Ten Commandments - Visiting Neveh Shalom

Ten Commandments Wall at Congregation Neveh Shalom | Land of Honey
A while back I mentioned that my husband and I took sort of a spontaneous vacation and showed you a few pictures from the Seattle portion of our trip. After spending a few days in Washington we drove down the coast to end up at my sister's near Portland, Oregon.
Ten Commandments Wall at Congregation Neveh Shalom | Land of Honey
Something I do before we travel is to search for faith related things in the area we will be in and that's how I came across Congregation Neveh Shalom in Portland. One photo of their massive ten commandments online and I knew this was a place I wanted to see! 
Ten Commandments Wall at Congregation Neveh Shalom | Land of Honey
Yes, this was truly massive! The pine tress in front of it are full size for reference. The trees that appear taller on the right are actually on a large hill. Seeing this was really meaningful for me and I can't help but wish for the day when seeing things that declare YHWH's truth isn't such a rarity.
Congregation Neveh Shalom | Land of Honey
Neveh Shalom has a really nice setup. They sit a ways back from the road to begin with, and you can see the ten commandments when you pull in. But then drive up the hill on the right side and they have a beautiful courtyard area before their main entrance.
Congregation Neveh Shalom | Land of Honey

Congregation Neveh Shalom | Land of Honey

Nepom Gates Congregation Neveh Shalom | Land of Honey

Outdoor Menorah at Congregation Neveh Shalom | Land of Honey
So many beautiful details!
Congregation Neveh Shalom in Portland, Oregon | Land of Honey
It was great to see, "have these words be on  your gates," right in front of my eyes!
Congregation Neveh Shalom in Portland, Oregon | Land of Honey

Congregation Neveh Shalom in Portland, Oregon | Land of Honey
Symbols for the twelve tribes inside above the staircase.
Outdoor Menorah at Congregation Neveh Shalom | Land of Honey
I really enjoyed seeing this beautiful congregation in person and would recommend a detour if you are ever in the Portland area. How cute would a family picture be in front of the ten commandments wall?

Keeping the Torah Printable

Get a free printable of 1 Corinthians 7:19 | Land of Honey

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Who has heard this verse before, "It makes no difference if a man is circumcised or not"? Usually the speaker goes on to explain that it doesn't matter at all if we follow YHWH's instructions. We are 'free' to do whatever we want, without any consequence is the line. But the very next sentence of the same verse says, "Keeping the Torah of YHWH is everything."

Sure, granted that translation is from the Restoration Scriptures and not something more mainstream. But even the NLT reads, "The important thing is to keep God's commandments." Keeping his instructions is important.

To understand the seeming contradiction in this text (circumcision is something YHWH commanded) we can read the verse this way, "It doesn't matter if you're circumcised or not - you still need to be obedient to YHWH." Many of us have treated our heritage as an exemption from keeping YHWH's commandments, thinking the instructions of Scripture are only for a different people group. And there was contention over this in ancient Israel as well. The use of the words 'circumcised' and 'uncircumcised' alludes to the two houses of Israel - Judah being the circumcised and Ephraim being uncircumcised. There was much confusion over how these distinct groups should behave and Paul is clarifying that here.

1 Corinthians 7:19 - keeping the Torah is everything | Land of Honey

He is saying:
Even if you're circumcised and following the Torah, you need the Messiah.

Even if you have the Messiah, you need to follow the Torah.

The message here is that it's not enough to be circumcised out of family tradition or to celebrate Passover and then not wholeheartedly follow YHWH. We should honor the commandments because we love YHWH and want to serve Yahusha. We aren't to treat Torah observance like a free pass to get to Heaven. The point is love the Messiah and live in the way he instructed.

Free printable for the Hebrew home | Land of Honey

I made this printable because I want to be reminded of how important my obedience is to YHWH. While he knows my heart, he doesn't just ask of me that I love him or mean well. He wants each of us to truly follow him and walk in his ways. I hope this will remind you of that truth as well.

Click here to download. This printable is free for your personal use.

Encouragement for the New Shabbat Keeper

New to honoring the Sabbath day? Advice and encouragement from people who've been there! | Land of Honey
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Learning to set apart the Sabbath day can feel a little daunting. Forming new habits and routines is challenging in any circumstance and it is very common for those new to honoring Shabbat to feel completely overwhelmed by it. Going against society or how we were raised is not easy. I've heard from a few of you recently who truly desire to honor our Creator by resting on the seventh day as he did and are finding this transition time difficult. I've been there too, many of us have. On the Shabbat survey I asked what advice you would give to someone who is new at observing the Sabbath, so that's what we are talking about today, because you aren't alone in this.

