Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, October 23, 2022
Shavuah Tov *|FNAME|*,
PLEASE NOTE: I feel there is immediate danger to many Americans from imported fentanyl. Mexican cartels are making fentanyl-laced “candy,” one piece of which can cause death in a child. The upcoming Halloween night could be dangerous for distributing fentanyl to small children.
I meant to write a very few sentences about Halloween candy at the beginning of this week’s RR, but the “bloviation fairy” got hold of me and I wrote an entire page. If you want to reduce next week’s RR or you feel this note is unnecessary, please delete this section about Halloween candy.
What does Halloween candy have to do with the stated topic? Don’t ask embarrassing questions.
I am sure you realize our country is falling apart, and drug abuse is just one feature. But, we were warned about “sorceries” (drug abuse) and refusal of people to repent from such abuse in The Revelation.
Best regards, Dr. Raymond Finney
The Believers’ Awesome Retirement Plan by Dr. Raymond Finney
BEFORE I START TODAY’S RR– WARNING… CHILDREN MAY BE AT RISK: You probably know this from news sources, but it is worth repeating if it saves one child’s life. Halloween is observed on October 31. There is little good a Believer can say about a celebration of death and Satanic practices (ghosts, skeletons, demons, and the like). Halloween is the opposite of what a Believer should observe and teach. Little children dress in Halloween masks and costumes to go Trick or Treating. While usually only dental health and obesity are challenged by the loot of candy brought home, this year could be different.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, which can be deadly even in tiny doses. Fentanyl is up to 100 times more potent than morphine. Fentanyl and a sister drug, carfentanil, are manufactured sub rosa in Mexico and China. The deadly drug is smuggled into the United States by the Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels. Unbelievably large amounts of fentanyl are carried freely across America’s open southern border to be distributed throughout the States.
Fentanyl is the leading cause of drug overdose in America. In 2021, more than 71,000 Americans (usually young persons) died from fentanyl overdose. This number continues to rise. Fentanyl overdose kills more people than gunshots, suicides, and traffic accidents COMBINED. Why do legislators not try to stop drug smuggling into the United States, rather than threatening to abolish the Second Amendment by confiscating legally owned firearms?
The evil drug cartels in Mexico seek ways to increase “business.” They now incorporate fentanyl into products which mimic well-know (and safe) candy brands. These counterfeit, drug-laced products are collectively known as “rainbow fentanyl,” because many “candies” have attractive, child-appealing colors. They come in bags resembling the legitimate product. A child who swallows just one of these “candy” pieces may die.
Without a chemical test, deadly “rainbow fentanyl” is indistinguishable from the safe, legitimate candy product. Although many children now go to “safe” church parking lots to participate in “Trunk or Treating,” how is anyone certain that a drug-laced candy has not been criminally slipped into a legitimate store-purchased candy product?
Because of the large number of children in the nation, your child or grandchild may beat the statistics and only be at minimal risk. However, Halloween 2022 may be the year children should avoid Trick or Treating. Children manage to survive 364 days of the year without engaging in this weird practice. This change may be one of the “new normal” accommodations we must make. A child’s life is worth more than a couple of pennies’ worth of candy.
INTRODUCTION (BEGINNING OF TODAY’S RR): Americans are urged by the government, employers, and investment firms to put money aside during working years for use in retirement years. The Social Security Act was enacted on August 14, 1935. Self-employed and employed workers– and their employers– are required to make regular Social Security deposits through the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax. Withdrawals can be made in older age or disability. If a person dies before retirement or disability, most of his/ her account is surrendered to the government.
The concept of Social Security (SS) is good, but faults are obvious:
● Contributions to relatively safe mutual funds would yield a far greater return for the employee, than deposits to the Social Security Administration (SSA).
● Inflation has outpaced Social Security benefits, with most retirees needing monthly incomes exceeding Social Security benefits.
● A 2022 report by SSA’s Board of Trustees projected SS insolvency in 2034, with ongoing payroll tax receipts covering only 77 percent of scheduled SS benefit payments. (I do not see an obvious admission for at least part of the receipt downfalls. Americans abort each year approximately one-million future workers– that is, future SSA contributors.)
While Social Security is probably more universally held by Americans, there are dozens of other plans– too many for me to list all of them. We all sense we will some day need to retire, but life and living expenses continue after retirement. God, in His infinite love and grace, has established the perfect retirement plan for His children throughout eternity. I wish to discuss today some features of God’s retirement plan.
