Now Available! Context for Adults: Sexuality, Social Identity and Kinship Relations in the Bible

Although it still falls under the umbrella of the “Context for Kids” curriculum series, this book ain’t for kids. I recommend it for older teens and up, but only with parental guidance. The first ten and last five chapters are G-rated and very valuable for any age group, and probably the most important material that I teach – on the ancient group social identity that, in and of itself, unravels many mysteries in the behavior of Bible people. The chapters on the inside, however, are a real mixed bag – not much different than the Bible itself. Like all my books, this is for families to go through together, as appropriate, and never to be simply handed to kids.

What is this book about? Well, this is the book I wish I had available for me – the book that explains, from the ancient Near Eastern perspective, the sections of Scripture that make the Bible so hard to defend and support – not only to our kids, but also to our unbelieving friends and relatives. Marrying a rapist? Marrying female POW’s? Why are terrible subjects like bestiality, and incest even mentioned? Why did Peter refer to Lot as righteous?

ORDER HERE <——————

Although these subjects seem strange to us, they were not strange in the ancient world that served as the context of the everyday lives of the Exodus generation. Some questions, like the marrying of a “rapist”, boil down to bad translations – but others are related to the ancient notion of what righteousness means, what behaviors were the norm in the outside world, and what it meant to be part of a group, instead of an individualistic, social dynamic. God was creating a new paradigm in a world driven mad with sin. Living in the aftermath of the Resurrection, we really have no appreciation for how bad things truly were before Messiah changed everything.

I am going to take you into the world of group-centered dynamics where you will learn a form of kinship relations that is foreign to the western world. I will introduce you to the horrifying realities of the laws of the ancient Near East. Life for the Patriarchs was akin to walking through a minefield of depravity and injustice, the likes of which we can barely imagine – but in order to understand and defend God’s laws, and answer the tough questions, the really good questions, we really need to know what the Biblical authors knew. It isn’t enough to shrug and say, “Well, I just know that God is good” when our lack of context makes Him look bad to the very people we were commanded to reach with His love. Remember – without a concrete salvation experience, we cannot simply expect people to ignore the stuff about the Bible that sometimes seems insanely disturbing. Compassion should compel us to seek out better answers – for unbelievers, our kids, and ourselves.

So, if you are tired of shrugging and saying, “Well, I just know that God is good,” I hope you will allow me to illuminate many of the Bible’s most uncomfortable subjects.

From the back cover:

Are you tired of being asked tough questions, both by kids and skeptics, about some of the terrible things in the Bible? Are you tired of not having real answers? Don’t you wish you understood why Bible people sometimes did terrible things?

No one is satisfied with pat answers like, “Well, I know God is good,” or “Jesus came to change all that.” If we truly believe that God is good and that Jesus is the exact image of the Father, then those answers won’t satisfy us – much less anyone else.

What if I told you that we can learn the answers to the hard questions by studying ancient Near Eastern law codes and sociology?

What if I told you that Western Christianity fundamentally misunderstands the meaning of words like righteous and has misconstrued concepts like kinship? What would you say if I told you that the ancients’ concept of family, loyalty, honor, shame, and community was completely different than ours is today?
What if, by understanding these ancient beliefs, you could provide concrete answers instead of platitudes to people’s questions? And what if by doing so you could offer hope and the reassurance that God is loving and good?

When people ask what kind of God would allow slavery, require women to marry their “rapists,” or tell parents to stone their children, wouldn’t you like to clear up their misconceptions instead of sidestepping the issues? Good questions deserve real answers, and that’s why I am here.

As I have explored Honor and Shame culture and ancient covenants in previous volumes, this curriculum will be dedicated to the subjects of ancient law, social identity, and kinship relations. This information is going to change forever the way you read your Bible. What you learn here will equip you to answer those “skeptics” whose only real crime is that they are honest about some of the situations in the Bible that are, or seem to be, very disturbing.

ORDER HERE <————–




The Bridge – **FREE CHRISTIAN BOOK** for the next 5 days 7/25-29, 2017

All of the instructions (I have over 5000 successful downloads of the first edition based on them and I lost count on the new) and all the links work. Everything you need is here – I even added a picture into the instructions. Please read them as I will not be available for questions.

No Kindle required – all you need is any online device – PC, Mac or android!! Read all the instructions, the links are in blue. PLEASE read all the directions as I will not be able to help you beyond that. Absolutely everything you need is here.

If the country you live in has an amazon platform, this will still be free for you, but my links will only work in America. Just do a search for my name – Tyler Dawn Rosenquist – and you will hopefully see the book listed.

So what is The Bridge?  The Bridge is a book that spans the gap between 1st and 21st century Christianity, sending the reader back in time to the faith once delivered to our fathers, so that we can understand what they understood, and see the Kingdom as more of a family instead of a religion.  If you ever wanted to explain to anyone, in very simple and non-threatening terms, why you believe what you believe – this will help you.  Why does God describe Himself as Father, King, Master, Husband?  Why does He call us to become a child, ambassador, bondservant, and bride?  What do those relationships teach us about His promises and expectations?  The Bridge:  Crossing Over Into the Fullness of Covenant Life is a book designed to explore those relationships and restore you to the path that leads to the intimacy that we were always meant to have with our Father. I have revamped much of the book, especially the last half, adding in 20,000 words that reflect better research into the ancient Near Eastern and First Century context of many issues – and, my original reason for the rewrite, I removed some popular urban legends that I took for truth – I simply had not verified because so many people were teaching them and besides that, I had an agenda and really wanted to believe them.

If you want the book for free:

1. If you don’t already have it, and you already have a kindle or the free app, just get it free here or do a search if you are from another country on your respective amazon platform. Hibuy-nowt the “Buy it now with 1-click” before Saturday 7/29 at midnight PST.

2.  If you don’t have a kindle, download this app first on PC, Mac, or android.  When that is done, download the book, but make sure you do it before midnight PST on July 29, 2017.

You can also buy it in paperback here if you are like me and hate reading things on Kindle.

You can help me by getting the word out about the free offer, and once you have read it, I would appreciate reviews. If you like The Bridge, then check out the sequel, written from the Ancient Near Eastern and First Century Perspective – King, Kingdom, Citizen: His Reign and Our Identity, which proves our rights to Citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven through Messiah. You can also check out my family curriculum series Context for Kids, Vol I: Honor and Shame in the Bible  and Volume II: Ten Commandments and the Covenants of Promise – I believe in teaching children the same things I teach adults, within reason, I don’t dumb it down, I just teach it more slowly. I’ve had kids from 7 to 62 go through Volume I with no problems, and a University professor as well (Volume II is better suited for 10 and up). If you haven’t caught my weekly youtube teachings for kids, check out my Context for Kids youtube channel linked on the sidebar – last year took the kids on an archaeological journey through the ancient Near Eastern context of Scripture from Genesis through Deuteronomy and started teaching New Testament Backgrounds during the winter. Coming soon will be Context for Adults: Sexuality and Social Identity in the Bible – covering a lot of those really uncomfortable Bible questions that both seekers and children will probably ask you about at one point or another, but you really wish they wouldn’t.




Honor, Shame, and the Temple of Dagon: I Sam 5&6 in Context

I love this story, really I do and always have – but an understanding of Honor and Shame culture makes it even better. I was recently teaching it to a special needs adult (which meant that I had to teach every ounce of context as I went through – it’s actually an excellent way of pulling as much meaning out of the text as possible) and I was just floored by the things I had missed on my last read through.

Of course, Biblical scholars and secular archaeologists have long been aware that the stories about Dagon being a fish god are just that – stories – namely, Jewish Midrash developed long after the memory of true Dagan worship had faded. Instead, from the enormous amount of archaeological evidence we have unearthed (and by “we,” I mean other people), it is now clear that Dagon of the Philistines was a grain god (click to read) – which I can now support from the Biblical text as well. But that’s just a side issue – let’s get to the funny part.

