Sabbath: Making the invisible visible
I have been blessed over the years to be invited to speak in churches of many varieties all over the country. When I am given the opportunity to, one of my favorite things to do is to simply open the floor to questions, and one of the most asked questions is “What about Sabbath?”. This question is asked many times, and the reason it is asked is varied. Some just want to know, “Do Messianic Jews still keep the weekly Sabbath? Others want to know “Didn’t Yeshua (Jesus) do away with the Sabbath?” Others ask the question as a challenge “Isn’t keeping the Sabbath just another form of legalism?” and Others ask “Isn’t the Sabbath just for the Jews?” or “Isn’t Sabbath Sunday now?”.
My favorite question is “Why do you still keep the Sabbath?”, and it is the answer to this question that I want to focus on in this blog. Over the years I have answered this question many different ways. I used to answer by providing a long list of Scripture references showing that Shabbat was commanded to be remembered and kept for all time. Other times I would point out that the Sabbath was the fourth commandment of the Ten Commandments showing just how important it was to keep the Sabbath. Sometimes I would read Luke 4 where is says attending Sabbath was Yeshua’s custom, or I would read Acts 15 which says Gentiles will hear that Moses taught on the Sabbath.
But I no longer use any of those answers to the “Why do I keep the Sabbath?” question. Instead, I focus my explanation in a completely different direction. I share that I keep the Sabbath because it is a visible way that I can share my faith in the invisible. Let me explain further. The Scripture says in Mark 2:27:
“Shabbat was made for man, and not man for Shabbat.
G-D didn’t need the Sabbath any more than He needed the Tabernacle or the Temple. Think about this for a moment. The Tabernacle at its best was a very nice ornate tent. In comparison to Heaven, the Tabernacle is a less pup tent standing next to the Ritz. The Tabernacle was not made for G-D it was made for man. We needed a visible location to help us to focus our thoughts and prayers. But more than that when The Children of Israel went to the Tabernacle or Temple those around them could see them. They watched how they walked up to the Tabernacle, how they entered, how they brought their offerings, how the priest accepted the offering, slew the animal and made the sacrifice. All those watching could see every step taken and saw how carefully the commandments were kept by both those bringing the offerings and those watching. This obedience in observing the commandments of G-D was a visible expression of their faith. People watching them obey the commandments could see their faith in their actions. It is in this context that we read in Jacob (James) 2:17-18:
17 So also faith, if it does not have works, is dead by itself. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith without works and I will show you faith by my works.
In other words, G-D didn’t set up the entire sacrificial system and all the explicit commandments to put a burden on the Children of Israel or to make things difficult. He established the Tabernacle and Temple service so that people watching Israel would see their love for the invisible G-D in their visible actions. Their commitment to do all that He asked of them allowed people to see the invisible in their visible.
I keep the weekly Shabbat because by doing so it lets people see that I believe that G-D created the world in 6 days (Exodus 20:11) and to that people will see that I believe G-D redeemed Israel from Egypt’s Bondage (Deuteronomy 5:15). It is my hope that by seeing my visible actions demonstrating my faith in the invisible G-D, that they will also see that he can still create today,
2 Corinthians 5:17: Therefore if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
And that He can still redeem from bondage
Ephesians 1:7 In Him we have redemption through His blood—the removal of trespasses—in keeping with the richness of His grace
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, and his most recent book God Has No Plan "B".
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Laughter in the sky
‘He who sitteth in the heavens shall laugh’, says the Bible. And He who sits in the heavens passed that laughter down to mankind at Mt. Sinai, along with the plates of the Covenant- via the Jews, who would become the stewards of both. The Sense of Humor was as seeds planted between the holy lines, and would sprout sometime later among the escaping slaves chased from one idolatrous nation to another. It would prove to be one of their most potent of secret weapons. After their escape from slavery in Egypt their home was in the unwelcoming desert, and any house would be only a temporary one, and a fiddler was always on the roof playing his wayfarer’s tragi-comic song. This desert escape would prove to be a preparation for many later escapes worldwide throughout their long and painful history. Any home would be only for a time, and the Jew came to know that he was but a comet, brightening the sky for a spell, but only passing through. The suffering servant of God was far too bright for his enemies, but also far too small to defeat his far outnumbering oppressors, so he invariably outlived them with a smile, defeating them with wit, the gift from God. The Jew would say after each survival, ‘They tried to destroy us, they failed, let’s eat.’
