Month: ט״ז בכסלו ה׳תש״ע (December 2009)

Jewish Identity and the Torah Part 1 by Rabbi Baruch

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Jewish Identity and the Torah

Being Jewish is a blessing that comes with a responsibility. In order to understand both the blessing and the responsibility one needs to study G-d’s call to Abraham in Genesis chapter 12. Abraham was born a gentile who HaShem called into a covenant and to whom He gave a special call. Although there are many aspects to this call, the most relevant one for this article is that G-d would establish, supernaturally, a new people. The important thing to remember is that this new people group had a purpose. This purpose is clearly revealed in many places throughout the Bible. In the passage dealing with Abraham’s call one reads,

“…and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:3

G-d wanted and still wants to use the people who would be established from Abraham and Sarah to bless each and every family upon the face of the earth. This new people group eventually became known as Israel. Today the individuals who make up Israel are called Jewish. Therefore Jewish individuals have a G-d given responsibility to bless gentiles. The question which needs to be answered is how does a Jewish individual fulfill this obligation? The answer in a general sense is to be a light unto the nations. What does this mean in practicality? This is where the Torah comes into this discussion.

The phrase “to be light to the nations” implies providing illumination, i.e. revelation of divine truth. Divine truth is synonymous to the word of G-d. Hence Jewish individuals have been uniquely called by HaShem to educate the world in regard to the Scripture. Rav Shaul echoes this when he says,

“What advantage then has Jewish individuals…mainly the word of G-d was entrusted to them.” Romans 3:1-2

Why would G-d entrust the word of G-d to Jewish people with the instruction to illuminate gentiles with it? For the purpose of gentiles embracing the word of G-d and applying it to their lives as well. This conclusion is so basic it is amazing that it escapes the consideration of so many people. Jewish identity is not based in culture or environment, but in divine revelation. This identity is not reserved for the Jewish people, but entrusted to them to be demonstrated and embraced by all the families of the earth. Let us review some of the most relevant biblical passages that speak to this issue.

In order to understand the subject of Jewish identity one must begin with Abraham. Abraham (Abram) was born a gentile and HaShem called him to respond to His covenant promises; that is, to exercise faith. It was faith that made Abram, Abraham or in other words a gentile into a Jew. This faith expresses a change in one’s life from following one’s own will, to now following HaShem’s will. Man’s will is rooted in the flesh while G-d’s will is rooted in the Spirit. This is why Abraham was called to be circumcised. Circumcision is a removal of skin from the body. What happens when skin is removed from the body? That piece of skin will die. It is not a coincidence that the one who performs the circumcision is required by Jewish law to bury the foreskin. Why? Because the commandment of circumcision teaches that faith which began Abraham “conversion” is ultimately for the purpose of bringing death to the flesh, i.e. the carnal / sinful nature.

Not only was Abraham circumcised but so, too, were all the male slaves in his house (see Gen. 17:23). Why was this? This was in order to show that Abraham was called to bring this faith, which causes the death of the flesh, to all those under his sphere of influence. The account of Passover is very similar in the fact that in order to observe the commandments of the festival one had to be circumcised (see Exodus 12:43-51). Once again one learns from the account of the Exodus from Egypt that not only the natural offspring of Abraham came out of Egypt, but there was also a mixed multitude with them (see Exodus 12:38). According to rabbinical sources those from Abraham’s literal offspring (600,000 Hebrew males) made up a minority of the total number of Hebrews who were in Egypt during this time. This minority was joined by a multitude of gentiles who were moved by divine revelation, i.e. the manifestation HaShem’s providence seen in the plagues, to enter into a covenant relationship with G-d via circumcision and partake of the Passover and receive redemption.

This mixed multitude was never mentioned again in the Bible. Why was this? This was because the mixed multitude was integrated into the Children of Israel as full members of the people of G-d. Although they were not all biological descendants of Abraham they all had one thing in common—they shared a common Passover experience. It was this same group, descendants of Abraham and the mixed multitude that arrived at Mt. Sinai as one body to receive the Torah. Did HaShem make any distinction between them? No, He made no distinction what so ever. 


Torah Identity

Chassidic Judaism teaches that the world was created for two things, Israel and the Torah. This is not the case! Israel was created supernaturally by G-d in order that through this people, the gentiles would be blessed by HaShem. Hence, Israel must also be defined by its relationship and responsibility to the gentiles. Unfortunately this truth has been lost by all expressions of Judaism today. One might raise the objection and ask, “what about Messianic Judaism”? The verdict is still out concerning this question, but there seems to be a shift within Messianic Judaism to the same error of traditional Judaism. It is for this reason that this brief article was written.

In regard to the second part of the Chassidic view that the world was created for Torah, one must ask the question, why was the Torah given? There are multiple reasons why the Torah was given, but we will only investigate one of them. The Torah reveals to the people of G-d His standards for living. In other words, the Torah reveals that which is right and that which is wrong in regard to one’s behavior. To what group of people was it given? If one responds that this question has already been answered, it is Israel. This answer is insufficient. Why? This is because HaShem did not want to give the Torah to the Children of Israel (including the mixed multitude) in their current state of being. This is seen in Exodus chapter 20.

In this passage, beginning in verse 18 the people who were at Mt. Sinai saw various supernatural activities, one of which was the mountain became engulfed in smoke.  Due to these occurrences, and what Moses would reveal in verse 20, namely that HaShem was approaching the people, the Children of Israel were very frightened.  In verse 19, they responded to Moses that he should speak with them and that they would listen, but they did not want G-d to address them directly because they feared that they would die.  Why would this be?  Remember the context for this section.  The people had just heard the Ten Commandments and understood two vital aspects:  the first is the Holiness of G-d and the second are His expectations for His people.  The people were convicted by their sinfulness and felt that if this Holy G-d drew near to them that they would die.  In verse 20, Moses states that this is not why G-d is drawing near to the people.  He is not coming to destroy but rather to cause a new reality to come upon the people.  This new reality consists of two things:  First is that His fear would always be before them.  This means that they would understand His priorities and what they should do.  The second thing Moses reveals is that G-d was going to transform them into a new condition where they could not sin.  Obviously, knowing the will of G-d and being unable to sin is what one should desire.  Why was G-d willing to do this?  Once again, context is the key.  He was giving them at Mt. Sinai the Torah and thereby teaching that man, in his natural state, cannot keep the Torah.

That which is most disappointing is what occurred in verse 21,

“And the people stood at a distance and Moses approached the fog, for G-d was there.”

This verse is seen as Israel’s rejection of what G-d wanted to do at Mt. Sinai. The transformation that HaShem wanted to bring upon Israel was not realized and Israel remained in a natural state. In this condition Israel could not keep the Torah.

People ask then why would G-d go ahead and give to them the Torah? The answer to this question is found in the end of the book of Joshua. In chapter 24 of Joshua, Joshua is approaching his death. He invites the people to renew the covenant that Moses made with the people, i.e. the Torah as a basis of having a relationship with the Living G-d.  After Joshua speaks to the people about their history from the days of Abraham to the present, he commands the people in verse 14,

“Now fear the L-rd and serve Him in purity and truth and remove the gods which your forefathers served on the other side of the river and in Egypt.  You are to serve HaShem.”

In verse 16 the people answered in the affirmative that they wanted to renew their covenant relationship with HaShem via the Torah.  It is most significant that Joshua tells the people, beginning in verse 19, that this is not a possibility.  Joshua is the only one who understood why HaShem had given the Torah. The reason was to show them that in their present condition that they could not please G-d and would fail in serving Him. They needed to be transformed. 


The Lubavicher rebbe once gave a teaching on a saying which he introduced to the people of Israel.  This saying that the rebbe taught is “Mashiach (Messiah) Now”.  In his teaching, he gave several examples of times where the Children of Israel should have beseeched HaShem to send the Messiah.  One of these times occurred in Joshua 24.  Joshua was teaching the people that the problem with a covenantal relationship with G-d, based upon the Torah, is not the Torah but the people.  This is why Joshua loudly protested the people’s enthusiasm to accept the terms of the Torah.  Joshua states in verse 19,

“And Joshua said to the people, ‘You are not able to serve the L-rd, for He is Holy, He is a jealous G-d, He will not forgive your transgressions and sins.'”

This verse presupposes the people’s inability to keep the Torah.  Joshua knew the people could not keep the covenant.  So why did he offer it to them?  In the words of the Lubavicher rebbe, so the people could say “We want Mashiach now”. Messiah does the work of redemption and brings about a new reality to those who receive Him through faith. Such individuals are transformed by this faith.

This is why Paul writes, in Romans 7:14, that the Torah is spiritual.  If one continues to read in this chapter, he will find that one, in his natural state, is condemned by the Torah. Paul says in verse 24,

“Woe is me, wretched man that I am, who will save me from this body of death.”

This verse makes it very clear that man, in his natural state, has no ability to obey the Torah.  In the next verse, Paul reveals the only hope for mankind.  He writes,

“Thanks be to G-d concerning our L-rd the Messiah Yeshua…” Romans 7:25

In the same way that G-d wanted to bring about a transformation of the Children of Israel at Mt. Sinai, so too is there a transformation through faith in Messiah Yeshua.  Ultimately, followers of Yeshua will not experience the total outcome of this transformation until we receive our new/glorified bodies, by means of the Holy Spirit, Whom every believer receives.  However it is through the Holy Spirit that every believer receives the potential to obey G-d and keep His Word.


It is important that one understands the patterns given within scripture.  All would agree that the Jewish nation was born by means of the Exodus from Egypt, i.e., the Passover.  Judaism teaches that Shavuot, the holiday which commemorates the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai, should be viewed as a marriage ceremony between the Children of Israel and HaShem.  Hence, according to Judaism, the Jewish people are inherently linked to G-d as His people through these two events.

There are those who say that only those who are the physical offspring of these people have been called to embrace this heritage; i.e., a Jewish lifestyle rooted in the Torah.  However, it is not a coincidence that Messiah laid down His life on the 14th day of Nissan (Passover) and is called by Paul our Passover Lamb.  Nor is it a coincidence that the Holy Spirit was first poured out upon those who accepted Yeshua as their Passover Lamb on Shavuot. In the same way that Passover and Shavuot created the congregation of Israel from an Old Testament perspective, the death of Messiah on Passover and the giving of the Holy Spirit on Shavuot also create the New Testament people of G-d.


Today, within the Messianic movement, there is a growing belief that Jewish lifestyle should be reserved for those physical descendents of G-d’s Old Testament people, i.e., Jewish individuals alone. There are problems with this view. First it has already been stated that the “Jewish lifestyle” was one given to Jewish individuals for the specific purpose of demonstrating to the gentiles how G-d wants all people to behave. Second, those physical descendents are not able, in their natural state, to obey G-d. It is only the believers in Yeshua, who by means of the Holy Spirit can obey the righteousness of the Torah,

“…That the righteousness of the Torah should be fulfilled in us, who do not walk after the flesh, but rather the Spirit.”  Romans 8:4

This verse makes it clear that it is believers who are called and are the only ones who have been equipped by the Holy Spirit to embrace, demonstrate, and fulfill a biblical lifestyle. As Paul states in the verse from Romans chapter 8 this lifestyle is inherently linked to the Torah.

People talk today about Torah observance when in reality the Torah Law is not even in force today. The rabbis acknowledge this and state that it is rabbinical law which is incumbent upon Jewish individuals. They correctly point out that without a Temple that the Torah cannot be observed. So what does this mean to a follower of Messiah Yeshua? 


The believer, Jew and gentile alike, is called to apply the word of G-d to his life and fulfill the righteousness of the Torah, not in the oldness of the letter, but in the newness of the Spirit (see Romans 7:6). How does one do this? What are the implications of this theologically and in practicality? 


These questions will be the subject of the next article. 

Author: Dr. Baruch Korman

I Sold My Soul on EBay and other Christmas gift ideas for readers… by John Knapp II

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For caring Bible-believers who wish to grow, and don’t mind stepping a bit beyond the church lawn, out of sight of the worship hall, these words are for you.  It’s risky to read, of course, but for most who seriously ponder God and his world, it just might be more dangerous not to.

Enough about that.

What does a Bible-believing, science-trained, textbook-writing, “sci-fo” novelist, former English professor at a State university read—that he also wants to tell others about?  Here are ten books within arm’s reach that have caught my eye, along with enough detail, I hope, to catch yours, too.   Perhaps one’s just for you.  Several aren’t new (I’m behind of course, as in giving my list), but then aren’t believers supposed to be receptive to older things?

The ten (given in no particular order) mimic other “10” lists popular at this season, and since we aren’t talking about commandments, feel free to skim until something trips you.  Here and there is advice on how to get some of the books.  Surprise an unsuspecting friend.  These are easy to find.  I checked.

1.  The Language of God:  A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief by Francis S. Collins. (Free Press—Simon & Schuster, 2006, 283 pp. ).  Collins, an MD and geneticist, who became prominent by decoding the human genome years before it was thought possible, was appointed by President Obama to head NIH.  An outspoken, though gentle, evangelical Christian who prefers theistic evolution to intelligent design (though I don’t) was converted as an atheistic adult through reading C. S. Lewis.  Of interest is his detailed response to the arguments of Richard Dawkins in his The God Delusion.