This account doesn’t start out funny, much like the events chronicled in the Book of Esther, but builds to a series of hilarious climaxes. I will skip the disastrous battle against the Philistines in chapter 4, and the demise of Hophni and Phineas (good riddance) in order to begin in I Sam 5:1 “And the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it from Eben Ha’ezer to Ashdod.”

Eben Ha’ezer is actually the formal form of the well-known name Ebenezer – “the stone of help” – as Ebenezer Scrooge was the hardened curmudgeon who became a generous savior, so Eben Ha’ezer represents a place where God (our rock) is our helper. However, Israel acted presumptuously in removing the Ark from the permanent Tabernacle structure in Shiloh and placed it on the battlefield – specifically in the hands of two adulterous, encroaching, blasphemers. This is our first honor/shame milestone of the story – the holiest piece of furniture on earth was carried into battle by the most dishonorable of men, men whose status as priests made their offenses against God astronomically worse. This was a direct affront to God’s honor and so what did He do?

In the ancient world, remember, honor had nothing to do with a man’s integrity but instead his reputation. They didn’t care who you were on the inside, as we would judge honor, but who you were by birth and titles, and how you measured up to other men. Reputation was the lifeblood of the ancient world – if you had it, you had a golden ticket to whatever you desired, but if you had no honor, no one would have anything to do with you, or your sons or daughters. (If you are not acquainted with Honor and Shame culture, I suggest reading my family curriculum on the subject, which was designed for non-scholars).

Well, God returned the dishonor back upon the Israelites – they had no right to use Him like that, placing Him in the hands of sinful men. So God placed His Ark in the hands of heathen men who removed it entirely from the country. As the wife of Phineas had prophetically uttered in I Sam 4:22 “The esteem (honor) has departed from Israel, for the Ark of God has been taken.”

Going forward, we see that the Ark is taken into the house (a Biblical euphemism for a temple) of Dagon and set right by the idol of Dagon. Now, an idol was not believed to be the actual god itself, but instead, an intermediary – by feeding, bathing, perfuming, clothing, etc. the idol, they served as a sort of palace staff. They literally believed that the real Dagon out there in the universe was taking in sustenance and receiving rest as they cared for his idol, by proxy. This was called the house of a god for good reason – that is exactly how they saw it.

Imagine their horror when they woke up the next morning and the priests went into the “house” to awaken their god in order to bathe, perfume, clothe and feed him, only to find that it had fallen on its face “before the ark of the LORD.” In their eyes, their god was found to be prostrated before the Ark, and therefore was discovered worshipping the God of the Israelites. This would have been extremely puzzling as, in their eyes, Dagon had just defeated YHVH in battle (otherwise how could they have captured the Ark?). Why was Dagon worshipping his defeated foe? Kinda shameful, really, but they propped him back up, cared for him and went away. Who knows, maybe they hadn’t been feeding him enough and he passed out, or maybe the wine libation the day before had been a bit too strong. Did I sound like Elijah mocking the prophets of Ba’al there (I Kings 18)? Yeah, that was on purpose.

I imagine they were all anxious to find out what would happen the next day, and so they rose early and entered into the house of Dagon only to find, horror or horrors, Dagon was lying prostrate again – only this time two of the three most honorable parts of its body – the head and hands, were cut off. If you are familiar with ancient Near Eastern executions, you know that beheading was the least honorable death and the removal of hands was extremely shameful. Not only that, but they were laying on the threshold.

Threshold sacrifices were common in the ancient world, and I highly recommend H Clay Trumbull’s excellent work “The Threshold Covenant.” I did not cover this type of Covenant in my curriculum as it was outside the scope of the book, “Ten Commandments and the Covenants of Promise,” but they are very important to understand. The threshold of an ancient home or Temple would often have a small bowl cut or carved into the threshold – this is the place where animals were sacrificed at the arrival of an important guest, and whose meat would later be eaten in honor of that guest. The blood of the animal would fill the bowl in the threshold, hence the name of this type of sacrifice.

So, what we see here is the sacrifice of Dagon at the doorway to his own house in honor of YHVH. Dagon has not only been shamed in worshiping another god, a defeated god (in the eyes of the Philistines) but now he has been executed in the most painfully shameful way imaginable – in his own home, like an animal. Ouch.

But wait, there’s more. God started striking the Philistines with wasting tumors (5;6, 9) and, as we find out later, crop eating rats (6:11). They moved the Ark from city to city until it came to Ekron, and the inhabitants of that city would not allow it to be brought inside. So where did it go? This is important – and funny, but only when we realize that Dagon was a god of grain and not fish.

I Sam 6:1 “And the Ark of the LORD was in the field of the Philistines for seven new moons.”

Did you catch that? The Ark was placed in the midst of a field – that was Dagon’s domain – and for seven months Dagon couldn’t do a thing about it. This was seriously shameful. Not only couldn’t Dagon protect them, or himself, in the cities, in his own house – but he was also shown to be utterly impotent in his own cosmic functional domain – a field of crops. This was really bad – but it makes the story so much funnier.

I won’t bother going through the rest of the story because the focus of this teaching is very narrow, but it just goes to show how there are no small details in Scripture – not even the word “field” in I Sam 6:1 that we tend to read over without a second thought.

*****

Edit: Check out Lina’s comment, she’s absolutely right –

You have really whet my appetite to dig a little deeper. In rereading the account of Shimshon (Simson) in Judges 16, I couldn’t help but notice a possible correlation between him being humiliated & made to work ‘grinding the grain’ and that it was during the P’listim coming together to boast of their god Dagon offering him sacrifices that יהוה intervened strengthening his servant in destroying the things they held sacred!

Praised be He!🙌

Matthew Vander Els: In Judges 15, the foxes with the burning tails ran through the Philistine grain fields, as well.

 




Excerpt from The Temple Revealed in Creation: A Portrait of the Family

When I talk to people about Dr. Dinah Dye’s first book, they invariably heap praise upon the Midrashic sections. Midrashic literature is a classically Jewish form of writing, creating “what if” stories that fill in the blanks within the Scripture narrative. It is easy to forget that Bible characters were not characters but instead historical figures, aka real flesh and blood people. Midrash brings life to these people, long dead, through creative storytelling that is not meant to replace the Bible, or stand on equal par with it, but to bring color to it. Most people are familiar with the “Book of Jasher” aka Sefer haYasher, written in 1552 in France – that is a classic example of Midrashic fiction (not to be confused with the actual lost book mentioned in the Bible, one of many texts referred to that we no longer have). Dinah is about halfway through writing Volume 2 – The Temple Revealed in the Garden. I am telling you, you are really going to want it. The detail she is going into about the Tabernacle/Temple is just phenomenal – not in a dry, scientific way but by placing you in that environment. Believe me, Dinah has a gift for making you see, feel, hear, smell and taste everything. Like I always tell her, she’s an artist!  Dinah’s website is www.foundationsintorah.com if you would like to formally study with her and take advantage of over 30 years of serious research. If you want to order her book, here is the link 

 

PROLOGUE

 

In the fifteenth day of the seventh month you are to have a holy convocation…you are to observe a feast to Adonai seven days…in addition to the regular burnt offerings with its grain and drink offerings (Num. 29.12,16).

 

Darkness crept over the city of Jerusalem. The moon appeared above the horizon casting its silvery glow on the stone walls of the Temple buildings. It glimmered across the cold pavement of the Court of the Women where a large crowd had gathered.  It was the last night of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles), and the excitement was palpable.

 

As the light from the moon intensified, four young priests-in-training, called “the flowers of Priesthood,” climbed up four ladders which were propped against four large lamp stands that stood in the Women’s Court.  The young priests steadily scaled the ladders so as not to spill a drop of the pressed olive oil they carried in open pitchers.  The olive oil was the fuel source for the great lamps.  Once the young priests reached the large vats that were mounted on the lamp stands, they quickly poured the oil to light both the outer and inner lamps.  Wicks for the outer lamps were made from the old trousers of the priests; wicks for the inner lamps were made from the trousers of the high priest himself.  Once the wicks were lit, the night was ablaze; every corner and courtyard of Jerusalem was illuminated as though it were noonday.

