Monthly Archives: February 2011

Galatians: The Revolution Starts Here

By most accounts, Galatians is one of Paul’s earliest letters if not the earliest. A common dating of this letter is usually right at the half-way point of the 1st Century around 50 A.D. most likely sometime before the famed Jerusalem Council of Acts 15. Paul’s primary message in Galatians was revolutionary in every sense of the word and it was this: Gentiles who put their trust in Messiah Yeshua are welcome into God’s Kingdom and are made co-heirs with the Jews in God’s family based on their trust and faithfulness to Messiah Yeshua alone and nothing else period. 

David Stern notes in his Jewish NT Commentary on Galatians that “for the first time a Scriptural and theological basis was given for presenting the Gospel to Gentiles without their having to become Jews first.”

According to author Phillip Goble, he believes it took Paul the time he spent in Arabia (possibly 3 years according to Gal 1:17) to workout a Gospel that was set within a Jewish framework and make that Gospel fully available to Gentiles without their having to convert to Judaism. Goble says that “Christianity is simply transcultural Judaism”.

E.D. Burton said “Paul’s real work was developing the implications of the Messiah’s coming in the light of his deep knowledge of Judaism and in the light of God’s call on him to communicate this Jewish truth to the non-Jewish world.”

Stern notes that this must have taken Paul “considerable time to think about the various specific issues; the nature of atonement and forgiveness, the authority of the written and oral Torah, the meaning of the Messianic prophecies, the role and future of the Jewish people, the preeminent requirement of trust for salvation, the role of ethics, ect, ect.”

Paul would be revolutionary in his vision and out working of these matters as it related to the relationship of Jews and Gentiles together as one body in Messiah Yeshua. In a few years down the road, Paul would fine tune a lot of his theology from Galatians in his letter to the Messianic Community in Rome; Romans. Paul’s revolutionary theology in short time would go worldwide and have a profound effect upon millions and millions throughout the centuries. While Paul’s impact on the universal church is without question, there has been controversy since his first letter’s were written, with questions and misunderstandings about his revolutionary theology. I hope to get into a few of those topics as it concerns Galatians in some future posts.

May grace and shalom be multiplied upon you in the name of Yeshua the Messiah!

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The Hidden Face of God – Part I

I’m running at a week behind for this post since I had originally wanted to write it after last week’s Shabbat service at Baruch HaShem. The message was given by guest speaker Calev Myers who is a Messianic Jewish Lawyer in Israel and founder of the Jerusalem Institute of Justice. This post got delayed due to me preparing to meet up with some old high school friends for an evening jam session. This jam session felt pretty good and I’m happy to report that I’ve been spending a bit more time playing and writing music that could lead to some recording in the not to distant future. Unfortunately this takes time away from extra reading and writing blogs. I wish I could do both more but music tends to melt the stress away where as everything else might just increase it. I’m still working on that whole life-balance thing, has anyone ever got it down pat in the history of the world? Anyway, I digress back to the blog at hand.

Last week’s Torah portion was Ki Tissa (When you take) from Exodus 30:11-34:35. This portion of Scripture is one of my personal favorites and includes the awesome but somewhat perplexing scene of God revealing Himself to Moses and the climatic proclamation of Chapter 34, verses 5-7 where God, after revealing His backside to Moses, proclaims His name as YHVH and His awe-inspiring attributes, all worth committing to memory.

Calev’s message was timely for Elizabeth and I because during our Bible studies throughout the week on this portion we had discussed the face of God and had looked at a few different Scriptures that were related to this mystery. To begin with, Calev started his message with Exodus 33:11 which is where Elizabeth and I began to have this question about the Face of God as well.

Exodus 33:11 Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.

This verse is pretty clear-cut right? Face to face, yeah just what it says…….I mean in our day and age you could technically speak to your friend a number of different ways with all of our forms of media and not be in the 3 dimensional, but 3,500 years ago if you wanted to “speak” to your friend “face to face” it was most definitely in literal meaning of the term. But what about this next verse?

Exodus 33:20 ” But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.”

Ok, so which is it? Does Moses see God “face to face” or is it that “he cannot see my face”? Here is where a very Jewish Biblical interpretation principle comes into play and might be best related as a “both/and” approach rather than an “either/or”. Moses can see the Face of God while at the same time not see the Face of God. This is also known as Divine Tension where the texts reveal the possibility for a little of this and that rather than just this or that, do you get it? As clear as mud? Ok, moving on.

