Friday, April 13, 2018

Fire Safety~Learn Not To Burn | Parashat Shemini | By His EVERY Word

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Parashat Shemini
פרשת שמיני


Torah Portion: Leviticus 9:1-11:47
Haftarah: II Samuel 6:1-7:17
B'rit Chadashah/New Covenant: Hebrews 8:1-13

Shabbat | 14 April 2018 | 29 Nisan 5778
14th day of the Omer

In this parashah we begin to understand the relationship between fire—an element of creation and essential for life ... And Adonai in His holiness—Creator, Life-Giver, and Consuming Fire... 

“Trembling has seized the godless. ‘Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who among us can live with continual burning?’” —Isaiah 33:14
Sh’mini, meaning “eighth” in Hebrew, opens following seven days of the inauguration of Aaron and his sons’ consecration as Kohanim, or Priests in the Wilderness Tabernacle.  As Adonai continues to imprint His Divine Nature on those who will minister for Him and before Him, Israel falls to their faces in worship as His fire consumes the acceptable offering. 

We are stunned to read that almost immediately, that same fire, consumes the sons of Aaron who dared to bring “strange fire” before the presence of the Almighty. How can we understand this? 
A quick intro for some of our newer readers: What’s a Torah Portion, why are we commenting on it, and what relevance does it have to anything? 
In a nutshell ... Luke 24:27 tells us that Yeshua (Jesus) revealed Himself through the Old Testament Scriptures, beginning with Moses and the Prophets.  From the time of Ezra, the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) has been read in a yearly rotation by Israel, and this tradition is still observed today.
In Yeshua’s time, a complimentary portion from the Prophets—the Haftarah portion was added to the weekly rotation of readings. Thus, for over two millennia, the children of Abraham have kept this unifying rhythm of studying the same Scriptures throughout the year—along with commentaries from the sages, including those who influenced the Apostle Paul, such as Hillel. It is therefore enriching and enlightening to delve into these foundational treasures, unearthing the riches of hidden insights. They are revealed in the original Hebrew language as we “listen” through the ears of Yeshua’s contemporaries to gain a fresh understanding of this faith sprung from Hebraic soil, and purchased with Jewish blood, this a Son of Israel, the King of the Jews.  
Join us now at the Father’s table as we keep the rhythm of Israel for more than two millennia, anticipating fresh manna from our God and King. As followers of Messiah we have added a corresponding New Covenant portion - a third section here - reflecting the fulfillment and crown of the Torah.
Leviticus 9:1-24  Holy Fire

“Now it came about on the eighth day that Moses called Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel; and he said to Aaron, ‘Take for yourself a calf, a bull, for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering, both without defect, and offer them before the LORD. Then to the sons of Israel you shall speak, saying, ‘Take a male goat for a sin offering, and a calf and a lamb, both one year old, without defect, for a burnt offering, and an ox and a ram for peace offerings, to sacrifice before the 
LORD, and a grain offering mixed with oil; for today the LORD will appear to you. So they took what Moses had commanded to the front of the tent of meeting, and the whole congregation came near and stood before the LORD. Moses said, ‘This is the thing which the LORD has commanded you to do, that the glory of the LORD may appear to you.’” vv. 1-6

The Holy Wilderness Tabernacle has been built according to stringent, detailed instructions from Adonai
, and “vision” given to Moses of the Heavenly Tabernacle to which it should conform. 

Adonai desires to dwell in the midst of His People ... to be known of them and through them. He is Holy, however, and no one, not even His priests can enter into His presence, nor can He manifest His Divine Presence until all have been purified.

“Moses then said to Aaron, ‘Come near to the altar and offer your sin offering and your burnt offering, that you may make atonement for yourself and for the people; then make the offering for the people, that you may make atonement for them, just as the 
LORD has commanded.” v. 7

Presenting an offering for the sin of the people was a sacred duty—not an exalted position. The word for sin, chatta’ah
חטתא in Hebrew, carries with it a definition of guilt, punishment for sin, and sinfulness. It is a heavy burden

The High Priest must first approach the altar to make atonement for his own sin, before he can make an offering to the LORD on behalf of his people. The purity of the High Priest affected the purity of the entire nation

Moses instructed Aaron and his sons in the way they were to wash, to slaughter, and to present the burnt offering. Next, the grain offering was presented, and then the ox and the ram were slaughtered—peace offerings for the congregation of Israel. And, “Aaron's sons handed the blood to him and he sprinkled it around on the altar.” vv. 8-18

The final offering was the wave offering before the LORD, “...just as Moses had commanded.” v. 21
The order of the sacrifices had great significance: First came the sin offering, expressing purification; next was the burnt offering, which signified surrender to Adonai; the meal offering followed, denoting consecration of labor; and the final peace offering opened up fellowship with God. “Let the people rid themselves of sin, let them submit their will to the Divine will, let them consecrate their daily toil to His service, and they would enjoy that Divine communion which is the supreme experience of man.”               From The Pentateuch and Haftorahs, Chief Rabbi Dr. J.H. Hertz, 1938
“Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them... ” v. 22

Now able to discharge his priestly duties before the LORD, Aaron blessed the congregation of Israel
. As High Priest, his sacred trust is to serve the spiritual welfare of the nation. The word bless in Hebrew, barakh
ברך, literally means to kneel.

“Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting. When they came out and blessed the people, the glory of the 
LORD appeared to all the people. Then fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the portions of fat on the altar; and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.” vv. 23-24

After sacrifices had been made for sin and consecration, and Moses and Aaron blessed the nation of Israel, the Glory of Adonai appeared before all! Once again, as in the burning bush, and as on Mount Sinai, we see Adonai’s presence in fire. Before the congregation, His fire consumes the remainder of the burnt offering on the altar, accepting the sacrifice, bestowing His favor.
In His Presence, Israel shouts, רנן ranan in Hebrew, overcome, they cry out in exaltation, praise, and rejoicing. They fall, naphal נפל in Hebrew, throw themselves or prostrate themselves on their faces, before a Holy God!
Is this not the normal response of man in the presence of the Almighty? Consider I Kings 18:39: “When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, ‘The LORD, He is God; the LORD, He is God!’”
The fire of God did not come out and consume the sacrifices on a regular basis, yet the priesthood learned to function and serve.
We live in very different times, when men seek to “experience the presence of the LORD on a regular basis and respond in a contrary fashionby falling backward, rather than prostrating themselves before Him, in His Holy Presence

In the Scriptures, we have no instance of men falling backward in worship. Quite the contrary in fact: “When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell off the seat backward beside the gate, and his neck was broken and he died, for he was old and heavy.” I Samuel 4:18. Consider also, those who came to arrest Yeshua: “As soon then as He had said unto them, I am He, they went backward, and fell to the ground.” John 18:6
Leviticus 10:1-20  Strange Fire

“Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.
vv. 1-2
This is one of the most intriguing events of the Torah. Just what did Aaron’s eldest sons do to elicit such an instant and mortal penalty? What is strange fire?

In Hebrew, the word strange is zuwr זור, which carries various meanings: strange, foreigner, an enemy, loathsome, a prostitute or harlot, or one alienated.

This gives us a clue.
First, every detail of the Tabernacle, from the materials used, to the colors, weaves, and implements were specific as to use, according to Adonai’s instructions, mirroring that which is in His Heavenly domain. The Tabernacle was built as a dwelling place for the Divine Presence, so that He could draw near, “tabernacle” with His People, Israel. 

We may think that Adonai is unreasonable with His emphasis on the minutiae
of requirements to minister before Him, but HE IS THE CREATOR, and ALMIGHTY GOD. We are not. He does what He does for purposes beyond our understanding, and He needs no one’s approval. (We need His.) His parameters provide safety and blessing for His people. We tend to walk in the ways of destruction.

In the layout of the Tabernacle, the closer to the Holy of Holies
, the materials changed from brass to gold. Nadab and Abihu, who absolutely knew better, having just come through the exact same training as Aaron and their other brothers, took up their own firepans—not sacred objects—and filled them with incense and fire (a contrivance of their own) and then put it before the face of Adonai (paniym YHVH
פנים יהוה )!

The speculation is that they wanted to see Adonai perform again. They wanted to see His fire consume their offering like the burnt offering on the altar. Like a circus sideshow!

It’s hard to imagine the irreverence, dishonor, impiety, and audacity of these young men—men chosen to serve in such a trusted capacity before God Almighty! 
How could Adonai allow such mockery and defiance before His People? He is carefully, lovingly, scrupulously, building a Treasured Nation and a Holy Priesthood through which He will be revealed and revered. This nation is to carry His Name worthily before the nations of the earth unto salvation. 
Shameless behavior toward Adonai by these leaderswhose very duty it was to sanctify the LORD in the sight of the congregation—would spread like a cancer if not dealt with swiftly and decisively. When God is honored by His ministers, the congregation learns to honor Him. Conversely, when those closest to Him are contemptuous, others learn to be profane.  
The shocking deaths of Nadab and Abihu were sobering. It imparted a healthy dose of fear and awe of God.

