Tag Archive | Israel

Lech Lecha

lech-lecha

Readings

Torah: Genesis 12:1 – 17:27
Haftarah: Isaiah 40:27-41:16
New Testament: Romans 4:1-24, Galatians 4:21-5:1, Hebrews 7

Note: the New Testament references are suggested by the Hebrews for Christians website. the Complete Jewish Bible and individual Messianic congregations use various different selections – there is no agreed-upon set readings.

Apologies for the lateness of this post. I have been really struggling to find enough time to sit down and look at this properly. I think I probably need to be a little bit more self-disciplined and carve out a specific time and place to study and write.

Parsha Lech Lecha (or Lekh Lekha) covers the stories of:

  • The Calling of Abram
  • Abram and Sarah in Egypt
  • Abram and Lot separate
  • Battle of the Kings
  • Covenant of the Land
  • Sarai and Hagar
  • Covenant of Circumcision

The Calling of Abram

The LORD calls Abram to leave his home in Ur to settle in Canaan, and Abram takes his whole household and all their possessions. the LORD appears to Abram again and says “Unto thy seed will I give this land.” This is the first mention and the first promise regarding the land of Israel.  From an evangelical perspective, these Bible promises alone justify the continued existence of Israel as a nation.

I have to wonder, if this were an actual historical event, how God manifests himself? In the stories below, it is often as a ‘man’ (which we usually understand to be an angel, or a messenger of God). Again, are these actual angels, or human beings speaking prophetically, and if the latter, how are we to know we can trust what they say? And if we only understand these stories as metaphor, what do they mean?

Abram and Sarah in Egypt

Abram and Sarah have to go into Egypt when there is famine in Canaan, and we get the first of three ‘wife/sister’ narratives, where the Patriarch attempts to pass his wife off as his sister in order to preserve his own life. It seems to suggest that these men (Abram and later Isaac) are deeply flawed, weak men. I don’t know what the significance of such an act might have been culturally in the time and place the stories are set in, but it is suggested that (whether or not they are true stories), it is designed to draw attention to the virtues of the women concerned. I’m not convinced about that.

Abram and Lot Separate

On returning to Canaan, Abram and Lot decide to part because they are such a big company that they would be too much for the land altogether in one place. So Abram goes up into the Plain of Jordan, while Lot goes down into Sodom. It actually says that Lot “pitched his tent toward Sodom” rather than actually living in the city. After they separate, the LORD promises Abram again that the land as far as he can see in every direction is for him and his descendants, who will be so many that they can’t be numbered.

Battle of the Kings

There is a battle between a group of 4 kings (Chedorlaomer, Tidal, Amraphel, Aioch) and 5 kings (the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorah, king of Admah, king of Zeboiim and the king of Bela/ Zoar), and Lot is carried off. So Abram is told and takes armed servants to join the fight and brings back both ‘the goods and the women and the people’.

On the journey, they meet Melchizedek, king of Salem (Jerusalem?) who blesses Abram who gives Melchizeden tithes of all they have got.

Melchizedek is an interesting character. His name means ‘Righteous King’, and he is considered (whether or not he was a real human character, and whether or not the incident really happened) to in some way represent God – the ultimate Righteous King – and to be a foreshadow or even a pre-incarnation of Christ.

Covenant of the Land

After this, the LORD appears again to Abram and makes a covenant with him, shoring up the promises he had already made regarding the land. Significantly, Abram is put to sleep while the covenant is being confirmed, and God walks through the cut pieces of the sacrificed animals alone, suggesting that this covenant is not dependent on Abram’s behaviour, but rests on God’s faithfulness alone.

Sarai and Hagar

Abram and Sarai are pretty aged in the story, and neither of them really belive that Sarai can have children to fulfil the promise of descendants for Abram, and so she gives him her maidservant Hagar. From a modern perspective this seems a thoroughly appalling abuse of power, but it seems to have been a common practice in the ancient world. Torah does not speak to the legality of such an arrangement, it does not seem to directly contravene any law, but again from our modern perspective and understanding of the NT admonition to only have one wife, it seems obvious that this arrangement can only lead to trouble, and of course it does. Hagar conceives, and when she does she mocks Sarai and Sarai casts her out. But God speaks to Hagar and tells her to return, promising that he will give her a multitude of descendants. Hagar names the place where God speaks to her ‘Beerlahairoi’, meaning the Covenant (or Well) of the God who Sees Me.

