The poem of God
There is a beautiful word in Greek that is used only TWO times in the entire New Covenant scriptures. It is the word poema, from which we derive the word “poem”. It can be translated as “workmanship, artistry, craftmanship, creation, creativity…”
It is somewhat parallel to the Hebraic concept of מְלֶאכֶת מַחֲשָׁבֶת, m’lechet makhshevet, which means “well-thought out workmanship” – referring to the craftmanship of the great artist Bezalel in building the Tabernacle ornaments (Exodus 35:33, cf. Ephesians 2:21, II Kings 16:10).
Natural Creation Revealing
The first use of poema is referring to physical creation.
Romans 1:20 – The invisible character of God, His power and divinity, are clearly seen and understood from the time of creation, through the things that were created…
In this verse “the things that were created” are poema. The creativity of the creator is seen in His creation. The heart of any artist is seen in his artwork. The stunning beauty of natural creation is the poem of God. It is His song.
God’s Genius Work
The second use of poema is referring to God’s genius work in changing us from rebellious and lustful sinners into vessels of grace and glory. Through the creation, God shows His divine power. Through the work of the cross, He shows His astonishing love. We are the ultimate artistry of God’s genius.
Ephesian 2:10 – for we are His workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which God prepared beforehand…
If we will submit to God’s work in our lives, He will transform us into a beautiful piece of artwork. As the physical creation was “good” and the creation of man was “very good,” so will the new creation of God in our hearts be “excellent.” In fact, it will be awesome.
We together will be more beautiful than the priestly garments of the tabernacle, and more glorious than a shining rainbow. As we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, we will become God’s song, His “poem.” We are the picture that God is painting.
This article originally appeared on Revive Israel, April 10, 2019, 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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Yeshua and the law
Parashat Metzora (Leprosy)
Vayikra (Leviticus) 14:1–15:33
Our weekly portion starts with a precise description of a law that deals with someone who suffered from leprosy, and how he or she was to be cleansed from the disease. This portion directly connects to last week’s portion in how it defines someone who is a leper.
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing. Now he shall be brought to the priest, and the priest shall go out to the outside of the camp. Thus the priest shall look, and if the infection of leprosy has been healed in the leper.”
A leper needed to be outside the camp, in part because the disease was so contagious. But the infected person did not just suffer physically; s/he also suffered emotionally. Lepers were considered outcasts and “impure”. This impurity was the main reason they had to be outside the camp, and also the reason the Priest needed to go outside the camp to examine if the leper was healed.
Only after the Priest ruled that the leper was healed that he would start with the different acts of purification of the leper. Why was this important? I believe the entire cleansing ceremony was prophetic and was actually fulfilled in Messiah Yeshua. The elements of the cleansing ceremony directly point to Yeshua, from the requirement that the birds offered as a sacrifice needed to be spotless and pure, and the unblemished lamb, to the significance of the number seven, which symbolizes completion and holiness, and the living waters which symbolize Yeshua Himself. All these things point directly to Him!
This week’s portion brings to mind Matthew 8:1–4, in which we learn of Yeshua healing the leper:
And when He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. And behold, a leper came to Him, and bowed down to Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” And He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Yeshua said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and present the offering that Moses commanded, for a testimony to them.”
This passage is so rich in meaning, but I want to briefly focus on two points. The first is that Yeshua stretched out His hand and touched the leper. Please understand how significant this is! Yeshua understood the Law of Moses better than anyone and He knew that touching this “unclean” man would create quite a stir. Not only did He honor the leper’s faith, but also wanted to show His power to cleanse that which is unclean. Yeshua showed us the real meaning of the Word of God; all it took was Him speaking healing over the leper, touching Him, and the leper was healed.
The second point I’d like to emphasize is that Yeshua told the leper to go and present the offering to the priest, which Moses commanded (and appears in our parasha). Why would He do this? I believe He did so for two reasons. The first reason was His way to testify of Himself through this amazing miracle. The second is that He showed that He loved the Torah — His Father’s teachings — and He lived by it as an example for us all. As He said,
Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
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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I call you friends
I no longer call you servants…Instead, I have called you friends…’ – Yeshua (John 15:15)
These words spoken by the Messiah to his disciples were uttered at the celebration of Passover in Jerusalem. The central memorial of that festival is the remembering of Israel’s exodus from Egypt, where a nation of slaves became a nation of free men and women. The long-standing Passover tradition is the singing of avadim hainu (‘we were slaves’) ‘but now we are free’. It is in that context that Yeshua spoke those revolutionary words in Hebrew, the word for ‘servants’ being avadim,the same word for slaves. Thus a closer translation would be, ‘No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.’
