Sunday, December 10, 2017

Israel and The Church

There are two main views regarding the relationship between Israel and the Church. They are Replacement Theology and Dispensationalism. Replacement Theology is defined by Matt Slick posting on the CARM (Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry) website as "the teaching that the Christian church has replaced national Israel regarding the plan, purpose, and promises of God." In other words, Israel has lost its "chosen people" status and it no longer has any future place in God's redemptive plan. Dispensationalism is defined also by Matt Slick as "an approach to biblical interpretation which states that God uses different means of working with people (Israel and the Church) during different periods of history." In this perspective, God still has a plan for Israel, but Israel and the Church are two separate entities. However, neither of these approaches satisfies the Biblical record completely.

I would like to posit a very different view that I hope will one day pervade the Christian church.

Isaiah 2:1-4 (KJV) 
1 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD'S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

This passage is describing earth at the end of the ages, as seen in a vision by the prophet Isaiah. The nations will be judged and there will no longer be any war. God's temple will be established on Mount Zion and many people will suggest going up to the mountain, to the temple of Israel, to be taught God's ways, so that they would walk in His paths. For surely, the Torah of the Lord goes forth from Jerusalem. Any attempt at suggesting this passage should be taken in an allegorical way defies the plain meaning of the text. There is no reason to believe that it means anything except what it flat out says. This passage and so many others in the Bible reflect the same understanding, that Israel will always be God's chosen people. The church has not replaced Israel.

Paul also confirms this in Romans.

Romans 11:1 (KJV)
1 I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.

He also wrote:

Romans 9:6 (KJV)
6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:

Paul was saying that Israel can really mean two separate entities. The first is that Israel exists as a nation or an ethnicity. However, Paul went on to say that not all Israel (the national or ethnic identity) is Israel (another Israel?).

Romans 11:17 (KJV)
17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;

Paul spoke here about Gentiles being grafted into Israel. He can't be speaking about national or ethnic Israel because when we are born again, we don't become Jewish first. We stay as Gentiles. Yet, we are grafted into Israel. What Israel? This Israel consists of the believers. Consequently, the Dispensationalists keep Israel and the church as separate groups. Paul's definition of the Israel contradicts this. The believing remnant of Israel and the Gentiles that have been grafted in comprise Paul's second definition of Israel. Basically, if you are a believer in Yeshua, you are a part of Israel.

It is my hope that in time, we will understand that there is only one group of believers and they are called Israel. This is not to say that Israel as a nation or as an ethnicity doesn't have a place in God's plans, but the sharp divide between Israel and the church is equally misguided.   

Monday, November 20, 2017

Thanksgiving and Sukkot

Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers!!!

As we gather with family and friends this year, let's be sure to remember why we celebrate Thanksgiving. It is not for all the fabulous food, the football, the time off work, or Black Friday deals, but rather a time to think about all of God's blessings to us, especially His provision, and the love of family and friends. It is a time to thank Him!

This year I have heard and read a lot about how the Pilgrims' Thanksgiving was inspired by the feast of Sukkot (Tabernacles or Booths), so I explored this in a little more depth. While some researchers claimed a substantial relationship between the two holidays, others seemed to dismiss the idea. What is the truth?

First of all, Thanksgiving, as a national holiday, was instituted with President Lincoln's declaration in 1863. It wasn't until 1941 that Congress established that Thanksgiving was to be held every year on the fourth Thursday of November. So, the Thanksgiving that the Pilgrims celebrated was not meant to be the precursor of an annual holiday, although, the inspiration for the national holiday was indeed the Pilgrim's celebration.  Likely, the Pilgrims did not celebrate on a yearly basis since they rejected the Catholic idea of fixed holidays throughout the year. Celebration stemmed from events that warranted special treatment.

Yet, there is some correlation between the Pilgrims' perspectives of themselves and the Israelites' exodus from Egypt. When the Pilgrims left Holland, they left because of the liberal influence that Holland had on the congregation, especially the young. They wanted to flee from these influences and felt that starting off in a new land would be the ideal way to create a kind of "new world." They were going on an Exodus, heading for the Promised Land.

This view that the Pilgrims had of themselves did not mean that they followed the whole Torah. They observed the "moral" law but felt that the "ceremonial" laws were no longer applicable. Consequently, they did not observe any of the feasts of the Lord, like Sukkot. However, their view did lend itself to understanding that the Jewish observance of Sukkot was an expression of thanksgiving.

Leviticus 23:39-43 (KJV)
39 Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the LORD seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath.
40 And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days.
41 And ye shall keep it a feast unto the LORD seven days in the year. It shall be a statute for ever in your generations: ye shall celebrate it in the seventh month.
42 Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths:
43 That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

The Pilgrims realized that the Israelites living in booths for seven days was a reminder of the hardships of the Exodus, but the accompanying joy of the feast represented the hope of the Promised Land.

Was the original Pilgrim Thanksgiving inspired by Sukkot? Although we may not have a definitive answer, there does appear to be enough evidence to think it a possibility.

Please see: toriavey.com/toris-kitchen/sukkot-the-harvest-holiday/
                   www.jns.org/latest-articles/2013/8/19/did-sukkot-help-shape-thanksgiving

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Lost Sheep of Israel

Sometimes in reading the Bible, we are confronted with elements that are confusing, a theology that seems to conflict with another theology, and behavior that defies explanation. One such passage is the following:

Matthew 15:21-28 (KJV)

21 Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.
22 And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.
23 But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.
24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
25 Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.
26 But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs.
27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.
28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour. 

Aren't we told that Yeshua had come to be the Savior of the world? Yet, in Matthew 15 we are surprised with Yeshua initially turning His back on the needs of a Canaanite woman. He then told her and the disciples that He had only been sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Finally, after much persistence, Yeshua granted the woman's request and made much ado about her faith.

What are we to think of this account? Let's look a little closer! In verse 21 we see that Yeshua had gone into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, two Gentile cities north of Israel. This very act seems to counter Yeshua's own claim about being sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. What would He be doing in a Gentile area?

Mark 7:24 (KJV)
24 And from thence he arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and entered into an house, and would have no man know it: but he could not be hid. 

