How to Identify a True Prophet?

Yeshua comes to the Temple to teach, and some of the chief priests and elders of the town question the provenance of his expertise:  “By what authority are you doing these things?  Who gave you this authority?” (Matthew 21:23).

Immediately, Yeshua answers by asking them a question that puts them on the spot: “Where did John’s baptism come from? From heaven or from men?” (Matt 21:25).  The dynamic that Yeshua presented to them was very simple – if they answered his question, Yeshua would answer their initial question.

But the chief priests and elders decided otherwise, for they came to the conclusion that they would be exposed before Yeshua and the people, as detailed in Matthew’s account:

“They began to argue among themselves, ‘If we say, “From heaven,” He will say to us, “Then why didn’t you believe him?” But if we say, “From men,” we’re afraid of the crowd because everyone thought John was a prophet.’ So they answered Yeshua, ‘We don’t know’” (Matthew 21:25-27).

Something of vital importance that we can derive from this confrontation between the priests and Yeshua is their knowledge that the people recognized Yochanan Ben Zejariah, known to many as John the Baptist, as a true prophet, one who had been sent from YeHoVaH.

This popular awareness is also associated with the prophet Samuel:  “All Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a confirmed prophet of YeHoVaH” (1 Samuel 3:20).

Today, we observe many people who proclaim to the world at large that they are sent from heaven. But how can we know whether someone is a true prophet of the Most High?  How could our ancient counterparts distinguish between a man of YeHoVaH and a false, self-proclaimed teacher?  1 Samuel 3:19 gives us a clue:  “Samuel grew, and YeHoVaH was with him, and He fulfilled everything Samuel prophesied.”

This supports one of the criteria that Moses gave us in the Torah to distinguish between true and false prophets:  We are told that if a prophet arises and “speaks in the name of YeHoVaH, and what he said does not happen, nor does it come to pass, it is a word that YeHoVaH has not spoken; with presumption the said prophet spoke it; don’t be afraid of him” (Deuteronomy 18:22).

The Torah offers yet another touchstone for identifying a false prophet: “When a prophet speaks in the name of YeHoVaH, and the message does not come true or is not fulfilled, that is a message YeHoVaH has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him” (Deuteronomy 13:1-3).

Beloved brothers and sisters, the Bible truly enables us to distinguish between the true men of YeHoVaH and those who would prophesy in vain.  So let us be diligent and continue to study and apply the Holy Scriptures!

Yeshua Heals a Leper – and Leaves us a Great TEACHING

Levi, son of Alphaeus – better known as Matthew the Levite – tells us at a certain point in his gospel narrative about how Yeshua heals a leper just after finishing his famous speech, the so-called “Sermon on the Mount.”  Lepers were people who were in a condition of physical uncleanliness (Lev 13:44) and who literally had to shout “unclean, unclean” (Lev 13:45) and be isolated from others (Num 5:2).  They were utterly unwanted by people in the community, and rejected because of their impure condition.

Matthew tells us that a leper came before Yeshua and prostrated himself before him, and told him that if he wished, he could cure him.  Moved with mercy, Yeshua answered him “I will do so!” and immediately, he was cleansed of his leprosy.

Every time I read this passage, I have no doubt that Yeshua had the authority, the power, and the proper disposition to heal the leper, but I came to realize that it was not until the leper surrendered to him, bowing before him and acknowledging his lordship, that Yeshua performed his miracle.

How many times have we gone through difficult situations involving illness, pain, or even torment, waiting for YeHoVaH to “do the work,” only for nothing to happen? We know that our heavenly Father has the power to heal us, and that by Yeshua’s wounds we have been healed (Is 53:5).  But even so, we remain afflicted.

Yet even in the midst of all this frustration, we can perhaps learn something from the example of this leper.  YeHoVaH knows our pain and knows what we need, but sometimes He allows sickness to touch us – remember the example of Job! – because He is waiting for us to turn to Him and bow down, saying “Lord, if it is your wish, you can heal me up.”


The Potter and the Vessel

The way the Creator helps us grow spiritually is through the suffering of the flesh.

