May Meeting

We had a great meeting today and were again privileged to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

We also shared on two commandments from this weeks Torah Portion – see below:

Two great commands[1]: – from this weeks Torah Portion – Emor (Leviticus 21-24)

“Do not desecrate My holy name. I must be sanctified among the Israelites. I am YHWH, who made you holy and who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am YHWH’ – Leviticus 22:32

In this sentence are two really important instructions from the Almighty – they are firstly a prohibition against desecrating God’s name, and secondly the positive corollary, to sanctify God’s name.

What are these commands and what do they mean?

First we have to understand the concept of “name” as it applies to God.

A name is how we are known to others. God’s “name” is therefore His standing in the world.

Do people acknowledge Him, respect Him, honour Him?

We read in Isaiah: “You are my witnesses, says God, that I am God” (Isaiah 43:10)

So here we see that HaShem, through the great prophet Isaiah informs the Jewish people that they are the witnesses to God Himself and to the reality that He is God. His standing; the degree to which the Almighty is held in respect and honoured is through the degree to which the Jewish people have been powerful and effective witnesses.

Yet, the God of Israel is the God of all humanity. He created the universe and life itself. He made all of us – Jew and Gentile – in His image. He cares for all: “His tender mercies are on all his works” (Psalm 145:9).

Because He is Spirit, because He created the Universe, he transcends it; it is beyond it. So how can he be known?

Science can only measure and ‘know’ the material universe. Yet there is no question that Nature does declare the Almighty and His works. Science continues to further reveal the amazing design of the Universe and the powerful and undeniable inference of an Intelligent Designer[2].

Science is increasingly revealing to us that this mind-bogglingly vast Universe was created over an incredibly long period of time for the central purpose of creating mankind! Science is also demonstrating that the truths of the Universe have been revealed to us in a tutorial like fashion, in a similar way to the unpeeling of an onion of increasing complexity as we reach toward its core.

But such revelations of Science tell us little about the nature and ‘personality’ of this Designer or Creator.

So incredibly the Creator decided to reveal Himself to the world through a ‘Chosen People’, the nature sons and daughters of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – the Jewish people.

Yet, because He is the God of the Gentile as well as the Jew, he also eventually opened a doorway for gentiles to not only learn of Him through the witness of the Jewish people, but also to be adopted into the family of Abraham.

To reiterate then, the Creator of the Universe has made Himself and His nature known primarily (not exclusively), through Jewish history and the Jewish impact, influence and witness to the world.

At the end of his life Moses stated:
“Ask now about the former days, long before your time, from the day God created human beings on the earth; ask from one end of the heavens to the other. 

Has anything so great as this ever happened, or has anything like it ever been heard of?

Has any other people heard the voice of God speaking out of fire, as you have, and lived?

Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things YHWH your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?”  -Deut. 4:32-34

Some 3,300 years ago Moses already knew that Jewish history was and would continue to be unique. No other nation has survived such trials. The revelation of God to Israel was unique.

No other religion is built on a direct revelation of God to an entire people as happened at Mount Sinai.

Therefore God – the God of revelation and redemption – is known to the world through Israel.

Thus the Jewish people (and all who have been grafted into the commonwealth of Israel) are testimony to something beyond ourselves. They (we) are God’s ambassadors to the world.

Therefore when the Jewish people, or the ‘Grafted Ones’, behave in such a way as to evoke admiration for their faith and way of life, that is a sanctification of God’s name.

When the opposite occurs – when they/we betray that faith and way of life, causing people to have contempt for the God of Israel – that is a desecration of God’s name.

That is what the prophet Amos means when he says:

“They trample on the heads of the poor as on the dust of the ground, and deny justice to the oppressed … (in doing) so (they) desecrate My holy name.” – Amos 2:7

When Jews or ‘grafted ones’ behave badly, unethically, unjustly, they create a desecration of God’s good name.

People then say, ‘I cannot respect a religion, or a God, that inspires people to behave in such a way’.

