lamb and put the blood on your doorpost so the angel of death would Passover you.  Obviously those that did not believe in God did not do this and suffered the consequences.

Conclusion:

Without access to the Temple and the priesthood no longer being established I do not think that we, as individuals, are required to perform the Passover sacrifices at home nor should we (Leviticus 17).  On the other hand, there is nothing against us eating lamb or goat this day of tribute within God’s word.  As commanded, we should have a Passover meal in remembrance of the original Passover and reflect on what God did at this momentous time (Exodus 12:14, 24, Deuteronomy 7:19, 16:3).

passover-supper_1238799_inl

References:

  1. William Jackson, The Tabernacle becoming a Temple, Center for Tanakh Based Studies, March 1, 2015

 

  1. Executive Committee of the Editorial Board., Jacob Zallel Lauterbach, PASSOVER SACRIFICE (Hebrew, “zebaḥ Pesaḥ”; lit. “sacrifice of exemption”), n.d.

 

 

  1. Florence Fabricant, New York Times, Home and Garden, A Tender Lamb Dish For a Passover Seder, Published: March 23, 1988

To be a Heretic, or not to be a Heretic

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Marcion of Sinope

Center for Tanakh Based Studies

William Jackson

With the dawning of the first century common era a new religion was born – Christianity.  This fledgling religion did not start off with the same level of peace it pledged in its decree (Matthew 5:9, Mark 9:50, Luke 10:6, John 16:33). Granted there were many outside sources that came at it, like the Romans, but it’s most influential advisory was itself. The reason for this was because many of the groups within Christianity struggled to establish their own unique identities of God.  This lead to much end fighting.  Due to this, the term heretic was established for any point of view that was in conflict with another.  One sect that probably received the boldest charge of heresy was Marcionism.  Ionically, Marcionism, which was seen as a direct threat to the church, has actually taken the place of today’s main stream Christianity.

religion-overthrowing-heresy-and-hatred

So what can be said about this rogue religion that has taken over our current day Christian landscape?  Marcionism was established by Marcion of Sinope, a ship owner who was the son of a bishop.  Marcion was active and gave generously to the church.  In his studies, he determined that there were two Gods.  The first was the wrathful God of Israel, which he claimed could only be found in the Tanakh or Christian OT.  The second God, was a loving forgiving God found in the Christian writings.  He considered the Christian messiah to be the messenger who segued this new improved God into the Christian era.

In order to support Marcion’s claim, he had to select certain Christian writings.  This process is known as canonization.  He chose Luke’s gospel and ten of Paul’s letters to support his doctrine while dismissing the Tanakh altogether.  Even the gospel of Luke he chose was modified to fit into his theology.  At this point in history the church had not settled on any particular books so they had hundreds of Christian writings that they picked and chose from.  Christianity even had numerous gospels that portrayed the life of their messiah before they settled on just the four.  Sadly, for the church, it took Marcion’s canonizing his books for them to begin their own canonization.  You see, you can’t really call someone out as a heretic if you haven’t decided on your set of books to back up your own beliefs. Alas, it would take the church two more centuries after Marcion’s canonization to establish their New Testament which is the one currently hailed by Christianity.

As we examine this New Testament we see that it adds to the Tanakh.  For example, the Tanakh says that murder is a sin (Exodus 20:12, Leviticus 24:17, Deuteronomy 5:16), whereas the Christian Testament heightens the bar by saying being angry at someone is as equivalent to murder and thus a sin (Matthew 5:21-22, 1 John 3:15).  Wow, talk about the law being impossible to keep. It is no wonder why a messiah that can take away sins was introduced (John 1:29, 1 John 3:5, 2:2, Hebrews 9:26). As a point of order anyone who goes through the Laws of the original Tanakh would not find them impossible to keep.  Yet, if you did sin, the Tanakh is pretty clear about the solution- repent to God (2 Samuel 12:13, Psalm 32:5, 51:19 and Proverbs 28:13).  Marcion was not looking hard enough for the true God in the Tanakh.

