Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, May 1, 2022
Counting the Omer – Day 8
Here is the proper blessing to be said each day. This is how Jewish people fulfill the command to count.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו, וְצִוָּֽנוּ עַל סְפִירַת הָעֹֽמֶר
Baruch Atah Adonai Elohenu Melech Ha-Olam, Asher Kid’shanu B’mitzvotav, Vitzivanu Al Sefirat Ha-Omer.
Blessed are You O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us by his commandments and commanded us about the counting of the Omer. Today is one week and one day of the counting of the Omer.
The Messiah’s Seven Worship Assemblies – Part 1 of 3
by Dr. Raymond Finney
INTRODUCTION: In ca AD 90 – 96, John (the Apostle John? see following sidelight) encountered Yeshua, after Yeshua’s resurrection. At the time, John was a political prisoner on the Isle of Patmos. John recorded the visions and words revealed to him in The Revelation. The Revelation and the Book of Daniel are the Bible’s most important eschatological (end time) works.
SIDELIGHT: In Revelation 1:1, “John” claims authorship of The Revelation. John was a common first century name. Believers over the years have traditionally accepted that the author is the Apostle John, but we have no corroborating evidence that the old apostle actually authored this book. Linguists, after dissecting the original Greek text, suggest that The Revelation seems to have been written by someone whose first language was not Greek. John’s other works (the Gospel, the Epistles) were written in better Greek. The Revelation is written in the worst grammar of the entire B’rit Chadshah. Of course, most of the B’rit Chadshah was written by a scholarly genius, the Apostle Paul. Paul’s writings would humble most of us, if his writings were compared to our writings. Also, the Apostle John would have been in his nineties, when The Revelation was written. Since we cannot settle this question, I will attribute the authorship of The Revelation to the Apostle John and move on. END sidelight.
In chapters 2 and 3 of The Revelation, Yeshua dictated brief letters to seven congregations of Believers. These seven letters will form the basis for the brief series of RRs I now write.
A TRANSLATION ISSUE: We may seem comfortable in the use of “church.” For example: a “church” may be a building, especially a building for worship of God in Three Persons. (“The office is across the street from First Methodist Church.”) A “church” may be a denomination. (“Jim is a member of the Roman Catholic Church.”) A “church” may represent public divine worship. (“Our community had a public church service after 9/11.”) “Church” may represent a career choice. (“Not many young people are choosing church careers today.”)
Apparently, King James took an interest in the translation bearing his name, arguing theological points with the King James Version (KJV) translators. He ordered the translators to translate the Greek ekklēsian as “church,” rather than a more appropriate “congregation” or “assembly.” As King, James headed the Church of England and would seem to have a conflict of interest in using the word “church.” Even so, the KJV translators did translate ekklēsian as “assembly,” rather than “church,” in Acts 19:32, 39, and 41.
“Church” is a B’rit Chadashah (Believers’) worship concept. “Synagogue” and “Temple” are Tanakh (Jews’) worship concepts.
In most Bible versions, the Biblical text word rendered “church”is the Greek ἐκκλησίαν (ekklēsian). This compound word combines the prefix ἐκ (ek = “out of”) with the root from the verb καλέω (kaléō = “to call”). A “church,” therefore, is a congregation of Believers, who are, literally, “the called out (ones).” The “called out ones” is consistent with Believers called out of darkness into Yeshua’s light. Yeshua said (John 8:12): “I am the light of the world.” Peter explained that people were called out of darkness and into Yeshua’s light for a purpose (1 Peter 2:9): But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
In the Tree of Life Version, the Greek ἐκκλησίαν is translated “Messiah’s community,” which seems more of an interpretation, than a literal translation.
Even though we may not be able to translate the Greek ekklēsian perfectly, we know what we are talking about. In this RR, I will use the term “worship assemblies.” Even though an imperfect translation, it seems appropriate to me, because Believers assemble (are called out from their homes and communities) into a group and place to worship (to serve the Triune God in word and deed). I believe this concept is consistent with Hebrews 10:24-25: And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good deeds. And do not neglect our own meetings, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another– and all the more so as you see the Day approaching. I believe Adonai is far more interested in the humble, heartfelt praises and actions of His children than in all the creeds, bylaws, catechisms, and other documents ever written and recited.
SIDELIGHT: I attach “worship” to “assembly,” even though “worship” is as difficult to define as “love.” Worship is the declaration in word and deed by persons (God’s children– the created) that Someone is far greater and worthy of adoration (God– the Creator). “Worship” has been simplified as the “act of bowing down to lift God up.” END sidelight.