The same applies on a larger, more international scale. Ezekiel made this clear:

I dispersed them among the nations, and they were scattered through the countries; I judged them according to their conduct and their actions. And wherever they went among the nations they profaned my holy name, for it was said of them, “These are YHWH’s people, and yet they had to leave his land.”  – Ezekiel 36:19

Rabbi Sacks writes:
“When Jews are defeated and sent into exile, it is not only a tragedy for them. It is a tragedy for God. He feels like a parent would feel when he sees a child of his disgraced and sent to prison. He feels a sense of shame and worse than that, of inexplicable failure. 

“How is it that, despite all I did for him, I could not save my child from himself?”

When Jews are faithful to their mission, when they live and lead and inspire as Jews, then God’s name is exalted. That is what Isaiah means when he says, “”You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified” (Isaiah 49:3).”[3]

The fate of God’s “name” in the world is dependent on us (Jews and ‘grafted ones’) and how we behave.

 

No nation has ever been given a greater or more fateful responsibility than Israel.

When we gather to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Ps 122:6) and share in the support of her people, we ‘grafted ones’ also have a share in this task.

BUT, when we, especially the more religious and zealous amongst us, behave badly; that is when we act unethically in business, or are guilty of sexual abuse, or utter a racist remark, or act with contempt for others, etc. – such failure; such desecration of He who we represent; who we are witnesses of;  reflects badly on all Jews and righteous Gentiles, and on the faith of Abraham itself[4].

And when we act well – when we develop a reputation for acting honourably in business, or caring for victims of abuse, or showing conspicuous generosity of spirit – not only does this reflect well on our community, and on the commonwealth of Israel, it naturally increases the respect people have for religion in general, and thus for the One True God, YHWH.

This is how Maimonides puts it in his law code:

“If a person has been scrupulous in his conduct, gentle in his conversation, pleasant toward his fellow creatures, affable in manner when receiving, not retorting even when affronted, but showing courtesy to all, even to those who treat him with disdain, conducting his business affairs with integrity …
And doing more than his duty in all things, while avoiding extremes and exaggerations – such a person has sanctified God.”[5]

Throughout history the Jewish people have been trust into the limelight so that their witness, both good and bad, has really been unavoidable. Despite their very small numerical size, their witness has been undeniably huge.

The Jew, Milton Himmelfarb wrote: ‘The number of Jews in the world is smaller than a small statistical error in the Chinese census. Yet we remain bigger than our numbers. Big things seem to happen around us and to us.'[6]

God trusted the Jewish people enough to make them His ambassadors to an often faithless, brutal world.

Yet, individually, tribally and corporately the choice is always theirs.

They each daily need to decide ‘Will my life be a sanctification of God , or a desecration?

If you are Jewish or a ‘grafted one’, you too need to make this choice every day. I think all who seek God; all who are truth seekers, will eventually learn that they are, or can become part of the family of Abraham.

Yet this choice, this freedom to follow our ‘fleshly hearts’, our ‘Yetzer HaRa’ and in turn potentially desecrate the name and reputation of the Almighty, or instead to heed the call of our ‘spiritual heart’, our ‘Yetzer HaTov’ and act in ways that sanctify His Name, is always in front of us.

Perhaps when we reflect that an act of good that we participate in has in turn sanctified the honour, and reputation of God, and in doing so has been a faithful and effective witness of the true reality of our Father in Heaven, our joy should increase!

We can then also take comfort in having inspired others to believe and have faith, and in turn, seek Him whose mercies are new every morning!

May it be so! Amen!

[1] Most of the article is a paraphrasing of a great Parsha from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Rabbi Sacks is one of the most amazing theologians and authors of our time. I am deeply indebted to his scholarship.