Mark's version of this account placed Yeshua not in the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, but on the borders of this area. Although this may clarify that Yeshua was not necessarily going into a completely Gentile territory, it seems certain that Yeshua was intending to come into contact with at least this one Gentile woman. She cried out to Him, calling Him the Son of David, and pleaded with Him regarding her daughter that was vexed with a devil (verse 22).

Strangely, Yeshua ignored her (verse 23). The disciples then asked Yeshua to send the woman away because of her crying out after them. In response, Yeshua informed both the woman and His disciples that He had been sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (verse 24). The woman persisted, worshipped Him, and made her request again (verse 25). Yeshua then relegated this woman to an inferior position by calling those of Israel, the children, while she and the Gentiles collectively, were referred to as dogs (verse 26). She persisted again, not by disagreeing with Yeshua, but by wisdom noted that the dogs ate the crumbs from the masters' table (verse 27). At that point, Yeshua exclaimed that the woman's faith was great and that He would heal her daughter (verse 28).

Even from this account, we see hints of God's future ministry that would include Gentiles.

Matthew 28:19 (KJV)
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 

But what can we make of Yeshua's behavior towards the woman? He intentionally went into that particular area, treated the woman very harshly, and yet, healed her daughter. The only conclusion possible is that this whole incident was a setup, a test of faith for this Canaanite woman. Obviously, she passed the test, she demonstrated her faith and received what she requested. 

It makes sense that Yeshua needed to ground His ministry in Judaism before the Gentiles completely overran it. Today we have a situation where Christians and Jews are viewed as belonging to separate religions. But, if Yeshua had not primarily been sent to the lost sheep of Israel, would we Gentiles have held to the Old Testament at all? Would we even recognize that Christianity came out of Judaism? Would there be any Judeo-Christian understanding of morals and values? Probably not!

However, this account of the Canaanite woman and Yeshua's dealings with other Gentiles emphasize the faith that these Gentiles had. Why did Yeshua go out of His way to connect with these Gentiles at this point of His ministry?

Romans 11:17 (KJV)
17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; 

Paul tells us in Romans that Gentiles are grafted into Israel by grace through faith. Yeshua knew this Canaanite woman "hidden" in the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, was one of His. He went to find her. She was one of the lost sheep of Israel.

This passage of Matthew emphasizes that sometimes our confusions are due to our not completely understanding all sides of an issue. Definitely, the Bible is complex, but Yeshua's only being sent to the lost sheep of Israel was by no means an exclusion of Gentiles. Not only would the ministry expand to Gentiles, but any and all Gentiles that wanted to follow Yeshua were allowed!


Sunday, November 5, 2017

What's the Big Deal About Eating Bread with Unwashed Hands Part 2

Please see part 1

The second part of Yeshua's confrontation with the scribes and Pharisees over the disciples eating bread with unwashed hands begins with Mark 7:14.

Mark 7:14-23 (KJV)
14 And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand:
15 There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.
16 If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.
17 And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable.
18 And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him;
19 Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?
20 And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.
21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:
23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

At this point, Yeshua gathered the multitude to hear and understand what He was about to teach regarding the eating of bread with unwashed hands (verse 14). He plainly explained that what is taken into the body cannot defile a man, or in other words, make him spiritually unclean. It is what comes from the man that causes defilement (verse 15).

The disciples then requested that Yeshua explain His statement (verse 17). Although Yeshua reprimanded the disciples for lacking in understanding (After all, He only had a limited amount of time before His disciples needed to be ready to take over His ministry), He complied and began His explanation (verse 18). Verse 19, without the embellishment of later translators, states that what is taken in by mouth goes not into the heart, but into the belly and whatever is unusable by the body is eliminated. This is clearly a description of the digestive process. Through it, all food is purged. Then, verses 20 to 23 demonstrate and list all of the many things that defile a man like evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, and murders.

Reason tells us that the physical process of digestion which eliminates impurities from food, could not possibly cause an unclean food to suddenly become clean in a spiritual sense. Digestion has been a bodily process from the time of Creation. God instituted His Torah Laws while digestion was already occurring. He commanded His people not to eat certain things that were unclean. Digestion continued, but still, certain foods were unclean. Yeshua came to earth as a man. Digestion continued. Nothing changed. It is impossible to believe that Yeshua now claimed that digestion caused all foods to become clean! As discussed in the prior posts, Yeshua could not speak against the Torah or to change it, or mankind would still be lost in sin and condemned without hope.

Just as was seen in part 1 of this post, the topic has nothing to do with unclean foods becoming clean. The primary point of the passage (Mark 7:1-23) is how the Pharisees were misusing tradition, often raising tradition to the level of the written commandments of God, or of even raising it above the Torah. This second part is a further explanation of how food that may have been contaminated by something cannot make someone unclean. It is the actions and thoughts of man that defile.

Mark 7:19's addition has added to the confusion about the continuing applicability of the Torah. Let's open our hearts and minds to the truths that are written there and seek to find the seamless and enduring Torah that exists in both the Old and New Testaments!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

What's the Big Deal About Eating Bread with Unwashed Hands?

Now that it has been established that the parenthetical phrase of Mark 7:19 is an addition to our English Bibles and it cannot serve as the conclusion of the passage, it is important to uncover the true meaning of Mark 7:1-23. See Previous:

Let's begin with the first section of that passage.

Mark 7:1-13 (KJV)
1 Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem.
2 And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault.
3 For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders.
4 And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables.
5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?
6 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.
7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.
9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.
10 For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:
11 But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.
12 And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother;
13 Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.

Scribes and Pharisees from Jerusalem apparently had come to check out the stories and accounts that they had received regarding Yeshua. As they watched Yeshua and His disciples they were horrified to see that some of the disciples ate bread with unwashed hands (verse 2). In verses 3 and 4 Mark explained the traditions of the elders that these scribes and Pharisees held to.

These traditions had been passed down from generation to generation supposedly starting from the days of Moses. They were not written down but were orally transmitted. The point of these traditions was to fill in the details of the written Torah. The sages did not want the people to accidentally transgress the laws of God, so they made hedges to protect the people that would help keep them from actual disobedience of the Torah. Although the idea and intent were good, the Oral Law had often been treated as if it were as important as the written Torah. This is the attitude of the scribes and Pharisees who came to see Yeshua.

