New Year encouragement from this Week’s Parasha
Jewish tradition has assigned to each week of the Hebraic year a formal reading of a portion of the Torah (parasha) and other Hebrew Scriptures (haftorah). Evidence exists suggesting this practice could date back to biblical times. The relevance of the parasha to our circumstances each week is often striking.
On January 1, 2019, many will feel opportunity in the air, so to speak, to start fresh with an aspect of their lives. This sense of restart at the Gregorian New Year resonates in a promising way with this week’s parasha, Exodus 1:1-6:1.
In that passage the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob cry out and groan from their slavery in Egypt. God responds by calling Moses to deliver His people to their promised land. The humbled shepherd, however, knows he does not have the ability to perform the task. “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” he asks. (Exodus 3:11)
God does not answer Moses’ question because there can be no suitable reply. Instead He tells him what the man needs to know. The next verse reads, “And God said, “I will be with you.”
Rather than bolster Moses’ self esteem, God shifts the focus off Moses and onto Himself. Israel’s redemption is not going to be about Moses or his abilities. It is going to be about God and His infinite omnipotence.
Reading between the lines, we almost hear Moses reply in verse 13, “And who exactly are you, God?”
The Creator answers, “I am who I am.” The Hebrew literally means, “I will be who I will be.” (verse 14)
In the Bible, a name defines or describes personhood. Therefore, any name other than “I will be who I will be” would limit the One who is limitless. God does not change in the essence of His character. But He is also beyond definition or restriction. In revealing His name to Moses, He is indirectly saying that He will be to Moses and the Israelites (and Pharoah) who He knows they’ll need Him to be. Similarly, He will be to you who He knows you need Him to be. No limits.
As you approach 2019 and its uncertainties, like Moses, you may feel insecure in your own abilities. Perhaps God has called you to a task you suspect—or know—that you yourself cannot achieve. Maybe He is leading you in a direction you’ve not previously gone. Or it could be that circumstances around you are changing fast and hard. (Here in Israel, major government and military shakings seem likely to occur in 2019.) If any such uncertainties apply to you, be encouraged by this week’s parasha.
Whatever God has called you to in 2019, it will not be about your abilities. It will be about His abilities, based on who He is and who He will be — the glorious, loving Creator who defies limitation. He will be who you need Him to be this coming year. And He will be with you.
God desires to glorify His Name through you in 2019. Like Moses, you need only surrender to Him. No limits!
This article originally appeared on Light of Zion, December 29, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Sandra is co-founder and director, along with her husband Kerry, of Light of Zion Ministries. Light of Zion is an Israeli Messianic Jewish, prophetic intercessory prayer ministry in Jerusalem with humanitarian outreach. Sandra is a prayer mobilizer and network leader, international speaker, prophetic liaison, professionally published author, Bible teacher, and retired attorney.
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Captivity and freedom
This morning before awakening I had my hands stretched over my head as I slept. When I awoke and put my arms down I realized that the bracelets on my arms were entangled and I couldn’t separate my arms! So for the next five minutes I tried to set myself free. Upon releasing the bracelets I heard the L-rd say, “People wake up every day in chains, crying out for freedom. These aren’t just people in jail, but prisoners in their hearts and minds. Pray for the captives to be set free.”
Chains can be decorative like my bracelets- שַׁרְשְׁרֹת [sharsherot] – these were beautiful filigree chains used in the Temple. But I believe the chains that the L-rd was referring to were אזקים [azakim] as in Jeremiah 40:1-2. People are bound אסר [asur] in chains. Another word for chains can be נְחֹשֶׁת [nechoshet] – brass, copper, metal or more specifically chains or fetters:
- Lam 3:7 – He has walled me in so that I cannot go out; He has made my chain heavy.
- Judges 16:21 – Then the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes; and they brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze chains, and he was a grinder in the prison.
- 2 Sam 3:24 – “Your hands were not bound, nor your feet put in fetters; as one falls before the wicked, you have fallen.” And all the people wept again over him.
- Jer 6:28 – All of them are stubbornly rebellious, going about as a talebearer. They are bronze and iron; They, all of them, are corrupt.
The verse that jumped off the page for me was Jeremiah 6:27 “I have made you an assayer and a tester among My people, that you may know and assay their way.”
In this same chapter it’s written in Jeremiah 6:16-17 Thus says the L-rd, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it. And I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’ But they said, ‘We will not listen.’
So I felt the L-rd was calling His watchmen to be assayers and testers among His people.
Now of course the Parashat HaShavuah would be in tune with this word – of course! I just love how the L-rd weaves all things together so beautifully.
Exodus 1:22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, “Every son who is born you are to cast into the Nile, and every daughter you are to keep alive.”
