Monday, January 30, 2012

The Bride of Christ: Without Blemish, Spot or Wrinkle video teachings now available

Now up loaded and available for viewing are the video sessions of the 2011 Federal Way United Methodist Church Women’s Retreat where Brenda taught a 5 part series titled The Bride of Christ: Without Blemish, Spot or Wrinkle.  The videos are linked through the Moed Ministries web site on the “Teaching Ministry” page or directly from the host site at Vimeo, just search for "Moed Ministries" on www.vimeo.com.  These sessions were recorded several months ago and we hadn’t planned to make them available to the public because of the audio issues with the recordings, but many have asked for them so here they are.

Shalom and be blessed
Dan & Brenda Cathcart

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Use of Non-literal Language in the Bible


By David Negley of Mishkan David blog*


Recently, in a discussion thread, I noticed that there seems to be some confusion about how to identify uses of non-literal language in the Bible. As the discussion went on, it became apparent that there was some need to define basic literary terms, like “parable”, “literal”, and “figurative”.

In this discussion, the question was asked whether certain passages were “literal” or “parable”. The responses were intriguing. No one wanted to say that anything was a “parable”, or a “metaphor”, because they seemed afraid it would leave them in a position where they were cutting meaningful parts out of the Bible. In other words, these people were avoiding the obvious answer—”it is a metaphor”—because they were afraid that was tantamount to saying the Bible has no clear meaning in those instances.

I can understand that concern. I used to feel the same way. I was certain that, “The Bible should always be taken literally. Saying some of it is allegorical or metaphorical leaves the interpretation up to the whim of the theologian.”

In Bible college, there was even a saying we had to memorize…

When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word, at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise.

(Dr. David L. Cooper, “The Golden Rule of Biblical Hermeneutics”)

Now, this approach is far superior to the alternative technique of Bible interpretation that is popular among Christian theologians. I have been treated to interpretations of the prophets that denuded the prophetic visions of all reference to Israel. Christian theology is rife with allegorization of texts in order to exchange the roles of Israel and a Gentile entity we call “the Church”.

However, while this golden rule is an improvement over other approaches, it does make one glaring assumption that is rarely identified. In order to employ this rule accurately, one must have a firm grasp on the language and literary genres common to the Biblical authors. In short, one cannot know when “the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths” indicates a non-literal usage unless we are familiar with the axioms and fundamental truths employed by the authors!

In many cases, the choice of terms might be based on reasons that will not be immediately obvious to us, as we read 2,000 years later, within a different culture, and with a completely different set of experiences. We must learn to put ourselves in the place of the author and the original audience in order to understand what was written. In this particular conversation I mentioned, the issue was how to define what was intended to be taken as literal truth, as opposed to recognizing figurative language.

So, let’s start of with an assertion:

Calling something a “parable” or a “figure of speech” is not just a fancy way of saying it has no meaning.

We sometimes get the impression that calling something a metaphor is just an excuse to justify tossing out our dearly held beliefs. We are told, “The verse used to defend that doctrine isn’t literally true.” I used to take great offense at some of the writings of William Barclay for specifically that reason.

Some of us need to get over this negative feeling about identifying figures of speech in the Bible. The truth is, we use figures of speech and idioms all the time, regardless of what language we speak. Figures of speech are an unavoidable reality in life. It “rains cats and dogs”, while “Jack Frost is nipping at our noses”. We “hop in our wheels” to drive down town, to “eat a bean”. “Give me a call”? Where shall I put it when you have given it to me?

In the case of “mishlei/parables”, we have short stories—sometimes only a sentence or two—that communicate an actual truth, but through the use of symbolism. These are not literal uses of language. Stories about beating on a friend’s front door to borrow a loaf of bread are very relatable and homey… but not literal, factual accounts. The point of these stories is to involve the hearer/reader, and get the audience to relate to the characters in the story. That allows the audience to take a meaning from the story that was never explicitly stated—an excellent way to communicate when one is part of an underground political movement bent on crowning the new Planetary Emperor.

But most of us get that. Things become more tricky, though, when it comes to identifying terms that are so commonly used as jargon words that we don’t even recognize them as figurative, anymore. It can be downright challenging to tease out all the non-literal terms we are accustomed to using.

·        Israel is the “wife” of God”

This makes a wonderful word picture, but there is no way it is literally true. The same goes for “Bride of Messiah”. If we try to take these terms literally, then we have God in a homosexual, incestuous relationship with “Israel, my son, my firstborn”. And by the way… calling Israel a “son” is also a figure of speech! The eternal spirit Being we call “God” does not procreate.

·        We are the “Body” of Messiah

We are a collective community, but we are not a literal “body”. Sha’ul built on this metaphor (a comparison NOT using “like” or “as”) in First Corinthians 12, when he likened people to eyes, ears, hands, and feet.

·        We are “grafted in”

This is an agricultural term, by which we mean that one can identify with, and adhere to, a group to which s/he is not native-born.