So as for Marion, he was excommunicated for his beliefs that there were two Gods in 144 C.E.  He then set out to establish his own religion which lasted for about 300 years.  Conversely, the church who opposed Marcion’s concepts developed a New Testament which was adapted in 393 C.E. at the Council of Hippo.  Ironically almost 250 years after Marcion being ousted from the church, the church father’s adopted a book that support Marcion’s concepts.  Think about it, how many Christians do you know that truly have a working knowledge of the Tanakh (their OT).  For those Christians that do respect the Tanakh, they remind us that we are no longer under its law (John 1:17, Romans 6:14, Galatians 5:18).  This certainly sounds like Marcion’s two God concept. Some might say that Marcion and the church’s appeal is that they are “heavy on the grace and light on the repentance”.

As for the church adding to the Tanakh with their testament, this could be seen as a form of heresy because we are not to add to the Tanakh (Deuteronomy 4:2, 13:1, and Proverbs 30:6).  And as for Marcion’s concept of two God’s, one harsh and one loving, we know from the Tanakh that the one and only God controls all things both good and bad (Isaiah 45:7, Amos 3:6, Ecclesiastes 7:13-14).  Also we need to add that God does not change whether before or after the birth of Christianity (Numbers 23:19, Malachi 3:6, Psalm 105:7-10). Isaiah 44:6 sums it up nicely by God saying “…I am the first, and I am the last; besides me there is no God”

One Year Past the Cross!

Looking Through a New Lens
One Year Past the Cross!
By Terrie C

 

March tenth marked my first year past the cross. I spent the day under a quilt with the flu. If you’ve even been in that position, it may not surprise you to know that I gave some time to thinking about the life after this one in between shivers. The concept of Heaven and Hell is certainly a widely accepted theory, but it always left me with questions. A serial killer and a person who didn’t accept Jesus as their “savior” would both be put in a place of torment for eternity? Even if the person honored God and went about doing good? And how would Jesus be my husband, when at other times, he was called my brother….or father? How do we use any word but incest in that situation? And what about that “No Jew or Gentile, slave or free, or male or female”? The Christian Bible says “all will be one in Jesus”. That always made me think of the “Borg” from Star Trek (TNG). I apologize if you’re not familiar with that term. In short, beings are assimilated into a living machine to be used as a collective. They lose all individuality.  As the deed was done the Borg would announce, “You will be assimilated, resistance is futile!” It was hard for me to comprehend that we would be created so fantastically unique, yet turn into clones “on the other side”. Equally hard to believe a rapist slides in on Jesus’ robe without any consequence to his sin. That would contradict the Tanakh, which says we will reap what we sow. But I digress! I’m certainly not trying to give a Christian review on the afterlife. Suffice it to say, it’s cut and dry. Love Jesus or burn in Hell forever and ever, amen. But what about after we rip the backs out of our Bibles? What do the Scriptures that are Tanakh say about a life after this one?

 

It was interesting to learn that Tanakh doesn’t have many verses about the “World to Come”. The prophets give small glimpses, but overall, Tanakh isn’t focused on the “afterlife”. Its focus is more on “this life”. This is telling in itself! The verses we do have tell us that the “World to Come” will be good, and that we will always worship before our Creator. I’m not going to list those verses here because searching them out is such a rich experience! I highly encourage you to dive in and find them, though. There will be an accounting for this life, and Tanakh says one can be “cut off” from their people. It’s easy for me to imagine a golden scale, where the things I’ve done that align with God’s instructions are dropped on one side, each making a heavenly musical note. On the other side, my misdeeds will be plopped down, each marked by the sound of a “gong” being struck. My eternal destiny, in my humble opinion, will depend on which side that scale tilts to after every last detail is exposed. To me, it isn’t an issue of “earning my way in” but of letting the “good” prevail in my life. The ultimate good, it goes without saying, is my love for God, and how I demonstrate it.

 

Will there be a refining process for us to go through after our spirit comes out of this flesh? A waiting period? A reincarnation? A consequence to face for our unrepented sin? Oh, boy… there are lots of opinions and commentaries! Will our freed spirits pop into weddings and graduations to cheer our loved ones on? Will we hear them, should they speak to us outloud? I guess as long as we have a reasoning brain, we will utilize our imaginations in matters of the unknown. The really cool thing is that we don’t have to worry about it, and we don’t have to argue about it! We simply trust that God is who He says He is, and know that there will be more after this life. However He works it out will be the best way possible for it to work out for those of us who call Him “The One True God” and do our very best to walk in His ways. However He works it out, according to the prophet, Isaiah, “… it will come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, all flesh will come to worship before Me, says YHVH.” For me, that’s enough to know about what’s to come.

