Weekly Torah Commentary – Shelach June 16, 2017

Torah reading:  Numbers 13 -15

Haftorah reading: Joshua 2: 1-24

If you were looking in the Bible for someone scandalous to write about, surely one of the first people you would consider would have to be Rahab. A pagan with a sin-ravaged past; a prostitute, who would go on to become such a hero that this entire chapter of Joshua is focused on her and some 1500 years later she is mentioned in subsequent writings along with Abraham, Moses and David as an example of heroic biblical faith.

As we consider her life, I want you to be encouraged about your own. Maybe you too have made mistakes. Maybe you too have wondered if you could ever overcome the scars of bad decisions. Rahab is about to show us that there is no ‘past’ so terrible that limits the Holy One of Israel from turning a life around and causing that very person to become a person of great significance in His overall plan.

Rahab

There are three things to learn from this week’s Haftorah:

1. First, we see Rahab’s condition spiritually, emotionally, and physically.  Verse 1 explains “she was a prostitute.” V. 15 adds “her house was in the wall.”

The Bible makes no bones about it – Rahab was a prostitute. Not only that, but she lived in the city wall. That’s where the poor and destitute lived. There were two walls that surrounded Jericho separated by a 15 foot gap. The poor built little shanties in that gap. As a result, they were the first to suffer attack from enemies, the first to die in time of war. They were human shields for the rich.

Rahab, in many ways, had never known what it was to have a life. Her poverty and sin had taken its toll. She eked out a meager living by sacrificing her dignity to the vile passions of strangers, never knowing what it was to feel protected, valued and cherished.

But God loved her. He had a plan for this woman victimized by sin. He sent his spies to her house, not simply to secure military information. God intended to show Rahab His unmerited favor. By sending these spies to her, not only did He protect the spies, He saved Rahab and her entire family.

It may well have been the very first time that two men came to her house and didn’t want her ‘services’!  It may have been the very first time that two men came to her house and treated her with respect and kindness.

Reading on we realize that Rahab had heard what God did for the Israelites in the desert.  The word had traveled far and wide and by her reaction and her acknowledgement of ‘the Lord your God’ we recognize that this was a woman whose heart had not become embittered by her difficult life but she had an awe and respect for God.  She said, ‘…for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and in earth beneath.’  Joshua 2:11b  Catch this – just based on what she had heard that God did for the Israelites, she had come to believe that He was the one and only true God!  She had no first hand experience of His miracles; only hearsay.  But what she heard stirred her heart to faith.

2. After her condition, we see her ‘conversion’.

Even a casual reading of this passage shows that Rahab, who once lived as a prostitute, had turned away from that life and put her faith in the God of Israel. How did that happen?

Verse 9 reveals that she had a righteous fear of the Lord.  Her fear moved her to throw herself upon God’s mercy.

 

The Bible says The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Solomon added, By the fear of the LORD men depart from evil.

 

Is our society in its present condition because people no longer know what it is to  ‘fear the Lord’?  Rahab did – her heart melted at the thought of what would soon happen to her and her family. And that fear motivated her to seek God’s mercy.

So did the facts – in vv. 10 and 11 she acknowledges how God had blessed Israel, empowered them to defeat their enemies, shielded them from harm – and met their needs. She saw how good God was to them and it moved her.  When she considered that the same Israelites were enroute to her city, Jericho, she knew this wasn’t like times before when warring armies made empty threats. These Israelite people had God on their side.

Therefore she was moved to act in Faith. She protected the spies, gave them safe passage, for she believed that God would bless her if she did right by them.  Perhaps at some time in her life she had heard about God’s word to Abraham, ‘I will bless those who bless you; and I will curse those who curse you.’

She obeyed the spies’ directions and placed a scarlet rope in her window as a sign of her obedience, because she believed the Lord.

3. Rahab confessed her faith openly… urgently – and her family followed her to safety! Verse 18 says, “Behold, when we come into the land, you shall tie this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and you shall gather into your house your father and mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household.”

