LORD or YHVH? Jesus or Yeshua? Sunday or Sabbath? Church or Synagogue? Gentile or Israel? Clean or Unclean? Law or Grace? 2000 years after the Messiah, wherever we live, whether it's Sri Lanka or any other part of the world, all of us require to learn how to do Bible things in Bible ways.
Christ speaks many Parables in Matthew Chapter 13. One of these short, single verse parables really caught my attention recently. A simple but misunderstood parable, that I believe speaks of the whole Gospel in one verse.
Mat 13:44 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.
Some have thought of this parable to be speaking of a person who finds Salvation and let’s go of everything he/she has to acquire the treasure of Salvation. But I believe, looking at the details given by Yeshua in this chapter makes it a much clearer picture of Love.
Let’s look at the details of this simple Parable: Mat 13:44 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.
THE FIELD & THE MAN The field is called the world in Mat 13:38. This means that there is a treasure which is hidden in the World. The earlier parable in chapter 13 mentions a sower who is in the field, and is introduced as the Son of Man in Mat 13:37, which may hint that the man is again Christ (The Son of Man). So what can be the treasure which is hidden in the world which Christ finds?
THE TREASURE Only one entity is called a treasure (Segulah) in the Word of God. And it is His people – Israel.
Exo 19:5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure (Segulah) unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: Psalms 135:4 For the LORD hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure (Segulah). Deut 7:6 For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special (Segulah) people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. Deut 14:2 For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth. Deut 26:18 And the LORD hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar (Segulah) people, as he hath promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep all his commandments; Mal 3:17 And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels (Segulah); and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.
SELLING ALL HE HAS TO BUY THE FIELD So Christ comes to the world and finds “His Treasure / His People / His Bride”. But what does He do to acquire this treasure? He sells all that He has – meaning gives the ultimate price of His Life and buys the fallen creation along with His Bride.
THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN The Kingdom of Heaven which is also called the Millennial reign is summarised in this short parable of how the Creator redeems His creation by paying the ultimate price – His Life.
CONCLUSION The apostle Paul explains the Gospel, and in a manner, this short parable in his letter to Titus in the following manner:
Titus 2:11-14 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
Are you part of His treasure? for which He sold all that He has and bought which He valued most? Oh what Love He has shown towards us!
Many a Christian turn to Matthew 15 as a proof text to show that we can eat anything that we like. But did you know that this Chapter contains a Parable? And may I suggest that it is one of the most misunderstood Parables of Christ?
So let’s look at the context before we look at the Parable.
An argument about eating with unwashed hands / transgressing the traditions of the Elders Mat 15:1,2 Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. At the onset, we must note that the argument between the Pharisees and Yeshua, is about the Traditions of the Elders and not about the Word of God. Actually in the next few verses, we see Christ distinguishing the Commandments of God from the Traditions of the Elders.
Commandments of God vs Traditions of Men Mat 15:3-6 But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. We see that Yeshua takes one instance that the Traditions of the Elders (Oral Law) breaks God’s Commandments, thus showing the inconsistency of the Traditions of Men with the Commands of God.
Isaiah 29:13 and Doctrines of Men Mat 15:7-9 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. Yeshua quotes Isaiah 29:13 as a proof-text for Traditions which are taught by men being adhered to with the hopes of honouring God, but falling short.
A Misunderstood Parable Mat 15:10-11 And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. All of us have read the above verses and thought “Does that mean, we can eat whatever we like?”. But note what Yeshua told the Multitude… Hear and understand! But what evidence is there to say that the above is a Parable, and what is its meaning, if it is a Parable? The Disciples have questions Mat 15:12-15 Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable. We see that the words of Christ hit a sore spot with the Pharisees, which was communicated to Him by the disciples. Yeshua’s reply to the conflict was quite harsh. But whatever caused the Pharisees to be offended was not understood properly by Peter (and most probably, the other disciples) who asked the meaning of the “Parable”. This proves the point that “It is not what goes into the mouth that makes a person unclean, It is what comes out of the mouth that makes a person unclean” is a Parable. It is not to be understood on face value. It has a deeper meaning which the Pharisees understood while the disciples didn’t.
