Abba Lazarus' Blog

Abba Lazarus' Blog (81)

Concerning Messianic Jews in Israel

Saturday, 09 July 2011 08:49

Cruising with the devil

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For years the neighborhood around Beit Immanuel was known for drug dealers and criminals. I can’t even remember the number of times we were robbed and our property damaged by these trouble-makers. When our kids were small one of these neighbors even set fire to a wooden house next to us endangering our children. That was it. I went ballistic and let him know that that was not going to happen again.
We banned the guy from our property. Unless he makes some kind of a miraculous turn around, we are obviously not going to let him into our home.
Nor should Israel allow these asinine flotilla instigators in. We don’t need to make room for the devil.
A good friend of mine shared this video "The Audacity of Dopes" on YouTube this week. 

I think it’s great that Israelis can look at the funny side of these crazy cruises to the Gaza Strip. But really, this is no laughing matter. Over the weekend Israel deployed close to a thousand policemen as hundreds of international activists flew into Tel-Aviv in protest of Israel’s policies in Gaza.
I have a hard time understanding why so many people support these misguided pranks. Why do so many people identify with Hamas and its radical Islamic agenda?
To me the ideology of Hamas and its Islamic war on Israel is shocking. Maybe it is so shocking that people refuse to believe it is true? Hamas has been training and sending suicide bombers to kill innocent people since 1987. They call them martyrs. How do we comprehend a movement that sends its young people to blow themselves up in order to kill innocent people?
Al-Fateh ("the conqueror") is the Hamas children's magazine, published biweekly in London, and also posted in its website. It began publication in September 2002, and its 108th issue was released in mid-September 2007. The magazine features stories, poems, riddles, and puzzles, and states it is for "the young builders of the future."
The magazine includes incitement to jihad and martyrdom and glorification of terrorist operations and of their planners and perpetrators as well as characterizations of Jews as "murderers of the prophets" and laudatory descriptions of parents who encourage their sons to kill Jews. In each issue, a regular feature titled "The Story of a Martyr" presents the "heroic deeds" of a mujahidin from one of the organizations who died in a suicide operation, including operations against civilians, or who was killed by the IDF. The magazine includes illustrations of figures, including child warriors, who embody the ethos of jihad and martyrdom, presenting them as role models. These include the magazine's titular character, Al-Fateh ("The Conqueror") - a small boy on a horse brandishing a drawn scimitar - as well as children carrying guns, and photos of Hamas fighters launching Qassam rockets aimed at Israeli civilians including children.
As far as I can tell, the kind of fundamental Islam followed by Hamas is the only religion known to mankind that finds honor in killing innocent people. Most of the world’s religions teach kindness, love and respect for humanity.  Faith in God helps people find ways of making the world a better place to live. Most religious people try to teach their off-spring how to overcome suffering or loss. Noreligion I am aware of teaches their children to sacrifice themselves in order to take vengeance on innocent people. Only radical Islam. 
I hear some people say, “We don’t understand the grievances of Hamas. If we would listen to them and make life better for them there would be less terror in the world.”
Are these terrorists the only ones with grievances? In the last century alone, we have endured two world wars, civil wars, Hiroshima, massacres, pogroms and a holocaust. Is there any other religion in the world that teaches its people to continue taking revenge by killing innocent people?  Did you ever see a survivor of the holocaust or of Hiroshima blow up a hospital, a school or a hotel? Are they shooting missiles into populated towns? Do they not also have grievances?
There is no grievance, suffering or pain that can justify killing innocent people. None. Never.
Western civilization cannot afford not to confront this devious justification of murder propagated by Hamas. The values of an entire generation have become so white-washed that we are  blinded to this clear manifestation of evil. Those who are trying to go to Gaza to identify with this ideology are themselves responsible for promoting terror.
They are encouraging a philosophy that is at war with the basic principles of human civilization and in absolute contradiction to all that is dear to the sanctity of life held by all peoples of the world. There is no logic or purpose that makes sense of it. It is a kill, kill philosophy. Nobody wins. With such an ideology there can be no other response than shock and resistance. Those who support them are also responsible for their deeds.
This ideology did not die with Bin Laden. There are thousands of nameless Islamic religious leaders in Gaza and around the world that continue to teach the same ideas that sent his 9/11 shaheeds (martyr in Arabic) to destruction. Week after week we hear about the hundreds and thousands murdered, mutilated and maimed in the name this perverse ideology.
Islamic jihad is an ideology, and ideas cannot be fought with guns alone. As the war in Iraq, as well Israel’s fifty-year long battle with Palestinian terror have shown, this ideology cannot be beaten by force alone.
That is why we must resist these perverse flotillas. Unconditionally, and without a shadow of doubt, we must stand with Israel’s sovereign right to prevent these ramble-rousers from entering her sovereign territory. Islamic jihad against Israel has many faces – none of them are acceptable.
אהבתי מאוד את המאמר במהדורה האחרונה של "כיוון" של יוסי על הדור הצעיר ומאמציהם לגלות את הזהות הייחודית של חסידיו של המשיח ישוע בישראל. מחמאות לסדן ומערכת "כיוון" על מתן פלטפורמה למאמינים יהודים צעירים להביע רעיונות חדשים ומאתגרים.