It is not enough to have faith just for yourself. We are called to be ‘a light unto the nations’.  To spread abroad the truth of God’s goodness, His faithfulness and His ever abiding love is our responsibility, not just in words but also by the display of our way of living.

In Tune with Torah this week:

Rahab reminds us that our past sins do NOT have to define us! Regardless of what we have done, once we repent and receive God’s forgiveness we can rise up and impact the destinies of those we love.  If God can make a hero of a harlot, surely, surely He can use you and me!

Shabbat Shalom

 

Weekly Torah Commentary Beha’aloscha June 9, 2017

Torah reading:  Numbers 8-12

Haftorah reading: Zechariah 2:14 – 4:7   (Zechariah 2:10 – 4:7 in English translations)

The prophet Zechariah served the LORD after the remnant of Judah had returned from the 70-year Babylonian exile. His prophetic ministry was active during the reign of Darius, the ruler of the Medes and Persians. His career is not marked by the reign of a king over Israel or Judah, because there was no king of Israel or Judah in this period after the exile.

Profoundly conscious of all of God’s promises to Israel throughout the centuries, and given their recent return to Jerusalem after seventy years in Babylon, the prophet urges them to be joyful.

rejoice

Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion (Zech 2:10)

God doesn’t expect His people to be passive or “cool” in light of His faithfulness in bringing them back after seventy years just as Jeremiah had prophesied. God expects them to sing and rejoice, to be thankful and worshipful.  The prophet goes on with even more reasons for joy.

I am coming and will dwell in your midst (Zech 2:10

The first reason why God’s people should be excited is because He will be among them in a unique and powerful way. To this day the assurance of His presence with us is more than enough reason to be thankfully happy, even in the midst of difficult times.  David wrote in Psalm 16:11, ‘In Your presence there is fulness of joy.’  God is always with us, He will never forsake us.  You can anchor your soul in that promise for the Holy One of Israel does not lie; neither is He unfaithful.  He promised to be with us always and He is.  Is that not what faith is all about? Trusting absolutely in His revealed Word which can never, ever fail.

Zechariah goes on to give the returned exiles another reason to be joyful.

Many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day and will become My people. Then I will dwell in your midst and you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. (Zech. 2:11a)

This is a profoundly prophetic verse.  Read it again quietly to yourself.

First of all, we see that God’s love and His Redemption is for ALL nations.  His choice of Israel was for a purpose and a mission: to make His Name known and loved across the world, ‘a light to the nations’.

Now there’s something interesting about light.  It exposes what already exists.  Therefore, Israel’s national mission was (and is) to demonstrate individually and as a nation the power and the blessing of living in relationship with the Holy One of Israel.  Israel’s calling was never intended to be introspective; rather, their calling is for the sake of the rest of the nations.  Here He explicitly tells Israel more nations are going to become His people lest Israel become smug or arrogant about her calling.

Secondly, through the prophet, God informs us that He will bring many peoples into His Kingdom. He is making known to Judah and to all of Israel that His blessing upon them was never intended to isolate them from the rest of the world but to make them effective and impacting witnesses of His goodness for the sake of awakening the rest of the world to God’s love.  This echoes the thought we’ve already expressed: Israel was to be the model nation.  It was to their high calling that Zechariah was appealing, reminding and exhorting them to be mindful of WHY they were chosen and WHY they were brought back to Jerusalem.  It wasn’t just to make them happy; it was for the purposes of God’s eternal Redemption plan which was to encompass ALL the nations of the world.

Then I will dwell in your midst and you will know that the LORD of Hosts has sent me to you. (Zechariah 2:11b)

Thirdly, this second half of verse 11 clearly prophesies the Messianic Kingdom to come.  It jumps to future generations: ‘Then’ – or ‘At that time’ speaks of the future when King Messiah will literally ‘dwell in your midst’ and all Israel will know that the LORD of Hosts has sent Him, for the world will be at peace, wars will cease and His reign from Jerusalem will encompass the entire world.  Finally, the dream of Avinu Malkenu – Our Father and our King – will be realized as men and women, boys and girls from every nation under heaven worship Him in truth.  What a glorious day that will be!  What an amazing future awaits us!