Aaron was understandably crushed over the sudden and tragic loss of his oldest sons—before all the nation

But Moses reminded him of the holy ground upon which they stood—the weight of their high calling, “It is what the LORD spoke, saying, ‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honored.’” (v. 3) As priests, their duty is the sanctification not only of the priesthood, but the nation. They are not their own. 
“In sharp contrast to the common view that highly-placed or gifted men may disregard the laws of morality, Judaism teaches that the greater a man’s knowledge or position, the stricter the standard by which he is to be judged, and the greater the consequent guilt and punishment, if there is a falling away from that standard.” (S. R. Hirsch) “With the righteous, God is exacting even to a hair’s breadth.” (Talmud) From The Pentateuch and Haftorahs, Chief Rabbi Dr. J.H. Hertz, 1938
This concept is familiar to students of the New Covenant of course, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” James 3:1

Moses instructed Mishael and Elzaphan to carry the bodies of their relatives outside the camp
, away from the sanctuary. He then instructed Aaron and his remaining sons Eleazar and Ithamar not to mourn:

“Do not uncover your heads nor tear your clothes, so that you will not die and that He will not become wrathful against all the congregation. You shall not even go out from the doorway of the tent of meeting, or you will die; for the LORD's anointing oil is upon you.”
 vv. 6,7

Again, the priests represent Israel.
If Aaron and his sons rend their clothes and show signs of mourning before the congregation of Israel, they will be communicating to the nation that they grieve Adonai’s action as unjust. Israel will follow and be judged along with Aaron. 

As leaders, they must lift Israel above the human drama and show the nation their love, trust, and reverence for Adonai in this most heartbreaking situation. 

The heart of the matter is learning to distinguish between the holy and the profane. Adonai is altogether other than the gods of Egypt and Babylon. 
He is not only holy, He is “Holy, Holy, Holy!”  Isaiah 6:3, Revelation 4:8
The LORD begins to speak to Aaron personally about the holy and the profane, the clean and the unclean:

Do not drink wine or strong drink, neither you nor your sons with you, when you come into the tent of meeting, so that you will not die—it is a perpetual statute throughout your generations—and so as to make a distinction between the holy and the profane, and between the unclean and the clean, and so as to teach the sons of Israel all the statutes which the LORD has spoken to them through Moses. vv. 9-11

This is not a general admonishment against drinking wine
, but rather an injunction against drinking before discharging their priestly duties, as well as against becoming intoxicated anytime (Hebrew, shatah

Unlike the tragic drunken spiritual guides of Isaiah 28:7: “Priests and prophets stagger from beer and are befuddled with wine; they reel from beer, they stagger when seeing visions, they stumble when rendering decisions.”
The sacred office of the leaders of Israel; to teach and impart discernment to the children of men between the holy and profane, clean and unclean, acceptable and detestable, light and darkness,  is not merely ritual—it carries mortal consequences
There is another type of drunkenness, one in which man reels in spiritual darkness or under judgment. Isaiah speaks of this: “...please hear this, you afflicted, who are drunk, but not with wine...” Isaiah 51:21

Nadab and Abihu called the consuming fire of God down on themselves because they did not recognize His holiness. They wanted to conjure up an experience. 

It is worrisome that some modern day ministers do the exact same thing. They attempt to order Almighty God about to create an experience for a hungry crowd, as if He is little more than a circus sideshow. How brazenly these ministers act before Adonai—and teach millions of others to do so as well, following in their error. One of the popular “experiences” is “getting drunk in the spirit.” Is this the modern equivalent of those who are “...drunk, but not with wine?”  Yet, the New Covenant continues to emphasize the necessity of being sober:
  • “...let us be alert and sober.” I Thessalonians 5:6
  • “But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.” I Thessalonians 5:8
  • “...a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled...” Titus 1:8
  • “...that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience...” Titus 2:2
  • “But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” II Timothy 4:5
  • “...keep sober in spirit...” I Peter 1:13
  • “The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit...” I Peter 4:7
  • “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” I Peter 5:8
Leviticus 11:1-47  Awesomeness is Not Enough!

The Dietary Laws given by God have historically (and inexplicably) provoked the ire and derision of both heathens and Christians throughout the ages. Used as a tool to attempt to crush the spirit of the Jewish People, the enemies of God have often tried to abrogate this peculiar bond between Israel and her God, from Antiochus Epiphanes in 165 BC to the Inquisition years in Spain and Portugal. 

The Torah of God has often been a crucible, costing the Jewish people their lives. The Maccabees died rather than become detestable to Adonai. 

Although Jews converted to the “Holy Catholic Faith” under the Inquisition, many were found to be
secretly obeying the Biblical commandments and not eating the things God calls unclean or detestable. Thus great numbers were tortured or burned at the stake by the church for these “transgressions.”
“Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, 'These are the creatures which you may eat from all the animals that are on the earth...Nevertheless, you are not to eat of these...they are detestable things to you...Whatever in the water does not have fins and scales is abhorrent to you...unclean...detestable...Do not render yourselves detestable...and you shall not make yourselves unclean with them so that you become unclean.” vv. 2-43
The Dietary Laws, or Kashrut in Hebrew, belong to the chukkim, the statutes or ordinances. This is differentiated from the mitzvot, the commandments, and the Torah, called Law, but literally translated means instruction or prophetic teaching.  All three can be seen in Genesis 26:5: “...because Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws.

As we read through Leviticus 11, delineating what Adonai calls “clean and unclean,” “detestable,” and “abhorrent,” you will inevitably set yourself as judge over Him, in one case agreeing—yes, a buzzard would be detestable, and in the next moment disagree—the pig and the crab are delicious and the apostle Paul said I can eat them! Why are the Jews so legalistic?

