Godly Children, Emotional Maturity, and Screen Time  

Members of the Tikkun America Apostolic Team asked me to write an article on this subject after I expressed my deep concern on how children were being raised in our western societies (I include Israel in this).  

When Patty founded our full-time school for children (Ets Chayim School) in 1980, the motto was “Raising Children who are Mighty in Spirit.”  We did not mean by this that the school would raise the children instead of their parents, but that the school would be a support for the parents in this goal.  What could be a better goal of education? Watchman Nee, the great Chinese Christian soul wrote, that a spiritual person is one that is in such a degree of unity with God that he or she hears the voice of the Spirit in their inner spirit with accuracy and easily obeys.  This voice comes through when Scripture is understood, and the Spirit empowers to obey.  Fellowship with the Father and Yeshua and sensitivity to the Spirit is the center of life.  From this center, we are led into studies and maturity in understanding the content of the Bible and its teaching.  From this, a young person begins in teen years to develop a biblical worldview.  This provides a basis for a critical evaluation of literature, art, science, philosophies, politics, and the larger popular culture.  This education continues after high school and after and into college and beyond for those who go into higher education.  

There are many helpful involvements to this end.  Some of the most important is prayer times and reading the Bible with children including teaching them to hear the voice of the Spirit subsequent to their being born again and being filled with the Spirit. Yes, they can prophesy.  The goal is a deeply trusting relationship with Yeshua from the youngest ages.  One element that is key to this quest is training children to love to read good books, indeed creating a reading culture. This begins with parents reading to their children.  Laura Bush, the wife of President George W. Bush, was a great proponent of such reading.  Reading trains the brain, expands both imagination and reasoning ability.  When this is rooted in the family, it is part of bonding and growth with parents.  

There are many other activities that help greatly in developing a fuller personality. 

  1. Team sports is a wonderful experience where the members bond together in the joy of sports.  I believe this waS very important in our children’s development.
  2. Great vacations that are meaningful are very helpful.  Hiking and learning about nature is part of the program.  
  3. Family day trips are great bonding and teaching times as well. Some trips teach about history.  From the Mid Atlantic to North East, history lessons are everywhere. 
  4. Developing musical ability is a great gain. Playing in an orchestra develops team friendship and the joy of experiencing great beauty. 
  5. Teaching the appreciation of beauty, both in nature and art, is important. Doing artwork together is great fun.  

And I can go on and on and you can no doubt add to this list. 

Many parents are thwarted in their goals.  They have been blindsided by the internet and the ever-present screen that captures the attention of their children.  I had placed the theme of this article on my to-do list, but before I got to it, I read an article in the Jerusalem Post, Nov. 26, 2021.  One of my favorite JPost writers, Amotz Asa El, decried the whole phenomenon and recommended a book by a noted author, Micah Goodman, Broken Attention, How to Heal a World Fracture by Technology. Sadly, the book is now only in Hebrew, but I expect an English version.  Much of what he said is not new but is documented by leading psychologists.  It is worth quoting Goldman, but I note first that other studies by mainstream psychologists have documented a decrease in some important cognitive abilities, including the ability to give long term attention to reading and sustained presentations of content, and the ability to engage in logical debate and the weighing of evidence.  People with a new short attention span can only engage with sound bites of material.  I am not speaking of everyone, but that this is a tendency that affects many.  You can imagine how bad this is for spiritual life which requires serious and meditative Bible reading and quiet listening to the Spirit. God-focused living does not seem to fit into the limitations of the attention span of the screen-produced brain/mind. It also leads to a decrease in the ability to experience friendship intimacy which is based on face-to-face communication. 

I quote Goodman (who is confirmed by so many others including some of the social media founders), He asserts that the “Cyber era’s social media, gadgetry, and habits (are) clinically addictive, politically ruinous, and socially destructive.”   These are “fixtures of an unplanned revolution that begs moral correction.”  

Asa El continues, “To understand the addictiveness one need only look at today’s teenagers, kids, and even toddlers to understand that we face an evolutionary crisis.  People spend hours and hours gazing at plastic screens instead of interacting with each other.  Worse, even when they do face each other, people often let the smartphone interrupt the conversation.  It is but one symptom of a global plague.”  

“Mankind has unknowingly fallen prey to corporate interests that turned human attention into a commodity,” according to Goodman.  “Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Google, Amazon, and the rest of the digital era’s social media, search engines, and marketing behemoths mine our attention and sell it to business interests while exacting from us an exorbitant social and psychological price.”  He goes on to note that what at first was seen as an answer to loneliness by connecting people, that rejoined old friends, became an engine of alienation.  

There is a “sharp rise in social network users’ sense of loneliness, sadness, and fear. . . Digital interactions are for the mind what candy is for the body; it feels like food, but it isn’t nutritious, and in fact, is poisonous.”  

“Technology sterilizes communication.  Content is transmitted, but energy is not.  ‘The more people are technologically connected the more they feel psychologically lonely.”  Many will note the correlation of screen addiction with suicide rates.

Games on the screen are also included in the destruction.  Again, it contributes to decreasing a broader level of brain functioning and replaces the kind of comradery gained in in-person sports and team sports.  Thumbs replace the functioning of the whole body.  Winning and losing with thumbs brings a satisfaction but of a different kind.  Some hold that it feeds a predator instinct.  

Goodman also noted how bad it has been for politics where serious discourse has been replaced by slogans and soundbites, but this is not the concern of this article.  

