Sunday, October 13, 2019

Succah – Succot – Symbol – Event – Time – Place

How have a few sticks with a couple of sheets for walls, and some cut off branches for a ceiling come to symbolize a momentous episode of the past, and another, which will culminate this age, as well as (symbolize) those who form an inextricable part of these events? 

Let us start with this last point. Psalm 139 says, “You covered me in my mother’s womb”. The Hebrew verb used here for ‘covered’ is “te’su’ke’ni”, i.e. literally, ‘You have made/formed me as a succah’.  Psalm 39:4-5 confirms our fragility and transience, much like the succah, which is a flimsy and temporary structure.

Before taking a journey to visit the succah and the feast of Succot, it has to be admitted that, the original succahs in the wilderness were structured differently than the typical ones which have been traditional for hundreds of years in the Jewish world. Our forefathers dwelt in structures that consisted of stone-marked circles in the middle of which was placed a stone or stick pole with skin draped from the top down, making it more like a tent (at least that appears to have been the case at Kadesh Barnea, where they remained for quite a few years).

The reason for Succot is stated thus:  “You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 23:42-43 emphasis added).   

Quite frankly, this command seems curious and raises a question. Elohim performed great and mighty miracles and wonders for the people of Israel during their wilderness sojourn, protecting, rescuing, and providing for them in amazing ways, so why is it that out of all other possible symbols, the succah was chosen to commemorate this experience? Moreover, the succah is definitely not a secure shelter, and yet Amos 9:8-12 states:

"’Behold, the eyes of the YHVH Elohim are on the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the face of the earth; Yet I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,’ Says YHVH.  ‘For surely I will command, and will sift the house of Israel among all nations, as grain is sifted in a sieve; Yet not the smallest grain shall fall to the ground.  All the sinners of My people shall die by the sword, Who say, 'the calamity shall not overtake nor confront us. On that day I will raise up the tabernacle/succah of David, which has fallen down, and repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old; that they may possess the remnant of Edom, and all the Gentiles [nations/peoples] who are called by My name,’ says YHVH who does this thing”.

This text describes troublesome times, replete with judgment of the sinners from among the people of Israel. And yet, YHVH also promises “in that day” to raise up the “falling” (literal Hebrew) succah of David. The usage of the present continuous tense may be indicative of an on going action, and likely connected to man’s similitude to a succah, which does not cease falling until YHVH Himself raises it/them (His people) as His own kingdom, according to the text.

The words from Amos 9, relating to the succah, are quoted in Acts 15:16-17, albeit with slight modifications, and read thus: “’After this I will return And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up; so that the rest of mankind may seek YHVH, even all the Gentiles [nations/peoples] who are called by My name’, says YHVH who does all these things’”. Rather than “that they – Israel – will possess the remnant of Edom”, our present quote says, “so that the rest of mankind will seek YHVH”.

In looking at the words that were changed, in Hebrew, it is very easy to see how “yirshu” – will possess – can be changed into “yidreshu” – will seek, and how “she’erit Edom” – the remnant of Edom – can be changed to “she’erit Adam” - remnant of mankind, i.e. Adam.  But beyond the simplistic word switching possibilities, this alteration may be also viewed as the extension of YHVH’s plan - beyond the local and onto a world-wide one.

Let’s examine again the term “succah”, as it appears in the two cited excerpts. Why “succah of David” and not “temple of David”? “sacturary of David”, or “House of David”? Why is the succah one of the ultimate symbols of the establishment of YHVH’s kingdom on earth?

Isaiah and Micha’s parallel prophecies (Is. 2: 2-4: Mic. 4:2) describe one of the greatest peaks of scriptural fulfillments: “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that, the mountain of YHVH's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it” (Isaiah 2:2). 

On that great and auspicious day, what are the nations supposed to do? “And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, YHVH of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Succot” (Zechariah 14:16 emphasis added), whilst draught and plagues await those who do not obey this word.

