"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Spock: The Hand Signal for Life and Prosperity

Leonard Nimoy, the actor who played Spock on the 1960's television show Star Trek, died on Friday, February 27, 2015. My friend, Darlene Parsons, one of the collaborators of the website Wartburg Watch, came to faith in Christ while watching an episode of Star Trek. Though Darlene's testimony is unusual,  God often demonstrates an ability to speak to people through various and unusual ways.

The Vulcan greeting of Spock may be one of those unusual ways. In a video for the Yiddish Book Center's Oral History Project, Leonard Nimoy describes how as a boy in the Jewish synagogue, he first saw the hand symbol that he later adopted as the Vulcan greeting (see above left). The Jewish hand signal he observed was five fingers forming the Hebrew letter Shin. Years later, Spock suggested to the director of Star Trek that this hand signal be adopted as the Vulcan greeting along with the phrase "Live long and prosper." I'd like to demonstrate in this post how this hand signal, one that most Americans simply know as a fictitious Vulcan greeting from a 1960's television show, might actually be a great substitute for the traditional American handshake.

The Hebrew letter Shin
The Hebrew alphabet is made up of 22 letters. The 21st letter is Shin (pictured to the right). The symbol for Shin looks like our English letter W, but in Hebrew the Shin is the holy symbol for the Divine Presence. The ancient Jews placed this symbol outside their houses on the doorpost of their homes. They would never leave the house, or enter it again, without kissing the Shin.  If you ever have an opportunity to watch the epic movie Ben Hur, pay attention as this Jewish young man comes home and kisses the Shin of the Mezuzah after serving as a Roman slave for many years. Jews believe that God is "the guardian of the doors of Israel," and kissing the Shin is an expression of their faith in Him. The Jews tell a story of a rich Persian king named Arteban who once boasted about his "unmatched wealth." One day the king sent to a prominent Jewish rabbi a pearl. In return, the Jewish rabbi sent the king a mezuzah with the shin on it (see picture below) with the following note:
"Your gift of the pearl must be guarded from thieves who may harm you, but my gift is even more valuable because it guards us from harm!"

One of the Hebrew words for God is Shaddai שדי, which means "Almighty." The Hebrew letter Shin ש is the first letter of Shaddai (read Hebrew from right to left). Thus, when the Jews left or entered their homes, they professed their belief in Almighty God (El Shaddai), the One who gives them life and prosperity in the face of all their enemies. The Shin represented to the Jews the power of their God. Orthodox Jews will never pronounce the Hebrew personal name for God (YHWH) which is translated in our English Bibles as LORD (all capitals) and transliterated into English as Jehovah because they believe 'The Name' too holy and sacred. Refusing to pronounce "The Name" for God, the Jews have for centuries assigned the Hebrew letter Shin as an abbreviation for "The Name" of God. The Hebrew word השם means "The Name" and notice how the Hebrew letter Shin ש is in the middle of "The Name." It is for this reason the letter Shin, which in Hebrew also pictorially represents the 'fire' or 'presence' of God, came to represent "The Name" of God (see Leviticus 24:16). I'm sure it will be surprising to many Americans that what they've known as the Vulcan greeting given by Spock on the television show Star Trek is actually the Jewish hand signal for "The Name" of God and represents the belief that God alone provides life, provision and security for His people. 

But there's more.

In II Chronicles 6:6 the Lord says: "I have chosen Jerusalem, that My name may be there, and I have chosen David to be over My people Israel." Some Jews do not believe it to be coincidence that the city of Jerusalem has not only "The Name" in the middle of the Hebrew word for Jerusalem (see picture to the left), but the city itself is built on top of three valleys - the valley of Hinnom, the valley of Tyropoeon, and valley of Kidron (see picture to the right) - and these three valleys form the letter Shin. It can be safely assumed that God is in the business of leaving His mark in the city of Jerusalem. It was in Jerusalem that the Temple (the Presence of God) was built. It was in this great city of the world that God revealed Himself to man. All Jewish synagogues must have an ark of scrolls that face the city of Jerusalem. According to the Mishna and the Shulchan Aruch, Jewish daily prayers must be made facing the city of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, where God has inscribed His name. Jews would place Mizrach plaques on the walls facing Jerusalem to always remind them of the direction to which their Jewish prayers should be offered, a custom later adopted by Muhammad's followers they began praying toward Mecca.