Abraham, the father of all Israel, was given a miracle child in his and his wife Sarah’s very old age, and was told that the child’s name was to be Yitzhok (Isaac), which means, He will laugh. God made that promise.
The Fiddler on the Roof idea later became a movie in which Tuvya, speaking to the sky, says as they are about to suffer another pogram in Russia, ‘I know you have chosen us, but maybe you could choose someone else for a while?’ Tuvya made the world smile.
And the very King of the suffering servants smiled while saying to the Jewish fishermen who had professionally dragged their net through the Kinneret waters all night long and caught nothing, ‘Do not fear or be dismayed, but cast thy net on theright side of the boat’. This angling advice was followed and the saintly fishers hauled up a hundred fifty-three big ones at one fell swoop. Later, after the crucifixion, that same King approached two fellow Jewish travelers in Jerusalem and asked, ‘So what’s going on?’ To such a question they replied, ‘Are you the only guy in town who doesn’t know?’ ‘Tell me’, said the King, and played them all along the way to Emmaus. This quintessential, archetypal ironic Jewish standup humor that had fallen from the sky and been carried down the slope of Sinai would later be carried further forth by such notable chosen Jews as Groucho with his cigar, and George Burns with his. Of course there were Al Jolson, George Jessel, Jerry Lewis, Don Rickles, Milton Berle, Bert Lahr, Danny Kaye, Red Buttons, Buddy Hackett, Carl Reiner, Phil Silvers, Mel Brooks, Jackie Mason, Gene Wilder, Sid Caesar, Jack Benny, Peter Sellers, Woody Allen, and Seinfeld too. These among others who made the world laugh.
The laughing gas of Humor has kept the balloon of the Jewish People aloft above the tragic fray of anti-Semitism and a world devouring itself, and them, for ages. It has been no less than a weapon of survival. That Suffering Servant who beat death on a Roman cross also said, ‘The first shall be last, and the last shall be first’. Perhaps that may be interpreted as the old adage, ‘He who laughs last, laughs best’. Perhaps the Jew will get the last laugh.
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.
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PARASHAT PEKUDEI (COMMANDMENTS OR CHARGES OF)
SHEMOT (EXODUS) 38:21–40:38
This week’s parasha (Scripture portion) brings us to the end of Exodus (Shemot), in which God’s truly awesome glory is revealed to and dwells among the children of Israel. I’ve previously written on this parasha, and I’d like to share some thoughts similar to what I wrote last year.
Exodus (Shemot) ends with a very dramatic moment in the lives of the people of Israel, as they complete building the Tent of Meeting that God has commanded them to build:
Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle (mishkan). And Moses could not come to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And throughout all their journeys whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the sons of Israel would set out; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day when it was taken up. For throughout all their journeys, the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and there was fire in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel.
Can you imagine what an incredible moment this was for Israel? I don’t think we can truly fathom how awesome it was to experience God’s presence actually come down to fill the tabernacle. While the hands of men prepared the mishkan, it was the Almighty Himself who had the final act of wonder over it. In Hebrew, it says that the “kavod of the Lord (YHVH)” filled the place of dwelling. This word is so full of meaning, that translating it as “glory” really doesn’t do it justice. In fact, it is better translated as “respect, honor, esteem or dignity.” In fact, the root of the word is “kaved”, which means heaviness or to weigh heavily upon.
God’s presence is heavy! It is not to be taken lightly. Sadly, I believe our modern attitude is too casual toward the Almighty. Often we followers of Messiah forget that the God that we believe in and worship is the same God that Moses served! I find it interesting that even Moses, who was very beloved by God, could not enter the tent due to the presence of God that dwelled in that place. Do we even understand what we mean when we say, “The presence of the Lord was in that place”? I’m not sure we do.
My dear brothers and sisters, my goal is not to criticize, but to exhort us all to be careful to not be casual when we come before the Lord. Although God calls us His friends, He is also our Father and so worthy of all honor, respect, glory, and praise. Let’s return to a place where we give God the utmost “kavod” that He deserves. And let’s not take Him lightly.