 

I was happy that feeling so miserable stirred me to think about the concept of a life after this one. The subject of what happens when we die was something I hadn’t looked closely at through this new lens. I utilized some of my down time doing just that!  I gleaned from teachings regarding the subject, and from the wonderful insights of those wiser than myself.  As always though, Tanakh was my plumb line. If any information can’t be backed with Scripture, I don’t keep it. From there I can see that many  of the details of a life after this one  aren’t going to be known until they’re  experienced. That must be why the Scriptures point to choosing life more often than planning an afterlife. What we do now, in this life, should be our concern today. The infinite details are impossible for a finite mind to fully grasp, try as we might. I’ll just honor my God and His Tanakh, knowing that this life isn’t all, and that He is, was, and always will be exactly who He is! I’m not afraid to die anymore, I learned that last week. This life is a gift, and I will appreciate it every day I have it. But when my spirit breaks free from this body, it returns to the One who loves me enough to grant my every breath. I can trust Him with it, no matter the details. It was a pretty cool study to finish out my last week in my first year past the cross.

 

If you’re sojourning on this path with me, I’m glad you’re here! I look forward to watching God’s plan unfold with you. “See” you next week!

 

God Requesting VS God Demanding

Freewill Offering for the Tabernacle Exodus 35:22-29
Freewill Offering for the Tabernacle Exodus 35:22-29

https://www.facebook.com/CenterforTanakhBasedStudies

By William Jackson

Interestingly, when God wanted His Tabernacle built, He demanded certain things (Exodus 27:20, 30:14-15) while asking for others (Exodus 25:1-2, 35:5). Some might say that God had to demand certain things or the Tabernacle would not have been built.  On the surface, that might appear to be plausible, but it couldn’t be true.  You see, later God asks for people to give with a “generous heart”, and as a result He received so much He had to tell the Israelites to stop (Exodus 36:5-7).  Another point to ponder is that we have a God who “laid the earth’s foundation” and who brings forth the constellations in their seasons (Job 38). God certainly could have come up with the materials to cover the building of this Tabernacle.  So what is the answer – why did God need our help and why did He demand certain things while requesting others?   

Reading Exodus 35:5, it tells us “’Take from yourselves an offering for the Lord; every generous hearted person…” This was a voluntary request for precious materials.  This was different than the time when God ordered the people of Israel to provide olive oil, probably for His menorah (Exodus 27:20), or the half shekel, which was also for the Tabernacle, Exodus 30:12. Yes, sometimes God demands certain things of us.  As with children, a parent needs to create a sense of responsibility by assigning tasks.  Hopefully when that child matures he or she will freely do the right thing or be righteous.  Affirmation of this is Proverbs 21:26 where it says “…the righteous man gives and does not spare.”  As we are God’s offspring, He want us to become like this – righteous.

In building the Tabernacle, the situation was no different than that of raising children.  God could have made the money and materials appear if He had chosen it. Yet, He chose to fund His work through the willing gifts of His people. This allows the Israelites and us to contribute and experience a relationship with God. But why demand certain things and ask for the Israelites to give other things only if they felt inclined? To answer this question, we need to remember that all people are God’s (Numbers 27:16, Ezekiel 18:4, Zechariah 12:1).  This would imply that since we are all at different levels in our maturity, God approaches us at these different levels.

 Lawrence-Kohlberg

Dr. Lawrence Kohlberg

We can validate this through the work of Dr. Lawrence Kohlberg, a renowned professor who discovered the adult stages of moral development1 that have become a cornerstone in our psychological community. This theory holds that moral reasoning can be broken down into three basic stages.  Since all people fall into any of these three stages, God approaches us on these different levels when He develops a relationship in all of us.

Stage 1 (Pre-Conventional), the Lowest

“How can I avoid punishment?” This individual focuses on themselves with regards to the direct consequences of their actions. This is why God, in some cases, makes demands followed by a punishment, i.e. “thou will (or shalt not) …” and then a consequence follows.

