Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Two Little Pesach Puzzles

Yesterday, while working at the pie shop, I had on the beautiful Star of David I bought in Old City Jerusalem last month.  I wear it often.  A customer asked if I was Jewish.  I replied that I am a Hebrew in spirit, that I am an adopted, grafted-in Hebrew.  The customer, a nice young man, is Jewish.  We both wished each other a blessed Passover and (him to me) Easter.

I dearly love the Jewish people and long to see them come to know Jesus.  I know this will happen as God continues to unfold human history.  How I would love to be able to be a greater part of seeing Him work this marvelous work!

This morning, I want to show you two mysterious particulars from the Passover (Pesach, in Hebrew) feast, which are simply extraordinary.  In the last post, I referenced a Passover Haggadah for Christians.  The Haggadah is merely a Jewish word for "script" or "text", literally "the telling".  It is the procedure and the verbiage which guide the Passover feast.  Non-messianic Jews reject the Christian views of Passover, that is, our applications of it to the life and work of Jesus Christ.  Note the following puzzles, however.

1.  The Zeroa
Passover seders (the traditional meal which marks the first night of Passover) have changed over the centuries.  If you recall from the first Passover, the most spotless, blemish-free lamb was to be killed (Exodus 12) in the doorway of the family home, and its blood spread, not only over the threshold (which would be inevitable), but also on the sides of the doorway and across the top, the lintel, making an endless, continuous circuit of blood.  The roasted lamb was then eaten as part of the Passover meal.
As the centuries rolled on, some changes have been made.  For example, if you were to attend a Seder today, only the roasted shank bone of a lamb would be featured.  The shank is called the zeroa.  We see this word in Isaiah 53, a chapter of the Old Testament that is no longer part of the Jewish cycle of readings in synagogue.  (Isn't that curious...) Christians can easily see that Jesus has fulfilled Isaiah 53 through His life, death, burial and resurrection.  Here is zeroa in that chapter:

1Who has believed what he has heard from us?a
And to whom has the arm {zeroa} of the LORD been revealed?

John the Baptist most certainly recognized Jesus as The Lamb of God, and called Him such as Jesus walked up while he (John) was baptizing in the Jordan.  John 1:29 (ESV) - - -

Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.

2. The Afikomen
Again, this was not part of the original Passover feasts, though unleavened bread most certainly was.  This feature of a Passover celebration did not come into practice until, many believe, shortly before Jesus' time.  But, the truth is that God mysteriously inserted the practice, and no one is sure exactly when.  The word "afikomen" is a Greek word which means "the coming one"; in Hebrew it is "habba".
In today's Passover seders, unleavened bread called matzo figures prominently from beginning to end.
First of all, three pieces of matzo are used, in addition to the matzo provided for each participant.  The three pieces are wrapped in white linen and given to the leader of the seder.  Before the meal begins, the leader takes the middle piece of matzo and breaks it in half.  Part of this piece (the afikomen) is hidden somewhere in the home.  Later in the seder, the children are asked to go search for the afikomen; the meal may not continue until it is found.  The afikomen is then consumed by the participants in the meal as the final morsel.
In examining the symbolism here, from a Christian perspective, let's start with how Jesus made application of unleavened bread to Himself.  The account is recorded in all four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).
The setting is a meal which occurred, I believe, at the conclusion of the Day of Preparation.  (My next few posts will detail a chronology for the 10 days leading up to Jesus' final Passion Week; so, I won't defend that statement here and now.)  On the table are unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine (wine).  At that meal Jesus refers to His body being broken for us:

19And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.
Luke 22:19 (ESV)

I wonder if the disciples remembered at that point that Jesus had referred to Himself as "the Bread of Life"?  (John 6:35)

Other mysteries:
***The three pieces of matzo represent Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The second piece represents Yeshua Mashiach (Jesus the Messiah).  He is our afikomen.
***The afikomen is broken and "hidden" (symbolizing Jesus' true personhood being hidden from traditional Jews even today, and also symbolizing His being hidden in the tomb for 3 days).  The afikomen's wrapping of white linen points to the holiness of the Godhead and also to the burial cloths of Jesus.
***The afikomen is searched for diligently by the children.  Indeed, the meal cannot continue until the afikomen is found.
Jesus said that anyone who seeks Him must become like a little child, approaching Him in child-like faith (Matthew 18:1)
God also promised that anyone who diligently seeks Him will surely find Him (Jeremiah 29:13).
Surely, when Jesus is found by a person, He is the "final morsel", because in Him is all the beauty and treasure of the Godhead revealed bodily.

