WHEN STORMS COME
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect work, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks in wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all without hesitation and without reproach; and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, without any doubting - for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord - he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
- Ya’akov (James) 1:2-8, TLV
Trials, challenges, tribulations, and hardships are sadly a part of the normal life of the believer. They happen to all of us, and usually they come to us when unexpected and from out of nowhere. At times they feel like small waves, causing both physical and spiritual disturbance within our lives and at other times these waves are more intense and feel more like a a tsunami of trouble or as a bombardment from the enemy. When our hearts are not firmly grounded in the Lord and His promises, and when we have by our choices, we have made Adonai our refuge and dwelling place (Psalm 91:9, CJB) we are better equipped to endure the struggles thrown in our path, yet despite the Lord’s refuge and shelter in the storm, the storms nevertheless come. Yeshua aptly warns us of expected hardship stating,
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (Yochanan/John 16:33, ESV)
From Messiah admonition we are reminded by our Lord that as His followers, we would not only face hardship, but we should also expect it, but in these struggles, we should never forget that in the midst of our hardships, our immediate and lasting response should only be that which is grounded in His shalom!
Such struggles and hardship are also seen in way of persecution for our faith as promised by the Lord where He states in Yochanan 15:17 (CJB),
“This is what I command you: keep loving each other! If the world hates you, understand that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would have loved its own. But because you do not belong to the world - on the contrary, I have picked you out of the world - therefore the world hates you.”
Here we are reminded that as believers in Yeshua, we should not only walk the path of shalom when we face hardship or persecution, but that we are enduring should trouble because we have been chosen by Him. This is clearly seen in the Acts of the Emissaries (Apostles) who when they faced unimaginable hardship and persecution on every occasioned rejoiced that they were found worthy to face such trials! In choosing to follow Yeshua they not only knew that trouble would follow their affirmation of faith and they welcomed it as a badge of honor for having been given the opportunity to bear even a small amount of the hardship that Yeshua bore on their behalf.
Yes, trials, challenges, tribulations, and hardships are in fact a normal part of the Messianic life - yet sadly our immediate response as believers is less than Yeshua’s will for us in the moment. We may immediately react with a “why me Lord,” or let it build up to explode on others around us, who at times may be the ones God has sent to us to lovingly comfort us in moments of need. We also sometimes blame God, and feel that He is being unfair with us, all the while forgetting the example of Job who when he lost everything alone declared in Iyov (Job) 1:21,
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will return there. Adonai gave; Adonai took; blessed be the name of Adonai.”
Certainly trials, sometimes insurmountable hardships come knocking at our door, but our cry for help and our initial reaction must always be to the One who loves us, has saved us, and can alone rescue us from our trouble and despair.
Even as I write this, it is Passover week where we recount the hardship and trial of our peoples under 400 years of Egyptian slavery. Yet even in the exodus, the words of God resound in our hearts from centuries past of hope and deliverance, where we read,
“I have seen how my people have been oppressed in Egypt and heard their cry from their slavemasters, because I know their pain.” (Exodus 3:7, CJB)
Here we are encouraged that even in the midst of our hardship, Adonai is attentive to our pain and that we are never alone. If is for this reason that Ya’akov above instructs that we should consider it ALL JOY when trials and hardship come knocking at our door and interrupting our lives. In the natural this may seem both counter-intuitive if not offensive for some, but that is only because we have willfully decided ahead of time to not place our attention on the one who has saved us and promised to meet every one of our needs. In this friends, we are reminded that often (and probably far more often than we think) that it is the Lord who has allowed such temporary hardships for the purpose of testing our trust in Him so that in the end it might produce within us endurance and that its perfect work would in the end result in Messiah’s perfect work in us.
Sadly however, we all too often make the choice of not seeing our short term and earthly afflictions through the promises of God, and the redemption that has been paid through Messiah’s loving sacrifice as our now risen, Passover Lamb. Although it may be a shock to some, the truth still remains that such trials can serve as a litmus-test to the authenticity of our faith and a call for us to lean into Yeshua more. To our shame, we as human beings place far too much stock in this life or the things of this world, forgetting that all these things will soon pass away and be swallowed up in glory.