I have raised the alarm before, but I frequently see parents who think it is beyond them. Breaking the addiction will elicit a response of anger even if the parents explain.  Parents want to avoid the anger.  It is like removing a drug.  Requiring activities that rebuild broader brain and soul functioning is the challenge that follows, but until the young person reaches majority age, it is crucial to have the conversation and enforce standards.  Strict limiting of screen time will be necessary and in some cases as with alcoholics, none at all can be allowed.  Maybe phone calls and replace social media.  For younger children, some counsel to avoid screen time totally except for stories that parents oversee and games played with parents.  For example, Monopoly can be played on an Ipad.  

The answer is to screen addition is to create a culture of personal interaction, prayer, Bible, reading, great books, missionary stories, miracle stories, other great books, great art, great music, great movies, personal face-to-face friendships for children, and more.  The home should be mostly a screen-free zone when there are times set for personal interaction, art, and reading.  Screen time can be good for writing, homework, and yes, research for older young people. Yes, serious research articles are available!  So there is good via the internet.  However, when we have family interaction time, all devices need to be put aside. 

It is my goal in our network to see the leaders of congregations give leadership to families on these issues and for the leader’s family to be an example.  Here is the conclusion of Asa El.  He joins this conclusion to the Feast of Chanukah. 

“Beyond that struggle lurked an even deeper confrontation one that pitted Judea’s quest for national assertion, religious freedom, and personal sovereignty against idolatry’s scorn for introspection, morality, justice, and truth.”

“There, in a nutshell, are also the elements of the digital era’s threat, whose defeat will require the same conviction, courage, and resolve that the Maccabees displayed 2,188 years ago, and our candles will salute Sunday tonight.”

Dear reader, did you note that he nails it that screen attachment is idolatry that replaces personal love attachment?  Asa El’s article is entitled, “Hanukkah and the New Idolatry.” Whenever something is valued or given attachment outside of God’s order of valuation, it is idolatry.  Screen attachment is idolatry.  People find way too much meaning in it and invest way too much time and energy in it. No wonder it leads to deadness in spiritual things and to greater depression and suicide. Human beings were not created for this false type of habit-fulfillment, no more than pornography or drugs.  I hope a movement grows up to shut off the screen. Even now some secular leaders who developed social media are ahead of us and are removing devices for their children!  Let’s develop a godly and deeper counter-culture.   

The Right of First Refusal 

Reading the New Covenant Scriptures in the light of the Hebrew Bible gives us a clear understanding of the priority of to whom we should first proclaim the Good News.  

In the Hebrew Bible, page after page tells us that God’s heart is for the poor, dispossessed, widow, orphan, disabled, and imprisoned.  We find this clearly in the ministry of Yeshua.  He proclaimed the Gospel of the Kingdom, first of all, to such people who were the most open to the Gospel.  In Luke 4:18, He quotes from Isaiah 61 which already summarized the priority of the pre-New Covenant prophets and looked forward to the coming of Yeshua.  He said, “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor, deliverance to the captives, the recovery of sight to the blind, and to proclaim the acceptable year of our Lord.”  The Isaiah 61 context is generally understood as having the Year of Jubilee in the background.  The intention of the Year of Jubilee was to give a reset to society, a new start for the population.  Debts were canceled and the land was returned to the original families of ownership.  Intergenerational wealth disparity was thus mitigated through land ownership and redistribution. The coming of Yeshua provided and provides a new start for the power of living in and from the Kingdom of God.  It provides a new opportunity and certainty of success for all who embrace it.  The Good News, as Dallas Willard explains, is again the “the invitation to live in and from the Kingdom of God.”  As such, by the power of the Spirit, God provides a good purpose and destiny now and forever for those who enter in through the death and resurrection of Yeshua, and who receive the Holy Spirit as God’s powerful presence within.  

Scholarship has also come to a much better understanding of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 (the plain in Luke 6).  The beatitudes (or those who blessed) are not a prescription of how we are to be blessed.  It is rather an announcement of a great reversal of conditions for the marginalized and mistreated.  Blessed are the poor, those who mourn, the meek, and the persecuted is the announcement that their difficult situation and marginalization is no longer determinative for their lives.  Those who are poor have Kingdom supernatural supply, those who mourn are delivered from mourning.  Mourning no longer dominates them for the comfort of the Kingdom has come.  So also, the meek are no longer trampled upon, but they have God’s power and inherit the earth.  This is very well laid out in Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy and in N. T. Wright’s Jesus and the Victory of God. 

When the priority of the Church is according to the model of Yeshua, signs and wonders more readily follow to confirm the Gospel.   The pattern of Yeshua and the Disciples is repeated. As with Yeshua, some with wealth will also be reached as they see the power of the Gospel lifting, healing and restoring.  Yes, the Gospel will reach beyond the poor to the wealthy as it did in the ministry of Paul. 

The Bible presents us with a first right of refusal also for the Jewish people.  Romans 1:16 tells us that the “Gospel is the power of God first to the Jew and also to the Greek.”  The people of the covenants, therefore, have this very special right because they were and are God’s covenant people, who preserved the Covenants, the Scriptures, and have an irrevocable election and calling (Romans 11:29).  Therefore, we see Paul going first to the synagogue, not only because it was the easiest place for him to start in the Mediterranean world, but because of the first right of refusal.  “It was necessary for the Gospel to be spoken to you first (Acts 13:46). This continues throughout Paul’s ministry in Acts and is reaffirmed in Romans 1:16 and Romans 11:13, 14 where Paul charges the Gentiles to embrace their role in making Israel jealous since their reconciliation leads to living from the dead. (11:15)                                            

Was this right of refusal only for that generation?  Did that right end after the destruction of the Temple?  Or is it generation to generation until our day?  Yes, it continues, again since Israel is still chosen and elect and her salvation leads to the Second Coming of Yeshua.  The priority of the Gospel to the Jews must be embraced. 