[2] See my article ‘Does God Exist’ – http://www.charismacomputers.com.au/DoesGodExist.pdf

[3] I have written at length on Isaiah 49, an amazing and prophetic chapter – see Isaiah 49 – a commentary

[4] For more on the ‘family of Abraham’ see ‘The Tripartite Salvation Paradigm’ – http://www.charismacomputers.com.au/The%20Tripartite%20Salvation%20Paradigm%20first%20draft%20feb2012.pdf 

[5] Maimonides, Hilkhot Yesodei ha-Torah, 5:11

[6] Milton Himmelfarb, Jews and Gentiles, Encounter Books, 2007, 141

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April Meeting

In our 5th April meeting we looked at the Biblical derivation of the date for Passover (Pesach) which is based on the New Moon and the ‘Aviv’ stage in the ripening of the barley.

The Powerpoint presentation is Our Passover Lamb – April 2014

For the full article see the file “Our Passover Lamb’ at www.circumcisedheart.info

bloodmoon1

PS: Paul Herring’s 3 Amazon eBooks are free this weekend:

My 3 Amazon eBooks will be free to download for 2 days this weekend (Saturday – Sunday – Pacific Standard Time, USA = from 5 pm Saturday in Brisbane, Australia).

The New Testament: The Hebrew Behind The Greek’
http://www.amazon.com/The-New-Testament-Hebrew-ebook/dp/B009XO0NQU/

Here’s some of a recent review:
“An extremely valuable collection of irrefutable truths that shaped the foundation of the early Messianic followers:
I found this book to be refreshingly insightful and full of vital information. I appreciated the authors patience while explaining the root of complex misunderstandings. No matter what level of background knowledge a reader may come to the table with, this book will be highly valuable, and very rewarding to all who read it.”

And ‘Defending The Apostle Paul: Weighing the Evidence’
http://www.amazon.com/Defending-The-Apostle-Paul-ebook/dp/B009TLLK0U/

Here’s some of a recent review:
“A ‘must have’ book to FINALLY help understand the apostle Paul
This book may be THE best of many I have read through which a typical person can finally come to understand Paul in the proper context.

The reasons are largely because:
1) it is concise,
2) not overly burdensome to read,
3) the author’s opinion is very well argued,
4) he draws from extensive and well researched material authored by some of the best scholars and experts ever, 5) it is properly derived from Paul’s ACTUAL Hebraic based world view instead of the Greco-Roman world view of traditional Constantinian Christianity, and
6) It is a short enough writing to not tire the reader. Its relatively short discussion size compared to other massive, burdensome discussions on the same subject is a big reason I like it so much since it makes the subject more easily understood by a wider audience.

I very highly recommend this book, … there is finally an easily understood book that brings it all together and presents Paul’s epistles in the PRO-Torah framework in which they were originally intended.

You want to finally understand Paul? Get this book.”

And ‘Doctrinal Pitfalls of Hellenism’ http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DO17CK8/

“For the student seeking truth when there are so many confusing doctrines being preached today, this book is a must read … this author takes you away from confusion by explaining not only the root of the cause, but clearly explains the error. He thus leads you down through the pages of history to clearly explain the myths and legends of their day and how they conflicted with the solid teaching of scripture.

This is a book to not only read once, but to keep as reference material to reread and gain wisdom from. …This a book full of wisdom and I take great pleasure in highly recommending it.”

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March Meeting

While our numbers are down this year, we still had a great time together, and we continue to support and pray for Israel and the Jewish people.

I shared the latest news from Victor Schlatter (you can check him out and subscribe to his email news letters here http://www.spim.org.au/)

We spent most of the time looking at the Book of James, considered by a number of scholars to be the first book/letter of the NT ever written (48 CE or earlier) and written for a purely Jewish audience at the time of its composition. This teaching was based on my article on James The Just (Yaa’cov) at circumcisedheart.info – see here

We also continued to contribute to a project to improve a playground in Adorah, Israel.

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2014 & Israel

We had our first meeting for 2014 on the 1st February. I presented a short teaching on the Torah Portion – see below; we discussed the year ahead and a possible tour of Israel – see separate page, and of course prayed for the Peace of Jerusalem! We also raised $60 for a playground project in Adorah, Judea (funded through CFOIC).

adora

Teaching for Prayer Meeting 1st Feb 2014 

This weeks Torah portion, Terumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19), is about the building of the ‘Tent of Meeting’, the Mishkan or Tabernacle.