Modern science can certainly make a respectable case for the health benefits of the kosher diet—especially throughout the ages before there was an understanding of proper food handling, spoilage, and bacteria. The great composer Mozart, is believed to have died from trichinosis brought on by a meal of poorly cooked pork. During the Middle Ages, when plagues ravaged Europe, the Jewish populations were largely unaffected due to the Kosher Dietary Laws. This proved to be both a blessing and curse however, as the Jews were accused of causing the plagues of the “Christians” who did not follow the biblical ordinances and thus fell prey to the epidemics!

The heart of the issue is neither health nor what animal is pleasing to one’s palate. God’s statutes do not have to make sense to us, or have great humanistic or humanitarian benefit. 
The heart of the matter is holiness. Adonai brought His People out of Egypt to become a Holy People, who would show forth His righteousness in a world that served gods of self, sensuousness, death, and destruction. 
The cry from Mount Sinai to the New Jerusalem and the final redemption is: “ holy, for I am holy.” v. 45
No better reason is needed.
Consider how deeply this is ingrained in the sons of Israel. To the Jews in Israel at the time of Jesus and Paul, these things: pigs, shellfish, reptiles, rodents—things eaten by some of the Gentiles of the region—were simply not considered food. A Jewish person reading through the New Covenant for the first time reads Matthew 8:31: “The demons began to entreat Him, saying, ‘If You are going to cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.’” He may say to himself, oh, of course the demons want to go into the pigs...they are unclean.

The Jews weren’t waiting for the Messiah to come and set them free to eat such abhorrent things.
Even today, you will meet observant Jews or Israelis who will put it simply: “Pigs aren’t food.”

The New Covenant Scriptures that have been used to abrogate God’s Word on the subject really should be looked at in this light—in context

Consider ...  to most of us, eating many things found in Asian or
 Indian marketplaces would be unthinkable ... dried insects, 
frogs, etc. We would say, “Yuck! That’s not food!” 

That is exactly the reaction you would have found among 
first century Israeli believers to those things Adonai 
calls unclean, detestable, and abhorrent in the Bible.

Therefore, when we read the parenthetical statement by Mark in 7:19:
“(Thus He declared all foods clean.)” we have to understand that: 

Nowhere in this passage are those things referred to as “unclean” now to be considered “clean.” Yeshua was very specifically addressing “food” as it was being partaken of by the community. 

The context of this passage was very clearly the issue of the hand-washing ritual and traditional ritual purity as observed by the religious rulers.

3. We can know with certainty that Yeshua did not abrogate anything in the Torah. As the perfect, sinless Lamb of God, He made that clear ... consider His own Words: “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever  keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:18-19 (BTW, heaven and earth are still here. :-)

In the same way, Acts 10:9-28 needs to be evaluated carefully:

Peter falls into a trance on a housetop, the sky opens up and an object like a great sheet comes down containing all sorts of creatures. He hears a voice telling him to “kill and eat!” v. 13  

Horrified, Peter argues, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.” v. 14

A voice comes him to a second time saying, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” v. 15

This happens three times and then the object is taken up to the sky.

The text tells us that Peter is greatly troubled and confused. Clearly he has not received the interpretation and understanding. He is not at peace according to verse 17.

We want to stop reading and believe it was about the creeping things in the sheet, but Peter tells us what the vision means in verse 28 when it is finally revealed to him! 
So the text actually interprets for us, which is more authoritative than our own conjecture—or preference. Isn’t this often the way we come to understand the things of God? It’s not always a bolt of lightning, but rather growing enlightenment.
Watch how this unfolds....
Now while Peter was greatly perplexed in mind as to what the vision which he had seen might be, behold, the men who had been sent by Cornelius, having asked directions for Simon's house, appeared at the gate; and calling out, they were asking whether Simon, who was also called Peter, was staying there.

While Peter was reflecting on the vision, the Spirit said to him, ‘Behold, three men are looking for you. But get up, go downstairs and accompany them without misgivings, for I have sent them Myself. vv. 17-20

So Peter went down to the men and found out that Cornelius, a centurion, (a Gentile) but a God-fearer, “was divinely directed by a holy angel” to send for him to come to his house. Peter is to give a message to the God-fearers gathered there.

Peter, a Jew, who probably has NEVER entered the home of a Gentile is summoned by Divine direction to enter a home—that would render him ritually unclean—and preach the Word of the LORD!

