Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, November 8, 2020

Shavuah Tov,  

Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)

Sun 8-Nov-2020 21st of Cheshvan, 5781

Ge 23:1-16Jdg 7Ps 33Mt 24:1-28(Ro 4)

“His Blood I Will Require at Your Hand”

by Dr. and Senator Raymond Finney

INTRODUCTION: Adonai issued a stern warning through Ezekiel in the sixth century BC. He likely would issue the same warning to us in the twenty-first century AD. That warning is: You and I are responsible for our families and neighbors.

This warning is akin to one of the earliest questions asked of Adonai, when Cain, after killing his brother Abel and feigning false innocence, asked (Genesis 4:9b): … “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The answer to Cain’s question is, “Yes.” A Believer is responsible, as much as feasible, for the well-being of those around him/ her. 

Consider three sample verses to explain why Believers must consider others:

** First verse in seeking to serve God and others (Matthew 22:39): [Yeshua said] “And the second [greatest commandment] is like [the first greatest commandment], ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” To be a follower of Yeshua, you and I should act as He would act. His invitation to follow Him was not based on reciting creeds, following rituals, or understanding complicated theological arguments. These are religionistic man’s inventions. I suspect Peter, John, and the other disciples would have failed every seminary examination given to them. Their professors would have advised them they are not suited for ministry and should seek other professions. Yet, Yeshua entrusted the spread of His faith to these rough, barely literate men, and through them billions of people have followed Yeshua. (See 1 Corinthians 1:26-31.)

Yeshua invited people to follow Him in the simplest terms. In Matthew 16:24, He  outlined basic requirements to be His follower (to be His disciple): (1) put others before self, (2) be willing to suffer or even die for His sake, and (3) follow in His footsteps. No creeds… no fancy prayers… no membership classes… just love the Triune God and love others. Almost laughably simple, this formula is in practice most difficult, and, perhaps, no one ever gets it quite right. Men and women who live the religious life (professional religionists) have made following Yeshua into a “religion,” transforming simple faith into a bureaucratic quagmire, rather than a simple, loving relationship with Yeshua and neighbors. 

** Second verse in seeking to serve God and others (1 Timothy 5:8): But if anyone does not provide for his own, especially those in his own house, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. Because children are a heritage from the Lord (Psalm 127:3 and other verses), we are explicitly commanded to care for members of our own household. Some humans could take lessons from the”lower animals.” Many animals we consider “lower” are actually better parents than are many humans.

** Third verse in seeking to serve God and other (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. We at Shomair Yisrael have a responsibility to exhort and encourage each other to love and good deeds. Together, we can accomplish more in a corporate setting of the Shomair congregation than we can accomplish individually. I am not a horseman and must rely on others, but it is said that a strong draft horse can pull up to 8,000 pounds. How much, then, can two similar draft horses pull, working as a team? Not 16,000 pounds, as simple math (8,000 + 8,000) would suggest, but a staggering 24,000 pounds. The strength of individual horses is multiplied, when horses pull as a team. Members in a church/ synagogue are more effective when working in a team setting, than when working individually.

In this verse, “Day” likely refers to the end of the Age (last days). Many students of the Bible believe we are approaching this “Day” now. Therefore, it is even more important that we work together to encourage love and good deeds.

ADONAI’S MESSAGE TO EZEKIEL: Ezekiel heard from the Lord (Ezekiel 33:1-9): The word of Adonai came to me saying: “Son of man, speak to the children of your people and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword upon a land, suppose the people of the land take a man from among them, and set him as their watchman. If, when he sees the sword coming upon the land, he blows the shofar and warns the people, then whoever hears the sound of the shofar but ignores the warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood will be on his own head. He heard the sound of the shofar and ignored the warning; his blood will be on himself. However, if he had taken warning, he would have saved his soul. But if the watchman sees the sword come and does not blow the shofar, the people are not warned. Then the sword does come and takes a person from among them– he is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.’ You, son of man, I have set you as a watchman for the house of) Israel. When you hear the word from My mouth, warn them from Me. When I say to the wicked: ‘Wicked one, you will surely die!’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked about his way– that wicked one will die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. If you warn the wicked of his way to turn from it and he does not turn from his way, then he will die in his iniquity– but you have saved your soul.”

