Friday, November 27, 2015

Torah Trails #8 Vayishlach

Torah Trails
Rabbi Yehudah “Tochukwu” ben Shomeyr
Kristopher Shoemaker

#8 Vayishlach
Gen. 32:4-36:43
Hos. 11:7-12:12, Oba. 1:1-21
Romans 9:13
Memory Verses: Gen. 32:30, Oba. 1:21, Heb. 11:20

Have you ever unexpectedly walked by a mirror and saw your reflection and for a split second didn’t recognize yourself and gave yourself a scare? Or, have you ever saw a stranger in a particular station or situation in life and saw yourself and said, “That was me a few years ago,” or “That could have been me if it weren’t for the grace of God.”? Or have you seen someone you admire and succeed and saw yourself and said, “That’s going to be me in a few years!”?

The first Wrestlemania occurred in our Torah Portion at a little place called, Peniel, which means, “Face of God.”

And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.  And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.  And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.  And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob.  And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.  And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there.  And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. Gen. 32:24-30

No one can encounter God face to face without being obviously and readily apparent, changed! Moses too spoke with God face to face and as a result it was clearly evident. Moses was in the Presence of God and changed by that encounter.

And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle. Exd. 33:11

And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses' hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him.
 And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him. And Moses called unto them; and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned unto him: and Moses talked with them. And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh: and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him in mount Sinai. And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail on his face. But when Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he took the vail off, until he came out. And he came out, and spake unto the children of Israel that which he was commanded.  And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face shone: and Moses put the vail upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him. Exd. 32:29-35

Interestingly however in our Torah Portion its clear Jacob wrestled with God (32:30) but in the form of a man (32:24). Hmmm, who do we know that is God in human form? YESHUA! No one can come face to face with Yeshua and not be obviously and readily apparent, forever changed!

But why the wrestling match? Well, because we are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27) and because we are God-Breathed (Gen. 2:7) we have a spark of divinity within us. So when we wrestle with God in a sense we are wrestling with ourselves.

One, we wrestle against our fallen selves, the part that doesn’t measure up to the divine reflection, the part that shames and scares us (James 1:23-25), the part we want to beat down and overcome. Two, we fight against the greatness of who we are to become in Messiah because we feel unworthy or such a change, though good, scares us. Just like Messiah seeing Peter as a Rock (Matt. 16:18), but Peter only saw himself a lowly fisherman (John 21:7)!

Jacob walked away with a limp, his walk forever changed. After one has a life changing encounter with the divine, your walk with Him is forever changed.

To be fixed, Jacob had to be broken. It’s no different with us.

Hosea 12:4
In Hebrew the word for angel can also mean messenger. But because of Gen. 32:24-30 it is obvious Jacob wrestled with God. It is a well-known established fact in theology that whenever we see the “Angel of the LORD” in Scripture that this is actually God taking on human form, or Yeshua prior to His birth through Mary in Bethlehem. So here too we can see assuredly this messenger, this angel spoken of in this passage was Yeshua, the God-man.

Oba. 1:18
This is the forever change Jacob the Heel Catcher, to Jacob/Israel the Overcomer, the one who wrestled God and won! Jacob went from wet, weak, grabbing hand to a wild fire!

Romans 9:13
We all get our shot at wrestling with ourselves and wrestling with God. Not everyone grabs that opportunity. Some are scared to face not only God, but themselves! With change comes pain and alterations. Jacob had his hip thrown out of socket and he never walked the same again.

When I was young and going through growth spurts I had what was known as growing pains in my legs. They ached and hurt so bad, but I got through them and now I am 5 foot 11 inches instead of 5 foot. The pain was necessary for my growth.

God didn’t hate Esau as a person, but hated his ways. He was weak and stubborn. He gave up his birthright, his blessing and ran from God, ran from his Peniel. He wasn’t ready for the pain and change like Jacob was. He wasn’t hungry or desperate for that change that he knew he needed.

“Abba YHWH Elohim, may we meet You head on when You bring us to our Peniel. Through it is painful, may we not let You go until we are forever changed. In Yeshua’s Name, Amen!”

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Torah Trails #7 Vayetze

Torah Trails
Rabbi Yehudah “Tochukwu” ben Shomeyr
Kristopher Shoemaker

#7 Vayetze
Gen. 28:1-32:3
Hos. 12:13-14:10
John 1:43-51
Memory Verses: Gen. 32:1-2, Hos. 14:9, John 1:51

Gen. 30:31-43, 31:36-42

Being a person of morals, loyalty, integrity and sacrifice does not mean you are weak or that you open yourself up to draw the short straw and get taken advantage of. Quite the opposite, it means you are a person of wit and strength.