המסע של הדור הצעיר להבין את מקומם בעם, בארץ, ובגוף המשיח הוא תהליך שרבים מאיתנו מהדור הוותיק יותר מתהלכים בו כבר שנים רבות. מתוך הנסיון שלי רציתי להציע מספר לקחים שלמדנו בדרך.

אין להתייאש כאשר רבים אחרים לא מסכימים. בכל מסע אנשים מתעייפים מהר ואף עוצרים לאיטים לפני שהם מגיעים ליעד. הרבה מוותרים ונוטשים את הדרך כאשר אחרים לא מצטרפים. אל תתייאשו כאשר אחרים מביעים חוסר שביעות רצון. תמשיכו לנוע קדימה. שינוי לא בא בקלות.  אנשים רבים מעדיפים את התשובות הקלות ולא מוכנים להתמודד עם השאלות הקשות. להרבה אנשים לא תמיד נוח עם תנועות פורצי דרך הדורשות שינוי. אנשים אוהבים את הנוחיות של המוכר גם אם אפילו הוא לא נוח.

היו בטוחים כי יש רבים השואלים את אותן השאלות, אם כי מעטים מוכנים לעלות על הדרך כדי למצוא תשובות. אל תיתנו לזה להרתיע אותכם.

אל תסתבכו עם התיאוריות. אני זוכר שיחה עם סדן לפני כמה שנים על מקומה של התורה בחיי המאמינים. שאלתי אותו איך הוא יכול להאמין כי עלינו לשמור את התורה, כאשר למעשה הוא יודע כי יש מצוות רבות שאנחנו לא יכולים לקיים היום כאשר אין כהונה ולא בית המקדש וכו'. הוא אמר לי, "אני לא יודע. אני פשוט עושה את מה שאני יכול.  אני עושה כמיטב הבנתי." אהבתי את התשובה כי ככה זה בחיים ובכל מסע. אנחנו מעדיפים תשובות ברורות לכל שאלה, אבל לא תמיד אנחנו מסוגלים להבין עד הסוף. תפתחו את הזהות שלכם במשיח לא רק על ידי לימוד דיאלוג ותאוריות, אלה גם על ידי יישום מעשים של מה שאתם כבר יודעים. אדם חייב ליישם את מה שכבר למד על מנת לשמר את מה שקיבל ולהתקדם במסע.  תורה ללא פועל נשארת רק תיאוריה.

לפני שלושים שנה כאשר הייתי מאמין צעיר לעתים קרובות תהיתי אם זה היה נכון עבורי לשרת בצבא. כן, תתפלאו לשמוע שלא מעט מאיתנו התמודדנו קשות עם השאלה: האם תלמיד של ישוע המשיח, שהוא אהבת האלוהים המושלמת שנתן את חייו למען החוטאים,  יכול להרוג בני אדם אחרים? הקדשתי הרבה שנים של לימוד ודיאלוג ליישב את התשובה בלב שלי. ובמשך השנים אף אחד מן האחים האחרים לא הטיל ספק בנאמנותי למדינה או לאלוהי ישראל. זו היתה שאלה לגיטימית עבור רבים מאיתנו והבנו כי חשוב לנו לאפשר זה לזה את המרחב ואת הזמן להגיע למסקנות שלנו. אתם גם חייבים להיות סבלניים אחד עם השני בתהליך.

אנחנו לא תמיד היינו סובלניים, וזה גרם לבעיות חמורות. כאשר לא נותנים מרחב לאחרים להגיע למסקנות שלהם ואנשים לא טורחים לקחת את הזמן כדי להגיע למסקנות משל עצמם, הרבה פשוט הולכים יחד עם הקהל. המצב הזה יוצר מאמינים שטחיים שאינם מסוגלים להעיד או להגן על אמונתם. בכל מצב של לחץ או משבר, המאמינים האלה לא יודעים לעמוד.

חוסר הסובלנות גרם גם למחלוקות בנינו. כאשר אנשים בחיפזון קופצים על מסקנות מהירות, ולא יכולים להגן כראוי על עמדתם, הם נוטים להשתמש בכעס, כוחניות או אפילו דמוניזציה של אלה שלא מסכימים איתם. הם לא מספיק בטוחים בעמדתם כדי להתמודד עם המאתגרים את דעתם. זה יצר קונפליקטים ומחלוקות קשות בגוף המשיח.

