Fear God?

Fear-Faucet-ft

Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By: William Jackson

The phrase “fearing the Lord” hits a sour note with a lot of people.  Simply said, many folks are turned off by a God that they must fear. Speaking to that, many biblical translators, theologians and religious leaders have also slanted this phrase to create a more approachable Creator.  Yet, if we earnestly explore the text, we need to ask ourselves “what does it truly mean to fear God and what is the benefit to this relationship?”  We will go to the source to answer these questions, the Tanakh.

Many bible interpretations, in their attempt to do PR for God, have substituted the word “fear” for ones that are more pleasing such as “awe” or “reverence”.  Yes, having awe towards God or reverence towards the Lord has a nice ring to it, but let’s study the language. The Hebrew word used for fear in these verses is “yare’ ” (יָרֵא) which can mean fearing, reverent or afraid.  We need to remember that “yare’ “ was the emotion felt by Jacob before meeting Esau (Gen 32:12).  Although Jacob could have been in awe of his brother or might have had reverence towards him, I think it was fear of suffering the consequences for what he had done, that motivated Jacob.

Also, because we are mortals, we have this uncanny need to humanize everything. As an example, God is liken to a righteous Father in some passages of scripture (Deuteronomy 32:6, Isaiah 63:16, 64:7, Malachi 2:10), probably because He offers discipline, love and sustainment like a good Father.  This, however, is a limited comparison.  For instance, let’s look at the Israelites who shuddered in fear of God at the base of Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:16) or even a terrified Isaiah as he took his commission from the Almighty (Isaiah 6). These people were experiencing a bit more than wonder and respect.  In truth, this fear could be a combination of comparative humility, incomprehensibility and guilt.  Although a human Father would be the closest comparison, we need to understand that he doesn’t possess all the facets of the Almighty.

So, for those that fear God, you’re in good company.  The Tanakh depicts many successful people that feared God.  For example, Father Abraham (Genesis 22:12), Joseph (Genesis 42:18), the Hebrew midwives (Exodus 1:17, 21) the choicest Israeli Leaders (Exodus 18:21, Nehemiah 7:2), the good Kings of Israel (Deuteronomy 17:19, 2 Samuel 23:3, 2 Chronicles 26:5) and Israel when it wasn’t sinning (Exodus 20:15,  1 Kings 8:40, 2 Chronicles 6:31).  As we know, these people did enjoy the blessings of this relationship.  Conversely, the Tanakh also sites those that did not fear the Lord; Pharaoh (Exodus 9:30), the Amalekites (Deuteronomy 25:17-19), the wicked (Psalm 36:2), the stubborn (Isaiah 63:17), and simpletons (Proverbs 1:29).  As we can see, the blessings for those fearing God are commensurate to the curses spilled out on those not fearing Him.

So why did they, and why do we, fear God?  The Tanakh gives at least two good reasons; first God commands it (Leviticus 19:14, 32, Deuteronomy 4:10, 6:2, 13, 24, 8:6, 10:12, 1 Samuel 12:24, 2 Chronicles 19:9, Psalm 2:11, 72:5, 96:4, Ecclesiastes 3:14, 12:13, Isaiah 8:13, Daniel 6:27) and second, it is the beginning of wisdom ( Job 28:28, Psalm 25:12, 111:10, Proverbs 1:7, 2:5-6, 9:10,  15:33, Isaiah 11:2, 33:6, Micah 6:9),  But; the list doesn’t stop here, there are at least eight other benefits to fearing God:

  1. Blessings: Exodus 1:21, Deuteronomy 5:26, Psalm 31:20, 34:10, 67:8, 103:13, 111:5, 13
  2. Prosperity: Proverbs 22:4
  3. Long Life: Deuteronomy 6:2, Proverbs 10:27, 22:4, Ecclesiastes 7:17-18, 8:13
  4. Protection: Psalm 33:18, 34:8, 115:11, Proverbs 14:26, 19:23
  5. Rescue: Psalm 145:19
  6. Salvation: Psalm 85:10, 103:17, Isaiah 33:6
  7. Peace: Proverbs 1:33
  8. Afterlife Psalm 61:6, Proverbs 14:27, Malachi 3:16

As for fear, it is only an emotion.  Our true concern should be what does it look like, when we fear the Lord? Scripturally speaking, we are to…

  1. Not commit idolatry: Joshua 24:14
  2. Show charity and compassion: Leviticus 25:17, 36, 43, Deuteronomy 14:23, Nehemiah 5:15
  3. Stay away from evil: Exodus 20:17, Job 1:1, 8, 2:3, Proverbs 8:13, 16:6
  4. Be just: 2 Chronicles 19:7
  5. And most importantly, fearing God will motivate us to follow Torah; Deuteronomy 5:26, 8:6, 13:5, 31:12, 31:13, 1 Samuel 12:14, Psalm 25:14, 112:1, 119:63, 79.

