Peter and the Floating Pig

Most Christians have heard the story (in Acts chapter 10) about Peter having a vision of a large sheet being lowered from heaven; it being full of all sorts of animals and birds; and he being told to ‘rise and eat.’  And most Christians have heard that the vision was given to show Peter that he could eat anything, including pork.  And that is the end of the discussion.

But is that what the vision is really about?  Let’s look at the whole story.  (By the way, the vision itself is in Acts 10:9-16).

First, note that the story of Peter’s vision is given in the middle of the story about the Roman centurion Cornelius, and his vision.   In Biblical literature, this is a clue that the two stories have something to do with one another.

Next, take a look at Peter’s initial reaction to the vision.  Peter exclaimed, “By no means, Lord: for I have never eaten anything this is common or unclean.” Acts 10:14 (ESV).   Apparently, Peter was either never told he could eat anything, or he never understood that he had been told.

And what was Peter’s immediate reaction after the vision was over.  It’s written, “Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision … might mean.” Acts 10:17 (ESV).  In other words, he wasn’t immediately thinking that the vision had anything to do with food.

The Biblical narrative then relates that the servants sent by Cornelius are at the door.  This is another hint that the two stories are interrelated.

Then Peter, in talking with Cornelius and the people with him, states,

“You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.”  Acts 10:28 (ESV)

When did God show Peter this?  The whole context of the story points to Peter’s vision.  Add to that the realization that the ‘law’ Peter is referring to is not one of God’s laws!

Lastly, take a look at Acts 11:1-18.  The other apostles and brothers in Christ had heard what had happened, that Peter had visited with, and even eaten with, Gentiles, and they asked Peter about it.  Peter then related the vision he had seen.

And what happens next?  Acts 11:18 states,

“When they heard these things they fell silent.  And they glorified God, saying, ‘Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.’ “

Not one of them thought the vision had anything to do with calling unclean animals now fit to be eaten.  It didn’t even occur to them that the vision had anything to do with food!

So why did God use all manner of unclean animals to show Peter that no person is to be called unclean?  I don’t know. Why does God so often compare people to sheep, or even sheep and goats?

Perhaps it is a subtle reminder that He is the one that has created all things, and He is the one who dictates which things are to be considered clean and which are to be considered unclean.

It is also a strong reminder to not put words in God’s mouth.   God said clearly,

“You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it…” Deuteronomy 4:2 (ESV)

God gave Peter a very graphic reminder through this vision.   God never called gentiles (as a whole group) unclean!

Shalom.  – Yosef

 

Abraham and the Sanctity of Marriage; Genesis 12

Many of us know or have heard the stories of Abraham and Sarah coming to a new town, and Abraham having Sarah say that she is his sister, not his wife.  And there is a plethora of good teaching around these incidences.  However, I’d like to point something out that is coming from a different perspective, and has a rather interesting and deep commentary about our cultures today.

Abraham has Sarah say that she is his sister, not his wife.  Why?  Because he doesn’t want the people to kill him and then take Sarah to themselves.

Why would would they kill Abraham if Sarah were his wife?  Why was he safe if she were his sister?

Apparently, the ancient world held marriage so sacred that they wouldn’t even dream of taking another man’s wife!  [Now before you start thinking that this shows very high morals on the part of the ancients, remember that, though they wouldn’t break the sanctity of marriage, they apparently had no qualms about killing the husband and then taking the now unmarried woman!]

Most (or all) of the western cultures today hold marriage in such a low regard that it is considered a ‘normal’ part of life to break the sanctity of marriage.  Doing so is even considered entertainment!  The whole entertainment industry (movies and such) treats marriage with low regard and treats adultery as something good – and Christians don’t think twice about watching such stuff!  This should not be!

I had a good friend of mine point out to me that the story about Abraham and Sarah showed that holding up a marriage was (is) a cultural responsibility It takes more then just the husband and wife to keep a marriage going.  Ancient civilizations apparently knew and practiced this.  Well, to some extent.

Today, though we may hear sermons and have seminars about the importance of marriage, it is a sad fact that the culture supports the opposite.  Just look at how many (the majority) movies disregard the preciousness of marriage.  And when was the last time you heard a preacher call the people to quit watching such tripe; such stuff that is displeasing to Yehovah (the LORD)?

Why has watching sinful behavior become an acceptable form of entertainment?

Okay, so I’ll quit ranting.  In closing consider this:

“…hold fast to what is good.  Abstain from every form of evil.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 (ESV)

It would be good if we (myself included) would take these words to heart, even to including the entertainment we watch.

Shalom!  – Yosef

Hanukkah!? does it have any relevance to Christians?

First, what is Hanukkah?

Well here is a super short summary.  Way back when, when Israel was ruled by another nation, that nation’s rulers decided to force Jews to follow their ways with, among other things, eating pork.  One Jewish man, and his sons, stood up and said, “No!”.  They succeeded in throwing off the oppressors for a while.  They regained control of the Temple in Jerusalem, sanctified it, and started worship there again.  There is a tradition about a miracle taking place for eight days during the Temple sanctification, and from that comes the eight days of Hanukkah.

Hanukkah is celebrating the restoration of the Temple back then (it’s really not about the defeat of the oppressing nation).

That’s its history.  But what about today?

I’ve heard many compare Hanukkah to Christmas.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  Hanukkah is the antithesis of Christmas.  Hanukkah is about not assimilating into the world around us.  Christmas is, well, the opposite.