The Hebrew word for friends is haverim, from the singular haver, the root word meaning to be closely connected. It is written of Abraham, the father of all Israel and of the faithful, as well as of Ishmael, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God’ (James 2:23). The town in which Abraham and Sarah his wife are buried (as well as his sons Isaac and Israel, and their wives) is called Hebron (Hebrew: Hevron), and in Arabic Al-Khalil, both meaning ‘the friend’, after Abraham, the great friend of God. Thus the allusion of Yeshua’s pronouncement at the Passover was to that relationship that Abraham had with God as a friend, which his work and mission was to restore that personal relationship between men and God as it was with Abraham. They would no longer be slaves to sin and thus enemies of God, or slaves even to God, but would now become close friends with God- and to each other. That is the central message of the Gospel.
What is a friend? A friend is one with whom we have a close and deep relationship of trust and love and loyalty. A friend is one you can count on, who gives you the benefit of the doubt, often overlooking shortcomings. It also may be said that it is a long and lasting relationship, which normally entails at times even misunderstandings and disagreements, as do most long and close relationships. A real friend is one who know just how bad you can be- and also how good. But patience and respect and love- and very often forgiveness- are applied in maintaining that friendship, including marriage. That is the essential recipe given to the disciples of the Messiah, to whom he said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Though sometimes easier said than done, that is the intended universal objective of the Gospel.
At that same Passover, the Messiah said also, ‘Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’ (John 15:13), which he would certainly do for not only his disciples the following day in crucifixion, but for all humankind that would trust in his kindness and grace, and call him Friend.
There is nothing quite so precious as old and true friends. They are like an old wool hunting shirt that has kept you warm in the blowing winds of winter and adversity, and are full of memories. They are also like your old faithful hunting dog that saw you miss the shot and spew obscenity and looked the other way and never brought it up again. Old friends are folks you have trusted and continue to trust because they have proven trustworthy, for without trust there cannot be friendship, or real love. Your real friends know your strengths and also your weaknesses, having weathered some good and bad times together, and who love you despite both, appreciating you for who and what you are, not for what you should be, or are not yet.
I have been blessed with a score of real old friends- several as long as sixty-five years so far, nearly twice the time my firstborn son has been alive. My business partner and I have known each other that long – since five years old- and have worked together successfully for nearly forty without a written agreement, or even a handshake – just trust. Other longtime friends share a very different political and even spiritual understanding from myself and we have wrestled quite heatedly but, giving each other the benefit of the doubt, continue tolerating and respecting and loving one another as friends.
Old friends are those you may not speak with for years at a time, but when you reconnect you pick up right where you left off without a hesitation in the conversation. They are folks who can be counted on to cover your back in a struggle, even if you may not be completely right. Those real friends, even when you aren’t thinking of them, are like stars in your skies, that if one should disappear your night would be darker for lack of their light. My wife is my old friend at forty years so far, being through thick and thin, sick and sin, sharing memories and still laughing and in love most of the time. My golden retriever is my loving friend at all times, day and night, never disappointing (and would expect to see in Heaven). Some people I have offered friendship, but they were either unwilling or unable, or unworthy. And the worst of pains is a trusted friend who has betrayed trust, which is irreparable as a broken spinal cord. I have been the true friend to my children since they were born, though it takes time for them to understand that.
My brother is my oldest of old living friends, who has known me since I was born seventy-four years ago, even before I knew him. And the Lord is the most amazing and faithful of old friends, also loving for who I am currently, not for what I should be, but never giving up on urging me forward toward that better goal. He said, “I call you friends,” and that is what counts in the end, and beyond. May the communion we take in this Passover eve be among friends indeed.
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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Passover, leprosy and forgiveness
I love the Passover season when we begin preparing our homes for the observance of the memorial celebration of the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. Weeks before Passover begins, we start searching our homes and our hearts for chametz (Leaven). This process means searching every room, cleaning and vacuuming the entire home, making sure you either eat or give away any items that contain chametz before the day of Passover. While we are literally turning our houses upside down in the search for chametz, we also begin to search our hearts for any spiritual chametz or sins that we have allowed to find a place to attach itself to. Sin like little hidden crumbs can be hidden in many ways and in many places. Like the little crumbs which were dropped, we had intentions of picking up spiritual chametz which requires more than a simple scan from across the room to notice. We need to lift rugs, clean hard to reach corners, pick up the curtains and blinds, and move furniture. The search for chametz has to be intentional and purposeful.