But the most astonishing thing about "The Name" of God as represented in the Jewish letter Shin is that it is prominent in the Hebrew name Yeshua. In English, Yeshua is translated Jesus. He is Emmanuel; God with us. The Name of God is seen in His Name.

The Bible tells us Jesus' name was given to Mary by the angels because "He shall save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21).  The Savior's name “Y’shua" is the exact Hebrew word for “salvation.” The Infinite became an infant to bring us salvation. Every time someone called out the name Y'shua, they were actually saying “salvation.” If someone asks, "From what does Y'shua save us?" the answer would be "shame." The shame of our sin and its judgment. There's too little time to show the incredible connection between the letter Shin in the Hebrew words "shame," "salvation" and "His name," but just know that God saves you from your shame for the glory of His name.

In a city where God inscribed His name in the hills and valleys, a place where He dwelt among men in that first tabernacle, then later the Temple, and ultimately in the God-Man, Jesus Christ, who "tabernacled among men,' we find the incredible true story of One who gave Himself as atonement for our sins in order that we might come to know what it means to have eternal life, real prosperity and Divine security.

So next time you think of Spock's "Live long and prosper" greeting, remember the Hebrew letter Shin and that it represents the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

The Language of War: Netanyahu in Washington

On Tuesday, March 3, 2015 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will speak to a joint assembly of the United States Congress. In what seems like an intentional breach of political protocol, Speaker of the House John Boehner invited Netanyahu to speak without first seeking President Barak Obama's permission. The White House is white hot over the Prime Minister's trip to the United States next week. The Washington Post describes the President and his administration as 'unhinged'.

For the past several months, the President of the United States has bypassed Congress and secretly entered into nuclear talks with Iran. In essence, the President is proposing that Iran be allowed to enrich their uranium, a precursor to developing nuclear weapons. This treaty calls for Iran allowing "inspectors" to chart their progress. Ironically, this proposed nuclear treaty is similar to the treaties the United States made with North Korea. However, during the Gulf War, when the United States government was focused on the opposite side of the world, North Korea broke their end of the bargain and created a nuclear bomb from the enriched uranium they'd been allowed to make all those years under the various treaties.

Benjamin Netanyahu believes the same thing will happen in Iran. According to the Prime Minister, any 'negotiations' that end in a nuclear treaty allowing Iran to enrich uranium is "an existential threat" to Israel.   The Jerusalem Post in its February 9, 2015 headline says Netanyahu's acceptance of Boehner's invitation to speak before Congress is "not political, it's existential." Every American parent ought to make his son or daughter put down their video games and go look up the definition of "existential." If Netanyahu is right, our youth could be trading in their video consoles for a military gear very soon.

An existential crisis is one when a people or a nation's very existence (thus the word 'existential') is in question. Benjamin Netanyahu believes that if Iran develops a nuclear weapon, it will be used to "blow Israel off the map." That's the very thing, according to Netanyahu, the leaders of Iran wish to do. The terrorist organization that serves as the frontal piece for Iran is Hezbollah. Under cover of the Syrian civil war, Hezbollah--and thus Iran--have been taking military actions to procure the Golan Heights on the northern border of Israel. Benjamin Netanyahu believes that Iran's ultimate intention is to destroy the nation of Israel. To give Iran the means to create nuclear weapons creates an "existential crisis" for Israel.

When a nation or her leaders perceive an existential crisis, they'll attack their enemies for the purpose of survival. The word 'existential' to war is like lightening to thunder. One always comes first. After the Iranian Revolution of 1979, Saddam Hussein called the Shia-led Iranian government "an existential threat" to the Sunni/Baathist government of Iraq. Shortly thereafter, on September 22, 1980, Iraq invaded Iran and caused the longest conventional war of the 20th century, the 1980-1988 Iraq/Iran War.  It will be very interesting to count the number of times Benjamin Netanyahu uses the phrase "existential threat" or "existential crisis" when before Congress.