If the Church had loved the Jewish people and given them their due and if she had given the Gospel first to the poor and downtrodden, the history of recent times would have been very different.  The Church would have more credibility today.  Let us restore credibility by restoring the priority for spreading the Gospel.                     

Messianic Jewish Movement Compared to Gentile Jewish Roots One Law Movement

The Law of Moses.  

MJM:  Is applicable in the New Covenant, but in that application, it is important to distinguish Jewish covenant responsibility and Gentile responsibility.  Jews are responsible as part of their election to maintain Jewish identity and the patterns of life given in Torah in regard to the weekly Sabbath and the annual Feast/Sabbath days of which there are 7.  This also includes avoiding the foods on the forbidden list in Lev. 11.  We distinguish between Jewish-specific Torah and universal Torah which in Rabbinic thought is summarized as the seven laws of Moses. 

GJROLM:  There is one law for the Jew and Gentile.  All are called to keep the same Torah with maybe the exception of circumcision.  Soft one law people say that Gentiles are not required in the same way as Jews but that Gentiles are invited and that it is better and more blessed if they keep them. 

On Biblical passages releasing Gentiles from Covenant responsibility for Jewish specific law. 

MJM:  Acts 15 releases Gentiles from the Jewish specific parts of the Torah, the Sabbath, Feast/Sabbath days, and food laws except for eating blood which goes back to Noah.  This is also clarified in Col. 2 where the seven biblical annual feast/sabbath days are said to be a shadow but the substance is Messiah. “Let no man hold you accountable,” means that you are not accountable to keep these days.  Romans 14, probably written for Gentiles, says that it is up to one’s conscience as to which days to keep, and there is no apostolic rule for such.  Gal. 5, warns against circumcision for Gentiles and notes that the one circumcised is responsible to keep the whole Torah (law).  So, the exhortation is to not do it.  The clear air-tight implication is that the one in Yeshua not circumcised is not responsible for the whole Torah but only the universal standards.  I Cor. 7 also notes that each is to maintain their distinct callings as Jew and Gentile. 

GJROLM:  All the passages noted above are re-interpreted to support one law conclusions.  Acts 15 is just the beginning point for fellowship, but Moses being read in the synagogues is interpreted to mean that all will study Torah and eventually keep it all.  Col. 2 is interpreted to mean that no one is to hold you accountable as to how you keep the sabbath/Feast days but of course, all will keep them.  So also, Romans 14 means that eventually there will be unity to keep these days.  Gal. 5 Is usually ignored. 

On the Legitimacy of Church Traditions 

MJM accepts the legitimacy of Church traditions for the Church, especially Protestant traditions.  As such it accepts the legitimacy of the Church year, the two climactic celebrations of the Church year, Christmas as the celebration of the Incarnation and birth of Yeshua (though there are different views among Messianic Jews as to the date of the birth), and Good Friday/Easter (Resurrection) as the observance of the death of Yeshua and the celebration of his resurrection.  We do not argue that the Christian use of Christmas trees is pagan. We also accept the legitimacy of the Church’s weekly celebration of the first day, Sunday as the day of resurrection.   We accept that God has not enjoined Christians to take Saturday or the 7th day as their Sabbath rest day and accept the Church also seeing Sunday as a day of rest.  We still believe Sabbath continues as a seventh-day celebration for Jews.  Scholars criticize those who say such practices are pagan or rooted in paganism as committing the genetic fallacy.  The meaning of a practice is not some long-ago pagan connection but is defined by the meaning given to it by the community that practices it.  It is recognized, with regard to dating Good Friday and the Resurrection, that the actual dating is very debatable, and we do not pretend to have a final solution. We have no objection to Christians being led by the Spirit to keep the seventh day as their day of rest. 

GJROLM: They criticize church traditions as pagan and declare that Sunday is based in Sun Worship, Christmas in Mithraicism or other pagan celebrations, and Easter in the feast of the pagan God Ishtar.  They call the Church to forsake these pagan practices.  Christmas trees are condemned as pagan.  The Church should embrace the biblical Feast days. 

Our Call to the Churches 

MJM people ask the Church to embrace the following.  First to declare their embrace of the biblical teaching on the continued election of Israel.  Secondly to embrace that Jews who come to faith in Yeshua are called to identify and live as Jews, as part of their people.  Third, we desire that the Church would teach the whole Bible in context.  This means teaching on the meaning of the Sabbath and Jewish Holy Days including their historical meaning, fulfillment in Yeshua and still to be fulfilled eschatological meaning.  Fourthly we ask the Church to be in alignment with the Messianic Jewish movement in Israel and the Diaspora, to pray for and support Jewish ministry and consider, if they are in or near Jewish population centers, to embrace witness to Jews and Jewish ministry.  We recognize that a Church may be led by the Spirit to seasonal celebrations near the time of the Feasts (for example a Saturday evening) and to join with Messianic Jews to bring out the full meaning of the first four things that we hope the Church embraces.  We are glad when the church is led to create Jewish space for Jewish members including services, home groups, and specific discipleship programs.  We ask the Church to avoid the actual days of Jewish Feast sabbaths for its seasonal celebrations of the Feasts as the time when our families and congregations gather in our own programs.  

