I Have A Dream – 52 Years Later

Martin_Luther_King_-_March_on_WashingtonFifty-two years ago, on August 28, 1963 an estimated 200,000+ people marched on Washington, D.C. in what was called the march on Washington for jobs and freedom. It was during this march that the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his now famous I Have a Dream speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The speech is arguably one of the greatest speeches of the twentieth century and is a hallmark of the Civil Rights Movement in America. In the speech, Dr. King referred to some of America’s founding documents as justification for freedom for ALL. It was an appeal to all who heard his words, to live true to the words of our cherished beliefs that declared liberty and freedom to all of the citizens of America. It was an open challenge for America to live up to its creed, or as Dr. King put it,

I still have a dream, a dream deeply rooted in the American dream – one day this nation will rise up and live up to its creed, ‘We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal.’ I have a dream . . .”

Following the speech, Dr. King was recognized as TIME Magazine’s Man of the Year in 1963 and in 1964, he became the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Here is that speech.

Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929. While I claim to be no authority on the man, I have always been inspired by his speeches and have a great admiration for his work – namely in his efforts to achieve social justice and equality on behalf of his people.

I am a student of Scripture and so from this perspective I wanted to share something relevant in regards to the man and his work that I discovered several years ago. As a student of the Torah, I follow the weekly portions of the Law of Moses and in my classes I tend to look for ways to connect our present world with the ancient through these readings which have been in place in Judaism for nearly 2,000 years as far as we can determine. Time and again I have discovered interesting points – where current events seem to coincide with something found within the Torah reading. Several years ago as I prepared my class on the portion of Scripture that deals with the Exodus from Egypt, I immediately thought of Martin Luther King, Jr. who found much similarity between the struggles of his own people and the ancient children of Israel. As it turns out, the regular Torah reading for the week that Martin Luther King was born was the Hebrew Torah Reading that contains the story of the departure of the Children of Israel from the oppressive Egyptians! The texts contained in this reading are Exodus 10:1 – 13:16. Like a modern day Moses, Martin Luther King Jr. would devote his adult life to a struggle for freedom for his people.

I find it worth mentioning that the week he was born, all over the world Jewish people were reading Moses’ words to Pharaoh – “Let my people go!” Did these words carry in the wind into the ears of a small baby who would grow up to speak them again to the oppressors of his own generation? One can only wonder if somehow, these Torah portions contain a glimpse of what our own purposes are to be. At least in the case of Martin Luther King Jr., it would seem to be the case.

In light of the interesting connection between the Hebrew Moses and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, watch this video of his final speech. He would be killed the very next day.

On the anniversary of the March on Washington and the I Have a Dream speech, I have to wonder. For what cause would our generation assemble in such vast numbers. Would we travel great distances at great costs and come together in harmony for any cause? Who is the moral leader of our generation? Who is the voice that could convey a message that has the power to peacefully inspire change? May we all be inspired to seek out injustice in our own world. For as Dr. King once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

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Regarding Moses – Revisiting an Old Sermon

How should Christians regard Moses? Are his words beneficial for the followers of Jesus? What of his laws? Are they contrary to faith? Have they been done away with?

On August 27, 1525, 490 years ago today, a now famous Christian preacher delivered a sermon that was intended to answer the question once and for all. The sermon was entitled, How Christians Should Regard Moses. For several years, on the anniversary of this sermon, I have published this article with slight edits and am doing so yet again this year.

The Sermon

The preacher set out to show that God gave only two public sermons from heaven. The first is recorded in Exodus chapter 19 and 20, the second is recorded in chapter two of the book of Acts. Though not mentioned by the preacher of this sermon, both of these events are reported to have taken place during the third month of the Hebrew year, 50 days after the Hebrew Festival of Passover, at the Feast of Shavuoth or Pentecost.

The author of the sermon was not interested however in finding correlation between the two events, but rather in pointing out the distinctions between the sermons designated by him as the Law and the Gospel. His sermon was intended to declare once and for all that “these two sermons are not the same.” Note the language of the sermon on this very point from the text of the preacher’s sermon.

Now the first sermon, and doctrine, is the law of God. The second is the Gospel. These two sermons are not the same. Therefore we must have a good grasp of the matter in order to know how to differentiate between them. We must know what the Law is, and what the gospel is. The Law commands and requires us to do certain things. The Law is thus directed solely to our behavior and consists in making requirements. For God speaks through the Law, saying, ‘Do this, avoid that, this is what I expect of you.’ The Gospel, however, does not preach what we are to do or to avoid. It sets up no requirements but reverses the approach of the Law, does the very opposite and says, ‘this is what God has done for you; he has let his Son be made of flesh for you, has let him be put to death for your sake.’ So, then, there are two kinds of doctrine and two kinds of works, those of God and those of men. Just as we and God are separated from one another. So also these two doctrines are widely separated from one another. For the gospel teaches exclusively what has been given us by God and not – as in the case of the Law – what we are to do and give to God.”