I offer a personal example: I had my first job at age 15 years at the White Stores in Knoxville. (Older East Tennesseans surely remember the White Stores and Cas Walker’s grocery chains.) As a White Stores bag boy, I earned 45 cents per hour. I remember examining my first paycheck stub. From my paltry earnings, my employer deducted (properly) both income tax withholding and FICA taxes. I asked my parents what a FICA tax was. I started paying into the Social Security (SSA) system at age 15 years, and continued to do so until retirement. For most of my life, I was self-employed, meaning I had to pay a higher SSA tax rate than many other workers because I had no employer’s contribution.
The average American worker saves only about half as much as financial advisors recommend as necessary for a comfortable retirement. There are many ways to save financially for the future– Social Security, 401(k) or Roth IRA plans, precious metals (gold and silver), stocks, bonds, annuities, and real estate, just to mention a few options. Saving for the future is not only wise but is also Biblical (for example, Proverbs 6:6-8): Go to the ant, you slacker– consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler. Yet it prepares its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. Applied to finances, this proverb could be re-written, although not as poetic as the Bible: “Save money while you work to use when you are retired or disabled.”
SCRIPTURAL BACKGROUND: Yeshua consistently preached against greed, except in one instance (Matthew 6:19-21): [Yeshua said] “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in or steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Here, Yeshua encouraged us to be as “greedy” as possible. A person cannot buy eternal treasure, but he/she can lay up (store) eternal treasure by working in this life for other persons in Yeshua’s name. Every time a person does good for others because of his/her love for that person and love for Yeshua and does it only as a service to the Lord and not public recognition, that person makes a deposit– ka-ching, ka-ching– in his/her “Bank of Heaven savings account.”
Paul described a Bema Judgment, or, Judgment Seat of the Messiah (only for those going to Heaven). Two key Scriptures are:
● … For we all will stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, “As I live, says Adonai, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God. (Romans 14:10c-12)
● For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Messiah, so that each one may receive what is due for the things he did while in the body– whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10)
– – – – – –
NOTES: (1) “Judgment seat” translates the Greek βῆμα (bema || transliterated, bēma || pronounced, BAY-mah in Greek, BEE-mah in English). The Apostle Paul was apparently a sports fan. He wrote of a bema of the Messiah in the above-quoted two verses. A bema was a raised platform upon which a judge sat at the finish line of a race. As racers crossed the finish line, the judge watched to determine the order of the runners’ finish so that prizes could be awarded to the faster athletes or not awarded to the slower athletes. This judge was not responsible for determining who was eligible to compete in the race; his responsibility was to determine only the order of the contestants’ finish (that is, what prize each contestant’s effort had won or not won).
(2) Romans 14:10 is imprecisely translated in the Tree of Life Version (TLV). “The judgment seat of God” translates the Greek text, according to the TLV. A more precise translation informs that we will stand before the Judgment Seat of Χριστοῦ (from the noun Χριστός), which is The Christ (the Messiah) or Yeshua (not God the Father). Yeshua, not Adonai, will sit on the Bema (Judgment Seat).
The Bema Judgment has nothing to do with entry into Heaven. Each person– not Yeshua– makes that decision during that person’s earthly life. If the Biblical formula for salvation is followed, sins are overcome, and the person’s name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, he/ she is admitted to Heaven. The Bema Judgment is involved only with rewarding saints for faithful service on Earth and for compensating saints for trials suffered on Earth.
Paul taught us how to prepare good works suitable for Bema Judgment awards (1 Corinthians 3:10-15): According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another builds on it. But let each consider carefully how he builds on it. For no one can lay any other foundation than what is already laid– which is Yeshua the Messiah. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear. For the Day will show it, because it is to be revealed by fire; and the fire itself will test each one’s work– what sort it is. If anyone’s work built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss– he himself will be saved, but as through fire. Permit me to comment on this passage:
● All good works for you, a Believer, start with Yeshua’s atoning sacrifice for mankind’s sins. (Why would an unsaved person store up treasures in Heaven, since he/ she will not be admitted to Heaven?) You must build on this foundation, Yeshua’s foundation– not any foundation laid by you or any human. ● Your work may introduce different building materials (different types of work) – gold, silver, and precious stones for GOOD works; or, wood, hay, and straw for BAD works. “Good” and “bad” do not refer to sin, but to faithful and effective work for the Lord.