This portion virtually ignores narrative in favor of instructions for building the Mishkan, the “Tabernacle.” On the face of it, building the Mishkan is a strange thing to do.

God, who is transcendent, certainly has no need of a “home” and it would be mistake to understand the Divine decree in this way.

“They shall make Me a sanctuary, and I will dwell in them.” [Exodus 25:8] – direct Hebrew translation

“They are to make me a sanctuary, so that I may live among them.” CJB (KJV, NET etc, very similar)

The verse describes the result of the building: God will live “in them,” or ‘among’, meaning among the Jews, or within the Jewish nation, not “in it” meaning the Tabernacle.

Clearly, the objective of the building was not to provide God with shelter, but to provide an avenue for man to take God into his life.

First, recall the history of the Israelites until now. It has been a long series of complaints.

They complained when the first intervention of Moses made their situation worse. Then, at the Red Sea, they said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” (Ex. 14:11-12).

After crossing the sea they continued to complain, first about the lack of water, then that the water was bitter, then at the lack of food, then about the lack of water again. Then, within weeks of the revelation at Sinai – the only time in history God appeared to an entire nation – they made a golden calf. If an unprecedented sequence of miracles cannot bring about a mature response on the part of the people, what will?

It is then that God said: Let them build something together.

This simple command transformed the Israelites. During the whole construction of the tabernacle there were no complaints. The people contributed, some gold, some silver, some bronze, some brought skins and drapes, others gave their time and skill. They gave so much that Moses had to order them to stop.

A remarkable proposition is being framed:

It is not what God does for us that transforms us. It is what we do for God.

So long as every crisis was dealt with by Moses and miracles, the Israelites remained in a state of dependency. Their default response was complaint. For them to grow to adulthood and responsibility, there had to be a transition from passive recipients of God’s blessings to active creators.

The people had to become God’s “partners in the work of creation.”

Some of the great Jewish sages wrote, “Call them not ‘your children’ but ‘your builders.'”  (Echo’s of Isaiah 49).

People have to become builders if they are to grow from childhood to adulthood.

God calls us to responsibility.

He does not want us to rely on miracles. He does not want us to be dependent on others. He wants us to become His partners, recognising that what we have, we have from Him, but what we make of what we have is up to us, our choices and our effort.

This is not an easy balance to achieve. It is easy to live a life of dependency. It is equally easy in the opposite direction to slip into the mistake of saying “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me” (Deut. 8:17).

Everything we achieve is not only due to our own efforts, but equally and essentially the result of God’s blessing.

The building of the Tabernacle was the first great project the Israelites undertook together. It involved their generosity and skill. It gave them the chance to give back to God a little of what He had given them. It conferred on them the dignity of labour and creative endeavour. It brought to closure their birth as a nation and it symbolised the challenge of the future. The society they were summoned to create in the land of Israel would be one in which everyone would play their part.

This portion and the whole book of Exodus teaches that it is what we do for others, not what others or God does for us, that transforms us.

It is not what God does for us but what we do for God that allows us to reach dignity and responsibility.

The Temple of God has really always been within us – we meet God who is Spirit in and through our innermost being, through our own spirit, yet it is the outward, physical ‘building of a object’ or life commissioned by, and dedicated to God that allows this inner connection and relationship to grow and transform us to be holy and righteous.

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Final Meeting for 2013

Frank and Karen attended this months meeting and shared a little of their life’s journey that led them to convert to Judaism.

Also shared some news on the playgrounds at Migdal Oz and Adorah we are supporting and gave some news updates.

After afternoon tea I then shared on the vital understanding behind the phrase, ‘the works of the law’ used by the Apostle Paul.

The powerpoint Works of the Law (pdf version here – Works of the Law) is essentially a summary of the appendix from my book:  Defending the Apostle Paul: Weighing the Evidence

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A pdf of the appendix on ‘works of the law’ is here

I also spoke a little on Isaiah 11:10 and Genesis 17:4-6 in relation to Romans 15 and Gentile inclusion

And I shared this amazing song with some!

