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Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category

Seven Types of Pharisees

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The Talmud defines seven types of Pharisees. *

  1. The ‘Shoulder’ Pharisee

This type of Pharisee carries all of his ‘good’ deeds on his shoulder so all can see (and it is assumed praise) him.

Make sure when you do good it is not for the praise, but because it is the right thing to do.

  1. The ‘Wait a Moment’ Pharisee

This type of Pharisee does not attend to the needs of the people who are right in front of him because he needs to go off and do good deeds for others.

This would be the pastor who cares for his flock, but ignores his family. Or the parent who always has to do something for work, the church or friends while their children are begging for attention.

  1. The ‘Bruised’ Pharisee

This Pharisee runs into a wall while trying not to look at a woman.

This is a person who takes the commands in the Bible too far and does stupid things in order to overly obey God’s laws. We see this person when they refuse to meet with a woman in a normal work situation when she has done nothing inappropriate to warrant this behavior towards her.

  1. The ‘Reckoning’ Pharisee

This type of Pharisee commits a sin, then performs a good deed to make up for it. He believes he can sin as long as he does something good to balance the scales.

This is the husband who is mean to his wife and then thinks that buying her something makes it all better. This is the wife who is mean to her husband and then thinks that letting him sleep with her makes it all right.

  1. The ‘Pestle’ Pharisee

This type of Pharisee’s head is bowed in false humility. He is always asking what his duty is, so that he may do it as if he has already done everything else.

This is the person who believes they do nothing wrong. They will say things like, ‘If you tell me what you want, I will do it’ as if it is your fault they are not living up to your expectations. The unreasonableness of your expectations is implied. They are not trying to change because all the fault in the relationship is the other person’s.

  1. The Pharisee of the ‘Fear of Consequences’

This Pharisee does good because he is afraid of what would happen if he does not do it. There is no love in his actions.

This person does all of the ‘right’ things, but it is empty because he is acting out of fear. It is difficult to explain to the person what they are doing wrong, because while their actions are ‘right,’ they clearly are not enjoying any of it. The fact that they do not want to do what they do is evident.

  1. The Pharisee of Love

This is the ‘right’ kind of Pharisee to be. Their motivation is love. There are two things they love- people and God in general, and the rewards from doing what is right.

In Jewish culture loving the rewards that are inherent in doing what is right is not wrong. This Pharisee’s goal is not selfish- they are not doing things just for gain, but they do love the things God blesses them with. This is a healthy relationship with God. The prime motivation is love, and there is thanks, praise and enjoyment when God blesses them.

*adapted from Jewish New Testament Commentary by David H. Stern 1992 p. 69-70

(please pray for Dr Stern, last report was that he was in very poor health)

The Last Day of Sukkot

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On the eighth day of Sukkot (The Feast of Booths/ Tabernacles) God commands all the Jews in Israel to hold a sacred assembly (get together in Jerusalem, do no work and eat).

On this day the Jewish custom is to pour water on the altar as an offering to God. It is also on this day that the last chapter of Deuteronomy is read.

It was on this day that Jesus said ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink..’ (John 7:37-39) implying that He was the source of living water (God).

So how would a Christian home celebrate this day?

Some suggestions include:

-Reading Deuteronomy 28- the blessings and curse- explaining to your children the benefits and disadvantages of following God’s Word. (This is not the final chapter. The final chapter of Deuteronomy involves Moses’ death and Joshua’s commission.)

-Pouring out water (onto the ground) as a reminder that God provides the water of life.

-If your climate co-operates water activities for the children or the young-at-heart may be part of the celebration. Slip and slides, sprinklers, pools and water guns are always fun, as is a trip to the water park. If your climate does not co-operate, you may wish to include snow cones, dry ice concoctions, bubbles, water colors, or fishing may be fun.

