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Ruminations

Rumination #19: Legalism is what closet legalists accuse everyone else of.

Christianity has long accused Judaism of holding to a "works-based" salvation. Nothing could be further from the truth. When love inspires obedience… how could it be called "legalism?"

Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.
1John 2:3

He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.
John 14:21

Legalism does not spring from the Law, but rather an attitude about the Law. When one is motivated by love, no rule, no law is treated in a legalistic way.

On the other hand, when one is complacent about the things that define another (the Torah defines the righteousness of HaShem - it is His self-revelation), that leads to pride and legalism.

Ironically, those who claim that they are above "the Law" (that they no longer "need" it), are those most likely to suffer from legalism. With false humility, they claim that all that is required by "the Law" has been met in their lives, so they may live the way that they want. This is not love, and this is not evidence of grace.

Parashat Terumah - 'Heave Offering'' (Exodus 25:1-27:19)

The title for this week's Scripture portion comes from the second verse:

Daber el-b'nei Yisra'el v'yikchu-li t'ruma me'et kol-ish asher yidvenu libo tikchu et-t'rumati.

Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering. From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering.

This week's portion is about preparing for the building of the Mish'kan [Tabernacle]. To provide for the materials, G-d told Moses to collect them from willing Israelites. Sadly, like many of our Bible words, the word "offering" has been so polluted with misapplication that we can easily miss what is happening in this week's parasha.

First, t'rumah does not mean "offering" in the sense of a sacrifice - nor does it mean "offering" in the sense of a collection plate being passed in front of people's noses. It is nothing like those things (the first being G-d mandated, the second a horrible perversion).

The abuse of this passage by countless church leaders is quite scandalous. In efforts to follow through on what "church growth" consultants have told them about the "build it and they will come" mentality of "seekers," they have manipulated this passage and others to hold over the heads of people. How ironic it is that the same church leaders who use "tithe and offerings" from the Hebrew Scriptures to promote their man-made building programs and agendas - also deny the continuity of other parts of the Torah that they declare "fulfilled." I call it selective "fulfillment." Ah, "fulfilled" - there is another horribly twisted word in religious circles - but that is for another discussion.

Beloved, t'rumah is about lifting up Messiah - and not building beautiful buildings that are empty from the actual Presence of the Almighty, as every church and synagogue building is. To understand this, we must dig deeper into this week's and next week's portions. So much about the Mish'kan has been confused by our theologies, that sometimes it is unrecognizable. 

Before we look into this word t'rumah, that defines these chapters, let's consider the question, "Why build a Tabernacle?"

Was the Mish'kan [Tabernacle] to be "G-d's House" as buildings today are so often (incorrectly) referred? Is there any correlation? Absolutely and unequivocally, NO. Let the Almighty answer the question of why it was to be built:

V'asu li Mik'dash v'shakhanti b'tokham.

And let them make Me a Sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.
Exodus 25:8

This Mik'dash [Sanctuary] is called the Mish'kan [Tabernacle] in the next verse. What was its purpose? Does the infinite G-d need a house made with human hands? No. Does there need to be a structure built according to the pattern that HaShem showed Moses while on the Mountain in order for G-d's people to worship Him? No. Not then, not now. What then is the reason?

It is for this important reason: "...that I may dwell [sh'kan as in Sh'kinah] among [in] them." Read that again. "... among [in] them." Repeat it with me:

b'tokham [among them]
b'tokham [among them]
b'tokham [among them]

"Among them" or "in them." That is the reason for the Mish'kan and the Holy Temple - notfor the "forgiveness" of sins. Notfor the sacrifices. Not for teaching the Word to people. Not for a gathering space for the people. One reason only: that the very Presence of the Almighty would be among us. To be sure, it would be a place where offerings were made, cleansing occurred, and where the Torah was taught. It would be a place that the early followers of Messiah Yeshua would gather to worship the Almighty alongside all Israel - but all of those are the effects of HaShem dwelling among us - and therein lies the majority of misunderstandings regarding the Tabernacle and the offering system. G-d passionately wants to dwell among His people. It is about "getting back to the Garden" where G-d and man fellowshipped. It is why the imagery of the Way to the Tree of Life [Derekh etz ha-Chaim, Gen 3:24] was evident in both the Mish'kan and the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. It is why the early followers of Messiah Yeshua referred to themselves as Ha-Derekh [the Way].