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September Meeting

At this afternoon’s prayer meeting we listened to these 2 podcasts on the Day of Trumpets (Yom Teruah) that Pastor Aubrey Burt and I made this time last year.

Part 1: http://aubreyandpaul.podomatic.com/entry/2012-09-15T19_08_01-07_00

Part 2: http://aubreyandpaul.podomatic.com/entry/2012-09-15T20_05_26-07_00

Gemma also blew the Shofar!

The Israel Update September, & a short Torah Portion by Sondra Oster Baras – haazinu are also attached. Click on links.

Here is a a link to the Yom Teruah article that served as the foundation for the Podcasts.

A most generous donation was also given to help towards playground equipment for Adorah (near Hevron) in Judea.

Shalom, Paul
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An Israeli Perspective on the Syrian situation

Critical Update on Syria! by Sondra Oster Baras

Many of our friends and supporters have asked us about Syria: What is going on there from our perspective and what do we think?  I have considered writing something short and posting it on Facebook, but there is no short answer to that question.  So, I have decided to take the time to write a more thought-out piece about the current situation in Syria, and indeed, throughout the Middle East, in an attempt to clarify the situation.

Let me begin, though, by saying that there is not a lot of clarity to be had in the Middle East today.  We who are accustomed to putting things in order, to deciding between enemies and allies, good guys and bad guys, must admit that the Middle East does not and has never followed that sort of logic.  There are the cynics among us who claim that there are no good guys in the Middle East.  I would modify that and say that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to identify the good guys in the Middle East.

A quick rundown of the situation in the most volatile countries surrounding Israel today will demonstrate this difficulty.  The Muslim Brotherhood was recently toppled from power by the Egyptian military.  The US has supported the Muslim Brotherhood, but Saudi Arabia is supporting the military government despite the fact that both the Muslim Brotherhood and Saudi Arabia are Sunni.  Iran has consistently supported both the Syrian government and Hezbollah, as they are all Shiite (Assad’s Allawite clan is a recognized branch of the Shia). However, Saudi Arabia is supporting the opposition, which includes the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda.  Turkey is also supporting the opposition in Syria but supports the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as well.  Confused?  You have a right to be.

Two years ago the Egyptian public took to the streets in the millions and demanded the resignation of then President Hosni Mubarak.  The military responded and arrested him, ushered in temporary military reign and democratic elections.  But, as I have written many times since then, it is not enough to have democratic elections.  Democracy must be based on a commitment to democratic values such as freedom of religion and speech.  The Muslim Brotherhood is committed to Sharia law and the ushering in of a renewed Muslim Caliphate, representing values that are the antithesis of democracy.  And, indeed, in their less than 2 years in power, they demonstrated time and again that they have no problem trampling democracy.

The military opposition is not committed to democracy either, and neither was Mubarak.  In fact, there is no tradition of democratic values in Egypt, nor anywhere else in the Arab world.  And yet, the US rushed to condemn the military for deposing a democratically elected president and suspended military aid and joint military exercises that were scheduled for this time.  But neither the Muslim Brotherhood nor the military have anything to do with democracy.  Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, acting in true Middle Eastern fashion, evaluated the situation from its own self-interest perspective and determined, probably correctly, that the military was a more stable option and one that would enable a more financially sound relationship between the two countries.  And probably most significantly for Saudi Arabia, the military was going to be a reliable ally in the front against Iran.  Right and wrong, morality – none of those issues had anything to do with the Saudi decision.

In Syria, the Iran equation works in the opposite direction.  Assad is supported directly by Iran, and Saudi Arabia has every interest in joining whatever forces there are who are opposing this Iran – Hezbollah – Assad front, which means that in the case of Syria, they will ally themselves with the Muslim Brotherhood.  Again, this has nothing to do with right or wrong, good guys or bad.

