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Ruminations

Rumination #35: If there is One King, how can there be two standards, or two laws?

There are teachers say that the Torah is abolished. They have played games with the Scriptures and created elaborate theologies to distinguish between "moral law, civil law, and ritual law." They do this for one reason: to separate Jew and Gentile (aka "Christian"). This 1,900 year old heresy uses "dispensations" or "covenants" as theological methods to make it quite clear that the followers of "Jesus" are not to be confused with Jews. Yes, it all boils down to just that.

There are teachers that say that the Torah is abolished for Gentiles. They use new language and phrases such as, "inviting" but not "obligating" but the outcome is the same: separating Jew and Gentile. There is not a fine line between distinguishing family ethnicity and separating believers. It is clear that those who promote more than one standard of righteousness are not merely distinguishing between Jew and Gentile, they are separating them. May that never be. If we have One King, and if we are truly One People, we cannot have different rights and obligations under our One King's reign. There is only One Torah and it applies to all the citizens of Messiah's Kingdom equally. It is as the Almighty always intended, but is repeatedly denied by men.

One ordinance [chokah] shall be for you of the assembly and for the stranger who dwells with you, an ordinance forever [chokat olam] throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the stranger be before HaShem. One Law [Torah] and one custom [misphat] shall be for you and for the stranger who dwells with you.
Numbers 15:15-16

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens [sompolites = "of the same city/country"] with the saints and members of the household of G-d... ...the mystery of Messiah... That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Messiah by the gospel.
Ephesians 2:19; 3:4b; 3:6

If there is One King, how can there be two standards, or two laws? There cannot be. If Jew and Gentile are made fellow citizens, it means that they have One King, they have One Law, and they are One People.

Please note: at Bereans Online, we have only one obligation: to teach the truth. We are not trying to win the approval of anyone except the Almighty Himself. All of our materials are distributed without charge, so we have no division of loyalties or financial concerns that affect our teaching. We will always teach a single way of salvation, and a single way of walking out a righteous life. When faced with theologies or word-games that are designed to separate between Jew and Gentile, we will act like our namesakes, and simply go back to the Scriptures. We may stand alone, but we will not abandon this moral high ground. Go to www.bereansonline.org/outlines/dit.htm for more reading on the subject.

Parashat Sh'lach - 'Send' (Numbers 13:1-15:41)

This week's Scripture portion is named for a word in the second verse.

sh'lach-l'cha anashim v'yaturu et-eretz k'na'an a.sher-ani noten livnei Yisra'el ish echad ish echad l'mate avotav tishlachu kol nasi vahem:

Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites; from each of their ancestral tribes you shall send a man, every one a leader among them.
Numbers 13:2

This portion starts with the sending of the spies into the Promised Land. A distinguished man was chosen from each of the twelve tribes (but not Levi, since Levi was not to have an inheritance in the Land). They were being sent as representatives of the people, to give a good report regarding the Land that was promised to them. It was time for the descendants of Abraham to begin preparation for taking possession of their inheritance.

There are many exhortations and admonitions for us today within this account. It is acknowledged as an account of what to do (Calev and Joshua) and what not to do (the ten unfaithful spies). We will deal with the sin of the spies as we approach 17 Tammuz next month, which begins the twenty-one day time "between the troubles." The twenty-one day period ends with the sin of the bad report (9 Av). This week, as you study this portion, I want you to think about something else though. I want you to look for insights into sh'lach [send]. Let me give you some to get you started.

In the Septuagint, the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, "send" [sh'lach] is the Greek word aposteilon. That looks familiar, doesn't it? It is where we get the word "apostle" from. "Apostles" are sent ones, or sh'lachim. In Matthew 10, we see that the twelve disciples were called "apostles" when Yeshua sent them out to the "lost sheep of Israel."

And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease. Now the names of the twelve apostles[apostolon] are these...  these twelve Jesus sent[apesteilen] out and commanded them...
Matthew 10:1-2; 5a

There is something in this week's portion about twelve "sh'lachim" [sent ones, apostles]. Granted, ten of them proved to be unfaithful and gave a bad report. But consider two of these sh'lachim: Joshua and Calev [Caleb]. Joshua was sent as a representative for the tribe of Ephraim. Joshua was an Ephraimite. Calev was sent as a representative for the tribe of Judah. Calev was a Gentile.

What? A Gentile represented the celebrated tribe of Judah? Yes, beloved, Calev was "from the tribe of Judah" as Numbers 13:6 tells us - but he was not born into the tribe of Judah. He was born a Kenezzite, a descendant of Esau's grandson (Joshua 14:6). This is quite an inconvenience for many. Most commentators explain this away, in much the same way that they translate the word ger [sojourner, non-Israelite] to "proselyte" in English versions. That may explain how Calev got such a rude name: "Calev" means "dog." But to the Almighty, Calev was not a pagan cut off from the Covenants of Promise.

