20 October 2017

What really matters? Football, stock market, and mother

The advertising campaign for Godzilla (about 15 years ago) said, "Size does matter." The great monster could take out a whole city if it wanted, they alleged. The Hollywood crowd and the public were not too keen on their slogan and even less on the movie. Flop.

Others talk about education that matters or costs involved in a significant trade. The big slogan in some circles last year was "Black lives matter." Students in Australia just now are sitting their high school exams and many are alleging that "test results don't matter." 

Last night I was in Kansas City, and the team I've cheered for since about 1962, the Kansas City Chiefs, were in a tight battle with the Oakland Raiders on Thursday Night Football. I hoped my friend with whom I'm staying would record the game at his home so I could give myself to other matters as I was speaking at an evangelists' fellowship at IHOP. In fact, I didn't even think about the game, although I mentioned it once during my talk. There's a time for everything, and last night was the time to be in the moment with the people at the fellowship.

The pastor in charge of the KCEF and I went out to dinner after the meeting, and at the restaurant were several televisions broadcasting the game, but we didn't engage with it at all, but rather stayed in very good deep conversation about our lives in Messiah. 

I returned to my friend's home and it was already late. I didn't know how to use his three remote controls to find the recording. After several attempts, I gave up. I lay back. I slept. Then this morning I awoke and gave it a go one more time. Hooray. I sorted it all out and found the recording on his DVR. He missed the opening quarter of the game and almost all the fourth quarter, but what I saw was pretty good. At the end of the recording, I was disappointed as the Chiefs were ahead, but I didn't know the final result. 

Then the newspaper arrived and I found out that our team had lost in the last few seconds of the game. Oh, no! Disappointment again!

I got online and read a bit more of the results and a bit of sadness hit me. Even so, I have a life to live, so how do I put this in perspective?

Some would say, "Don't care about football." Others will live in the continual rehashing of the game and be armchair quarterbacks re-analyzing each decision and chiding the coach or specific players for their failures which caused the loss. My question remains this morning... what really matters?
Yesterday I watched the news as the stock market went over 23,000 for the first time ever and stock analysts were talking about why this happened. Then United Airlines stock took a serious hit and fell 12% in a day and the talking heads had their opinions about such and I wondered, "What does all this really matter?" 

Matter. Substance. Stuff. One dictionary described 'matter' as coming from the 12th to 13th century in the Old French word matere which in turn came from the Latin materia matter, substance, from mater mother”. WHAT? If Mother is the root of what matters, how does that work?

Some would say I ponder too much. Maybe my own mother would say so. Still, consideration of this idea, what matters, or things that don't matter, is all about perspective and orientation. King David put things into good order as he realigned the roles of the Levites in Bible days. In 1 Chronicles in the Bible, we read this:

Now David built houses for himself in the city of David; and he prepared a place for the ark of God, and pitched a tent for it. Then David said, “aNo one is to carry the ark of God but the Levites; for the Lord chose them to carry the ark of God, and to minister to Him forever.” And David assembled all Israel at Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the Lord to its place, which he had prepared for it. Then David called for Zadok and Abiathar the priests, and for the Levites, for Uriel, Asaiah, Joel, Shemaiah, Eliel, and Amminadab, and said to them, “You are the heads of the fathers’ households of the Levites; consecrate yourselves both you and your relatives, that you may bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel, to the place that I have prepared for it.  Because you did not carry it at the first, the Lord our God made an outburst on us, for we did not seek Him according to the ordinance.” So the priests and the Levites consecrated themselves to bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel. and the sons of the Levites carried the ark of God on their shoulders, with the poles thereon as Moses had commanded according to the word of the Lord. 
So it was David, with the elders of Israel and the captains over thousands, who went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord from the house of Obed-edom with joy. 
Now David was clothed with a robe of fine linen with all the Levites who were carrying the ark, and the singers and Chenaniah the leader of the singing with the singers. David also wore an ephod of linen. Thus all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the Lord with shouting, and with sound of the horn, with trumpets, with loud-sounding cymbals, with harps and lyres. 
It happened when the ark of the covenant of the Lord came to the city of David, that Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and making merry; and she despised him in her heart. And they brought in the ark of God and placed it inside the tent which David had pitched for it, and they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before God. When David had finished offering the burnt offering and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord. And he distributed to everyone of Israel, both man and woman, to everyone a loaf of bread and a portion of meat and a raisin cake. (chapter 15 verses 1- chapter 16.3)

Matter. What mattered to King David was not the applause of the people nor even of his wife. He wanted to fix a mistake from the past, and he chose to seek God first this time. He wanted to get things right. And get what matters to the top of his 'to do' list.

Yeshua said something about this also. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

What were the 'these things?" They were lesser in significance to the Messiah. He spoke about them earlier with "Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’"

The stuff, the matter that fills the advertising budgets of the televisions and the newspapers are what we will eat, drink or wear. Yeshua said, "They don't matter." What he meant was "Put them in an order of importance." Care about the stock market; care about your football team, even care about your mother. But worry... not a good idea.

What really matters, most of all, is to seek God first thing today and tomorrow and each day of your life. Remember Him. Ponder Him. What is God saying and doing in your life just now? What is He saying to the world? What does He want for us and our mishpochah? 

That, dear reader, is the key to abundant life. What really matters is the pleasure of God. Enjoy Him today. He won't disappoint you like the airline stock or the 11 men and the coach on the field. Even your mother will fail you at times. But God will never disappoint you if you seek Him. And know Him. And love Him. 

Thank God it's Friday. 


13 October 2017

The Pittsburgh Platform


The Pittsburgh Platform was a formulation of principles agreed upon by the Reform movement at the Pittsburgh Conference in 1885. Convened at the behest of Kaufmann Kohler of New York, the conference was chaired by Isaac M. Wise, one of the foremost figures in Reform Judaism.

The principles agreed upon symbolized the merger of the Eastern U.S. and Germanic wings of the Reform movement, distinguished it from Orthodox and Conservative Judaism and remained the basic tenets of Reform Judaism for nearly half a century until their revision by the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) in the Columbus Platform of 1937.

An examination of the Pittsburgh Platform indicates religious optimism, acceptance of other religious perspectives and emphasis on the Bible as the consecration of the Jewish people to its mission. It also makes modern sensibility the standard by rejecting halachic restrictions on diet, priestly purity and dress and discarding Jewish peoplehood. "We consider ourselves no longer a nation, but a religious community."

The following points were agreed upon and became known as the Pittsburgh Platform:

1. We recognize in every religion an attempt to grasp the Infinite, and in every mode, source or book of revelation held sacred in any religious system the consciousness of the indwelling of God in man. We hold that Judaism presents the highest conception of the God­idea as taught in our Holy Scriptures and developed and spiritualized by the Jewish teachers, in accordance with the moral and philosophical progress of their respective ages. We maintain that Judaism preserved and defended midst continual struggles and trials and under enforced isolation, this God­idea as the central religious truth for the human race.

2. We recognize in the Bible the record of the consecration of the Jewish people to its mission as the priest of the one God, and value it as the most potent instrument of religious and moral instruction. We hold that the modern discoveries of scientific researches in the domain of nature and history are not antagonistic to the doctrines of Judaism, the Bible reflecting the primitive ideas of its own age, and at times clothing its conception of divine Providence and Justice dealing with men in miraculous narratives. 

3. We recognize in the Mosaic legislation a system of training the Jewish people for its mission during its national life in Palestine, and today we accept as binding only its moral laws, and maintain only such ceremonies as elevate and sanctify our lives, but reject al such as are not adapted to the views and habits of modern civilization. 