When Peter talked with Cornelius the next day, he gave the interpretation of the vision he had experienced.
“You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. v. 28
Peter was not shown he should call vultures, pigs, cats, or spiders edible ... 
God showed him not to call the Gentiles unclean!
This was the Kingdom of God opening up to the Gentiles! 
This was colossal!
Far eclipsing any idea of eating bacon in prophetic significance, 
this was the announcement of the fulfillment of the promise to Abram
 in Genesis 12:3—the middle wall of partition was coming down,
 and all the families of the earth were going to be blessed 
through Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel!
The tent pegs of Kingdom of God are being flung far and wide 
to encompass the nations who were without hope, without redemption. 
An obscure prophecy given to the first Patriarch 
is now coming to fruition and to understanding. 
The Gentiles are being brought in from the darkness 
to Messiah's glorious light! 
And we are to ignore this SPECTACULAR interpretation, 
because we WANT it to be about BACON? 

Accepting the Gentiles as “clean” after millennia believing otherwise, was not easy for the Jewish community, by the way. 
Perhaps the church doesn’t understand this or the need for Peter to have had the vision to prepare him for Cornelius’ group, and this in spite of the clear words in the Bible interpreting the vision telling us it was about the Gentiles. But the church instead still applies it to food .... Go figure...
We may consider Paul’s words in I Corinthians 6:12-13, regarding all things being “lawful” for him ... “food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food,” in the context, also, of what Paul would have considered as “food.” In his world, only that which was “not abhorrent” would be called “food.” 

Just as we would not refer to insects or lizards as “food,”  Paul would not be pontificating a freedom to eat of things God abhorred, since he and the community elders continually refuted any "false" accusation that he taught against the Torah. Whether or not to have fellowship with a new Gentile believer over such an issue, yes, that would inevitably have to be addressed among the believing community!

Obviously, one does not earn salvation by what he eats or doesn’t eat.
“...for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Romans 14:17
However, if we truly love the LORD, as a redeemed person, we will naturally desire to grow in our understanding of who He is—what pleases Him (not what we get away with!)—How a redeemed child of God looks .. lives ... walks. So we continue to explore and examine and even re-examine ... mining hidden riches waiting to be discovered!
And Adonai desires to be known, so He will bless our journey of discovery!

He is clarion in revealing His essence:

For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean with any of the swarming things that swarm on the earth. For I am the LORD who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy. This is the law regarding the animal and the bird, and every living thing that moves in the waters and everything that swarms on the earth, to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean...” vs. 44-47

This is the spiritual purpose underlying His Torah, His Commandments, and His Statutes: 
Be Ye Holy, for that is His Essence. 
We have just experienced Passover, "the season of our joy." And for those who experienced the Seder, the traditional Passover dinner, you will be familiar with the "Dayenu" song that is sung at some point during the service. It is a recitation of God's goodness with a response from everyone attending saying, "Dayenu!" after each statement. Dayenu means "It would have been enough or sufficient." It goes something like:
"God has bestowed so many favors upon us..."
"Had He only brought us out of Egypt, and not executed judgment on their gods..." Dayenu!
"Had He only split the Sea for us, and not led us through it on dry land..." Dayenu!
"Had He satisfied our needs in the desert for forty years, and not fed us the manna..." Dayenu!
On and on it goes...

I bring this up to demonstrate a principle of appreciating the AWESOMENESS OF ADONAI.
We may do well to consider the riches we have have received through the unfathomable sacrifice of Yeshua our Messiah.
In this light, what if Adonai really is "the same yesterday and today and forever..." (Heb. 13:8) and still labels a small portion of animals abhorrent to Him of the vast bounty of food the earth brings forth for His people? Why would we resent Him having any restrictions in our lives for all He has given us ... and all it has cost Him?
It's worth considering and praying about.
The wicked and godless may tremble for He is a Consuming Fire, Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who among us can live with continual burning? Isaiah 33:14
Yet, the redeemed are assured by that same consuming fire—it is the LORD their God that goes ahead of them to defend them and destroy their enemies.  Deuteronomy 9:3

Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning;
For I trust in You;
Teach me the way in which I should walk;
For to You I lift up my soul.

Psalm 143:8

Haftarah  Shemini

II Samuel 6:1-7:17

We have just finished seeing the consequences of doing God’s business man’s way. To put it a bit differently, God’s people are often guilty of thinking they just might be able to improve or fudge on God’s method of accomplishing a given task. 

I’m referring of course to Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu. They were to conduct their priestly service in a very specific way, but did not. Instead they chose to do things their way, a way one might suppose they thought was an improvement on God’s way. The consequence was their death. For offering, “...strange fire before the LORD,” “ came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. Leviticus 10:2-3

How terribly heart wrenching for Aaron—the death of two of his sons. How shocking for the nation of Israel, the fiery death of their two leading priests
for doing something only slightly different than the way God had commanded. But much worse than this was the fact that in changing God’s stated procedure He had not been treated as holy and had
not been honored before His people. And thus this severe consequence. Lev. 10:3
One of the reasons for studying history we are told is that we might learn from it; so that  in the future we will not again make the mistakes of the past. This lesson was entirely missed by King David as we shall see in our Haftarah text, II Samuel 6:1-7:17.
The Ark of the Covenant had not always remained with the people of Israel or in its justly due place of prominence before the people. It was in the days of Eli the priest that the Philistines defeated Israel and captured the Ark. They kept it for seven months during which time Adonai dumped Dagon, the Philistine statue god, on its head before the Ark. So much for the Philistine god’s superiority! 

