Prayer list and commentary on Parashat Mishpatim

Israel is still at war in Gaza with Hamas and on the North border with Lebanon with Hezbollah, an Iranian Proxy with radical anti-Israel views and a desire to delete Israel from this Earth. The place of Jewish Disciples of Yeshua in Israel is going through a major change and challenge. There is a significant number of Israeli soldiers who come from the ranks of the Messianic Congregations throughout Israel. There have been a few soldiers who have died and a few who are severely wounded in this horrible war. It is definitely a sad and painful loss when any Israeli soldier is killed or injured, but on the other hand, these victims of the war cement our place and our participation as one people with one national loyalty to all of the people of Israel.

What is important is also the massive participation of Jewish Disciples of Yeshua, who have supplied a significant amount of tactical equipment like helmets, ceramic bulletproof vests, and warm clothing for our soldiers on top of the snow-covered Mount Hermon. Advanced and essential tactical equipment like special drones with night vision and other technologies have been provided to our men on the battlefields to save lives. This very practical participation in the war and care for the welfare of our men on the battlefield changes the attitude and perception of the Israeli public toward Jewish Disciples of Yeshua.

The value and importance of the contributions, participation, and sacrificial giving of brothers from Asia to South America, North America, Europe, and the South Pacific – i.e., worldwide – is incredible. I would like to bless every brother and sister who has given and taken place in the supply and support and love gifts for all Israeli military men and women who received a blessing from you. The value is not only the “now” blessings you have given to the men and women on the battlefields in Gaza and the North. God bless all of you, dear brothers and sisters worldwide. Please keep praying for Israel and for the men and women on the battlefields and for the home front, the women and children who are at home and have to contend with life and children alone. Pray for the thousands of wounded soldiers and their recovery. Pray for the doctors and nurses caring for thousands of young men and women.

Also, pray for Marcia and me. I have pancreatic cancer in the early stage 1.  Also, two lymph nodes are malignant in the lungs. It is a significant and very challenging situation for Marcia and me because I must take care of Marcia, and in Israel, we don’t have family here.  

The Torah portion of this Shabbat, February 9th, 2024, is Mishpatim (Judgments or Rules) from Exodus 21:1-24:18.

The reading from the Prophets (The Haftarah in Hebrew) is from Isaiah 66:1-24. This text is essential because it describes the worship scene of the last days of history. To make it easy, it is in New Jerusalem. Gentiles, Jews, and men of all races will serve and worship.  From the New Testament, the reading will be from the Gospel of Mark 9:40 -50. It is a short reading but has significance.

I will start my commentary for this Shabbat with the reading from the New Testament: Mark 9:40-50. I will start a few verses earlier to put us in the context:

“Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.” “Now John answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.” But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is on our side. For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward. “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched — where “Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’ And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched — where “Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’ And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire — where “Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’  “For everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt. Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves and have peace with one another.” (Mark 9:37-50 NKJV)

The beginning of discussion between Yeshua and His disciples starts on the road to Capernaum. The disciples of Yeshua began to argue among themselves about who is the greatest. I could confess that this virus of argument “who is the best” – “who is the greatest” is a very human problem, but it is especially an Israeli tendency. Yeshua brings a different paradigm based on a different standard: Yeshua gives a major paradigm shift in this discussion.

Yeshua reverses the issue and turns it upside down:

“If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”

According to Yeshua’s statement, being last means being “a servant of all!”  

Yeshua reverses the desire to be great in a community or a fraternity of men like His disciples. One of the final events before Yeshua was arrested and crucified was a dramatic demonstration of the principle he was trying to teach his disciples. On the evening of Passover, Yeshua washes the feet of his disciples. They object to it, but he says that if he can’t wash their feet, they can’t be his disciples. Yeshua is demonstrating that He performed as a servant for all the Apostles. This act of “serving” all his disciples is based on the verse from Genesis:

And the Lord said to her: “Two nations are in your womb, two peoples shall be separated from your body; One people shall be stronger than the other, And the older shall serve the younger.” (Genesis 25:23 NKJV). 

The typical paradigm of GREATNESS is that the least (the youngest) shall serve the older (strongest – most important – the leader…). This paradigm is not so simple to implement because it is contrary to the norm in all human civilizations from the very dawn of history.  Having the “Great” leaders serving their workers is unnatural. You don’t often hear of a General in the Army polishing the shoes of the privates and sergeant in his brigade. You don’t hear of the company’s CEO volunteering to cut the grass for the janitor who works there because he is sick.

Most Jewish and Christian religious leaders generally ignore this teaching of Yeshua. The demand is generally the opposite, and the “BOSS” is because most Christians are part of an exclusive and sectarian church denominational hierarchal structure. Yeshua’s statement and the demands of His Apostles are very bombastic and counter social norms. My statement is harsh and strong, but it is not a condemnation. It involves all leaders, especially Jewish, Muslim, and Christian leaders, in their organizations and denominations.

Let me give you a straightforward commentary on what Yeshua is saying. The discussion among the Apostles is a discussion of greatness. Following the tour of Galilee in which Yeshua (Jesus) issues a second warning about His approaching death and resurrection (9:30–32), He returns with the disciples to Capernaum (9:33a), the home village of at least four of his apostles, Peter, John and his brother, and Jacob = (James). Capernaum was the home base for the Apostles, and Yeshua was there for many months. Yeshua performed miracles, healings, and teaching in this Galilean village on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. Yeshua demonstrated his humility and power in Capernaum at the same time. The word used for the work of Yeshua in Capernaum is the Greek word diakonia = service! Yeshua even healed Peter’s mother-in-law. I am sure Peter’s wife was pleased that her mother was healed.

This selfless act of Diakonia (service) offers an ironic and unflattering counterpoint to the self-aggrandizing tendencies of Peter and the other disciples. Yeshua countered the human tendency to want to be considered “great” and “worthy” even when the service is not the desire to be considered “great” and “wonderful.” After Yeshua gave this new idea, a new paradigm of greatness, He said to His disciples and us even today and now!

“And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, “Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.” (Mark 9:35-37 NKJV). 

My private question is this: “Joseph, can you take seriously Yeshua’s teachings on this issue of “who is great in the Kingdom of God?” And start to practice it more, and don’t seek the rewards and approval or medals and awards from the men around you! I have to ask myself this question more often and remember Yeshua’s washing His disciples’ feet and teaching us to take out our coats and give them to those who need them more!

The Torah portion is also full of essential laws and rulings, as they say in Hebrew, “Iron Sheep and Goats,” immovable and compromising rules often forgotten and ignored by all leaders. Especially “when that proverbial liquid goes to our heads!” We all need a good wife who, when it goes to our heads, immediately steps in to remind us of who we are and how much we have to come down from our imagination of grandeur to the base reality of our limitations and weaknesses! And get up, put on an apron, and wash dishes and floors.

Don’t forget, and please go through the prayer list below and at least remind some angel in heaven to look and help and heal our brothers and sisters worldwide.  It can be just two words, but start serving this world-encompassing list of sick and needy brothers and sisters around the world.

The WAR in GAZA and the North is still raging, and there is no peace or return for the nearly 130 hostages that are going through hell in the miles of dark and humid tunnels under Gaza! Please pray for Israel and stand with Israel and help Netivyah Israel and Netivyah International help those men and women on the battlefield of this war of light against the darkness!