Purchasing Buried Treasure, Part Three

Purchasing Buried Treasure, Part Three

It is written, “For you (the people of Israel) shall be a desirable land, says G‑d” (Malachi 3:12). Just as the greatest explorers will never uncover the limits of the great and valuable resources which the Almighty has placed within the earth, neither will anyone ever discover the limits of the great treasures which lie buried within a Jew – G‑d’s “desirable land.”              – Bal Shem Tov

In our third and final installment of our analysis of the Master’s parable of the buried treasure (Matt.13:44), we will try to bring light to bear upon another interesting aspect in the passage.

In part one, we considered the debate in the Gemara concerning the dispute of claimed property.  In that, we saw that merely “seeing” something, while certainly implying that one “found” it, does not mean that one thereby has legal possession.  This must be established by more than just an oath.  Through the man purchasing the field, we deduced that the Master is teaching us that it is not enough to merely “discover” a hidden treasure (the kingdom of God), but that we must secure it through making it our own.

In part two, we realized a deeper picture within the parable, considering Talmudic discussions of ownership and theft, and realized that the man is the Messiah, the field is the claim of the enemy upon his inheritance, the treasure is the Lord’s inheritance, and that he “purchases” us even though the Father has already given us to him as an inheritance, because he must prevent the enemy from staking a competing claim against his own, since we live in the enemy’s “field”.

Now, with this new line of reasoning in tow, we will look at the Hebrew concepts behind the parable in relation to betrothal and marriage. Continue reading

Purchasing Buried Treasure, Part Two

Purchasing Buried Treasure, Part Two

Again, the kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a treasure that a man found stashed in a field. He stashed it again, then joyfully went and sold everything he had and bought that field.” (Matt.13:44, Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels)

In part one of this series, we saw that there is more than meets the eye to the parables of Jesus, when we consider them from a Jewish mindset.

We discovered a ruling in the Mishnah which states that an oath by itself is not sufficient in most cases to establish ownership. How did this idea apply to our passage? In the case of the hypothetical man in Christ’s parable, he left the treasure where it lie until he had legally purchased the field in which he found it.  The implication we drew from this on a personal level in regards to the kingdom of God, is that merely “seeing” (read: confessing) does not constitute legal ownership of the treasure (or kingdom).

This line of reasoning opens a theological “can of worms”, as it were, since the aspect of legal precedent (an element of the parable which the Master’s audience would have understood) introduces the concept that there is apparently more to attaining our place in the World to Come than merely receiving a free gift.  As the sages of the Talmud would say; “This is a difficulty!”  How do we resolve it?  Well, the first step we must take is backwards.  We must step back from a reductionist understanding of the kingdom of God and of redemption, and think beyond the scope of personal salvation.
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Embracing Dr.King

Embracing Dr.King

I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.” – Dr.Martin Luther King on 4/3/68

On the following day, the great visionary leader was assassinated.  By invoking Moses, Dr. King was portraying the future vision of equality in America between whites and blacks to be the moral equivalent of the “promised land.”

Moses was not allowed to lead the nation of Israel into the promised land, but instead was directed by God to forfeit his life beforehand…

Now Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah…and the LORD showed him all the land…Then the LORD said to him, ‘This is the land which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.’” (Deut.34:1-4)

It is chilling to consider the parallel between Dr. King and Moses.  The preacher could not have known that he was making a prophetic reference to his own end, could he?  Even more astounding is the connection this makes to Christ, who lay down his life in much the same manner as Moses, as an offering for the people.  Dr. King was struck down in the prime of his life and power, just like Moses and Jesus, and yet his ultimate sacrifice served to further galvanize a movement that could not be stopped.

Have we considered the real message of Dr. King? His was no violent protest, or an incitement to such ends.  Any violence which ensued from his involvement in the civil rights movement was either because of the reactions of his opponents or the misguided efforts of certain of his followers.  It did not come from him.  Dr. King trusted in the power of an idea.  Specifically, the power of the truth.  With an unwavering faith in the justice of God and the ethic of human dignity, he knew that if these ideas are properly articulated to the right people at the right time, that “no weapon could be formed against them.” (Is.54:17)

Unlike ISIS, or Hamas, or John Calvin, Dr. King knew that the rights of individual men and women before a Holy God took priority over the preferences of an elite few.  He certainly understood that his people (blacks in America) needed equality, but his convictions went beyond race and extended to all, regardless of race or creed.  His message was sacrificial. He didn’t seek power for himself, but for others.

In these days of sarcastic sound-bites, dismissive statements, and slanderous editorializing, may we remember that if we have not love, we are no more than “a clanging gong“.  Embracing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day means more than remembering the struggle for equality; it means the struggle to maintain our dignity as a culture.