Why did some of the disciples not wash their hands? This seems to indicate that the Oral Law was not always observed the same by all the people. An example of Yeshua following the traditions of the Oral Law can be found in Matthew 14:19 where He said a blessing before feeding the 5,000. That is a tradition. The commandment is to say a blessing after eating (Deuteronomy 8:10).

Since the washing of hands before eating bread (which is a clean food) was a tradition, the Pharisees and scribes were out of line by raising that tradition up to the level of the Torah. Instead of directly stating this to the scribes and Pharisees, Yeshua called the men hypocrites and quoted Isaiah 29:13 (verses 6 and 7).

Isaiah 29:13 (KJV)
13 Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:

Yeshua told the scribes and Pharisees via Isaiah that they gave God lip service, but that their hearts were far from God. They taught the traditions as if they were the commandments of God. He went on then to ask the men why they rejected the Laws of God (Torah) by their traditions (verse 9).

In verses 10 through 13 Yeshua explained a tradition where the scribes and Pharisees found a way to avoid having to honor their parents by not supplying an animal for their parents' use but claimed that the animal was going to be used for sacrifice, thereby freeing them from the obligation of providing for their parents. By doing this these men made the Word of God (Law of God) of none effect. In other words, they were using tradition to circumvent observance of God's Law. They were raising tradition to a level above the Law of God.

The point of this first section of Mark 7 has nothing to do with making all foods clean. It is a discussion on the proper place of tradition, nothing more and nothing less. Next time the second part of Mark 7:1-23 will be discussed.



Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Did Jesus Declare All Foods Clean?

From three different Bible verses, God has instructed mankind not to add to His prophecy or to His commandments. Please see the previous post. Yet, in the Gospel of Mark, there is an egregious example of how translation teams and commentators have ignored these warnings.

Mark 7:1-23 relates an account of a confrontation that Yeshua had with some scribes and Pharisees from Jerusalem. The problem stemmed from the fact that some of the disciples ate bread with unwashed hands. The passage is rather long and complicated, but in verse 19, the New International Version states this:

Mark 7:19 (NIV) 
19 For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean.")

Similarly, the New American Standard Bible says:

Mark 7:19 (NASB)
19 because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?" (Thus He declared all foods clean.)

The phrase in parentheses looks and sounds an awful lot like a conclusion and even many Bible commentators have used this verse in exactly that same manner. However, the parentheses are an indication that the phrase is not in the Greek. The Greek simply ends with the phrase "purging all the food." 

So what is up with this extra phrase? Obviously, it is an interpretation of what Mark 7:19 supposedly means. So rather than allowing the verse to be translated as it was written, someone, somewhere along the line, decided that Yeshua meant more than what He stated, that the verse by itself wasn't plain enough. The problem with this is two-fold. In the first place, the Bible was violated by having an interpretation forced on it. It also became a kind of conclusion, which makes no sense when the passage is analyzed. The second problem is that the conclusion has resulted in affirming a lie. God has warned Biblical writers, translators, teachers, and pastors not to add to or subtract from His commandments. This extra phrase subtracts from the commandments of God. Therefore, the extra phrase is incorrect. This wrong conclusion has allowed sincere believers to accept that the food laws are no longer applicable, that the law can be changed, and that other passages, particularly in Paul's writings that on the surface appear to negate the law, prove that the law has been abrogated.

Some common sense demonstrates that this line of thought is impossible!

Matthew 5:17-19 (KJV)
17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

For an understanding of the word "fulfill," please see:

Yeshua had to obey the Torah perfectly in order for Him to be qualified to be man's substitutionary sacrifice. According to Matthew 5, He also could not speak against the Torah. Therefore, it is impossible that Yeshua could have concluded that "all foods were now clean." He couldn't have even hinted at it or said that all foods would be clean after His death. 

Praise God, as Yeshua was obedient to God's commandments and became the Savior, how can we even think that our disobedience is now acceptable!

Next: Mark 7:19 explained.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Adding and Subtracting

Generally, the terms "adding" and "subtracting" refer to mathematics, but can be used in other contexts as well. These terms can even be found in the Bible as commands from God.

Revelation 22:19 (KJV)
19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

This verse includes a warning that no one should add or subtract from the book of prophecy called Revelation, or there would be some serious consequences to the person doing the adding or subtracting.

Jeremiah 26:2 (KJV)
2 Thus saith the LORD; Stand in the court of the LORD'S house, and speak unto all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the LORD'S house, all the words that I command thee to speak unto them; diminish not a word:

In the book of Jeremiah, God counsels His prophet to speak all the words that God had given him to speak. He was not to subtract a single word.

Ecclesiastes 3:14 (KJV)
14 I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.

This verse speaks about God's work and how nothing can be added to or subtracted from it.

Deuteronomy 12:32 (KJV)
32 What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.

Deuteronomy 4:2 (KJV)
2 Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.

Deuteronomy, in these two different places, charges that no one is to add to or subtract from the commands that God has issued His people.

So, what can be concluded from these verses? God's work, whether His plan of salvation by grace through faith, His record of prophecy specifically in Revelation, or His commandments, is complete. There is nothing necessary to add or subtract!

Then why has Christianity found it necessary to add to or subtract from God's work? Some believe that good works must be added for salvation. Wrong! Some believe that we have prophets today speaking further prophecy of God. Wrong! Some believe that the Torah is no longer applicable. Wrong!

More on this next time!

Monday, October 2, 2017

God's Blueprint for His Success!

The parables of Matthew 13 are usually studied one by one, but this method, if not supplemented by an overview of all the parables together, leaves us with a hodge-podge of seemingly independent parables. However, there is definitely an overall scheme behind these parables, especially in how they are placed. A summary of the parables is as follows:

The Parable of the Sower - Yeshua begins spreading the Gospel, but only a small number respond. Satan comes in and snatches away the Word from some. Tribulation and persecution arise because of the Word. The cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke out the Word.

The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares - God created a good world, including His children. Satan ruined the world by sowing his own children. Because the two groups are indistinguishable they must all remain until the end of the age. Then the angels will remove the wicked and cast them into the fire.