4. We hold that all such Mosaic and rabbinical laws as regulate diet, priestly purity, and dress originated in ages and under the influence of ideas entirely foreign to our present mental and spiritual state. They fail to impress the modern Jew with a spirit of priestly holiness; their observance in our days is apt rather to obstruct than to further modern spiritual elevation. 

5. We recognize, in the modern era of universal culture of heart and intellect, the approaching of the realization of Israel s great Messianic hope for the establishment of the kingdom of truth, justice, and peace among all men. We consider ourselves no longer a nation, but a religious community, and therefore expect neither a return to Palestine, nor a sacrificial worship under the sons of Aaron, nor the restoration of any of the laws concerning the Jewish state. 

6. We recognize in Judaism a progressive religion, ever striving to be in accord with the postulates of reason. We are convinced of the utmost necessity of preserving the historical identity with our great past. Christianity and Islam, being daughter religions of Judaism, we appreciate their providential mission, to aid in the spreading of monotheistic and moral truth. We acknowledge that the spirit of broad humanity of our age is our ally in the fulfillment of our mission, and therefore we extend the hand of fellowship to all who cooperate with us in the establishment of the reign of truth and righteousness among men. 

7. We reassert the doctrine of Judaism that the soul is immortal, grounding the belief on the divine nature of human spirit, which forever finds bliss in righteousness and misery in wickedness. We reject as ideas not rooted in Judaism, the beliefs both in bodily resurrection and in Gehenna and Eden (Hell and Paradise) as abodes for everlasting punishment and reward. 

8. In full accordance with the spirit of the Mosaic legislation, which strives to regulate the relations between rich and poor, we deem it our duty to participate in the great task of modern times, to solve, on the basis of justice and righteousness, the problems presented by the contrasts and evils of the present organization of society.

09 October 2017

Courage in a complicated world: A message on Esther

The Hollywood Director who doesn't show himself
By Bob Mendelsohn
Given at North Beach Baptist Church
8 October 2017
Perth Australia

