The Proverbs 9 Woman

Four characteristics of Wisdom from Proverbs 9:1-6

In Proverbs 9:1-6, Wisdom is personified as a woman and contrasted with Folly, which is personified as another woman in vs 13-18. (Check out this post on the literary structure of Proverbs 9!) Solomon described Wisdom as building a house, preparing a meal, and inviting guests to join her. We can learn something about wisdom from that alone–She is a builder, a provider, and a generous host–but Solomon gave us important details that add significant depth to this picture.

1  Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn her seven pillars.
2  She has slaughtered her beasts; she has mixed her wine; she has also set her table.
3  She has sent out her young women to call from the highest places in the town,
4  “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” To him who lacks sense she says,
5  “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.
6  Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.”
Proverbs 9:1-6

Wisdom built a large and elaborate house and prepared a feast from her own livestock and probably also from her own vineyard. She had servants and sent them out to invite strangers to come and share in her great bounty and to learn from her example.

Wisdom Built Her House

Nobody builds a house in a day. They don’t come pre-assembled by mail order…at least they didn’t in 900 BC. Houses take time, resources, and a lot of hard work. Most people when the Proverbs were written built their own houses from straw, mud, or stone, and usually only large enough to protect their immediate family and a few animals from the elements at night. A corner for cooking and eating, an alcove for sleeping, and a little floor space for the ten children. Only the wealthy could afford the time and money to build anything larger and more elaborate than a few walls and a thatch roof.

The house of Wisdom is different. Her house is more than a dirt floor out of the rain. From this passage we can deduce some interesting details:

Her house is large enough to accommodate seven pillars, numerous servants, and a crowd of guests. Wisdom didn’t buy or inherit her house. She built it herself. She selected the site, drew a floorplan, purchased or collected the materials, and managed or executed the construction from start to finish personally. She had a furnished dining area and sufficient storage to hold dishes and platters for a large feast. The rest of her house was also artfully finished in detail. It wasn’t just a utilitarian space for sleeping and eating. The number seven indicates completeness, perfection. She didn’t stop building when her house was a cover for her family and a number of guests, but kept working until every detail was complete.

Wisdom Prepared a Feast

Living in modern America, there is a great distance between us and the source of our food. Most of us have no idea how our food is made or even what it is made from. Corn starch, unsulphured molasses, baking soda, salt… Oh, there’s one I can identify. I know what salt is, but what part of corn does corn starch come from? Unsulphured molasses…does that mean most molasses is sulphured!? And what exactly is molasses anyway?

Michael Pollan wrote a great book called The Omnivore’s Dilemma (affiliate link), in which he traced several meals, including one from McDonald’s, from their original sources in fields, pastures, and quarries, through factories, distributors, and kitchens, and finally to the American dining table. Our food today takes a surprisingly complicated and disturbing journey before it reaches our plates, but it wasn’t always that way. Most people throughout history ate whatever they or a neighbor grew or hunted, and that was that. Ultimately, the American pantry reveals as much about us as it does about what we eat.

Solomon’s sparse description of Wisdom’s table also reveals more than what she served.

Wisdom owned livestock, and rather than buying meat at the market, she killed and butchered her own animals for the feast. Not just one animal, but animals, plural. Whether these were small as birds or large as oxen, we can’t tell, but in either case she was expecting a significant number of diners. She purchased or grew spices and developed sufficient skill as a vintner to prepare her own mixed wine. Finally, Wisdom’s feast was prepared and ready before it was needed.

Wisdom Sent Her Servants

Even in cultures with a slave-based economy, most people aren’t slave owners. Most of the people who have lived in this world did not have servants of any kind. In Proverbs 9, Wisdom had at least two servant girls and probably many more. She had livestock, a garden, a vineyard, and a large house, so she probably also has a number of men in her employ.

The servants of Wisdom weren’t harshly used, but honored and trusted helpers. She sent them out to the city to invite guests, which required that they be courteous and pleasant. She trusted them to execute their mission with gladness, not resentment, which means that they also loved and trusted their mistress.

Wisdom sent her servant girls to the highest points in the city (or she went herself, depending on your translation) because she didn’t waste time and effort. She had no need to confront every stranger on the way because she knew that those who were ready to heed her call would hear it and respond.

Wisdom Shared Her Table

When I was a kid, my parents often invited people to join us for Sunday dinner. These weren’t just people from church, but also the elderly, the lonely, and people who were too often ignored by the world. Sometimes they even invited people to live with us while they sorted out life’s inevitable troubles. Wisdom went far beyond that, inviting a crowd of total strangers to come to her feast.

