Monthly Archives: September 2016

Yom Teruah helps us Remember and Rehearse

yom-teruahWhen we talk about YHVH’s feasts or festivals, we sometimes think of big celebrations with lots of festive foods along with family and friends.  Although some of YHVH’s feasts are meant to be joyous celebrations (such as Sukkot – the Feast of Tabernacles), others are meant to be more somber and introspective.  Yom Teruah (literally the “feast of the blowing of trumpets (shofarot)”) is a combination of both joyous and somber emotions.  In a previous blog (When Yeshua Returns), we have already dealt with the misconception that Yom Teruah is actually the Jewish new year, or what is called Rosh Hashanah (literally “the head of the year”).  Yom Teruah marks the beginning of the seventh month on God’s calendar, so by definition it cannot be the start of the year.

The Hebrew word used most often for YHVH’s feast days in the Scriptures is Mo’ed (feast) or Mo’edim (feasts plural).  However, this word is much better translated as “appointment” or more accurately “divine appointment”.  YHVH meant for these appointments to be holy (set-apart) times on His calendar to meet with Him.  They were also called “Holy Convocations”, which in the Hebrew is Miqra, meaning an “assembly” but also a “Dress Rehearsal”.

Whenever one of YHVH’s divine appointments arrives, we are supposed to look back and remember something that God has done for us in the past, but we are also supposed to look forward to what He will do in the future.  In His Mo’edim, God has essentially given us a “roadmap” of the most important events in human history.  Leviticus 23:24 describes Yom Teruah in this way: “In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation (rehearsal)”.  Where it says “memorial” in this verse, another name is being used for the Feast of Trumpets – it is also called Zihk’ron Teruah which means a call for remembering through the loud blowing of trumpets.  So what are we remembering from the past and what are we rehearsing for the future?

By Jewish tradition and ancient calendars, it is believed that Yom Teruah commemorates the first day of Elohim’s Creation of the universe.  This fits with God’s biblical calendar.  When the Israelites were delivered out of Egypt, YHVH then said to them: This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you” (Exodus 12:2).  This was of course the first day (new moon) of the Passover month (Aviv), which had been their seventh month but was now their first month by God’s instruction.  Thus we know that the seventh month (Ethanim) had been the first month on God’s calendar, which is the calendar He created for us at the time He created the world.  We can give thanks to Yehovah Elohim on Yom Teruah for creating the universe and us as His children.

As far as rehearsing the future on Yom Teruah, we need to look to the verses where the shofar blast is described as a warning or announcement of a future event.  There are a number of Scriptures where we see the shofar being blown as a call to repent and turn back (teshuvah) to YHVH, warning us of the God’s great judgment at the end times, in the “Day of the LORD”. (Joel 2:1, Zech 9:14, Rev 11:15)  In Matthew 24, Yeshua tells us of the great shofar blast when He comes in judgment and to gather His remnant together from the whole Earth: “And He will send out his angels with the mighty blast of a trumpet, and they will gather His chosen ones from all over the world—from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven”.

Abba, as we are celebrating your appointed time to be with You on Yom Teruah, help us to remember all that You have done for us in the past, including the great sacrifice of Your Son for our salvation and deliverance.  Help us to also look ahead at what You are going to do in the future, and make sure we are prepared like the wise virgins who had an abundance of oil for their lamps.  We want to be a part of Your remnant, pleasing to you and prepared in our hearts and spirits to receive Your blessing when You return to this Earth to reign and rule.

Behind the Scenes

praise-to-yhvh-my-rockIn our book, What’s Missing, we discussed how the story of the Israelites in Exodus is symbolic of the redemption that Yeshua, the true Passover Lamb, brings to all of us.  The story of YHVH actively intervening on behalf of the Israelites to set them free from slavery to the Egyptians and leading them out of Egypt in a miraculous way is an account of real events.  However, these events are a type or shadow of an even greater story of YHVH working on behalf of all humanity to free us from our spiritual enemies.   A phrase or even a single word in Exodus paints a graphic picture of the ongoing battle between YHVH and His adversary.  We must keep in mind that behind the scenes of our daily dramas, YHVH is carrying out His plan to establish His kingdom on earth while His adversary is trying to do the same.  It is the greatest drama of all.

