A simple “yes” or “no”
“Again, you have heard that is was said to the people long ago, ‘do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made’. But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you can not even make one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘yes’ or ‘no’; anything beyond this comes from evil.” Matthew 5:33-37
I don’t know about you but the part that caught my attention in this part of scripture was that we can not make one hair white or black. I got my first white hairs when I was a teenager. Now I tried to change my hair color as I was not very happy to have my hair turn white at such a young age. And while I successfully covered up my white hairs with hair dye, over time the hair color would fade. My hair would grow out and the roots would be white. Because despite what it might say on some box of hair dye, only the God who created heaven & earth can permanently change our hair color.
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Matthew 10: 29 – 31
As we continue reading in the gospel of Matthew we find the Lord Jesus speaking about hair again. While the Lord Jesus uses a new example, the hairs on our heads, the trust that the Lord God knows us intimately was not something new for the disciples. They were most likely familiar with the words of King David from Psalm 139; ”You know when I stand and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand on me.” (verse 2 – 5)
The Lord does not make things complicated, on the contrary. He asks for a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
On the days that I worry because life is becoming too overwhelming, it is a great comfort to me that I can pray; “Lord God, I trust you. I find comfort in knowing that you have numbered the hairs on my head. Help me to not be afraid. Thank you for your loving reminder of your amazing love for me.”
This article originally appeared on CBN Israel, November 9, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Since its establishment in March 2012 CBN Israel has helped thousands of people through its various operations. As the foundation of Project Light Shine, CBN Israel gives help to the community through three avenues; Humanitarian aid, education and economic development. CBN Israel serves with a spirit of humility and love. Their mission is to prepare the Land and the people of Israel for the coming of Messiah Yeshua and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. The vision of their work is to see the hungry fed, the needs of the needy met, businesses established and to improve the spiritual, physical and financial situation of the local body.
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Was Thanksgiving based on Sukkot, the Feast Of Tabernacles?
On the fourth Thursday of November, Americans celebrate the feast of Thanksgiving. The roots of the feast are quite interesting, and relate to the Biblical feast of Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles.
“Over three centuries ago”, declared John F. Kennedy, “our forefathers in Virginia and in Massachusetts, far from home in a lonely wilderness, set aside a time of thanksgiving. On the appointed day, they gave reverent thanks for their safety, for the health of their children, for the fertility of their fields, for the love which bound them together, and for the faith which united them with their God.”
The Sukkot connection
Before arriving in America, Christian pilgrims had fled persecution in England, due to their puritanical beliefs, and settled for a while in Holland in 1607. There, they found themselves living among another persecuted group: Sephardic Jews – exiled from Spain.
In 1492, as every American knows, Columbus sailed the ocean blue, but as every Jewish person knows, 1492 was also the year of the Expulsion from Spain. As Jewish people were being hounded out and severely persecuted in Europe, God was opening a door in the New World of the Americas. Under the Spanish Inquisition, Jews were forced to choose between conversion, death, or forced exile. Many fled, including a group who ended up in the more tolerant country of the Netherlands. That Sephardic Jewish community was later to become neighbors with our British Pilgrims, who arrived at the beginning of the seventeenth century, before making their way to the New World. A new world that would become a haven for persecuted Jewish people in years to come. But these are the events brought the paths of the British Pilgrims and Sephardic Jews to cross.
“On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruits of the land, you are to keep the Feast of Adonai for seven days.” (Leviticus 23:39)
Could it be that the first Thanksgiving feast was based on what they had seen of the Jewish Sukkot celebrations, the Feast of Ingathering? There is certainly plenty in common.
Similarities between Sukkot and Thanksgiving
- Both involve pilgrims! Just as the Jewish people used to make pilgrimage to Jerusalem three times a year for the high holidays, so the Founding Fathers were later known as pilgrims.
- Both started with people groups who had been persecuted and had to escape.
- Both involve the harvest and joyful in-gathering.
- They both happen in the Fall.
- Both are based on the Biblical command to give thanks. Linda Burghardt, author of “Jewish Holiday Traditions” (Citadel Press, 2001), said, “Sukkot is considered a model for Thanksgiving. Both holidays revolve around showing gratitude for a bountiful harvest.”1
- Both are based around family and communal gathering.
- Both involve a lot of food and feasting!
- Hilariously (and this is just funny, not a theological point) they both involve “hodu”. Hodu is the Hebrew word for turkey and it’s also the word for the country of India… but it also means to give thanks! In English, we call that tasty roast bird a turkey, thinking that it originated from Turkey. Israelis call it hodu, thinking that it came from India (Hodu). Either way, hodu is very much on the menu at Thanksgiving!
After the Pilgrims had survived multiple challenges and reaped their first harvest, they began the tradition of giving thanks for the harvest, and for the bounty of the year. It was a three-day celebration, and Native Americans also joined in the feast.
