Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
How To RESEARCH the TRUTH in an Age of Satanic Deceptions!
In this age of gross deception and massive doctrinal change, what should a Christian do? Should we just "go along" with the "new doctrines" of our church's leaders? Or should we question such "changes"? Is it possible for church leaders to be in "error"? Is it even possible for Satan the devil to infiltrate a church, subvert its leadership, and lead the whole church into destruction and heresy? How can YOU protect your spiritual welfare and insure your salvation -- no matter what course others may take?
by HOIM Staff
In 1775, when the fledgling colonies were standing on the brink of destruction and slavery to a foreign power, patriot Patrick Henry declared to his fellow Americans,
"For my part, whatever the anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth, to know the worst; and to prepare for it."
Yeshua the Messiah declared, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). But what happens when "truth" apparently suddenly does a "flip flop" and "changes"? What happens when church leaders tell you that what you have believed for years, suddenly is "error" and you must accept their "new truth"? Do you have the right to doubt them, and to carefully study the matter out for yourself? What if you come to a different conclusion -- and disagree?
The apostle Paul wrote, "Prove [test, examine] ALL things; hold fast that which is good" (I Thessalonians 5:21). Obviously, then, that which you disagree with, and find to be "not good," or "bad," you should reject -- and not "hold fast," or cling to, or accept!
Paul further exhorts, "STUDY to shew thyself a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of TRUTH. But SHUN profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker" (II Timothy 2:15-17). Moffatt sheds further light on this verse. He translates it: "Do your utmost to let God see that you at least are a sound workman, with no need to be ashamed of the way you handle the word of the Truth. Avoid all that profane jargon, for it leads people still further into irreligion, and their doctrine spreads like a gangrene."
What is the key to effective Bible study? How can you KNOW you understand and obey the TRUTH? Is it enough to read a book, or an article, or booklet, and then "accept" another man's viewpoint on a particular discussion, Scripture, point of history, or interpretation? Would that not be very dangerous? Would you believe every salesman who comes to your door, selling a product? Would you trust every "used car salesman"? Or every real estate agent? If someone came to you with a "stunning opportunity," a "once-in-a-lifetime chance" to invest in some commodity or stock or oil lease -- would you just jump at the chance? Or wouldn't you investigate carefully, and scrutinize the matter, before signing over your hard earned money which it has taken you YEARS to accumulate?
Think about it! How much MORE important is your eternal life, and spiritual salvation?
Principles of Bible Study
Isador Zwirn, a Jewish rabbi who after personal and careful Bible study became a Messianic Christian Jew, was taught from an early age that each sentence of God's Word -- the Torah -- was important and to be studied!
Shockingly, many so-called "Christians" have never even read the entire Word of YEHOVAH God -- the Bible. How can you know that which you have never read or studied? Many are IGNORANT of YEHOVAH's Word -- and would be hard-pressed to "prove" the simplest doctrine, such as the "Sabbath," "holy days," "salvation," "keeping the commandments," "born again," the "kingdom of YEHOVAH God," the "resurrection," "the return of YEHOVAH God," "grace," and so forth. Many would not even know where to begin to prove where the "lost ten tribes" migrated in history, and what the Bible says about identifying their whereabouts today!
There is only ONE WAY to get to know the Word of YEHOVAH God -- the TRUTH which the Messiah said will "make us free." That is to READ and STUDY it! The Messiah said on another occasion, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). He knew the Word of YEHOVAH God. He actually quoted this from the Old Testament, or Torah. We read there, "And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live" (Deuteronomy 8:3).
The Messiah also declared, to the Pharisees of his time, "SEARCH the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me" (John 5:39).
Isador Zwirn, in the Jewish bet hamidrash, or "house of research," learned definite principles of Bible study, principles which stood him in good stead throughout his lifetime. I consider these principles extremely important, so I am going to share them with you.