However, Wisdom’s feast wasn’t intended to fill the belly, or at least that’s not all it did. Wisdom’s food and drink was personal transformation. She invited the simple to grow wise, the foolish to learn how to live, and the lazy to learn industry. Wisdom’s table was reserved for those who wanted to become something more than they were. To eat with her was to experience the full gamut of joy and pain, because it is only through overcoming pain that we become wise and find true joy.

Four Characteristics of Wisdom

Like many great teachers, Solomon didn’t spell out every lesson. A close look at his brief description of Wisdom in Proverbs 9:1-6 reveals four distinct characteristics.

  1. Wisdom is strategic. Her plans are long term and exhaustive, clearly envisioning the detailed end results of her labors before she even begins.
  2. Wisdom is diligent. She doesn’t cease from her labors until her job is done. Her house isn’t complete until the walls are painted and the pillars and cornices are carved and fixed. She is not afraid of hard physical labor and doesn’t cut corners that might negatively impact the end result.
  3. Wisdom is efficient. She multiplies her efforts by delegating tasks to trusted servants and applies the most effort on those tasks that are likely to have the most impact.
  4. Wisdom is generous. God doesn’t grant wisdom for our personal benefit, but to enrich his kingdom on earth. Wisdom freely shares what she has received, desiring the same richness of life for everyone whose heart is ready to receive it and who is willing to devote the necessary effort.

Solomon heard Wisdom’s call and joined in her feast. He spent many hard years, making both bad and good decisions, transforming himself from a young man with a good heart into the wise king we remember from the Bible. He set a table for us in his writings–the Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes–and he continually invites us to join him. Since he prepared such a rich feast, we don’t have to make all the same mistakes he did. We have only to heed his call, sit down at his table, and set ourselves to the hard work of applying his words.

That’s not to say that studying the Scriptures will keep us from making mistakes. We have our own lives to live, our own mistakes to make, and there is no real growth without adversity. But remember that Wisdom is efficient. She learns all she can from the mistakes of those who went before. There’s no sense in replowing ground in which seeds have already been sown.

Solomon began Proverbs 9 with a description of Wisdom, but ended it with a description of Folly. Next time, I’ll take a look at vs 13-18 and some big mistakes to avoid.

Is the Law Impossible to Keep?

Is God's Law (Torah) a yoke that neither our fathers nor we are able to bear?

When Peter asked the Pharisees, “Why do you tempt God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples, a yoke which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” in Acts 15:10, he was not talking about God’s instructions as given by Moses. He was talking about the traditions and the rules which the rabbis had built up around the written Torah.

Moses told the Israelites,

The secret things belong to YHWH our God, but the revealed things belong to us and to our sons forever, so that we may do all the words of this Law….For this commandment which I command you today is not hidden from you, neither is it far off. It is not in Heaven, that you should say, Who shall go up for us to Heaven, and bring it to us, so that we may hear it and do it? Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, Who shall go over the sea for us to the region beyond the sea, and bring it to us, so that we may hear it and do it? But the Word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, so that you may do it. Behold! I have set before you today life and good, and death and evil, in that I command you today to love YHWH your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, so that you may live and multiply. And YHWH your God shall bless you in the land where you go to possess it.

Deuteronomy 29:29,30:11-16

Peter did not call Moses a liar and neither did Paul or Yeshua. It is not too hard for us to keep God’s commandments.

Most of the Torah is very simple. It can be summed up in ten statements or even in only two. Leviticus 19 (the beginning of the Torah portion called Kedoshim, or holy ones) begins with another summary of the law: Be holy for I am holy. “Holy” means separate or different. Moses followed that summary with another summary:

  • Be respectful of your parents.
  • Do not employ idols.
  • Express your gratitude. Don’t fake it. Don’t make a show of it.
  • Leave a little extra for the poor and the traveler.
  • Don’t steal, cheat, or lie.
  • Don’t take unfair advantage of others.
  • Don’t punish the rich for being rich.
  • Don’t gossip.
  • Don’t retaliate, and don’t hold a grudge.
  • Love your neighbor as yourself.

These rules aren’t entirely unique to the Torah. Except for the part about idols, they are pretty standard religious fare. (As far as I know, only the Abrahamic religious traditions prohibit the making and use of idols.) Other than the rules themselves, there are two vitally important things to understand about being kedoshim to God.

  1. God doesn’t care all that much about ritual or prayer or self denial. All those things have their place, but what’s really important is love. Not feelings, but real, active love.
  2. It isn’t the content of our rules that separates us from the world; it is their source and our obedience to them.

We know from Ecclesiastes 7:20, Romans 3:23, and 1 John 1:8 that nobody except Yeshua ever managed to live a sinless life. Eventually, everyone gossips. Everyone lies. Everyone steals. Everyone hates. So what did Moses mean when he said that God’s commandments are not too hard for us to keep?