Like a ship on a long journey, traveling toward home, in this life we face many, many trials. On this long journey we must all travail, winds, and wave crash against our lives as attack from the Adversary who seeks only to derail the work of God in our lives and our effectiveness in Messiah’s Kingdom. Even in the midst of this journey though, it is the Lord who is allowing this (for a season) so that we might be refined and perfected for His power and grace. It is not that the Lord desires to harm us, but instead refine us as each of us “sail” toward our final resting place in Him!
So, when the trials and hardships come - and they will - Do not embrace reaction and sin, but choose to REST AND EMBRACE PEACE through the wind and the waves, as Messiah Himself rebukes the tempest and declares over the storm in our hearts, “Peace Be Still!” (Mark 4:39)
“For the time is coming when people will not have patience for sound teaching, but will cater to their passions and gather around themselves teachers who say whatever their ears itch to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:3, CJB)
The times in which we live is more troubling and uncertain than any other period in modern history. From a lack of faith to the embrace of great evil and a spirit of lawlessness, we have moved from a culture based on Judeo-Christian values to deception, oppression, and an alignment with willful, demonic cloaking. Of this, the prophet Isaiah echoes a warning,
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who change darkness into light and light into darkness, who change bitter into sweet and sweet into bitter!” (5:20)
Of our problem, “demonic cloaking” is the best definition where today Satan has deceived many in thinking that the present, and aberrant, “social justice” movement is in fact true justice and a benefit for the world. However, only a brief and honest examination of this movement reveals that this is nothing more than an anti-Messiah last-days deception, rooted within the Marxist Hegelian Dialectic. Whether it be Antifa, Black Lives Matter, Intersectionality, Critical Race Theory, the 1619 Project, Cancel Culture (etc.), the single objective of these inter-linked groups has been founded oppression, bigotry, murder, the destruction of Western civilization and a worldwide enforcement of demonic socialism and Marxist indoctrination.
Some promoting these lies have slipped into the “church” (Jude vs. 4) like Eric Mason in his book, the “Woke Church” where he advocates a merging of Marxist and Christianity and promotes such unbiblical ideals as bring consistent with the historical, biblical faith. However, through his text, Mason offerings no proof for his claims, but instead only present divisiveness and hate for non-African Americans and a call for white guilt over imaginary offenses.
In the end, every aspect of such movements like BLM holds no more semblance to truth or even the historical Civil Rights Movement than one could measure out by offering a link between biblical orthodoxy and that of the occult. In part, this is why I and Rev. Dr. Brad Long wrote our new book, “Exposing the Trojan Horse of Black Lives Matter,” which will soon be released. From the beginning, Satan has worked from the position of demonic cloaking where beginning in Genesis he promised Eve,
“It is not true that you will surely die; because God knows that on the day you eat it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:4b-5, CJB)
So, it is today, that many in the Body have been deceived by the false and unbiblical social justice movement, which in turn has nothing to do with God’s instruction in Isaiah 61, or our callings as Christians and Messianic Jews to true biblical justice as most definitively taught by the late and honored Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - who himself was pro-life, biblically sound, pro-Israel and strongly conservative both politically and religiously. In truth, if MLK was alive today he would be BLM strongest opponent, while Black Lives Matter has hijacked selected elements of his message to their own ends.
For those who have falsely taken in by this Marxist agenda within the Body of Messiah, the means is two-fold, where first, individuals have come under complete demonic deception, or in that deception it is now being revealed that many of these individuals were ever part of the authentic Body of Messiah in the first place. Disturbingly, many years ago someone told me that he could be a Christian and either a Socialist or Marxist, with no ideological conflict, yet from 2 Corinthians 6:14 we are both challenged and questioned,
“… how can righteousness and lawlessness be partners? What fellowship dies light have with darkness?” (CJB)
Even today, many of the most influential leaders in the Body use their positions and pulpits to teach this false gospel of wok-ism, a call for relevance, and political correctness, while denying Yeshua with every syllable they speak. In their end, every aspect of such a message is foreign to both Scripture and is an affront to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and Yeshua (Jesus) our Messiah.
