Biblical Symbols

Chametz & Matzah

Matzah = מַצָּה 

Chametz = חָמֵץ 

 

These “breads” contain the same Hebrew letters, save one. Both have a mem and a tzade. But matzah ends with a heh, and chametz begins with a chet. These two letters look so much alike that they are often confused. Heh has a small opening on the upper left, and is expressed as a breathy “h.” Chet has no such window, and is expressed as a hard, guttural “kh.”  The difference between these letters could be said to be a soft or hard expulsion of air. Chametz is hard, and matzah is soft. But like their differing letters, are often confused. 

On the flip side, the difference between the actual breads of matzah and chametz, have the opposite connotations. Chametz is associated more with soft, airy puffed up bread; whereas matzah is associated with dry, dense, hard bread. 

And, so it is to the soul. Chametz (soft) is more desired by the nephesh, while matzah is more loathed (hard). That is the illusion we must break free from at this season. 

The letters and sounds of these Hebrew words teach the nephesh the truth: matzah is truly the more delightful, soft “bread.” In the plural, matzot is spelled the same as mitzvot, the commandments, which also are a delight. “Help me walk in the path of Your mitzvot—for I delight in it.” (Psa 119:35  TLV) Whereas, chametz is the figure of what makes one hard, callus, and puffed up. Sweep the house clean. 

 

In this season, we remove chametz, and its beginnings or root, which is se’or (bread starters), from our homes and hearts. Every crumb must go and be burned before Pesach arrives. It’s searching diligently for and then releasing all the things that attaches us to the seeming luxuries of Mitzrayim (Egypt).

Yet, we struggle with discerning between matzah and chametz. Every year at this season, debates about what is actually chametz abound, confusing, especially, those new to this process. Varying traditions can make this even more difficult.  If this occurs with natural chametz, how much more so does it occur when it comes to spiritual chametz? 

In the past, I’ve thrown out things that I later discovered weren’t actually chametz, and in other times I kept things that I later discovered was chametz. Stop and think about that from a spiritual perspective. Haven’t we done the same when it comes to doctrines and traditions? 

The above doesn’t include the things that I accidentally overlooked. For example, one year, in the middle of the feast of Unleavened Bread, I found a full, unopened package of Oreo cookies on top of my refrigerator. (When you are vertically challenged and live with those that are not, don’t forget to check all the high places!)

All these natural things have taught me a lot about spiritual chametz. I doubt there has been a time when my house was truly free of (physical and spiritual) chametz. That doesn’t prevent me from trying to remove it; instead, it brings me humility as I approach Adonai with my efforts, and grace toward my brothers and sisters. This is what is needed before Passover arrives. The physical process is designed to teach and train one’s heart, and reveal what lurks in its depths. 

The difference between chametz and matzah is subtle. They are very close, yet very different. May the Father of Lights grant us wisdom to know the difference in the natural, and especially, in the spiritual realms this year! 

“He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 8:3, NASB)

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What the Darkness Reveals

Dear readers, this is a written form of my Purim message from this morning’s conference 5781 (2021). 

Isaiah 45:3, 6-7 (TLV) I will give you treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, so you may know that I am Adonai, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name… 6 so they may know, from the rising to the setting of the sun, that there is no one besides Me. I am Adonai—there is no other. 7 I form light and create darkness. I make shalom and create calamity. I, Adonai, do all these things.

At first glance, it might seem odd to consider that darkness reveals anything. Typically, we associate darkness with covering, hiddenness, chaos, confusion, sin, judgment, evil, or even death. Most of the Biblical references to darkness agree with those associations. However, like light, darkness is a contranym. While light is most often a symbol of the Word, Spirit, commandments, goodness, wisdom, and Messiah, there is also a false light. The enemy masquerades as a messenger of light. There is a light that is, in reality, darkness. (Luke 11:35)

Just as light doesn’t always equate to something good, darkness doesn’t always equate to evil. Light can blind instead of expose, and darkness can reveal things that light conceals. While the opposite is what one witnesses most often, it is important to know how darkness can be beneficial in our relationship with Adonai. This will build a stronger faith in the One that dwells in thick darkness.

In the natural, this can be compared to the electromagnetic spectrum. The vast majority of the spectrum is invisible, hidden, or one could say “dark” to the eyes of man even though it is all light. These portions of the spectrum have wavelengths too large or too small for the physical limitations of man’s sight. The tiny fraction of the electromagnetic spectrum that man can see with his eyes is called “visible light.” This is also true in the spiritual realm. God compares Himself with light, and yet man can only perceive a fraction of His light.

1 Timothy 6:15-16 (NASB) …He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.

In this sense, there is light that appears “dark” or hidden from man. But, it is only dark from man’s perspective, not God’s. Thus, there are some (good) things that flourish in darkness. Consider a seed buried in the darkness of earth. It is in this place of seeming death that it germinates and sprouts to life. Or, think of a baby in the womb. It is in this dark, watery place that new life forms and grows, awaiting her day of birth.

Psalms 139:11-13 (NASB) If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,” 12 Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You. 13 For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.

While most flowers bloom with the light of day, there are some that only bloom at night to release their sweet perfume.[1] In Hebrew, the tzit-tziyot (fringes) figure the bloom of a flower and the commandments of God.[2]From those blooms, fruit will grow, mature, and become sweet. Just as some flowers bloom in the moonlight, some commandments are to be kept when it is dark, like Passover.

In Hebrew, there are two primary words for darkness. The first is choshek.[3] Like English, this word can imply physical darkness or an absence of light, but it is also used figuratively to represent something hidden, obscure, chaotic, or evil. The second term is araphel.[4] It is often translated as thick darkness or a dark cloud. Many Biblical verses describe the place where Adonai dwells with both Hebrew words for darkness. Here are a few:

Exodus 20:21 (NKJV) So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness (araphel) where God was.

Deuteronomy 4:11-12 (NASB) You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire to the very heart of the heavens: darkness (choshek), cloud and thick gloom (araphel). 12 Then the LORD spoke to you from the midst of the fire; you heard the sound of words, but you saw no form—only a voice.

2 Samuel 22:10-12 (NKJV) He bowed the heavens also, and came down with darkness (araphel)under His feet. 11 He rode upon a cherub, and flew; and He was seen upon the wings of the wind. 12 He made darkness (choshek) canopies around Him, dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.

