Prosperity without freedom is the worst kind of slavery
The Bible is a book filled with blessings, teachings, words of encouragement, and warnings. Many times a single verse can carry within it each of these categories and more. One example of such a verse is Exodus 1:7:
Yet Bnei-Yisrael were fruitful, increased abundantly, multiplied and grew extremely numerous—so the land was filled with them.
At first glance, the words of this passage can be viewed as a blessing. We read these words and see that over their years in Egypt; G-D has allowed the Children of Israel to become prosperous in every way. We can also see within the text expression of encouragement as we clearly see that the Children of Israel had seen an abundant increase both financially and numerically.
Yet many people reading these words do not look beyond the outward so that they can see that these words were provided to us for teaching and as a warning. Remember what 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us:
All Scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for restoration, and for training in righteousness, so that the person belonging to God may be capable, fully equipped for every good deed.
To put this verse into context, the Children of Israel moved to Egypt to survive a famine that lasted 7 years. Yet by the time, we read about them in Exodus they had continued living in Egypt for over 200 years. In Egypt, they had grown from 70 people to millions of people. They had gone from starving in a famine to becoming wealthy. Yet in all of their outward prosperity that were living outside the Promised Land and outside the Covenant Promises of G-D. When viewed in context Exodus 1:7 reads a lot like Revelation 3:17:
For you say, ‘I am rich, I have made myself wealthy, and I need nothing.’ But you do not know that you are miserable and pitiable and poor and blind and naked.
Or even Matthew 16:26:
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world but forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
You see the Children of Israel had over the years exchanged their faith in G-D and His blessings for faith in Egypt and the riches they had acquired there. They had become so assimilated into Egyptian life that they forgot that their covenant blessings and promises were connected to the land of Canaan (Israel). Life in Egypt had become comfortable they had become a large people within the boundaries of Egypt. They had become prosperous in earthly goods. Yet somehow they failed to see that even though by worldly metrics they were blessed they were not free. It wasn’t until the Egyptians reminded them who they were by physically enslaving them they didn’t realize that they have voluntarily placed themselves in bondage.
This lesson is vital especially for those of us who live in the United States and much of the Western World. The body of believers has for many years grown and prospered in the metrics the world uses to denote prosperity. However, we must be careful that we don’t trade our freedom in G-D for the riches of the world. We cannot allow ourselves to forget who we truly are and what real prosperity is.
In the book of John 8:31-40 Yeshua (Jesus) is having a conversation with some Judeans:
Then Yeshua said to the Judeans who had trusted Him, “If you abide in My word, then you are truly My disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free!” They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s children and have never been slaves to anyone! How can you say, ‘You will become free’?” Yeshua answered them, “Amen, amen I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now the slave does not remain in the household forever; the son abides forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed! I know you are Abraham’s children; yet you are trying to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I tell of what I have seen with the Father; so also you do what you heard from the Father.” “Abraham is our father,” they replied to Him. Yeshua said to them, “If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham. But now you are seeking to kill Me—a Man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God. This Abraham did not do!
Notice the context of this conversation deal with two things first, freedom and second the covenant G-D made with Israel through Abraham. Yeshua tells them that they need the truth to set them free. But because of their blindness, they could not even admit that Israel had been slaves in Egypt or that at that moment they were servants of Rome. Yeshua reminds them that slavery is first spiritual and then it becomes physical. He also lets them know that just as the Children of Israel had been blind breaking the covenant G-D made with Abraham (by remaining outside of the promised land) they had become blind to their being outside of the covenant with Abraham by not accepting the freedom He was offering to them as we read Genesis 22:18 Yeshua is the seed of Abraham spoken of in this verse.
“In your seed all the nations of the earth will be blessed—because you obeyed My voice.”
While we may not be under Roman authority today or living in the slavery of Egypt these words still speak to us today. We cannot ever allow the successes of the world to become more important than the covenant freedom provided through the covenant G-D made with Abraham. Prosperity without freedom is the worst kind of slavery.