2.  Why the Universe Is the Way It Is by Hugh Ross.  (Baker, 2008, 217 pp. Easy to get through www.reasons.org.)   Ross, an astonomer and former research fellow at Caltech, and founder of Reasons To Believe, in his next-to-the-last (I haven’t read the last one yet) in a series of books on Bible/science issues, addresses questions such as Why Such a Vast Universe?  (As to size: there are 50 billion trillion, but not an endless number of, stars.) Why such an old universe?  Why such a lonely universe?  Why such a dark universe?  Why believe the Bible?  As far as I can tell, he’s up to date.  Ross presents powerful evidence for a purpose-filled universe.  Very readable.

3.  A Brief History of Time: The Updated and Expanded Tenth Anniversary Edition by Stephen Hawking.  (Bantam, 1998, 206 pp.).  Hawking, not a professing believer (as far as I know), has been considered by many to be next to Einstein as the greatest mind in physics.  This edition of his (short) best-selling (in 1988) “Brief History” has been updated to 1998 (though not to 2009!) and in my view is one of the best and most readable  introductions to the world of space, time, and multidimensionalty.  This provocative  book might come as a surprise to many Bible-believers.

4.  The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene.  (Vintage Books, 2003, 425 pp.).  This best seller, and Pulitzer Prize finalist a few years ago, while still readable for intelligent laymen, goes a bit further than Hawking, even discussing superstrings and T.O.E. or the Theory of Everything (that gets brief mention in my novel!).  It’s more than twice as long as Hawking’s “brief” volume, but well worth your time if you know a bit of science.

Now, why all this science?  Well, that’s my main area of interest, and what I’ve mostly written about—so far—on this website.  As a Christian, I’m convinced that God has given two kinds of revelation—special and general, or the Bible and science—which is a good way to begin thinking about many things.  And we can learn from both, as well as correctly interpret, or misinterpret both.  That’s a topic for another time.

But let me point out here that I enjoy the books mentioned (so far and later), whether by Christians or non-Christians, that are written by people who know what they’re talking about—especially as far as making clear what is known by modern science and what is not.  That’s important because several trendy books have been written by people who insist that atheism must be a premise of most scientific research.

Not so.

5.  Beyond the Cosmos by Hugh Ross.  (Navpress, 1996, 234 pp.  See comments about Ross in #2).  Okay, here’s my favorite book of the past couple of years, one I refer to again and again.   Within the context of The Big Bang Theory of origins, which I agree with, is acceptance, if only for a split second, of the existence of at least six additional dimensions  to the four (length, width & height of space and one for time) that govern all we see and much that we think about.  Ross explores multidimensionality to consider traditional paradoxes such as God’s triunity, God’s proximity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, evil and suffering, free will versus determinism, and the security of salvation.  The book is full of charts, lists, Bible passages, and details of modern science.  Presented as a possible framework for thinking, not as a catechism of absolute answers.  This is also true for the book that follows.

6.  Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin A. Abbott.  (1884.  My copy is pub. by Dover, 1952, 103 pp.)  Google this.  This classic is available several places for as little as $2 (a stocking stuffer?), and even a free download is available on the web.  Abbott, an English clergyman and Shakespeare scholar, creates a bizarre two-dimensional world (which he illustrates) where women are thin straight lines and men are flat and may have any number of sides (square, triangle, etc.), depending upon social status.  The action in this farcical plot turns when from outside this world a sphere passes through Flatland, leaving Flatlanders wondering about this puzzling “line” that begins as a point in their plane, growing and growing only to slowly shrink back to a point again and disappear altogether.  A great conversation starter that many can understand.

7.  Teaching Science from a Christian Worldview: Navigating the Maze of Educational Options by Krista Bontrager.  Loose-leaf in a binder, 96 pp. (Reasons To Believe, 2007; inquire at www.reasons.org) .  This must-read for a homeschool teacher, written by a homeschooler and former adjunct prof at Biola Univ. who knows and cares about science, (quickly) explores secular curricular and Christian teaching options—such as materials published by A Beka, Apologia Ministries, Bob Jones University, Christian Schools International, KONOS, and Sonlight—and points out strengths and weaknesses in student lessons for parents to consider.  With regard to science, scattered throughout otherwise acceptable and well-written text is serious overgeneralized information, out-of-date concepts, and actual factual errors.  This is an important, one-of-a-kind book for those who love God, children, homeschooling, the Bible, and up-to-date modern science.  This could merit a full article here.

But later.

8.  What’s So Great About Christianity by Dinesh D’Souza (Tyndale, 2007, 308 pp.).   Notice the missing question mark or exclamation point in the title (as is true of this sentence).  Take your pick.  D’Souza, a former White House domestic policy analyst—and writer of articles for the New York TimesWall Street Journal, Atlantic Monthly, New Republic, etc.—shows in 308 pages (plus 20 pages of endnotes) why Christianity is still relevant, why intelligent people can still believe and accept the Bible, why the Bible is compatable with modern science.  This logical and very readable contemporary apologetic for the Christian faith would sit easily alongside Collins’s book mentioned earlier.

9.  Earth Is Not Alone by John Knapp II (Ephemeron, 2009, 497 pp. but with larger than usual print, and some illustrations by Dominic Catalano—but order it from Amazon and read reviews there, at my website [www.johnknapp2.com], and elsewhere).  Shamelessly, I mention again my global disaster story (where EMP destroys all electrical power), in a “sci-fo” (science fiction/folklore) young adult romance set in the mountains of Pennsylvania, in the middle of a battle of Christianity versus atheism.   A sequel, The Blood of Three Worlds, will follow.  A page turner with real theological issues.  Says reviewer Grace Bridges from New Zealand: This [EINA] is “the first book I’ve ever seen that truly tackles the concept of [human] life in other worlds from within a Christian worldview.”  Very timely, I feel, as the December 2009 issue of National Geographic poses the question on its cover honoring the International Year of Astronomy, “ARE WE ALONE?”

10.  I Sold My Soul on eBay:  Viewing Faith Through an Atheist’s Eyes by Hemant Mehta (WaterBrook Press, 2007, 173 pp.).  This is a first-person description of the odyssey of a much younger Ravi Zacharias-type thinker, but one who has converted from Jainism to atheism, as he visits Sunday (or Saturday night) services of 15 different churches for pay.  His account is unforgettable to those concerned about the relevancy of Christian worship and the perception of Christian behavior.  Mehta, with no apparent ax to grind, visited churches small, middle-sized, and large; some ordinary, some famous like the Moody Church in Chicago.

Unique to his story: (1) Menta remains an atheist after his adventure.  (2) His book was published by a Christian press.  (3) A “study guide” (written by Rob Bell) about how to consider Menta’s arguments is tacked on the end.

So here’s my “10”—an odd, unbalanced list, but perhaps containing something useful that slipped under your radar.  The choices and discussion here, of course, are my own and in no way are official policies or beliefs of Seed of Abraham Ministries.

Happy Hannukah, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

Author:  John Knapp II

Prayer:Form or Free Verse Part 2 by John Knapp II

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Praying Together As a Group

In my next-to-last article (“Part 1,” though not labeled as such)  I recommended  using a fixed pattern, or form, as an aid in daily talking to God, who’s encouraged us in his Word to “pray (to him) continually” (I Thess. 5:17).  In that article, now in our archives, I emphasized that of the many reasons for prayer, and ways that one can pray, it’s important to realize that in approaching God no script is required.

In other words, a form or pattern is not necessary, though it can be useful—more than a crutch—for putting balance and order in all we want to say.

This time, in the space below I want to provide you with two things:  (1) a corporate or group version of the same prayer, and (2) a brief description of why I put this prayer together as I did, with supporting passages from the Bible.  As with the personal version, this corporate version can be “cleanly” downloaded on a single 8½ by 11 inch sheet of paper at RESOURCES on my website [www.johnknapp2.com]. 

Here’s the prayer which, of course, you can adapt, modify, or use as is.  The main difference here is changing “I” to “we,” “my” to “our,” and “me” to “us” so that a group can easily pray together aloud.

(Please be aware that our updated website welcomes reaction to what we say.  See the forum and blog connections.  Bear with us as we adjust to our new format!)

                                     A 21st CENTURY PRAYER

                                             by John Knapp II

  1       O God, our Father,

                    through the power of your Holy Spirit

  2       May we love you as we should:

  3       May we seek you daily for what we must know.

  4       May we understand your Word

  5       And may Truth be our guide

                   with the help of,

                   and in spite of,

                             the several traditions that

                             bear your name.

  6       May we share your love with those around us.

  7       May we actively serve in your Church

                    wherever we live.

  8       May we properly obey authority

                    wherever we go.

  9       May our eyes open

                    only to what we should see;

10       May our ears open

                      only to what we should hear;

11       May our lips open

                      only to what we should say,

                      to what we should eat and drink.

12       May we dwell upon what is true,

                      pure, right, holy,

                      and proper.

13       May we not lie to ourselves.

14       May we see any sin that hides in us.

15       May we confess, turn from,

                      and be forgiven of

                                any sin in our lives.

16       May we not cause anyone to stumble;

17       And if we sin against others,

                      may we stop

                      to ask their forgiveness.

18       May we also be quick to forgive others

                      as you have forgiven us.

19       May we live to please your Spirit.

20       May we be bold at the right time

                      and quiet at the right time;

21       May we run when we should run,

                      walk when we should walk,

                      wait when we should wait;

22       May we follow the paths

                      you have pressed under our feet.

23       May we obey you in all things.

24       Thank you for all you have given us:

25       May we accept and use those special gifts

                      you have given us;

26       And may we give wisely and generously

                      to those in need.

27       May we not be dulled

                      by the false brightness around us;

28       May your light shine in us

                      the remaining minutes of our lives.

29       May your kingdom come

                      And your will in everything

                                Be done.

30       And may our lives forever rest in your hands.

31       May we be part of all you desire,

32       And may we desire what you want

                      every day.

33       In Jesus’ name,

34       Amen.

Below are passages of Scripture that, I believe, support what I’ve done.  They reflect seven revisions of this prayer that I’ve done over the years.   (These are here only if any of the 34 parts—hence the numbering—raise questions.)

  1     Mt. 6:9;  Jn. 16:13

  2     Mt. 22:37-38,  I Jn. 5:3

  3     Acts 17:11;  Josh. 1:8

  4     II Tim. 2:15;  Ps. 119:105, 27, 125

  5     The concerns expressed in I Cor. 1:10-17 still exist.  Sincere people in Christ’s Church have differed on many things—about how the Church should be run, about how to worship, how to serve, how to live, etc.—which unfortunately has led to divisions;  nonetheless, we are one family and we must continue to seek out Truth and act out our faith.  Eph. 6:14; II Pet. 3:15-16; 2:1-3; but also see Jude 17-19.

 6     Mt. 22:39 & 28:19-20; Jas. 2:8

 7     Heb. 10:25;  Eph. 5:18;  II Th. 3:11-13

 8     Tit. 3:1-2;  Rom. 13:1;  I Pet. 2:13-17;  Eph. 6:1-8; but consider Acts 5:27-29

 9     Note that while “fleeing evil” and not doing bad things is Scriptural (see #13 and Ps. 119:37) and is implied in this prayer, the focus here is upon being open to what is good and desirable.   Jn. 4:35b;  II Cor. 4:18;  I Sam. 16:7b;  Ps. 101:3

10     Jn. 8:47;  Rm. 10:17;  Mt. 11:15;  II Tim. 4:3-4;  Ps. 85:8

11     Eph. 4:29;  Ps. 51:15;  Jas. 3:1-12;  Dt. 23:23;  I Cor. 10:31;  I Cor. 6:19;  I Cor. 3:16-17; Ps.  141:3

12     Phil. 4:8

13     I Cor. 3:18;  Jer. 17:9;  Jas. 1:27

14     Heb. 4:13;  Ps. 19:12 & 101:4

15     Ps. 38:18;  I Jn. 1:9

16     I Cor. 8:9;  I Cor. 10:32-33;  II Cor. 6:3

17     Jas. 5:16;  Mt. 5:23-24; Num. 5:5-7

18     Col. 3:13;  Mt. 6:12, 14;  Eph. 4:32

19     Gal. 6:8-10;  Eph. 5:18

20     Acts 4:29;  Prov. 28:1;  Ps. 138:3;  Ecc. 3:7;  Hab. 2:1;  Zeph. 1:7

21     Heb. 12:1;  Isa. 40:31;  Ps. 40:1 & 37:7 & 46:10;  Dan. 10:1-13

22     Ps. 23:3; 119:133 & 128;  Prov. 3:6

23     II Jn. 6;  Jn. 14:23;  Mt. 28:20

24     Ps. 100:4; 136:26;  II Cor. 9:15;  I Th. 5:18

25     Rm 12:6-8;  I Pet. 4:10;  I Cor. 12 & 14

26     I Tim 6:18;  I Jn. 3:17;  Prov. 22:9;  Ps. 112:5;  Mt. 6:3-4;  but also consider II Th. 3:10.

27     II Cor. 11:14; Mt. 7:13

28     Mt. 5:16;  I Jn. 1:7;  Ps. 103:15-16

29     Mt. 6:10

30     I Th. 4:16-17;  Ps. 91:1 & 23:6

31     Jas. 4:13-15;  Rm. 12:1-2

32     Ps. 40:8;  145:1-2 & 96:2

33     Jn. 16:24;  Col. 3:17  This completes acknowledgment of the Trinity (see #1 above).

34     Means “so be it,” a word of confirmation as in binding an oath.  Ps. 41:13;  Jude 25;  II Pet. 3:18

A few more comments:

Our purpose:  # 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 19 & 23 address the basic things God has called us to do. 

Our senses:  #9, 10 & 11 address our actively using our God-given senses in a positive way, getting out there and interacting with people and the world, skirting danger of course, but not succumbing to or overly dwelling upon the evil present everywhere.   #12 (and Phil. 4:8) summarizes this.