·        Put on the “Armor” of God

Ephesians 6 does not intend that we should play-act putting on armor in any literal way. Sha’ul uses armor as a metaphor for the role of maturing in our spiritual character. As we learn truth, righteousness, trust, etc., we find these traits all help to sustain and protect us—LIKE armor on the battlefield.

And finally, I will end with one last example—

·        Yeshua is the “Lamb of God”

This beloved phrase says so much about Yeshua! The symbol of the lamb communicates gentleness, companionship, warmth, and ultimately, the ultimate sacrifice.
And yet, the lamb is only a symbol. Yeshua has no wool, and he walks on only two legs.This also leads us to recognize that Yeshua is not literally a Passover sacrifice. He was a human being, not a sacrificial lamb. It would have been against everything in the Torah for a priest to offer the life of a human on the Temple altar. Still, every year, there are more endless arguments over whether Yeshua died precisely at the time the Passover lambs were slain, as though he were literally a sacrificial lamb.

Obviously, metaphors can be very difficult to identify, since there is no semantic flag to signal, “I’m not being literal now!” When someone says, “You ARE the body, of which Messiah is the head”, or “We ARE ambassadors for Messiah”, or “You ARE the Temple of God”… we have to ask ourselves what the literal reality is that makes those symbols significant, and then apply that symbolism correctly.

Now, I have deliberately chosen examples that are relatively non-controversial. Most of us understand that we are being COMPARED to temples, bodies, soldiers, sheep, and trees and vines. But this illustrates a principle that we need to apply throughout the Messianic letters. We have all been taught—erroneously—to take literally MANY metaphorical and midrashic elements, especially in the letters of Rav Sha’ul.

For instance, how many of us have heard sermons and teachings on “the deep truths of the Messianic priesthood”, and been told of, “Yeshua, our high priest”? Do we realize that ALL of this sort of language is non-literal??? There are applications, to be sure. We can act AS priests when we intercede for others, or speak Hashem’s truth into their lives. But we are NOT literally priests in the sense of the Levitical priesthood.

(This) leads us to one final example of metaphorical application in the Messianic Writings. The entire book of Hebrews consists of one allegorical vignette after another. Many have read the section about Melchizedek with great interest, and have even created doctrine to the effect that Melchizedek is some sort of “pre-incarnate” Yeshua. But that was never the point the author was trying to make. The writer of Hebrews created a midrash based on the story in Genesis, drawing interesting points of comparison between the historical figure and Messiah Yeshua. Such statements make good sermonic rhetoric, but are not literal truth. By recognizing this, we save ourselves a great deal of angst and speculation.

We have become accustomed to accepting fantastic, unverifiable theology, and then we are told that we must hold to it as though our very eternal destiny relies upon it being true. There are many things we have been taught to accept as literal truths under the guise of “spiritual teaching” or “God can do anything”, but which really are based on taking non-literal language as literal.

There is much more to be said on this topic, and we will be returning to it more in the future. Keep reading here on the Mishkan, to learn more about the use of non-literal language, and its impact on our approach to Biblical interpretation.

שלום ברוך
Shalom and be blessed
Dan and Brenda Cathcart

Visit our web site at www.moedministries.com

* Visit the Mishkan David blog site at www. http://mishkandavid.wordpress.com

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Gospel in the creation of Adam and Eve

We tend to think of the gospel as Yeshua’s death and resurrection forgetting that the story is not yet complete. The gospel includes the promise of Yeshua’s return for His bride and ultimately, the creation of a new heaven and earth. In the creation of Adam and Eve, we see God’s entire redemption plan.

The creation of Adam was different than the creation of everything else. God spoke everything into existence except Adam. With Adam, God got personally involved. God formed Adam from the dust of the ground.

Ge 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (KJV)

The word formed comes from the Hebrew word yatsar, יצר, which means to mold as a potter! To emphasize this, yatzar is spelled with an extra yood, י, in this verse yatzar is spelled ייצר. In the original Hebrew alphabet, the yood was a hand. By using two yoods, we see that God used His two hands to form Adam. What does this have to do with Yeshua? Like Adam, Yeshua’s creation is unique. The Holy Spirit, Yeshua refers to as the finger of God, is the agent of Mary’s conception. Once again, God got personally involved!

But, it was not good that Adam was alone! Again, what does this have to do with Yeshua? God says that the purpose of creation was for Yeshua!

Col 1:16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: (KJV)

We also notice that Adam was given dominion over the earth before Eve was created. So, Yeshua has dominion over all creation before the building of His bride.

So, Adam was put into a deep sleep.

Ge 2:21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. 22 Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. (NKJV)

The word for “deep sleep” is tardemah which comes from the word radam meaning to stun or stupefy into sleep or death. In other words, tardemah is just this side of death. Adam symbolically died to give life to his bride who Adam named Chaya. That’s right her name isn’t Eve; it’s Chaya. Chaya means life. Adam’s bride whom he named life came from out of his flesh.

Jesus, the final Adam, did die to give life to His bride. And we are like Eve, both the body and the bride of Christ.