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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PARASHAT VE’EIRA (AND I APPEARED)
SHEMOT (EXODUS) 6:2–9:35
Our Scripture (Torah) portion this week opens with a wonderful reminder of who God is, His faithfulness and His endless love and grace (Exodus 6:2–13):
God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am the LORD; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, LORD (YHWH), I did not make Myself known to them. And I also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they sojourned. And furthermore I have heard the groaning of the sons of Israel, because the Egyptians are holding them in bondage; and I have remembered My covenant. Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage (Labor). I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I will take you to Me to be My people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land which I raise My hands to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you as an heritage; I am the LORD.” Moses spoke thus to the sons of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses on account of their despondency and cruel bondage.
Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Go, tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the sons of Israel go out of his land.” But Moses spoke before the LORD, saying, “Behold, the sons of Israel have not listened to me; how then will Pharaoh listen to me, for I am unskilled in speech?” Then the LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron, and gave them a charge to the sons of Israel and to Pharaoh king of Egypt, to bring the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt.
As I read the above verses, I took great comfort in the knowledge that, at the end of the day, everything will come together for those that belong to Him. What a great comfort it is to know that, in spite of the mountain we may face, the challenges, discomforts, and struggles that God sees, knows and cares. He is right here beside us. He will bring it all together in the end for our good.
Be encouraged that even Moses (who literally spoke with the Almighty God!), had moments of doubts and disbelief. Moses knew God’s entire plan of redemption for the children of Israel; yet, we see that Moses many times struggled to have faith that God would do what He said He would do, and he always tried to give an excuse for not doing that which God asked him to! We see that Moses – the great Moses – was human just like you and me, full of fears and struggles. Yet, at the end of the day, he was obedient and followed God’s call on his life.
To us followers of Messiah, He has also told the entire story of redemption. And we know the end! Let us take courage in that, and press on in doing that which He called us to. Let’s not grow weary in honoring Him. Be encouraged and take courage!
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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The blood of Amir Simachon
Late one evening just over fifteen years ago, Tuesday July 13, 2003, to be exact, Amir Simachon sat with Shalhevet Okashi, a woman friend from the Tel Aviv municipality where they both worked, on the Jaffa promenade overlooking the moonlit bay and shore. About 1:40 AM a crazed terrorist ran up behind them, shouted “Alla Akhbar” and stabbed Amir in the back with a 30-centimeter (that’s one foot; twelve inches long) blade knife.
Amir managed to stand to his feet as the terrorist raised his knife to stab Shalhevet. Amir lunged forward between them, embracing Shalhevet as the knife stabbed the second time into his back. As the terrorist ran off, Amir turned to Shalhevet and said, “I feel faint.” He died a few hours later in the emergency room at Wolfson hospital. The terrorist was later captured and underwent interrogation.
Shalhevet’s response to journalists was simply, “He hugged me, and his hug saved my life.”
A Life Saving Hug
I can’t stop thinking about that embrace. An act of self-sacrificing love saved her life. Amir volunteered to have himself pierced by a satanically-inspired terrorist in order to save Shalvevet. How like Yeshua’s act of sacrificial love on the cross for us!
As Amir embraced Shalhevet, his blood from the double stabbing spilled onto her. She’ll never be able to forget the impression of that mortal, precious, scarlet, steamy blood of her co-worker. In one moment, the blood of Amir changed Shalhevet’s life for eternity. Not only saved, but changed.
Amir was a handsome young man of 24, who often volunteered for civilian guard duties. His parents’ response was, “As Amir was in his death, so was he in his life – always sacrificing himself for others – that’s just the way he was.”
What a challenge that is to us! Yeshua’s death on the cross was not an isolated incident, but rather the culmination of a lifetime of sacrificial love, service to others and absolute obedience. The blood of Yeshua not only saves us, but influences us to change. We are in Shalhevet’s position, being embraced by Yeshua’s outstretched arms on the cross.
