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Ruminations

Rumination #27: Eating is always an act of worship - worshipping the Almighty, or worshipping yourself.

The "faith community" is not immune to the fads of the world at large. At times, the health food mindset finds a comfortable place at the table of a teacher or a ministry. Often times it is focused on fear of some ingredients, or some processes. What is surprising to me is not that some find proper eating important - what is surprising is that rarely does it go beyond the latest societal trends. How often do these teachers reach back into the "Old Testament" for their inspiration? If they do, it is for "health reasons" - not because they read the words of the Living G-d as life-giving.

Our eating should not be motivated by desire or fear. It should be an act of worship of the Creator. Whether you are a fad-dieter, fast-food eater, or a careful eater… one thing is true: if you do not eat for the Creator, you eat for yourself. The Bible teaches that thankful and joyful eating is an act of worship. It is worship of the Creator. It is taking the daily, the common - and bringing holiness to it. If it isn't food (Leviticus 11), don't eat it. If it is food, eat it with thanksgiving - thus making it a worship experience of the Almighty.

It is too bad that so many who love to quote 1Corinthians 3:16 don't relate it to Leviticus 11.

Do you not know that you are the temple of G-d and that the Spirit of G-d dwells in you?
1Corinthians 3:16

For I am HaShem your G-d. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth. For I am HaShem who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your G-d. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy. 'This is the law of the animals and the birds and every living creature that moves in the waters, and of every creature that creeps on the earth, to distinguish between the unclean and the clean, and between the animal that may be eaten and the animal that may not be eaten.'"
Leviticus 11:44-47

Don't you think it is odd that some people that warn us against eating chicken with hormones don't bother to warn us to eat things according to the Creator's instructions? Ever wonder why?

Parashat Shmini - 'Eighth' (Leviticus 9:1-11:47)

This week's portion is named for the third word in the first verse:

Vayehi bayom ha-shemini kara Moshe l'Aharon ulevanav uleziknei Yisrael
It came to pass on the eighth day that Moses called Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel.
Leviticus 9:1

What is so important about the "eighth day?" Beloved, the "eighth day" is made special by the previous seven days. Those previous seven days were the days of consecration where Aaron and his sons were to remain in the Mish'kan [Tabernacle] following their anointing. It is now the eighth day. It is the day of inaugurating the Mish'kan.

What excitement is in the air! It is time for the Mish'kan to open for the worship of the Almighty King of the Universe. For the first time in human history, there is a place for G-d's people to come and meet with Him on any given day.

Leviticus 9:23-24 set the stage for us:

And Moses and Aaron went into the Mish'kan of meeting, and came out and blessed the people. Then the glory of HaShem appeared to all the people, and fire came out from before HaShem and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.
Leviticus 9:23-24

What a moment! Fire from Heaven and the visible manifestation of G-d's glory is there in front of everyone! Aaron's sons are caught up in religious zeal, and rush to present fire and incense before HaShem. In that instant, fire goes out from HaShem and they are consumed.

In their zeal, they had not followed the details of what G-d had said. Beloved, zeal is not what matters - what matters are the details of what G-d has said.

Aaron's sons Nadav and Avihu, thought that any "worship" is worship. They thought that G-d wants to be "worshipped" any way one can. Their thinking was wrong. Like so many today in the modern "church growth movement" - they thought that all that matters is one's intent. They thought that the "ends" justified the "means." Here in America, there are "churches" that seem to follow the Nadav and Avihu principle pretty well. They think that almost any means used to promote "the Gospel" is a good thing. Beloved, bringing G-d down to man's level does not sanctify His Name - it makes it common and profane. That is what Nadav and Avihu were guilty of: offering profane or common fire in the "worship" of the Almighty. Yes, it does matter how we worship G-d.

In light of the how of worship, it is important to note some of the details in this week's parasha. They are about worship also, but in a way that the vast majority of people who claim to follow Yeshua do not think matters: what you eat. Yes, what you eat is a matter of worship, since true worship is seen in what we do - especially with the details of G-d's Word. Some instructions for what is to be considered food and what is not food can be found in Leviticus 11. Most people who claim to follow the Master believe such instructions are antiquated and have been done away with. Their arguments go like this:

There are some serious problems with these arguments. Let's go through them.