Covenant of Circumcision

The LORD appears to Abram again and makes a new covenant with him, changing his name at this time to Abraham, and Sarai’s name to Sarah, promising that Sarah will indeed have a child of her own. Sarah laughs at the idea, and so the child will be name ‘Isaac’ (Yitzak), meaning laughter. The covenant is the Covenant of Circumcision, which demanded that every male in Abraham’s household should be circumcised.

I have to say that, even when I was attending a Messianic cogregation, I had a problem understanding circumcision. I understand it as a metaphor and the idea of having a ‘circumcised heart’, but as an actual physical practice? Why on earth would God require that a piece of the body, and just such a piece of the body as the penis, be mutilated and removed? This is obviously something that is really just too far removed from modern culture. Perhaps it made sense in ancient Canaan. I am aware that circumcision is still practiced, but if female circumcision is abusive and unacceptable (which it most definitely is), how is male circumcision acceptable?

Links to Commentaries and Resources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lech-Lecha

http://www.messianictrust.org.uk/parashiyot/lechlcha-14.php

https://christinesbiblestudy.wordpress.com/2013/10/12/genesis-121-1727-parashah-lech-lecha/  Christine shows some chiastic structures in Lech Lecha, but there is also a much bigger chiastic structure spanning chapters 12 to 22 which puts the Covenant of Circumcision at the centre.

 

Advertisements

Isaiah 62:1-5

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
    for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet,
till her vindication shines out like the dawn,
    her salvation like a blazing torch.
The nations will see your vindication,
    and all kings your glory;
you will be called by a new name
    that the mouth of the Lord will bestow.
You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand,
    a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
No longer will they call you Deserted,
    or name your land Desolate.
But you will be called Hephzibah,
    and your land Beulah;
for the Lord will take delight in you,
    and your land will be married.
As a young man marries a young woman,
    so will your Builder marry you;
as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,
    so will your God rejoice over you.


I looked again and realised that of course the connection between Isaiah 62:1-5 and the Wedding at Cana, is of course the last verse which talks about being married!

This passage was obviously referring to the literal Mount Zion in Jerusalem and the land of Israel when it was written, but it has traditionally been understood by Christian theologians as prophetically referring rather to the Church, on the basis of New Testament references (Hebrews 12:22 and Revelation 14:1) which allude to a metaphorical, spirtual New Jerusalem.

In Messianic Jewish thought, a more literal interpretation makes more sense, with one exception – that the Bridgroom in question is Christ, God Himself. So in other words – whatever your view on the identity of Israel and the Church in Christianity – God ‘marries’ himself to His people, being an unbreakable, eternal Covenant.

“Whom God joins together, let no man put asunder.”

Going back to the Wedding at Cana, Christ can then be understood as mystically symbolising the eternal Bridgroom.

But the passage goes on to say that the righteousness of Zion (the people of God) will shine out like the dawn, that the nations will see her righteousness, that the LORD will delight in her and that she will be called by a new name.

Is this ‘new name’ possibly an allusion to the people of God becoming known as ‘Christians’? Is it just referring to the names Beulah (married) and Hephzibah (‘My delight is in her’?) Or is it some future epithet that we haven’t yet encountered?

How and when will this prophecy be fulfilled? When will the righteousness of Christians shine forth so brilliantly that the nations and the kings cannot but help be impressed by it?

In Ephesians 3:24 we are given a glimpse of a time when the Church reaches unity, being ‘mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ’ and Ephesians 5:27 alludes to a glorious Church, without spot or blemish.