● “The Day” your works become revealed and judged will be the day you stand before Yeshua for your Bema Judgment. Yeshua promised that on His return, your reward will accompany Him (Revelation 22:12): [Yeshua said “Behold, I am coming soon, and My reward is with Me, to pay back each one according to his deeds.”
● Bible translators commonly translate Revelation 22:12 as Yeshua promising “I am coming soon.” Yeshua has not returned in nearly two millennia, which would not be “soon” to most readers. This verse has caused confusion and skepticism. The reason must be that the translators have not examined the Greek text closely and with thoughtfulness. The word translated “soon” is ταχύ (transliterated, tachy || pronounced, takh-OO). “Soon” or “quickly” are acceptable translations, but makes no sense in this context. An equally acceptable translation, which makes perfect sense in this context, is: “suddenly by surprise” (Strong). This latter translation is precisely the description of the Rapture, taught by the Apostle Paul and others. When the English translation of the Bible is confusing, go to the original Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek text to determine what God was telling His servants to write, not what modern translators thought He was saying.
● When Yeshua returns with your reward, your Messiah-honoring labor and your opportunity for additional rewards cease to exist. This principle is a practical application of Proverbs 10:5a: He who gathers crops in summer is a wise son,…. We have a similar idiom dating to Medieval times: “Make hay while the sun shines.”
● What is the fire by which these works are judged? Although the Bible does not explain this statement, John recorded a strange description of Yeshua’s appearance at the end of the age (Revelation 19:12a): [Yeshua’s] eyes are like a flame of fire,…. Yeshua’s eyes are not flaming fire, as John adds “like” to this description. Yeshua’s flaming fire eyes hint at the interpretation of this passage. As Yeshua looks at each person’s lifetime of work, will His “eyes like fire” melt– and purify– GOOD works? Even a good work may be contaminated with impurities– pride, desire for recognition, and so forth– which will be removed at this judgment. A goldsmith melts precious metal and skims off impurities (the dross) to produce pure metal. On the other hand, BAD works may be consumed by the fire of judgment, leaving behind only a pitiful pile of ashes.
● A crown can be made of precious metals and stones (good works), but not of ashes (bad works, no works).
● Lack of rewards at this judgment does not disqualify a Believer from entering Heaven, as Paul took care to teach in verse 15: (he will suffer loss– he himself will be saved, but as through fire). In the Greek races, a stumbling, slow straggler who finally crossed the finish line was credited with being a competitor, but was not awarded a prize. In the Bema Judgment, a Believer with a handful of ashes to give to the Lord will still be admitted to Heaven (salvation has secured his/ her entry), but he/ she will experience regret and shame. Consider an earthly example from the late night news. When a family’s home is burned to the ground, an insensitive news reporter may ask the family’s reaction to the lost home. Wet, covered with ashes, and huddled under a blanket, the common reply is: “We lost everything, but, thank God, we are all safe.” A person will feel ashamed (“suffer loss”) that he/ she earned only a “crown” of ashes, while others earned glorious crowns of gold. The Bible is silent on how long such feelings may last, but possibly not for eternity. We are told that persons admitted to New Jerusalem (Heaven) will have all tears wiped from their eyes, with no more sorrow, pain, or suffering (read Revelation 7:17 and 21:4).
REWARDS YOU MAY RECEIVE AT THE BEMA JUDGMENT: All persons will be judged (Hebrews 9:27): And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after this judgment,…. The Bema Judgment for Believers will probably occur immediately after the resurrection/ rapture of the saints, while the saints live with Yeshua in Paradise (Pre-tribulation Rapture Theory). Saints will stand before the Divine Judge Yeshua and receive all or some of the following three rewards:
● First reward– Crowns: The Bible describes crowns (rewards) that a Believer may be given for faithful service and perseverance. Specifically mentioned crowns include:
□ The Crown of Rejoicing for Soul Winners (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20).
□ The Crown of Righteousness for the Love of Yeshua’s Return (2 Timothy 4:8).
□ The Incorruptible Crown for Victorious Lives of Purity (1 Corinthians 9:25, 27).
□ The Crown of Life for Martyred Believers (Revelation 2:10).
□ The Crown of Glory for Faithful Servants (1 Peter 5:4).