For all The Fullness of The Deity dwells in him bodily.
Colossians 2:9 (Aramaic Bible in Plain English)

Oh the beauty of the Word of God, both Savior and Holy Bible.  How wondrous the way He reveals Himself to us in this Passover and Easter season!  Even those who do not yet know Him, the Savior or the world already come, unknowingly celebrate His finished work on earth, for our behalf.

In closing, hear Jesus' words, again, from John 6 - - -
(Jesus, a devout Jew, is speaking to His Jewish fellow men of that day.)

32Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34“Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”
35Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
41At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”
43“Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. 44No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. 45It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’d Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. 46No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father.47Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48I am the bread of life. 49Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

Dear God, Three-in-One, Father, Son and Holy Spirit ...  Thank you for giving us Bread from Heaven, born in Bethlehem, the City of Bread, and "slain before the foundations of the world" were laid (Revelation 13:8).  Open the eyes of the blind to see You, to know You, in all your fullness today!

Oh precious reader!  Is the Savior drawing you to Himself today?


Monday, March 19, 2018

Glowing in the Dark

Good morning!

Today's text is Isaiah 58:3-12.

In the yearly course of Jewish "feasts", holy convocations, certain days are designated as Sabbath days, whether they fall on a Saturday or not.  Did you know this?  It was "news to me" when I learned this a few years ago.... 
For example, March 30, 2018 is the beginning of Passover, a high holy day.  It falls on a Friday, but it is a Sabbath.  That makes two Sabbaths in a row!  I believe from my studies that it was this way the week of Jesus' Passion:  2 Sabbaths in a row, on a Friday and a Saturday.  At the end of this week (the week I'm making this post) I'll be reprising my Holy Week set of posts, which I do every year.  At any rate, moving on.....

One of the ways to worship on those special days was (and still is) is to "fast" (abstain from eating) for all or part of the day. An example of this is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which falls often in October.  These special feasts and holy days were instituted by God Himself thousands of years ago, and some Christians, particularly Messianic Jews, "keep" those holy days in a similar manner today.  I think that this is perfectly beautiful!  Nowhere in the New Testament do I read that first century Christians stopped practicing the Old Testament feasts that God instituted.  

If you would like to, for example, keep Passover on March 30 with a Christian perspective, Jews For Jesus has a great resource for doing just that.  And, by your sweet Christian sister, Gena, telling you about this now, you have time to order some copies to "make it so"!  Here's the link, and the whole family can be involved!

You will want a copy for every person/reader participating, or one for every two people, because it is an interactive reading through the ceremony as you do it.

Allright, now, back to our text:
In Isaiah 58, God is addressing the practice of fasting on holy days, and exhorting His people to examine their hearts more closely.  In vs. 3, we see that the people are complaining because God seems to be ignoring them, despite their holy day celebrations.  In vs. 3-5, God explains why.

The people were wearing the holy clothes and doing the holy rituals (such as fasting), showing off their humility; but, all the while, they were treating their fellow man like garbage.  God was not impressed with such false piety then, nor is He impressed with it today. 

As usual, God is more interested in our hearts than in our outward rituals.  If our hearts are not right, our good behaviors are meaningless.  In other verses, this is emphasized:

"Tear your hearts and not your clothes."  (Joel 2:13)
In the Jewish culture, extreme agony of spirit was demonstrated by ripping the outer garment into pieces.

"To obey is better than making a burnt offering." (1 Samuel 15:22)
Here too, the focus was on the behavior that flowed from a right heart, than in the carrying out of religious rituals. 

