Shemesh: Shining like the Sun

Sun: shemesh (masculine noun) (Strong’s 8121 & 8122)

Root: שֶׁמֶשׁ

Sounds like: shuh-mesh

November is usually a month with many grey, overcast, days, so when the sun does come out it feels all that more warm and glorious. One hundred years ago, to the day, the signing of the Armistice Agreement put an end to WWI. Regardless of the weather, it was a warm and glorious day! Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae died in January 1918, never seeing the end of the war. His poem, In Flanders Fields, sums up the devastation and chaos of war. The sun plays a pivotal part in the poem:

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

   Loved and were loved, and now we lie,

       In Flanders fields.

sunset-815270_1920

Feeling dawn and seeing sunset is part of life. It brings joy and a secure sense of continuity and order.

YHWH created the sun for a specific purpose… order. And this order allows life to flourish. Without sun, life would wither and die. It cannot prosper in darkness.

Genesis 1:3-5

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And seeing that the light was good, God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness He called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day…

On day four God harnessed the light into two main items:

Genesis 1:14-19

And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

Notice that God creates the two great lights to serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and to govern, separate and give light on the earth.

The Psalmist saw the creation of these orbs and reflected:

Psalm 74:16-17

The day is Yours, and also the night;

You established the moon and the sun [wah-shemesh].

You set all the boundaries of the earth;

You made the summer and winter.

Yeshua, however, focused on the sun, moon and stars as signs:

Luke 21:25-28

“There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among the nations, bewildered by the roaring of the sea and the surging of the waves. Men will faint from fear and anxiety over what is coming upon the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to happen, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.

Order is what the sun was created for… we live, we breathe; the sun rises, the sun sets. But death is chaos, it loses the order of day and night, inhaling and exhaling. Yeshua/Jesus, from the line of David, came to earth to put a stop to the finality of death and chaos. The sun, moon, stars– pinnacles of order and consistency- will someday act out of order and it will a sign to everyone that things are radically different.

In the scriptures the sun, itself, acts as a faithful witness to all of YHWH’s promises, including the promise of a Messiah from the line of David:

Psalm 89:35-37

Once and for all I have sworn by My holiness—

I will not lie to David— his offspring will endure forever,

and his throne will be like the sun [ka-shemesh] before Me,

like the moon, established forever, a faithful witness in the sky.

The final recorded words of King David paint a beautiful word picture:

2 Samuel 23:1-5 

These are the last words of David:

“The oracle of David son of Jesse, the oracle of the man raised on high,

the one anointed by the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel:

The Spirit of YHWH spoke through me; His word was on my tongue.

The God of Israel spoke; the Rock of Israel said to me,

‘He who rules the people with justice, who rules in the fear of God,

is like the light of the morning when the sun [shamesh] rises in a cloudless dawn,

the glistening after the rain on the sprouting grass of the earth.’

Is not my house right with God? For He has established with me

an everlasting covenant, ordered and secured in every part.

Will He not bring about my full salvation and my every desire?

How beautiful are these final words of David?! He has ultimate faith in YHWH, knowing that God would fulfill His promises far beyond the lifetime of David. This ordered and secured, everlasting covenant-promise of a Messiah, from the line of David, is central to the whole story of the Judeo-Christian faith.

In Jeremiah 31 YHWH makes another covenant promise. He will write His law on the minds and hearts of humans, and He will also promises to forgive and remember the sins of humans no more. Through the sacrifice of the Messiah, giving up this ordered life and turning himself over to the chaos of death, our iniquity is dissolved. YHWH ends this promise with these words:

Jeremiah 31:33-36

Thus says YHWH, who gives sun [shemesh] for light by day and orders moon and stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—YHWH of Hosts is His name:

“Only if this fixed order departed from My presence, declares YHWH,

would Israel’s descendants ever cease to be a nation before Me.”

Essentially YHWH is saying He will never abandon His promises because it is not possible for the sun, moon and stars to depart from Him. In fact, they worship Him!

Psalm 148:1-6

Hallelujah!

Praise YHWH from the heavens; praise Him in the highest places.

Praise Him, all His angels; praise Him, all His heavenly hosts.

Praise Him, O sun and moon; praise Him, all you shining stars.

Praise Him, O highest heavens, and you waters above the skies.

Let them praise the name of YHWH,  for He gave the command and they were created.

He established them forever and ever; He issued a decree that will never pass away.

The prophet Isaiah lived in a time surrounded by war and violence. The Assyrians were a persistent menace, not to mention countless other enemies of Israel constantly threatening devastation. War is chaos, but God created earth to be orderly. Sun and moon, day and night is order at its greatest. It absolutely, without fail, continues in perfect symmetry.

But Isaiah spoke of a time when God would shatter it all and become the only Sun that we need. The imagery of losing sun and moon was a reminder that day and night is God’s chosen order and without it only death is available to this planet. But Isaiah emphasized hope; hope for an everlasting light that only YHWH provides.

Isaiah 60:18-20

No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders,

but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise.

The sun [ha-shemesh] will no more be your light by day,

nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you,

for YHWH will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.

Your sun [sheem’shek] will never set again, and your moon will wane no more;

YHWH will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.

The prophet Micah, a contemporary to Isaiah, who also lived under the threat of Assyria, saw light and salvation as the means of victory over darkness and death:

Micah 7:7-9

But as for me, I will look to YHWH;

I will wait for the God of my Salvation. My God will hear me.

Do not gloat over me, my enemy!

       Though I have fallen, I will rise;

       though I sit in darkness, YHWH will be my light.

Because I have sinned against Him, I must endure the rage of YHWH,

until He argues my case and executes justice for me.

He will bring me into the light; I will see His righteousness.

The Messiah, Yeshua, is our salvation and the hope for everlasting light. Micah expressed that although we have fallen, with YHWH we will rise… just as Yeshua rose out of the darkness of death, to bring light to all the people.

John 8:12

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Malachi, who prophesied 300 years after Isaiah and Micah, provided an image of the Messiah as the sun:

Malachi 4:2

YHWH: “But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness [shemesh tzedakah] will rise with healing in its wings, and you will go out and leap like calves from the stall…”

This image, a sun of righteousness that will rise with true healing, gives great joy. This is the Messiah, the Anointed One who will bring true healing and peace. When Yeshua experienced the transfiguration on the mountain top it should come to no surprise to us that his face shone like the sun [Matthew 17:2]. It is not the first time God is compared to the sun:

Psalm 84:11-12

For YHWH God is a sun [shemesh] and a shield;

YHWH gives grace and glory;

He withholds no good thing from those who walk with integrity.

O YHWH of Hosts, how blessed is the human who trusts in You!

If we are to be the reflection of God on earth, then we also need to shine like the sun! The great woman judge, Deborah, lived in a time of war and chaos. Israel lived under the tyranny of the Canaanites and Deborah called for action against these enemies (Judges 4 & 5). They went to war and defeated their oppressors. The victory song of Deborah and Barak (leader of the army of Israel) ends with these words:

Judges 5:31a

So may all your enemies perish, O YHWH,

But may those who love You shine like the sun [ha-shemesh] at its brightest.

Be sunshine, and let your life radiate the love for you have for YHWH, our God and our Great Creator. God knows this war-torn world needs the warmth and compassion of His everlasting light!

Next week: shadow

Advertisements

Magen: the Shield of your Salvation

SHIELD: magen (masculine noun). (Strong’s 4043)

Original word: מָגֵן

Sounds like: maw-ghen

This afternoon I joined with others, in Charlottetown PEI, to pay our respects to the victims of the senseless attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, USA. It is just one strike in a very very VERY long line of anti-semitic attacks throughout history. It seems that the Jewish people have been targeted since the very moment that YHWH blessed them as the chosen people… the people from whose line salvation would come. That has been a heavy burden to bear. But the resilience of the Jewish people never ceases to astound me. There is always hope and they hold onto it like a cherished, wounded, bird. The Psalmist writes:

Psalm 6:6-9

I am weary from groaning;

all night I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.

My eyes fail from grief; they grow dim because of all my foes.

Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity, for YHWH has heard my weeping.

YHWH has heard my cry for mercy; YHWH accepts my prayer.

What holds this chosen family together is the hope that one day their sorrow will end:

Isaiah 60:20

Your sun will no longer set, and your moon will not wane;

for YHWH will be your everlasting light, and the days of your sorrow will be over.

When King David was persecuted by his own son Absalom (who wanted to kill his father and take the throne for his own) he cried out to YHWH:

Psalm 3:1-4

O YHWH, how my foes have increased! How many rise up against me!

Many say of me, “God will not deliver him.” Selah.

But You, O YHWH, are a shield [ma’gen] around me,

my glory, and the One who lifts my head.

To YHWH I cry aloud, and He answers me from His holy hill.

A shield won’t stop every attack but it does its best to surround and protect. In Biblical times there was great value placed on shields. In the description of King Hezekiah’s wealth shields are listed amongst the most valuable things in his collection:

2 Chronicles 32:27

Hezekiah had very great riches and honor, and he made treasuries for his silver, and for gold, and for precious stones, and for spices, and for shields [u-l’ma’gee’neem], and for all kinds of valuable articles.