-A happy birthday Jesus party. Most scholars believe that Jesus was born in the fall, and many believe that it may have been on the last day of Sukkot, since Sukkot commemorates the time when God ‘tabernacled’ or lived among the Israelites in the desert. (FYI: The Jewish people at this time did not typically celebrate birthdays. Instead they tended to remember death days…)

-Since the last day of Sukkot was the day the Jewish people finished reading the Torah in the synagogue, (the readings would begin again with Genesis 1:1), they frequently passed out candy at this time (honey treats). As a reminder that God’s Word is ‘sweet’ (pleasant to follow) the candy would be distributed among the children. A piñata, or throwing of candy during the reading of the blessings in Deuteronomy may help reinforce this concept.

-During this time Jewish children often paraded by with flags they had made symbolizing what they had learned. Adults would toss candy for the children to catch. Making flags that represent your thanks for what God has blessed you with may also be a fun activity. (Instead of flags, you may make other items such as collages.)

-Food ideas: Create a menu that includes food from the sacrifices at the temple: beef, lamb, goat, unleavened bread, and wine (grape juice for the kids). You may also wish to include citrus fruits, since the lulav is to have citrus associated with it. A Happy Birthday Jesus cake may also be fun. (FYI: There is no prohibition against eating leaven at this time. Unleavened bread is typically offered at the Temple.)

-The final waving of the luval, a bundle of four types of branches: citrus, palm, myrtle and willow. (Lev. 23:40)

Ideas for the day after Sukkot

Since Sukkot represents the end of the harvest season, ideally the end of fall, this is a good time to get ready for winter. The day after Sukkot may include:

– Getting the yard ready for winter (putting away lawn chairs, the grill or anything else that will not be used in the coming months). Play praise music and make it fun, thanking God for the seasons, and the fact that summer yard work has come to an end!

– Winter clothes shopping. Hats, boots, gloves etc will soon be needed. The day after Sukkot is a nice time for this event. Since it is a planned outing, and not a rushed trip when the first snow hits, this should be a relaxing, fun time away from the house. Plan a nice meal out as well to make it a relaxing, fun day for all.

– The first cup of hot cocoa, or pumpkin pie may also be a nice treat, indicating that fall is finally here.

You may stretch these activities out instead of doing them all in one day, since this is not an official holiday. Just remember, it is easier on a family to do these activities as relaxed, fun, planned events, rather than rushing around at the last minute to get everything done. Sukkot gives us a date that reminds us the time to do these things is near.

Sukkot: The Feast of Booths

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The Feast of Booths

aka The Feast (Festival) of Tabernacles

aka Sukkot (Sue-coat)

The Feast of Booths is a time of joyous celebration, when everyone is to gather in Jerusalem to celebrate the end of the harvest season. It is basically a week-long camping trip for all believers.

During Sukkot a family would travel to Jerusalem. There they would build a shelter using wood and intertwining vines and flowers so that the stars could be seen through the roof at night. It is here that the family will reside for the week.

The Jewish people celebrated Sukkot to remind them of their time of wandering in the desert. It was also a time to bring in their tithes and offerings, and thank God for the harvest. The Jewish people also poured out water at the Temple and thanked God for the rain that occurred during the proper season at this time.

Sukkot is also a time for people to get together. God requires each family to gather and wave four different types of branches. This bundle of branches is known as a lulav and it consists of citrus, palm, willow and myrtle branches. Since these branches grow best in different areas it can be assumed that God wished for the people to interact with people from all areas of the land. This wish for the people to interact is further exemplified by God’s command for the people to leave the city from the gate opposite to the one from which they entered. (Ez. 46:9). God wants us to know and interact with other believers from all over.

It is believed that it was at Sukkot that Jesus proclaimed that He was the Water of Life. It is also believed to have been Sukkot when Peter wished to build booths for Moses and Elijah when Jesus transformed on the top of the mountain and was seen speaking to these men. It is also believed that Sukkot is the only Old Testament feast we will be celebrating when Jesus rules and reigns on earth, likely as a reminder of the time when His presence was not here. (Zec. 14:19)

So how may we honor this feast today?

While a week off of work would be nice, it is not practical for many families. And, since the weather in northern climates is harsh and/or rainy during this time, living in a booth is also not practical. Many families choose to celebrate this holiday instead by building a simple shelter and eating dinner in it for the week, with perhaps one night set aside for star-gazing and/or outdoor sleeping.