With this call to faithfulness, we must also acknowledge and walk out the reality that God has never (nor will he ever) call is to be “relevant” to a world that is hostile to the Good News of Yeshua. Certainly, missiological experts will speak accurately of the need to contextualize the Gospel, but this is not what the woke church is calling us to do. Instead, what they are offering is a dismantling of the truth one and for all given to God’s people and its replacement with a Marxist, liberal hybrid which offers no power to save. Such terminology as relevant or tolerant nevertheless reveals how far one such “leaders” and their message is from Yeshua and the Kingdom of God in the first place. Their message is a false gospel.
It is of this great evil and spirit of compromise in the Body that Bonhoeffer warned in the Cost of Discipleship stating,
“Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religions are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented ss the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without a price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing. Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending it are infinite. What would grace be if it were not cheap …?"
It is for this reason that we must admit that the message of BLM and the radical-Left has no more to do with the truth or liberty than that of Gerhard Kittel and his theological apparatus which justified the death of six million Jews as untermenschen, or less than or non-human.
Yet for the sake of the truth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Niemoller, Karl Barth and the Confessing Church opposed the Nazi regime and in turn stood for holiness, righteousness and truth, regardless of the outcome! With this same level of passion, today, we must stand for the truth and be counted for what is right, and that which brings Adonal honor and glory. Yet even greater than standing for truth and opposing the evil around us, we must also commit to prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit to expose this demonic cloaking so that revival in our land and around the world might come!
Dear friends, we are all a part of this great, last-days battle for our nation and for all the nations and peoples of the world - so let’s be a people of prayer, one’s committed to the truth of God’s Word and in declaring the truth of Adonai no matter the final outcome or risk of persecution!
May We Live Without Fear and May we all Be Found Faithful,
Rabbi Mark Rantz
Beit Hallel Messianic Congregation
October 6, 2021 | 30th of Tishrei, 5782
Within Deut. 21:10-25:19 (Parashah Ki Teitzei), seventy-four of the Torah’s 613 mitzvot (commandments) are referenced. Of these commandments, we first find laws concerning the treatment of “the beautiful captive,” the inheritance and rights of the firstborn, the treatment of a wayward and rebellious son, laws on burial and the treatment of dead bodies, the returning of items lost, the sending away of a mother bird and the stealing of her young, the duty of erecting safety fences around the roof of one’s home and a detail of forbidden plants and animal hybrids.
Yet for us as believers, the initial commandant regarding “the beautiful captive” (vs. 10-14) stands most striking. In this, we find the following,
“When you go out to war against your enemies, and Adonai your God hands them over to you, and you take prisoners, and you see among the prisoners a woman who looks good to you, and you feel attracted to her and want her as your wife; you are to bring her home to your house, where she will shave her head, cut her fingernails and remove her prison clothing. She will stay there in your house, mourning her father and mother for a full month; after which you may go in to have sexual relations with her and be her husband, and she will be your wife. In the event that you lose interest in her, you are to let her go wherever she wishes; but you may not sell her for money or treat her like a slave, because you humiliated her.”
In last week’s Parashah (see Deut. 17:14-20), God gave special instruction on how the people were to appoint a King over Isra’el. In this, he could not be a foreigner, he must not seek after acquiring many horses, marry many wives or seek after great wealth. Although their desire was to “have a king like the other nations around them,” God was nevertheless displeased with their “first” choice and in the end, their desires turned inward as seen in the later end of Sha’ul’s reign and moral demise and drove a wedge between the people and God’s commands.
