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Ruminations

Rumination #22: Biblical Judaism is not merely monotheistic. To believe in one G-d is no virtue – for many nations, like people, have their one G-d. This identifies the Only One: He is the G-d of Abraham, the G-d of Isaac, and the G-d of Jacob. He is the One and Only.

It is not enough to believe in "one G-d." It is not even enough to say you believe in the "G-d of the Bible" - after all, a long line of anti-Semites claim the Bible as their own and call themselves "the true Israel" (and yet despise all things Jewish). No, our faith is not shared by those opposed to Israel. The only G-d is the G-d of Abraham, the G-d of Isaac, the G-d of Jacob.

Do you worship the G-d of Abraham, the G-d of Isaac, the G-d of Jacob? Or do you worship the G-d of your choosing?

Rumination #23: HaShem is One; He has one people, and it is Israel.

The notion that Acts 2 represents the "birth of the church" - or the "beginning of the body of Christ" - or the "beginning of the body of Messiah" is nothing more than a theological construct. That is to say, it is an important doctrinal position for some because they are uncomfortable with certain conclusions if their doctrine is not dogmatically adhered to.

Virtually all of Christianity adheres to the principle that Acts 2 and the whole "Pentecost" experience was to inaugurate the birth of a "new people" of G-d. Supercessionists, with their Replacement Theology, use this as the pretext for "the church" replacing Israel in the promises of the Almighty. Supercessionists of course hold that there is only one people of G-d - and Israel is excluded. This is one religious source for anti-Semitism.

On the other hand, the Dispensationalists see Acts 2 as the dawning of a new dispensation - the "church age" – or the "times of the Gentiles." Of course, Acts 2 gives no such indication (100% of those in Acts 2 are Jewish, observantly practicing Judaism!). Dispensationalists conclude that there are two peoples of G-d - "the church" and Israel. Even some "Messianics" hold to the notion that there are two peoples of G-d. These people hold to the theology of Bilateral Ecclesiology.

There is only one people of the Almighty. There is only one assembly. Romans 11, Hebrews 11, and Ephesians 2-3 are quite clear on the matter, and yet such passages are translated and taught to say exactly the opposite, where all "believers" simply become Gentiles and a part of a new body, the "church" or the "body of Messiah. "

How sad that they do not see the beauty of the Exodus being played out again in the book of Acts, and being represented in the epistles of Paul - Gentiles are not grafted into a different people, but the same people, the same assembly. Out of Egypt came the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. With them, came the mixed multitude. With Israel, as part of Israel by the same Covenants of Promise came former Gentile slaves – now full citizens with the covenant people. There is one G-d. There is one people. There is one Torah.

[The mystery]...that the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Messiah through the good news, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of G-d given to me by the effective working of His power.
Ephesians 3:6-7

For more on this, see our Galatians study at www.bereansonline.org

Parashat VaYakhel - 'And He assembled' (Exodus 35:1-38:20)

The title for this Scripture portion is found in the first word of the first verse:

Vayakhel Moshe et-kol-adat B'nei Yisra'el vayomer alehem ele hadevarim asher-tsiva HaShem la'ashot otam:
Sheshet yamim tease m'lacha uvayom hashevi'i yihye lachem kodesh Shabat shabaton laHaShem kol-haose vo m'lacha yumat.

Then Moses gathered all the congregation of the children of Israel together, and said to them, "These are the words which HaShem has commanded you to do: Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh day shall be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of rest to HaShem. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death."

Exodus 35:1-2

Of particular interest to us today is the use of the word "vayakhel." It comes from the root verb kahal, or to "summon to assemble." From it we have the noun kahal, which is usually translated "assembly" or "congregation."

The Septuagint (also known as "LXX") uses the word "sunathroizo" [assembled] in this verse. It also uses the word sunagoge [synagogue, or congregation]. Another word used in the LXX for an assembly or congregation is "ekklesia." These words are used interchangeably in the LXX, both represent the Hebrew word "kahal" [assembly, congregation].

