Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, May 15, 2022
Shavuah Tov,

Counting the Omer – Day 22
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 three weeks and one day of the counting of the Omer.

The Messiah’s Seven Worship Assemblies – Part 3 of 3
by Dr. Raymond Finney

INTRODUCTION: I continue the series on Yeshua’s message to “the called out (ones),” written in seven letters through John (Revelation, chapters 2 and 3). These letters addressed worship assemblies in Roman Asia (modern Turkey) that existed in the late first century. Some scholars believe these worship assemblies share characteristics with seven ages of worship assemblies present from the first through the twenty-first centuries. If so, the letters may be regarded as Yeshua speaking to past and present worship assemblies.

††† THE ASSEMBLY AT SARDIS (read Revelation 3:1-6):

Common translation of name: Sardis = ”Red ones” and “those escaping or remaining.” “Those coming out (escaping)” is an excellent example of the assembly Yeshua addressed during this time period. The Roman Catholic Church had become corrupt, filled with erroneous teachings, and tyrannical. Yehua burdens Believers, then and now, to choose wisely, before joining any group. On another topic, Believers are told to escape Babylon the Great (Revelation 18:4): [A voice from heaven said] “Come out of her, my people, lest you participate in her sins and receive her plagues!(Compare with Jeremiah 51:45.) Since Believers attend places of worship voluntarily, it is a Believer’s responsibility, using God’s gift of discernment, to determine whether a congregation should be used for personal worship or should be avoided. In the last of the seven assemblies (Laodicea), Yeshua was so upset with the worshipers there, that He wanted to vomit them from His mouth (Revelation 3:16). In a country such as America which enjoys First Amendment rights, almost any organization can call itself a church or synagogue, but not all churches and synagogues are equal in God’s eyes.

Yeshua’s reason to address this assembly: The Sardis congregation was spiritually asleep and was being lured by materialism.

Significance of this assembly: This assembly existed during the Reformation– a time when Martin Luther and other reformers rebelled against the Papal authority in Rome and started a movement to reform Roman Catholicism. An obscure Catholic monk, Martin Luther, allegedly nailed his 95 Theses onto the Catholic Church door in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517. Or, that is what we have been told. Modern historians question whether the 95 Theses were ever posted. Luther considered himself “a good Catholic” and would not want to harm the Church, but he did desire to reform a corrupt hierarchy within the Church. We may never know the complete story, but Luther and others did start the Protestant movement, which is one of the key features of Western history. Incidentally, Luther’s positions on Judaism are still controversial. In his early years, he showed loving concern for the plight of European Jews. In his later years, he became embittered by his failure to convert Jews to Christianity. He became outspokenly antisemitic in his statements and writings. Recent research has focused on Luther’s influence on present-day antisemitism, particularly as it relates to Adolf Hitler and Nazism, but I do not have space for this discussion. (If interested in Luther’s 95 Theses, read: Martin Luther 95 Theses: The Full Text (uncommon-travel-germany.com) .)

Date of primary influence: ca AD 1517 – 1750

Historical context: The Reformation began. Protestantism challenged Catholicism, ultimately causing a great and permanent schism in Roman Catholicism.

Yeshua’s praise: A few members in the Sardis assembly “had not stained their clothes.” In The Revelation, pure, unstained clothing is used as a metaphor for saintliness (holiness). These “unstained” Believers will walk with Yeshua, because He finds them “worthy.” Yeshua added a provocative statement– these “worthy” ones will not have their names blotted out of the Book of Life.

Yeshua’s condemnation: The Sardis assembly had a reputation of being alive, but was, in reality, dead. The congregation’s deeds (works) were incomplete.

Promised reward for the faithful: The overcomer will be dressed in white clothing; will not have his/ her name blotted out of the Book of Life; and will have his/ her name confessed before God the Father. In The Revelation, it seems that having one’s name inscribed in the Book of Life is the admission “ticket” into Heaven. I come from a Southern Baptist background. Baptists teach that the Doctrine of Eternal Salvation (“once saved, always saved”) is inviolate. I began questioning this doctrine years ago. Yeshua’s message, here, that He will not blot out names from the Book of Life seems to indicate that other names can be blotted out. In other words, is a Believer’s name written in the Book of Life with a pen loaded with indelible ink, or is the name written in pencil fitted with an eraser? I have started a couple of times to write a Doctrine of Eternal Salvation RR, but have not been able to finish. (My ignorance thwarts many of my ideas.) This summer may be a good time to write this RR– as a question for readers to contemplate, but certainly not as the definitive answer). In the meantime, we should hope for the best (a record of salvation is eternally written in the Book of Life), but live as though the worst is possible (salvation can be erased from the Book of Life, if post-salvation life is unworthy).