"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing(B) in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father,(C) who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."
Matthew 6:5-6

Do we do this in our Christian faith?  Oh, well, let's see....
Do we ever stand up and lead in worship, then go home, close our doors and commit gross sin?
Do we ever teach our Sunday School class and then refuse to help someone in need, even when God makes it plain we are supposed to?
Do we ever pray pious prayers in public and then cut our loved ones to shreds with our vicious tongues?

Could it BE that the reason we are not reaching more people with the gospel of Jesus Christ is that we honor Christ with our tongues and our "churchiness", but our hearts are far from Him?  (Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:8)

Look at verses 6-9 (The Message):
"This is the kind of fast day I'm after:
To break the chains of injustice,
Get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts.
What I'm interested in seeing you do is:
Sharing your food with the hungry,
Inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
Putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, 
Being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once.
THEN when you pray, God will answer.
You'll call out for help and I'll say, 'Here I am.' "

I have some friends - - - great Christian family - - - four years ago they heard about a homeless person whose family had abandoned him.  They took him into their home until he could get back on his feet, which took several months.  THIS!  This is being the light of Jesus to the world.  THIS is showing the world who our Savior is.

Verse 10 - - - 
"If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
Your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight."

Jesus said, "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father, who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16)

"Whoever wants to be great must become a servant.  Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave.  That is what the Son of Man has done:  He came to serve, not to be served - - - and then to give away his life in exchange for many who are held hostage."
Mark 10:45

Let's get the spotlight off of ourselves. Instead, let's pray that we would be given more opportunities to "glow in the dark", and that we would take those opportunities!

Father, I am so guilty of passing up opportunities to bless real people you put in my path.  It's so much easier to just....follow a formula of "Christian-ness" and pretend that You are pleased.  Help me, Lord!  Please forgive me and truly conform me into the image of Jesus, who poured His life out for us all, who "gave His life in exchange for many who are held captive".  In Jesus' name, amen.

Friday, March 16, 2018

A Cardinal Tale

For the last few mornings, I have witnessed a strange work of nature.  We live in a neighborhood that is "in the woods".  So, we see a good share of wildlife, from time to time, especially a wide variety of birds.  While sitting in my den in the early morning lately, I have become aware of a thumping sound, seemingly coming from the dining room.  Each time I went to investigate, I saw a gorgeous male cardinal, repeatedly hurling himself against the panes of the large window.  He sees his reflection in the glass, and tries to get into the house, for some bird-y reason.  It has to be a painful and shocking experience.  It gets him "nowhere".  Seeing me scares him sufficiently to send him flying off, back into "his world".  So, my appearing becomes an act of mercy toward Mr. Cardinal.

Have you ever done that?  Seen some beguiling sight and left all that is good, right and natural about your Christian life to go chase it?

One time, we had friends over for dinner and, as we opened the door to let them in, a little brown bird swooped in also.  To spare you all the details, it did not end well.  The bird eventually was restored to the outside world, its natural habitat, ... where it was eventually devoured by a predator. The experience of venturing into the foreign habitat had been so confounding and confusing, it lost its ability to live successfully in its own world.  Alas, the little brown house wren did not fare as well as the cardinal.

Last week I did something I rarely do.  I visited my father's grave.  His soul is not there.  I highly doubt God conveys any words I speak over his grave to him in Heaven; nothing in scripture supports that.  So, I rarely go.  But, last week was different.

He was such a great man, and I miss him greatly.  Burdened in heart that day, I missed him even more.  People say those who have the easiest time embracing God the Father are those who had loving earthly fathers.  I can testify this is true.  My earthly father, though not Jewish, was a spiritual Ivrim1, who taught me how to love, how to sacrifice, how to give.  He was the best listener.  I so wish I could have one of those "heart to heart", face-to-face talks with him now.  It has been more than twenty years since he "crossed over" from physical death to the next life, the life in Heaven that causes earthly life to pale in comparison.  He is there, because in his heart, he "crossed over" as a youth, deciding to follow Jesus Christ.  I am so sincerely grateful for that heritage of faith.  Oh, how I miss him!