כאשר אנחנו לוקחים לעצמנו ונותנים לאחרים את הזמן ללמוד ולחשוב לעומק על הנושאים, מוכנים לנהל דו שיח ודיאלוג עם אחרים ומגיעים למסקנות שלנו על בסיס של אמונה אישית, נוכל גם להקשיב לאחרים בלי להתרגז. אנחנו יכולים להיות סבלניים עם אחרים משום שאנו יודעים כי כולנו בתהליך הדרך אל האמת.

ההבנה כי האמונה היא מסע ושכולנו בדרך עוזרת לנו להעריך אחד את השני וללמוד אחד מהשני. אני מתפלל כי כולנו, צעירים ומבוגרים, נמשיך במסע החשוב הזה של גילוי הזהות היהודית שלנו במשיח בקרב עמנו בסבלנות, סובלנות ואומץ לב. "עד כי נגיע כולנו אל אחדות האמונה ואחדות ידיעת האלוהים, אל האדם השלם, אל שעור קומתו המלא של המשיח."

“The wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest…”  Isa. 57:20

Even as I sat down to write this, five more “urgent warnings” about the situation surrounding Israel dropped into my inbox. Some are even prophesying World War 3, Armeggedon or Kingdom come!

Do we really need to be so agitated by this deluge of anti-Israel campaigns in Europe, Egypt, Turkey, Durban, the UN Council on Palestinian statehood or wherever? Maybe I've lived in Israel too long, but it seems to me that just like the sea, this reoccurring turbulence against the Jewish nation will only continue to rise and fall like waves. Fickle, these raging passions driven by storms of hatred are out of control, erratic and choppy. Like a storm at sea they will never reach any salient point of landing, but will only cause some turbulence.

The only way to cross a raging sea is to keep an even keel. It is useless to try and fight the swells and riptides which cannot be foreseen. Like a skilled surfer we just need to wait in expectation for yet another wave and ride it out. Let's not lose our heads and wipe out over just another tide change.

I hear many voices passionately trying to convince these nay-saying Israel bashers with logic or moral arguments. Have we forgotten the wisdom of Solomon, “Though you grind a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, yet his foolishness will not depart from him.” Throwing money and resources into protests or flashy media campaigns is not going to change their minds. Sometimes I wonder if we only do it to appease our own weak conscious. 

Let us not allow these tumultuous winds of accusations, lies and false narratives to shift our focus away from where we need to be going.  We would do well to wait out these storms which will pass and invest our resources in inspiring our young people with a moral and universal vision of a Jewish nation as a light to the gentiles. Spending time listening to and arguing with the commotion around us will only distract us and distraction is a strategy to wear us down. Tired saints are easy prey.  

Good captains know how to keep a ship on course riding the waves with as little resistance as possible. Fighting waves head on smashing against the bottom only damages the ship and wastes energies needed to keep sailing.

Isaiah is telling us that like the sea, the wicked can never be at rest. The Hebrew is stronger than our translation. It means that there is nopossibility of its being at rest; it is unable to be still. The Septuagint renders it, 'But the wicked are tossed like waves, and are not able to be at rest.' They will never be at peace. The best we can do is learn to ride out these storms.

If history is any indication we can be assured that all this turmoil will eventually backfire and only further Israel’s strength and presence in the Land. I remember how just about a year ago the Europeans were putting pressure on Israel to make a deal with Syria over the Golan Heights. Even the Americans entered the foray looking for some easy come politically correct fodder. How foolish such an idea sounds today.

Facts on the ground will determine the outcome of all of this, not more lame attempts and deceptive rhetoric by Arab nations opposed to a Jewish state trying to destroy us. Even the devious push for Palestinian statehood will only further entrench Gaza and the West Bank into its own violent quagmire. I should rather expect some surprising turn of events in the near future.

When the waves are biggest, I put my head down and dive under where it is calm and quiet and let them roll right over. The only way they can hurt me is if I stand up and try to resist. As kids we used to love the old rhyme, “stick and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.” Or as the Psalmist said, "Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46

Rather than getting all riled up, I would recommend meditating on Psalm 46 (notice the references to water). Hey, if God is with us, who can be against us?

 1 God is our refuge and strength,
   an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
   and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
   and the mountains quake with their surging.
 4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
   the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
   God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
   he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
 7 The LORD Almighty is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our fortress.
 8 Come and see what the LORD has done,
   the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease
   to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
   he burns the shields with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
   I will be exalted among the nations,
   I will be exalted in the earth.”
 11 The LORD Almighty is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our fortress.                          
Sunday, 25 September 2011 12:22

L'Shana Tova

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Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), which begins on Wednesday evening at sunset,  and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) next Friday night are the holiest days in the Jewish calendar. During these ten days of awe, we Jews celebrate the New Year, but also reflect on past misdeeds and resolve to do better.
 