During this time of year, as we begin our search, we read a portion from the book of Leviticus that includes the commandments concerning commonly translated leprosy. It is interesting that the commandments concerning this disease, like searching for chametz, required not only the person to be examined but also the home in which they dwelled. Traditional teaching connects with Lashon Hara (evil speaking).
This teaching comes from the Torah in Numbers 12 where we read of the rebellion of Miriam and Aaron against Moses. They spoke evil against Moses, and Miriam was stricken with tza’arat. From this example as well as other verses such as Deuteronomy 24:9 we see the direct connection between tza’arat and Lashon Hara.
Because at this time of year at our home we are actively searching for chametz both spiritual and physical and considering the annual reading of the reading about tza’arat, I make it a point to include in my focus searching particularly for any hidden spiritual chametz caused by evil speaking about others, especially about those called of G-D to leadership. Tza’arat like chametz can be removed and the home and or person made clean. One key part of the commandment that must be observed is that once the person or home is made clean the person must go to the Priest. The Priest must pronounce them clean.
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
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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The introverted people person
Recently I’ve realised that there are a host of people out there who are called to people, but are naturally introverted themselves.
This is me. I never realised it was me until I found myself day dreaming of quiet vistas, lakes, forests, mountains and isolation. I don’t know if I changed over the years, or it’s just been highlighted by the fact that I have less time alone due to being a mother, and having a business.
It’s a difficult tension to balance when you are called to connect and to genuinely touch heart to heart with others, while also needing space and time alone and quiet, in order to fill up so you can cope with the people you’re called to!
I think that God has made us this way on purpose and probably more of us are made this way than we realise. I think it’s easy for extroverts to find their fuel from being around people and interactions from others. I think I used to be like this. I used to get such a high from being around others. But then something changed! I don’t even know what it was, but suddenly I found that if I hadn’t had some down time, alone and quiet, then people just positively drained me.
It’s interesting that even the gift that God puts in us, when it’s not framed by him can become the very thing that drains and empties us. Our gifts are only effective when they’re fuelled, and anointed by him. The moment the gift itself becomes ‘enough’ to get us through, it will eat us from the inside out and be a loud and clanging sound.
Our gifts are there to both reflect an element of God’s character and to bless the hearts of those around us. Our gifts are not only there to enjoy by ourselves. If you’re an introverted people person like me, then your gift is only going to be effective when you’re filled up in the secret place, so that you can be the fullness of the blessing that he wants you to be when you’re with the people that he wants you to bless.
Sometimes loving others well is a sacrifice, and the opposite of what we feel like doing. It fills us with dread and we’d rather run away and hide alone somewhere (preferably somewhere with an epic view, some hot chocolate and a crackling fire!). But it’s in those moments when we’re filled up by him, and we don’t feel like it, that we can be the greatest blessing. I believe that Yeshua meant so much more by the verse ‘greater love has no man than he who gives up his life for his brother’ (John 15:13), than life and death. That’s not to belittle or reduce the enormity of the sacrifice of life, however I do believe that we can show this same love by putting others before ourselves, especially when we don’t feel like it.
The most difficult thing for those of us who are called to connect deeply with people, and who’s greatest gift is to love others well, is to find the balance of self care, vs. others care. Sometimes we can pour out and keep pouring and seeing needs and forget that we are less effective and less loving when we have not taken care of ourselves and our own ‘filling up’ from God.
Sometimes introverts can assume that they mustn’t be people people. I think the ‘introverted people person’ is a special and deliberate breed, because God has made us with a need to be dependant on him. We cannot coast through on our nature, we NEED him. He’s given gifts which seemingly clash with how we’d choose to operate, so need to depend on him all the more for ‘enough’ to give to others. So if you’re an ‘introverted people person’, take encouragement that God is jealous over you. He wants you to be fully effective in your gift to love others well, by taking him along with you. He’s made you in a way that needs him.
This article originally appeared on Simcha Natan’s blog, March 7, 2019, and reposted with permission.
Simcha emigrated to Israel from the UK, with her husband and three children. Having studied theology and music and worship in London, and trained as a worship leader and song writer, she went on to teach music and be involved in worship teams in several congregations in the UK, and now in Israel as part of Sarah Liberman's team. Simcha is the author of the “Dare to Ask” project, comprising of the book 'Dare to Ask', and 3 CD's, Dreaming', 'Awakened' and 'Soar (To come) which each have a counterpart 30 day devotional study guide to accompany them. She is passionate about enabling people to engage with God in the way which they were made to, and is committed to multi sensory expressions. Simcha is also an artist, and paints her songs and messages to accompany the music and books. She is also the coordinator Ascend Carmel Programs.