An example of this would be Exodus 20:12 where God says, “Honor your father and mother (demand), so that you may live long in the land which Adonai your God is giving you (consequence).”

This is often marks the early stages of one’s faith walk when we are battling or reasoning with God’s word.   Hopefully a person at this level, after getting in the habit of being compliant, will eventually move to the next level.  At the very least, if they do not move up, they will have a relationship of obedience.

This is why God might have made demands with regards to providing for the Tabernacle (oil and silver).  These demands were made regardless of that person’s social standing.  At the least, this method gets everyone in the habit of giving and interacting with God’s plan.

To this person, authority might be their strongest influence. 

Stage 2 (Conventional), Middle – average

“The good boy/girl attitude.” Basically, this person is motivated by public opinion, even if it is just within their own group. This is that person who is vocal about their charitable work, status and maybe the kind of person who likes to bring negative attention to those who are not at their supposed level. This person’s motive is to heighten their status in the public eye.

When we see people openly battling religion, one or both of these parties often fall into this category.  These people use arguments, especially if they are public, to validate their superiority.

In the Tabernacle scenario, these would have been the ones who volunteered their gifts because they were motivated by peer pressure or appreciation.

Note:  Many of us might feel that it is wrong to be motivated to give only for the purpose of receiving God’s blessings.  Nonetheless, God does confirm we will receive blessings for giving: Deuteronomy 15:10, Malachi 3:10, Proverbs 19:17, 22:9.

To this person, their fellow man is their strongest influencer.  

 Stage 3 (Post-Conventional), the Highest

This individual acts properly because it is right thing to do.  They are not trying to avoid punishment or seek public approval.

Many people who gave with a “generous heart” (Exodus 35:5) at the Tabernacle without peer pressure would be considered to be at this stage.

This final stage is that “righteous” stage2 everyone should be striving to attain. If we examine the writings, it appears that this stage is a plateau we should all either be working towards or maintaining.

Psalm 37:21 …. the righteous is generous and gives.

Psalm 112:9 He distributes freely; he gives to the poor; his righteousness stands forever…

Proverbs 21:26 … the righteous gives and does not hold back.

To this person, their relationship with God is their strongest influencer.

Z5CEi

Conclusion

Think about it – God could have provided for the Tabernacle alone, but He wanted us to be a part of it.  Just as God could eliminate poverty, He instead tells us to provide for the underprivileged (Exodus 23:9, Deuteronomy 10:18, 24:17,Isaiah 1:17, Zechariah 7:10).  These actions allow us to stop focusing only on ourselves and care about humanity3. God engages all of us who want to listen regardless of where we are.  Some battle with what they should have to give, while others don’t think twice and just contribute without question.  Then there are those in between who are motivated by the public in what they do.  The important thing to heed is that we should not ostracize anyone who may not be at our level.  The ones we should be concerned for are those whose hearts are not troubled, who have no desire for a relationship with the Creator, for they are the truly lost.

Tabernacle, Moses pleased

References

  1. Kohlberg, Lawrence (1973). “The Claim to Moral Adequacy of a Highest Stage of Moral Judgment”. Journal of Philosophy (The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 70, No. 18) 70 (18): 630–646.

 

 

  1. William J Jackson, Righteousness – Straight from Tanakh, Center for Tanakh Based Study, January 26, 2016

 

  1. William Jackson, We are COMMANDED to be Charitable, Center for Tanakh Based Studies, June 13, 2015

 

 

 

51 Weeks Past the Cross – At Forgiveness

Looking Through a New Lens51 Weeks Past the Cross – At Forgiveness
By Terrie C

 

Matthew 6:14 – For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

KJV

 

*Note from author: If you read my post last week, you know that the following post has been “on a shelf.” It was finished in my eyes, but I received no sense of release from God to post it. I never post until He grants that release. I knew He had more to show me, and He did! I know now why I had to wait. The person I most struggle with forgiving will be passing from this world very, very soon. Apparently, I needed to experience just what I’m going through right now before I could post. That’s how God rolls… I’m so glad I waited! ~Terrie C

 

Week 51

 

That little word “if” has always caught me with its enormity. When I stood under the “just believe and be saved” doctrine, the word “if” always caused me concern. I was taught to overlook it, to not give that little word any weight. Here on this side of the cross, though, “if” is important!  It’s a condition to a promise. According to the verse above, to be forgiven, I must forgive others. Here’s another from the book of Luke: …forgive, and ye shall be forgiven. I could add more verses from the writings that call themselves the “new testament” on the topic of forgiving others, but I think you could bring them to mind yourself, because the doctrine is so stressed in Christianity and in Messianic Christianity. Instead, let’s take a look at forgiving others through the lens of Scripture, the Tanakh. Is forgiving others a condition to being forgiven ourselves? What did God say about it?