The Parable of the Mustard Seed - The Kingdom of Heaven started off small, but will grow very large. Evil will find shelter there. (Don't forget that Yeshua seemed to be referring to the physical world of today, even though Satan has been allowed to have a certain control of the earth that won't end until Yeshua's return.)

The Parable of the Leaven - The Kingdom of Heaven will be infiltrated with false teaching that will go throughout the Kingdom.

Each of the previous parables seems to demonstrate how Satan tries to destroy the Kingdom!

The Parable of the Hidden Treasure - God had given Satan a certain amount of control over the world. Yeshua, by dying on the cross and rising from the dead buys the world and thereby now owns the hidden treasure (His people).

The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price - Yeshua buys each of His people by His death and resurrection.

The Parable of the Net - At the end of the age the angels will gather both the wicked and the just. In judgment, they will cast the wicked into the furnace of fire.

Each of the parables in this group seems to demonstrate God's work on behalf of the Kingdom!

The Parable of the Householder - Since the disciples have been instructed in the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, it is their turn to carry on the work of the Kingdom.

Matthew's parables of chapter 13 could definitely be called a blueprint for God's success in His world. Although the multitudes heard the parables, it was only the disciples who were given the full information about Yeshua's teachings. Although they may not have completely understood at the time, they had His blueprint to refer to later when the Holy Spirit brought Yeshua's teachings to mind. God's plan meant success in the future, something that the twelve and all Yeshua's disciples, even today, need to understand and trust in!


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Parable of the Householder

Today's parable is slightly different from our previous examples. This one does not start with the phrase, "the Kingdom of Heaven is like unto...."

Matthew 13:51-52 (KJV)
51 Jesus saith unto them, Have ye understood all these things? They say unto him, Yea, Lord.
52 Then said he unto them, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.

Yeshua asked His disciples if they understood the parables that He had been teaching (verse 51). They answered by saying that they did. Is this correct? It seems that they answered very quickly without a lot of thought. The parables were complex teachings. Were they just answering what they thought Yeshua wanted them to? Also, since Yeshua was teaching about future events in a very abstract way, including His death, it seems unlikely that they could have fully understood. Yet, Yeshua said nothing further. Perhaps this question and their answer would serve as a future reminder about how little they really did understand.

Yeshua then began His parable (verse 52). Every scribe who is instructed in the Kingdom of Heaven is like a man that is an householder. Who are these scribes? Who had just been instructed in the Kingdom of Heaven? Obviously, Yeshua is referring to the disciples. Therefore, the disciples must also be the scribes. However, He went on to say that they were like an householder. The last time that a parable included an householder was in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares.

Matthew 13:27 (KJV)
27 So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?

In the Wheat and the Tares, the householder represents Yeshua/God, but in this parable the householder represents the disciples. Hmm. This concluding parable changed the symbolism that has been consistent throughout the parables. How are Yeshua and the disciples alike? The Parable of the Householder is an application for the disciples. After Yeshua's death the disciples must carry on in the manner of Yeshua. It will be their job to do the work that Yeshua had been doing here on earth.

What would be their work? The parable continues by saying that the householder/scribes/disciples would bring forth out of his treasure new and old things. What are these things? There are really two explanations that seem to fit. Many commentators believe that the reference to new and old refers to the Old and New Testament or more accurately, the Torah and Yeshua's teachings. However, if we are consistent, the treasure must stand for God's people Israel. Is this another way of pointing to the disciples ministering to both Jew and Gentile believers? It seems likely.

The last thing to consider is that the twelve disciples were not the only ones being instructed in the Kingdom of Heaven. Every believer becomes a disciple of Yeshua and therefore is instructed and set in place of the householder. It is now our duty to continue Yeshua's work!



Friday, September 15, 2017

The Parable of the Net

This week's parable is a twin to the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. However, it is odd that the two are not located together. They are also not completely similar.

Matthew 13:47-50 (KJV)
47 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind:
48 Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away.
49 So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just,
50 And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Again, we're going to assume that the symbolism must remain consistent between the parables. Since this parable is so similar to the Wheat and the Tares, we can assume that there is a similarity between the symbolism. Ignore the net for the moment (verse 47). What does the sea represent? What do the fish represent? The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares concerns wheat and tares that are sown in the field. The field is the world and the wheat and the tares represent good and bad people respectively. It seems pretty obvious then, that the sea also represents the world and the fish represent both good and bad people. Who are "they" that draw the net to shore, sit down, gather the good fish into vessels, and cast the bad fish away (verse 48)? Verse 49 tells us that "they" are the angels. This activity will occur at the end of the world when the angels will sever the wicked from among the just. The wicked will be cast into the furnace of fire, which in the Wheat and the Tares represented Hell and remains consistent in this parable (verse 50). In Hell there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

So what does the net represent? Although we aren't specifically told, the net functions as the means by which the angels gather everyone. We are left to our own imagination on this one, but it is understandable!

It must also be mentioned again, that good and bad fish, just like the wheat and the tares, are not considered "good" or "bad" due to works. If that were the case, we all would be considered bad fish. Rather, righteousness in this parable has to do with whether or not someone has surrendered to Yeshua as Lord by grace through faith. God sees the good as "good" because of the righteousness of Yeshua that has been imputed to them.

Also note again, that in verse 49 the wicked are severed from the just. We usually think the opposite.

If the Parable of the Net and the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares are twins and their meanings are identical why would Matthew record two such similar parables. It would be wasteful to write something twice (paper was not the cheap, easy obtainable product we have today), so there must be a reason. If we look at the differences we see that the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares had a lot to do with explaining how the bad seed came to be planted in the world. The Parable of the Net doesn't even mention how the bad fish came to be in the sea. Instead the emphasis is only on the end, the judgment of the good and bad fish. Hold onto this thought. We will return to this question when we come to the end of this study of the parables. There is much to learn from looking at these parables as a whole. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price

Our parable today is a "twin" to the parable of the Treasure Hidden in a Field. Be sure to read about that one first.

Previous:

Matthew 13:45-46 (KJV)
45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls:
46 Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.

Just like the Hidden Treasure parable, most commentators have thought that the point of the parable of the Pearl of Great Price is that we should be willing to give up everything in order to gain the Kingdom of Heaven, Yeshua, or salvation. While this is a true statement and may be the application of the parable, there is so much more to it!