Then I heard the L-rd say that the Nile River was the world’s first abortion clinic.
Isaiah 27: 6 In the days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will blossom and sprout, and they will fill the whole world with fruit.
“This is the promise I gave to Israel.”
Isaiah 27:9 Therefore through this Jacob’s iniquity will be forgiven; and this will be the full price of the pardoning of his sin: When he makes all the altar stones like pulverized chalk stones; when Asherim and incense altars will not stand.
And then He said, “And this is how they will reach the breakthrough.”
Carolyn Margolin-Hyde was raised in an Orthodox Jewish synagogue near Chicago. She graduated from University of Illinois and as an RN she practiced nursing for many years. After making Aliyah Carolyn served as worship leader at K’tsir Asher, The Harvest of Asher Congregation, in Akko, and then led worship at Kehilat Poriya, a congregation near Tiberius. She has written and recorded many worship songs in English and Hebrew and her worship CD’s include “Just Like Joseph” and “The Latter Rain”- contemporary worship CDs; “Deep Calls to Deep” – a soaking CD; and “Fine Linen” – worship with a touch of the blues.
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Where exactly would Jesus be born?
Secrets Surrounding the Birth of Messiah Part 2
Now, it is interesting that the prophecy in Micah and the words in Ruth do not merely mention Bethlehem, but Bethlehem and Ephrathah. There are several theories here:
- Ephrata was a region and Bethlehem was inside Ephrathah.
- The area that became Bethlehem was once called Ephrathah.
- Bethlehem was the region and it was the smaller Ephrathah that was located within those boundaries.
What else do we know about this area called Ephrathah? Naomi and her family were from Ephrathah. Boaz was an Ephrathite. Ruth 1:2 says: “They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem.” This does suggest that they were, at least, slightly different. Otherwise, it would have been redundant. So, it could read, they were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, as opposed to different people from Bethlehem; or, conversely, that they were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, as opposed to Ephrathites from somewhere else.
Let’s pretend that it is #3: that Ephrathah was inside Bethlehem and that if you were an Ephrathite, then you were also a Bethlehemite. Now, outside of Yeshua, who is the most famous Bethlehemite? David, of course. And David was from Ephrathah. Now look at this passage:
“Now David was the son of an Ephrathite named Jesse, who was from Bethlehem in Judah.” (1 Sam. 17:12)
Is there significance that it goes Ephrathah >> Bethlehem >> Judah? We know that Judah was much bigger than Bethlehem and Bethlehem was in Judah. Thus, can we surmise that Ephrathah was an area within Bethlehem? Maybe. Dr. John Turner agrees:
Bethlehem Ephrathah, however, is a more specific designation of that area which is near but outside the city where there would be one or more threshing floor for grain, grape press for the making of wine, and olive press for the production of oil. The Ephrath would also be in or near the grazing lands for livestock (goats, sheep, oxen, and cattle).
LESSONS FROM BETHLEHEM EPHRATHAH
The Astounding Significance of the Place Where Jesus Was Born
So, David was from Bethlehem Ephrathah and, most likely, was born there. He became king in Bethlehem, as did the Messiah, who, as the son of David, would be born there 1,000 years later. From the time of David, it has been known as the Town of David. So how can we know where that is 2,000 years later? Indeed, there is the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. But even Origen, who issued the earliest statement on the present site, was non-committal.
“In Bethlehem the cave is pointed out where He was born, and the manger in the cave where He was wrapped in swaddling clothes. And the rumor is in those places, and among foreigners of the Faith, that indeed Jesus was born in this cave who is worshipped and reverenced by the Christians.”
What if Jesus was not born in the Bethlehemthat is in “Palestine” today? Did you know that Israelis are not even allowed to go there? What if He was born closer to Jerusalem – in Bethlehem Ephrathah? The area of Bethlehem was probably bigger then, than it is today. About 100 years after the resurrection of Yeshua, Bethlehem was destroyed by Emperor Hadrian. And it was destroyed and rebuilt several more times.
Tower of the Flock and Rachel’s Tomb
What if the traditional site is not where He was born? In order to know, we would need to find two things: Rachel’s tomb and Midgal Eder (Tower of the Flock) Why? Because we know the Messiah would be born inside of the Tower of the Flock, and because we know that it was close to Rachel’s tomb.
So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb. Israel moved on again and pitched his tent beyond Migdal Eder. (Gen. 35:19-21)
Dr. John Turner tell us that
“In Jacob’s (Israel’s) time, we learn from the account of Rachel’s death that Bethlehem Ephrathah.” (Lessons from Bethlehem Ephrathah and Migdal Eder (the Tower of the Flock) are closely associated and in the exact same vicinity.