“CIVIL DEFENSE” IN ANCIENT TIMES: In ancient times, armies traveled mostly by foot (although limited horse cavalry existed). Fortunate citizens lived in cities protected by walls. They retreated inside the walls for protection at night and during wartime, but left the shelter of the walls during the day and in peacetime to work outside the city walls to tend fields, orchards, vineyards, and flocks. The most feared threat to a people was, as in this passage, a “sword against the land,” which is a looming battle.

The people did not possess satellites, radar, and other warning devices, but relied on visual sighting of an advancing army. Adonai told Ezekiel that watchmen should be positioned on the city walls to protect the people. A watchman scanned the horizon for an approaching army. Clouds of dust from a marching army could be seen miles away. Then, the watchman would blow his shofar to alert the townspeople working in the fields of approaching danger. They would scurry to safety behind the walls and the city gates would be  closed. This shofar blast was the equivalent of our modern air raid siren. 

TWO RESPOSIBILITIES–  TWO OUTCOMES: Adonai’s plan could have two scenarios with different responsibilities and outcomes, as here summarized:

● First scenario: Watchman is alert, sees danger approaching, and sounds the warning alarm (blows the shofar):

** People heed the alarm and seek safety. No guilt is assigned to anyone.

** People ignore the alarm, do not seek safety, and are killed. Their blood is on their hands (they are guilty of ignoring the warning, the watchman is blameless).

● Second scenario: Watchman is not alert (sleeps, is distracted, has no concern for his/ her assignment), does not see danger approaching, and does not sound the warning alarm (does not blow the shofar):

** People do not hear an alarm, do not seek safety, and are killed. Their blood is on the hands of the watchman (the watchman is guilty– derelict in his duty–  of failing to warn the people).

VERSE THAT SHOULD CONCERN EVERY BELIEVER: This passage in Ezekiel has implications that far exceed assignment of Jewish watchmen on city walls many centuries ago. This passage applies to every Believer’s life today. Read this verse carefully (Ezekiel 33:6): [Adonai said] “’But if the watchman sees the sword come and does not blow the shofar, the people are not warned. Then the sword does come and takes a person from among them– he is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.’” 

** I repeat part of this verse: “’… but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.’” 

** I paraphrase this part of the verse to apply to us: “’… but the blood of an unsaved person who dies in his/ her sin without hearing the Gospel message I, Adonai, will require at the lazy, uncaring Believer’s hand.’”

CONCLUSION: I dislike quoting any movie in which Tom Hanks appears (a political hangup of mine), but there is a poignant closing scene in Saving Private Ryan. (If you did not see or remember this movie, I cannot summarize it for you now. Sorry.) The movie ends with Private James Ryan, now elderly, making a pilgrimage to the grave of Captain John Miller. Captain Miller (Tom Hanks) died rescuing Ryan from the fighting that followed the invasion of Normandy (France, 1944). Ryan, consumed with emotion and guilt, searches his soul. Was his life worth the sacrifice of other men’s lives? 

SIDELIGHT: This emotion is not uncommon in soldiers who have served in combat zones (why did I survive, but my friends died?). Incidentally, I hope you get a chance to see the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., at least once in your life. This simple memorial is the most effective memorial I have ever seen. A visit to the memorial is a most personal experience. Visitors leave notes and mementos at the memorial’s wall. I personally saw and remember one handwritten note at the base of the wall, which read something like: “Forgive me, Sgt. xxxxx, for what I didn’t do on the night of xxxxxxxxxx.” Decades of life had not erased the guilt this poor soldier harbored in his mind and soul, leaving him feeling that his lack of attention to duty caused the death of his sergeant. Union General Sherman is credited with saying, “War is hell.” The hell of war often lasts decades (a lifetime?) after the fighting ceases. END sidelight.

Back to the movie: This dialogue follows, as Ryan and his wife stand by Miller’s grave:

RYAN: My family is with me today. They wanted to come with me. To be honest with you, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel coming back here. Every day I think about what you said to me that day on the bridge. I tried to live my life the best that I could. I hope that was enough. I hope that, at least in your eyes, I’ve earned what all of you have done for me.

RYAN’S WIFE: James? [Looking at Miller’s headstone] Captain John H Miller.

RYAN: Tell me I have led a good life.