He meant at least three things:

  1. God’s instructions aren’t difficult to understand. You don’t need a theology degree to implement them. They require wisdom to apply, but the words and meaning are simple enough for iron age shepherds and farmers.
  2. God’s instructions aren’t onerous or oppressive. He didn’t give them to punish anyone or to make anyone’s life more difficult. They are the basic owner’s manual for human life and society, and those who live by them will live more joyful and fulfilling lives.
  3. Even though we aren’t capable–as mere humans–of keeping the Law perfectly, we are still capable of keeping it as a consistent lifestyle. Remedies for failure are built into the Law itself, so keeping it doesn’t have to mean never failing in any point. Remember that not every commandment applies to every person, and I am NOT talking about keeping the Law to earn salvation. I am only talking about keeping it to honor God.

The “yoke which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear” is not God’s Law, also known as the written Torah. God’s Law teaches us what it means to sin and also what it means to love, for all of the Law is fulfilled in these two commandments: Love YHVH your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.

If you keep the two greatest commandments, then you keep all of the Torah, and if you keep the Torah as God intended it to be kept, then you also keep the two greatest commandments. They are, after all, direct quotes from the Torah.

Overcoming Laziness

I’m not a professional on screen. When I make videos, I usually have a few notes jotted down, but otherwise I just make it up as I go. Below this video, I’ve posted a transcript that mostly follows the video verbatim. It’s a little disjointed, but I thought the topic was important enough not to leave it to just Youtube and Facebook.

Watch the video. Read along, if you find that helpful. Comments and questions are always welcome.

Go to the ant, O sluggard;
consider her ways, and be wise.
Without having any chief, officer, or ruler,
she prepares her bread in summer
and gathers her food in harvest.
How long will you lie there, O sluggard?
When will you arise from your sleep?
A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest,
and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want like an armed man.
Proverbs 6:6-11

There are different reasons that people fail to act, that they are lazy. Some people are lazy because they’re selfish. They don’t want to work. They consciously choose to burden other people with their needs, to allow other people to provide for them, to meet their expenses, provide them a place to live and food to eat. They know that they’re burdening other people and they’re ok with it.

Those are the people that Paul was talking about in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 when he said if someone is unwilling to work don’t let them eat. I’m perfectly happy with that. People who are unwilling to contribute–not people who are unable, but people who are unwilling to act on their own behalf–you shouldn’t help them. You’re just enabling them to be lazy. You’re enabling them to destroy their own lives and you become a party to their destruction. So let them fail. That’s the best thing for them.

But I don’t really want to talk about those people. I want to talk about the rest of us.

If you’re like me, you want to work. You want to accomplish great things, but maybe you find it really hard to take that first step, to really get things done. You know you want to finish that project. You want to make those sales calls. You want to write that book…but you just keep putting it off. You think, “I’m tired” or “I’m just dreading getting started on that project” or “I really don’t like it!” But you know you’ve got to do it and, before long, it’s too late. You’ve missed your opportunity or the deadline’s coming up and now you’ve got to rush to get things done.

It happens to me all the time.

I know it feels bad to call that “laziness” because you really want to work, but that’s really what it is. That’s exactly what Solomon was describing here: “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty comes on you like a bandit.” It sneaks up on you when you aren’t looking.

We got here to this place by making a million small choices. You know the Chinese proverb, that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, but it took you a million steps to get here and each one was a decision. Every time you are faced with a choice to act or not to act you are making a decision. If you choose not to act, you’re choosing. It’s your problem, your fault.

I know it doesn’t feel like that. It feels like there’s a weight on your spirit like you just can’t think about the thing that you’re supposed to do. You’re tired! There are so many things… You know. Read another little paragraph in the book, just one. Watch a little bit more TV. Play this game for a little bit longer, because that other thing…it’s just so awful!

But these are choices, and one little choice after another creates a habit and before long you’re unable to act. You’re not even conscious of the choices anymore. You’re choosing not to act. You’re choosing to be lazy without ever actually consciously choosing. It just happens and you don’t know how you got here or why you can’t get anything done.

Fortunately we can get out the same way we got in: one step at a time.

It’s not easy.

Mel Robbins wrote a great book a few years ago, and she describes a process that’s just so obvious. It sounds too obvious to be true, but it works. I assure you it works. The book is called The Five-Second Rule, and here’s basically how it works:

When you’re conscious of a choice–and this takes some work–eventually you’ll become more conscious of choices as you develop better habit–but when you’re conscious of a choice, you know there’s something you need to do, and you just can’t get yourself to do it, don’t choose to do that thing. Instead, choose to count down from five. That’s easy! You can do that. But once you start counting…as soon as you hit one, you’re doing whatever it was.