The Bible speaks of "panim el panim".  In the Hebrew, it means "breath to breath": face-to-face with someone so closely that you are literally able to breathe their breath.  In Genesis 32, we read the story of Jacob, all alone, camping under the stars in the wilderness.  He is about to face the possible extermination of his entire family and "empire" the next day, at the hands of his brother, Esau.  Overnight, he has an unforgettable experience:  God Himself appears in the pre-incarnate form of Jesus Christ and physically wrestles with Jacob for hours.  In the end, after the Man (the God-Man) has blessed Jacob, he names the place Peniel, because he knew he had seen God face-to-face, breath-to-breath.

So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.”
Genesis 32:30 (ESV)

I have learned there are times in the Christian walk where we wrestle with God.  The pull of our fleshly, carnal natures is so incredibly strong that we feel we are nearly "sweating drops of blood" in the battle.  The temptation is so strong to . . . (fill in your own particulars) yield to temptation.  Maybe you have experienced this in your own life.

Perhaps in your past, (or you are struggling right now) you HAVE yielded.  The Son of God, the Savior of the world, will draw near to you at those times, if you will ask Him.  You do not have to fear the predator of your soul, the enemy, the evil one.  You do not have to fear him, if you call on the Ever-Victorious One, Jesus, the God-Man, who took the keys of Hell and Death from the enemy through His finished, redemptive work.  You can be spiritually breath-to-breath with the Lover of your Soul, your Heavenly Father.  Restoration is literally one breath away.

It is such a sin and a distraction to look at another's heritage or path and be envious, or to wish your path were different.  The other morning I got up to hear the Holy Spirit speak to me about this very thing through the "cardinal object lesson", saying, "Live the life you have been given." Through Jesus Christ, God has given us more spiritual gifts and riches than we can even measure!  What a cause to praise Him!  Still, in our carnality, our humanity, it is so easy to get off the path God has designed especially for each of us, in the center of His will, by looking at how or where He has called someone else.  The Bible refers to this sin as "covetousness", wanting what someone else has.

I think of that verse from the apostle Paul's letter to young Timothy (1 Timothy 6:6), in which he admonished, "Boy!  Be godly and be content, and you'll go far!"  Well, in the King James Version it reads, "Godliness with contentment is great gain."  The essence of "godliness" is great faith, trusting the Lord with your "no matter whats" in this life, as well as your eternity in the next.  Draw near to Him.

The male cardinal is one of God's most beautiful creations.  So are you.  So am I.  When we find our place in His kingdom and glorify Him there, through the exercising of our faith and the use of the spiritual gifts He has given us, when we "sing" praises to Him through our obedience to Him in our lives, we are at our most beautiful, our most resplendent.  It is then we have "found our place."

Even as I type this, that crazed cardinal is back . . . flinging himself repeatedly against my window. Admire the cardinal for his gorgeous plumage and his divine place in God's creation.  Don't long to be like him.



Wednesday, March 14, 2018


What does it mean to be "blind"?

As a youth, my eyesight grew progressively worse, until by age 13 I wore what are commonly called "Coke-bottle" glasses.  I can still remember the day as a teen I got my first contact lenses.  What liberation!  Then, some 30 years later, I was fortunate enough to have Lasik surgery on my eyes.  What a transformation!  Immediately afterward, I looked across the room and read the clock.  It was the closest thing to a miracle healing I've ever experienced.  "Once I was blind, but now I can see."

I have also been spiritually blind.  It was not until age 9 that I realized my state of spiritual blindness and made the decision to turn to Jesus and have my eyes opened.  Along the walk, there continue to be times that the Holy Spirit enlightens me, through speaking to me in my spirit and through the Holy Scriptures, as well as through the godly wisdom of others. "Once I was blind, but now I can see."

The man healed in John 9 found himself in the middle of a religious controversy, simply due to having a life-changing encounter with Jesus.  (Once again, Jesus had healed someone on the Sabbath day, which ran afoul of the religious rules of the day.  I've mentioned this in previous blog posts.  The religious leaders were taking the command of God to "keep the Sabbath holy" and not do any "work" on that day to a ridiculous extreme...)

At any rate, this man was interrogated by the Pharisees seeking to apprehend Jesus.  The man's response?