□ The Crown of Life to Endure Temptation for the Love of Yeshua (James 1:12).
□ The Crown of Joy for Converts (Philippians 4:1).
□ The Crown for Faithful Perseverance (Revelation 3:11).
□ The Elders Crown (Revelation 4:4, 10).
□ There could be additional crowns (rewards) that are not specifically named in the Bible. Make it your goal now, regardless of age, to earn one or more crowns.
The Bible implies that crowns may be laid (thrown, cast) before the throne of God, following the example of the twenty-four elders (Revelation 4:10). Why would a Believer want to do this? Casting a crown before a monarch was an ancient sign of submission and loyalty. Upon entering Paradise and seeing its perfection and beauty and after sensing the full impact of eternal peace, God’s love, and Yeshua’ sacrifice, the Believer will want to give something in return. Having no earthly possessions or wealth (all left behind at rapture or death), the only gift the Believer will have is the work he/she accomplished for others in Yeshua’s name, stored up as treasure in Heaven, because of love for God and neighbors. Faith and love for God and others is the only wealth that can be transported to Heaven. Such heavenly wealth, earned on Earth, will be converted to a crown. The Believer will happily trade all of his/her accumulated wealth– his/her crowns(s) – for the joy of being in Heaven.
● Second reward– Preparation of the bridal garment: After the Bema Judgment, a Believer will be eternally wed to the Bridegroom Yeshua. At the Marriage Supper (Revelation 19:7-9), the Believer will drink a toast with the Bridegroom Yeshua (customary in Jewish weddings), while Yeshua drinks from the fourth cup of wine He deferred to drink at His last Passover Seder until He could drink (and seal the marriage) with His bride (the saints) in His Father’s Kingdom (Matthew 26:29 and Luke 22:18). On Earth, a bride typically seeks a special, beautiful gown for her wedding. In the Believers’ marriage to the Lamb (Yeshua), every saint will also want a special garment. John wrote that a Believer weaves his/her linen garment by life’s righteous works, and the linen is made spotless (all stains of sins are removed) by Yeshua’s blood sacrifice (Revelation 19:7b-8).
● Third reward– Opportunities for service in the Millennial Kingdom: After Yeshua’s return to Earth (the Second Coming), He will establish His thousand-year reign (Revelation, chapter 20). Heavenly saints– Believers who are raptured or resurrected because of faith in Yeshua– will assist King Yeshua. You will help mentor the saved humans who survive the Tribulation– the “sheep” on Yeshua’s right hand in His Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46). Saints who are good stewards and faithful, diligent servants in earthly life will have greater service opportunities in the Millennial Kingdom, as Yeshua taught in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). Yeshua’s teaching in the Parable of the Ten Minas (Luke 19:11-27) is even clearer. Please read this parable. [NOTE: A mina (plural minae) was a unit of precious metal currency in Middle Eastern/ Mediterranean lands, equal to sixty Israeli shekels. A mina represented one-fourth the annual wage of an agricultural worker. A slave could be purchased for twenty minae.] In this parable, upon the master’s return (representing Yeshua’s return at the Resurrection/ Rapture), there was required an accounting (representing the Bema Judgment). To the servant who had earned a profit (ten more minae), the master praised him (verse 19:17): [Yeshua taught] “The master said to him, ‘Well done, good slave! Because you were faithful with so little, take charge over ten cities.’” The servant who earned a profit of five minae was placed in charge of five cities. But to the lazy, fearful servant who did nothing with his mina and earned nothing for the master, his mina was taken away, leaving him with nothing. Yeshua concluded this parable (Luke 19:26): “I tell you, to everyone who has, more shall be given. But from the one who doesn’t have, even what he does have shall be taken away.”
CONCLUSION: Shomair Yisrael Messianic Synagogue, numerous other faith-based organizations, and your own initiative provide you with opportunities to serve God and your neighbors. In such service, provided the service is rendered under guidelines of the Bible, you make deposits in your retirement plan stored in “the Bank of Heaven.” Make “deposits” in your retirement plan at every opportunity. This “Bank of Heaven” operates something like your local bank. Just as you can deposit five dollars or five-thousand dollars in your local bank, you can deposit small works or large works for others in the “Bank of Heaven.” Whether contributions are large or small, they all accumulate and grow.
Earthly banks have rules governing deposits. There are two rules governing deposits in God’s retirement plan He has established for you.