The dirty little secret is that Apostolic Scriptures uses these two Greek words (sunagoge and ekklesia) interchangeably as well. You won't find it in the English, because we have been always taught, "Synagogues are where Jews go, and churches are where Christians go." This is not biblical. The fact is that the English words "church" and "synagogue" in the Apostolic Scriptures are translators' contrivances. See how your English Bible translates James 2:2:

For if there should come into your assembly [sunagoge] a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes...
James 2:2

There is only one English translation that translates this word as "Synagogue" - The Complete Jewish New Testament. It seems that the translators have no problem translating sunagoge as "synagogue" when it they want to show it is a "Jewish" place - after all, in their minds, "Synagogues are for Jews, and churches are for Christians."

But all of this misses the point: a sunagoge, an ekklesia, a kahal... is not a place. It is the gathering of G-d's people. And the act of "gathering" or "assembling" the people of G-d together is not based upon man's calendar, or man's schedule of events. Man has wrongly made the Kahal of HaShem into all manner of things.

Beloved, the Kahal of HaShem is none of these. The Bride of Messiah is none of these. The assembling of His Kahal has nothing to do with these either.

This week's parasha is about assembling G-d's elect. It is about bring us together around Him. Look to the translations tricks that separate "synagogue" and "church" and you will find the same bias at work regarding another topic discussed in these opening verses of this week's portion: the Sabbath. You know the line, "Saturday is for Jews and Sunday is for Christians." Again, the traditions of men have all but erased the commandments of G-d for so many of those who count themselves as being a part of the Bride of Messiah.

This passage begins with instructions for the now familiar pattern of the Divinely ordained week. Have you noticed that these "six-days-of-work-but-the-seventh-is-a-Sabbath-rest" phrases are found in what seems to be odd places? It is as if they are simply placed randomly in the Torah. Not so, beloved. There is a reason for every stroke in HaShem's Holy Word - and with regard to the Almighty's weekly timetable, we know full well that it is not a random thing.

Let's reexamine where we have found Shabbat [Sabbath] instructions so far in the Torah.

For the sake of our discussion, let's look at four of these references, beginning with the first in Exodus 16, and then the three references that seem to be placed in the oddest of places.

In Exodus 16, before the "Covenant of Sinai," HaShem gave Israel an object lesson that appears to be designed to teach them about dependence upon HaShem for every need. Six days of work and a seventh day Shabbat are demonstrated in the six days of manna provision, and the double-portion on the sixth day which provided for a seventh day rest (Shabbat). This makes perfect sense when we read it, although it is may be somewhat troubling to some. Maybe they do not recognize that Exodus 16 is where the Shabbat is instituted officially for all Israel - not in the so called "Ten Commandments" or the "Covenant of Sinai." On the other hand, for those who recognize that no instructions from the Creator of the Universe should ever be considered passé, we know that the Shabbat, like all of HaShem's gracious instructions originated not at Sinai, or in the Wilderness weeks earlier, but in eternity past - because they do not have a beginning as we might consider beginnings. They are the expressions of His own character.

The seemingly odd places for the Shabbat instructions are these three:

In all three of these instances, the "six-days-of-work-but-the-seventh-is-a-Sabbath-rest" formula seems oddly out of place. Why give Shabbat instructions in the midst of a discussion on how to build the Mish'kan [Tabernacle]? Why give a Shabbat instruction (along with Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot) discussion in the midst of revealing the full meaning of His Name and the revelation of His character? Beloved, I believe it has to do indirectly with the Golden Calf incident, and what that whole episode teaches us about the works of men, versus the grace of HaShem.