First, what we eat does matter. Before there was ever a "Torah of Moses," or "Mosaic Law," there was a command of what not to eat in the Garden. (Please note the phrase "Torah of Moses" should never be understood to be pejorative. Sadly, some in an effort to diminish the "Torah of Moses" forget the oft repeated phrase, "And HaShem spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to the Children of Israel..." - it is the Torah of HaShem, spoken faithfully through His servant Moses. In Scripture, there is one Torah - HaShem's Torah.)

Does anyone need to be reminded that "you may not eat" was the only negative command of the Garden? It was the first negative command ever given to man. And yes, it had spiritual consequences. It was Eve who believed the lie of the Serpent who questioned whether G-d had really commanded this or not. Hmm. Details do matter.

Next, Mark 7 is not about eating meat. The question is about eating bread without washing your hands. There is no Torah command regarding the washing of hands before eating. Most people just assume there is and that Yeshua is in the business of overturning all those silly "Old Testament Laws." What utter nonsense. Yeshua is the Living Torah - the One Who embodies those words! How interesting that Yeshua is in fact criticizing those that by their traditions have negated the commandments! It is a tradition - one that began in the Second Century by such notable anti-Semites as Marcion and Justin Martyr that the "dietary laws" were G-d's punishment upon Israel for "unbelief" - as opposed to them being G-d's loving instructions for all His people. The question is not about eating according to Torah. The question is about traditions of men. Hmm. Details do matter.

Lastly, Peter's vision. A couple of points are often overlooked by people reading Acts 10 and 11. First, of course is what Peter himself says the vision of the sheet with abominable things in it means. Peter says twice in the account that the vision was meant to teach him not to take men's tradition against what G-d says. You see, men had traditionally said that Jews should not be with Gentiles. That is most assuredly not in Torah. G-d never declared Gentiles to be unclean. He declared some animals to be unclean, and not food. The tradition held that Gentiles were unclean like some things that they ate. G-d's word said otherwise. Consider that there is no argument from the Jerusalem council as to this meaning in Acts 11. Beloved, if this were the meaning of Acts 10, we would have as big a deal over food in the Epistles as we do over including Gentiles. Traditions fall hard. Leviticus 11 is not a tradition - it is the Eternal Word of the Living G-d of Heaven and Earth.

Then consider Paul's words later in Acts,

When he had come, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood about and laid many serious complaints against Paul, which they could not prove, while he answered for himself, "Neither against the Torah of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I offended in anything at all."
Acts 25:7-8

Beloved, there was no accusation that could be brought against Paul. If they could have said that he, Peter, and James taught against any part of the Torah, then they would have truly found such grounds. They could not. Peter, Paul, and James were sticklers for the details. Hmm. Details do matter. Even details about what you eat.

Remember, the only negative command given in the Garden was about what not to eat. Oh and by the way, for those who are insistent upon obeying only what they find in the "New Testament" - have you read Acts 15:20? It says,

"... abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood."
Acts 15:20b

Have you read the Torah?

This shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwellings: you shall eat neither fat nor blood.
Leviticus 3:17

And every person who eats what died naturally or what was torn by beasts, whether he is a native of your own country or a stranger, he shall both wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening. 
Leviticus 17:15

Yes, details do matter, yet you will not find any "creeds" which contain the instructions of Acts 15:20 in them. I wonder why? Maybe some of the congregation will begin to wonder about those things that their leaders have traditionally considered "Jewish things" instead of "G-d's Commands." If Leviticus 11 is a "Jewish thing" then so is the entire body of Scripture. Don't pick and choose. Take it all with joy. All the Torah, all Scripture, is to be singular. There is one command - it is the Word of HaShem, and all His commands within it.

For this commandment[singular] which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off... But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.
Deuteronomy 30:11; 14

That you keep this commandment[singular] without spot, blameless until our L-rd Yeshua the Messiah's appearing,
1Timothy 6:14

Take it all (including Leviticus), or take none of it. Beloved, the details matter.

All of them.

Haftarat Shmini - 'Eight' (2Samuel 6:1-19)

This week's Torah portion is found in Leviticus 9:1-11:47. In the first fifteen chapters of Leviticus it is easy to get lost in the sometimes dizzying details. This week's Torah portion begins with the shocking account of Aaron's sons' demise. The trouble began as Aaron and his sons first began to minister in the newly erected Mish'kan [Tabernacle]. After they offered the preliminary offerings, it appeared that the Mish'kan "worked" - G-d indeed began to dwell among His people. Then it happened...