[The church in Perth’s northern suburbs asked me to give a talk, an overview on the Book of Esther. They also gave the message a title, “Courage in a Complicated World.”]
Good evening. Thank you Brad [pastor of the evening congregation] for the kind invitation.  It's always good to be back in Perth, and here at North Beach, to be with you to share with you from the Older Testament book of Esther.  Hopefully by what we discuss today, you will learn some valuable lessons for your life and your relationship with God, that will last long after the last BOO is shouted at the name of the villain of our story, Haman.
I’ve been given the assignment of Opening Batsman for your next Bible talk series. And I appreciate that opportunity. Some of you will be quite familiar with the story of the biblical book of Esther. For others, this might be first time you will consider the book, which we call a megillah in Hebrew, meaning a 'scroll'.  Or maybe this is even more of an outculture experience, as some of you have never really considered the Bible as relevant for yourself. Let me rehearse therefore a bit of the story, in Shakespeare or Hollywood storyboard style. This then, the story of the Hollywood Director who hides himself.
Act I: All's Quiet
First, the situation, what we might title "All's quiet on the Shushan Front." This is Act I. You might expect the narrator's voice saying, "Once upon a time…"The book introduces the characters one at a time, in classic progression. And I will introduce them to you as well. First, King Xerxes, later named Ahasuerus, rules a vast Persian Empire, which was much larger than modern Iran, the kingdom that now speaks Farsi or Persian. 127 provinces composed Xerxes's realm from India to Ethiopia. And if we wanted we could end right there with "…and they all lived happily ever after… The End."  This is often the fanciful thinking of the non-literate, the dream of the well wishers. No real story starts and ends so quickly. There must of necessity be conflict and resolution or we simply have a dull half hour of a bit of characters intersecting.
Peter Kreeft is one of my favorite authors and apologists. He argues this point well in his 1985 book "Making Sense out of Suffering." He asks us to think about a story which has no conflict, with nice characters and nice people living nicely together compared to a story with troubles and suffering. He says a story needs conflict to keep a child's interest. And I quote:
 "Author: Which fairy tales would you write?
Reader: The second one of course; the one with all the crazy stuff in it.
Author: The suffering , you mean?
Reader: It makes a better story, yes." (page 82)
Act II: Trouble Arises
Sure enough, then, we have Act II. Trouble Arises. As in the old silent movies of Hollywood, the evil Simon Legree appears to collect the unpayable rent. First there is trouble in the king's palace. Seems Ahaseurus' wife named Vashti refuses one of those royal edicts; she won't show her face to the king. Whatever it was, it's not a good idea to go against the boss, in those days for sure. Even if you are the queen, you still will be punished. Vashti gets booted from the palace, and the word gets out that a contest is on to find a replacement. How will they find the replacement? By conducting a beauty contest. Not a bad thing to include in a movie, eh? And maybe Aussie Jennifer Hawkins might have a go.
After some milk baths, our new heroine for whom the book is named, Esther wins, gets the gold medal, and becomes Queen.  Of course some know her by her Hebrew name Hadassah, which means 'myrtle' and the myrtle leaf is the shape of her very beautiful eyes.
We are also introduced to the evil villain, wearing all black, even with a black cape, and his name in this movie is Haman. He is a descendant of the famous movie bad guy Amalek, who starred in the earlier movie by the same Director. That movie featured Moses and the travelling former slaves, the Jewish people in the wilderness. But we digress.
One more crucial character you have to know is named Mordecai. He is a cousin or uncle of Esther, and will play a crucial role several times in the show. He's as central as Puck in Midsummer Night's Dream who always seems to have the right word, sometimes even to fix his own mistakes!
So we had Trouble in the Palace, and as Act II ends, we have Trouble also in the Land. Why? Seems that Haman has figured out how to be a villain of major consideration. He was a Fifth Century BCE Hitler, who thought the Jewish people were a marked people, worthy of extermination and ruin. He proposed his final solution and King Ahasuerus accepted it. Oy. The Director of our movie zooms in on the sneer, on the snidely confident laughter of Haman, and we are left with a cold chill up our spine.
Act III: Plan B
Even though Esther is the queen, something that should guarantee her personal safety, as Act 3 begins, we find her cousin Mordecai coming by for a visit. Not a friendly chat, but a powerful soliloquy of possibility and confidence. He tells her in no uncertain terms that the Jews need a Plan B. So Esther and Mordecai strategize; they work it out. You see, both Mordecai and Esther would be killed if the plot unfolded as Haman desired. We get the feeling that the Director wants both characters to survive at least for a while.
So, their plan is to call a fast. Ta'anit Esther, it's called in modern Judaism, the Fast of Esther. They invite all the Jews of Shushan to fast. After those 3 days, Esther was going to go to the king and ask for this last edict to be overturned. Not too hard, but obviously one plan that takes a lot of chutzpah to carry out.
Mordecai instructs his young ward. He tells her, "Who knows? Perhaps you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" This was a new thought to Esther, and after due consideration, she replied with that famous line shown often in the trailer of this movie. The Queen replies, "If I perish, I perish" This trailer has been shown for generations now, and will continue long after this comes out on Blue Ray 3D DVD. This moment gives us the title to tonight’s talk: Courage in a Complicated World.
Esther knows the best way to a man's signet ring is through his stomach, so she has a pair of banquets. Plan B is executed to perfection. The Banquet takes place exposing the Axis of Haman's evil.  Jewish survival is assured, and the madman is hanged on a gallows, standing on a platform higher than one built for any Grand Final medal ceremony.
Act IV: They lived happily ever after
It all comes out in the end, just like things always do in Hollywood, right? The good guys win and the bad guys get theirs as Haman dies on the gallows built for others and all 10 of Haman's sons die, and we leave the theater singing the theme song and eating ice cream bars. But is that what this movie is all about?
Problems at hand
Let's talk about some of the problems of the script, that is, the book of Esther in the Bible. First problem: there is no actual mention of God by name. That's right, it is a Jewish book written about a Jewish problem and an answer given apparently from heaven, God Himself, though, is not mentioned even once. Shocking, no?
Problem two, here is a whole community of Jews living a long way from Israel, when the way was opened up decades earlier in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah for all Jews to return from captivity in Babylon.  And according to Jewish tradition, they should have moved back. So we have this problem of renegade disobedient Jews living among Gentiles, and dealing with the commensurate sociological problems of interrelationships.
Other problems…the Law, the Torah is not mentioned, nor is animal sacrifice. Also, the Newer Testament does not quote even once from the book of Esther. Although fasting is spoken of and done, there is no mention of prayers. Finally, they did not find any fragments of this book in the Dead Sea Scrolls, which is no big megillah. 
Or is it? I think it is fascinating that the name of God is not mentioned. But perhaps I need to remember our movie image. The Director stamps the whole project with scene changes and zooms. He makes actors move close or directs their movements across the stage of our view. But during the movie, we never see the Director. After the movie is over, and Hollywood rewards its own in the Academy Awards, then we meet him personally. And perhaps that's the way to think of the Almighty in this case.
Who else but God could have organized the beauty contest? And that the Jewish girl would be so well placed at just the right time? And that Mordecai, whose good deed done to the king in the prequel, before our movie began, is rewarded for it while we watch this movie? Esther is God's story marked by God's deliverance in God's timing with God's signature… all without His name visibly made manifest. Can you imagine?
Some Messianic Jews might have some trouble with the lack of mention of the Law or Shabbat in the text. Some Israeli Jewish believers in Jesus might remove this book from their canon if they really could. Why?  Jews who have a chance to live in the Land are living outside it. "What a shanda! And no wonder there is trouble," they would say.
But I allege that God pervades, he is all through the book and all through the Jewish holiday of Purim. That holiday is mentioned 5 times in Esther chapter 9. Purim is known as a festive time, sort of a Jewish Halloween, where people dress up in costumes and give away candy and food baskets to others. Shalach manot is a substantial part of the holiday for adults. Of course, so is getting drunk. But that's another story that I'll let others address.
What about this 'name made manifest' idea? I remember an incident some years ago.  I was over visiting two ladies who were confessed atheists. They invited me to lunch and before the meal, there was great discussion about prayer. They didn't want to pray and they didn't want me to pray. Then they changed their minds and offered me to pray if I felt it necessary for my enjoyment of their meal they provided. All the while, I remained fairly quiet, eavesdropping as if I were removed from the situation, although we were all at the same table. After about 5 minutes of this, they said, 'ok, go ahead and pray if you must.' I answered, "We've already prayed. Prayer is to acknowledge God over you and with you, and with all this lively discussion, I believe God is well acknowledged." You can bet these ladies were quite frustrated.
Applications
Let me draw some conclusions from our Esther story today for me personally and hopefully for you as well and answer some of those problems as well.
1)        The people of God, even in Israel, can get excited about God being everywhere doing His thing. He does save His people, even those who are rebellious or reluctant, living outside the Land. In other words, His grace is not conditional on my previous compliance, but on His mercy and love.
2)        God is not always showing His name, though He is always working. Remember Yeshua healed people and would tell them, "Go and tell no one." There is timing to revelation and God does it perfectly here. And God does it perfectly with you and me. How surprising it was for me to meet Messiah in the person and the surprising name of Yeshua. I'd been raised an Orthodox Jew in Kansas City, and all of a sudden, I was seeing the name of Jesus as fulfillment of the Bible prophecies, Jesus: the one whom I'd never respected even from afar.
3)        There is a time to risk. Or as the title of tonight’s message says, “Courage in a Complicated World.” Esther went to the king without an appointment or an invitation and that was risky. Mordecai went to the king turning in some treasonous men, and this was risky not knowing whether the king would understand and if the Persian Mafia might not take Mordecai down for dobbing in two of their own. I love the Hallmark greeting card which said, "Let us love, let us risk, let us lay down our lives for one another…. You go first." Risk is never convenient; it is immeasurably difficult, but if you go through with it, you will be the better. "Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." Where is God calling you? Will you risk relationships to go there?
4)        Were it not for God, all the Hamans and the Hitlers and the Herods of the world would have won long ago and destroyed the Jewish people. But God will save His chosen people and defend Israel. What encouragement we can take from that in these troubled times as well. The story is told of Adolph Hitler in a speech he gave in January 1944, he is quoted, "If the Nazis go down to defeat, the Jews will celebrate a "second Purim." Then two years later in 1946 during the Nuremberg Trials, 11 Nazis were quickly found guilty and sentenced to death. Goering committed suicide before he could be hanged. As the 10 Nazis- like Haman's 10 sons- went to their deaths, one of them Julius Streicher, shouted, "Purimfest!" Even they knew God had delivered the Jews. Yes there are many issues related to the Holocaust: guilt, shame, anger, sadness. But atheism is a lousy response to the Holocaust. God has saved us. The Lord is the Mighty Deliverer.
5)                 The prophecies of the coming Messiah from Moses to Daniel would have been known in part by the people of Esther’s day. I'm not sure how the story perpetuated, but it makes sense to me that Esther as queen affected the Persian folks so well and for so long that just a few centuries later, the stories were still being told. Esther the queen probably told them about the Future King, the Messiah, to come. And it was a group of magi from the East, like from Persia they say, who followed a star to Jerusalem and finally to Bethlehem to meet the "Star that arose out of Jacob and the scepter that would not depart from Israel." (Numbers 24) This once and future king, Yeshua, Jesus of Nazareth is the Great Hope of the Jewish people today. We who know Him discover that He is the Director to the movie. He is the secret hidden from the ages past. And His death and resurrection, which is marked by Christians all over the globe each Sunday, was Plan A for God for the redemption of Israel and the nations.
Yes, just as in our movie today, everything seemed quiet at the beginning of human history back at the Beginning of the Bible record. The Garden of Eden was a beautiful and ongoing pleasure village. Then sin entered and God had to work out the buy-back procedures, making treaties along the way until He made a final covenant with all who will trust in Him in the Passion of Messiah. How far were we separate from God? Try to get back to the Garden. It's like sand dunes, and you are in the hole of one. Try to dig out of the dusty sand. Or try to get yourself out of a Joondalup golf course bunker. You will only make the hole larger and your plight deeper. No one else could fix it, not even Bob the Builder. In the same way, although personally, you might have thought everything was fine with you, quiet if you will, trouble started brewing. Perhaps there was trouble at work or with your family or neighbors, troubles in dealing with close friends, or even internal struggles about your own person. Where is Plan B? Where is the way of escape from this trouble? I believe the best way to your answer, to the King of Kings’ signet ring, is through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus. You get to trust Him. You get to look to Him to find eternal life and to find answers to your often-unsettled situations.
If you don't yet know this one about whom we speak here, this Jesus, and would like to, then today, right where you are, won't you receive His lordship over you? He is the unnoticed director of all things and wants to help you survive the pains of this life, no matter the cost. He wants to forgive your sins and make you born again to a living hope. If you've never received Jesus as Messiah and Savior, and would like to do so, please pray this prayer in quiet whispers along with me from the honest depths of your heart.
Pray like this, "Lord I'm a sinner and have messed up my life pretty dramatically. You alone can fix it. I cannot. My sins are great and your character is to have mercy. Even on me. Thanks for that. Please forgive my sins and make me born again. I receive Jesus as my Savior and Lord, and ask you to make this real to me. Give me strength to trust you each day. In Jesus's name. Amen."
If you prayed that prayer for the first time today, please see the folks up front here after the service who will advise you about what's next and can assist you in your new journey of faith. How exciting!
Those of you who are believers, I challenge you to continue living a life of risk. Proclaim the name of the One who is ever present. Yeshua our Messiah who is ever working even on behalf of those who don't deserve it. Amen? You may not have to move 16,000 kilometres and 2 hemispheres like I did to preach to the people of Australia. You only have to survive the struggles of traversing the CBD and the GST, but you get to share the Good News message with folks in your offices and in your neighborhoods. You get to make known the Director who is for so many unseen. Maybe this year during the season of Purim which will be as usual a month before Passover, along with sending gift baskets of food to others, you could begin or continue sending gift baskets of the Word of God to those in your sphere of influence? They will thank you one day. It's worth the risk, don't you think?
And that’s the ministry of Jews for Jesus, risk takers who are working in 13 countries and 25 cities worldwide with full time staff even here in Australia. I moved here 19 years ago to found the ministry and it’s been a good innings. And a big thank you to those of you who have been generous in donation to Jews for Jesus. To all of you, would you please fill out that Jews for Jesus involvement card in your bulletin and give it to me at the resource table during supper? I’d appreciate the opportunity to speak to you again and again through our newsletter.
Our teams worldwide are evangelizing as you saw in the opening video in winter in Russia and New York and London. You can pray and I hope you will pray for us. We are out on the streets in Sydney and Bondi, where our book shop is open all week. And where Jewish people drop in every week. Pray for open hearts in the Jewish community. Pray for strength of our bodies to keep on keeping on, no matter the response. Pray for a few more Jewish believers to join us in our work, and we will keep you updated via the newsletter. Thanks again Brad for letting me come.
May God bless us all today, in the name of the Messiah Yeshua, amen.