Coming from the scouting out the Land with a good report of G-d's faithfulness, were two spies: a "Jew" named Joshua from the tribe of Ephraim, and a Gentile named Calev, representing the tribe of Judah.

I am taken by this picture that shows Gentiles grafted into Israel. How is it that Calev, the Gentile, is seen as a faithful part of Israel? How is it that Rachav [Rahab], and Ruth were seen as faithful members of Israel? Were they all "proselytes" who went through a conversion ritual? No beloved. In the case of Calev, it was because, "... he wholly followed HaShem..." (Deuteronomy 1:36).

So is it by accident that right after introducing us to Calev that we read instructions about how a ger [non-native born "sojourner"] should bring a korban olah [elevation offering]?

When you have come into the land you are to inhabit, which I am giving to you, and you make an offering by fire to HaShem, a burnt offering or a sacrifice...

All who are native-born shall do these things in this manner, in presenting an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to HaShem. And if a stranger [ger] dwells with you, or whoever is among you throughout your generations, and would present an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to HaShem, just as you do, so shall he do. One ordinance shall be for you of the assembly and for the stranger who dwells with you, an ordinance forever throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the stranger be before HaShem. One Torah and one custom shall be for you and for the stranger [ger] who dwells with you.'"
Numbers 15:2b-3a; 13-16

Could Calev the Gentile participate in the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Yes indeed. He was numbered with the tribe of Judah. He was not "Jewish" but His G-d was the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He was not "Jewish" but Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were his "fathers." Calev was grafted in. So how does this work? How do those who have no lineage to Abraham get to claim him as an ancestor? Who gets to act as "gatekeeper" to these party crashers, the Gentiles? And why would a Gentile want to join Israel anyway? Beloved, it is the plan of the ages - the plan of redemption. Not just the redemption of G-d's chosen, Israel - but of all nations.

Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as HaShem my G-d commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.' "For what great nation is there that has G-d so near to it, as  HaShem our G-d is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him? And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this Torah which I set before you this day?
Deuteronomy 4:5-9

Beloved, Israel was to live in such a way as to draw the nations to her, and to the Almighty Himself. Israel was always supposed to be a light to the Gentiles.

Throughout Israel's history, there were men and women like Calev, Rachav, and Ruth who were drawn to the Almighty by the testimony of the faithful of Israel. And it seems that the more Israel obeyed the commandments of G-d, the more Gentiles came to learn of the G-d of Jacob. So much so, that by the time after the Babylonian captivity there had to be some way to deal with so many Gentiles. It seemed out of control. Some might have reasoned that an unclean and ignorant Gentile might wander into the Temple precincts in a ritually unclean state!

Hence, the traditions surrounding the "Gentile problem" were formalized - in direct contradiction to the instructions in this week's Torah portion:

No wonder Peter had to have a dream in order to accept the Gentiles as fellow believers (Acts 10). Now maybe you can see why it makes some very uncomfortable for Calev to be a Gentile. Beloved, these verses should make them equally uncomfortable:

One ordinance shall be for you of the assembly and for the stranger [ger] who dwells with you, an ordinance forever throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the stranger be before HaShem. One Torah and one custom shall be for you and for the stranger [ger] who dwells with you.'"
Numbers 15:15-16

Beloved, those are the words of the Almighty, and yet in the Second Temple, there was a middle wall of partition in the Temple. Gentiles could go no further to worship the G-d of Israel, at the threat of death. Gentiles were drawn to the Almighty by the testimony of Israel, and yet forbidden to draw near. The only way for a Gentile to fully worship the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was to undergo a ritual conversion to become a Jew. It was called "circumcision" but that is merely shorthand for the entire process which was:

This ritual of making a Gentile "into a Jew," is what is being spoken of in Acts 15:1.

Coming up out of the mikveh [immersion pool], the "proselyte" was considered an "Israelite in every way." As a member of Israel, he was considered "saved" and had a share in the World to Come.

Calev didn't join the club that way. Ruth didn't. Rachav didn't. They attached themselves to the G-d of Israel, and thereby became grafted into Israel. Not born by water, it was the Spirit of the Living G-d that gave them a new birth as "Israelites indeed." (John 3:1-17)

To understand what Paul speaks of as the "middle wall of separation," one must understand the tension that existed in the First Century between Gentiles who yearned to draw near to the Almighty, and the man-made rules that kept them out. Although founded upon valid Torah principles and were designed to keep those who were in a ritually unclean state from the Temple itself, they were still rules that violated the instructions in this week's portion that deal with a ger [sojourner] who wanted to draw near.