“I just don’t want to sand that wall so that it can be primed and painted. I just hate it! It’s just so boring…Well, I’m gonna count. Five…four…three…two…Get up and sand the wall!”

It takes some effort. It takes time. It mostly takes time to undo all the damage that you’ve done to yourself by choosing not to act, but eventually you make better habits. You make better thought patterns where you’re more aware of your choices, and it gets easier and easier over time to actually get up and act, to do the things you have to do.

You know if you don’t guard your house, burglars come in. The bandit gets you on the road if you’re not paying attention to your surroundings. You have to be conscious! So start now watching for those opportunities to make choices, and whenever you have that opportunity and you get that feeling like the whole world is is forcing you to stay in your seat, count. Start at five follow Mel’s five-second rule.

If you’re watching this on YouTube or Facebook I’ll put a link in the comments to her book and I hope you find this as helpful as I have.

This is Jay Carper with American Torah. Be blessed.

Mel Robbins’ The 5 Second Rule: Transform your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage is available at Amazon in audiobook, Kindle, and hardcover. Affiliate link: https://amzn.to/2zloYVS.

Yeshua, the High Priest of Heaven

Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Abraham, Isaac, the angel, and the ram in the thicket.

The next day [John] saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
John 1:29

[Yeshua] has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
Hebrews 9:26

Every male among the priests may eat of it; it is most holy.
Leviticus 6:29

Every male among the priests may eat of it. It shall be eaten in a holy place. It is most holy.
Leviticus 7:6

Why have you not eaten the sin offering in the place of the sanctuary, since it is a thing most holy and has been given to you that you may bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before YHVH?
Leviticus 10:17

YHVH has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”
Psalms 110:4

It is a time honored principle that a leader bears some responsibility for the behavior of his subordinates and also in atoning for their trespasses. In eating the sin and guilt offerings, the priests symbolically (and possibly in some real, tangible way) took the sins of the penitent into themselves. They took responsibility before God so that the people could be reconciled to him.

Yeshua is a priest of a higher order than Aaron’s, and his blood is more potent than that of any shed solely on earth. His sacrifice was an order of magnitude greater than any animal sacrifice, and being offered on the altar in Heaven, opened the door for all of us to surrender our guilt to him. We have but to trust in God and make our allegiance to him.

Every blood sacrifice must be perfect. Yeshua, the Son of God, is a King-Priest like Melchizedek, and he is perfect and sinless, and he gave up his life willingly. No mere human death would have been sufficient, yet neither would the death of anything not human and therefore unable to bear the responsibility of human sins. Any other person’s death would have been ineffective for the purpose of eternal atonement for the sins of all mankind. It would have been murder and nothing else.

Yeshua’s death on the cross was certainly murder, but it enabled our salvation. He went to his execution willingly, holding that torment to be nothing compared to the greater reconciliation of man to God. By allowing himself to be killed, he enabled life for billions. In shedding his perfect blood, he took our imperfections, all of our sins, whether intentional or not, upon himself.

We have only to let them go, to trust the Father’s grace to forgive, and to submit ourselves to our new King’s reign. Yeshua, our salvation.

Genocide, Slavery, and the Heart of Man

Jennifer H. Lau's autobiography of her childhood during the Cambodian Genocide, Beautiful Hero: How We Survived the Khmer Rouge

Everyone knows about the Holocaust, in which many millions of Jews, Romani, Slavs, and other “undesirables” were systematically exterminated by the Nazis during World War 2, but that was neither the first nor the last atrocity of its kind.

In 1975 the Khmer Rouge, a communist revolutionary group under the leadership of Pol Pot, took control of Cambodia. They executed the wealthy, professional, educated, and foreign people, and enslaved many millions of the poor and working classes. For around five years, they terrorized, murdered, and starved their own people.

As with all genocides, the numbers will never be known with any certainty, but the Khmer Rouge probably killed around two million people.

I recently read Jennifer H. Lau’s autobiography of her childhood during that terrible time, Beautiful Hero: How We Survived the Khmer Rouge (affiliate link). Throughout this detailed and intimate story of her family’s survival under extraordinarily harsh conditions, I was constantly struck with how vicious ordinary people can be and how kindness often comes from unlikely sources.

Impoverished subsistence farmers became benefactors. Next door neighbors became executioners. Protectors became thieves. Arch enemies became saviors.

People are fickle and desperation drives reasonable people to horrific behavior. No nation or race is exempt. Every people has been guilty at one time or another, and the same stories emerge from every genocide.

We have lived in such amazing peace and prosperity in America for so long that it’s easy to forget it isn’t normal. We have lulled ourselves to sleep and to dream that we are immune to the ubiquitous human tendency to force our will on others, to use people like just another resource to be consumed and discarded as needed.