In Tune with Torah this week = In light of the glorious future God has prepared for His people, should we not live with eternity in view? How will it impact your life today, this week, this year if you purpose to live conscious that you are just a traveler passing through on this planet but your true and eternal home awaits you?

Shabbat Shalom

 

Weekly Torah Commentary – Nasso June 2, 2017

Torah reading: Numbers 4:21-7:89

Haftorah reading: Judges 13:2-25

This week’s Haftorah reading tells the story of the birth of Samson, the prophet of the Lord.  Though the text tells us only the name of Samson’s father, Manoah, we find Samson’s mother listed in I Chronicles 4:3 by the name of Hatzlelponi, a descendant of Perez of the tribe of Judah.

At that time the Philistines were oppressing the tribes of Dan and Judah.  The people wanted nothing to do with confronting the Philistines and were allowing themselves to be intimidated by their enemy.  God was not pleased with their attitude and chose a plan of deliverance which began with a startling revelation to a woman who longed to conceive a child.  As the story unfolds her perceptive qualities will stand in sharp contrast to her husband’s more passive character.

An angel of the Lord appears to the woman announcing the arrival of a son and invites her to participate in the lifestyle which her son will adopt for he will be a Nazarite.  She is to observe the Nazarite dietary rules during her pregnancy and never cut the child’s hair.  The angel tells her: ‘He shall be the first to deliver Israel from the Philistines.’ Judges 13:5)

Knowing her husband well, Hatzlelponi reports the visitation to Manoah but purposely leaves out those elements that she knows he will object to; namely, a confrontation with the Philistines.  She also refrains from telling Manoah that the boy’s hair is never to be cut.  Her desire to see God’s plan come to fruition includes protecting the boy from his father’s objections!

Manoah declares that he wants to be included for he was not present when the angel appeared to his wife. The angel returns but appears to Hatzlelponi in the field.  It is only after she hurries to find her husband that Manoah finally encounters the angel.  It becomes quickly apparent that Manoah is far more interested in finding out the name of the angel, than learning about God’s plan for the people of Dan and Judah.  He persists in asking until the angel says his name is ‘unknowable’.  He refuses their offer of food and commands the couple instead to present an offering to the Lord.  As they do, the angel ascends to heaven in the fire of the offering.  Seeing this they fall on their faces on the ground.  Manoah is terrified and expects to die.  His wife – if you’ll allow me a modern rendition – tells him, ‘You’re not going to die.  I’ve seen the angel before and I’m still here!’

Samson1

So what do we learn from this event?

Samson’s mother is revealed as a woman who accepts the mission God gave her and is devoted to fulfilling it just as it was revealed to her.  God’s desire becomes her desire.  She is a ‘chosen woman’ as is evident from the visitation of the angel of the Lord, not just once but twice.  In her response, she echoes what her ancestors said at Sinai:  ‘We will do and we will hear.’  They committed themselves to obey God’s commandments before they heard what they were.  In other words, they declared their faith in Him.  Hatzlelponi does the same thing.  Though she was given certain details, she certainly wasn’t told everything about the life of the son she would bear.

The story of Hatzlelponi is that of a woman who embodies the spirit of willful obedience that was present at Sinai (before the sin of the Golden Calf) in contrast to her husband who haggles with the angel as if he were a merchant in the marketplace.

She also demonstrates kindness and wisdom in the way she deals with her husband’s doubt.  She does not berate him but calms him with the words: ‘had the Lord meant to take our lives, He would not have accepted the burnt offering..’  (Judges 13:23)

In the Hebrew, there is further evidence of her connection with the God of Israel: the deliberate inclusion of the Hebrew letter ‘heh’ at the beginning of her name.  That is the same letter that was added to Abram to change it to Abraham and to Sarai, to change her name to Sarah.  It is not evident in English but in the Hebrew spelling it’s immediately noticeable.  It is the favored letter indicating a connection with the Holy One and is consistently used in the names of those who are called, chosen and appointed for a specific task.

There is something else unique about her name for it is related to the name given to Joseph when he was made Prime Minister of Egypt, Tzaphenath-paneah. (Gen. 41:45)  Both names come from the same root which means ‘to conceal’ or ‘to encode’.