Principle #1 -- Respect the Viewpoints of Others
The first principle is respect for the viewpoints of others. Unless we begin with respect for divergent views, how can we possibly be "open minded" enough to see it and admit it if such a view happens to be right? As Oliver Cromwell once said, "I beseech you, brethren, think it possible that you might be mistaken!" Unfortunately, his words, as so often happens, fell on deaf ears.
Says Zwirn, "Even if the teacher or a student disagreed with another's viewpoint or opinion, he must show respect, both for that opinion and for the proponent of that opinion. This is not always easy to do." When different viewpoints are discussed, it is not necessarily agreement that is sought, but at least understanding of precisely what each one's opinion or position is. Some ministers are so heated in their presentation of their views, as dogmatic truth, that they never really stop to carefully listen so they can understand what the other person's viewpoint is. Some people have the attitude: "My mind is made up; don't confuse me with more facts!" Or, as I used to say, some people's minds are like concrete: all mixed up, and permanently set!
Principle #2 -- Record All Viewpoints -- and Every Student Investigate Each One and Follow His Own Conscience After Being Enlightened with All Available Evidence, Without Compromising the Principle of Truth
The second principle of the bet hamidrash, according to Isador Zwirn, is: "If several of you disagree on a matter of exegesis or biblical interpretation, we will record them all. Then every student will investigate each one of them." Each person then should select the one that seems to best fit the facts, as they see them, and not compromise with principle or truth. That is, each should then follow their own conscience, after being enlightened with ALL the pertinent facts that pertain to the subject under evaluation. As Paul wrote, "Has thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: FOR WHATSOEVER IS NOT OF FAITH IS SIN" (Romans 14:22-23).
The New International Version has the latter part of this passage as follows: "Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves....everything that does not come from faith is sin." To come to a conclusion, but then to deny your conscience -- the evidence before your very eyes -- and to follow what your conscience tells you is false and error, would be to deny faith, and would constitute SIN.
Paul wrote, "Now the end [purpose, goal] of the commandment is charity [unfeigned, genuine love] out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: from which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling" (I Timothy 1:5-6). He went on, "Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck" (I Timothy 1:19). Paul exhorts us to be true to ourselves, and the truth, "Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience" (I Timothy 3:9). Once we begin to study into a subject carefully, we should never defile our conscience, or go against the truth that YEHOVAH God reveals to us. To do so would be to make "shipwreck" of the faith and the truth, and to jeopardize our spiritual lives and salvation!
Principle #3 -- When Two Major Views Contradict, Set Them Aside Temporarily and Hope a Third View Will Be Found To Harmonize the Two
The third principle of Scriptural study, learned and taught in the bet hamidrash or "house of research" was this guideline: "Whenever two major views seem to contradict each other, you must temporarily set them aside, and hope that a third view will eventually be found that will harmonize the two." That is, when there is conflict and controversy -- and surely we live in a time of dangerous spiritual currents and subtle false teaching -- and we are not sure from the available evidence which view is right, or even if either one of the two views presented is right, then we should put the matter on the shelf -- set it aside -- put it in limbo for the time being -- and then seek more information, more knowledge, more factual data, so that we can learn the truth! Obviously, this would require that we possess an open mind -- a humble mind -- and be willing to be taught, and to be willing to UNLEARN any error which we may have unthinkingly or unknowingly ingested!
Herbert Armstrong used to say that it takes TEN TIMES more effort to UNLEARN ERROR than it does to simply learn new truth! My experience is that he was absolutely right! Willingness to confess that you may have been in error, or mistaken, is a rare human attribute.
This does not mean, however, that you should go along with every "change" presented to you. The change itself might be a new "error" even worse than the first! Paul warned Timothy that in the "last days" there would be "perilous times" in which deceivers are "ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (II Timothy 3:1, 7). He warned, further, "But evil men and SEDUCERS (Greek goes, meaning "a wizard," as muttering spells; "an impostor, seducer") shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived" (II Timothy 3:13). Peter wrote of such, "the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to TURN FROM the holy commandment delivered unto them" (II Peter 2:20-21).