Even as America prospered throughout most of the 20th century, the rest of the world reeled from genocide after genocide. The Khmer Roughe in Cambodia, the Nazis in World War 2, the Soviets in numerous times and places, the Ottoman Empire against the Armenians and Greeks, and so many others. There were genocides in every other century too, of course; modern technology just made us so much more efficient at it.

However, no matter which century, no matter which group of people are killing which other group, every genocide has this one inevitable fact in common: The belief that some people have absolute authority over others. The people exist for the benefit of the state or the party or the king, and the superior has the right to force the inferior to work, to relocate, to contribute, to live, or to die.

Although some forms of government (communism, for example) are founded on the belief that one person or group of people can have unlimited authority over other people, every form of government can be infected by this disease. It starts small: one person prospers, while another person suffers, so a third decides to take from the first in order to feed the second. It’s only fair. But once you have decided that you have a right to redistribute property based solely on your own (or the majority’s!) determination of what is fair or necessary, the only remaining moral barrier to redistributing life itself is entirely imaginary. If, in my own mind, I have a right to my neighor’s labor and property based on a vote or a pragmatic determination of my own, then I have a right to his life as well.

Every tree is known by its fruit, and communism is one of the most clearly evil schemes of government ever devised by man. There is no such thing as a decent, honest communist. By definition, they are thieves and murderers, at heart if they haven’t yet gained enough power to make their dreams into reality. Socialism is communism for people who haven’t completely killed off their consciences yet, and pure democracy merely distributes the guilt over more heads.

Many people criticize God’s Law because it allows a form of slavery. Yes, God recognizes authority, but he also says that all authority is only delegated by him and only temporarily and for limited purposes. Kings, priests, judges, husbands, fathers, mothers, and elder siblings have legitimate authority over other people, but that authority is always strictly limited. In God’s Law, life and property are sacrosanct. Nobod–not even a king–has the right to take another person’s life, labor, or property without a clear divine mandate or a conviction after a trial.

Of course, people, who reject God, also reject his law and, necessarily, all objective standards of morality. There can be no absolute law without an absolute Lawgiver. They say we have “evolved” beyond slavery and the archaic mandates of the Bible.

They are deluded.

We have not evolved. We are the same murderers and slavers that we have been from the beginning. The only difference is that we have accumulated knowledge and technology and more refined justifications for our atrocities.

If that sounds too grim a prognosis for you, then you need to read Mrs Lau’s book. You can get it here at Amazon.


Full disclosure: American Torah’s links to Amazon products are usually affiliate links. I earn a very small commission if you make a purchase after following one of my links.

The Woman and the Girl: A Parable of Israel

The woman with the issue of blood and the young girl who died are both Israel.

Matthew 9:18-26, Mark 5:22-43, and Luke 8:41-56 all tell the same story regarding an older woman and a young girl who were both healed by Yeshua. In each account, a pious Jewish man named Jarius asked him to heal his twelve-year-old daughter who was on the verge of death. As Yeshua followed the man to his house, a crowd gathered around him, and a woman who had had an issue of blood for twelve years touched his tzitzit (on the hem of his robe) and was instantly healed. Yeshua acknowledged the woman and then continued on to the man’s house where he brought the young girl back to life.

These seem like two separate events connected only by Yeshua and a shared moment in time, but the Gospel writers deliberately made the older woman’s story a part of the girl’s story by keeping it in the middle. The Gospels aren’t always told in chronological order, so there was no particular reason to maintain the order of events here unless there was a deeper significance. I believe that, while the story is completely true, it is a parable of Israel told through real life events.

Two Aspects of Israel

In the parable, the woman and the girl both represent Israel, as illustrated by the twelve years, but in different aspects or segments.

The older woman was that part of the nation that was/is conscious of her status as the chosen people of God. Her illness is a reflection of the people’s sterile spiritual state. Long before Yeshua was born in Bethlehem, the Jews had abandoned following much of the Torah as it was given by God to Moses. They still studied and revered it, but they had also adopted “the tradition of the elders,” which, through its myriad rules, rendered the real Torah “of no effect” (Matthew 15:1-20). Still today, the Jews follow their rabbis and traditions in direct opposition to the Written Torah. They claim to follow God’s instructions, yet they don’t.

When the woman touched Yeshua’s garments, she wasn’t just touching the cloth. It wasn’t his clothes that she was after, it was the tzitzit fastened on the four corners. Tzitzit represent God’s Law, the Torah, and whenever we see them, we are to be reminded to whom we owe our allegiance and our obedience. The woman, healed through touching the symbol of the Torah on Yeshua’s garment, represents the Jews (and those from the nations who have joined themselves to them) who were/are being/will be restored to spiritual health by faith in God. Their faith will be evidenced by acknowledgement of Yeshua as their Messiah and returning to Torah as he taught it.