The Explanation of the Parable Mat 15:16-20 And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding? Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man. The Master explains the parable to be comparing the “Command of God” vs the “Traditions of Men”. The Command of God shows us to guard our Heart where all evil thoughts come from (Gen 6:5, 8:21). Sin surely defiles a man, while the traditions of men such as eating with unwashed hands, while having the outward appearance of Holiness does nothing to make a man holy before God, as it is at the end just vain worship commanded by man. Christ speaks nothing about food or the commandments of God about clean/unclean meats given in Leviticus 11, in Matthew chapter 15 or it’s parallel in Mark 7. The Pharisees were offended at this parable as they would have surely understood that Yeshua spoke of them and their hypocrisy.
Conclusion Matthew 15:15 and Mark 7:17 prove that Christ spoke a parable about the Traditions of Men and the Commands of God which most Christians have taken out of context by reading the surface material while missing the explanation which shows we are to obey the Commands of God to keep ourselves from defilement of Sin while rejecting traditions given by blind human guides.
“Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name?” asked the High Priest from Peter. As a community of believers that were going against the mainstream, the Messiah had already warned the disciples about being rejected saying “They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.” The words of Yeshua ring true today, as it did then – “It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?”.
In an age that “every person does that which is right in their own eyes”, there can be no absolute Truth – only “my personal truth”. Truth in itself cannot be something that changes. If today’s truth changes tomorrow, that means it was not true at all. This is why Paul can say “let God be true, but every man a liar”. God does not change. As Malachi proclaims “The sons of Jacob are not consumed because YHVH does not change”. Just ponder on the thought that God changed His Mind on Israel and chose a new community called Christians – replacement theology – as it is known, calls to question the sovereignty of God and His Omniscience. He first chose Israel, then rejected Israel and chose a new community? (which disagrees with so many of the Prophets and even Paul) What’s next? Maybe He will reject “Christians” today and take a new community tomorrow? This is possible only if He changes. This is why He proclaimed Himself as “I am that I am”.
The Righteous Creator and our Loving Father is “Truth”. As James says “with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning”. But what does the Mainstream believe today? if someone looks at it critically, they will have to conclude that they believe in a God that has changed in some ways. Which is antithetical to what we read in His Word.
So now we are being commanded to proclaim only the version of God that the authorities deem correct. In a world that disseminates most of our information online, the authorities have the power to silence any message that is not agreeable and label it as “Abusive content”. I can guarantee that their is no abusive content, or at least a word of abuse in the comments on this site, but for some reason it has been labeled as such. As a dear Sister, Ruth Meyers informed me, it says “Your message couldn’t be sent because it includes content that other people on Facebook have reported as abusive.”
Paul spoke of times such as this, when he wrote to Timothy saying “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” When you pronounce “The Truth” – which is the complete Word of God – not a jot or tittle less, we end up at the council having to defend ourselves against the authorities that are arbiters of the truth of the day. Our answer today is the same as what it was at Peter’s time “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye”.
I am not sure whether this is the case for everyone, but let them do what they can to report, defame and block God’s Word; We will keep proclaiming it to “all who have ears to hear”.
As we enter the season of Passover and our redemption from slavery to sin (John 8:34) through the blood of the spotless lamb of God (1Pet 1:19), Yeshua – our Savior who died on Passover, we step into the days of Unleavened Bread. 7 days of not eating anything that has Leaven (Yeast) in it, reminds us of purifying ourselves from all things that should not be in our lives as born-again believers. A life which is not puffed up with pride or any other foreign organisms.
Leaven is equated to a lot of things in the Bible
1Co 5:6-8 Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Luk 12:1 In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
Mat 16:12 Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
While Paul equates Unleavened Bread to Sincerity and Truth, which is the antithesis of a sinful life, we can also see an interesting connection between Commandments of God and Unleavened Bread when we look at the Hebrew Language.
In Hebrew, a Command is called a “Mitzvah” and the Plural form of it, which is “Mitzvot”. Unleavened in Hebrew is “Matzah”, and it’s plural form is “Matzot”. As we see above, both words carry the same consonants, other than the vowels that change the pronunciation of the two words. So what can we glean from this connection in the Hebrew? The Commands lead to an Unleavened Life! This idea actually agrees with what John says in 1John 3:4 “for sin is the transgression of the law.” If sin is transgression of the Law, Keeping the Law would be a life void of sin. Keeping “Mitzvot” would lead to a life that is “Matzot”. As we celebrate Passover and our Salvation from sin and death, we enter into the week of Unleavened Bread, which depicts an unleavened life void of sin and immersed in obedience to God. A life which is “Holy” after receiving the righteousness of God, as we see many times in the New Testament
2Co 7:1 Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. Rom 6:19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. Eph 4:24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. 1Th 4:7 For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. Heb 12:14Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:
And that is how a sinless life is connected to walking according to the instructions of God, and Unleavened Bread is connected to Obedience! Shalom!