Then Aaron lifted his hand toward the people, blessed them, and came down from offering the sin offering, the burnt offering, and peace offerings. And Moses and Aaron went into the Tabernacle of meeting, and came out and blessed the people. Then the glory of HaShem appeared to all the people, and fire came out from before HaShem and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces. Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before HaShem, which He had not commanded them. So fire went out from HaShem and devoured them, and they died before HaShem.
Leviticus 9:22-10:2

Aaron's sons, apparently overtaken with zeal at seeing the glory of G-d, took it upon themselves to add a little to the worship experience... and were instantly consumed. This is scary stuff. Worshipping the "G-d of the Old Testament" can be a dangerous thing. Beloved, this is the connection to this week's haftarah portion - apparently well-meaning worshippers can get hurt. This week's haftarah found in 2Samuel 6:1-19 is the account of the death of Uzzah. Here is how it begins:

Again David gathered all the choice men of Israel, thirty thousand. And David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Baale Judah to bring up from there the Ark of G-d, whose Name is called by the Name, HaShem of Hosts, Who dwells between the cherubim. So they set the Ark of G-d on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drove the new cart. And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill, accompanying the ark of G-d; and Ahio went before the Ark. Then David and all the house of Israel played music before HaShem on all kinds of instruments of fir wood, on harps, on stringed instruments, on tambourines, on sistrums, and on cymbals. And when they came to Nachon’s threshing floor, Uzzah put out his hand to the Ark of G-d and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. Then the anger of HaShem was aroused against Uzzah, and G-d struck him there for his error; and he died there by the Ark of G-d.
2Samuel 6:1-7

It is passages like this and our Torah portion that have shaped the theology of many Christians in ways that they cannot perceive. Early in the Second Century, Marcion, an avowed anti-Semite, began teaching that the "G-d of the Old Testament" was a different god than the "G-d of the New Testament." He taught that grace had triumphed over law. He abandoned many of the books of the New Testament except for his edited version of Luke and the epistles of Paul. Eventually, Marcion was branded a heretic, but his influence continues to live even to this day. A perusal of modern commentators in commenting on John 1:17 ("For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.") will reveal a theological bent that even Marcion could be proud of.

Even conservative commentators that predate the age of higher criticism are guilty of this faulty theology. Matthew Henry, the foremost English commentator, comments on John 1:17 in this way:

That which was given by Moses was purely terrifying and threatening, and bound with penalties, a law which could not give life, which was given with abundance of terror; but that which is given by Jesus Christ is of another nature; it has all the beneficial uses of the law, but not the terror, for it is grace: grace teaching, grace reigning. It is a law, but a remedial law. The endearments of love are the genius of the gospel, not the affrightments of law and the curse.
Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible

Reading Matthew Henry's comments on Leviticus 10 and 2Samuel 6 reveal similar marcionian tendencies. In both cases, Henry notes the apparent harshness of the punishment, whereas the sin of Aaron's sons and Uzzah seem somewhat minor. Beloved, with that line of thinking, the sin of Adam and Eve is thus minor - and look where that put us all.

The failing of the theologians who tend more toward Marcion (and less toward the Jewish RASHI) is that in their rush to divide the Scriptures between "Law" and "Grace" they skip over some very important points. A perfect Scripture portion to tie to this week parasha from Leviticus and this week's haftarah from 2Samuel would be Acts 5:1-11 and the account of Ananias and Sapphira. Oops. Apparently the "G-d of the Old Testament" is the same One found in the Apostolic Scriptures. The Epistle to the Hebrews, a favorite "snippet source" for those promoting the theology of Marcion, speaks against the theology of "Angry G-d versus Nice G-d":

For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore... But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living G-d, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to G-d the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Yeshua the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel. See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, "Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven."... Therefore, since we are receiving a Kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve G-d acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our G-d is a consuming fire.
Hebrews 12:18-19; 22-26; 28-29

Notice the proximity of "grace" and "godly fear" - they go together. Beloved, our G-d is the same yesterday, today, forever. He has not changed, nor has His standard for righteousness. He is still holy. He still is offended by sin. The theology of "grace over law" ignores these points. In their attempts to explain away what they call the "Jewish Law" they have chosen a path that explains G-d in schizophrenic ways. Beloved, our G-d is One.