Must the Church accomplish this unity, maturity and purity by her own efforts? Thankfully, no. We are back again at the Wedding of Cana, where Mary draws our attention to the need for God’s Holy Spirit to ferment our ‘water’ and turn it into ‘wine’.

Track back to the passage in Ephesians 5, and you will see that the Bridgroom is able to accomplish this by ‘washing’ her, by the ‘water of the Word’.  How does this work? Jesus says in John 15:3

“You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.”

This is the wondrous mystical, mystery of sanctification. We do not achieve it by our own efforts, but by Jesus’ efforts on our behalf.

So as the answer to the question ‘how and when will this prophecy be fulfilled’, it would seem to be another case of the prophecy having multiple fulfillments, or fulfillment in installments: yes, we are “already clean” in theory, so it is a ‘now’ but in practice, we are not so unified, mature or purified; so it is also ‘not yet’. This is something that is very common in Hebraic thinking, where the two possibilities seem to be opposite and apparently contradictory: the Hebrew mind, in opposition to the Greek linear logical way of thinking, is able to accept the seeming contradiction, and hold it in a tension.

With regard to what these difficult terms – ‘clean’, ‘pure’ and ‘righteous’ actually signify, that is the topic for another post!

The Mountain of the Lord

This blog was intended to be primarily Anglican, and I do intend to start looking at the readings from the lectionary, but I haven’t been able to get to an Anglican service in a while due to illness, and the fact that I can’t get a lift before 10am.

So, lately, I have been hanging out at a local evangelical/ pentecostal church.

The most recent sermon was on a the topic of a single verse (verse 2) in Isaiah chapter 2:

“In the last days
the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established
as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills,
and all nations will stream to it.”

I am aware of course that there is a range of differing eschatological positions, and that the standard Anglican eschatology is basically preterist – i.e. (if I understand it correctly) that the majority of prophecy has already been fulfilled and/ or is to be taken metaphorically rather than literally.

I was raised in a church (an American Baptist from Grand Rapids, Michigan in fact!) that took the Pre-Trib, Pre-Millennial view (with the idea that the Rapture would occur literally, prior to a literal Tribulation and followed by a literal Millennium of the rule of the Kingdom of God) very seriously.

Eschatology is a branch of Theology that isn’t generally popular, but Tim LaHaye’s ‘Left Behind’ series (which advocated that same Pre-Trib, Pre-Millennial view) brought it into the public view and made it popular.

But having read a few of those books, one thing they did for me was to make me seriously doubt that I had it all figured out or that the view I had been brought up with was the one true interpretation it was presented as being.

So back to Isaiah 2. It would seem that the basic options for interpreting this verse (or rather passage, as it’s really just asking for misinterpretation if you take a single verse out of context) are either:

– that a literal temple will be established in the literal Jerusalem (as the rest of the passage suggests), at a future time (or that this literally happened at some past point that would have been future when it was written), OR

– that the temple is metaphorical, and that this metaphorical temple will be established (in either the literal or a metaphorical Jerusalem) in the future or has already been established. (Although once a passage is taken to be metaphorical, the time element can legitimately be ignored.)

The speaker in this case, without any apparent reference to the rest of the passage or the context, what it meant to the original writer or readers, or how the passage has traditionally been understood, spiritualised the meaning of the verse, suggesting that the ‘mountain’ referred to success, prosperity, and the proliferation of the Gospel, that the ‘Temple’ referred to men’s hearts, and that this was something that would happen in the future but that the ‘Last Days’ were now.  By extension, it was used to suggest that the future of the local church was very bright.

It is not my intention to slander anybody of course nor to offend or upset the speaker in question. (If he is reading this, I would be happy to discuss it!) But this struck me as a particularly careless handling of Scripture. Not because it wasn’t a possible interpretation (it fits with the second option, although what ‘Jerusalem’ represents wasn’t addressed because it was outside of the scope of that single verse), but rather because the suggestion really was that, if you take a verse out of context, it’s alright to make it mean anything you want it to mean, and that the original intention is of no consequence. Of course, in some ways, that would seem to be the prevailing view anyway.