When doctrinal "change" is staring us in the face, then, a prudent student of the Bible will gather all the related evidence -- search the Scriptures -- pull out various translations of the Bible -- get out his Concordance, such as Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, and look into what various authorities have to say about it, such as the Bible Dictionaries (available in Christian bookstores, or religious libraries), and not neglect Jewish sources and interpretations, either. In the search for truth, no stone or rock should be left unturned! We must not be negligent, or lazy, or self-confident. We must be willing to SEARCH for the truth, as for hidden treasures -- HUNT for wisdom and understanding, as for precious pearls, diamonds, or gold!
YEHOVAH says of wisdom and understanding -- that is, the knowledge of YEHOVAH God, the Torah -- "For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She [the Torah, the knowledge of YEHOVAH God, true wisdom] is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her. Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a TREE OF LIFE to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her" (Proverbs 3:14-18).
It is the "Torah," Law, Teaching, or Revelation of YEHOVAH God, which is the true "Tree of Life," symbolized by the "tree of life" in the Garden of Eden. Herbert Armstrong thought the "tree of life" was the holy spirit, but that was his own interpretation and idea. The Scriptures define the TORAH or LAW or TEACHINGS of YEHOVAH's Word as the true Biblical "TREE OF LIFE"! Therefore, we should value the Word of YEHOVAH God very highly -- for it is the true "way of salvation" and the way to "eternal life"!
Principle #4 -- "Lo sakir paunim" -- "Do not recognize the face"
Finally, when we are studying to reach a conclusion about a major Biblical doctrine, and when some highly respected individual or some church "authority" or "leader" is trying to teach us their viewpoint, we must remember the basic principle taught by Moses in evaluating any new doctrine or "new truth." Moses warned us: "Lo sakir paunim." This Hebrew expression means, "Do not recognize the face" (Deuteronomy 1:17). The King James Version has this: "Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God's." The New International Bible has this: "Do not show partiality in judging; hear both small and great alike. Do not be afraid of any man, for judgment belongs to God." How many people, when faced with a doctrinal change; are AFRAID of the local minister, AFRAID of being thrown out of the church congregation, AFRAID of losing their long-time friends, and AFRAID of being cut off from family members in the church?
YEHOVAH God says, do NOT be afraid! Do not FEAR any man, whether he claim to be an "apostle," "evangelist," "pastor," or whatever! Those who fear MEN more than the Word of YEHOVAH God, and Almighty God, are doomed, even as they breathe: Jeremiah the prophet wrote, "Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD" (Jeremiah 17:5, NIV). Solomon was inspired to write, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline" (Proverbs 1:7, NIV). Solomon wrote, "Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and shun evil" (Proverbs 3:7). He added, "The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death" (Proverbs 14:27).
On the other hand, Solomon warned, "Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whosoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe" (Proverbs 29:25). Says the Moffatt translation, "The fear of man is dangerous; but he who trusts in the Eternal shall be safe."
Says Isador Zwirn, "In other words, whether truth comes from a male or female, Jew or Gentile, black or white, or even from the mouth of babes we are to accept it" (see The Rabbi from Burbank, p.36-37). He goes on:
"All of these principles have for their basis the Hebrew key word, doresh, 'to study, to research.' As a young child I learned that once this concept became firmly fixed in my mind, I was then readily able to recognize and obey the scriptural commands that applied to my life.
"I have since learned that this same principle applies to any sincere student of the Bible. By learning the importance of God's words that are recorded within God's Word, then learning the principle of unquestioning obedience, every child of God will be able to live a life of peace, power, and daily victory.
"These are unequivocal biblical principles: research (doresh) with integrity equals knowledge and insight. Knowledge and insight, plus obedience, equals God's rich rewards. When I learn to know what God is saying to me in his Word, I must obey what he says. Then he is honor-bound to answer the promises in his Word" (p. 37-38).