God took an everyday woman, concealed in her womb a child who would grow up to deliver Israel from the Philistines, and didn’t even have her name mentioned in the context of this amazing event.

Too often we can wrongly think that only the “famous” or the “well-known” can do something significant for God.  Not true!

Application:

The Lord has a plan for every individual’s life.  No one is an accident and no one is unimportant. Our responsibility is to seek Him and find out what His plan is for us, then set about walking it out with all our energy and determination.

What we need to understand is that whatever our destiny, it is important to God and therefore it is not up to us to judge its value.  If God calls you important, you are important.  He did not call any of us to be ‘human doings’ but ‘human beings’.  Your life, whatever form it takes, is what matters the most, not your career.  It’s our daily lives with all the opportunities to choose loving kindness as opposed to irritability, integrity as opposed to deceitfulness, etc., that will leave a legacy of godliness to our children and our grandchildren.

People will remember you for the kind of person you are, far more than for the job you did.

Shabbat Shalom!

 

 

Weekly Torah Commentary – Bamidbar May 26, 2017

Torah Reading:  Numbers 1:1 – 4:20

Haftorah reading:  Hosea 2: 1-22

The book of Hosea describes Hosea’s marriage to Gomer and its prophetic meaning for Israel. Chapters 4–14 give excerpts from Hosea’s preaching of grace and judgment leading up to the fall of Israel in 722 BC. Chapters 1–3 are so powerful and personal that we want to look at them for if we grasp the point of chapters 1–3, we grasp the point of the book.  And what is the point?  Read on…

Hosea 2: 1-23 is one of the most tender and most beautiful love songs in the Bible. It is sung by God to his unfaithful wife, Israel. But before we look at it, glance back for a moment to chapter 3. Here we see Hosea and his wife, Gomer for the last time. She has run off and lives now with a “significant other.” So Hosea is free, right? Now he can get a divorce. She has ended the marriage once and for all. She has another man. Therefore Hosea is free. Right?

Wrong!

God would not give up on Israel, and He appointed Hosea to symbolize his undying love to his wife of harlotry. “The Lord said to me, ‘Go again and love a woman who is beloved of a paramour and is an adulteress; even as the Lord loves the people of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.’ So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a half of barley.” Hosea 3:1

Hosea

Two thoughts come to me as I read these verses.  First of all, who would ever want, let alone obey, that kind of calling?  What a man Hosea must have been! Secondly, in light of what God asked Hosea to do here, we get a glimpse into what God’s love for us in our wretchedness is like.

Throughout their marriage, Gomer had been unfaithful, and finally she went off with another man. Hosea could have had her stoned according to the Torah. But God commands him to love her. “Go again, love her.” And – imagine this –  not just was Hosea to go and get her and love her, but he had to be willing even to pay this “significant other” for her.  Besides the enormous emotional demand God’s word to him presented, Hosea in the natural could not afford it! He didn’t have enough money! So he paid half in cash and half in barley: fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a half of barley. And how amazingly interesting that the total amounted to what Exodus 21:32 says a female slave costs. Gomer had evidently sunk to the lowest possible level. And God says to Hosea, “Get her back, whatever it costs, get her back. I did not create her to be a slave to sin and immorality.”

Every kind of sin a a form of adultery for every sin is a betrayal of the One Who created you, loves you, redeems you and desires to fellowship with you.  Sin is choosing to do something you like better than God’s commandments.

Perhaps one of our problems is that while we may desire to serve the Almighty as our God, we have yet to learn to love Him as our Husband.

For Your Maker is your husband; the LORD of Hosts is His name, and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall He be called.  Isaiah 54:5

Behold the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel and with the House of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them, declares the LORD.  Jeremiah 31:31-32

The entire message of the book of Hosea could be summarized in these words: Love God warmly as your Husband, don’t just serve him as your Lord.