GJROLM seeks to see the Church leave its Christian traditions and keep the Jewish Biblical Holy Days including the seventh-day Sabbath and biblical food laws.  There is some dispute on the right dating and GJROLM people vary on whether to keep the rabbinic dating or dating they calculate to be more accurate.  Some embrace Jewish traditions such as wearing prayer shawls.  While fringes are commanded in the Bible, prayer shawls are a Jewish tradition for one way to demonstrate the command.  Again, GJROLM people keep the Torah food laws for clean and unclean foods.  Some buy Torah scrolls and read the Torah in Hebrew in their services. 

Summary: Many times Church leaders have a negative response to GJROLM people and confuse them with Messianic Jews and think this is what the MJM is teaching.  This is very painful to us in the MJM.  There are key papers from the main organizations of the MJM (the mainstream movement organizations) that refute the GJROLM teaching and orientation.  We think GJROLM teaching will cause division and that it erects a new wall of partition. 

Yeshua’s Death, Resurrection, and Pentecost (Shavuot)

The capstone or climax of the life of Yeshua was his death and resurrection.  This death and resurrection led to a public event, an outpouring of the Spirit with parallels to the Sinai event when the Torah was given to Moses.  It is important to understand that all of the New Testament documents and testify to his crucifixion and resurrection after which He revealed himself to the disciples.  These documents present independent testimony to his death and resurrection.  These documents were then brought together afterward and formed the New Covenant Scriptures or the New Testament.  There is Matthew, Mark (that early tradition tells us was based on the preaching of Peter), Luke, John, Paul, the author of Hebrews, James (Jacob), Peter, and Jude.  

The four Gospels present us with an amazing account of his crucifixion and the other New Testament documents agree with the testimony; all given in the first century.  What do the Gospels say about this?  They tell us that Yeshua celebrated Passover with his disciples and instituted the Lord’s Supper in connection to that Passover.  They tell us that he afterward left for the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, was arrested, badly treated by both the Jewish police and then the Roman soldiers.  He was judged guilty by a representation of the Sanhedrin.  Then the Romans agreed to give into the will of the Jewish religious leaders and to have him crucified as a zealot in rebellion against Rome.  We are then told that they died in submission to God and in a spirit of forgiveness. Supernatural signs took place, darkness in mid-day, an earthquake, and the curtain of the Temple was torn in two. Then a rich man, Joseph of Arimathea, received his body for burial.  The Gospels then describe the disillusioned and fearful disciples.  Whenever the rest of the New Testament documents speak about his crucifixion and burial they agree with these accounts.  

Then on the first day of the week, the Feast of First-Fruits, early in the morning, women first discover that He was risen from the dead.  His body was not in the Tomb and did not undergo decomposition.  He then had a supernatural Body.  He appeared to the smaller group of disciples, but I Cor. 15 adds that he appeared to 500 at the same time, most of whom were alive when Paul wrote this amazing chapter, in the 40s A. D., soon after the events. 

The historian of the Roman Empire period, A. Sherwin White, tells us that the events of the New Testament and the story of Yeshua are the best documented or attested of any historical figure from that era, by far more than Julius Caesar.  

The Book of Acts, written by Luke, who professes his desire to provide accurate historical accounts, presents the narrative that Yeshua appeared and taught on the Kingdom off and on for 40 days after his resurrection. He then brought his Disciples up to the Mount of Olives, and after giving them instructions to wait together in Jerusalem until they would receive a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit. From there they would be his witnesses.  In Acts 2 we read of this great outpouring of the Spirit.  When the Spirit was poured out, the larger group of disciples (120) were able to speak in several languages they had never learned and to proclaim the Gospel on the  Temple Mount to the multitude of Jews from other nations who spoke other languages.  They had come up to Jerusalem for the Feast of Shavuot  (Pentecost).   This was an astonishing miracle where Jews from many nations heard the Gospel.  Thousands repented and were immersed in water in the name of Yeshua.  It is likely that many stayed in Jerusalem, and in no time many thousands were now in the house gatherings in Jerusalem overseen by the Disciples (Apostles).

There is no parallel to these accounts in any nation or culture outside of Israel.  It is astonishing. However, how do we weigh the credibility of the New Testament witness?   Already, in the pages of the New Testament, we read that the Apostles went from fear to become bold witnesses after Pentecost.  The earliest post-biblical Church history tells us that all of the 12 died as martyrs for their faith.  John lived to old age and was exiled on the island of Patmos.  The testimony of the early Church Fathers confirms the truth of the martyrdom of the Apostles.  Clement of Rome, Polycarp (who knew John), and Ignatius are three early witnesses.  

In conclusion, we can be confident that the New Testament presents an accurate account of the life, death, and resurrection of Yeshua plus Pentecost and that we can base our lives on the Gospel and the teaching of Yeshua and the Apostles who gave us the New Testament.  

Evidence from the Life of Yeshua; Part I: Fulfilled Prophecy 

The Four Gospels provide the historical picture narrative of Yeshua’s ministry on the earth. Matthew and Mark include birth stories and Luke one story from when He was 12 years old.  The summary case for the historical trustworthiness of these Gospels will be in another later essay.  At this point, I want to assert that the Gospels were all written during the period when the Apostles who were his disciples were still alive. They claimed to be eyewitnesses.  