 

 

 

 

 

Purchasing Buried Treasure

Purchasing Buried Treasure

 

“Again, the kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a treasure that a man found stashed in a field. He stashed it again, then joyfully went and sold everything he had and bought that field.” (Matt.13:44, Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels)

It is commonly accepted that this parable illustrates the surpassing value of the kingdom of heaven, and this is certainly a legitimate aspect of it. However, the deeper implications are lost on us if we don’t understand the principles of disputed ownership in the Oral Traditions, which has been handed down in the form of the Mishnah.

In the section which deals with disputes of ownership, there are distinctive rules governing the establishing of rights pertaining to items, based on oaths and claims.  Consider the following commentary from Rabbi Baruch Epstein, of Chabad, during his teaching series, “An Introduction to Talmud”:

“One says ‘I found it and (therefore) it is all mine’, and the other says, ‘I found it, and (therefore) it is all mine!’…Why not just state: ‘I found it.’….The term ‘I found it’ might have been explained as denoting ‘I saw it’, (implying) that merely seeing it entitled him to claim it as his possession.  Therefore the plea ‘It is all mine’ is added, so as to make clear that seeing alone does not constitute a claim…Does not Rabbanai say that the phrase ‘and thou hast found it’ means ‘thou hast taken hold of it?’  The scriptural use of the word “found” implies having taken hold, but (in) popular language…on seeing something, one might use the term “found it” (the belief being prevalent) that one acquires (an item) by sight alone…(But if the Mishnah had not qualified this claim by an oath), the conclusion could be drawn that mere sight constitutes a claim to possession. For this reason the Mishnah states first “I found it” and then “It is all mine”, so that we may gather from the additional clause that mere sight does not constitute a claim to possession.” (emphasis mine)

 This type of legal framework and thought has much to do with the teaching of Jesus here. The Oral Traditions of his day (which eventually came to be incorporated into the Mishnah, and ultimately, the Gemara) dealt with such rulings and judgments, and would have formed the natural backdrop for his audience to understand the meaning of this parable. Continue reading

I Don’t Want To Be A Pawn

I Don’t Want To Be A Pawn

But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you….” (Ex.7:3-4a)

The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: He turneth it withosoever He wills.” (Prov.21:1)

These verses, and others like it, have always eaten at the corners of my mind, like a dirty family secret that cannot be made public.  It just doesn’t seem fair for God (you know, this “God of love“, as we’re told) to control people like this.  Honestly, it embarrasses me.  It really does.  I don’t want to serve a God who doesn’t give me a choice, and this is what these verses imply.

The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 Jn.4:8)

Really?   By forcing Pharaoh into his own destruction, and the destruction of his people?  We don’t have a problem with this idea when those “who have it coming to them” get their “just punishment”, but honestly, this still bothers me because this means that none of us really have free choice, and if I can’t choose, how is that love?  I don’t want to be punished for wrongdoing that God caused on His own by manipulating me. Do you?

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A River Flows From It

A River Flows From It

The following are my personal notes for a lecture I gave at a charismatic church in my hometown.  It was part 3 of an 18 week series which studied Messianic pictures in the book of Genesis, and their implications to our understanding of the gospel and the kingdom of God.

“A River Flows From It”: The Garden of Eden and the Messianic Era”

Base texts:  Genesis 2:8-10, Exodus 27:13, Ezekiel 47:1-12, Rev.22:1-5

So far we have looked at the presence of Christ at creation in the form of the Word, and co-creator with God.  We’ve seen Him “hovering” over His creation, showing the picture of the time when the knowledge of Him will “cover the earth”.  We have also seen the Light of the Messiah incarnate at creation, only to be concealed and substituted with the physical sun and moon and the earth, and to be revealed later.

Now, we will look at God’s redemption of mankind.  After the fall of man, and the exile from the Garden, God begins the process of bringing us back to the place of innocence in Paradise.

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Either a Dog or a Moose

Either a Dog or a Moose

My 21-month-old grandson Ethan is enjoying a wonderful exploratory season of his development, as he observes his world and seeks to find his place in it. He makes everyone giggle as he observes animals (and objects which resemble animals) and tries to label them.  Recently, he has provided great entertainment to all of us because of his simplistic relation to the animal kingdom.  Upon seeing the stuffed owl which my 8-year old daughter received for Christmas, he proclaimed it to be a “moose.”  Pointing excitedly, and exclaiming “Moose! Moose!” while reaching for it, we all smile at each other at his innocent misunderstanding of the complexities of the species.

My daughter provided some linguistic explanation, by letting us know that in Ethan’s little world, any animal that has four legs is a “dog” and anything else is a “moose“.  Sometimes, he even blends these definitions and swaps “moose” for “dog” if it has four legs but seems smaller than a dog.  In this model, a cat is a “dog“, a hamster is a “dog“, while a bear is a “moose” as well as a fish and a bird.  It’s refreshingly simple and disarming.

It’s funny, in large part, because it is an oversimplified explanation of these creatures/objects, reducing them all to a unified model of literary description which effectively whitewashes everything he sees into the same category. Continue reading