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Bride, Priest, and Citizen

For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:2

And he shall take a wife in her virginity. A widow, or a divorced woman, or a woman who has been defiled, or a prostitute, these he shall not marry. But he shall take as his wife a virgin of his own people, that he may not profane his offspring among his people, for I am YHWH who sanctifies him.
Leviticus 21:13-15

For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.
2 Corinthians 11:2

The High Priest of Israel was only to marry a virgin of Israel.

For anyone else, there is nothing wrong with marrying a woman who is not a virgin, but, because of his close contact with YHWH, the High Priest had to keep himself to a much higher standard, beyond simple right and wrong. He is also a type of the Messiah, for whom we are preparing ourselves as a bride. In practical terms, it is impossible for us to be pure. Everyone has sinned and therefore the whole body of his people has also sinned. Our theology is corrupt, our behavior is corrupt, our minds and hearts are corrupt. On what basis can Paul say that he intends to present the Church to Messiah Yeshua as a pure virgin?

Solely on the basis of Yeshua’s righteousness imputed to us through his blood which takes away our impurity. He more than covers us, more than forgives us. He cleanses us, making us whole and pure again.

They shall teach my people the difference between the holy and the common, and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean.
Ezekiel 44:23

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:4-5

We have become the bride of Messiah, and we have also been made priests, not of the orders of Aaron or Melchizedek, but that of all believers. From the beginning, when Israel was chosen from among the nations, she was chosen to be God’s bride and a nation of priests to the world. Set apart and made holy, we are tasked with teaching the world the difference between unclean and clean, drawing them closer to their creator and interceding on their behalf.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.
1 Peter 2:9-11

We are the bride of Christ, we are a nation of priests, and we are citizens of the Kingdom of God.  We have been reborn into the nation of Israel, wild olive shoots grafted into a cultivated tree. As citizens, whether physically circumcised or only spiritually, we are expected to behave ourselves as children of the King, not flaunting privilege, but obeying a higher standard.

Our ultimate purification is yet to come, but until we finally exchange these mortal, corruptible shells for eternal, incorruptible bodies, we must strive to live as pure as we are able, with the aid of God’s Word and Spirit. We can’t be perfect, but we can always be better than we are, one choice, one stop, one word at a time. It’s the least we can do for our ultimate, heavenly High Priest and Husband.

Father Sky, Mother Earth

And you shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness be not exposed on it. Exodus 20:26

An altar of earth you shall make for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you.

If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones, for if you wield your tool on it you profane it.

And you shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness be not exposed on it.’

Exodus 20:24-26

The Canaanites, Greeks, Romans, Babylonians all had sacred prostitutes or somehow mixed sex with worship. In fact, I’d be surprised if there was any culture on earth that hadn’t dabbled in “sacred sex” at some point in their history.

In a very real sense, God is our father and the earth is our mother. The God of heaven took a bit of earth to fashion a man and then breathed his spirit into it, creating a being in his own image. This fact in combination with the astounding miracles of reproduction, of putting seeds in the ground so that they will sprout and produce more seeds, of a man and woman joining their bodies to create a new person in their own image, could easily lead people into the ideas manifested in fertility cults. If imitation is the sincerest flattery, how better can we worship the Creator than through an act of creation?

The command to make an altar of earth in order to worship the God of heaven re-emphasizes our creation from these two. However, there are two more commands attached to this one that strongly imply God does not approve of sex as an act of worship.

In the first command, God says we are not to build the altar with cut stones. We might have ideas about how to make a more beautiful altar, but God has said he will prepare the stones. We get to select them and place them, but the materials and format are strictly up to him. God wants his worship his way, not ours. He has told us how he is to be worshiped, and, although we might have a great deal of leeway in some of the details, we are not free to improvise however we choose. He commanded us to reproduce, but he did not command us to worship him through the reproductive act.

In the second command, God says the altar should be placed so as to avoid even accidental exposure of the priest’s nakedness. If there was any doubt as to whether nudity should or should not be a part of overt worship, that should quell it.

In other places, Torah is quite clear that temple prostitution is an abomination to God. He doesn’t seem to have left much room for debate on this issue among people who accept the Hebrew scriptures as divinely inspired.

When a man and woman become one, they image Elohim by creating a new life and God frequently compares his relationship with his people to that of a husband and wife. The Hebrew and Canaanite word for “husband” is ba’al, which the Canaanites also applied to their chief deity as a proper name. The sex act can be a physically, emotionally, and even spiritually intense experience. Incorporating it into the worship of a god, a divine ba’al, makes intuitive sense. Yet God hates it. He wants no sex, no alcohol, no nakedness in his worship.

Yet another illustration of how “follow your heart” is frequently the worst possible advice.

Out of Faith, Obedience

If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination. Proverbs 28:9

I was going through some old correspondence on the issue of Torah-keeping, and would like to share some of the better thoughts. This is somewhat edited from the original emails from sometime between 2000 and 2006…

The theology I remember being taught when growing up in the Assemblies of God now seems to me like a substitute legalism. Dispensationalism of any sort almost inevitably exchanges a Mosaic legalism for a Paulist legalism. The truth is that there is a middle ground that is completely consistent with the entire Bible, without having to relegate certain of God’s instructions to certain dispensations. The Letter to the Hebrews makes it very clear that the method of salvation has not changed from Abraham until now. Salvation was always through faith, and faith always results in obedience quite apart from salvation.

Dispensationalism teaches salvation is through faith in some eras and salvation through obedience in others. In reality there is no conflict between faith and obedience at any time. No one was ever saved by obedience to God’s Law. But if you do not have at least the beginning of obedience, then you cannot have faith, and you are therefore not “saved”. The Spirit will lead you ever towards obedience, but if you deliberately ignore one aspect of what the Spirit has already told you in writing through Moses, how can you expect to ever effectively hear that still, small voice?

Solomon wrote:

Trust in YHWH with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding….Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.
Proverbs 3:5 & 28:26

Jeremiah wrote:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
Jeremiah 17:9

Do you really believe that you are the exception, that your heart isn’t like everyone else’s?

I think you are fortunate that God tries to communicate with you at all when you attempt to dictate through what medium he is allowed to speak. If what you are hearing in secret in your own heart conflicts with what God has revealed openly to the entire world, then there is a very good chance that your heart is deceiving you.

If anyone turns away his ear from hearing the Torah, even his prayer is an abomination.
Proverbs 28:9

You Need A COVID Plan

You need a COVID plan!

Unless YHWH builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless YHWH watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.
Psalms 127:1

Every man who builds a house employs tools, resources, and a plan to do it. Nobody successfully builds a house without at least those three elements. A humble house might be constructed from humble materials and no more tools than a hammer and saw, but those are still materials and tools. When YHWH himself builds a house, he does so through the hands and means of men. We don’t get to sit on our hands, pray for a house, and expect God to magically make it happen.

God rewards action. Like it or not, God absolutely does help those who help themselves as much as they are able.

Health and medicine are no different. God heals, but he primarily heals through people and medicine, not prayer alone. There are exceptions, of course, but even those exceptions require someone to do something, like pray and anoint with oil. The purest faith is merely a skeleton for the muscles, organs, and ligaments of action, and there’s no sin in taking action for your own health by enlisting the help of medical professionals and even pharmaceuticals.