As the Ark was moved from city to city God brought afflictions upon its inhabitants.
Finally, the Philistines placed it on a cart, hitched up two nursing cows who had never pulled a cart, and watched them leave their calves to pull the cart back to Israeli territory. Now how improbable was that? The Ark ultimately found its way to the house of Abinadab where it remained there thru Samuel’s judgeship and Saul’s reign.

Ultimately David comes to the throne.
He consolidates the twelve tribes under his kingship, makes Jerusalem his capital, defeats Philistine invaders, and brings relative peace to the land. His desire now is to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, see the cessation of moving the Tabernacle from high place to high place, and centralize worship. Yes, David is on a roll. Things are happening and they all seem to be going his way. Like the newsboy on the corner once called out, “Read All About It!” This is exciting stuff and you’ll find it in II Samuel 1-5.

In our Haftarah verses ahead let's first focus on II Samuel 6:1-9.
There we read that David had decided to move the Ark to Jerusalem. The last time it had been moved any distance was decades before when the Philistines had loaded it on a cart and sent it back to its rightful owners. Perhaps David thought that if it had worked for them then, why not for his move to Jerusalem now. In 6:3 the Ark is picked up and placed on a brand new cart for transportation. The process had begun. It was David that had chosen the method of transportation. But was this transport being done God’s way?

In 6:6 we read, “But when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out toward the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen nearly upset it.”  And in the following verse we read of the tragic consequence, “And the anger of the LORD burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God.” Could it be that God felt that David’s process for moving the Ark was somehow fudging on God’s methods, or that David simply had another way of doing God’s work David’s way? Uzzah knew something was not being done right. God says he was irreverent in his actions. What had gone wrong?
A little studying on our part will show, and a little recalling of history on David’s would have shown that David wasn’t doing God’s work God’s way. God’s way was to have the Ark carried by the sons of Kohath, not by a cart. (Exodus 25:14-15; Numbers 3:30-31; 4:15; 7:9) In doing things another way than God’s way, David had not only cost the life of Uzzah, but worse yet God had not been treated as holy and had not been honored before His people.  
David eventually admits his error. I Chronicles 15:2 says, “Then David said, ‘No one is to carry the ark of God but the Levites; for the LORD chose them to carry the ark of God and to minister to Him forever.’ His decision to move the Ark God’s way follows in verses 13-15 “Because you did not carry it at the first, the LORD our God made an outburst on us, for we did not seek Him according to the ordinance.” 

So the priests and the Levites consecrated themselves to bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel. The sons of the Levites carried the ark of God on their shoulders with the poles thereon, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the Lord. It was three months later when this move was again attempted. David did it God’s way, and successfully so. II Sam. 6:11-17
Does this Old Testament story of doing God’s work God’s way have any relevance for us? Consider the consequences of not doing things God’s way, today.
The New Testament has 260 chapters containing 7,958 verses.  One source states that the commands in the New Testament alone number 1,050. That’s compared to 613 in the Old Testament.  That, it seems to me, makes God look pretty serious about how we are to live our lives. Just how serious is He?
In the book of I Corinthians Paul addresses a number of problem  areas in that church. One was the manner in which communion was being taken. They weren’t doing it God’s way They chose to do things their way. As a result many were weak and sick and some had even been killed by God. (I Corinthians 11:20-34, esp. vs. 30) It doesn’t seem to me that God’s emphasis on doing things His way has changed much.

Not doing things God’s way can surely lead to an untimely death.
I John 5:16 says in no uncertain terms, “There is a sin leading to death.” And short of death there is corrective action by God in the believer’s life. Discipline is its name, and correction is its aim. Check out Hebrews 12:5-11.

We all as believers in Messiah should revel in the grace of God.
There is never NOT enough grace from our Lord to not cover our sin, our disobedience, our decision to do it our way and not His. Romans 5:20-6:2

But, doing it His way is always better, safer and most of all,
best for Him. Remember, doing it His way
treats Him as the holy God He is and honors Him before His people. 
Moving on in our text we see David entering Jerusalem with the Ark of the Covenant. It is placed in a tent, but David’s heart desire is to build a place to house the Ark. It would be the first Temple. God in a dream tells Nathan the prophet that David will not build the Temple. Instead God establishes a covenant with him. This has come to be known as the Davidic Covenant.
Nathan gives David this message from God. It is a message that causes David to sit before God and offer praise to Him. What a great tribute we find to both David’s and our Creator in II Samuel 7:18-29. One might think that David would be disappointed after having his heart’s desire denied him. But God had something else, something that was much better for David.

It is this Davidic Covenant that so thrills David.
It will far outlast any temple that as a man David could build, and it establishes his kingship forever. There are those that see Christ and David sitting on two separate thrones in the Millennium, each with different purposes. This definitely is a contrarian view, but it does have merit to it.