While positive resolutions to do better are commendable, the process of Teshuvah (repentance) is not based on the human emotional need for improvement. It is the realization that our purpose in this world is to serve a higher being to the best of our abilities. Walking in Teshuvah means humbly acknowledging our weaknesses and sin, as we turn back to goodness, back to God. 

On Rosh Hashanah, we recognize that change is not only necessary, but possible. Listen to the U'Netaneh Tokef,  one of the only prayers recited on both Rosh Ha’Shana as well as Yom Kippur, and the best known prayer after Kol Nidrei:
 
"Let us now relate the power of this day's holiness, for it is awesome and frightening. On it Your Kingship will be exalted; Your throne will be firmed with kindness and You will sit upon it in truth. It is true that You alone are the One Who judges, proves, knows, and bears witness….”
 
In the Jewish tradition we perceive repentance as not only regret for past failings, but a deep commitment to make things right going forward. We understand prayer as lifting our voices high and, as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel taught, "praying with our feet" by getting involved in helping those in need.
 
This September 28th at sundown Jewish communities around the world will begin our celebration of Rosh Hashanah, a new year and the start of ten "Days of Awe," a period of reflection on the past year and a declaration of our hopes for the year ahead, concluding with the fast of Yom Kippur.
 
May you know the strength of a living relationship with a loving God for a Blessed New Year.
 
L'shana Tova!
Tuesday, 18 October 2011 09:16

A nation, a people, a family

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What a day in Israel. The entire nation is weeping with joy as we watch a brave young soldier embrace his father after five years in captivity. Our hearts are jumping as this skinny kid from a small village in the North salutes our Prime Minister, Chief of Staff and heads back home for the holidays.
 
What kind of a people releases a thousand murders just to get back one young boy? What nation willingly risks the very real danger of a thousand killers attacking again so that one young kid can return to his parents?
 
Where is the logic in all of this?
 
This is not logical, this is Israel. Gilad is all of our sons and daughters. We are a nation family where everyone of us is a soldier, has a soldier. We have embraced Gilad because we are all Gilad Shalit.
 
Gilad is why our kids are willing to fight for this country. They know deep down that they belong to a nation family that will risk its life to save every son and daughter. Our children understand that ten thousand terrorists cannot take away our love for them. When our kids go into the battle they are not fighting for ideals or patriotism or politics. They are fighting for their families, their brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers. Thank God that our children have experienced the solidarity of the Jewish nation that has survived for over 5000 years. Am Yisrael Chai is not just a song it is a reality that cannot be changed.
 
The bold decision to put at risk an entire nation for the sake of just one soldier is what it means to be a Jew and an Israeli. Let Hamas and the radical Muslims sing and dance in the streets as their murdersreturn, they are only pounding a hole deeper into their fearful, dark and hellish existence. They are falling even deeper into madness.
 
Let us rejoice in this that God has not allowed us to become like our enemies. By this act of overcoming vengeance and fear we have once again chosen to sanctify life, our families and the hearts of our children who cry out for love and meaning in a desperate and cold world.
 
God bless Israel.
Saturday, 17 December 2011 10:59

Let Your Little Light Shine

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The little wax candle was becoming impatient waiting in the drawer all year since last Hanuka. He was waiting for his turn, but now that it was already the seventh day hope was all but gone. The family had bought a shiny new menorah with oil lamps.
 
Suddenly he heard the drawer open and his hopes rose again. However, the children were not looking for a Hanukah candle tonight as they sang, “Sivivon, sov sov sov Hanukah hu hag tov….” They were looking for the Dradel.

The little candle thought to himself, “I wish I were a Sivivon and not a candle.” So he made a Hanukah wish, "God make me a Sivivon please.”
 
When the youngest child opened the drawer to look for a Sivivon everyone told him that they were already gone. But now that the candle had turned into a Sivivon the little child shouted, “Look, there is a Sivivon for me after all!”
 
As the children played they began to win Hanuka Gelt coins and wanted to run out and buy candies with their money. The little Sivivon that was a candle said to himself, “I made a mistake. I should have asked to be a coin and not a Sivivon.” So he said, “God make me a Hanuka wish and make me a coin, not a Sivivon.”
 
The littlest child looked down and there was a shiny new coin on the floor. “O, look, there is also a Hanuka Gelt for me!”
 
As the children ran to go out the door to buy some candy they smelt something wonderful coming from the kitchen. What can that be?
 