The rest of the passage continues:

Many peoples will come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
    so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
    the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between the nations
    and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
    and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
    nor will they train for war anymore.

Come, descendants of Jacob,
    let us walk in the light of the Lord.

The line ‘They will beat their swords into plowshares’ is a very famous phrase which is often quoted at memorial services for servicemen, in a wish to end the ongoing futility of war, so there is a lot in the passage that wasn’t even touched on in the sermon, and the passage immediately following this one is about the ‘Day of the Lord’ which is usually understood to refer to judgement rather than blessing and reward.

What does it matter whether or not we get our eschatology right? Do we need to know what is coming up in the future? Do we need to have a right understanding of the chronology of end-time events? Will it alter our thinking and behaviour if we have different ideas about the flow of history, the direction of events and the ultimate end-game? Or should we just be faithful in every age?

There is a sense in which Scripture can be understood to have multiple fulfillments so, for example, some of the passages in Isaiah which are clearly understood to be Messianic in nature – foretelling the coming of Christ – may have had an early fulfillment (a ‘shadow’ of things to come), a fulfillment at the time of Christ, and/ or possibly an ultimate fulfillment at the end of the age. So from that point of view it may be possible to accommodate multiple interpretations without one cancelling out the other. As a Messianic Jewish Anglican who tends to see a future for Israel, the Jewish people and Torah in the church, I would support that ‘multiple fulfillments’ view.

But does that make it possible for Isaiah 2:2 to be telling us that the future of the local church in Cornwall is prosperity and success in evangelism? It seems a bit of a stretch to me.

Honeymoon at Home

I had a most interesting and confusing dream, and I like to record them so I remember them better (you know how easily dreams disappear like a puff of smoke!) So I am sharing it, for whatever it’s worth. Feel free to psycho-analyse 🙂

~~~~
I dreamt that Mark and I had got married (again) and that we were honeymooning at home in a big house, but that he had hurt his arm building a new room…

…I went out and was trying to find my way. I borrowed a bike at a big roundabout, and asked a policeman. I asked if he spoke English and when he did, I said I was glad because my Hebrew wasn’t very good! Then I asked for Queensbury Circle in London! The policeman told me I had a man’s bike that was too high for me, and I would be more comfortable if I went back and swapped it for a lady’s bike.

I arrived at a building where a Jewish comedian was being advertised as doing a show, and other people were handing out leaflets condemning him, saying his show was bad for Israel.

I now had a baby in a pram and I was in a rush.

One of the people handing out leaflets was my old friend Karen. She asked me, “how is your ex-husband”, meaning Mark. I answered “he is my husband again”. Then she asked, “is that your baby?” I turned back and smiled and said “yes” but I rushed on.

I went home to see my husband and asked him if he was feeling better, but his arm was still hurting.
~~~

I was woken up by a rogue alarm that went off at 7am on the bank holiday! (Thank-you, children!)

Well, all of this is weird and I hardly know where to start. Firstly, as far as I know, there is no thought of divorce or separation, and I hope there never will be!

I like the idea of a big new house. Maybe the new room is for the baby?

Honeymooning at home? Not very imaginative.

Queensbury, London, in Israel?

And I have a man’s bike? Too high for me?

And the hurting arm?

But the idea of a new baby in a pram is a nice one. Almost worth getting divorced for! 🙂

P.s. In the dream, he had cut off all his beautiful long, head-banging hair. I told him I won’t marry him again if the hair comes off 🙂

Am I Jewish?

I was asked recently if I am Jewish. (When I told somebody I was Messianic, she said “Wow, I didn’t realise you were Jewish”) It was a rhetorical statement rather than a question so I didn’t need to respond to it directly. But the answer is yes… but no… but it’s complicated.

I came very, very close to converting to Reform Judaism (I looked at Orthodox Judaism too) some years ago but, in the end, I decided that it wasn’t the right path for me simply because Jesus was too central to my life and thinking to give up. But in the process of studying and being in Judaism I discovered that being Jewish is much more than religion – it is a people and culture (and country!) that I love, and so I consider myself Jew-ish.