Our sin:  #13, 14, 15, 16, 17 & 18 address and deal with the sin we find in our own lives and how it affects, or could affect, others.

Our walk:  #20, 21 & 23 address our posture and speed on the path we daily walk, and the range of sound—from complete silence to noise—that we make along the way.

 Our thankfulness:  #24 & 25 address our accepting both the ordinary and special gifts God has given us.

Our giving:  Again, #25 which acknowledges our special gifting and #26 address the wise and generous sharing with others that God has allowed us the privilege of doing.

The matter of light:  # 27 & 28 address the bad light that surrounds us as well as the good light that dwells inside us.

God’s purpose and how we fit in:  #29, 30, 31 & 32 as well as 6 address God’s agenda and our desire to be part of what He’s doing.

On several occasions this prayer, in both personal and corporate versions, has been used in group praying in church worship, or church classes.  If you find it useful personally or with your friends, I would be happy to hear about it.  And receive questions.

You may modify what I’ve done without charge so long as it’s offered free (except for your printing costs) to others.  However, if you significantly change it, please remove my name from where it’s listed at the beginning.

And remember, a form prayer is basically a way to keep balance.  It’s no substitute for spontaneously praying without a script.

Remember too, as I said, both the private version (given earlier) and the corporate version (given here) with the Scripture references and other info can be more easily downloaded at www.johnknapp2.com.  (Click resources.)  These two single sheets can easily be folded twice (into quarter size) for carrying in your Bible, or giving to those in your church or Bible study class as you study prayer and—more important—pray together.

By John Knapp II

Jewish Identity and the Torah Part 2 by Rabbi Baruch

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Jewish Identity and the Torah – Part 2

Part one finished with the idea that the Torah is not in force today. Therefore it is incorrect to speak about Torah observance in the sense that an individual can keep Torah law. I am not speaking about the impossibility of Torah observance in the same way that Joshua did as I spoke of in my first article; i.e. humanly impossible because of one’s sinful nature; but rather the impossibility today because of the fact there is no Temple.  The destruction of the Temple brought a monumental change to Judaism. In the same way that in Psalm 137 the statement appears, “How can we sing the L-rd’s song in a foreign land” one needs to recognize that it is impossible to keep the Torah without a Temple in Jerusalem.

Both Biblical and Rabbinical perspectives understand the Torah as a unit. This means that Torah is only observed when all of its commandments are potentially possible to be fulfilled. James also alludes to the Torah being a unit when he says,

“For whoever keeps the entire Torah, but stumbles in one (commandment), he is guilty of all.” James 2:10

Rabbinical Jewish Law says in regard to a Torah scroll, that it is only Kosher when all of its letters are correct. This means that if one letter is missing, or one letter written in a wrong place, then the entire Torah scroll is not valid.

Hence today because there is not a Temple in Jerusalem, the Torah cannot be observed in its totality and if not in totality then it becomes not in force. This should not be a surprise because the prophet Hosea wrote about the period of time when the Torah would not be in force, saying,

“For many days the Children of Israel will dwell without a king, without a government official, without a sacrifice, without a pillar, without an ephod, and without Teraphim. Afterwards the Children of Israel will return and seek the L-rd their G-d and David their King, and they will fear the L-rd and His goodness in the last days.” Hosea 3:4-5

These two verses are critical in understanding the time in which we are living. Hosea informs the reader that the Children of Israel will go through a long period without a king or a government. There will be no sacrifices offered nor will there be any remnants of the Temple, nor will there be any active Priesthood. However in the last days the Children of Israel will return to the land of Israel and seek the Lord. How? They will seek G-d by means of the Messiah. Notice that the text actually says David. This is of course a reference to the Son of David, i.e. Messiah. Why is this text so important? It is important because it reveals that since the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. that the Torah could not be observed. This is the basis for the shift away from the Priest and Levites and the leaders of Israel to the Rabbis. Now it is rabbinical law which is binding according to Judaism and not the Torah. Therefore, when one speaks about Torah observance today, the real allusion is to rabbinical law and not the Biblical Torah.  It is amazing to me that people find it hard to believe that the Rabbis teach that the Torah is not in force. Here is a classic example to illustrate this point.

According to the Torah if a Jewish individual knowingly and willfully transgresses the Sabbath day the punishment is death. However if a secular Jew today chooses not to follow rabbinical law  in regard to the Sabbath law, a rabbinical court cannot inflict any punishment on this individual whatsoever. It is most clear that Torah law and rabbinical law differ in many points.

A friend of mine asked me to read a couple articles in regard to Jewish and Gentile obligations to the Torah. The articles grapple with the question of if there is a difference between the obligations of a Jew to that of a Gentile in regard to the Torah. The fallacy of these articles is that they assume one can keep / observe the Torah today. As we learned from the prophet Hosea, G-d has providentially placed us in a time period where neither a Jew nor a Gentile can keep / observe the Torah. Some will read this and immediately think about the words of Yeshua where He says,

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, I have not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill.” Mt. 5:17

Is not this conclusive proof that Yeshua is not against the Torah? Absolutely, but most do not understand what He was intending in this verse. Yeshua was without sin, and in regard to the Torah commandments, every commandment that was pertinent to Him (some of the commandments were addressed to women, or kings, or priests, therefore not relevant to Him) He preformed perfectly. Hence Yeshua was the only One Who was Torah observant. When He laid down His life on the cross the Bible says that He Who knew no sin, became sin for us. That is, our sins were placed upon Him and His righteousness (Torah obedience) was placed upon us (believers in the Gospel). Hence every believer is declared righteous before G-d because of the sufficiency of Messiah’s work.

This declarative statement that the believer is righteous is known as a salvation experience. Believers are told to work out their salvation. This statement is speaking to the issue of sanctification. Sanctification is related to one’s behavior. This is really the issue at the heart of this article (Part 1 & 2). In other words, should our behavior include observing the Torah and is there a different answer to this question for a Jew compared to a Gentile?

The first part of this question has already been answered—no one today can keep / observe the Torah. However one needs to be careful. Just because one cannot keep the Torah does not mean that it has been done away with. We read in the Scripture that until heaven and earth pass away not one part of the Torah will be done away with (See Mt. 5:18). The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews says that the Torah is getting ready to vanish (see Hebrews 8:13) but it is clear that the Torah will not vanish away until the New Jerusalem is established. Please note that the New Jerusalem will not be established until after the Millennial Kingdom. It is also most significant that in the New Jerusalem there will not be a Temple (See Rev. 21:22). Proving the point where there is no Temple the Torah is not in force.

Even though this is the case today, the Torah does teach me about sin and righteousness; that is, that through the Torah commandments and all of Scripture for that matter, one can learn how G-d wants one to behave. Is this not Torah obedience? Not exactly, for this is why Paul was inspired to write to believers,

“But now we who are delivered from the Torah, being dead therein where were held; since now we serve in the newness of the Spirit (The Holy Spirit) and not in the oldness of the letter.” Roman 7:6

I ended the first part of this article with this verse because it accurately and succinctly states the position of a believer in regard to the Torah. One is not under any obligation to a law or a commandment. This is what Paul was saying when he wrote,

“All things are lawful for me, but all things are not profitable. All things are lawful for me, but all things do not edify.” I Corinthians 10:23

Frequently people will respond and say does that mean I can do whatever I want? Does not such a view give people a license to sin? Notice that Paul says in this verse, “All things are lawful for me…” One needs to understand the unique position of a believer. The Bible is most clear that the punishment of sin, i.e. violation of a Torah commandment is death. Hence because every person is sinful we all deserve death.  The death that Messiah died he died for humanity. This is why Paul says in Romans chapter 6 that when Messiah died, so also the believer died. Hence through Messiah’s death, the believer has already received the punishment of the Torah and no longer bound to the Torah (for death frees an individual from the Torah). This truth is demonstrated in the fact that Jewish law forbids one to wear tzitziot (the fringes at the end of a four corner garment that relates to the commandments of the Torah – see Numbers 15:37-41) in a cemetery.

Even though the believer is free from the punishment of the Torah, one should not conclude that this will lead to ungodly behavior. The one who accepted Messiah did so because he wanted to be free from not only the punishment of sin but also from sin itself. Paul makes it clear in this chapter of Romans that the believer wants to now live his live unto the L-rd and serve Him. Paul expressly says the believer will want to use his body for the purpose of righteousness. (See Romans 6:1-18) Once again the true believer will want to live in a manner that fulfills the righteousness of the Torah, not according to the oldness of the letter, but in the newness of the Spirit. What does this mean? Yeshua reveals this in the Sermon on the Mount when He spoke concerning the true application of the Torah. Yeshua selected two examples to illustrate this point; murder and adultery. His disciples would understand that not only are murder and adultery wrong, but so also is having hate or lust in one’s heart. The goal of the Torah was for man to love the L-rd with all of his heart, soul and might and his neighbor as himself.  This is exactly what the believer is led to do by faith in Messiah, and what he is empowered to do by the Holy Spirit.

Micah the prophet stated this same goal in a different way in this well known verse,

“Declared to you o man what is good and what the L-rd seeks from you; that you do (execute) justice and love mercy and humbly walk with your G-d.” Micah 6:8

For the believer, there is no longer a divine punishment for violation of a Torah commandment per se, but when a person does not behave in accordance with the aforementioned goal of the Torah, then one is guilty of sin. A believer then should study all the commandments and the rest of Scripture and utilize the wisdom and admonitions contained therein having been endowed with the Holy Spirit to behave in a manner that fulfills the righteousness of the Torah. This is true not only for the Jew, but also for the Gentile.

Before I conclude the second part of this study I want to deal will an issue that is related in practice to what we have been discussing. This issue is the concern of some within in the Messianic community that there will be a loss of Jewish Identity if Gentiles adopt a lifestyle based on Jewish tradition.

I find this concern is baseless. Those Messianic leaders who describe Gentiles practicing Jewish traditions or even adopting a rabbinical observant lifestyle as a type of theological or spiritual holocaust is much to do about nothing. First I think the term holocaust should only be used in regard for the attempted extermination of the Jewish race during the World War II era that led to the tragic death of over six million Jewish individuals. Second, even though assimilation is a problem, one must define assimilation properly. It is not when a Jewish individual adopts a lifestyle devoid of rabbinical cultural norms, but when a Jewish person fails to embrace the righteousness that is contained in a personal relationship with Messiah Yeshua and embraces a lifestyle that is based in the principles of the world. To me it is just as problematic when a Gentile also rejects Yeshua and lives according to the ways of the world.

Related to this issue is the question, should a Jewish believer live differently than a Gentile believer? This will be the subject of the third and final part of our study.

Author: Dr. Baruch Korman

A Response to John Piper’s Article Part 1 (of 2) by Rabbi Baruch

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“Israel, Palestine and the Middle East”

Part 1 (of 2)

The issue that Mr. Piper speaks to in the aforementioned article is indeed important and dear to my heart.  I agree with him that both Biblical and historical concerns must be taken into consideration to arrive at a view that is in line with the revelation of Scripture.  Where I begin to disagree with Mr. Piper is from the very first paragraph.  There, one is able to see a bias held by him, which colors his statements throughout his article and causes him to incorrectly interpret key Biblical passages and arrive at conclusions which are in conflict with the Word of God. His main point, that the Jewish people have forfeited their right to the Land of Israel, is not supported by the revelation of Scripture and leads him to make additional statements that are in error.

Mr. Piper begins his article with a quotation from Romans 11:25-32.  He states that he wants to use this passage as well as other Scripture verses in “an effort to draw out implications…for a very vexing problem in the world today.”  What is this very vexing problem?  He writes,

“The existence of Israel in the Middle East and the extent of her borders and her sovereignty are perhaps the most explosive factors in world terrorism and the most volatile factors in Arab-West relations.”

It is quite interesting and sad that Mr. Piper places the existence of Israel as the foremost problem in the Middle East.  I guess he thinks that Iraq invaded Kuwait because of Israel’s existence; that the war between Iraq and Iran was also due to Israel’s existence; that Suddam Hussein used lethal gas on his citizens because of Israel’s existence; that numerous Arabs are butchered by Muslims because of Israel’s existence; that many Christians are persecuted, tortured and martyred by Muslims because of Israel’s existence; that the conflict between the Shiites and Sunnis are rooted in the fact that Israel exists.  Yes, it would seem to John Piper that removing Israel would solve most of the problems in the Middle East today and that world terrorism would come to a near halt.

Such a view is exactly what the Muslim world wants the West to believe in order to join them in their objective of destroying the Nation of Israel.  Sadly, it would seem that John Piper is among the growing number of “Christian leaders” who believe Israel’s existence is the core cause for much of world terrorism and the poor Arab-Western relations. 

This statement of Mr. Piper’s shows a gross misunderstanding of the Middle East and perhaps the basis for numerous elementary errors in his interpretation of Scripture.  The question which must be pondered is if Mr. Piper’s views are based in an ignorance of the Middle East or an underlying factor that causes him to point the finger at Israel and the Jewish people as a cause for world terrorism and deteriorating West-Arab relations.

My concern is that more and more “Christian leaders” are joining Mr. Piper in blaming Israel for much of the major problems facing the world today.  It is this misguided and irresponsible tendency that fostered the very views that gave rise to the holocaust.  These are the same views which caused many pulpits in Germany to be silent rather than speaking out against the socialist and fascist policies of Adolph Hitler and the Third Reich.