By the way, Jeroboam changed the time for celebrating Sukkot to one month later in order to discourage people from wanting to celebrate it in Jerusalem (outside of the kingdom he ruled) where it would now be too cold for comfort. (1 Kings 12:32)

For more information check out http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday5.htm (Judaism 101), Leviticus 23, and Deuteronomy 16.

Yom Kippur/ The Day of Atonement (Lev 16)

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Today (9/13/13 beginning at sunset) the Jewish people, and many Messianic Jews, celebrate Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Like most Jewish feasts the traditions of today are not the same as they were in Biblical times due to the absence of the Temple, but there is rich meaning in the events that were to occur on this day.

The Day of Atonement is the only ‘sad’ feast, and the only one that requires a 24 hour (from sunset to sunset) fast. Why is this feast different from the others? Because this is a day of repentance for all of Israel, and there are sacrifices prescribed for the priests, the leaders and the people. No one is without sin, and those who hold a position of respect are required to do more to repent.

This is the day when the high priest, who has washed and remained awake all night so that he may not sin accidentally, goes behind the curtain of the Temple and sprinkles the blood of bulls and goats (guilt offerings for the priests and people) behind the veil in the Holy of Holies, and it is hoped that God would give him a message for the people. In the year that Jesus was crucified, God did just that, and the message that Caiaphas received was that it was better for one man to die for all the people. (John 11:50-51) (He, of course, misunderstood what was being said exactly, but that is another story…)

On the Day of Atonement two goats are brought to the Temple. Lots are drawn and one goat is sacrificed while the other becomes the scapegoat. A bull is also sacrificed for the sins of the priests. These sacrifices are unique because although the blood of the animals is sprinkled seven times on the altar, as well as in the Temple, the entire animal is burned outside the camp, rather than on the altar itself. This imagery fits with Jesus, who is our lasting atonement, being sacrificed outside of Jerusalem as well.

The other goat, known as the scapegoat, has a red ribbon tied to its horns. The Talmud reports that a portion of the ribbon was then cut off and placed on the Temple gate. By morning it would turn white indicating that God had accepted their sacrifices. (After Jesus’ death the ribbon ceased turning white.) The scapegoat is then taken outside the camp and let go to signify that the people of Israel wish to have their sins taken as far away from them as possible. Since the goat occasionally wandered back into the city, it became customary to drive it off a cliff to prevent its return. But Biblically, it is to go free.

Now the Day of Atonement only removed one’s debts to God. Fixing relationships with others continues to this day to be something that requires getting up from the altar and going to another for forgiveness. This is why, when we come to Christ and our sins are forgiven, we may go to heaven (since our relationship with God is fully restored) but there are still consequences and relationships that need to be rebuilt here on earth. The sacrificial system at the Temple, and Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, which replaced it, are for repairing a relationship with our Creator. Our debts to others require paying the debt, or asking for forgiveness from others. And God believes fixing relationships with others is so important that He tells us to leave our gifts (offerings) at the altar and deal with the people we have hurt before doing anything extra for Him. (Matthew 5:24)

Today the Day of Atonement is a day of reflection and asking forgiveness. Since there is no Temple, and since Jesus’ sacrifice makes the need for additional sacrifices obsolete, the blood of bulls and goats is no longer necessary. Examining your relationship with God and others however is always a good idea, so if you wish, put aside time on this day, and fast from sunset to sunset, and allow God to show you how you need to change.

Scapegoat references: http://www.calvaryoxnard.org/studies/nt/Mark/The%20Torn%20Veil.htm

http://www3.telus.net/public/kstam/en/temple/details/evidence.htm

Repenting Like a King (of Nineveh)

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In Jonah 3 we see an excellent example of how to repent and escape an almost certain judgment.

Nineveh was a city known for its cruelty. No matter what you have done in your life, you have likely not done as much as these people had. Killing brutally was a way of life, and Jonah had a reason to be scared.