● Work for others because you love God and you love your neighbors. This love is an extension of Yeshua’s teaching that there are only two commandments: (1) love God with all of your heart, soul, and mind; and (2) love your neighbor as yourself. (Read Matthew 22:35-40.) Work for self seemingly does not qualify, although we all need to work to provide at least basic needs for self and family (1 Timothy 5:8). In my work, I believe I helped other people, but I charged a fee for my services. I do not expect a crown for such work. It was a job. At other times, I worked for others and charged nothing. This work qualifies for consideration in fashioning a crown. Incidentally, we call free work for others by the English “charity.” “Charity” comes originally from the Latin caritas, translated as “preciousness, dearness, high price.” The Greek word agape in Koine (B’rit Chadashah) Greek is usually translated “charity.” Agape means “unlimited loving-kindness to all other persons.” Agape (spelled, ἀγάπη || transliterated, agapē || pronounced, ag-AH-pay) occurs 116 times in 106 verses of the B’rit Chadshah, attesting to the importance of this special form of love. Although intricacies of Koine Greek may make difficult precise translation to modern English, the Greeks used four words for “love” – agape, philia, eros, and storge. Eros (sexual love) is not used in the B’rit Chadashah. When Paul advised a husband to love his wife (Ephesians 5:25), he used a higher form of love (agape), rather than a more sensual form of love (eros).
● Work for others as anonymously as possible, with no desire for recognition or praise from others. Yeshua taught this principle in His example of the poor widow who quietly gave two small coins to the Temple treasury, while the rich boasted of their large gifts. The size of the work for a neighbor (which is a gift to both God and neighbor) does not seem important to the Creator, who owns the Universe, if it is given properly in love and, perhaps, sacrificially. After Yeshua watched the poor widow give her pittance, we read (Mark 12:42-44): Then a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, worth less than a penny. Calling His disciples over, He said to them, “Amen, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those contributing to the box! For they all put in from their surplus; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything she had, her whole living.”
Even small gifts of kindness are counted as deposits in your retirement plan (Matthew 10:42): [Yeshua said] “And whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, amen I tell you, he shall never lose his reward.”
SIDELIGHT: On a personal note, years ago I was a member of the Gideons International. Distributing Bibles is an important mission of the Gideons. Each fall, we stationed members throughout the University of Tennessee campus to distribute free Bibles to students. One year, I stood on the sidewalk in front of a dormitory with three brothers from various area Gideon Camps, handing out Bibles to passing students. It was unseasonably cold that morning, the wind was blustery, and I was not properly dressed for the weather (business suit only). Seemingly from nowhere, a kind, middle-aged woman appeared with four cups of steaming coffee. I gratefully took a cup and turned around to greet students walking from behind me. Then, I turned back to thank the lady properly for the most-appreciated coffee, but she had disappeared as quickly as she had appeared. I assume (?) there was a cafeteria in these dormitories, and she was a cafeteria worker. I still remember her kindness, even though I do not know who she was or where she came from. This woman’s kindness– even though a small act (as was Yeshua’s example of a cup of water given to a child, see Matthew 10:42 above) – is an example of how we should serve God and our neighbors (quietly, effectively, compassionately). Enough small acts of kindness equivalate to larger acts of kindness. I suspect that unknown “coffee lady” was not only kind to chilled Gideons that morning, but she was probably kind to others every day. END sidelight.
God looks at the heart of the giver, not the size of the gift (1 Samuel 16:7): But Adonai said to Samuel, “Do not look at his [David’s] appearance or his stature, because I have already refused him. For He does not see a man as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but Adonai looks into the heart.” Recall Yeshua’s kind words about the widow who gave two copper coins (worth almost nothing) to the Temple treasury, which meant more to God than the great sums given by the rich men because of the widow’s attitude and sacrifice. This principle of attitude in money surely applies to works. Your work for others may be great in God’s eyes (He sees your heart), if it is the best you can do under your circumstances. Until next Sunday, Shalom and Maranatha.
P.S. Ray Boltz wrote a song, “Thank You for Giving to the Lord,” which celebrates giving to others. You may want to hear this lovely song at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWAv4qs_YnQ .
Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sun 23-Oct-2022 28th of Tishrei, 5783
Ge 6:9-22 Jos 8 Ps 7 Mt 5 (Jas 5)