Many are of the opinion that the birth of Messiah was around the Succot season, while, unlike the spring feasts which have had their fulfillments during Yeshua’s first coming and immediately after, Succot’s fullest manifestation has not taken place yet. Is it possible that His return will indeed take place around this time? When it says in revelation 21:3 “Behold, the tabernacle of Elohim is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and Elohim himself shall be with them, and be their Elohim” is it referring to the time of Succot? In the Greek original, “tabernacle” as it is used here, and “dwell” are both designated by a semitic originated term “skay-nay” which means a structure made of green boughs, skins or other materials. What makes this verse even more fascination is its context; this above-mentioned scene is to occur after the establishment of the “new heaven” and the “new earth” and also of the “New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from Elohim” (vs. 1, 2). Peter describes what precedes these occurrences: “… the heavens pass away with a great noise, and the elements melt with fervent heat” and “both the earth and the works that are in” are “burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). Here we gasp… even after upheavals on such a colossal scale, what seems to not pass away is Succot and with it the flimsy booth – the succah.

Remember our reference at the beginning, to Psalm 139:13: “You have covered – made a succah out of – me in my mother’s womb”? Psalm 27:5 says, “For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his succah”. That is to say that Elohim Himself has a succha, which for us is a place of refuge in time of trouble.

How may we conclude this survey, and what does it point to?
Let us review: I and my formation in the womb are likened to a… succah. The reminder of the wilderness miracles – YHVH’s incredulous provision for His people and His protection all add up to a… short dwelling time in a succah. The very establishment of Elohim’s kingdom is ‘funneled’ to a… succah. The Messiah’s return is in… Succot, and He Himself chooses to dwell with us (quite possibly) in a… succah, at a time of the new heaven, the new earth and the new Jerusalem.  

Does the imagery of the succah and of the Feast of Succot give us a glimpse into the Mighty Creator’s world view, as it were, where a flimsy and weak structure symbolizes His creatures, but also His own abode when He comes to dwell with His chosen, at a time of a feast that centers on the very same flimsy booth which points to the Messiah’s birth as well as to His much awaited return at the very peak of human history?

This survey will not be complete without citing what is said in Isaiah 4: 2-6: “In that day the Branch of YHVH shall be beautiful and glorious; and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and appealing for those of Israel who have escaped. And it shall come to pass that he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy -- everyone who is recorded among the living in Jerusalem. When YHVH has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purged the blood of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning, then YHVH will create above every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and above her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night. For over all the glory there will be a covering - CHUPA.  And a tabernacle - SUCCAH - for shade in the daytime from the heat, for a place of refuge, and for a shelter from storm and rain”.  In the Hebrew original “succah” follows “chupa” without a break. Again, is this a hint as to the connection of succah to the wedding canopy, chupa, and to the time during which Messiah marries His bride, pointing to His return in order to dwell among His own?

Note: It seems that the succah ceases to be on the “eighth day” – Shmini Atzeret. In Leviticus 23:42 it says, “you shall dwell in booths for seven days”, while the eighth day, and not the seventh, is a “holy convocation” (v. 36). On this holy day, the eighth, there is no more booth dwelling. If we convert this day into a thousand years, then the eighth millennium symbolizes eternity where the proverbial ephemeral succah is not seen anymore.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Lesson from the olive tree (part II)

Before continuing on the theme, “a lesson from the olive tree,” here is a comment that was made by one of my readers:

“...Togetherness seems elusive, and fear of the furnace paralyzes many. Plus, we have continued to cherish things we learned in our youth; things that are deeply embedded in our hearts and minds - so deeply we do not recognize their unclean nature. Only submission to the fiery furnace can strip us of these foreign objects - worldviews, perspectives, interpretations, convictions, prejudices, ignorance, etc - and set us free to be one as He is one; to be transformed. Truth and renewal. May we see it in our day”.

The reader’s last remark, “be one as He is one” seems to be one of the greatest challenges that are before us.  In Ephesians 4 Paul states that we already are “one body”, just as the olive tree has only one all-inclusive root, while the branches form an inseparable part of the one tree.  In addition to the olive tree imagery, and parallel to it, is the metaphor of the “body of Messiah”, which although made up of many parts is still one; One “body”; One “tree”.  Paul’s exhortation to the members of the body cum grafted-in branches is very strong: “I beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling” (Ephesians 4:1-4).  Notice the nature of this tree/body and the fruit that it bears, so why not bear with one another in love, keeping the unity in the bond of peace?  This is the nature, characteristic of the “olive tree” of Romans 11, which is the evidence of “life from the dead” (see v. 15). 