As we saw last week, the Exodus 34 passage seems to be meant to be juxtaposed against the incorrect, albeit well-intentioned, Golden Calf episode. If you remember, we saw last week that the people appear to be well-intentioned in setting up the Golden Calf. After all, they called it Ek (G-d), and commemorated its worship with a feast day to "AD-NAI" (using HaShem's most Holy Name). They even offered sacrifices and peace offerings in the pattern of the biblical sacrifices. The only problem is, it may have been well-intentioned, but it was not according to HaShem's instructions. HaShem has no token of worship or veneration - nothing is supposed to be made to represent Him, no matter how pure our intentions are. Anything less than HaShem's commands regarding the worship of Him, is simply idolatry. It is the height of wickedness, and stems from the original sin in the Garden.

This week's instructions regarding the Shabbat are the final bookend in making the point: Good intentions do not count. Simple Obedience does. There is a lesson in this for us today. Just like last week we saw that it does not matter if we think we are worshipping the Almighty correctly - if we are not following His instructions, then it is not HaShem we are worshipping, but a god of our own making.

One we thing we see in this week's parasha is that G-d does not accept the notion that sacred construction can violate His expressed will, simply because the cause is good. Therein lies the truth of the two bookends of Shabbat instructions found in the midst of instructions for building the Tabernacle. Some people in modern times have suffered under a deception made popular by the Church Growth Movement - namely, that as long as something is done to "save the lost" it is good. Under the guise of fulfilling the Great Commission faithful believers have been asked for every spare cent to abuild-the-[fill in the appropriate metaphor] program - creating a Build-It-And-They-Will-Come Gospel.

Quite honestly, there is nothing wrong with a group of people getting together and erecting buildings and programs. In fact, it can be quite beneficial. The problem, beloved, is not the doing - it is in the how it is done. It is most often presented as "G-d's will." Like the Children of Israel who were concerned over the delay of initiating the "Plan" (while they thought Moses was delayed), taking on the service of HaShem by their own initiative, many congregations today have moved on in a perverted taking of the Promised Land ... without Messiah leading them.

We can imagine the sights and sounds of a people who think that they are accomplishing "G-d's will" by taking the initiative, and who are comfortable in what they think is worship of G-d. There are sounds that at first sound like spiritual warfare, like Joshua mistakenly thought about the noise of the people worshipping the Golden Calf - but instead turn out to be the people playing. There are sights that appear to be sacred, with emotion and devotion - sights of people with hands raised, or bowing down... with the Name of HaShem on their lips... while they bow before a god of their own making. These should be frightening and heart-wrenching scenes for each one of us. Such are the scenes when we abandon HaShem's clear instructions in favor of the traditions and theologies of men - when we seek to accomplish Divine acts and purposes with human effort.

As have seen in the past few weeks, our faithfully and simply acting out HaShem's loving instructions is how we take the common and the mundane, and sanctify His Name. This is the call of each of us as individuals. We do not sanctify His Name by taking the sacred and accomplishing it in our own way. To do that, is to profane, or make common the work and purposes of the King of Heaven and Earth.

Beloved, even the building of the Mish'kan [Tabernacle] was a Divine act. It had to be. The people did contribute materials (notice the complete lack of financing by the Bank of Sinai) - but the construction was not by the effort of man. The artisans of the Mish'kan were supernaturally endowed. Its erection was a miracle wrought by HaShem. The Shabbat teaches grace - and how human effort will never attain HaShem's favor.

Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days HaShem made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.
Exodus 31:16-17

"For as the new heavens and the new earth which I will make shall remain before Me," says HaShem, "So shall your descendants and your name remain. And it shall come to pass that from one New Moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, all flesh shall come to worship before Me," says HaShem.
Isaiah 66:22-23

If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of HaShem honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words,  Then you shall delight yourself in HaShem...
Isaiah 58:13-14a

Also the sons of the foreigner who join themselves to HaShem, to serve Him, and to love the name of HaShem, to be His servants - everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and holds fast My covenant - even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.
Isaiah 56:6-7

The lesson of the Shabbat continues to amaze me. Many have abandoned it as legalistic, cold, and temporary. Maybe they have allowed the traditions and theologies of men to overrule the clear teaching of Scripture. I have yet to see an even half-hearted attempt to explain how the Seventh Day turned into Sunday. At least Roman Catholics are honest about it - they say, "We changed it." Most denominations play silly games with the subject, none of which are Scriptural.