The Gospels report the story of a man who did amazing miracles both in large numbers and with a quality that could not be explained by natural causes.  They also report a way of love and teaching on ethics or right and wrong behavior that was full of love and went beyond anything that was ever taught before, even beyond the Hebrew Scriptures.  The Gospels also report that Yeshua fulfilled the prophecies of the Messiah from the Hebrew Bible.  Some of these prophecies are clear predictions and others are a fulfillment of types   Types foreshadow the Messiah. For example, the King of Israel, Solomon, is described in Psalm 72 in ways that go well beyond what Solomon could fulfill.  The Psalm in several verses only can be literally true of the Messiah King.  However, other texts are amazingly predictive and literal.  These fulfilments have a clear supernatural character, but the former also give us evidence.  

The most amazing text on the future Messiah is Isaiah 53.  This text is the climax of a series of texts on the Servant of the LORD; Isaiah 42, 49, 50, and 53.  As the prediction of the final and everlasting ruling King of Isaiah 2 and 11, He is the one who is a banner for the nations, not only for Israel.  He is a light to the nations in Isaiah 42 and will rule over all nations as in the earlier text. It is easy to see that this one is the same person.  Yet as we progress through these texts, we find suffering as well, the suffering comes to its climax.  The Messiah King in these texts is called the Servant of the LORD.  Israel in other texts is also called the servant of the Lord, but here the Messiah is the representative King of Israel, the ultimate Servant.   In Isaiah 53 we find that his people, the Jewish people, do not receive the report of who He is.  He is, “Despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”  His death is a sacrifice for our sins, for He was, “Wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement for our peace was upon him.”  “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way and that LORD has laid upon Him the iniquity of us all.”   We find that he was numbered with transgressors in his death.  Yeshua died between two criminals.  Yet, the text implies resurrection for “He will see his offspring. He will prolong his days.”  He will be satisfied with what He accomplished.   This text alone has convinced many to believe in Yeshua. 

However, there are other texts that are remarkable. Perhaps the most remarkable is Daniel 9:24 ff.  In these texts, weeks of years, by the understanding of almost all, 490 years.  A decree goes forth and after the time allotted the Messiah is cut off.  The calculation takes us to the time of Yeshua’s death.  This is why some Rabbis wondered if the Messiah had already come.  After his death, a prince would come and destroy the city and the sanctuary.  Daniel was writing when the First Temple had been destroyed and the second had not yet been built. Now he says that the Messiah will die before the second Temple is destroyed.  This happened in 70 A. D. some 40 years after the death and resurrection of Yeshua.  Yeshua predicted this destruction toward the end of his life on earth. 

Micha 5:2 tells us that the Messiah, the one who is to rule Israel forever, will be born in Bethlehem. There are many other amazing texts.  Zechariah 9:9 tells us that the Messiah Prince will ride into Jerusalem on a donkey.  Zechariah also indicates his death, for when the Shepherd is smitten, the sheep will be scattered.  (Zech. 13).  Yet, it also says that someday the Jewish people will look on Him who they have pierced, and mourn for him.  The picture of Joshua, the high priest in Zechariah 4, is a picture of the Messiah.  He has the same name.  

There are whole books written in much detail on the fulfillment of prophecy.  They give strong evidence for our faith in Yeshua.

The Old Testament Against its Environment 

When one studies the religions and cultures of the world, one finds that the Torah (the first five books of Moses) and the rest of the Hebrew Bible presents us with views about God, the world, and the way Israel was to conduct their lives that is in many respects a great contrast to the nations, cultures, and religions of that time.  I have taken this title from a book written in the late 1940s by G. Ernest Wright of Harvard.  More recently the late Rabbi Reuven Hammer, a leader in Conservative Judaism wrote a parallel book, The Torah Revolution.  The standards of the Hebrew Bible are not as elevated as the fulfillment stage in the teaching of Yeshua and the Apostles, but much is universal and forever.  Those who argue for the truth of our faith, say that it is hard to account for or explain the Hebrew Bible unless it came from beyond Israel and from God since it went so far beyond the cultures of the day.  It is not just a product of the gradual advance or evolution of culture.  Many values that we take for granted today had their origins in Hebrew Bible.  Here is a very brief summary. 

First, is the idea that every human being is created in the image of the one Creator God, maker of heaven and earth. (Gen. 1:26).   The assertion of one God who is overall and the rejection of the worship of all other gods is amazing and without parallel.  That every human being has great worth and basic equal worth is also something that the ancient world did not believe.  This great worth is re-affirmed in Genesis 9.  Anyone who murders a human being is to be put to death. This idea of the worth of each human being is the foundation of the progress of human rights.  This is the origin of the idea in the United States Declaration of Independence, that all human beings are created equal and that rights come from the Creator. 

The unique status of Israel as God’s light bearer, the people who carry his revelation, is unique. That a nation was formed from slaves who escaped the nation that suppressed them is so totally unique.  They escaped by signs and miracles from God under the leadership of Moses.  This nation is then given God’s instruction including his Law.  The Law is so unique, amazing. 

The Torah requires the King to be subject to the law whereas in other societies at the time the King was the law and above the law.  The Torah provides for the office of the prophet that holds the King and the nation accountable to God’s Law (Deut. 18).  There is a division of power of prophet, priest, and king. No other society had such a clear balance of power.  The courts of Israel were to be based on evidence and the testimony of witnesses.  Trial by chance ordeal was precluded.  The rich and poor were to be treated favorably.  There was to be equality before the courts.  Judges who received bribes were condemned.  The Law elevated women.  Marriage was a covenant with mutual responsibilities.  A false husband who made false accusations against a woman for immorality was to be punished and had to provide for that wife for a lifetime.  (Num. 5) Women could receive an inheritance and had rights to be heard by the courts.  