Plan for COVID

Having laid out my personal objections to the COVID vaccines a few weeks ago, I now have the distinct–but far from unique–privilege of writing about my personal experience with the disease itself and offering some further advice on what to do if you are exposed or get sick. Allow me to begin by making a couple of obvious observations:

  1. I am still not a doctor, virologist, immunologist, or any other medical or health expert. I didn’t get an MD or PhD or achieve any other sort of formal educational milestones in the last few weeks.
  2. This article is a dramatic departure from almost everything else I’ve written on this website in that it is mostly practical with little conscious theological content. I just think it’s important enough to put it out there anyway, especially considering the topic of my last article.

I’m no fitness junkie or anything like that, but I try to take care of myself. I have some health issues, but, thanks to the help and support of my amazing wife, I’m reasonably fit for my age. I eat a fairly balanced diet without much junk food. I don’t drink much and I don’t smoke at all, never have. I’m not obese or diabetic. I work out on a pretty regular basis, and I have a small garden.

And yet COVID seriously kicked my butt.

It’s a worldwide endemic at this point, so just about everyone’s probably going to get it eventually. I knew I couldn’t avoid it forever. What I didn’t expect was that it would completely knock me for a loop for two solid weeks. I thank God that I didn’t have it as bad as some, but it was more than bad enough.

It started with a fever and chills that came and went almost at random for a couple of days. A home COVID test was negative, but I knew that I had spent a few hours around someone who tested positive just a few days before the fever started. I was pretty sure that’s what it was.

Almost from the beginning, I could feel a slight tickle in my lungs. It seemed like just a little dry cough. I had chronic bronchitis when I was younger, so I had a pretty good idea of what constituted a danger sign and what didn’t, and this didn’t seem like a big deal.

My skin started getting sensitive after a day or two (cutaneous hyperesthesia, I think it’s called), especially everywhere with hair. It started on my scalp, then spread to my forehead, torso, arms, and thighs. It was like a mild sunburn over about 80% of my body. Then the fever got crazy. Paula was wrapping my head in ice packs at one point. It wasn’t like the flu. I didn’t have nausea at all. My sense of taste changed, but never went away. For a few days everything was unbearably salty, and then water tasted…weird. Still does a bit. By the end of the first week, I was physically, mentally, emotionally exhausted–I spent most of every day laid out on the sofa–but it never seemed life threatening.

The cough started getting worse, and on day 7, my doctor wanted me to get a CT scan, just in case. It turned out I had pneumonia in both lungs, and I really started to feel it a couple of days after that.

Someone was able to get us some Ivermectin, which I started taking on the 3rd day, and I had been filling myself full of zinc and vitamins C & D and other supplements from the start. We had a nebulizer and some albuterol on hand since a couple of family members have asthma, so I started using that. Nothing seemed to be helping. The waves of fever and chill kept coming. The skin sensitivity kept spreading and the cough kept deepening.

But I was also determined to stay out of the hospital. As hard as it may be to accept, most of our medical establishment is so locked into rigid, corporate dogma, that they are incapable of thinking beyond it. When it works, it works great, but the hospital system doesn’t work well at all with COVID.

Fortunately, I had access to some great doctors and nurses who focus on doing what works and not checking off all the approved boxes. It is now day 19 of my personal COVID adventure, and between the great medical care, my wife, and God’s Providence, I am well on my way to recovery now. The fever and sensitivity are long gone. The pneumonia appears to be gone, although I still have a cough. It will probably be weeks before I’m back to full strength, but I’m confident that I’ll get there.

In retrospect, there are things I could have done differently that would have saved myself a lot of trouble and could have cut the recovery time dramatically, if I had been a little more prepared. Mistakes are for learning, right? And what’s learning for if not to help someone else not make the same mistakes? So here’s my non-professional, non-scientific, non-guaranteed advice to you for dealing with COVID exposure and illness.

Pre-COVID Exposure

There are some things you need to get in order now. If you wait until you’ve been exposed to COVID or you have symptoms, then you’ve waited too long.

  1. Connect with community. If you aren’t part of a solid faith community, get connected now. Bookmark this article, go find yourself a church, synagogue, home fellowship…whatever…and commit to becoming an active part of it. If you’re not sure how to do that, start here.
  2. Find a doctor (or RNP, PA, etc) who understands the FLCCC’s I-MASK+ Protocol and is willing to prescribe a few things in advance. Working with a smart healthcare professional is important on this point. The FLCCC protocol recommends a number of medications and supplements, and everyone will react differently to these things. Your care provider can help you sort through it all and adjust things as needed. Work with a functional medical doctor or nutritionist (not just any doctor or nutritionist) if you can.
  3. Get that doctor to prescribe Ivermectin, Albuterol (for use with a the nebulizer, not a pump inhaler), and a nebulizer/compressor now. If the only Ivermectin you can get is from the local feed store, that’s better than nothing. It’s mostly the same stuff that you’d get from a pharmacy, but the quality, consistency, formulas, etc., will be more variable. It also won’t be in a pill, so you’ll have to calculate the correct dose for your body weight. It’s better just to get the “official” stuff if you can. Get a daily-dose loratadine (aka Claritin) and the dietary -supplements recommended by the FLCCC protocol.
  4. Get a medical air compressor and nebulizer like this one. If you have to deal with respiratory symptoms, you will absolutely need it. Better to mail order one before you need it, then to be hunting all over town at the last minute. For some bizarre reason that probably has to do with lobbyists and crooked politicians, you might need a prescription for the better quality compressors. You can get that from the same doctor who prescribes the Albuterol, which will be totally useless without this equipment. You can probably get a lesser quality one (that still might be good enough and definitely better than nothing!) from Amazon or other online retailer without a prescription.
  5. Identify a local clinic where you can get a COVID test and monoclonal antibodies treatment (if it becomes necessary). Ideally, this will be the same as the doctor you identified above, but it doesn’t have to be. The urgent care clinics that are everywhere these days are probably your best bet, but you’ll need to do some calling around. They don’t have a vested interest in putting you in a hospital, so they’re much more likely to give you what you actually need rather than what some bureaucracy tells them you need.
  6. Be healthy. This is mostly a no-brainer. You are probably deficient in multiple nutrients already. Start taking extra vitamin C & D now. Don’t take tons of just anything, though, because excess amounts of some nutrients can be harmful. If you have any chronic health conditions, especially respiratory issues, don’t skimp on treatment if you can help it. If you’re obese, lose weight. If you’re diabetic, keep it under strict control. If you have allergies, take your daily antihistamines or whatever you take, and don’t skip it. You get the idea.

COVID Exposure

There are two keys to handling exposure to COVID:

  1. Don’t expose yourself to COVID if you can reasonably help it. You can’t avoid everyone. You can’t hide away in a cave. Don’t suspect anyone with a cough of having COVID. If you know that someone has COVID or recently had it, be somewhere else if you can. Masks and vaccines will not protect you. The vaccines appear to reduce symptoms in a small percentage of people, more so for people over seventy years old, but they do not keep you from getting COVID and–more importantly–they don’t keep you from passing it on to other people.
  2. Take pre-emptive action. The best defense is a good offense. If you know you’ve been exposed to COVID, start taking zinc, C, & D. If you aren’t actively working with a functional medical professional, then be cautious. It’s hard to OD on vitamins C & D–go crazy with both of those, at least in the short term–but you can seriously hurt yourself with some others if you aren’t careful. In addition to regular supplements, start a preventative dose of Ivermectin. Again….talk to your doctor about doses, etc.