King Solomon put great emphasis on the making of shields:

2 Chronicles 9:15-16

King Solomon made two hundred large shields [tzeenah] of hammered gold; six hundred shekels of hammered gold went into each large shield [ha-tzeenah]. He also made three hundred small shields [ma’gee’neem] of hammered gold; three hundred shekels of gold went into each shield [ha-ma’gen]. And the king put them in the House of the Forest of Lebanon.

Interestingly, there is a different word for large shields [tzeenah], but the word for small shield remains ma’gen. Regardless of size, Solomon’s shields were so valuable that they were the only things mentioned in a list of items plundered by their enemies:

2 Chronicles 12:9

So King Shishak of Egypt attacked Jerusalem and seized the treasures of the house of YHWH and of the royal palace. He took everything, including the gold shields [ma’gee’neh] that Solomon had made.

Etruscan Shield
Etruscan shield from 8th Century BCE

Shields were signs of strength and wealth, making them the perfect item to highlight God’s rich and powerful protection. The first time we see the word shield in the Torah is just after Abram has dealt with war and faced Melchizedek, the peaceful Priest-King. In Genesis 15 we read:

Genesis 15:1

After these events, the word of YHWH came to Abram in a vision:

“Do not be afraid, Abram. I am, to you, a shield [ma’gen]your very great reward.”

God compares Himself to a shield. He is protection and He is also reward, which is fitting considering the shield is amongst the most valuable items of reward in plunder.

God as our shield is a prolific word picture all through the Tanakh.

In the Torah we read:

Deuteronomy 33:29

Blessed are you, O Israel!

Who is like you, a people saved by YHWH?

He is the shield that protects you, the sword in which you boast.

Your enemies will cower before you, and you shall trample their high places.”

In the Nevi’im (prophets) we read:

2 Samuel 22:2-4

“YHWH is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer.

My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,

my shield [ma’geenee], and the horn of my salvation.

My stronghold, my refuge, and my Saviour,

You save me from violence.

I will call upon YHWH, who is worthy to be praised;

so shall I be saved from my enemies.”

This is part of David’s prayer found in 2 Samuel 22. It connects rock to stronghold, shield to refuge, and salvation with a Saviour. In the same prayer of David we read:

2 Samuel 22:29-31, 36

For You, O YHWH, are my lamp; YHWH enlightens my darkness.

For in you I can charge an army; with my God I can scale a wall.

As for God, His way is perfect; the word of YHWH is flawless.

He is a shield [ma’gen] to all who take refuge in Him…

      …You have given me the shield [ma’gen] of Your salvation;

and Your gentleness exalts me.

David connects YHWH’s Salvation to this image of shield/refuge. In Psalm 18 we hear these same words repeated:

Psalm 18:35

You have given me the shield [ma’gen] of Your salvation;

Your right hand upholds me, and Your gentleness exalts me.

The Psalms are the first collection of writings in the Ketuvim, and it’s a collection full of shield imagery:

Psalm 115:9-13

O Israel, trust in YHWH! He is their help and shield [u-mageenam].

O house of Aaron, trust in YHWH! He is their help and shield  [u-mageenam].

You who fear YHWH, trust in YHWH! He is their help and shield  [u-mageenam].

YHWH is mindful of us; He will bless us.

He will bless the house of Israel; He will bless the house of Aaron;

He will bless those who fear YHWH— small and great alike.

Psalm 119:114

You are my hiding place and my shield [u-ma’geenee];

I put my hope in Your word.

In Psalm 84 the Psalmist calls God to look at their shield, for upon it is the face of the Messiah.

Psalm 84:9-12

See our shield [ma’gee’nenu], O God, and look upon the face of Your anointed (messiah).

For better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere.

I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.

For the God YHWH is a sun and a shield [u-ma’gen];

YHWH gives grace and glory;

He withholds no good thing from those who walk with integrity.

O YHWH of Hosts, how blessed is the human who trusts in You!

Centuries before Yeshua (Jesus) appeared on earth, a man named Agur, son of Jakeh,  asked five questions and then made a beautiful, bold, statement:

Proverbs 30:4-5 (Words of Agur)

Who has ascended to heaven and come down?

Who has gathered the wind in His hands?

Who has bound up the waters in His cloak?

Who has established all the ends of the earth?

What is His name, and what is the name of His Son— surely you know!

Every word of God is pure;

He is a shield [ma’gen] to those who take refuge in Him.

You KNOW the name of your God and you know His Son’s name! He is the shield that surrounds you, and He is the and the Salvation that you seek.

Next week: Sun

Etzem: Bone of my Bones

Bones: etzem (feminine noun). (Strong’s 6106)

Root: עֶצֶם

Sounds like: eh-tsem

Somewhere, down the line, a translation error shaped the course of one of our most popular idioms… “flesh and blood”. This phrase has been used, throughout the centuries to describe our family connections. We talk about our darling children, our own flesh and blood. We share “blood-lines” with our family and celebrate our genetic relationship to our relatives.

However, the Biblical term “flesh and blood” is not Biblical at all. The term is actually “bone and flesh”.

Not Flesh and Blood… rather Bone and Flesh:

Genesis 29:13-14a

As soon as Laban heard the news about Jacob, his sister’s son, he ran to meet him and embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his house. Jacob told Laban all these things, and Laban said to him, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh [atzmi u’vesari]!”

Depending on your translation, if you look up this verse in your Bible, you will likely read something along the lines of, Laban exclaimed, “You really are my own flesh and blood!” But the original Hebrew is atzmi u’vesari (bone and flesh), with no mention of blood at all.

The phrase bone and flesh shows up all over the Bible, including:

Judges 9:2b

“Remember that I am your bone and your flesh [atz’m’kem u-vesar’kem]

2 Samuel 19:12a

You are my brothers, my bone and my flesh [atzmi u-vesari]. So why should you be the last to restore the king?”

1 Chronicles 11:1

Then all Israel came together to David at Hebron saying, “Here we are, your bone and your flesh  [atz’m’ka u-vesar’eka]…”

This phrase of bone and flesh is even connected to the very first time we see the word bone [etzem] in the Bible:

Genesis 2:21-23a

So YHWH God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep, and while he slept, He took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the area with flesh. And from the rib that YHWH God had taken from the man, He made a woman and brought her to him. And the man said:

“This is now bone [etzem] of my bones [m’atzamay] and flesh of my flesh…”

This phrase is a sign of equality. We are one; we are connected; we are equal… made in the image (reflection) of God. We are of the same bone and flesh.

But our bodies are more than just a bag of bones. We are made by God, and that’s pretty amazing! We are connected to each other by bone and flesh. And for those who have cemented a relationship with YHWH, we are bound together by God’s Spirit (breath).

Job, who often struggled with body pain and frequently questioned the meaning of life, knew, deep down, that the body he had been given had been blessed and cared for by YHWH:

Job 10:11-12

You clothed me with skin and flesh,

and knit me together with bones [u’ve’etza’mowt] and sinews.

You have granted me life and loving devotion,

and Your care has preserved my spirit.

God created us out of love and devotion. He wants us to be filled with His spirit so we can mirror that same kind of love and devotion to others. This idea is addressed in one of the most visually explicit moments in the Bible… Ezekiel’s vision of the “Dry Bones”:

Ezekiel 37:1-14

The hand of YHWH was upon me, and He brought me out by His Spirit and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones [atzamowt]. He led me all around among them, and I saw a great many of them on the floor of the valley, and indeed they were very dry. Then He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones [ha’atzamowt] live?”

“O Lord GOD,” I replied, “only You know.”

And He said to me, “Prophesy concerning these bones [ha’atzamowt] and tell them: ‘Dry bones [ha’atzamowt] , hear the word of YHWH! This is what the Lord GOD says to these bones [l’atzamowt]: I will cause breath to enter you, and you will live. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh grow upon you and cover you with skin. I will put breath within you so that you will come to life. Then you will know that I am YHWH.’”

So I prophesied as I had been commanded. And as I prophesied, there was suddenly a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones [atzamowt] came together, bone to bone [etzem el atzmow]. As I looked on, tendons appeared on them, flesh grew, and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them.

Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and tell it that this is what the Lord GOD says: ‘Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, so that they may live!’”

So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath entered them, and they came to life and stood on their feet—a vast army.

Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones [ha’atzamowt] are the whole house of Israel. Look, they are saying, ‘Our bones [atzmow’tenu] are dried up, and our hope has perished; we are cut off.’

Therefore prophesy and tell them that this is what the Lord GOD says: ‘O My people, I will open your graves and bring you up from them, and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, My people, will know that I am YHWH, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put My Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I, YHWH, have spoken, and I will do it, declares YHWH.’”

Israel was dead to life; they were like dry bones. But God promised to put His breath in them so that they could LIVE! Here’s the thing, life is not living in a bag of bones… we need the Spirit- God’s breath- to bring us life.

ParisCatacombs
[ Catacombs in Paris
It was Jesus who commissioned the spirit to take root in all who believed in Him [John 14:26-27]. Ezekiel’s vision of living bones coming to life with the Spirit points directly to our own felt need to truly be alive, not living, day to day, just etching out a bare existence. No, we need to be full of life, living for the Creator to help this planet be the best it can be!

With this connection between bones and life and spirit, it’s not surprising that bones played a part in the Tanakh’s prophecies about Yeshua/Jesus.