After the tenth and final plague, we find that the Israelites left Rameses, which means “born of Ra”.    Who is Ra?  Ra was the primary name for the sun god in Egypt.  We get a clear picture that those who partake of the Passover Lamb are leaving the kingdom of darkness (ruled by the sun god) and going to Succoth (ruled by the one true God, YHVH).  Succoth is derived from the Hebrew word sakah and carries several different meanings.  Let us examine these meanings to see how our “behind the scenes” picture develops.

One of the meanings of sakah is “covering” as used in 1 Kings 8:7.  Just as the cherubim provided a covering for the ark of the covenant,  YHVH provides a covering for His sheep.  In Ezekiel 28:13, we see the description of YHVH’s archenemy before his rebellion.  He was covered (derived from sakah) in precious gems just as we are covered with Yeshua’s robes of righteousness.  In 2 Kings 16:18, the word is used for the Shabbat canopy.  YHVH stands beside us and is our protective covering (Ps. 121:5 NLT).  Isaiah 1:8 uses the word sukka as a watchman’s hut.  In 2 Samuel 11:11 the same word is used to denote a protective booth for soldiers.  Leviticus 23:41-42 and Deuteronomy 16:13 require all Israelites to construct temporary shelters (sukkot) for themselves for a week each year to commemorate YHVH dwelling among them.

All those who have left the kingdom of darkness for YHVH’s kingdom of light are protected by YHVH Himself.  However, all of us are also called to be soldiers in YHVH’s campaign to establish His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.   YHVH is fully capable of eradicating His enemies and establishing His kingdom by Himself.  However, He purposely gave dominion of the earth to humans and expects each of  us to participate in the great spiritual battle for the earth.  We are not left to fight the battle alone for YHVH Himself is our leader and protector.  It is imperative for us to get off the spiritual milk and onto meat (1 Cor 3:2) as soon as we are able so that we can fully participate in the role that YHVH has assigned for each of us.

The word selected in Exodus 12:41, 51 (tsaba) refers to the Israelites and those who joined them in the flight from Egypt as armies or hosts.  In most other places the people are referred to as Israelites or the children of Israel (b’nei yisrael). In Exodus, 13:17-18, the picture becomes crystal clear.  YHVH takes the Israelites on a detour because they are not yet ready to do battle with their Egyptian enemies.  However, YHVH still has them leave Egypt “like an army ready for battle”.  A short time later they would have the opportunity to do battle for the land promised to them.  They were still not ready and thus the nation of Israel spent 40 years wandering in the desert.  The battle must and will be fought at some point.

The children of Israel would have to fight their enemies in order to take over the land that YHVH promised them.  The children of YHVH will have to fight our enemies to reclaim the earth for YHVH.  In both cases it is YHVH who will go ahead of us and be our covering.  What role are you called to play in this great drama?

Joy through Obedience

well-watered-gardenIn a previous blog, I talked about God wanting to bless us with happiness, as He says in Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in YHVH, and He will give you the desires of your heart”.  What brings us the greatest joy on this Earth, though?  We know it is not “seeking after our own pleasure on His holy day” that YHVH speaks against in Psalm 58.  YHVH is speaking about His Shabbat, and He goes on to say in a positive way: “if you call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the Lord; and I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the Lord has spoken”.

This is one of my favorite passages from all of Scripture, and one of the most amazing promises YHVH makes, to bless us to the highest degree possible!  Can we be truly blessed by YHVH if we are not following His instructions in the Torah?  Consider the example of the remnant of Israel who returned from Babylon: they were back in Israel for almost 100 years before they re-discovered the Torah scrolls and the people asked for them to be read.

