10 Commandments Series – 6: “Do Not Murder” Exodus 20:13

Now we are getting into the easier to repeat, oft quoted, rarely taken at more then face value, commandments.  At the top of the list is this one,

“You shall not murder.”  Exodus 20:13  (ESV)

It’s really simple.  Don’t murder.  Yet for all its simplicity, there is a bit of controversy around it, and it is often ignored.

First some controversy.  I won’t spend much time on this.  The Hebrew word used clearly means, and is used for, ‘murder’, not ‘kill’.  A different Hebrew word would have been used if the command had been ‘You shall not kill,’ or it had meant both.  Unfortunately, many of the older English translations use the word ‘kill’, and some people then take this and form theology and social norms from it.  But the word is ‘murder.’  You can easily verify this if you want.

But how is this command ignored?  Most of us haven’t murdered anyone or even want to… or have we?

Yeshua (Jesus) said:

“But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” Matthew 5:22 (ESV)

Yeshua pointed out that the commandment is deeper then just physically murdering someone.  He pointed out that it can be done with words also!

To take this a bit further, what about when we choose to not help someone or to not encourage someone when the need is right in front of us.  There are many passages in the Bible exhorting us to help and encourage others.

So, flip this command around and look at it from a positive viewpoint.  If ‘do not murder’ is stating the command from the “don’t do” perspective, how would it be stated from the “do this” perspective?  By the way, looking at a command from a ‘positive’ viewpoint is a very Jewish way of looking at the commands of God.

Help to live; encourage; assist; have positive words and deeds.

When we pass up opportunities to help someone to live; to encourage or assist someone; or to have positive words or deeds, then we are, in a way, helping to ‘murder’ the person who otherwise would have benefited.

So, look at the command to ‘not murder’ from Yeshua’s (Jesus’) viewpoint, and act accordingly.  It’ll bring joy to both you and the one being helped, and Yehovah (the LORD) will smile!

Shalom!  – Yosef

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Greater love has no one…

I recently had  a health scare that made me really realize that there is nothing more important then family and friends.  But I think most of us know this already at one level or another, so I’m going to write about something just a bit different.

One of the things I needed most during the health scare time was someone to both read the Word of God with, and pray with.  I knew my neighbor professed being a Christian, but I didn’t know him well yet (I just moved into this apartment building about 4 months ago… what can I say, I’m slow getting to know people).  Anyway, I asked him if he would read and pray with me.

Without hesitation or 2nd thought, he said ‘yes.’  In fact, he has said ‘yes’ for several nights in a row.  He knew I needed the help.

I came to realize something through this.  Here was a man following Messiah Yeshua (Christ Jesus), and who didn’t know me all that well, yet he was willing to drop everything he was doing and spend a couple hours a night with me for several nights now.

A Bible verse comes to mind:

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 (ESV)

I came to realize that this verse isn’t just talking about the sacrifice Yeshua (Jesus) made for all of us, but it is also referring to the selfless giving of ourselves for a brother or sister in need, just as my neighbor has been doing for me.

Then I asked myself,

“Would I do the same for someone else?  Day after day, or even once?”

And I honestly couldn’t answer a definite ‘yes!’  Here I was experiencing the love of Yeshua (Jesus) being given to me, and I wasn’t sure I could return it if the circumstances were reversed!  Time to repent!

If we are going to follow Yehovah (the LORD) then we need to show it!  And this will mean giving of oneself to another, both in time and resources.  In this way we glorify our Father in heaven and reflect Yeshua (Jesus) on this earth!

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.  But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?  Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”  1 John 3:16-18 (ESV)

It’s not until you see this in action that you can really appreciate what it means, but we can still practice it.  Hopefully this little post encourages you to give of yourself to others.

Shalom!  – Yosef

Paul – who did he think he was? (Acts 21 – 28)

In the book of Acts we have an overview of the apostle Paul’s life and ministry.  And it is here that we should look first before we try to understand his letters.  The apostle Peter writes,

“There are some things in them that are hard to understand…” 2 Peter 3:16 (ESV)

If Peter so cautions us, it will behoove us to take care when reading Paul’s letters, else all manner of odd ideas and theology may (and has) arise.

One of the main things to look at is how Paul represented himself when he was on trial.  How did he view himself and what did he say about himself?  Here are a few of the things he said in reference to himself:

“believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets…” Acts 24:14 (ESV)

“Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the Temple… have I committed any offense.” Acts 25:8 (ESV)

“…saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.” Acts 26:23 (ESV)

“It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” Acts 23:6 (ESV)

Also, when Paul arrived in Jerusalem, prior to being arrested, the elders of the church asked him to join in a vow several brothers had taken.  Why?  (See Acts 21:17-26).

“Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the Law.” Acts 21:24, spoken by the elders to Paul.

In other words, many people, both Jewish followers of Yeshua (Jesus) and those not following Yeshua, were accusing Paul of no longer following the Law of God.  Yet he said, and emphasized (the vow), that he continued, and always had, followed the Law!

This must be remembered in reading and interpreting his letters!