The reader above mentions some of what is holding us back from achieving our corporate calling as the body of the Redeemer, the restored olive tree of Israel.  Perhaps as he pointed out: “we have continued to cherish things we learned in our youth; things that are deeply embedded in our hearts and minds - so deeply we do not recognize their unclean nature”.  I believe that James puts his apostolic finger on the reason:  But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lusts and enticed.  Then, when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:14-15).   Comparing this passage with the one cited above (from Ephesians), let us ask, isn’t this excitant duality curious? We are joined to a tree; or a body that is supposed to exemplify life from the dead, but yet we, as individuals, are still susceptible to being enticed by sin, and if we continue to cooperate with it, the result will bring forth death.  Hence the warning to the branches that have been grafted into the holy shoot of Jesse, “you are only here by grace through faith”.  Because sin will always result in death and disease, any sick branch is likely to be cut off, so that its illness will not spread to other branches.

The solution to the above situation is obviously “repentance” from a sincere heart, which must be accompanied by humility, by confession, and by going ‘outside the camp/gates’, so to speak, to receive the forgiveness from a crucified Messiah (see Hebrews 13:12-13). This, however, cannot take place before addressing one’s sin by asking forgiveness from the injured party or in other cases confessing one’s sin to trustworthy brother/s or sister/s and granting forgiveness, just as the Father has forgiven us “…lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11). 

One very important point to understand about Satan’s devices, is that he can only tempt us, enticing the flesh.  He knows, along with his demonic forces, that He has no legal right over us.  However, if we listen to the allurement of the tempter and give in to the lusts of the flesh, it throws out a welcome mat for the unclean spirits (power of sin) to manifest through us, which produces death and more importantly grieves or makes sorrowful the body of Messiah.  “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12). 

The Romans 11 olive tree of Israel is being restored as a tree of righteousness and peace. When its fruit (the olive) is pressed, the flowing oil may be used for healing, deliverance, and life from the dead, as well as for the light of revelation. The nature or the character of this light in its varying hues is described in Colossians as “tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with others, and forgiving …but above all these things is love, which is the bond of perfection” (Colossians 3:12-14 alterations mine).  If we are truly bonded/grafted to the olive tree, the clear evidence will be our love for one another, as Yeshua loves us. 

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Yom Truah

The first of the seventh month is almost upon us, a time of “remembering truah” – the sound, the call, the blowing/blast, which heralds the crowning of the King (see Ex. 19:13,19; 20:15; Lev. 23:24). The Sinai scene was the time when Israel, as a people, a “kingdom”, first recognized their Supreme Ruler (see Ex. 19:6, 8).  It is the fourth of YHVH’s appointed times, to be followed ten days later by Yom HaKippurim (Day of ‘Atonements’).

“Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples! Shout – hari’u (same root as TRUAH) to Elohim with the voice of triumph!  For YHVH Most High is awesome; He is a great King over all the earth.  He will subdue the peoples under us, and the nations under our feet.  He will choose our inheritance for us, the excellence of Jacob whom He loves. Selah. Elohim has gone up with a shout (TRUAH), YHVH with the sound of a shofar.  Sing praises to Elohim, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises!  For Elohim is the King of all the earth; Sing praises with understanding. Elohim reigns over the nations; Elohim sits on His holy throne. The princes of the people have gathered together, the people of the Elohim of Abraham. For to Elohim belong the defenders of the most exalted land” (Psalm 47:1 – 9 literal translation emphasized). 

As we remember the coronation of our King, which was experienced by our ancestors, it is also a reminder to look forward to His return and to be in preparation for this event. As the “defenders of the most exalted land” we also take heart when we read in Ephesians 3:9,10 about:  “the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in Elohim… to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of Elohim might be made known by the assembly/kahal [of Israel] to the principalities and powers in the heavenlies”.

In this Shabbat’s Parashat Nitzavim (and in the next two to follow) “heaven and earth” are to bear witness against Israel, if curses and death are chosen rather than blessings and life. How wonderful it is that through and by our redemption, we are now able to not only be YHVH’s “defenders of the most exalted land”, and thus witness to and on the earth, but also now testify to the heavenlies of the “manifold wisdom of Elohim” thus reversing our forefathers’ indictment (by the terrestrial and celestial witnesses).