The answer for those who, because of their theological allergy to all things "Jewish," is not to create an alternate "law" or an alternate "god." The answer is for them to go back to the Garden in their thinking. In Eden, when the Almighty gave one (only one) instruction - one "law" - it was for life, not death. HaShem desired that man eat from the Tree of Life - and yet man chose to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This instruction was not without grace - it was the essence of grace. Instead of focusing on what could be done in worship and fellowship, man chose to rebel against the one thing that should not be done. This is the problem with the theology of the "Angry G-d versus the Nice G-d," or "grace trumps law" - they fail to see the grace in all that HaShem does. In so doing, they misunderstand the One Who created them. Their focus on the "don'ts" blinds them to the grace of the Almighty. But I suspect this has always had less to do with "dos and don'ts" than it does with avoiding "Jewish things."

We can see this all more clearly when we examine this week's haftarah. After the death of Uzzah, we read:

David was afraid of HaShem that day; and he said, "How can the Ark of HaShem come to me?" So David would not move the ark of HaShem with him into the City of David; but David took it aside into the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite.
2Samuel 6:9-10

David's response to Uzzah's sin (and David's sin when you consider the fact that the Ark was not to be placed on a cart to begin with) was that he was afraid of G-d. He remembered the "don'ts" - but forgot the blessings. Then David got wind of the blessings:

The Ark of HaShem remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite three months. And HaShem blessed Obed-Edom and all his household. Now it was told King David, saying, "HaShem has blessed the house of Obed-Edom and all that belongs to him, because of the Ark of G-d." David went and brought up the Ark of G-d from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with gladness.
2Samuel 6:11-12

Ah, grace. Grace is easily seen when we chose life - and not death. Obed-Edom chose life whereas Uzzah chose death. Death comes from rebellion. Life comes from obedience to G-d. Grace is seen in that G-d gives us life. David, if he had followed the faulty theology of some, might have thought to himself, "G-d is scary. This 'Law thing' is not very gracious. I will just leave the Ark where it is. I don't need the Ark to worship G-d. That way I will stay safe, and will not need to be afraid of G-d." Beloved, if David had thought that way, he would have missed the very blessing intended for him. The blessing of the Ark was there... but G-d remains a holy G-d. G-d's holiness is what brings the blessings!

David brought blessings to all Israel because he was not content with simply staying away from G-d and His holiness.

So they brought the Ark of HaShem, and set it in its place in the midst of the tabernacle that David had erected for it. Then David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before HaShem. And when David had finished offering burnt offerings and peace offerings, he blessed the people in the Name of HaShem of hosts.
2Samuel 6:17-18

Our Torah portion this week has some similar instruction for us. Leviticus 11 contains the basic instructions regarding food and what animals may be eaten. Students of the Torah have noticed the proximity of Leviticus 11 to the five main chapters on the korban and animal offerings and noted that there is a correlation between animals that can be eaten, and the offerings in the Mish'kan and later the Temple. Yes, beloved there is a correlation. Although the animals listed in Leviticus 11 as kosher are not all sacrificial animals, there is a common message and it is this: G-d's holiness is what brings the blessings. Sadly, many read Leviticus 11 and immediately turn to Acts 10 and try to justify why Leviticus 11 does not apply any longer. It is sad, because it is as if David had said, "I'll just leave the Ark with Obed-Edom..."

Do you want blessings? Do not leave your focus on the "don'ts" - focus on His holiness and obey Him. Seek out ways to obey Him more fully. What Leviticus 11 teaches is this: even eating is an act of worship, if it is done HaShem's way.

G-d's holiness is what brings the blessings.

Prayer Focus for Shmini -  'Atah Hu' - [It was You]

In Shacharit [the Morning Prayers] there is an early recitation of the first paragraph of the Shema from Deuteronomy 6:5-9. Immediately following that the holiness of G-d and the holiness of His Name is reflected upon and offered as praise to the Almighty. It truly is all about Him...

It was You before the world was created,
it is You since the world was created,
it is You in This World and it is You in the World to Come.
Sanctify Your Name through those who sanctify Your Name,
and sanctify Your Name in Your universe.
Through Your salvation may You exalt and raise our pride.
Blessed are You, HaShem,
Who sanctifies Your Name among the multitudes.-- ArtScroll Translation

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Standing in Prayer with all Israel,

Rick Spurlock
Bereans Online
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B"H