YESHUA’S APPEARANCE TO JOHN: Yeshua appeared to John in ca AD 90 – 96– approximately six decades after Yeshua’s crucifixion. Domitian was Rome’s emperor. Domitian’s tyranny against Believers was extreme, cruel, and deadly. Domitian demanded to be worshiped as a god, which no Jew or Believer could do (Exodus 20:3): [God spoke] “You shall have no other gods before Me.”
By this date, all of Yeshua’s apostles were dead, having been cruelly martyred. John, the last living apostle, was imprisoned on Patmos because of his faith. He was imprisoned for “testifying to the word of God and Yeshua the Messiah” (Revelation 1:2). Patmos was a bleak, rocky, volcanic island in the Aegean Sea west of modern Turkey (then known as Roman Asia).
The Revelation was primarily addressed to seven first century churches in Roman Asia, but gives Yeshua’s thoughts and concerns about Believers’ faith of all times– past, present, and future (Revelation 1:19): [Yeshua instructed John] “Therefore write down what you have seen, what is, and what will happen after these things.” Thus, The Revelation, a masterful summary of the past, present, and future, is as relevant in the twenty-first century, speaking to us, as it was in the first century, speaking to John.
THE REVELATION– WHAT A BOOK! I suggest a Believer read and repeatedly re-read The Revelation until it is pretty much understood. That is, understand the parts meant for present generations of Believers to understand. Since not all of the Bible has yet been revealed, we all have imperfect knowledge of Scriptures (Paul’s “mysteries”). God intends for some parts of the Holy Writ to remain as mysteries at the present time.
Only a rare student could read The Revelation once and understand everything he/ she has read. It takes perseverance and study to unlock The Revelation’s mysteries. It get easier, as the Book is re-read, scholars’ views are considered, the Ruach ha-Kodesh guides, and patience is invoked. Consider two features:
● I have read The Revelation several times. With each re-reading, I see something I previously missed. In my “earlier life,” I trained in pathology. This training involved a four-year residency, after completion of medical school and internship. When studying cytology in my residency, I initially questioned whether I would ever be able to interpret Pap smears (probably a difficult discipline for most persons). With practice, guidance from experienced pathologists and cytotechnologists, reading, and attending conferences, those glass slides with “gazillions” of cells on them started to make sense. Later in my medical practice, I signed out thousands of Pap smears each year, and felt reasonably comfortable rendering interpretations. (Comfortable? Pathologists I know wonder why they interpret Pap smears, given the immense malpractice liability potential associated with each case and the pittance charged.) Returning to the topic of this RR, The Revelation can be understood. Keep at it! Any pastor who refuses to teach from The Revelation because it is “too confusing” merely acknowledges that he/ she is too lazy to study.
● The Revelation and the Book of Daniel complement each other very well. The Book of Genesis and The Revelation are physically the first and last books of our Bible, but these books have also been called “bookends” of the Bible. Why? If you read opening verses of Genesis and, if it were possible to read the concluding verses of The Revelation backward, the last words of The Revelation complete the opening verses of Genesis. What Adonai began in Genesis (the Garden of Eden), He will conclude in The Revelation (Paradise and Heaven). All verses between the Genesis opening and The Revelation conclusion tell of man’s rebellion against God, a rebellion which will be defeated in the last days.
THE SEVEN WORSHIP ASSEMBLIES: Yeshua dictated letters to seven first century worship assemblies located in Roman Asia (modern Turkey). These letters are contained in chapters 2 and 3 of The Revelation. Yeshua’s words in these letters record His last words spoken to any living person on Earth.
Look at a map of ancient Roman Asia (https://ibiblemaps.com/7-churches ). The seven assemblies of The Revelation were scattered along an ancient road (trade route) that circled through the province of Asia. John undoubtedly had worshiped in all assemblies and knew persons in each congregation.
UNDERSTAND FIVE THINGS: A summary of the seven worship assemblies will follow in the next two Sunday RRs. I realize the format in which I will present them is boring. I am sorry, but I do not know how to present such material in an “exciting” fashion. Some things just require old-fashioned study. I never learned anything important that was not boring to study.
As you read the following RRs, please keep in mind five things:
● Dates of primary influence are presented as blocks of time in which the assemblies exerted major influence. Most dates merged with previous and following dates. That is, no one threw a switch to change from one assembly’s date of influence to the next, but dates merged as people’s needs changed.