The Torah and then the prophets proclaim God as one who identifies with the weak and marginalized, the widow, the orphan, the handicapped, and the poor.  The society is charged with showing special care for these and will be punished if they do not do so. Other societies discarded their marginalized people.  

The Torah provides many laws to make the economic sphere humane.  First is the keeping of time by weeks.  No other society kept time by weeks.  Every seventh day was a day for rest, worship, renewal with God and with one another.  The seventh day was a memorial of God creating the universe in six defined periods called days (yomim) and rested on the seventh day.  Human days in Israel are to maintain a pattern that shows that truth.  The seventh day is a weekly memorial of the Exodus from Egypt.  No other society had a seven-day pattern with a Sabbath. The seven-day pattern in the world today came from the Torah. 

In addition, economic arrangements limited slavery to 6 years or less.  Every seventh year all slaves were freed, and all debts canceled.  The slave was to be sent out with provision to make a new start in life.  The land was to lie fallow and to be renewed. God promises to provide by making the sixth-year harvest abundant and to provide abundance in what grows by itself.  This required Israelites to exercise faith in God.  Even In the United States today, reflecting this law, one can declare bankruptcy every seven years and be freed of debt. 

However, the Jubilee year was the most amazing (Lev. 25).  Primary wealth was held in land in the ancient world. Some could get rich on trade, but land was more primary. In other societies, the rich controlled the land generation after generation.  The rest of the population worked the land at an almost slave level.  This is precluded in ancient Israel. The land was divided among all the tribes and families of Israel. Every 50th year, liberty was proclaimed, and the land was returned to the families of original ownership.  One could become poor and might have to sell their land, but the sale was only for the years of productivity until the Jubilee year. While hard work was rewarded and there could be disparities of wealth, the Torah precludes a super-wealthy class ruling perpetually over a poor class.  It limits wealth disparity. 

Not all in the Law shows God’s ideal.  The New Covenant Scriptures show that some laws accommodated the weakness of that time (allowing slavery though limiting it and giving slaves rights which required them to be treated well and then released) and polygamy which Yeshua precluded, restoring monogamy (Matt. 19)   Most of the ethical teaching of the Torah is universal.  

The uniqueness of the story of Israel and the teaching and laws of the Torah are best explained as a revelation of God. 

The New “Dangerous” Left Wing Government 

My readers may be getting communication from Prime Minister Netanyahu claiming that the government that Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid-There is a Future) and Naftali Bennett (New Hope) will form is potentially a dangerous left-wing government.  This is far from the truth and a dangerous left-wing government is not now possible.  Some are also upset that the government could form with the support of the Arab party Ra-am, led by a Hamas sympathizer.  However, Bibi cannot make that argument since he sought the support from the same party and would have accepted it if he had enough Knesset (Parliament) members on his side to form a government.  One reason he failed was that one right wing protential party, religious Zionist, would not join Bibi if he had the support of Ra-am. 

If Yair Lapid is successful, the government will be moderately right-wing but hampered in implementing new right-wing policies with regard to new settlements on the West Bank and annexing more of the West Bank, and reigning in the Supreme Court.   Let us describe the parties and why the new government will be a moderate right-wing government.  

First, Lapid has said that if they succeed, Bennett will go first in a rotation and be the Prime Minister for the first two years.  Bennett seems very capable.  He is more conservative right-wing than Bibi and rejects outright a two-state solution.  While he is in the government, there will not be progress toward a two-state solution, or the government would fall.  

Second, is Gideon Saar, recently in Bibi’s party.  He also is against a two-state solution.  His policies are Likud but he had enough of Bibi who offended and marginalized him (as he did to Bennett before).

Third, is Avigdor Liberman, of Israel Batainu (Israel our home), a largely Russian party.  Liberman is also very conservative.  He has not rejected a two-state solution but the land swaps he would seek would not be accepted by the Palestinians.  Liberman desires to see the Ultra-Orthodox required to work for a living and do some kind of national service.  He is thus despised by them. Lapid agrees with him on this, but if the Ultra-Orthodox joins the government Liberman and Lapid will have to suspend any such plans. One ultra-Orthodox party says they won’t be in a government with him or Lapid. Stay tuned. 

The above three are conservative on free enterprise and on a two-state solution.  The government can only survive if they are accommodated. They will be, but not by moving to annex West Bank land but by keeping the status quo and working on other problems. 

Then comes Lapid and New Hope.  They have the most members in Parliament but not nearly enough to dominate.  Lapid seems a centrist in economics and is for a two-state solution but with strong security and keeping the larger settlement blocks.  The government he is forming will not progress to that.  Lapid believes in free enterprise but wants to lower the cost of living, especially housing and food which is way too high.  Salaries for teachers, social workers, and others are way too low.  But Israel only has so much money. 

Blue and White under Benny Gantz is also centrist.  He was a very good general and defense minister.   He will support progress and some kind of unity to make it through this period. 

Labor under MK Michaeli, is liberal but no longer socialist.  They are left of center and will be concerned to improve the lives of the ordinary citizens.  Labor has moved from the left to the left of center. 

Finally comes Meretz.  They want a two-state solution, a generous one for the Palestinians.  They have socialistic tendencies.  In a coalition, they will seek greater wages and benefits for the underpaid. 

Ra-am is the Arab Party.  They seek hospitals, roads, and more and better policing for crime. Bibi was promising that. 