Lesson’s from Bethlehem Ephrathah
Micah tells us not only that He would be born in Bethlehem Ephrathah but also, specifically; where within the city He would breathe his first breath.
“And to you, the tower of the flock, the hill of the daughter of Zion, your former authority will return to you, the royal authority of the daughter of Jerusalem.” (Micah 4:8 VOICE)
The passage says that the one who will restore David’s kingdom (former and royal authority) will be born at Migdal Eder—that is, the Tower of the Flock.
Traditionally, Rachel’s tomb is about a kilometer north of the center of Bethlehem. If only we could find that pillar!
The Ben-Oni Blunder
An Israeli tour guide showed me something not long ago. Rachel gives birth on the way to Bethlehem and dies. With her dying breath, she named her son, Ben-Oni. Traditionally, we are taught, and you can see in your NIV footnote, that, in bitterness, she named him son of my troubleor sorrow. However, whoever came up with that was wrong. It is a mistranslation. In Hebrew, there are two letters that are near silent and, in Modern Hebrew, they sound almost identical: the aleph א and the ayin ע.
If Omi was spelled with the ayin, then, yes, it would mean trouble. But the translator did not realize that it was with aleph, and, thus, means “son of my sexual potency” (yes, that is what the dictionary says) or seed. In other words, Rachel is prophesying that the seed of God would be planted in her future cousin, Miriam. Miriam, would, in the same geographical area, give birth to the “seed of God”—the Messiah. Jacob does not recognize this and changes his name to Benjamin.
Now you may say, but the Messiah was through Leah (Judah). Well, that is why I said future cousin and not future granddaughter. As a foreshadowing of Miriam (Mary), the Lord spoke through her a prophetic utterance regarding His seed. Rachel gives birth on the very path that Joseph and Miriam would have had to pass on their way to Bethlehem and she is buried within a few hundred meters, if that, of Yeshua’s birthplace.
This article originally appeared on Messiah’s Mandate, December 22, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Ron and wife Elana make their home in Tel Aviv. He serves on the pastoral team of Tiferet Yeshua—the Glory of Yeshua—a Tel Aviv-based, Hebrew-speaking Messianic congregation. Ron is a published author with Destiny Image Publishers, having written books like “Identity Theft”, “Leave Me Alone, I’m Jewish” and “The Jerusalem Secret”. Ron is a sought-out conference speaker and shares passionately about the Jewish Roots of the New Testament and God’s broken heart for His ancient people Israel.
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End Time lessons from Israel’s Iron Lady – Golda Meir
After reading, “My Life” – the autobiography of Golda Meir, I have grown in appreciation for the founding fathers and mothers of the modern state of Israel. They faced incredible challenges and yet helped “birth a nation in a day.” (Isaiah 66:8) I believe Golda’s story has prophetic significance for the final years before Yeshua returns. Here is the pattern I see:
Golda was born in 1898. She grew up in harsh conditions in Pinsk, Russia. In 1906 her family immigrated to America in search of freedom and a prosperous life. During her time in America she was influenced by her older sister’s politically active friends. One topic they often discussed was Zionism, which awakened a deep desire in Golda to one day move to Palestine.
Her dream of joining other Jewish pioneers in Palestine came true in 1921 when she and her husband left the comforts of America behind. Her account of crossing the ocean by boat, and arriving into Tel Aviv by train over a month later is an absolute nightmare (pg. 52-55).
The Tel Aviv she first set eyes on compared to the Tel Aviv of today point to one massive miracle of perseverance and development. They joined a Kibbutz in the Jezreel valley and worked the land day and night in unbearable conditions. Her husband’s health deteriorated so quickly that after three years they were forced to leave. During this time, her political connections expanded.
As they began to raise children in Jerusalem, Golda struggled to stay home. Because of her zeal for the settlement of Jews in Palestine, she was given numerous leadership roles in the pre-state Jewish government. Her responsibilities required her to travel often which put great strain on her marriage and family life. She admits that the cooling of her marriage was due to her not being around enough.
By 1934 she had moved her way up into the core leadership team of the pre-state government. The challenges they continually faced were overwhelming. Hitler was murdering Jews in Europe. The British government was forcefully opposing immigration of European Jews fleeing to Palestine for safety. Arab aggression against Jews was increasing across Palestine with the British doing very little to stop them. They had no formal combat training and no funds to adequately construct their own army in order to defend themselves.
Ben Gurion, Golda and the rest of the leaders of the government firmly agreed that they could no longer let their future be determined by occupying powers. They needed to fight with all they had for the establishing of their own independent state.