In Nehemiah 8, when the people came together as one in the city center, they appealed to Ezra the scribe to read the Torah Scriptures to them.  When they heard the words of the Torah, they were convicted of their sins and they bowed their faces to the ground and began to mourn and weep.  It is obvious from their reactions that they did not just come to listen to the scrolls for entertainment or casual curiosity, but rather they wanted to know the truth of the Torah commands they had broken before the captivity.  They came to hear, listen and then obey what they heard.  This is the meaning of Sh’ma in connection with the greatest of the Torah commandments: “Hear oh Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is One” Deut 6:4.  We are to hear YHVH’s word, take it deep down into our hearts, and then act on it by obeying what He says.

Going back to the promise from Isaiah 58, YHVH says that if we obey and honor Him, He will cause us to ride on the high hills of the earth.  When YHVH first brought His children out of Egypt, He also said He would make them ride in the heights of the Earth (Deut 32:13).  We know from the other passages that He meant He would give them prosperity, fruitfulness, and blessings in the land.

In Habakkuk 3:18-19, the prophet says: “Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on His high hills”.  God describes Himself as one “Who treads the high places of the earth” (Amos 4:13).   YHVH created us in His image, and He wants us to keep growing closer to Him so that we can walk on His high hills and experience those same high places where He roams in both His earthly and heavenly realms.

YHVH’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours, but He has given us the ability to draw closer to Him through keeping His Torah and His appointed times (Sabbaths and feasts), coming into His presence more and more so that we can enjoy intimate fellowship with Him.  When we walk in our own paths and fail to follow YHVH’s guidance, we are like dry plants in a desert.  I would much rather be a “follower of the way”, keeping YHVH’s commands and enjoying His blessings to be “like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail” (Isa 58:11).  Give it a try – walk with YHVH and follow his instructions and the blessings of joy will flow through your life like a never-ending spring.

What’s Wrong?

whats-wrong

After reading Exodus 10:1-20 recently, a few insights came to mind, especially in light of events going on around me.  It may seem that I am repeating myself in this article.  However, the message is so vital that it bears repetition.  Hopefully, those of us who need to hear, will take heed.

First of all, let us review Exodus 10:1-20.  Moses and Aaron are once again confronting Pharaoh to release the Israelites so that they may go and worship YHVH.  The first message from YHVH to Pharaoh is “How long will you refuse to submit to me?”  His second message to Pharaoh is a command, “Let my people go so that they can worship me.”  YHVH’s third statement to Pharaoh is a warning, “If you refuse to let my people go, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your territory.”  Even Pharaoh’s servants try to persuade him to comply.  Then Pharaoh makes his compliance conditional; only the men may go and worship.  Pharaoh refuses to obey and YHVH sends the promised locusts.  Vegetation in the land was destroyed, so Pharaoh summoned Moshe and Aaron, admitted that he had sinned against YHVH and asked Moses and Aaron to intercede for him.  He makes an interesting statement that shows the condition of his heart: “Please forgive my sin just this once and intercede with YHVH your God so that he may take this plague away from me.”  Pharaoh was willing, under the circumstances, to admit to one sin, but what about any other sins in his life?  As soon as the plague was removed any “remorse” expressed by Pharaoh vanished.

Within my own little sphere of family, friends and acquaintances there have been numerous adversities in the past few weeks including:  illness, natural disasters, broken or dysfunctional relationships, drug abuse and death from drug overdose, and employment issues.  Perhaps some of you are experiencing challenges of your own. When adversity strikes, we may be tempted to ask what YHVH is doing about these problems.  Why is He allowing these things to happen?  Is YHVH to blame?  Are we asking the right questions?

Let us examine the points made in Exodus 10 and see if or how they may apply to our own situation:

  • YHVH asks Pharaoh how long he will refuse to submit to YHVH? Have you accepted Yeshua as your Lord and Savior?  Is Yeshua king over the particular area in question or are you?
  • Are you obeying YHVH’s commands? At first glance, we are often tempted to say “of course”, but careful examination sometimes reveals otherwise.
  • Do we “conditionally” obey YHVH, rationalizing or amending His commands?
  • Is your current dilemma a result of your own stubbornness or disobedience? In other words, is there any way that you could have brought this on yourself?
  • Are you sorry that you are suffering the consequences of your choices or are you sorry for making poor choices?
  • When a problem arises, how do we react? Do we cast blame, have a pity party, or ask YHVH for help and guidance?
  • Is there some area in your life where you are sorry long enough to perhaps persuade YHVH to help you, but not sorry enough to change your ways?