Message for modern congregations: The Sardis congregation inherited faith, doctrines, and structure from preceding congregations. It did accomplish many good works in Yeshua’s name, but it had lost much of its spirituality and love for the Triune God. Many modern congregations have inherited faith, doctrines, and structure from preceding congregations and they accomplish many good works in Yeshua’s name, but they have lost much of their spirituality and love for the Triune God. Yeshua told the Sardis congregation what He surely would tell many sleeping congregations today (Revelation 3:2): [Yeshua said] “Wake up, and strengthen what remains that was about to die. For I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of My God.

††† THE ASSEMBLY AT PHILADELPHIA (read Revelation 3:7-13):

Common translation of name: Philadelphia = ”Brotherly love.”

Yeshua’s reason to address this assembly: This congregation displayed patient perseverance, faithful love, and service to others. The assembly was alive. Worship of God meant something to the congregants.

Significance of this assembly: This assembly has been called “The Missionary Church.” Yeshua called upon congregations to go out and spread the Gospel to the lost (Matthew 28:19-20a): [Yeshua said] “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, immersing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Ruach ha-Kodesh, teaching them to observe all I have commanded you.…”

Date of primary influence: ca AD 1792 – present. This assembly-type will persist to the end of the Age of Grace.

Historical context: The missionary movement began. William Carey, called the Father of Protestant Foreign Missions,” is credited as being one of the first foreign missionaries in modern times. William Carey (1761-1834) was a Baptist preacher in England. He grew up in poverty and became a shoemaker’s apprentice. Although receiving no formal education, he was an avid reader and gifted linguist. He eventually became a Baptist preacher and schoolteacher. He became burdened with salvation of the unsaved, then called “heathens.” The first missionary society, The Baptist Missionary Society, was founded in England in 1792, and William Carey became a missionary to India in 1793. Carey faced many hurdles, including anti-missionary resistance from the British government in India. (Recall that India was part of the British Empire.) Carey led an impressive, dedicated life serving His Messiah and the Indian population, before dying in 1834. Many principles of foreign mission work date back to this English missionary, who was burdened with concern about persons of different skin color living halfway around the world.

● Yeshua’s praise: The congregation’s deeds were known by Yeshua. The door to the Philadelphia congregation was open, and no one may shut it. To me, this “open door” certainly means that all who will come are welcome to receive Yeshua as Savior at the foot of His cross. But, a door permits two-way traffic. Members may (should) leave the congregation to preach the Gospel message to a lost world. A shortcoming of many modern congregations is that too few congregants exit this open door to spread the Gospel to those who need it the most. “Preaching to the choir” is a modern statement, which tells of this dilemma. We have the model for this need (Luke 5:31): And Yeshua answered and said to them, “Those who are healthy have no need for a doctor, but those who are sick do.” Should we spend less time and resources preaching to the saved, but spend that time and resources preaching to the unsaved? I have mentioned before that some churches I have visited have a sign at the drive leading to the church– a sign that can be read only when leaving the parking lot, but not read from the street– which reads: “You are now entering your mission fields.” Indeed! The most neglected mission field is not in most congregations,  but in the communities outside the churches and synagogues, as Yeshua taught (John 4:35b): [Yeshua said] “… Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields! They are white and ready for harvest. And (Matthew 9:37-38): Then [Yeshua] said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore pray to the Lord of the harvest that He may send out workers into His harvest field.”

Yeshua’s condemnation: None!

Promised reward for the faithful: The overcomer will become a pillar in the Temple of God, will have the names of God, New Jerusalem, and Yeshua’s new name written on him/ her.

Message for modern congregations: No matter how small and weak a congregation may be, Yeshua needs, loves, and takes notice of the congregation, if it works for the Kingdom as Yeshua commanded. Good things– God-pleasing things– can come out of even small congregations. Following teachings of the Bible is all that is expected of a congregation, as beautifully summarized in Micah 6.8: He has told you, humanity, what is good, and what Adonai is seeking from you: only to practice justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

††† THE ASSEMBLY AT LAODICEA (read Revelation 3:14-22):

● Common translation of name: Laodicea = ”Judging of the people.” Laodicea (Λαοδίκεια) is a compound word, combining Λαός (transliterated, Laos || pronounced, lah-OS || translated, “People”) and δίκη (transliterated, dikē || pronounced, DEE-kay || translated, “judgment”).

