Friday, March 24, 2017

Stepping into the Wilderness

 "Thus Israel saw the great work which YHVH had done in Egypt; so the people feared [Yir’at YHVH], and believed YHVH and His servant Moses” (Exodus 14:31).

Everything that the Israelites experienced from the moment YHVH began to pour out his judgments (plagues), all the way to the drowning of the Egyptian army, had to do with His Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread.  The Hebrews’ faith now rested on the great work that YHVH accomplished before their very eyes.  In that moment in time, they feared YHVH the Elohim of their fathers, and now also believed in Him AND in His servant Moses. Yeshua, from a historical perspective, says the following: "For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me.  But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?"  (John 5:46-47). 

In the future YHVH would remind Israel many times of their slavery in Egypt and of His mighty outstretched Arm of deliverance.  But as we know one cannot live by signs and wonders alone, as was proven out by our forefathers after they turned away from the Reed Sea and stepped into the wilderness. As was already pointed out, one has to have personal face to face interaction with YHVH in the context of everyday life’s circumstances in order to develop a relationship with Him, a relationship which will reveal one’s heart condition.

Up to this point the People of Israel experienced Elohim’s power and authority over an enemy that enslaved them, and the protection by the blood of a lamb when “death” passed over their homes. We too, as we continue along our journey, need to remember what our Heavenly Deliverer wrought for us through His Pesach offering - Yeshua - and the resultant defeat of the spiritual enemy who up until then kept us in slavery to sin!  While, unlike our forebears, we cannot see the enemy’s army floating in the waters of our immersion, we have received the same grace as they did, although in a different form; through the death, burial and resurrection of Yeshua who is YHVH’s mighty Right Arm.  And so, although we did not cross the sea dry-shod, we had our own great launching - embracing by faith the New Covenant message, which is the gospel and apostolic teachings. And so, like the Israelites of old, we too are ready to take the next step into the desert by “believing in YHVH” and in His servants: Moses, the Prophets, Yeshua and the Apostles. 

Let us recall YHVH’s purpose for taking the Children of Israel through a hot and dry land: "And you shall remember that YHVH your Elohim led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not” (Deuteronomy 8:2).  Our journey is, and will be no different. Going through this wilderness wasteland is a learning experience of trust and faithfulness which will eventually take us to our inheritance and rest.  But in order for this to happen, the remembrance of YHVH’s first feast of the month of Aviv must accompany us all the way to our destination. Significantly (and not coincidentally), it was the first feast that our forefathers celebrated after crossing the Jordan.  Writing to the Colossians, Paul points out that YHVH’s feasts are “shadows of things yet to come” (2:17), meaning that they are prophetic and hence are still being fulfilled now and will be in the future; in us personally, and for us corporately as a nation.

A close examination through the lens of faith, at the great work that Elohim accomplished through Yeshua, will reveal to us that we are able to turn away from our (Reed Sea) immersion and face the wilderness with confidence that He will take us to our destiny and destination. Our Heavenly Father’s judicial act in reconciling us to Himself through the flesh body of His Son, the Passover Lamb, set us free from slavery to the dark powers of this world (see Colossians 1:21-22). “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14).  This all took place before we ever crossed over into the wilderness experience, while we were still slaves to sin in our proverbial Egypt. “But Elohim demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Messiah died for us” (Romans 5:8).  When the Messiah died we died, and as a matter of judicial law - all men died (ref. +Corinthians+%A1416&version=NKJV"2 Corinthians 5:14-16).  Amazingly, had the “spiritual” rulers of this age known what Elohim was going to do, “they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8). By the same token, had Pharaoh known that his army’s chariots would drown in the sea, would he have still dispatched them?    

The Israelites are now going to embark on their journey with only a memory of what was behind them, but with a word of hope and promise regarding a “land of milk and honey”.  Will YHVH’s ‘Passover Performance’ be sufficient to carry them through? Or is there much more to “believing in YHVH and His servant Moses” than what they had known up to this point by the shores of the Reed Sea?  If we take a look at the Hebrew word for “believe” - “aman” (alef, mem, noon) - we find it is more than just seeing and believing signs and wonders. “Aman” has living and active connotations that have to be worked into us through trials (testing), tribulations, and blessings (grace).  These hidden characteristics of “aman” are part of the equipment needed for the journey through a dry and thirsty land. 
To be continued

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Where the Sandal Meets the Desert Dust

In the previous chapter we spoke about the Torah and the Vision. But none of the instructions nor the vision itself will mean anything unless we see them in the context of our everyday circumstances.  YHVH is creating these conditions for the purpose of fulfilling both His Word and Vision, in the corporate and individual life of our nation.   