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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To fill the hole inside of us
Fifteen years ago one of the major newspapers in Israel published an article about a group of Israeli young people that had banded together to throw off the malaise of material prosperity and meaninglessness, and to renew the “halutz” (pioneering) spirit in Israel by creating a new village of college students in the Negev desert of southern Israel (HaAretz supplement April 23, 2004). The article offered a thrilling glimpse into the soul of the modern young Israelis.
A summary of the Israeli newspaper article
These new “pioneers” saw that Israelis serve in the army for 2 to 3 years and are then thrust into a world that doesn’t give them any further challenge for self-sacrifice. In the absence of a compelling external cause, most of them get mired in the unending cycle of trying to satisfy their own needs and desires. Such an existence is lacking any absolute value framework, and is a dead end street.
These young people saw clearly that their parents and grandparents had worked so hard and fought so sacrificially to protect and build the state of Israel. Yet many ended up telling their children not to “go overboard,” not to be someone else’s fool, but rather to think of their own good, since the country has already been built. However, “when everything is directed only internally, for my own self, there is no happiness.”
After their parents “solved” the immense challenges of protecting and building the state, the young Israelis of our day have largely gone after the Western dream of immediate satisfaction, name brands and image. This band of pioneers in the desert says that such an existence will never bring true satisfaction.
This group also saw the essence of the modern Israeli experience as the Renewal of the people in their land – with their own language, their own right to self defense, freedom and dignity. After that had been achieved to a certain degree, people began wanting to become like any other nation under the sun, like all the other “normal” enlightened and privileged people in the West. These pioneers invited Israeli college students from the Ben Gurion Universtiy in Beer Sheva to join their desert pioneering village, and saw an overwhelming response. Hundreds signed up to join, confirming that all these elements of yearning for struggle, meaning and renewal are pervasive in the young people and simply unrealized.
In the ideology of these pioneers, enjoying some of the finer things in life is not forbidden, but simply part of the path to the destination. When asked what this destination is, the reply was deafening: “A great vacuum has been created, and we are proposing a way TO FILL THE HOLE INSIDE OF US.“
This article in HaAretz provided great encouragement to the Revive Israel team, both in seeing the acknowledged need for meaning on the part of Israeli young people, and in seeing a kind of parallel physical track to what we see as a need in the realm of spiritual pioneering.
Also, the Discipleship Training Center that we formed speaks to the very same needs and goals:
- renewing the pioneering spirit in Israel,
- equipping young people spiritually,
- enhancing connectedness to the land.
Please pray with us that the people of Israel not become “fat and lazy” or “comfortable in Zion,” but rather be continuously provoked to walk into their prophetic calling. This calling includes physically making the desert bloom but certainly does not end there. “For you are a people holy unto the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a treasured nation among all the peoples on the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 7:6, NKJV).
This article originally appeared on Tikkun International, February 17, 2019, and reposted with permission.
David is on the Editorial Staff for the Tents of Mercy Network.
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The Netanyahu charges – character, hypocrisy and a million paper-cuts
Israel’s Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit has just announced his intention to indict Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu on three charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. His intention to indict kicks off a process which could last for years in the courts. Mandelblit’s announcement is not a declaration that Netanyahu is guilty, though Bibi’s enemies at the Israeli newspaper Yediot Achronot (‘Latest News’) crowed with satisfaction in screaming headlines with extra-large fonts declaring ‘Ne’esham’ (which can mean ‘accused,’ ‘charged’ or ‘defendant’ in Hebrew).
According to Israeli law, anyone accused in a court of law is innocent until proven guilty. However, the overwhelming majority of Israel’s media (which has attacked and castigated Bibi and his family for over two decades) assumes as a given that Netanyahu is already guilty. For them, any trial would only be window dressing on a foregone conclusion.
Mandelblit’s announcement of intent to indict is only a first step in a drawn-out legal procedure.No actual indictment can happen until after the April 9, 2019 Israeli elections. After the elections (according to Israeli law) Bibi’s lawyers will ask for and receive a hearing to respond to the Attorney General’s charges, where they will present Netanyahu’s perspectives and counter-challenges. After that point (which could take up to one full year), the Attorney General may decide drop charges, modify them or formally file an indictment.