Bones in the Passover… No Bones to Be Broken

Yeshua often referred to as the Passover Lamb, so let’s take a look at the rules regarding the Passover Lamb in the Torah:

Exodus 12:46

[Speaking of Passover meal:] It must be eaten inside one house. You are not to take any of the meat outside the house, and you may not break any of the bones.

Numbers 9:10-12

Then YHWH said to Moses [regarding Passover], “ Such people are to observe it at twilight on the fourteenth day of the second month. They are to eat the lamb, together with unleavened bread and bitter herbs; they may not leave any of it until morning or break any of its bones [w’etzem]. They must observe the Passover according to all its statutes.”

The Psalmist, who was extremely familiar with the Torah, also made an interesting statement about bones:

Psalm 34:17-20

The righteous cry out, and YHWH hears; He delivers them from all their troubles.

YHWH is near to the brokenhearted; He saves the contrite in spirit.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but YHWH delivers him from them all.

He protects all His bones [atzmowtah]not one of them will be broken.

YHWH will save, deliver and protect. How?… by bringing a Messiah, a perfect, un unbroken, Passover lamb.

Yeshua’s death, on the cross, fulfilled the prophecies of the Tanakh/Old Testament. His bones, although in terrible agony, were never broken:

John 19:31-37

It was the day of Preparation, and the next day was a High Sabbath. In order that the bodies would not remain on the cross during the Sabbath, the Jews asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies removed. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and those of the other.

But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water flowed out. The one who saw it has testified to this, and his testimony is true. He knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe.

Now these things happened so that the Scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of His bones will be broken.” And, as another Scripture says: “They will look on the One they have pierced.”

Here is one of those Scriptures quoted, in the voice of the Messiah/Mashiach:

Psalm 22:12-18

Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.

They open their jaws against me like lions that roar and maul.

I am poured out like water, and all my bones [atzmotai] are disjointed.

My heart is like wax; it melts away within me.

My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.

You lay me in the dust of death.

For dogs surround me; a band of evil men encircles me;

they have pierced my hands and feet.

I can count all my bones [atzmotai]they stare and gloat over me.

They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.

His bones were disjointed, he could feel every one of them, but they were not broken. Yeshua HaMashiach/Jesus the Messiah died an agonizing death for us. As His followers we are His representatives on this planet. We are His bones and his flesh.

Ephesians 30:29-30

For no one has ever hated his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, as the Messiah does the church. For we are parts of his body—of his flesh and of his bones.

We need to take care of ourselves, this body. We are not a bag of bones. We are full of the Spirit and we have great things to do with our lives.

We often see bones as emblems of our mortality. Seeing skeletons are a reminder of our upcoming deaths. But bones show our connection to each other, and to the Messiah. We are His living bones, given a purpose. Skeletons should not be a reminder of death, but a reminder of how great life can be when we are in right relationship with YHWH.

For those who love YHWH… your bones may turn to dust, but your spirit will be delivered to the God who made you. You are under His shield and redeemed by His love.

Next week: shield

Yareh: only One thing to fear

Fear yareh (Strong’s 3372 (verb), 3373 (adjective), 3374 (noun))

Root: יָרֵא Verb (to fear): yareh. Noun (a fear): yirah

Sounds like: yare’eh or yeer’ah. Do not fear is al ti’yra (Sounds like al tee’yirah)

Fearing God

Throughout the Bible we read the words, Fear the LORD. What exactly does this mean? Are we to be scared of God?

Deuteronomy 13:4

You are to follow YHWH your God and fear [ti’yaru] Him. Keep His commandments and listen to His voice; serve Him and hold Him fast.

Are we to cower in fear, shaking in our boots? Well, not exactly… although there are instances in the Bible where someone faces God and has a physical fearful reaction, not in fear of punishment, but rather in overwhelming awe and reverence. There is a Hebrew word for terror (bahal), but the Hebrew word yareh means something different. To help explain, a comparison between the above passage and one found in Leviticus, draws out the meaning of the word: 

Leviticus 19:1-4

Then YHWH said to Moses, “Speak to the entire congregation of the Israelites and tell them: ‘Be holy because I, YHWH your God, Am holy. Each of you must fear [ti’yaru] his mother and father, and you must observe My Sabbaths. I am YHWH your God. Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves molten gods. I am YHWH your God.’

This passage explains how one should treat their parents, in reverence and with the deepest of respect. This is the definition of Biblical fear. If this is how we are to treat our parents, how much more so should we treat our God. YHWH is the heavenly Father. We are to show the greatest parental respect, reverence, and jaw-dropping awe to Him. 

Most of us live our lives without constant “fear” of God. It’s not something we think about, to be honest. However, scripture calls us to show our fear. But how?

Deuteronomy 10 gives instruction on how we can show our fear and reverence to YHWH:

Deuteronomy 10:12-13

“And now, O Israel, what does YHWH your God ask of you but to fear [l’yirah] YHWH your God by walking in all His ways, to love Him, to serve YHWH your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of YHWH, which I am giving you this day for your own good?

So the first way we can show our fear is to walk in His ways. Deuteronomy 10 continues on to describe the ways of God:

Deuteronomy 10:16-19

Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and stiffen your necks no more. For YHWH your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God, showing no partiality and accepting no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and widow, and He loves the foreigner, giving him food and clothing. So you also must love the foreigner, since you yourselves were foreigners in the land of Egypt.

If we walk in God’s ways we will also be mighty and awesome. We will be impartial and we will execute justice for orphans, widows, and foreigners… and by doing this we show that we fear and revere our God.

After walking in His ways we will inevitably come to love and serve God and keep His commandments.

Deuteronomy 10: 20-22

You are to fear [ti’yra] YHWH your God and serve Him. Hold fast to Him and take your oaths in His name. He is your praise and He is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome wonders your eyes have seen. Your fathers went down to Egypt, seventy in all, and now YHWH your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky.

It should be our prayer to always fear God. We need to guard ourselves from becoming complacent. Sometimes when life is going along smoothly we forget about God. We forget to be in constant communication with Him. We forget to be amazed. We forget to be thankful.

Psalm 86:11-13

Teach me your way, O YHWH, that I may walk in your truth;

unite my heart to fear [l’yirah] your name.

I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,

and I will glorify your name forever.

For great is your steadfast love toward me;

you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

joshua-sortino-79033-unsplash
Photo by Joshua Sortino on Unsplash

When YHWH announced a New Covenant with His people He recognized our difficulty in remembering to fear Him and He promised to bestow a great gift upon us:

Jeremiah 32:39-40

I will give them one heart and one way, so that they will always fear [l’yirah]  Me for their own good and for the good of their children after them.

I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never turn away from doing good to them, and I will put My fear [yirah-ti] in their hearts so that they will never turn away from Me.

Jesus/Yeshua made it very clear. There is no point in being afraid of mere humans or false Gods. There is only One to bow down in fear to:

Luke 12:4-7

Yeshua: I tell you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear the One who, after you have been killed, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him!

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

If God loves and cares for each tiny little sparrow then be relieved that God loves you so much more. Show your allegiance, your love and fear and He will protect you to the ends of the earth.

But to those who forget God and rely on themselves, well, it’s a different story: 

Isaiah 57:10-13

YHWH: You are wearied by your many journeys, but you did not say, “There is no hope!”

You found renewal of your strength; therefore you did not grow weak.

Whom have you dreaded and feared [w’ti’yra’ee],

so that you lied and failed to remember Me  or take this to heart?

Have I not held My peace such a long time, and still you do not fear Me [ti’yra’ee]?

I will expose your righteousness and your works, and they will not profit you.

When you cry out, let your companies of idols deliver you!

Yet the wind will carry off all of them, a breath will take them away.

But he who seeks refuge in Me will inherit the land and possess My holy mountain.”

So here the Hebrew people are not at the point of hopelessness. They may be tired, but they rely on their own strength and they don’t remember God, nor do they fear Him. They may dread their enemies, but they don’t fear YHWH.

YHWH is not one to force His will. These people do not fear Him, so God leaves their deliverance to the gods they chose to fear… and if that’s useless idols, then so be it.

It is for this reason that sometimes YHWH brings those who love Him to great despair. Sometimes hopelessness is all that brings us back to God. Sometimes it takes us to hit rock bottom to remember YHWH.

But if you fear God, you will constantly remember God, and He will deliver you. Not only will He deliver you, but He will also give you an inheritance.

Do Not Fear

To his worshippers YHWH continually says, “Do not fear”:

Isaiah 41:10

Do not fear [al ti’yra], for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will surely help you; I will uphold you with My right hand of righteousness.

Behold, all who rage against you will be ashamed and disgraced;

those who contend with you will be reduced to nothing and will perish.

You will seek them but will not find them.

Those who wage war against you will come to nothing.

For I am YHWH your God, who takes hold of your right hand

and says to you: “Do not fear, I will help you.” [al ti’yra ani ezar’tika]

When you are a follower of YHWH there is only one thing to fear, God alone. There is nothing else to be afraid of.

Isaiah 43:1

Now this is what YHWH says—

He who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel:

“Do not fear [al ti’yra], for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by your name; you are Mine!”

When you face great fear in life, call on YHWH. He will listen.