Encouragement for new Shabbat keepers:

"Take it slow. Introduce one thing at a time to make the transition more peaceful. Don't feel guilty for not doing everything perfect. Pray and YHWH will let you know what's important to him and he will show you more as time goes on."

"Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance!"

"Remember that this is pleasing to YHWH and he delights in us when we obey his command to rest."

"Relax! Don't worry what everyone else is doing! It's not about the traditions it's about our relationship with YHWH."

"At first I was so worried about the traditions of having challah made, lighting the candles, and memorizing the ceremonial blessings that I looked at Shabbat as extra work instead of a break from it. I realized YHWH does not ask us to keep man's traditions and it was so freeing!" 

"If you're reading in the Bible and find out you're doing something wrong, then fix it, but don't beat yourself over the head trying to get it right the first time!"

"Relax. Don't worry about all the man-made rules. YHWH didn't make it hard. His laws and desires for us are not heavy or a burden. Just use the time to honor him and rest. It should not be hard or a burden or more work. Rest in his provision."

"Stand strong in your belief and don't let others discourage you."

"Have grace with yourself and your family. Go into it slowly and find what works for your family."

"Make sure you're doing this because you love the Father."

"Include your children in preparation for Shabbat as a way to diligently teach them as we are instructed in Deuteronomy."

"Make it a point to protect this time. If friends and family are unfamiliar invite them to have a Sabbath day meal with you."

"Study Scripture for yourself to see YHWH's expectations of this day for us. Many people are intimidated to keep the Sabbath because they see man made rule's about tearing toilet paper ahead of time or not being allowed to turn lights on or off but YHWH's instructions are simple and truly doable for us."

"Try to find a supportive person or community to help you through this."

"It's hard at the beginning but keep going. Think of one thing to add or remove from your Sabbath, and do that for a few weeks, then add or remove another thing."

"Expect great things!"

"Be patient and kind with yourself as you adjust to something very different."

"Use the Torah portion schedule if that helps you stay focused and active in the word."

"Delight in the gift you have been given. It is a joy not a burden!"

"Don't be too legalistic about it. You don't need to keep Shabbat like an Orthodox bubbe to keep it well. Don't lose sight of the idea that the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. And even if you can't keep it perfectly, just keep it. Drop everything and rest! Your body and your spirit need it."

"It's hard at first but soon becomes the day you look forward to the most."

"Remember that YHWH blesses us when we keep his commands and that good things will come out of Sabbath rest."

"Try to find a local congregation or others around you who keep Shabbat to learn from."

"Maybe you feel alone...but you aren't. YHWH is with you in your Sabbath keeping journey."

"Approach it with baby steps."

"Don't let your pastor or family or anyone else talk you out of it. YHWH knew we needed rest and it is a gift from him."

"Just rest - don't make keeping Shabbat work."

"Take it slow. Enjoy YHWH. Love your family. Make family traditions!"

"We're commanded to rest, and do no work. Don't make it a burden to keep by worrying about the rabbinical or legalistic way of keeping Shabbat. Do not stress if things do not go perfectly, or exactly how you planned them to go, and remember that he is patient and gracious when we stumble. Remember you will have another chance next week to do things differently or better. We aren't expected to know or fully walk out Torah overnight, and this includes how to keep Shabbat. Be patient and forgiving with yourself, and remember that you are learning his ways. Keep your eyes on him and his word, and he will show you the way."

"Do your best and don't fret too much over every detail."

"Enjoy even when not perfect."

Even when it is difficult remind yourself why you are doing this. The trouble is worth it to be obedient to YHWH. Things start to go more smoothly with time and you will also see the rewards of Shabbat in your life. I can absolutely say that Sabbath rest has brought peace to me throughout the week. Hear what others have to say about good things that have come from honoring Shabbat.

Do you have advice for someone thinking of observing the Sabbath or in the early steps? Are you new to Shabbat keeping? What have you struggled with?

Departing from the Sins of Jeroboam

Departing from the Sins of Jeroboam | Land of Honey

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Reading through Kings so many of their lives contain what appears to be a footnote and it goes like this, "But nevertheless he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin." This summation is at the end of almost every King of Israel's story. "He did some good stuff, but he walked like Jeroboam." No matter how many things they did for YHWH, military victories, and accomplishments of their reign, if they lived like Jeroboam that's the defining theme of their lives in Scripture.