Ephesians 2:15 makes it quite clear by using the word dogma ["ordinances" in English]. 100% of the time in the Apostolic Scriptures and in the Greek Septuagint the word dogma is used, it refers to man-made decrees.

That at that time you were without Messiah, being aliens from the commonwealth [literally: citizenship] of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without G-d in the world. But now in Messiah Yeshua you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Messiah.

For He Himself is our peace [as in korban shelem, offering for peace], who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation [that kept Gentiles out], having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments in ordinances [interpreted in man-made dogma], so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to G-d in one body [one people, one community] through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of G-d.
Ephesians 2:12-19

Calev was not regarded as an outsider. He not only represented the tribe of Judah, he inherited the very burial place of our fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: the city of Hebron.

There is one more way that in this parasha I see this theme of "sent ones" [sh'lachim] - ambassadors for Messiah. Tzitzit. They are little things. To many, they are of no great consequence. To others, they represent "Jewish" identity marks, and are "Jewish clothing." Certainly, that may be what they have become in the past 3,400 years since the Almighty gave the instructions for attaching tzitzit to the corners of our garments - but that was not what was intended.

Speak to the children of Israel: Tell them to make tzitzit [tassels] on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a blue thread in the tzitzit of the corners. And you shall have the tzitzit, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of HaShem and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined, and that you may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy for your G-d.
Numbers 15:38-40 

What is the reason for this special clothing item for G-d's people? He tells us: "...that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of HaShem and do them".

The verbs "look" and "remember" are plural, which means that purpose was not for the wearer of the tzitzit as much as it was for seeing them on each other. This is a sign command.

Tzitzit are an identity mark that reminds those who see them:

  1. Who G-d is.
  2. Who we are as G-d's people.
  3. What our duty is to G-d.

Remember that these instructions are only a few verses after the instruction that there are not to be two sets of commands for the native-born and the Gentle among on us. Now, most modern believers do not wear "cornered garments" - which is why some men wear special four cornered talit katan with their normal shirt in order to have the privilege of having something on which to attach tzitzit. Another way to fulfill the command of tzitzit is to wear a talit gadol [prayer shawl] during prayers.

The tzitzit are also to have a blue thread in them, made of wool. If you remember, there was to be no mixing of wool and linen in the clothing of G-d's people because only the priests could wear the mixture of wool and linen - that is, except for this blue thread woven into the tzitzit of the common man. What is the meaning of this? It was G-d's intention that all His people were to be as priests before Him, as Peter says,

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of G-d, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.
1Peter 2:9-10

The themes of sh'lachim [sent ones] and tzitzit are further joined in the words of the Almighty spoke through Zechariah the prophet.

Yes, many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek HaShem of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before HaShem. Thus says HaShem of hosts: "In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp [chezyku = strongly cling to]  the garment corner [bi-kh'naf = in the corner, the wing]  of a Jewish man, saying, 'Let us go with you, for we have heard that G-d is with you.'"
Zechariah 8:22-23

It seems at times that this is a prophecy regarding the proportional make-up of Messianic congregations. Although I do believe that the Kingdom of Messiah will be full of Gentiles, to me it is not the proportions that is the focus of this picture. It is more that the "Jewish man" is the Jewish Messiah: Messiah Yeshua. It is He Who has joined Gentiles to Israel, and to the Almighty. In that He is the representative of Israel, His tzitzit are thus seen, and grasped by Gentiles who seek to draw near to the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Yeshua is the One Who makes peace. That "Jewish" article of clothing is a reminder for those who follow the Jewish Messiah. There is healing in Him. There is shalom in Him. He is our identity. His tzitzit, are our reminders as well.

All of us are the Master's sh'lachim. We represent Him and His tribe (Judah) and His tribes (all of them). We represent the good report. We are called, Jew and Gentile, to proclaim the truth that salvation is through the Jews; and found only in the King of the Jews, Messiah Yeshua.