Golda was an atheist, but clearly God’s hand was upon her. She and the other leaders discerned that a great attack from the surrounding Arabs in the Middle East would come when they declared statehood. They urgently needed to raise millions of dollars in order to purchase arms to defend themselves. By a vote, Golda was chosen to travel to America in early 1948 to raise funds from the Jewish community. They doubted they could raise more than 8 million dollars. But miraculously, in just six weeks, Golda managed to raise 55 million dollars! The American Jews wept as she described the urgent situation in Palestine and many even took out loans in order to give.
The day following the Israeli declaration of independence, the neighboring Arab countries attacked Israel as they had suspected. Not only did Israel manage to stop the assault, but went on the offence and defeated those armies.
Coming Take Over
According to end time scriptures, I see this pattern repeating again before Yeshua returns to establish His kingdom on earth. Unprecedented pressures and challenges will come before the kingdom of God on earth will be “born in a day,” the day of His return. This will be so for Israel and true followers of Yeshua. Satan will rage (Rev 12:12-17). The anti-Christ will overcome many saints (Rev 13:7). Deception and lawlessness will abound (Matt 24).
Yet the body of Messiah will know the signs of the times. Like the prestate leaders in Golda’s day preparing for the birth of the nation, the body of Messiah will be fixated on doing everything possible to prepare the way for Yeshua’s return and “global take over.” The unity Yeshua prayed for in John 17 will be seen and felt.
Like the kibbutzim, Finances and possessions will be shared in unprecedented selflessness (Acts 2:44-45). Even when darkness covers the earth the wealth of the nations will come to Israel (Is 60). A people will have prepared themselves like John the Baptist (Luke 1:16-17, 80). The purified bride of Yeshua will be trained and ready to take her place ruling the nations with Him (Rev 20).
Let’s stay focused on growing in love and doing all we can now to get ourselves and other ready for what’s coming!
This article originally appeared on Revive Israel, December 26, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Cody served on staff with YWAM for four years before moving to Israel. He joined Revive Israel's staff in 2013. He and his wife, Liat, help lead the youth group at Ahavat Yeshua Congregation and work together in Revive Israel’s international department. They have a passion to see the word of the Lord go out from Jerusalem through media and by going out to the nations themselves.
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Are you convinced?
PARASHAT SHEMOT (NAMES)
SHEMOT (EXODUS) 1:1–6:1
Our weekly reading takes us to a new book called Shemot (“Exodus”). As I was reading this portion I was touched once again by the heroic act of bravery that Shiphrah and Puah demonstrated by not obeying Pharaoh’s command to kill every newborn boy.
Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah, and the other was named Puah; and he said, “When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.” But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live. So the king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said to them, “Why have you done this thing, and let the boys live?” And the midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous, and they give birth before the midwife can get to them.” So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied, and became very mighty. And it came about because the midwives feared God, that He established households for them. Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, “Every son who is born you are to cast into the Nile, and every daughter you are to keep alive.”
Egypt was the most powerful empire in the world at this time, and Pharaoh, the King of Egypt, was the most powerful man. The Egyptians actually considered him to be a god, so for the two midwives to refuse to obey that which he commanded meant risking their own lives.
There is some debate among scholars regarding the identity of the two midwives; some say they were Egyptians (who later joined the Israelites as converts) and others say they were Hebrew women. The debate mostly centers around the language of the Scriptures, which I won’t get into here, as well as the notion that Pharaoh would have only trusted fellow Egyptians to carry out such a task. I personally believe they were Egyptian, mostly because in verse 21, it is written that God provided for them a household, which implies they joined with the Israelites.
But I want to point us to the most significant issue, in my opinion, which is that both women feared God. Shiphrah and Puah’s actions were driven by an awe and knowledge of God, of His power, and His sovereignty. They were so convinced of His awesome nature, that they were willing to do whatever it took to save the lives of the newborn sons of the people of Israel. I am always amazed at the fact that, throughout history – in every age, God has placed individuals who have taken a strong stand for Him – people who fear Him more than they fear men.
As I was reading this story I was thinking about us, His followers today. And then I asked myself, “Am I willing to do the same today? Do I fear God more than I fear man?” Perhaps the better question is, “Am I standing for Him today? Is my life a reflection of that?”
For my gentile brothers and sisters in Messiah, a day is coming — or in some cases, is already here — where just like the two midwives, you will need to make a decision: stand for the God of Israel, for the Jewish people, and for the State of Israel, or bow down to pressures to hate Israel and the Jewish people. Zechariah 14:1–2 tells us of a day when all nations will gather against Jerusalem to battle. However, the same chapter in verse 16, speaks of, “those who are left from all of those nations….” I personally believe that these words refer to true God-fearing gentiles, who will fear God more than they fear men, and will take courageous actions just like the midwives from our story!
Are you convinced of God’s sovereignty and of His awesome power? Do you fear God more than you fear men? More importantly, is your life a reflection of this?
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.