Putting their coins into their pockets they ran into the kitchen and there was a pile of fresh Sufganeot. The coin in the child’s pocket that once was a Sivivon that was a candle said to himself  “I made a mistake. Everybody loves the Sufganeot. I should have asked to be a Sufganea.” Suddenly, there on top of the pile was a fresh Sufganea with all the jelly coming out.
 
As the children reached out to take one the mother said, “No, no we must first light the Hanukah candles. Come over here.”
 
So they left the kitchen and went with the mother to the salon and sat down in front of the Hanukia as mother told them the story of Hanukah.
 
She told of how the King Antiochus commanded the Jews not to pray to God anymore or keep the Shabbat or circumcise their sons the eighth day. How he went into the Temple and put out the Menorah light and put an idol in there.
 
How Judah Macabee stood up to him and fought the Greeks and won the temple back so the people could pray again.
 
That there was no oil for the light in the temple and when they were just about out of hope they found a little oil, maybe enough for one day. Yet when they lit it the Menorah burned for eight days, enough time to make more oil.
 
She told them that we light these Hanukah lamps now to show that we remember the miracle—the miracle that let us be who we are.
 
Then the mother said the blessing and lit a match to light the new oil menorah.“O it’s hard to get the match down into the oil,” she said. “I burnt my finger. I need a candle to be able to light this Hanukia.  I need a Shamash, a servant candle.”
 
She looked in the drawer. “Strange, I thought there was one Hanukah candle leftin the drawer.”

Then the Sufgania, the one that had been the coin, that had been the Sivivon, that had been the Hanukah candle said, “O, I made a mistake. All my wishes were wrong. O God please turn me back into a Hanuka candle”
 
Then the youngest child said, “Hey look! I found the Hanukah candle. What’s it doing here on top of the Sufganeot!”
 
That night the little candle was lit and spread its light to all eight Hanukah lights which lit up and warmed the whole family.
 
The Shamash can spread its light in darkness if we can just be who we are meant to be. That's the real light that really makes us shine.
 
Adapted from an ancient Hanukah story.
Tuesday, 05 June 2012 03:23

Finish the cities of Israel?

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What did Yeshua mean when he said, "You will not finish the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes?" Let's take a closer look at Matthew 10:23 to understand.

The Gospel of Matthew is organized into 5 thematic discourses. The second of these, Mt. 9:35—11:1, describes the Mission Charge to the Twelve. Chapter 10 can be broken down as follows: Disciples are briefed on mission to “lost sheep of Israel” 10:1-5; Warned of future trouble 10:16-25; Exhorted to not be afraid 10:26-33; Told about divisions 10:34-39; Promised rewards 10:40-42.

The section containing verse 23 is concerned with the troubles and tribulations facing the disciples. While this verse is unique to Matthew, it comes at the end of a section paralleled almost word for word in Mark 13:9-13. However, the context in Mark is not Missions as in Mt. 10 but the Second Coming and the signs of the end times. A common thread which ties together these two themes (Missions and Second Coming) is the fact that the tribulation and persecutions suffered by the early disciples accounted for the spreading of the gospel from “town to town.” This also resulted in spreading the witness beyond Israel to both rulers and Gentiles (see Mt. 10:18; Mk. 13:9,10).

There is another connection between the Mission Charge and Eschatological Events. Mt. 10:17-23 is closely paralleled in Mt. 24:9-14 in his discourse on the end times. In fact, Mt. 10:22 is found word for word in Mt. 24:9b, 13. Notice once again the missions theme included in both the eschatological discourse (Mt. 24:14) and the commissioning story (Mt. 10). This Eschatological/Missions theme may shed light on a proper understanding of vs. 23.

When they persecute you in one town, flee to another”
Fleeing from town to town was a sign of the end times. It is the language of tribulation and is here due to the persecution of the believers. R. Eliezer (Ben Hyrcanus), a first century rabbi, says “with the coming of Messiah… the people shall go about from city to city with no one to show pity on them…” (m. Sotah 9:15; t. Sanh.49a). Interestingly enough this Mishnaic passage is an exposition of Micah 7:6 quoted here in Mt. 10:21, 35-36.

Aware of the persecution and dispersion of the early Kehila, Matthew (A.D. 50-60?) recognizes the advantage this effects on the spread of the gospel. This may have inspired him to combine the teachings on tribulation and persecution with his theme on the Mission to Israel.  In any event Matthew intermingles the spread of the gospel with persecutions (10:17-24) and moving from town to town.  “From town to town” is a major theme within the commissioning story and characterized the mission of Yeshua (9:35;11:1) and of the Twelve (10:5,11,14,15,23).


