Monday, December 19, 2011

Importance of a Firstborn

The name, First Born, points to the one whom YHVH declares to be His own possession, according to Torah. "Now behold, I Myself have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of every firstborn who opens the womb among the children of Israel. Therefore the Levites shall be Mine, because all the firstborn are Mine. On the day that I struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I sanctified to Myself all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast. They shall be Mine: I am YHVH" (Num 3:12-13). "Consecrate to Me all the firstborn, whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and beast; it is Mine…"you shall set apart to YHVH all that open the womb, that is, every firstborn that comes from an animal which you have; the males shall be YHVH'S… But every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb; and if you will not redeem it, then you shall break its neck. And all the firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem (Ex 13:2, 12-13). “The firstborn of your sons you shall give to Me” (Ex 22:28). "Then you shall say to Pharaoh, `Thus says YHVH: "Israel is My son, My firstborn. So I say to you, let My son go that he may serve Me. But if you refuse to let him go, indeed I will kill your son, your firstborn"'" (Ex 4:22-23).

How is it that YHVH declared Israel to be His firstborn among all the other nations of the earth?

“For you are a holy people to YHVH your God; YHVH your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. YHVH did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because YHVH loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, YHVH has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Therefore know that YHVH your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Deut 7:6-9).

YHVH set up His Kingdom with the first family when He gave Adam (they) dominion-rule over creation. They were Elohim’s servants-kings, acting as conduits of His life and light to all living things. They were also priests to YHVH, as they walked in a relationship with Him, worshiping in spirit and in truth. This was the beginning of the Melchizedec order of YHVH’s Kingdom on earth. YHVH had already legislated His divine order for this natural family, to be later documented in the Torah, containing the statutes and ordinances that pertain to the family of man and the relationship with Him.

One of those laws, as mentioned above, is, “All firstborn belong to Me”. Thus, ever since YHVH established the family of man, He always had someone in the firstborn position. However, following the story line in the book of Genesis we see that not all firstborn qualified for the position. Some of them lost it because they were not faithful to the will of God, or to their natural fathers.

From the genealogy of Avraham we learn that he was the 20th elder from Adam, and the 10th from Noah (Gen. 5:4-29; 11:10-26). All those specified in the genealogy lists constitute the linage of the firstborn and therefore belonged to YHVH. This is why He calls them “My servants”. Noah, along with all the other firstborn, or patriarchs, were still alive in the days of Avraham. But it was during the days of Avraham that YHVH extended the Birthright from an individual firstborn to an entire nation of firstborn, because of the rise of many nations on earth, with a kingdom government after the order that was established by Nimrod (see Gen 10:8-10; Gen. 11:1-4). Nimrod, whose name means “we will rebel”, set up a counterfeit kingdom to YHVH’s, and had his own king-priests. In contrast to God’s Kingdom he gathered the people unto himself, and ruled over them for the purpose of making a name for man and not for God. YHVH’s Kingdom, on the other hand was (and is) one of ‘multiplying’ and ‘filling’, whose firstborn are His servants for His namesake, and are to bring glory and honor to Him.

For the purpose of setting up His special nation, YHVH made a covenant with Avraham. "Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing” (Gen 12:1-2). Because Avraham was a firstborn from the genealogy of firstborn, the nation that would come out of his loins would likewise be a firstborn (nation). The promised son, who was to father the chosen nation, was birthed through divine intervention. Sarah, Avraham’s legitimate wife, who had been barren, as well as by that time infertile (with a womb that was as good as dead because of her age), was chosen by YHVH to demonstrate a redemptive principle; life being brought forth from the dead. YHVH also revealed this principle in the case of two of the other mothers of Israel - Rebecca and Rachel. The Creator was simply showing that this chosen nation was of His will, and not the result of any man’s plan or intention.

With the birth of Esav and Yaacov we witness once more Elohim’s sovereign intervention. YHVH had said to the mother of the twins that she was carrying two nations, and that the older would serve the younger (Gen 25:22-23), thus giving rise to a problem, as Esav was the firstborn. God, however, declared that the nation would be a chosen one, and so arranged that Esav would come out first (had it been otherwise, Yaacov would have been the natural firstborn and not necessarily chosen for that purpose. The fact that the older would serve the younger, according to the word given to their mother, was another disclosure as to whom the birthright would ultimately be given. However, the leadership, or princely portion, still belonged to Esav. So YHVH arranged a day on which Esav believed that he was going to die of hunger. It just happened that Yaacov was stirring up a pot of lentils at the time, and was of course ready to oblige his sibling providing Esav would pay for his meal with the desired birthright. (This was nothing short of a divine appointment). Esav, who consented, thought to himself, ‘what good is a birthright to a dead man, and anyway should I survive I will get the father’s right hand blessing and the double portion eventually’. Rebecca, understanding that if a firstborn does not receive the double portion he cannot qualify to be the family redeemer, as one must have both of those blessings and much more, immediately devised a plan. (from 18/10/2002)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

ninth of Av

Letter 157 (ninth of Av) 17/07/02

The Ninth of Av is very important to note, as it was on this day that both the First and Second Temples were destroyed. Although almost 500 years apart, the judgments fell on the very same date. The loss of the Temples in 586 BC and 70 AD caused heart- wrenching grief to the Jewish community. So much so, that even today this loss is a source of sorrow to many of the religious Jews. Notwithstanding, there is still the promise of a third Temple.