------------------

Sources for Nazi stories:

29 September 2017

Freedom, where is it? A Yom Kippur message


Given at Kol Nidre service
Bondi Junction (Sydney) NSW
29 September 2017

Janis Joplin sang a song at Woodstock which was the anthem of a generation. Me and Bobby McGee, which contained this conclusion,
“Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose 
Nothin', don't mean nothin' hon' if it ain't free, no no 
And, feelin' good was easy, Lord, when he sang the blues 
You know, feelin' good was good enough for me, good enough for me and Bobby McGee.”

I sang that song along with Joplin, with Waylon Jennings in 1973, with Willy Nelson when he covered it in 1979 and still that conclusion about freedom lingers in my memory to this day.

Nothing left to lose. Like the North Queensland Cowboys who will be playing with nothing to lose on Sunday in the NRL Grand Final. When no one expected the boys to carry on after the loss of both their co-captains, they have nothing left to lose. Is that freedom?

One website, Live Science, defined freedom as “Freedom is the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint, and the absence of a despotic government.

Freedom for the Live Science mob is living without restraint, and without hindrance, mostly from government, but by extension, from anyone’s rules or authority. That has to be a fascinating concept given that science operates under a rubric of rules and authority.

For those reading this online, read Mike Treder’s piece from September 2009, AND the commentary/ responses of many after his article. https://ieet.org/index.php/IEET2/more/treder20090917

People usually define freedom as something we all long for. Mike Treder wrote, “Freedom stands for something greater than just the right to act however I choose—it also stands for securing to everyone an equal opportunity for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To most reasonable people, freedom means more than just ‘free to do whatever I want’. Taken literally, that approach would produce anarchy—every man, woman, and child for himself or herself. Fortunately, none of us has to live that way (unless you’re reading this in Somalia or a similar disaster area).

Franklin Roosevelt was the US president during WWII. He was elected four times and in one of his major addresses given in January 1941, he spoke of four freedoms, made forever famous by American illustrator Norman Rockwell. The freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. These words would ring in the ears of Americans throughout the next four and a half years during the World War. And still ring in our ears to this day. Rockwell’s illustrations, Roosevelt’s words, Janis Joplin’s lyrics… all speak of a mystical, deep longing in the hearts of people, from Uganda to Utrecht, from Uluru to Uruguay, and here in Bondi Junction. Where then is true freedom?

Google ‘freedom’ and the word “Australia” and the top 10 sites are all related to the furniture store. Seriously. Capitalism and Google have met together and given us no philosophy on this one. But that doesn’t stop us from thinking about this just now.

So how would you define or notice or desire freedom?
Let me take you with me to Yom Kippur, out in Chicago. The year 1983. I was 31 years old. Patty and I had spent the US summer there and our daughter Jessica was born in August there. At the end of my ministry assignment, and as school was to begin in September, Patty and our two children went back to New York City where we lived. I stayed behind for the High Holidays, and the services Jews for Jesus ran then.

Most of the time, after big events, our staff likes to get together and debrief, and the best way to do that is over a meal. So after Rosh Hashanah services, we went out. After Friday night gatherings we often went out to eat. So when it was my old boss Baruch and I who were the skeleton crew running the Yom Kippur service, it didn’t seem odd that we would pack up the boxes, the bulletins, the other goods from the service into our van, drive to the Chinese restaurant and eat out. Oh, wait, we said, halfway through the chicken soup… it’s Yom Kippur! Oy! Guilty!

A young woman who lived with her boyfriend for years, recently got married and said, “Somehow I felt in bondage.” After three months of marriage, she went on a date with a work colleague, and it wasn’t long before she and her husband filed for divorce. She later said, “I felt free, for the first time in a long time.” Was that freedom for her?

Yeshua said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8.32) Is being dismissive of contracts or legally binding situations, where flat mates argue and fight over who paid what utility or who signed with the landlord…when one of them excises the other, is that freedom? When I was 19, in the South of the USA, I was in jail for 40 hours or so, in Florida, for vagrancy, and after a man in jail paid my fine, I left, kicked my heels and felt liberated, smiled, danced, but had nowhere to go, no one with whom to go. I was terribly alone. My freedom was escape, freedom from the bondage of jail, but not free to be alone with myself and with God.

Let me tell you a story, about a Jewish rabbi and jail. It’s a true story and happened in a Greek city of Philippi, which was a major city of the district of Macedonia.

Rabbi Saul, of Tarsus in modern Turkey, had disturbed the town, and was arrested by the police force, taken to the magistrates, and they found him guilty.

Here is the text:
They seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the authorities, and when they had brought them to the chief magistrates, they said, “These men are throwing our city into confusion, being Jews, and are proclaiming customs which it is not lawful for us to accept or to observe, being Romans.” The crowd rose up together against them, and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them and proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods.  When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.  But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped.  But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!” And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 

The scene zooms in on Saul and his mate, Silas. They’ve had the worst day ever. The crowd has dobbed them in to the authorities; the beating was painful, beyond human capacity. Their aches and pains would have been substantial and grueling.
Arthur Katz in his book, “Reality” describes the scene,
“Can you picture Paul and Silas, their clothes stripped from them, publicly humiliated in the market place? Then the first crack of the whip. You see the ugly red welt appear as that rod comes crashing down against the naked flesh, and there are yet many more stripes to go. As those rods keep swishing and cracking, what was first red has been turning somewhat blue. Then the skin is torn. Those rods cut right into the open flesh all the way to the bone, and we have not yet counted ten. When those men were finally cast into the inner prison, they were as pitiful a sight as one could ever imagine.”

