Abram (Abraham): The Warrior

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Why God wants us to Remember: Part II “The Present”.

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Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By: William J Jackson

Again and again, in every chapter of the Torah, God tell us to remember (His Sabbath, Exodus 20:8, His Holy Holidays, Exodus 12:14, 13:3, Leviticus 23:24, His Commandments, Numbers 15:40… etc.). So, obviously this is something we must do, but knowing the  “why” can give us the purpose that will inspire us to do it correctly.  In this three part article we have broken this down into a few smalls bits; 1. Remembering to Honor (the Past), 2. Remember to inspire life; (the Present) and 3. Remember for awareness (the Future).  This is our second installment “Part II: Present, Inspire Life”. If you want to get caught up, please read “Why God wants us to Remember: Part I ‘The Past’.

Part II: Present, Inspire Life.

When we remember what God did for us, it helps us to be responsible to the present – the now.  For example, let’s use the following American holidays to make our point: Independence Day, Veterans day and Thanksgiving.  Yes, all three have us honoring the past by remembering, whether it is us reflecting on leaving foreign oppression, or the price of our freedom or even our escape from religious persecution. Additionally, each holiday allows us to value our present by inspiring us to cherish the liberties, freedoms and religious rights that were earned from our past.  Most Americans are even willing to fight for these privileges which are now considered entitlements paid in full.  By reminding all Americans on an annual bases of how these privileges were gained we are more apt to defend them.  Using this same template, this is more than likely why God wanted us to remember His Holidays (Exodus 12:14, 13:3, Leviticus 23:24).

Kvetching (Yiddish for complaining):

grumbling

Remember, griping about our present-day, is a latent way of minimizing our past.  It also invites in the evils of our yesteryears. George Santayana, a 20th century Philosopher and Poet once said “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.  Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the Sinai Desert around the 14th century BCE.  Those Israelites that wandered for 40 years were not in the now, they were begrudgingly in the past.  As we study it out we find that these Israelites complained constantly.  it is recorded at least thirteen times that not only did they complain but they would rather be in Egypt (Exodus 14:11, 12, 17:3, 32:4, 8, Numbers 11:4, 5, 18, 20, 14:2, 3, 4, 21:5), saying things like,

“Didn’t we tell you in Egypt to let us alone…” – Exodus 14:12

“ We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt — it cost us nothing!…” – Numbers 11:5

“…We had the good life in Egypt!” – Numbers 11:18

“And they said to each other, “Let’s appoint a leader and return to Egypt!” – Numbers 14:4

Wow, talk about a disgruntled group.  Conversely, God reminded them at least 22 times that He rescued them from this place of oppression – Egypt (Exodus 12:17, 12:51, 18:8, 10, 20:2, 29:46, Leviticus 11:45, 19:36, 22:33, 23:43, 25:38, 42, 55, 26:13, 45, Numbers 15:41, Deuteronomy 1:27, 5:6, 15,13:6, 20:1, 29:24).  It seems perplexing.  Interestingly, we don’t see Israel wanting to go back to Egypt in Deuteronomy – why?  Because Deuteronomy is a recap of Exodus to Numbers, it is farewell speech to the Israelites going into Egypt.  The Israelites who are Moses’ audience are not the complaining generation the left Egypt.  We know this from Numbers 11:4 where it states;

“…Adonai’s anger blazed against Isra’el, so that he made them wander here and there in the desert forty years, until all the generation that had done evil in the sight of Adonai had died out.”

Only two people of this older generation would make it into the Promised Land – Caleb and Joshua (Numbers 14:38).  Why?, because Caleb and Joshua exemplified themselves by trusting in the Lord, when others wouldn’t (Numbers 14:6–9    ).