The specific provisions of this covenant (II Samuel 7:12-16) are as follows:

(1) David was to have a son. He was to follow his father to the throne and have an established kingdom. (vs.12) This as we know was Solomon.
(2) Solomon, not David would build the Temple. vs. 13a
(3) Solomon’s throne was to be established forever. vs.13b
(4) Though Solomon would commit sins God’s loving kindness would not depart from him. vv. 14-15 Solomon did fall into grievous sin and God told him that his kingdom would be divided as a result of it. However, this did not happen until Solomon slept with the kings.
(5) David’s house, kingdom, and throne would be established forever. vv. 16

And so hearing all this from Nathan, David went into the tent that housed the Ark and sat before God. There he offered praise.
David had good reason to praise God and by his example we should do the same as well. The word praise occurs 207 times in 181 verses in the New American Standard Bible. 
It is no small subject or duty. So much could be said as to why we should praise our God, the one who has made us as believers a royal priesthood. But perhaps we might conclude with just this thought. 
“Through Him then,  
let us continually offer 
 up a sacrifice of praise to God, 
that is, the fruit of lips 
 that give thanks to His name.”
 Hebrews 13:15 

B'rit Chadashah/New Covenant
Hebrews 8:1-13

A Closer Look at the New Covenant

When I last studied and wrote on this passage over two years ago now I started with the following two paragraphs:
You’ll forgive me if I start out here by saying how much I love my wife. I do. A great deal.  But I must admit, as Sarah does, from time to time, that we wonder what our Lord had in mind when He brought us together.  
“You see, Sarah is what is known as a Messianic Jew. She is Jewish by birth, and has come to faith in Yeshua (Jesus of Nazareth) as Messiah and Lord. I, on the other hand, am a typical Gentile, but saved as well. I brought to our marriage traditional Christian beliefs regarding the Old Testament, and the cessation of the Law. Galatians 3:19-28” 
Well, now I have a confession to make to you. I now know at least in part why God did draw Sarah and I together. She had always been Torah observantor as she puts it, "Has simply accepted the preciousness and authority of the whole of His Word since coming to faith." 

I, on the other hand, had dismissed the Law’s applicability for the Church and saw it as set aside until it would be re-instituted in the Millennium, if not earlier during the preceding seven-year Tribulation period. 

So what might be a BIG reason He brought us together? Well the answer is that with her as my study partnerand so very much study on my own as wellthe Lord has used my wife to help me gain a different perspective on the “Law.” OK, I’ll just say it. I too, believe it is God's will to embrace the whole of His Word for today ... what I would term, to become Torah observant

Still saved by grace through faith apart from any work of the flesh or of the Law. (Like Paul, as he addressed the Galatian heresy.) However, I do now see the legitimate place of the Law in the life of the Church today. Much could be said about how I arrived at this position. This was a process, not an overnight revelation, but the telling of it will however best be served by holding it for another time and in another format.

Let me say this though. The process started over five years ago when Sarah and I started discussing this verse,“...until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Matthew 5:18  And the deal was sealed for me a short time ago when I fully realized the ramifications of the entire Great Commission, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19,20  
In His three years of earthly teaching little was mentioned of the yet to be established Church. But, He lived the Law perfectly and taught it abundantly.  And we must as well. Live it as best we canrealizing that certain aspects of it have been suspended for a timeand teach it to His disciples through the life we live and the words we speak. 
So, having said all that it will be understandable that I now have a somewhat different take on our Brit Chadashah than when I last addressed it. So let’s take a look now at Hebrews 8:1-13 and see where it takes us. 

In the process you’ll notice how this passage dovetails with our Torah and Haftarah portions. There, mistakes were made, costly mistakes. Here, no mistakes are made. Everything is done exactly as God would want it done.

This chapter is about our High Priest, His work in the true tabernacle in Heaven, and the New Covenant. 

Verse one gives us the main point of this passage. 

“Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man.”

The Hebrews author is identifying our High Priest as Jesus (7:22) and a Son (7:28). He says of Him that He sits at the right hand of God, a location that is, “the true tabernacle.” Because Jesus was not a member of the tribe of Levi, but Judah, He could not perform the priestly functions in the earthly tabernacle. Thus, His proper place of intercession had to be in another tabernacle, the heavenly one where God the Father dwells, and tribal birth was not an issue.

Verse three says that this high priest had to have something to offer. And verse six tells us what it was that He offered. It is His “mediation” of a better covenant. Note the text of verses six and seven. 

 A Better Covenant?
“But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.  For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.”

Before moving further lets review for a moment. In the text before us we have a high priest. That priest is Jesus. He is carrying out His priestly function in the very throne room of God. What is that priestly function? Answer: to make an offering. 

Why in the throne room of God? Answer: because as one born in the tribe of Judah He was disqualified to enter the earthly Tabernacle or Temple. 