1 Kings 8:10-12 (NRSV) And when the priests came out of the holy place, a cloud filled the house of the LORD, 11 so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD. 12 Then Solomon said, “The LORD has said that he would dwell in thick darkness (araphel).”

In light of this, what does darkness reveal? Consider the night sky. When the sun is shining brightly, the depths of the heavens are concealed from view. But when the sun sets below the horizon, and the beautiful blue sky fades to black, the multitude of stars, planets, and galaxies that exist far beyond the earth’s atmosphere become visible to the earth. The moon, which has no light in the daytime, becomes illuminated, shining her face upon the earth. Without darkness, one would never know that stars, planets, and galaxies dot the sky far beyond the blue heavens, nor would one know that the moon has any light at all.

In the natural, it is darkness that reveals the depths of the heavens. Do you suppose this is also true in the spiritual realm? Consider your life, your light in the earth. Is your light brighter in times of “light” or in times of “darkness?” Is the light of a lamp, candle, or flashlight easier to see in the daytime or at nighttime? Sometimes, we don’t know our potential, our lumens (light output), until we find ourselves surrounded by darkness or dark circumstances. That is what happened in the story of Esther. Facing the darkness of the shadow of death, she shined brilliantly and saved the Jewish nation living in the 127 provinces of Persia.

In Persian, Esther means “star.”[5] Stars shine in the darkness. Like all descendants of Abraham and Sarah, she was born to give light to a dark world.

Genesis 15:5-6 (NASB) And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” 6 Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.

In Genesis 1:14, the stars and other luminaries are l’ohtot, for signs. Esther served as a sign to her people; and, she is still a sign, a shiny star to Believers today. It is likely that she drew strength by recalling Adonai’s promise to her father, Abraham. Before Adonai walked through the Covenant of Pieces as the smoking oven and flaming torch, Abraham felt terror and great darkness.[6]

Genesis 15:12-14 (NASB) Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness (chaskekah) fell upon him. 13 God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. 14 But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions.”

God’s covenant with Abraham occurred when it was dark. In this frightful place, Adonai told him the fate of his descendants, the figurative stars. Abram experienced this as terror and great darkness. Based on this account, Jewish writings have long associated exile with darkness. Thus, the setting of Esther is darkness because the Jews in Persia were living outside the Land of Promise.

But, Esther is more than a “star.” Her name in Hebrew sounds like hester, which means hidden. In the light of day, the stars are hidden from man. In other words, when things appear good to us, lights like Esther are concealed. A scroll is megillah in Hebrew. It means to unveil or reveal what’s inside. The scroll of Esther means: Revealing the Hidden.

Just below the surface of the story, there is a hidden subtext with brilliant light for eyes that are searching for it. Without the darkness of exile, Mordecai and Esther would not have had their opportunity to shine. Without our personal times of darkness, we wouldn’t either. The darkness tests what’s in our hearts. It exposes what we really believe. And, it reveals the depths of the heavens and God’s hand in our lives in ways that cannot be perceived in times of “light.” In this way, darkness benefits our faith, and deepens our trust in Adonai.

Hebrews 11:1-2 (KJV) Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good report.

Darkness Precedes Light

There is another important factor one should consider before examining the Scroll of Esther. Darkness precedes light. This pattern is first illustrated in the creation week, and then carried forth throughout the Word. It edifies one in times of struggle, turmoil, and even pending doom like Esther faced. In the beginning, there was darkness, and in that darkness, the Spirit of God hovered and fluttered over the faces of the waters.

Genesis 1:2-4 (NASB) The earth was formless and void, and darkness (choshek) was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.

Darkness precedes light, just as exile precedes redemption. At creation, light came forth from the darkness. This is an important concept to grasp, because in all Biblical stories of redemption, darkness precedes light. This is also true for you and me. When we were lost in the darkness of our trespasses and sin, the Living Word of Adonai pierced our darkness with His light, the Messiah, and brought us redemption. Thus, the natural realm mirrors the spiritual.

Consider that in Hebraic thought, the “day” begins in the evening with darkness, then light emerges with the morning sun. “And there was evening and morning…” This is the model given from the first day of creation, and it has been followed faithfully by the Jewish people since that time. The seven day week also follows this pattern. The first six days of the week are mundane working days. One could say they are spiritually dark. But, the week ends with the holy Shabbat, a spiritual day, akin to “light” when man’s work ceases.

Similarly, new months begin when the moon is dark, often called the conjunction. In Hebrew, this period is called the molad, which means “birth.” However, it is not until the first sliver of light is witnessed emerging from the dark moon that it is sanctified and the new month begins.

On the larger, yearly cycle, the late fall and winter season can be likened to the “dark” part of the year, when there is literally less light. Whereas, the festival season that begins in the spring and extends to the first part of autumn, can be likened to the “light” part of the year. The feasts of Adonai occur when the days are longer and warmer. In every case above, darkness precedes light. That is the Biblical creation pattern. Thus, it is not surprising that new human life begins the same way, whether that life is physical or spiritual.

Isaiah 9:2 (NASB) The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.

Darkness of Exile and Captivity to the Light of Redemption

Now, let’s examine how the creation pattern of darkness preceding light is illustrated in stories of redemption. The exodus from Egypt is the archetype of redemption. All stories of redemption share aspects of this monumental event, which is forever commemorated by the first feast on Adonai’s yearly cycle: Pesach. Messiah’s persecution, death, and resurrection follows this model. Consider the archetypal pattern: the last three plagues involved darkness before the children of Israel went out from Egypt:

Locusts – Plague 8:

Exodus 10:4-5 (LITV) For if you refuse to send away My people, behold, I am going to bring locusts into your territory tomorrow. 5 And they will cover the eye of the land, and no one will be able to see the land. And they will eat the rest of that which escaped, that which is left to you from the hail. And they will eat every tree that sprouts to you from the field.

Darkness – Plague 9:

Exodus 10:21-23 (LITV) And Jehovah said to Moses, stretch out your hand to the heavens so that darkness (choshek) may be on the land of Egypt, and one may feel darkness (choshek). 22 And Moses stretched out his hand to the heavens, and darkness (choshek) of gloom was in all the land of Egypt three days. 23 They did not see each one his brother, and they did not rise up, each one from his place for three days. Yet to all the sons of Israel there was light in their dwellings.