However, what is really sad about this day is that very little attention is paid to the reasons why YHVH caused these two magnificent edifices to be removed. As I was working on the Prayer Psalms this week, I noticed that the theme of some of them was repentance. David understood the relationship between YHVH’s judgments and the conduct of His people. May our weeping and sorrow be more than just over the loss, but rather let the remembrance cause a true heart-felt conviction and confession for our own sin and the sins of our forefathers!

The prophet Daniel also recognized the importance of acknowledgment, conviction, brokenness, and confession in the restoration of YHVH’s plans for both houses of Israel. Thus, the following prayer is not from the Psalms, but is formed from the prayer of Daniel, as it is quite appropriate for this day. If we are ever going to witness the ”restoration of all things”, repentance must be at the forefront of our responsibilities as a redeemed remnant.

Before we turn to Daniel’s prayer, let us look at what was said by Jeremiah, who put his finger on the problem when he pointed out the reason for YHVH’s judgments: "Because they have forsaken Me and made this an alien place, because they have burned incense in it to other gods whom neither they, their fathers, nor the kings of Judah have known, and have filled this place with the blood of the innocent (abortion). They have also built the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or speak, nor did it come into My mind” (Jer 19:4-5). “ Many nations will pass by this city; and everyone will say to his neighbor, `why has YHVH done so to this great city?' Then they will answer, `because they have forsaken the covenant of YHVH- Elohey Israel, and worshiped other gods and served them'" (Jer. 22:8-9). "Therefore thus says YHVH - Elohey Tzva’ot (God of the Armies): `Behold, I will bring on Judah and on all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the doom that I have pronounced against them; because I have spoken to them but they have not heard, and I have called to them but they have not answered'" (Jer. 35:17).

We can learn much from our forefathers’ waywardness, and YHVH’s response to it as the scriptures provide us with many such examples. But, as a result let us also learn the way to recovery and restoration. Daniel’s prayer may provide a starting point.

“O YHVH – Elohey Israel, I set my face toward You, with prayers, supplications, fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. I confess, Abba, Elohi (my God) and acknowledge that You, YHVH, are a great and awesome Elohim. You are faithful to keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You, and with those who keep Your commandments.

But we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, departing from Your precepts and Your judgments. Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings and our princes, to our fathers and all the people of the land.

O YHVH - Elohey Tzedek (God of Righteousness), righteousness belongs to You, but to us shame of face, as it is this day--to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those near and those far off in all the countries to which You have driven us, because of the unfaithfulness which we have committed against You.

O Elohey Chesed (God of Mercy), to us belongs shame of face, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, because we have sinned against You. But to You, Avinu (our Father), belong mercy and forgiveness, even though we have rebelled against You, and have not obeyed Your voice Elohey Emet (God of Truth), nor walked in Your Torah, which You set before us by Your servants the prophets. Yes, all Israel, both houses, Judah and Ephraim, have transgressed Your Torah, and have departed so as not to obey Your voice. Therefore the curse and the oath written in the Torah of Moses, Your servant, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against You, El Shofet (Judge).

You have been a testimony of Your words, which You spoke against us and against our judges who judged us, by bringing upon us a great disaster; for under the whole heaven such has never been done as what has been done to Jerusalem and to Your Houses. As it is written in the Torah of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us; yet we have not brought our prayers before You, Yeshua’teynu (our Salvation), that we might turn from our iniquities and understand Your truth.

Therefore, You have brought this disaster upon us, and kept us mindful of it. For You are righteous in all the works which You have done, though we have not obeyed Your voice.

And now, YHVH – Moshi’ey’nu (our Savior/Deliverer), who brought us, Your people, out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and made Yourself a name, as it is this day--we have sinned, we have done wickedly! O El Ne’eman (Faithful God), according to all Your righteousness, I pray, let Your anger and Your fury be turned away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain.

Now therefore, El Ro’eh (God Who Sees and Provides), hear the prayer of Your servant, and my supplications, and for Your sake cause Your face to shine on Your sanctuary, which is desolate. O Elohey’nu (our God), Ro’eynu (our Shepherd), incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name; for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies.

O YHVH - Elohey Chesed (God of Mercy), hear! O El HaKavod (God of Glory), forgive! O El Olam (Eternal God), listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, Elohey Tziyon (God of Zion), for Your city and Your people are called by Your name.