Psalm 81 says that the shofar is to be blown on the day of the covered moon (vs 3). Since only one of YHVH’s moadim occurs on such a day, it would stand to reason to pay attention to who is being addressed here: “For this is a statute for Israel, a law of the Elohim of Jacob.  This He established in Joseph as a testimony while he was in bondage in Egypt” – even in his present Egypt (Psalm 81:4-5).

Do the sounds of the Truah also speak prophetically of the coming redemption of the sons of Jacob and Joseph? This is the specified time for the redeemed remnant to declare the Lordship of King Messiah Son of David. Is Yeshua waiting for a people that will call Him, “YHVH our righteousness, in [whose] days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely” (Jeremiah 23:6)?  

On Yom Truah, being a day of remembrance, are we also to recall who we are as the seed of Joseph and Jacob (the “defenders” referred to above), who are to crown the King Messiah as the Master over our lives? 

Yes, we love Yeshua as Savior and Redeemer, but is He the One who sits on the throne of our hearts?

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

A lesson from the olive tree

There are many lessons that we can glean from the olive tree of Israel, but none as important as what is written in Romans 11. This passage depicts many of the fulfillments of the prophetic scriptures, both from a positive view point but also dire warnings that come alongside the grace given to the branches, both natural and wild.  One of the most incredible and amazing aspects highlighted in this chapter are the mercy and grace granted particularly to the rejected, discarded, and cut off House of Yosef.  The tribes that once made up this house have been scattered and mixed into all the nations.  As branches from the original olive tree of their forefathers, they took root in the field of this world.  They, like all the other nations, are strangers to the covenants and promises.  Hosea prophesied that YHVH would have no mercy on Israel and named them “not my people”.   Because of sin and iniquity their roots have rotted, and thus they have no way back to the covenant promises.  However, out of the olive tree of Jacob YHVH did preserve one root, and that is the “root of Jesse” from the House of Judah.  He sent Yeshua as the offshoot of that root, and by grace through faith in the Gospel of His Kingdom, He is (re)grafting these wild branches into this special anointed sprout from the root of Jesse.  In so doing He is starting to restore the fallen sukkah of David.

 “And if some of the [natural/cultivated] branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root [of Jesse] and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, ‘branches were broken off that I might be grafted in’.  Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear.  For if Elohim did not spare the natural [cultivated] branches, He may not spare you either.  Therefore consider the goodness and severity of Elohim: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off” (Romans 11:17-22 emphasis added).

The discovery of the Israelite identity through the Gospel and the coming to the Mountain of Torah, and (allegedly) embracing the ‘whole counsel of Elohim’, has often been accompanied by an air of haughtiness and self-righteousness. This usually has to do with Torah and other scriptural interpretations and practices, supposedly being more precise, more accurate, and better analyzed than… the Jewish understanding and practice, or that of other Ephraimites, or Christians who don’t necessarily agree with a given view point held by one group or another.  The above Romans 11 warning deals with a possibility or a risk that one could be cut off again from the root of the olive tree because of (such) conceit. 

Thankfully YHVH’s goodness leads to repentance (see Romans 2:4), although that does not necessarily guarantee that such repentance will indeed be resorted to.  Pride goes before the fall, or should I say before being cut off? As it says, “you only stand by faith”.  The faith that is mentioned here is the one that justifies and awards us a righteousness that is in Messiah, who is the “Root and offspring of David” (Revelation 22:16).  Immaturity in expressing this righteousness (the fruit of the Spirit), before embracing the right living of the Torah is, I believe, at the root of these only too common problems that show up in the Hebrew Roots movement.
The blood of the New Covenant covers sin, but along with this non refutable fact we are still commanded to cleanse ourselves “from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of Elohim”  (2 Corinthians 7:1). “Therefore consecrate yourselves and be holy, for I am YHVH your Elohim…I am holy (Leviticus 20:7; 1 Peter 1:16).