If you aren't familiar with him, Jeroboam was the first king of the Northern House of Israel, which first gets mentioned in 1 Kings 11 after the ten tribes of Israel split away from the tribe of Judah. While Israel refers collectively to all twelve tribes from Genesis up through the reigns of Kings Saul, David, and Solomon, after the split under Solomon's son Rehoboam, the term 'Israel' refers to the ten northern tribes.

What did Jeroboam do that made his name one of the biggest insults in Scripture? Generation after generation YHWH traced the blame for Israel's sins to this man. You might be surprised by how innocuous his offensives seem in our culture.

-made two golden calves
-set up temples in high places
-decided himself who could be a priest
-moved the feast dates

I certainly don't want to downplay how he transgressed against YHWH, but those things seem fairly low-key don't they? He is not described as a murderer or war hungry. He did not make it illegal to worship YHWH in his kingdom. In fact, 1 Kings 12:28 tells us that he was trying to make worship of YHWH more convenient for his people as, "it is too much for you to go to Jerusalem."

(You can read about Jeroboam in 1 Kings 11:26 - 12)

So Jeroboam: did the same thing as Aaron by creating golden calves; set up a house of worship according to what he felt like doing; used his own standards for who would work in this ministry; moved the date of a Biblical festival. Do these things sound eerily familiar? A leader has decided that the things YHWH has asked are too difficult for the people, so he announces his alternative ideas, as if they were commandments. That can be seen in every pastor that teaches YHWH's instructions are too hard and every rabbi that says a chicken is an appropriate Yom Kippur sacrificial substitute. They are going to do what they see is best, while ignoring the word of YHWH.

It's interesting that 1 Kings 12:32 describes Jeroboam's feast "like the feast that is in Judah." He did not create a new feast to worship a false god or himself. He simply decided to move the feasts of the seventh month (Yom Teruah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot) to the eight month of the year. This seemingly unimportant adjustment is hugely offensive to YHWH. Rescheduling something that YHWH instructed caused Israel to sin for generations. In light of that, it is extremely important for Christians to evaluate the holidays that they keep. In many ways how Easter is celebrated in churches is very similar to Passover. It's like the feast that happens in Scripture, but traditions are valued more than the word of YHWH. Christmas is somewhat like the festival of Sukkot, except it's not YHWH's idea. Do we want to have something in common with a man who caused all of Israel to walk in sin?

In the first golden calf story in Exodus 32 Israel did not mean to turn away from YHWH. They simply decided for themselves rather than following YHWH's instructions how they would worship. In verse five it says that all the golden calf business was meant to be "a festival to YHWH." Like Jeroboam, their plan wasn't to jump ship entirely and worship a false god. They just wanted to decide how they would serve the Living God. But YHWH has not left that up to us.

Jeroboam did not stop at offending YHWH with his disobedience. He made the culture of Israel one where it was easy to sin. He created a lifestyle of defying what YHWH said, while having it be close enough that people could think they were on the right track. Probably all of us were born into circumstances like that, where the decisions of those before us caused us to sin. A culture of celebrating Easter instead of Passover. Of worship on Sunday instead of Shabbat. Church potlucks serving ham. We were made to sin by those who came before us. We were born into traditions we never realized we should question. Like Israel's kings who had their walk after Jeroboam, YHWH wants us to turn away from that.

The story of Jehu is striking. Israel's 11th king lead a military coup against a corrupt ruler, put to death the infamously wicked Jezebel, killed all the relatives of perhaps Israel's most evil king Ahab, staged a coercive operation to destroy the temple of Baal and it's worshippers, and tore down graven images of Baal. YHWH was pleased with his actions and even said that Jehu "did well in executing that which is righteous in my eyes." But then, just one sentence later, in 2 Kings 10:31, it says, "But Jehu took no heed to have his walk in the Torah of YHWH Elohim of Israel with all his heart: for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, who made Israel to sin."

That sentence speaks a strong truth of YHWH that we often forget: he's not that interested in our resumes. Tales of grandeur are not what he's after. You can fight amazing battles, and accomplish the bravest of feats, and still hear, "Nevertheless, he didn't turn away from simple sins. He walked like a man who wasn't even willing to attend a party when I wanted." That sentence of not departing from Jeroboam's ways is used something like 17 times in Kings because YHWH wants us to see that no matter what he wants us to live according to his instructions. This is the point Samuel made to King Saul when he said, "Obedience is better than sacrifice." To depart from the sin of Jeroboam's walk we need to follow YHWH's paths.