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Julie Ferwerda Christian Blog and Commentary

OYB May 18

  • Julie Ferwerda
    Are you ready for change in 2009? Grab a One Year Bible (NLT), commit to reading it daily, and join Julie Ferwerda on an extraordinary adventure that will transform your life as you experience its relevance in a fresh, understandable way. In addition to 20+ years in Bible teaching ministry, Julie is a professional speaker and writer. Her works have appeared in publications such as Focus on the Family, Discipleship Journal, Christianity Today, Marriage Partnership, Brio, and Revolve Biblezines & Devotional Bible (for teens). She's also the author of "The Perfect Fit: Piecing Together True Love," and also the upcoming book, "One Million Arrows for God: Raising Your Children to Change the World." Learn more at www.JulieFerwerda.com.
  • 2009 May 18
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Today's One Year Bible Reading

1 Samuel

Are you waiting on the promises of God today? Even David had to wait many years to see the fulfillment of all God promised him. He had not idea when or how God was going to make him king. Perhaps when he was anointed by Samuel as a boy, he assumed he was ready for leadership. But God knew only with a Saul could David be ready to be a compassionate, just leader.

22:1 Then others began coming—men who were in trouble or in debt or who were just discontented—until David was the captain of about 400 men. This is a great picture of the kind of people Jesus drew!

22:8 You're not even sorry for me.... Contrast David who does not focus on what he gets or even if anyone else feels sorry for him.

In chapter 23 we see that David was persistent about asking the Lord what to do and when. This is the mark of a humble servant of God!

23:7 "We've got him now! God has handed him over to me, for he has trapped himself in a walled town!" When we are living in sin, our thinking can get very twisted. We can even make ourselves believe we're doing the right thing "for God."

23:14 And Saul sought him every day, but God did not deliver him into his hand. When you are serving the Lord, nothing can happen to you outside of His providence! You cannot be killed or persecuted unless the Lord wills it.

23:21 "The Lord bless you," Saul said. "At last someone is concerned about me! For Saul, it is always about him. He feels entitled, once again deluding himself into thinking that God is showing him favor.

23:25 When Saul and his men went to seek him, they told David, and he came down to the rock and stayed in the wilderness of Maon. And when Saul heard it, he pursued David in the wilderness of Maon. This is an amazing verse for a lot of reasons. First of all, David goes to the Rock when he is being pursued. Also, it is a reminder of the battle of Jesus when Satan pursued Him in the wilderness as well. In both cases, God delivered from the power of evil! I love the verse 28: "therefore they called that place the Rock of Escape." By the way, the wilderness that David roamed in is the same wilderness that Jesus spent 40 days in (all part of the Judean Wilderness).

John

10:1-18 Jesus refers to Himself as both the Door and the Shepherd. I found some commentary on a Jewish site to explain this parable. Though it is lengthy, I am going to print it here because it has some enlightening thoughts that go along with all we've been learning about the necessity of Jewish teaching in order to understand our Bibles. On the other hand, I do not necessarily believe in the exclusivity of this website that the Torah is only for Jews and not to be applied by Gentiles. I could be wrong (stranger things have happened), but I believe we have been fully invited into the Torah.

Parable of the Sheep and the Shepherd

As background, this will help us to understand the following parable. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that enters not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that enters in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter open; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out. And when he puts forth his own sheep, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. This parable spake Yeshua unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them" (Yochanan/John 10:1-6).

What about us? Do we understand?

In order to understand this parable, we need to know what he meant by "door," "sheepfold," "thief" or "robber," ‘shepherd," "porter," "sheep," and "stranger." This is a lot to understand, but we are not left without a place to start since Yeshua explained the meaning of two of the key symbols. He said that he represented the door as well as the shepherd (10:7, 11).[2] But, the door to what? The shepherd to whom? And, what is the sheepfold? All of this can become very confusing especially since he also said, "All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them" (10:8). Footnote: Although these two ideas appear self-contradictory, they are in reality one and the same, for a shepherd would often lie across the opening to the sheepfold thus becoming one with the opening. In this way, he was not only the shepherd and the door, but also the porter, i.e. the keeper of the door.

Was he saying that all the prophets, including Moshe (Moses) were thieves and robbers? Heaven forbid! Yet, this parable does seem to say such things. The key to elucidating this parable (and much of what Yeshua ever taught) lies in understanding one of the most fundamental truths contained in all of the Apostolic Writings, a truth that Yochanan (John) placed in the very beginning of his book. "And the word [of Hashem-this is Hebrew for "The Name" and was a substitute for saying "Yahweh"] was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his honor, the honor as a unique son of a father), full of grace and truth" (Yochanan 1:14). Simply put, Yeshua was the bodily manifestation of the word of Hashem/Yahweh. He was a living embodiment of Torah. This insight opens up a way of explaining the parable that may not have been possible before-a way that is more in line with what the Tanakh (Jewish Scriptures) says.

When Yeshua said that "all that ever came before me are thieves and robbers," he was speaking metaphorically by referring to himself as Torah. In other words, all those who teach anything other than Torah are thieves and robbers. Therefore, anyone who tries to enter the sheepfold without adhering to what the Torah teaches is a thief or a robber. Why is he a thief or robber? He is such because he is trying to take unlawfully that which we have already shown was given exclusively to Israel.