In light of all this,
- what can be said and understood here from both an on-site and a biblical perspective?
- what are the ramifications of this announcement of an intention to indict?
- how can we pray about this situation?
Where’s the beef?
In 1984 the hamburger chain Wendy’s presented a TV ad using a crotchety older woman who constantly asked, “Where’s the beef?” During the Democratic Party’s presidential candidates’ debate of that year, Walter Mondale drilled Gary Hart with the same question. The point behind both soundbites was to question whether or not an event or a person’s agenda has substance.
World-respected and prominent lawyer Alan Dershowitz (Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus at Harvard University) has stated recently that there is no legal substance to the charges against Netanyahu. He “strongly believes that the appropriate criteria for criminal prosecution have not been met” in these cases, and that the “clear and unambiguous (evidence of) financial corruption” needed for solid conviction here is “well beyond what is alleged in the current cases.”
His arguments and those of other legal minds can be found in the above articles. If Dershowitz’s statement is valid (that there is not sufficient legal evidence to attempt a conviction), why then is the Attorney General moving forward with this very damaging gambit only 40 days before Israel’s next general elections?
Clash of the titans
Power politics is a way of life in most countries of the world, and certainly in Israel. Powerful businessmen attempt to influence political decisions in ways which will be advantageous to their own economic interests. In Israel each major political party is financed and influenced by specific tycoons (www.haaretz.com/israel-news/business/which-tycoon-to-vote-for-in-the-election-1.6955379):
Property developer Alfred Akirov supports Benny Gantz and his Israel Resilience Party (Hosen L’Yisrael, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel_Resilience_Party). In the past he was a main contributor to Prime Ministers Shimon Peres and Ehud Olmert.
Histadrut Chairman Avi Nissenkorn and his government monopolies (Israel Electric Corporation, the Ports Authority, the Israel Airports Authority and other powerful unions, all organized under the Histadrut Labor Federation) also support Gantz.
Koby Maimon (natural gas and real estate magnate) backs Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and his Kulanu party.
Business magnate Arnon Mozes backs Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid who worked for years as a journalist at Mozes’ Yediot Achronot. Mozes controls Israel’s biggest media conglomerate Yediot Tikshoret; Channel 2, one of the top TV channels; HOT Cable TV company (second largest); Vesti, Israel’s largest Russian-language daily; La’Isha, the Israeli women’s magazine; Rosh 1, a teenager weekly; the Internet portal Ynet; the men’s magazine Blazer; print houses; voice data providers, music distributors, information services and a plethora of real estate properties.
The Labor Party is headed by Avi Gabbay and seconded by Knesset Member Itzik Shmueli. Nochi Dankner the former Chairman of Israel’s biggest conglomerate IDB has contributed handsomely to Shmueli, as has Arnon Mozes.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud Party are heavily supported by casino baronSheldon Adelson, owner of the freely distributed newspaper Israel Hayom (in active competition with Mozes’ Yediot Achronot).
Adelson is also a major supporter of Naftali Bennett and his Hayamin Hehadash (New Right) party (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Right_(Israel)).
Most of Israel’s political maneuverings, machinations and headlines reflect the jockeying between these ‘Power Rangers.’ Charges and counter-charges against top politicians continue to be the daily bread of Israeli media for the past 20 years, with much of the bile directed against Netanyahu and the Likud Party – who nevertheless seem to continually win in election after election.
- Two of the three main charges against Bibi concern clashes between him and some of the above-mentioned power magnates. The technicalities of the legal charges are to a large extent wallpaper covering other deeper holes and struggles.
Dershowitz notes in the above-mentioned article that “these media companies will seek to influence the political discourse that affects their bottom line, as they simultaneously report on it.”
The Hypocritical oath
Professor Avi Bell (Professor of Law at Bar Ilan University and the University of San Diego, Senior Fellow at the Kohelet Policy Forum, and Visiting Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Project on the Foundations of Private Law) comments concerning one of the bribery charges – Hollywood magnate Arnon Milchan’s personal gifts of champagne and cigars to Bibi and his wife Sara.