Then the Bible says it was midnight. Have you ever been put in stocks, or had a long grueling bushwalk, or gym exercise, and your body is aching. Your back hurts; nothing is without pain. And you lie on the hard ground in a jail cell. An inner cell, a lower cell, where the smell of human urine and feces still lingers. It’s a hellish incarceration. Katz goes on to describe the scene, “rats and vermin would scurry about, and the groans of other prisoners would be heard from other parts of the prison.”

What would you have done? What would have been your response? Aching and pain in the physical; wondering what you did wrong in the spiritual. Emotional outbursts, and arguing with the God of the universe.

What did this rabbi Saul and his offsider Silas do? They sang praises to God in the middle of the night. WHAT? Outrageous. What was going on?

Paul and Silas were in jail, but they were free. They knew a freedom the other prisoners didn’t know. They knew a freedom the jailer didn’t know. The jailer had the keys, but he wasn’t free.

The singing filled the jailhouse. Over the groans of others, the songs of praise to the Almighty were as a bouquet of fresh flowers. And the Bible says, “The prisoners were listening.” This is different than hearing; they were considering, even as some of you here tonight are hearing AND listening to the message. You are considering whether the message about Yeshua being our messiah is true. You are weighing in your heart this conclusion of Paul, Silas, Bob and all the others gathered here. The prisoners were listening; are you listening?

Then the amazing earthquake happened. A seismic reality, a particularized ground shaking that only touched the jail, and loosened the chains that locked in Rabbi Saul and Silas. And they didn’t run. The prisoners didn’t run.

Why didn’t they run? They were already free. Their freedom was not related to the new house in Vaucluse or Hunters Hill. They were not free because a government told them they had beaten the previous government and established a new nation. They were free because they had been forgiven of their sins and received new life in Yeshua. So whether in jail or outside, they knew the Messiah; they knew peace; they knew God’s love.

But the jailer was different. He was afraid for his life. The charge had been given, that if the prisoners escaped that his life was over.
So who holds the keys?
The jailer held the keys but was in bondage.
The prisoners were in jail but were free. Why were they free? They were forgiven!

How were they forgiven? By the blood of Yeshua. By faith in what Yeshua did in his dying for their sins. The Eternal Yom Kippur took place on a hill in Jerusalem called Moriah or Calvary. There the Son of God took our sins on himself and died to be the kipporah, the atonement for us. For each of us. If we will believe.

No wonder Paul and Silas didn’t run. They had been forgiven and knew true peace.


I’m reminded of the time when God gave the Jewish people the Torah at Sinai. There the Bible says in Exodus 32.16 that the two tablets of the 10 Commandments were God’s work, the writing was God’s writing, engraved on the tablets. The Hebrew word for ‘engraved’ is Harut.

Why does this remind me of the jailhouse rock with Silas and Paul? Because the Hebrew word for ‘freedom’ is herut, a variant of the word for ‘engraving.’ When God writes His Torah on our hearts, when we are born again by the Spirit and by faith in Yeshua, our Messiah, He engraves His Word in us, and we are free. Even as Yeshua said, ‘You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free.”

My prayer for each of you, for each of us tonight, is that you will know this engraving, this freedom, this encounter with Messiah.

It’s not another word for ‘nothing left to lose.’ It’s freedom in Messiah, who bore our penalty in Himself and gives us life abundant with Him. And may your fast be easy, may your life be free, indeed.

27 September 2017

Back then, and now...


Some things remain the same, and some things change. When I was a kid, my mom and Donna Reed, June Cleaver, and just about any reasonable woman wore heels around the house, was always around the house, and was ever baking and helpful.
Dad came home at 5:30 for a 6 pm dinner, and family chat. Ah, back then.
Moms were like this.

Cameras all looked like this, and so did the kids.



Rosh Hashanah greetings had to do with being sealed and written in the book of Life. Now, everyone wishes each other a 'sweet new year", but nothing about the Book of Life. Fascinating.

And the self-consumption world has caused us to go from Rosh Hashanah's meanings of selichot and tashlich (sorry and throwing away our sins) to family meals and dipping apples in honey. It's all about the food! And the selfie world is not only for Jewish people. It's for everyone. And it's ruining the planet.

Life is different, to be sure. And it certainly can continue to adjust... which way will it go? The Jewish watchword of "Tikkun olam" (repair the world) is a regular phrase we hear often during these 10 days. But if the world needs repair, it begs the question, "Who broke it?" and the other perhaps more important one, "Who can fix it?"
And in this 'selfie' world, would anyone really be a genuine candidate as they are usually more concerned about their world, rather than 'the world.'

Some use religion, and that's abundant at this time of year.
Some use philosophy, and ponder deep and dark things. All good, of course, but not enough to fix anything.
Some go to 12 step meetings and admit their own powerlessness, and unmanageability, but unless they surrender, to the God of heaven and earth, their admission is not really paid.

I believe the answer is in the Messiah, Yeshua, who died for our sins and rose from the dead. That resurrection validated his deity and his love, and his power to heal a broken heart and a broken planet.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son so that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3.16)

You want a sweet new year? Give your life over to the One who gave his life for you on a cross in Jerusalem almost 2,000 years ago. Back then will influence today/ now for sure!

Forgiven? An exit poll.


If we asked you, "Do you feel forgiven?" what would you say? At the end of Yom Kippur, after ne'ilah prayers on Saturday evening, after fasting all day, after davening and seeking G-d's forgiveness...what will you say? On what would you base your forgiveness if you actually felt such?



Many will look to their own volition, their own goodness and intention as suitable and enough to get the Almighty's attention. And his forgiveness. It is very good to have the right attitude, for sure. I wonder if we are really as serious, as kind-hearted, as honest as we should be in this regard. I'm not criticising anyone particularly at all! I remember my own long prayers during the day, and remember how sometimes I was sincere, and often I wasn't. Again, I'm not saying anything about everyone else; just wondering.

Still others commend their Orthodoxy, as if their religion and their particular prayers, from Kol Nidre to ne'ilah are comprehensive, with nothing left out. They daven shacharit, musaf, participate or exit for Yizkor, minchah, ma'ariv...it's all there. They sing correctly along with the choir or the chazan, they are very dedicated. Good for them! So are our prayers enough to convince the Almighty that He owes us forgiveness? What does the Proverbs say? (Prov. 28.9) "He who turns away his ear from listening to the law, even his prayer is an abomination." Ouch, and look out!

I remember that time in my teenage years when I went to Smaks Drive-in (a fast-food precursor to McDonalds) approximately 300 metres from my Orthodox synagogue in Kansas City. I had been Bar Mitzvah, and thus was a full member of the congregation, responsible for legal compliance and observance. And on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, especially. So after the morning services were complete, I left the grounds, and walked over to Smaks and purchased a 19 cent hamburger. Pickles, ketchup, onion, all there on the small burger. And I downed it very quickly. Lest anyone see me. As if the Almighty were back in synagogue and didn't know I had left the grounds.

I returned to my parents' pew in the auditorium and sat next to them. Little did I know that some ketchup had stained the end of my white shirt's sleeve. And little did I understand that the smell of pickles and onion would also attract attention from the folks. The combination was deadly. I was caught out. On the day I was to be fasting and living holy and seriously repenting of my sins, I had gone out and sinned by eating. Terrible.