“You will not finish the cities of Israel”
The meaning of the aorist subj. “telesate” (you will finish) is difficult. The second person plural clearly relates to the Twelve; but, what will they not finish? Finish preaching? Finish all the towns? Finish being persecuted? The immediate context of verse 21-24 is concerned with the persecutions and tribulations of the believers. However, as noted the wider context is concerned with both persecutions and the spread of the gospel. Furthermore, the disciples were moving from town to town and so the NIV translates “you will not finish going through the cities of Israel.” This translation is reflected in the modern translation of the Hebrew NT as well and may very well represent the sense of the meaning of the verb “telesate” here. It should be understood however that the disciples were both persecuted and preaching as they went “through the cities of Israel.”  A dynamic translation of  this portion of the verse could be “you will not finish going through the cities of Israel being persecuted and spreading the gospel....until the Son of Man comes”

“Until the Son of Man comes”
The coming of the Son of Man raises important questions. Did Yeshua mean it in a temporal sense whereby the coming of the Son of Man will be at the time when the disciples have “finished” the cities? Latter variants of the verse reveal that some church fathers were troubled by this saying because in effect the Apostles had finished going through the cities of Israel yet Yeshua hadn’t returned. The earliest is a forth century Armenian manuscript attributing the text to Diatessaron (second century).  The variant reads, “if they persecute you out of one city flee to another, and if they persecute you out of that city flee to another.” In this way the verse can be understood to mean that “You will not finish the cities of Israel (as places of refuge) until the Son of Man comes.” In other words the Apostles would be kept in safety until the time that Yeshua returns.

Others have understood it to mean that “the Son of Man’s coming will occur before the mission to Israel is completed” (Anchor Bible). In this way the verse is commonly used to support Jewish evangelism with the understanding that the mission to Israel is not complete until Yeshua returns. The verse is translated “You will not finish the mission to Israel until the Son of Man will come.”

Although there are some good reasons to interpret the verse in this way there are some problems. To begin with the verb “finish “ is directed specifically to the Twelve in the context of going through the cities of Israel persecuted and preaching. Can we extend this to all disciples through time?

Or perhaps the meaning is that the Second Coming of Messiah is contingent upon completing the mission to Israel. In other words the verse is translated, “When you finish the mission to Israel then the Son of Man will come.”

The idea that Yeshua intended this verse to mean that he will return when his disciples complete the mission to Israel also proposes problems. Was Messiah’s intention to get the Apostles to hastily evangelize  the Jews so that he could return? “Come on, get going. You know that I am not coming back until you finish this mission to Israel.” Hard to imagine that this is the intention here. This understanding  creates a number of problems such as; preaching a superficial message in order to get numbers of  conversions, attempting to manipulate prophecy, extremes such as the Messiah Now movements or other deviations of bringing Messiah by keeping Shabbat etc.

So whether Yeshua meant ”the Son of Man will not come until you finish the cities of Israel” as “you cannot have your desert until you finish your dinner” or “before you even finish your dinner you can have your desert” we need to try and grasp the impact these words had on the Apostles.

The coming of the Son of Man was not a teaching about time sequences or order of events need not be understood in a strictly temporal sense.  Yeshua and all the Prophets spoke about His coming as the Son of Man in terms of its qualities and not its schedule.

The concept of the coming of the Son of Man has its earliest expression in Daniel chapter 7. Here it is clearly a coming in judgment. The idea of coming in judgment is also reflected in the intertestimental period in both IV Ezra and I Enoch (Tdot 96). In the NT and in Matthew’s Gospel the coming of the Son of Man is definitely a coming in judgment and is tied to rewards and punishments (Mt. 16:27; 25:31). Matthew in chapter 10 also ties in the impending judgments upon those who reject the message of the gospel (vs. 15,33), together with the rewards available to the obedient (vs. 22,32,40-42).
It is also a coming in the midst of persecutions (Mt. 24:9ff) and tribulation (24:15ff).  The central affirmation of the coming of the Son of Man for the disciples is the “promise of an end of affliction as they flee the persecution.” (Colpe).  It was a message to those experiencing tribulation. It conveyed a promise of relief to the afflicted. The coming of the Son of Man emphasized the imminence of deliverance in the coming Kingdom and would hold forth great hope to one who is apprehended by Sanhedrin, synagogue or Gentile authority (Mt. 10:17), or those experiencing the great tribulations of those days (vs. 21-2).