COVID Illness

If all else has failed and you’ve contracted COVID, do not wait to begin treatment! If you’ve been exposed and you have symptoms, assume you’ve got it, even if a home test shows negative.

  1. Get a real test. The home tests are “iffy”. You can get one at almost any urgent care clinic and many other places beside. If you identified the doctor and clinic as I recommended above, get it done there. They can prescribe the rest of what you need. Refer back to that FLCCC protocol I mentioned above too.
  2. Get lots of rest, but don’t just lay in bed all day. Your body needs to move to be healthy.
  3. If things are still looking bad or haven’t improved at all by day 5, seriously consider getting a monoclonal antibodies infusion. It will cause a about a day of high fever and misery, but if you’re risking hospitalization otherwise, I recommend doing it.
  4. Keep talking to your trusted medical professional. That’s not me because I’m not kind of medical professional at all. I gave you some highlights of the course I recommend you follow, but I didn’t list every detail, every contingency, everything that could go wrong. Mostly because I don’t have a clue about all that. I have my unique health issues, and you have yours. What worked for me might not work for you. I talked to my doctor, my nutritionist, and other healthcare professionals whom I knew I could trust, and I followed their advice. You should do the same.

Do Your Homework, but Don’t Trust in Yourself

Don’t forget God and don’t forget your friends and family. Pray, sing, worship. Keep everyone posted on your progress. They don’t need an hourly play-by-play, but you might be surprised at how many people really do care about you and want to help. Somebody out there wants to run some errands for you or deliver some meals. It’s good to be prepared for yourself, but you need to be taken care of too, and your community needs to be needed.

I’m sure there’s lots more I could say, but this is already so far outside of my norm and my areas of expertise, that it’s already more than I’m entirely comfortable with. I’m no health expert. I’m just another person who went through some stuff, and I hope you do better with it than I did. Take it all with spoonful of sugar and a healthy dose of your own research.

COVID, Vaccines, and Torah

My personal, commonsense, Biblical approach to COVID-19 vaccines

COVID-19 Is Everywhere.

It’s on everyone’s mind, in our conversations, on the news, and attached to every other Facebook post. They even say that it’s in the air. For almost two years, governments and corporations around the world have mandated lockdowns, social distancing, masks, and now vaccines to combat what we have been told is one of the most virulent and dangerous plagues in history.

Some people say we should ignore the governments and go about our business. If you love your neighbor, you won’t tolerate such tyranny. Others say it’s just common sense to wear a mask and keep your distance to protect vulnerable people. If you love your neighbor, you’ll wear a mask. They can’t both be right, can they?

The idea of masks and distancing make intuitive sense. If the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread by tiny water droplets in our breath, then a mask to contain those droplets, and a little distance to keep them from getting on other people should help, right?

Well, there’s theory, and then there’s the real world.

I’m no expert–and I’m going to keep telling you that–but I’m also not stupid. I can read, listen, observe, and think for myself. I don’t need to be a doctor or a virologist to weigh the obvious implications of observable reality. I’ll share my conclusions with you, and then I’m going trust you to think through it for yourself and make your own health decisions.

Face Masks

From everything I’ve read, face masks have very limited utility in stopping or even slowing the spread of COVID. The designer cloth masks that so many people like to wear do almost nothing and bandanas and plastic shields really don’t do anything more than attenuate sneezes. I suppose that’s better than nothing.

Surgical masks vary widely in effectiveness based on how they are manufactured and how they are worn, but that effectiveness drops off sharply after…oh….a few minutes of use. They’re really designed for reducing transfer of bacteria from a surgeon’s mouth to a patient’s innards just a couple of feet away over a short period of time and following a very strict protocol. They are definitely not intended to be worn for hours on end, taken off and on with dirty hands, and pulled under chins.

If you wear a face mask for more than a few minutes, it begins to saturate with moisture from your breath, including all the viruses and bacteria that came with it. Much of your breath is then just blowing out the sides of the masks or–much worse–blowing that moisture through and off the outside of the mask in much smaller particles than had originally escaped your mouth, potentially helping any viruses to spread more efficiently than they would have if you hadn’t worn the mask at all.

Reality trumps theory every time.

Social Distancing

Even the deer are getting COVID. Seriously. How can anyone believe that “social distancing” is having any effect at all?

Study after study has shown that six feet of distance is no better than three and no worse than twelve. Don’t be rude and get right up in people’s faces, but skipping rows at church and standing on the Xs at the grocery store are wastes of space.

If you get sick, you should stay home. Otherwise, be social. It’s good for you. And everyone else too. We want to see you!

Like I said, I’m not an expert. I’m just some guy on the Internet who doesn’t like outsourcing my thinking to politicians and reporters who have proven themselves over and over and over to be liars.

So why should you believe me? You shouldn’t. I haven’t included any sources in this article, partly because I haven’t kept track of everything I’ve read and seen over the last 18 months, but also because you really need to do your own research. Don’t rely on me and, for God’s sake, don’t rely on the press!

What’s the Point?

If these extreme anti-COVID measures–businesses destroyed, lonely suicides, skyrocketing mental illness, pastors arrested for holding church–don’t actually do anything to help, why are we doing them?

Call me a paranoid conspiracy theorist if you want, but I am totally convinced that the real purpose of forcing masks, closures, and social distancing on the world has nothing to do with preventing illness and everything to do with promoting fear. Why do politicians and rumor mongers (“reporters” implies they’re reporting something instead of spreading lies) want us to be afraid?

Fearful people are easier to control. When they’re confused, they’re ready to be directed. When the masses are afraid, they beg for more government, to be wrapped up in a comforting, protective blanket of authoritarianism. The bigger and scarier the bogeyman, the more unreasonable the solutions can be.

Like a rushed, emergency vaccine using an experimental method that has never worked despite decades of research and trials.

COVID Vaccines

Various governments around the world have given emergency authorization to a large number of experimental vaccines for treating COVID. Some of them are fairly conventional, while others are just massive medical experiments using the general public as guinea pigs. That doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in me.

Here is a summary of what I’ve been able to deduce from my own reading as a regular guy not being paid by the Gates Foundation, Pfizer, the CDC, or the Department of Division and Slander…