Yeshua’s reason to address this assembly: This congregation was lukewarm in faith, selfish, and self-satisfied.

Significance of this assembly: In contrast to the vitality of a financially poor, weak, unpopular assembly (Philadelphia), which preceded the Laodicea assembly, the Laodiceans were apathetic, lazy, smug, and self-satisfied. Their faith was, at best, lukewarm. They felt they were able to supply their own needs and wanted little from God.

Date of primary influence: ca AD 1925 – present. This assembly-type will persist to the end of the Age of Grace.

Historical context: As the missionary-minded assembly at Philadelphia weakened, the rich assembly at Laodicea arose to take its place.

Yeshua’s praise: None!

Yeshua’s condemnation: As summarized by Yeshua (Revelation 3:15-17): I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. Oh, that you were either cold or hot! So because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spew you out of My mouth. For you say, ‘I am rich, I have made myself wealthy, and I need nothing.’ But you do not know that you are miserable and pitiable and poor and blind and naked.

Promised reward for the faithful: The overcomer will have the right to sit with Yeshua on His throne, just as Yeshua Himself overcame and sat with Father God on His throne.

Message for modern congregations: Yeshua prefers that a congregation be either “hot” (such a congregation may be used effectively) or “cold” (such a  congregation may be re-vitalized by Yeshua). But, a “lukewarm” congregation may prove useless, as it tends to be smug, self-satisfied, and unwilling to change. Yeshua may cause lukewarm, ineffective congregations to cease to exist– and, that would include the Shomair Yisrael congregation, if they stop working effectively for God. To give an example: I like iced tea and I like piping hot tea, but room-temperature tea is unappealing (barely tolerable).

Take note of one verse (Revelation 3:20): [Yeshua said] “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” This verse is one of the saddest verses in the entire Bible. Churches and Messianic synagogues are built upon Yeshua, who is the Rock of our salvation. Here, Yeshua hears a form of worship behind the closed door, but He must knock to see if anyone will let Him in.

This verse is beautifully captured in a well-known painting, “The Light of the World,” painted by William Holman Hunt. Study this work of art at: This painting of Jesus knocking at a door is the most traveled work of art in history (aleteia.org) . In the painting, Yeshua appears at the door of a worship assembly in the dark of night (the day has ended, just as the age of Grace is ending). Our Savior, the Light of the world, stands at a closed door, carrying a lantern. He knocks, wishing to enter where some sort of worship is happening. Vines are overtaking the door (few enter this place because worship is dying). Very significantly, no door latch is present (the door can be opened only from the inside). Will no one let Yeshua in? Do the “worshipers” inside need Yeshua, or are they content with their own songs, creeds, rituals, sponsored ball teams, and messages? Note that Yeshua, if permitted inside the door, wants to “dine with” the person opening the door. Is the menu for such dining unleavened bread and fruit of the vine (Communion)?

May Yeshua always feel welcome at Shomair! May there never be a closed door latch at Shomair, but may Yeshua and the Ruach ha-Kodesh always feel welcome to enter, without knocking.

AND, SHOMAIR YISRAEL SYNAGOGUE IS….: All of these seven congregation types no longer exist, except for the congregations patterned after Philadelphia and Laodicea. Earlier congregations have become extinct or have merged with subsequent congregations. Both the ancient Philadelphia and Laodicea congregations exist as significant influences (models) for modern congregations. That is, modern churches and synagogues are patterned after one of these ancient congregations. I know. I have worshiped in Philadelphia-type churches and in Laodicea-type churches. There really is a difference. After studying Revelation, chapter 3, I can readily spot the difference.

► I suggest that you and the Shomair leadership should answer this vital question: Is Shomair Yisrael Synagogue patterned after the “called out ones” in Philadelphia or in Laodicea?

● If Philadelphia is Shomair’s model, how can we work even harder to spread the Gospel of Yeshua HaMashiach throughout our community and world? How can we become more humble before the Lord? How can we make our worship even more welcoming for Yeshua and the Ruach to be in our presence?

● If Laodicea is Shomair’s model, how can we repent before the Lord and take immediate steps to become patterned after Philadelphia? How can we become interested only in our neighbors in this community and the world, forsaking interest in the material trappings of society? How can we make our services and programs more about Him and less about us?

Until next Sunday, Shalom and Maranatha.

Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Pesach Sheni
Sun 15-May-2022 14th of Iyyar, 5782 22nd day of the Omer
Le 25:1-13 Jer 4 Job 14 (Mt 26:31-56)     Ro 11:17-36