Many Christians use the following verse to say that we have to fit in with whatever culture, practice, society, tradition, etc so that we may win people to Christ. Many believe that Paul acted like a Greek among unbelievers and like a Jew in Jerusalem. But is this what Paul means? Let’s examine this idea.
1Co 9:19-23 For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
The Context Paul is speaking of “Food sacrificed unto Idols” in this particular section which started at 1Cor 8:1 and finishes in 1Cor 10:33. In the 9th Chapter he touches on making himself a servant even when he has authority over the congregation. This particular section shows the Corinthians an example from Paul’s life, on how he put others before himself. But who were these others? and how did he put them before himself?
The Groups Checking what the referenced groups in this particular section are, will further help us understand what Paul means.
1Co 9:20 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; 1Co 9:21 To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. 1Co 9:22 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
At first glance, there seems to be 4 groups above. But actually Paul speaks of only 2 groups as shown below.
The Jews = them that are under the Law them that are without law = The Weak
The Jews that are spoken of here, are those who are still in the understanding of being saved through the works of the Law. These are those who Paul calls them that are under the Law. If so, who are those who are without Law? They are called Weak, here as well as in 1Cor 8:10. These are people who are weak in the Faith – new converts who are still not grown in their walk. Hence, they do not know God’s Law fully, and are not living yet according to the whole Law.
A Jew unto a Jew and Weak unto the Weak Paul was a Jew (Acts 21:39, Rom 11:1, Phil 3:5) and identified as one. He had no need to become a Jew in the midst of Jews. This is why becoming a Jew is connected to being as “one who is under the Law”. He had been careful to not do anything against even the traditions of the elders (Oral Law) all throughout his life (Acts 25:10, 28:17). Tradition is not an issue even for Messiah, upto the point where traditions start overruling the Word of God, as seen in Matthew 15 & Mark 7.
Being under the Law As Paul understands, we are not “Under the Law”, for whoever is under law is under dominion of Sin(Rom 6:14). Although we are not under the law, does not mean we are free to sin(Rom 6:15). Since the Law defines what Sin is (Rom 3:20, 7:7, 1Jn 3:4), it is then important to understand what being “Under the Law” really means. Being under the Law is trying to be justified by the Law. In other words, having faith in ourselves to be able to receive salvation through adhering to the precepts of the Law. By doing this, we not only discard God’s Salvation & Grace, but because we cannot keep the Law perfectly – we fall into condemnation and stand judged by the Law, and under the Curse written in the Law which comes to all who transgress – Death. (Gal 3:10,11, Rom 7:5). So, to recap, being under the law is how Paul defined the mainline teaching of the Jews (Act 13:39).
Being as one who is under the Law, that I may gain those who are under Law Paul is obviously not saying that he kept the Law for Salvation. But we know that he lived a life adherent to the Torah/Law (Acts 21:24). So he lived according to the Law after being made righteous through faith, among people who believed were saved through the Law. Wherever Paul travelled to, his first stop was the synagogue, so that he may speak to his fellow kinsmen. This is what he means by saying “being as one who is under the law”.
Being without Law A person without Law would not know what sin is (Rom 7:7). If the knowledge of Sin is through the Law (Rom 3:20), then a person who lived without Law, would ultimately live in sin, as he/she does not know what God calls good & bad / holiness & sin. All who were new to the faith would be like this, and would learn about the Law every Sabbath (Act 15:21).
Not without law to God Paul did not live a lawless life as he himself testifies (Acts 24:14, 25:8). James also says all of the rumours about Paul teaching against the Law was false and that he walks according to the law (Acts 21:24). So Paul’s mention of not living “without the law of God” is apt inclusion to make here.
Under the law to Christ Even though he says that he is not under the law, he expands the idea of adherence to the law here, by saying being under the law TO christ. Note that it is not under the law OF Christ, so that we may think this is some other law. As Christ is the End-Goal (Telos) of the Law (Rom 10:4), Paul considers himself coming under the jurisdiction of Christ when he is living according to the Law.
Being as without law that I might gain them that are without law Paul is obviously not saying that he is living a lawless life – which is a life of sin (1Jn 3:4). as seen above, we know that he lived a life adherent to the Torah/Law (Acts 21:24). So just as he lived according to the Law, among people who believed were saved through the Law (the Jews), he also lived according to the law in the midst of people who did not yet know of the Law properly. In light of all of the above, we can conclude that Paul is not saying he lives a hedonistic lifestyle among people who don’t know the Law. He attempts to say that he lives with understanding of all people and their weaknesses, in trying to place himself in their shoes.