It is often distressing for us to ask ourselves these questions honestly.  It seems much more comfortable to blame someone or something else for our troubles.  I have been guilty of such reactions.  However, once we get to the point of admitting that the problem just might be due to our own faulty choices or attitudes, then we can begin to make corrections.  YHVH will accept our repentance and help us to change.

Sometimes we are faced with problems that are not our fault, but our reaction can either help or hinder the situation.  Within the last two weeks, I found myself in a crisis situation, my panic rising by the second.  While wavering between feeling sorry for myself and wanting to cast blame, the Holy Spirit gently reminded me to ask YHVH for help.  I asked YHVH for help and the situation was soon resolved.  Seeking YHVH should always be our first choice.  We must cooperate with the Holy Spirit until it becomes our first reaction when we feel threatened or overwhelmed.

Oh the Depth of God !

God's love has no limitWhy do we want to limit God?  I have often heard it said that we should not limit God, but what does that really mean?  Recall the time in the wilderness when God was grieved because His people forgot how He had done many signs and wonders to protect and deliver them from Pharaoh and his army.  In Psalm 78, David tells us how the Israelites provoked YHVH by their sin and disobedience, but how YHVH loved them so much, that whether they turned back to Him or not, He would be divinely forgiving and gracious to them.

What grieved YHVH the most was not so much their sin or disobedience as their lack of trust in Him.  They had forgotten all that He had done for them.  He always had their best interest in mind.  YHVH was saddened that His people limited Him: “Again and again they turned back and tested God, and imposed limits on the Holy One of Israel” Psalm 78:41.  What they had forgotten was that no matter how far they strayed from Him and how many times they grieved Him by their sins, He was always merciful to them and forgave and blessed them.

When I think about YHVH as a limitless God who has no beginning and no end (Rev 1:8; 4:8) and who never changes (Mal 3:6, I Sam 15:29), I think about the times in my life that I have meditated on these attributes of God.  When I was a young child, I would lay on my back watching the clouds float by, thinking about how huge the universe was.  Even at a young age, people had told me that God was infinite, that He existed before anything in the Earth or heavens was made, and that He had no beginning.  I could not wrap my mind around the concept that God had no beginning and that He had always existed, before anything in the universe was created.

Knowing about God and His divine attributes intellectually is one thing, but it’s not the same as knowing God personally.  Even now as an adult, I cannot fully understand our God (Yehovah) who has always existed and always will.  But I do not believe YHVH intends for us to understand everything about Him, since He tells us in Isaiah 55:9 – “..just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so My ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than your thoughts”.

At this point, you may be thinking that God is so far beyond us that understanding Him is impossible, and relating to Him in any meaningful way is an insurmountable goal.  We know through Scripture, though, that YHVH has given us the opportunity to have a personal relationship with Him, and that as we draw closer to Him, He will reveal things to us that can help us understand Him better and expand our limited thinking and expectations.  In James 4:8, right after he says to submit to God and resist the devil, he tells that if we draw near to God, then He will draw near to us.

Although we are limited and He is limitless, if we draw near to Him, YHVH will reveal great things to us: “But as it is written:Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of people the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’ But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit“ (I Cor 2:9-10).  Notice in this passage that it is God’s Holy Spirit who reveals His secrets to those who love Him.  This tells me that we cannot understand the deep things of God in the flesh / physical realm, but only in the Spiritual realm.  As we age in spiritual maturity in YHVH’s kingdom, we learn to draw closer and closer to God by spending time with Him and listening to the voice of His Spirit.

At the same time we understand our limitations and God’s limitlessness, we know that YHVH desires us to seek knowledge and wisdom from Him.  In Jeremiah 29:13, He tells us: “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart”.  This is the essence of our walk with YHVH – when we seek Him with our whole heart, we will find Him, and He will reveal His incredible secrets to us as He desires.  Seek this type of relationship with your Creator and Lord and He will give you an abundant life that is so full of wonder and miracles you will not be able to contain them within yourself.