Lamentations 3:55-58

I called on Your name, O YHWH, out of the depths of the Pit.

You heard my plea: “Do not ignore my cry for relief.”

You drew near when I called on You; You said, “Do not be afraid.” [Al ti’yra]

You defend the case of my soul, O Lord; You redeem my life.

Whatever you face, whatever you fear, know that God will defend you and redeem you. There is only one thing to fear… God alone. If you love Him and worship Him with awe and reverence, then you will be mighty and awesome as you walk in His ways. You can face anything when you are on YHWH’s side. With YHWH as your Redeemer you can be forever fearless!

Next week: bones

Book: The greatest sefer ever written

Book- sefer (Strong’s 5612)

In Hebrew script: סֵפֶר

Sounds like sefer

Tomorrow (October 15th) marks the one year blogiversary of Hebrew Word Lessons! It’s been a great year, pouring over Hebrew words, diving deeply into Scripture, praying for understanding, and being amazed at what YHWH has done (especially helping me pull it all off in time for a Sunday deadline, week after week). In honour of this momentous occasion I wanted to come up with a special word to start of Year 2 of Hebrew Word Lessons.

So I’ve chosen a word near and dear to my heart… Book.

I love books. I love reading and research and getting lost in a story. I love it so much I made a career out of it. I started my book based career at age 13 when I became a student assistant at my hometown Public Library in Tiverton Ontario Canada. Not ironically, the position was called a “library page”. My Dad still loves to point out that I was just another page in the library, in a building filled with pages.

I ended up working in libraries, surrounded by books, throughout my time in University and then, eventually, it somehow turned into my career. I now work as a Library Technician at the University of Prince Edward Island and I’m the managing editor of the website http://www.booklives.ca, a virtual environment that matches old books with the lives of their previous owners… a genealogy of books, you might say. (I’m also fiercely into genealogy, but that’s another story).

Coincidentally the Hebrew word for book is sefer… which made me grin from ear to ear the first time I heard it. My initials are SEF. Many moons ago I used sefer in one of my old email addresses (sefer, in my mind, was simply a shortform for S.E.F(ish)ER). I love that my initials are uniquely connected with the Hebrew word for book. How delightful… and validating, in some kind of way.

So let’s go back a few thousand years. What did a book look like in the time of Moses?

Well, it looked nothing like what we picture a book to be today. The first “books” [seferim] were actually scrolls. Binding pages into  a square shape with conformed edges wasn’t in the mindset of the Hebrew people. Papyrus and animal skin was much easier to roll than cut into uniform pages and sewn into a binding. When we hear the word book [sefer] in the Tanakh we should be picturing a scroll. These scrolls may have been historical volumes, or letters, or the writings of prophets, or poetry… anything that was written onto some sort of parchment was considered a sefer.

The very first time we see the word “book” in the Tanakh (Old Testament) is five chapters into Genesis, and the verse offers an explanation of what the book is about:

Genesis 5:1

This is the book of the generations of Adam [mankind]. In the day that God created man, He made him in His own likeness. Male and female He created them, and He blessed them. And in the day they were created, He called them “man” [adam].

This isn’t just a creation story, it’s the story of humanity… and it starts with a genealogy.

aaron-burden-300807-unsplash
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

As we carry on throughout this divine story of what it means to be human we are introduced to many individuals who are called by YHWH to write books/scrolls… and it’s these books that make up our Bible. This call begins with Moses:

Exodus 17:14-15

Then YHWH said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll [ba-sefer] as a reminder and recite it to Joshua, because I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” And Moses built an altar and named it YHWH Is My Banner.

For what purpose does YHWH want these words written down? They were to be written to be a remembrance for the generations to come. The divine name YHWH Nissi [YHWH is our Banner] highlights that God is the signal that shines amongst the people. He is the flag that flies in the face of history, saying “See what I have done for you. See what I will continue to do for you”. YHWH’s word, written in Scripture, is the flag that flies, the banner that spreads out in front of us, and the signal that won’t be put out.

YHWH also called on Isaiah to write:

Isaiah 30:8

[YHWH to Isaiah:]

Go now, write it on a tablet in their presence

and inscribe it on a scroll [sefer];

it will be for the days to come, a witness forever and ever.

Here YHWH tells Isaiah to write the latest events down in words, to be an everlasting witness of God’s character. It’s not necessarily written for the people at that time, because they’ve lived through the event, rather it is written for the people to read in “the days to come”.

YHWH also called on Jeremiah to write His words down. Jeremiah hires a scribe:

Jeremiah 36:1-4

In the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from YHWH: Take a scroll [sefer] and write on it all the words I have spoken to you concerning Israel, Judah, and all the nations, from the day I first spoke to you during the reign of Josiah until today. Perhaps when the people of Judah hear about all the calamity I plan to bring upon them, each of them will turn from his wicked way. Then I will forgive their iniquity and their sin.”

So Jeremiah called Baruch son of Neriah. At the dictation of Jeremiah, Baruch wrote on a scroll [sefer] all the words YHWH had spoken to Jeremiah.

Here YHWH wants Jeremiah to write His words out to be a warning to the people, and to give them a chance to repent. However, King Jehoiakim isn’t pleased with Jeremiah’s warning scroll:

Jeremiah 36:21-23

The king sent Jehudi to get the scroll [ha-megillah], and he took it from the chamber of Elishama the scribe. And Jehudi read it in the hearing of the king and all the officials who were standing beside him.

Since it was the ninth month, the king was sitting in his winter quarters with a fire burning before him. And as soon as Jehudi had read three or four columns, Jehoiakim would cut them off with a scribe’s knife and throw them into the fire-pot, until the entire scroll [ha-megillah] had been consumed by the fire.

So King Jehoiakim was a scroll burning king… but tossing YHWH’s words into the fire had dire repercussions:

Jeremiah 36:27-32

After the king had burned the scroll [ha-megillah] with the words Baruch had written at Jeremiah’s dictation, the word of YHWH came to Jeremiah: “Take another scroll [megillah] and rewrite on it the very words that were on the original scroll [megillah] , which Jehoiakim king of Judah has burned.

You are to proclaim, concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah. that this is what YHWH says: You have burned the scroll [ha-megillah] and said, ‘Why have you written on it that the king of Babylon would surely come and destroy this land and deprive it of man and beast?’

Therefore, this is what YHWH says about Jehoiakim king of Judah: He will have no one to sit on David’s throne, and his body will be thrown out to be exposed to heat by day and frost by night. I will punish him and his descendants and servants for their iniquity. I will bring on them, on the residents of Jerusalem, and on the men of Judah, all the calamity about which I warned them but they did not listen.”

Then Jeremiah took another scroll [megillah] and gave it to the scribe Baruch son of Neriah, and at Jeremiah’s dictation he wrote on it all the words of the book [ha-sefer] that Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire. And many similar words were added to them.

Notice there were two words for scroll. The objecct (scroll) is a megillah, but the content of the object is the sefer (book). An empty megillah has no intellectual value, but the words inside of it make up its worth. The words make it a book.

So the first book that Baruch and Jeremiah produced was a warning… but after the king failed to heed the warning the second scroll became a judgement and YHWH outlined the consequences of Jehoiakim’s disobedience.

The last line of that chapter is intriguing… And many similar words were added to themWhat words were added to this second edition? Well, most certainly this particular story would have been added, as it would not have been in the scroll that king Jehoiakim read.

By this point we have seen that the Bible was created to be a memory book, a witness to God’s character, a warning of things to come and a judgement for those who do not listen to the word presented to them.

One of the most interesting snippets regarding a book comes from the the tragic hero, Job. We don’t know who wrote his story down, and there are all sorts of scholarly debate as to when the book was written. Job did not claim to have written down his memoir, but he wished that somebody would:

Job 19:23-27

I wish that my words were recorded and inscribed in a book [ba-sefer],

by an iron stylus on lead, or chiseled in stone forever.

But I know that my Redeemer lives,

and that at the last He will stand upon the earth.

Even after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.

I will see Him for myself;

my eyes will behold Him, and not as a stranger.

How my heart yearns within me!

One wonders if he ever did discover that his words were recorded. If not, then he would be shocked today to discover that his story is one of the most widely read books in all of history. 

There’s something about your story captured in a book that immortalizes your memory throughout time… and certainly that has happened for Job. Thousands of years after his body faded from existence, we still read about him. We still admire his resilience and his gut-wrenching honesty. But this is not what was important to Job. What gave Job the strength to stand was the powerful knowledge that his Redeemer was alive and that YHWH would be the victor when all was said and done. Job knew that long after he was dead and gone, he would still see his Redeemer God face to face, with his own eyes, not as a stranger, but as a beloved member of God’s family. This is what Job yearned for, and this is what Job lived for.

We are members of God’s family. The genealogies that are so prevalent throughout the Bible highlight the importance of family for YHWH. We are His family. We are redeemed through His Son, so that we can all become daughters and sons of God.

Luke 24:44-45

Jesus said to them, “These are the words I spoke to you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.

Here Yeshua confirmed that the Tanakh (Old Testament) validated his claim. He was, and is, the Messiah… and the Torah (law), the Nevi’im (prophets) and the Ketuv’im (writings) all pointed to his coming.