Having received Messiah’s righteousness, why would we want to have a righteousness based on the works of the Torah?  When we have the righteousness that is founded on “the faith” then, as it is written, we “establish the Torah” (see Romans 3:30-31).  But as it is, until we can walk in the light as He is in the light, having fellowship will be next to impossible, because religious like-mindedness has never worked to unify the body of Messiah, nor the two houses of Israel.

If we are a new creation-being our life is lived in the light, as we have died and our life is hidden in Yeshua the Light.  We must, therefore, ask ourselves: Why are we not loving one another unconditionally, as our Father loves us?  What is hindering this (supposed to be) new creation person from loving others, especially brothers and sisters? Why are there strife, contention, controversies and disputes about words (ref. 1 Timothy 6:4-5)? Is it because we have not resisted sin to the shedding of our flesh, which means repenting and identifying by faith to a crucified Messiah, “so that the dying of Yeshua works in me, so that the life of Yeshua can work in others” (ref. 2 Corinthians 4:10-12)?  If pride and self-righteousness and all their attributes are active and evident in our lives, which means that we are continuing to cooperate with the power and nature of sin, chances are we will indeed be cut off from the holy root of the olive tree.  Additionally, in Romans 2:5 we are warned about the wrath of Elohim.  The Hebrew word for “cut off” is “karet”, a very severe term indeed which describes a removal from the covenants and from the household/commonwealth of Israel (see for example, Genesis 17:14; Exodus 12:15; Leviticus 17:4; Numbers 15:30; Ezekiel 14:8 etc.)

The above-cited Romans 11 excerpt seems to have a fitting continuation by the following: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of Elohim, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to Elohim, which is your reasonable service.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of Elohim” (Romans 12:1-2).

Friday, August 30, 2019

Beyond the Mountain

In Conclusion  (to the 10 part series)

After our Israelite forefathers passed through the waters of the Sea of Reeds, they were awe struck as to what their Almighty Elohim did for them.  They were now filled with what is called in Hebrew “yir’at Adonai” - the fear of YHVH.  Later, when they came to Mount Sinai, again, this Elohim demonstrated His presence through fire, smoke, loud sounds and quaking earth. But this time, although their physical senses were stirred by this outward demonstration, as it was awesome and fearful, it did not affect the condition of their hearts.  The proof of the ancestral rebellion (inherent in Adam’s family) was evident in them. Thus, even though called to be a priestly nation unto YHVH, the Israelites turned out to be no different than any other people group in the human family.  YHVH’s love, sovereign calling and anointing upon their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel, was the reason why He wrought redemption out of slavery for them and why He brought them to the Mountain and beyond.  All through the Torah He declares that what He was doing for Israel was for His namesake, as Moses, for example, recollects in Deuteronomy:  

"Therefore understand today that YHVH your Elohim is He who goes over before you as a consuming fire…  Do not think in your heart, after YHVH your Elohim has cast them out before you, saying, 'Because of my righteousness YHVH has brought me in to possess this land'; but because of the wickedness of these nations that YHVH your Elohim drives them out from before you, and that He may fulfill the word which YHVH swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Deuteronomy 9:3-5).  As we know from the Gospel accounts, YHVH, again, for the sake of His name “disarmed principalities and powers, making a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in Him [Yeshua the Messiah]” (Colossians 2:15).  

The descriptions of the Israelite nation and its exploits were intended for our instructions (see 1 Corinthians 10: 5-11).  So what have we learned about them that is now going to take us Beyond the Mountain?  It is not hard to assess. The ‘bottom line’ is, as YHVH Himself says it: “You are a stubborn and obstinate people”.  What does that mean other than being selfish, self-centered, proud, self-righteous, still attached to the flesh, gratifying its desires, and quickly forgetting the reverence that is due His name?  As soon as it seems to us that we lack some physical need or comfort the “fear of YHVH” along with the knowledge of Elohim and His wisdom disappears like the morning mist. In that we are just like our ancestors. Instead of wielding the power to overcome our flesh and spiritual enemies, we are succumbing to the same influences and temptations on a daily basis. In his book “Apostolic Foundations”, Art Katz speaks to these tendencies: “Our little impatient moods, our critical spirits, our irritations with one another are already evidence of how little prepared we are for the cosmic struggle before us.”

 So, what is it that will make us different than our forebears, and will help us move Beyond the Mountain?