It almost seems astonishing that the Israelites would do this, yet people do this all the time.  Think about when someone breaks from a bad habit: food, tobacco, substances, even relationships.  There is that initial stage where people celebrate their freedom, but this is usually followed by a phase where they begin to flirt with their old vice – romanticizing them.  This usually begins there relapse.  Only the strong and faithful, like Caleb and Joshua, ever seem to show success on the first attempt.  Many of us, like the complaining Israelites, stay in the past not truly appreciating the present.  Freedom comes from heeding the past, and through this, valuing the present.

Vengeance:

Conversely, although we should not allow our past to inspire complaining, we should also not allow it to inspire anger.  Remember the past to motivate joy, not to stir up strife.  As Leviticus 19:18 tells us;

“Don’t take vengeance on or bear a grudge against any of your people; rather, love your neighbor as yourself; I am ADONAI.”

Israelites were instructed not to live with the idea of vengeance.  Let us also look at Exodus 23:4-5 where it says,

“If you come upon your enemy’s ox or donkey straying, you must return it to him. If you see the donkey which belongs to someone who hates you lying down helpless under its load, you are not to pass him by but to go and help him free it.

donkey

God demands the pious behavior of not carrying a grudge.  Likewise, as Proverbs informs us, we are not called to trust those that have betrayed us (Proverbs 8:12, 14:15, 22:3).

Conclusion:

So, correctly remembering God should cause us to value the present.  If this was placed on a scale it would look like this; not appreciating God enough would be to the far left of the scale and would equal complaining.  Conversely, if we allow our past to inspires negative thoughts like revenge or a grudge, we are to far to the right of our scale.  Thus valuing our past in a right way will bring joy to our present.  This shows an appreciation to God and puts us at a healthy center point to our scale.  Likewise, we should value today enough to defend it against the evils of our past.  As we see written on the wall above the eternal flame in the Hall of Remembrance of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum;

“Only guard yourself and guard your soul carefully, lest you forget the things your eyes saw and lest these things depart your heart all the days of your life. And you shall make them known to your children and to your children’s children” (Deuteronomy 4:9).

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Eighth Day of Sukkot.

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We sometimes look at Sukkot like it is a week long, but we have a bonus day.  As Leviticus 23:36 tells us “36 For seven days you are to bring an offering made by fire to Adonai; on the eighth day you are to have a holy convocation and bring an offering made by fire to Adonai ; it is a day of public assembly; do not do any kind of ordinary work.”  The eighth day appears to not only demand a public assembly, but also requires no one to work, like an ordinary Sabbath (Numbers 29:35).  In certain circles, this eighth day is called “Shemini Atzeret”.

So what is so unique about this eighth day?

Defaulting to the article The Mystery of Shemini Atzeret — the “Eighth Day” the author brings up some interesting points about the meaning of the number “Eight”

            The very name of this festival, “Shemini Atzeret,” literally means “The Eighth Assembly.” It is the final holy day of God’s Holy Day Plan. However, there is great significance in the number “eight” itself!

W. Bullinger, in his book Number in Scripture, explains about the meaning and symbolism of numbers, including the number “eight.” He declares:

“In Hebrew the number eight is Sh’moneh, from the root Shah’meyn, ‘to make fat,’ ‘cover with fat,’ ‘to super-abound.’ As a participle it means ‘one who abounds in strength,’ etc. As a noun it is ‘super-abundant fertility,’ ‘oil,’ etc. So that as a numeral it is the super-abundant number. As seven was so called because the seventh day was the day of completion and rest, so eight, as the eighth day, was over and above this perfect completion, and was indeed the FIRST of a new series, as well as being the eighth. Thus it already represents two numbers in one, the  first and eighth” (p.196).

Even as “seven” is God’s number of perfection, or completion (as the Sabbath is the seventh day of the week, which completes and perfects the week), so “eight” is the same as the first day of the NEXT week, but counting from the days of the previous week. Thus it represents clearly “A NEW BEGINNING.”