The preacher continued his sermon by comparing the two sermons to two kingdoms – the temporal and the Spiritual – where the temporal equates to the Law and the Spiritual to the gospel.

He then identified yet another kingdom that resides between the temporal and the spiritual – one that is half and half as it were. According to the preacher, it is constituted by the Jews, with commandments and outward ceremonies which prescribe their conduct toward God and men.

From this platform, he went on to attempt to show that “here the Law of Moses has its place.”  While admitting some good within this middle kingdom, he was clear to show that those things which apply to Gentiles are only those which are “written by nature into their hearts.” He preached this on behalf of a group he referred to as enthusiasts. This group “reads Moses (the Law), extol him and bring up the way he ruled the people with commandments. They try to be clever, and think they know something more than is presented in the gospel; so they minimize faith, contrive something new, and boastfully claim that it comes from the Old Testament. They desire to govern people according to the letter of the Law of Moses, as if no one had ever read it before.”

He saw no way to reconcile the two sermons. In fact he placed them against one another using very strong language. Notice the following quote from his sermon.

We would rather not preach again for the rest of our life than to let Moses return and to let Christ be torn out of our hearts. We will not have Moses as ruler or Lawgiver any longer. Indeed God himself will not have it either.

He further told those present at his sermon to tell those who would preach Moses to simply respond with the statement that “Moses has nothing to do with us.”

The preacher went on to state that the Sabbath was abolished and in fact he said that “not one little period in Moses pertains to us.

Finally he sought to set the record straight and informed the laity of why they should even retain Moses at all and not as he put it, “sweep him under the rug.” He identified three things “to notice in Moses.”

• Certain commandments are good for Christians. Not, said he, because Moses gave them, but “because they have been implanted in me by nature” and “Moses agrees exactly with nature.” He went on to share which commandments he gladly and willingly accepted.
• He said that he also accepted those things in Moses that he called “the promises and pledges of God about Christ” – promises that as he put it, “sustain faith.”
• The third thing to be seen in Moses as worth keeping it around are “beautiful examples of faith, of love and of the cross, as shown in the fathers, Adam, Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and all the rest.”

The sermon discussed above was delivered on this very date (August 27, 1525), 490 years ago by a preacher named Martin Luther as part of a series of seventy-seven sermons on Exodus preached between October 2, 1524 and February 2, 1527.

I could not let the day pass without announcing that I stand with the historical Jesus against Martin Luther on the anniversary of his sermon and declaring that NOT “one jot or one tittle” will pass from the Torah until all is fulfilled – stating further that whoever breaks one of the least of the commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven, but whoever does and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

This gives me more reason than ever to Preach Moses Every Sabbath in the Synagogue. The phrase “preaching Moses” comes from the New Testament book of Acts (15:21) as part of the decision of James concerning non-Jews coming into the faith. If Christians spent more time listening to the preaching of Moses every Sabbath, they would be less likely to be led astray by teachings that are contrary to sound doctrine.

Ross Nichols Preaches Moses every Sabbath
10:30 AM CST on www.SHMA.tv

Reference:

Word of his grace. (2007-2009). Retrieved from http://www.wordofhisgrace.org/LutherMoses.htm

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A Holy People and the Love of God

In this teaching, the third in his Deuteronomy series, Ross explores a phrase found five times in the Hebrew Bible and only in the Book of Deuteronomy. The phrase is AM KADOSH. It means Holy People. The phrase refers to the people of Israel. What are the requirements for a Holy People? Are the people of Israel truly chosen, and if so, for what are they chosen? And what about the love of God? Does God love everyone equally regardless of their manner of living? Who does God love and how can we demonstrate our love for God?

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Fearing God and Guarding the Guarded Things

This week’s Torah portion comes from Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11. The prophet reading is Isaiah 40:1-26. This is the second class in Ross’ series on the Book of Deuteronomy, and the first of seven prophetic readings of consolation. In this teaching Ross examines the basis for becoming a wise and understanding people. What instructions did Moses give to the children of Israel that specifically spelled out, how they would eventually become a great nation? Ross also shows the meaning and significance of the phrase fear of YHVH.

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Heart and Soul

HeartandsoulSeveral years ago while teaching a class on the biblical significance of the return of Israel, James D. Tabor made reference to an interesting, but not so well known passage from the book of the prophet Jeremiah.

