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Ruminations

Rumination #1: Is a literal reading of the creation account really that important?

For the past 150 years, people have sought to reconcile the Genesis account of creation with scientific theory. Many have bought into the "scientific" view that the all life sprang from a single source apart from G-d. To support that view, it is believed, requires a vast amount of time. The millions of years of evolution are proclaimed as fact in virtually every textbook in the world.

Does a follower of the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob need to take the Genesis account literally? Can't it simply be a matter semantics? Beloved, it is not that simple. You see, the Scriptures record the beginning for us for a reason - and maybe the evolutionist understands why better than anyone. We are given the account of creation so that we may know by Whom we came to be and how our rebellion against Him began. And that is why evolution will never adequately explain the origins of life. In the neat little package of evolution, there is no mention of the origins of sin. Sickness, suffering, and dying are simply necessary pieces of the picture of life. What a sick perspective!

Suffering and dying are not a part of life. They are the anti-thesis of life. Our G-d revealed Himself to us in the Genesis account so that we might know that there is more, far more!

Evolution demands millions of years of death. HaShem speaks very clearly: Death began after the sin of one man. Likewise, death is defeated by the death of One Righteous Man.

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned...For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the One Man Yeshua the Messiah.
Romans 5:12; 17

To deny the literal creation account, is to deny the origins of sin and subsequent death. To deny the origins of sin and death is to deny that there is a Holy G-d Who made a way for mankind to return to Him. Beloved, that is the goal of the evolutionist.

Yes, the creation account does matter. Nothing exists without the One Who Spoke.

The Annual Reading Cycle

One of the most satisfying traditions of the faith of the Bible is the annual reading schedule. It is a tradition that has all Israel reading the same verses of Scripture each week. It is a very ancient tradition that dates back to the days of Ezra and Nehemiah.

Our family has read the weekly Scripture portion for years. Each year we see more, and apply more. It is a family-building and community-building experience. It is one that all believers should embrace. It was the custom of our Master to go to the synagogue. In that custom, He also embraced and used the weekly readings (Luke 4:15-21).

Because this tradition predates the numbering of Scripture portions by chapter and verse, the passages are determined chronologically and called "parashot" (parasha, or parashat is the singular). A passage is also known as a "sidra."

In addition to reading the prescribed chronological sections from the Torah, there are "haftarah" readings from the Prophets. While the Torah readings are chronological, and are named for a word or phrase in the first or second verse, the haftarah readings are either thematically linked to the Torah reading, or are linked to events on the biblical calendar.

Those who are disciples of Messiah Yeshua often read accompanying readings from the Apostolic Scriptures as well, either chronologically, or thematically. There is evidence that the first disciples of Yeshua used the Gospels in such a liturgical way.

In our eNews, we will include commentary on the Torah, the Prophets, and provide a prayer focus from the Siddur [ancient Jewish prayer book]. We will attempt, b'ezrat HaShem [in G-d's strength], to provide these commentaries at the beginning of the week that is read on the Seventh Day, the Shabbat.

Parashat Bereshit - 'In the beginning' (Genesis 1:1-6:8)

Why does the Torah not begin with the greatest commandment, to love HaShem (Deuteronomy 6:5)? So many think that the Torah is a book of "Law" - and if it was, it might have begun with this preeminent command. But it does not. Instead the Torah, and this week's portion begins with this:

Bereshit bara Elokim et ha-shamayim v'et ha'arets...
In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth...

All in all, we don't get to our first "law" until Exodus 16. So, is the Torah a book of "Law" or not? Beloved, the Torah is not "Law" - it is the self-revelation of the Holy One, blessed is He. So it is fitting that the first two chapters are solely about how the Sovereign King of the Universe went about His work of creating. It is all about Him and His acts of love.

This week as you read the parasha, notice the way that HaShem is proactive in creation. These verses reveal a G-d Who not only created, but is active in creation.

Often lost in the arguments over the beginning (evolution, intelligent design creation) is this single fact: G-d's creative work reveals His persistent presence in the events of the universe. And this is the main reason why all but the "biblical creation" positions exist - to refute that fact. All of the various theories are trying to discount that G-d not only cares about the affairs of men, but He is actively engaged in ordering events. Notice this reminder:

So the evening and the morning were the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day G-d ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then G-d blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which G-d had created and made. This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that HaShem G-d made the earth and the heavens.
Genesis 1:31b - 2:4

The Erev Shabbat Kiddush prayer (evening of Shabbat family service) recites these verses.