Calev pointed out that in Exodus 33:14-15 where we have the word “presence” translated in Hebrew that word could also be translated “face” which would fit the overall context of the scene quite well. He also pointed out that He personally believes within the Godhead that there are many Faces of God with Yeshua being the most accurate and complete Face of God revealed to mankind throughout history. At this point I thought, that boy is pretty good, I think he’s on to something. A verse that Calev didn’t bring up but that I thought about with this discussion was the following:

Exodus 24:9-11 Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, 10 and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. 11 And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.

So was this a pre-incarnate Yeshua? The Face of the Godhead that is seen and beheld in the image of man? A Face fully comprehensible as God while at the same time only a part of the Godhead which in its totality is fully incomprehensible to man?

Another interesting aspect about the Face’s of God and there differences is the light that was emanating from Moses after encountering God and an aspect of His glory. This had to be some kind of supernatural light shining forth from Moses after his encounter with God to make everyone afraid to come near him. Compare this to the comeliness of Yeshua who the fullness of the Godhead was pleased to dwell in bodily form. Yet this glory manifested itself very differently in the face of Yeshua. In Yeshua this glory was both revealed and concealed. Concealed undoubtably for the benefit of all.

Exodus 34:29-30 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. [1] 30 Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him.

Isaiah 53:2-3 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected [1] by men; a man of sorrows, [2] and acquainted with [3] grief; [4] and as one from whom men hide their faces [5] he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Originally I was going to write just one post but due to the length and a few other angles to cover I will break it up into Parts 1 and 2. Part II hopefully coming real soon!

May grace and shalom be multiplied upon you in the name of Yeshua the Messiah!


Law and Love

I didn’t have any idea about or intention of writing anything related to love with Valentines Day fast approaching but sometimes inspiration calls from out of nowhere and takes you from that same place to somewhere else.

My son and I were walking our dog yesterday afternoon and we ran into a friend of mine who lives across the street as he was coming home from grabbing a bite to eat. We small talked a bit and caught up on the last few days of each other’s lives and my friend said that he had visited a church service at one of our local seminaries that he is attending. He said it was a neat service in a chapel that is on campus and the preacher was from a local congregation across town. He told me that the preacher was giving a sermon on Galatians that was pretty good for the most part but a certain phrase struck him as a bit odd. He said the preacher mentioned that “The Law can’t love you like Jesus can”. We talked about this for a moment but he had to get in and get ready for the evening and I had to get the dog moving so she would stop mauling my son (my son is 2 and the dog is a boxer pup who rules him right now).

As I continued the walk through the neighborhood I thought about that phrase “The Law can’t love you like Jesus can”. I tend to cringe a bit when I hear statements like this now, not because they’re not true (my friend and I agreed that this is a true statement), but because they are usually evidence of a sub-conscience theological paradigm that juxtaposes God’s Law in a negative proposition with His Grace in a positive affirmation. Statements like these are often out of context with the Biblical text and are usually irrelevant to add benefit to the main thrust of the message. A point that cannot be over stated and stressed enough is the negative connotation with the word Law in our culture and throughout the centuries and the Biblical understanding of our Heavenly Father’s loving instruction (Torah translated as Law) given to His children to lead and guide us into a deeper relationship with Himself. It equally cannot be overstated that something good (i.e. God’s Law) can be perverted into something bad (i.e. Legalism). Many other examples such as these exist in our Bible as well as in our society today.

A few questions arose in my mind before I got back to the house;

Can the Law love you and should you love it back? King David wrote the longest Psalm and chapter of the Bible with Psalm 119. Psalm 119 is basically a love song about God’s Law. David was a sinner who knew his way back to God through repentance. David was also a man after God’s own heart. For David, the Law didn’t terminate on itself but was a means of communion with God. It is also interesting that in our English translations, Leviticus is at the heart of the Torah (Law). The root word of Leviticus is Lev which means “heart” in Hebrew.

Is the Law designed to love you? The Law reveals the Lawgiver; His character, His nature, His heart. “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Matthew 12:45 and Luke 6:45. Put simply, the Law is designed to reveal God’s love for you.

What does the Law say about love in itself? The Law points directly to Who your ultimate love and devotion should be to:  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Deuteronomy 6:5. Jesus also called this the Greatest Commandment, see Matthew 22:37.

 What does Jesus say about Law and Love? Jesus is the Word made flesh, that same Word that brought everything into existence and gave the instruction; “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15

May grace and shalom be multiplied upon you in the name of Yeshua the Messiah!