The young girl was that part of the nation which remained scattered among the nations. They lived in idolatrous unbelief and had forgotten their identity as children of Jacob. Her father was an Israelite, and she lived twelve years in his house, but her life and awareness was gone by the time Yeshua reached her. Her descendants in the world today are being restored to life through Yeshua along with multitudes of gentiles, but they are neglecting God’s instructions. Like the Jews, they elevate man-made traditions above the commandments of God. The only difference in this respect is the specific set of traditions that have supplanted Torah.

Two Important Lessons

I want you to notice two other things about this story:

First, only those who were conscious of their illness were healed. Someone had to be willing to say, “Yeshua, heal me!” (or in the case of the young girl, “Heal my daughter!”) before they could be healed. People who don’t know that they are sick or who refuse to acknowledge their degraded spiritual state will never call out for salvation. Yeshua once sarcastically told the Pharisees that “Those who are well have no need of a physician.” A very large segment of the physical descendants of Jacob have been cut off and will never return because they refuse to acknowledge their illness and need of a Savior.

Second, after Yeshua raised the young girl, he didn’t tell her to go her way as he did with the older woman. He instructed the people of the house to feed her. In Scripture, food often represents spiritual instruction (See John 21:16-17, 1 Corinthians 3:2, and Hebrews 5:12-14). When the spiritually dead have been brought to life in Yeshua, it is vital that they be taught from the Scriptures or else they will die again. They must be made into disciples, taught to live as Yeshua lived.

Whether native born Israelites or grafted in from the nations, we have all inherited lies from our ancestors, traditions that confuse or entirely eclipse God’s commandments. “By your traditions, you have made the commandment of God of no effect.” We are saved from damnation by the grace of God and not our obedience to Torah. However, once saved, we require nourishment in the form of sound teaching and obedience to sustain our lives.

There will come a day when the New Covenant is in full effect and no person needs to instruct another in the ways of God, but that day isn’t here yet. We are obligated to love one another by keeping the commandments ourselves and by teaching others to do likewise.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving YHVH your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that YHVH swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.
Deuteronomy 30:19-20


For more on the divided house of Israel watch my Who Is Israel series:

The Oil, the Spirit, Good Works, and the Light of Israel

Let your light so shine before men, so that they see your good works and praise your Father who is in the heavens. Matthew 5:16

Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me.
Exodus 25:2 ESV

The materials to build the Ark and the Tabernacle were to be donated. That particular collection was a one time event, and no one was forced to give anything.

The olive oil for the Menorah was different. God said, “And you, you are to command the children of Israel to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light, to cause the lamp to burn continually.” (Exodus 27:20 TS2009) In order to fulfill the purpose of the command, this had to be an ongoing tax to be collected for as long as the Menorah should remain burning.

If you didn’t have olive trees of your own, then you would have to work out a deal with someone who did. Maybe you would donate some labor or your community would all pitch in together to buy oil. However the gathering and donation of oil happened, it wasn’t optional. God didn’t give the people a choice.

I am reminded of two of Yeshua’s commands. The first command is this:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 5:14,16 ESV

The second command is this:

Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.
Mark 16:15 ESV

Oil, the Menorah, and light are all metaphors of the Holy Spirit, and James told us that good works are the evidence of the working of the Spirit. We are to continually be a light to the world by preaching the gospel and doing good works wherever we go. We can never say, “I told someone about the Gospel once, so I’ve done my part.”

In order for the oil of the Spirit to be constantly replenished and our light to continually shine, we must always be looking for opportunities to serve, to tell of God’s faithfulness, to show his love to the world around us. Those good works are the visible light of the Spirit within us.

A Heart to Pray and A Mind to Work

Daniel Botkin, A Heart to Pray and a Mind to Work

Recently I asked a group of congregational leaders about their biggest concerns and challenges. Their responses didn’t surprise me.

  • How can we teach on controversial topics without stepping on too many toes? What really matters and which topics can be safely avoided?
  • How do we handle false doctrines and the general craziness that people pick up on the Internet?
  • How should we handle conflicts and troublesome members?
  • What do we do when we’re accused of wrongdoing? What do we do when we are actually in the wrong?
  • How can we promote a spirit of gratitude and faith in our people?
  • How do we manage expectations and integrate people with different levels of faith and relationship with God? How do we find a place for everyone who wants to serve?

Every congregation faces these questions (and many more) at some point. If you’re doing God’s work on earth, you can’t expect the enemy to ignore you. He will take notice and start probing for weak points he can use to attack you and undermine your ministry.

