Significance of the First-Born

some insight from Rabbi David Fohrman at in his series on the exodus on the significance of the “firstborn”. God called Pharoah to give to him his firstborn so that they could worship him. As we know from scripture you cannot serve two masters and as long as they were slaves to Pharoah they could not serve God wholeheartedly. He needed his people free, but not just any people, he was after his firstborn. Looking at our natural families helps us understand the purpose or role of the firstborn. We might say the firstborn is a leader…but why is a leader needed among siblings when the parents are adequate for the role of leadership?

The problem always has been and still is today that there is a span of many years between parents and offspring we know as the generation gap. This gap makes it difficult for children to see how the values of the parents are to be lived out in their own context. It raises the question of whether they are even still relevant as the contexts change. Never truer than today. Rabbi David’s statement of interest was that the firstborn is given a special responsibility to be that bridge between the values of the parents and those of the children. He shows them how to live out those values in the different context that they live in and demonstrates that they are relevant and timeless. When the others look at him they are able to say, “hey, I can act that way or live that way too.” Now apply that role to Israel and we begin to see that God chose them not because he loved them more than the other nations but because he needed to build a bridge to demonstrate how the values of the high and lofty God could be lived out in the context of a lowly and fallen creation.

Wess Stafford’s “Too Small to Ignore”

a deeper look into God’s heart for children in America…

“…children are not tomorrow’s church in waiting or in training. They are an important part of today’s church. In today’s selfish, “it’s all about me” mentality, we may have passed the point of no return in our ability to welcome children back into our sanctuaries to worship with us. Or to let them actually lead us in worship.”

“The real integration of children into our lives is happening all across the world-just not very much in Western society. Here we have forgotten that there really is no higher calling than to raise a child. We tend to do a lot FOR our children but not nearly enough WITH our children. In many of today’s dual-income households, parents hire others to do most of the privilege of child raising.”

About Tithing

Thought i’d directly copy and paste this excerpt from First Fruits of Zion’s weekly email.

Parashat Hashavuah

Re’ehראה :”Behold”
Torah : Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17
Haftarah : Isaiah 54:11-55:5
Gospels : Acts 8, 9


Adapted from Torah Club Volume One
Unrolling the Scroll

Thought for the Week

The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says [in Deuteronomy 25:4], “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and [Yeshua says in Matthew 10:10,] “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” (1 Timothy 5:17-18)


You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year. (Deuteronomy 14:22)

Tithe is an English word that means “tenth.” Most Christians have heard of tithing. Many churches rely on the regular and faithful tithing of their congregants. The idea is that a person is duty-bound to give a tenth of his income to the LORD by donating it to his local church or congregation. This concept is loosely derived from the Torah.

The practice of giving a tenth of one’s income to the gods was widespread in the ancient Near East. Prior to the giving the Torah, both Abraham and Jacob tithed. The commandment to give a tithe, however, refers specifically to agriculture in the land of Israel during the days of the Temple. The Torah commanded farmers to give ten percent of the produce of their fields, vineyards, orchards, flocks and cattle to the Levites. The Levites in turn gave ten percent of that to the priesthood. The tithe was the primary mechanism by which the Levitical, priestly system was sustained.

Donating ten percent of one’s income does not sound too formidable, but the Israelite farmers were to set aside an additional tithe as well. This means that the total biblical “tithe” was closer to twenty percent. The additional ten percent was not given to the Levites, though. The Bible says that the Israelite farmers were to spend this second tithe on themselves in Jerusalem during the festivals. They were also to share with the poor. It is this second tithe which is under discussion in Deuteronomy 14:

You shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God, at the place where He chooses to establish His name, the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and your flock. …You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household. Also you shall not neglect the Levite who is in your town, for he has no portion or inheritance among you. (Deuteronomy 14:23-27)

Churches sometimes misappropriate the commandment of the tithe by suggesting to their congregants that the Bible requires them to give ten percent of their income to the church. The Bible’s commandments about tithing do not apply to churches or people outside the land of Israel. They applied only to farmers in the land of Israel during the days of the Temple. Nevertheless, the principle of giving ten percent is an important baseline for charitable giving. Although they did not levy a tithe, the early believers outside the land of Israel contributed a portion of their possessions and income to the poor as well as to the teachers and prophets in their communities.1 Yeshua taught us to support ministers of the Word.2 Paul taught that elders who teach the Word should be paid for their efforts.3

Because there is no real tithe today, it is customary in Judaism to give ten percent of one’s income to the poor or to invest it in the education of Torah scholars or other charitable causes. Additional charitable giving and support of the community and synagogue are encouraged over and above that ten percent baseline.

Should believers today tithe? Yes. They are not obligated to do so, yet it is good to tithe one’s income for the work of the LORD. The tithe should be donated to one’s local congregation, to the poor and/or to ministries serving the kingdom. Some might even want to consider setting aside a portion of an additional tithe to spend during the festivals.


1. Didache 13.
2. Matthew 10:10.
3. 1 Timothy 5:17-18.

All we have is a morsel of truth

this week’s teaching at First Fruits of Zion is a good reflection and confirms my current disposition regarding our access to God and His truth. Click Here for the article…

On the day of Yom Kippur, the high priest came face to face with God. That is why he first brought incense into the Holy of Holies. The purpose of the incense was to create a cloud of smoke so he would not see the ark of the covenant and die. In this world, even our closest encounters with God are veiled and obscured. Paul says that “now we see in a mirror dimly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). He was referring to a brass mirror. Though it provided a reflection, it was not a sharp, clear reflection like modern mirrors provide. If the brass was not freshly polished, the reflection in the mirror became more dim.