 

The mood of the crowd was electric. The atmosphere in the Court of the Women had been supernaturally transformed.  The men held burning torches and danced with reverent jubilation while Levitical priests played musical instruments with great exuberance and passion.  The great scholars and sages of Israel were among those who had gathered in the courtyard.  These men were well-known not only for their scholarship but also for their piety and character. Yet they participated joyfully in the celebration with hand clapping, foot stomping, and enthusiastic singing.  An audible gasp rose from the crowd as Rabbi Shimon Ben Gamliel juggled eight torches at the same time without dropping even one.  The men danced like King David danced before the Ark of the Covenant—leaping and spinning and whirling before the Lord.

 

Meanwhile, women and children who came to Jerusalem for the feast sat in the specially constructed raised balconies that lined the edge of the courtyard.  As the women chatted together in barely audible tones, the children fidgeted impatiently in their seats and tried to suppress giggles as they watched their fathers dance and sing.  Without warning, the crowd below erupted with shouts of, “Halleluyah! Praise the Lord from the heavens! Praise Him in the heights.  Praise Him sun and moon; praise Him all bright stars. Praise Him the most exalted of the heavens and the waters that are above the heavens!”  The chant from the crowd was followed by the sweet, melodious sounds of harps and lyres which echoed far and wide throughout the deep canyons surrounding Jerusalem. Every now and then, a quick blast from a ram’s horn pierced the night. Tambourines and flutes, along with the occasional loud clash of cymbals, added to the drama.

 

In front of the bronze doors of the Nicanor Gate, and above the semi-circular stone stairway, the Levitical choir took their places on the platform.  It was not unusual for them to sing from this elevated place; the choir sang from this spot when they accompanied the regular morning and evening offerings.  But tonight was special.  Tonight, they sang the fifteen Songs of Ascent with intensified emotion in anticipation of the Simcha Beit HaShoevah (Rejoicing in the House of the Water Drawing).  “I raise my eyes to the hills; where does my help come from? My help is from the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth,” reverberated throughout the Temple complex.

 

After a long night of celebration, the first rays of the morning sun appeared in the eastern sky over the hills of Hebron.  Though some had fallen asleep, many of the celebrants, now near exhaustion, continued dancing and singing.  They were eager for the water drawing portion of the ceremony.  A clear, high-pitched call from the Temple crier rang throughout the Temple precincts signaling the men of Israel, the Priests, and the Levites to prepare for the day’s services.

 

Meanwhile, at the entrance to the Nicanor Gate, two young priests blew silver trumpets. Anticipation grew.  The two priests moved slowly and deliberately down the semi-circular steps.  When they reached the tenth step, they stopped and blew the trumpets again.  Once they reached the stone floor of the women’s courtyard, they paused and blew the trumpets before crossing the pavement to the eastern gate.  With the last blast, the crowd made their way onto the Temple Mount.  Before making their descent to the Pool of Shiloach (Siloam), the worshippers pressed forward slightly then stopped abruptly.  They turned back in unison to face the Holy Sanctuary.  By this act, the crowd declared their worship of G-d in His throne room, the Holy of Holies, which was towards the west.  Their forefathers had faced east, towards the sun, to worship.

 

They continued down from the Temple Mount, passing through the Huldah Gates to the underground twin passageway of the Double Gate with its unique Herodian features.  Some in the crowd glanced up momentarily to appreciate the fine, decorative dome ceiling that had been meticulously carved in stone. Meanwhile, the high priest quickly passed through the Water Gate, so named for this ceremony, in order to join the crowd as they descended to the Pool of Shiloach.  The night had indeed been a joyous one, but now their joy would increase as the worshippers witnessed the double ritual of the drawing of water from the pool and the pouring out of water on the great altar.  Today’s ceremony at the pool was particularly significant as the high priest himself would be the one to draw the water.

 

As the high priest made his way down the broad steps of the plaza into the cool waters of the pool of Shiloach, the worshippers closed ranks behind him.  Between the enormous Herodian columns, the crowd squeezed in tightly—each one eager for a better view.  The Pool of Shiloach was uniquely situated in the shadow of the Holy Temple, and it received its water from the Gihon Spring: the water supply for the city of Jerusalem.  A channel constructed along the eastern slope of the City of David had originally been built to irrigate King Solomon’s garden.  Later, however, King Hezekiah constructed a channel through solid rock—diverting the water inside the city walls in order to protect the vulnerable supply from foreign invaders.  Now the pool, which had formed from the water in the channel, was the site of one of Israel’s most important rituals: the water drawing.

 

The golden flask carried by the high priest shimmered in the early morning sunlight.  As he scooped up the half-liter of pure water from the pool, the crowd nodded its collective approval and cheered loudly with delight.  The multitudes then turned and followed the high priest back up the well-worn path to the Temple Mount; it was now time for the second part of the ritual that coincided with the daily morning offerings.  All the while they sang the fifteen Songs of Ascent, “…I was glad when they said to me, The House of Adonai! Let’s go! Our feet were already standing at your gates, Jerusalem.”

 

As the boisterous crowd re-entered the Temple precincts, passing again through the Water Gate, the priests standing on the steps began blowing the silver trumpets.  The worshippers responded enthusiastically: “Therefore with joy shall you draw waters from the wells of salvation!”  They followed closely behind the high priest as he entered the inner courtyard and ascended the large stone ramp of the great altar.  He made his way to the altar where two attached silver bowls served as receptacles for the water libation as well as for wine from the morning offering. 

 

Before pouring out the water, the high priest held up the golden flask for the entire crowd to see.  It seemed a Sadducean priest who opposed the entire ceremony had recently poured the ceremonial water onto his feet instead of into the silver bowl for which it was meant.  The crowd reacted strongly to this act of contempt, and they pelted the offending priest with their etrogim (large lemon-like fruit).  On this day, however, the high priest poured out the portion of water in an attitude of thanksgiving—with gratitude to G-d for sending His Spirit to bring salvation and for providing rain to the crops and blessings to the nation.

 

One veteran priest who served as assistant to the high priest had also made his way up the ramp to the location of the bowls.  He carried with him a silver vessel containing the wine for the daily libation.  In perfect unison, the high priest and his assistant poured their libations into the two silver bowls.  The bowl positioned eastward was for the wine while the bowl positioned westward was for the water.  Since wine is somewhat thicker than water, the hole in the bottom of the east-facing bowl was marginally larger allowing water and wine to flow together.

 

From the bowl, the wine ran down into a special vat underneath the altar.  Every seventy years, young priests would descend to this vat to collect the congealed wine which by then resembled dried rounds of pressed figs.  The water, on the other hand, flowed through perpendicular shafts called “shitin” to an underground channel that joined the brook Kidron.  From there, the water flowed into the Gihon River and down the valley to complete the cycle.  According to the sages, the portion drawn from the Shiloach was returning to the waters of the Gihon Spring, called the fountain of living waters, and so back to the waters of creation.  Legend told that in order to bring each country its power and assortment of fruit these shafts routed the water through a subterranean network of canals that issued from underneath the Temple Mount.

 

Once the water and the wine disappeared from view, the crowd let out a prolonged shout of Hoshanna (save us).  With that, the official ceremony was over.  Now they waited for the rains to come and water the crops—blessing the whole House of Israel with a bountiful final harvest.

 




Sneak Peak at Context for Adults: Sexuality, Social Identity and Kinship Relations in the Bible

I had to choose a chapter that could largely stand on its own, so I went with “Lesson 39 – If Moses Allowed Divorce, Why Did Jesus Call Remarriage After Divorce Adultery?” The other lessons required a good working knowledge of group social dynamics, which I spend the first ten lessons teaching in depth, but this one only really required a knowledge of the first-century controversy in question – that of “any cause” or “every cause” divorce. Hopefully, we will have this book on the market in about a month. Just polishing it up!