I tell that story to remind myself of the grace of G-d. He loves me. He loved me. He will ever love me. And His love is that on which I base my situation. And on which I base my forgiveness. I'm forgiven because of what Yeshua did for me 2,000 years ago. He was my kipporah, my atonement, who took my sins on himself and gave me eternal life. End of story. Not on the basis of what I earn, of the prayers I offer, or the kavanah (devotion) I demonstrate. Left to my own devices, I will turn from Him, and live for myself. I'm forgiven because Roman soldiers killed the Messiah on a cross. And that execution accomplished what none of my kavanah would ever produce.

"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Spirit." (Titus 3.5-6)

Thus the question of my being forgiven, in the exit poll or the early poll-- is answered in a cross. The cross of love. Thanks be to G-d.

Have an easy fast.

09 September 2017

Pride comes before a fall


The book of Proverbs says, "Pride goes before a fall." (16.18) An online dictionary 'translates' this to "said to emphasize that if you are too confident about your abilities, something bad will happen that shows that you are not as good as you think." That pronouncement makes sense to anyone who was running first and ended dead last. It makes sense to those who watched Steven Bradbury win the Olympic gold medal in 2002 in the 1,000-metre speed skating event. But making sense doesn't always translate to owning something.

I really liked Alex Smith's comments after Thursday night's victory of the Kansas City Chiefs over the almost-never-lose-at-home New England Patriots at Foxboro. Tom Brady led the opening drive for the Pats into the Chiefs' end zone without so much as a drop of sweat. After a fumble by the Chiefs on the next play, Brady had the Pats down at the Chiefs' goal again. But some serious defence and some good continuing work by special teams and both sides of the ball, and the Chiefs ended up winning 42 to 27. BJ Kissel, Chiefs' reporter, wrote this, "Despite the impressive victory, which moving forward will probably earn the Chiefs much more respect nationally, Smith isn’t making it any more than what it is in the bigger picture.

“I think you have to be able to handle defeat, as well as victory, the right way, and I think each can deter you because you put a lot of emotion into it,” Smith said. “You certainly get this victory, but you can’t forget that it’s 1-of-16, right? You’ve got to keep that same mentality week in and week out – the attention-to-detail mentality.

“Just because you do it one night, doesn’t mean it will just carry over. You have to find a way to beat the next opponent and the unique challenge they present.”

I really liked Smith's comments. It's a humility that doesn't look like most of the showboating of most of the NFL players. Think about how often the split end catches a pretty easy touchdown pass and goes into all kinds of antics. It's usually embarrassing or at least annoying to those of us at home who simply want to watch football, and not showboats. But Smith isn't in that category. His humility shows. And it's contagious. At least, we hope it catches.

I need to learn what Alex lives. My sins and failures are my own doing and most of the time I could have done better. I know better, but my pride, arrogance, and self-vaunting trip me into thinking I'm doing better than I really am. The Apostle Paul knew this well and warned the Corinthian believers, saying, "Let him who thinks he stands take heed, so that he does not fall." (1 Cor. 10.12). Why don't I listen to that? Why do I follow the show offs in the end zone, rather than the leader who really knows how to lead? I'll work on this. And I encourage you to do the same. Let's meet at the bottom. Humility is its own reward. And maybe a victory or two as well. Not a bad result, you know?

02 September 2017

Father's Day Sermon: Penitential Prayers and Promised Messiah


Prayers of repentance and God’s answers:
A study in Daniel 9

Given by Bob Mendelsohn
Father’s Day: 3 September 2017
LCM Churches, Lane Cove, NSW

Salutation
Thank you Darren, and all the staff, and all the volunteers who make LCM such a great place in Lane Cove, among His people on the North Shore. Thank you for welcoming me again this morning to teach in our congregation’s series on the book of Daniel. I’ve been assigned chapter nine, and I’m grateful to share this with you.[Online folks, the entire text is at the bottom of this blog]

Introduction
In a couple weeks on 20 September, Jewish people worldwide will pray penitential prayers, confessing sins and entering into what is known as the Ten Days of Awe or Ten Days of Repentance with serious considerations of sin. This might make sense to you, here at Lane Cove, that Jewish people should do that, but some of you might know that most Jewish people don’t think much about sin, that is, throughout the year. We give ourselves to good works, to charity, to benefiting the world, but not to our own measure or level of holiness. Sin is a Christian issue, most would aver, but not one with which we have to deal. But this season speaks differently and certainly today’s reading in Daniel 9 screams loudly that this is not the case. In this passage we’ve just heard read it is clear. [If you are listening online, please pause this talk just now and read the whole 27 verses, then come back to hearing what we are saying. Thank you.]

Daniel, as you have been learning here at church, is a noble, great character, the kind of guy you want to have at youth group. The kind of man you want to work with you in the next office. He’s the kind of person you want in your home group. He knew when to speak and when to be silent. He knew that God was able to do amazing things, and yet, even if He didn’t, Daniel was going to trust Him.

So in today’s reading we see Daniel taking on board the sins of the Jewish people so as to bring them to the Almighty and for Him to deal with them in His timing. And we see God’s promise of a Messiah to come, to be the hero/Savior we need to deliver us from the very issues Daniel is confessing.

I. OBSERVATION OF THE TIMES
Before we look at Daniel’s lengthy prayer and God’s answer, let’s note what prompts it. Babylon is now ruled by a king of Median birth, as Jeremiah had promised (51:28). The punishment that Jeremiah threatened (25:12–14) has begun. The restoration of the exiles (Jer 29:10), and the restoration of Jerusalem that Isaiah and Ezekiel promised, ought therefore to be imminent. Thus we can imagine an exilic Daniel noting the passages in Jeremiah 25-29 that spoke of a seventy–year exile and wondering about their fulfilment; Zechariah, after all, did so.

What prompts Daniel’s prayer is observing the situation. When King David raised an army, people came from throughout the land to sign up. Of note were “the sons of Issachar, who were men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do.” (1 Chronicles 12.32) These were people who listened to their prophets and saw the signs of the times. Listen, to make changes, you have to know when change is required. Alarms might be annoying to you when you hear one outside your home, but you can be sure that the alarm is designed to assist, not to annoy. Someone is being burgled, or a smoke alarm notifies us of imminent danger with fire or such. A red light on your car’s dashboard may bother you, but be sure to get to the servo sooner rather than later to see to the problem. Alarms signal problems. Only the foolish dismiss such alarms.

II. PREPARATION FOR PRAYER
That God has spoken through the prophets (Amos 3.7) does not mean that all the believer needs to do today is sit, Fin Review and ABC radio at hand, awaiting the outcomes. The appropriate response to prophecy is prayer. And before Daniel goes to the Temple to pray, before he sends out an email and shows on Instagram his bent knees, he readies himself. He drops everything. He cancels his appointments. He wakes early. And the book says, he ‘gave my attention’ but the Hebrew says he “gave his face” to the Lord. That means he got serious about things. Nothing else mattered. He turned off the TV. Face to face, he stood before God. Five things were used: prayers, supplications, fasting, sackcloth and ashes. Physical reminders of significance. And conversation with the God of the universe. Daniel had seen the signs; he knew the 70 years were up. The kingdom had changed, Darius was now king, the Medes ruled. Now he moves to prayer. And it’s a serious preparation of prayer that begins.

I don’t know how you pray. Some close their eyes. Some bow their heads or bend their knees. Some sing. They say, “He who sings, prays twice.” Whatever you do to pray, getting into a new position, or into a new chair, lighting a candle or wearing special accoutrements …whatever you can do to prepare, do it. Knowing that the bent knee doesn’t impress God. The scent of the candle does not notify Him that He needs to turn and listen more closely. All of the preparation is for us, for our ‘giving our face’ to the Lord. His hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear too dull that he cannot hear. Our prayerfulness is about our rigorous honesty with Him.