YEHOVAH's Command -- RESEARCH the Truth
Far too many of YEHOVAH's people, I believe, do not seem to feel themselves qualified to do "Biblical research." So they conveniently or foolishly leave it to others -- the ministers. And they risk their salvation by foolishly trusting in men -- human beings -- rather than studying the Word of YEHOVAH God which is a shield and protector against false teaching, heresy, and insidious, subtle, clever false doctrines which masquerade as "truth."
Notice YEHOVAH's command: "Seek [doresh, research] the LORD and his strength, seek [doresh, research] his face continually" (I Chronicles 16:11). "SEEK [DORESH, RESEARCH] ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him RETURN unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon" (Isaiah 55:6-7).
"And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek [doresh, research] thee" (Psalm 9:10).
"I sought [doresh, researched] the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed. This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that FEAR him, and delivereth them" (Psalm 34:4-7).
The Hebrew word doresh or darash literally means, "to tread or frequent; usually to follow (for pursuit or search); by implication, to seek or ask; specifically, to worship" (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, Hebrew dictionary, word #1875). It is variously translated, "inquire, make inquisition, require, search, seek for, seek out." Gesenius Hebrew Chaldee Lexicon defines the word: "To rub, to beat, to tread, to trample, to tread, or beat a path; to rub, to thresh...figuratively, TO LEARN, TO STUDY. Kindred to this are the roots mentioned...all having the signification of treading" (p. 209). It means, "to tread a place under the feet; hence, to go to a place, to frequent it...Farther, the signification of 'going to' is applied to that of seeking, inquiring, demanding; also, of caring for. Hence -- to seek...to search after...to seek from anyone, to inquire...to apply oneself to any thing, to STUDY, to follow, to practice any thing."
"They that seek [doresh, research] the LORD shall not want any good thing" (Psalm 34:10). "The humble will hear this and be glad: and your heart shall live that SEEK [doresh, research] God" (Psalm 69:32). Obviously, YEHOVAH God wants each one of us to seek -- search after Him -- with all our being and might and ability. If we seek Him with all our powers, we have His promise that we will find Him and get to know Him. And when we find Him and get to know Him, the connotation is that we will offer ourselves to Him in total obedience.
Your Private Covenant with YEHOVAH God
Each one of us who has been baptized, accepted Yeshua the Messiah as our Saviour, and received YEHOVAH's holy spirit (Acts 2:38; 5:32) has entered into a covenantal relationship with YEHOVAH God, our Father. As YEHOVAH said to ancient Israel, "All of you stand today before the LORD your God...That you may enter into COVENANT with the LORD your God...which the LORD your God makes with you today, that He may establish you today as a people for Himself, and that He may be God to you, just as He has spoken to you...I make this covenant and this oath, not with you alone, but with him who stands here with us today before the LORD our God, as well as with him who is not here with us today" (Deuteronomy 29:10-15).
In the words of Rav Eliezer Ashkenazi (1513-1586 A.D.) who cites this passage and says, concerning putting faith in contemporary human beings as our teachers and interpreters:
"Therefore each and every one of us, our children and grandchildren until the conclusion of all the generations, who have entered the covenant are duty bound to examine the secrets of the Torah and to straighten out our faith concerning it by accepting the TRUTH from whoever says it...Neither ought we be concerned about the logic of others -- even if they preceded us -- preventing our own individual investigation. Only on the basis of the gathering of many different opinions will the truth be tested.
"Thus it is valuable to us to complete the views (of our predecessors) and to INVESTIGATE (the meaning of the Bible) in accordance with our own mind's understanding. And even if in the course of investigation into the secrets of the Torah, through our love for it, we err (in our interpretation), it will not be accounted for us even as an unwitting sin because our intent was for the sake of heaven. But we shall be GUILTY IF WE DESIST from INVESTIGATING the secrets of our Torah by declaring the lions have already established supremacy, so let us accept their words as they are ...
