Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Abrahamic Covenant

In my recent post “Penalties and Blood” I wrote about how anciently covenants were sometimes made between people, and with God. Some of these covenants were made by ordinances, which may include an allusion to the penalties if the covenant is broken. Such an allusion is the rite of circumcision. To break the covenant of circumcision is to lose eternal seed.

Circumcision is a sign to the Israelites that they were the children of “the covenant” or the “Abrahamic Covenant.” When Abram received his endowment a “h” (heh) was added to his everyday name, illustrating that he had entered in the covenant. The Hebrew name for Jesus, was YHVH, and is known as the Tetragrammaton (YHVH or יהוה).

The “Yud” is a picture of a penis (and an arm or hand) and means creation. The “Vav” is a picture of a nail and means to bring together, bind, or seal, and the “Heh” is a picture of a man praying with upheld hands. (LINK)

"YUD" and "Heh" means “covenant of creation.”
"Vav" and "Heh" means “covenant of atonement.”

The Anointed is both creator and redeemer.

This is why in ancient Hebrew literature it discusses how the heavens and the earth were built upon, and are maintained by the covenant of circumcision. This can be a little hard to understand at first. It is not talking about circumcision at all, circumcision is alluding to the covenants of creation and atonement. Without this covenant the earth would be utterly wasted.

“Come and see: Once Abraham was circumcised, he abandoned the foreskin and entered the sacred covenant... entering the covenant upon which the world stands.” [1]

Without implying any dilution or degradation of the terms, we see in gospel teachings a purposeful evolution of certain terms. For example; the term “House of Israel” means the “Camp of Israel,” which means “Army of Israel” (“he struggles with with God” which could point to an embrace of covenant), which means “Army of Heaven” , which means “Army of God.” These are the ones Jesus said he would make His rulers in this world. (Abraham 3:23)

When we speak of the Melchizedek Priesthood, what are we talking about? We are talking about the authority given to “Melchizedek”, which is the authority of the “Fathers” (or the patriarchs), which is the Priesthood of Adam (HC, Vol. 3, pp. 386-387), which is the authority after the “Holy order of the Son of God.”

All things hang upon the covenant of creation and the promises made there, which include the covenants of redemption or atonement. When we are circumcised, baptized, take the sacrament, or go to the temple, we are only pointing to, and recommitting to the covenants of creation and redemption made in our pre-earth life. Understanding these covenants is the heart of the matter at hand.
[1] The Zohar, Lekh Lekha, Matt. Vol. 2, pgs. 74 and 75.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Jews & Mormons - Bridges Being Built

Last Friday I had the pleasure of attending a very nice celebration of the sixtieth year since the founding of the state of Israel. I was a guest at the invitation of Mark Paredes who is the LDS Public Relation representative to the Jewish community in Southern California.

Clearly, the founding of Israel (1948) is a miracle and an unmistakable sign of our day.

It was a very nice celebration. If I understand correctly it was hosted by the church and was at the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles. Forgive me for not geting the names, but there was a Seventy there, a number of other church leaders. Leaders from different parts of the Jewish community, some consulates, some press, and so on.

It was good to see Valeria G. ("like a canon") there!

A beautiful LDS young lady lead the group in singing the national anthem of Israel (Hatikvah), it was very touching. It’s nice to see Judah and Joseph getting along so well.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Penalties and Blood

I am at a loss of how to exactly say what I want to convey in this post. I understand it, but it is a little hard to put into words. Here is my best attempt.

The plan of salvation is administered unto us by covenants, including; baptism, sacrament, priesthood, and of course the temple. These covenants come with blessings, and with penalties if the covenant is not kept.

Pre-messiah circumcision, the cutting, was a sign of the covenant of Abraham, and an illustration of the penalty. Modern folk don’t care much to be reminded of penalties. While a reminder of the possible penalties may not be an essential part of the covenant, historically the gospel has included such reminders. In the 84th. section of the Doctrine and Covenants, known as the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood we read:

“But whoso breaketh this covenant after he hath received it, and altogether turneth therefrom, shall not have forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come.” (D&C 84:41)

Circumcision is an outward sign of the covenant, and a penalty. Many Old Testament covenants where attached to or received by the killing of an animal, usually by cutting. In Old Testament times a priesthood covenant may be attached to the ritual of cutting an animal in two, then walking the path between the parts. When we “cut” a deal, we have made a two way promise.

The Hebrew word for “covenant" is “brit.”

“ [brit] ברית ... [C]ovenant, treaty, compact, agreement, an association between two parties with serious responsibilities, benefits, and penalties; ‘to cut a covenant’ is to ‘make a covenant,’ a figure of the act of ceremonially cutting an animal into two parts, with an implication of serious consequences for not fulfilling the covenant...” [1 - also see this LINK]

In Hebrew, “covenant” literally means “cut-where-blood-flows.” In times past, when a covenant of blood was made, a cup, or cupping hand, sometimes by a priest, would be held underneath to catch the blood. This blood in the cup would sometimes be mixed with wine and consumed by the participants. The wine and the blood are often interchanged in gospel themes (the rite of the Sacrament for example - see LINK). I find it interesting that American Indians practiced this Hebrew custom or rite.

“According to Pirḳe R. El. xxix., it was Shem who circumcised Abraham and Ishmael on the Day of Atonement; and the blood of the covenant then shed is ever before God on that day to serve as an atoning power. According to the same Midrash, Pharaoh prevented the Hebrew slaves from performing the rite, but when the Passover time came and brought them deliverance, they underwent circumcision, and mingled the blood of the paschal lamb with that of the Abrahamic covenant, wherefore (Ezek. xvi. 6) God repeats the words: ‘In thy blood live!’”(LINK)

The blood of the covenant is taken upon each of us in true temples, in a symbolic way. Ancient Israel also symbolically received the covenant by being sprinkled with blood. This sprinkling conveyed the blessings, responsibilities, and the penalties associated with the covenant.

“The animal was slain on the eve of the Passover, on the afternoon of the 14th of Nisan, after the Tamid sacrifice had been killed, i.e., at three o'clock, or, in case the eve of the Passover fell on Friday, at two. The killing took place in the court of the Temple, and might be performed by a layman, although the blood had to be caught by a priest, and rows of priests with gold or silver cups in their hands stood in line from the Temple court to the altar, where the blood was sprinkled. These cups were rounded on the bottom, so that they could not be set down; for in that case the blood might coagulate. The priest who caught the blood as it dropped from the victim then handed the cup to the priest next to him, receiving from him an empty one, and the full cup was passed along the line until it reached the last priest, who sprinkled its contents on the altar.” (LINK)

All these covenants we make are just renewing the covenants of creation, upon which heaven and earth rest. We need to remember our blessings, rights, privileges, responsibilities, and the associated penalties.

The promise of the Abrahamic Covenant is that our seed will continue forever.
[1 - The Strongest Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of The Bible, 21st Century Edition, page 1483.)