Conclusion:

Simply said, when you fear something, your behavior changes.  Thus, as mentioned, fearing God inspires devotion to His laws.  Additionally, for those that fear God, we are considered His (Malachi 3:16, Psalm 25:14, 61:6, 85:10).  Whereas, by minimizing Him as a threat, we are re-engineer our relationship with the Maker turning Him into a complacent advocate.  Although this may soothe our feelings, it certainly will minimize our own desire for change. We need to remember, God is the Creator, not the created.

Will You Be Ransomed?

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Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By: William J Jackson

There have been written countless books on Near Death Experiences (NDE) giving us thousands of testimonies that there is something beyond our physical lives.  Granted, although many of these stories could be fabricated or even embellished “they’re too numerous and well documented to be dismissed altogether”1.  Topping the list is renown neurosurgeon Doctor Eben Alexander weighs in with his own NDE2. Then we have science which is now proclaiming there is something after this physical realm.  Nonetheless, even though we have credible testimonies and scientific data that supports an existence after our physical deaths the most important word is the one of God, which clearly states there is a life after death (1 Samuel 2:6, 2 Kings 5:7, Isaiah 26:19)4.  When we concede to the idea that there is a realm beyond our mortality another question crops up; “What happens to me in this afterlife?”. Here, while using scripture within the Tanakh (Old Testament), we will plot our continued journey.

 

First Stop:

After we die, all souls go to Sheol (Job 3:11-19, 1 Samuel 2:6, Isaiah 5:14, Psalm 89:49).  This appears to be the weigh station for all who lived in this mortal world.  Unlike the fiery Cristian version of Hell (Matthew 13:50, Mark 9:48 and Revelation 14:10), the Tanakh paints Sheol as a bleak underworld where we live a shadowy existence: Ezekiel 31:14, Isaiah 26:14, Ecclesiastes 9:5,10, 88:11, 115:17, Lamentations 3:55, Daniel 12:2, , Jonah 2:7,  Job 10:21, 22 , 14:10-12, 26:5, Psalm 6:6, 30:10, 88:7,11, 13,115:17.  It’s almost a sleepy actuality where we are in like a comatose state.  Think about when Samuel’s ghost is summonsed in 1 Samuel 28. We can hear his apathy when he answers King Saul “Why have you disturbed me and brought me up?” (1 Samuel 28:15). Although better than the hell Christians conjured5, this depressing underworld hardly seems like a favorable eternally.

The Rescue:

 

King David tells us in Psalms 18:6 that God will not “abandon” him in Sheol.  In later Psalms, he talks of God redeeming and rescuing him from this dark place (Psalm 49:16 and Psalm 86:13). Interesting, Psalms 46 uses the Hebrew word “padah” (פָּדָה) when talking about being redeemd.  This word can also mean being rescued or somebody paying your ransom.  The same word was used when God freed the Israelites from Egypt (Deuteronomy 7:8, 9:26, 13:6, 15:15, 21:8, 24:18, 1 Chronicles 17:21, 2 Samuel 7:23, Micah 6:4, Nehemiah 1:10, Psalm 78:42) and future exiles (Jeremiah 31:10  and Zechariah 10:8). Still, the concept of being ransomed from Sheol might appear to be exclusively King David’s.  But; this understanding of redemption is also reverberated by the Prophets Isaiah (Isaiah 35:10 and 51:11) and Hosea (Hosea 13:14). So begs the next question, “who will be rescued?”.

 

Whom:

 

When a ransom is given, it is given by that person who has personal relationship with the victim. Thus, it stands to reason that that person being redeemed from Sheol, like King David, would be somebody who has a relationship with God, in short, one of His people.  So, who is His people? Yes, we know that Israel is God’s chosen people (Deuteronomy 7:6-8, 14:2, 26:17-19, Isaiah 42:6), who will serve as a light to the nations and a kingdom of Priests. However, we are also aware that there is stipulation for those not born of the tribes to have a part in the covenant (Isaiah 56). The Tanakh clearly states that those that fear God are His people (Psalm 25:14, 145:19, Proverbs 14:26-27).  This fear is stirred by not wanting to suffer the consequences of following His law; Malachi 3:16–18.

 

 

Not making the cut:

 

Ecclesiastes 12:14 tells us “For God will bring to judgment everything we do, including every secret, whether good or bad”.  As for the judgement, it appears to be a time of torment (Daniel 12:2). God also talks about those that will be refined (Isaiah 4:4, Zechariah 13:9, Malachi 3:2-3).  Likewise, it appears as torturous as this process may sound, there are those unworthy of this refinement.  They appear to stay in Sheol (Psalm 9:18, 31:18, 55:16) or end obliterated (Deuteronomy 29:19, Judges 5:31, Psalm 49:15, 37:20, 68:3).

 

Concussion:

 

The first time the word “padah”, which means to redeem, was used in the Torah was during the Exodus.  God redeemed Israel from its tyranny.  In Exodus 13:3 we are commanded to remember when God freed the Israelites from Egypt.  This is done to celebrate the greatness of God, but a secondary reason for this could be that we all have our own individual exodus’.  When looking at the Hebrew word for Egypt it is “Mitzraim” (מצרים). This stems from a Hebraic root which means to bind (shackle or imprison)6.  Most of us spend a lifetime trying to escape the bondage of sin.  Our right relationship with God can redeem us from these vices.  Equally, when we pass from this physical realm, will us not keeping God’s laws prevent our redemption from Sheol.  Remember, not all the Israelites made it into the promise land (Numbers 32:13).