And God sent an imperfect prophet, one who had run from the assignment, and one who had been recently spit from a fish onto their shores. He was likely not as clean as one would like (there is no mention of his baggage being spit out too), and if questioned he would likely reveal his weaknesses as a leader. There was every reason for the people not to listen to this man, yet they did.

And the king listened as well. He arose from his throne (took action). He humbled himself (laid aside his royal robes). He put on sackcloth and sat in ashes (performed deeds that at that time showed he was sorry). Then he issued a proclamation (He explained to the people under his authority why it was good to do what they were already doing. He encouraged them in their repentance.)

The question is: Do we repent in this manner?

Or do we instead:

-Make excuses as to why the person bringing this to our attention is not worthy to be listened to. Or worse, begin to criticize and harass them publically to all who will listen.

-Refuse to change and find excuses to believe we are fine the way we are.

– Refuse to humble ourselves because of our position, or because we do not want to look weak. Other people may apologize, but what would it look like if the pastor, elder, parent etc did so.

– Refuse to do things that demonstrate our repentance. We may say we are sorry, but often we forget that actions speak louder than words. When there are no acts of repentance (doing nice things for the person you hurt etc), it is often hard to believe that someone is truly sorry. Words are easy, it is your actions that tell who you truly are.

– Neglect to encourage the people under our authority to follow our example. Leaders are examples to those under them whether they do what is good, or what is bad. For this reason it is important to allow those under you to see you are repentant, to know that you are acknowledging that what was done was wrong even if it was done by the leadership and to explain your motivation for repentance. A leader who fails to do this will often have followers (or children) who begin to repent, but then return to evil because they do not see why it is truly important to change, since their leadership does not seem to be getting on board.

Repentance is hard, especially when one is in leadership (even if that leadership is just parental). But, if you do not wish for those under you to follow in your bad example, you must show them, and explain to them, what repentance is and why it is important to do it when we realize we have messed up.

So What Is Rosh Hashana?

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   Rosh Hashana is commonly known as the Jewish New Year. Before coming out of Egypt the Jewish people, like those around them, began their calendar year in the fall. God instructs Moses to change this practice, and the Jewish year changes to begin in the spring, just before Passover. But, like many of us commonly do, the Jewish people compromise with God, and begin using two calendars, a religious calendar, which began in the spring and a civil calendar, which began in the fall. Later kings were officially put into office at the beginning of the civil new year, in the fall, which explains why some kings seem to be king, and then are being put into office a wee bit later in the Bible. (Though there are sometimes other reasons for this as well, such as a region, but not the whole nation, accepting the person as king up until this point.)

Rosh Hashana falls on the same day as the Feast of Trumpets. During the Feast of Trumpets the shofar  (a ram’s horn) is blown throughout the day. It is a day of assembly (where the Jewish people come together for food and fellowship) when no work is to be done (a day off). (Num. 29:1)

The Feast of Trumpets is a unique holiday since it is the only one that occurs at the beginning of the month. Since the Jewish month began with the first confirmed sighting of the sliver of the moon, this is the only holiday that leaves people guessing which day it will actually occur on. For this reason many believe it to be the foreshadowing of the rapture.

The Jewish people also believe that, on this holiday, a person’s name is placed into one of three categories. He (or she) is either written into the Book of Life for the upcoming year, is exempt from the book of life, or finds themselves in an in between state. Those who are ‘on the fence’ so to speak, have ten days, until the Day of Atonement, to repent and get their name added to the Book of Life. For this reason Rosh Hashana is a day to reflect and examine your past deeds and motivations, and if necessary, repent wholeheartedly. (Remember: This is not Biblical, but instead belief that has arisen surrounding this holiday.)

Many traditions have also arisen to help celebrate this holiday. One is to visit a stream, or river and empty your pocket lint into it, indicating that you wish to start the new year ‘clean.’ Small children will fill their pockets with pebbles along the way, and they will skip or throw them into the stream for entertainment.

Another tradition is the eating of apples with honey, signifying a wish to have a sweet new year.