"One thing I know:  that though I was blind, now I see!" (vs. 25)

When they didn't get anywhere with the healed man, they went to his parents.  His parents were afraid of being excommunicated and therefore refused to say anything except for "ask him; he is of age..." (vs. 21).

When asked again who Jesus was, the man replied, "He is a prophet"(vs. 17).  Verses 30-34 are some of the most interesting of the chapter.  The Pharisees and the man are debating about who Jesus is, whether He is of God or of the Devil.  The healed man did not yet fully comprehend who Jesus was, but he still had more spiritual discernment than the "learned" religious leaders of that day:

30 The man answered and said to them, “Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes! 31 Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him. 32 Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. 33 If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.”
34 They answered and said to him, “You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?” And they cast him out.

In verse 34, the leaders referenced that prevalent belief that anyone born with a defect was "completely born in sins" if they were not.  (We are ALL completely born in sins, after all.)  Such arrogance and sinful pride!

And, they excommunicated him.

In verses 35-39 it is revealed that Jesus sought the man out, having heard he had been excommunicated.  This was such a serious thing, back then.  It did not only mean that he was barred from worshiping at the temple.  It also meant that he was completely ostracized from Jewish society.
Jesus asked him if he believed in the Son of Man (the Messiah)?
The man, still not "seeing" that Jesus IS that one and only Messiah replied,
"Who is he, Lord, that I may believe in him?"
Jesus plainly stated that He is the long-awaited Messiah.
At that point, the spiritual blinders fell fully from the man's eyes and he worshiped Jesus.

I believe Jesus healed this man because He had compassion on him, because doing so was in accordance with God's divine plan and because this man's healing was an illustration of spiritual blindness.  This man was healed twice - - - once physically and once spiritually.

Jesus goes on to emphasize that not everyone who thinks they can "see" actually can. He came into the world to enable those who are spiritually blind to see.  He also emphasized that His coming as Messiah would be a stumbling block to many who believe that they can "see", but are actually stumbling around in the deepest of spiritual darkness.

The amazing thing about the resplendent walk is that the more we desire of Jesus and of the truths in His Word, we more we can receive.  His presence, His wisdom are limitless, far beyond our capacity to ascertain.  Never should we feel that we have "learned it all".   Paul expressed this inPhilippians 3:13 - - - 

"I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it."

Paul didn't "know it all" or understand everything.  I believe that Paul was becoming more and more like Jesus with every passing day, right up until the day he was martyred.

We can choose as believers to walk in that way.  Or, we can choose something of lesser value.  Not to say the right choice is the easy one.  Our enemy knows our spiritual weaknesses and targets them.  Sometimes, the right choice is extremely painful. 

One thing is sure:  if we choose Christ, we will be in stark opposition to the belief systems of this present world, and may even experience "excommunication" on some level.  Many Christians in many parts of the world are experiencing death.  Iraq, India, Somalia, North Korea...and the list could do on and on.

It will continue to be so.  Jesus warned His disciples in John 15:18 - - -
"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first."

Not a pleasant or comforting thought, is it?  But, we also have the assurance that "in His presence is fulness of joy, at His right hand are pleasures evermore!" (Ps. 16:11). 

Lord Jesus, please help my spiritual blindness and sweep aside my spiritual apathy, even arrogance at times.  I want to see more of You, possess more of You, until that day You call me Home.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Cross-Over People

Olive Tree, Mt. Skopa, Jerusalem

The other night I had the privilege of eating dinner with an acquaintance who is becoming a good friend.  She, like me, is in Christian ministry, although her path has led her through a much more Hebraic Christian journey than has my evangelical Christian path.  (She has studied Hebrew, for example.  I admit to being a bit envious of that.)  Her story is amazing.

At any rate, I asked her about her Jewish ethnic roots and, to my surprise, a strong Jewish ethnic background was not present.  I was surprised, because I had just assumed her path into Messianic Jewish studies was due to an ethnic connection.  That was a wrong assumption on my part.