Isaiah 64:8 tells us:

“Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”

Our father is YeHoVaH, and in this verse, Isaiah tells us that it was He who formed us. Don’t be deceived that He is talking solely about Adam, who was the first man who was “literally” formed from the dust of the earth!  He is talking about all of us.

He who formed us, He who works with the clay, is The Potter. The word for “potter” in Hebrew is yotzer (יוצר), and it is related to the root of the verb “to form” (yatzar, יצר) in the verse from Isaiah above. The Father is The Potter, and it is He who forms us. But what does “form” mean in this context?

A clue to this meaning is provided by a striking prophetic image in Jeremiah chapter 18:1-6:

“This is the word that came to Jeremiah from YeHoVaH: ‘Go down to the potter’s house [yotzer], and there I will give you my message.’ So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands, so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of YeHoVaH came to me. He said, ‘Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?’ declares YeHoVaH. ‘Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel’.”

Here we see how the potter works on his creation in the same way that YeHoVaH works with us – it is the very same idea that Isaiah mentions.

Returning to the question posed earlier, what does it mean that He forms us, that He works in us? Obviously, our body is already formed from the womb of our mother. But throughout our lives, we experience all kinds of situations that make us grow spiritually. The end product that the Creator wants to make of us is not about physical beauty or perfection but about spiritual identity.

But how do you grow spiritually?

This is an aspect that will probably displease our earthly natures. For remember, the spirit is at enmity with the flesh (Rom 8:7).

The way the Creator helps us grow spiritually is through the suffering of the flesh. How do we know? As the Hebrew makes clear, we can find the same linguistic root for the words “form” and “potter” in many words that we associate with suffering.

For example, the word “tribulation,” translated as “anguish” in Jeremiah 30:7, is tzara (צרה). The word for “Egypt” in Hebrew is Mitzraim (מצרים), understood as “a narrow and suffering place.” The “narrow path” that Yeshúa speaks of is the tzar (narrow, suffered) path.

And this is where we can associate suffering with the heavenly potter working on us all. Each of these examples has to do with our suffering, but at the same time, with an insatiable desire to reach out to our Creator, to call him from the midst of our tears, to surrender to his will.

In this context, we can understand how Shaul (Paul) says in Romans 5:3 that “we exult in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces patience.”

And we can also understand how Ya’akov (James) says “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (1:2).

Joy within suffering is found when we realize that the Creator is working on us just as the potter works on his pot. Through the pressure of his fingers, he molds and refines his creation and removes roughness. It is when we identify with the spirit, rather than the flesh, that we can appreciate and even rejoice, in our times of trial and tribulation.

Our Hebrew Identity

The sheep of the house of Israel were rejected by YeHoVaH but He himself promised that this would not be forever…

While it is true that we all have an identity or nationality from the country in which we were born, believers in Yeshua (Jesus) have another identity — an inner desire to know the truth about their identity as part of God’s people.

Regardless of being raised in a believing family or attending a Sunday church, there is often a restlessness in one’s heart to really know the God of Israel. Has this happened to you?

If your answer is yes, you are not alone. The same thing has happened to many of us, and we are involved in that same search for that deep feeling of love for God and for the people of Israel.

In 1 Kings 11, YeHoVaH (God) divided the kingdom of Israel because of King Solomon’s sin; the result was the house of Judah and the house of Israel. The house of Judah, despite being exiled to Babylon because of their sin, was allowed to return to the land of Israel and preserve YeHoVaH’s Torah (God’s instructions in the five books of Moses) to this day. The opposite happened to the house of Israel, which was taken into captivity by the Assyrian empire and was eventually dispersed throughout the nations.

At some point in history, the sheep of the house of Israel were rejected by YeHoVaH (Hosea 1:6,9) but He himself promised that this would not be forever (Hosea 2:19-20,23).