Regardless, the Shabbat is the essence of the Gospel message, and will endure for eternity even as HaShem Himself has declared. It is no wonder that many believe that the ways of business and the world dictate how HaShem's people should congregate together. They have found another way. It is not HaShem's way. Parasha VaYakhel teaches us this.

Shabbat's message is clear even today: Not by the will of man. Not by good intentions. Not by human effort. It is HaShem's grace, and His grace alone that provides for us. HaShem will do what man can never do for himself, if we will only learn to depend solely upon Him and by doing so, enter into His rest. The weekly Shabbat continually reminds of this.

Even the work on the holy Mish'kan can wait until the first day of the work week.

Can we rest?

Parashat Pikudei - 'Accounts' (Exodus 38:21-40:38)

The title for this week's Scripture portion is found in the second word of the first verse:

Ele p'kudei haMishkan Mishkan haedut asher pukad al pi Moshe avodat haLeviyim b'yad Itamar ben Aharon haKohen:
uvetsalel ben Uri ven-khur l'mate Y'huda asa et kol asher tsiva HaShem et Moshe:

This is the inventory of the Tabernacle, the Tabernacle of the Testimony, which was counted according to the commandment of Moses, for the service of the Levites, by the hand of Ithamar, son of Aaron the priest. Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, made all that HaShem had commanded Moses.
Exodus 38:21-22

The word that the New King James translates as "inventory" is the word "p'kudei." It is also translated as "accounts" or "sum." None of those words really reflect the word used in this context. You may notice the similarity to the word "pikudim" [precepts]. P'kudei is best described as an accounting for a king. When it is translated as "precepts" it is referring to the kingly commands whereby a king identifies his subjects. P'kudei is how a King accounts for his army, or his subjects. It is how a king accounts for his treasures. Therein you see the importance of the title for this week's Scripture portion: these are what belong to the King of the Universe. It is speaking of the Mish'kan [the Holy Tabernacle] and its articles.

This portion closes the book of Exodus for us. Beginning in Exodus 25, we have been reading about something wondrous - something inconceivable in the mind of mortal man. We have been read how the Almighty King of the Universe wants to dwell among us forever. Misguided religious thought always tries to reach up to G-d. It attempts to elevate man. The reason that cathedrals were built was to take congregants from their mundane existence and cause them to elevate their minds to the domain of G-d. Instead, the account from Scripture is how HaShem comes to dwell with us. It is the message and the promise of Scripture... from Genesis to Revelation.

Here is why it will forever be the Holy Mish'kan, and later the Holy Temple:

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

And the message of this week's Scripture is this: Moses and Israel constructed the Mish'kan exactly as they were told. Exactly. In fact we are told quite plainly, that the Mish'kan "worked." HaShem came and dwelt there. In fact, it "worked" so well, that Moses was unable to enter it after the Presence of HaShem filled it. Think about it: a place where time and space transected the eternal infinite. It was truly a portal, whereby the Holy G-d could dwell among mortal man.

So, the Almighty could now dwell in the midst of His people. Beloved, one thing was lacking. We could look to the center of the camp and see the Mish'kan. We could see the cloud by day and fire by night. We knew He was there... but we could not approach Him. Even Moses, our righteous leader was excluded from His Presence. HaShem's holiness was dangerous. His holiness can kill us.

We end Exodus with a glorious scene... and a problem. Be patient, beloved. There is something marvelous about to be revealed. If you will meditate on the awesomeness of the Presence of HaShem in the center of the camp; and then consider the problem of our approaching Him without dying, you will begin to glimpse a foundational truth of Scripture - one that many a theologian has completely misunderstood: the purpose of the offerings. Leviticus will unveil that for us.