It is incumbent upon us to own to the all-time truth that, our struggle is not against flesh and blood. In other words, we are not one another’s enemy.  It is time to no longer be babes, tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, which causes us to be in strife and contention with one another as we contend for our “rightness” or “correctness”.  In Joshua 5:9 YHVH tells Joshua that He has “rolled [a verb connected to dung-ball-like idols] away the reproach of Egypt” off of Israel. We too need to roll back the flesh (the dung balls of this world and its religions) and get on with the spiritual battles that we can only win when we are in the unity of the faith, believing what the Father has already accomplished by being present in Messiah, reconciling the world unto Himself (ref. 2 Corinthians 5:17).

What we need to take from the history of our Israelite ancestors, is not so much about them, but about the Elohim who has brought their progeny (us) through thousands of years of faithfulness, love, and mercy and will continue to do so until He fulfills all that has been spoken by the mouths of the prophets of old, and on into the future of the millennial kingdom where the redeemed and restored nation of Israel will rule with Him for a thousand years. Then the reality of the following words of Isaiah will become clearly evident:  "’Come, and let us go up to the mountain of YHVH, to the house of the Elohim of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the Torah, and the word of YHVH from Jerusalem.  He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.  ‘O house of Jacob, come and let us walk In the light of YHVH’” (Isaiah 2:3-5).   

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Beyond the Mountain (part X)

Road to Victory
The Israelites are off to a new beginning as they prepare to march forward following the mighty cloud that was now leading the 600,000 strong army.  Banners waving, troops all in order under the leaders of thousands, hundreds and tens. The day that they all were waiting for had finally come. Excitement was building throughout the tribes, camps and families of all Israel.  Their unity was like “One Man”, at least for the moment.

Alas, but a hair’s breath away, a mere one verse later (Numbers 11:1) there occurs a sharp turn in the road to fulfillment. “And the people (actually the word there is “mixed multitude) were like those who are looking for a pretext, so as to make an evil complaint, within the hearing of YHVH. And He heard it and He was fuming. So the fire of YHVH burned among them, and consumed the outskirts of the camp” (literal translation). End game. Everything comes to a screeching halt. This one verse launches a chain of tragic events. The “Beyond the Mountain” venture failed at its very inception, and a new path will have to be charted though it will be a much longer one, more winding and painfully arduous. Much of the rest of Numbers (chapter 11-14, 16&17, 20-21:7, 25, 31:9-20) recounts a variety of a series of spiraling and sad episodes of rebellion, unbelief, complaints, bitterness, idolatry and fornication. It is no wonder that YHVH makes the following ominous declaration (this is after the spies’ failed mission) : “…but truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of YHVH, because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice,  they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it…”  “The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above.  Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in. But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised.  But as for you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness.  And your sons shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years, and bear the brunt of your infidelity, until your carcasses are consumed in the wilderness.  According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection. I YHVH have spoken this; I will surely do so to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die" (Numbers 14:21-23, 29:35 emphases added).
The generation that consisted of the would-be military forces, those born in Egypt, who left Egypt physically but failed in ridding Egypt from their hearts, forfeited their opportunity to come into the land (except of course for Joshua and Caleb). Not only did they not have the faith and fortitude to venture the territory of the enemy and possess their inheritance, they even found the wilderness (with fewer enemies in sight) and its conditions, although all provisions were miraculously made available to them, to be too daunting and threatening. Thus they had to be exhorted to move beyond the mountain/mountains, not once but twice (Deut. 1:5-6, 2:1-4), something which they failed to do (in spirit).
We need not take up more time discussing that destined-to-die-in-the-wilderness generation. It is now time to focus on the second generation. Will they have the faith and courage to move on and to follow their (new) leader – Joshua? The prophet Ezekiel, many generations later, also makes reference to a group of people who are destined to be in the wilderness, on the way to the land of promise, but who will not make it there (20:38). With all this being said we may now turn the spotlight to our day and age. It is not the physical entrance to the land, and the enemies lurking there, which is what we are facing at the moment. At this point if “am Yisrael” is to move beyond the proverbial Mountain/s which face us, or where we are camping, it will take implicit obedience to the Leader. Following and moving behind the Leader, in this case, is also for the purpose of entering the land, at some point, and establishing YHVH’s Kingdom there. But how can that take place if the enemy which is close at hand (individually and corporately), or the mountain of obstacles that have not been overcome, is not defeated? As those who are constituted the ‘redeemed’ of the House of Israel we have every reason to move on and do so victoriously, if we but obey our Leader who “led captivity captive” when “He ascended on high” (Eph. 4:8), and exercise the faith of our father Abraham. 