● One assembly was influenced by preceding assemblies. Using myself as an example, I am a product of many influences, such as, marriage, education, life experiences, worship activities, friends, acquaintances. I learned many things from my parents. I also learned things from my grandparents, both directly and indirectly through things my parents learned from their parents. And so forth. Just as a person develops over time, worship of the Messiah developed over the years. A developing worship assembly carried over beliefs and practices– both desirable (good) and undesirable (bad) – from earlier assemblies.
● The May 15 RR will favor a Protestant viewpoint. It is unlikely that a Catholic would acknowledge the Protestant Reformation (represented by the Sardis assembly) as a laudable event, an event sanctioned by Yeshua.
● Yeshua warned the worship assemblies about “taking their lampstand away.” Since a worship assembly is intended to spread the Light (Yeshua), taking away “the lampstand” would be equivalent to taking away the authority for the assembly to even exist.
These seven assemblies were well known to John in his lifetime, but what happened to them? John and the other apostles likely wished these assembles would thrive and grow. Sadly, this is not the case, as the assemblies were lost to indifference and being overtaken by Islam. There is a lesson here: Faith must be constantly added to make an assembly thrive. Yeshua’s example of an assembly as being a lampstand is pertinent. If fuel (oil) is not introduced to a lampstand, the lamps go out.
□ Ephesus shifted to the Islamic town of Selçuk, Turkey. (Turkey is predominantly Islamic today). A small Believer (Protestant) congregations still exists, though.
□ Smyrna became Izmir, Turkey. One of John’s disciples, Polycarp, was a bishop of the early assembly in Smyrna. At age 86 years, Polycarp was arrested and was demanded to denounce Yeshua. Before being burned at the stake, Polycarp refused to deny Yeshua, delivering his famous statement of faith: “For eighty-six years I have been His servant, and He has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” Today, an estimated 500 Believers (Ismir’s population exceeds four million) worship in at least twelve churches (Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and evangelical Protestant).
□ Pergamos became Bergama, Turkey. A large temple to Zeus once existed here, which may be the reason Yeshua called this city as being where Satan has his throne. Today, few Believers and no churches exist in modern Bergama.
□ Thyatira became Akhisar, Turkey. Lydia, the seller of purple cloth (see Acts), lived in Thyatira. Today, there are no Believers and no churches in Akhisar.
□ Sardis became Sart, Turkey. No Believers in Yeshua are thought to be living in modern Sart.
□ Philadelphia became Alaşehir, Turkey. Little remains of ancient Philadelphia, and no Believers are thought to live in this crumbling city.
□ Laodicea became Denizli, Turkey. The city was ravaged by an earthquake (AD 600) and invasion by the Turks (eleventh century AD). Very few Believers are to be found in modern Denizli.
The apostles’ attempts to establish worship assemblies dedicated to Yeshua have seemingly failed. Modern Turks are mostly Muslims or agnostics.
If Yeshua should tarry for many centuries before returning, what would happen in Knoxville? How may churches and synagogues would be in operation? How many Believers would live and worship here? Would there still be a Shomair Yisrael Synagogue? Consider Luke 18:8b: [Yeshua said] “… But when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”
● Some authors draw parallels between Yeshua’s parables, recorded in the thirteenth chapter of Matthew, and the seven assemblies, addressed by Yeshua in The Revelation. I will not take space in this RR to discuss these connections, but I will list the parables, if you wish to study more and discern the parallels:
□ Ephesus: Parable of the Sower and the Seed ( (Matthew 13:1-23);
□ Smyrna: Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43);
□ Pergamos: Parable of the Mustard Seed (Matthew 13:31-32);
□ Thyatira: Parable of the Leaven (Matthew 13:33);
□ Sardis: Parable of the Treasure (Matthew 13;44);
□ Philadelphia: Parable of the Pearl (Matthew 13:45-46); and
□ Laodicea: Parable of the Net (Matthew 13:47-50).
TO BE CONCLUDED: Over the next two Sundays, I will conclude this series. On May 8, I will discuss the first four assemblies (Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, and Thyatira). On May 15, I will discuss the last three assemblies (Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea). By the way, the prophetic prototype for Shomair Yisrael is included in the May 15 RR. Is Shomair a Philadelphia assembly, or a Laodicea assembly? Shalom and Maranatha.
Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sun 01-May-2022 30th of Nisan, 5782 8th day of the Omer
Rosh Chodesh Iyyar (Day 1)
Le 19:1-14 Isa 55-56 Job 2 (Mt 19) Ro 1