On the difficulties of being married to a (sold-out) minister of Elohim

Genesis 22:19; 23:2, Abraham dwelt at Beersheba…Sarah died in…Hebron. At this point, Abraham and Sarah lived in two separate towns some 26 miles apart. Why was this? The Scriptures doesn’t say, so we can only speculate. Perhaps the trial of Abraham’s faith in the previous chapter where YHVH asked him to sacrifice Isaac and Abraham’s compliance to do so put such a strain on their marriage that they separated. Perhaps the idea that YHVH would ask Abraham to sacrifice their only son was so hard for Sarah to believe that she questioned whether Abraham had even heard correctly from YHVH about this. Whatever the case, following YHVH can be tough on marriages and families as Yeshua notes in Matthew 10:34–39. Sometimes families split as a result. Abraham wasn’t unique in his situation.

Ministry is tough on marriages. Often YHVH has his servants perform difficult if not nearly impossible tasks requiring superhuman faith and obedience. In a marriage, it is not uncommon for one person to be more committed to serving YHVH than the other. This difference can result in a differential between the two parties resulting in a split or divergence of commitments, viewpoints, levels of faith and devotion to YHVH. In light of the fact that some ministry assignments are dangerous or can bring on severe trials, persecution or tribulation, sometimes this may be too much for the weaker, less committed party to bear, and there is a separation in the marriage.

In Exodus 4:24–26, in all likelihood, Zipporah and Moses split up over YHVH’s request to circumcise their two sons, for we never hear of Zipporah again, except that Moses had sent her away (Exod 18:2). Some Bible scholars take this mean that he put her away or divorced her (likely because of her refusal to follow him onto the mission field). Later, we find Moses remarrying a Cushite woman (who was likely black; Num 12:1).

David had to leave his first wife Michal, the daughter of Saul, because she despised him for dancing before YHVH’s ark of the covenant (2 Sam 6:14–16, 23).

The situation with the prophet Hosea is notable, as well, in this regard. YHVH required him to marry a wife of harlotry as part of his spiritual walk, so that he would better understand the experience of YHVH who was married to the adulterous nation of Israel. Hosea didn’t even know whether the children born to his wife were his own, or those of another man, yet he was to love her unconditionally anyway.

In the apostolic era, we hear virtually nothing about the wives of the apostles. This in no way indicates that their marriages were troubled, but one can only wonder given the rigors of the spiritual assignment YHVH had given them.

Paul is a case in point. He was likely married, since it would have been uncommon for someone of his spiritual stature to not to have been married in the Hebraic culture in which he lived, yet no mention of his wife is made. At the same time, he mentions a thorn in the flesh to buffet him and to keep him humble (2 Cor 12:7). On can only wonder if this isn’t a reference to a difficult marriage situation. Perhaps his wife became antagonistic at his conversion to Yeshua resulting in his leaving the prestigious and affluent life of the religious elite of his day, and counting his past life as dung (Phil 3:8). This may have been too much for her to bear.

The sad story of Methodist founder John Wesley’s marriage

From an article in Christianity Today (https://www.christiantoday.com/article/the-sad-story-of-methodist-founder-john-wesleys-marriage/129376.htm) on 24 May 2018

May 24th marks the day an Anglican priest named John Wesley had a spiritual experience that changed his life, and arguably transformed the church. It’s a truly ‘heart-warming’ day that celebrates the power of conversion and Wesley’s fervent Methodist legacy, but many don’t know a more sombre side to Wesley’s life: his tense and allegedly violent relationship with his wife.

The day is also known as Aldersgate Day, named after the part of London where Wesley had his strange spiritual experience. An Anglican minister, Wesley was a fervent priest but had increasingly been overcome by melancholy and doubt.

On the morning of May 24, 1738, he opened his Bible to read the words: ‘There are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, even that ye should be partakers of the divine nature.’ Later that day he attended a church service in Aldersagte, where he heard a reading from Reformer Martin Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to Romans.

Then, in Wesley’s words: ‘While he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.’

Inspired with assurance, John went on with his brother Charles to pioneer the radical movement of Methodism, spreading evangelical revival across the country and the world. But John’s fervent faith also caused profound problems for his marriage in later life: he is believed to have suffered domestic abuse from his wife.