I am made all things to all men Paul does not say that he pretends to be all things to all men, or that he acts one way in front of one group and another way in front of another group. If he was pretending or acting, it would make him a double hypocrite, as he rebuked Peter for the exact same thing in Gal 2:11-14. Paul was not trying to please anyone(Gal 1:10) or act in a certain way in cunning (2Cor 4:2). “I am made” simply means I have lowered myself down to each man’s level, so that I may win them over to Christ. If Paul lowered his standards, swayed in certain places or blurred the lines when it was convenient, we would have a hard time believing anything he says.
Conclusion This passage speaks of Jews who were “under the Law” and the Weak (new converts) who were “without the Law” and how Paul would lower himself to understand them from the place they come from. This does not mean that he was a chameleon, changing colours whenever it suited him best. He was not without Law to God, as he himself says, and was in subjection to the Law to Christ. The context of the chapter further proves the point of Paul speaking of lowering one self even when they have power and authority over others, so that they may become strong in their walk with God.
I leave this discussion with an interesting question. If the “weak” are called “those who are without law”, who are the “strong”?
Most of the divisions and denominations in Christianity stem from differences in understanding certain verses in the Bible. Paul’s words are no different. Peter gives his famous warning to his readers about taking Paul out of context, this way:
2Pe 3:15,16 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
It is a fact that many had misunderstood him and his writings, and there were many rumours about his teachings:
Act 21:21-24 And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come. Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them; Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law.
Many question Paul’s writings, asking why he could not make things clearer in a way people would not misunderstand. But it is a fact, that Paul has gone to great lengths to make it clear for someone who could and would take him and his writings out of context. This is what we will focus on today:
God Forbid! Heaven Forbid! May it not be! Such an expression is often used by a person to highlight the importance of something and clearly say that “this should not ever happen”! We see this expression used often in Scripture.
Gen 18:23-25 And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? That be far(Chalilah – חללה) from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? Gen 44:7 And they said unto him, Wherefore saith my lord these words? God forbid(Chalilah – חללה) that thy servants should do according to this thing: Gen 44:17 And he said, God forbid (Chalilah – חללה) that I should do so: but the man in whose hand the cup is found, he shall be my servant; and as for you, get you up in peace unto your father. Jos 22:29God forbid (Chalilah – חללה) that we should rebel against the LORD, and turn this day from following the LORD, to build an altar for burnt offerings, for meat offerings, or for sacrifices, beside the altar of the LORD our God that is before his tabernacle. Job 34:10 Therefore hearken unto me, ye men of understanding: far be it(Chalilah – חללה) from God, that he should do wickedness; and from the Almighty, that he should commit iniquity.
The expression “Chalilah” is used throughout the Bible to show that the statement made with it, should not be, not come to mind, should not happen. It is the strongest negative statement which can be made in Scripture and is often translated as “God Forbid” or “Far be it”. The same statement also appears in the New Testament.
Luk 20:16 He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others. And when they heard it, they said, God forbid.
In the above verse, Christ speaks of a Parable against the Keepers of the Vineyard – the Jewish leadership and authority of the day, and how it would be destroyed… to which the response of the horrified leaders was “God forbid – May it not be!”.
God Forbid! Heaven Forbid! May it not be!in Paul’s writings Paul uses this phrase the most in the New Testament Writings, 10 times in the letter to Romans, twice in the letter to the Galatians and once to the Corinthians. But why does he use this expression so often? 13 times in all? It is to make a point in saying “DO NOT MISUNDERSTAND ME”, “THIS IS NOT WHAT I MEAN!”. Let’s look at all of these instances and what Paul was trying to or rather not trying to say to his readers.
Rom 3:3,4 For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged. The faith of God does not become futile, just because some of His creation had no faith in him.
Rom 3:5,6 But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man) God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world? God is not unrighteous because His own unrighteous creation shows forth His ultimate Righteousness.
Rom 3:31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law. We are made righteous (justified/saved) because of Faith which is “counted as” righteousness, and not by any commands that we keep. But we do not regard the Law as not needed and void for us. We confirm that the Law is required after we are justified, to live a holy life.
Rom 6:1,2 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Because of the greatness of sin, we have seen greater Grace. Just because we have seen greater grace because of sin, does not mean we should continue in sin, and misuse the grace shown towards us.