It must be stressed that I do not take lightly my statements.  In fact, I hesitate to make them in fear that I will be dismissed as one who cites the holocaust and anti-Semitism whenever Israel is spoken of in a disparaging manner.  Obviously one can criticize Israel and not be anti-Semitic.  However, to list the existence of Israel and the extent of her borders and her sovereignty as the most explosive factors in world terrorism and the most volatile factors in the Arab-Western relationship, shows a great bias.  Why did not Mr. Piper speak concerning the existence of a Palestinian State as being problematic?  What about the Islamic view that Muslims must conquer the world through Jihad?  Why is it that Mr. Piper presents a one-sided and distorted view concerning Israel and the Jewish people?

Mr. Piper writes in the next paragraph that both Jews and Arabs claim a divine right to the land in question.  This statement is false.  Whereas the Bible states numerous times that God has promised the Land to the descendants of Jacob, the Koran makes no such statement.  For example, Jerusalem does not even appear in the Koran.  It is only a tradition that Mohammed ascended into the heavens from Jerusalem.  To equate an Islamic tradition, albeit very important to Muslims, as a basis for divine right, is misguided.  This would be like saying that because the first Passover occurred in Egypt, the Jews have a divine right to all of Egypt.  Mr. Piper should understand that a single event occurring in a particular location is not equal to a statement by God in the Scripture which promises the Land of Israel to the Jewish people.

In speaking to individuals who have far greater expertise in Islamic law than I possess, I have learned that the Muslim claim to Israel is not based upon a divine right, i.e., a promise from the mouth of Allah, but rather the Islamic view that once land is acquired by a Muslim, it can only be sold to another Muslim.  If for some reason land falls out of Muslim ownership, Islam teaches that it is an act of merit to redeem this land.  Obviously individual parcels of land could be purchased and thereby return to Muslim ownership; however, redeeming the land is one of the principles which provide the basis for jihad.  It is also important to realize that not only redeeming land, but acquiring new land, and attaching to it Islamic ownership is also a chief objective of Islam.  It is obvious today that Muslims want to enter into the governments of nations with the objective of ruling those governments and imposing upon all Islamic law.  The recent changes in Lebanon and Turkey are excellent examples of this.  Israel is not an abnormality, but rather an example of what Muslims are trying to achieve worldwide.

In regard to Israel, let’s look at some interesting facts.  If one looks at the ratio between Jewish-Arab populations in 1948 for the area that makes up Israel today, there were 3 Arabs for every Jew.  The best estimates recorded a Jewish population of nearly 700,000.  Beginning in the 19th century, Zionism began as a desire to return to the homeland of the Jewish people.  Although nearly 1900 years had passed since the destruction of the Second Temple to the proclamation of the modern State of Israel in 1948, it is important to note that although other nations/empires included this land under their rule, the last government which called Israel its homeland was a Jewish one.  

When the modern State of Israel was proclaimed in 1948, the response of Israel’s neighbors, by and large, was to attack and make war.  It was only after losing the war that many of the Arab inhabitants of Israel abandoned the land.  It is vital to recognize that those Arabs who did not leave, but chose to reside under a Jewish government, received full citizenship with all the rights and privileges pertaining to it.  For the next 19 years, Israel did not expand its border based upon the pretense of a divine right to the land; its residents lived peacefully side by side with their Arab neighbors (with the exception of the Sinai Campaign in 1956).  It was only upon Arab aggression that Israel launched a pre-emptive strike in 1967.  The facts are clear that the Six Day War was not an Israeli aggression to expand its land, but rather a necessary action of defense and a desire to secure her borders to ones that could be defended against further Arab aggression. Such a decision proved to be wise when once again Israel was faced with Arab armies mobilizing at her borders in 1973 which led to the Yom Kippur War. Israel has faced several attempts to massacre her people and destroy the Nation. Defensible borders are a prerequisite for Israel’s survival. Returning to the pre-1967 borders and establishing a Palestinian State in Judea and Samaria is a formula not for peace, but a recipe for a war which Israel would not survive without divine intervention.

As a result of the Six Day War, Israel took control of all of Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, land that was previously part of Jordan.  Due to the loss of the war, many of the Arab inhabitants of this land fled while others who remained continued to be hostile toward the Israeli government and Jewish people.  Israel also took control of the Sinai (later given away to Egypt in a peace deal) and Gaza from Egypt.  It is primarily today East Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and Gaza which are at the heart of the Israeli-“Palestinian” conflict.

I, like Mr. Piper, do not intend to write in this response about all the issues or solutions to the Israel- Palestinian conflict, but thought a few paragraphs on Israel’s modern history would help to provide a proper perspective.

In returning to the article, Mr. Piper writes that he is not attempting to,

“lay out a detailed peace plan, but I will try to lay out some biblical truths that could guide all of us in thinking about peace and justice in that part of the world.”  “What we think about this, and what we say, does matter…we need to know how to pray.  And we need to know how to talk to others in a way that honors the truth.” 

This is well-said. The problem is that Mr. Piper grossly mishandles the Scripture and thereby arrives at “his truths” which are a distortion of the Biblical record.  For example, in quoting Romans 11:28, “As regards the Gospel they (Israel) are enemies of God for your sake but as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.”

The first problem is that, if one checks the original Greek text, the word “God” does not appear in this verse. 

κατ μν τ εαγγλιον χθρο δι’ μς, κατ δ τν κλογν γαπητο δι τος πατρας:

Correct translation: “In regard to the Gospel, (they are) enemies for your sake, but in regard to the election, (they are) beloved for the sake of the patriarchs.”

 In the next paragraph, Mr. Piper explains the first part of this verse,

 “As regards the gospel they (Israel) are enemies of God…”, and says “in other words, they are rejecting their Messiah and putting themselves against God.  This is what Jesus said to Israel in John 8:42: ‘If God were your father you would love me.'” 

It is incorrect to interpret the John 8 passage as referring to Israel or the Jewish people at large, for this is not the context.  The only individuals that Jesus is addressing in this passage are a small group of Pharisees who entered into a discussion with Him. (See John 8:13).  Further on in this passage, verse 22 says “the Jews”, but once again, the text is not referring to the Jewish people as a whole.  The term “Jew” is often used to refer to a Judean sect synonymous with the Pharisees and/or Scribes.  Whether one accepts this interpretation for the term “Jews” or whether one does not, is not vital. This is because once again, context is of key importance.  In this section, context demands that the statement in question from verse 42, is only speaking about those Jewish individuals who wanted to kill Jesus.  One must be extremely careful not to include the Jewish people at large in this desire of a few Jewish individuals to kill Jesus, which was ultimately carried out by Gentiles.  For Mr. Piper to use John 8 as a proof text to support his view that the Jewish people at large are enemies of God cannot be substantiated by this text.  Mr. Piper sounds awfully similar to those who label the Jewish people as “Christ killers”.  If one looks throughout the Gospels, one will find that Jesus Himself made a distinction between the Jewish people in general and those Jewish individuals that He happened to be speaking with at any given time.  

I do believe that anyone (Jew or Gentile) who rejects the Gospel is lost and remains in the same status as when he was born—in need of redemption.  But, to imply that Jewish individuals are enemies of God in some unique way from other individuals who have not accepted the Gospel is incorrect.  In all fairness, I’m not saying that Mr. Piper has made a distinction between the conditions of the unbelieving Jew vs. the unbelieving Gentile.  But what Mr. Piper has done, is say that because of the overwhelming rejection by Jewish people of the Gospel, that this has caused a loss of rights for the Jewish people for the land of Israel today. This view cannot be substantiated by Scripture.

Although Mr. Piper correctly sees this rejection of Jesus as a “hardening” as part of God’s plan to move the Gospel to Gentiles and a future restoration of Israel, the problem is that he does not include the current issues in regard to the Land of Israel into God’s future plan for the Jewish people. Nor does he correctly state that this “hardening” is only in part (τι πρωσις π μρους τ σραλ γγονεν ). This means that there is a remnant of Israel which has not been hardened and has received (or will receive) the promise.

Next the article switches to modern day Israel.  In speaking about the Promised Land, it is very telling that Mr. Piper writes,

“So now we ask, ‘Is the so-called “Promised Land” part of the inheritance and salvation that “all Israel” will receive?'”

Please notice that when referring to Israel he feels the necessity to put the term Promised Land in quotations. Why is this? Because, once again Mr. Piper does not see the Biblical promises attached to the Land as relevant today for the Jewish people nor part of God’s future plans. As his article continues, he offers seven “truths” which serve as guiding principles in helping the reader formulate his views in regard to Israel, Palestine, and the Middle East. The first is, GOD CHOSE ISRAEL FROM ALL THE PEOPLES OF THE WORLD TO BE HIS OWN POSSESSION. The Second is, THE LAND WAS PART OF THE INHERITANCE HE PROMISED TO ABRAHAM AND HIS DESCENDANTS FOREVER. After making the second statement he writes,

“This of course creates a huge cleavage between the Islamic view of God’s covenant and the Jewish and Christian view of God’s covenant.”

 Why does Mr. Piper feel the need to make this statement? As a Christian what does Islamic thought offer to this issue? From his first two statements it would seem that the debate is a mute point, as he writes, “The Land is destined to be Israel’s”. But he quickly retreats from this statement at the end of the discussion that follows the second point with the words,

 “But it’s not that simple. This is not an issue that can be dealt with in soundbites (sic).”

 It is only when one reads Mr. Piper’s third point that it becomes obvious that he does not accept his first two points in a literal sense. His third point is: THE PROMISES MADE TO ABRAHAM, INCLUDING THE PROMISE OF THE LAND, WILL BE INHERITED AS AN EVERLASTING GIFT ONLY BY TRUE, SPIRITUAL ISRAEL, NOT DISOBEDIENT, UNBELIEVING ISRAEL. It is now that one learns of Mr. Piper’s Replacement Theology views. He believes that it is the Church which is the true and rightful recipient of these promises of G-d.  However, he fails to see that Jewish individuals and God’s faithfulness to them, according to His covenant, also play an important role in the last days.  Although Mr. Piper opens this article with a quotation from Romans 11, he neglects to take into consideration some of what is included in this passage.  For example, he never deals with the statement that the Jewish people are beloved for the sake of the Patriarchs, nor the fact that the gifts and the callings of God are irrevocable (see Romans 11:28-29).

 Mr. Piper states, “So the promise to Abraham that his descendents will inherit the land does not mean that all Jews inherit the promise.  It will come finally to the true Israel that keeps covenant and obeys her God.”  In one sense this is a true statement.  The problem is that Mr. Piper understands true Israel as synonymous with the church and fails to see that this Scripture points to a future restoration of Jacob, i.e., the Jewish people. The point is Mr. Piper understands the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant as complete through Gentile believers and the relatively small minority of Jewish people who have accepted the Gospel. He fails to take into consideration that there will be in the last days a great turning to Jesus by the Jewish people who have returned to the Land of Israel. (To be continued in part 2).

A Response to John Piper’s Article Part 2 (of 2) by Rabbi Baruch

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“Israel, Palestine and the Middle East”

Part 2 (of 2)

Under his third point, Mr. Piper has no trouble quoting Scripture that speaks to terrible curses that will (have been) placed upon Israel. For example he writes,

“…in the terrible list of curses that God promised to bring on the people if they broke his covenant and forsook him was this, ‘And the Lord took delight in doing you good and multiplying you. So the Lord will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you. And you shall be plucked off the land that you are entering to take possession of it.'” (Deuteronomy 28:63)

He continues to write, “Throughout the history of Israel, covenant breaking and disobedience and idolatry disqualified Israel from the present divine right to the land.”

This is a gross misstatement of the Word of G-d. First of all Mr. Piper willfully ignores numerous Scriptures that speak to the fact that in the last days God will return the Jewish people to the land. This returning to the Land of Israel is part of the plan that will lead to masses of Jewish people accepting the Gospel. Mr. Piper’s failure to see this in the Scripture is most telling. At the beginning of the article he quotes the verse from Romans, (This quotation is from Mr. Piper’s article and not according to how it appears in the book of Romans)

“As regards the gospel, they (Israel) are enemies of God (as previously noted the word God does not appear in the Greek text, but was added incorrectly) for your (Gentile) sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.”

Why does his article only deal with an explanation of the consequences of Israel’s rejection of the Gospel and not the second half of the verse which speaks to Israel’s election and the fact they are beloved by God? Although Mr. Piper affirms that Jewish people still have human rights he writes,

“Israel still has human rights among nations even when she forfeits her present divine right to the Land.”

Yes, while it is true God Himself has exiled the Jewish people from the Land, He also promises to return them to the Land. In fact Jesus will not establish His Kingdom until the Jewish people have returned to the Land. It is important to consider a few of the numerous Bible verses that speak to this point. When the context for these verses is also understood the case is made in the strongest manner.

First, Isaiah informs his listeners that the Jewish people will, in the last days, return to the land according to the commandment of the Lord. In the following passage Isaiah expressly says that the Jewish people must settle in the places where they dwelt previously.

“Spread out the place of your tent, let the curtains of your dwelling places stretch out, do not withhold; lengthen your cords and make strong your tent pegs. For you shall spread out right and left and your descendant shall inherit the nations; and the desolate cities they will settle. Fear not for you will not be shamed, for you will not be humiliated, for you will not be disgraced; for the shame of your youth you will forget, and the disgrace of your widowhood you will not remember any more. For your Husband is your maker—The Lord of Hosts is His name; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; the God of all the earth will He be called. For as a wife is forsaken and sad, the Lord has called you and a wife of one’s youth she will be despised says your God. In a brief moment I have left you and in great mercy I will gather you. In a fury I concealed My face from you for a moment and in eternal grace I am merciful to you says your Redeemer—the Lord. For like the waters of Noah, this is to Me which I have sworn, the waters of Noah will not pass over the land again, thus I have sworn not to be wrathful unto you nor to rebuke you. For the mountains may be removed and the hills may collapse, but My grace will not be removed from you and My covenant of peace will not falter says the Lord Who shows you mercy.”