As we have seen, the purpose of Scripture was to be a remembrance, a witness, a warning and a judgement, and through Yeshua it would also become Good News. According to Luke, Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. It was at this moment that the disciples understood that all the books of the Tanakh were about Yeshua/Jesus. From the very first page of the Torah (“in the beginning”), it was all about Jesus.

At the very beginning of Yeshua’s ministry we get a glimpse of him reading from the scroll of Isaiah:

Luke 4:16-21

Then Jesus came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. As was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath. And when He stood up to read, the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. Unrolling it, He found the place where it was written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on Me,

because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent Me to proclaim deliverance to the captives

and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

Then He rolled up the scroll, returned it to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on Him, and He began by saying, Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus was the fulfillment of the Scripture. He was, and is, the one that redeemed us. Just like Job had boldly claimed: But I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last He will stand upon the earth (Job 19:25).

Jesus stood upon this earth and he gave his life to save us. That’s the most beautiful, touching, love story that exists. It’s the best book in the world and the greatest good news we can receive. The Bible is the story of humanity. It’s the story of you and me. We are characters in an epic adventure with great highs and disastrous lows… but although we are dragged many times through the depths of despair, in the end those who foster a relationship with the hero will rise up out of the ashes and be redeemed by the most beautiful, sacrificial, hero that ever walked the earth. Now that’s a good book!

But how are we characters in this epic tale? Well the Bible says our names are written into the story. There is mention of a special book, sometimes called the Book of Life, sometimes called the Book of Remembrance, and sometimes just called The Book. In it is a record of names, names of those who love, and are in relationship with, the Creator:

Daniel 12:1

At that time Michael, the great prince who stands watch over your people, will rise up. There will be a time of distress such as never has occurred from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book [ba-sefer]—will be delivered.

Malachi 3:16-17

At that time, those who feared YHWH spoke to one another, and YHWH listened and heard them. So a book of remembrance [sefer zikarown]  was written before Him regarding those who feared YHWH and honoured His name.

“They will be Mine,” says YHWH of Hosts, “on the day when I prepare My treasured possession. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him…”

And it’s not just our names that are recorded, but also our wanderings, our tears, and our whole life story:

Psalm 139:16

Your eyes saw my unformed body;

all my days were written in Your book [sefre’ka]

and ordained for me before one of them came to be.

Psalm 56:8-9

You have taken account of my wanderings;

You have put my tears in Your bottle.

Are they not in Your book [ba-sefre’teka]?

Then my enemies will retreat on the day I cry for help.

By this I will know that God is on my side.

God is on our side, and we are His anti-heroes! According to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary the definition of an anti-hero is:

…a central character in a story, movie, or drama who lacks conventional heroic attributes.

We may feel like small, imperfect, humans most of the time, but we are central to the God’s story. Like all good choose-your-own-adventure books, we have choices to make and paths to take. 

What is your role in this epic tale of humanity? Where are you in the Book of Life?

Next week: fear

Todah: Abounding with Thanksgiving

Todah: Thanksgiving (Strong’s 8426)

Todah in Hebrew script: תּוֹדָה

Sounds like: toe-dah

This weekend Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving. Many gather in their homes, have a big turkey dinner, and share around the table what they’re thankful for. But here’s how a certain television character described Thanksgiving: “To commemorate a past event you eat and kill an animal. It’s a ritual sacrifice… With pie.” Thanksgiving, in North America, is associated with the Mayflower pilgrims and their attempt to have a positive connection with the native people of the land, through the sharing of a meal. This commemorative meal usually includes some sort of roasted animal and, yes, pie.

Biblically the concept of thanksgiving has nothing to do with pilgrims, but it is very much associated with sacrifice. However this sacrifice doesn’t necessarily  have anything to do with killing an animal.

pumpkin-pie-1887230_1920

There are two main words in the Tanakh that encompass the idea of thanksgiving.

Hodu is the command, “Give thanks”. But there is also a specific word meaning thanksgiving. The word todah is the thanksgiving sacrifice you do to show how thankful you are. For example, in one of David’s Psalms he writes:

Psalm 26:6-7

I wash my hands in innocence that I may come near Your altar, O YHWH,

to raise my voice in thanksgiving [todah] and declare all Your wonderful works.

David offers his voice in thanksgiving. It’s what he has to give to show his thankfulness.

Sometimes it’s just a statement of an action to come:

Psalm 116:16-19

Truly, O YHWH, I am Your servant;

I am Your servant, the son of Your maidservant; You have released my bonds.

I will offer to You a sacrifice of thanksgiving [tsebah todah] and call on the name of YHWH.

I will fulfill my vows to YHWH in the presence of all His people,

in the courts of YHWH’s house, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Hallelujah!

Here the Psalmist promises to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving. His sacrifice will be to fulfill his vows to YHWH in front of all the people.

The hesitant prophet, Jonah, came to the same conclusion. Thanksgiving is a sacrifice. It is fulfilling the personal vows you make to God.

Jonah 2:6b-9

But You raised my life from the pit, O YHWH my God!

As my life was fading away, I remembered YHWH.

My prayer went up to You, to Your holy temple.

Those who cling to worthless idols forsake His loving devotion.

But I, with the voice of thanksgiving [todah], will sacrifice to You.

I will fulfill what I have vowed. Salvation is from YHWH!”

Fulfilling the vows you make to God is a sacrifice of thanksgiving. But what vows have you made?

Certain vows are recited multiple times, everyday, by practising Jewish people. It is the Shema Prayer, taken from the Torah:

Deuteronomy 6:4-5

Hear, O Israel: YHWH our God, YHWH is One. And you shall love YHWH your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

Fulfilling this vow is a sacrifice. It is not easy. It takes effort. Fulfilling this vow is the ultimate way to show thanksgiving to God.

When you love God this much, with your full heart, with the entirety of your being, with every fibre of your body, then you will be just the kind of person this world needs. When your foundation is loving God first, then what pours out of you is genuine LOVE for all creatures, big and small. This is the sacrifice of thanksgiving that YHWH requires.

The Shema Prayer is given that title from the first word shema, meaning to hear or listen. YHWH is asking Israel to pay attention. In Isaiah 51 He, again, asks His people to pay attention and to listen:

Isaiah 51:3-5a

For YHWH will comfort Zion and look with compassion on all her ruins;

He will make her wilderness like Eden and her desert like the garden of YHWH.

Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving [todah] and melodious song.

Pay attention to Me, My people, and listen to Me, My nation;

for a law will go out from Me, and My justice will become a light to the nations;

I will bring it about quickly. My righteousness draws near,

My Salvation is on the way, and My arms will bring justice to the nations.

Zion will someday return to the garden state it was meant to be. It will be full of joy, and gladness, beautiful songs and thanksgiving. But how? This is where God wants you to pay attention. He will send a law [torah], and this justice will be a light [l’owr] to all the nations. And here is what He really wants you to hear: “My Salvation is on the way”.

Messianic Jews and Christians believe that Yeshua HaMashiach was, and is, the fulfillment of this promise. Jesus (Yeshua) whose name literally means Salvation, in Hebrew, considered thanksgiving as a way of giving glory to God:

Luke 17:11-19

While Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. As He entered one of the villages, He was met by ten lepers. They stood at a distance and raised their voices, shouting, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

When Jesus saw them, He said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they were on their way, they were cleansed.

When one of them saw that he was healed, he came back, praising God in a loud voice. He fell facedown at Jesus’ feet in thanksgiving to Him—and he [this man] was a Samaritan.

“Were not all ten cleansed?” Jesus asked. “Where then are the other nine? Was no one found except this foreigner to return and give glory to God?”

Then Jesus said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has saved you!”

This Samaritan man, a foreigner, came back and fell at Yeshua’s feet, offering thanksgiving to Him. He is identifying Yeshua as the Messiah, the Salvation that came to save all nations.

And Yeshua’s response? Was it only this man, a Samaritan, not even a Jew, who came back to give glory to God? And to the man he says, “your faith has saved you!”

Giving thanks IS giving glory to God. Those ten men may have been healed, but this one was saved. He recognized that Yeshua was his Salvation and he fell at His feet in worship and thanksgiving. This is the kind of thanksgiving we ought to express… fall on your face thankfulness.

In the Revelation that John experienced, he described how the heavenly beings behaved around the Almighty God:

Revelation 7:11-12

And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. And they fell facedown before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and strength to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

We should be dripping with thanksgiving. The apostle Paul, summarizes it like this:

Colossians 2:6-7

Therefore, just as you have received Christ Jesus (Yeshua HaMashiach) the Lord, walk in Him, having been rooted and being built up in Him, and being strengthened in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding with thanksgiving.

As you sit with your loved ones around the table this Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, remember YHWH’s abounding love for you; remember Yeshua’s overwhelming sacrifice. It was His death that set you free. Be thankful for the love and freedom you have been given, and humbly give all the glory to God. Amen.

Next week: Book

Mishpachah: Family by Choice

Mishpachah: Family, clan (Strong’s 4940)

Mishpachah in Hebrew script: מִשְׁפָּחָה

Sounds like: mish’pa’kha

What is family? The idea of clan or family is prevalent in the Tanakh. It is a group bound together with some commonality… and it is a group that is designed to give to YHWH honour and glory, offering and respect.

