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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What’s all this about Blood in the Bible?

Just a cursory reading of the Bible and you’ll eventually read something about blood.

“…The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.” Genesis 4:10 (ESV) [God talking to Cain after Cain killed his brother Abel.]

“But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, the blood.”  Genesis 9:4 (ESV) [God telling Noah how to eat meat after the great flood.]

“Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin.”  Exodus 12:22 (ESV) [God’s telling the Israelites to kill a lamb or goat and put its blood on their doorposts prior to God going through Egypt and freeing the Israelites.]

“But you must not eat the blood; pour it out on the ground like water.” Deuteronomy 12:16 (NIV)

“and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7 (NIV)

It seems Yehovah (God / the LORD) puts importance on blood and gave people rules concerning it.

But what does this have to do with Christians, for, as I hear often, “we are no longer under the law!”?

Well, consider the following:

– Three of the above quotes are from before the “Law” was given (on mount Sinai).

– The apostles, including Paul, and the early Jerusalem church leaders, considered the issue of blood of fundamental importance to Gentile believers.

In Acts 15 we find what is called the “Jerusalem Council.”  They wrote to all Gentile churches the following, expecting all believers to obey:

“…that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality.”  Acts 15:29 (ESV)

So what? you may ask.  This doesn’t affect my walk with Jesus (Yeshua).

Our walk with Yeshua (Jesus), and his knowing us, is deepened when we do as He asks.  When we do as He asks, we are humbling ourselves and saying to him, “your way is the right way; not my way.”

What better way to get to know Yeshua (Jesus) better, and be known by him, then to walk as he walked and do what pleases him!

And obeying is training in righteousness.  How can we say that we will listen to Him when the spirit speaks to us when we won’t listen when His words are in black and white before us!  As we learn to do the easy things, and listen to the easy to hear words, we will grow nearer to Him and hear Him clearer in all things!

After this you may also ask, “what does it mean to abstain from blood?”  That is an important question as the Bible does not clearly spell it out.  Looking into this opens up a huge discussion on what it means, and what it implies.  But that is for a later post….

Shalom!  -Yosef

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

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