Many Biblical events are also said to have happened on this day. They include:

-The first day of creation

-The (almost) sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham

-The giving of the Law from God to Moses at Mount Sinai

-The day the daily offerings resumed at the Temple during the time of Ezra

-The day the heads of the households gathered to study the Torah in Nehemiah

So how is a Christian to celebrate this holiday?

Any way you want to! (with reverence, of course)

Most Christians do not celebrate the Jewish holidays at all, since they were unique to the country of Israel, and cannot be celebrated as the Bible ordains without a working Temple. (This is why the Jewish people today celebrate Rosh Hashana and not the Feast of Trumpets on this day. They are technically not the same.)

Some Christians do celebrate the Jewish holidays, and there are many web pages (both Jewish, Messianic and Christian) filled with ideas about how to incorporate teachings about this holiday into your life.

Here are some things to remember:

Each holiday begins at sundown. Why? Because during the creation account in Genesis a day is described as being from evening to morning, so the Jewish people begin their days at sundown. (Meaning that any day of fasting ends at sundown and does not involve you going to bed starving!)

Like most holidays Rosh Hashana includes food and fellowship. Apples and honey are the traditional foods for this holiday, but there are many other tasty recipes you may wish to try as well.

Setting aside a time to reflect on your behavior, and what motivates that behavior is also an important part of this holiday. Pray to God and ask Him to show you where you could improve this year. You may wish to write down what you wish to change in a journal, and read it next year, or burn it as an indication that you are done with this type of behavior. If the behavior is significant, this may be the time to discuss it with people close to you and ask them to hold you accountable when you fall into patterns of behavior you wish to change. Pray for God to give you the wisdom and the strength to make these necessary changes as well.

You may also wish to take a walk to a stream and empty your pockets of lint as a reminder that, as of today, you wish to make a fresh start. A picnic by the stream, with the children skipping rocks in the stiller areas may also be enjoyable.

But whatever you do, do it as unto the Lord. This is a time to reflect and remember that God forgives us when we repent.

I hope this helps you to understand this wonderful holiday!

Shalom! (Peace),

Judy Barrett

Why Are We Still Using the Arguments of Job’s Friends?

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Most people agree that the arguments Job’s friends use were flawed, yet we see many of these same points being made today. We should probably avoid this. Here is a list of the arguments these friends use:

Job 4 (Eliphaz) All suffering is the result of sin and no one is pure, therefore everyone deserves to suffer. (The modern corollary of this is: If you are not suffering, count your blessings, because we all deserve to be in hell. Anything less than this is a blessing. The problem, this line of thinking completely ignores God’s promises to protect and bless the righteous.)

Job 5 (Eliphaz) Suffering means God is disciplining you. If you repent everything will be well. (Do we not remember Joseph in prison even though he refused to sleep with Potipher’s wife? Paul being stoned for preaching the gospel, and seriously ill on his journey?)

Job 8 (Bildad) People get what they deserve. God does not allow the blameless to suffer.

Job 11 (Zophar) By saying you are righteous you mock God. You actually deserve more punishment than you are currently receiving.

Job 15 (Eliphaz) God’s comfort should be enough for you. No one is pure, and the wicked suffer so this is just. By saying you do not deserve this you sin and rebel against God.

Job 18 (Bildad) Do you think we are stupid? Punishment is for the wicked.

Job 22 (Eliphaz) Man is nothing. You are a sinner. Why? You want security for yourself while there are still hungry and poor in the world you have not fed.

Job 25 (Bildad) No one is righteous before God.

Job 32 (Elihu) Job is justifying himself by saying he does not deserve this.

Job 33 (Elihu) God is not unjust, so you must deserve this. God speaks, and you are obviously not listening. The purpose of suffering is to keep you from hell.

Job 34 (Elihu) By saying he has done nothing wrong, Job is saying that God is denying him justice. We get what we deserve. God sees everything, so repent.

Job 35 (Elihu) You are greedy for wanting to be blessed for doing what is right. The fact that God is not listening is proof that you need to repent.