Rom 6:15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. We cannot go on Sinning (Breaking God’s Law – 1Jn3:4, Rom 7:7) just because we are not under the Law(not made righteous/justified through the Law) but are under Grace(Justified through faith which is counted as righteousness through Grace).
Rom 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. We have been released from sin and the judgement which comes through the Law for the sins we have done. This does not mean that Sin is equated to the Law. There is no way to know what sin is, if we do not know the Law – as it is the knowledge of Sin.
Rom 7:13 Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful. Sin which is the breaking of God’s Law brought about judgement and death. This does not mean that the Law is death. Sin brings about death. The Law which is Holy, Just and Good shows what sin is, and how sinful our actions against God are.
Rom 9:14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. Just because God shows mercy to whomever He wishes to show mercy, does not mean that He is unrighteous.
Rom 11:1 I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not abandoned His chosen people that descend from Abraham.
Rom 11:11 I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Israel has stumbled by not receiving the Messiah, but they have not stumbled in a way that they will wholly fall away, but as a means that the Gentiles will also have an opportunity to receive Messiah, and through it the descendants of Abraham may also find Messiah.
1Co 6:15 Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. We cannot even think of engaging in licentious behaviour after we have become part of the body of Christ.
Gal 2:17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. We who are justified(declared righteous) through Faith and Grace which we have received because of the payment made by Christ, still sin unintentionally. This does not make Christ and “aider and abettor” of Sin.
Gal 3:21 Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. God’s Law cannot give us eternal life and make us Righteous(justify) in front of God. But this does not mean that the Law is not against the promises of God.
Study all of the above instances carefully, and you will see the lenghts that Paul went to, to make himself clear even to audiences that knew him. He did not want anyone to misunderstand his letters and think that he was against the Law of God and teaching something against God’s Law/Word. Nonetheless, there were many false rumours of such teachings about Paul (as testified by James in Acts 21) and many misunderstandings about deep things he had written (as testified by Peter in 2Pet3).
I believe it is high-time that we broke away from these misunderstandings and false ideas about Paul’s teachings & turned back to God and His Word which has no contradiction or variance. Shalom!
We are all familiar of the story of the appearance of Angels to lowly shepherds watching over their sheep at night when Christ was born. But were these normal shepherds? Did the Angels tell them where to exactly look in Bethlehem? Or were they privy to some information we have not understood?
Prophecies of the Birth place of Messiah and Migdal Eder
Comparing the following verses, we see that the burial-place of Rachel is called the Tower of the Flock (Migdal Eder in Hebrew). This may have been called as such in remembrance of Rachel who was a shepherdess(Gen 29:9). Micah 4:8 and Gen 35:21 reference the same place – the Tower of Eder also called the Tower of the Flock. Micah is a clear reference that Messiah would be born in this place.
Mic 4:8 And thou, O tower(Migdal) of the flock(Eder), the strong hold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem.
Mic 5:2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
Gen 35:19-21 And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel’s grave unto this day. And Israel journeyed, and spread his tent beyond the tower of Edar.
In fact the Pillar of Rachel’s grave mentioned above may have been the Tower of Edar. So why is this Tower of the Flock of any interest to us? As Micah has prophesied, the Kingdom and Dominion comes to the Tower of the Flock. 6 verses down, Micah again references the same Shepherd who will arise from Bethlehem and feed His flock, to whom all of Israel will return. These prophecies were well known at the time of Yeshua‘s birth, as we see below.
Mic 5:2-4 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel. And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth.
Mat 2:4-6 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
Joh 7:42 Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?
It is very likely, considering they lived in the land and knew the various landmarks, that the Tower of Edar was also well known for its significant prophecy mentioned in Micah.
Priestly Shepherds tending the sheep in the Lambing Season
We have all heard that the Shepherds in Luke’s account of the birth of Messiah, were outcasts and poor people taking care of their sheep at night. But we must ask the question of why shepherds would be out at night risking losing their livestock to predators and the like. The reason would be lambing season.
Gustaf Dalman who did extensive field work in the land of Israel before the 1st World War, mentions in his work “Arbeit und Sitte in Palastina (Work and Customs in Palestine) V1, 183” that he observed 3 lambing seasons; early lambs born in November-January, Spring Lambs born in February-March and Summer lambs born in June.