  1. The mRNA and DNA vaccines spread throughout the body and infect healthy cells with mRNA or DNA that hijack the normal processes of the cell to manufacture a portion of the SARS-CoV-2 virus known as a “spike protein”. This process destroys the infected cells, releasing millions (billions?) of the spike proteins.
  2. The cells that have been hijacked to manufacture spike proteins could be targeted by the body’s normal immune processes, creating autoimmune conditions in which the immune system begins targeting healthy, non-hijacked cells of the same type.
  3. The SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins are designed to cause mechanical damage to cells so that the virus can inject its own DNA. The spike proteins created by the mRNA and DNA vaccines must be identical (or nearly identical) to the spike proteins on the virus or they would not work. It is inconceivable that releasing millions (or billions) of those same spikes would not cause damage to cells throughout the body.
  4. Widely available statistics appear to indicate that none of the available COVID vaccines provide any significant protection against the contraction or spread of SARS-CoV-2. Since the vaccines do not provide immunity to vaccinated individuals, they do nothing to achieve herd immunity, but do accelerate mutation and facilitate transmission. The claim that they reduce symptoms of COVID once infected by the virus appears to have some statistical support, but this actually compounds the problems of mutation and transmission.
  5. Many well-credentialed physicians and medical experts have stated that the COVID vaccines pose significant health risks, potentially far exceeding the health risks of COVID itself.
  6. SARS-CoV-2 is already mutating into new strains, which will soon make current vaccines obsolete, and unable to do anything except cause further harm.
  7. Many well-credentialed physicians and medical experts have stated that there are proven and effective treatments for COVID that significantly shorten the duration of illness and lessen its symptoms without the use of vaccines.
  8. Despite official ingredients lists to the contrary, all COVID vaccines that I know of use tissue cultured from aborted babies at some point in the development or manufacturing process. These babies were not voluntary tissue donors, but the victims of elective abortions, also known as murder for convenience. Vaccine makers that use fetal tissue in the manufacturing process attempt to remove that original human tissue to varying degrees through the use of chemical and mechanical means, but it is impossible to remove all traces. Every one of those COVID vaccine doses contains some bits of cells cultured from those murder victims. Vaccine makers that use fetal tissue in the development of their vaccines are still participating in and benefiting from murder for profit.
  9. Vaccine makers are generally exempted from being held accountable for fraud, malpractice, and assault related to vaccines. This alone is sufficient justification for any reasonable person to reject their products.
  10. Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, and other pharmaceutical companies involved in the development, manufacturing, and marketing of COVID vaccines have decades long histories of fabrication of test results and statistical data, massive fraud, and human rights violations that demonstrate a clear tendency to prioritize profits and technical advancements, while holding the health and rights of real, individual people to be next to worthless. This alone is sufficient justification for any reasonable person to reject the vaccines of these companies in particular.

The Biblical Case for Vaccination

Deuteronomy 22:8 says that, when you build a house, you should build a parapet (something like a railing or low wall) around the roof so that nobody falls off and gets hurt. In the Ancient Near East, where most of the Bible was written, the flat roofs of houses often doubled as an extra room of the home. People would sleep on the roof during hot weather or visit there with guests. The principle of this command is that we should take reasonable precautions within our own spheres of responsibility to prevent other people from being injured. If you have a dangerous animal, keep it penned up. If you have leprosy, stay in quarantine. You don’t have to go looking for problems in other people’s homes and businesses, but you should definitely see to your own.

It only makes sense to take precautions with COVID as well. No good person wants others to be sick and miserable, so why not? If masks work at preventing or “slowing the spread” (they don’t), we should wear them. If social distancing works (it doesn’t), we should keep our distance. If vaccination against COVID works (it doesn’t), we should get vaccinated, assuming there aren’t other good reasons that God might not like it (there are).

If you love your neighbor, you won’t unnecessarily put your neighbor at risk by breathing pathogens at him.

The problem with all of these justifications is that they depend on the first IF statements being true before the THEN statements become true.

The Biblical Case Against Vaccination

As you can see from my list of ten facts about the COVID vaccines , the IF statements above don’t pass the test. Masks don’t work. Social distancing doesn’t work. The COVID vaccines don’t work!

Sure, they probably reduce the symptoms a little, but this actually makes the problem worse, because it tricks people into thinking they’re well, when they’re actually sick. Infected, contagious people are walking around as if nothing is wrong because they’ve been vaccinated, but they’ve become breeding grounds for new strains that they freely pass on to others.

The parapet you build on your roof doesn’t actually fulfill the commandment unless it works to keep people from falling off. If it looks solid, but it’s actually made of cardboard, then it’s much worse than if you hadn’t built it at all. Your neighbor will lean on it, thinking he’s safe; it will collapse throwing him from the rooftop, and that will be your fault.

Concert venues, airlines, and entire countries are refusing to allow people to enter without proof of vaccination, because they’ve been told that vaccination will keep people safe, except that it does exactly the opposite. The vaccines are making people even more vulnerable and spreading COVID even faster.

If you love your neighbor, you’ll accept a little risk on his behalf, and not make panicky decisions that put him in even greater danger than before.

This isn’t even considering what happens when you reward pharmaceutical companies with billions of dollars for buying and using body parts of murdered babies as factory components. Those particular babies were sacrificed on the alter of convenience decades ago, so does that still matter today? If the vaccines were actually saving a significant number of lives, that might be an argument worth considering. But they’re not, and do you think Planned Parenthood isn’t watching today and seeing what sins are being rewarded with fat bank accounts?

Is the COVID Vaccine the Mark of the Beast?

Since the book of Revelation contains so much allegorical imagery, almost anything can be made to fit the descriptions of the Mark of the Beast if you take just the right angle and make the right assumptions. Unfortunately–or fortunately–it’s not easy to make these vaccines fit. Indulge me in making another numbered list…

  1. As far as I can tell, it doesn’t contain the “number of a man” or the number 666 anywhere. 60606, 666.66, and 66600 aren’t 666. John didn’t say that the number of of the beast would contain three sixes. He said it was six hundred, sixty, and six. No more and no less.
  2. Some people are taking the vaccination in their right arm, which, in some languages, equates to the right “hand”. Others are taking in the left arm and nobody is taking it in their forehead.
  3. People are being denied some business opportunities because of their lack of vaccination, but nobody has been blanketly denied all ability to buy and sell. Not yet, anyway.
  4. If the vaccine is the mark, who or what is the Beast? Okay, I’ll give you that one. The government, rumor mills, and pharmaceutical giants are all pretty beastly.

Exodus 13 says that Passover is to be a sign on the right hand and forehead of God’s people. Exodus 31:13 says that the weekly Sabbath is a sign between God and his people. Deuteronomy 6 and 11 say that all of God’s commandments will be a sign on the hands and foreheads of his people. Considering those passages, I am inclined to believe that the mark on the hands and foreheads of the people in Revelation 13 is not a literal mark, but submission to the law of the Beast. God’s mark is submission to his commandments. The Beast’s mark is submission to his.

Revelation says that the Mark of the Beast is the same as the Number of the Beast, and that it is the number of his name. Maybe the preterists are right–I suspect they are partly right–and this refers to some arrangement of the name and title of Emperor Nero. In any case, in biblical language, a name is more than just the label we use to call someone. It is the sum of his character and reputation. In this sense, the name of God is the totality of who and what he is. “YHWH” is a convenient abbreviation of his character.

Just as God’s Law is an extension of his Name, so is the Beast’s Law an extension of his. I don’t expect a stamp, tattoo, or implanted chip to be the Mark that John wrote of. In this light, the COVID vaccines, and even the masks and other restrictions, could be described as the mark of A beast if not THE beast. Just like government-enforced “tolerance”, these laws are an attempt by men to force all people into destructive, unloving behavior under the color of love. This is Orwellian doublespeak. It means the opposite of what they say it is. Their love is not love, but hate. Their “reasonable precautions” are not precautions, but reckless disregard.

Pick a Side

So we are all left with a choice. Who is our master? To whom do we owe ultimate allegiance? Do we pretend to believe that 2+2 equals 5 and obey the nonsensical dictates of men despite good sense and Biblical admonitions? Or do we stand with Peter who said, “We must obey God rather than men.”

I will not comply with the Man’s law to accept the COVID vaccines, aka “the jab”, because I have chosen to obey God rather than man.