As Lex Loizides explains for Church History Review, Wesley’s marriage to Molly Vazeille in 1751 didn’t begin as a  romance, and had filled his brother Charles Wesley with dread.

The dread was appropriate, because in just a few years the couple would be locked in tense conflict. Wesley was increasingly distant from his wife due to his preaching itinerary, while Molly – wrongly – suspected infidelity and struggled with Wesley’s frequent correspondence with other women. Since she was left at home for weeks at a time, but was allowed to open Welsey’s post, she saw letters from many of her husband’s admirers.

She grew antagonistic to Wesley, wrote critical letters and spied on him, accused him of adultery and gave Wesley’s enemies material with which to slander him.

As Lex Loizides explains for Church History Review, Wesley’s marriage to Molly Vazeille in 1751 didn’t begin as a  romance, and had filled his brother Charles Wesley with dread.

The dread was appropriate, because in just a few years the couple would be locked in tense conflict. Wesley was increasingly distant from his wife due to his preaching itinerary, while Molly – wrongly – suspected infidelity and struggled with Wesley’s frequent correspondence with other women. Since she was left at home for weeks at a time, but was allowed to open Welsey’s post, she saw letters from many of her husband’s admirers.

She grew antagonistic to Wesley, wrote critical letters and spied on him, accused him of adultery and gave Wesley’s enemies material with which to slander him.

Wesley wasn’t particularly charitable either, and once sent an unflinching message demanding Molly be content and submit: ‘Know me and know yourself. Suspect me no more, asperse me no more, provoke me no more: do not any longer contend for mastery…be content to be a private insignificant person, known and loved by God and me.’

Content she did not become. John Hampson of Manchester wrote that he ‘once entered a room unannounced to find Molly dragging her husband across the floor by his hair’. But John could be violent with his words, once writing: ‘If you were buried just now, or if you had never lived, what loss would it be to the cause of God?’

After years of conflict, Molly eventually left her husband and didn’t return, in 1771. Wesley famously wrote in his journal, in his only comment on his marriage: ‘I did not forsake her, I did not dismiss her, I will not recall her.’

It’s a sad story that shows neither of the couple in a good light. It may shock that the preacher was the victim of domestic violence, but it might be argued that he was ambitious and unkind in hoping for a happy marriage and contented wife, when he was never at home and perhaps temperamentally unsuited for marriage anyway.

Wesley’s marriage is a reminder that even ‘spiritual heroes’ and are vulnerable to profound personal unhappiness. Marriage is a serious matter, and as the liturgy reminds us, is not to be taken lightly.


Are you too salty for those around you?

Holy Provocateurs—YHVH’s Human Agents to Wake People Up

From the beginning of time, YHVH has raised up secret human agents and sprinkled them—like grains of salt in a wound—in various places at various times to be his mouthpieces to warn humans to repent of their sin and turn to him. These divinely appointed pot-stirrers have been thorns in the sides of both sinners and YHVH’s lukewarm saints. They are his agent provocateurs slipped into the ranks of humanity to incite, provoke and stir humans to action. Are you such a person, or do you know someone like this, who, quite frankly, is nettlesome and irksome to be around? Whether we like it or not, these individuals are simply YHVH’s mail carriers, carry his message of repentance to a sin-sick world.

These agents, who are part of the Creator’s secret service, are unusually zealous and passionate for YHVH. Their mission is to warn people away from evil and to encourage, no, rather irritate them toward him. These people have never been popular, but have typically been barely tolerated by their contemporaries, if not outright hated and rejected. Typically they are loners and have few if any friends. At the very least, they have been nettlesome thorns in the sides of those around them, and at the most have been hated, despised, hunted down and even killed, while often being viewed as a pariah and anathema to society. The problem is that this is their calling and mission, and they cannot run from it. They are YHVH’s divine mail carriers, and to reject them is to reject the Creator himself. Such biblical holy provocateurs whose divine mission was to warn people of impending judgment and to call them to repentance include such notable biblical personalities as Noah, Elijah, Jonah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Stephen and, most notably, Yeshua the Messiah himself. Despite their unpopularity, these provocateurs have been significantly impactful at chiding, if not scaring, people toward repentance and a more holy, Elohim-centered spiritual walk.