Death of Firstborn – Plague 10:

Exodus 11:4-5 (NASB) Moses said, “Thus says the LORD, ‘About midnight I am going out into the midst of Egypt, 5 and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of the Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the millstones; all the firstborn of the cattle as well.

There is a clear mandate for followers of the God of Israel to remember the exodus. Notice when one is to do so:

Exodus 12:42 (NASB) It is a night to be observed for the LORD for having brought them out from the land of Egypt; this night is for the LORD, to be observed by all the sons of Israel throughout their generations.

Redemption (Passover) is to be commemorated at night, when it is dark. But, what was the mark that Israel’s redemption was complete?

Exodus 14:24, 27 (NASB) At the morning watch, the LORD looked down on the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud and brought the army of the Egyptians into confusion… So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal state at daybreak, while the Egyptians were fleeing right into it; then the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea.

When day light pierced the darkness of night, Israel’s redemption was complete! Pharaoh and his army were defeated in the waters of the Reed Sea. Does Messiah’s Passion follow a similar pattern?

 Matthew 27:45 (NASB) Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour.

When Messiah hung on the tree, darkness fell upon the land for three hours, mirroring the three last plagues of darkness before the redemption of Israel. From man’s perspective, that darkness remained (figuratively) for three days and nights while Yeshua was in the dark tomb. Even when the women went to the tomb, it was dark.

John 20:1 (TLV) Early in the morning on the first day of the week, while it is still dark, Miriam from Magdala comes to the tomb. She sees that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb.

Matthew 28:1 (NASB) Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave.

But with the morning light, Yeshua appeared to Mary and the others, a clear mark of a new dawn, a new day, and the evidence that He had overcame death and redeemed all those who believe. Once again, darkness preceded Light.

 

Purim to Passover

Based on all the above, why do you suppose that the rabbis ensured that Purim occurs one month before Passover in a leap year when there is an added 13th month or Adar 2?[7] They didn’t want us to miss the deep connections Purim has with Passover. Since both are stories of redemption, it is vital that we understand that whether God brings one out of darkness with a Mighty Hand and great miracles, or whether He works behind the scenes in life’s happenstances and coincidences, it is ALL Him. He is the Savior and Redeemer.

Purim occurs at the end of the cycle of months, and Passover occurs at the beginning. The end is the beginning and the beginning is the end. In nature, the season is transitioning from winter to spring – a type of darkness to light. In Esther and Exodus, the people were living in exile, or darkness. Their lives hang in the balance. Anytime one is in state of transition, there are many unknowns, things one can’t see. It is dark from man’s perspective.

But, that is the precise place where God works. David said, “Ye though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, thou are with me.” (Ps. 23) He is right there with you in your darkness. His Spirit is hovering over the dark waters of our chaos. When Yeshua walked on water, like the Spirit in the Beginning, it was DARK and the wind and waves were contrary. (Mt. 14) Likewise, He is hovering and fluttering over your darkness, your chaos, your foggy circumstances. Light will come forth from your darkness. It is like a birth, a new creation .

Now, let’s step back into the story of Esther. This young Jewish girl ended up in a foreign king’s harem. Her entire life would be dictated by this (ungodly) ruler. She had no control over her life or circumstances. Her life must’ve felt pointless, and subjected to the will of others. When Esther first met King Ahasuerus, it was in a dark month of winter, Tevet, the tenth month. In this dark place and time, God gave her favor with the king, and out of all the other women, she was chosen to be his new queen.

Esther 2:16-17 (NASB) So Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus to his royal palace in the tenth month which is the month Tebeth (Tevet), in the seventh year of his reign. 17 The king loved Esther more than all the women, and she found favor and kindness with him more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.

At this point in the story, Esther’s true identity is hidden from the king at Mordecai’s request. Meanwhile, it just so happened that while Mordecai sat at the king’s gate, he overheard two wicked officials discuss their plot to lay hands on the king. Mordecai reported the men to Esther, and she reported them to the king’s guard. The men were charged and executed. This incident turns out to be the key to the outcome of the whole story.

In the next chapter, Haman the Agagite is elevated to a position of authority. All pay homage to him except Mordecai, which infuriates Haman. His hatred extends to all of Mordecai’s people, the Jews. Five years and three months after Esther is crowned queen, in the month of Nisan or the first Hebrew month, Haman casts purim (lots) to discover a favorable

Haman – May his name be Blotted Out!

month to destroy the Jewish people.

Esther 3:7 (NASB) In the first month, which is the month Nisan, in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, Pur, that is the lot, was cast before Haman from day to day and from month to month, until the twelfth month, that is the month Adar.

This entire scene unfolds in the month of Nisan – the month of redemption on Adonai’s calendar. We don’t want to miss this connection. A great deal of this story occurs during the spring feasts. Once Haman divines that the month of Adar is best for destroying the Jews, he brings his plan to King Ahasuerus.

Esther 3:8-9 (NASB) Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from those of all other people and they do not observe the king’s laws, so it is not in the king’s interest to let them remain. 9 If it is pleasing to the king, let it be decreed that they be destroyed, and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver into the hands of those who carry on the king’s business, to put into the king’s treasuries.”

Haman was willing to put forth his own money to fund this campaign of death – 10,000 talents of silver, which is the equivalent of about 333 tons by weight or around $5.6 million dollars in today’s currency.[8] Haman was a man of great wealth, and he used it for evil. So, on the 13th of Nisan, the edict went out to all the provinces that nearly a year later, in the month of Adar, the people should prepare to annihilate the Jews. (Esther 3:11-15)

Esther 3:13 (NASB) Letters were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces to destroy, to kill and to annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to seize their possessions as plunder.

Pause right there and think about God’s calendar. From Nisan 10th to the 14th, the Passover lambs are examined for blemishes, so they can be sacrificed to the LORD to commemorate Israel’s redemption from Egypt. Was a blemish found in the “lambs” of the Jews living in Persia?

Esther 4:14 (NASB) “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”

Perhaps, Esther realized she and her fellow Jews did indeed have a blemish. Consider Haman’s accusation against the Jews. They were “scattered” and “dispersed,” and their laws were different that the King Ahasuerus’. While the latter is a good thing, being scattered and dispersed signals disunity among the people. Realizing this, Esther seeks to remedy the problem:

Esther 4:16 (NKJV) “Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!”