There is always the possibility that I am wrong. That everything I have read and chosen to believe is false, that Anthony Fauci and Bill Gates really are selfless humanitarians. I have not done any laboratory tests myself. I have no formal education in virology or medicine.

I know that not everyone who chooses to take one of these vaccines is doing it because they’ve chosen Man’s law over God’s. Many people are probably just scared. Can you blame them? The mainstream press publishes nonstop horror stories about how terrible COVID is and how we’re all going to die if we don’t comply, while the technomafia of social media and technology giants do everything they can to suppress alternative views. Many of these people have never even heard anything but the party line.

However, I suspect that a great many people are more afraid of losing social status than of COVID. I know some very smart and knowledgeable people who have cut off family and close friends for refusing to be vaccinated. They’re not cutting them off because their afraid of getting sick, but because they’re afraid of being ostracized from whatever they view as “polite society”. They’ve chosen status over relationships. I hope they still have consciences when it’s all over.

A few people are actually convinced by the available evidence that the masks, distancing, and vaccines are the best options.

If you have honestly examined the evidence for yourself, rather than believing everything Facebook and MSNBC tells you to believe, and you still believe that masking up and getting vaccinated is the wisest, most loving course, then you should do that. More power to you. God bless you and honor your desire to love and protect your neighbor.

Please do me the same courtesy.

Five Character Traits of Abraham

A mysterious story in Genesis 18:1-8 reveals 5 important character traits of Abraham.

In 2 Chronicles 20:7, King Jehoshaphat called Abraham God’s “friend”, and this characterization was confirmed by James:

You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.
James 2:22-23

It’s very high praise to be called “friend of God”. Although no mere man will ever approach the power, authority, and majesty of the Creator, this term implies that Abraham was as near to that stature as any man could be. Neither Moses, who led the Hebrews out of Egypt, nor Elijah, who was taken directly to Heaven without seeing death, were ever given a title as intimate as “friend”.

We know that Abraham didn’t earn a place in God’s inner circle through obedience or great deeds, but through his trust in God’s promises and reliance on divine Providence for his life and sustenance.

…we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness.
Romans 4:9

Yet, Abraham’s faith was not–could not be–without actions. Romans 4:9 says that Abraham’s faith was counted as righteousness, but v12 refers to “the footsteps of Abraham’s faith”. “Footsteps” implies action. As James wrote, “Faith without works is dead”.

Hebrews 11 describes this principle at work in Abraham’s life:

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going….By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son.
Hebrews 11:8,17

Character Is the Difference Between an Acquaintance and a Friend

All of Scripture holds Abraham up as the paragon of faith and faithfulness to YHWH. Other than Yeshua himself, I don’t believe there could be a better role model for a believer in the God of Abraham, than Abraham himself.

We know that God loves both faith and obedience and many people throughout history have had an abundance of both. I already mentioned Moses and Elijah, but also consider Enoch, Noah, Joseph, David, Elisha, and Daniel. They were all men of great faith and obedience.

Everyone admires some people and calls other people friends, and these two sets of people are frequently not the same. The difference between them is not due only to proximity or convenience. You can admire a person’s accomplishments and appreciate his loyalty without actually liking him and calling him a friend. In those cases, the difference between an acquaintance and a friend most likely lies in the person’s character.

Something about Abraham’s character set him apart in God’s eyes from all other righteous men and women, but what was that something? Our only reliable source of information about his life is the Bible, and I think the story in Genesis 18 about him entertaining three travelers nicely illustrates several of his outstanding qualities.

Abraham and the Three Visitors

And YHWH appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth and said, “O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, while I bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” And Abraham went quickly into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quick! Three seahs of fine flour! Knead it, and make cakes.” And Abraham ran to the herd and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to a young man, who prepared it quickly. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them. And he stood by them under the tree while they ate.
Genesis 18:1-8

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but Genesis does an outstanding job of painting complex pictures with few words. These eight verses contain volumes about Abraham’s character.

Abraham Is Hospitable

Abraham was an old man at this time, ninety-nine years old, and lived near the Dead Sea in the land we now call Jordan. Although parts of the text in chapters 18 and 19 hint that this event took place in the spring, it was evidently an unseasonably hot day, because Abraham was resting from the midday heat in the coolest place available, just outside the entrance of his tent. Out of the sun, but still in the breeze.

The three men who approached on the road had no servants, guards, or other retinue. They had no mounts or baggage. Although the text makes it plain that this was YHWH himself on his way to Sodom, it’s also clear that Abraham didn’t know this until they left his camp. There is nothing at all to indicate that they appeared to be anything other than ordinary men. I’m sure that Abraham had seen many itinerant laborers traveling much as these men did.

Yet, despite his discomfort, when he saw three men approaching in the distance<1>, he jumped to his feet, ran to meet them, and begged them to stop at his tent to eat and rest. He couldn’t have expected to make any trade deals or receive payment in exchange for anything he might offer them, because they had nothing to trade. He didn’t mind his own business, waiting for them to approach him. Abraham was just exceptionally eager to offer his resources for their refreshment. He considered it an honor to host and entertain strangers.

Abraham Is Generous

According to most sources I found, a seah is a dry measure equaling nearly two gallons, yet Abraham told Sarah to prepare bread for his visitors from three seahs of flour. That’s far more bread than any person could possibly eat! I believe that Abraham was either preparing a feast for his entire household with his visitors as guests of honor or else intended to send them on their way with sacks full of bread for their journey. In either case, he gave far more than they would have asked if he had waited for them to ask.

This wasn’t yesterday’s bread or leftovers from the morning meal, although such was undoubtedly available. Nor was this barley or course-ground; it was fine ground wheat flour, something that most people would probably reserve only for rare occasions, if they could afford it at all.

Abraham then picked out a young calf from his herd and told one of his servants to slaughter and prepare it immediately. Ranchers typically wait until a calf is at least nine months or, more often, twelve to eighteen months old before sending it to the butcher. This age range represents the ideal concurrence of weight and consistency, maximizing each animals profitability. The meat of a younger calf may be more tender, but there’s less of it, making it much more expensive…but still far more than three men could eat.

In short, Abraham was extraordinarily generous to three men whom he probably believed he would never see again.

Abraham Is Impartial

When Joseph dined with his brothers in Egypt, he gave Benjamin more than the others. He was hinting to the rest that he knew more about them than they did about him, but he was also showing favoritism to his only full brother. If a wealthy man in the desert hosted a party of travelers, they would have expected him to give a larger proportion to their leader.

However, when Abraham met the three men on the road, he didn’t try to determine which was the superior. He didn’t ask who was the leader or show any deference to one above the other, he bowed to all three together. When he sent Sarah to prepare bread, he told her to use three measures of flour. One seah would have been enough for all three men, but Abraham wanted to make bread using one measure for each man, symbolically not showing favoritism to any of them. If he sent them off with the leftovers, he could send each man with an equal amount.

His behavior was in keeping with a consistent principle in God’s Law of treating all people with a basic level of respect no matter what their resource or station in life.

Now then, let the fear of YHWH be upon you. Be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with YHWH our God, or partiality or taking bribes.
2 Chronicles 19:7

Abraham Is Humble

The first thing that Abraham did when he saw the three men was jump to his feet and run to meet them–he didn’t wait for them to come to him–and when he reached them, he bowed to the ground as if they were royalty, and he called them “lord”. Perhaps at some level he knew that he was encountering God himself, hence his use of the singular “lord”, but it doesn’t appear that he had any conscious knowledge of it.