In Tune with Torah this week = God’s love for us is such that the response He desires is a love in return that is as powerful, as committed, as deep and as lasting as the love between husband and wife is meant to be. Sadly in our modern age, the examples of this kind of faithful, loving marriage are not as plentiful as in generations past.  Yet, that does not in any way lessen the truth of God’s committed love towards us and His desire that we experience powerful, deep, faithful and lasting love from Him.

If you’ve been hurt by betrayal or divorce with all of their implications, may the word of the LORD today encourage you that there is ONE who loves you faithfully and He will never betray or abandon you.  Love Him warmly as your husband even as you serve Him as your Lord.

Shabbat Shalom

Weekly Torah Commentary – May 18, 2017 Behar-Bechukotai

Torah Reading: Leviticus 25 – 25

Haftorah Reading: Jeremiah 16:19 – 17:14

This week’s Haftorah reading opens with these uplifting words:

O LORD, my strength and my stronghold, my refuge in the day of distress.

With these words, Jeremiah overcomes his impatience and his struggle to believe what God has promised in light of everything he can see with the natural eye.  To Jeremiah, had come the promise of the restoration of His people to their land but the prophet was experiencing what many of us have experienced.  The outward circumstances at the time seemed diametrically opposed to what God had said and Jeremiah was tempted to waver in unbelief.  But for us, as well as for Jeremiah, the good news is that the Lord ‘remembers that we are but dust’ and shows Himself  to His people, as a strong hold to prisoners of hope, and a strong tower or place of defense to all his saints: ‘my refuge in the day of distress’. What a comforting and reassuring verse!

A few verses later (17:5-8), God speaks to the prophet again and graphically describes the difference between the man who trusts in God and the man who doesn’t.  Here are His words:

Thus says the Lord, ‘Cursed is the man who trust in people and makes flesh his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord.  For he will be like a bush in the desert and will not see when prosperity comes, but will live in stony wasteland in the wilderness, a land of salt without inhabitants. (vs. 5-6)

A sobering assessment. The message here is not that we should never trust another human being. What a sad life that would be! Rather, the message is that the man who puts more trust in what other people can do for him, who looks to earthly minded and fallible human beings for all of his needs and all of his questions, is ‘cursed’; that is, he will never be satisfied for another human being can never be the final answer to our deepest need: only God is.  And the Bible tells us He is a jealous God.  You should be happy about that because it means that God loves you enough to want your undivided love and loyalty in return.

To rely on this world’s systems is utter folly. History has demonstrated the instability inherent in even the best that this world has to offer.  Why? Because this world is temporary.  As long ago as the days of Isaiah, God revealed that He would one day make a new heaven and a new earth (Isaiah 65:17, 66:22). At the final Redemption this will happen as sure as you are reading these words right now. For God cannot lie.  Since He said He will do it, He will.

trust

Therefore, what is man to do? The answer is in the next verses:

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit. (vs. 7-8)

This is one of several places in the Bible where God uses the analogy of a tree to describe man.  A tree planted on the banks of a river or a stream flourishes because of the readily available water supply to support its life.  It has no fear of summer’s heat, its leaves stay green and even in a time of drought, it brings forth fruit.

In Isaiah 44:3 the LORD says: For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon your seed, and my blessing upon your offspring.

The man who puts his trust in the LORD, rather than people, will ‘thirst’ like a tree for the living water of which Jeremiah spoke earlier in his book:  For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. (Jer.2:13). God Himself is the living water necessary for our life.

The prophet repeats the same concept a few verses past the ones we are now studying:

O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake You shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters.  Jer. 17:13

Twice, God declares that He Himself is like a fountain of living water, a Source that never runs dry.  Water is essential for life; natural water for the body, spiritual ‘water’ for our souls.  And what is spiritual ‘water’? The revealed Word of God, the Bible.

The blessed man is the one who realizes and internalizes this truth and knows that he knows that he knows that in God alone is everything he will ever need or desire.  In His Word are found the understandings, the insights, the directions and the illustrations that help us understand what it truly means to have a ‘successful’ life.

Life happens; and the ‘happenings’ are not always to our personal liking.

God doesn’t ‘happen’; God IS.  He is the only reliable Source for life, health, peace, love and everything else that enriches our time on this earth.