Psalm 96:5-9

For all the gods of the nations are idols: but YHWH made the heavens.

Honour and majesty are before Him: strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.

Give unto YHWH, O you families [mish’pa’chot] of the people, give unto YHWH glory and strength.

Give unto YHWH the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come into his courts.

O worship YHWH in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.

All the earth is to worship YHWH. It’s what we’re made for. It’s why God gave us life! But we have to make a choice. Joshua made that choice:

Joshua 24:14-15

Now, therefore, fear YHWH and serve Him in sincerity and truth; cast aside the gods your fathers served beyond the Euphrates and in Egypt, and serve YHWH. But if it is unpleasing in your sight to serve YHWH, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. As for me and my house, we will serve YHWH!

Today that same choice is set before each member of the family: follow today’s gods and idols (money, fame, possessions, self-indulgence, success) or follow YHWH. You are a child of God, but you have to choose to be part of His family. It’s the same choice that has been set before all members of all families throughout history.

YHWH’s Chosen Family

Near the beginning YHWH chose one special family to carry forth His covenant, His plan to save us. YHWH called the Hebrew people holy, (or set apart) and He describes them as “My people”. He announced that He was the God of all the clans of Israel: 

Jeremiah 31:1

“At that time,” declares YHWH, “I will be the God of all the families [mish’pa’chot] of Israel, and they will be My people.”

YHWH chose the Hebrew people for a purpose. They would bring a blessing to the rest of the earth:

Genesis 28:13-14

And there at the top YHWH was standing and saying, “I Am YHWH, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you now lie. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and east and north and south. All the families [mish’pa’chot] of the earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.

But how would He bless all the earth through the Hebrew people? YHWH promised that through the line of the Jews YHWH would bring a Saviour to save ALL the earth. (2 Samuel 7, Psalm 2). That Saviour is the long-awaited Messiah, Jesus, or in Hebrew, Yeshua (whose name literally means “salvation”). In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he writes:

Ephesians 2:17-22

He [Yeshua] came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

Therefore you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens of the saints and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Messiah Jesus Himself as the cornerstone. In Him the whole building is fitted together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together into a dwelling place for God in His Spirit.

A Family of Faith

family_sunset

According to Paul, true family is not your biological blood group. It is a community that worships YHWH, and it is a dwelling place for God’s Spirit to be active and alive.

Yeshua, more than anyone, understood what family meant. Many of his own birth family did not believe him:

John 7:1-5

After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him. But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his own brothers did not believe in him.

Yeshua was completely aware that his family did not believe he was the Messiah. How hard that must have been, to be rejected by those closest to you. Hard, but not surprising. 

Mark 3:20

Then Jesus went home, and once again a crowd gathered, so that He and His disciples could not even eat. When His family heard about this, they went out to take custody of Him, saying, “He is out of His mind.”

As his family headed out to get him, some Pharisees accused Yeshua of being possessed by Beelzebul. Yeshua addressed the ridiculousness of their claims, and it was at this point that Yeshua’s family showed up to retrieve him:

Mark 3:31-35

Then Jesus’ mother and brothers came and stood outside. They sent someone in to summon Him, and a crowd was sitting around Him. “Look,” He was told, “Your mother and brothers are outside, asking for You.”

But Jesus replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” Looking at those seated in a circle around Him, He said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Yeshua completely changed the definition of family. It has nothing to do with blood, and everything to do with faith. Those who do the will of God are part of a greater family; YOU are a sister, or a brother, or a mother to Yeshua.

A Great Honour

What an honour, and how very humbling, it is to accept the concept of being a sibling to Jesus. Can you make that claim? I for one hardly feel worthy… but the whole point of Yeshua’s death was to set us free from the heavy burden of sin, and the feeling of worthlessness that goes along with it. Yeshua’s death annihilated the heavy chains of sin and freed us, making us worthy to enter the Kingdom:

John 8:34-36

Jesus replied, “Truly, truly, I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Although we know we’re free, it’s not always easy to live that way. We mess up so often. How do we represent Yeshua without feeling like a failure all the time? Paul recognized this heavy honour. How do we live our lives knowing we represent the family of God? Am I doing the will of God well enough to be the sister to Yeshua? Here’s what Paul says in his letter to the Galatians:

Galatians 6:9

Let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due time we will reap a harvest, if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to the family of faith.

We need to do good to everyone and especially to our sisters and brothers of Messiah. We need to love and support each other, so we can better love the rest of the world around us. There is no place for petty bickering, and superiority complexes, gossip, and bullying within our congregations. In no way is that the will of God. That kind of behaviour takes us outside the comforting arms of Yeshua’s family.

A Great Responsibility

As for our birth or adopted families we have a great responsibility. We must be the light that shines, that highlights the great blessing of being part of YHWH’s family of faith.

YHWH is our everlasting Father, the Holy Spirit comforts like a Mother, and The Son sacrificed himself so we could be part of this great family of YHWH. Those who seek out and love YHWH are His daughters and sons. That is amazing!

If that is not enough, know this… although we may be from families that are not in unity when it comes to the topic of God, in the end, according to the Psalmist, all families will bow before YHWH:

Psalm 22:27

All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to YHWH.

All the families [mish’pa’chot] of the nations will bow down before Him.

In your churches, your synagogues, and your prayer halls, be good family members to each other, and in so doing Yeshua, your brother and Saviour, will shine through for the rest of the world to see.

Next Week: Thanksgiving

Sukkot: A Simple Shelter of Love and Protection

Sukkot: booths, sheltering structures [feminine plural] (Strong’s 5521). Sukkah [singular]

Sukkot in Hebrew script: סֻכֹּ֔ת

Sounds like: su’Cote

Tonight at sundown begins the first day of the appointed time of Sukkot, often described as the Festival or Feast of Tabernacles.

But sukkot means more than a tabernacle. In fact a whole host of English words are translated from sukkot, including:

  • booth, shelter, den, pavilion, canopy, tent, tabernacle, hiding place

However, there are already Hebrew words for some of these. Tabernacle/ tent is ohel/ahalow, shelter/refuge is kha’sah, den/lair is ma’own

The concept here is something that covers over. The root sakak (5526a) means to cover. But this covering is temporary. God calls His people to remember the time, before entering the promised land, when they lived in the wilderness in temporary shelters that covered and protected them from the harsh elements.

Leviticus 23:33-34

The Lord said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘On the fifteenth day of the seventh month the Lord’s Festival of Tabernacles [ha’sukkot] begins, and it lasts for seven days’…

Leviticus 23:42-43

…Live in temporary shelters [ba’sukkot] for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in such shelters  [ba’sukkot] so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in temporary shelters  [ba’sukkot] when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.’ ”

According to the Hebrew calendar today is the fifteenth day of the seventh month (Tishrei). Today is the day when all of God’s chosen people are to remember these temporary shelters. Until God’s shelter is permanently established, we should remember what He’s done for us in the past.

yash-raut-733190-unsplash
Photo by Yash Raut on Unsplash

Now, interestingly enough, first time we see the word sukkot in the Torah is when Jacob feels called to repent to his brother and own up to all the misdeeds he’s done towards him. Esau is very forgiving and they part ways on good terms. Esau heads to Seir and Jacob travels towards a place called Succoth (Sukkot):

Genesis 33:15-17

“Let me leave some of my people with you,” Esau said.

But Jacob replied, “Why do that? Let me find favour in the sight of my lord.”

So that day Esau started on his way back to Seir, but Jacob went on to Succoth, where he built a house [ba’eet] for himself and shelters [sukkot] for his livestock; that is why the place was called Succoth.

So the first time we read about sukkot, it was made to be a shelter for livestock. That seems strange. There’s nothing glorious about sukkot. These are not fancy shelters. They offer the basic need of protection, a quick roof over your head. Sukkah’s are often associated with giving shade: 

Isaiah 4:5-6

Then YHWH will create over all of Mount Zion and over her assemblies

a cloud of smoke by day and a glowing flame of fire by night.

For over all the glory there will be a covering/canopy [huppah],

and a shelter [wey’sukkah] to give shade from the heat by day,

and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and the rain.

The ever grumpy prophet Jonah, hoping to see the destruction of Ninevah, built himself a sukkah outside the city to catch the view:

Jonah 4:5-11

Then Jonah left the city and sat down east of it, where he made himself a shelter [sukkah] and sat in its shade to see what would happen to the city. So YHWH God appointed a vine, and it grew up to provide shade over Jonah’s head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was greatly pleased with the plant.

When dawn came the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant so that it withered.

As the sun was rising, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint and wished to die, saying, “It is better for me to die than to live.”

Then God asked Jonah, “Have you any right to be angry about the plant?”

“I do,” he replied. “I am angry enough to die!”

But YHWH said, “You cared about the plant, which you neither tended nor made grow. It sprang up in a night and perished in a night. So should I not care about the great city of Nineveh, which has more than 120,000 people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well?”

Strangely this is how the book of Jonah ends. YHWH uses Jonah’s sukkah to make a point. Jonah’s sukkah wasn’t adequate enough to produce shade so YHWH made a plant to grow and protect Jonah. But Jonah did nothing to care for it or keep it alive. If we are given a gift and do nothing to protect it, we have no right to grumble when it’s gone. Jonah also did nothing for the people of Ninevah, other than a few words of doom and gloom. He needed to learn the virtues of  care and compassion. He needed to offer the people of Ninevah the shelter (sukkot) and protection that God provides for those who love Him.