Such a breach from the perfect will of Torah is further seen in Deut. 21:10-14, where the captive woman was treated not as one to be treasured and protected, but instead as property and even non-human. From this passage, HaShem’s warning to not “sell her for money or treat he like a slave” is directly tied to the fact that he has humiliated her. From the Hebrew, “humiliated” is the word, ‘inita implying that they had been married under Jewish Law, and thus she had to be treated with honor. Thus, in providing her a get (certificate of divorce) enabled her to live freely and without persecution in society. Yet beyond these Jewish legal obligations, we first and foremost must see that he should have possibly never forced her against her will to be obligated in marriage in that in such acts are closer human trafficking and on all levels is at odds with Torah.
In tragedy, as we have watched the news over the last week and have seen the Taliban takeover of Kabul and the nation of Afghanistan, we have witnessed afresh the wickedness that comes to society when any level of misogyny is allowed unchecked, and here in Torah we are reminded that the hallmark of our faith in Yeshua is validated by how we treat the weakest among us and most directly how we treat our wives, our daughters and in fact, all women. In this, we find that the greatest act of strength we could ever proclaim is by acts of gentleness, kindness, wherein we choose daily to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly before our God! (Micah 6:8)
Let’s Go and Defend The Dignity of Every Human Being!
Rabbi Mark Rantz
August 20, 2021, Erev Shabbat
12th of Ellul, 5781
THE KING IS IN THE FIELD!
Reflections on Parashah Shof'tim
Rabbi Mark Rantz
Beit Hallel Messianic Congregation
August 14, 2021 | Sixth of Ellul, 5781
Monday (August 9th, 2021), on the Gregorian calendar was the first day of the month Ellul, 5781. As we have been in our study of the Weeks of Consolation, in the month of Ellul, we are reminded of the Goodness of Adonai, who holds compassion for us in our weakness, in every hardship and every struggle.
Within the Jewish calendar, Adonai provides grace in every season all marked by the “chol” (the mundane) and “kodesh,” or (the holy). This is best seen in our Havdalah prayer, “Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe, who distinguishes between the holy and the mundane, between light and darkness, between Isra’el and the nations, and between the seventh day and the six days of work.” Yet despite the polarities created by these distinctives, the month of Ellul reflects those points of holiness within the Hebrew calendar providing a haven in time, a city of refuge from the ravages of the material life and a time for us to audit our spiritual accounts prior to the High Holy Days.
In this, our Sages remind that Ellul is a time where God relates to Isra’el “in a more open and compassionate manner” than He does during other months of the year. Of this, detractors might contradict that God (who never changes) is always the same, and that Ellul has no significance over other times of the year. But is this true? In answer, we must remember that although the Lord never changes (Heb. 13:8), He provides Moedim (times set apart by God) for special purposes within His Kingdom. Therefore, as we reflect on this holy month, the days of Ellul provides a bit of a paradox and a reminder of God’s intent to heal and redeem us. Of this, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Lliadi gives the following metaphor - The usual place of a King is his court, within his capital city and within his royal palace. In this, anyone wishing to approach the King must go through proper channels of palace bureaucracy to be extended an invitation and be welcomed by the monarch. When given an audience with the King, one must journey to the capital, pass through the many gates, corridors, and antechambers - leading to the secure throne room. Even then, as one approaches - it is with great trepidation and fear - all guided by unquestionable etiquette. Yet during the month of Ellul, the King is not on his throne, he is not in the palace or even within his private chamber! Instead, he is in the field - out in the open and apart from his garrison, dwelling with his subjects - as one of them.
For us as believers in Yeshua, this holds profound significance in knowing that Yeshua has made His dwelling with us (John 1:14) and that as we “Come to the Field.” It is Messiah who is there waiting for us as we approach these Most Holy Days. From this, the Days of Consolation all come into proper perspective as we consider that as Adonai forgives us of our sins, He also heals, consoles, and comforts us every step of the way.