So why did the Sages name this portion t'rumah? What does t'rumah really mean?

The root of t'rumah is rum [resh-vav-mem]. This root verb means "to lift up." The first usage is found in Genesis 7:17:

Now the flood was on the earth forty days. The waters increased and lifted up the ark, and it rose high above the earth.
Genesis 7:17

T'rumah is about "lifting up." That is why some translations render this "heave offering" instead of the theologically scrubbed "offering." It is speaking of what is done with the t'rumah. It is lifted up. Hold that thought for a moment as we explore how that word might be used in the Apostolic Scriptures. To do that, we need to take a brief excursion into our "Rosetta Stone" for moving between Greek and Hebrew – that is, the Septuagint [also known as LXX]. Since the LXX was translated 300 years before the Apostolic Scriptures, we can have confidence that it was not tainted with the biases between Judaism and Christianity as is evidenced in so many later works.

How does the LXX translate t'rumah? It uses the Greek word aparche. Some Greek dictionaries will translate this into English as "first fruits." There are other Hebrew words for the offering known as "first fruits," but the reason the Seventy sages of the Septuagint chose to translate t'rumah to aparche is not to denote what kind of offering it was - but what was done with it: to lift it up.

Aparche is a word used eight times in the Apostolic Scriptures, and usually translated into English as "first fruits" because the Greek construction of the word speaks of either chronology or hierarchy. It is this last meaning that our LXX translators honed in on - this t'rumah was to be lifted up and to be their chief contribution.

Beloved, t'rumah, aparche, is about lifting up, in order that we may experience the Presence of the Almighty dwelling among us. In those heady days at the foot of Mount Sinai, we lifted up the materials used to construct the Mish'kan, the Tabernacle. After we lifted up, Moses' faithfully recounted the pattern. Betzalel, filled with the Spirit of Wisdom, constructed the Ark and the furnishings. Aaron and his sons were anointed. The Mish'kan and all of its furnishings were anointed. And then... the Presence of the Almighty came down and filled that place.

The infinite G-d filled a space.

The Holy One, blessed is He, rested among men.

The Invisible, and Incomprehensible One - was "seen" and perceived.

His Sh'kinah physically dwelt among us!

What did we do? T'rumah - we lifted up. What did we lift up? The material, of what would be patterned after the immaterial shown to Moses while on the Mountain.

One day soon we may well see a Holy Temple constructed in Jerusalem. Count me as first in line to worship there. Unlike so many theologians, I am not bound by man-made dispensational theories or by man-made divisions of our G-d's Holy Torah. I know that in our present state, there can be nothing comparable to being in the Place where the very Presence of the Almighty dwells.

But there is something else that this week's portion points to. Something, or Someone else Who was t'rumah. It is our Master Yeshua. He is the t'rumah of HaShem. He was lifted up, so that the Holy One of Israel, blessed is He, could dwell among [in] us. He is our present Mish'kan. And we ourselves must lift Him up.

Yeshua is the t'rumah. Yeshua is the aparche in the Apostolic Scriptures.

But now Messiah is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits [aparche] of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.
1Corinthians 15:20-21

We too are His t'rumah. We are His heave offering lifted up. We are His aparche.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.  Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits [aparche] of His creatures.
James 1:17-18

Now aren't you glad we did not merely read the words, "...bring me an offering [t'rumah]" and leave it at that?

Beloved, as you read this week's Scripture portion don't play the usual game of spiritualizing everything about the Mish'kan. At the same time, try to wrap your mind around the concept of v'shakhanti b'tokham [that I may dwell among them].

