Saturday, August 27, 2011

Considering Our Fewness

“The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you are the fewest of all peoples…” (Deuteronomy 7:7)

The word “fewest” or least (me'at, or LXX, oligos) is used for inconsequential (Gen 30:15), opposite of many (here, Num 13:18, etc.).


"Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons in all, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven.” (Deuteronomy 10:22)

How can both be true, to be the least but yet numerous as the stars? Rashi says that its that we act like we are the fewest. Other commentators say it is relative to other major peoples in the area, Egyptians, Assyrians, etc.

Notice in Deuteronomy 7:6 (as in 10:22) he is speaking to a 2nd person singular. I believe there HaShem is speaking to the people as a whole nation, one which is set apart as His people. In Deuteronomy 7:7-8 it switches to second person plural. This raises the possibility that He’s speaking to a different group—particularly, the remnant within the nation. Though we are many, it is the remnant of Israel who are few. And it is for the sake of the remnant that the nation is redeemed from Egypt.

Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: "Though the number of the Israelites is like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved. For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality." It is just as Isaiah said previously: "Unless the Lord Almighty had left us descendants, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah." (Romans 9:27-29)

Now the remnant is the hope of the nation, the guarantee that one day all Israel will be saved, when they too believe in Yeshua.

Though there were many others, it was the few that was saved with Noah, 1 Peter 3:20. Only the few will enter into life.

Matthew 7:14 "For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Luke 13:23 And someone said to Him, "Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?" And He said to them, 24 "Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able."

Revelation 3:4 “But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.”

Luke 12:32 "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.”

As a remnant, we would not exist or be sustained but by His grace (Rom 11:5).

For the sake of this world, the universe is secure; for the sake of Israel, the nations are secure; for the sake of the remnant, Israel is secure; it is for the sake of Messiah that the remnant is secure.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Mourn with those who Mourn

Tisha B’Av, which translates as the ninth of Av (this year it falls on Aug 8-9), ends a three-week period of semi-mourning which starts with the Fast of Tammuz. The ninth of Av, however, is the peak of this mourning period, where tradition prevents our people from shaving, eating, and entertainment. The reason for this distress is remembrance of events that have happened in the lives of the Jewish people. The rabbis teach that all these things happened on the ninth of Av:

· Sin of the spies which caused the Lord to decree that the people of Israel would not be permitted to enter the land.

· Destruction of the First Temple (586 BC)

· Destruction of the Second Temple (70 AD)

· Fall of Betar, the last fortress to hold out against the Romans during the Bar Kochba revolt in the year 135 AD. This sealed the fate of the Jewish people and beginning the exile from Judea

· One year after the fall of Betar, the Temple area was razed and plowed under by the Romans

· In 1492, King Ferdinand of Spain issued the expulsion decree, setting Tisha B’Av as the final date by which not a single Jew would be allowed to walk on Spanish soil.

· World War I – which began the downward slide to the Holocaust.

Its Meaning, Today and Tomorrow

Though most Jewish people are secularized and perhaps therefore unaware of Tisha B’Av, the Orthodox Jewish community takes it quite seriously. Thus if your Jewish friends and acquaintances are observing this day, treat them as one in mourning, and do not invite them to go out to eat, the movies or any other enjoyable events. In fact, though they may love you, do not expect them to greet you happily, which is not permitted on this day. They will be quite reserved, solemn and sad on this day.

The rabbis have identified this day with the fast of the fifth month (Av) as noted in Zechariah 7:5. This fast of the fifth month probably developed as a response to the Babylonian exile.

Zechariah goes on to say, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, … the fast of the fifth … will become joy, gladness, and cheerful feasts for the house of Judah…” (Zechariah 8:19). These “fasts becoming feasts” are traditionally understood as occurring in the messianic age, and then our sorrows will be turned to joy. In Messiah Yeshua we have certainly experienced the truth of the Lord’s grace transforming our sadness to gladness.

For those of us that have received Messiah’s forgiveness and fullness and can “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4), we are still responsible to care about those who are hurting and have compassion and even empathy in their distress.

Should Messianic believers observe Tisha B’Av today? To a large degree this depends on one's community. If one's witness to our people identifies with those who mourn, the Bible states that we should “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). If your congregation is located in a particularly observant Jewish community, it is most appropriate to respectfully have a day of prayer for Israel and the Jewish people, or at very least not plan a celebration on that day.

In all things let us love as we have been loved and “comfort others with the very comfort we have received,” that in all events and on all days Messiah Yeshua may be glorified and His grace proven to be sufficient for all:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus the Messiah, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Cor. 1:3-4)