Conclusion:

Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, takes place right before Sukkot.  After passing through the anguish of this humbling Holiday (repenting and sacrificing), one should feel like they have eliminated the old man, the man of this world.  Then we step into the vulnerability of Sukkot.  Here, we build feeble shelters trusting in the Lord, both an actual and metaphoric experience.  Finally, the eighth day, the celebration of a “New Beginning”.  In some ways this experience can be seen as a rebirth. So, for those of you that have gone through this process …
“Happy New Beginning!”  

The Tanakh Take on Divorce.

wedding

Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By: William J Jackson

Those of us that left the church, to move closer to Torah, are still hampered by our old Christian ways.  Divorce is one of the many hot button topics that comes into view.  We know what the NT (New Testament) says, but where does it differ with the Tanakh (Old Testament) or does it? Let us look at the whole Tanakh as we determine a plumbline for consequence of a failed marriage.

Our first clue that the NT differs from His written Word is when the Christian messiah tries to rewrite Deuteronomy.  In Deuteronomy 24:12 Moses states that if a husband wants, he can have a divorce.  So, about 1,500 years later, JC comes on the scene and recants Torah by saying “It was said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a get.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of fornication, makes her an adulteress; and that anyone who marries a divorcee commits adultery.” -Matthew 5:31-32 (also Mark 10:11-12). “Wow!” talking about flipping the script.  I guess the man from Nazareth wasn’t at yeshiva the day the taught “to not add or take away from God’s word” (Deuteronomy 4:2, 13:1, Proverbs 30:6). Some say that Moses was the one that introduced divorces because the requirements are first mentioned in Deuteronomy. Remember Deuteronomy is Moses’ farewell speech to the Israelites before they enter the Promised Land.  The problem with this theory is that divorce was mentioned about 40 years earlier in Leviticus 21.

If you really think about it, getting a divorce just for adultery doesn’t pass the common sense test.  What about people that are in abusive relationships, how about spouses that will not break from dangerous behaviors (crime, drugs, alcohol, …etc,) … and the list goes on.  So a God fearing person needs to cohabitate with this poison spouse and expose this toxic demeanor to the family, simply because they are monogamous?  Remember King Solomon said “For the prudent, the path of life goes upward…”, staying in one of these disasters relationships would not make someone very prudent.  These tragic relationships aside, yes, sometimes couples grow apart and the relationship is not good for either person, should they be condemned to a life of marriage?

Arguing the other side of the coin, although I don’t think adultery is the only grounds for divorce, I do think divorce is a last alternative after truly working on issues and counseling. In Jeremiah 3:8 God threatens to divorce Israel for her adulteries ways, but He doesn’t.  God will always remember the covenant (Deuteronomy 4:31 , Ezekiel 16:60,  Psalm 105:8).  Also, even though God did allow divorce, He is quick to state he hates it (Malachi 2:16).  I think when we think about marriage we need to remember we took a vow and when it comes to vows, God takes them very seriously (Numbers 30:3, Ecclesiastes 5:5, Psalm 76:12).  Even though a wedding vow is not directly to God, it should be taking serious enough to do all things before the marriage is terminated.

When studying out people of faith we have these divorce statistics (1):

  • Mormon -6% men / -7% women
  • Catholic 28%
  • Jewish 30%
  • Muslim 31%
  • Protestant 34%

I hope this doesn’t cause you to run to the Mormon church to save your marriage.  But, in all seriousness, as disturbing as these figures are, the current National divorce rate is between 40% to 50%. This would imply that those person who have a faith walk have a better than 10% to 20% chance of not being divorced.  Still a 1/3rd divorce rate should make anyone cautious.  Torah demands certain mandates from us when dealing with other people, do we do these for our spouse, that one person  we should most care about?  Many of us are guilty for treating acquaintances and strangers better than our own family.  I laid out 8 Mitzvots (Commandments) from Mamandeses list of 613 (2).  These are all biblically sound and commandments given by God.  Do we do these things in our own marriage?