Ge 2:23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. (KJV)

Out of the sleep and waking of Adam, comes forth Eve or life. Out of the death and resurrection of Yeshua, the final Adam, comes forth life.

But this just takes us through Yeshua’s death and resurrection. What about His return for His bride? We see that in Adam’s words as he looks on Chaya (Eve) for the first time.

Ge 2:24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. (KJV)

What was Adam talking about here? He didn’t have a father and mother to leave! Even the first customs of man and wife have the wife leaving her family and joining the man in his home not the other way around! There are a couple of ways to look at this including that the man leaves his father and mother when he takes on the responsibility of a family of his own. But prophetically, this looks forward to Yeshua coming for His bride. Paul tells us that this verse refers to Yeshua and the Ekklesia, the assembly.

Eph 5:30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. (NKJV)

Yeshua leaves His Father in heaven and comes for His bride. And we shall be one flesh! The word cleave is dabaq, דבק, which means to cling, adhere or join. As Yeshua’s bride He will join Himself to us! We read of Yeshua praying for His future bride before His death and resurrection.

Joh 17:20 "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 "that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. (NKJV)

One last point, let’s take a minute and look at the “making” of Eve. The word “made” in Genesis 2:22 referring to God making Eve is banah, בנה, which means to build. God built Eve just like He builds Yeshua’s bride the church!

Eph 2:19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (NKJV)

As we wait for Yeshua to come and claim us as His bride, God is building us up to be that bride—that bride that Adam names “Life” because she is the mother of all living. And through our testimony as the bride, we spread life to the rest of the world.

Shalom and be blessed
Dan & Brenda Cathcart

Visit our web site at www.moedministries.com

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Torah Portion Shemot (names): The Family of Moses.

The Torah portion this week is from the first chapters of Exodus, but in the Hebrew Tanakah the book of Exodus is called “Shemot” which means “the names”.  Names are a very important part of Hebrew culture and history.  Names have a deep meaning and in the scriptures, when a name is given, you can be sure that it has a special significance.  See our other blog about names titled, These are the Names: the Story of our Redemption.  We in our modern society tend not to think of names as having special meanings.  We give our children a particular name largely because it is a name we like, or it is a name with a family connection or some such reason.  But again, in the Bible and the Hebrew culture, names are very important.

When we think of the book of Exodus or Shemot, we think of Moses leading the Children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, where they were enslaved, to the land of promise, a land that God set aside for them to dwell.  So let’s take a look at the names of Moses and his family and we will see a pattern of a deeper meaning in the scripture as we read the story of the Exodus.  Moses’ parents and brother are mentioned by name in Exodus chapter 6.

Ex 6:20 KJV And Amram took him Jochebed his father's sister to wife; and she bare him Aaron and Moses: and the years of the life of Amram [were] an hundred and thirty and seven years.

Let’s look at each of these names in the order that they are given in this passage. 

Amram is the father of Aaron and Moses.  The name Amram is #6019 in the Strong’s Dictionary:

06019.  עמרם  `Amram,  am-rawm'  probably from 5971 and 7311; high people (or exalted people); Amram, the name of two Israelites:--Amram.

Amram’s father was Kohath and his grandfather was Levi.  Since Amram married his father’s sister she was also a daughter of Levi.

The name of the mother of Moses and Amram’s wife was Yochebed:

03115.  יוכבד  Yowkebed,  yo-keh'-bed  from 3068 contracted and 3513; Jehovah-gloried (or the glory of God); Jokebed, the mother of Moses:--Jochebed.

(See Side Note below).

Now Aaron was the eldest son of Amram and Yochebed:

According to the Brown-Driver-Briggs dictionary, Aaron is defined as follows:
H175 אהרון  'ahărôn Aaron = light bringer the older brother of Moses, a Levite and the first high priest.

The younger son was Moses.  His name is defined in the Strong’s as follows:

04872.  משה  Mosheh,  mo-sheh'   from 4871; drawing out (of the water), i.e. rescued; Mosheh, the Israelite lawgiver:--Moses.

Moses is a type of Messiah.  He was the redeemer of Israel, bringing his people out of bondage and into the Promised Land.

Now when we put these names together in their order, looking at the meanings, we get a shadow of what is to come not only in this generation, but a shadow of the coming messiah many generations hence!

When the high and exalted people are joined to the glory of God, the result is that light brings forth from the waters of the earth the redemption of Israel!

שלום ברוך
Shalom and be blessed
Dan and Brenda Cathcart

Side note: With regard to wives, the sages say that in only three places in the Torah are the wives of leaders mentioned in a special context.  In all three cases the reason is to show that the children of these leaders had not only distinguished fathers but also distinguished mothers.  Amram married Yochebed, a daughter of Levi.  Aaron married Elisheva, from the royal tribe of Judah, a sister of Nahshon.  Aaron and Elisheva became the forebears of the Jewish priesthood.  Their grandson Phinehas became the only one who was granted priesthood as result of his own merit.  See Numbers 25:10-13. (Ramban)