Elohim’s provocateurs are often viewed by those around them as holier-than-thou kill-joys, legalists, Jesus-freaks, Bible thumpers, religious fanatics and zealots, and the list of pejorative terms thrown at them goes on and on. It boils down to this: If you can’t deal with the sin issues in your life, then project your guilty conscience onto the preacher who is calling you to account by labeling him or her with some derogatory epithet. In this way, you somehow justify your sin by transferring onto them your anger as you resort to ad hominen attacks. As a longtime pastor, I witnessed the employment of this tactic countless times by disgruntled congregants. If they could not argue against the biblical Truth you were preaching, then they would attack you personally by criticizing your style of preaching, the length of your sermon, your hairstyle, how hard the chairs were or how hot the building was in summer…and when they had exhausted their arsenal of verbal grenades, off they huffed to terrorize another pastor and congregation somewhere else. 

 All of this is because YHVH’s provocateurs have the dubious distinction of acting as a sort of societal conscience and moral compass as they go about constantly telling people to turn away from sin and the idolatrous pleasures of this mortal existence and to turn back to the true north of YHVH’s Truth. They passionately declare that the love of this world is enmity with Elohim, and their call to turn away from the mortal, sinful pleasures that are the heartbeat of sinners and to lukewarm saints, and to turn to righteousness and holiness is a perennially unpopular message.

Not everyone is called to the ministry of being a heaven-sent secret agent provocateur, and very few people understand much less appreciate the role that these troublesome individuals play in YHVH’s spiritual economy. Moreover, why would anyone choose to be a divine thorn in the side of humanity? Such people only become targets for hatred, derision, scorn, mocking, rejection, persecution and even death. Who in their right mind would ever choose this as a spiritual vocation?

And being a provoker has never been a popular job. Only a smattering of people have will every heed the divinely mandated warnings of these provocateurs. These human hammers in the hand of the Almighty to smash the hard rock of the sinner’s heart (Jer 23:29) are in the company (though not at the same level) of such biblical giants of Noah, Elijah, John the Baptist, Yeshua, Stephen Paul, and the apostles and all of the other prophets. Even Yeshua’s own brothers rejected him until after his resurrection which was undeniable proof of his divinity.

These provokers never chose this calling; rather, YHVH chose them and compelled them to fulfill their mission to warn those around them. Till the present time, he has had such people sprinkled all over the earth, strategically positioned in all social stratum and geographical locations. They are there to warn sinners to repent, and on judgment day, no one will be able to accuse Elohim of not warning them. 

The following is a list of Scriptures that refer to such people whose divine mission is to stir up, provoke, incite, irritate (involving contention and disputation) one another to love and to good works as per Hebrews 10:24, which is the flagship passage of this teaching. There we read,

And let us consider one another in order to stir up [i.e., to provoke, irritate, incite] love and good works…

To be sure, some of YHVH’s provokers are more salty than others. As we all know, salt in a festering wound, though a cleansing agent, can be a painful irritant. With this in mind, Yeshua declared of his disciples,

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Korah and His Rules for Radicals

Numbers 16:1–3, Took men…rose up…gathered together against. The story of Korah and company is a classic example of a group of malcontents and rebels attempting to usurp divinely appointed and the arrogantly seizing authority and power for their own selfish purposes. To this day, the theme and variation of this scenario continues to play itself out as one band of humans vies for power at the expense of others be it in the political, economic or religious arenas. The originator of this modus operandi is Satan the devil himself, the arch enemy and adversary of both YHVH and man, and it goes all the way back to the beginning and the serpent in the tree. Korah and his comrades took their rules for radicals out of Satan’s playbook. Let’s now analyze Satan’s means of seizing power versus the righteous, biblical way that YHVH’s servanrts earn the privilege of being a godly leaders.

In Numbers 16:1–3, we see a progression (or downward spiral) of actions on the part of Korah and his rebels. First they separated themselves from fellowship, then they rose up against Moses, then they gathered together others of like mind,and finally they falsely accused leadership of wrong doings. This is the world’s formula for achieving political (humanistic) power and domination. It is the opposite method of advancing in YHVH’s kingdom where the way down is the way up; that is, when one humbly lays one’s life down in service, spiritual reward, advancement and blessing will occur for that person (Matt 20:27; 23:10). There is no greater example of this then Yeshua the Messiah, when he diminished himself and came to this earth to become a man and a servant. This is the supreme example for us all to emulate.