Abraham was an extremely wealthy and influential man. As the story of Lot’s kidnapping in Genesis 14 shows, he was a peer of the region’s kings. Anyone visiting his camp would have expected to bow to him and call him lord, but that’s not the way Abraham treated his visitors. He humbled himself from the moment he saw them. He bowed, praised, begged, and served them, and then he stood by, refilling their glasses and plates, as they ate and rested. When they left his camp, he accompanied them along the road.

Like Messiah Yeshua, although Abraham was next to kings in wealth and authority, he made himself to be a servant for the benefit of strangers.

Abraham Is a Leader in His House

Although Abraham served his guests, he would have been derelict in his responsibilities as a host if he had left them alone for more than a moment. Instead he directed Sarah to prepare bread and a servant to prepare meat. Neither of them asked why three men needed so much. I’m certain they were used their patriarch treating guests lavishly, but they didn’t complain. Like Noah’s family, they followed his instructions despite how outlandish they might have sounded.

This was far from the first time that Abraham demonstrated superior leadership qualities–remember again the incident when he rescued Lot–but it’s one thing to command servants and lead men in battle. It’s another thing to inspire your wife to complete devotion, even, as Peter wrote, calling him “lord” as he debased himself before strangers.

Lest you think that this quality is limited only to men, remember what Paul also wrote in 1 Timothy 5:14 about women in the congregations he planted around the Roman Empire: “So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander.” Men are to lead their households as husbands and fathers, but so are women as wives and mothers, under the authority of their own husbands.

Abraham Is an Example for All Believers

Each of these characteristics–hospitality, generosity, impartiality, humility, and patriarchal leadership–is an example for all worshipers of the God of Abraham.

“Show hospitality to one another without grumbling,” Peter wrote. “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another.” Paul wrote that “God loves a cheerful giver,” and James that, “if you show partiality, you are committing sin.” How many times did Yeshua tell us to follow his example in being a servant to all? “The last will be first and the first will be last.” Finally, Paul wrote to both Timothy and Titus that no man is qualified to be a leader of God’s people if he is unable to keep his own family in order. An elder in the congregation must first be a patriarch in his own house.<2>

These five qualities aren’t just something to be admired. They are deep in the heart of God. When Paul wrote in Romans 12:2 “be transformed by the renewal of your mind”, this is part of what he meant. “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” by following the examples of Paul and Abraham, even as they followed the example of Yeshua.

Be hospitable.

Be generous.

Be impartial.

Be humble.

Be a leader.

Of course, none of these things can earn you a place in God’s Kingdom, whether in this life or the next. For that, one needs faith, a complete reliance on the grace of God to forgive inevitable sins. Fortunately, I believe that Abraham’s obedience holds a secret to improving faith along with behavior. As with everything else a person can do, you can strengthen your faith by exercising it through obedience. Through faith, decide to keep one more of God’s commands than you did yesterday–or keeping one better–believing that all of his instructions are for our benefit. As your obedience proves the wisdom of God’s word over time, it will also strengthen your faith.

God doesn’t expect you to be perfect today, or even in this lifetime–he certainly knows that I am very far from that goal–but perfection in faith and righteousness, like Abraham, remains the aim of all our studies, prayers, and efforts at obedience.

<1> The ESV says he saw the men “standing in front of him”, but the Hebrew could as easily be translated “standing across from him”. Since he ran to meet them, they could hardly have been standing only a few feet away as the English sounds to modern ears.

<2> 1 Peter 4:9-10, 2 Corinthians 9:7, James 2:9, Mark 9:35, 1 Timothy 3:4-5 and Titus 1:6.

1 Timothy 4 and “Every Creature of God is Good”

(1) Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; (2) Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; (3) Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. (4) For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: (5) For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
1 Timothy 4:1-5 KJV

I believe that there are two primary ways in which people tend to misread this passage which lead them to interpret it to mean that all of God’s rules about clean and unclean animals have been revoked.

Semantic Drift of English Words

I usually quote from the English Standard Version, but I chose the King James Version in this article to illustrate the first problem: the intrepid drift of English vocabulary over time. The KJV translates two Greek words in a way that seems to be clear on first reading, but actually obfuscates Paul’s original meaning. Specifically, broma (βρῶμα), translated as “meat” and ktisma (κτίσμα), translated as “creature”.

“Commanding to abstain from meats” must refer to Jewish laws about not eating pork, right? And “every creature of God is good” must mean that pigs are good to eat, right?

Not quite.

The Greek word Broma does not refer only to the flesh of animals, what we call meat, but to food in general. This isn’t a mistranslation in the KJV, because “meat” also once meant any kind of food in English. Throughout the New Testament broma is translated as “meat” in the KJV, but is used to refer to food in general, not to the flesh of animals. Bread, broccoli, and beef are all equally “meat” in King James English. Most modern translations read “food” in those verses instead of “meat”.

Likewise, the second Greek word, Ktisma, does not refer only to living things, as we understand the word “creature” in twenty-first century English, but to all things created. When the KJV was first published, the English word creature was applied to anything that could be created. The sun, stars, and sand dollars are all God’s creatures, not because they are alive, but because God created them.

Now consider how the ESV translates this same passage:

(1) Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, (2) through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, (3) who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. (4) For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, (5) for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
1 Timothy 4:1-5 ESV

For modern English speakers, the ESV is much clearer. “Abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving” is unambiguous, even if the subsequent clause of “by those who believe and know the truth” could allow for some speculative theology. “Everything created by God” is also quite clear. It refers to everything that God created, which includes….everything.

Inedible Eisegesis

Paul told Timothy that liars were making people abstain from foods that God created to be eaten and that everything God created is good. Does that mean everything God created should be “received with thanksgiving” as food? Not at all. Surely Paul didn’t mean that we should add gravel, cyanide, and babies to the breakfast menu. He wrote “food that God created to be received with thanksgiving”, and clearly God did not create all things to be used as food, especially not with thanksgiving. Even some things that are technically edible were not created to be food.

And YHWH God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
Genesis 2:16-17

David Stern used a memorable turn of phrase when commenting on 1 Timothy 4:3-5 in his Jewish New Testament Commentary: “Everything created by God is good, but not everything created by God is food.”

The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was only one of many edible creatures that God did not create to be eaten, and Paul doesn’t state anywhere in this passage in First Timothy (nor in any other passage) that God has set aside his instructions on what animals he wants his people to eat and not to eat. Interpreting it so is a clear example of eisegesis, reading a theological opinion back into the text instead of letting the text speak for itself (aka exegesis).

A More Digestible Exegesis

The problem Paul was addressing had nothing to do with Biblical dietary laws. As in almost all of his letters, Paul denounced man-made traditions masquerading as divine command, not God’s own commandments. False teachers were telling people that they needed to abstain from marriage and food. Perpetual celibacy and frequent fasting were common themes among among false teachers of the time. Celibacy before marriage is good, but celibacy within marriage is bad. Fasting is good, but it is only commanded on one day of the year, and even that’s debatable. Petty arguments about whether we should fast from all food on Mondays or Wednesdays or from meat on Fridays were rampant in the first century. (See my article on the Didache.)