RYAN: Tell me I’m a good man.

RYAN’S WIFE: You are.

[Ryan stands back and salutes Miller’s grave.]

ARE YOU AND I GOOD ENOUGH? If we could look at the grave of Yeshua, pondering that He gave His life for our sins, could we substitute ourselves for Private Ryan and ask Yeshua, rather than Captin Miller: “Have I led a good life? Tell me I’m a good man/ woman.”

A THOUGHT (“BOOKS WILL BE OPENED”): Permit an old man’s musings. As I grow older, I think more about the failures in my life. (Strangely, I never, never  think about any accomplishments of my life. This lopsided thinking may be due to my personality type. If I do anything properly, I leave it to others to acknowledge. But, I am my own worst critic. I know when I act improperly, without outside help from others pointing out my failure.) Why do I have these recurring thoughts as the end of my life nears?

** Perhaps it is because I am in the twilight of my life– I know I have only a brief period of life remaining, or…

** Perhaps it is that I feel I have not accomplished nearly as much as I should have or could have– I know that there is so much more that I could have given to God in return for the life He gave me, or…

** Perhaps there are so many times I have messed up in my life– I wish I could go back in time and handle situations and relationships differently, or…

** Perhaps I am being granted a slight preview of my future judgment, or…

** Perhaps old men in retirement merely have too much time on their hands to think, to remember, or to re-play earlier years of life. 

I realize, of course, that some day I will be judged (Hebrews 9:27): And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after this the judgment,…. As in the movie, I may look at the grave of Raymond Finney, and ask myself (as Private Ryan asked his wife): “Tell me I have led a good life. Tell me I’m a good man.” I am not certain how I could truthfully answer these questions about myself. If you look back at your grave in the future, how would you answer these questions about yourself?

Will I (will you) hear the Divine Judge, as He holds me (or you) accountable for people who could have been saved, had we carried out our assignments more thoroughly? Will part of Ezekiel 33:6– “but [their] blood I will require [of you]”– be read at my/ your judgment? Whose blood is on my hands? Whose blood is on your hands? Sin can occur either from commission (causing something to happen) or from omission (causing something not to happen).

To whom are you responsible? Your family? Your neighbors in your community? Your neighbors throughout the world? Do your family members and neighbors face spiritual dangers? Do they need for you to sound an alarm for their safety? Whose blood may be on your hands because you failed to sound the alarm?

I have no insight into how our judgments may be conducted. I have wondered, though, might it be something like this closing scene in Saving Private Ryan? Could each person review his/ her life, as it is played before him/ her? Then, could each person assess for him-/ her-self: Was I a good man/ woman? Was I a good parent? Was I a good neighbor? Was I a good follower of Yeshua? Was I a good child of my Heavenly Father? 

Could it be that each person determines his/ her own punishment? If not, is it likely that each person will clearly understand why God punishes or rewards him/ her for the life spent on earth? We are told that “books” will be opened at judgment (example: Revelation 20:12). [“Books” translates the Greek biblia, which may be translated “books, scrolls, bills, records.”] Records are being kept on each of us for every minute of life. Is this a frightening thought? 

Will I (will you) be satisfied with any biblia containing my (your) name? As long as we breathe, we are still making entries in these hallowed biblia. We can still have some good entries in our record. May each of us close out our biblia, as the Apostle Paul closed his (2 Timothy 4:7): I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith. 


** North Korea (threat: communist and post-communist oppression– atheism). Read more about North Korea: https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/world-watch-list/north-korea/ 

** Afghanistan (threat: ethnic antagonism). Read more about Afghanistan: https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/world-watch-list/afghanistan/ 

** Somalia (threat: Islamic oppression). Read more about Somalia: https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/world-watch-list/somalia/ 

** Libya (threat: Islamic oppression). Read more about Libya: https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/world-watch-list/libya/ .

** Pakistan (threat: Islamic oppression). Read more about Pakistan: https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/world-watch-list/pakistan/ 

** Eritrea (threat: Christian denominational protectionism). Read more about Eritrea: https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/world-watch-list/eritrea/ 

** Sudan (threat: Islamic oppression). Read more about Sudan: https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/world-watch-list/sudan/ 

Until next Sunday, Shalom and Maranatha.