As Messianic and Hebrew Roots congregations multiply and grow, we are facing more crises of leadership than most other believers. We are treading “new” ground–at least in today’s culture–of the old paths. Our people are struggling with the bitterness of realizing they have inherited lies, and they often lash out at their fellow heirs rather than at the original father of those lies.

“If you feel any anger or bitterness toward Christians, understand this: Chances are, you were not deliberately lied to. Chances are, your former pastors and teachers were good men who loved the Lord and sincerely believed the erroneous doctrines that they taught you. Chances are, they were simply misinformed by the misinformed leaders who taught them, and those misinformed leaders had been misinformed by the previous generation of leaders. So put away any anger and bitterness you have toward Christians. Direct your anger toward the Devil, the deceiver who persuaded them to believe the misinformation.”

Daniel Botkin, A Heart to Pray and A Mind to Work

Our tendency to blame our fellow victims rather than our mutual enemy, leads many of us to reject authority, to reject all teachers and scholars, to strike out on our own as lone theological wolves. But we aren’t supposed to be wolves, whether lone or in a pack. We are a flock, and like every flock that wants to survive, we need shepherds, and we need each other.

I first met Daniel Botkin at a conference of Torah observant believers in Dallas, Texas. I attended his lecture on leadership in the congregation, and–the first chance I could get–found him in the merchant hall and bought his book, A Heart to Pray and A Mind to Work.

As I began to read it over the next week, it immediately struck me as a vitally important work in the community of Torah observant followers of Yeshua. Botkin has more knowledge of the Scriptures and more experience in congregational leadership than the vast majority of us will ever have, and we need to take full advantage of the wisdom he has to offer.

I believe that what we are doing in this Torah movement is right. We are shedding centuries of lies and rediscovering the biblical roots of our faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but the way back is treacherous. The Enemy doesn’t want us to make it, and he will do everything in his power to keep us distracted, divided, and off course. We need help to stay out of the ditches and swamps that lie on every side. We need common sense guidance on spiritual leadership, and I believe Botkin’s book is an important part of that guidance.

So I offered to narrate it and make it available as an audiobook. I’ve never done anything like this before, and it turned out to be a much more difficult task than I had anticipated. I’m not a voice actor or professional narrator. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever set foot in a professional studio. (I recorded in my bedroom closet with a usb microphone and a cheap laptop!) I’m sure the task could have been done better by professionals, but the professionals just weren’t going to do it, and this book needs to be available from as many retailers and in as many formats as possible.

In the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t do all this work for free, but I’m not making a bunch of money from it, either. My share will probably come out to around $1 per audiobook sold. The bulk of the revenue goes to pay for the servers and bandwidth at the various audiobook retailers, and most of the rest will go to support Daniel Botkin’s ministry.

If you are as tired of the bickering and controversy as I am, consider buying either the paperback or the audiobook. Botkin’s website (GatesOfEden.Online) has links to purchase the paperback of A Heart to Pray and A Mind to Work as well as others of his books. I’ll post links below to various audiobook retailers as they add it to their catalogues over the next few weeks.

Audiobook retailers carrying A Heart to Pray and A Mind to Work:

Patriarchy, Feminism, and the Government of a Godly People

The antidote to feminism isn't patriarchy, but repentance.

And I will make boys their princes, and infants shall rule over them. And the people will oppress one another, every one his fellow and every one his neighbor; the youth will be insolent to the elder, and the despised to the honorable. For a man will take hold of his brother in the house of his father, saying: “You have a cloak; you shall be our leader, and this heap of ruins shall be under your rule”; in that day he will speak out, saying: “I will not be a healer; in my house there is neither bread nor cloak; you shall not make me leader of the people.”

…My people—infants are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, your guides mislead you and they have swallowed up the course of your paths. The LORD has taken his place to contend; he stands to judge peoples. The LORD will enter into judgment with the elders and princes of his people: “It is you who have devoured the vineyard, the spoil of the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people, by grinding the face of the poor?” declares the Lord GOD of hosts. The LORD said: Because the daughters of Zion are haughty and walk with outstretched necks, glancing wantonly with their eyes, mincing along as they go, tinkling with their feet, therefore the Lord will strike with a scab the heads of the daughters of Zion, and the LORD will lay bare their secret parts….Your men shall fall by the sword and your mighty men in battle. And her gates shall lament and mourn; empty, she shall sit on the ground.

And seven women shall take hold of one man in that day, saying, “We will eat our own bread and wear our own clothes, only let us be called by your name; take away our reproach.” In that day the branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honor of the survivors of Israel. And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem, when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning. Then the LORD will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory there will be a canopy. There will be a booth for shade by day from the heat, and for a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.