"Existential" is the language of war, and Americans need to pay attention. Netanyahu would never risk offending the people of the United States or their President without cause. He is giving us every indication he intends to attack Iran if they proceed with development of a nuclear weapon, regardless of American support.

The Evil that Comes from Ignorance: Obama's ISIS

Barak Obama has put our nation and the world at risk.

The President has failed to identify ISIS as a religiously motived Islamic movement bent on world domination. He prefers the acronym ISIL, and calls ISIS a 'cult.' Our President is so fearful that some might identify ISIS fighters as  highly devoted to the Muslim religion that he cautions Christians not to get on our moral "high horse," reminding us that there have been "terrible deeds done in the name of Christ."

This nonsensical attempt at moral equivalency between ISIS and Christianity would be sad were it not so dangerous. It is impossible to name just one person who claims to follow Christ, one Christian organization, or one Christian movement in the world -- as well as any other religion -- that beheads non-believers,  buys and sells women and children as concubines and slaves, and uses inhumane torture as a means of advancing their cause. ISIS stands alone. In his attempt to defend Islam as a religion, Mr. Obama is miscalculating ISIS as a threat.

ISIS publishes a monthly magazine--a slick, full-color periodical--called Dabiq, that has become the instrument of recruitment for ISIS worldwide. One only has to read this magazine to know ISIS' attempt at world domination is religiously motivated. ISIS is Islamic to its very core. Truth be known, the reason many Muslims are scared of ISIS is because they know ISIS considers them apostates from the true teachings of Muhammad and the real Muslim faith.

Don't believe me?

Check out Volume 7 of Dabiq, entitled From Hypocrisy to Apostasy where ISIS leaders celebrate the burning alive of the Jordanian pilot, crow over the cold-blooded murders in Paris of the French journalists who "mocked Islam," and call for the future deaths of any Islamic hypocrites who speak out against ISIS. Dabiq boldly declares of ISIS:  "We are the religion of the sword." The Arabic word Islam means "submission," and Muhammad taught his followers to use the sword to bring people into submission to God (Sahih Muslim, Book 19, Number 4294). ISIS believes anyone who professes to be a Muslim but doesn't support ISIS is actually a hypocrite turned apostate. And, according to the true teachings of Islam, all apostates to the faith are to be put to death. That's what ISIS believes. They are religiously motivated.

But it gets worse.

In the October 2014 issue of Dabiq there is an article called “The Revival of Slavery Before the Hour," a reporter details a conference convened by ISIS to determine whether Yazidis-- Kurds who borrow elements of Islam but resist the Islamic State--are apostate Muslims, and therefore marked for death, or merely pagans and therefore fair game for enslavement. The conference convened by ISIS determined:
Yazidi women and children [are to be] divided according to the Shariah amongst the fighters of the Islamic State who participated in the Sinjar operations [in northern Iraq] … Enslaving the families of the kuffar [infidels] and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Shariah that if one were to deny or mock, he would be denying or mocking the verses of the Koran and the narrations of the Prophetand thereby apostatizing from Islam (emphasis mine).
Mr. President, during college exams one of my roommates was given an F because he didn't reference the primary sources on the subject of which he was writing. The primary sources for what ISIS believes are found in Dabiq. It seems that neither you nor anyone in your administration has read the source material. Your bizarre attempt at moral equivalency is revealing your own ignorance of the dangers facing the world through ISIS.
"The evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding." Albert Camus
There will be some who read this post and wrongly claim I am against the President. The New Testament injunction to "pray for those in authority" is one I take seriously. I regularly pray for our President and his family. However I am adding to my prayers for him that God removes from our President his ignorance of a security threat that is spreading faster than Obama's withdrawal of troops.