What was the offering that He made?  Answer: mediation. This word is defined as one who intervenes between two, one who restores relationship. In short, an arbitrator. ("For there is one God and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." 1 Timothy 2:5)

Now please reread verses six and seven above. Note what most English translations convey; that there IS a better covenant, that it IS based on better promises,  and that the first covenant DID have fault. Lets address this.

This covenant being spoken of is obviously the covenant given at Sinai to Moses. It is the Law. Are we really to understand that God’s Law was “faulty?” The answer is, no. 
I’m afraid we are suffering from, not the best translation work here. David Stern in his Complete Jewish Bible gives a “looser translation” that I think best conveys the true thought behind verses 6 and 7. It reads: 
“But now the work Yeshua has been given to do is far superior to theirs, just as the covenant He mediates is better. For this covenant has been given as Torah on the basis of better promises. Indeed if the first covenant had not given ground for faultfinding, there would have been no need for a second one.”
The question now comes up, What was the ground for faultfinding? The answer is found in verse 9. It is that the Israelites did not keep the covenant. This was not God’s doing. It was theirs. So, a New Covenant, one that cannot be violated, will be instituted. Our Hebrews author then gives the provisions of that covenant in verses 8-12.

Well, what is Jesus actually mediating right now? There are several opinions as you might guess. Of them  one is that this is the New Covenant we have just spoken of (verses 8-12). It is said that it was instituted at the Lord’s Last Supper and is in operation in a “spiritual” sense today. Its full institution will happen at the establishment of the Millennial reign.

Another is that this is a new covenant entirely separate from the one spoken of in Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Ezekiel 36:24-28. This New Covenant is for the Church which came into existence at Pentecost and will be raptured prior to the seven year Tribulation. Because of time and space we will not go into these views right now, but another time for sure. Hmm, why don’t you take a look at this and let Sarah and me know what you think? 

“A Text Taken out of Context Becomes a Pretext
And now verse 13.

It reads:  “When He said, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.”
Well here is one of those many verses that I for sure thought taught the Law had been done away with at the cross. How wrong I have been, as is the case with so many of the commonly misunderstood, or simply wrongly translated portions of Scripture. So how might we best understand this verse? 
First lets point out that the word, “covenant” is not in the original text. This was added I guess because of a theological bias. 
What preceded the added word (covenant) is the word, “new.” 
And the word "new" in the original text, standing by itself just begs for the translators to ask the question, “The new what?” 
So they chose to add the word, “covenant.” See how it appears in italics? 
But was that proper and in keeping with the context surrounding this verse? What is that context? And what would have been the best way to answer, “The new what?” 
The context surrounding the verse is very clear. It is the ministry Jesus has obtained in the heavenly sanctuary. (v6) This trend of thought starts in Chapter seven in the discussion of Melchizedek and his ministry and continues on into chapter 10. Read it and see what you think. 
So the context is, “ministry.” I think that should have been the word to have been added. Now reread verse 13 again, but this time in another vein of thought. “When he said a new ministry He has made the first obsolete. But what ever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.”
If this was the “first covenant” or Law being referred to in verse 13, well isn’t the argument that the Law had  ended when Christ died on the cross? 

That at least is how I always understood it to be taught. So if the covenant or Law was ended how can it now only be, “becoming obsolete,” or, “growing old” and only “ready to disappear?” That sounds like it still has some life left in it. 
So it really doesn't make any sense to see an “obsolete” covenantthe Mosaic Covenant, the Lawthat ceased when Christ died on the cross ... still have some life. Sorry, but that just can’t be the best understanding. How might we best see this verse?
If indeed the best word to place after “new” is “ministry” then verse 13 is best understood to be speaking of Christ’s “ministry” pointed to in verse 6. Consider this, the Temple ministry conducted by the Levite priests was going to cease in 70 AD. (The Temple was to be destroyed and will not be rebuilt until the Tribulation.)  So it was ready to”disappear.” Christ had already died on the cross at the time of this writing so Christ’s ministry of mediation for the saints had in effect made the first mediation in the Temple by the priests officially obsolete in the throne room of God.

My conclusion? We are not talking about the Law here. We are talking about the mediatorial ministry, first by the Levital priests and then by Christ. So if we are to look for Scriptural evidence that the Law was brought to an end and is no more, this verse won’t prove it.

By now you are probably asking, “Why was it again, this passage was chosen for the Brit portion in light of the Tora and Haftorah texts?” Well, both of those portions emphasized how important it is to God to do His business, His way, and of course the consequences of doing God’s business our way. Of the three only our Hebrews passage gives illustration of things being done, only God’s way. 

And that brings up an excellent question. How are we doing in living up to the guidelines in God’s Word? Failure to do so can only mean loss of potential reward. But successful livingdoing God’s work God’s waybrings reward in the future and abundant living now.  

Let’s get going...shall we?

Shabbat Shalom!
Blessings in Messiah's Love, 
His EVERY Word Ministries