Vayehi erev, vayehi voker, yom hashishi.
Vayechulu hashama'yim v'ha'aretz v'chol tzeva'am.
Vayechal Elohim ba'yom hash'vi'i melach'to asher asa;
Vayishbot ba'yom hash'vi'i mikol m'lachto asher asa.
Vayevarech Elohim et yom ha'shvi'i vayekadesh oto,
Ki vo shavat mikol melach'to
Asher bara Elohim la'asot.
Genesis 1:31b - 2:4

This prayer is recited by the man of the home in families around the world, each Friday evening. It is G-d's intimate involvement in the creation; and the instituting of His Shabbat that reminds us who we are in Him. It reminds us of the beginning. Each week, we pause to remember the work of the beginning. It is the work of the Almighty alone. It is a picture of grace. In it, we are reminded of His intimate care for us; and we are reminded of His love for us, His creation.

The Kiddush continues:

Baruch Atah HaShem, Elokeinu Melech ha olam,
Blessed art Thou, HaShem our G-d, King of the Universe

Asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'ratza vanu,
Who has sanctified us with His commandments, and favored us;

V'shabat kod'sho b'ahava uv'ratzon hinchilanu,
and His holy Shabbat, with love and with favor He gave us as a heritage,

Zikaron l'ma'asei v'reisheet.
a remembrance of the work of the beginning.

(Note: "HaShem" and "Elokeinu" are circumlocutions for the Name and title of the Almighty - used in reverence for Him).

This is the weekly call - a reminder of our G-d Who created us, and loves us. It is the call that reminds us that we have been invited to participate in the work of the Almighty - in service to His throne.

This week's portion also details why we are often so ineffective in our worship of Him - namely because of our sin. Our sin, like the sin of our ancestors Adam and Chava [Eve], separates us from Him. And yet, like the animal that provided the skins to cover our ancestors in Gan Eden [Garden of Eden], Messiah Yeshua has provided an atonement for us and for our sin. So that our deeds can (and will) be righteous before Him.

The work of the beginning reminds us that we are His instruments in bringing light into a dark world. His words remind us that we have been called to join the Almighty in His creative acts - by obeying His commandments, we display His righteousness to all creation. He created us for that purpose.

For we are His workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good deeds, which G-d prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:10

As you begin your Shabbat this week, reflect upon the relationship between the creation of b'reshit [in the beginning] and the Seventh Day, Shabbat.

Haftarat Bereshit  'In the beginning' (Isaiah 42:5-43:10)

In this week's Torah portion, we are introduced to the Creator of Heaven and Earth. We see creation, beginning with the creation of light, by just a word from the Creator. Soon after man is created, we see his quick fall into rebellion against HaShem. Immediately after man's sin we see HaShem promise a "Seed" and a way to redeem man from his fallen state. This promise is given while man is being driven from the place of rest, the Garden, into a fallen world. Then we see men quickly descend into absolute wickedness; and HaShem's grieving.

HaShem. Light. Creation. Man. Sin. Promise. Wickedness. Redemption. These are words and concepts of Parashat B'reshit. As you read this week's Torah portion, and then read this week's haftarah from Isaiah, watch for those words and ideas. Our haftarah reading is from Yeshayahu: the Book of Isaiah. "Yeshayahu" means, "HaShem saves."

Isaiah 42:5 begins with a clear reference to Genesis 1 and 2. He is the One Who spoke, He is the One speaking in this passage,

Thus says G-d HaShem,
Who created the heavens and stretched them out,
Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it,
Who gives breath to the people on it,
And spirit to those who walk on it:
Isaiah 42:5

He is the Creator Who spoke. As Creator, it is our duty to Him to sh'ma - to listen and obey. Listen to what the Holy One, blessed is He, says:

I, HaShem, have called you in righteousness, and will hold your hand; I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house. I am HaShem, that is My Name; and My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to carved images.
Isaiah 42:6-8

Who is the "you" that He is speaking of? What is the blindness, the prison, and the darkness? What is the covenant, and the light to the Gentiles. Your Bible may have the "you" spelled with a capital letter, "You." The translators are making an interpretation for you - they are assuming that the "you" is Messiah. I heartily agree, but I think making it "You" obscures an equally important truth: the "you" is also Israel. If you follow that thread through the rest of the portion you can see it. Israel, in her ideal state is represented by Messiah. You will always find Messiah in the midst of Israel. Whether it is at the entrance and victory in the Land with Joshua and Israel, or in exile in Babylon. Messiah is with Israel in her study halls and synagogues, and He was with her as she went into the Nazi ovens. Isaiah 53 shows us the Suffering Servant, Messiah... and also Israel who has been despised and rejected by those nations opposed to G-d's plan of redemption throughout the ages.