“The pilgrims based their customs on the Bible,” said Gloria Kaufer Greene, author of the “New Jewish Holiday Cookbook” (Times Books, 1999). “They knew that Sukkot was an autumn harvest festival, and there is evidence that they fashioned the first Thanksgiving after the Jewish custom of celebrating the success of the year’s crops.” 2
Gratitude: more important than you think
Today, the feast of Thanksgiving has become almost as important as Christmas in the American calendar, and is a special time for families to get together and be thankful.
The concepts of family gathering and looking back with thankfulness are also the bedrock of the Jewish feasts.
But it is only now that with the benefit of neuroscience that we are learning how critical an attitude of gratitude is to our well-being. God knew what He was talking about when He told us that we should give thanks – no matter what:
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Believing brain experts like Dr. Daniel Amen and Dr. Caroline Leaf are now unpacking, with scientific findings in one hand and the Bible in the other, just why God insists that we should be thankful. Both of them have truly revelatory treasures to say on the matter, which you can easily find on the internet. But for now, I’ll leave you with these thoughts from Dominic Muir:
- You can’t be thankful and proud at the same time.
- You can’t be thankful and entitled at the same time.
- You can’t be thankful and unforgiving at the same time.
- You can’t be thankful and jealous at the same time.
- You can’t be thankful and self-pitying at the same time.
- You can’t be thankful and worried at the same time.
- You can’t be thankful and covetous at the same time.
- You can’t be thankful and bitter at the same time.
- You can’t be thankful and offended at the same time.
- You can’t be thankful and dishonoring at the same time.
- You can’t be thankful and selfish at the same time.
- You can’t be truly thankful and prayer-less at the same time.
Staying thankful is a very good idea! For a thanksgiving praise time, why not write your own psalm of thanks about what God has done for you in your life, based on the pattern in Psalm 136? Look back over his kindness and provision, his blessings and his direction, and let all the people say, “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, his love endures forever!”
Hodu l’Adonai ki tov, ki leolam chasdo
הודו לאדוני כי טוב כי לעולם חסדו
Give thanks to the LORD for He is good, and his love endures forever.
This article originally appeared on One For Israel and is reposted with permission.
ONE FOR ISRAEL strives to be the leading organization in sharing the Gospel of Yeshua the Messiah with Israeli Jews and Arabs in the Hebrew language. Our staff is comprised of both Jewish and Arab Israelis, with the shared belief that true peace in the Middle East can only come into existence under Yeshua.
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God is here… Do you know it?
PARASHAT VAYEIZEI (AND HE WENT FORTH)
BERESHEET (GENESIS) 28:10–32:3
In the Book of John, we read an account that becomes much clearer once we read our weekly portion:
Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Torah and also the Prophets wrote, Yeshua of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” And Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Yeshua saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Yeshua answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” Yeshua answered and said to him, “Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these.” And He said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you shall see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
It is interesting that Philip told Nathanael (whose name means “God gives”), “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Torah and also the Prophets wrote…” and then after Yeshua’s encounter with Nathanael, he tells him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you shall see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” This statement on its own seems outrageous! What in the world could He possibly mean by this?
The answer is found in this week’s Torah portion, where Jacob saw the angels of God descending and ascending on a ladder. In John 1:51, Yeshua was referring to Jacob’s dream, which speaks clearly about the “seed”, about the Word, and about the fact that the only way to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Let’s take a look at that portion:
Then Jacob departed from Beersheba and went toward Haran. And he came to a certain place and spent the night there, because the sun had set; and he took one of the stones of the place and put it under his head, and lay down in that place. And he had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. Your descendants shall also be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your Seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And behold, I am with you, and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
God affirmed His unconditional covenant to Abraham, Isaac and now here, to Jacob. This covenant included a land, but also a promise that through their (Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob’s) seed, “…shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” This echoes the same promise found in Genesis 12:3: “And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Rav Shaul (the Apostle Paul) referred to this promise when he wrote: “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Messiah.”
Through God’s promise to Abraham, we can clearly see how He points to Messiah Yeshua! Through His promise, we also find evidence of God’s endless love for us, in that He provided a way for us to return to Him through the Seed of blessing—Messiah Yeshua—from the very beginning of time.
It is not by mistake that right after the Lord reiterated this amazing promise to Jacob, he woke up from the dream and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it…How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” Even today, a condition to “wake up” from our “spiritual sleep” is to accept the truth of the “Seed of promise”, which is our Messiah. We cannot fully experience the presence of God Almighty without Messiah, as He is our entrance to the Kingdom (John 14:6).
In closing, many years ago, I said to God, “If this is true, if Yeshua is the Promised One, I want to know it, not just based on an experience or feeling, but on true knowledge.” I want to exhort each one of you to do the same… Just like He knew where Nathanael was, so too He knows where you are and is waiting for you!
This article originally appeared on Hope for Israel and is reposted with permission.
Moran is the Founder and Executive Director of Hope for Israel, which is a service and resource-providing ministry that aims to bring the hope of the Messiah back to Israel. It is also a resource center for current and timely news updates concerning Israel that provides daily prayer alerts, Bible teachings, and weekly blogs in order to help believers across the world understand what God is doing in the Land, how to pray for Israel and filter everything through the Word of God.