  1. Not to wrong anyone in speech; Lev. 25:17
  2. Don’t slander or gossip; Lev. 19:16
  3. Not to cherish hatred in one’s heart; Lev. 19:17
  4. Not to take revenge; Lev. 19:18
  5. Not to bear a grudge; Lev. 19:18
  6. Not to put to shame; Lev. 19:17
  7. Do not commit adultery; Exodus 20:14, Deuteronomy 5:18
  8. To emulate God’s ways–Deuteronomy 28:9

Yes, God did allow for a “no-fault” divorce, but before divorce becomes an option we need to look at our relationship with our spouse through the lens of Torah.  Likewise, it does take two people for success.  If one person is doing all the heavy lifting, they will get injured before making things better.  In writing this article I must say I am an advocate for staying married and working your issues out.  I could not image my life without my beautiful wife Danielle.  We are active in honing our skill set through marriage seminars, workshops and reading related literature.  When it gets that bad, never be too proud to bring your problems to a licensed counselor. Don’t let money be an excuse “Give an Hour” has free licensed counselors.

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Proverbs 14:23

References:

  1. Jones, Audrey M. “Divorce Statistics by Religion.” LoveToKnow. Accessed August 24, 2017.
  2. Maimon, Moshe Ben, Rabbi. “A List of the 613 Mitzvot (Commandments) .” Judaism 101: A List of the 613 Mitzvot (Commandments). Accessed August 24, 2017.

Christian Discrepancies With God’s Word: #7 Only Jesus went to Heaven

The disciples watch as Jesus ascends into heaven Acts 1:9

Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By: William J Jackson

The New Testament gives us Peter’s testimony that the Christian messiah, Jesus, was taken to heaven (Acts 1:9-11). The gospel of John takes it a step further and tells us “ No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man” (John 3:13). So, Christianity makes the claim that, up to this point, Jesus is the only one that has gone to heaven.  Yet, when we read the Tanakh (Old Testament), we have a different story.  In 2 Kings 2:1-17 we see the prophets Elisha and Elijah walking together when a fiery chariot pulled up.  As 2 Kings 2:11 states “…Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind”. Ok, maybe John overlooked this one, but wait, there is another.  Earlier, as we read Genesis 5, we see that Enoch pleased God so much that God had taken him (Genesis 5:24).  The Christians couldn’t have overlooked this because it is repeated and their testament (Hebrews 11:5).

Nonetheless, there could be more qualifiers to make the Christian claim congruent.  For example, the NLT (New Living Translation) presents an additional criteria:

No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven (John 3:13) NLT.

“Aha!”, in this interpretation John 3:13 tells us that Jesus is the first to go to heaven “and” return.  Interestingly, the NLT is the only translation that adds the component of also returning.  However, the problem with this is that God tells us in Malachi 3:23 (4:5) “…I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord”. So Elijah was both taken up to heaven and prophesized to return.  Likewise, this was written four centuries before John made his declaration.  So this recorded mistake in the New Testament is nothing more than a falsehood.

Moses warns us in Deuteronomy 18 that there will be false prophets.  In verse 22 he states,

“If the prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, and the thing does not occur and does not come about, that is the thing the Lord did not speak. The prophet has spoken it wantonly; you shall not be afraid of him.”

What John says cannot occur, because he is telling us that Jesus was the only person brought to heaven.  Likewise, if we look at other translations, Jesus is not the only one prophesied to return.  One would have to throw out both the Torah and the book of the prophets to allow John 3:13 to fit.  Deuteronomy 18:20 warns us “… if a prophet presumptuously speaks a word in my name which I didn’t order him to say, or if he speaks in the name of other gods, then that prophet must die.” Contradicting God’s Word and speaking it as if it was in His name would apply to this verse.  Killing the prophet was not vengeful.  It would have been a way for the Israelite people to have prevented the slander of God’s Word.  This slander could have and has given birth to a new religions.  In short, we need to follow the one and only God and His statutes, not three and their new covenant.