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

Without context, the Bible can be used to do terrible harm to people. In this case, we are going to need to talk about three sections of Scripture that have been misused because of translational problems as well as a lack of knowledge concerning the “any cause” divorces of the first century. First, let’s look at the three sections of Scripture in question:

Deut 24:1-2 “When a man hath taken a wife and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.

And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife.”

Matt 5:31-32 “It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”

Matt 19:3-9 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?  Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

As we learn from the Babylonian Talmud, in Gittin 90a, during the first century BCE the House of Hillel Pharisees enacted a ruling stating that a man could divorce his wife for any cause. Although the intent of Deuteronomy 24 was clearly to allow divorce in the case of adultery, aka “uncleanness,” Hillel expanded that ruling to allow a man to send his wife out for the smallest of offenses – even if she merely burned his meal. As you can imagine, based upon what we have learned so far, this left a wife in a terrible predicament. Even if her husband paid the ketubah money owed with a divorce, it would only last so long and women in those days could rarely find respectable work.  So what question was Jesus really being asked?

“Do we (men) have the right to divorce our wives for any reason whatsoever? Do you agree with Hillel’s ruling?”

The answer was undoubtedly not what many of them wanted to hear. Tragically, divorce had become rampant in the time of Jesus – not a mutual divorce as we see in modern times, but a one-sided affair where a woman had absolutely no say. Men had gotten used to having absolute power over their women, and they were using the Bible as their justification. The Bible certainly permitted divorce based on a breach of the marriage covenant, but not over trivialities.

How did Jesus reply?

“God created marriage to be eternal, and when you send your unemployable wives out into the world shamed and without support over insignificant issues, God is not going to see your actions as justified. She is going to be forced to remarry to survive, but as far as God is concerned, you didn’t divorce her legally, and so her adultery is your crime as she is still your wife and your responsibility; this was not her choice. And the guy she marries? He is going to be involved in adultery too – because your callous, selfish decision made a terrible mess.”

What Jesus is addressing here was just one aspect of the systemic societal evil in the first century. Was divorce allowed under the Law? – Yes, absolutely. Was remarriage after divorce allowed? – According to Deut 24, yes. Was “any cause” divorce acceptable? – Absolutely not. There is nothing righteous about treating your wife like she is not your family, throwing her out of the house without her having any say in the matter when she is not an adulteress. The Matthew texts make it clear that a marriage cannot have a one-sided dissolution. It isn’t over until both sides say it is over or until one side destroys that bond through sexual sin. One partner walking away does not unilaterally sever the covenant bond without their spouse’s permission. Modern divorce is, in some ways, more like the Biblical model – despite the fact that we still divorce far too easily. One person can’t just decide that the marriage is over – it has to be a mutual decision (or at the very least, it can be contested), ratified in the courts, in order for the petitioner to remarry. First-century men, however, were casting their wives aside and taking on new brides – whether their wives approved or not. This was considered adultery – as their wives rights in the matter were being taken into account, by God.

There is a reason why sexual relations in the Bible are so often referred to as “humbling” a woman – that humbling is not necessarily evil or bad, but to have one’s way with a woman and then abandon her leaves her feeling violated and demeaned. Marital sexual relations, on the other hand, should leave a woman feeling valued and loved. There is a humility that exists between a man and a woman after sex, a humility that can either result in healthy intimacy or destructive shame.  God’s intention was for sexual intimacy to bind a man and a woman together honorably for life, not to give them cause for regrets, embarrassment, and feelings of abandonment and betrayal.

Women were created to be extremely emotionally vulnerable to rejection, and any study into honor/shame dynamics will verify that a woman’s reputation is far more easily damaged than a man’s, and is not easily recovered even if she is later found to be innocent. To be thrown out of her home by her husband merely because she is no longer attractive, or because he is tired of her, or becomes interested in someone younger, strikes at the heart of a woman’s basic sense of self-worth. It is the epitome of what it means to be unloving to one’s neighbor. Even knowing that her husband could legally abandon her, seemingly with the blessing of God, would have been a cause for much stress in the life of any married woman.

I want you to notice what Jesus didn’t say, “Any of you who have married a divorced woman now need to divorce her, or you are sinning.” He said nothing of the sort, or even hinted at it. New marriages produce children, and God is in no way honored when yet another home is broken apart. Frequently, Jesus addressed the real core problem without presenting a solution because there was no longer any good solution except – “don’t do this anymore.” Jesus was telling them that “any cause” divorce was not justified in the eyes of God and that they needed to start honoring the marriages they were in now. “Any cause” divorce was unjust, cruel and arbitrary – making each man a potential tyrant in his own home, and his wife little more than an expendable slave subject to the whim of her master.

Homework: In Ten Commandments and the Covenants of Promise, I taught a character lesson about being true to one’s marriage covenant partner. As we discussed, Hillel said that divorce should be permitted even if your wife burns a meal, but Shammai recognized that a covenant between people cannot exist if there is no expectation of forgiveness. When a woman marries a man, she needs to know that as she gets older, he will remain true to her. She needs to know that doing her best will always be enough. The same goes for wives with their husbands; we must be loyal to each other unless there is an actual betrayal. My husband and I have been married for twenty-six years, and neither one of us is getting any better looking! I want you to imagine a world where your spouse had the legal authority to hand you a sheet of paper in front of witnesses and walk out the door (or rather, push you out the door) in a society without child support, where a woman had no honorable professional opportunities and whose family might not want the shame of taking her back in. How would that reflect upon your understanding of the nature of God’s covenants? Would you trust Him that forever means forever, or would you think that He is capable of abandoning His own covenant people? Would “Great is Thy Faithfulness” ever have been written if we thought He wasn’t long-suffering?




Social Media Bullying: Is Saying God and Lord Acceptable?

You’re quite fortunate if you run in social media circles within the Hebrew Roots/Messianic movement or other denominations of Christianity and haven’t had a run in with people who are quick to tell you why this or that is pagan, sinful, or just plain wrong. One of the most popular areas in which newcomers are attacked is in the usage of the honorific titles of Lord and God, which are used as English language equivalents to the Hebrew words, Adonai and Elohim. And I am not referring to people who simply prefer to pronounce the Tetragrammaton, I am talking about the people who go out bent on conquering, making it a salvation issue.

Now, it’s one thing when seasoned veterans get bombarded with this stuff – but the folks preaching this, often very unkindly and with threats of damnation, do not pay the slightest bit of attention to whether someone has been a believer one hour, or fifty years, or whether they are thirteen years old, or eighty years old. Truly the great evil of social media religious preaching is that we do not have a relationship with the people we are approaching, and therefore have no idea if we even should approach them. We lack the wisdom to know if we are instructing them or confusing them, or even damaging them. I don’t want this to happen to anyone’s kid and so after years of pondering this, I am finally setting it down in writing.

So, let’s look at the use of honorifics in the Bible – and we will use a specific example from my own social media wall a couple of weeks ago. I was talking about it being the anniversary of coming to an understanding of Torah being for today, and I praised “Adonai.” This was the response I got from someone who I had never heard from before:

“Well, I guess you are still waiting for Him to ask you what His proper name is! His name is not Adonai or Lord or God but…”

FYI, I removed His Name from the quote because the sarcastic and ignorant nature of the comment brought His Name to shame. I literally felt embarrassed for my King. Of course, I know the Name, the four letter Tetragrammaton – it was silly, arrogant, and undiscerning to presume otherwise, just because I chose to use a formal title that means “My Lord” or “My Master.”

Before I start, I want to give a little bit of an example of how the usage of intimate Names compares with the usage of honorifics when addressing someone with whom we are not social equals:

Your Majesty,

I applaud your Highness on your recent speech to parliament. It was a privilege to hear the wisdom of your Grace addressing the legislature. Long live the Queen!

Okay, that letter was respectful, right? Let’s try it again without the honorifics, but still speaking with nothing but kindness:

Elizabeth Windsor,

I applaud you, Elizabeth, on your recent speech to Parliament. Liz, it was a privilege to hear your wisdom as you addressed the Legislature. I hope you live forever.