Esther’s Hebrew name was Hadassah, a myrtle branch. Her response to Mordecai was to gather or assemble ALL the Jews. As a true Sukkot branch, she calls for the scattered people to come together in unity, just as the various lulav branches are gathered and waved before the LORD at Sukkot. Instead of feasting during Passover and Unleavened Bread, they fasted for their lives. Esther was willing to risk death for her people, a beautiful foreshadowing of the work of Yeshua.

As a result, the king was more than favorable when Esther approached him unannounced, even offering her up to half of his kingdom. She requests that the king and Haman attend a wine banquet that she had prepared. They do so, but Esther keeps her identity and true request concealed, inviting them to a second banquet the next day. Meanwhile, Haman builds 50 cubit gallows in which he intends to hang Mordecai.

During that night, the turning point of the narrative occurs. (Take note of the dark/light symbolism.) The king can’t sleep, so he has the chronicles read to him and discovers that Mordecai saved his life. The king desires to honor Mordecai for saving him. The next morning, Haman entered the courtyard to ask the king if he could hang Mordecai on the gallows that he built. In a funny turn of events, Haman instead ends up parading Mordecai throughout the kingdom to honor him for saving the king.

This mortified Haman, so he covered his head in shame, and went home to complain to his wife and friends. But, he was quickly ushered off to Esther’s second wine banquet. There, she finally revealed her true intentions. She unmasked Haman as the wicked one set on destroying her people, and revealed her Jewish identity to the king. The furious king hung Haman on the gallows he built for Mordecai.

All the above occurred during the spring feasts of Adonai. In third month of Sivan, when Shavuot is celebrated, the king allowed Mordecai and Queen Esther to issue new edicts for the upcoming time of destruction set by Haman in Adar. The rest is history. The Jews defended themselves, fear of them grew in Persia, the tables were turned, and they destroyed the ones determined to destroy them. These days were marked as the festival of Purim, a remembrance of the time Adonai turned them “from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a yom tov.” (Esther 9:22)

 

Warring with Amalek

Haman was descendant of Amalek, the people that attacked the weak and weary Israelites in the wilderness. After this, the LORD said that He would war with Amalek from generation to generation. (Ex. 17:14-16; Dt. 25:17-19) Moses built an altar at that time, and called Adonai YHWH Nissi, the LORD is my Banner, in honor of Adonai’s declaration. A banner is a nes, which is a sign, standard, or ensign. It is also related to the Hebrew word for miracle, nes.

A nes is something lifted up like a flag that can be seen from far away. When the children of Israel warred with the Amalekites, Hur and Aaron held Moses’ tired arms up as an ensign. As long as his arms remained raised with the staff of God, Israel prevailed. In the yearly Torah cycle, we reread this account in Exodus on Purim, as we celebrate Haman’s (Amalek’s) defeat.[9]

Adonai is truly our Banner, the One lifted up as our ensign. We look to Him and the battle is won. Every year at this season, we remember Amalek. We recall his battle tactics. He seeks to attack the stranglers, the weak, and the frail – those that are experiencing darkness. Those that are struggling with exile and hard circumstances. This is the time to lift up a banner for the whole camp of Israel to see. On Adonai’s calendar, that flag or standard is the Scroll of Esther.

She shines like a bright star to those in darkness, giving gentle instruction to the weary. She calls for gathering and unity, even in exile. She reminds us of Haman’s (Amalek’s) defeat, and the hidden, yet Mighty Hand of Adonai. Esther connects one to the new cycle, and prepares us for Pesach. She transitions us from darkness to light.

The Orthodox Pesach Haggadah highlights this with a song that is read at the end of the Seder on the first night of Passover called, It Came to Pass at Midnight. As you read through the lyrics below, meditate on the timing of redemption. When it seems like the darkest moment, even in our own lives, that is when Adonai comes to rescue us. In Egypt, we were slaves one moment, and then, at the “stroke of midnight” we were free. (Ex. 12:29) How many times has Adonai came to your aid at a figurative “midnight”?

IT CAME TO PASS AT MIDNIGHT

You performed most wonders at night,
In the early watches of this night; You caused the righteous convert,
Abraham, to triumph at night;

It came to pass at midnight.

Gerar’s king Abimelech, You judged in a dream by night; You frightened the Aramean, Laban, in the dark of night;
Israel (Jacob) overcame an angel and won by night;

It came to pass at midnight.

You crushed Egypt’s firstborn at midnight;
They found no strength when they rose at night;
The army of the prince of Sisera, You swept away with stars of night;

It came to pass at midnight.

Senncherib, the blasphemer, You disgraced by night;
Babylon’s idol fell in the dark of night;
Daniel was shown the secret of the king’s dream at night;

It came to pass at midnight.

Belshazzar, who drank from the Temple’s vessel, was killed that same night;
Daniel who was saved from the lion’s den interpreted the writing on the wall at night; Hateful Haman the Agagite wrote letters in the night;

It came to pass at midnight.

You triumphed over Haman in the king’s sleepless night;
Trample the winepress and help those who ask the watchmen, “What of the long night?” The watchman responds: “Morning comes after night;”

It came to pass at midnight.

Hasten the day of Messiah, which is neither day nor night;
Most High, make known that Yours are day and night;
Appoint guards for Your city all day and night;
Brighten like the light of day the darkness of night;

It came to pass at midnight.

In your dark hour, have you asked the watchmen, “What of the long night?” A true watchman will respond, “Morning comes after the night.” Exile, affliction, trials, and sufferings are dark, but they are not the end; they signal the beginning. This is the nature of birth and birth pangs.

We can add another “midnight” to this Orthodox poem:

Mat. 25:5-7 (NASB) Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. 6 But at midnight there was a shout, “Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.” 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps.

The pattern is consistent and trustworthy. When it is dark, one can trust that Adonai is at work. One can believe without wavering that Adonai will once again bring the LIGHT. Not even death, the thing most fear above else, cannot separate us from the love of Messiah. “Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.” (Ps. 30:5)

Rom. 8:35-39 (TLV) Who shall separate us from the love of Messiah? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter.” 37 But in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Messiah Yeshua our Lord.

Paul was convinced of this message. Are we?

