Thursday, March 31, 2016

Parashah Messiah: A Holy God

Torah Portion: Sh'mini (Leviticus 9:1-11:47)
Gospel Portion: Hebrews 9:13-14; 10:19-22; 12:18-29
Commentary By: Matthew Day

"Our God is a consuming fire." Nadab and Abihu experienced this truth firsthand when they walked into the holy place drunk with unauthorized fire. Up until this point in Scripture, God has been instructing us in how to draw near to Him. Indeed, this seemingly unending detail about sacrifices comes to a climax in Leviticus 9 as on the eighth day the "glory of HaShem appeared to all the people And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces." Immediately after this, the story relates how Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron the High Priest, attempted to draw near to God. Unfortunately, they did so without the fear and reverence instilled into Israel at Mount Sinai. It is on this point that we turn to boundaries of holiness and separation--sanctification.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Parashah Messiah: Table of God

Torah Portion: Tzav (Leviticus 6:1-8:36)
Gospel Portion: 1 Corinthians 14: 16-18, Luke 22: 19-20
Commentary By: Chris Mumford

Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Messiah? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Messiah? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf. Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? -- 1 Corinthians 14: 16-18

Picking up where the last Torah portion ended, parashah Tzav continues its sacrificial regulations. If you are like me, you honestly find these portions boring and struggle to glean the ever desirable Torah “nugget” of divine revelation in them. I mean, why do we need to know these things anyhow? There is no altar, temple, or tabernacle upon which to practice these rites. Modern Judaism teaches that prayer, charity, and repentance take the place of the sacrificial rites. However, all three of these things existed during and prior to the sacrifices. What makes the altar especially important? What grand purpose did God intend?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Parashah Messiah: Drawing Near

Torah Portion: Vayiqra (Leviticus 1:1-5:26)
Gospel Reading: John 3:16-17
Commentary by: Chris Knight

Leviticus. Temple Service. Priesthood.
These are some of the topics we begin to dive into as we enter the book of Leviticus. For much of the book of Leviticus, we can very easily feel disconnected from what we read. This is very understandable due to the fact that we haven’t had an active temple service for nearly two thousand years! Let’s put that into perspective. We are talking about a practice that nobody has seen since before Genghis Khan, Muhammad, the Ottoman Empire, the formation of Great Britain, the building of the Colosseum, the end of the Mayans and Aztecs, the Bubonic Plague, etc. That is pretty hard to wrap our minds around. Since then, there have still been billions people around the world following the God of Israel, reading the Bible, and pursuing a life of righteousness to God. So, why do we even look at Leviticus and the temple service?

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Parashah Messiah: A Spirit Filled House

Torah Portion: Pekudei (Exodus 38:21–40:38)
Gospel Reading: Colossians 1:16–22; Hebrews 3:1–6; Romans 8
Commentary by: Kelsey Bryant

The Tabernacle stood complete in all its splendor. All the Lord’s instructions had been carried out. Moses, the man responsible for the monumental project, gazed on it with humble and grateful satisfaction. 

And then the visible cloud spread over the complex, and the kavod (glory) of Yahweh cascaded into the Tabernacle. The Presence was so strong Moses himself was unable to enter (Exod. 40:35). Somehow, it was tangible, if not exactly physical.

Friday, March 4, 2016

How to survive the rise of tyranny

I have to be honest--the results of Super Tuesday surprised me a bit. I thought surely authoritarian supporters would be a minority. Surely, people would hear the rhetoric of Hitler and Mussolini behind the words of this man who "speaks his mind", a man who publicly stated that he wants to increase the power of libel laws. I never thought this idea of building a wall was even meant to be serious, yet we're still talking about it. I believed in the goodness of people, yet here we are promoting an ideology of fear and hate even among Christians! Especially among Christians.

Vox has an excellent article that explains some of the sociology behind all this, showing the personality profile of authoritarians and how fear is a driving force in bringing their dark side to light. One of the interesting things they mention that is easily lost is that Trump isn't even the real problem. The real problem is an American people who espouse an ideology that creates and supports people like Trump. I want to say that he doesn't represent the Republican party, but from the people's point of view, he does (or at least more than half of it). And that means that even if Trump can be defeated, we will see more people like him in the future, because that's what the people are demanding. What we're seeing is a people who are so scared that they want a strong leader, one who will stop at nothing to ensure their security.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Parashah Messiah: Dwelling Place

Torah Portion: Vayak'hel (Exodus 35:1-38:20)
Gospel Reading: Ephesians 2:11-22
Commentary By: Matthew Day
But the LORD has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance, as you are this day. (Deu 4:20 ESV)
When we think of the Gospel we typically think of personal salvation leading to personal obedience. Yeshua becomes my personal forgiveness, securing my personal ticket to heaven. While this is in a sense all true, I think the Gospel goes beyond that. Placing all the emphasis on personal salvation from sin is a bit like focusing on personal deliverance from Egypt. It's only one small part of a bigger plan. There is purpose in what God does, purpose bigger than any one of us individually.