Notice that I said nothing uncomplimentary in either letter. But the tone was different – in the first, I was speaking to someone socially way above me and in the second I was either speaking as a peer, a buddy, or a cheeky little monkey. Probably her Majesty would see my impertinence as a qualification for the latter lol. The point is, did I dishonor her in any way by referring to her with honorifics instead of her actual name? Certainly not, if anything, I elevated her – and that is exactly what happens when an honorific title is used instead of the Tetragrammaton or its short form Yah.

So, is there cause to rebuke anyone for using a respectful title? What do we see in the Scriptures? In the Hebrew, and the Greek, do we see the use of titles or only the use of the Name? (I will note here that I have no beef with anyone who pronounces the Name – we see it used all throughout Scripture as well – just not exclusively).

Let’s look specifically at Adonai – first used by Abraham in Genesis 15:2 directly to God, and God doesn’t get the slightest big offended and say, “Why aren’t you calling me by my Name? Do you want the pagans to think you are talking about someone else?” Nope – why would God take offense to a man submitting himself as a servant? It was a fitting and appropriate thing to do. The prophets thought so too – as Adonai is used 434 times to describe God as Lord and Master.

How about El/Elohim? El is a word that is the Hebrew equivalent of the English God (which came from the Germanic Gott, and is not to be confused with the pagan deity Gad or the Tribe of Gad in the Bible – there is no link between Semitic and Germanic languages – we can’t rightly say that the languages were divided at Babel and also say that they are still all related) and shows up within the monikers El Elyon (Most High God) nineteen times in the Psalms, El Olam (Everlasting God) and the more commonly known El Shaddai (commonly rendered Almighty God) throughout Genesis.  Elohim is a generic word meaning mighty one or god, and refers to both the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and various false gods, angels, civic leaders, judges, etc.

Elohim itself is used over 2600 times in the Hebrew Scriptures and has a lot of different meanings – one of which is a title of the Supreme God. Although I could go into more detail on this, suffice it to say that it is used exclusively for God in Genesis 1-4.

One of the really interesting aspects of the charge that it is a sin to use titles or that it is somehow disrespectful, besides the fact that just about every Biblical figure of note uses them when speaking of/to God, is that we also have the testimony of Yeshua/Jesus and the Apostles, none of which ever utter the Tetragrammaton – even though there was one in Greek that we have archaeological evidence of. In English, the first-century Greek version of the Tetragrammaton would be rendered Iawe (ee-ah-way), and here is a link to another blog post with the information on that.

So are we to accuse Yeshua of sinning, or of not knowing the Name, or of being disrespectful, or any one of these accusations we see commonly flying around? May it never be! Not only did Yeshua never sin, but He always did the will of His Father. If He said the Name, it would be recorded for us. What we do see is Theos, Kyrios, and Pater – the Greek equivalents of God, Lord/Master, and Father. Abba (Aramaic for Father) is used only once by Yeshua (Mark 14:36) and twice by Paul (Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6).

The case for using only a pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton YHVH, yod-hey-vav-hey, or the short form Yah is therefore without merit and would require one to ignore both the Hebrew and Greek canonical text, as well as the Septuagint (LXX), Dead Sea Scrolls, Pseudepigraphic writings, as well as all other Jewish writings through the Millenia. This is really a non-doctrine if someone is trying to enforce it – it has to be strong-armed because it has no Scriptural merit excepting for an out of context reading of verses which promote the proclaiming of the Name – which is problematic to read exclusively as referring to a personal name because the word shem (name) also means reputation/renown. In the ancient Near Eastern world, everything was about honor/reputation/renown – in fact, we still equate a man’s “good name” as being equal to his reputation, not a collection of expressed syllables.

So should we be concerned about the Name of God? Absolutely – and I am talking about His reputation here. Speaking syllables is easy, anyone can do it according to their theory of how it was pronounced – but if we speak those syllables with our bad character backing it up, we are dragging that name through the manure we are wallowing in. No, we must take care that our character is superlative, that we go from glory to glory, becoming more and more like Yeshua, the express image of God and our example in all things.




The Woman with the Issue of Blood – The Story Behind the Story

I love it when I find something that I have never heard taught before.

In my studies of Israelite marriage and betrothal customs and laws, I was reading the Kehati Mishnah Commentary of Tractate Ketubot. Tucked away in Chapter 4, Mishnah 9 was a remarkable passage about the rights of a man to divorce his ailing wife and the various opinions of scholars on the subject, most notably Rambam and Ravad, both 12th-century commentators on the Mishnah. The Mishnah (finalized in 200 CE by Yehudah haNasi) contains Sanhedrin rulings and opinions gathered over the course of several centuries related to Torah Law – it is not much different than the formal written proceedings of the United States Supreme Court in that we have basic laws, and it is the job of the Courts to interpret those laws when disputes and cases come before them. The Sanhedrin, the “supreme court” of the Jews, served in that function as outlined in Exodus 16, as well as Deut 16, and 17.

As with the “right to privacy” here in America, which originally meant limitations on the right of the government to illegal search and seizure without probable legal cause, yet was later twisted into the right of a woman to terminate her pregnancy – we also have cases of the Law of God being twisted out of its original purpose of commanding us to love our neighbors.

I believe that the “woman with the issue of blood” mentioned in Matthew 5, Mark 9, and Luke 8 suffered under just this type of twisting of the intention of the Law by men who were very much the products of their time:

Mark 9:25 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years,26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 And he looked around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

Kehati Mishnah Tractate Ketubot 4.9:

“If she was taken captive, he is obligated to ransom her. And if he said, “Here is her get (her divorce document) and her ketubah (the money owed her by contract if divorced), let her ransom herself!” – he is not allowed. If she fell ill, he is responsible for her healing. If he said, “Here is her get and her ketubah, let her heal herself!” – he is allowed.” (Pinchas Kehati, translated by Edward Levin, Mishnah Seder Nashim Vol 1, Ketobot pg 63-4)

Although this may sound confusing, when taken in context with the rest of the Tractate, and especially the whole of Chapter 4, it states that a man was not allowed to refuse to ransom his wife if she was taken captive. He could not simply take the opportunity to get rid of her by saying, “Wow, what a stroke of luck, I’ll just divorce her and give her the 200 dinars (if she was a virgin when he married her, otherwise 100 dinars) and she can ransom herself!” It was a literal court order that no matter what was written in the ketubah, he was in fact required to ransom his wife. In fact, it has been eye-opening learning exactly what was in a ketubah originally – it made divorce prohibitively expensive.

If the wife was sick, however, that was a different situation which was subject to much commentary. Healing was a part of the maintenance a husband owed his wife, in exchange for her acting the part of a wife – but a divorced wife was entitled to no such care from her husband. The question became: when can you divorce a sick wife?

RAMBAM (Maimonides aka Moshe ben Maimon d. 1204) interpreted this ruling as saying that if a woman had been ill for a long time and it was going to be too costly to care for her, a man could, in fact, divorce her if he was willing to give her the get and ketubah – however, in Hilcot Ishut 14.17 he plainly stated that “this is unfitting and improper behavior.” In other words, they may have ruled that this was kosher, but Rambam didn’t approve. As Rambam is the most respected commentator in history, his view is going to reflect the overwhelming majority view among Jews today.

RAVAD (Abraham ben David d. 1198) claimed that the case law applied only to a woman who was not bedridden. A bedridden wife had to be cared for until she healed or died. Therefore, a woman who was sick but not bedridden could be given a divorce and her inheritance money and forced to fend for herself. This interpretation brings us to the woman with the issue of blood.

The woman in the Gospel accounts was obviously not bedridden, as she was able to approach Yeshua and reach out for the hem of his garment. She had also spent “all that she had” in trying to be cured. I submit that this woman, sick for twelve years, had probably been cast off and paid off by her husband once it became clear that her disease would render her unable to provide him with children. A woman who was constantly bleeding, as per Torah Law, could never be approached sexually – it was an abomination (Lev 18:19). Because he could no longer derive that benefit from her, he divorced her and gave her the (probably) 200 dinars owed to her by the ketubah.