Again, let's let the symbols of the parable be consistent with the other parables. Therefore we know that the "merchant man" must be none other than Yeshua/God. Rather than seeking a hidden treasure, He is this time searching for goodly pearls. What do the pearls represent?

Malachi 3:16-17 (KJV)
16 Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.
17 And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.

Pearls are a type of "jewel" aren't they? And they are a type of "treasure." These verses in Malachi say that God's jewels are those that fear the Lord. As we found in the previous parable, the treasure refers to both Jews and Gentiles that have believed on Him. Similarly, the pearls also represent believers. Malachi also says that God is "making up His jewels." In other words, God is making a crown that will be made up of His people, the jewels (the pearls). But rather than buying a field in order to buy a collective treasure, Yeshua this time is searching for individual pearls. When He found one, He went and sold all that He had, and bought the one pearl.

Just like in the previous parable, Yeshua sold everything He had by coming down to earth to be born as a baby, leaving much of the splendor and benefits of Heaven behind. He then bought the pearl by dying on the cross and taking the punishment for our sin. He was willing to make this sacrifice, not just for the whole group of mankind that would come to Him, but for each individual who would come to Him. Isn't it hard to believe that each one of us could be considered SO valuable?!

Again, this parable gives us a picture of the gospel message, but it is different from its "twin" in that God wanted to assure His people that He wanted each one of us!! That is an amazing and incredible thought! We are priceless pearls! Wow!


Monday, August 28, 2017

The Parable of the Treasure Hidden in a Field

Our next parable is this:

Matthew 13:44 (KJV)
44 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.

Most of the commentators see this parable as an exhortation for Christians to give everything in order to obtain the Kingdom of Heaven, or Yeshua, or salvation, depending upon what they believe the treasure symbolizes.

However, if we continue to keep elements (symbols) consistent throughout the parables, the meaning of the Parable of the Treasure Hidden in a Field becomes very different.

Yeshua already defined two of the symbols in this parable. He said that the "man" or the main male character in the parables refers to Himself/God. He also defined the "field" as the world. So the only missing element is the treasure itself. Since Yeshua did not give us any information about what the treasure symbolized, we need to look elsewhere for the answer. It would seem that the Bible has all kinds of references to treasure.

Exodus 19:5 (KJV)
5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:

Psalm 135:4 (KJV)
4 For the LORD hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure.

Plainly, God has viewed Israel as His very special treasure. But do we see the same thing in the New Testament?

1 Peter 2:9 (KJV)
9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:

Most would say that 1 Peter is talking about Christians. However, this Bible verse is a quote from the Old Testament.

Exodus 19:6 (KJV)
6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.

How is it possible that Christians and Israel are described using the same terminology? Theologians of all stripes have weighed in on this matter. Without going into the differences between Replacement Theology and Dispensationalism, let me suggest that there is a better answer. Since the same terminology is used, both entities, in some form, are identical. From Paul we see that being ethnic Israel does not guarantee that you are really "Israel."

Romans 9:6 (KJV)
6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:

At the same time, there are many Gentiles who have been grafted into Israel when they became believers.

Romans 11:17 (KJV)
17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;

Therefore, the treasure that Yeshua was teaching about is His people, the believers, either Jew or Gentile.

Now let's examine the parable more closely. God's people are hidden in the world. Isn't this exactly what we see regarding both the Jews and Gentile believers, who have been scattered throughout our world. When God "finds" His people, He hides them again, and then, with joy, sells everything that He has, and then buys the world with His people in it.

So how did Yeshua give up all that He had?

Philippians 2:5-7 (KJV)
5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

But why did Yeshua have to buy the world? Doesn't the world already belong to Him?

It does, but when Adam and Eve sinned our world was marred and Satan was given a certain amount of control and influence over it.

2 Corinthians 4:4 (KJV)
4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

Yeshua then bought the world by doing what?

Philippians 2:8 (KJV)
8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

This one verse parable basically gives us the entire Gospel message! Yeshua was willing to leave Heaven, come to earth as a man, and then die, in order to buy mankind the opportunity to be saved. This should fill our hearts with gratitude! Amazing!  

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Parable of the Leaven

The next parable that we come to is the Parable of the Leaven.

Matthew 13:33 (KJV)
33 Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.

This parable is the twin to the Parable of the Mustard Seed. The meaning is generally viewed as similar to its twin, that the Kingdom of Heaven starts off small, but grows very big. But just like its twin, the meaning is not explained by Yeshua. Therefore, this particular meaning is not based on anything besides the commentators' own ideas. As we've seen in the previous parables it makes more sense to understand that the symbols or elements of all the parables must all remain consistent.

Let's examine this parable with that in mind. Let's start with the leaven. Although there are no clues given to us within the parable itself, the Bible has some interesting things to say about the connotation of "leaven."

Exodus 12:15 (KJV)
15 Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.
 
Exodus 13:7 (KJV) 
7 Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days; and there shall no leavened bread be seen with thee, neither shall there be leaven seen with thee in all thy quarters.

These two passages in Exodus speak about the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, where for seven days not only did they not eat bread with leaven, but leaven couldn't even be found in their homes or they would be cut off from Israel.

1 Corinthians 5:6 (KJV)
6 Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?

As we enter into the first century, we see that Paul's writings exhibit the idea of leaven being something bad that goes throughout the whole lump. In this particular case, it referred to the Corinthians patting themselves on the back for their tolerance of sin in their midst.

Galatians 5:8-10 (KJV)
8 This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.
9 A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.
10 I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be.

In this passage of Galatians Paul warns about allowing someone's meddling to influence their thinking. Paul says that this someone's ideas are not from God. In these New Testament verses we easily see that leaven had become a symbol for sin, or, as in the case of Galatians, false teaching.

What does the meal represent?

Leviticus 14:10 (KJV)
10 And on the eighth day he shall take two he lambs without blemish, and one ewe lamb of the first year without blemish, and three tenth deals of fine flour for a meat offering, mingled with oil, and one log of oil.

In this verse we see that this particular meal offering was made up of three lumps of flour.

Leviticus 6:14,17 (KJV)
14 And this is the law of the meat offering: the sons of Aaron shall offer it before the LORD, before the altar.
17 It shall not be baken with leaven. I have given it unto them for their portion of my offerings made by fire; it is most holy, as is the sin offering, and as the trespass offering.