Therefore if there is any consolation in Messiah, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Messiah Yeshua, who, being in the form of Elohim, did not consider it robbery to be equal with Elohim, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore Elohim also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Yeshua every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Yeshua Messiah is Lord, to the glory of Elohim the Father. (Phil 2:1–11)

Unlike Yeshua, who was divinely appointed for his mission, rebels like Korah arrogantly appoint themselves to be leaders and then go about attempting to seize power through subversion and violence. First, they separate themselves from fellowship (or the group of which they are a part). Then they seek out other like-minded rebels, and then rise up in defiance and accusation against legal or godly leadership. If their coup is successful, this tactic will catapult these self-appointed perpetrators into positions of political (and economic) power. 

On the other hand, the way of attaining to positions of spiritual power the godly way is laid out in Acts 2:42–47, where the followers of Yeshua continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, in fellowship, breaking bread together, in prayer and served one another by sharing their time, talent and treasure. Out of this righteous atmosphere, godly and Spirit-appointed leaders naturally rose to the surface like cream rising to the top of milk. The result was real spiritual power, authority and anointing from heaven. This was not power based on usurpation, human pride, degradation of others and a hubris-based, shameless self-promotion. No. The attainment of righteous authority can only occur as people forsake not the assembling of themselves together (Heb 10:25), function according to their divine gifts and spiritual callings within the spiritual body of Yeshua, while submitted one to another as they walk in the spiritual light YHVH’s instructions in righteousness, that is, the Torah.

Yeshua confirmed the biblical way to servant-leadership, when he taught that true power in the kingdom of Elohim is a result of one laying one’s life down for one’s brother, while serving him in love and humility. Such a person will be elevated to a position of influence and authority because he has learned to serve others in love, altruism and selflessness rather than seeking to be served, which stems from a heart of selfishness, pride and, often, covetousness and greed (Matt 20:25–28; 23:11–12).

The Jewish sages note that Korah and his band of malcontents had come under the power of resentment, which grew and festered until open rebellion broke out. Korah was a fellow Levite and cousin of Aaron, who was among those “overlooked” for the priesthood, and who were relegated to being “mere” assistants to the priests. He was also a firstborn of his household (Exod 6:21), and when the tabernacle sacrificial service was inaugurated Aaron’s sons replaced the firstborn Israelites in offering sacrifices. Furthermore, Dathan, Abiram and On were of the tribe of Reuben, the first-born child of Jacob. These men had their own grudge, since Reuben had lost his birthright as the firstborn son to the sons of Joseph because of sin (note 1 Chron 5:1). 

What do we see here? Resentment (a function of pride and selfishness) leads to bitterness, which then leads to separation, then to uprising, then to accusation, then to rebellion against YHVH-ordained authority, then to attempted usurpation of authority. Eventually it leads to judgment and death. Is this not the path Lucifer took in his rebellion against YHVH Elohim—a method that he and his human minions (or useful idiots) continue to this day? (Read Isa 14:12–23.) As with Korah and company, the trajectory of this downward path leads to death. For some, the earth will open its mouth and they will be cast into the bottomless pit. For the rest of the unrighteous, unrepentant malcontents and rebels, their fate is to be cast into the lake of fire, where they will become ashes under the feet of the righteous.


Does the Old Testament Advocate Slavery? Absolutely not!

Leviticus 25:42, Slaves. The Hebrew word slaves or bondmen is ebed meaning “slave, servant, man-servant, worshiper (of Elohim), servant (of Elohim, e.g. Levite, priest or prophet).” Ebed derives from the basic Hebrew root word and verb, abad, meaning “to work or serve.” The word abab refers to service that can be directed toward people, things or Elohim. In biblical usage, if directed toward things, abad can refer to tilling the earth, dressing a vineyard, working flax or constructing a city. When abad is used in reference to serving YHVH it can refer to Levitical and priestly service. In Hebraic thought, such service is considered joyous, not bondage. This same service can be directed toward pagan deities as well. When used in reference to serving another man, abad transforms into the noun ebed meaning “slave or servant.” As discussed below and as pointed out by The TWOT, the concept of Hebrew slavery isn’t akin to the modern concept of slavery where the slave possesses no basic human rights. This was not the case in ancient Israel. The Hebrew slave, on the other hand, occupied a position of status involving rights and trust. The Torah required this to be case as this and other Torah passages demonstrate.