The Spring Lambing Season is of special significance to us, as that is the time of the Passover Sacrifice which required a 1-year old Lamb. For Messiah to be born in this season as the Lamb of God, would be an amazing foreshadowing of His Ministry of becoming the Passover Lamb that brings redemption to His people.
Another interesting fact is that there were Shepherds who were from the priestly families according to the Mishnah Bekhorot 5:4. Could the Shepherds of Luke 2:8 be Priests?Migdal Eder is also mentioned by name again in the Mishnah regarding lambs who were found in the vicinity being accepted as Passover offerings, making it very likely that this area was a common grazing place for Priestly-Shepherds.
Beasts which were found in Jerusalem as far as Migdal Eder and within the same distance in any direction: Males are [considered as] burnt-offerings; Females are [considered as] peace-offerings. Rabbi Judah says: that which is fit for a pesach offering, is a pesach-offerings within thirty days before the pilgrimage [of Pesach]. Mishnah, Shekalim 7:4
If the Shepherds of Luke 2:8 were in fact Priests, this may also explain how the shepherds knew where to go, as the Angels never mentioned a particular place. It is unlikely that normal shepherds would know about the exact prophecies mentioned in Micah, while Priestly Shepherds would have a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures.
Luk 2:15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
Was the Tower of the Flock the place of Yeshua’s Birth?
Even though many of us have grown up seeing Yeshua being laid in a rack for fodder called a manger, the text says something else. Luke mentions that he was laid in a “Phatne” in Greek, better translated as stall, as per examples given below.
Hab 3:17 Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls(phatne): 2Ch 32:28 Storehouses also for the increase of corn, and wine, and oil; and stalls(phatne) for all manner of beasts, and cotes for flocks. Luk 13:15 The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall(phatne), and lead him away to watering?
Compare the above to the instances of Phatne in the Birth of Messiah:
Luk 2:7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger(phatne); because there was no room for them in the inn. Luk 2:12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger(phatne). Luk 2:16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger(phatne).
It is clear that the imagery of the trough is not a Biblical one, and it is more likely that Messiah was born in a stall that was made for Lambs. Could this have been connected to the Migdal Eder? Did the Tower of the Flock also consist of a “Phatne” (stall) which could hold newborn lambs for the shepherds who were out at night in lambing season? This could explain how they found Mary, Joseph and Yeshua so easily.
Migdal Eder which is connected to Prophet Micah’s prophecy, may very well be the exact place of Yeshua’s Birth. What better place and time for the Lamb of God to be born, other than in the Spring Lambing Season close to Passover at the “Tower of the Flock” and be visited first by Shepherds who were priests. With God’s track record of foreshadowings and prophetic imagery, it is not far fetched to imagine the Birth of Messiah happening in this fashion.
All of us have read Peter’s denial of Messiah in the Gospels, but an interesting fact about the historical background of the Temple and this recorded event in the gospels could be very well pointing to showcase that all of the four gospels were in fact written originally in Hebrew.
The Gospel Accounts
All of the gospel accounts agree that Yeshua‘s trial in front of the Jewish leaders had come to a conclusion by the time of the “cockcrow”.
Mat 26:75 And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.
Mar 14:72 And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept.
Luk 22:61 And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.
Joh 18:27 Peter then denied again: and immediately the cock crew.
Historical issues with the Gospel account Although all of the Gospel authors mention the “cockcrow”, Historically, no fowls were allowed in or around Jerusalem when the temple stood. The restriction may have been instituted to reduce the noise or annoyance once Temple ordinances were enacted. The Mishnah which records the background and history of the temple period says the following:
It is forbidden to rear small herd animals in the Land of Israel, but it is permitted to rear them in Syria or in the wildernesses of the Land of Israel. It is forbidden to rear fowls in Jerusalem because of the “Holy Things” Mishnah Bava Kamma 7:7
The “Cock’s Crow” inside the Temple precinct
But in another section, the Mishnah records (in contradiction to what we saw above) that there was a “cock’s crow” in Jerusalem which signaled a particular time to enact certain temple activities. It records the following:
Every day they would remove [the ashes from] the altar at the cock’s crow(מִקְּרוֹת הַגֶּבֶר) or close to that time, either before or after. But on Yom HaKippurim from midnight, and on the festivals at the [end of the] first watch; And the cock’s crow(מִקְּרוֹת הַגֶּבֶר) would not arrive before the Temple court was full of Israelites. Mishnah Yoma 1:8
Anyone who desired to remove the ashes from the altar used to rise early and bathe before the superintendent came. At what time did the superintendent come? He did not always come at the same time; sometimes he came just at cock-crow(מִקְּרוֹת הַגֶּבֶר), sometimes a little before or a little after. The superintendent would come and knock and they would open for him, and he would say to them, let all who have bathed come and draw lots. Mishnah Tamid 1:2
Once, Rabban Gamliel and the elders were reclining in the house of Boethus ben Zonin in Lod, and they were occupied in studying the laws of Pesach all that night, until the cock crowed(מִקְּרוֹת הַגֶּבֶר). They lifted the table, made themselves ready and went to the house of study [to pray]. Tosefta Pesachim 10:12
The Cock-crow mentioned here in these historical documents is not of a fowl as the words used here is “miqerot hagever” (מִקְּרוֹת הַגֶּבֶר) which means “Proclamation of the Man”, and may have been referred to as the Cock-Crow because of the timing of the call. This is thought to be a call signifying the end of the night watch, and the start of the final watch also known as the Third Watch. We see this in the gospel accounts as follows:
Mar 13:34,35 For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning:
Luk 12:38 And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.