If you are a Jewish believer, do not be alarmed at the Gentiles wanting to follow the instructions of Torah. Although historically Gentiles have "taken over" and ruined much, this is not a takeover - in these last days, this is a movement of G-d. It truly is a joining to Israel through the work of Messiah. These Gentiles are like Calev. They don't want to usurp the rightful place and inheritance of Jews. They want to draw near to the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

If you are a Gentile, remember that you were far off. Remember that you had no hope, and you were cut off from the covenants of promise. Remember that Abraham was not your father. Remember that Yeshua said that salvation is from the Jews. Our only hope is because of our Jewish Messiah and His redemptive work. We are the recipients of incalculable grace. Remember that Yeshua's sh'liach, Paul said in Romans:

Who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Torah, the service [Temple worship] of G-d, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Messiah came, Who is over all, the eternally blessed G-d. Amen.
Romans 9:4-5

Beloved, Gentiles need to be treated as "native-born" in regard to the "Instructions for the Redeemed Community" [i.e. the Torah]. At the same time, Gentiles need to remember their infinite debt to the Jewish people. May your zeal for the Messiah and the People of G-d never be seen as "taking over." We've seen the result of that before. We've seen 1,900 years marked with hate and division; instead of acting like the sh'lachim that we are. Remember we are One People. We have One Law. We have One King.

You have been sent. You are sh'lachim. You are like Joshua and Calev. A Jew. A Gentile.

Chazak!  Give the good report.

Haftarat Shelach 'Send' (Joshua 2:1-24)

This week's Torah parasha contains the account of the sending of the twelve spies into the Land. Of course we know the result of that was that ten returned with a bad report and only two returned with the faithful report that the Land was promised, and hence HaShem would deliver it to them.

Our haftarah reading from the Prophets is about a similar event forty years later. As Joshua prepares to take the Land, he sends two spies into the Land, to Jericho, to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the Canaanite inhabitants. How ironic. Yet there are not coincidences in Scripture. In Numbers 13:1-15:41, only two spies returned with a good report, and the other ten's bad report convinced the Israelites to doubt G-d's promises. Now, Joshua, one of the two faithful spies sends only two (on the testimony of two the truth is established) in to spy out the Land again. He does not go himself, but traditions says that he did send Calev, and also the faithful Pinchas (who we will read about in a future parasha).

Beloved, as you read this week's parasha in Numbers 13:1-15:41; and this week's haftarah in Joshua 2:1-24, do not be discouraged by the faithlessness of some. Rather, watch the faithful ones. Watch Moses, Joshua, and Calev. Watch the two faithful spies that go to into Jericho. Watch Rachav [Rahab].

If Calev and Pinchas were indeed the two sent into Jericho it is once again a picture of two joined as one: this time a Gentile (Calev) and a priest, a descendant of Aaron (Pinchas). As well we see the marvelous picture of the repentant Canaanite woman Rachav, who by her faith was included in Israel. Rachav becomes a great-great-grandmother to King David. She is an ancestor to eight prophets, among them Jeremiah and Ezekiel. She is twice named in the Apostolic Scriptures because of her faith. She was a Gentile, who was grafted into Israel. Listen to her words:

I know that HaShem has given you the Land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. For we have heard how HaShem dried up the water of the Reed Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for HaShem your G-d, He is G-d in heaven above and on earth beneath.
Joshua 2:9-11

Too bad many who claim "Jesus" as Messiah do not have the same faith as Rachav. Their "Replacement Theology" denies the very promises of G-d concerning Israel and the Land, and in their rush to support the so-called "Palestinians" they curse G-d's chosen people, Israel. Their curses speak of their own demise. Beware of such men, beloved. They hide among us. They speak great theological words. By their pronouncements against Israel they reveal their lack of faith. They do not know the faith of Rachav.

Rachav became a ger toshav - a sojourner dwelling in Israel's midst.

By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.
Hebrews 11:31

She repented, and acted out her faith by righteous deeds.

Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
James 2:25-26

Her faithfulness makes her inclusion in the line of Messiah especially poignant, considering the fact that she was born a Canaanite. By her faith, she was born again as an Israelite.

Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David the king... And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Miriam, of whom was born Yeshua who is called Messiah.
Matthew 1:5-6; 16

Prayer Focus for Shelach -  "HaTzadikim" [The Righteous]

The 13th blessing from the Shemoneh Esrei [the Amidah] blesses HaShem for the Righteous [HaTzadikim]. It includes a thanksgiving for righteous sojourners who have become a part of Israel. If you are Jewish, thank HaShem for your Gentile brothers and sisters who have been added to Israel. If you are Gentile, thank HaShem that through Messiah, you have been made a part of the commonwealth of Israel - and follow the example of Calev, Rachav, Rut, etc.

On the righteous, on the devout, on the elders of Your people the Family of Israel, on the remnant of their scholars,
on the righteous gerei[sojourner] and on ourselves –
may Your compassion be aroused, HaShem, our G-d,
and give goodly reward to all who sincerely believe
in Your Name.
Put our lot with them forever,
and we will not feel ashamed,
for we trust in You.
Blessed are You, HaShem, Mainstay
and Assurance of the righteous.

-- modified Artscroll Translation

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