The Psalmist understood this. He had compassion for the needs of people and, unlike Jonah, offered words of hope:

Psalm 31:19-24

[To YHWH:] How great is Your goodness which You have laid up for those who fear You,

and bestowed on those who take refuge in You in the sight of the sons of men.

You hide them in the secret place of Your presence from the schemes of men.

You conceal them in a pavilion [b’sukkah]  from the strife of tongues.

Blessed be YHWH,

for He has shown me His loving devotion in a city under siege.

In my alarm I said, “I am cut off from Your sight!”

But You heard my plea for mercy when I called to You for help.

Love YHWH, all His saints.

YHWH preserves the faithful, but fully repays the arrogant.

Be strong and courageous, all you who hope in YHWH.

The festival of Sukkot isn’t just remembering what YHWH did in the desert for the Hebrew people. It also looks forward to a time when God will dwell among His people. He promised that a Messiah would come from the line of David to save all the people (2 Samuel 7:11b-16). When the line of David seemed to fall after being conquered by the Babylonians, the expectation for a Messiah must have seemed hopeless. But the Prophet Amos spokes God’s words of hope:

Amos 9:11-15

“In that day I will restore the fallen tent [sukkat] of David.

I will repair its gaps, restore its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old…”

YHWH, through the line of David, will rebuild His house in Jerusalem (also referred to as Salem and Zion). The Psalmist supports this:

Psalm 76:1-2…8-9

God is known in Judah; His name is great in Israel.

His tent [sukkow] is in Salem, His dwelling place in Zion…

…From heaven You pronounced judgment,

and the earth feared and was still when God rose up to judge,

to save all the lowly of the earth.

According to this Psalm God judges to save… to save the lowly of the earth. And this is exactly what Yeshua did. He came to save, and to turn the idea of a kingdom upside-down; a kingdom where the greatest is the least, and the least is the greatest. But none of it could have happened if Yeshua had not become a citizen of the earth.

John 1:14

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

When Joseph found out that Mary (whom he had never been physically intimate with) was pregnant, he struggled with what to do. But an angel visited him with these words:

Matthew 1:20-23

But after he had pondered these things, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the One conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you shall give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:

“Behold! The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel (which means, “God with us”).

And so, Messianic Jews and Christians throughout the world believe that Yeshua became Immanuel, God with us. He most certainly lived nomadically, temporarily moving here and there, wherever he was called to share his message. It wasn’t glorious living, but it was living to the fullest.

Yeshua (Jesus) dwelt on earth. He pitched his sukkah and wandered among us. He came to this planet to live and to come in direct contact with humanity. This action saved us. He is the tabernacle where we can face God; he is the tent that protects us; he is the shelter in the storm; he is the hiding place we can rely on. In every way Yeshua is the dwelling place where we can rest and be at full peace, shaded by his overwhelming compassion and and everlasting love. Amen.

Next week: family

Moed: The Creator’s Appointed Times

Moed: appointed times, meeting, feast, festival (Strong’s 4150)

Root: מוֹעֵד

Sounds like: mow’ed

This word moed has often been translated as festival or feast, which is not quite accurate. Although the term feast (of unleavened bread, for example) reflects the moed, truth be told there is another word entirely for feast or festival. That word is chag. Moed, instead, reflects the times that God has specifically appointed to honour and remember moments in history when God rescued his people.

Leviticus 23:37

These are the appointed times [mo’ed] of YHWH which you shall proclaim as holy convocations, to present offerings by fire to YHWH– burnt offerings and grain offerings, sacrifices and drink offerings, each day’s matter on its own day.

According to Leviticus 23 there are seven moedim or times appointed by YHWH:

  1. PEASCH. Time of Passover (Leviticus 23:4-5).
  2. HA’MATZA’OT. Time of Unleavened bread (Leviticus 23:6-8).
  3. REHSHEET. Time of First fruits (Leviticus 23:9-11).
  4. SHAVUOT. Time of Weeks (Leviticus 23:15-18).
  5. TERUAH (ROSH HASHANAH). Time of Trumpets (Leviticus 23:23-25).
  6. YOM KIPPUR. Time of Atonement (Leviticus 23:26-28).
  7. SUKKOT. Time of Booths/Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:33-35, 39-44).

These appointed times are holy, or set aside, because they are also times when God meets with us. He connects with us, on our level, during these feast and festivals.

Before the Temple was built God’s people had the holy Tabernacle. It was known, in Hebrew, as the ohel moed (tent of meeting).  It was the one place on earth where God and His people could physically connect.

Exodus 30:26-30

“And with it you shall anoint the tent of meeting [ohel mo’ed] and the ark of the testimony, and the table and all its utensils, and the lamp-stand and its utensils, and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and the laver and its stand. You shall also consecrate them, that they may be most holy; whatever touches them shall be holy. And you shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister as priests to Me.”

Aaron and his sons were of the tribe of Levi, God’s chosen tribe to be priests to the Hebrew nation:

1 Chronicles 23:30-32

They (Levites) were also to stand every morning to give thanks and praise to YHWH, and likewise in the evening. Whenever burnt offerings were presented to YHWH on the Sabbaths, New Moons, and appointed feasts [we’la’moed’im], they were to serve regularly before YHWH in the numbers prescribed for them. So the Levites were to carry out the responsibilities for the Tent of Meeting [ohel moed] and the Holy Place, and, under their brothers the descendants of Aaron, the service of the house of YHWH.

Once the Temple was built in a permanent location (Jerusalem) the people could celebrate the feasts (moedim) of YHWH continually in Jerusalem. Just like the Tabernacle (tent of meeting), the Temple festivals was where God would meet with His people at the appointed times that He announced in Leviticus 23. Those times included the three major pilgrim holidays:

2 Chronicles 8

At that time Solomon offered burnt offerings to YHWH on the altar of YHWH he had built in front of the portico. He observed the daily requirement for offerings according to the commandment of Moses for Sabbaths, New Moons, and the three annual appointed feasts—the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles.

time-machine

There are other times in the Tenakh where the appointed times/meetings with God are discussed.

When the people turn away from God and bring Him insincere offerings, He takes note:

Hosea 9:4-5

They will not pour out wine offerings to YHWH, and their sacrifices will not please Him,

but will be to them like the bread of mourners; all who eat it will be defiled.

For their bread will be for themselves; it will not enter the house of YHWH.

What will you do on the appointed day, on the Day of YHWH’s feast?

YHWH’s moedim (appointed times) are affected by the behaviour of His people. The people become so corrupt that they turn God’s appointed times into their own appointed times (YHWH calls them “your New Moons and your appointed feasts”). This is an abomination to YHWH:

Isaiah 1:13-17

Bring your worthless offerings no more; your incense is detestable to Me—

your New Moons, Sabbaths, and convocations—

I cannot endure iniquity in a solemn assembly.

I hate your New Moons and your appointed feasts;

they have become a burden to Me;

I am weary of bearing them.

When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you;

even though you multiply your prayers, I will not listen.

Your hands are covered with blood. Wash and cleanse yourselves.

Remove your evil deeds from My sight. Stop doing evil!

Learn to do right, seek justice, correct the oppressor,

defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.”

When God allowed Israel to be overthrown by the Babylonians, He did not completely abandon His people. They had lost everything. They had lost the Temple, the one place where the appointed times were to be celebrated.

The prophet Habakkuk questioned God. Why would He use such a corrupt nation as Babylon to take down His own chosen people?

Habakkuk 2:2-3

Then YHWH answered me:

“Write down this vision and clearly inscribe it on tablets,

so that a herald may run with it.

For the vision awaits an appointed time;

it testifies of the end, and will not lie.

Though it lingers, wait for it,

since it will surely come and not delay.”

YHWH promised to avenge the Hebrew people at an appointed time. But it wouldn’t be immediate. It still would leave the people without a Temple, and without a Temple there were no true feasts. Their great joyous celebrations could only be remembered in grief. But YHWH promised to save His people:

Zephaniah 3:17-19

YHWH your God is among you; He is mighty to save.

He will rejoice over you with gladness;

He will quiet you with His love;

He will rejoice over you with singing.”

“I will gather those among you who grieve over the appointed feasts,

so that you will no longer suffer reproach.

Behold, at that time, I will deal with all who afflict you.

I will save the lame and gather the scattered;

and I will appoint praise and fame for the disgraced throughout the earth.”

And so the people were redeemed. Eventually they were allowed to return to Israel. But before they even began to build the Temple, they built an altar to celebrate the appointed times of YHWH:

Ezra 3:1-5

By the seventh month, the Israelites had settled in their towns, and the people assembled as one man in Jerusalem. Then Jeshua son of Jozadak and his fellow priests, along with Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and his associates, began to build the altar of the God of Israel to sacrifice burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the law of Moses, the man of God. They set up the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings upon it to YHWH—both the morning and evening burnt offerings—even though they feared the people of the land.

They also celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles, as it is written, and offered burnt offerings daily, based on the number prescribed for each day.