Job 36 (Elihu) Only the godless refuse to repent.

So how does Job answer his friends?

1. He is honest about his condition and the fact that he would rather have never been born than to suffer like this. (Job 3) He also claims he will not lie (say he has sinned) and deny his integrity. (27:5)

2. He points out his friends’ motives:
-They are afraid, so they make up reasons to condemn Job so they can explain to themselves why it won’t happen to them. (6:21)
-Men with easy lives tend to have contempt for misfortune. (12:5)
-They use Job’s humiliation to exalt themselves above him (Feel that they are somehow better than him because this is not happening to them.). (19: 5)

3. He calls his friends’ arguments worthless and shows them the faults in their logic. (13:4)
-Bad things do happen to good people. (9:22)
-Pretending he is not suffering will not change the facts. (9:27)
-Some sinners do avoid the punishment they deserve on earth. (12:6)
-What would happen if God examined you? (13:9) (i.e. If Job deserves this, then look at your life and see how much more you deserve to be punished.)
-If this is judgment, then you should fear for yourselves. (19:28-29)
-The wicked do prosper at times. (21:7-15)
-All men die. (21:26)
-He asks his friends how are they helping. (26:2-4)
-He explains that wisdom cannot be bought; it is from God alone. (If God is not revealing why this is happening, how can you know?) (Job 28)

4. He assures his friends he is not trying to be mean to them when he refutes their words. (6: 30)

5. He points out that his friends are being mean to him. (6:14, 16:2, 19:2)

6. He acknowledges the facts.
-Life is hard. (7:1, 14:1)
-Life is short. (7:7)
-True righteousness is impossible. (9:1)
-No one can speak for God, and say why He does what He does. (13:7) (Though God may speak for Himself through the prophets and tell us why He is doing something.)
-God pays for our sins. (17:3)
-God does not keep track of our sins, but of our path. (14:16)
-God is his redeemer, and he will see God in a new body. (19: 25-26)
-This is unfair. This is a test and he is passing it. (23:6, 10-12)
-It is the end (eternal damnation) that is bad for the wicked. (24:18-24)

7. He cries out to God.
-He asks God to reveal his sin if he has done anything wrong. (7:20, 10:2, 13:23)
-He asks God to stop the terror. (13: 21)
-He asks God to speak to him. (13:22)

8. Job instructs his friends on how to be a good friend in this situation. (Obviously blaming the person’s suffering on them is NOT the way to handle these situations.)
-Encourage and comfort the person suffering. (16:5)
-Pray for them. (16:20)

Job also describes what life was like when God was watching over him. (Job 29)

1. He was in prime health.
2. His children were around him.
3. He had plenty of cream and olive oil (good food).
4. People respected and praised him because he helped the poor and was just, because he aided the handicapped, was father to the orphans, and made sure the wicked had no power.
5. Men sought to hear him speak.
6. He was a leader (by example), and one who comforted those who mourn.

Job also tells us what he did to be righteous. (Job 31)

1. He avoided lust and deceit.
2. He was a faithful husband.
3. He made sure justice was done.
4. He helped the widow and the poor.
5. He did not take advantage of his status.
6. He did not trust in gold and avoided idolatry.
7. He did not rejoice over his enemies’ misfortune.
8. He fed his servants and travelers well.
9. He did not hide his sins because he feared other’s opinions.
10. He owned up to what he had done.
11. He paid his laborers and did not overwork them.

God then tells everyone what He thinks about all of this.

1. First He rebukes them for speaking as if they know anything about what is going on. (Job 38: 2)
2. He is angry with Job’s friends for not speaking what is right. (42: 7)
3. He states that Job has spoken correctly. (42:7)
4. He has Job pray for his friends and restores his fortunes and more. (42: 10)

And on an interesting side note:
Job’s daughters, as well as his sons, inherit when he dies. (42: 14-15)

Now remember, this is a case when no one really knew why any of this was happening to Job. When there is blatant sin that must be dealt with as well. The point here is that, when bad things happen and you don’t know why, don’t go around saying the stupid things that Job’s friends did.

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