The name I took (Shoshana) is now an integral part of my identity. As the convert Ruth said, your people will be my people, your God will be my God. So in the simplest Ruth-ite sense, I consider myself one with the Jewish people even if I am not recognised as such.

But more than that I realised that, through Messiah, I am grafted in to the Olive Tree of Israel, as are all believers, whether or not they recognise either themselves or natural Israel as in any way connected.

I have taken a lot of Judaism (sabbath, the festivals, food and music etc) back into my Christianity, because I love it and I believe it is good and true. A lot of people don’t like it but I’m not about to conform to please people. And for a long time, I agonised over having one foot in both camps, but now I’m comfortable in that position.

I consider myself to be standing in the gap, a repairer of the breach. The nation of Israel and the Jewish people need the support and friendship of Christians, now more than ever. Those of us who are in the mainstream church can and should be a voice for Israel and the Jewish people for as long as they are able to be. The church, meanwhile, needs to rediscover the roots of its own faith in Biblical Judaism and it needs to be restored to the truth of Torah.

As I explained to a new believer recently, the antinomianism of the modern church is a very new phenomenon. The Roman Catholic church believed in law, but it believed that having the ‘keys of the kingdom’ meant that it could discard God’s Law and replace it with its own. The protestant church rejected that claim, but traditionally divided God’s Law into moral, ceremonial and civil / judicial, and kept only that which it considered to fall under the category of moral law. Messianic believers on the other hand see no basis for such a division.

Increasingly though, and very sadly, even so-called evangelical churches are becoming antinomian, crucially misunderstanding the nature of the Law, the nature of sin and the nature of sanctification. I was told recently by an evangelical group that ‘Christ put an end to the Law’, adding that the Law was only for Jews. That really is a twisting of the truth that Messiah fulfilled the Law, setting us free. It is not Law that we need to be freed from, however, but sin (Why would gentiles need to be freed from Jewish Law?!). But thanks to the so easily misunderstood writings of Paul, taken out of context, these misapprehensions persist.

Liberty

I learned today, via a contact on Twitter, Rachel Barenblat, the @VelveteenRabbi (I hope you get the literary reference) that Israel has a policy of detaining Palestinian suspects without charge, sometimes for years.

I don’t know how I have been unaware of this fact, except that I probably tend to see Israel with slightly rose-tinted glasses.

The last thing I would ever want to do would be to damage Israel in anything I say or do. I know that Israel for the most part is a haven of democracy in a very toxic surrounding culture, and despite constant accusations of being an ‘apartheid state’, it is nothing of the sort. Furthermore, Arabs and Muslims living in Israel are known to fare better there and have more freedom than in any Muslim State.

Israel’s argument for legitimacy far outweighs the arguments of its detractors.

Nevertheless, detention without charge, especially for long periods is wrong. It’s not justice, and as @VelveteenRabbi says, it’s not Judaism.
http://palestiniantalmud.com/2012/05/14/administrative-detention-is-not-judaism/

I tend towards Libertarianism politically in a lot of ways, and generally speaking I would support freedom of travel and movement. But how could a country that is surrounded by people who passionately hate and desire the destruction of its inhabitants survive without State controls?

The only answer is that it couldn’t. If Israel is to survive, it must protect itself.

But surely such protection must not extend to contravening the human rights of suspects, even if they are suspected of terrorism.

Looking at the Twitter feed of the Israeli Centre for Human Rights, it reports that the Palestinan’s top runner has been denied entry to Israel to run in the marathon. How petty that decision seems! Meanwhile, though, Israel has released another batch of *convicted* terrorists and murderers to the Palestinians who, rather than incarcerating them themselves for their crimes, as any other State would be expected to do to murderers, celebrates these wicked men as heroes.

Israel, just like Palestine, obviously has a lot to learn about genuine justice.

May God restore justice to His people!

Review of the Decade so far!

Shalom!