Meretz is the smallest party to be offered a part in the government, 4 seats only in the Knesset. 

So don’t believe the propaganda.  This is no left-wing government.  A left-wing government is not possible in Israel at this time.  This is all about many, including former colleagues, no longer wanting Bibi to lead Israel and to have a time of transition to see him retire.  If Bibi retires, Likud could do well, and its next leader would probably be Prime Minister.  How likely is that?  Right now, not very likely. 

We need a stable government. We have no budget and are in danger without a stable government.  So, pray for Israel.  Bibi did many great things for Israel. Many believe that with his trial for bribery and his alienating so many that he is not finishing well. 

Resourcing Israeli Congregations

Over many years my convictions have not changed in regard to the priorities of giving for Christians who want to support Israel.  The greatest support from Christian giving goes to humanitarian causes in the Land through organizations that do not confess Yeshua.  This by far outstrips all other giving.  One organization is the recipient of tens of millions annually.   The second largest share goes to humanitarian aid to non-congregation non-profits that are run by Messianic Jews.  Only after these two is giving to Messianic Jewish Congregations.  Some Messianic Jewish leaders in congregations bemoan this reality and really believe that it is wrong to support Jewish organizations that that are run by non-Messianic Jews.  This is not my view.  When it is known that Christians who love the Jewish people give large sums and sacrificially, it does have an effect on the hearts of people.  They become more open to the Gospel.  This is also the case with humanitarian aid organizations that are led by Messianic Jews, and there are some good ones.  Yet my conviction is still that the lion’s share of giving is best given to the Messianic Jewish Congregations.  Here are some practical reasons. 

  1. Messianic Jewish congregations are directly involved in sharing the Gospel.  The Gospel is the greatest gift we can give to the Jewish people.  Fostering Gospel ministry should be our first priority.   
  2. Yeshua said he would establish his congregation under chosen elders and the gates of Hell would not prevail over his congregation. The first century context shows that this was a network of congregations.  
  3. Many Messianic Jewish Congregations run humanitarian organizations.  Many of our congregations in Tikkun do.  They are solid in their work and could do so much more with greater funds.
  4. Messianic Jewish Congregations with humanitarian aid can have a seamless quality of follow up, getting to know the people, building relationships and then sharing on the love of God.

Some Christians think that supporting congregations is not fitting since congregations should be self-supporting by their members.   There are two arguments that are contrary to this.  First, the humanitarian aid work of congregations goes way beyond the local programs of congregations.  The second concerns the unique situation of Israel.   

I want do draw out this second unique concern.  The reason why congregations in Israel have such difficulty supporting their own work by the tithes and offerings is due to the very unique circumstances of Israel.  In Israel the taxes are double, the salaries are about half, and the cost of living, especially housing are out of sight.  Many work two jobs and husbands and wives work to make ends meet.  The time pressures are enormous.  So, the funds given to congregations for their rent, staff, and necessary equipment are usually a great strain.  Few own their own facilities.  Giving for this would be very helpful. Most are therefore supported from the outside. (Many Jewish religious organizations are as well.)  However, if the leaders spend too much time traveling for funds, they will not be putting their efforts into the work at the level needed.   Many who are the best fund raisers produce little in the land.  The other model that could work is a network of self-supporting house congregations where the leaders are in full time business or professional life.  Some are doing this, and I support these efforts, but I believe we still need congregations that release people to full time ministry.  House congregations cannot do full orbed ministries including humanitarian aid work, counselling, and special programs for youth and children.  I would like to see people called to raise resources for the congregations.  One organization that was started to do just this found resistance to the project and found themselves mostly raising funds for non-congregational ministries.  So sad!

In conclusion I would like to suggest that Christians who give their funds to support Israel give primarily to Congregational ministries in the Land.   I hope that someday at least they would give 50% of such giving to congregations.  If Christians who support Israel would do this, the effect would be dramatic.  Of course, they need to vet the congregation ministry to make sure the leaders are qualified, trustworthy, and that it is a stable and fruitful work. 


Passion for Israel

When the Reformation encouraged people to read the Bible in context, rather than through received tradition and allegorical approaches, several Reformers discovered the Biblical teaching on the election of the Jewish people, the nation of Israel.  We see the beginnings of this discovery going back to notes in the Geneva Bible in the 16th century.  Then in early part of the 17th century, Puritan writers in the United Kingdom and America wrote with passion and sometimes with great sensitivity about the restoration of Israel.  Elnathan Parr argued for the certainty of the promises of the restoration of Israel and her salvation.  Samuel Rutherford wrote with great imagination on what the reunion of Jesus the Messiah and his ancient people, including the tenderness, the tears and more.  Then Increase Mather, the first President of Harvard wrote a book on the restoration and Biblical teaching emphasizing Romans 9-11.    

Passion for Israel continued to grow in the Lutheran Pietist movement in Germany in the 18th century.  This greatly influenced Nikolaus Ludwig Von Zinzendorf, the founder of Herrnhut and the Protestant mission movement.  He also started the famous 100 year 24 hour prayer meeting.   Their views on Israel also influenced the Pietists  of Scandinavia and the Methodists of the United Kingdom.  

In the 19th Century this came to an amazing climax.  The British Parliament accepted a plan to reestablish the Jewish people in their ancient land and to plant a Jewish oriented Anglican Church in Jerusalem under a Jewish bishop to prepare  for the return of the Jewish people to their Land.  The British passion for Israel was a key to the Balfour declaration (declaring the land of Israel for a homeland for the Jewish people) and the growth of the Jewish population in Israel in the early decades of the 20th century.  Sadly, the British government later changed its policy on all of this.  