As Rambam rightly declared, “unfitting and improper behavior” indeed.

The woman who approached Yeshua committed no sin in doing so, as it was no sin either to be unclean or to render someone else unclean via an issue of blood (excepting in the case of sexual contact) as long as it was not done within a sacred area – in fact, anyone who wished to go to the inner Temple Courts would have had to mikvah and wait until after sundown anyway, and this changed nothing. If I am correct, then this was an ailing woman who had been handed a divorce by her husband, along with her inheritance money, and booted from her home. Her father and brothers owed her nothing once she was married, so she was probably on her own and had spent all of her money in a desperate attempt to be cured. At this point, her life was pretty much hopeless. She could not marry, or earn a living; she had no access to modern medicine and no money left for it anyway – this prophet from Galilee was her only hope in the world. And she believed with all her heart that merely touching his garment would heal her.

So she reached out and touched the hem of his garment – the hem of the firstborn son which traditionally carried the authority of the family. (If you are interested in the ancient context of the hem of the firstborn son, check out www.rootedintorah.com “The Hem and Garment Concept Block”)

I find it interesting, this phrase, “Who touched my garments?”

As a divorced woman, unattached to her father, her brothers, or a husband, she lacked identity in that world. She couldn’t say that she was X, wife of Y or mother of Z. Because of her issue of blood, she had been deprived of her identity as a woman – that of wife and mother – and when the Word says that she “told Him the whole truth,” I am pretty sure that she probably told Him a story akin to the one I just laid out for you.

How does Yeshua respond?

Daughter, your faith has made you well….”

Did you catch that? He gave her an identity again. Yeshua gave her life back, her health, her identity, and her honor as well. He reminded her (and the entire crowd) that even though her husband had abandoned her, she was still a daughter of Abraham. Yeshua had ushered her back into the realm of the living. Her husband unjustly cast her aside, while the Bridegroom, in an act of compassionate justice, healed her and gave her honor back.




Juicio en el Tercer Cielo: Mi Testimonio

My grateful thanks to my dear sister Lisa Velazquez for translating this faster than I actually wrote it. She is a marvel! Her teachings can be heard regularly on teshuva.tv

Esta es una historia que rara vez comparto pero mi amiga Dinah me animó hace un tiempo, y en el interés de mantener la levadura fuera de nuestras casas esta semana voy a seguir adelante y compartirla aquí. Esta no es una historia de cortesía sobre mí – no me hace especial; creo que sucedió porque era un caso tan desesperado y una persona tan peligrosa – y, sin embargo, Dios todavía tenía un plan para mi vida.

(FYI: me tomó una eternidad ponerle a un título a esto y todavía no estoy contenta con él – suena pretencioso, pero si sigue leyendo entenderá por qué no tengo razón para estar orgullosa de lo que pasó)

Yo estaba viviendo en un pequeño pueblo de Nuevo Mexico en 2008  – mis hijos estaban en primer grado, y era otoño – lo recuerdo porque estaba en el patio trasero rastrillando hojas. Hace unos meses, ore un tipo de oración que sólo la gente desquiciada ora: “Señor Jesús, júzgame en esta vida mientras todavía tengo tiempo de cambiar”.

Dije esa oración con todo mi corazón. Yo estaba enojada, herida, hecha un desastre de persona. Confiaba en Dios, amaba a Jesús y no veía cómo evitar ese conflicto inherente, pero aunque desconfiaba de Dios, deseaba desesperadamente que me amara. No voy a entrar en las razones por las que me sentía de esa manera sobre Él. Hay demasiadas, y ese no es el punto.

Yo era un racista, y mi marca específica de racismo estaba en plena alerta viviendo en un pueblo que era en su mayoría extranjeros ilegales con sus hijos y nietos. También ayudo el hecho de que, en esa ciudad, había una calle bidireccional definida.

Pero tampoco sabía nada acerca de cómo ser una persona cariñosa – sabía ser una persona crítica, desagradable. Yo sabía cómo justificar mi dureza como la “verdad hablada en amor”. En resumen, yo era una experta en llegar con las razones por que todo lo que hice y pensé que estaba muy bien, y esas justificaciones subieron rápidamente, y sin un pensamiento cada vez el Espíritu Santo se acercaba a mí sobre lo que estaba haciendo.

Yo era el tipo de creyente más peligroso: era increíblemente inteligente, leía bien, era celosa, confiada en lo que estaba haciendo en mi “unción”, pero por dentro era tan asesina como Pablo lo fue. Desgarraba a una persona que no estaba de acuerdo conmigo sin mirar hacia atrás. El problema era esto: yo también tenía sueños de estar rodeada de niños, y durante esos momentos en que mi guardia estaba baja, el Espíritu me estaba impresionando urgentemente que yo no estaba en modo alguno preparada para ser el tipo de persona que los niños necesitarían.

Esa es la parte fácil de la historia para contar – la parte que nadie tiene problemas para creer. Eso en realidad no es embarazoso hablar más de lo que Dios tenía que hacer para que yo comenzara a cambiar y es por eso que estoy llorando ahora mismo.

Como dije, estaba rastrillando hojas. Entonces, de repente, ya no me encontraba en mi patio. Supongo que tal vez estuve en lo que Pablo llamó el “tercer cielo” – no lo sé. Para ser honesta, no miré a mí alrededor, estaba consciente de que la Shekinah estaba en el trono frente a mí, y un hombre de pie a mi izquierda, vestido de blanco. Nunca vi su rostro; nunca miré hacia arriba. Nadie nunca habló. Cuando te juzgan, no te das cuenta de nada más. Simplemente no puedes. O al menos yo no pude.

Hay un versículo sobre ser juzgado por cada palabra descuidada y otra que explica que la Palabra juzga los pensamientos e intenciones de nuestro corazón.

Quiero que imagines todas las cosas terribles que hayas pensado y dicho, no las cosas que sabías que estaban equivocadas y que luego te arrepentiste de ellas, pero las cosas que rápidamente te disculpaste y mentiste acerca de las cosas que hiciste para herir a la gente porque querías ser hiriente, querías que supieran que eras un mejor creyente o superior; piense en las intenciones reales y las motivaciones ocultas en sus palabras y las acciones que te mentiste a tí mismo, y mentiste tan a menudo que realmente comenzaste a creerte tus propias mentiras. Aquellas mentiras que trabajaron para protegerte de la verdad acerca de lo cruel que realmente eras e incluso tuviste la intención de ser – verdades tan dañinas que no te atreves a enfrentarlas una a la vez, y mucho menos todas a la vez.

Nadie, y especialmente yo, nunca dije una palabra. Estaba en una agonía que no puedo describirla. Estamos acostumbrados a nuestros propios egos que vienen a nuestro rescate cuando nos comportamos de una manera malvada; esos mecanismos de defensa aparecen antes de que lo sepamos y son tan hábiles en engañarnos que rara vez recibimos una punzada en nuestra conciencia después de un tiempo. Queremos las mentiras, no la verdad. Es fácil decir lo contrario antes de estar delante de Dios para enfrentarlos a todos a la vez.

Ahora me doy cuenta de que fui llevada allí, no porque merecía una vislumbre de la sala del trono de Dios, sino porque ese era el único lugar donde mi ego se pondría de pie. En presencia de pura luz y verdad, no sólo mi boca estaba cerrada, sino también mi voz interna. No tenía abogado de la defensa en esa habitación – estaba expuesta completamente sin capacidad de justificar nada. Lo que me di cuenta fue la verdad acerca de todo lo que había dicho o pensado o hecho – y la verdad acerca de por qué dije y pensaba y hacía esas cosas. Simplemente no puedes imaginarte viéndote a ti mismo como quien realmente eres.