The cockcrowing mentioned above is used as one of the watches; The First Watch starting at evening (around 6pm), The Second Watch at midnight (12am) and The Third Watch also called cock-crow (around 3am to 4am).
In fact the Greek words used in the Gospel accounts of Peter’s Denial and Luke 12:38 is “alektor” (ἀλέκτωρ) and “fonay” (φωνή) can mean the voice of the rooster/chanticleer or one who sings/chants which could very well be connected to the Temple Services very easily.
If the “miqerot hagever” (מִקְּרוֹת הַגֶּבֶר) which means “Proclamation/call of the Man” is in fact connected to the Temple activities as seen above, we can easily assume that the use of the word “cock-crow” (alektorophōnia) could have been a misunderstanding / mistranslation of the “Proclamation made at the third watch” or simply a direct translation which later translators of Greek who did not know about the Temple Services used unwittingly. If so, it is most probable that all of the four Gospels were written in Hebrew and that there are many more such nuances and details lost in translation throughout the ages.
“Do not judge others!” A common saying among the Christian Congregations of the day, a person who points out a shortcoming is often told not to judge others. But does this agree with God’s Word and the teachings of our Messiah Yeshua? Let’s look into the whole Word of God to see what the Bible teaches us about Judgement.
The commonly quoted Bible verse to show that we should not judge others, is the following
Mat 7:1,2 Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
Enacting Righteous Judgement
But is this really what Yeshua was telling us not to do? That we should refrain from judging others so that we will also be judged leniently? Let’s read the rest of the verse as well.
Mat 7:1-5 Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
In context, Yeshua tells us here to correct ourselves first, so that we may in turn correct others. In other words, a person should strive to judge righteously. This agrees with what he says in John 7, when the Pharisees judged Him by outward appearance for healing a person on the Sabbath day.
Joh 7:24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.
The Apostle Paul says a similar thing when he advices the Corinthian Congregation to judge sin amongst the members of the church when he says the following:
1Cor 5:12-13 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.
Moreover, Yeshua taught us the correct way to judge such matters in saying,
Mat 18:15-18 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
What God’s Word says about Judgement
Most of these misunderstandings stem from not knowing the foundations of judgement laid in the Scriptures (Old Testament). In God’s Word, there are 3 main concepts of judgement discussed. Let’s look at these 3 ideas of judgement to get a better understanding of what Yeshua and the New Testament writings are trying to teach us.
Palal– The Hebrew word “Palal” means to pray. Wherever we see “prayer” mentioned in God’s Word, the word Palal is used. The word’s true meaning is to intervene, intercede, mediate or judge. Overtime we pray, in fact, we do engage in a sort of judgement. A judgement of self, or judgement of what we want God to help us with. This is a judgement between right and wrong, between black and white, a judgement that proclaims this is right according to His Word or not.
1Sam 2:25 If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge (Palal – H6419) him: but if a man sin against the Lord, who shall intreat for him? Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the Lord would slay them.
Eze 16:52 Thou also, which hast judged (Palal – H6419) thy sisters, bear thine own shame for thy sins that thou hast committed more abominable than they: they are more righteous than thou: yea, be thou confounded also, and bear thy shame, in that thou hast justified thy sisters.
Mishpat– The Hebrew word “Mishpat” means a judgement. It is the decision and sentence which is provided when someone breaks a law. Most of God’s Law consists of such judgements. These judgements were to be given in a court proceeding by judges who were called to that position. Without such a position, we are unable to enact such judgements in our lives and interactions with our fellow human beings.