In this passage, Paul told Timothy not to let these liars add or remove from God’s actual instructions. God decides what is food or not. God instituted marriage, and no man can change God’s laws on these or any other matters. Even if he had wanted to change God’s Law, Paul simply did not have the authority. No man does. As Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 4:2, “You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of YHWH your God that I command you.”

We also know that Yeshua never violated Torah and never taught anyone else to do so. In Matthew 5:19, he said, “Whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

A close reading of Paul’s letters, being careful not to add anything to the text that he didn’t actually write, shows that he did not teach against Torah or Yeshua. (Considering Yeshua’s words, it seems to me that to teach against one is to teach against the other.) People often misconstrue his polemics against over-zealous converts, both Jewish and gentile, as being against obedience, but one can only interpret his letters in such an antinomian manner through eisegesis and begging the question.

The most expansive interpretation of this passage that good exegesis allows is that Paul believed nobody should forbid marriage, as long as it’s done according to God’s guidelines, and nobody should forbid eating what God has authorized to be eaten, because everything that God created is good if used according to its design.

Are All Things Truly Lawful?

Did Paul write that all things are lawful for Christians?

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful.

“All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.

Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience.

But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

1 Corinthians 10:23-33

As with every line written in every personal letter, context is key to understanding the author’s intent. Paul’s main point in this passage didn’t begin in verse 23, but in chapter 8, verse 1: “Now concerning food offered to idols…” The full conversation didn’t begin even there, but in a previous letter written to Paul by the believers at Corinth, a letter that has been entirely lost to history. 

From 1 Corinthians 8:1, we know that Paul was responding to a question about eating the meat of animals that had been sacrificed to idols on pagan altars. He told them that offering a sacrifice to a pagan deity does nothing at all to change the nature of the meat itself, so long as you aren’t actually participating in the sacrificial rite. Even eating the meat in the pagan temple, doesn’t itself make the eating sinful if you are only eating meat with no regard to the location, the false god, or the ritual.

Eating meat that has been sacrificed to an idol becomes a problem in three circumstances:

  1. Are you participating in the pagan celebration or rituals for which the animal was sacrificed? Eating the sacrifice is an intrinsic part of worship, so if you are participating in a pagan ritual, you are engaging in idolatry, which God most definitely does not appreciate.
  2. Could an observer mistake your eating for idolatry? If so, you shouldn’t eat it because you don’t want to mislead them to think that idolatry is allowed or that you are a hypocrite in what you profess to believe.
  3. Does eating the meat bother your conscience? If you feel guilty in the eating or if you are tempted to go just one step closer to idolatry, then you should stay away from it.

In chapter 10, Paul made the argument that eating the meat might be perfectly lawful, but that doesn’t make it a good idea. When you’re in gray areas like this, in which specific circumstances can make all the difference, you should tread lightly.

What he does not say is that any of God’s commandments have been canceled or that we are free to ignore them when we feel like it.

Most modern translators seem to believe that “All things are lawful” in verse 23 is a hypothetical quote of his audience. Paul posited that someone at Corinth might say “All things are lawful” and the text that immediately follows is Paul’s response. In other words, Paul probably didn’t even intend for anyone to think that he was stating that “all things are lawful”.

However, even if we take those phrases as Paul’s own words, we need to interpret them in the context in which he was writing. He certainly didn’t mean for us to think that all sexual immorality and idolatry are lawful, because he wrote “we must not indulge in sexual immorality” and “flee from idolatry” just a few verses earlier in the same chapter.

We can’t extend “all things” to eating pork and people unless we also extend it to eating blood and engaging in sexual immorality. Yet, even if Paul hadn’t addressed those things already, in Acts 15:20 James clearly says that eating meat sacrificed to idols (participating in the idolatry), eating blood, and sexual immorality are the most basic of all moral standards. These are the very first rules that a new convert from a pagan religion to faith in Yeshua (Jesus) needs to adopt in order to fellowship with other believers, but they are not the entirety of godly living.

The context is idolatry, not clean and unclean animals. Even his statement about sexual immorality is about pagan temple prostitution and sexual acts as worship. If we allow the text to define itself, then we can’t reasonably conclude that Paul said anything except that eating meat that has been sacrificed to idols is not strictly a sin as long as we aren’t participating in the idolatry.

Neither James nor Paul taught that “eating all things of all kinds is lawful”. Rather, they taught that as followers of the Messiah, we need to make wise and biblically informed distinctions between clean and unclean and between prudent and imprudent.

Did God’s Food Laws Change After the Flood?

Did God change the laws about clean and unclean animals after the flood?

Being a Torah observant follower of Yeshua (aka Jesus) means living according to God’s instructions as given to Moses (aka Torah) and as illustrated and explained by Yeshua, including those rules that pertain to diet. Food is a very personal thing and other Christians are frequently dumbfounded that I don’t agree with them that God’s rules for eating were canceled by Jesus. Just read Mark! Read Romans! Haven’t you read Galatians!? Etc. Pick a New Testament book and there’s probably a verse in it that someone will interpret to mean that God no longer cares what anyone eats. I am convinced beyond any doubt that the vast majority of people–even well-educated and sincere believers in Jesus–have never even considered that those verses might be interpreted in some other way, let alone done any serious study on the matter.

American Torah (and other websites that have published my articles) holds other articles on this topic, but the same “counter” verses come up often enough that I think it’s worthwhile to the most common, including what they say and what they are claimed to say. I don’t have the time or inclination to address every possible relevant Bible passage, of course, but I hope that I will be able to add something useful to the collective dialog and encourage you to reconsider what you have been taught or what you might assume about others.

I will add the tag “kosher” to this and other articles on this topic so that you can easily find them here at American Torah and over at Soil from Stone.

And I will begin with The Beginning, Genesis…

Genesis 1:29 & 9:3

And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.

When God first created man in the Garden, he gave Adam permission to eat plants (“every seed-bearing herb”), but then after he destroyed the world in the Flood, he gave Noah permission to eat animals (“every living thing”).

This raises two questions: 

  1. Did God’s Law change after the Flood?
  2. If God changed the rules once, could he change them again?

God told Noah he could eat every living thing. Doesn’t that mean we can eat pigs and lobsters?

“Every seed-bearing plant” and “every living thing” are descriptions of categories. In other words, God gave Adam permission to eat from the category of seed-bearing plants and Noah permission to eat from the category of living things, but he did not mean for either of them to understand that they could eat absolutely any and every member of those categories.

If you get your drivers license and I tell you, “Congratulations! You can drive all kinds of cars now,” do I really mean that you are free to drive any and every motor vehicle you can find? No, because not every vehicle is yours, some vehicles require special licenses and training, and other vehicles are illegal to drive on regular roads. I think these two Genesis phrases would have been better translated as “the seed-bearing plants” and “the living things” to convey the intended meaning.

Leviticus 11:3 says, “Whatever parts the hoof and is cloven-footed and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat.” Does that mean that every cow is available for food to anyone? Clearly not. God did not give anyone permission to kill and eat his neighbor’s cow.

Let me give you a scenario as an illustration.

Your town has an ordinance against driving 18 wheelers on any streets within town limits. You don’t own an 18 wheeler, but your neighbor does. Are you allowed to drive his 18 wheeler on a country road without his permission? No, you aren’t. Not because of the town law–that doesn’t apply on country roads–but because it’s not your truck.