Many men, blinded by their own sin have pointed the finger at Israel and accused them of disobeying G-d, and accused G-d Himself of worse: abandoning His chosen people taken to Himself by promise and His own Name. Yes, Israel and Messiah have suffering in common, but do not misunderstand the suffering of Israel.

HaShem is well pleased for His righteousness' sake; He will exalt the Torah and make it honorable. But this is a people robbed and plundered; all of them are snared in holes, and they are hidden in prison houses; they are for prey, and no one delivers; for plunder, and no one says, "Restore!"

Who among you will give ear to this? Who will listen and hear for the time to come? Who gave Jacob for plunder, and Israel to the robbers? Was it HaShem, He against whom we have sinned? For they would not walk in His ways, nor were they obedient to His Torah.
Isaiah 42:21-24

Yes, Israel has suffered because of her sin. Although Messiah did not suffer for His own sin, it was indeed sin that brought that suffering. And what sin did Messiah suffer for? What sin did Israel suffer for? It is always the same: disobeying the words of the Almighty. It was true in the Garden - and it will always be true. Let me say it clearly, beloved: When the chosen ones of the Creator disobey Him, He brings them back through suffering. From the moment of being expelled from the Garden this has been true. What does Isaiah 42 declare to be the sin of Israel? No, it was not some perverted "Christ-killer" curse for which so many supposed followers of Messiah have persecuted Israel. The sin of Israel was quite simply the sin of the Garden: they disobeyed the instructions of HaShem. Simple. "For they would not walk in His ways, nor were they obedient to His Torah." (Isaiah 42:24)

Some very confused theologians have twisted the Scriptures to say the opposite. They have made it as though Israel's sin was in "keeping the "Law" - and in so doing these supposed theologians have elevated themselves above Israel in some sort of self-righteous anti-legalism which they mistakenly call "grace." In so doing, they ignore the very words of the first disciples of our blessed Master Yeshua. Indeed, they deny the very words of Messiah Himself. Israel's sin was not in keeping the Law - her sin was the same as sin always has been: disobeying the words of the Almighty.

Yeshua said, "Did not Moses give you the Torah, yet none of you keeps the Torah?"
John 7:19a

Stephen said, "Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, who have received the Torah by the direction of angels and have not kept it."
Acts 7:52-53

Romans 6:1 tells us that grace is not an abolishment of HaShem's instructions, but rather the enablementto live faithfully. Without G-d's "Law" there is no such thing as G-d's grace. People ignore the grace of G-d when they believe His instructions are not for them. It started with Eve, and will continue until death is cast forever into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 19:14). G-d's words of instruction are never bad, they are always good. They are evidence of His love and grace toward us. Our response to His gracious instructions, to His Torah should be the response of love. Yeshua taught us that the loving response to G-d is obedience. In John chapters 14 and 15, Yeshua repeatedly makes the connection between our love for Him and obedience to the commands of HaShem.

"If you love Me, keep My commandments." John 14:15

The story of Israel's suffering in Isaiah 42 is incomplete. There is more to it. Whenever it looks like HaShem has given up on Israel, keep reading. Just like the awful story of Genesis 3 - the fall of man, and banishment from the Presence of the Almighty - so too, we see in this week's haftarah a story that is incomplete if we stop with the suffering of Israel. The account continues in Isaiah 43. There we see that there is a purpose and a plan. G-d has not only not abandoned Israel, He is using Israel to bring light to the Gentiles. Once again, it is the Creator speaking,

But now, thus says HaShem, Who created you, O Jacob, and He Who formed you, O Israel:

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am HaShem your G-d, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I gave Egypt for your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in your place. Since you were precious in My sight, you have been honored, and I have loved you; therefore I will give men for you, and people for your life.

Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your descendants from the east, and gather you from the west; I will say to the north, 'Give them up!' And to the south, 'Do not keep them back!' Bring My sons from afar, and My daughters from the ends of the earth - Everyone who is called by My Name, whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him." Bring out the blind people who have eyes, and the deaf who have ears.

Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled. who among them can declare this, and show us former things? Let them bring out their witnesses, that they may be justified; or let them hear and say, 'It is truth.' 'You are My witnesses,' says HaShem, 'And My servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no G-d formed, nor shall there be after Me."
Isaiah 43:1-10

If we could peek into the Garden in Genesis 3 and see the terror in Adam and Eve's eyes; if we could hear the grief in the voice of the Holy One, blessed is He, as He questioned them; if we could see the man and woman driven from the bliss of the eternal Presence of HaShem - then maybe we could better see the correlation to Israel's suffering throughout the ages. Beloved, if we stopped there, we would despair.

You see, if G-d has cast off Israel for her sin, then no man or woman has a hope to return to the Presence of the Almighty. If Israel has been cast off from the Almighty, then everyone is forever banished from the Garden. Praised be HaShem, that through His Righteous Messiah there is a hope, there is redemption. But remember this one truth beloved, without Israel - there is no redemption. There is no hope. Yeshua said, "Salvation is of the Jews." (John 4:22) There will be eternal shame upon those who, thinking to justify themselves, have damned Israel. Romans 11:21-22 makes it quite clear.

The Creator of Heaven and Earth has spoken. Light was and is. The world came into being. He spoke and man disobeyed His words. That disobedience banished us from HaShem's Presence. Through Messiah's work have access to Him. Have you taken upon yourself the yoke of the Kingdom of Messiah?

Sh'ma. Hear and Obey.

Prayer Focus for Bereshit  'Baruch She'amar' [Blessed Is He Who Spoke]

Blessed is He Who spoke, and the world came into being -
Blessed is He.
Blessed is He Who maintains creation;
Blessed is He Who speaks and does;
Blessed is He Who decrees and fulfills;
Blessed is He Who has mercy on the earth;
Blessed is He Who has mercy on the creatures;
Blessed is He Who gives goodly reward to those who fear Him;
Blessed is He Who lives forever and endures to eternity;
Blessed is He Who redeems and rescues - blessed is His Name!
Blessed are You, HaShem, our G-d, King of the universe, the G-d, the merciful Father, Who is lauded by the mouth of His people,
Praised and glorified by the tongue of His devout ones and His servants and through the psalms of David Your servant.
We shall exalt You, praise You, glorify You, mention Your Name,
and proclaim Your reign, our King, our G-d.
O Unique One, Life-giver of the worlds,
King Whose great Name is eternally praised and glorified.
Blessed are You, HaShem, the King Who is lauded with praises.
Amen.

-- Artscroll translation

G-d has two roles that are most often mentioned in Scripture: Creator, and Redeemer or Savior. Being Creator is a focus upon His sovereignty. He is King, and we, His creation, are His subjects. Truly acknowledging Him as Creator is the first step in coming under His rule for our lives. It is why so many of the commands of Scripture are prefaced around His Kingship and the fact that He is Creator. No wonder in modern times the Enemy of HaShem wants man to forget that HaShem is the Creator.

Understanding that the Creator is King reminds us that His creation is His Kingdom. Often, the phrase, "Kingdom of Heaven" has been misunderstood and misapplied. Yes, there is a coming Kingdom in which Messiah will reign on earth, but Yeshua made it clear that the Kingdom has already come in the hearts of those who will bow the knee to the Creator. We acknowledge His sovereignty not by simple acclamation of some creed. We acknowledge it by accepting the decrees of our King, our Creator and living by them. We accept them gladly. We accept them with joy. We accept them all.

The shacharit [morning] prayers begin with the acclamation of Baruch She'amar [Blessed Is He Who Spoke]. He is Creator. He is King. We did not heed His voice in the Garden (after all, it seemed to be a minor command - about what not to eat!) - but by His grace we will heed it now. We will obey Him because He is worthy of such love and devotion from all His creation.

He spoke. It came into being. He speaks. We should obey. Like Israel, when we read His words, and through them hear His voice, we should respond,

"All that HaShem has spoken, we will do." Exodus 19:8b

Speak L-rd, Your servants hear.

Bereans Online eNews

Standing in Prayer with all Israel,

Rick Spurlock
Bereans Online
www.bereansonline.org

B"H