Remembering that we do not see God clearly should help keep us humble. It should make us reluctant to criticize other people’s theologies and their experiences with God. They may have perceived an aspect of the Almighty that we have not, or we may have found revelation that has been withheld from them. Neither of us is to be blamed for not seeing the whole picture. In this world, the whole picture is not available. Yeshua told the theologians of His day, “You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form” (John 5:37). That is why a true appreciation for the greatness of God excludes religious arrogance. The Apostle Paul exclaimed, “Now I know [only] in part, but then I will know fully” (1 Corinthians 13:12). Nobody on this side of the veil has apprehended absolute truth.

“No one has seen God at any time” (John 1:18), the Apostle John said. Nevertheless, John goes on to say that the only begotten Son of God has revealed Him. Yeshua says, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

By clinging to Yeshua of Nazareth, we are spiritually carried with Him into the Holy of Holies. In Him we have a hope of sharing in the resurrection from the dead that He experienced. Paul reminds us that after the resurrection from the dead, we will see “face to face.”1 In that day, we will step into the Holy of Holies of the true sanctuary, and there will be no cloud of smoke obscuring our view. We will see face to face.

Fear of the Lord

I have been looking for deeper understanding of some of our Christian terms and language as i suspect that for many of us the richness of meaning sometimes gets cloaked by a familiar sounding term that seems to settle a matter rather than to invite a deeper degree of probing. How many of us when asked about what “sanctification”, “holiness”, “glory of the Lord”, or “propitiation” could turn and respond with a clarifying parable or analogy, “the glory of the Lord is like…”. the revealed truth behind terms like this must be profoundly internalized before we can deliver a moving description or testimony of what they tell us about God.

Brad Jersak described a way of understanding the pattern of writing used in Torah scriptures which we can use to help us understand what is meant by the author’s when they use the phrase “fear of the Lord”. they will often use parallelism which is to pair another phrase along with “fear of the Lord” which may look like a separate idea adjacent to the first but is in fact another way of saying the first which further defines what they mean to say….

for example Dt. 10:12 says “And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask 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, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good? ”

the first question is to ask what the Lord YOUR God asks of you. the next statement states what is required, “to fear the Lord YOUR God” (notice the term of belonging). The the subsequent phrases all serve to describe and emphasize what is meant by “fear the Lord”.

other references to explore

Dt. 6:13
Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. 14 Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you;

Ps. 33:8
Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere him.

Pr 8:13
To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.

Ps 128:1
Blessed are all who fear the LORD, who walk in his ways.

Jos 24:14
Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the
gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and
serve the LORD.

Job 28:28
And he said to man, ‘The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.’ ”

Prov 1:7
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. (contrast)

Prov 15:33
The fear of the LORD teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor.

When Jesus arrived on the scene of this world a common understanding of God was of God as the judge…but Jesus rarely describes God as a judge but says “I myself judge no one.” He frequently refers to God as Father. Bear in mind that God is like Jesus and vice versa, “if you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father”

John 8:14-16

Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. 15You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. 16But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me.

John 5:21-23
For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.

So we see from these two verses that neither the Father nor the Son are here to judge anyone, although we understand that there will be a time of judgment to come. We should understand something of the fear of the Lord by this…that God is rich in mercy, kindness and grace, self-sacrificing love and great patience…slow to anger. Fear of the Lord has nothing to do with cringing or grovelling but is more about putting trust in Him and following His way.

Explanation of Kosher requirements

this Link presents a balanced view on why God required his people to only eat certain foods…to simply say that unkosher foods are unhealthy is not the full picture and may not be true in all circumstances. Sometimes we need to resist the need to explain a directive from God in order to feel good about following it. Many things i ask my children to do or not do are beyond their comprehension yet they still must learn to obey…sometimes for their own sake, sometimes for other’s sake, sometimes for both, and sometimes because it is the law and even I don’t understand it. Here’s an excerpt from the devotional…

The laws of what is clean and what is unclean have to do with being able to participate in the Tabernacle worship system. We really do not know the reason some animals are called fit and others are not. The rabbis explain that the kosher laws belong to a category of commandment that has no rational explanation (chukim, חקים). Asking why a buffalo is kosher while a giant sloth is not kosher is like asking why the Sabbath is on the seventh day of the week and not the first day of the week or why the sun rises in the east instead of the west. Some things we have to accept simply because God says so. Who are we to question God? He decided that certain creatures are not food for His people Israel. That is completely within His prerogative.

God gave Israel the dietary laws to make them holy. Remember, the word holy does not refer to a moral/ethical quality. It means to be set apart. Israel is supposed to demonstrate to the world that it is a nation set apart for the LORD. One of the ways that the people of Israel are to do that is by maintaining a distinctive diet that, on some levels, keeps them separate from others. The distinctive requirements of the kosher diet have forced the Jewish people to cluster together in communities while limiting their potential interactions with other communities.

Some people regard the thought of eating an unclean animal as revolting. Personal taste preferences and appetites are the wrong reasons for avoiding unfit foods. Likewise, health reasons alone are not a good motivation for keeping kosher. A famous rabbi from the days just after the time of the apostles taught that a person should not say, “I think pork is disgusting.” Instead he should say, “I would certainly eat it, but My Father in heaven has forbidden me to eat of it, so I will not.”2

From First Fruits of Zion website