Now, if you take it into your head to become a long haul truck driver, you can get your CDL and purchase your neighbor’s rig. Then you will be free to drive it on that country road, but still not in town, not because it is illegal for you to drive an 18 wheeler, but because it remains illegal to drive it in town. If your neighbor had only loaned you his truck, instead of selling it, with the condition that you can only drive it downtown, you would be no more legally authorized to drive it than before, because his consent in the matter has no effect at all on the town’s ordinance against 18 wheelers within town limits.

Before the Flood, before God allowed Noah to eat animals, he told Noah to take seven pairs of every kind of clean animal into the Ark with him (Genesis 7:3), so God’s laws concerning what makes an animal clean or unclean existed and were in force at that time. God’s laws concerning what makes an animal edible to humans are identical to those that distinguish clean from unclean, and so it seems to me that those laws were also in force prior to the Flood, prior to God granting Noah permission to eat animals.

On the sixth day of Creation, he gave the Garden into Adam’s custody, but not for every purpose that Adam might desire. Adam’s responsibilities as a gardener allowed him to prune and harvest the trees, but not to burn the whole place down. Everything belongs to God, every rock, tree, animal, and person. Before the Flood, cows and sheep were perfectly edible to humans, but they belong to God, and God was (and is) free to disallow mankind to kill his cattle for food, not because it is immoral to eat a cow, but because it is immoral to eat someone else’s cow.

God’s instructions to Noah were not a change in his eternal Law that says “You may eat this kind of animal, but not that kind.” Rather, they were a change in how much authority over his own possessions God had delegated to mankind, much like a farmer allowing his hired hands to take a few chickens home with them in addition to their daily allotment from the harvest.

If God changed the rules about what we can eat once, could he change them again?

Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 are the primary passages of Torah that tell us which animals are clean and therefore suitable for food. (See this article for a brief explanation of what clean and unclean means.) God’s Laws concerning clean and unclean animals predate Noah, Abraham, and Moses and haven’t changed.

But if God can change the wages of mankind from plants alone to plants and animals, can he also reduce those wages again to plants only? Or to animals only?

I don’t see any reason why he couldn’t. They and we are all his creations to do with as he chooses.

However, he would need to send a prophet to tell us of the change in such a way that nobody would have any excuse for not recognizing his authority and the truth of his message. The last two times God sent such a message, the prophet who delivered it was the supreme, unquestioned human authority on earth. I am unaware of a single human being in over 1900 years whom I could point to as a certain and true prophet, let alone one with such unimpeachable credentials. If a prophet carried a word from God that was so fundamental to human existence as the revocation of permission to eat animals, surely it would have to be delivered in a similar manner to the original granting of permission.

Perhaps when Messiah Yeshua returns to establish his earthly kingdom in the land of Israel, he will make such a decree. I doubt it, but who am I to say?

Even the Wicked Understand This

What does the Parable of the Unjust Steward mean?

[Yeshua, aka Jesus] also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions.

“And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’

“And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’

“So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’

“The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.

“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him.

And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.”

Luke 16:1-17 ESV

This passage has always puzzled me. An incompetent manager found out he was about to be fired, so he conspired with his customers to steal from his employer in order to secure a new job–or at least some charity–with one or more of the customers. And Yeshua wants us to emulate this man? Does he want us to steal from our employers in order to create good will among those less wealthy? That doesn’t make any sense! Since the Pharisees’ immediate reaction was to ridicule him, they were probably thinking the same thing.

However, when reading it again recently, I noticed some details that must have escaped me before. The keys to understanding are in a phrase Yeshua used in his summary and in his response to the Pharisees, who overheard him speaking this parable to his disciples.

Unrighteous Wealth

God’s Law (Torah) requires a public trial for anyone accused of a crime and that justice be rigorously pursued. In other words, there needs to be an investigation, and the accused has a right to defend himself. The rich man in this story held what amounted to a secret trial without the accused even being aware of it until he was told to pack up and get out. He wasn’t a good man to work for.

Maybe the manager was only negligent and hadn’t done anything criminal, or it could be that the case wasn’t strong enough to stand in a legitimate court of law, and so the rich man decided to dismiss the manager from his employ without pressing criminal charges. He certainly had a right to do so, whether the manager was guilty or not. As another of Yeshua’s parables points out, a man is within his rights to hire and fire anyone he chooses and to use his wealth however he sees fit.

It could also be that the rich man didn’t want to give the town elders and judge an opportunity to examine his books too closely.

In verses 9 and 11, Yeshua referred to the rich man’s wealth using the Greek word mammona, which isn’t just material wealth, but ill-gotten gain, and he even added the adjective adiko, meaning wicked or unrighteous.

If then you have not been faithful in adiko mammona [unrighteous, ill-gotten gain], who will entrust to you true riches?
Luke 16:11

The manager had not squandered the possessions of an ordinary businessman, but of a criminal mastermind, and when he colluded with the master’s clients to forge new instruments of debt, he cheated a cheater.

So are we then to seek out employment with criminals so that we can play Robin Hood, stealing from the rich to give to the poor? No, that’s not the lesson either.

Unrighteous Teachers

When the Pharisees overheard all of this (as Yeshua intended, no doubt), they scoffed, probably thinking that Yeshua was telling his disciples to use dishonest means to further their mission. But he turned to them and explained that they were like the incompetent manager, but they were wasting the opportunity to prepare for the coming shift in spiritual power.

The Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes of Yeshua’s day had inherited an unjust system in which the High Priest was appointed by Rome and the ordinary people were denied the right to study and understand the Scriptures for themselves. They had access to wealth and power that had been unjustly concentrated in the hands of a ruling class.

The Law and the Prophets have been read and studied right up until the time of John. And the good news of the Kingdom of God is proclaimed, and everyone is trying to claim a piece of it.
Luke 16:16 (Paraphrased)

The Torah and the Prophets had warned for over a thousand years that a day of reckoning was coming for unjust rulers when the Kingdom of God would be established on earth. Everyone wants to be part of the Kingdom, and religious leaders jockey for position to control the gates.

When John and Yeshua went to the common people and began proclaiming the arrival of the Kingdom, the ruling classes naturally objected. This was a golden opportunity for them to earn an honored place with the new King, but in their pride they clung to an obsolete office that seemed golden in the eyes of men but was spiritually rotten to the core.

Even the Wicked Know This…

The Temple was intended to unite the people in a closer relationship to God, yet the religious rulers used it to create division among the people and to separate them from God. Meanwhile, the Pharisees buried the people under onerous regulations, the “burden which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear” spoken of by Peter in Acts 15:10. They kept the gentiles as far away as possible, even forbidding a Jew to so much as enter their houses.

When they heard the good news, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”, they should have repented from their pride and hatred, embracing their fellow Israelites and inviting the nations into the Tent of Jacob, but they jealously guarded their hoards of hay and stubble.

The point of Yeshua’s parable wasn’t that we should use fraud and bribes to earn good will with men, but that we need to be preparing for what’s coming rather than clinging to what’s passing away. Even the “sons of this world” know to prepare for the next life before this one is over. How much more should the “children of light” know to “lay up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys.”

When the Judge weighs your life on his scales, what will he find?

This life will end. Every title, every bank balance, and every seat in every boardroom will end with it. You have an opportunity right now to repent from selfish ambitions and instead begin laying up treasures in heaven by keeping God’s commandments and doing good for the people in your community. Don’t waste it.