Lev 19:15 Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment(Mishpat-H4941): thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour.
Deu 17:9And thou shalt come unto the priests the Levites, and unto the judge that shall be in those days, and enquire; and they shall shew thee the sentence of judgment(Mishpat-H4941):
Din – The Hebrew word “Din” is the word used of the ministering of justice, meaning when a person is deemed guilty by a court or God, this pronouncing or Execution of Judgement is what this word encapsulates. We are not in a position to enact this facet of Judgement, as we are not Judges or The Righteous Judge of all the Earth – Almighty God.
Psa 9:8 And he shall judge the world in righteousness, he shall minister judgment (Din – H1777) to the people in uprightness.
Jer 21:12 O house of David, thus saith the Lord; Execute (Din – H1777) judgment in the morning, and deliver him that is spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor, lest my fury go out like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.
While we are unable to decide a sentence (Mishpat) or minister justice by executing the said judgement (Din) in an instance where wrongdoings happen, we are clearly able to point out the wrong. This decision between right and wrong (Palal) is what Yeshua asked us to do in our daily lives. In an instance where a congregation is involved “Mishpat” and “Din” may also be enacted by the relevant authorities as mentioned by Yeshua in Mat 18:15-18 and by Paul in 1Cor 5:12-13. So the next time a person tells you not to judge, maybe you should ask which type of “judgement” he/she is speaking of.
God’s Word does not change. His plans and ways stand the test of time, and what He wills, He accomplishes without any variation. The Appointments of our Creator highlighted in Leviticus 23 are a good example of this. Each of these “Feast Days” have a prophetic significance which is fulfilled and is yet to be fulfilled in Messiah Yeshua. They, just as the rest of His Word, cannot be changed, annulled or added to, till the Heavens and Earth themselves pass away. While many celebrate a variety of different Feasts and special days around the year, such as christmas and days venerating different saints, etc, God’s Holy days seem to be casted to the side as Old, Jewish and lacking. Nothing can be further from the truth. Casting His Word and “His Feasts”(as they are called in Lev 23:2) aside for days and traditions made by man was the exact “Sin of Jeroboam”, and one of many reasons that God sent “The House of Israel” into Assyrian Exile.
Jeroboam – The First King of the House of Israel It all started with Solomon, son of David when he married many wives making covenants with the lands around them(1Kin 11:1,2). In his old age, Solomon was moved away from God by these many foreign wives(1Kin 11:3-8). And God, in His anger let many enemies rise around Solomon(1Kin 11:14-27). Furthermore, He would speak through Ahijah about His intentions to give 10 Tribes of the 12 to Jeroboam who Solomon had appointed ruler over the House of Joseph(1Kin 9-13 & 28-39). Only 2 Tribes consisting of Judah and Benjamin would be left for Solomon’s Son – Rehoboam(1Kin 12:21,23). So Jeroboam a man from the tribe of Ephraim would become the King of the 10 Tribes in the North known as the House of Israel/Ephraim/Joseph.
The Sin of Jeroboam At the beginning of Jeroboam’s reign itself he did what he felt was right in his heart and before his eyes. As it reads,
1Ki 12:26-30 And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David: If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah. Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan. And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan.
Not only did he appoint a place of his own making, as a worship place for God, he also made priests of anyone he deemed fit, making himself also a priest.
1Ki 12:31 And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi. 1Ki 13:33 After this thing Jeroboam returned not from his evil way, but made again of the lowest of the people priests of the high places: whosoever would, he consecrated him, and he became one of the priests of the high places.
But his sin did not stop there; he went on to consecrate and make special feast (Appointed) days of his own.
1Ki 12:32 And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Bethel, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made. So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Bethel the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel: and he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense.
From this point onwards, the Sin of Jeroboam is mentioned more than 20 times in the Books of Kings till the end of the Kingdom of Israel in 722BC.
1Ki 13:34 And this thing became sin unto the house of Jeroboam, even to cut it off, and to destroy it from off the face of the earth. 2Ki 17:22,23 For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they departed not from them; Until the LORD removed Israel out of his sight, as he had said by all his servants the prophets. So was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day.
Appointing our own ways of worship and ordaining our own special days was a detestable thing in the eyes of our Father in Heaven. If He and His Word does not change, maybe we should be much more hesitant at joining the ranks of Jeroboam in changing the ways God has ordained in His heavenly wisdom.