Behold, I will gather them from all the countries to which I drove them in my anger and my wrath and in great indignation. I will bring them back to this place, and I will make them dwell in safety. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts that they may not turn from me. I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.” (Jeremiah 32:37–41 ESV)

This is a remarkable passage and predicts the gathering of scattered Israelites from all the countries into which they were driven. In this text, Yehovah promises to bring Israel back and make them dwell safely in the land promised to their forefathers. Referring to the oft-repeated covenant language, we are told that “they shall be my people and I will be their God.” It also speaks of an everlasting covenant that Yehovah will make with His people and of a promise to do good to them. It says further that He will rejoice in doing good and then qualifies this by stating, “I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and soul.” It is this phrase that should give us pause. The one thing that Yehovah promises to do with all his heart and all his soul is to gather scattered Israel and to plant them in the land in faithfulness!

A search of the Hebrew Bible however reveals that the phrase heart and soul appears eighteen times. In the Hebrew Bible, it occurs seven times in the 2nd person masculine singular (Deuteronomy 4:29, 6:5, 10:12, 26:16, 30:2, 6, 10), nine times in the 3rd person masculine plural (Deuteronomy 11:13, 13:4, Joshua 22:5, 23:14, I Kings 2:4, 8:48, II Chronicles 6:38, 15:12, 34:31), once in the 1st masculine singular (II Kings 23:25), and once in the 1st common singular (Jeremiah 32:41).

What is interesting is that among these occurrences is a series of 9 things, recorded in the Book of Deuteronomy, that returning Israel must do with all their heart and all their soul.

I highly encourage the reading of these passages in context. When taken as a whole they present a sort of map for returning Israel. Here are those passages in the order in which they appear.

But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 4:29 ESV)

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5 ESV)

And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul,” (Deuteronomy 10:12 ESV)

And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul,” (Deuteronomy 11:13 ESV)

you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 13:3 ESV)

This day the LORD your God commands you to do these statutes and rules. You shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 26:16 ESV)

and return to the LORD your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul,” (Deuteronomy 30:2 ESV)

And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:6 ESV)

when you obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that are written in this Book of the Law, when you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 30:10 ESV)

Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.””
(Joshua 22:5 ESV)

““And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed.
(Joshua 23:14 ESV)

that the LORD may establish his word that he spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’”
(1 Kings 2:4 ESV)

if they repent with all their mind and with all their heart in the land of their enemies, who carried them captive, and pray to you toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen, and the house that I have built for your name,
(1 Kings 8:48 ESV)

Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him.
(2 Kings 23:25 ESV)

if they repent with all their mind and with all their heart in the land of their captivity to which they were carried captive, and pray toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen and the house that I have built for your name,
(2 Chronicles 6:38 ESV)

And they entered into a covenant to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and with all their soul,
(2 Chronicles 15:12 ESV)

And the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book.
(2 Chronicles 34:31 ESV)

The restoration of all of Israel is predicted in the Hebrew Bible. See for example James D. Tabor’s, Restoring Abrahamic Faith.

According to Tabor (2008), “There are over forty separate sections of the Hebrew prophets that deal specifically with this theme of the full restoration of ALL twelve of the tribes of Israel. (Isaiah 8:17-18; 11:12-13; 14:1-2; 27:12-13; 43:5-7; 49:5-6; 54:1-8; Chapter 60; 66:19-21; Jeremiah 3:12-18; 16:14-18; 23:1-8; 29:10-14; Chapters 30, 31, 33; 50:4-7; Ezekiel 11:14-21; 16:60-63; 20:33-44; 34:11f; Chapters 36, 37; Hosea 1:10-11; 2:14-23; 3:4-5; Joel 2:30-3:21; Amos 9:8-15; Obadiah 17-21; Micah 2:12-13; 4:1-6; 5:1-15; 7:15-20; Zephaniah 3:19-20; Zechariah 2:10-13; 8:1-13; 10:3-12.” (*)

The return of scattered Israel to the land begins from the places in which they find themselves. Presently, many people who formerly thought of themselves as Gentiles are feeling an irresistible draw towards the One God and the ancient Torah. Could these returning ones be the Lost Tribes of Israel? Could you be a literal descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?

According to the prophets, though lost and scattered among the nations, Israel will begin the journey home. The search begins with a quest for the God of our fathers – a search that requires all of our heart and all of soul.

(*) Tabor, J. D. (2008). Restoring Abrahamic Faith (3rd ed.). Charlotte, North Carolina: Genesis 2000

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