The promise of the Son of Man encouraged the disciples and gave them hope. It was an exhortation not to give up but “to stand firm to the end” (vs. 22b). It helped the disciples put their mission in proper perspective. It didn’t mean that they must hurry up and quickly spread the message because the Lord is coming right back, rather they should be alert and aware of the reality, the at-handedness of God’s judgment, His punishment and rewards. They should be willing to leave all worldly possessions (vs. 9-10), families (vs. 37), take up their cross and follow Yeshua (vs. 38). It is an exhortation to be awake and aware of the closeness and reality of God’s visitation. This word of exhortation, this promise of deliverance and hope is then followed naturally by the encouragement in vs. 26-31 “so do not be afraid of them… .”

This same pattern is found in Mt. 24:9-19 and its parallels. In the midst of great distress and tribulation there is a promise that “he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (vs. 13). It is interesting that Matthew also concludes this section with “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come (vs. 14). A saying similar in meaning to the Mt. 10:23 passage. Both of these verses (10:23; 24:14) are unique to Matthew, both appear in the context of persecutions and tribulation, and both are concerned with preaching the gospel in the end times.

The Son of Man’s coming gives the Apostles a reason o press on. It is hope in troubled times, not a dispensational plot whereby they can force the Second Coming by completing the Jewish Mission.  He wants them to grasp the significance of the Mission to the Jews as it relates to the End Times, to invest in a quality Mission worthy of total commitment and the courage necessary to fulfill the Mission in troubled times.

So a Lazarus interpretation of Mt.  10:23 might look something like this.
“When you are persecuted as you preach the Good News to the Jewish People, you can flee to another city in Israel, but when it gets really tough don’t leave the country, as some have just because it is so hard. I explained to you that you must stay here and keep bringing the message to Israel because these are my brothers and sisters and it is right that we honor family first, though eventually these persecutions (not honorariums) will force some you out of Israel so that and you can bring the Good News to the Gentiles as well. I cannot emphasis this any more than to say to you Amen, my highly esteemed Apostles, that even before you have gone through the towns of Israel preaching the Good News as I commanded you,  and as you continue to suffer the persecutions and tribulations you are even now experiencing, that the Son of Man will come. He will come in judgement on all those wrong doers that are troubling you and he will come to reward you for all you are doing for my name’s sake. He will deliver you from all these troubles. So don’t worry. Be bold. Rise up and take risks for the sake of the message you carry. You have nothing to lose and so much to gain. Do not be afraid of those who are laughing at you or despise you because you are following me. Let me be the judge of what is right and wrong. You just keep doing what is good and don’t loss heart just because it seems like things are not going well. In fact, I am going to use the insecurities you experience of being pushed around and rejected and all the other troubles you are going through to further spread the Good News to places and people you could never even imagine. So keep your heads up, your hearts encouraged and put your hands to the plow even if you get kicked around. Believe me, I know what it’s like. Stop trying to make believe that it is going to be easy trying to convince our people to believe (Believe me I know it’s tough. I’ve been at it a long time!). Just because it is hard don’t water down the message. That will only make things worse. Uphold the truth and press on with the message because in the end everything is going to be put right.  My dear Jewish Disciples the Son of Man himself is coming for you. Don’t ever forget that. From the beginning all the prophets told you so that at times like this you wouldn't give up. And I will come for you. How can I leave you alone? It is for me, and for the sake of our beloved Israel that you are laying down your lives and going through all these troubles. And not only for our people Israel, but even for the whole world. Hang in there, the best is yet to come.” 
Sunday, 08 July 2012 11:51

The Politics of Prayer

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The current debate over who can be exempted from military service is once again threatening to bring down Israel’s three-month-old unity government. The question as to whether or not Haredi Jewish men should serve in the military which first came up during the 1948 Israeli War of Independence has never been resolved. Avoiding the issue all these years has not helped. It’s only getting worse.
 
It allbegan when Prime Minister David Ben Gurion allowed 400 Haredi Jews a special exemption from military service “so that they could give themselves to study Torah and prayer.” The ruling was called “Torato Omanuto” from a Talmudic phrase meaning “Torah study is their occupation.” It allowed some Haradi to commit to prayer while most Jews would go out to the battle. The concept even launched the popular “Tehilim neged Tellim” (Psalms against rockets) campaign.
 
As innocent as it appeared, Ben Gurion’s ruling was not all about religion. As so often happens in modern democracies political realities often take precedent over moral convictions. Ben Gurion was struggling to hold onto his divided coalition of secular and religious parties in a nation that was at war. He also needed a unified front to plead for statehood before the fateful 1948 UN vote. Exempting a few yeshiva students from military service was a small price to pay for a coalition.
 
The exemption created more than a prayer. It laid down an entire new paradigm for political jockeying --  the 11th commandment of Israel’s social consciousness -- the “status quo.” The decision to adapt a political compromise instead of address the underlying conflict has left the issue of military exemptions unresolved for over 60 years. Until 2012 when 15% of Israeli youth became eligible for “Torah occupation.”
 