Hanukkah is a time to question our lives in view of removing anything that does not please our Lord and Savior, Yeshua (Jesus).

Hanukkah is about rededicating our lives to obeying our father, Yehovah (the LORD).  Even if we have to go against the crowd.  That man and his sons way back when stood up against both the oppressing nation and against their fellow Jews who were all for what the oppressor wanted.  Following God is not always (or not usually) going along with the crowd.  It may ‘cost’ something, such as giving up a tradition dear to us.

Here are a couple other tidbits about Hanukkah.

Hanukkah can truly be called a “Jewish Feast.”  The other feasts, Passover, Day of Atonement, Tabernacles, and even the Sabbath, are called by God, “His appointed times.”  (See beginning of Leviticus 23).  But Hanukkah was started by Jews to remember something good that happened: people turned back to following God as He wanted.

Yeshua (Jesus) likely observed Hanukkah.  In the book of John 10:22, we see Yeshua being at the Temple during the feast of dedication.  That’s another word for Hanukkah: feast of Dedication.

Hanukkah shows us another thing.  Yehovah (the LORD) leaves us the opportunity to make our own traditions and holidays, as long as they glorify Him, and don’t include the ways of the nations.

So, for the next week, be thinking about your life and your traditions.  Is there any place where something needs to be cleaned out and your life rededicated to God?  It’s supposed to be a joyous time, and it is a joy when we find that our God loves us so much that He will show us how to make our lives more pleasing to Him!

Shalom!   – Yosef

 

 

Genesis 27 & 29: What’s in a Word? What’s in a Name?

In Genesis 27 we find Jacob getting the blessing from his father Isaac that was actually meant for Esau.  That blessing includes the words,

May God give you of the dew of heaven and of the fatness of the earth and plenty of grain and wine.  Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you.  Be lord over your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you.  Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you.   Genesis 27: 28-29 (ESV)

As shown a bit later Isaac expected these words to bring physical fruition.  He treated the words more then merely words, but as physical things being given.

How do we think of words that we say?  The point is that words are very important.  Blessings and cursing have physical effects, so our speech should be constrained to that which builds up!  Especially in the family!

I read a comment from a wise man some time ago (and if I remember his name I’ll credit the quote to him).  It is this.

“Every negative comment we make is a prayer to the devil!”

That’s something to think about!

Then we move on to Genesis 29 and we see Jacob marrying Leah and Rachel.  Between the two of them (well, those two and their handmaids) 12 sons are born.  I’ve often wondered what are the reasons that God chose Judah’s lineage for bearing the messiah as Judah is not the first born of Jacob.  There is a hint in the story.

Leah conceives and has children long before Rachel has any, but the story tells that Jacob loved Rachel much more then Leah.  So, as Leah is having children, the first three sons’ names reflect her attitude: one of self pity.  Then comes along Judah.  Leah then says,

“This time I will praise Yehovah (the LORD).”  Therefore she called his name Judah.  Genesis 29:35 (ESV)

The name ‘Judah’ is connected to the word (in Hebrew) for ‘praise’.

Leah got her eyes off herself and decided to focus on God!  The fruit of that decision is the lineage of Judah, though which comes messiah Yeshua (Christ Jesus).

When we get our eyes off ourselves and on to God, He can then do great things through us!

You may or may not have noticed that the last few weeks I wasn’t posting anything.  It took me some time to get my eyes off my self and my circumstances and back on to our Father.  There is so much more peace in life when one’s eyes are on Yehovah!

Shalom!   – Yosef

 

How many pigs were on Noah’s ark? Genesis 6 – 8

So how many pigs were there?  If you said “two”, then you were….  right!  There were two.  One male.  One female.  Now to the next question.

How many sheep were on the ark?  There were two of every animal, right?  Wrong.

Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate…” Genesis 7:2 (ESV)

Okay, ignoring that there is a bit of uncertainty in the Hebrew as to whether the number is 7 pairs or 7 total, the point is that there was a category of animal known as ‘clean’!  Long before Yehovah (the LORD) gave the ‘Law’ through Moses, there was a distinction between ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ animals.  And, it seems, that Noah knew the distinction even before this as God does not need to explain it to him (in my opinion).

You may say, “So what?  Just a bit further on God says, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you.” Genesis 9:3 (ESV).  Doesn’t this show that we can eat anything?”  Many people take it to mean just that, but I wonder.

First off, God also said that “As I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.” Genesis 9:3 (ESV)  And yet there are many poisonous plants that should not be eaten (or not eaten raw).  There has always been exceptions to what can be eaten.  In the garden of Eden, the exception was the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  Today, just about any animal can be eaten (and are eaten).   But does that mean that we, as followers of Yehovah (the LORD) through Yeshua (Jesus), are to eat anything?

To me, the issue between clean and unclean animals is just another test.  Will we, or will we not, follow what God wants?   Will we (well, Adam and Eve) or will we not eat from the forbidden tree (in the garden of Eden) even though it is good to eat?  The question is the same today, will we or will we not eat only those things God has called clean?

So, instead of just accepting the doctrine that says ‘Christians can eat whatever they want; Jesus nullified the dietary laws,’ check it out for yourself.  If you have questions, send them in (see the ‘questions‘ page) and I (or a guest author) will address them soon.

To me, following God’s dietary law is an opportunity to honor Him everyday, and serve Him with all parts of my body.

Shalom!   – Yosef

The ‘Questions‘ page is new.  Check it out!