 

The Tanakh, commonly referred to as, the “Old Testament” has well over a hundred verses regarding forgiveness. In almost all of them, it’s attributed to God and not man. Joseph forgave his brothers, but never are we told that it was a condition of his own forgiveness. King David also forgave, but again, it was not a condition for him to be “saved”. If we read the Psalms carefully, it’s easy to see that David wasn’t forgiving toward all of his enemies. In fact, he asks God to destroy them! Christianity brushes this off as the “old way” but don’t we already know that God’s ways never change?

 

Where does forgiveness fit in as we go about walking in love and shining God’s light? Must I forgive everyone who has sinned against me to be forgiven my own sin, as Christianity teaches? If I were to say to you, “Who can you not forgive in your own life?” I’m thinking a person would jump to your mind. Someone jumps into my mind, too. Is the kind of forgiveness humans grant the same kind of forgiveness that The Almighty grants us? It’s a given that ours is different. HaShem is perfect, we aren’t. I’m a fairly easy-going person. It’s hard to offend me, and I hold nothing someone says against them. I understand all too well how easy our mouths can trip us up. There are a few people that I do hold something against, though. What they did went well beyond hurting my feelings or ruining my day. These are the people I dragged into Scripture to examine my lack of forgiveness under this new lens, and to see how it relates to my own relationship and atonement with God. I have to admit that the answer wasn’t immediately clear to me. I see so much grace and mercy in the Tanakh; yet I also see a hatred of evil and the consequences for evil acts. I knew I’d have to dig deeper. The first thing I had to do was get the definition right.

 

The dictionary says:

Forgive:
transitive verb
1
a :  to give up resentment of or claim to requital for <forgive an insult>
b :  to grant relief from payment of <forgive a debt>
2
a :  to cease to feel resentment against (an offender) :  pardon <forgive one’s enemies

 

Biblically speaking, it is also a verb:

Nasa or Nasah:

Lighten a load, to lift

 

We all know that the load we lighten when we forgive is our own. To carry another’s sin with us through our day is heavy! The person I struggle most with forgiving allowed my childhood to be a nightmare. The person who was supposed to nourish and encourage me broke me instead, leaving me with invisible wounds that would fester for years to come.  For so very long, I carried that heavy burden, trying to disguise it with men, alcohol, drugs… anything that made it feel lighter, even for a moment. It was a failure of epic proportion! Then, when I started walking with God, I felt like an epic failure for not reconciling with that person, ready to let the past go and begin a brand new future. According to the new testament, because of this, God wouldn’t be able to forgive me my sin. Never mind that they also taught I’d enter the kingdom on Yeshua’s merit, and not my own (a contradiction in itself). I was so confused, and remained that way for ten years! But I’m not confused anymore!

 

Looking through my new lens at forgiveness, I see that, by definition, I have forgiven the person I most needed to. I lifted that load off myself when I placed them in God’s hands. The anger is gone, the resentment is gone, and I believe God took what was done to me and has brought much good from it. Because of my childhood, I am strong, nonviolent, and determined to survive anything I must. These are all great qualities! The lingering effects that aren’t so great, such as a skewed vision of what love looks like, a slowness to trust what seems good, and a horrible reaction to any kind of violence, will be transformed through prayer and Scripture study. Only The Almighty can do those things!

 

Did my newfound forgiveness send me rushing to the bedside of the one who is now counting their last days in this world? It did not. Scripture says we will reap what we’ve sown in this life, and the person I’ve struggled with forgiving is not exempt. They are where their footsteps led them, as am I. The seeds they sowed so long ago have harvests so great, I see it in my grandchildren’s lives! Brokenness is passed from generation to generation until someone will stand up and say “It stops here!” I’ve had to dig those seeds out of myself and plant a whole new crop. I am the one who stood. My seeds will yield a harvest, too. One that points to God, and not to brokenness.