 

 

  1. Lichfield, Gideon. “The Science of Near-Death Experiences.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 23 Nov. 2015. Web. 25 Feb. 2017.

 

  1. “Neurosurgeon Dr. Eben Alexander’s Near-Death Experience Defies Medical Model of Consciousness.” (52-minute recording) Skeptiko – Science at the Tipping Point. N.p., 10 Mar. 2016. Web. 25 Feb. 2017.

 

  1. Dmitry, Baxter, British And German Scientists Prove There Is Life After Death, Yournewswire.com, December 5, 2016. Wed. 25 Feb. 2017.

 

  1. Jackson, William. Studies, Center for Tanakh Based. “Sheol; Life after Death.” Center for Tanakh Based Studies. N.p., 19 July 2015. Web. 25 Feb. 2017.

 

  1. Jackson, William, Studies, Center For Tanakh Based. “The Truth about HELL.” Center for Tanakh Based Studies. N.p., 09 Jan. 2016. Web. 25 Feb. 2017.

 

  1. Levi, Avdiel Ben. “Egypt Means Bondage in Hebrew.” Learn Torah. N.p., 19 Jan. 2015. Web. 25 Feb. 2017.

Is Jesus just another snake on a stick?

numbers-bronze20snake

Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By: William J Jackson

It might interest some people that God did authorize a graven image. Not only that, but Christianity has likened their messiah to this same inanimate object. Although intended to be a method of quelling protests amongst the Israelites, it outlived its practical purpose and became an abomination. Its destruction by a righteous person gave us the practical road map that many of us are following today.

Let’s take you back in time, to about 40 years after the covenant was given at Mount Sinai, to a place where the Israelites defeated the Canaanites at Hormah, which is today located in southern Israel. The Israelites were doing what they had been doing for the last four decades – roaming and complaining. The Torah records them complaining at least twelve times while wandering in the desert; Exodus 15:22, 16:1-4, 17:1-4, 32:28, Numbers 11, 12:1-12, 14:1-10, 10, 16:1-4, 41, 20:1-5 and finally Numbers 211:5-9. As before, the Israelites spoke against God and Moses.  God’s retort was to send poisonous snakes among the people. Realizing that this was a consequence for their behavior, the Israelites went to Moses to rectify the situations. Moses prayed, and God told this Israelite leader something astonishing. He told Moses to make a snake and put it on the end of a pole for the people to look towards. Wait a minute! This is against the second commandment, Exodus 20:4 “You shall not make for yourself a graven image…”  Why would God do this?

It is very simple; this was an act of faith. Obviously, looking on a copper snake could not heal anybody of anything. The idea was that if you believed God could heal you, you would be healed. Additionally, the snake was not an idol; it represented the consequences of their sins: death. In verse nine we see that the snake works and there doesn’t appear to be much else said about it.

Yet, if we fast forward over 700 years we will find in 2 Kings 18 that not only did the Israelites keep the copper snake, but the people began to worship it (V4). Obviously, this was taking it away from its intended purpose. Israel’s new King, Hizkiyahu (Hezekiah), had the snake destroyed along with other pagan idols. For this, and for being faithful to God, God was with King Hizkiyahu (V. 7). So the bronze snake, given by God as a conduit to Him, was destroyed in the end because man began to worship it instead of God. Not only that, but the man who destroyed this idol curried favor with God for doing so.

Now, for those that own a Christian Bible, open up to John 3:14 (just two verses shy of Christianity’s famous 3:16 verse). Here John tells us:

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,”

So, the Christian apostles liken their Jesus to Moses’ copper snake. This would imply, like with the copper snake, that when this symbol becomes worshipped it has become an idol. Thus, those that turn away from it, like King Hizkiyahu, are doing God’s will. Many of us today have spent decades looking towards this Christian copper snake, the whole while denying God the praise that belonged to him. With the boldness of King Hizkiyahu, we removed this idol from our vision so that we could worship the ONE and only God.

Torah Full Throttle: Ths is Torah Portion 14 (Parshat Va’eira)

Join us in presenting “Torah Full Throttle”. This is Torah Portion 14 (Parshat Va’eira). We will cover Moses and Aaron’s dealings with Pharaoh and the beginning of the plagues. Through this discussion we will learn through Moses’ and Israel’s maturing, as well as Pharaoh’s failings .

Torah Tidbits Parshat Va’eira, Pt 6, Exodus 8:19-9:16

Join us for Today’s Torah Tidbits; “bugs, bulls and boils”. We are in the 14th Torah Portion (Parshat Va’eira), 6th reading (Exodus 8:199:16). Bugs and more bugs; the plagues of the gnats segues into the plague of the “biting” insects (Psalm 78:45). We then move onto plagues 5 and 6, the cattle and the boils. Also, God tells Pharaoh the reason he is spared.