I believe having Jewish roots would be a tremendous gift, and have long felt that way.  I got a bit excited when I learned I have a Jewish ancestor, way back several generations.  (You may recall I talked a little about this in a previous post.)  It fascinates me, this matter of heritage.  I met a friend last month whose family traces roots back to the Middle Ages.  What a history!

A couple days ago I was reading from a book called The Book of Mysteries, by Jonathan Cahn.  (I've mentioned that book here in the blog previously also.)  One of the devotionals in the book explores the meaning of the Hebrew word "Hebrew", which is the forename of the Jewish people.  In Hebrew, the name "Hebrew" is "Ivri", and the plural is "Ivrim", (or Ivriim).  Ivri is from the Hebrew root word, "avar", which means "to cross over".  The word Ivri was used to describe Abraham, how he crossed over the Jordan River from Mesopotamia to Canaan.  Abraham was the Father of the Ivri, the Father of Those Who Cross Over.

The Israelites crossed over from slavery, bondage and death to freedom and new life when God delivered them from Egypt.
They crossed over the Red Sea on dry land, a miracle "of biblical proportions" (sorry... couldn't resist....)
They also, later, crossed over the Jordan River into the Promised Land.
The Hebrews are the Cross Over People.
Who would not want to be a Hebrew?

It is possible to be a spiritual Hebrew, however, even if not by human blood or ethnic designation.  How does one become a spiritual Ivri?

By following Yeshua Mashiach (Jesus Messiah).  He spoke of this in His conversation with Nicodemus.  "Unless a man is born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven." (John 3:5) Being born again means leaving one land behind and entering another, crossing over, if you will.
In 1 John 3:14 the apostle describes this as  "passing from death unto life".

Through Jesus, the King of the Cross Over People, we pass from the dead life of our sins to life eternal.  Jesus is our example.  He who had no personal need to physically be born or die...He who was sinless and had no need to be "born again"....He still gave us the perfect model to follow.  He passed from eternal existence into human flesh at His Incarnation, from human life into physical death....and then rose again, passing from death into life.  Being the only One who could do that, He became the King of the Ivri.  And accordingly, we, who put our faith, our trust, in Him - - we are given the power to cross over ourselves, through the Holy Spirit He puts into our hearts.

In Romans 11 Paul spoke about those of us who are not Jewish in ethnicity being "grafted in" to the olive tree of faith.  (Zola Levitt Ministries, referenced in Sources, gives an excellent explanation of the metaphor of the olive tree in scripture.) . The Church of Jesus Christ does not distinguish between Jew, Greek, Norwegian, American Indian, Vietnamese, Aboriginee.....all are equally invited to become Cross Over People, spiritual Ivrim.  The ground is level at the foot of the cross.

Have you crossed over?


Cahn, J. (2016). BOOK OF MYSTERIES(1st ed.). Lake Mary, FL: FRONTLINE, p.27.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Perez, the Unsung Ancestor

There is a Hebrew word, Toldot or ṯō-wl-ḏō-wṯ (H8435), which appears in Genesis 2:4, and then does not reappear with the same spelling until Ruth 4:18.
Why did this word, translated often as “generations” disappear?  Why did it reappear?  Why did it reappear where it did?
First, let’s look at Genesis 2:4 (ESV) - - 

These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.

Now, here is Ruth 4:18 (ESV) - - 

Now these are the generations of Perez:

In both of these passages, the word "toldot" is spelled with a Hebrew letter, "vav", sometimes called "waw".  Even though you see "generations" or "toldot" in between Genesis 2:4 and Ruth 4:18, the word is not spelled with that missing letter.

"Who cares?", you say.

Good question.  But, this is something very curious....

One of the reasons we are able to read the Old Testament today is because of the painstaking way the scriptures were copied and re-copied by heavily-vetted scribes.  Not just anyone could become a scribe.  A scribe had to be the most trustworthy of men.  Furthermore, each scribe regarded any error as a huge sin.  No mistakes, errors of any kind, were tolerated.  If an error was made, the entire scroll was discarded and “buried” in a sort o “scroll graveyard”.1

I share this to emphasize that the elimination of this "vav" was not an error or mistake.  It was deliberate, as the Author of scripture, God's own Spirit, inspired the Old and New Testament writers.