The meaning of the other symbols now becomes apparent. The sheep represent Israelites and the sheepfold represents the nation of Israel.

Yeshua's Parable Elucidated

We are now able to comprehend the startling conclusion of the parable. To make it clear, we will replace the metaphors with the actual reality that they stand for. We have placed verse markings before each of our renderings in order to help you compare our understanding with the parable itself.

"(1) He that does not enter the nation of Israel in accordance with what the Torah says, but tries to find an alternative route to partake of the blessings of Israel is behaving as a thief and a robber. How? The Torah was given only to Israel. (2) Entry into the nation of Israel is defined precisely by the Torah. (3) To those who follow Torah, the Torah will provide a way for entry back into the nation of Israel. Such are Israelites who actually do what the Torah says. These are identified within and by the Torah, and they live in accordance with the Torah. (4) When the Torah commands Israelites to act or not act in certain ways, such people do what the Torah says. The Torah guides and leads them in life since these people have made a commitment to follow it. They understand the meaning of Torah and do it. (5) They will not follow someone who teaches contrary to Torah because they know that such teaching is not in accordance with Torah. These will flee from false teaching because they will not follow prophets who speak words contrary to the whole of Torah."

One of the difficulties that we have witnessed when reading and trying to understand the Apostolic Writings is that we often fail to realize that we are reading very deep, mystical material rooted in the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures consisting of Torah, Prophets, and the Writings), the Talmud (a record of rabbinic discussion pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, customs, and history), and Kabbalah (a discipline and school of thought concerned with the mystical aspect of Judaism meant to explain the relationship between an infinite, eternal and essentially unknowable Creator with the finite and mortal universe of His creation). It is Jewish literature—not Christian literature—and as such, it can only be understood from within the framework of Jewish literature and Jewish thinking (remember that when trying to interpret ALL the parables!).

Yeshua was not teaching that people must believe in his person to enter a Church, Messianic assembly, or alternate Israel, creatively called "spiritual Israel." Rather, he was teaching the importance of adhering to what the Torah actually teaches regarding entry into and continued existence within the nation of Israel. Yeshua was teaching that any Gentile who wants to enter the nation of Israel must do so in accordance with what the Torah teaches about the subject. They must live in accordance with Torah and not make up something that they are more comfortable with. He even calls us robbers and thieves if we try to invent a way into the nation of Israel that is contrary to what the Torah teaches. More than that, he also says that what we are really doing is stealing, killing, and destroying that very nation (10:10). Shocking, no? When we insist on our own system apart from what the Torah teaches, we are really destroying what we say we are upholding. And Yeshua does not want us to destroy others or ourselves. Rather, as he said, the Torah exists so that "they [those in the nation] might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (10:10).

The Other Sheep

Explaining this parable, Yeshua taught. "Moreover, other sheep I have, which are not of this fold. And them I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd" (10:16).

Who are these "other sheep" which Yeshua as the good shepherd of the sheep must bring-in accordance with Torah-and unite with those already existing within the nation of Israel, i.e. the Jews, so that there be only one fold, only one nation? They are the Ten Tribes, for this is the message of the prophets and the specific mission of Mashiach ben Yosef**(see more info at the end of this article)-to return a remnant of the Ten Tribes and reunite their hearts to fear and serve Hashem as one with the remnant of the Jews.

Let us read what Yechezqel [Ezekiel] prophesied. "Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions: And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand...Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand...Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all: Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions: but I will save them out of all their dwelling places, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their Elohim. And [Mashiach ben] David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them...And the nations shall know that I YHVH do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore" (Yechezqel/Ezekiel 37:16-17, 19, 21-24, 28).

This is the same thing that we read in Yirmeyahu/Jeremiah 31:10, "Hear the word of YHVH, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock." Yes, the mission of Mashiach ben Yosef, i.e. Yeshua, is to bring the Ten Tribes back into the nation of Israel in accordance with the teachings of Torah-and not in accordance with their own ideas.

Mashiach (or Moshiach):

I had no idea who Mashiach ben Yosef was, so I looked it up on another site. Jewish tradition speaks of two redeemers, each one called Moshiach. Both are involved in ushering in the Messianic era. They are Moshiach ben David and Moshiach ben Yossef.

The term Moshiach unqualified always refers to Moshiach ben David (Moshiach the descendant of David) of the tribe of Judah. He is the actual (final) redeemer who shall rule in the Messianic age. All that was said in our text relates to him.

Moshiach ben Yossef (Moshiach the descendant of Joseph) of the tribe of Ephraim (son of Joseph), is also referred to as Moshiach ben Ephrayim, Moshiach the descendant of Ephraim. He will come first, before the final redeemer, and later will serve as his viceroy.

The essential task of Moshiach ben Yossef is to act as precursor to Moshiach ben David: he will prepare the world for the coming of the final redeemer. Different sources attribute to him different functions, some even charging him with tasks traditionally associated with Moshiach ben David (such as the ingathering of the exiles, the rebuilding of the Bet Hamikdash, and so forth).

This teaching can be found on many Jewish sites (but it's the first I've heard of it!). Further study on yet another Jewish site.