 

What the forgiveness did do, is it allows me to pray earnestly for that person. That God will handle them with mercy and lovingkindness as they account for their actions in  this life, and He will assign them residence in the world to come after He’s dealt with the cost of their sin.

 

Looking at forgiveness through the lens of Tanakh, I can see that God forgiving me is not contingent on my forgiving others. My forgiving others is a lightening of my own load. God’s forgiveness of my sin is contingent upon my repentance and my devotion to His Ways. The Tanakh says that over and over. Knowing this, I am able to have a healthier perspective about forgiveness altogether. When people commit a direct offense against me, the weight is off me as soon as I give it to God. In some instances, forgiveness will mean that a relationship is restored. In other instances, it will not be. And that’s okay. It is a new testament concept that we should allow someone to continue breaking us, to turn the other cheek, and to forgive “70 times 70 times.” How many times should a wife be beat and still stay? Shall we invite a rapist back to our dinner table? Should we keep handing our heart to someone intent on breaking it? Of course not! It’s just common sense to know where a line should be drawn. Forgiveness does not always mean restoration. In Tanakh, those out to harm us are called our enemies, and we are never told to allow them to conquer us or that they should have authority over us. Scripture tells us to choose life. Abuse and evil are not attributes of life. We must keep those who practice them far away away from us! Even after we’ve forgiven them.

The Half Shekel, God Taking Away Idols

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Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By: William Jackson

As we read Exodus 30, we see that God requires everyone, regardless of class, to pay a half shekel (verse 13).  I don’t know about you, but when I first read this passage, I imagined the Israelites lining up and paying a half-shekel coin.  Yet I come to find out I was mistaken.  So what is this shekel? Here, we will find out through the Torah and ancient history what God actually meant by shekel.

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Oldest Coin about 600 BCE

If you thought they were talking about an Israeli shekel1, you’ll have to reconsider, as it wouldn’t come into existence until about 66 CE about 1,512 years later.  Okay, no problem, since the Israelites just left Egypt, God must have been talking about an Egyptian coin.  Sounds good, but here we have a problem – Egypt wouldn’t establish a coin currency until its Greek colonization2 took place around the 7th century BCE, over 700 years too late.  You see the Greeks were among some of the first societies that used coins, but that didn’t happen until around 600 BCE3, over 800 years after God requested the half shekel.  So it couldn’t be a coin because it wasn’t invented yet.

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Ancient Bracelets

If we look at Exodus 30:24, we see that it states the measures of the ingredients for the holy anointing oil were to be calculated using the Shekel for the Sanctuary.  Therefore, the shekel was considered a weight of measure. The half shekel was a measured piece of silver offered for the temple.  Basically, each Israelite surrendered a piece of silver weighing about 8 ounces or a half a shekel.  The commerce of precious metals was common – it was how things were done back in those days.  Often these metals were fashioned into jewelry as a way of keeping them close at hand and displaying one’s wealth.  Remember that before the Israelites left Egypt they took silver and gold jewelry from the Egyptians (Exodus 11:2, 2:35). At today’s rate of approximately 17 US dollars per ounce, a half shekel (8 grams of silver) is around five dollars4.

 

So why the immediate need for this wealth in the desert? Well, we will find out six chapters later when the sockets of the Tabernacle were made from silver (Exodus 36).  There were 96 silver sockets in all5.  In addition, the supporting rings and hooks were made of silver (Exodus 38:10-119).  In Exodus 38:26-28, God goes into painstaking detail about much silver was gathered and where it was used.

 

God had a purpose for all that silver jewelry that was gathered from the Egyptians.  We also need to remember that before the commission of the Tabernacle, God was specific in directing the Israelites not to make gods of silver (Exodus 20:20).  Maybe taking away their silver and putting it to good use removed their temptation.

half_shekel

For additional insight into this topic, listen to Jeff Gilbert with Talking Torah6  

 

Reference:

1. Frederic Madden, History of Jewish Coinage and of Money in the Old and New Testament, page ii

2. owgego, C. J. Ancient history from coins. Psychology Press. pp. 1–4. ISBN 978-0-415-08993-7. 1995