Ezekiel also mentions a beautiful prophecy where the house of Judah and the house of Israel will return and will be one nation, and his servant David will reign, and YeHoVaH will dwell in their midst:

Thus saith YeHoVaH: Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the nations to which they have gone, and will gather them from everywhere, and will bring them into his land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel, and one king will be king to them all; and they will never again be two nations, nor will they ever again be divided into two kingdoms. Nor will they defile themselves any more with their idols, with their abominations, and with all their rebellions; and I will save them from all their rebellions with which they sinned, and I will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God. My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in my precepts, and my statutes they will keep, and they will do them. They will dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, in which your fathers lived; they and their children and their children’s children will dwell in it forever; and my servant David will be their prince forever. And I will make a covenant of peace with them, an everlasting covenant it shall be with them; and I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set my sanctuary among them forever. My tabernacle will be in their midst, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
Ezekiel 37:21-27

Indeed you have a Hebrew identity! You are part of the house of Israel that was scattered throughout the nations, but one day you will be called home again, back to your home with our Father YeHoVaH and his “servant David,” our King Yeshua.


The Kingdom of Heaven – Maljut haShamaim

Just as there are kingdoms and empires in this world which are born, expand, and ultimately pass away, there is also in contrast a kingdom that is eternal –  the kingdom of God.

The term “the Kingdom of Heaven” is famous in Christianity since it is used by Yeshua throughout his ministry – from exhorting people to “become little children” in order to enter it (Mt 18:3); comparing it to a treasure hidden in a field (Mt 13:44) or a mustard seed (Mt 13:31); to even talking about how the halakhic rules would be within the Kingdom (Mt 22:29).

What many people do not know is that this term, “Malchut haShamaim” (the kingdom of heaven), and the term “Malchut Elohim” (the kingdom of God; sometimes “Malchut Shaddai”), were terms widely used in the Jewish temporal context in which Yeshua lived.

The Roman Empire had complete sovereignty over the land of Israel and economically oppressed the people through tribute (i.e., taxes) to the emperor. Dissident Jews who decided to refuse or even question those authoritarian imperialist regulations were crushed by the Roman military arm, and their bodies were displayed on crucifixes as an example for others so that everyone would think twice before rebelling or questioning their authority. The Zealots were a dissident group, mentioned in the New Testament, who fought against the Roman authorities, hoping to regain Jewish autonomy, just as the Maccabees fought against the Greeks a couple of centuries before.

A thought, rooted in biblical doctrine, became popular during that time: just as there are kingdoms and empires in this world which are born, expand, and ultimately pass away, there is also in contrast a kingdom that is eternal –  the kingdom of God.

A very clear picture of this appears in the interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream given by Daniel in the second chapter of his book: In the days of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not be left to another people. It will crush all these kingdoms and bring them to an end but will itself endure forever.

What is an Omer?

Shalom Torah fans.

Many of you may have heard the term Omer but perhaps have no idea what it means. Others know that it is something that represents the days that we count between Passover and Shavuot, but may not have an idea of what the word originally means. And this is what we will learn in this audio blog.

If you have been celebrating the Biblical Feasts for at least a year, you have probably noticed that one of the most important Feasts, in fact, one of the three so-called Pilgrimage Feasts in which every man had to go up to Jerusalem, is the Feast of Shavuot. This is called Pentecost, or Feast of weeks (Shavuot means weeks). What is unusual about this Feast is that its celebration does not fall on a specific day of the Biblical calendar, but rather it is celebrated on the fiftieth (50th) day of what is usually called “the counting of the Omer” (s’firat haOmer in Hebrew).

Why is it called “the counting of the Omer”, and what is an Omer?

The best place to start our search is in Leviticus 23.

“Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye are come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring the sheaf of the first-fruits of your harvest unto the priest” (Leviticus 23:10).

The word sheaf in Hebrew is Omer (עֹמֶר), and we are talking about the Omer of the “first fruits”. This is an important detail, since it determines the moment in which the seven weeks began to be counted, which is from the day the first fruits were presented.

This is why we call it “the counting of the Omer.” It could also be called “the count (of the days) from the offering of the Omer (of the first fruits)”.

We now understand why it is called the counting of the Omer, but we still need to understand what an Omer is.

The simple answer would be that it was a unit of measurement that was used in biblical times. As in our days, there were then ways to quantify measures of length, weight and liquids among others. An Omer is part of the measurement to quantify the volume of dry things, such as a measure of flour for an offering, or, in this case, the amount of barley that had to be presented on the day of first fruits.