Sunday, December 04, 2011


Letter 153 (More Mysteries) 21/06/02

This week I would like to develop the theme I touched upon last week. In the past, as well as more recently, I have come across believers (Christians) who tend to make statements such as: “I am a Gentile, I do not feel in any way that I’m of the natural seed of Israel, but in Jesus I have all the promises that belong to Israel”. It is nice to claim positive promises, but would these assertors be so quick to make them had they considered the responsibilities that go along with being a chosen First Born nation? Yes, formally you were goy’im, that is, those identified with the nations, but now you are brought into the commonwealth (national identity) of Israel (ref. Eph. 2:12). Was not the “fullness of the Goy’im” promised to Ephraim? How about identifying with that promise? Does the mystery of the blindness of Israel have something to do with ignorance of one’s natural heritage? You may also ask, is Menashe’s name (“forgetfulness”) not prophetic of the destiny of the people connected to the promised blessings (Gen. 48:19)?

As we know, the writers of the New Testament had no other Scriptures but the Tanach (Old Testament) upon which to base their revelation and teaching of the mystery of the Gospel (Eph. 6:19). Most of their audience had no understanding whatsoever of the Hebrew Scriptures, or the Septuagint (the first translation of the O.T. into a foreign - Greek – language), let alone personally own a scroll. Guttenberg press did not exist at the time, nor did the Gideons or the Bible Society to distribute copies of YHVH’s Word. This is probably the reason why Paul writes, “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in the Messiah. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able” (1 Cor. 3:1-2). Before stating the above Paul says: “However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory” (1 Cor.2:6-7). He then tops it off by stating that the apostles should be regarded as servants of the Messiah, and stewards of the mysteries of Elohim (ref. 1 Cor. 4:1).

Let me emphasize again: the apostles’ understanding of the fifteen or so mysteries that they wrote about were based on the Tanach. Yeshua also spoke of these mysteries, although in parable form. One of those mysteries is found in Paul’s address to the “former Gentiles” or “wild olive branches” who used to be “far off, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants” (ref. Rom 11:25 Eph 2:12). Who are those who are described as being “far off”?

“Thus says YHVH - Elohim: ‘Although I have cast them far off among the Gentiles (or Nations - (Goy’im), and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet I shall be a little sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone"' (Eze. 11:16). Who was YHVH addressing through the prophet Ezekiel?

"O Adon, righteousness belongs to You, but to us shame of face, as it is this day--to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those near and those far off in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of the unfaithfulness which they have committed against You”(Dan. 9:7). Who is the Prophet Daniel addressing, defining their location as being “far off”

"Therefore say, `Thus says YHVH -Elohim: "I will gather you from the peoples, assemble you from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.' And they will go there, and they will take away all its detestable things and all its abominations from there. Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God” (Eze 11:17-20). This sounds like a promise to a people who is “not His people”, and whose God “He is not”. Strangely enough, these very prophecies, regarding the destiny of Israel, are found in Hosea. YHVH said to Israel (and not to Judah): "Call his name Lo-Ammi, for you are not My people, and I will not be your God. Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, `You are not My people,' There it shall be said to them, `You are sons of the living God'” (Hos. 9-10; Rom 8:19).

YHVH opens up His dissertation, in Ezekiel 11:15 by addressing the ones who are “far off”. "Son of man, your brethren, your relatives, your countrymen, and all the house of Israel in its entirety, are those about whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said, `Get far off from YHVH; this land has been given to us as a possession.’”
Doesn’t that sound familiar, as even today some from Judah (mostly Messianic) are still saying to the repentant and restored returnees of Ephraim those very words?
Are we dealing here with a mystery of blindness on both sides of the family?
Is it possible that Ephraim’s prophetic destiny is more than just fruitfulness (in the quantitative sense of the word)? Is it possible that the blessing of becoming the “m’lo ha-goy’im” – “fullness of the gentiles” (or nations, in Gen.48:19), may also mean the “fullness of heathenism”? Israel (Ephraim) always followed idols, and was declared by YHVH a harlot, an adulteress and an idolater; one who loved the ways of the nations. Thus YHVH gave Israel over to becoming the ‘fullness’ of that very desire, but not forever… only until their iniquity would become mature and full. Are we touching here upon another mystery - the mystery of iniquity (2 Thes. 2:7, Eph. 2:1-3)? But, then, as a testimony of YHVH’s faithfulness, mercies and love, He literally raises up iniquitous Israel from her grave of sin and death, right in the midst of those heathen nations, and calls her/them “sons of the living God”, implementing His prophetic word to them exactly as promised (Hos. 1:10-11, being another mystery). It is hard to imagine YHVH calling this harlot wife of His a “virgin” (Jer. 31:21), but nevertheless He does. This too may constitute a mystery – a double one: the “mystery of our change” (1 Cor.15:51-53), and the “mystery of the faith” (1 Tim 3:9). The prophet Hosea concludes his writing with the following note: “Who is wise? Let him understand these things. Who is prudent? Let him know them. For the ways of YHVH are right; the righteous walk in them, but transgressors stumbles in them” (Hos. 14:9).

"The secret things belong to YHVH - Elohim, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this Torah” (Deut. 29:29). “Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your Torah
(Psa 119:18)!