Jacob, due to his name (Heel Catcher) and reputation in his family (Esau and the birthright and blessing of the firstborn) was someone others tended to watch themselves around. Laban, Jacob’s uncle, was no exception. Laban may have had a worse reputation than Jacob or he thought, “I’ll out trick the trickster,” and decided to deal dirty and underhanded with Jacob. Yet despite all this, Jacob was loyal to Laban, worked hard and sacrificed for Laban and his livestock. Yet all the while, even playing by Laban’s ever changing rules, managed to work hard for himself and accumulate a sizable nest egg for his family by fair and square means. Also, to boot, God was on Jacob’s side and protected him from Laban’s constantly broken word. Laban was just upset that no matter what he did, he couldn’t get one up on his wily nephew. Being a man or woman of God does not mean you can’t be aggressive in business, protecting your own interests all the while remaining loyal to your employer.

Hosea 13:6, 14:1

Though it is okay to be aggressive in business and even though there is away one can protect one’s own interests, all the while remaining faithful to your boss, there is a danger in prosperity. When one becomes prosperous and one’s needs decreases and we become “self-sufficient” it’s easy to have God and His Word become more distant and disconnected in our thoughts and actions. No matter what, we must always put and keep God first. After all, He is the reason for our success and Jacob is an example of one who never forgot that fact.

John 1:47, Luke 16:1-9

Nathanael, like Jacob was a man of integrity, no guile (falsehood) in him.

In Yeshua’s parable of the shrewd manager, in the end such a manager was praised for his shrewdness. I like the way Eugene Peterson in The Message puts Luke 16:8-9

“Now here’s the surprise: the master praised the crooked manager and why? Because he knew how to look after himself… I want you to be smart in the same way – but for what is right – using adversity to stimulate you to creative survival…”

Isn’t this exactly what Jacob done with Laban?

“Abba YHWH Elohim, help us, as Matthew 10:16 says, to “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves,” to do what’s right by those in authority over us, yet all the while looking out for ourselves and our families. In Yeshua’s Name, Amen!”

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Torah Trails #6 Toldot

Torah Trails
Rabbi Yehudah “Tochukwu” ben Shomeyr
Kristopher Shoemaker

#6 Toldot
Gen. 25:19-28:9
Mal. 1:1-2-7
Romans 9:6-11, Heb. 12:14-17
Memory Verses: Gen. 26:12-13, Mal. 2:2, Rom. 9:8

Gen.25:9, 21-23, 28:1-2, 7-9

Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau represent what is called in Hebrew the Yetzar Tov (the Good Inclination) and the Yetzar Hara (the Bad or Evil Inclination). Just as we read that Isaac and Ishmael were subject to and obeyed Abraham their father and Jacob and Esau likewise obeyed Isaac their father and thus the in same way, the Good and the Bad inclination are subject to God. I say Bad because such Inclination isn’t innately evil because it is from God. The Inclination is not evil, it just has the potential, if we let it to make evil decisions. For example, hunger becomes gluttony or starvation becomes theft.

Isaac and Jacob are like the Good Inclination. Ishmael and Esau are like the Band Inclination. Ishmael and Esau were not bad guys necessarily, just cantankerous and stubborn and learned things the hard way, usually putting self before God.

Isaac and Jacob ultimately wanted to please and obey their father, Ishmael and Esau did also, but reluctantly, they seemed to want to do what they wanted to do, but never the less conceded to obey their father but in an indirect, minimal or less than perfect way, or even after the fact. The Bad Inclination is the desire to fill a legitimate need in an illegitimate way. The Bad Inclination wants to put our ways first and God’s ways second.

The Good Inclination is there to help us please Our Father YHWH and the Bad Inclination does tend to appeal to our flesh, while the whole time still desires, though reluctantly, to do God’s will, or find alternative or indirect ways to do God’s will that is permissible but not perfect or beneficial. The Bad Inclination allows us, if we let it, to see and envision the negative, less than perfect and or troubled and complicated outcome of a decision aimed at satisfying self and so in its own way prods us back to the ways of God. The Good Inclination is like the school of discipline and the Bad Inclination is like the school of Hard Knocks. Both end up learning the same lesson; one is by positive reinforcement, and the other by negative reinforcement. The problem lies in the self-deception in thinking we can get away with pleasing ourselves without entangling consequences and blame the Bad Inclination when one gets in trouble. So the Bad Inclination is employed by God in order to make us stronger if we allow it, by practicing restraint and resistance.  