Queen Esther knew the stakes. Her life was on the line for her people. We fear what lurks in the darkness of what we can’t see. But, Adonai is there with us, just as He was with the Jews in Persia. Darkness and light are alike to Adonai. (Psalm 139:12) And, we can trust that He is for us. He is good and works ALL things for the good. (Romans 8:28)

We, especially those that live in western nations like the United States, prefer teachings that focus on one’s safety and prosperity. We have developed entire theological systems that have the “church” escaping trials and tribulations. These doctrines are dangerous because they are rooted in fear of worldly poverty and death. The king’s palace, though luxurious and seemingly “safe,” could not protect Queen Esther. Mordecai told her not to even imagine that her high status would protect her. We serve the God Who gave His all for His people. He expects no less from those that follow His example.

If you find yourself lost in the dead of night at this season, seek wise watchmen, like the moedim or appointed times. They arrive in the year at the perfect time to remind one that though the enemy is always seeking your life, Adonai is still on the Throne. He redeems, He saves, He lives, and He is coming. Death will be swallowed up in victory!

So, every year we rehearse the blow to Amalek at Purim, exactly a month before Passover. On Adonai’s calendar, Purim is the (spiritual) preparation for Pesach. It dissolves the chametz of fear, doubt, and unbelief. These are lies that lurk in the dark, hidden corners of our hearts. They question God’s presence in the natural world and one’s everyday mundane existence. This type of darkness seeks to destroy one’s faith just before the first sliver of “light” pierces the night at Passover.

But, we have our own megillah, our own revealing, like Esther and Purim. This is our testimony of overcoming. It shines in the darkness like the stars and the moon. These sparks of light remind all that dwell in darkness and dark circumstances that we have a great hope. There is Good News! What is hidden now, will be revealed – unrolled like a heavenly scroll. And Messiah, our hope and glory, speaks to us in the thick darkness.

Matthew 10:26-27 (NASB) Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops.

Meanwhile, don’t forget to look up when it is dark. There, far beyond the earth, the heavenlies utter their wordless speech. They remind all the Esther’s or stars of Abraham of Adonai’s Covenant Promises. He is faithful. Can you find the treasures of darkness? Look up!

Luke 21:25-28 (NKJV) “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring;  26  men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  27  Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  28  Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”


[1] For example, check out the Moon Flower: https://www.thespruce.com/growing-moon-flower-in-containers-4125231

[2] Strong’s H6734 צִיצִת tsee-tseeth’ Feminine of H6731; a floral or wing like projection, that is, a fore lock of hair, a tassel: – fringe, lock.

H6731 BDB Definition: צץ / ציץ tsı̂yts / tsits 1) flower, bloom. 1a) flower, bloom. 1b) shining thing (of gold plate on high priest’s mitre) (metaphorically). 2) feather, wing.

[3] H2822 חשׁך chôshek BDB Definition: 1) darkness, obscurity. 1a) darkness. 1b) secret place. Part of Speech: noun masculine. A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: from H2821

[4] H6205 ערפל ‛ărâphel BDB Definition: 1) cloud, heavy or dark cloud, darkness, gross darkness, thick darkness. Part of Speech: noun masculine. A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: probably from H6201

[5] https://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Esther.html

[6] From the same root as choshek: H2825 חשׁיכה / חשׁכה chăshêkâh / chăshêykâh BDB Definition: 1) darkness. Part of Speech: noun feminine. A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: from H2821

[7] In a leap year, the Hebrew year has thirteen months or a second Adar. (Learn more here and here.) Leaps years occur seven times in a nineteen year cycle. The 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th, and 19th years of the nineteen year Metonic cycle are leap years. 5781 is year number 5 of the cycle and is therefore not a leap year. The next leap year will be in 5782, year number 6 of the cycle. See New Moon posts on Adar for more: here and here.

[8] See the IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament and New Testament by John H. Walton; Mark W. Chavalas; Victor H. Matthews; Craig S. Keener on Esther 3:9

[9] See Warring with Amalek Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 to understand Haman’s connection to Amalek.

Categories: Biblical Symbols, Moedim | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Meditations for the Nine Days Part III

 For an explanation of this series, please see Part I

Day 6 – Av 6

Spiritual Gift: Prophecy 

Fruit: Goodness

The rabbis have assigned a letter to each Hebrew month.[1] Interestingly, the letter for Av is tet. If you haven’t read the recommended articles from Part I on the number nine and Tet, please do so now. In the creation week, the first occurrence of the letter tet is in the word tov or good. On Day One of creation, the “light was good.” Something tov functions in its intended purpose. When one functions in the fruit of goodness, they are like the pure light of creation. They GIVE Light to the earth, and separate the light from the darkness. Goodness doesn’t take from another, it gives of itself freely.

In the acrostic of Psalm 119, David wrote eight verses for each of the twenty-two Hebrew letters to extol Adonai and His Torah. Though this poetic devise doesn’t appear in its fullness in English, it shines brightly in the original Hebrew. Notice how David’s choice word was tov or good in the eight verses for the letter tet:

Ps. 119:65-72 (LITV) טTET: You have done good with Your servant, O Jehovah, by Your Word. 66 Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I have believed Your Commands. 67 Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now I have kept Your Word. 68 You are good and do good; teach me Your Statutes. 69 The proud have forged a lie against me; I will keep Your Precepts with all my heart. 70 Their heart is like fat, without feeling; I delight in Your Law (Torah). 71 For my good it was for me that I was afflicted, to learn Your Statutes. 72 The Law (Torah) of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver.

 Something good or functioning in goodness, doesn’t neglect correction when needed. The Greek word for goodness in Galatians 5:22 is agathōsunē. The Hebrew Word Dictionary defines it as: good and benevolent, profitable, useful. Something that “feels” good isn’t necessarily Biblically tov or agathosune if it is not profitable or useful in Adonai’s eyes. Thus, correction might be needed so one can adjust their course to realign with Adonai’s standards, which is the Torah (Law) that David speaks about in the above verses.

The Greek word for the gift of prophecy is prophēteías, which is the ability to receive a divinely inspired message and deliver it to others in the assembly. Such messages can vary from exhortation, correction, comfort, inspiration to revelation. All are meant for the equipping and edification of the Body of Messiah. (1 Cor. 14:3-6) It is for our good.