The meal offering was to be made without leaven since it was most holy. This indicates again the status of our world (the hidden Kingdom of Heaven). What God meant for good has had some evil, sin, or false teaching hidden into it. This teaching will grow until it fills the whole lump.

So who does the woman represent? The main actor in the previous parables was a man who represented Yeshua/God. This woman is acting an an agent for Satan, planting evil, sin, or false teaching, that will corrupt the Kingdom of Heaven.

Taken all together, we find that the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, the Parable of the Mustard Seed, and the Parable of the Leaven are all very similar parables, differing only in aspects that Yeshua meant to highlight. The Kingdom of Heaven started off small, but as it grows Satan is working hard against the Kingdom. Satan planted his evil children into the Kingdom, he has infiltrated it by evil (demons?), and he has sown sin, evil, and false teaching. It would seem that the Kingdom of Heaven is in desperate need of help. What will the next parables tell us?

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Parable of the Mustard Seed

We have been discussing Yeshua's parables in Matthew 13. So far we have covered the Parable of the Sower and the Seeds and the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. Between Yeshua's giving the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares and His explanation there are two more parables that we have yet to analyze. Today we will be looking at the Parable of the Mustard Seed.

Matthew 13:31-32 (KJV)
31 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:
32 Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.

This time Yeshua said that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field (verse 31). Then in verse 32 He remarked that the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds, but becomes a tree when it is grown. It is so large that the birds come and lodge in its branches.

This is all that we are given. So, if Yeshua did not give us any explanation, how are we to determine what Yeshua was trying to tell us? Most commentators believe that the message is pretty clear, that the Kingdom of Heaven starts out small, but grows to be so big that all kinds of people come to dwell within it. Specifically, the birds must represent Gentiles who come into the small Kingdom that Yeshua started. Although there seems to be a consensus on this parable's meaning, the reasoning involved is nothing more than guess work.

Instead, if we look closely, the four symbols used in the parable have already been defined by Yeshua. The man that sows the mustard seed must represent Yeshua, just as the man (sower) does in the Parable of the Sower and the Seeds and in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. The field has already been shown to be the world and the mustard seed represents those who hear the Word of God. The birds represent Satan. When we put this together we now find that the Kingdom of Heaven, yes, starts off small after being sown by Yeshua into the world. It then grows to be very large, so large that evil (or Satan) finds shelter there.

But how is this possible that evil could be hiding in the Kingdom of Heaven? Actually, what the parable says is that evil infiltrates the world where God's people also exist. Isn't this the situation of our world? Isn't this what was being described in the Wheat and the Tares?

Perhaps our definition of the Kingdom of Heaven needs a little tweaking. These parables seem to indicate the condition of what is actually going on in the world today and not really what is happening in the spiritual Kingdom of Heaven. It is as if Yeshua was already looking to His physical Kingdom of Heaven that will be in place during the Millennial Kingdom here on Earth. Is it possible that in some sense Yeshua is viewing His Kingdom as our world, even though it is marred because of sin? This change in thought serves to explain how we are to view these parables. And there seems to be some patterns developing. We'll talk more about this as we progress.

Note: While the mustard seed is not actually the smallest seed, nor does it grow into a tree, the Jews traditionally used the mustard seed as an example of the smallest. Yeshua's use of hyperbole (exaggeration) was a common method of making a strong point.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares Part 2

See Part 1

Matthew 13:36-43 (KJV)
36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field.
37 He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man;
38 The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;
39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.
40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.
41 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;
42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
43 Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

After Yeshua told the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares to the crowd, He sent them away, and went into the house (verse 36). His disciples came to Him and asked Him to explain the meaning of the parable. Yeshua then revealed that the man who sowed the good seed is Yeshua himself (The "Son of man" is a Messianic term referring to the Messiah.) (verse 37). The field stands for the world and the good seed are the children of the Kingdom of Heaven (verse 38). He further explained that the tares represent the children of the wicked one (Satan according to verse 39). The harvest represents the end of the world and the reapers are the angels. According to verse 40 the tares would be gathered and burned in the fire. This part of the parable mirrors what will happen at the end of the world. The Son of man will send forth his angels and they will gather out of his kingdom all things that offend and them that sin (verse 41). These will be cast into the furnace of fire where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth (verse 42). Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of Heaven (verse 43). Yeshua ended His explanation by saying, "Who hath ears to hear, let him hear."

Since Yeshua revealed the meaning of this parable to His disciples, it is pretty impossible to misunderstand. He was explaining that He had originally placed His own good children in the world, but that Satan disturbed that perfection by introducing his own evil children. Since it was difficult to remove the wicked without possibly uprooting the good, Yeshua determined to leave both in the world until its end. At that time the angels would remove the wicked and cast them into hell, but the righteous would remain in the world, where they would shine forth as the sun. Yeshua then encouraged His disciples to really listen and understand the parable.

But who are the wicked and who are the righteous? Although all mankind is guilty of sin and is deserving of hell, Yeshua, by His death and resurrection, made it possible for sinful mankind to trust and believe in Yeshua's work on the cross, and to be viewed by God in light of Yeshua's own righteousness. Those who trust are considered the righteous. They will remain on earth in the Kingdom of Heaven, but the wicked, those who are not believers and then are viewed by God in all their sin, will be cast into hell.

How can we apply this parable to our lives? This short parable explains what our world is like now. We are living with a mix of evil and good. However, one day, there will be judgment and only those who are trusting in Messiah for their salvation will survive. The destination of everyone else is hell. We've been warned! Let's make sure our eternal home will be with Yeshua!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares Part 1

We continue with Yeshua's teaching of parables from the book of Matthew.

Matthew 13:24-30 (KJV)
24 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:
25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.
26 But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.
27 So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?
28 He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?
29 But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.
30 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
 
This time Yeshua stated that the Kingdom of Heaven was like a man that sowed good seed in his field (verse 24). Let's remember that the Kingdom of Heaven is not Heaven, but is the physical kingdom that Yeshua will set up and rule when He returns. The Kingdom of Heaven exists only spiritually now and it is the kingdom that we enter into when we are born again.