In Tune with Torah this week = whatever your need is today, God is the answer.  Whatever your question is, God has the answer. Whatever may be confusing you, God has the solution.

Blessed is the man who TRUSTS in the LORD.

Shabbat Shalom

 

 

 

Weekly Torah Commentary – Emor May 12, 2017

Torah Reading: Leviticus 21-24

Haftorah Reading: Ezekiel 44: 15-31

But the Levitical priests, the sons of Zadok, who kept charge of My sanctuary when the sons of Israel went astray from Me, shall come near to Me to minister to Me; and they shall stand before Me to offer Me the fat and the blood, declares the Lord GOD.  vs. 15

The first question that arises when we read this passage is ‘Who are the sons of Zadok? And who was Zadok?’

“Now these are the ones who came to David at Ziklag, while he was still restricted because of Saul the son of Kish… For day by day men came to David to help him, until there was a great army like the army of God… also Zadok a young man mighty of valor, and of his fathers house twenty two captains” (1 Chronicles 12:1,22,28).  Long before David was crowned king, Zadok followed him faithfully because he knew what God had said through the prophet Samuel.

Zadok

Later, Zadok was the high priest during the reign of King David. When all of Israel went astray and followed after Absalom when he usurped his father’s throne, Zadok picked up the ark and followed David even though it seemed that this would mean certain destruction.

Zadok never followed the path of the politically expedient.  He did what was right. He knew that the Lord had anointed David as king and that He had not anointed Absalom. David was still the king, even though “all Israel” did not see it that way. The crowd paid a dear price, but Zadok’s reward would last forever. To this day, his sons are those whom are closest to the Lord.

Not once did Zadok ever look back. He proved to be righteous because he proved to be faithful! He was there when David needed him! And when so many others were being carried away with the rebellion of Absalom, Zadok remained faithful through it all.

“The king also passed over the brook Kidron, and all the people passed over toward the way of the wilderness. Now behold, Zadok also came, and all the Levites with him carrying the ark of the covenant of God… And the king said to Zadok, Return the ark of God to the city… The king said also to Zadok the priest, Are you not a seer? Return to the city in peace and your two sons with you, your son Abimaaz and Jonathan the son of Abiathar. See, I am going to wait at the fords of the wilderness until word comes from you to inform me” (2 Samuel 15:23-25,27-28).

Note David’s question:“Are you not a seer?” This meant, “Zadok, you have the gift of discernment! You know what is evil and what is holy. You are strong enough, faithful and committed enough to Me to go into that realm of rebellion and idolatry and save the kingdom!” The king said to Zadok, “Return to the city.” God now had a holy priest to guard the house of God from ruin!

Though a whole nation was in rebellion, in Gods house there was a holy remnant. Is there anything that America, Israel and all the nations of the earth need more today than this? That “the sons of Zadok” – the remnant of God of which the prophets spoke – would stand in the gap and change the course of history, not by armies and weapons, but by prayer and faithful devotion to the truths of God’s Word.

Meanwhile, God was building for Zadok an enduring house, a priesthood that fulfilled the prophecy of the man of God who prophesied to Eli. This is that “faithful priest who will do according to what is in My heart and in My soul.”

The holy remnant, the faithful priesthood of today, these servants of the Lord whose hearts are blameless and faithful – these are the spiritual offspring of Zadok! These are “near to the Lord” who minister to Him. Ministry to the Lord is the mark of the Zadok remnant.

Who are the sons of Zadok? The sons of Zadok are the ones who do the deeds of Zadok. They have the faith in God and the substance of character to follow the way that is right, even if everyone else goes the other direction. That was the resolve of Zadok which he taught to his sons and it was to them that the LORD entrusted His work in a time of great political chaos in Israel.

Across the globe today there is an enormous vacuum of godly and righteous leadership which makes this a dangerous time.  Throughout history,  a lack of strong and righteous leadership has always provided the greatest opportunities for tyranny.

