Monthly Archives: November 2015

Trees of Righteousness

trees of righteousness,

Have you ever wondered how we as humans can be compared to trees? There are a number of places in Scripture where it speaks of people of us as trees (e.g. Ps 1:3, 92:12; Isa 61:3), or our actions as representing the attributes of trees. In Isaiah 61:3, the prophet says that when we are brought back out of grief and mourning into praise and joy, that we resemble trees of righteousness. Psalm 92:2 says that the righteous will flourish like palm trees, and Psalm 1:3 says that when a person delights in YHVH’s Word, then they shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water…and whatever they do will prosper.

In Proverbs 15:4 YHVH says that our tongue is like a tree of life when we speak gentle words to people. Proverbs 3:18 states that when we embrace YHVH’s wisdom in our lives, we are blessed with happiness and YHVH’s wisdom is like a tree of life to us. In Proverbs 11:30, we learn that when we are walking a righteous path of life, the fruit of the Spirit is a “tree of life“, and we exhibit wisdom when we are winning souls into YHVH’s Kingdom.

What is it that is so significant about trees and that we are like them? Botany and anatomy show us that human skeletons are constructed similar to trees, where our backbone is the trunk that holds our bodies upright and allows us to walk and move about without discomfort or pain. Beyond this obvious physical comparison, though, Scripture says that when we are rooted and grounded in YHVH’s Word, we will be like trees planted firmly in the love of Messiah, with the promised blessing that we will “be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:17-19).

How do we become like trees of righteousness? After Adam and Eve [Chavah] were cast out of the Garden for their disobedience, angels were placed all around the Tree of Life so that they could not eat from it. It is no coincidence that Yeshua was crucified on a tree. Through His righteous atonement, He allowed us to be righteous and holy before Abba Father, just as we were told to be like trees of righteousness in Isaiah 61:3. When we believe and accept Yeshua’s precious gift, we become righteous like Him.

Yeshua’s atonement provides our new life in Him: “who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24). The tree features prominently in the Gospel story, and Yeshua brings righteousness to us through His unswerving obedience to the Father and His willingness to give His life for those who hated and persecuted Him.

When Yeshua spoke to the congregations through John in Revelation 2, He told them that although they had been diligent in doing YHVH’s works, they had lost their first love (Himself). But then He promised that “the one who overcomes I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Rev 2:7). Since the time of Adam and Chavah, people had been expelled from the Garden and from being able to eat of the Tree of Life, but in the Millennial Kingdom, the paradise of God will be re-established. Those who keep YHVH’s commandments will “have the right to the tree of life..” (Rev 2:14)

There will be a physical Tree of Life in YHVH’s future Kingdom, which will bear different fruit every month, and its leaves will be for the healing of the nations. However, we believe that Yeshua will be the ultimate Tree of Life who will dwell at the center of the true “paradise of God”. He is the Seed, Root, Trunk, Branches, and Fruit that come from heaven. The first Adam (in the Garden of Eden paradise) lost access to God because of his sin, but the last Adam reclaimed our access by means of His obedience, resisting the power of evil even to the point of death upon the tree (Phil 2:8). His resurrection life is the “firstfruits” of all who put their trust in Him; “For as in Adam all die, even so in Messiah Yeshua shall all be made alive” (I Cor 15:22). Those who have put their trust in Yeshua and continue to keep His commandments to the end will be made alive in Him and will spend eternity in Paradise with Him. Will you be one of those blessed people?

A Pleasing Fragrance

aroma pleasing to GodIn Exodus 30:34-38, YHVH instructs Moses concerning the incense that is to be made for YHVH’s altar. This incense was to be used solely for YHVH and not for anyone else. Each of the ingredients has much significance for us, both spiritually and physically.

The first ingredient mentioned is stacte, which is a product of myrrh. Modern authorities believe that the stacte was taken from other sources, but ancient authorities equate stacte with myrrh.  It seems more likely that the stacte YHVH intended was from myrrh because of its spiritual significance in Scripture. The wise men offered myrrh to Yeshua as a child (Matt 2:11) and Nicodemus supplied a mixture of myrrh and aloes for Yeshua’s burial (John 19:39). When Yeshua returns, Psalm 45:8 tells us that His robes will be scented with myrrh, aloes, and cassia (cinnamon).

The Hebrew word for stacte is nataph. Both words mean drop or tear. The resin is naturally produced, but sometimes the plant is bruised In order to release more resin. To obtain stacte, the bark of the tree must be cut. The resin is placed in a container and hot water is poured over it. Lumps of myrrh resin and oil sink to the bottom and the water is drained off. Stacte is the liquid taken from within the lumps of myrrh. The lumps must be broken in order to obtain the stacte.