Isaiah 54:2-10

This passage confirms not only God’s plan to have the people resettle the land, but the fact that although Israel will suffer for her disobedience, the covenant will be maintained by God Himself. To those like Mr. Piper that present Israel as without a covenant today, this passage speaks strongly against them. It is most significant that this passage comes immediately following the famed Isaiah chapter 53. Isaiah chapter 53 speaks about the suffering Messiah and it is Messiah’s suffering that ultimately will establish the covenant of peace, i.e. redemption. This is why God is spoken about in this passage from Isaiah chapter 54 as the Redeemer.

Not only does Isaiah speak about the Jewish people’s return to the Land of Israel in the last days, but so does Jeremiah.

“Woe, O, Shepherds who scatter and spread the flock of My pasture, says the Lord.  Therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd My people, you scattered My flock and drove them away and will I not visit upon them; behold I will visit upon you the wickedness of your deeds, says the Lord.  I will gather up the remnant of My flock from all the lands which I have dispersed them there, I will return them to their pleasant places and they shall be fruitful and multiply.  I will establish for them shepherds and they shall shepherd them and they shall no longer be afraid nor dismayed and they shall not be visited (by their enemies) says the Lord.  Behold the days are coming says the Lord, and I will establish for David the Righteous Branch and a King will reign and be prosperous; He will execute justice and righteousness in the land.  In those days, Judah and Israel shall be saved; they will dwell in security and this is His name which He shall be called, the Lord our Righteousness.   Therefore behold, the days are coming says the Lord, when they will no longer say, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt; but rather, As the Lord lives, Who brought up and brought back the seed of the house of Israel from the land of the north and from all the countries where I scattered them there and they shall dwell on their own land.'”

Jeremiah 23:1-8

This passage is as well Messianic, and it likewise speaks to the fact that in the last days there will be a great return of the Jewish people back to the Land of Israel. Why is it so hard for individuals like John Piper to read these Scriptures and understand that part of Israel’s coming to faith in Messiah Jesus is inherently linked to the Jewish people returning to the Land? For one to stand against Israel and her borders like Mr. Piper does, is to stand against God’s prophesied plan for the Jewish people’s salvation experience in the last days. His failure to grasp this when so many Biblical verses speak to this point seems most puzzling.

The prophet Ezekiel makes this same point concerning the Jewish people’s return to the Land and likewise links this to the Messiah.

“And say unto them, ‘Thus says the Lord God, behold, I am taking the children of Israel from among the nations, where they have gone, and I will gather them from all around and I will bring them to their own land.  I will make them one nation in the land, in the mountains of Israel, and one King shall be for them for a king and they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they be divided into two kingdoms any longer.  And they shall not be contaminated any longer with their idols, or with their abominations, or in their transgressions; but I will save them from all their dwelling places which they have sinned in them.  I will purify them and they shall be for Me for a people.  And I will be for them (their) God.  And my Servant David will be a King over them and one Shepherd shall be over them and in My judgments they shall walk and My laws they shall keep.  And they shall do them.  And they shall dwell upon the land which I gave to my servant Jacob, in which their fathers dwelt, and they shall dwell upon it, they and their sons and their sons’ sons forever, and David My Servant, shall be Prince over them forever.  And I will establish for them a covenant of peace, an eternal covenant will be with them and I shall set them and increase them and place My sanctuary in their midst forever.  My dwelling place shall be among them and I will be for them (their) God and they shall be for me a people, and the nations shall know that I am the Lord that sanctifies Israel when My sanctuary is in their midst.'”

Ezekiel 37:21-28

This is perhaps one of the strongest sections in the Bible that speaks to how God will gather up the Jewish people, not because of any merit on their part (And they shall not be contaminated any longer with their idols, or with their abominations, or in their transgressions), but because of the Lord’s grace and His faithfulness to His covenant, which although John Piper sees as broken beyond repair, the Prophets do not. In this passage as well the Jewish people’s return to the Land is linked to their coming to Messiah. Once again although David is mentioned, this is clearly a reference to the Son of David, Messiah Jesus.

Another very important part of this prophecy is that when the Gentiles see God’s faithfulness to the Jewish people, they too will come to the knowledge that the God of Israel is the true living God (See verse 28). From the very first time God spoke to Abraham in Genesis Chapter 12, it was clear that Israel being right with God and walking in His ways will bring about a blessing upon the Gentiles.

“And the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your land, from your birthplace, from the house of your father, to the land which I will show you.  I will make you a great nation, I will bless you and make your name great, and it shall be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you and curse the one that curses you.   And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.'”
Genesis 12:1-3

In other words Gentiles, especially Christian Gentiles, should not speak against Israel’s divine right to the Land, one that the Prophets clearly maintain is in force in the last days. Israel’s return to the Land is an integral part of God’s divine plan to bless all people. Those who stand against this plan place themselves on the side of the enemies of God. The prophet Joel speaks about the nations coming to make war with the Jewish people in the last days. He writes,

“For behold in those days and in that time I will return the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem. I will gather the nations and I will bring them down to the valley of Jehoshafat (the Lord Judges) and I will be judged with them there concerning My people and My inheritance Israel which they scattered among the nations and My Land which they divided.”

Joel 4:1-2 (Hebrew Bible and Joel 3:1-2 English Bible)

Time after time the Prophets echo the fact that God will return the people to the Land and those who contend with this will be judged. Notice in this section that the Lord will punish those who divide the Land of Israel. This foreshadows a deal that will cause the State of Israel to make concessions of Land for a false peace agreement. It will only lead to war as Joel declares. According to the Word of God, it is wrong to divide the Land. Mr. Piper advocating a position based upon what international leaders would deem as a “just” settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians is a position that calls for the division of the Land of Israel.

Mr. Piper’s fourth point is JESUS CHRIST HAS COME INTO THE WORLD AS THE JEWISH MESSIAH AND HIS OWN PEOPLE REJECTED HIM AND BROKE COVENANT WITH THEIR GOD. This is certainly an overstatement. In the first century there were numerous Jewish people who accepted Jesus. One reads in the book of Acts that there were numerous thousands of Jews who believed in Jesus. The New Testament uses the phrase πσαι μυριδες which means many sets of ten thousands. (See Acts 21:20). These Jewish believers were persecuted by the Roman Empire like their non-believing relatives. In fact, many atrocities have been done to the Jewish people by those professing to be “christians” for nearly the last two thousand years. Today there are as many as a half million Jewish believers in the world. For Mr. Piper to say “…nevertheless the people of Israel as a whole rejected him” is simply not correct. While it is true that the majority of Jewish people have not accepted Jesus, for him to use the word “whole” as in Israel as a whole rejected Jesus, is ignorant of the facts.

In attempting to justify his assertions, he uses passages from Matthew 21 and Matthew 8. In the former, Jesus is not addressing the Jewish people at large, but only Israel’s leaders— the chief priest and the elders (See verse 23). Why does Mr. Piper continually lump the Jewish people at large with the narrow and specific group that Jesus is addressing in the Biblical text? In the Matthew 8 passage, it is also clear that Jesus is not condemning all Jews, but simply warning that, as Mr. Piper stated under his third point, that being Jewish alone is not a guarantee to being part of the Kingdom of God. Mr. Piper’s use of Matthew 8:11-12 is twisted in order to affirm his belief that the Jewish people are the enemies of God and have no divine right to the Land of Israel; while a simple reading of these verses, in the proper context reveal something quite different. The emphasis of the passage is the importance of faith. Jesus is warning that without faith even Jewish individuals who are called to be leaders in the Kingdom will be banished from this Kingdom and punished. However, to twist these verses as proof text that says Jews as a whole are enemies of God and therefore God has no purpose for them living in the Land of Israel, causes a great deal of Biblical prophecy to be null and void. Mr. Piper concludes his fourth point with his favorite statement in the article, “…they are enemies of God.”

The major fallacy of Mr. Piper in regard to the Jewish people and a divine right to the Land is seen when he writes,

“Through the history of Israel, covenant breaking and disobedience and idolatry disqualified Israel from the present divine right to the Land.”

It is most interesting that Mr. Piper sites Daniel 9:4-7. While it is true that Israel’s sin caused her to be taken into exile, the punishment was to seventy years only. Daniel chapter nine is an excellent example of the exact opposite of what Mr. Piper believes. For Daniel reveals that God is restoring the people back to the Land, not because of any merit on the part of Israel, but solely because of God’s faithfulness to His Covenant. Mr. Piper needed to take into consideration all the verses that appear at the beginning of his article. It is most telling that he chose to ignore Romans 11:29,

“For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”

This means that no other people may assert a divine right to the Land nor does Israel ever forfeit her divine right. Yes God may remove them for a period of time, but He will bring them back to the Land, not because of an acceptance of Jesus, but for the purpose of them accepting their Savior. This is a most significant part of Biblical prophecy.

Mr. Piper’s fifth point is THEREFORE, THE SECULAR STATE OF ISRAEL TODAY MAY NOT CLAIM A PRESENT DIVINE RIGHT TO THE LAND, BUT THEY AND WE SHOULD SEEK A PEACEFUL SETTLEMENT NOT BASED ON PRESENT DIVINE RIGHTS, BUT ON INTERNATIONAL PRINCIPLES OF JUSTICE, MERCY AND PRACTICAL FEASIBILITY.

What is most shocking is his lack of knowledge of history. The modern State of Israel was founded primarily by secular Jews. Israel does not thump the Bible to justify her existence. Rather it became clear to most people after the holocaust that the world needed to recognize a modern Jewish State of Israel (See UN General Assembly Resolution 181, November 29, 1947). Since Mr. Piper is not calling for a disbanding of the Nation of Israel and feels that justice, mercy and practical feasibility should be the basis for settling the problem in the Middle East concerning the Israelis and Palestinians, let’s consider the issue from this point of view. In 2000, Israel’s then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak, offered the Palestinian Authority nearly all the land that Jordan possessed before attacking Israel in 1967. The exceptions to this had to do with the large Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, highway 90 in the Jordan valley and a small area on the Temple Mount for Jewish prayers. Certainly most people would see this as a reasonable settlement. In exchange Israel demanded one thing, an end of violence. It is significant that the then-head of the PA, Yasser Arafat, refused this offer. Due to the unreasonableness of the Palestinian Authority, the United States then ended all dialogues with Arafat, as they felt there was not a true partner for Israel with which to negotiate.

It needs to be pointed out that over the next three years the worst uprising occurred as Palestinian terrorism soared. Who was not practicing mercy and justice? Here are the facts: The Palestinian people were a problem for the Jordanian government.  After losing the war with Israel, Jordan was very happy to pass this problem on to Israel. Although one should not minimize the suffering of the Palestinians, it is most significant that Israel has contributed more money and assistance to them than the Arab world in general.  In actuality, the Arab world simply uses the suffering of the Palestinian people as a way to condemn the nation and people of Israel.  But what is the cause of their suffering and who is to blame?

The first point that I would like to offer is that Israelis have no desire to rule or inflict any suffering upon any people, including the Palestinians. Prior to the Six Day War in 1967, were there Jewish individuals committing acts of terror against those who resided in Judea and Samaria? The answer is no. The facts are clear that Israel was most content with her borders and left the residents of Judea and Samaria to the Jordanians. However after the war the residents of Judea and Samaria became by default Israel’s problem. Some have suggested that Israel should have simply returned the land back to Jordan with the people. Such a decision was in conflict with what many experts felt Israel needed to secure her people:

On June 29, 1967, General Earl Wheeler, Chairman of the joint Chiefs-of-Staff, submitted to President Johnson a document on “The Minimum Requirements for Israel’s Defense.” According to Wheeler, the historical, geographic, topographic, political and military reality of the Middle East behooves Israel to control the mountain ridges of Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights. In fact, the dramatic technological upgrading of Arab military forces, since 1967, has made surprise offensives (e.g. 1973, Yom Kippur War) swifter, ballistic missiles significantly more destructive and precise, population centers and IDF bases more vulnerable and the deployment of reservists (75% of Israel’s military force!) much slower and problematic. Hence, there is a dramatically increasing importance of the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria in blocking and delaying a surprise invasion, providing Israel’s reservists with more time for deployment (Without reservists, Israel would be lethally inferior to invading Arab forces).

One hundred US retired Generals and Admirals signed a public advertisement in October 1988, contending that Israel should not withdraw from Judea and Samaria — which could not be demilitarized effectively – lest it fails to provide security to its people. The late Admiral “Bud” Nance defined Judea and Samaria’s eastern mountain ridge (3,000 foot steep slope), dominating the Jordan Valley, as “the most effective tank barrier” and the western mountain ridge (2,000 foot moderate slope), over-towering Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, as “a dream platform for invasion to the narrow coastal plain.”