Bell points out that Milchan is on public record as having expressed similar friendship and largesse to Prime Ministers Ehud Olmert, Ariel Sharon and Shimon Peres, as well as to Deputy Prime Ministers Tzipi Livni and Silvan Shalom, Defense and Foreign Affairs Minister Avigdor Liberman, Finance Minister Yair Lapid etc. Yet no charges on these matters have been or will be filed against Lapid, Livni, Olmert, Peres, Shalom or Sharon.
The laser-like focus on bringing down Netanyahu by any means necessary has been the agenda of much of the media (and the power brokers behind them) for decades.
Years ago, just before Ariel Sharon’s pullout from Gaza (the ‘disengagement’ of 2005), one top Israeli commentator Amnon Abramovich called on his colleagues to go easy on Sharon over possible involvement in a questionable Greek land deal – to treat Sharon “like an etrog” – i.e., to treat him ‘with kid gloves’ – so long as Sharon withdrew unilaterally from the Gaza Strip. The left-leaning media in Israel has treated Bibi in the exactly opposite way.
Judicial overreach and black-robe fever
Dershowitz has noted, “No one should be charged with a crime unless he has willfully crossed a bright line and plainly violated a serious criminal statute. To bring down a duly elected prime minister on the basis of an expansive and unprecedented application of a broad and expandable criminal statute endangers democracy.”
Bell notes that Mandelblit has moved beyond issues of evidence to the probing of the motives of the accused: “The danger in the novel legal theories introduced by Mandelblit is stark. The criminal charges against the prime minister lack legal substance, and they threaten both the rule of law in Israel and the health of its democracy… Mandelblit’s announcement heralds a crisis for Israel’s democracy and the public image of its legal system.”
The challenges in this case bear some resemblance to U.S. constitutional issues today. Should the U.S. Constitution be interpreted in light of what the Constitutional Fathers intended the Constitution to mean, or should the Constitution be re-interpreted anew in every generation, even if that does violence to the Constitution’s original meaning and authorial intent.
A lawyer friend of mine once explained a legal concept known as ‘black robe fever’ – sometimes a judge, after putting on his black robe, begins to think that he is God, “able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
The present charges against Netanyahu shy away from solid and actionable evidence which is necessary for the case to stand up in court. They focus instead on psychological motives. This is seen by a significant amount of Israelis as a politically motivated partisan vendetta. The Attorney General’s actions have the potential to alienate many Israelis’ trust in their own legal system. They also throw a significant curve at the electorate and at the ruling Likud party immediately preceding a significant Israeli election. Mandelblit’s decision has oversized power to shape the election’s result. His move has the potential to move Israel’s judiciary away from its traditionally understood role into greater authority over the legislative and executive branches of government, simultaneously weakening the democratic power of the state.
Character and kings
Regardless of the outcome of the elections, the judicial hearing and any subsequent legal developments, the Scriptures give us some meat to chew on about such matters.
Solomon warns us all in Proverbs: “When you sit down to dine with a ruler, consider carefully what is before you and put a knife to your throat if you are a man of great appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, for it is deceptive food” (Proverbs 23:1-3). All of us need to rein in our appetites, especially around people who would manipulate us for their own gain. Wisdom exhorts us to be extra careful in the face of such temptations.
Proverbs also cautions us about the cost of accepting generous gifts when there might be strings attached: “Do not eat the bread of a selfish man or desire his delicacies. For as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, ‘Eat and drink!’ but his heart is not with you. You will vomit up the morsel you have eaten, and waste your compliments” (Proverbs 23:6-8). Kings and rulers would do well to follow the advice of the wisest king who ever lived.
How should we then pray?
- Pray for Prime Minister Netanyahu to receive God’s heart and perspective about his present situation and his spiritual state
- Pray for God’s justice, righteousness and balance to be done regarding these issues
- Pray for the foiling of wicked machinations on the part of ungodly businessmen
- Pray for God to establish leadership in Israel after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Jeremiah 3:15)
This article originally appeared on David’s Tent, March 2, 2019, and reposted with permission.
Avner and his wife, Rachel, live in the Beersheva region of Israel and are dedicated to stirring up the creative arts, worship, intercession, evangelism and the prophetic gifts within a Jewish and Israeli matrix. They oversee Final Frontier Ministries.