- Rabbi Mark Rantz
D'var Torah from Rabbi Mark Rantz
Shabbat abd Parashah Re'eh
From - August 7, 2021 | 29th of Av, 5781
In Parashah Re’eh (Deut. 11:26-16:17) we encounter numerous themes which we should not overlook. Of these, the two most central point’s stand out,
First, from the name of our Parashah רְאֵה (See) God through Moshe challenges the people “See רְאֵה I have set before you today a blessing and a curse a blessing if you listen to the mitzvot (commandments) of Adonai your God that I am giving you today, and a curse; if you don’t listen to the mitzvot your God but turn aside from the way I am ordering you today and follow other gods that you have not known.” (11:26-28)
Secondly, as a reminder of Parashah Terumah (Exod. 25:1-27:19) Moshe recounts how God instructed Isra’el, “… you are to come to the place where Adonai will put his name. He will choose it from all your tribes; and you will seek out that place, which is where he will live and go there …”. (12:4-5)
Finally, Adonai warns of false prophets in 13:2-4, “If a prophet or someone who gets messages while dreaming arises among you and he gives you a sign or wonder, and the sign or wonder comes about as he predicted when he said ‘Let’s follow other gods, which you have not known; and let us serve them, you are not to listen to what that prophet or dreamer says. For Adonai your God is testing you, in order to find out whether you really do love Adonai your God with all your heart and being.”
Of these passages, we are reminded to first obey the instructions God has given us and secondly as with the call to Temple worship - to draw near to him in faithfulness. Thirdly, Moshe warns to beware of false teachers or false prophets. Such reflects the exhortation of Rav Sha’ul (Paul) who warned, “But even if we- or, for that matter, an angel from heaven! - were to announce to you some so-called ‘Good News’ contrary to the Good News we did not announce to you, let him be under a curse forever!” (Gal. 1:8)
In all three of these passages and themes in Parashah רְאֵה Re’eh, we find two direct warnings that in every generation we must heed and take notice of. First, that there is no substitute for obeying the Lord’s commands and secondly, that we must be on guard against those who might lead us astray from the blessings of God. Yet even in the midst of these warnings we are given HOPE in Deut. 12:4-5, where every day we must come to our loving, Heavenly Father - who makes his tabernacle in us and who loves us with an everlasting love! For our good, God makes a way of life over death, and blessings instead of curses.
All of his mitzvot are always for our good, … for our healing and for our restoration. Yet, despite God’s great love - we as human beings may fight hard at having our own way or resist his goodness, yet when we run to him, we will find the healing our souls long for! Today dear friends, let’s choose blessings over curses! Let’s choose life over death! Let’s choose Yeshua our Messiah!
~ Rabbi Mark Rantz
ADONAI AND THE HEART OF A MOTHER
Encouragement from Shabbat and Parashah Eikev
Rabbi Mark Rantz
22nd of Av, 5781
“Shout, O heavens, and rejoice, O earth! Break into shouting, O hills! For the LORD has comforted His people. And has taken back His afflicted ones in Love.”
- Isaiah 49:13, Sefaria Translation
Today is the second Shabbat of our seven weeks of Comfort and Consolation. So significant to our coming High Holy Days, Adonai in His perfect compassion sets for us His very heart, and our need for love, healing, and restoration. Thus, as seen above (in Isa. 49:13), and as the verse just before the start of this week’s Haftorah, Isra’el is reminded again of how valuable they are to Adonai and that they have never been forsaken.
From the B’rit Chadashah, we find an equally corresponding passage where God reminds the redeemed, “Therefore, rejoice, I heavens, and you who dwell in them! But woe to you O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short.” (Rev. 12:12, ESV) Although in our day we are seeing great trouble and growth of evil, Yeshua is reminding us as His Messianic community, that we are not forsaken, we are not cast off and He is coming to us soon!
Like us, today in our troubles, when Isra’el had faced calamity and exile they surely had thought that all had been lost, yet in response, Adonai (through the prophet Isaiah) provides a word picture in verse 15, that no one could miss,
“Can a woman forget her baby, Or disown the child of her womb? Though she might forget, I will never forget you.”