In a way, we are like little children who want candy, (nothing wrong with candy in and of itself) but our parents want us to eat our vegetables. The Good inclination promptly acknowledges that our parents love us and have our best interests in mind, and we find when we willingly and joyfully obey we get the candy afterwards, making Godly and fleshly satisfaction unified and complete and kosher. The Bad Inclination on the other hand, desires the candy, thinking of immediate self-gratification and is willing to reluctantly eat he least amount of vegetables necessary, but won’t like it, in order to get the candy. Our free will is like a judge, weighing he pros and cons of the Good and Bad and acting on it. If we choose Bad, we may decide to forgo the vegetables all together, even though the Bad would say, do it anyway, even though you won’t like it, and gorge on the candy and then get sick and say, “I should have ate the vegetables.” Hence, satisfying a sweet tooth becomes gluttony. Lesson learned the hard way, so the next time we’d eat the vegetables and then get the candy; bypassing the nasty stomach ache of the last time.

The Bad Inclination, if we allow it, causes us strengthen our self-control, resolve and will to do what is right.

Mal. 1:2-3, Romans 9:6-16

Continuing the theme of the Good and Bad Inclination, we can see this verse from the standpoint that God didn’t literally “hate” Esau, but if we read carefully and take Genesis and Malachi in proper context, we see that God loved the ways of Jacob and hated the ways of Esau. I can have two sons and love them both equally, but I can love or approve of how one does things over the other. One can be straight and the other a homosexual. I still love them both but could only love the ways of one and hate the ways of the other. Because Esau’s ways were not godly but fleshly and thus not perfect, we see him and his descendants suffer the consequences of poor decision making.

Heb. 12:14-17

Esau representing the Bad Inclination; puts self before God, only later to weigh and regret the consequences of such actions.

“Abba YHWH Elohim, train us to use the Bad Inclination and or temptations when they come along to cause us to look at the consequences instead of focusing on self-gratification so that we can end up making good choices that please You and better ourselves. And remind us that poor decisions lies souly on us. You never accept the excuse, “The Devil made me do it.”
In Yeshua’s Name, Amen!”

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Torah Trails #5 Life of Sarah

Torah Trails
Rabbi Yehudah “Tochukwu” ben Shomeyr
Kristopher Shoemaker

#5 Hayyei-Sarah (Life of Sarah)
Gen. 23:1-25:18
I Kings 1:1-31
John 17
Memory Verses: Gen. 24:27, I Kings 1:29, Matt. 1:17


Abraham’s servant must have been a very special guy. It’s clear he had a very intimate relationship with the God of Abraham. When one thinks of religion or spirituality or God, especially when it comes to prayer, it’s usually within the confines of religious ritualistic structure; praying before and after meals, when we go up to read the Torah in synagogue, when we don tallit and tefillin, when we pray from the siddur, etc. But this guy kept a continuous open line of communication and dialogue with God. When you read the narrative, you almost forget he’s praying because it reads like he is simply having a conversation with a friend. And that’s exactly how prayer should be. That’s what I believe Rav Shaul (Apostle Paul) meant when he said, “Pray without ceasing (I Thess. 5:17).

Do you pray only when you are expected to, Shacharit, Mincha, Ma’ariv, Bedtime, at meals, when called upon in a group, etc. Or do you include God in your day by conversing with Him about everything? If you don’t; START! If you do, I bet you’ll see an increase of the miraculous and answers to prayer in your daily life.

I Kings 1:1-31

A Prophet was just that type to always be communicating with God. He had to in order to receive prophetic words and able to advise kings in order to know what to do, like this passage when Adonijah tried to become king.

It doesn’t say in the passage, but I believe when Nathan the Prophet heard what was going down he likely said, “LORD, what should I do!?”  As a result he advised Bathsheba exactly what to do in order to squash Adonija’s coup and rightfully place Solomon on the throne.

John 17

What a beautiful conversation between Father and Son! Even moreso than what we call “The Lord’s Prayer,” we read this and really learn how to pray, converse and be intimate with the Father.

This passage is so cool because Yeshua actually prays for us! Me and you! Yeah, me who wrote this devotional and you who are reading it right now! Check this out!

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. – John 17:20-23 KJV

“Abba YHWH Elohim, Teach us not to just “pray” but to simply talk to You and include You in our every moment of our everyday, In Yeshua’s Name. Amen!”