After that, they presented the regular burnt offerings and those for New Moons and for all the appointed sacred feasts of YHWH, as well as all the freewill offerings brought to YHWH.

Only a few months later they begin to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. It is this second Temple that is standing when Yeshua (Jesus) comes onto the scene.

Yeshua as the Messiah presents himself as the Passover lamb. The Passover is the first appointed time mentioned in Leviticus 23. John the Baptist was the first to make the comparison:

John 1:22-31

So they said to him [John], “Who are you? We need an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet: “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”

Then the Pharisees who had been sent asked him, “Why then do you baptize, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

“I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands One you do not know. He is the One who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”

All this happened at Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because He was before me.’ I myself did not know Him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that He might be revealed to Israel.”

Yeshua saw the Passover as his own appointed time:

Matthew 26:17-18, 26-28

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’ ” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover…

…While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Yeshua claimed that his death would be an appointed time and it was. Yeshua died on Passover. He would be buried on the day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. He rose again on the Feast of First Fruits. Just as He said, it would be his blood that would fulfill the covenant promise that YHWH made with his people:

Jeremiah 31:31-34

Behold, the days are coming, declares YHWH,

when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.

It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt—

a covenant they broke, though I was a husband to them, ” declares YHWH.

“But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares YHWH.

I will put My law in their minds and inscribe it on their hearts.

And I will be their God, and they will be My people.

No longer will each man teach his neighbour or his brother, saying, ‘Know YHWH,’

because they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares YHWH.

For I will forgive their iniquity and will remember their sins no more.

It is the claim of every Messiah follower that his death is a full atonement for our sins. That he took them on the cross with him, and that with his death we are fully forgiven.

On YHWH’s appointed time of Atonement (Yom Kippur) a priest would enter the Temple and go behind the great curtain to the holy of holies where God resided within the Temple. There the priest would present an offering that would cover the sins of all people. It was a sacrifice of atonement. Only the High Priest was allowed behind the curtain on this one sacred day of the year. But when Yeshua died, this sacrifice wasn’t necessary any more and God made that very clear the moment that Yeshua died:

Matthew 27:50-51

When Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He yielded up His spirit. At that moment the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked and the rocks were split.

YHWH uses his divine appointed times to do miraculous things and to meet with us… to connect vividly with His creation.

If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to connect with your Creator. It’s time to have a relationship with the One who loves you. He appointed times for you, it’s time for you to set aside time for Him.

Next week: Sukkot- Booths

Berit: A covenant plan fulfilled

Covenant: berit (Strong’s 1285)

Root: בְּרִית

Sounds like: b’reet

In the beginning humanity made some stupid choices. And God in His great love wanted to rescue us. Throughout the Scriptures YHWH makes covenant promises with His people. He makes these covenants to save us, and He promises never to forget them. His word is as solid as a rock.  When God makes a promise He keeps it!

Deuteronomy 4:29-31

But if from there you will seek YHWH your God, you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and all your soul. When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to YHWH your God and listen to His voice. For YHWH your God is a merciful God; He will not abandon you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers, which He swore to them by oath.

And what are these covenants? It all starts with a promise made to Noah:

Noahic Covenant

Genesis 9:8-13

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.

cross-rainbow

This is a promise that God gives without asking anything in return from His people. This Covenant is a one-sided promise from God. He will never again fully destroy life by the waters of a flood… no matter how horrible we behave. He will save us!

But all the following Covenants are a little different. They are relationship Covenants. God promises delightful things IF His people follow and obey Him. God’s covenant that He announces to Abraham is one of these relationship covenants:

Abrahamic Covenant

Genesis 17:1-9

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, YHWH appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty [El Shaddai]; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram ; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.” Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come.”

So God tells Abram (now renamed Abraham) that he will be a Father of many nations, and that kings will come from him… BUT Abraham and his descendants must keep God’s covenant. “Keeping the covenant” meant following and obeying God’s will.

Years later God makes a covenant with Moses and the Israelite people:

Mosaic Covenant

Exodus 19:3-6

Then Moses went up to God, and YHWH called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

Again the Israelites are told to fully obey God and keep His covenant, and if they did that then they would be as God’s “treasured possession”. God assigned them to be a holy nation of priests; a nation that would show God’s will to the world.

The next covenant YHWH makes with His people is directed at King David:

Davidic Covenant

2 Samuel 7:11b-16

To David: “YHWH declares to you that the YHWH himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his Father, and he will be my Son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me ; your throne will be established forever.’ 

YHWH promises David that his kingly line will last forever! In response David calls out to God and ends his prayer like this:

2 Samuel 7:27-29

“YHWH Almighty, God of Israel, you have revealed this to your servant, saying, ‘I will build a house for you.’ So your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you. Sovereign YHWH you are God! Your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant. Now be pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, Sovereign YHWH, have spoken, and with your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever.

Psalm 132 reinforces this covenant between YHWH and David:

Psalm 132:11-18

YHWH swore an oath to David, a sure oath he will not revoke:

“One of your own descendants I will place on your throne.

If your sons keep my covenant and the statutes I teach them,

then their sons will sit on your throne forever and ever.”

For YHWH has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling, saying,

“This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it.

I will bless her with abundant provisions; her poor I will satisfy with food.

I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her faithful people will ever sing for joy.

Here I will make a horn grow for David and set up a lamp for my Anointed One.

I will clothe his enemies with shame, but his head will be adorned with a radiant crown.”

But do David’s descendants keep YHWH’s covenant? No. No, they break the covenant almost immediately. YHWH’s promise, however, was that He would raise up an offspring from David. And that offspring YHWH would establish the throne of his kingdom forever. However the Psalmist writes, If your sons keep my covenant and the statutes I teach them, then their sons will sit on your throne forever and ever.” But this does not happen. David’s throne breaks… because his descendants break the covenant with God. They become corrupt, evil and self-serving.  

But God does not break His promise to David. YHWH brings back David’s throne through His Son, the Mashiach, the Messiah, the Anointed One. This Anointed One would usher in a New Covenant, which the Prophet Jeremiah spoke about, hundreds of years after King David’s reign:

The New Covenant

Jeremiah 31:31-34

“The days are coming,” declares YHWH “when I will make a new covenant

with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.

It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors

when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt,

because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares YHWH

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares YHWH.

I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.

I will be their God, and they will be my people.

No longer will they teach their neighbour, or say to one another, ‘Know YHWH,’

because they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest.”

What is this New Covenant that God says he “will make with the people of Israel after that time,? After what time? When will YHWH’s law be written on our minds and our hearts?

God promises a Messiah from David’s line to be a salvation for the people. Is Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah? Is he the one God sent to be the new King from the line of David?

Yeshua in all humility never called himself King. Other people call him King. In fact his enemies even call him King. Yeshua, rather, called himself Son of Man (human) and Servant. He did not call himself King, because “king” in his day would conjure up certain images in the minds of the people, which was not how Yeshua saw himself. This was a new kind of King that Yeshua was presenting… a servant king. So, to highlight this new kind of kingship, Yeshua in his final Passover meal serves his twelve disciples:

Luke 22:19-20

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”

Yeshua, gently shows, that he is the fulfillment of the Passover. As a sacrificial lam, through his shedding of blood, sins would be atoned and the New Covenant would be fulfilled. And what was the New Covenant?

Jeremiah 31:33b

I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.

I will be their God, and they will be my people.

Yeshua fulfills this by dying on the cross… but before he was sent to the cross he announced this covenant with his followers:

John 14:15-17

Yeshua: If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot receive Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you do know Him, for He abides with you and will be in you.”

If you love Yeshua and keep his commandments the Spirit of truth will reside in you. Yeshua promised it! It is a covenant that he makes with his followers and it fulfills the new covenant that Jeremiah spoke about. The Spirit lives within us, but if we do not love Yeshua it will wither. If we do not follow the commandments that Yeshau left for us, the Spirit will fade.

Paul also spoke of the New Covenant:

2 Corinthians 3:3-6, 17

You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life… Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 

We are all to be ministers of the New Covenant, guided by the Spirit of truth that Yeshua promised. And in that promise we find our freedom!

So the covenants are a really great way to show YHWH’s plan from the very beginning. After the flood He promised never to wipe out the earth again. Then He promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations. From those nations YHWH promised that the Israelites would be a nations of priest through which YHWH’s plan would come forth. But it’s the promise to David that brings forth the most beautiful and hopeful news to His people. A new anointed king would eventually come to be salvation for all the people.

This new king would descend from Abraham, and he would also be a descendant from the line of David. This person would be a new king that would bring forth the New Covenant, where the Law would be written in our minds and on our hearts. How would that happen? Yeshua promised that the Spirit of truth would dwell within us. For those who put their faith in Jesus we are carriers of God’s Spirit. It is a truly holy and beautiful gift. And that Spirit, promised in the covenant, that is within us….

…that Spirit is freedom! Freedom from the stupid choices humanity made way back in the beginning that started the whole world in a spiral of corruption and greed and self-importance. God made covenants with humans to get us out of the bind we made for ourselves. And those covenants, ultimately, opened the door to freedom. Freedom from all the guilt and shame that tethers us to this world. Seek out God’s promises. He wants you to to experience that great joy! Reach out and take it all in!

Next week: Appointed times/Festival