Bible Studies from the Original Context
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September 2019

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Needed: Spiritual Vision Check

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Needed: A Spiritual Vision Check Reading Numbers 22 you will note that the Hebrew word דֶּ֖רֶךְ (‘deh-rech‘ meaning ‘way’ – Strong’s #1870) is used 8 times [verses 22, 23, 24, 26, 31, 32, 34].  Often it has the Hebrew letter bet ( ב) as the prefix to indicate ‘the way’ or ‘in the way’ – בַּדֶּ֖רֶךְ (b-derech). These verses contain the famous story of Balaam’s talking donkey.  Balak, the king of Moab, had sent an emissary to Balaam in Mesopotamia asking him to come to Moab and to curse Israel. In Numbers 22:12, God clearly commanded Balaam, “Thou shalt not go with them [Moabites]; thou shalt not curse the people [Israel]: for they are blessed.”  At first Balaam said ‘no’ to the Moabites, but when they returned a second time, God permitted Balaam to go with them.  Balaam had entered God’s permissive will which is evident by God’s admonition in verse 32, “I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me.”  This verse sums up this passage about the way of Balaam – it was perverse or contrary to God’s way because he was intent to curse Israel.  If one’s intent is to harm or curse Israel, then their way is contrary to God’s way!   As we continue reading ch. 22 and then esp. through ch. 24, the second ‘theme’ becomes apparent as we count the number of times the word ‘see’ appears in the text.  First, the donkey ‘sees’ the angel of the Lord in verses 23, 25 and 27.  The Hebrew root for ‘see’ is ראה (rah-ah – Strong’s #7200).  Then God ‘opens’ the donkey’s mouth so that she speaks to Balaam. Here the Hebrew word for ‘open’ is פתח (pah-tach) which literally means ‘open’.  Then God ‘opens’ Balaam’s eyes in vs. 31.  Here the word translated as ‘open’ is גלה (gah-lah – Strong’s #1540).  The Theological Workbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) says, “When God revealed himself to Balaam it is said that Balaam’s eyes were “uncovered,” “opened” (Num 24:4, 6). It appears that in this manner Balaam saw something which he otherwise could not see.”  From this point forward, Balaam refers to himself as “the man whose eyes are open” (cf. Num. 24:3, 15)  There are least 24 occurrences of the word ‘see’ (in various forms) in this chapter!  So it is all about spiritual vision!    God’s will was clear.  Israel was NOT to be cursed.  However Balak had offered Balaam great riches if he would curse Israel.  Also, we have further insight from Deut. 23:5 that Balaam truly did WANT to curse Israel: “Nevertheless the LORD thy God would not hearken unto Balaam; but the LORD thy God turned the curse into a blessing unto thee, because the LORD thy God loved thee.” Balaam blessed Israel four times when he really wanted to curse them because God overruled and turned the curses into blessings! One of the greatest prophecies in the T’nakh about the Messiah was given by Balaam in Numbers 24:17: “I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Seceptre shall rise out of Israel ..”  I personally think this prophecy guided the ‘wise men from the east’ to travel to Jerusalem and worship the newborn king of the Jews many thousands of years later (as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew). Those wise men would have been of the same area as Balaam.   Despite all that God did to help Balaam find the right way, in the New Testament [2 Peter 2:15, Jude 11, Revelation 2:14], he is used as an example NOT to follow. Primarily these verses refer to Balaam’s doctrine, but we could make a secondary application that Balaam’s way was to curse Israel.  God is against anyone who is “cursing” Israel, but of all people, Christians should know better!!  The modern “BDS movement” is clearly against the Scriptures!     I want to end on a positive note because God works out all things to our good and His glory! (Romans 8:28)  One good thing we can glean from this story is that God would NOT let Balaam curse Israel!  God overruled each time and caused Israel’s enemies to bless her with great blessings!  God is still on the throne and looking out for His ancient people, and although many ‘Balaks’ and many ‘Balaams’ have come on the scene down through the centuries, no one is able to curse or destroy Israel. God is still telling these peoples the same words he told Balaam, “thou shalt not curse the people [Israel]; for they are blessed!” – Numbers 22:12  Every single person or nation who have gone ‘against God’ concerning Israel has met with destruction.  I do not want to be like Balaam whose way was perverse before God.  I want to be on the same page with God and I want to be a blessing to those He has blessed!  