Since ancient times, myrrh has been used in salves for cuts and sores, in rejuvenating facial creams, and in perfumes. Today, myrrh can be found in toothpastes, creams and cosmetics, and is recommended for healing a variety of illnesses including digestive disorders, arthritic pain, and regeneration of healthy cells, to name a few.

The second ingredient is onycha, a Greek word meaning fingernail or claw. The Hebrew word is shecheleth, which means “to roar as a lion”. The root of the Hebrew word means to exude a fragrance. Once again, there are various opinions as to the source of onycha, but the most likely seems to be a type of rock rose. The flower petals resemble a human fingernail that has been painted red.   The twigs and roots of the rock rose are still used for medicinal purposes.

The third ingredient is galbanum, a gum resin with a musky odor. The resin comes in either lumps or tears and has a bitter taste. Both Hippocrates and Pliny extolled its medicinal qualities. Pliny asserted that “the very touch of it mixed with oil of spondylium is sufficient to kill a serpent.”

The final ingredient for the incense is pure frankincense, another aromatic resin. It is produced by slashing the bark in a process called “striping”. The hardened resins are called tears. The Boswellia sacra trees that produce frankincense are able to live in harsh, unforgiving environments and can even grow out of solid rock. The Hebrew word for frankincense is lebonah, which means “white”. YHVH commanded that frankincense be included in the grain offerings (Lev. 2:1) and meat offerings (Lev 2:15). A very pure type of frankincense known as lebonah zakkah in Hebrew, was to be presented with the showbread (Lev 24:7).

Just as Yeshua shed His blood for our healing and restoration, the sap in the tree or shrub produces the resins that are so healing for us.  The sap is the “lifeblood” of the tree or shrub.  Yeshua only is pure enough to be our perfect sacrifice, even more pure than the purest frankincense.  Sap or resin leaks out only when a tree is damaged or cut, just as Yeshua’s blood was released during His suffering and crucifixion.  We can readily see how each ingredient in the incense points to Yeshua’s most precious sacrifice on our behalf. The incense was to be used only for YHVH just as Yeshua alone was worthy to be our sacrifice. Yeshua’s sacrifice is the most pleasing odor to YHVH, the most perfect expression of love.

What does this mean for us? We see that the ingredients of this most sacred incense glorify Yeshua and point to His precious work of redemption. We are restored to YHVH and healed in body and soul. In Yeshua’s righteousness, we can offer ourselves as living sacrifices to YHVH (Rom 12:1).   We too can be pleasing fragrances to YHVH.

Is that a Bear, a Dipper, or a Sheepfold in the Sky?

one flock one shepherd

We spoke in a previous blog about the Gospel message written in the heavens. When Abba took Abraham outside and showed him the stars, He said “look towards heaven, and tell the stars, if you will be able to list them; and He said to him, ‘So shall your seed be’” (Gen 15:5). As a refresher, the word that is translated tell is actually the same word used for taking a census, and means that Abba not only counted the stars for Abraham, but He told him their names! Similarly in Psalm 147:4, David says of YHVH: “He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name”.

As we look out across the night sky, one of the most recognizable constellations is the Big Dipper (and its cousin the Little Dipper). These two constellations are in the Zodiac sign commonly referred to us as Cancer. However, it is very misleading to portray this sign as a crab, as the ancient Hebrew, Arabic, Syriac, Latin, and Greek names for this sign have similar meanings: “to bind together”, “holding” and “encircling”. There was no ancient Hebrew word for crab, as it would have just been included in the general category of unclean creatures not fit for eating. In the center of this sign is a very bright cluster of stars, whose ancient name was Praesepe, which means a multitude or offspring. The names of some of the brightest stars in Cancer have the meanings of: “sheltering”, “hiding place”, “assembled thousands”, and “lambs”. When we put all of these names together, we get a picture of this sign as the fold or sheltering place for a large multitude of lambs.

The first of the three constellations within this sign is the so-called “Little Dipper” or “Little Bear” (Ursa Minor). Once again we see many wide-ranging names, images and descriptions of this constellation. Most of the mistakes in interpreting Ursa Minor stem from the source of these names – all the modern-day names are based on the mythological foundation of the star-picture interpretations. All of these are based on pagan gods and were later inventions which began during the time of Nimrod following the great Flood. As we did with the sign of Cancer, we return to the ancient names for the constellations and the stars within them. In the companion constellation, the “Big Dipper”, the brightest star is named dohver in Hebrew, which means “fold” as in sheepfold. It is also translated as rest or security in the Scriptures, and in Judges 5:16 as sheepfolds. This tells us that both the Big Bear/Dipper and Little Bear/Dipper are actually representing sheepfolds! Part of the confusion may be between dohv and dohver in Hebrew (and also in Arabic): dohv means bear whereas dohver means fold.