The answer is not to pursue leadership, but to pursue the repentance that will lead us back to God’s favor, and then He will raise up righteous leaders. In II Chronicles 7:14 we are promised, “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 an heal their land.”  Four things are required to heal a land:

1)   Humility

2)   Prayer

3)   Seeking His face

4)   Repentance from wickedness

This is the time for courage and unyielding resolve.  There is no place for cowardice in true faith. This is our time. This is our watch.

In Tune with Torah this week = Will we show the courage that is demanded of the true servants of the King?  Will we, like the sons of Zadok, be those who spend time in the Lord’s presence, seek His face and feed our spiritual man on His Word?  Will we stand up and speak up for what is right, even if no one stands with us?

Where are the sons of Zadok today?

Shabbat Shalom

 

Weekly Torah Commentary – May 5, 2017 Acharei Mot/Kedoshim

Torah reading:  Leviticus 16-20

Haftorah reading: Amos 9:7-15

“On that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, and repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old; that they may possess the remnant of Edom, and all the Gentiles who are called by My name,” says the Lord who does this thing.  vs. 11-12

Long before the time of Amos, the northern kingdom of Israel had rebelled and rejected the house of David. Here God promises to restore David’s royal line in preparation for the Messiah to come whose titles include ‘Son of David’.  Previous to these verses the prophet has been warning of judgment upon Israel but suddenly there is this abrupt change from the stinging rebuke.  It is now declared that the reason for the divine judgment was not revenge, but the only way to usher in the restored order on which the heart of God was set.

God’s intent in rebuke and judgment is ALWAYS restoration.  He disciplines those whom He loves that we might walk more uprightly before Him.

The Tabernacle of David calls our attention to worship for that was it’s purpose: to be a place of worship and exuberant praise to the Holy One of Israel.  To be sure David had no easy life. He faced many trials but what was his strength? He had a passionate love for God which was expressed in exhilarating worship.  From his heart came such words as:  ‘I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.’

David knew the LORD to be not just the God of our good times but the God of all our times.  Therefore He is also the God of our worst times.  He is our God when all is going well and He is our God when troubles surround us.  He is our God when we have plenty to eat and He is our God when we are hungry.  In every and any circumstance, He is our God and worthy of our worship.

Worship is more than songs and the utterance of certain prayers.  Those may be experiences of worship but in truth our entire life is to be an expression of worship to our God.  Learning to honor Him and maintain an attitude of thanksgiving towards the LORD throughout our daily life, whatever our situation, is a process that never stops.  We will continue to learn it to our last breath.

You may be thinking ‘I don’t have trouble thanking God and praising Him for all the blessings He has given me but what about the hard times? What about when tragedy strikes or I’m going through a very difficult season of life?’

My answer is a question: What’s the difference between a potato, an egg and a coffee bean?  (I can hear you saying, ‘What?!? Did I read that right?!?)  Yes, you did.  Stay with me.

A potato is hard when you put it in hot water.  After boiling it for some time, it becomes soft, mushy and weak.

An egg is protected by its shell until you put it in hot water.  After boiling it for some time, the egg becomes hard.

A coffee bean starts out hard, but when you put it in hot water it doesn’t get harder and it doesn’t get mushy, instead, it changes the water into something better – fragrant, aromatic coffee!

So – praising God and thanking Him for His kindness and goodness, even in hard times, is a matter of choice.

Will I choose to be like a potato whose spirituality weakens when I face something difficult?

Will I choose to be like an egg and harden my heart with bitterness and resentment in difficult times?

Or will I choose to be like the coffee bean? To immerse myself in the love of God when times are hard and change myself into something new and better despite the ‘hot water’ I’m going through?

These comparisons are not original with me.  I read a story on Facebook where a father used these very examples to help his daughter get through a very difficult time in her life.  They were too good not to pass on to you.

My fellow coffee-lovers out there, next time you sip your brew ask yourself, ‘Am I letting God change me into a better person not in spite of but because of what I’m going through?’  Even if you aren’t a coffee drinker, it’s still a great question!

In Tune with Torah this week = whatever it takes to develop a lifestyle of worship is well worth the investment.  For our God is worthy of all our worship and praise – all the time and in all our ways.

Shabbat Shalom