"But it is proper for us to investigate and analyze in accord with our own understanding and to write our interpretations for the good of those who come after us, whether they will agree or not...You must struggle to scale the heights and to understand our Torah...and do not be dismayed by the names of the great personalities when you find them in disagreement with your belief; YOU MUST INVESTIGATE AND CHOOSE, because for this purpose were you CREATED, and wisdom was granted you from Above, and this will benefit you..." (quoted by Shlomo Riskin in his column "To read, to interpret, to learn," Jerusalem Post, July 8, 1995).
If you love the Law or Torah of YEHOVAH God, as David did, you must study it and meditate on it, and not leave the studying to the ministers and other men! YEHOVAH God has made a covenant with YOU -- and part of that Covenant is that you will personally STUDY HIS WORD daily, and live by the insights and personal understanding you derive from it. Notice! YEHOVAH told Joshua, "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to DO according to ALL that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and you will have good success" (Joshua 1:8, NKJV).
We are called to be a kingdom of priests to our God (compare I Peter 2:4-9 and Exodus 19:56). As "kings" and "priests," then, we have a unique personal responsibility. YEHOVAH says of His "kings": "He shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall READ IT all the days of his life, that he may LEARN TO FEAR the LORD his God and be careful to observe ALL the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong the days of his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel" (Deuteronomy 17:18-20).
David declared, "But my heart stands in AWE of Your word, I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great treasure. I hate and abhor lying, but I love Your law" (Psalm 119:161-162). If we love YEHOVAH's Law, then we will spend much time communing with it, studying His Word, and delighting ourselves in its mysteries and treasures of insight and understanding. And the more time we spend with it, the more we will come to deeply know, and intimately appreciate it, and a "romantic relationship" with it will blossom into a profound and wonderful love relationship, as that depicted in the Song of Solomon. As David wrote, "Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day" (Psalm 119:97).
If we carefully research and obey YEHOVAH's Word, then He will grant us wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. If we study and do our homework and research, we will not be afflicted with the "spirit of stupidity" (Isaiah 29:9). The Hebrew rendering of this verse is, "Stupefy yourselves, and be stupid! Blind yourselves, and be blind!" In other words, those who do not study and research after YEHOVAH God, and His knowledge, who do not "prove all things," as Paul admonished, those who refuse to "study" diligently to show themselves "approved" before YEHOVAH God, YEHOVAH says are being stupid and afflicting themselves with blindness!
The Bereans, on the other hand, were praised because they took it upon themselves to check out and PROVE -- put to the test -- the new teachings they were hearing from the apostle Paul. We read in the book of Acts, "But these were of a nobler attitude than those in Thessalonica; for they heartily welcomed the message and MADE A DAILY STUDY OF THE SCRIPTURES, whether those things were so. Many of them therefore believed, including prominent Greek women and a number of men" (Acts 17:11-12).
The apostle Paul commanded each and every one of us, by the inspiration of YEHOVAH's holy spirit, "Don't suppress the spirit, and don't stifle those who have a word from the Master. On the other hand, don't be gullible. CHECK OUT EVERYTHING, and keep only what's good. Throw out anything tainted with evil" (I Thessalonians 5:21, The Message). Study it carefully. Grind it up small. Dissect it minutely. Put it under a spiritual "microscope." Tread it out and thresh it fully, leaving nothing to chance. In this way, you can truly fulfill YEHOVAH's command, "Prove all things." It is of course, completely up to you. You must decide yourself whether you intend to truly "research the LORD," and seek out profound understanding of His Word. It is like hidden treasures. But true diligence will be amply rewarded. We should be like excited prospectors, pick and ax and shovel in hand, searching for that hidden vein of gold or silver, to "strike it rich!" Only our riches is the wealth of knowledge and wisdom and understanding hidden in the word of the Living God. Is eternal life worth it? You bet it is!
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