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Crisis Deepens for Ethiopian and Ukrainian Jews

Teaching Letter

Joseph A First-century Jewish Man Part 2

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As Christians, we believe the Bible has every answer for every situation we might encounter in our lives. It is a comprehensive handbook for living in relationship with God. But the writers of the Bible, Jewish men who lived millennia ago, often wrote in what we might call biblical shorthand. Much is left unsaid because it was common knowledge in the day in which the writers lived.

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Joseph A First-century Jewish Man Part 1

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Many of the characters mentioned in the Bible are shrouded in mystery. Although we recognise that God has placed them there to fulfil specific purposes, we often know little about who they really were. Joseph, the step-father of Yeshua (Jesus) is certainly one of those individuals. A search for information about him reveals little, and the most common phrases encountered are: “little is known” or “little can be known” about him. Truthfully, however, much can be known…if we know where to look to find the information. In this two-part teaching, we will dig into the Scriptures, history and Jewish tradition, examining his life on every level. In part 1, we will look at him as a first-century man and husband. In Part 2, we will discuss his role as a father. Through it all, Joseph will emerge from the shadows as a very real and vibrant man, and an example for us all.

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Seeking God

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David was one of the great seekers of God. I would like to say that he sought the Lord more than all others, but no one can judge a man’s heart, so we don’t know. However, of all writers of the Scriptures, he may have expressed a seeker’s heart better than all others. He was a passionate pursuer of God, and His words vividly illustrate that, painting pictures that help us understand a hunger for God that many believers may not even know is possible to experience.

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Cleaving to God

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On a first reading of Leviticus 21, it seems that all it’s about is a list of restrictions placed on the priests by God in order for them to serve Him in the tabernacle. The High Priest had the most restrictions. From this, we learn that the closer to that most intimate place with God, the Holy of Holies, the more holy one had to be. As believers in Yeshua (Jesus), we yearn to be in an intimate place with God…and we are. Yeshua is our righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21), and we can enter boldly into the throne of grace (Heb. 4:16). God’s love is eternal, we are forgiven, and nothing can snatch us out of His hand (John 10:28). However, what about our love for Him? Unfortunately, our love has the ability to grow cold (Matt. 24:12), and we find that often we are not as close to Him as we should be or would like to be.

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Signs of the Times

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Every news report we hear reveals another crisis, and it seems most areas of human existence are affected. Financially weak currencies, unstable stock markets, and overwhelming national and personal debt have many analysts theorizing that we are on the brink of a recession of a magnitude not seen since the great depression. Morally, we live in an age that would shock our grandparents. Then there is the threat of world war, as radical Islam confronts Western civilization. Physically, we see an increase in earthquakes, floods, tornados, and droughts. We are reminded of the words of Yeshua (Jesus): “For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:7–8).

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The Tabernacle—God’s Dwelling Place

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Nachmanides, 13th-century Jewish sage and scholar, calls Exodus “The Book of Redemption” because it begins with the Jewish people in slavery to the Egyptian, traces their remarkable deliverance, and comes to an end with the establishment of the Tabernacle in the wilderness. Once Moses had completed this amazing structure, according to all that God had told him, the glory of the Lord filled it so that even Moses himself was not able to enter (Exod. 40:33–35). Further, the Scriptures tell us that the cloud covered the Tabernacle by day, and the fire was over it by night in the sight of all the house of Israel (vv. 36–38). What a glorious picture this creates of God Himself, hovering over His people, protecting and guiding them, leading them in and out “throughout all of their journeys.”

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Yeshua wore a Prayer Shawl

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Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse. When she heard about Yeshua [Jesus], she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment; for she said, ‘If only I may touch His clothes I shall be made well.’ Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction. And Yeshua, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched My clothes?’

But His disciples said to Him, ‘You see the multitude thronging You, and You say, “Who touched Me?”’ And He looked around to see her who had done this thing. But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. And He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction’” (Mark 5:25–34).

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Messiah

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Both Christians and Jews eagerly long for the coming of the Messiah. Yet, the topic of Messiah is one that has caused great division between Christianity and Judaism. The greatest dispute we have between us is the identity of the Messiah. As Christians, we know that Jesus Christ (Yeshua HaMashiach) is the Messiah. Jews equally “know” that He is not the Messiah. The Jewish rejection of Yeshua as the Messiah has been a catalyst for Christian persecution of Jews throughout the centuries. What are the Jewish people looking for in the Messiah? Why did the Jewish people reject Yeshua? Did Yeshua claim to be the Messiah? I recognize that to adequately address this subject would require volumes, yet it is a worthy and important topic for even the length of a Teaching Letter.

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Why Stand with Israel?

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In my travels around the world, I have the opportunity to meet Christians from widely diverse church backgrounds. Bridges for Peace is an interdenominational organization, and so we are invited to speak in many different denominations. Fairly often, someone will come up to me and be honestly puzzled as they express the fact that they don’t understand why they should be interested in the nation and people of Israel. In this teaching letter, I want to give you a few thoughts about why all Christians should care about Israel.

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Israel: God’s Oaks of Righteousness

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“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified” (Isaiah 61:1–3, NASB).

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