Oscar Skarsune, in his book Israel’s Friend (sadly only in Norwegian), wonderfully documents the history and the continuation of the restoration of Israel theology to this day.   

Often people who reject the Biblical teaching on God’s continued election of Israel accuse Christians who have passion for the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy about Israel as buying into a recent Dispensational Theology that is only dated from the late 19th century.  This is not true.  I encourage you to read this summary in my book Passion for Israel.  It is an easy read. 

Blindness and the Direction of Western Culture 

I have been grieved at the direction of Western Culture and the acceleration of the deterioration I am now seeing in the United States.  These struggles are also part of Israel.  When I was a young philosophy student at Wheaton College, I was introduced to the idea of cultural apologetics by Francis Schaeffer.  He presented an amazing week of lectures.  Schaeffer argued that the direction of culture apart from God and biblical norms comes to dead end and a very depressing world picture.  This causes a revulsion to the very dominant culture that is produced by the anti-biblical world view.  He asserted that the “mannishness of man” finds that he cannot live within the world view of his creation.  Many examples were given in art and literature to show implications, though the artist thought that there was no way out.   I give a summary of cultural apologetics in my book The Biblical World View, An Apologetic.  Why if their world view leads to such despair, do we not see people turn back to God and a hopeful and meaningful life provided by the teaching of the Bible?  I am convinced that the reason is rebellion in the heart.  In spite of the evidence, human beings simply want to live the way they want to live and choose their own ways of life without the interference of an omnipotent/omniscient being who requires that we live within his rule-norms.  

Recently a history scholar was celebrating the decline of religious affiliation in the United States. For the first time in many decades the number of Americans affiliated with a church, synagogue or mosque was below 50%.  Just 20 years earlier it was 70%.  He pointed to the secularization of Europe and argued that a secular society is more tolerant and compassionate.   This is naïve, and there has not nearly been enough time for us to draw that conclusion.  Giving up the idea that all persons are created in God’s image and are to be treated with the respect and love that is requisite to their value, will not lead to a good outcome in the long haul.  I noted in a previous article that the British Historian Tom Holland argued that the values of Western Culture, based on the equal worth of all human beings, is based on biblical influence. Though an atheist, Holland wonders if the values will survive the abandonment of the world view that gave these values to the world.   Rodney Stark also shows the vast difference from the biblical value set and what was extant in the Roman world.   Immanuel Kant, the great German philosopher of the late 18th century, argued that ethics is based on treating every person as an end and not as a means, to be deeply valued treated well.  Kant believed in God and biblical values, but not the Gospel.  His ethics, however,  obviously was based in the biblical world view.   For Kant, civilization requires God, freedom and life after death.  They are intertwined.  God as the one who will reward and punish according to good and evil after death, and freedom to assure that we really are moral beings with moral choice and hence responsible.  For Kant, a gracious civil order required such beliefs.   

However, human beings are in rebellion and denial, professing that they can create a humane and fulfilling life without God.  A huge part of this denial is based on the rebellious assertion of the right to order one’s own sexual arrangements without reference to historic norms.  The abortion rights movement is really rooted in sexual libertarianism.  This is the root of the push against marital fidelity as the best foundation of raising secure and healthy children.  Study after study has shown that a stable marriage of a man and a woman raising children is the greatest predictor for success and avoiding poverty in the future of the children.  However, Marxists, such as the founding leaders of Black Lives Matter, see the traditional family as an impediment to Marxist equality.  So, all sexual arrangements by consenting adults, all the arrangements embraced by the LGBTQ movement and all new models of the family are to be embraced.  All these arrangements are equal.  This will not produce well-adjusted individuals with high ethical standards and compassion for others.  If not in the immediate future, It will eventually produce self-centered barbarians. For the lower classes such a philosophy is a disaster.  For the ideologues, the empirical studies simply are ignored.  The New York Times in 2019 reports that religious people in committed marriages have a sexual satisfaction that far supersedes the rest of the population.  Such a marriage is a key to the children and their adjustment in life.  Also the biblical view of everlasting life with God and our loved ones forever produces a hope that sustains in difficult times.  

The rebellion against God is so great.  The blindness and denial are amazing.  We can see a world devolving into greater violence, crime, depression, suicide, euthanasia, child abuse, sex trafficking, pornographic addiction, and more and more government spending and subsidy to mitigate the problems thus created.  Yet the rebellious declare the world has gotten better!!  Of course, the societies that most rebelled against the Biblical world view, slaughtered millions. I speak of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.  Today the atheist Chinese engage in genocide.  The blindness of the self-deceived atheist amazes.  They even still, against all evidence, claim that our world could be just the product of chance.  Also, the evidence of the historicity and the truth of the Gospels is as great as it has ever been.  Confirmed miracles in the name of Yeshua are amazing today and more than ever.  Yet believing in chance gives the atheists the foundation for a total rebellion against traditional morals.  The traditionalists are called haters and “phobes”, but far from running from those in aberrant lifestyles (phobes run from or avoid) Yeshua lovers want to run toward those in these destructive life styles and provide the healing that comes from the Gospel.  We are not phobes and afraid, but bold in offering a way out. Only the Gospel delivers from blindness and rebellion.  Good arguments are not good enough 

My book The Biblical World View, An Apologetic presents the options and argues that we can find our rest and peace in a loving orientation to life only on the basis of the Gospel and the teaching of the Bible.