However this week, reflect on the majesty, not of a cathedral... but of a lowly tent where the very Presence of the Almighty King of the Universe has taken up abode. That will forever change your view of the Holy Mish'kan.

Haftarat  Pikudei - 'Accounts' (1Kings 7: 51-8:21)

In this week's portion there is one focus and it is the same focus in our haftarot passages - the Presence of HaShem, dwelling among men.

This is the focus of most of the Scriptures, but sometime our lack of attention blinds us to the fact. Often our theology blocks the plain meaning of the text from our minds. Once again, the Mish'kan [Tabernacle] and the Temple are provided for context, and yet so often we simply "spiritualize" them. Yes, we the people of G-d, are the "Temple of G-d." Yes, Yeshua is the "Living Tabernacle" - but do not relegate these passages regarding the Mish'kan and Temple to some theological metaphor. They were real. Their purpose was real. Nothing could be more real than the Presence of G-d, in the Place where He put His Name.

Notice the similarity between our Torah portion (dealing with the Mish'kan) and our haftarah portion (dealing with the First Temple).

Then the cloud covered the Tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of HaShem filled the Tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the Tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of HaShem filled the Tabernacle.
Exodus 40:34-35

And it came to pass, when the priests came out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of HaShem, so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of HaShem filled the House of HaShem.
1Kings 8:10-11

2Chronicles deals with the same dedication of the First Temple.

Thus Solomon finished the House of HaShem and the king's house; and Solomon successfully accomplished all that came into his heart to make in the house of HaShem and in his own house. Then HaShem appeared to Solomon by night, and said to him: "I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this Place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My Name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 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 7:11-16

The Temple figures largely in all references to the Messianic Age to come. Do not let the fact that the Temple Mount is currently occupied by an abomination to the "moon god of Mecca" confuse you. That Place is where He has forever placed His Name.

Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of HaShem's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, "Come, and let us go up to the mountain of HaShem, to the House of the G-d of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths." For out of Zion shall go forth the Torah, and the word of HaShem from Jerusalem.
Isaiah 2:2-3

Do you have zeal for the Beit HaMikdash [Holy House, or Temple]? Yeshua our Master did.

Now the Passover of the Judeans was at hand, and Yeshua went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the Temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, "Take these things away! Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise!" Then His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up."
John 2:13-17

As you read this week's Torah and Haftarah portions, imagine what it will be like to visit Jerusalem and to enter the Place where HaShem has placed His Name forever.

May the glory fall on us all...

Prayer Focus for Vayak'hel -  'Yihi Ratzon' - [May it be Your will]

The last paragraph of the Shemoneh Esrei [also known as the Amidah], which we pray three times each day petitions HaShem for the rebuilding of the Temple.

May it be Your will, HaShem our G-d and G-d of our forefathers, that the Holy Temple be rebuilt, speedily in our days.
Grant us our share in Your Torah that we may serve You there as in days of old and in former years.
Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to HaShem, as in days of old and in former years.

Prayer Focus for 'P'kudei' -  from  'Tzur Mishelo Achalnu' - [The Rock from Whom We Have Eaten]

Tzur Mishelo Alchalnu is part of the prayers for Shabbat evening meal. It is an abridged version of Birkat Hamazon [Grace after Meals]. In this prayer we praise the Almighty as our Sustainer and our Provider. Part of this beautiful prayer is our focus this week. It beautifully expresses the deep desire for the Dwelling Presence of HaShem - and cries out for His Messiah, our Redeemer:

Be merciful in Your kindness upon Your nation, our Rock,
Upon Zion, resting place of Your Glory, the Holy,
Home of our splendor;
May the Son of David, Your Servant, come and redeem us, breath of our nostrils, the Messiah of HaShem.

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Standing in Prayer with all Israel,

Rick Spurlock
Bereans Online
www.bereansonline.org

B"H