This quotation was taken from an article by Yoram Ettinger in his July- August 2009 article entitled “Judea and Samaria— A Wake Up Call”

Israel has tried to live peacefully with her neighbors since 1948, but due to the evil intentions of her neighbors she has acquired the land that most military experts see as necessary for Israel’s survival. I fear that when Mr. Piper says that Israel should seek a peaceful settlement that he is implying concession of land. Perhaps this is not the case, but what is sure is that Israel has demonstrated a willingness to make unwise concessions that have brought about the deaths of more than a thousand Israelis since the infamous handshake between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat. Not only have Israelis suffered, but so too have the Palestinians. It is most clear that since the PA took over the day to day administration of much of Judea and Samaria, and Hamas in the Gaza strip, corruption has run rampant and the social and economic situation of the residents of these places have deteriorated greatly. Some would like to blame the Israelis for this, but as more money is pumped into these places less and less goes to the residents and more and more is put into the foreign bank accounts of its “leaders”.

If Israel is guilty it, she is guilty of allowing international pressure to cause them to cease to administer these places. Let us consider Bethlehem and Gaza as examples. Many Christians have joined the international voice demanding Israel leave Judea, Samaria, and Gaza (Israel departed from Gaza in 2006). As Israel has departed, it is very important to understand what has happened to Arab Christians in these places.  They have suffered persecution from their Muslim neighbors. The PA and Hamas are Muslim organizations which want to stamp out any other religious expression. I have spoken personally to Arab Christians in these areas and can attest to the lack of human rights that are now afforded to Arab Christians because of Israel’s departure. In Bethlehem, Muslim militants used a Christian neighborhood to shoot at a Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem called Gilo. Naturally Israel could not tolerate this assault on its citizens and returned fire. What occurred? The outcome was the destruction of this Arab Christian neighborhood. What does the world hear?  Nothing about the cause of Israel’s actions, just how the “evil occupier” destroyed the homes of poor Arabs. I believe that it is these misrepresentations of truth by the media that play a large role in people like John Piper being misinformed.

The sixth point that Mr. Piper makes is BY FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST, THE JEWISH MESSIAH, GENTILES BECOME HEIRS OF THE PROMISE OF ABRAHAM, INCLUDING (sic) THE PROMISE OF LAND. Mr. Piper’s replacement theology is clearly seen in this statement. While it is true that Gentile believers become full members of God’s covenant family, the promise that is addressed is that of the kingdom, and not the Land of Israel. Mr. Piper does not say or imply that now the Land of Israel is for Christians. Rather his theology does not place any significance on the Land of Israel any more than any other piece of real estate. His focus is seen in the following statement,

“Therefore Jewish believers in Jesus and Gentile believers will inherit the Land. And the easiest way to see this is to see that we will inherit the world which includes the Land.”

Mr. Piper calls debates over the Land of Israel “quibbling” over real estate which is pale in comparison to the future of both Jewish and Gentile believers who will inherit a new heaven and a new earth. It is his last paragraph under his sixth point that reveals what is one of the causes of his misinterpretation of this issue. For Mr. Piper it is the end that takes precedent over all other things. While the end is the most glorious, one must take into account all the necessary steps to arrive there. Mr. Piper’s oversimplification of prophecy is rooted in his failure to do the necessary diligence in considering all of Scripture. It is this oversimplification that causes him to ignore the totality of God’s plan for the last days and His faithfulness to the physical offspring of Jacob.

While Abraham is a model of faith for all individuals, it is Biblically incorrect to ignore the significance of Scripture which passes the promises from Abraham to Isaac and then to Jacob and his offspring. A very important prophecy that was given to Jacob occurs in Genesis 28. In this well known account of Jacob and the ladder, one learns from John’s Gospel that the ladder is the Messiah (See John 1:51). The ladder is used for the Messiah in order to show that it is Jesus that provides the way for man to ascend into the heavens to be with God. What is also of great importance is that together with this Biblical truth, Jacob is told by the Lord that his descendants must spread out throughout the Land of Israel as a condition for the fulfillment of Abraham’s promise.

And your (Jacob) seed shall be like the dust of the earth and you shall spread out to the west and east and north and south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 28:14

Jacob received this commandment while he was on the very piece of land that would become the Temple Mount. Hence it is the descendants of Jacob that must settle in the land in and around Jerusalem. This is a necessary part of God’s plan that Mr. Piper ignores. Rather, his view is that believers will inherit the Land as a de facto result of inheriting the world. This view fails to take into account the necessary order that Scripture demands.  It is most significant that the prophecy of Obadiah, which speaks about a war over the land of Israel, ends with Jews living in the land that includes the present boundaries of Israel and additionally, land in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, as a prerequisite for the Kingdom to be established.

Mr. Piper’s seventh point is FINALLY, THIS INHERITANCE OF CHRIST’S PEOPLE WILL HAPPEN AT THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST TO ESTABLISH HIS KINGDOM, NOT BEFORE; AND TILL THEN, WE CHRISTIANS MUST NOT TAKE UP ARMS TO CLAIM OUR INHERITANCE; BUT RATHER LAY DOWN OUR LIVES TO SHARE OUR INHERITANCE WITH AS MANY AS WE CAN. Once again Mr. Piper fails to understand that Messiah will not come back until the Jewish people are back in the land. Nor does he ever mention that in order for “Christians…to claim our inheritance,” certain events must take place. His view is like a man who is expecting the joy of grandchildren, but has never married and does not have any children. In other words, he wants to jump to the end without allowing for all the intermediate steps.

Also in this seventh point there is a strong element of pacifism. In the end times the Bible is quite explicit about the fact that God’s people will have to fight. In actuality God will empower the Jewish people to defeat those from the Gentiles that will attack Jerusalem.

On that day the Lord will defend the one who dwells in Jerusalem and it shall come about the weak among them on that day will be like David …” Zechariah 12:8

Certainly the reference to David is for his fighting ability and the victory which he brought over the enemies of Israel. There is no doubt which side the Lord will be on during the last days, for He will defend the Jewish people from all those who come against them in their Land. In the same way that God will stand with the Jewish people in the end times, this is where He stands today…against those who dare ask Israel to make concessions of Land for any reason, let alone to Muslim terrorists who confess in their charter that one of their express goals is the destruction of the Jewish State of Israel. 

In conclusion, Mr. Piper’s article does not present the revelation of Scripture in regard to this issue, but rather a distortion of Biblical verses in an attempt to advance his position for a Palestinian State. Although he never states this outright, the fact that he uses the term Palestine in the name of his article and states that he believes that Israel has forfeited her divine right to the Land, and says that he believes international standards of peace and mercy should be used to settle this conflict over the Land, clearly reveals his true beliefs, i.e., a Palestinian State.

I highly recommend one read the article by John Piper to which this article responds.  It can be found at www.desiringgod.org and search “Israel”.  

The World’s Oldest Photograph by John Knapp II

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A View Within the Canopy

“He stretches out the heavens like a tent.” — Psalms 104:2

At the time of this writing (Feb. 22, 2010), the world’s oldest photograph is about seven weeks old.

What?

First, there are two kinds of “old” pictures:  (1) pictures taken in the past of, say, Grandma and Grandpa, your childhood days, any person or thing (obviously) also in the past, and (2) pictures taken in the present (or recently) of things in the past—of things that happen to be very far away.

Things that happened very long ago.

Here I’m talking about the second kind of photograph, in particular one just taken by the Hubble Space Telescope of the world as it existed 13,100,000,000 years ago.¹ (Not, however, quite back to the Beginning—13.7 billion years ago—but comparatively close.)

Really?

Yes, I think so.  Let me try to explain.  To begin:  Technically, we see nothing as it is; we see (or hear or touch or smell or taste) things as they were a split second earlier since it takes time for our senses to tell the brain what’s out there.  Practically speaking, however, light is so fast that we can look, cross our fingers, and declare what things on Earth “are,” not “were,” and get away with it.  The same is true about sound which also travels fast, but much slower than light.  (For example, in London we can say we know Big Ben “is” across the street because we “hear”—not, more accurately, “heard”—it chime;  if we were viewing the clock a mile away, the chiming would be “heard” 5 seconds later.)

But when our senses (just sight, really) reach up and out from Earth things change and, to some of us, become more interesting.

Astronomers, with or without telescopes, are always looking at history, never the present.  So move over, Traditional History.  In fact, David Christian who trained at Oxford has recently developed the notion of teaching “Big History”², encouraging students (and history teachers) to begin at the Beginning—The Big Bang—and trace what we know about big ideas through astronomy, geology with its plate tectonics, paleontology, traditional and modern history, right up to Obama.  To begin to educate ourselves in the 21st century, we need to update ourselves with at least the headlines about everything.

Back to what’s up and out there.

We never see the moon as it “is,” but only as it was a little more than a second ago because light travels at about 186,000 miles per second, and the moon is about a quarter million miles away.  And the sun, about 93 million miles away, needs about 8.3 minutes to send its light here.  We never see the sun as it is, but as it was 8.3 minutes ago.  With pretty good evidence, we have faith that the source of this light is still there though we’d have to stick around ten minutes or so be “absolutely” convincing.

Since astronomers can slice and dice light from stars to identify the main elements they’re made of and how they’re moving with regard to Earth, we can tell how far they are away.  Now, with sophisticated telescopes and spacecraft, as we wade farther and farther into space we find the lag time between stars and the light they give us becomes staggeringly long.  The term “light-year” (5.88 trillion miles), the distance light travels in one year, helps us to more quickly express great distances.

Now where are we going and what’s new?

Until seven weeks ago, the best science we could “see” with telescopes showed us what the universe looked like about 12,800,000,000 years ago.  (Numbers and physics via Einstein and others have consistently maintained that there’s about 900,000,000 years more of stuff out there before we come to nothing, but we haven’t “seen” this—yet .)

Now, with the Hubble’s relaying of photos, we can trace our past back to about 13,100,000,000 years since The Big Bang.

What do we make of this recent photograph?

First, accepting these and other findings which cap off the effort of the 2009 International Year of Astronomy, we now have a glimpse of what the universe was like much nearer the Beginning when galaxies were smaller and simpler than they are today.

Second, this is another piece of evidence supporting the strong hypothesis that:

  • the universe is older than 13.1 billion years (13.7, we think);

  • the universe is very, very large, but finite;

  • the universe (with, now, its 4 recognizable and measurable dimensions—3 of space and 1 of time) once had a beginning and will eventually have an end; and

  • time is linear (with a beginning and an end).

Third, these findings are inconsistent with, or are incompatible with, many traditional eastern religions that claim that the physical universe is eternal, goes on forever, or is somehow unendingly cyclic, undergoing long-term “deaths and rebirths.”  This is also incompatible with certain Jewish and Christian “young-earth creationism” views that insist that the Earth was created before stars or anything else, and that the entire universe can be no older than 6,000 to 10,000 years.

Fourth, on the other hand this recent picture is entirely compatible with “old-earth creationism,” held by many Jews and Christians who accept both the age findings of science and the accuracy and reliability of the Bible.³  In fact, to the best of my knowledge, the Bible is the only ancient document (or collection of documents) of a major religion that teaches and assumes that time is linear.

Fifth, and take a deep breath, what we see in this “recent old” photograph is so old that what has been pictured in news releases actually existed before the Earth itself was created!

What does the Bible add, if anything, to all this?  In addition to the first chapter of Genesis, and at the risk of unfairly pulling passages out of context, you may want to glance at these:  Psa. 19:1-6;  Psa. 33:6-9;  Heb. 1:10-12;  and Jn. 1:1-3.   Allow for rich metaphor which is unavoidable in a pre-scientific age with little technical understanding and language, and for a geocentric focus since human needs are being addressed.  The god of these words is hardly a primitive local deity.

Inside the heavenly canopy that God unfolded and “stretched out like a tent,” in a delightful world not yet “[worn] out like a garment,” we can now seriously think and meditate in fresh ways about the God who’s blessed us with so much.

Author: John Knapp II

NOTES

¹Reported by Seth Borenstein of the Associated Press on Jan. 6, 2010 in the Binghamton Press of Binghamton, NY.  But google “Hubble Space Telescope” for much more information.

²Discover magazine, Vol. CLVIII, No. 35 (October 2009), pp. 66-69.  In an interview about Walter Alvarez, David Christian, a Russian historian, is mentioned as coining “big history,” and encouraging the teaching (in a single course, as he has done in Macquarie Univ. Australia) the four “great regimes” of real history—cosmos, earth, life, and humanity—to give the big picture of where everything came from and is going.

³The “old earth/young earth” controversy has been discussed in many places by those who consider the Bible to be inspired by God and an accurate and reliable record.  See my earlier article “ ‘In the Beginning God created…’ But When Was That?” at this website (type in my name in the search box to easily reach the archives).  See also “23 Questions Christians Should Ask to Have an Intelligent Discussion About Creation/Evolution” at “Resources” on my website [www.johnknapp2.com] and/or any of several resources at Reasons to Believe [www.reasons.org].

Some may wish to say the Qur’an or Koran also teaches that time is linear.  To that we’ll only make two quick observations:  (1) Much of the Qur’an uses the Old and New Testaments for its information about creation and origins, and (2) the two Bible Testaments predate the Qur’an by many centuries.

If this seems contradictory to a literal reading of Scripture, see note 3 (above).  Key to old earth-creationist views is that the universe (stars, etc.) was created in Gen. 1:1;  and that on Creation Day 4 the sun, moon, and stars—already created—were “made to appear” as the vapor canopy broke apart and unmasked them.  Still further, note that I and other Christians accept many miracles from God at face value such as the creating of the universe at the point where time begins, or Jesus rising from the dead, or even his changing water into wine.  However, if a belief that the Earth and universe can be no older than 6000 or 10,000 years forbids your accepting a Hubble photograph of the universe from what has been interpreted scientifically to be 13,100,000,000 ago, then God could have miraculously created the “light on the way” so that it only seems to be 13,099,990,000 (using the 10,000 figure) light-years away.  God could do that.  He also could confuse scientists in the physics they use to describe light that comes from outer space.