Paul’s message was, and is, “explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus (Yeshua), whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ (Messiah).”  Acts 17:3 (ESV) parenthesis mine.  And this message was to both Jew and Gentile, and it enraged both sides.

This leaves the question of just what did Paul teach the gentiles?

Do you think that Paul told the Gentiles that the Law of God no longer applied, or do you think Paul was telling them something else?  If something else, what?

The next post will deal with Paul’s overriding message is throughout his letters.  After that we can deal with specific letters and ideas.

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Zechariah, Elizabeth, Christmas, and the Law of God

It’s Christmas time!  (No, I don’t observe Christmas, but the telling of Yeshua’s (Jesus’) birth in the gospels is always fun to read!)

The gospel of Luke tells of the priest Zechariah, his wife Elizabeth, and how they became the parents of the one called “John the Baptist.”  (See Luke 1:5-24).  At the beginning of the story this comment is made about them.

“And they [Zechariah and Elizabeth] were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.”  Luke 1:6 (ESV), [parenthetical comment mine].

I’ll admit that I had read this verse many times over the years before it hit me what it was saying.  ‘Blameless’ under “the law”???  That’s not possible, is it?  At least it isn’t possible according to most teachings.  But there isn’t any confusion about what the verse means.  They were walking blamelessly.

The confusion stems from a false idea that the law of God was given so that people could attain salvation.  But nowhere in the Bible is any such comment made or alluded to.  The law of God defines God’s standard of righteousness, and details His grace, mercy, loving kindness, and forgiveness.

Zechariah and Elizabeth could walk blamelessly because they walked according to how God said to live, and when they messed up, they sought His forgiveness and, if required, offered a sacrifice.

They were ‘blameless’ not because of perfection, but because they adhered to what God said in all aspects of life, including doing what He said when they did something intentionally or inadvertently wrong.

We need to get rid of this idea that the law of God can’t be followed.  That idea has been eroding the foundations of the church for long enough!

We can walk blamelessly, and Yeshua (Jesus) opened up that possibility to all people.  But to do so one has to first commit to completely following God and His ways.

I don’t mean that everyone has to suddenly learn and follow all the law of God upon “accepting Yeshua (Jesus) as Lord and savior.”  Paul addresses this in most of his letters, as does the council of Jerusalem (see Acts 15:1-35).

The walk in righteousness is a process.  Paul understood that to suddenly require someone to follow the entire law of God will lead to legalism every time.  (Legalism is the thought that one needs to follow God’s law to acquire salvation).

God’s law is perfect and is His unchanging standard of righteousness.  But there are really only 5 fundamental things required of new (gentile) believers.  Yes, I said ‘required.’  They are listed in the letter written to the gentiles by those at the council in Acts 15:1-35.  Well, they list 4 things, abstain from: blood; meat from animals strangled; from food offered to idols; and from fornication.  The fifth thing is assumed from the context: the regular hearing of God’s word.

So, walk can walk blamelessly.  And with joy knowing that Yeshua (Jesus) walks with.

Shalom!  – Yosef

 

Zaphenath-paneah and the Christmas Tree

If you recognize the name of Zaphenath-paneah (as spelled in the ESV Bible) as being the name of a very well known Biblical character who lived roughly 1500 years before Yeshua (Jesus), then you should enter Bible trivia contests!

Zaphenath-paneah is the name Pharaoh gave to Joseph (the son of Jacob and Rachel) when he elevated him to 2nd in command over Egypt.  What did Joseph have to do with a Christmas tree?  Well, nothing really, but the title leads into the topic of this blog post.

The teaching where Joseph is presented as a shadow of Yeshua is fairly well known.  If you haven’t heard of such an idea, google something such as “Joseph as a type of Jesus”.  You’ll get many hits, some from some very good sources.  One source I see there is from the group Jews for Jesus.

This post is about one aspect of that idea.  After the famine hits Egypt, Joseph’s brothers travel to Egypt to buy food.  They appear before Joseph but don’t recognize him, and bow before him.  (It’s a really fun story – read it in Genesis 41 through 44).  Why don’t they recognize him?  Well, he looked and talked Egyptian!

One of the reasons today that Jews do not accept Yeshua (Jesus) as the promised Messiah is that he has been made over to look like a gentile.

(By the way, ‘gentile’ is not a bad word.  It simply means ‘of the nations’.)  All manner of lifestyle and traditions have been painted over him; so much so that he is no longer recognizable as the pork avoiding, Sabbath observing, Jew that he is.

The difference between Yeshua and Joseph, though, is that Joseph was truly dressed up and talked as an Egyptian, whereas Yeshua never actually wore the costume that is over him.  But it has been taught as tradition for so long that only the made up Jesus (Yeshua) is visible.

For this Christmas, then, I challenge you, the reader, to peel back some of the trappings that have been put around Yeshua (Jesus) and see if you can’t find the real man.  The one born to Jewish parents (see the next blog for a neat fact about them), and raised in Jewish surroundings.  One who never violated any of God’s Torah, and even observed some Jewish traditions! 

All of this can be discovered simply by reading the gospels and paying attention to what is really being said – not what traditionally has been put in his mouth!

Shalom!    – Yosef