From this passage, we are immediately confronted with the enduring love of a mother. In her 2016 “Motherly” magazine article, A Mother’s Love is the Most Powerful Force on Earth, Catherine Keating reminds,
“As mothers, we have the opportunity to see our children for the pure love they are, and to keep that love as the basis of their upbringing. With every child who grows up living in love, believing in the power of love, we can potentially add awareness, compassion, and beauty to an all too often cruel and ugly world.”
Yet, when we consider that in the physical, there is “no love like that of a mother’s,” we are even more assured that even greater than her is our Father in Heaven who promises that even if a mother was to forget her child, He never will! This is echoed in Psalm 27:10,
“Though my father and my mother forsake me,
Adonai will take me in.” (TLV)
In this, friends, we are given true and everlasting comfort - knowing that the Lord will never leave or forsake us, now, or any time in the future! (Deut. 31:8)
~ Rabbi Mark Rantz
Encouragement from Parashah Vaetchanan
Rabbi Mark Rantz
15th of Av, 5781
Haftorah Vaetchanan (Isaiah 40:1-26) is the first in the series of seven Haftorah readings known as the Haftarot of Consolation, beginning on the first Shabbat following Tisha B’Av and will continue until Rosh Hashanah. So significant, the Prophet Isaiah begins declaring in verse 1,
Nachamu, Nachamu ami Eloheichem, - “Comfort, Comfort my people my people say’s your God.”
Within this powerful prophecy, Isaiah describes some of the miraculous events which will unfold at the coming of the Messianic Age such as the return of the Exiles to Jerusalem, the revelation of God’s glory and the reward for the righteous that is coming and that retribution at that time be removed from God’s people. In conclusion, our Haftorah continues in comforting Israel by describing that Adonai’s power and might and in reassuring them that He has always cared for His people. Comparably, our Haftorah in many ways mirrors Isaiah chapters 40-66, known as “The Rhapsody of Zion’s Redeemed” whereas one Messianic scholar notes, “… the repetition of the divine command to comfort Hashem’s people shows that this is his continual cry; he never ceases to be Israel’s God, even in exile.” From the context of our passage, Haftorah Nachamu, through the divine voice (bat kol) commands Isaiah to speak to Israel with great tenderness, proclaiming that their affliction has end and God’s justice is in fact satisfied. It is noteworthy, as comparable to Tisha B’Av and Lamentations 1:2, 9 declaring, “there is no one to comfort her,” Haftorah Nachamu is in fact a perfect juxtaposition (comparable opposite) of Eikhah in offering not just temporal comfort, but also that which might follow into the olam Haba (Kingdom to Come). Continuing, where Lam. 1:4 states that “the roads to Zion mourn” and the exiles “have fled without strength before the pursuer” Isaiah responds by declaring in 40:3, “Make straight in the desert a highway for our God,” and in vs. 29 and 31, He will give strength to the weary and “they who wait for Adonai will renew their strength, They will soar up with wings as eagles. They will run, and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”
In perfect order, our Haftorah is also placed, where on the Jewish liturgical calendar it perfectly reflects God’s characteristics of both justice and mercy. Prior, the three Torah portions (Matot, Masei and D’varim all speak of suffering, desolation collide as it were as it were with our previous observance of Tisha B’Av. Yet, as we now transition, looking toward Yom Tov, the attention radically changes from judgment, desolation, and mourning to that of relief, redemption, and comfort. In the end these comparisons all appear to us as a “bridge,” between these passages dealing with suffering and desolation and these seven haftarot of great comfort.
As noted by our aforementioned Messianic scholar, Dr. Vered Hillel, “this bridge is built on two pillars of Judaism: chesed (mercy) and justice. Justice demands punishment for sin. It does not matter whether it is the sin of an individual or the collective sin of a nation or a social group; HaShem holds humankind accountable for our sin and judges it. Yet, HaShem’s chesed, divine mercy, far outweighs his attribute of judgment and justice.”