Unfortunately, while the man's servants slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the good wheat (verse 25). Tares are defined as "a noxious weed, probably the darnel" (Dictionary.com). The darnel is a species of rye grass that closely resembles wheat and cannot be distinguished until the ears appear (Bible Study Tools [online] - Easton's Bible Dictionary).

When the crop began to grow, the servants asked the man if he had sown good seed (verses 26 and 27). If he had where had the tares come from? The man answered that an enemy had done this (verse 28). The servants then asked if they should go and gather up the tares. The man replied that they should leave the crop alone, since trying to gather up the tares would result in some of the wheat being pulled up as well (verse 29). Instead, he recommended that the servants leave the field alone and let the wheat and the tares grow together until the harvest (verse 30). At that time the man would instruct the reapers to gather first the tares, bind them in bundles to burn them, and then gather the wheat into his barn.

This is the first time that Yeshua started His parable with "the Kingdom of Heaven is like..." He continued to do this with the rest of His parables. The statement functions as a notice that He was now moving onto another parable. It also served as a reminder about what these parables really were about.

What is the usual explanation of this parable? What do the symbols represent? Is is possible to understand this parable without an explanation? Stay tuned for next time as we find out what Yeshua said further about this parable.


Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Parable of the Sower Part 2

Previous post

In this post I would like to refresh our memories on what each of the elements or symbols of the parable represent and I would like to share some applications.

1. The symbols

The sower represents Yeshua (God).
The seed represents the Word of God.
The birds represent Satan.
The soils represent the type of people that hear the Word of God.
     The soil by the wayside represents those who hear the Word, don't understand it, and then have the Word taken away by Satan.
     The stony soil represents those who hear the Word, receive it joyfully, but don't have much root. Although they grow spiritually somewhat, the lack of root combined with tribulation and persecution due to the Word of God, they become offended.
     The thorny soil represents those who hear the Word, but due to the care of this world and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the Word and they become unfruitful.
     The good soil represents those who hear the Word of God, understand it, and bear fruit of varying amounts.

2. Application

From this parable we see that God has an interest in mankind's knowing Him. He sent Yeshua to correctly establish the Word of God, its requirements, and how we can be saved. When Yeshua spread the gospel message He came in contact with various people who fell into the four categories we find in this parable. It is interesting to note that most of Yeshua's hearers did not understand His message. Some were unprepared and even though they listened, Satan stole it away before they could believe and be converted. Some of His hearers turned away when they met tribulation and persecution that resulted from committing to God. The life of a believer is not necessarily without danger and trouble. Some of His hearers understood the Word, but were concerned with worldly things more than the things of God. The care of this world could refer to things like poverty, fame, and power, anything that could cause a believer to lose his or her focus on God. The deceitfulness of riches refers to the striving for wealth where God no longer seems necessary because we think wealth can relieve us from our worries. Lastly, a small number of hearers understand the Word, repent, and put their trust in God. These people bear fruit of varying amounts. The fruit can be the changing of one's character as well as turning around and becoming sowers themselves.

It is in this regard that all believers also become sowers. We, too, will run into these four types of people. Only a small number will likely understand and accept the Word. We can't let this discourage us! After all Yeshua had the same issue! Most people need to hear the Word over several times before they are able to understand. Let's keep at it! Do not fall into the trap of teaching that a person's problems will be over, or that his or her life will be so much better, if he or she would only come to Yeshua. We then may cause these believers to fall away, because there will always be some tribulation or persecution that will follow belief. And whether or not we are Billy Grahams that aid in the salvation of many or we only successfully reach a few, God is not grading us on our level of productivity. We only need to be faithful!! We only need to be out there spreading the Word of God.

So what is this parable teaching us about the Kingdom of Heaven?

We hear the Word of God, repent and believe, and then we enter the Kingdom of Heaven. This then becomes our work. We emulate Yeshua and try to grow the Kingdom in much the same way that He did. Let's get to it!
         

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Parable of the Sower Part 1

We have been looking at some of the details of how and why Yeshua taught about the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven. With this post we begin our study of the meat of His teachings.

Matthew 13:1-9 (KJV)
1 The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side.
2 And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.
3 And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;
4 And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:
5 Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:
6 And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.
7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:
8 But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.
9 Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

As we begin this chapter we see that Yeshua went out of the house and sat by the sea side (verse 1). Multitudes gathered around Him, so He went into a ship and sat down, while the multitude stayed on the shore (verse 2). He then began to teach (verse 3). Notice that He taught the multitudes using parables. Please see previous post for Yeshua's reasons.

In this parable a sower (a farmer) went out to sow his seed. In ancient days, the farmer would simply scatter seed over his field. According to verse 4, some of the seed fell by the wayside, which is ground next to a road. It is hard and has not been prepared for planting. Since the seed could not penetrate the soil, birds came and ate up the seed. Other seed fell upon stony ground where there wasn't much dirt (verse 5). The seed sprang up, but it was spindly because of the lack of soil. Therefore, when the sun was up, the plants were scorched and they withered away (verse 6). Verse 7 says that some of the seed fell among thorns. They also sprouted, but ended up by being choked by the thorns. Finally, some of the seed fell into good ground (verse 8). This seed sprang up, grew, and brought forth fruit. Some produced an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, and some thirtyfold. Then Yeshua urged His hearers to not only hear, but to truly understand (verse 9).

At this point, Yeshua's disciples came to Him for some explanation of what the parable meant.

Matthew 13:18-23 (KJV)
18 Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.
19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.
20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;
21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.
22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.
23 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

Yeshua began His explanation by describing what the four types of soil represented. Verse 19 says that the seed that falls by the wayside represents one who hears the Word of the Kingdom, but doesn't understand it. At that point, the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart.

Yeshua doesn't give us a lot of information, but with what He has told us, we can decipher what the rest is about.  Obviously, the soil represents types of people who hear the Word of the Kingdom, which is the Word of God (the Bible). The Kingdom, itself, is not Heaven, but the Millennial Kingdom that Yeshua will physically set up upon His return. Currently, the Kingdom exists only spiritually and it is the Kingdom that we enter into when we are born again. The farmer can be none other than Yeshua, who was preaching and teaching about repentance and faith, and how to enter into the Kingdom. This first type of person hears the Word, but doesn't understand it, and Satan (the wicked one), represented by the birds, snatches the Word away.