But if so, why?

Add to these, if you like, Job 9:5-12;  Psa. 104;  Psa. 148;  Prov. 8;  and II Pet. 3:4-13.

Where is America in Bible Prophecy? by Chris Suitt

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What do Britain, Egypt, France, Greece, Iran, Iraq, Italy, and Russia all have in common?  They all were world powers at one time in history.  What else do they hold in common?  They have a history of mistreating Jewish people in particular and backing the wrong horse against Israel in general.  Is there a connection between the two?

When it comes to Israel, there is one passage every individual and national leader must take into account as the Bible is very clear on this connection.  Genesis 12:1-3 states, “Now the LORD had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.  I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’”

God made several promises to Abraham – a land, a nation and world-wide blessing.  He also tells Abraham that those who bless him will in turn be blessed and those who curse him will also be cursed.  That is a tremendously huge statement!  If you mess with Abraham, you will face the consequences.  Can this possibly be true?  In his book, Eye to Eye: Facing the Consequences of Dividing Israel, author Bill Koenig uses current situations in the US to show that it is.

Koenig shows that in all of US history, nine of the ten costliest insurance events, six of the seven costliest hurricanes, three of the four largest tornado outbreaks, nine of the top ten natural disasters as ranked by FEMA relief costs and two of the largest terrorism events all transpired on the very same day or within 24-hours of U.S. presidents Bush, Clinton and Bush applying pressure on Israel to trade her land for promises of “peace and security,” sponsoring major “land for peace” meetings, making major public statements pertaining to Israel’s covenant land and/or calling for a Palestinian state.

Is this mere coincidence or is it God literally keeping the promise He made to Abraham in Genesis 12?  Are we heading down this same road with the current US Administration?  Just recently my local newspaper reported on the floods taking place in the northeast region of the US.  It was reported that “flooding on a scale rarely seen in New England forced hundreds of people from their homes Wednesday.  Hardest hit by 3 days of record-breaking rain was Rhode Island, where the worst flooding in 200 years could persist for several more days.”1

Was there anything going on between the US and Israel at that time?  There was a huge storm brewing between the two “allies”.  “On most issues, there is substantive continuity between Obama’s Middle East policies and those his immediate predecessor George W. Bush adopted during his second term in office.  Yet, whereas Israelis viewed Bush as Israel’s greatest friend in the White House, they view Obama as the most anti-Israel US president ever.  In the space of the past ten days alone, Israel has been subject to three malicious blows courtesy of Obama and his advisors.” 2

What sparked this latest storm was Israel’s construction plans for Jerusalem.  The US has been pressuring Israel to stop all construction in East Jerusalem so she can prove that she is ready to negotiate peace with the Palestinians.  So when American Vice President Joe Biden was in Israel on March 9, 2010, Israel announced further development of a Jerusalem suburb named Ramat Shlomo, and a diplomatic firestorm broke loose.

What is interesting about this firestorm is that Ramat Shlomo is not even in East Jerusalem, but is clearly in the northwest section of Jerusalem.  Yet the US Media keeps reporting and the US Administration keeps emphasizing that this suburb is in East Jerusalem, which has been ear marked for a Palestinian capital.  Why create a storm where there clearly is no issue?  Is there a hidden agenda?  Is the US moving away from its historic support of Israel?

If what was reported on March 29, 2010 is any indication, American policy might be making that shift.  “The US is considering abstaining if the United Nations Security Council votes on a resolution against Israeli construction in eastern Jerusalem, the BBC reported Sunday.  For decades, Israel has depended on the US to veto UNSC resolutions aimed against it.  A change in this US policy could be very perilous for Israel.  A diplomatic source told the BBC that a US official said the US would ‘seriously consider abstaining’ if the issue of Israeli construction for Jews was put to the vote.” 3

Why is this important?  Israel regularly gets bashed in the United Nations with anti-Israel resolutions being passed.  But these resolutions have very little bite to them.  They are just ink on paper.  But with the Security Council, which has the power to back up its actions, the picture rapidly changes.  Israel’s friend could now become her foe at worst or ambivalent at best.

Under George W. Bush, “Israel went along with US policies despite their strategic madness because Israel wanted to be a team player.  The Sharon and Olmert governments and the Israeli public as a whole believed that Israel had an ally in the Bush administration and that when push came to shove, the massive risks Israel took supporting US policies on Iran [let diplomacy take its course], Syria [Iranian-Syrian-North Korean nuclear alliance], Lebanon [don’t attack those who side with Hezbollah, namely the Lebanese government and military, which lead to Israel’s defeat by Hezbollah], Turkey [who supports Iran’s nuclear goals] and the Palestinians [measured responses to rocket attacks on Israel’s border with Gaza] would be rewarded [US would guarantee Israel’s security].  But what Obama has made clear in his mistreatment of Israel [in this current diplomatic explosion] is that he doesn’t want Netanyahu to walk the plank for the team.  He wants Israel off the team.”4

In other words, Israel went along with at worst or kept its mouth shut at best with US Middle East policy because it knew the US had its back.  Up to this point, US Administrations saw themselves as the guarantor of Israel’s security.  The current Administration, however, appears to be moving away from this policy.  In his article, “The Trust is Gone,” former New York Mayor, Jewish Democrat and Obama supporter Ed Koch stated, “It [this current diplomatic flap] has created a serious crisis of confidence among the Israeli public that it can depend on this Administration for its security.”5

Whether that is good or bad, for the purposes of this discussion, doesn’t matter.  It is what it is.  US foreign policy is changing.  And one of those changes is that the US appears to be moving away from guaranteeing Israel’s security, which is exactly what the Bible says must happen, no matter what party holds the White House.

One must understand that when it comes to prophecy, it’s not about America.  It’s about Israel.  And we learn from Ezekiel 38 and 39 that Israel will be attacked once again and in this particular prophecy, she has no one to guarantee her peace, her security, except the Lord.

Ezekiel describes a time when Israel will be living in peace and “are living in safety”, a “land that has recovered from war, whose people were gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate” (38:8).  When Israel is feeling at peace, she will be attacked by a number of countries (who and is it that coalition coming together today will be the subject of a future article).  Yet Ezekiel states in 38:18-23 that God will do the fighting for Israel.  He will take care of Israel’s enemies all by Himself and the world will not only see it, but know that it was God alone who did it.

Now, let’s face it.  For those who live with a Biblical worldview and know Israel’s brief history, we would have to say that it was God who brought Israel into existence “in a day.”  We look at the odds Israel faced in her wars and come to the only plausible conclusion, God fought through the Israeli army like He did during the days of Joshua when Israel first conquered the land.  Is God getting the credit for Israel’s current existence?  No.  Do most people on the planet see this as God’s doing?  Hey, if most Israeli’s don’t credit God with their existence, what can you expect from the rest of the world?

Yet the war that Ezekiel describes reveals that “all on the face of the earth will tremble at My presence…I will make Myself known in the sight of many nations.  Then they will know that I am the LORD.”  Up to this point, it is “debatable” whether God brought about the existence of Israel as a nation again.  In this end time prophecy, that debate will be gone.  The entire world will know it was God who defeated Israel’s enemies.  Now, if the US is the guarantor of Israel’s security, then who would get the credit for defeating Israel’s enemies in Ezekiel?  The US.  But this passage specifically states that the world will know that it’s neither the US nor the Israeli Defense Force, but God and God alone who defeated Israel’s enemies.  How God does this is quite the story, but that’s for another day.

For this outcome to occur, the US will have to come to the point that it is no longer Israel’s security guarantee.  In this scenario, does it mean that the US will no longer be a world power?  Does it mean that the US must be humbled economically so as to back off its military commitments?  No, it simply means the US will not back Israel’s defense.  She may be hostile or ambivalent when Israel is being attacked.  But no matter what, America is on the sidelines watching events take place in Israel.

Having said that however, if any US Administration, again it doesn’t have to be the current holder of the White House as God can change that situation at any time, turns their back on Israel, what does that mean for the US?  Genesis 12.   Think about something for a moment.  Is it any wonder how the US won the Cold War leaving the US as the sole world power without a bullet being fired?  As one politician noted, “It’s the economy stupid!”  Those who bless Israel will be blessed.  Ask yourself, which of the two Cold War countries supported Israel?  Those who bless Israel will be blessed.  Is it any wonder why the US of all the world’s powers over time is still the sole super-power today?  Those who bless Israel will be blessed.

As of today, there is a shift in US foreign policy away from Israel.  Is it the crack that eventually breaks the dam?   It’s possible.  If it continues, there will be consequences.  The reason the past super-powers are past was their treatment of Israel.  Could the United States be the next past super-power because of her shift in support for Israel?  Could the reason so many natural disasters have occurred in the past 3 presidencies be because of those Administration’s treatment of Israel?  Could the worst flooding in Rhode Island’s past 200 year history be linked to the current Administration’s policies regarding Israel?

What is known from the Ezekiel prophecy is that America, the current guarantor of Israel’s security, is not present.   Whether that is by choice (foreign policy shift) or by force (something happens in or to America), we’ll have to wait and see.  Whether it is under this president or some future one, an American Administration will decide not to support Israel.  And when this happens, Genesis 12 will come true.  The long run of a prosperous economy will subside.  The time of American superiority will come to an end.  History is quite clear on this point.  Only time will tell when that takes place, but one thing is for sure, God has kept, is keeping and will keep His promise made to Abraham.

You know me; knowledge for knowledge sake is useless.  The Bible tells us always apply what we learn.  So allow me to give you a few practical applications.  First, trust in the Word of God, not the words of politicians of any party or country.  God’s Word has and will continue to prove itself true.  Second, allow the Word of God and the Spirit of God to change your life from the inside out.  The more you become like Jesus, the more you take on His character, the better prepared you’ll be to handle whatever comes your way in the future.  Third, live with a Biblical worldview.  See all of life through the Word of God, not the culture or country in which you live.  It’s not about America’s future; it’s about individual’s futures – where they chose to live for eternity.  Lastly, pray for your governmental leaders that they would believe and submit to the Word of God.  From an American perspective, most people in Congress and in the general American population currently support Israel.  But they don’t make foreign policy, the president does.  Yet the people will pay the price for their government’s choices.  I don’t know about you, but I want the blessings of God, rather than the curses.

Author: Pastor Chris Suitt

End Notes

1. Press Enterprise, “Floodwaters slam Northeast,” April 1, 2010 C1.

2. Caroline B Glick, “Exploiting the Crisis”, Jewish World Review, April 2, 2010.

3. Gil Ronen, “US May Abstain if UNSC Votes on Eastern Jerusalem Construction”, IsraelNationalNews.com, April 10,2010.

4. Caroline B Glick, “Exploiting the Crisis”, Jewish World Review, April 2, 2010.

5. Ed Koch, “The Trust is Gone”, IsraelNationalNews.com, March 25, 2010.

How Much? How Big? and Why? by John Knapp II

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—A Multiverse for the Day—

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.  I will give of the fountain of water of life freely to him who thirsts.” —Rev. 21:6  NKJV

  

From the old test maker comes a simple question:  Which best states what is?

a)  Nothing exists

b)  Everything exists.

c)  Something exists.

And, your reasons why?

Kids from about age 6 begin to ask questions like this—though certainly not in those words—until 6th grade when they begin to think as the adults and older peers around them.  Daydream only in private and get on with your life, they’re told inso many ways.  There’s a sadness in this, but later a few return to seriously consider such questions—on one side of the teacher’s desk or the other.  Strapping on a bit of armor, these few once again begin to chew on fundamental musings.

Like physicist Robert Mann.

In 2009, toward the end of the International Year of Astronomy, Mann said that if “matter emerged from Mind” (as would be the case if “God created”), it should lead us to consider some interesting things.   Key to this is making a case for the existence of “something instead of everything”¹:  If we accept, as Mann and I do, recent understandings that there are about 10⁵⁸ (different kinds of) particles per (average) star², 10¹¹ stars in a galaxy, 10¹¹ galaxies in the universe (observed and implied from recent space photography), we can picture the package of things that are…a bit more easily.

And count up the “amount” (mass) of everything.

Mann goes like this:

Any finite collection of objects could be counted as “1” (ignore now the exponents) by taking the number of objects (or particles, if you will) in the “set” of the universe and dividing it by that number.

If, of course there’s nothing in a set, then there are no numbers in it except “0” or nothing.

But what if there are too many objects in the set to count?  And, no matter how high you go with your calculator, there are still more numbers to enter?   If so, we would say that the set is infinite, or  ∞.  (The symbol for infinity is an “8” flat on its back.)

Therefore, to restate the question presented at the beginning:

What, then, is the best way to express “what is?”  Choose from these answers:

a)  0

b)  ∞

c)  1

Let’s react to this welcome brevity with a bit of explanation:

First, accepting a “0” total doesn’t make much sense to us ordinary folk because, for one thing, there’s the reality of such things as my fingers pressing the keyboards to make these words, and the reality of your eyes horizontally zig-zagging to pull them off the screen.  Accepting this choice, which really reduces everything to an illusion, is like waking after a complicated bad dream and realizing there’s no reason, or even language, to think about or share where you’ve been.³

So no to “0.”

Now  ∞  is the assumption that some—just some—scientists, philosophers, and religious thinkers would choose (for reasons that walk away from the box of science, though some may disagree).  But infinity cannot be divided by itself.  (Abbreviating math logic here, if you tried this and came up with “1,” or some other answer here, by definition you could still add more to your answer because infinity is “unbounded.” No “1” is possible in this case.)