III. PRAYERS FOR SELF/ FOR THE PEOPLE
This set of confessional prayers in chapter nine of Daniel are similar to the Selichot, the penitential prayers said on the Saturday night before Rosh Hashanah in the modern Jewish religion, that will be the 16th September this year. Most Jewish gatherings, certainly prayer meetings, happen in the daytime, but the Selichot prayers are offered around midnight. They are prayers and responses, sometimes sung in chorus, or merely uttered by individuals to get God’s attention, to remind Him to be merciful, to remind ourselves that we have sinned. The Hebrew word, “Selichot” means “sorries” and the root of that word is used in our text today at least two times.

The Midrash relates that King David was anguished when he foresaw the destruction of the Holy Temple hundreds of years in the future, along with the cessation of the offering of the sacrifices. “How will the Jews atone for their sins?” he wondered.

G‑d replied: “When suffering will befall the Jews because of their sins, they should gather before Me in complete unity. Together they shall confess their sins and recite the order of the Selichot, and I will answer their prayers.”

That’s how the rabbis dealt with their losses, and the obvious problem of the lack of blood sacrifices. I appreciate their challenge and their conclusion, but their answer is dead wrong. We do have to look at current settings and make determinations about our lives and our religion. To be sure. Daniel certainly did just that as he observed the times.

The answer to the situation of our losses, however, is not to commend ourselves. We have no good works in ourselves, we admit on Rosh Hashanah. So why do we count our prayers as ‘good enough?’ In verse 18, Daniel says, “we are not presenting our supplications before You on account of any merits of our own, but on account of Your great compassion.“ The only way to be sure of God’s answers is not to commend ourselves. Israel (and dare I say Sydney Anglicans) has never been worthy of high praise from heaven. Every prophet in the Bible has nailed our people again and again with words of rebuke, our disregard of the Almighty, our failure to live justly in the land or outside the land. Our sins are ever before Him. What can we do? Perform good deeds? As if that would be enough?

Look, if you kill a guy and go to court, saying in your defense that you will do better next time, that’s a good resolve but the issue is the murder, not the future goodness you might demonstrate.

Our prayers of repentance bring God’s answer, if we are counting on His compassion. Even our prayers are not enough; God alone is our salvation.

a. Prayer begins with Praise
Daniel prayed for himself, he prayed for Israel, he prayed that God would exalt Himself in our midst. In verse 4 Daniel starts with prayer the way prayer should always begin, “God, you are…” Prayer begins with acknowledging who God is. Nehemiah began his prayer with the same words. (9.13) Joel uses this same phrase. (2.13) These are the words of God to Moses in Exodus 34 “Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth.” (v. 6) Even Jonah prayed this prayer with anger, saying something like, ‘God, I knew you were like this…that’s why I didn’t want you to send me to Nineveh…’ (4.2-3) Prayer begins with preparations of self and then in verbiage with praise for who God is. Tell God who He is. It’s a reminder to ourselves; it’s a reminder to the Almighty.

b. Prayer of intercession continues with confession of sins
Verse 5: We have sinned.
Who sinned? Daniel said, “we have.” In reality, they have. But owning our national or civic or family sins.. that’s the mark of a saint. Corporate identification by a man of God for the people of God. This is a mark of humility which was evidenced in his sackcloth and ashes prep work. These are the words of a man who wants the work of God in his own days. And the list of sins is comprehensive.

We have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances. Moreover, we have not listened” …unfaithful deeds which they have committed against You. Open shame belongs to us.” so the curse has been poured out on us.

As a result of all this sin, shame, even open shame is ours by right. By the way, “open” is the word for ‘face’ again. Shame in our face. Shame on our face, like a cream pie in an old sight gag, but this time, it’s mud and grime, and wickedness all over us. This, Daniel says, is the curse which has been poured out on us. We cannot hide it.

Prayer began with situational setting, then moved into praise and then confession of sins.
Daniel litanizes God’s righteousness and His right to do whatever He wants. He has declared His will in His word, so, Daniel alleges, please be consistent as you have been. And in the midst of this massive confessional, again Daniel reminds both himself and God that “To the Lord our God belong compassion and forgiveness”

This is consistent with God in the Scriptures, he says. in
v. 11: oath which is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, for we have sinned against Him.;
v. 12: He has confirmed His words which He had spoken against us and against our rulers who ruled us
v. 13 As it is written in the law of Moses, all this calamity has come on us.”

c. Intercession required identification.
For truly intercessional prayers, the identification with the people is required of the intercessor. It’s not a “God bless those guys” type of prayer. It’s a God, help us! The use of the first person plural is uncomfortable for some. It is for me. When I see people sinning, what does that have to do with me? But the corporate nature of our community, of our nation, of our country, of Israel.. it’s not to be missed. The Enlightenment and our tall fences outside our houses made us think we were islands, all alone, but the reality is that we are in this thing together.

How many times do you share what you believe with people and they answer you with “I don’t need church. I can pray on my own at home.” And to be fair, that has a good amount of truth in it. But what they don’t see is that we together are the church, and each of us is merely a blade in the lawn of grass, which when a larger foot comes along to trample us, will succeed if we are not joined together in the community. We need one another. We support each other. We hold each other accountable. And when it’s time for prayer, it’s not private. It’s corporate. That’s why we say, “Our Father” and not “My Father who art in heaven.” “Give us this day our daily bread.” Get it?

So when Daniel prays about Israel’s sins, he lists himself as a member of the needy community. We have sinned. We have failed. We are wrong. God have mercy.

Verse 20, he confesses his own sins, and the sins of Israel. That’s honorable. That’s how this intercession works.

IV. GABRIEL SHOWS UP: PROMISES MESSIAH
The final section of chapter nine may well be said to be God’s answer to Daniel’s prayers. By the way, many rabbis won’t let their students read the end of this chapter until they are 30 years old. You will see why in a moment. The chapter ends with a description of some more messianic credentials.

As this angel explains, there are some numbers, or years, some famous personages and events, and some radical fixes that are going to take place.

The problems Daniel talked of in his prayer are going to be met with a divine answer. Even as Isaiah has said, “The Lord Himself” will do something. Here we see three things that will hallmark the answer to Daniel’s prayers.

1) Messiah will die The death of Messiah was startling to me to read about in 1971. I had been raised an Orthodox Jew in the US, in Kansas City. There I learned about Messiah and about our religion. But I never knew Messiah would have pain and suffering in his own life. I knew we Jews were to suffer, and by that we would bring good to the world. I knew Messiah would conquer evil, but that he would suffer and die? Totally new to me.

Had I read the sources I would have learned that Rashi, the famous medieval rabbi, one of the top 5 rabbis of all times, taught Messiah would die and his son or grandson would take over. In 1994 a rabbi died in New York. Not surprising, since there are 2 million Jewish people who live in the environs of that great city. But this rabbi, Menachem Schneerson was different. Some had touted him to be the messiah. Some to this day continue to say that about him.

When he died that summer of 1994, tens of thousands of Jews gathered from around the world there in New York City to honour him but beyond that, to await his imminent resurrection. The rabbis teach that the spirit of a man hovers over a corpse for three days, but on the fourth day it departs. The rabbis and those who claimed Schneerson, The Rebbe, was the messiah were not surprised by his passing. But after he didn’t rise from the dead by the fourth day, they left his gravesite. Verse 26 says “Messiah will be cut off.” Cut off from what? Like Isaiah said, “cut off from the land of the living.” In other words, He would die.