In verse 20 the stony soil represents one who hears the Word of God and received it with joy. However, he doesn't have much root and so he becomes offended when tribulation and persecution arise because of the Word (verse 21).

The thorny soil represents one who hears the Word of God, but becomes unfruitful, because the care of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the Word (verse 22).

Lastly, the good soil represents one who hears the Word and understands it. This one will bear fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, and some thirtyfold (verse 23).

Stay tuned for part 2 of the Parable of the Sower!

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven Kept Secret

Last time we talked about the reasons why Yeshua had begun to teach in parables. Today, we're going to take that a little further and look at how the mysteries that He was going to teach had been kept secret from the foundation of the world.

Matthew 13:34-35 (KJV)
34 All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them:
35 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.

In verse 34 Matthew confirmed that Yeshua would only be speaking to the multitudes from that point on in parables. This was a fulfillment of prophecy that makes it sound like the things Yeshua would be teaching would be something that had been kept secret for a very long time. But let's look at the actual prophecy from which this quote comes.

Psalm 78:2 (KJV)
2 I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old:

This one verse confirms that Yeshua was speaking from the book of Psalms and that He would be teaching in parables, uttering dark saying of old. However, by using this one verse, His hearers, who were very conversant in the Scriptures, would recognize that Yeshua's intent included more than just the one verse.

Psalm 78:1-8 (KJV)
1 Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
2 I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old:
3 Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.
4 We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.
5 For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children:
6 That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children:
7 That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments:
8 And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God.

According to Psalm 78 these "dark sayings of old" were not actually kept secret, as if God had kept this information from humanity, but rather that they had been known, but forgotten by man because of stubbornness and rebellion against God. By uttering these teachings, Yeshua would be re-establishing the line of communication, so that His disciples would have right hearts and steadfast spirits with God that they would communicate to others as God had intended.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Teaching in Parables the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven

Matthew 13:10-17 (KJV)
10 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?
11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
12 For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.
13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.
14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:
15 For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.
17 For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.

After the Pharisees had been given several warnings regarding their unbelief, Yeshua began a series of teachings on the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven. This time, however, He spoke only in parables when He addressed the multitudes. This apparently confused the disciples and they came to Him to inquire about His reasoning for this manner of teaching (verse 10). Quite plainly Yeshua explained that the mysteries of the Kingdom were given to the disciples and not to the multitudes (verse 11). He then quoted from Isaiah 6:9,10 for His answer (verses 14 and 15).

Isaiah 6:9-10 (KJV)
9 And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.
10 Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.

It is obvious that Yeshua had begun to hide His message regarding the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven so that the multitudes, which included His opponents, would not understand what He was teaching. Yet, Yeshua said that the disciples' eyes and ears were blessed because they would be able to understand (verse 16).

Yeshua's hiding of His teaching was in no way an obstacle to anyone who seriously was searching for the truth of God. The principle expressed here relates how those who are open to the message of God will hear and understand, but those who are not open will not hear nor understand. Yeshua also seemed to be applying the "pearls before swine" advice.

Matthew 7:6 (KJV)
6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

The Pharisees had been given multiple opportunities to hear Yeshua and to repent, but most refused. Why should they be given any further pearls?  The mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven would be given to those open to repentance and faith.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

By Whose Authority?

Matthew 12:48-50 (KJV)
48 But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?
49 And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!
50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.

In this brief passage we learn that belonging to the spiritual family of Yeshua means that we do the will of the Father. But how do we know what the will of the Father is? Where can we find what the Father requires? At the time that Yeshua made this comment, there was no New Testament. Therefore, Yeshua's audience could only look to the Old Testament for those answers. They would have searched out the laws and requirements in the Torah.

If we ask ourselves today these same questions do we come up with different answers because we have the New Testament? Many would say, "Yes." Many would say that Yeshua fulfilled the requirements of the Old Testament Torah, so we don't have to. However, doesn't this answer cause a disconnect with Yeshua's audience? Why would Yeshua imply one thing to His audience and something different to His followers throughout the later centuries?

Also, if the requirements of following the Father's will have changed, by whose authority were these changes made? Let's look at some possibilities.

1. Yeshua changed the requirements. In the first place, in order for Yeshua to be qualified to be our Savior, He had to follow the Torah completely and perfectly. If He hadn't, He would have been a sinner and could not have been a qualified substitute for us.  We would not have had a Savior and we would still be held responsible for our own sins. There would be no eternal life! Secondly, if Yeshua had followed the Torah completely, but taught anyone else that the Torah didn't need to be followed, He would then be called, "The least in the kingdom of Heaven," according to Matthew 5:19.

Matthew 5:17-19 (KJV)
17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so , he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Italics mine).

 Yeshua will one day reign as King over the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore, it is not possible that He would be "least" in the Kingdom and He did not have any authority to change the requirements of God's will as taught in the Torah.

2. Paul or Peter changed the requirements. Most believers would say that the requirements were changed in the New Testament and that there are many verses that indicate this. One such section noted might be Peter's vision of the sheet and the non-Kosher animals that he was instructed to eat. A careful reading of the text shows us that three times Peter indicated what the vision meant. Each time the meaning had to do with the acceptability of Gentiles coming to faith and never once were the food laws in the Torah mentioned.

Paul also makes statements that have been misinterpreted to say that the Torah has been set aside. It could also be said that Paul received this "new" understanding while he was in the desert for three years being instructed by God. However, there are some serious problems with relying on either Peter or Paul as having the authority to change Torah requirements.

Deuteronomy 13:1-5 (KJV)
1 If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder,
2 And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them;
3 Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
4 Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.
5 And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee (Italics mine).

Both Paul and Peter had "visions." If these visions instructed the people to turn away from the way in which God had commanded them to walk in, they were worthy of death. Therefore, if we believe that Paul and Peter wrote parts of the inspired Word of God, it is impossible that they had any authority to change the requirements of God's will either.

So who are we left with? There really is no one. No one has the authority to change what God has required. No one can change what God's written Word has stated.

So, if belonging to the family of Yeshua is determined by the observance of Torah, are you a member of His family?