An Omer was one tenth of an ephah (Exodus 16:36). Another known measure was the se’á, which was one-third of an ephah. An ephah is approximately 22 liters in modern measurements. Note: Although liters is a unit of measure for liquids, it is also used in modern times to determine the volume of something, for example, the space in a travel backpack. In the same way, the measurement of the Omer refers to “the amount of something” according to the capacity of a container of an Omer (the weight can be different according to the density of different elements).

The first time this word appears in Scripture is in Exodus 16:16, where the word Omer was not even translated in some versions of the Bible (!!!):

“This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Gather as much of it as each person needs to eat. You may take two quarts (an Omer) per individual, according to the number of people each of you has in his tent.”

As we count down the 49 days of the counting of the Omer, we also remember the manna that Yehovah fed the children of Israel with, from which each family took exactly one measure of an Omer per day.

In a more spiritual sense, the counting of these 50 days represents a conciliation between the individual and the Creator. This can be correlated to the bible passage regarding the children of Israel that traveled from Egypt to Mount Sinai. They were slaves, representing the lowest spiritual level; upon reaching their destination they heard the voice of the Almighty himself – the highest spiritual level that can be reached. During these days of the counting of the Omer, it is a great opportunity for each of us to get in tune with this ascending path of personal and spiritual development.

Mitzraim – The meaning of slavery in Egypt

We understand reality through polar opposites. We can say that something is bad because we compare it to the concept of what is good, we can think that someone is cruel because we know what compassion is…

One of the most prominent topics in the Scriptures is the subject of slavery. This is not because slavery itself is important, but because liberation from slavery is most significant.

All concepts in this existence are based on duality. As early as Genesis 1 with the concepts of heaven and earth, light and darkness, day and night… Adam himself was conditioned to understand reality based on duality when he ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

To this day, no matter who you are or what background you come from, we understand reality through polar opposites. We can say that something is bad because we compare it to the concept of what is good, we can think that someone is cruel because we know what compassion is, we appreciate something as beautiful because we can conceive the concept of what is horrible.

In the same way, in the biblical story, we are taught about freedom, based on what slavery is and what it represents. The children of Israel understood freedom through slavery. There are those who say, especially those who have been deprived of their liberty, that one cannot know what liberty is at all unless he has been deprived of it first.

Mitzraim (מִצְרָיְם) was one of the sons of Ham (Gen 10:6), and is the Hebrew word for Egypt. However, this word has a deeper meaning that reveals the biblical understanding of what slavery means, as well as freedom.

Breaking down the Hebrew word, we see that the “im” at the end of Mitzraim indicates the plural form of the word. In the singular, it would be matzor (מָצוֹר). Interestingly, Egypt is referred to in this way in certain places, such as Isaiah 37:25:

“I dug wells and drank water. I dried up all the streams of Egypt (matzor- מָצוֹר) with the soles of my feet.”

A matzor in Hebrew is a siege when an army surrounds a town or city before attacking it – usually to prevent supplies from coming in.

Matzor, comes from the root tzar (צָר) which means narrow. The pressure that an army applies to a besieged people has to do with this idea. Tzar is also related to the suffering that can be experienced.

Tzorer is the word generally translated as enemy, but it also comes from this root and would be better translated as “one who causes tzar”, one who causes pain or suffering.

One of the Hebrew words for rock is tzur (צוּר). This word is used a lot in the Psalms when David says “Yehovah is my rock.” The word tzur, once again, comes from the same root as all of these words. In this case, the idea of ​​pressure or the concept of something narrow has to do with the conditions in which this stone was formed under the ground. 

Tzur in Hebrew has to do with a specific stone, although this detail is lost in translation. In English, it is called flint, which is one of the hardest stones in existence, used to make tools and weapons in the stone age.

With all this, we have enough material to meditate on the concept of where the children of Israel were when they suffered during the period of slavery in Mitzraim, Egypt.

Suffering is not necessarily physical, but mental. In this world, the strongest chains and limitations are in our mind. Emotions like worry or anxiety make us feel as if we are in a narrow place. In appearance, we have already left Egypt and were freed from physical slavery, but how many of us can say that we are free in our mind?

This is the truth that Yeshua preached, when he taught:

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls..” Matthew 11:28-29