About the Author

Rev Aaron Eime is the deacon of Christ Church in the Old City of Jerusalem, the first Protestant Church in the Middle East. Aaron studied at the Hebrew University in the Masters Program with the focus towards Early Jewish and Christian Interpretation of Bible. Aaron also studied Psychology and Sociology at Queensland University in Australia in the Social Work Program. He is a dedicated Bible teacher exploring the Hebraic Roots of the Christian Faith. He has taught Internationally in many countries including Europe, North America, Hong Kong and China. Aaron is the Director of Research and Education at Christ Church. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife and 3 children.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The God of Jacob

Psalm 46 is a beautiful and comforting prayer. The Psalm begins with a powerful reminder that God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in times of trouble (verse 1). Treasured words to pray and reflect when life throws us a curve ball. 

The Lord Almighty is with us, the God of Jacob is our Fortress (Psalm 46vs7). Here we see a common Hebrew parallel, where the Lord Almighty is paired with the descriptive title as the God of Jacob. Which begs a question: Out of all the people in the Bible for God to name Himself by, why choose Jacob? Are there not other characters whom might be better suited with better qualities in which to pair God’s Name with? Perhaps a good king like Hezekiah or Josiah the reformer. 

What is the character of Jacob? He is usually not one that we would hold up as a role model for ourselves. He is not an obvious hero type like David, someone who is noble and brave and stands up to the enemy? David faced giants and defeated them. He battled and stood against kings of all types. On a tender note, it is David who wrote psalms and prayed with heartfelt intent. After all, it is through David that we designate the lineage of the Messiah. Messiah is to be of the House of David, not the House of Jacob. 

Rather, Jacob is swindler, a liar and a charlatan. He steals a birthright from his own brother and then cowardly flees the family. Jacob lacks the courage to face his crime. To square the circle while Jacob is away serving his Uncle Laban, the deceiver himself gets deceived by Laban. Jacob is a fearful man, often paired in the text with the word fear, announcing his reasons for fleeing Laban as ‘I was afraid ..’ (Genesis 31vs31).

And yet, God identifies Himself as the God of Jacob. It is in that choice of Jacob against other Biblical figures that the we learn something of God’s character. We learn that He is not deterred by our failings or weaknesses. Instead it’s the reverse. It’s in those weaknesses that He is strong and can show His strength. When we are afraid we can hear the call of the Lord, “Do not Fear! For I am with you!”

Examining Jacob’s relationship with God in the Biblical text we discover that Jacob is not a compliant figure. In comparison to someone like Abraham, who obeys immediately the directions of the Words of Heaven, God doesn't give much direction to Jacob. God and Jacob wrestle together, however God does not communicate His intentions or directions to Jacob. Jacob is rarely saved out of his problems, he has to struggle though them, often without a rescue from God. And he has no great military victories like his grandfather Abraham. 

However, we see that God pursues Jacob, no matter how far he runs away, giving reassurance often in dreams and visions, often walking behind the scenes in Jacob’s life. We see that redemption sometimes works itself out in a lifetime and is not always instantaneous. 

To a character that is fearful, highly flawed and struggling, we find God drawing near, reassuring and boldly declaring, “I am the God of Jacob”. This reveals a great deal about the character of God. He is concerned with the struggler, the fearful and the burdened. He sees us in our weakness, loves and guides us anyway, and declares Himself proudly to be ours. Psalm 47vs4 declares, “He is the Pride of Jacob, whom He loved”. And that is a very comforting thought indeed. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

What is written and how do you read it?

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is unique to the Gospel of Luke (Luke 10). Often misunderstood as a story about helping the needy, the primary point of this parable was to define the ‘Neighbour’ that the Torah commanded one to Love (Leviticus 19vs8). However, before the parable is used to explain a teaching there is a discussion between Jesus and an expert in the Torah. These opening questions are almost always overlooked. 

As is common in the Jewish world of teaching, Jesus is asked a question. He is asked by the expert, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (עולם הבא ‘Olam HaBa’ the World to Come!). It’s a very important question, one that everyone on the planet should ponder. Seeings as how Jesus has been asked this, the most important of questions, now would have been a perfect opportunity to answer… “Believe in Me, the one who has come from the Father to save the World.”  After all, that is the message of the Church through the ages. 

Western Christianity, under the heavy influence of the early protestant reformers like Luther and Calvin, who were lawyers as well as theologians, has too often reduced Christianity to a legal transaction. That is, we are sinners, sinful from the womb, dead in our sins and we are saved and redeemed by the payment made through the blood of the Messiah. This is very true of course, but the transaction is only one part of the message and teaching of the Messiah. Christianity and the Faith in the Messiah is so much more. 

When asked how to guarantee a place in the World to Come, Yeshua responds with a very important question of His own. “What is written in the Torah and how do you read it?” (Luke 10vs26). That question is for all of us. How do you read what is written? How we read the Bible influences our behaviour in the world. The expert in the Torah responds by quoting the Greatest of Commandments, to love God and to love your neighbour. Jesus replies that he has answered correctly. So how do you love God and your neighbour? How do we read and understand the command to Love? 

After Paul reduces the Faith to three words, Faith Hope and Love, he declares that the greatest of these is not Faith, it’s Love. Absolutely, Faith in the Messiah is important, very much so, and yet Scripture declares that Love is even more important. How do we read what is written? We are commanded to Love the Lord our God with all our Heart, all our Soul and all our Strength. From this we can deduce that Love is a choice. It is not an emotion, not something beyond our control. If love was simply an emotion then the commandment makes no sense. God does not say, Love the Lord your God .. but only if you feel like it, only on weekends, only after two cups of coffee in the morning, only if you manage to fall head over heels in love with God. Love is a command and we can choose to obey that command or not. God Himself thinks we can do this and choose wisely, for He says in Deuteronomy 30vs11 “Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.”

Faith may indeed be a gift from God, however Love is a choice and from the Parable we learn that too often we hide behind rules in choosing not to love, especially in not loving our Neighbour. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan the Priest and the Levite have excellent excuses as to why they cannot assist the beaten, bleeding man on the side of the road. They are going to the Temple. God has commanded that they be unblemished, untainted by death and disease.  They must be clean before the Lord. They choose not to assist, not to act in love and they have biblical reasons for not helping. Just like the Priest and Levite, we too often hide behind rules and Christian legalism. We chose not to love our Neighbour by convincing ourselves that “it’s not my department, that’s a job for another ministry but not mine, it’s not my calling or my ministry’s calling, God wants me to look after my family first…” 

Those are not the attitudes, nor choices, the Lord would have us make. Jesus uses the parable to teach in context of His initial question, “What is written and how do you read it?” Jewish preaching and teaching is always practical. We have been shown by the Messiah how to read the command to Love, the Greatest of Commandments.  Now we need to “Go and do likewise!"