And the Word was made flesh, and tabernacled among us...
John 1:14b

Haftarat Terumah  - 'Heave Offering' (1Kings 5:26-6:13)

Many Christian commentators have focused on the "spiritual" aspects of the Tabernacle (and the later Temple), and in the process missed the entire point. Let's not repeat the same mistake. The instructions concerning the Mish'kan were real; the Mish'kan was real; the purpose was real. Remember, beloved, Scripture is always about the "here and now." When it ceases to be something that you must apply in life, then you are in serious danger.

The haftarah portion from the Prophets is connected to the Torah portions because as the Torah portion details the Mish'kan, the haftarah portion details the building of the First Temple in Jerusalem. Of course, they go together.

Many believers have no concern for the Mish'kan, or the Temple. Sometimes we are too quick to quote 1Corinthians 3:16 ("... you are the Temple of G-d..."). A spiritualizing of faith practice seems to somehow negate the need for a Temple. How wrong, and how misguided. The zeal of our Messiah in this regard is sadly lacking in most believers today. You see, Messiah had a zeal for the Holy Temple. He had this zeal for one reason. It is the reason for the Mish'kan and the later Holy Temple. It was because of their very purpose. Remember the reason?

V'asu li Mik'dash v'shakhanti b'tokham.

And let them make Me a Sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.
Exodus 25:8

No amount of human machinations in justifying cathedrals, vast "church buildings," or "Build the Vision" programs can manufacture that promise. Calling such buildings "G-d's house" is blasphemous, and comparing the instructions in this week's Torah portion for collecting for the Mish'kan to the man-centered fundraising of the American church is disgusting. No, the Mish'kan was different. The First and Second Temple were different. The difference is not some ethereal "the presence of the L-rd is here" – it is about a real Sh'kinah, a real Dwelling Presence of HaShem. Really Him. Really experienced by worshippers. No, we are not nearly zealous enough for the Holy Temple. If we were, we would pray daily for its rebuilding. Beloved, that site is the site where He has placed His Name... forever.

Here is how our haftarah ends, with the completion of the First Temple by Solomon.

Concerning this Temple which you are building, if you walk in My statutes, execute My judgments, keep all My commandments, and walk in them, then I will perform My word with you, which I spoke to your father David. And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake My people Israel.
1Kings 6:12-13

Of course replacement theology ignores the command to obey His commandments (all of them), and must make this into some sort of conditional promise, ignoring the parallel passage of 2Chronicles:

Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place. For now I have chosen and sanctified this house, that My Name may be there forever; and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.
2Chronicles 7:15-16

Beloved, the Mish'kan and the First and Second Temples were His dwelling place. Make no mistake about it. G-d was (is) there. Our faith and the Holy Temple in Jerusalem are inextricably tied together. We should seek its rebuilding, and long for its times of offering - evening, morning, and afternoon. You see, our spiritual ancestors, the first talmidim [disciples] of Yeshua were dedicated to the Temple, and worshipping HaShem there. After Messiah's resurrection, it was the meeting place of His followers.

And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the Temple praising and blessing G-d. Amen.
Luke 24:52-53

Beloved, as you read this week's Torah and haftarah portion, renew your zeal for the Holy Temple of HaShem. Pray for its rebuilding. Anticipate Messiah's rule from His Holy City Jerusalem.

Prayer Focus for Terumah -  'Avodah' - [Temple Service]

One of the blessings of the Shemoneh Esrei prayer, prayed daily by all Israel since ancient times, is the blessing entitled "Avodah."

Be favorable, HaShem, our G-d and toward Your people Israel and their prayer and restore the service to the Holy of Holies of Your Temple. The fire-offerings of Israel and their prayer accept with love and favor, and may the service of Your people Israel always be favorable to You.

May our eyes behold Your return to Zion in compassion.
Blessed are You, HaShem, Who restores His Presence to Zion.

-- ArtScroll translation

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