For us as Messianic believers however, nothing speaks more of God’s mercy and forgiveness of sin than Yeshua and His fulfillment of the Akedah in his perfect redemption for all the world!
~ Rabbi Mark Rantz
REFLECTIONS ON PARASHAH D'VARIM
RABBI MARK RANTZ
Beit Hallel Messianic Congregation
17th of Jun, 2021 | 8th of Av, 5781
Parashah D’varim (found in Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22) begins on the first of Shevat, and 37 days prior the death of Moses. Here, Sefer D’varim begins, “These are the words דברים that Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan in the wilderness in the Arabah opposite Suph, between Paran, Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Dizahah.” (Deut. 1:1, ESV) D’varim corresponds with the fourth word of verse 1, where Moshe reminding God’s people of the whole of the Lord’s commandments and that of His promises stating,
“Moses begins his repetition of the Torah to the assembled children of Isra’el, reviewing the events that occurred and the laws that were given in the course of their forty-year journey from Egypt to Sinai to the Promised Land, rebuking the people for their failings and iniquities and enjoining them to keep the Torah and observe its commandments in the land that God is giving them as an eternal heritage, into which they shall cross after his death.”
According to Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (z’l), D’varim is in essence Moses’ renewal of the covenant of God which had already been communicated in the books of Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus. However, in the context of the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses joins the covenant to the next generation, as they are soon to enter into the Promised Land.
Here we see God’s faithfulness to His people whom He has chosen, knowing that they need discipline and a reminder of the truth. It is in this context that Moses reminds of the heart of God who has created a people, whose lives are to be based on the Torah alone!
Continuing, what we find is astounding as Moses explains to his listeners (and to us today) the background and importance of God’s covenant of love. Although seldomly commented on, Parashah D’varim in its (דברים, words) of instruction, first and foremost reminds that a repeating of Torah instruction is both essential, and for us as believers in Yeshua, is necessary as we are exhorted that our faith in Messiah cannot be that of our “fathers alone,” but instead should be that of “our own today” as individuals. Deuteronomy exists to remind of all that God had said and done since their Exodus from slavery. In the same light, the Good News of Yeshua must be communicated afresh in a way that not only ministers to and speaks to each, new generation and at the same time, its message is not corrupted or altered by ignorance and misinterpretation!
Within our context, Moses was soon going to die, and his (דברים, words) had to set both a legacy and heritage for all others in future generations. Such is reminiscent of George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) in the composition of his “Messiah,” where he sternly instructed that his musical arrangement (of the supremacy of Yeshua as Isra’el’s Messiah) should be recomposed and readapted afresh for each new generation so that all might know, appreciate, and receive as their own - the truths of the Good News in Yeshua!
Yet long before “Handel’s Messiah,” Moses knew this truth before any classical composer, where in every generation we all must receive God’s revelation as our own and the truth of God’s Word must go forth to all peoples and at all times!
Are you receiving God’s fresh (דברים, words) of truth for you today?
~ Rabbi Mark Rantz
THE POWER OF OUR WORDS
REFLECTIONS ON PARASHAH MATOT-MASEI
FIRST OF AV, 5871
The opening lines of Parashah Matot (Numbers 30:2-32:42) begins like no other in the Torah as Moshe gives specified instruction on the making of vows and their consequences. For many in the modern age, the idea of making vows or valuing verbal commitments seems both foreign and even antiquated, while growing up in a generation where we were rule by the adage that “promises were made to be broken!”
Counter to this decline in both culture and biblical standards, our Parashah in Numbers 30:3 sends a different messages stating,
“… When a man makes a vow to Adonai or formally obligates himself by swearing an oath, he is not to break his word but is to do everything he said he would do.”
Given that the people of God are called to emulate Adonai and model our actions and character after His eternal attributes, the Art Scroll Chumash notes that, “A Jew’s word is sacred, for him to violate it is a desecration.” This truth speaks loudly for all peoples where if we are to follow the Lord, we must also live in a way that brings honor to Him.