There is a civil war going on in Syria today but neither side is good for Israel.  In fact, both sides are bad for Israel.  Assad has always been hostile to Israel but being a pragmatic leader, he realized that he could never defeat Israel on the battlefield.  Therefore, he preferred to support Hezbollah who continued to attack Israel through terrorism.  Israel’s actions in the Second Lebanon War severely harmed Hezbollah’s ability to strike against Israel, but did nothing to damper their desire to ultimately destroy us.  The so-called rebel factions include Al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood and a host of radical Islamic Sunni groups who love to hate Israel.

Tens of thousands of Syrian civilians have been killed in the fighting during these past two years and, most recently, the Syrian Army unleashed chemical weapons against civilians.  Clearly, these are war crimes and crimes against humanity which the entire civilized world should be appalled by.  But the challenge is to respond effectively in a way that not only demonstrates our horror at the outrage, but that also produces a result that leaves Syria and the rest of the world in a better place than it is today.

If there was some way to protect children and innocent civilians without encouraging one side or another in this battle, the choice would be easy.  No one wants to see innocent children murdered and every moral person believes that children should be allowed to learn and enjoy life, not suffer the ravages of war.  Syrian refugees are flooding Turkey and Jordan and while everyone sympathizes with their plight and hopes they will find peace and safety in their new homes, no one knows what influence these refugee populations will have on their host countries.  Will they bring a new vision of Islamic fundamentalism with them?  Do they include terrorists and would-be terrorists?  Even Israel has allowed Syrians in need of medical help to cross our borders. Our doctors and nurses are treating them and in many cases, saving their lives.  But when their treatment is over, they go back to Syria and our doctors and nurses can only hope that they will remember that Israel was good to them.  It is not at all certain that they will or that our goodwill gesture will move us any closer to peace in our region.

In both Egypt and Syria, none of the sides of their respective civil conflicts are advocates of democracy, human freedoms and a western value system.  Supporting one or another side will never produce long-term alliances based on shared values.  The best that we can hope for is a pragmatic alliance based on shared interests, even if temporary.  And it is highly unlikely that military intervention by the US or any coalition of western forces will move the governments of any of these countries in the direction of a western model.  More likely than not, they will leave the country in a similar or worse situation then what they found when they entered.  Remember Iraq and Afghanistan. In both countries after the US involvement, radical forces, including Iran backed coalitions, have greater power today then ever before and terrorism is at an all-time high.  These countries may no longer be ruled by the particular dictator that ruled them for decades but their political systems are less stable and their citizens’ lives are no better and may well be worse.

Israelis look at the Middle East as the problematic environment it is.  We recognize our limitations and do not seek to change governments or societies in the countries around us.  We would love to, but we cannot.  However, we remain vigilant in defense of our own people.  We will respond to any attacks or activities on our borders that endanger our citizens.  That is probably all we can do.

What can the US and its European allies do?  I can’t begin to comment on whether they should intervene militarily.  But in a normal world, where people acted and thought rationally, I would have expected the leaders of these western countries to look at the Middle East with clear eyes and realize that Israel is, indeed, the only country in the Middle East that shares so many of their values.

Israel is a true democracy and its citizens, of all colors and national identities, enjoy full civil rights and freedoms.  It would make sense if the President of the US and the spokesperson for the European Union were to declare their outstanding support and allegiance to Israel and do whatever they can to strengthen their relationship with Israel.  Forget the Palestinians.  Forget the Arab oil chieftains.  Their allegiance is volatile.  Forget the idea of being an honest broker.  There is no honest broker in international politics.  Now is the time for the democratic nations of the world to stand unabashedly and powerfully with the only democracy in the Middle East – the Jewish State of Israel.

Sondra Oster Baras, Director, Israel Office
CFOIC Heartland

I think the insights of Daniel Pipes are also most helpful – in particular I recommend these two blog posts of his:

http://www.danielpipes.org/blog/2013/08/arguing-against-limited-strikes-on-the-assad

http://www.danielpipes.org/11436/syria-intervention

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