 Let us allow the Word of Elohim as It speaks to us concerning this foundational truth, the bedrock of our salvation and redemption.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in Elohim for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of Elohim, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Messiah,  and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled” (2nd Cor. 10;3-6). “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.  And do not present your members as instruments/weapons of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to Elohim as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments/weapons of righteousness to Elohim. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law [subject to its penalties] but under grace” (Romans 6:12-14).
What is it that enables us to be so sure of these victories? And what makes the following statement credible, regarding “the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe”? (Eph. 1:19). It is based on “…  the working of His mighty power which He worked in Messiah when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come” (Ephesians 1:19b-21 emphasis added). So that …now the manifold wisdom of Elohim might be made known by the assembly [kahal – kehila – that is us] to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Messiah Yeshua our Master” (Ephesians 3:10-11). That eternal purpose is that “we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of Elohim, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Messiah; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,  but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head -- Messiah --  from whom the whole body [nation] joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Eph. 4:13-16).

 As we believe and obey, we benefit from the victories of Him who has “disarmed principalities and powers, [and] made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it…  He is the forerunner who has entered for us” (Colossians 2:15, Hebrews 6:20). “Therefore, [Israelite] brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Yeshua by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of Elohim, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works” (Hebrews 10:19-24)

 … You have come [now away from Mount Horeb] to Mount Zion and to the city of the living Elohim, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and congregation [the kahal] of the firstborn [Jacob/Israel] who are registered in heaven, to Elohim the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Yeshua the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel”  (Hebrews 12:22-24).
And seeing that it is not the generation which died in the wilderness that we want to identify with, regardless of our chronological age, the words of Yochanan to the “young men” have much to say to us in regards to living out our victories over the enemy: “I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of Elohim abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one…”  “You are of Elohim, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world…” “For whatever is born of Elohim overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world -- our faith” (1 John 2:13, 14; 4:4; 5:4).

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Beyond the Mountain (part IX)

Passover - A Gateway

Passover is of course the first of all of YHVH’s feast days, and one that is mentioned the most throughout the scriptures.   When examining the various aspects of Passover, there are several questions that come to mind: Why was a lamb chosen to be sacrificed in order for the firstborn of the Hebrews to be “passed over” (by the angel of death), thus also enabling Israel to leave Egypt (ref. Exodus 12:3)?  Why did YHVH remind Moses to observe the Passover before His firstborn nation Israel could take leave of Mount Sinai and begin the (intended) ‘take over’ of the land (ref. Numbers 9:1-5; 10:12-29)?  Why was Passover celebrated, again, when Israel first crossed into the land of promise (ref. Joshua 5:10)?  Why is the Passover lamb (Yeshua) also our gateway into newness of life and victory over our enemies?

These questions may be answered by the ‘cosmic’ Passover, alluded to in Revelation 13:8: “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world(emphasis added). Likewise 1 Peter 1:19-20 states: “… the precious blood of Messiah, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (emphasis added). 

Thus it would appear that Passover was already established before the foundation of the world, as a means to pronounce and execute a judicial sentence against YHVH’s enemies (the kingdom of darkness).  Similarly, the Passovers mentioned above also have to do with a release or change that the Almighty was bringing about in the lives of His people.  In every one of the cases YHVH was confronting an enemy that was standing in His way of fulfilling His purposes. The specific timing of Passover (at the commencement of a new year), along with all of its statutes and ordinances is how YHVH ensures His peoples’ victories over their enemies. The importance of this appointed time for Israel’s Elohim is illustrated by the fact that even the cloud did not lift from the Tabernacle until all had been fulfilled concerning the Passover requirements. Thus this feast was the gate through which YHVH’s redeemed would move on beyond the Mountain.