It has been a very long time since I posted (for those receiving this post on facebook, you can find my previous blog posts on http://messianickah.wordpress.com/ )

In the three or more years since I posted, a great deal has happened to us. Firstly we have lost three babies – identical twins at 14 weeks due to TTTS (twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome) in 2010 and then a singleton in early 2012.

My Dad died after a long illness in February 2011.

The very next weekend we moved from the city to a very remote location in Devon where we had no internet access (even dial-up wouldn’t function due to the very ancient split-line technology!) We have now moved again to a slightly less remote location in Cornwall. The timing of this original move was extremely painful, and a terrible wrench for my mum who was left behind.

In January 2012  our middle son was diagnosed with Type1 auto-immune Diabetes, a week after my last miscarriage. Again, the timing of this was extremely hard. Type1 Diabetes is often called Juvenile Diabetes, since it is often (though not always) diagnosed in childhood. This was a shock but not entirely a surprise – I had suspected diabetes for a very long time indeed, although I did not know the difference between types 1 and 2. More on that later, as it is a BIG subject and has utterly changed our lives as a family.

My eldest son has now turned 18 and left homeschool for Sixth Form college at the school where his dad works, which has made for a much easier and pleasant transition. For those of us left at home though it is a challenge to adjust after having him at home with us for almost 15 years! It is truly a life-change for me as well as for him.

The eldest two joined Scouts and Explorers (the younger two tried cubs and Scouts but couldn’t get on with it). I also started as a helper with Beaver Scouts, but had to give it up when I was without transport. I hope to take it up again this year.

We were sadly forced to sell our house at a loss in 2012 after our tenants did a very good job of destroying the place (and we, being green and naive at the time had not thought to obtain landlord’s insurance, or even a deposit – the tenants were people we knew who were down on their luck and we thought we would do them a favour, which makes what they did all the more heartbreaking).

So we are in rental accommodation again with no hope at this moment of buying a house again, sadly (unless our situation changes). The one good thing about that is that rental prices where we are now are fairly reasonable and we have a much bigger house than we originally left.

We have been in this house now for just over two months, and we are still in a mess! I am slowly going through everything trying to streamline and adjust to our new circumstances (with no garage or shed, and not allowed to use the loft space, which does nullify the extra space somewhat).

In between leaving our own home and coming here, we actually moved in effect five times: to an enormous rental house in a village in Devon, but which we had to leave after flooding. Secondly we lived for almost three years in a much-to0-small bungalow in another very remote village in Devon, but were flooded out after just a month in August 2011 and had to stay in a cottage temporarily. We moved back into the bungalow in October 2011. The bungalow was located in the most spectacularly beautiful countryside, with farmland all around. Sadly the experience was marred by cluster flies that we couldn’t get rid of, and crashing my car which made the whole of 2012 a very difficult year for me, with a 7 mile walk to the bus stop, we didn’t get out much!

Our new location is less remote, being 5 miles outside town instead of 15 miles out. At a pinch, if I were without transport again,’ it would be conceivably possible to walk to the local post office which is a couple of villages away, or even into town if I needed to.

However, after more than 10 years with a non-descript semi-diagnosis of CFS (‘chronic fatigue syndrome’) I finally obtained a more firm diagnosis of ME (‘Myalgic Encephalomyelitis’) again, another huge subject which merits further discussion. It’s not a diagnosis I am pleased to receive, and I still hope that it is wrong and have spent the last few months persuading my new GP to run tests to eliminate every possible other thing it could be, without any helpful results so far.

I have not found a suitable fellowship since we moved, and believe me I have looked very hard indeed. There used to be a Messianic Fellowship in Devon some years ago but it is long gone now. I have tried to make friendly links with Christians in the area though, and visiting several different Salvation Army corps in Devon and Cornwall. Sadly none of them are very close by, but I tend to be most comfortable with The Salvation Army as it is an active, working church. I have tried without success as well to find believers friendly to Israel who would be interested in forming a prayer group, but I’m sure that will come about in the L-RD’s time.

So all in all, this decade has been a very hard one so far, but I am confident that with this move, things are looking up, and I am looking forward to a year full of blessing.