You have heard the saying “where the rubber meets the road”. I had to smile when this thought came to my mind for the title of this chapter. I looked up some definitions for this idiom. Here is what I found: 
- At the point in a process where there are challenges, issues, or problems. 
- Where the practical reality or crucial test is. 
- A place or circumstance at which the implementation of a plan or intent is to be achieved.   
There are other idioms that correspond to the aforementioned, such as: 
Brass TaxEngage with the basic facts or realities
Nitty Gritty: The specific or practical details; the heart of a matter, or the essential substance or details of a matter; crux.

If we are YHVH’s people with a divine destiny, and presently are in the wilderness, we need to grasp some cardinal issues about each day’s step by step progress (as the ‘rubber meets the road’) in the respective circumstances that He is creating before us and for us. Scripture calls this “redeeming the time”: “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil…” (Ephesians 5:15-16).  When we deliberately and consciously walk in the Spirit, at least one sandal will always meet the dusty road toward the vision, or the goal which Elohim has promised. “So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). 

How do we obtain this wisdom?  YHVH’s answer is: “The fear of YHVH is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10).  James says that, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of Elohim, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting” (James 1:5-6).   If we do receive His wisdom, we will also see a change of nature in our character and behavior. “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17). That sounds like the maturing process of the fruit of the Spirit (See Galatians 5:22).

So what is the connection between the fear of YHVH, wisdom and our journey through the wilderness?  Perhaps our ancestors can help us understand the link.  What was the first lesson that they learned after they crossed the Reed Sea into the wilderness?  “Thus Israel saw the great work which YHVH had done in Egypt; so the people feared [yir’at YHVH], and believed YHVH and His servant Moses” (Exodus 14:31).   “YIR’AH” is a word we should all learn. It means: to fear, revere, be afraid, to stand in awe of, be awed, reverence, honor, respect, to cause astonishment and awe, be held in awe, to inspire reverence or godly fear or awe. This one most important state of being, in our relationship to YHVH, is the first footprint that was stamped into the dust there on the banks of the Reed Sea.  From their vantage point the Israelites saw what happened to Pharaoh and his army; YHVH had cast the enemy into the depth of the sea and the water became the divide between slavery and freedom.

Our ancestors stood on the sands of the desert shore and witnessed this awesome event, and then broke into a song which we too need to carry in our hearts:   "I will sing to YHVH, for He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea!  YHVH is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; He is my Elohim, and I will praise Him; my father's Elohim, and I will exalt Him…” (Exodus 15:1-2).  

YHVH’s mighty works that He performed in Egypt and by the Reed Sea were clearly visible, while for us this is often not the case.  But in spite of this handicap, and perhaps because of it, we should remember to check daily if we are walking in “YIR’AT YHVH”. If so, we will receive wisdom from above to guide and cause us to understand our circumstances. "The fear of YHVH is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10 emphasis added).  Notice that not only wisdom, but also knowledge of YHVH comes with Yir’at YHVH.  This kind of knowledge of Him will help to keep us humble and obedient. We cannot love someone we do not know! 

Let us examine a number of verses which enumerate the benefits of having this “yir’ah” attitude in our relationship with the Almighty:

The fear of YHVH is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7).

For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of YHVH” (Proverbs 1:29 emphasis added).

Wisdom and knowledge will be the stability of your times, and the strength of salvation; the fear of YHVH is His treasure” (Isaiah 33:6). 

“Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him that glory may dwell in our land” (Psalm 85:9).

He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them” (Psalm 145:19).

The angel of YHVH encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them” (Psalm 34:7).  

By humility and the fear of YHVH are riches and honor and life” (Proverbs 22:4).  

The fear of YHVH is a fountain of life” (Proverbs 14:27).

The fear of YHVH prolongs days” (Proverbs 10:27).  

Oh, fear YHVH, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him” (Psalm 34:9).  

The fear of YHVH is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate” (Proverbs 8:13).  

In the fear of YHVH there is strong confidence, and His children will have a place of refuge” (Proverbs 14:26-27).

Better is a little with the fear of YHVH, than great treasure with trouble” (Proverbs 15:16).

"You shall walk after YHVH your Elohim and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice, and you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him” (Deuteronomy 13:4).

"The secret of YHVH is with those who fear Him, and He will show them His covenant” (Psalm 25:14).

From these verses it becomes evident that our wilderness journey will be far more successful and blessed if we take our first step into the desert with Yir’at YHVH.

“You who fear YHVH, praise him! All you seed of Jacob, glorify him, stand in awe of him, all you seed of Israel” (Psalm 22:23).

"Great and marvelous are Your works, YHVH Elohim, El Shaddai! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the holy ones! Who shall not fear You, O YHVH, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy” (Revelation 15:3-4 emphasis added).