In our Siddur, the Haftorah blessing echoes this reality in stating, “Blessed are you, O Lord, our God, Ruler of the universe, rock of all ages, righteous throughout all generations. You are the faithful God, promising and then performing, first speaking and then fulfilling, for all your words are true and righteous.”
Because the words of Adonai first promises and then performs, speaks and then fulfills and are true and righteous - so our words, promises and commitments must seek to reflect that which resides in the Holy One forever. Although he is perfect, and because of sin we fail, we must nevertheless use our words to bless and to be a blessing. Where God used words to create, we too have great power in our words to bring forth life in the hearts of others, or even death as seen with the sin of lashon hara. With this, what is even more true is the pain and harm that can transform when we make a vow, obligation or commitment to God to so something and then we abdicate our responsibilities to Him.
Of this, Yeshua gives us the proper answer in commanding, “Just let your ‘Yes’ be a simple “Yes.’ And your ‘No;’ a simple ‘No;’ anything more than this has its origin in evil.” (Matthew 5:37) So, in the end, should we make oaths or vows? No - but in all things we should guard our tongues and keep the promises we make!
~ Rabbi Mark Rantz
Reflections from Parashah Pinchas
Rabbi Mark Rantz
Beit Hallel Messianic Congregation
Published and Taught - July 3, 2021
(23rd day of Tamuz, 5781)
Today’s Parashah (Numbers 25:10-30:1) begins describing Aaron’s grandson Pinchas, as Adonai both acknowledged and rewarded him for his acts of zeal in killing the Simeonite Prince, Zimri and a pagan Midianite Princess named Zimri (who was the daughter of Tzur) whom he brought into his tent to commit immoral acts.
Of this, Numbers 25:6-9 states,
“Just then, in the sight of Moshe and the whole community of Isra’el, as they were weeping at the entrance of the tent of meeting, a man from Isra’el came by, bringing to his family woman from Midyan. When Pinchas, the son of El’azar, the son of Aharon the cohen, saw it, he got up from the middle of the crowd, took a spear in his hand, and pursued the man from Isra’el right into the inner part of the tent, where he thrust his spear through both of them - the man from Isra’el and the woman through her stomach. Thus was the plague among the people stopped; nevertheless, 24,000 died in the plague.”
As a result of Pinchas’ zeal and righteousness that day, Adonai grants him a Covenant of Peace and elevates him to priestly duties as a cohen.
In our day and age, rarely, if ever do we see such boldness and zeal for Torah, but it took this incredible in both halting the wrath of God in a plague and to remind the whole house of Isra’el that there is no substitute for set-apart, holy living.
Concerning this, Rabbi Yehoshua Berman with Aish reminds,
“The Parashah opens with the reward of kehunah (the priesthood) given to Pinchas fir his valiant act of defending the honor of God by eliminating Zimri, and thus bringing a halt to the plague that was decimating the Jewish People as a result of their sinning with the woman of Midyan … The Kohanim are the ones who carry out the service in the Beit Ha’Mikdash [Most Holy Place], and it is the exalted status of kehunah with which Pinchas was rewarded.”
Wherein, the cohanim (as with Pinchas) were called to lead God’s People in priestly service, God’s intention for Isra’el to the same in their calling to bring the Light of God’s love to the whole world. (Exodus 19:1-6) Where the cohanim went before the people at Adonai’s Holy Temple, so we who have been called by Yeshua equally have a responsibility to take the Light of the Lord to all who are perishing!
For us as a believer in Yeshua, we too equally have a high calling before God where 1 Kefa (Peter) 2:9-10 states,
“You are a holy people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
Where Pinchas brought wholeness and by his act, “proclaimed” healing to the whole House of Isra’el, so we are called to proclaim the excellencies of Yeshua our Risen Messiah who called us out of spiritual darkness and into the marvelous light of Adonai our King! Let’s go and proclaim God’s love to a broken world!
Rabbi Mark Rantz
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