Lo irónico – fue estar en la habitación con Padre y el Hijo y no oír sus voces, ni condenación. Ninguna instrucción, ninguna revelación de la doctrina, ninguna corrección a lo que ya creí. Sin calendarios, sin nombres, sin retos sobre lo que estaba comiendo o haciendo en mis sábados. Todo era sobre mi carácter, que era muy, muy malo. Esa fue la razón por la que estuve allí – evidentemente, esa fue mi cuestión más importante – el mayor problema.

Todavía estoy sorprendida de que yo era capaz de soportar, pero a veces me pregunto si sólo estaba congelada en ese lugar. No lo sé; todo lo que sabía era la agonía de verme a mí misma como yo, sin tregua ni refugio. No sé cuánto tiempo tomó – la eternidad es diferente. Lo que cada vez más me di cuenta de que sucedió fue que el Padre y el Hijo no estaban allí para condenarme, sino para exponerme y apoyarme. Empecé a darme cuenta de que si no estuvieran allí, probablemente habría muerto por la tensión. Ni siquiera puedo empezar a relatar lo horrible que es verte sin el filtro autodestructivo y protector del ego.

Cuando terminó, estaba de vuelta en mi patio – con el rastrillo en la mano como si nada hubiera pasado. Me sentí avergonzada; de alguna manera me sentí muy vacía, y de otras maneras, me sentí muy llena. Por lo que recuerdo, en realidad fue una semana o dos antes de mi ego trató de retroceder y empezar a mentirme a mí de nuevo – pero nunca tan exitoso como solía ser. El ego se fortalece cuando estoy enojada, herida o traicionada – pero mi éxito en engañarme ha sido obstaculizado – cuando estoy actuando como una idiota, generalmente estoy muy consciente de ello y tengo que forzarme a creer lo contrario – el engaño ya no es fácil. Estoy constantemente frente a mis defectos.

No, no puedo decirte de qué color es el Mesías, si vi las manos, pero no fue así – color como lo pensamos. Blanco pero ciertamente no blanco, y, sin embargo, blanco. Nunca levanté mis ojos más allá de las manos. No, tampoco vi agujeros de clavos, sólo las manos de la vista lateral donde no estarían visibles de todos modos. Yo estaba consciente de mucho pero vi poco; la experiencia fue demasiado abrumadora y terrible. También fue lo mejor que me ha pasado. Drásticamente el mal carácter requiere medidas drásticas de parte de Dios. Tenía un llamado para trabajar con niños – por eso oré esa oración en primer lugar – sabía que no estaba lista. Ministrar a los adultos es bastante difícil, pero con los niños, no hay espacio para estar en la carne todo el tiempo.

Odio compartir esto porque alguien podría pensar que estoy jactándome – pero créanme, esto no era como cualquiera de los viajes de los profetas en el trono. No estaba escuchando el consejo secreto de Dios o viendo las cosas gloriosas allí. No comí una comida de convenio, ni escuché Su voz ni escuché a los ángeles cantando. Yo no merecía nada de eso. En términos muy humanos, fui llevada a la oficina del director y despojada de mi falso orgullo, privada de toda excusa y pretensión que – todavía es difícil de explicar. Cuando volví, estaba sin una pizca de fe en mí misma. Nunca he confiado en mí desde ese día, y es por eso que constantemente me cuestiono a mí misma, especialmente cuando siento que estoy en lo correcto. La mayoría de la gente no tiene ni idea de las profundidades del autoengaño de qué son capaces, pero ese conocimiento fue el regalo de Dios para mí. Es una verdad innegable. La conciencia se hace más profunda con cada año que pasa – lo que enfrenté en la sala del trono fue sólo la corrección, no fue el final. Me anima a parecerme más a Él, porque permanecer como soy es demasiado doloroso para contemplar.




Judgment in the Third Heaven: My Testimony

This is a story I rarely share but my friend Dinah encouraged me to a while back, and in the interest of keeping the leaven out of our homes this week I am going to go ahead and share it here. This is not a complimentary story about me – it doesn’t make me special; I think it happened was because I was such a desperate case and such a dangerous person – and yet, God still had a plan for my life.
(FYI: It took me forever to come up with a title to this and I am still not happy with it – it sounds pretentious but if you keep reading you will understand why I have no reason to be proud of what happened)
 
I was living in a small town in New Mexico in 2008 – my kids were in first grade, and it was Fall – I remember because I was in the backyard raking leaves. I had, a few months earlier, prayed the kind of prayer that only insane people pray, “Lord Jesus, judge me in this life while I still have time to change.”
 
I meant that prayer with all my heart. I was an angry, wounded, hot mess of a person. I distrusted God, loved Jesus, and saw no way around that inherent conflict – but although I distrusted God, I desperately wanted Him to love me. I won’t go into the reasons why I felt that way about Him. There are too many, and that isn’t the point.
 
I was a racist, and my specific brand of racism was on full alert living in a town that was largely illegal aliens and their children and grandchildren. It was also helped along by the fact that, in that town, it was a definite two-way street with all too many people.
 
But I also didn’t know anything about how to be a loving person – I knew how to be a critical, unpleasable person. I knew how to justify my harshness as the “truth spoken in love.” In short, I was an expert at coming up with reasons why everything I did and thought was really okay, and those justifications went up quickly, and without a thought every time the Holy Spirit approached me about what I was actually doing.
 
I was the most dangerous kind of believer – I was incredibly intelligent, well-read, zealous beyond belief, confident in what I was doing and in my “anointing” – but on the inside, I was as much of a murderer as Paul ever was. I would tear a person who disagreed with me down without so much as a look backward. The problem was this – I was also having dreams about being surrounded by children, and during those moments when my guard was down, the Spirit was urgently impressing upon me that I was in no way prepared to be the kind of person whom children would need.
 
That’s the easy part of the story to tell – the part no one has any trouble believing. That actually isn’t embarrassing anymore to talk about – what God had to do to me to get me to begin to change is why I am crying right now.
 
Like I said – I was raking leaves. Then all of a sudden I wasn’t in my backyard anymore. I guess maybe I was in what Paul called the “third heaven” – I don’t know. To be honest, I didn’t look around, I was aware of the Shekinah enthroned in front of me, and a man standing to my left, wearing white. I never saw His face; I never looked up. No one ever spoke at all. When you are being judged, you don’t notice much of anything else. You just can’t. Or at least I couldn’t.
 
There is a verse about being judged by every careless word and another which explains that the Word judges the thoughts and intentions of our heart.
 
I want you to imagine every terrible thing you have ever thought and said – not the things you knew were wrong and repented of, but the things you quickly made excuses for and lied to yourself about – the things you did to hurt people because you wanted to be hurtful, you wanted them to know you were a better believer, or superior; think about the real intentions and hidden motivations  in your words and actions that you lied to yourself about, and lied about so often that you actually began to believe your own lies. Those lies that worked to protect you from the truth about how cruel you really were and even intended to be – truths that hurt so bad that you dare not face one at a time, let alone all of them at once.
 
No one, and especially not me, ever said a word. I was in agony that I cannot describe. We are used to our own egos coming to our rescue when we behave in evil ways – those defense mechanisms pop up before we know it and they are so deft at deceiving us that we rarely even get a twinge to our conscience after a while. We want the lies, not the truth. It is easy to say otherwise before you stand before God to face them all at once.
 
I realize now that I was taken there, not because I deserved a glimpse of the throne room of God, but because that was the only place where my ego would stand down. In the presence of pure light and truth, not only was my physical mouth shut – but so was my internal voice. I had no defense attorney in that room – I was exposed completely with no ability to justify anything. What I became aware of was the truth about everything I had ever said or thought or did – and the truth about why I said and thought and did those things. You just can’t imagine seeing yourself for who you really are.
 
Funny – to be in the room with Father and Son and not to hear their voices, or condemnation. No instruction, no revelation of doctrine, no corrections to what I already believed. No calendars, no Names, no challenges about what I was eating or doing on my Saturdays. Everything was about my character, which was very, very bad. That was the reason I was there – evidently, that was my most important issue – the biggest problem.
 