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Created in whose image?
Every year at the end of the Biblical Holy Days of Sukkot I begin to read through the Torah again. Each year I try to read with a different focus or lens with hopes that I will see the words on the page through a slightly different lens. This year I am trying to read through the text with a lens of discipleship. In other words I am trying to read the Scriptures in a way that instructs or encourages me and provides direction to my walk with and for G-D.
As I read through Genesis Chapter 1 I came to verses 26-27:
26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness! Let them rule over the fish of the sea, over the flying creatures of the sky, over the livestock, over the whole earth, and over every crawling creature that crawls on the land.” 27 God created humankind in His image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them.
As we read the first sentence, we find ourselves asking the question “Who is G-D speaking to?” There have been many sermons preached and books written on this topic. I want to propose the viewpoint that G-D is not having a committee meeting. Nor is He speaking only to the angels in heaven. I believe He is inviting the angels and humanity to join Him in making man into a correct image. Now before you stop reading or begin to write comments below please take a moment to review the text.
In verse 27 G-D says, “Let us make” using the Hebrew word עָשָׂה (asah) (to make) but in verse 27 the scripture uses the word בָּרָא (bara) (create) and tells us that G-D created man in His image. The use of two different words lets us know that there is an intentional differentiation between the “let us make” in verse 26 and the “G-D created” in verse 27.
If I am correct and the intention of G-D was to invite the angels and humanity into the “making” of man, then our lives take on an even greater meaning that we might have thought. Just think about the responsibility we have been given as disciples. Every interaction we participate in involves us in part of G-D’s project of making man. From the moment we wake up until we lay down at night, each person we contact, we speak to, we smile at every interaction affects change in the heart and life of each person we touch with our lives. Just think for a minute, if a part of the purpose of our being born, is to help make those around us into the image of G-D, how much more should we consider our words and deeds.
If what I am proposing is true then each of us as believers has an even greater responsibility and role in the Kingdom of G-D. Whether at home, at work, at school, at synagogue or church, our words and deeds are a part of the master plan of the Potter making every man and woman into His image. What we say and do has eternal ramifications.
Before you get too concerned about messing up and causing irreparable damage in the process, remember two things. First G-D is still involved in the process of making man and second G-D in His infinite wisdom and knowledge chose you and me to be involved in the process.
Eric Tokajer is author of With Me in Paradise, Transient Singularity, #ManWisdom, OY! How Did I Get Here?: Thirty-One Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before Entering Ministry, Jesus is to Christianity as Pasta is to Italians, God Has No Plan "B", and his most recent book Galatians in Context.
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What was the religion of Jesus?
Did Jesus ever have a Christmas tree, or go to church on Sunday? Did He ever denigrate the Law of Moses and tell people to stop keeping its precepts and commands? Did Jesus ever abolish the Ten Commandments, and change the Sabbath to Sunday? Did He ever eat pork and shellfish?
The answer is no, He did not.
Jesus- whose name was Yeshua- was a Jew. He not only was a Jew, crucified as the King of the Jews- but is a Jew, and will return as a Jew: the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. All His days he practiced Judaism, kept the seventh day Sabbath in the synagogue, and kept all of the Jewish Biblical Holy days, and even the festival of Hannuka (John 10:22). In all His teachings he never suggested creating another religion.
Most writers of the New Testament and all of the apostles of Yeshua were Jews, and did as their Rabbi did by example, practicing Judaism. Peter (Shimon), chief of the apostles, when shown a vision of unclean animals, said that no unkosher food had ever passed his lips. Then he himself interpreted the vision to have nothing to do with food, but of bringing the Gospel to the Gentles. Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, kept the Torah, and even sacrificed in the temple in Jerusalem. When accused of teaching others to not keep the Law, James (Jacob) replied, “Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law”(acts 21:24), and he described himself only thus: “I am a Jew” (Acts 21:39). When in Ephesus Paul declared that he must return to Jerusalem to keep the coming Biblical festival (Acts 18:21), probably Shavuot (Pentecost). And in Rome he declared to his Jewish brethren there, “I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers.”
At the Jerusalem council, when the apostles discussed the question of whether the Gentiles who had come to the Messiah must keep the Torah, it was declared “to Paul, “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the Law.” (Acts 21:20). And Paul told the Gentile Christians in Rome that they are grafted into the olive tree of Israel through the Messiah (Romans 11). At the same time it was decided that Gentiles could learn the Torah in the synagogues in their cities, though not obliged to be circumcised (Acts 15:19-21.
It was Jesus who told us, “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:18-20).
Though Christianity indeed practices the rite of communion, it was instituted by the Messiah as part of the Passover meal, a central holy day of the religion of Judaism, which in fact was the religion of Jesus.
Elhanan ben-Avraham, born in 1945, is a professional artist, poet, writer and father of two, grandfather of four, living in Israel since 1979. He has served in the IDF, taught the Bible internationally, published two illustrated books of poetry, and painted two large Biblical murals in public buildings in Jerusalem, among many other works. He and his wife live in a quiet village in the Mountains of Judah.