Leviticus 25:45, You may buy. This passage advocates “slavery” among the Israelites. Yet, this is not the slavery the American Negroes, for example, experienced prior to the Civil War. It must be remembered that slavery was rife in the ancient world (as it still is, illegally, today in many countries). Often slaves, however, were able to own homes and livestock and to maintain families as was the case with the Israelites in Egypt and the Jews in Babylon. In this case, these slaves were more like servants or feudal serfs. For example, in Israel, the Gibeonites became the slaves of Israel, but they continued to dwell in their own cities, and enjoy Israel’s military protection (Josh 9). Also, it must be remembered that when Israel conquered an opponents’ land or army, they often inherited slaves from those countries or slaves from other countries the conquered country itself had enslaved. What were the Israelites to do with these people who had been dispossessed of their lands? Send them back to countries that no longer existed, or to which they were no longer welcome? Send them back into heathen situations? Instead, YHVH allowed Israel to bring these captured people into Israel where they could live among a Torah-obedient people who worshipped the God of Israel, YHVH Elohim, where they would be taught to love Elohim totally and their neighbors as themselves. In time, these slaves would be assimilated into the tribes of Israel through intermarriage and become part of Israel and thus be elevated in their social status. In this sense, slavery was a means of evangelizing those who found themselves in the lowest echelons of the ancient world. It was ostensibly a way to bring them into the ways of the Torah thereby elevating them spiritually and socially from their previous enslaved heathen condition.

Leviticus 25:55, Servants [Heb. ebed]. The Hebrew word Ebed means “a servant or bondman” and derives from the word abad meaning “to work (in any sense), to serve, enslave, to be or keep in bondage, be a bondmen, do (use) service, to worship or obey. Obviously, as is the case with many Hebrew words, ebed and abad have a wide range of meanings from the slave and bondservant, who was at the lowest socio-economic level of ancient Israelite society to the Levitical priest (Num 4:19; 2 Chron 8:14) who found himself at the highest and most respected level of society. What is the greater and sublime spiritual truth that this verse teaches us? Simply this. All of YHVH’s people were once in bondage in the spiritual Egypt of their past life unable to escape their bondage to the world, the flesh and the devil. Then YHVH mercifully intervened and set us free and now we belong to him. The redeemed of YHVH must never forget that without his mighty arm of salvation, we would all still be slaves to Pharaoh, a symbol of Satan, and eternal death is the final outcome of this slavery. On the other hand, YHVH offers his redeemed saints eternal life if they will now serve and obey him. Is this not a whole lot better than what the devil has to offer his slaves? Is not faithful and obedient service the least that the saint can offer YHVH in gratitude for the great blessings and gifts that he offers those who accept him as their new Master—their loving Father in heaven?

Are my servants [or slave.] Here YHVH declares that “the children of Israel are my slaves [or servants, Heb. ebed], whom I have taken out of the land of Egypt—I am YHVH, your Elohim.” Here YHVH states dogmatically that he brought or redeemed the Israelites out of slavery to Egypt so that they could become his slaves. Does this trouble you? Being a slave of YHVH didn’t seem to trouble the apostles of Yeshua who referred to themselves many times as YHVH’s bondservants or slaves (e.g., Rom 1:1; Tit 1:1; Jas 1:1; 2 Pet 1:1; Jude 1:1; Rev 1:1). Perhaps their view of slavery is different than ours. Did they not see two categories of slavery and that all humans fall into one or the other category: slavery to the world, flesh and the devil that leads to death as compared to “slavery” to the Word and the Spirit of YHVH that leads to life? There is no escape. One is either a slave to the law of sin and death or to the law of the Spirit of life in Messiah Yeshua (Rom 8:1–2). Those who have been redeemed by the blood of Yeshua have become Yeshua’s purchased possession as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:19–20:

What? Know you not that your body is the temple of the Set-Apart Spirit which is in you, which you have of Elohim, and you are not your own? For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify Elohim in your body, and in your spirit, which are Elohim’s.

Do you live your life, make choices, do or don’t do things, say or don’t say things every day with the realty that your are a slave to YHVH? Is Yeshua truly your Lord and Master? It is easy to make the claims that he is, but living out the reality is a totally different things!