Before the destruction of the first and second Temple (of which this season commemorates), Adonai warned His people that the result of their idolatry and disobedience would bring judgment from heaven. A siege would be laid on the walls of Jerusalem, resulting in a breach that would lead to the complete destruction of the Holy City. The prophets foretold of this destruction, and called for the people to repent and return Adonai. If they had of obeyed the voice of the prophets, things would have gone much differently. Sadly, man often prefers to do what is right in his/her own eyes, even when God graciously warns what is to come.

Someone with the gift of prophecy can be shown a vision, picture, or dream that is meant to guide, edify, or change the perspective of someone that “thinks” they are on the correct course, when in reality they are in opposition to Adonai. In this way, prophecy and prophesying keeps the Body in check. It does the Body good.

In modern vernacular, it’s like having a well visit with the Great Physician. However, some caution is in order. Like the letter tet, prophecy can be good or evil, true or false. Thus, prophets and prophecies are to be well received, but also tested. If found to be tov, prophecies are vital for the spiritual health of the Body.

1 Th. 5:19-24 (NASB) Do not quench the Spirit; 20 do not despise prophetic utterances. 21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil. 23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.

1 Cor. 14:31-33 (NASB) For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; 33 for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.

Questions

  1. Do you fear, ignore, or deny modern day prophets or gifts of prophecy? Why or Why not?

 

  1. How does goodness relate to the gift of prophecy?

 

  1. Can you name a prophet that was called tov? (Hint: You will find him in the Torah. – Ex. 2)

 

  1. Since we are in the last Nine Days of the Dire Straits, ask Adonai if He has sent a prophet or one with the gift of prophecy to bring you correction that you rejected. If so, you have an opportunity to repent, and perhaps your house will be restored.

 

Day 7 – Av 7

Spiritual Gift: Discerning of Spirits  

Fruit: Faithfulness

To remain faithful to Adonai, one must be able to separate, distinguish, discern, and judge between “spirits.” This is a broad topic that deserves a much deeper treatment than what will be offered in this meditation. For our purpose, we will examine how discerning of spirits or the lack thereof affects one’s faithfulness to Adonai and His Body.

In the meditation for day three, we looked at the spiritual gift of faith, emunah. Faith and faithfulness are rooted in what is firm, stable, and trustworthy. Emunah has substance and evidence. According to James, the evidence of faith is works or one’s deeds. (James 2:18-21) One acts out what they truly believe. Thus, the fruit of faithfulness is revealed through action or acting upon belief.

What beliefs are contrary to faith in the Word of Adonai? Fear, doubt, and unbelief are good examples. Could such beliefs be called “spirits?” In Greek, spirit is pneúma, and in Hebrew it is ruach. Both words relate to breath, wind, air, spirit, or even one’s disposition. Each definition expresses a different aspect of pneuma and ruach (spirit). In some places, the Bible uses these words to express the thoughts, beliefs, and temperament of a man. After his sin with Bathsheba, David asked Adonai to renew a steadfast (faithful) spirit within him:

Psa. 51:10 (NKJV) Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

In the passage below, Paul contrasts the spirit of slavery, which is fear, with the spirit of adoption, which is loving acceptance.

Rom. 8:12-17 (NASB) So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 forif you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Himso that we may also be glorified with Him.

In these examples, spirit or spirits are not speaking about demons, but flesh centered thoughts and beliefs. They are akin to worldly wisdom, or as James puts it, “wisdom from below.” This sense of the word “spirit” is deeply intertwined with belief. Understanding these high places of the mind will help one to distinguish or discern between the Spirit of God and other “spirits.”

1 Cor. 2:9-14 (LITV) 12 But we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit from God, so that we might know the things that are freely given to us by God. 13 Which things we also speak, not in words taught in human wisdom, but in Words taught of the Holy Spirit, comparing spiritual things with spiritual things. 14 But a natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he is not able to know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Words from the Spirit of God are not received by the natural man. They seem to him to be foolishness. They are spiritually discerned or distinguished. Only one intimate with the Holy One and His voice can make such a distinction, because they are faithful. They believe His Word. But, even a believer can fall prey to fear, doubt, and unbelief when they fail to remain steadfast in the Word.

Tisha B’Av is landmark on the calendar that recalls one of Israel’s greatest faithless moments – the evil report of the ten spies. Ten men caused the entire nation of Israel to believe the “spirits” of fear, doubt, and unbelief rather than the promises of God. They trusted their natural eyes rather the spiritual reality.

Num. 14:11 (NASB) The LORD said to Moses, “How long will this people spurn Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst?

Unbelief or a lack of faithfulness cost an entire generation the Promised Land. The next generation suffered along with them until the last one died in the wilderness. The people failed to discern the “spirits” of the ten spies.

However, one with a “different spirit” escaped the judgement of having to die in the wilderness. Rather than doubting the promise, Caleb followed God fully. He remained faithful. He chose to believe despite seeing the giants with their fortified cities.

Num. 14:24 (NASB) “But My servant Caleb, because he has had a different spirit and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land which he entered, and his descendants shall take possession of it.”

Joshua joined Caleb in encouraging the people. They tried to inspire them to faith and belief.

Num. 14:6-9 (NASB) Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, of those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; 7 and they spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, “The land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. 8 If the LORD is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us—a land which flows with milk and honey. 9 Only do not rebel against the LORD; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.”

Fearing man or circumstances is the antithesis to the Spirit of Yirat Adonai, which is reverence for the Holy One. (Is. 11:2) Dr. Hollisa Alewine teaches in The Creation Gospel that “anything we fear, we make holy.” Rather than reverencing Adonai, we are giving our homage to an unholy man, thing, or circumstance. One has essentially built a “high place” in their mind for it.

Jer. 3:6-10 (NASB) Then the LORD said to me in the days of Josiah the king, “Have you seen what faithless Israel did? She went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and she was a harlot there.7 I thought, after she has done all these things she will return to Me; but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it. 8 And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also. 9 Because of the lightness of her harlotry, she polluted the land and committed adultery with stones and trees. 10 Yet in spite of all this her treacherous sister Judah did not return to Me with all her heart, but rather in deception,” declares the LORD.

Reverencing anything other than Adonai is harlotry or idolatry. This is one of the sins that resulted in the destruction of the first and second Temples. Rather than building high places for our fears, doubts, and unbelief, may we discern these spirits for what they are: false gods. When it is revealed by the mouth of a prophet or discerner of spirits that a lying spirit has breached the walls of our city, may we be quick to repent, repair the breach, and stand firm in our faith.