His blood not only erases our sins, but motivates us to live a lifestyle like Him – a lifestyle of love, faith and integrity. As the imprint and impression of the blood of Amir will haunt Shalhevet every moment for the rest of her life, so are we to be traumatized and transformed by the blood of Yeshua every day. The power of the blood of Yeshua is not just in the one-time historical event of 2,000 years ago, but in the constant and continual, internal and eternal, re-recurring reminder of His sacrifice. As Shalhevet said, “He shielded me with his own body.”
One difference of course is that three days later, Yeshua rose from the dead. Imagine the shock for Shalhevet if Amir had come back to life and appeared to her saying, “Come follow me. Let us make a covenant together. Not only have I saved your life in this world, I have the power to give you eternal life in the world to come. Will you trust me? Will you lead a life of purity and love for my sake? Will you receive my spirit in you?”
Yeshua also had a few last words on the cross. The power in those words comes from the witness that his blood had been poured out. In some ways, all of the gospels are Yeshua’s final words to us that are backed up by the power of his blood. What if Amir’s last words to Shalhevet had been a request? – Such as, “Watch out for my parents.” Or “Donate some money to charity.” Do you think she would have fulfilled that request? I’m sure she would have.
Perhaps Amir’s “I feel faint” doesn’t sound that profound. On the other hand, it makes me think of Yeshua’s statement, “I’m thirsty.” Sometimes we get caught up in the theology of the cross so much, we miss the raw physicality of the event, the humanity, the guts.
By the way, why did the terrorist kill Amir? For one reason alone: he was a Jew. Again I am reminded of Yeshua, that the stated crime that He was crucified for was being “King of the Jews.”
One of Yeshua’s blood-backed declarations on the cross was for us to be forgiven of our sins. You see, we are not only like Shalhevet, in some ways we are like the terrorist. It was for our sins that Yeshua was crucified. We are like the jailed terrorist to whom Amir-Yeshua might come to say, “Even you I am willing to forgive.” Or suppose Shalhevet had been his wife who had committed adultery, to whom he would say, “I forgive you, go and sin no more.”
What repentance, what forgiveness, what freedom, what victory, what consecration, what empowerment there is, when we completely identify with the blood-soaked embrace and the life-changing message of Yeshua on the cross.
People Just Didn’t Get It
Some people did not take note of the story of Amir. They were too busy with politics and economics. But others saw in that story the most important event of the week – so important in fact that nothing else might seem to matter. Let us put ourselves in Shalhevet’s shoes: nothing else matters. Nothing else will ever matter – only that embrace, only that blood, only that life-saving sacrifice.
This article originally appeared on Tikkun Ministries International, December 30, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Asher Intrater is the founder and apostolic leader of Revive Israel Ministries, and oversees Ahavat Yeshua Congregation in Jerusalem, and Tiferet Yeshua Congregation in Tel Aviv. Asher was one of the founders of Tikkun International with Dan Juster and Eitan Shishkoff, and serves on the board of the Messianic Alliance of Israel and Aglow International.
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[Israeli Politics 101] Making sense of the four legal cases against PM Benjamin Netanyahu
How did one of Israel’s most successful and long-time prime ministers end up facing the imminent possibility of being criminally indicted for corruption including bribery and fraud charges? It’s not an easy web to untangle, but here is a background composite of what contributed to these astounding developments:
In the investigation labeled” Case 1000,” the prime minister is accused of having received gifts from wealthy and powerful individuals, one of them being an Israeli Hollywood producer and another being a casino mogul, who in exchange, received personal favors or special status, despite the fact that Netanyahu denies the personal gifts/return favors connection.
In yet another investigation labeled “Case 2000,” it is alleged that Netanyahu traded regulatory favors to Bezeq, Israel’s leading telecommunications company in exchange for favorable media coverage on their Walla news website also owned by them.
These charges of fraud and breach of trust extend to his wife Sara who is also being accused of improper use of public funds at her personal residence and also having received personal gifts which are illegal for government officials and their family to accept.
Two other cases include “Case 3000” and “Case 4000.” Case 3000 centers around the sale of German submarines to Israel through corrupt means including a conflict of interest as Netanyahu’s personal lawyer became the legal representative of the accused businessman who allegedly bribed government officials to facilitate the negotiation of the sale.