Isaiah 3:4-4:6 (abbreviated)

A Nation of Weak Men

This prophecy in Isaiah concerned the ancient nations of Israel and Judah as well as the coming Messiah and His Kingdom, but there are still lessons for us to learn from the example. Look at the sins that brought about this punishment from God: men refusing to take leadership, teachers leading the people astray, oppression by selfish rulers, oppression of neighbor against neighbor, promiscuity, vanity and dominion of women.

When the men God called to leadership refuse to take it, women, children, and fools take it instead. God brings down the proud and avenges the oppressed. He will not sit idly by forever. In time, God will purge His people so that only those worthy and those willing to accept His ways will survive. Men will accept the role that God assigned to them as the heads of their families and the leaders of their people. Women will accept the role that God assigned to them as their husbands’ assistants and supporters.

“In that day, seven women will take hold of one man,” the prophet says, and today’s western Christian immediately recoils in horror at the thought. “What!? Women subjecting themselves to the authority of a man?” But this is not a part of the sin, this is a part of the healing process. When men turn to God and accept the leadership He desires for them, and when women turn to their men and accept the headship that God has placed over them, then we will begin to truly see what God can do with His people.

The Symptoms of Decline

These things are specifically listed in Chapter 3 as being good things that God would take away as punishment for their sins; they are the support and sustenance of a nation:

  • Food and water
  • Strong men and soldiers
  • Judges, prophets, administrators, elders, military commanders, honorable men, skilled craftsmen, and eloquent speakers

These things are listed as either sinful or the terrible consequences of the absence of those things listed above:

  • Government by women, children, and weak-minded men
  • Infighting
  • Disrespect for elders
  • Elevation of the disreputable above the honorable
  • Prideful and vain women

The pattern should be obvious. The first list is typical of a well-ordered, patriarchal society. The second is typical of a feminized democracy. Except for the judgeship of Deborah when no man was willing to stand up for the whole people, God’s mandated leadership throughout all of Israel’s history was masculine. Every one of God’s specially appointed kings, priests, elders, and judges (with that one exception) was a man. The only times when women led the nation were times of turmoil and weak-willed men.

Feminism Is an Effect, not the Cause of Trouble

I do not mean that no woman should ever be in a leadership position, or that it is somehow a sin for a woman to have authority over men. Some women are well suited for leadership, and some leadership positions are best occupied by women, and there is no command in God’s Law against women holding leadership positions. We should thank Him that there are competent and willing women available to take charge when all of the men have advocated their responsibilities!

None the less, any society with a significant percentage of its leadership positions–civil, business, family, or religious–occupied by women is already in serious trouble. A healthy society will always be governed primarily by godly men.

Humble Righteousness Is the Cure

If weak and selfish men are the disease and feminism a symptom, what is the cure?

Repentance.

In Isaiah 4, the healing begins with the repentance of women, but if that’s as far as it went, then there would have been no real healing at all. Ultimately, national healing requires the humble repentance of men.

We could take back the reins of power, take the vote away from women, and re-establish men-only universities and clubs… But without godliness, that would only replace one tyranny with another.

The solution to crime, corruption, and decaying public morality isn’t patriarchy in itself, but humble, righteous men picking up their divinely appointed staffs and mantles in their homes, churches, and synagogues. Be the men that God intended for you to be. Live righteously. Keep the commandments. Ensure justice for the oppressed–the legitimately oppressed, not people who merely imagine themselves to be oppressed–the widows and orphans.

When we obey God, when we follow his standards in our personal lives and in our homes, the rest will fall into place naturally.

What Is the Fear of the LORD?

Proverbs 1:7 says that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge but fools despise wisdom and understanding. But what does it mean to fear God? On a basic level this is saying that no matter what else you know, no matter what else you think you understand, you’ll never have true understanding, you’ll never have true wisdom until you’ve learned to fear God.

This is the most basic level of wisdom.

So what does it really mean to fear God? Does it mean that that God is waiting in the sky to smite wrongdoers and you have to be on your toes at all times, always watching what you’re doing? Maybe you do need to, but no that’s not really what it’s talking about.

God isn’t up there waiting for us to do something wrong so that he can knock us around. We don’t have to be afraid that he’s vindictive and capricious.

Instead think about God more like you would an intense furnace or a nuclear reactor. You treat it with respect, never casually. Never abuse it. You follow its rules because, if you don’t, you could be burned; you could be destroyed. Not because it wants to destroy you but because, by its nature, it is so powerful, so holy, so different from anything else you know, that have to treat it with that level of respect.

The fear of the Lord is the fear that a child has for a stern, but very loving father.

God doesn’t want to be treated casually. He doesn’t want to be treated like your boyfriend or your buddy. God is an unimaginably powerful force, and you will never understand what it means to have wisdom, to have understanding…you’ll never really understand the universe until you understand God’s power and until you learn to fear it and fear him and respect him as your creator.