Questions

  1. Can you be trusted to fulfill or keep your word? (Mt. 5:33-37) Consider that Adonai is always faithfulto keep His Word. (Is. 55:11) Resolve to do the same as one of His image bearers before the High Days approach this year.

 

  1. Most people, including believers, have been rejected, betrayed, manipulated, or wounded in some way by another person or group. If such sins were committed by another believer, then it is very difficult to trust others within the Body. And yet, the fruit of faithfulness is rooted in trust. How can one learn to walk in the fruit of faithfulness (secure trust) when others have breached the walls of trust?

 

  1. Do you struggle with spirits of the world such as fear, doubt, unbelief, rejection or lust? Read Luke 11:24-28. What was Yeshua’s “correction” to the woman? Based on this, what protects one from “unclean spirits?”

 

  1. What is in the high place of your mind? Is something there that shouldn’t be? If so, repent.

[1] This comes from the Sefer Yetzirah orThe Book of Formation. (See chapter 2) This book describes how the alephbet has three mother letters (aleph, mem, shin), seven doubled (sounding) letters (bet, gimel, dalet, chaf, pay, reish, tav), and twelve simple letters (hey, tav, zayin, chet, tet, yohd, lamed, nun, sameach, ayin, tzade, kuf.) The twelve simple letters correspond to each of the twelve Hebrew months in their alphabetic order.

Categories: Biblical Symbols, Moedim, Study Helps | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Meditations for the Nine Days Part II

Nine dreamstime_xxl_168096063If you haven’t read Part I, please start there to learn the purpose of this series. Click here for Part III.

Day 3 – Av 3

Spiritual Gift: Faith  

Fruit: Peace

 In Hebrew, faith is emunah (ee-moo-nah). It comes from the root aman, which means to support, confirm, establish, be faithful, to trust. It’s first occurrence is with Abraham:

Gen. 15:5-6 (NASB) And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” 6 Then he believed (aman) in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.

Aman is often translated as “believe,” because it implies something that can be trusted with confidence. It is firm. Amen (amein) comes from this same root. When one says, “Amen!” they are affirming the words being delivered and counting them as trustworthy. Truth, emetshares this same root. Truth is firm, established, and trustworthy. One can put their faith and trust in the truth of God’s Word.

Emunah differs from western thought. Having “faith” is not a mental or verbal agreement to a set of statements. This is why you won’t find a statement of faith at Grace in Torah. While emunah does have an element of mental belief, it is something that is proved through action. Abraham trusted and believed in God, and demonstrated his faith through his deeds. James said that “faith without works is dead.” As a Hebrew, he understood this concept very well, and reminded the scattered tribes[1]that even demons have head knowledge or mere belief.

Jas 2:18-21 (NASB) But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” 19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?

Emunah has substance and evidence. The writer of Hebrews says that this is the kind of faith that our elders had (saints in the Tanakh –O.T.), that garnered them a good report. Since Tisha B’Av recalls the evil report of the ten spies in Numbers 13-14, perhaps it would behoove us to also recall the actions of those in the “hall of faith” in Hebrews 11.

Heb. 11:1-2 (KJV) Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good report.

Much could be (and has been) written on emunah. For the purposes of this meditation, consider how faith and peace are related. If one’s faith is true and firm, it naturally produces peace. That doesn’t mean that one will not suffer or struggle; it means that one’s faith gives confidence and shalom in the midst of trials.

Rom. 5:1-5 (TLV) Therefore, having been made righteous by trusting (faith), we have shalom with God through our Lord Yeshua the Messiah. 2 Through Him we also have gained access by faith into this grace in which we stand and boast in the hope of God’s glory. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in suffering—knowing that suffering produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Ruach ha-Kodesh who was given to us.

Heart puzzle dreamstime_xxl_150586996In Hebrew, peace or shalom is not the absence of war, pain, or conflict. Shalom is more akin to wholeness, in the various respects of a person – mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Being made whole implies that at some point, “parts” were separated. In order for shalom to occur, these pieces must be brought back together, even if they are in opposition to one another. In this sense, shalom is about integrating these things, becoming “one.”

In this realm, one can have shalom in one area and not another. One’s faith can supersede the missing part, because one knows that in the end, all will be made whole again. (1 Cor. 15) It is possible to have shalom while walking through great difficulties or even danger. Having “peace like river” is quite contrary to the idea of still waters. Thus, faith and trust in Adonai can sustain one’s mental and emotional state as they float through the rapids of life, because they TRUST Him and have hope for the future.

Heb. 11:39-40 (NASB) And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.

Those with faith in Hebrews 11 did not receive the promise, because Adonai will not make them “perfect” without us. All the “parts” will be gathered together as a whole (echad), which is shalom. This was the prayer of Yeshua. (John 17:19-26) It will occur under the perfect government of the Prince of Peace! How fitting is that?

Like our forbearers in the faith, we also remain faithful as we look forward to That Day. This brings peace to broken hearts and lives. We have a great Hope! This life is not the end. There is so much more.

Heb. 12:1-2 (TLV) Therefore, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also get rid of every weight and entangling sin. Let us run with endurance the race set before us, 2 focusing on Yeshua, the initiator and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame; and He has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

In the meantime, may we be known as peacemakers.

Jas 3:18 (NASB) And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Mt. 5:9 (NASB) “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

Questions

  1. If you want to ask someone how they are doing in Hebrew, you say, “Ma shlomchah?” (mas. – speaking to a male) The feminine form is “Ma shlomech?” (speaking to a female) But, what you are really asking is, “What’s your peace?” Today, I’m asking you this question. Ma shlomeach?

 

  1. Do you have “parts” that need to be integrated into the whole? Or, do you need help with unbelief?

 

  1. How does one’s faith affect their sense of shalom?

 

  1. Read through Hebrews 11. When you tell someone about “your faith,” does it look like these examples? If not, what is the difference?

 

Day 4 – Av 4

Spiritual Gift: Gifts of Healing   

Fruit: Patience

 In 2020/5780, this day is the weekly Shabbat. Because of that, let’s begin this meditation with Shir Hama’alot, which is Psalm 126. In meditation 2, we looked at Al Naharot Bavel or Psalm 137, sang on weekdays and non-holidays during Birkat Hamazon (Blessing after meals). On the Sabbath and holy days, Psalm 126 is sung/recited instead.