Looking for a metaphoric parallel?  With this choice all that we presently know in science is but Act 1 in a play that forever begs for an ending.  (Of course, choosers of this response wouldn’t say it quite that way…)

At the core of this choice is an elephant called “multiverse” that blind scientific cognoscenti approach from different directions. The first touches a trunk (a “water spout”); the second, a leg (or “pillar”); the third, a tail (or “rope”); the fourth, a tusk (a “plow”), and so on.  Hopefully, the elephant doesn’t wander away as the group later sits and summarizes.

What are “multiversers”⁴ saying and doing?  Let me recommend Brian Greene’s instructive (secular), readable (for many) summary, The Elegant Universe⁵ that tells you everything that you wanted to know, and more, about multiverses, String Theory, and M-Theory.

Though subscribers to multiverse are usually bright and often clever, they go in several different directions and are hard to pigeonhole.  Key to the thinking of many is the notion that the universe is, something like…infinite (as we best understand that word), with some postulating other worlds, or universes, where everything has “duplicates,” and/or “similar” or “opposite particulars” for every possibility of existence.

Further, say some, everything—everything—can eventually be connected by equations and numbers, giving us TOE, the Theory of Everything.

So how then do they now account for the delicate fine-tuning of so many earth features that make life—especially human life, even the creation of this article—possible?  Well…everything is (must be)—naturally—possible somewhere if we go “in” or “out there” far enough.  And, perhaps, we’re the ones out there already.

The problem with multiverse?   It sounds impressive, modern, and progressive.  But if we’re honest, though its various varieties are fascinating to consider and discuss, it is highly controversial even among scientists.  Even more, we must clearly recognize that it is not supported by any objective verifiable evidence—at least not yet.  But stay tuned…

Let’s go now to Option c, or “1” (that we postulated many paragraphs ago).  How does this fit our knowledge of the universe?  (1)  It recognizes that we and the world around us are real, not imaginary.  (2)  It recognizes that the universe though vast, is finite.  It is made of things that are identifiable and countable.  You could tally them and come up with a sum.

Add to that (3)  A strong scientific case can be made that time is linear and sequential, and that the universe—the “something” we’ve discussed—had a real beginning about 13.7 billion years ago, and will have a real ending in the future.  And further, (4) There is wide support from science that Earth is in fact amazingly fine-tuned in dozens of ways essential for life, especially human life.

And what does all this imply for Jewish or Christian believers who seem at the drop of hat to say “It took a miracle,” and who trust in a caring, creating, sustaining supernatural God to explain the natural world?  And the needs of creatures said to be created in his image, who love, care, hurt, wonder, experience fear and joy, and seem to always be reaching beyond themselves?

First, there is nothing for believers to fear from science—true, up-to-date modern science.  And second, oddly perhaps—perhaps not—believers should recognize that the Judeo-Christian Bible, is unique among ancient religious texts.  It alone is wonderfully congruent with, and complementary to, findings of modern science learned thousands of years later (such as the four items cited above) we’ve discussed.  But you may need to read Holy Scripture again with open eyes—and good notes—to make sure.

And as to the question “Why?” mentioned at the beginning:  What is the purpose of all this “something”?  On all teleological questions true science, by its very nature, is silent.  A key consequence of this is that we have to get our spin on what’s right and wrong somewhere else.

The Bible is not silent on purpose and value.  Believers are grateful for guidance there.  As to understanding about things, there’s science for that…and the Bible.

**********************************

(For a look at what the Bible also says about Earth and Heaven and creation, astrophysicist/evangelist Hugh Ross’s list, “The Major Biblical Creation Accounts” on p. 54ff. in Creation As Science and on p. 216 in Ross’s Why the Universe Is the Way It Is.In these passages allow for metaphor, effects of translation from biblical languages, and surrounding historical and philosophical contex.  Gen. 1;   Gen. 2;  Gen. 3 – 5;  Gen. 6 – 9;  Gen. 10 – 11;  Job 9;  Job 34 – 42;  Psa. 8;  Psa. 19;  Psa. 65;  Psa. 104;  Psa. 139;  Psa. 147 – 148;  Prov. 8;  Eccl. 1 – 3, 8 – 12;  Isa. 40 – 51;  Rom. 1 – 8;  I Cor. 15;  II Cor. 4;  Heb. 1;  II Pet. 3;  Rev. 20 – 22.)

NOTES

¹Robert Mann, “The Puzzle of Existence,” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith. Vol. 61, No. 3 (Sept. 2009).  Though Mann is building a case for Mind coming before matter, which I agree with, I’m using his three-choice pattern here in a more basic way.  I’m talking about the reality of “everything” not just matter (and energy) that Mann and all scientists, though not all philosophers, already assume.  In this and the rest of his article, which I’ve highly adapted and paraphrased, I follow some of Mann’s clever parsing of contrasting views of how to think about existence in a broader way.  If my generalizing is soft and short-circuits Mann’s ideas, that problem lies at my own feet, not his.

²If you’re bewildered about exponents, just realize they’re short ways (usually) to write big numbers using “powers of 10.”  Ex.:  10 is 10¹ or 1 times 10;  100 is 10² or 10 times 10;  10,000 is 10⁴;  10 is 1,000,000,000 and so on.   Hint: Count the zeros.  Remember, too, though exponents are convenient, they can be snake oil to glaze over the eyes of the uninitiated.

³Mann would, correctly, say I’m oversimplifying the problem here.  True.  But, then (see Note 1), I’m using his useful model in a broader way.

⁴I, an occasional poet, could—but cannot—pass up the opportunity to go further with “multi-verse” and share a little folk “versing” about this shadowy elephant.  “The Blind Men and the Elephant” has a rich folk history.

It was six men of Hindustan

To learning much inclined,

Who went to see the Elephant

(Though all of them were blind),

That each by observation

Might satisfy his mind.

And so these men of Hindustan

Disputed loud and long,

Each is his own opinion

Exceeding stiff and strong,

Though each was partly in the right

And all were in the wrong.

– John Saxe  (1816 – 1887)

⁵Brian Greene, The Elegant Universe.  Vintage Books (Random House), 2003.  Though a bit dated, this also has good information about the Big Bang.

Hugh Ross, Creation As Science, NavPress, 2006; and Hugh Ross, Why the Universe Is the Way It Is, Baker Books, 2008.

Author:  John Knapp II

Fall Protection by Jennifer Ross

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The last time I wrote I was b’midbar (in the wilderness). I encourage you to read that article to get a point of reference for this one. Ha’Shem led me to the appointed place at the appointed time to work out His established purpose in my life.  He was very intentional.  Humbling me…testing me…making me hunger…and teaching me to feed on every Word that proceeds from His mouth.  The entire time He was examining my heart to see if I would stand firm in Him (Deut. 8:2).

The Word told me to remember all the way which He caused me to go in the wilderness; to record the steps I took; and to acknowledge Him as I followed His lead.  This truth revealed in Deuteronomy 8 is re-affirmed years later by King Solomon. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your  ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.”  

I will briefly highlight the events following my experience in the wilderness:

  • Ha’Shem led me to speak what He had me led me to write in my last article (enforcing the cohesiveness between the two and how together they solidify into TRUTH)
  • Ha’Shem took away the job I had in my last article (considering the job, that was the most humbling thing of all)
  • Ha’Shem brought me a job the next Monday (through an unexpected phone call) and it was what I’ve done most of my career; finding employment for other people.  A chance to use my wilderness experience to empathize, comfort and encourage others.
  • Ha’Shem gave my son a job that Wednesday (which has enabled him to leave the nest and start his own journey)
  • Ha’Shem gave my husband a job that Friday (all of us working again in a week’s time in these economic times… Psalm 37:25 “I have been young and now old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his seed begging bread”) Hallelujah! 

When I was in the wilderness, I didn’t know the LORD’s plan, only that He had one. My focus was on the Word and His Light and I remember saying to Him every time I felt fear or doubt creeping in “LORD, You gave me everything I have… and if you take it away… Hineni, (I’m here) to serve You.” I knew He would bring me into a ‘better’ place.  But what we call a ‘better’ place isn’t necessarily what our Father calls a better place.  I came out of the wilderness with great joy and thanksgiving and the job Ha’Shem provided is sufficient for my needs.  Yet soon after, my husband was diagnosed with acute renal failure and has lost his job.  He’s on home dialysis… and I have been diagnosed with MS.  But you know what?  If I’m following the LORD, wherever I am is the right place. The place we should strive to be is the place He appoints. So I’ve endured…and followed…and rolled everything on to Him (trust). 

The Spirit was filling my head with thoughts of ‘falling.’  It started when I was in the wilderness with Psalm 37; A Psalm I kept clinging to for comfort and direction; a Psalm that encouraged me to hold fast. These thoughts of falling tumbled around in my head for a few months and I was asked for my next article. I was so thankful to be working I poured all my energy into it and failed to put the thoughts to pen. 

I was promoted into management (Praise GOD!)  I quickly became comfortable with where G-d had led me.  It’s time consuming and exhausting but He gave me authority over those who desperately need Him and gave me the tools to show them through my words and actions just who GOD is. Ha’Shem has allowed me to show His definition of ‘authority’ …which is ‘to serve.’ I serve those who work for me and they can see the difference in how I manage situations.  Above all, they know Who I give the glory to.  So I thought I had found my purpose. Nope…lean not on your own understandingReflecting His Light is not a purpose…it’s a privilege…a blessing…a reality if you are a child of the Kingdom.

A few months passed and the LORD continued to bless my work.  But I still didn’t make time to write down the message He was giving me. Then I had the opportunity to take a 30 hour OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Act) class to educate myself when dealing with customers and workers in the Construction trade. OSHA rules and regulations are divided into subparts. Scaffolding, welding, record keeping, etc.  One night we studied a subpart called “Fall Protection” explaining the plans and procedures to protect workers working above ground level.  Fall Protection. Hmmm.  Jumped right up and slapped me in the face. Alright, LORD, I got it. 

But I didn’t have it. I continued to expend my energy on everything else but writing.  The message wasn’t taking shape.  I knew it would revolve around Psalm 37 in some way and I knew it was about falling.  But I wasn’t giving those thoughts my full attention. The LORD had to shake me to pay attention, literally.

It took being in the hospital with a bright yellow band around my wrist stating in bold, black letters FALL RISK to snap me into shape.  And in that hospital bed the message was revealed… and my purpose was set in stone:  to help feed his flock through writing. 

What He has let me see is this: His Divine Purpose was not only to beat me up to see if I would still stand and serve. It was to teach me, toughen me up, straighten me out and empower me so that I could still stand and serve.  He brought me through many battles in the wilderness and on this other side.  So now, battle tested and combat ready, here I go…

Fall Protection

Ha’Shem brought the Israelites out of the wilderness to conquer the land of Canaan. They were promised milk and honey and pre-built homes, good vineyards and peace.  But they had to participate in the Plan. They had to remain obedient to His commands…and they had to fight.  Some were hurt, some were killed, but the victory for the Promised Land was the LORD’s. 

Warrior and poet, King David, writes:

“The steps of a man are ordered from the LORD and He will delight in his way. Though he falls, he is not cast down; for the LORD upholds him with His hand.” Psalm 37: 23-24

In Hebrew, the general word for any man is adam.  But in this verse, the word for man is geber; a strong man, righteous man, warrior.  It’s a man who is whole-heartedly following the LORD; a man who rolls everything onto the LORD in submission. It’s a man who, regardless of worldly sensibilities and pain, stands firm, wearing the full armor of G-d and walking in humility.  He may fall, but he will not be afraid and he will not relent, trusting G-d’s will be done.

Are you prepared to fall? Are you prepared to fight?  Are you prepared to suffer for Him… die for Him? Are you prepared to stand firm in Him despite earthly consequences? If you think you will be ‘taken up’ before the fight, read the Scriptures and not the best selling fiction books.  In Matthew 24:29-31 Yeshua makes it more than obvious we will be witnesses to the tribulation.

I’m not trying to convince you that you’ll be faced with the fight.  But let me assure you, if it does come in your lifetime, you better be prepared.  We are to be watching and waiting.  Not judging and not condemning and not wasting our time on fruitless endeavors.  Yeshua tells his disciples in Matthew chapter 10 to “be wise as serpents and harmless as doves”.

Where do we get wisdom?  Studying the Word. How do we become harmless as doves?  Living the Word.  And how do we get prepared for the battle?   By opening ourselves up to our Father’s teaching in our daily lives. 

Everything He allows to occur in your life is for a reason.  Just as G-d spoke to Elijah in a whisper, He speaks to us in whispers as well. He also speaks to us through earthquakes and storms in our lives. We are supposed to pay attention to what He is revealing in those moments.  The key is to be tuned in and not allow our flesh to distract us from the big picture.  Pain (and death) is of no consequence if our hope is in the world to come.

Yeshua also says in Matthew chapter 10 “do not think I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword”.   We are His warriors.  Stop focusing only on His love and what He can do for you.  Focus on His mercy… and what He wants you to do for Him.  We are all fall risks.  And though we may fall, He is our protection and our soul will be upheld. 

So what will you do with this guarantee?  Go to church on Sundays or Synagogue on the Sabbath and spend the rest of the week no different than anyone else?  When our Savior, Yeshua, speaks to the churches in the Book of Revelations he tells us that if you are lukewarm… He will vomit you out.  Be obedient. Be wise. Be harmless. Be still. And be prepared.

Shalom. 

By Jennifer Ross

6355 N Courtenay Parkway, Merritt Island, FL 32953

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