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

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.

<– previous      next –>

Christmas Tidbits

Well, it’s Christmas day for western Christianity.

There are many sites out there talking about one aspect of Christmas or another, and about its pagan roots.  (A very recent blog post that does a decent overall summary is by J.M.’s History Corner).  However, this blog isn’t about any of that.  This is just some fun tidbits taken out of the gospel accounts of Yeshua’s (Jesus’) birth.  I haven’t completely studied out all these points, but I mention them as they are good to ponder.

  • In the genealogy listed in Matthew 1, the wording is such that it is clear that Joseph is not the father of Yeshua (Jesus): “Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus (Yeshua) was born.” Matthew 1:16 (ESV)
  • We have no idea how many ‘wise’ men actually visited.  It is most likely, though, that it was, at least, a small entourage, as they were carrying some expensive gifts.
  • The priests and scribes were very learned in scripture, and knew immediately where the Messiah (Christ) was to be born.  But they were only interested in knowledge, and not experience, as shown by the fact that they never went down to Bethlehem after the wise men showed up.  Seems to me that such a monumenteous happening should illicit some sort of response.  Even King Herod had more belief then the priests as he acted on what he heard!
  • The wise men didn’t visit Yeshua (Jesus) as a baby.  Nor did they visit him when he was in the manger.  He was a child, living in a house, when they visited.  (Matthew 2:11)
  • Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist, were ‘blameless’ according to the Law of God, following all of it!  I thought that it was not possible to completely follow the Law!?!  (See this post.)
  • Though the words used to describe Mary do not have to mean ‘virgin’, her own words make it clear she was.  (Luke 1:34)
  • Most of Western Christianity holds that Mary had children after Yeshua (Jesus).  Orthodoxy holds that those referred to as Yeshua’s brothers and sisters were step siblings or even cousins.  The language of the texts is, unfortunately, not absolutely clear one way or the other.
  • Was Zechariah only mute?  If so, why did people have to make signs to him, asking what he wanted to name John?  see Luke 1:62.
  • A completely plausible (and in my opinion correct) understanding of the whole ‘manger’ scene is that Mary and Joseph were offered accommodations in the inn keeper’s Sukkah (booth), as the feast of Tabernacles (or feast of booths) was under way.
  • Western and Orthodox Christianity celebrate Christmas on different days.  Not because of debate as to when it really was, but because the two are following different calendars.
  • The angels announcing the birth of Yeshua (Luke 2:8-20) is the closest thing we have in scripture to a birthday party.

I don’t actually ‘do’ Christmas.  I do, however, celebrate His birth according to the calendar God gave us, which places it during the feast of Tabernacles.

No matter what, though, there are two very good reasons for celebrating, and Christmas does (or used to) emphasize them.

Get together and get closer as a family.  Be nice to one another!

One can’t go wrong with that as a goal.

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