Needed: Friends of Zion

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The Hebrew word for friend is חֲבֵר (chaver).  The root:  ח ב ר means to ‘join, connect’.  Friends are people who are joined together around a similar interest or cause.  A written composition is a חיבור (chi-vur) because words are joined together.  An author, writer or composer is a מחבר  (m’cha-ber) because they join together words, ideas and music.  A society, or association is called חברה (chev-rah). Societies and clubs are composed of people whose interests join them together.  Nations who have similar interest are called allies.    One of my favorite verses is from Proverbs 17:17, “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”  The Bible defines friendship as a commitment based on a relationship, not a convenience.  In Bible times, friends often made a covenant to help each other. (A good example is David and Jonathan)  The modern view of a friend is far from the Biblical model. Friends are viewed as the people they ‘use’ to help them advance or provide themselves some benefit.  It is a very “consumer view” – ie, what can this person do for me.  There is no thought of loyalty and sacrifice in such friendships.   The Bible, however, declares the crucible of friendship to be commitment during adverse or trying times.  The way a society views friends will also affect other organizations, employer to employee, and even at a national level.  Two Nations who are “friends” are said to be allies.  A nation should also be committed to seeking the BEST for their ally.  Not to using their allies.   Traditionally Israel has been the ally of the USA – the ONLY true ally in the Middle East!  Terrorists are NOT allies and are NOT friends!   Nations that support terrorists are NOT allies.  And the enemy of my ally should be my enemy too!!  However it seems the modern “consumer view” of friends has now infected the relationship between the USA and Israel.  The proposed “deal” with Iran is surely NOT something that a true ally or a true Friend of Israel would agree to – much less propose.  Iran is NOT a friend of Israel, but is the sworn enemy.  Consistently their leaders vow to “wipe the Jews off the map”.  Iran is also NOT a friend of the USA either!  Contrary to what the leaders of the USA think, Iran is NOT a friend nor ally of the USA.  Iran sponsors international terrorist groups!  Since when do we negotiate with terrorists?  The proposed “deal” with Iran that the USA is proposing is not only bad for Israel, but it is bad for America too. It is bad for me and bad for YOU!   What can we do?  Well, just ONE PERSON can actually do alot if that ONE PERSON really believes in something.  First of all, we can all pray.  Also, we can all call, write or email our congressional representative.  The one “saving point” is that the “deal” must pass the US Congress.  So we who love Israel and who love America need to let our voice be heard.  The prophet Isaiah was such a patriot and he loved Israel!  I will close with his words: “For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest.”  -Isaiah 62:1   “The LORD loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.” – Psalm 87:2

A Hearing Heart

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A Hearing Heart

In 1 Kings 3:3, God appeared to King Solomon in a dream as he offered sacrifices in Gibeon and said, “Ask what I shall give thee.”  Solomon’s request is recorded in verse 9: “Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart.”  God told Solomon that his prayer was answered and hence Solomon became the wisest man. God also gave Solomon many things he did not ask for as well.  Re-read 1 Kings 3 for the full story.  The English phrase ‘understanding heart’ in verse 9 is translated from the Hebrew phrase 

– לֵ֤ב שֹׁמֵ֙ע  – lev sh’ma – which literally means ‘a hearing heart’.  As stated already, the word sh’ma means ‘hear’, but since effective hearing means that one must also understand what is being heard, hence the KJV translators use of “understanding heart”.  Sh’ma also carries the idea of obeying what one  hears so that if you don’t obey, you don’t really hear.  I think a ‘hearing heart’ is exactly what God wanted not just Solomon, but all the children of Israel to have and hence, His constant use of the word ‘lev‘ (heart) in Deuteronomy. 

The word ‘heart’ (Hebrew – לְבָבְ –le-vav) occurs 43 times in the book of Deuteronomy – more than any of the other books of the Torah!  The other books of the Torah tell the ‘story’ of the Jewish people, from God’s promise to Abraham until they are standing on the shores of Jordan ready to cross over to the land God gave them.  However, Deuteronomy retells the story somewhat, but it adds one important factor – the emphasis on the heart.  God wanted the children of Israel to know that the motives of the heart were more important than their actions.  

The sh’ma is found Deut. 6:4-6 and is part of this week’s Torah portion. 

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”  

 שְׁמַ֖ע יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵ֖ינוּ יְהוָ֥ה ׀ אֶחָֽד׃ 

 וְאָ֣הַבְתָּ֔ אֵ֖ת יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֑יךָ בְּכָל־לְבָבְךָ֥ וּבְכָל־נַפְשְׁךָ֖ וּבְכָל־מְאֹדֶֽךָ  

This passage is known as the sh’ma (שְׁמַ֖ע) because this is the first Hebrew word of the passage. Sh’ma (Strong’s #8085) which means ‘hear’ and the Theological Workbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) defines it as listening in order to obey.  

On the second line of Hebrew text note the word   לְבָבְ – le-vav (‘heart’ – Strong’s #3824) which occurs 47 times in the book of Deuteronomy – more than any other book of the T’nakh!  The other books of the Torah give us the history of the Jewish people from God’s promise to Abraham until they are standing on the shores of Jordan ready to cross over to the land God gave to them.  However, in Deuteronomy, Moses retells the story somewhat and adds one very important factor – the emphasis on the heart.  Although our actions are important, the motives of the heart that underlies our actions are the most important. 

In the New Testament gospel of Matthew, a lawyer (meaning an expert in the ‘law of Moses’) asked Jesus a very important question. Matthew 22:36: “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?”  Jesus’ reply is most important because He quoted to the lawyer the sh’ma: “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Mat. 22:38-40 Perhaps the lawyer was thinking of which of the 613 commandments in the law should he most concentrate on ‘doing’.  Jesus helped him to understand the same lesson that Moses taught in Deuteronomy – that our motive for our acts must be love for God and for others.  Without love, our actions are no good and become meaningless rituals.

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