Back at Mount Sinai, where YHVH has just enjoined Moses to observe the 14th day of the 1st month.  Immediately after, provision is made for those who were not able to celebrate at the prescribed time, so that they may do so on the 14th of the second month (ref. Numbers 9:10-11).  On the first of the second month, a census is taken of all the tribes’ males, 20 to 50 years old, for the purpose of conscripting them into the army (ref. Numbers 1:1-3).  At the same time, Moses makes two silver trumpets in order to communicate specific messages to the leaders, and to the people as a whole (ref. Numbers 10:2-10).

 “Now it came to pass on the twentieth day of the second month, in the second year, that the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle of the Testimony.  And the children of Israel set out from the Wilderness of Sinai on their journeys; then the cloud settled down in the Wilderness of Paran.  So they started out for the first time according to the command of YHVH by the hand of Moses” (Numbers 10:11-13). Next is the detailed description of all the hosts of Israel being arrayed according to their tribal (and not birth) order (ref. Num. 10:14-28).

It is now approximately 34 days after the celebration of Passover, and “they departed from the mountain of YHVH on a journey of three days; and the ark of the covenant of YHVH went before them for the three days' journey, to search out a resting place for them.  And the cloud of YHVH was above them by day when they went out from the camp” (Numbers 10:33-34 emphasis added).

 Hallelu-Yah! This is the moment we’ve been waiting for. It’s almost a cliff hanger…  “they departed from the Mountain of YHVH…”. At last we are starting to move “beyond the Mountain”!  

Safe under the cloud, the army of Israel is about to follow their Commander and Chief.

We read on:  So it was, whenever the ark set out, that Moses said: ‘Rise up, O YHVH! Let Your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate You flee before You” (verse 35). YHVH was about to march in battle before His (obedient and believing) army. He was going to fight for them. And “when it [the ark] rested, he said: ‘Return, O YHVH the many thousands of Israel’" (verse 36, literal translation).  The army’s entrance to the land would have, by necessity, excluded the many non-combatants. But upon the cessation of the battles and with the ark coming to its rest, the others, “the many thousands of Israel”, would come in and join their countrymen. This is also a powerful prophetic picture pointing to the ultimate ingathering of YHVH’s people – the returning of the many thousands of Israel. 

In addition to the above accounts, it is also worthwhile to cite Moses’ reflections about that particular time, as he does retroactively in Deuteronomy. In 1:8, 21 he recalls what has been said to the Israelites at that time: “See, I have placed the land before you [“to your faces”, emphasis added] go in and possess [“r’shu” – wrest it by impoverishing its present residents] the land which YHVH swore to give to your fathers… and to their seed after them”.  This declaration is preceded, in 1:7, by the imperative “p’nu” (turn), which stems from the same root as “face” (see also Deut. 1:40, 2:1, 8). It seems that before YHVH was going to “give/place” the land before His people, they were required to make a “turn”, set their faces toward Him, as He has stated that He has already “given/placed” the land before them (Deut. 1:20, 21, 39). After “turning” they had to “see”. That is, they had to realize, by exercising faith, what their heavenly Father had already accomplished. Secondly, they had to go and take/wrest the land, based upon the former realization and premise, and act, again, in faith.

 Although YHVH declares (in Deut. 2:5, 9, 19 respectively) that He also “given Mount Seir to Esau as a possession” and “Ar [Mo’av] to the sons of Lot as a possession”, which also includes the Amonites, but nevertheless, He significantly omits the expression “before them”. Thus, although YHVH is sovereign over all peoples, He was notably going to treat His own in an exceptional manner.  He declares again to Israel (literal translation): “See, I have begun to give/place – “natati” – Sihon and his land over to you. Impoverishing begin to impoverish his land” (Deut. 2:31). It is YHVH who has also “hardened his [Sichon’s] spirit and made his heart obstinate that He might deliver him into your hand…” (2:30), having “mercy on whom He will, and whom He wills He hardens” (ref. Rom. 9:18).

Well and good. Now all is in place – the army, YHVH’s presence in the Tabernacle, and His encouraging and strengthening promises. Nothing more need be said. It is time to act!  Elohim has demonstrated His faithfulness, and the time has come for His people to respond in kind.