The major stars in these two constellations, where ancient names have been preserved, help to confirm their meaning as the lesser and greater sheepfolds of the Messiah: “awaiting Him who comes”, “the redeemed assembly”, “the traveling company”, the “stronghold of the saved” and the “flock”. What is the distinction then between the lesser and greater sheepfold? The greater sheepfold (Ayish in Hebrew) is referred to in Job 9:9 and 38:31-32. It is generally translated as “the Bear with her cubs”. However, in other places in the Scriptures, Ayish is sometimes translated as “moth” or “butterfly”, which is in line with our sacrificed Redeemer, Yeshua the Messiah, whose body was transformed into a glorified body in His resurrection and ascension. We know from YHVH’s promises in His word that Yeshua will return to gather together His children. The remnant that He will gather will be his flock from both the lesser and greater sheepfolds.

Based on many ancient star-names, we believe that the lesser sheepfold will consist of the physical children of the tribes of Israel; not only the Jews but the remnant of all 12 tribes of Israel gathered from throughout the Earth. The greater sheepfold, then, will be the remainder of the multitude of people from the nations who believe and trust in Yeshua as their Messiah, Lord, Savior and Deliverer. Only YHVH knows which fold we are associated with, or whether we are part of His flock at all. I want to be part of this remnant flock. Whether I am from the lesser or greater sheepfold does not matter; Yeshua Himself said: “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd”. (John 10:16) I pray that we as believers in Yeshua will all be part of His flock, and not worry about which fold we are gathered from.

Dwelling in YHVH’s Rest

o that I had wingsWhat does it mean to “find rest for your soul” (Matthew 11:29) or to “enter into His rest” (Psalm 95:11)? When Solomon (Sh’lomo) dedicated the Temple, he prayed for YHVH’s awesome power and presence to dwell over the Ark: “Arise, O Lord God, to Your resting place, You and the ark of Your strength…” (II Chron 6:41). He wanted YHVH’s presence to come into the Temple and dwell with all the people of Israel forever, residing in the Holy of Holies. When Israel rebelled against YHVH and His Covenant, they were sent into captivity in Babylon, and the “Ark of His presence” was never returned to the Temple when it was rebuilt seventy years later.

We know that the Ark of the Covenant is where YHVH chose to rest, and that His presence was there wherever the Ark resided: in the wilderness when YHVH was leading Israel; in enemy territory where YHVH was defeating their enemies; and then in the Temple where His presence was seen and felt. When Moshe built the Tabernacle In the wilderness and communed with YHVH there, he asked YHVH to show him the Way. YHVH’s response was: “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Ex 33:14).

When Israel no longer had the Ark in the Temple, where was YHVH’s Presence, and how could YHVH give His people rest, as He had promised in Exodus 33:14 above? We have a hint of how to be in YHVH’s place of rest in Nehemiah 8:10 where Nehemiah said to the people: “…for the joy of the Lord is your strength”.   Nehemiah had been telling the people to set themselves apart (be holy) to YHVH as they were celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) for the first time in hundreds of years. Just as the Ark of the Covenant had been their strength in the First Temple times, the “joy of YHVH” was now their strength. We believe YHVH was teaching them to trust Him even more than symbols of His Presence like the Ark and its contents.

Believers in Yeshua can rightly claim that Messiah Himself has given us rest in our souls (Matthew 11:28-29). We are now the dwelling place of YHVH’s presence, as we are living tabernacles and His Holy Spirit resides within our hearts when we are baptized and filled with His Spirit.

However, YHVH has always wanted to dwell with us (Lev 26:12) as He did with Adam and Eve before the Fall: “And they heard the sound of the Lord [YHVH] God walking in the garden in the cool of the day…” (Genesis 3:7). It is apparent from this passage that Adam and Eve had a very intimate relationship with YHVH and spent time with Him every day in the Garden.

There are many ways to seek YHVH’s presence and spend time with Him, resting in Him.  We need to trust Him (Heb 3:19), obey His covenant (Heb 4:3,6; Jer 6:16; Ps 95:11), seek Him with our whole heart (Jer 29:13) and meditate on His word (Ps 1:2). YHVH’s desire to dwell with us is so strong that He gave His only begotten Son to redeem us so that we might always dwell with Him and He with us (John 3:16, Rev. 3:20).  Are you dwelling in the rest that YHVH provides?