Large segments of Israeli society are now boiling over with anger that so many Haredi Jews do not contribute to the military. They claim that these large numbers of exemptions was never the intention of the original ruling. Haredi are threatening to split the government claiming that they have every right to preserve the “status quo.” The underground fuels feeding this conflict for decades have now reached a boiling point threatening more than just the new unity government. They are tearing at the very fabric of Israeli society.
 
Preserving national unity is never easy. Even in biblical times Israel’s leaders struggled to keep the nation together in times of  war and crisis. Like Ben Gurion Moses long ago allowed exemptions for men going out to war. Moses understood well the need to recognize extenuating circumstances to keep the men motivated. Deuteronomy chapter 20 reads, “A man who has just built a house…, planted a field…, or engaged a bride…, should not go out to battle.” By showing compassion for his men Moses leads the whole nation to fight together to protect their “home, family and field.”
 
Moses takes it even further. “What man is there fearful and fainthearted… let him go and return to his house, lest the heart of his brethren faint like his heart.” There is a point at which it is no longer beneficial to keep someone in the army. Bad apples can spoil the whole bunch.
 
Moses understood the need to preserve national unity in the face of mortal enemies by appealing to the peoples sense of common interests and mutual respect. Modern Israel has gotten itself trapped in a political maze of common self interests and mutual contempt.
 
Clearly there is no simple answer. Maybe it’s time we look beyond pragmatic political expediency and find a way forward by learning from the past. Perhaps it’s time we all became a little more Torah occupied?

Dad always said that you need to stand up to a bully. “Bullies don’t back off until they taste your fist in their mouth,” he said.

The other day our neighborhood bully came walking down the street just past my house. From a mile away I could see that he was looking for trouble. And he was headed for me. I decided I’d try Dad’s advice and stand up to him this time. “You come any closer and I’ll punch you in the nose,” I shouted from across the street. “Ha,” he shouted back, “I’ll take you apart you little squirt.”

To be honest I wasn’t sure what to do. I wanted to stand up to this jerk, but was it worth taking a beating?

That’s when I noticed my uncle looking on.  Now Sam is huge. He’s like 6 foot 5 and works out a lot. He’s got huge muscles and though he walks and talks like a nice guy he can be pretty intimidating. If he wants to. “Moshe,” he shouts down to me, “is that guy giving you a hard time?” I explained to him how the neighborhood bully was threatening to come over and punch me out. I told him that Dad said I needed to stand up to bullies. “Maybe I should walk across the street and show him I’m not afraid,” I told my uncle.

“Let’s just see what he does first,” Sam said. “If he walks across the street and throws a punch I’ll make sure he doesn’t hurt you,” he said.  “Gee that’s really nice Uncle,” I said, “but I’m sick and tired of this guy bullying me all the time. Who knows when he might come after me again? I even heard that he’s working out and only getting stronger,” I told him.

So back and forth we stood there arguing with one another on our side of the street. We argued so long it got dark. So dark that we could no longer see each other anymore. Nor could we see that the neighborhood bully was watching. We could only hear him snickering in the dark.

To all my dear friends feeling the need to blame President Obama for the recent Mideast violence. Beware.  This is a dangerous tactic that will undermine your own nation and does nothing to prevent further violence.

Muslim violence is not going away any time soon. It is not a Democratic, Republican or even American problem.  Islamic radicals kill and maim senselessly in practically every nation around the world.

Consider this. Blaming your own nation’s leaders unintentionally justifies the terrorists. It puts the blame on someone else.

Did you ever consider why no one wanted to put the blame on President Bush’s policies for what happened on 9/11?  It is because the culprit is not a president or a policy. It is because when your nation is attacked you unite against the enemy, you don’t blame each other.

It is because neither Republicans nor Democrats can prevent Islamic violence. Blaming your own government only divides you against the enemy. Using the murder of an American Ambassador by radical, hate filled Muslims to get your candidate elected harms your own cause.

As an Israeli who has lived through more war and terror than I care to recall I plead with you to stop blaming your own people and stand united against the real enemy.

Evil will not succeed in the end of the day. Radical Muslims are only digging a deeper grave for themselves. People or nations committed to hatred, destruction, violence and lies do not have a future. They build nothing, only tear down. You need to be strong and confident in faith in what is good. You need  courage to fight your enemies, not your own people.

I remember hearing similar criticism of my own government just before Rabin was assassinated. I understand your frustrations with Obama and your passion for the right vote in the upcoming elections. For this I commend you. We pray for you. God willing one day you may get some reprieve from this modern day global pestilence, but what you cannot get away from is learning to live with one another.

During these Days of Awe search your hearts and beware of the enemy within. For in the long run it is a far more lethal danger.

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