The nature of faith

Posted in character of God, messiah, specific Hebrew words, temple on March 19th, 2010 by yf

Is faith a matter of individual, inward belief? The individual struggling with a crisis of faith is a largely Western phenomenon. Other people can be a distraction to that inward struggle, yet, when religious faith falters, faith can be transferred to another person.Obama believe

In both Greek and Hebrew there is not a distinction between faith and faithfulness. To have faith is to act with faithfulness. Faith is not separate from action; hence, other people are not a distraction, nor can they fulfil one’s own limited faith.

The Greek word for faith pistis has the sense of persuasion or conviction: the thought is father to the action. The Hebrew takes us deeper. The Hebrew root word aman has the sense of supporting or upholding: to build up or to go to the right hand. The “Amen” used to conclude prayers is that word. With aman, the thought and the action are one. Faith in the Hebrew sense is not a subjective state of mind but an observable mode of engagement; faith constructs. The concept is of support, of pillars of a building. So, in faithfulness we are built up and in turn become pillars, supports for the whole structure. Why the right hand? Because in the Tanach (Old Testament) the right hand of God refers to the Messiah. Faith leads to Messiah.

In the Bible, the primary construction is the temple. The temple is that holy place where God and man meet, so faith builds that place. When the Bible describes the faithfulness of God (Psalm 36:5, Psalm 89, Psalm 119:90, Lamentations 3:23), it shows that He is building that meeting place where we can go to the Messiah and join God in faith.

Purim 1: the cause of the trouble

Posted in feasts, israel, temple on February 22nd, 2010 by yf

The feast of Purim ( this year 28 February) marks the triumph of the Jewish people against the threat of obliteration, recorded in the book of Esther.

Most Jews then lived within the vast Persian empire.  A royal decree was issued for their destruction on the day of purim, but why did this deadly threat emerge at this time?  There are three threads – one more obvious than the others.

First, the dominant courtier of the day, Haman, was angered  by the refusal of the Jew, Mordechi, to bow to him and vowed revenge: a conflict between courtiers.

Second, Haman was an Amalkite, a people with a deep hatred of the Jews.    In 1 Samuel 15, Saul disobeys God’s instructions to wipe them out and kill their king, Agag.   Five centuries later, Haman (a descendent of Agag) plots against Mordechi (a descendent of Saul) and his people.

cup from Jerusalem templeGo deeper for a third thread.  The book of Esther covers a period when the religious Jews had returned to rebuild the temple at Jerusalem: in fulfilment of prophecy and with the agreement of the previous king, Cyrus (see the book of Nehemiah). Those remaining in Susa, the royal capital, had seemingly set that aside.  Indeed, Esther is the only book in the Bible not to mention God.

The opening chapter of Esther records that Ahasuerus gives a banquet for his  princes and nobles at which he displayed his riches and then another one, lasting several days, for all those in Susa.  Drinks were served in golden vessels of various kinds (Esther 1:7).  Traditional Judaic sources (e.g. Megillah 12a, Yalkut Shimoni) record that the sacred vessels from the Jerusalem temple were used.

Previously, king Belshazar, had drunk from those same cups at a feast in deliberate contempt of the God of Israel (Daniel 5).  Consequently, he received a terrifying vision and perished that same night.  Ahasuerus did not suffer the same fate, presumably because his action was not so defiant.  But the Jews of Susa participated with him and should have known better.

Whilst the pagan king Belshazar suffered the consequences immediately, God is more patient with the Jews.  But still the deadly threat emerges, for His hand of protection has been removed from them.  Yet, through Mordechi and Esther, the Lord provides a solution.  Israel nearly brings destruction on herself but is saved and her would-be destroyers (Haman and co) are themselves destroyed instead.  Hence, the feast.