Case 4000, concerns Israel’s director-general Minister of Communications, personally appointed by Netanyahu, illegally allowing Bezeq to buy shares in Israel’s satellite cable provider YES.
All of these legal woes come at a time when Bibi is fighting desperately to finish out his political term amidst a growing sea of discontent amongst many secular Israelis who are fed up with the Netanyahu government coalition which always grants too much power to the ultra-orthodox, allowing them to control much of Israeli day to day life as they would prefer. The lack of Jewish pluralism as held by many other streams of the faith, which are not recognized as valid expressions has certainly helped to fuel the desire for early elections and a change in the status quo.
Consequently, Netanyahu remains vulnerable to lose his power and his control which he has enjoyed off and on for the last few decades. He was elected prime minister in 1996 and served until 1999. He returned to that role in 2009 and has been there ever since. But as these charges continue to hound Netanyahu, the once beloved and respected Prime Minister could be headed for sure political demise.
Although he continues to tout his innocence and forcefully state how he is merely a victim of his political enemies and rivals, multiple recommendations have been made by the Israeli police chief to indict within the next few weeks. This comes before the already scheduled April 9th elections and will surely impact the political landscape quite dramatically.
Back in October of this year, HaAretz, one of Israel’s well-known daily newspapers wrote: “The seriousness with which top politicians are handling the idea that Netanyahu could be immune from prosecution demonstrates how Israel has gone off the rails.” (Yossi Verter, October 12, 2018)
Likewise, Bloomberg Opinion stated, “Many of Netanyahu’s critics see this as golden opportunity to bring him down. But I think they are too optimistic. For one thing, the prime minister is popular, more so than any of his key rivals. For another, it is not certain that he will be indicted before the election. And finally, even if he is, that may not stop him from running and winning.” (Zev Chafets, December 11, 2018)
But that was then, and this is now. It all rests in the hands of Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit who will make the final decision whether or not to indict Netanyahu. Undoubtedly, Israel’s citizens are waiting anxiously to see the outcome, because, for them, this may end up being the most important election in decades – one which could turn the tide and direction of the country in a massive way.
Chava Stein, the granddaughter of Jewish European immigrants to the U.S., made Aliyah to Israel in 1993. Married to an Israeli, they live in the center of the country.
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The Lord remembers His covenant (Parashat Vaere)
In this week’s Torah portion we continue reading in Exodus. It is the famous story of Moses and his brother Aaron who repeatedly kept asking the Pharaoh to let the people go. But the Lord had hardened the heart of the Pharaoh and he refused time after time. And the Lord sent plague after plague. Blood, frogs, gnats, flies, death of life stock, boils, hail are the ones we read about in this portion. The last three plagues are for next week.
This portion is full of horrible events and suffering that befell the Egyptians. However, it starts with the Lord speaking to Moses. Words of encouragement and full of promise.
“I am the Lord, I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty but by my name the Lord I did not make myself fully known to them. I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they resided as foreigners. Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians enslaved, and I have remembered my covenant.”
The Lord continues and instructs Moses to say the following to the Israelites;
“I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted arm to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. It will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord”
The Lord is both a righteous judge and a loving father. He is about to bring plague after plague on Egypt. The Egyptians who had enslaved an entire nation, even murdered the baby boys, taking away any hope or future. That same God who is going to judge the nation of Egypt, remembers His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He heard the groaning of the Israelites. The same God who hardened the Pharaoh’s heart, made Himself known to Moses by His name. A long time may have gone by but the Lord remembers and He will do as He promised.He did so for the Israelites a long time ago, and He will do so for us too.
“Father God, thank you that you are the same throughout time.Thank you that you are faithful to do as You have said. Thank you that you heard the groaning of the Israelites and delivered them from slavery.Thank you for hearing us when we call out to you and sending us Jesus the Messiah who delivered us from being enslaved to sin”
This article originally appeared on CBN Israel, January 2, 2019, 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.