I am still shocked that I was able to stand, but sometimes I wonder if I was just frozen in place. I don’t know; all I was aware of was the agony of seeing myself as I was, with no respite and nowhere to hide. I don’t know how long it took – eternity is just different. What I became increasingly aware of as it went on was that Father and Son were not there to condemn me but to expose and support me. I started to realize that if they were not there, I probably would have died from the strain. I cannot even begin to relate how horrible it is to see yourself without the self-deceptive and protective filter of ego.
 
When it was over, I was back in my backyard – rake in hand as if nothing had ever happened. I was ashamed – in some ways I felt very empty, and in other ways, I felt very full. As I recall, it was actually a week or two before my ego tried to kick back in and start lying to me again – but it has never been nearly as successful as it used to be. Ego gets stronger when I am angry, hurt or have been betrayed – but my success at deceiving myself has been hampered – when I am acting like a jerk, I am generally keenly aware of it and have to force myself to believe otherwise – self-deception is no longer effortless. I am constantly faced with my shortcomings.
 
No, I can’t tell you what color Messiah is, I saw hands, but it wasn’t like that – color like we think of it. White but certainly not white, and yet, white. I never lifted my eyes past the hands. No, I didn’t see nail holes either – just hands from the side view where they wouldn’t be visible anyway. I was aware of much but saw little; the experience was too overwhelming and terrible. It was also the best thing that ever happened to me. Drastically bad character requires drastic measures from God. I had a calling to work with children – that’s why I prayed that prayer in the first place – I knew I wasn’t ready. Ministering to adults is bad enough, but with kids, there is no room to be in the flesh all the time.
 
I hate sharing this because someone might think I am bragging – but believe me, this was not like any of the throne room trips of the prophets. I wasn’t hearing the secret counsel of God or seeing the glorious things there. I didn’t eat a covenant meal or hear His voice or listen to the Angels singing. I didn’t deserve any of that. In very human terms, I was taken to the principal’s office and stripped of my unearned false pride, deprived of every excuse and any pretense of – it’s still hard to explain. When I returned, it was without a shred of faith in myself. I have never trusted myself since that day, and that’s why I am constantly questioning myself – especially when I feel like I am in the right. Most people have no clue the depths of self-deception they are capable of – but that knowledge was God’s gift to me. It is an undeniable truth. The awareness goes deeper with each passing year – what I faced in the throne room was just the correction, it wasn’t the end. It spurs me on to be more like Him because remaining the way I am is just too painful to contemplate.



Question: “How Do I Find Meaning in the Feasts of the Lord?”

How do I find meaning in the Feasts of the Lord?
 
(I won’t accept any comments about Christmas and Easter, or digs at our mainstream Christian brothers and sisters or Christianity because that is not the point of this message and never should be. We have spent too much time looking in the rearview mirror and not enough focusing on our Biblical heritage.)
 
One of the most common questions I get before the Feasts – and I am not making fun or anyone or criticizing here because I struggle with this as well – is the result of a mindset that was trained into us in mainstream Christianity and therefore is entirely understandable and natural. In fact, it is terribly difficult to break out of because we don’t even realize that the question itself is not the right question but instead a symptom of a much larger problem.
 
“How do I find meaning in the Feasts/how do I make the Feasts meaningful for X.”
 
Now that didn’t seem like a strange question, did it? Of course not. We were brought up in a commercialized mess around Christmas and Easter, and the slogans abounded – “don’t forget the true meaning.” We therefore just naturally learned to think about modern Christian observances in those terms, because it really was hard to think about the “true meaning” in the midst of an incredibly secular holiday that bore little resemblance to anything that Yeshua (Jesus) or the apostles would have done in their lives. As individualists, it is vitally important to us that we find personal meaning in what we do, and we don’t like doing things that don’t have meaning to us – as though God should only be acknowledged in praise if we are in the mood, despite our need and obligation to acknowledge His glory even when we don’t “feel it.”
 
So when we find out about the Feasts, we are very used to holidays that were tailor made to “have meaning for us” and were frankly designed to appeal to all our desires for fulfillment through entertainment, gift giving and receiving, celebration dinners, wonderful family times, lavish decorations designed to engage the senses, etc. We are used to “holy days” being a lot of fun by modern standards. We lost sight of why God’s holy days were actually enjoyable to His people in Yeshua’s day.
 
Feasts in Yeshua’s day were enjoyable because all the people in the Land, and some from far off Lands, had all come together to worship the King of kings and Lord of lords. That was a good enough reason for them to be joyful – it thrilled their hearts to hear the Levites sing Psalms and play instruments. It was meaningful for them to watch the daily Tamid offerings in God’s honor. The meaning of the Feasts was not about them, their enjoyment or personal fulfillment – they naturally felt enjoyment and were personally fulfilled because their God was being exalted. They heard His Name being praised and that was enough, they found joy in it. They saw the Temple ceremonies, and that was enough, they found joy in it.
 
Ancient people intrinsically understood that worship was not about themselves and they didn’t need to find deep meaning in it – they knew the God/god/goddess was deserving of all honor, glory, and praise and it gave them joy when that was being performed. They worshiped not as individuals but as a community, on the same day and doing the same exact things and that oneness gave their praise all the meaning it needed.
 
We, on the other hand, are just shamelessly individualistic and we seek out the meaning for ourselves, for personal reasons to get us in the mood. It is very important “what this means to me, ” and that feeling is amplified when we no longer have the shared cultural experiences of Christmas and Easter when even the secular world joins in the celebration to one extent or another; we still derive meaning and satisfaction and relief when we are joined with many other voices in what we are doing, as if that lends a sense of legitimacy in our psyche.
 
When we switch over to the Feasts, we find ourselves in a pickle with Biblical days that look incredibly foreign to us and are not designed to appeal to our traditional sensibilities of what it looks like to honor God; we often unconsciously seek that same sort of meaning in the new/old as we did in the Christian celebrations. Add to that the unfortunate tendency of too many to tear down absolutely anything “traditional” – often due to a lack of understanding – and people feel empty and drifting. On top of that, some desire to “only do what Scripture says” when Scripture gives us about 30 minutes worth of instructions and leaves us flat the rest of the day. I don’t know about you, but I can only eat and drink so much before I am not joyful anymore.
 
We have a problem – we subconsciously want to find meaning in the Feasts on Christian terms while pushing away Christianity and want to find our Hebrew Roots without looking at how the Jews do things. We end up, all too frequently, between worlds – turning our noses up at anything that looks Christian while still seeking out the kinds of joy we had at Christmas and Easter, and shunning anything Jewish while deeply desiring the obvious joy that they take in the Feasts.
 
End game: we are still approaching things the same old way we did as individualistic Western Christians, except that we no longer have the joy that they have and we refuse to move on to the way community-centered Jews do things and don’t have their obvious joy in worshiping God either. We denounce their traditions and “Halakah” and are forced to make up our own based on what little is written in Scriptures – and then lament that we find little joy or meaning in them. Food for thought, “Why is our Halakah, our made up traditions based on what we think the text is saying, any superior to theirs?”
 
Of course, we find no joy! – If our goal is to find meaning for ourselves when the meaning is and always has been the exaltation of God through community psalms, prayers, dancing, feasting and yes, traditions – then we will fail. If our goal is simply to not do things in a Jewish or Christian way and presume that what we come up with will be more “authentic” then again, the focus is on ourselves and our own efforts. We spend anti-holy days – days devoted to not doing this or that instead of days devoted to God. It feels righteous at first, but all too often our efforts are fear-based, and an exercise in futility – and they become self-righteous instead.
 
Feasts are not about us; they are about the worship we owe to the Creator, to come together as one on set days and be united in our praises. That is what we should take joy in, the way that collective praise thunders through the universe on set days. It isn’t about us – it’s a celebration of what He has done for us.
Is there meaning in the Feasts beyond that? Of course – historically and spiritually, at the plain text as well as in the deepest mystical levels, there is a fountain of meaning deeper than the universe itself – but first, we have to learn to take joy in something that, at its most basic and profound levels, is all about Him. We must learn to worship without any part of it being about us.