Genesis 2:4 occurs after God has created the heavens and the earth, but right before He created man.  The "vav" is the sixth letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  We see it first appear in Genesis 1:1, in the word "and" - - the heavens AND the earth.  Here is the word, and "vav" is the hook letter:
See the source image
The "vav" looks also like a fish hook or a tent peg (see above, the huge picture, which I can't seem to make smaller)  In the case of Gen. 1:1 the vav is a divine hook which joins heaven and earth.  This shows a connection between spiritual matters and earthly matters.  Man, similarly, is a spirit being in an earthly body.  In those days before The Fall of Man, creation was sinless, including Adam and Eve.
But, that soon changed, with The Fall.  When Adam sinned, Yahweh removed the vav from mankind for many generations.

Now, take a look at Exodus 27:9-10, which talks of the silver hooks which were part of the first Tabernacle, the Tent of Meeting, as it was called.  These silver hooks were used to anchor the curtains of the Tabernacle, the place where Yahweh came to meet with man.2  Again, the vav, in a sense, joined heaven and earth.  Silver as a metal has antimicrobial properties; it always symbolizes redemption, in scripture.  

Back to Perez, whose name means "breach" or "breakthrough", and who was the offspring of Tamar and Judah.  That is an interesting story.  You can read it in Genesis 38.  This is another story of levirate marriage (as was the story of Ruth and Boaz)!  How amazing, right?
Tamar had been married to Judah's eldest son, Er.  Before they could have children Er had died and, through a succession of events, Tamar ended up married to her father-in-law.  She was an amazing woman, which may explain why she is only one of 4 women (other than Mary, the mother of Jesus) mentioned in Matthew's genealogy of the Lord Jesus.  God had a sovereign plan, as He always does.  God accomplishes His purposes in spite of man's unrighteousness.  And, He used another broken woman to achieve it, in this case.  Praise His holy Name!

Satan attempted to disrupt the genealogy of Messiah by ending Judah's line with the death of Er.  And, he attempted to interfere again with Perez' birth.  You see, Perez was an identical twin. At the twins' birth (Genesis 38:27-30), the brother's hand emerged from the birth canal first; so, the midwife tied a scarlet thread around it.  However, the first baby to emerge fully did not have the scarlet thread! This was Perez, who then was crowned the firstborn.  

Aren't you glad the ancestors of Jesus Christ were not already "squeaky clean"?  God does not attempt to gloss over or hide the human frailties of those who loved Him. He knew who would be in the family tree of Jesus Christ.  As infamous as the stories of Judah and Tamar (and Perez and his twin brother, Zerah) are, they illustrate redemption so beautifully.  It is no accident the midwife used a scarlet thread, you know.  

But WHY did those 10 "witnesses" from Ruth 4:1-2 bless Boaz with a "Perez blessing" in verse 12?  Maybe they recognized some parallels between Judah and Boaz?  Judah had 3 sons.  The older 2 died and the younger was much younger.  Meanwhile, Judah's wife died.  At this point, Judah had no grandchildren to carry on the line. It all looked rather bleak.... Based on what we know of Boaz, he (before Ruth) had no heirs either.  In both cases, God provided an unusual route for each man to continue the family line that would eventually produce the Messiah, Jesus.

Or, maybe the 10 witnesses did not fully understand the significance of the blessing they pronounced.3  They knew that, to carry on the line of Judah was a tremendous blessing in and of itself, because God had promised "The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs; the nations will obey him. " (Genesis 49:10 NET).  This was absolutely a prophecy of Messiah. The 10 men certainly could not have known that 1700 or so years later, a baby would be born, in Bethlehem Ephrathah, from the line of Judah, who would fulfill the Perez blessing pronounced that day.

When I was sojourning and serving in a local Presbyterian church decades ago, the pastor would say this when he baptized a baby:  "Behold!  How good God is!"  The theology of infant baptism - - let's not careen off into that right now.  Instead, let's behold how GOOD God is, as we ponder the closing words of the story of Ruth:

18Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron, 19Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, 20Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, 21Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, 22Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.
Ruth 4:18-22 (ESV)