2) Messiah will die in a certain timeframe
The business of the calculations of the 70 weeks, or 62 weeks, or the 7 weeks, is all a bit confusing. Let me tell you this, there is no agreement among scholars on this one. But looking at the events of verses 25 and 26, there seems to be some marking that might help. Verse 25 says the time clock can begin ticking when you “know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah”. OK, when was this decree? Under Artaxerxes in the year 444 BCE. That’s when the permission was given to the Jewish people to go back and fix the Temple and the City.

And in verse 26 we read the end marker of the time period, “the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the City and the Sanctuary” and we even know what sanctuary we are addressing, from verse 24 “to anoint the Most Holy Place” (kodesh k’doshim). The ending is the destruction of the most holy place for Jewish people (obviously the Temple) and the City (Jerusalem) which will take place in 70 CE.

Looking at those two markers and using ‘weeks’ to mean ‘years” which would be consistent with Daniel’s use the 70 years and the use of a variant of the Hebrew word for ‘weeks’ anyway, then after 483 years between 444 BCE and ending by 70 CE, the Messiah had to die. However we calculate this, and in this book by Moishe Rosen, this prophecy is unpacked in a mere 3 pages with great clarity, we know Messiah will die during what you and I and historians and archaeologists call “The Second Temple period.” And with the weight on the weeks in the end, Messiah will die in what we call “The First Century.” No wonder so many rabbis won’t let their students read this passage until later on in life.

3) Messiah’s death will bring atonement
Finally we get to the purpose of Messiah’s death. It says in verse 24 to “finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness.” The purpose of the death of Messiah is to answer the prayers of Daniel, to fix what is broken in our world. He will heal all the brokenness of lives, of families, of governments. He will put an end to wars and vanities. He will make the wolf lie down with the lamb. He will restore all that is broken in our lives. And set up His Kingdom once and for all. The Forever Father’s Day will be seen as we read last week, “One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed. (7.13-14)

What a day of rejoicing that will be!
What Jesus did in dying for us on the cross, in the First Century, exactly 483 years after the edict to restore Jerusalem, brought victory and salvation, in answer to Daniel’s prayers, in answer to Isaiah’s prayers, and to Hannah’s prayers. Now here’s even better news for most of you-- it’s not only for Jewish people. Messiah died in fulfilment of prophecy. What Jesus did was to bring in a dominion which is “for all the peoples, nations, and men of every language” Even Kiwis. Even Brits. Even those who barrack for the Hawthorn Hawks. Even all you Gentiles.

The scandal of God’s redemption for all people was never hidden from view in the Scriptures, but dismissed by many throughout time. I missed it. Most of my Jewish people miss it. Don’t you miss it. The Word is for all peoples. For your neighbours. For your friends. For those you don’t like.

Let us bring them the Good Word of the Lord. Let everyone hear. Messiah has come; Messiah died. He rose again. He lives today. And Messiah will come again in glory. Hallelujah, what a Saviour!

What other lessons do we learn for our lives today from Daniel 9?
First, see the situation, whatever that is, at work, at home, in your personal life. Evaluate it on the basis of Scripture, and your own heart. Be honest. Rigorously honest.

Then, Intercede as the situation demands, for others, include yourself, of course, but widen it, to include your community, your church, your family.

Wait for God’s answer, for it will surely come, maybe not as quickly as you request, but be confident, that’s what faith requires.

Finally, celebrate the God who answers in His time. He is worthy of all praise. He has done all things necessary to receive such accolades.

I’m happy to be part of this family of faith for the last 19 years. Patty and I along with our kids moved here in August 1998, and it’s been a good innings. We are honoured to be part of your financial considerations as well, as some of you have been giving to Jews for Jesus for a while, and others are invited to do so today, using that white card, or the tap and go credit card machine I have in the back at the resource table. [If you are listening online, you can give to Jews for Jesus on PayPal or on our website, ]

Please fill out that white card; please extend to us the privilege to share with you again as a result of that filling out the card. So many Jewish people are listening, at our book shop, in their homes, around the globe, in Berlin, Jerusalem, on the streets of Budapest right now, and here in Australia.
Thanks for your prayers for us.
Thanks for interceding for us and along with us, for the Jewish people, during Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and throughout our days, until Messiah returns.
What a day of rejoicing that will be.

Shalom.
For those online, if you want to join us for Rosh Hashanah in Bondi Junction, register here using “Free ticket” button. We are happy to host you. Thursday 21 September. 11 a.m.


Text of Daniel 9 for those without it:
Dan. 9.1 ¶ In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of Median descent, who was made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans —
Dan. 9.2 in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, observed in the books the number of the years which was revealed as the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.
Dan. 9.3 So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.
Dan. 9.4 And I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed and said, “Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments,
Dan. 9.5 we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly, and b rebelled, even turning aside from Thy commandments and ordinances.
Dan. 9.6 “Moreover, we have not listened to Thy servants the prophets, who spoke in Thy name to our kings, our princes, our fathers, and all the people of the land.
Dan. 9.7 “Righteousness belongs to Thee, O Lord, but to us open shame, as it is this day — to the men of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and all Israel, those who are nearby and those who are far away in all the countries to which Thou hast driven them, because of their unfaithful deeds which they have committed against Thee.
Dan. 9.8 “Open shame belongs to us, O Lord, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, because we have sinned against Thee.
Dan. 9.9 “To the Lord our God belong compassion and forgiveness, 1for we have rebelled against Him;
Dan. 9.10 nor have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in His 1teachings which He set before us through His servants the prophets.
Dan. 9.11 “Indeed all Israel has transgressed Thy law and turned aside, not obeying Thy voice; so the curse has been poured out on us, along with the oath which is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, for we have sinned against Him.
Dan. 9.12 “Thus He has confirmed His words which He had spoken against us and against our rulers who ruled us, to bring on us great calamity; for under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what was done to Jerusalem.
Dan. 9.13 “As it is written in the law of Moses, all this calamity has come on us; yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our iniquity and giving attention to Thy truth.
Dan. 9.14 “Therefore, the Lord has kept the calamity in store and brought it on us; for the Lord our God is righteous with respect to all His deeds which He has done, but we have not obeyed His voice.
Dan. 9.15 “And now, O Lord our God, who hast brought Thy people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand and hast made a name for Thyself, as it is this day — we have sinned, we have been wicked.
Dan. 9.16 “O Lord, in accordance with all Thy righteous acts, let now Thine anger and Thy wrath turn away from Thy city Jerusalem, Thy holy mountain; for because of our sins and the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Thy people have become a reproach to all those around us.
Dan. 9.17 “So now, our God, listen to the prayer of Thy servant and to his supplications, and for Thy sake, O Lord, let Thy face shine on Thy desolate sanctuary.
Dan. 9.18 “O my God, incline Thine ear and hear! Open Thine eyes and see our desolations and the city which is called by Thy name; for we are not presenting our supplications before Thee on account of any merits of our own, but on account of Thy great compassion.
Dan. 9.19 “O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Thine own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Thy city and Thy people are called by Thy name.”
Dan. 9.20 ¶ Now while I was speaking and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God in behalf of the holy mountain of my God,
Dan. 9.21 while I was still speaking in prayer, then the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision previously, came to me in my extreme weariness about the time of the evening offering.
Dan. 9.22 And he gave me instruction and talked with me, and said, “O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you insight with understanding.
Dan. 9.23 “At the beginning of your supplications the command was issued, and I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed; so give heed to the message and gain understanding of the vision.
Dan. 9.24 ¶ “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place.
Dan. 9.25 “So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.
Dan. 9.26 “Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.
Dan. 9.27 “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”