Ps. 126:1-6 (NASB) A Song of Ascents. When the LORD brought back the captive ones of Zion, we were like those who dream. 2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongue with joyful shouting; then they said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” 3 The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad. 4 Restore our captivity, O LORD, as the streams in the South. 5 Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. 6 He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.

Consider the contrast between these two Psalms. They depict exile for rebellion, and then the promise of return and restoration. A wound, and yet there will be healing. That pretty much sums up the entire Bible from man’s perspective. But, like our spiritual gift for this day’s meditation, healing doesn’t always occur instantaneously. Often, it requires patience or long suffering.

In the preface of the list of spiritual gifts, Paul uses a few key phrases to help the reader understand the diversity not only in gifts, but in the people that have them.

1 Cor. 12:4-7 (NASB) Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6 There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

He reiterates this again after listing the gifts of the Spirit:

1 Cor. 12:11 (NASB) But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.

The Greek word translated as “varieties” by the NASB, is diairesis. It means distinctions, variety, and diversity. There are a variety of gifts, ministries, and effects, but they all come from the same Spirit of God. The word “effects” is the Greek word energēma, from which our English word energy comes. Different people are given different energies to perform the gift that Adonai has given each. They won’t always “look” the same, even if two people operate in the same gift. And yet, they all are empowered by the Holy Spirit, His energy.

Hands dreamstime_m_84036510

The gift of healing is one of those energies or ministries. Healing has many forms, all with the goal of being made well or whole. One’s mind, emotions, physical body, life circumstances, or even their finances can be broken or wounded. Sometimes, a healer can touch or pray and the area affected is renewed. Sometimes a healer will direct the afflicted to do something such as repent, wash in the Jordan, or give charity. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all box.

Since the fruit for this day is patience, how can suffering through brokenness of soul or body be beneficial? Sometimes healing is a process that one must walk through, because instant healing wouldn’t really heal the root issue, or it wouldn’t bring Adonai glory, or it wouldn’t fulfill His purpose in some way. In cases like this, where we can’t possibly understand with finite minds, we might cry out like David and the saints that are told to patiently wait.

How long, O LORD?

Ps. 6:2-4 (NASB) Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am pining away; Heal me, O LORD, for my bones are dismayed. 3 And my soul is greatly dismayed; But You, O LORD—how long? 4 Return, O LORD, rescue my soul; Save me because of Your lovingkindness.

Ps. 13:1-2 (NASB) For the choir director. A Psalm of David. How long, O LORD?Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? 2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?

Ps. 79:5 (NASB) How long, O LORD? Will You be angry forever? Will Your jealousy burn like fire?

Ps. 90:12-14 (NASB) So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom. 13 Do return, O LORD; how long will it be? And be sorry for Your servants. 14 O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

Rev. 6:9-11 (NASB) When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; 10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also.

We must trust that Adonai is Good, and that His mercy (chesed) endures forever, despite the way things seem to us at the moment. If Adonai can heal Egypt and Assyria, He can definitely heal us! But, like these persecutors of Israel, it will come in His perfect timing.

Is. 19:22-25 (NASB) The LORD will strike Egypt, striking but healing; so they will return to the LORD, and He will respond to them and will heal them. 23 In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrians will come into Egypt and the Egyptians into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. 24 In that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, 25 whom the LORD of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance.”

IMG_7057In the meantime, we remember that we are like those that dream. (Ps.126) The Hebrew word for dream is chalam (חָלַם). It is like shalom with a chet instead of a shin; and like shalom, it implies recovering and being restored to health. This Shabbat, we sing and we remember, and we patiently consider that our suffering and tears will produce many sheaves for the Kingdom.

Ps. 126:5-6 Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. 6 He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.

Questions

  1. Do you operate (energema) with one of the gifts of the Spirit? Which one(s)? If not, ask Adonai to reveal to you how His Spirit (energy) works through you.

 

  1. Do you suffer with a chronic illness or another affliction? If so, I’m praying for your complete healing and for your patience. May Adonai grant you reprieve this day.

 

  1. If you know someone that is suffering patiently in some way, reach out to them with words of encouragement.

 

  1. Dreams are corrective and restorative. If you haven’t been paying attention to these night parables, start keeping a journal of them.

 

Job 33:15-18 (NASB) In a dream, a vision of the night, when sound sleep falls on men, while they slumber in their beds, 16 then He opens the ears of men, and seals their instruction, 17 that He may turn man aside from his conduct, and keep man from pride; 18 He keeps back his soul from the pit, and his life from passing over into Sheol.

Day 5 – Av 5

Spiritual Gift: Working Miracles 

Fruit: Lovingkindness (chesed)

 Love and lovingkindness go hand in hand. In the meditation for day one, we looked at agape and chesed in relation to wisdom. In this meditation, we will consider the miraculous power of chesed. When acted out in earnest, wondrous things happen.

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Yeshua said, “go and learn” what chesed means in Matthew 9:13. In that case, he was being questioned for eating with tax collectors and sinners. The Pharisees and many religious people today have firm ideas of what is acceptable and unacceptable. Yeshua was more concerned for those that needed to repent and be healed, than He was for even the holy sacrifices. Consider the story below.

 Luke 10:25-37 (NASB) And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” 27 And he answered, “YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” 28 And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE.” 29 But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. 31 And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, 34 and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’ 36 Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” 37 And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.”

 Almost any commandment, tradition, or halachic ruling can be broken to save another person’s life. YHWH is the God of the Living, and all human life is immeasurably valuable to Him. We are told in Leviticus 18:5, “You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the LORD.” (NKJV) Rabbi Akiva clarifies this verse by saying, “That he shall live by them, and not that he shall die by them.” (Yoma 85b)

He infers that the heart of the commandments islife and love. To save a life or one’s own life (or even the health of either), is the highest priority so long as one doesn’t deny Adonai, commit murder, idolatry, or adultery in order to do so. Piety should never hold a higher place in one’s mind than the value of another human. Choose Life!

The story that Yeshua told the lawyer in Luke 10 is just as valid today as it was in the first century. In the US, segregation is oddly being promoted by some groups. In the first century, various groups also separated themselves from one another based on religious sects, regional affiliations, and race.

The Samaritans were half Jew, half Gentile. During the Assyrian captivity of the northern kingdom of Israel, the king of Assyria sent people from Cutha, Ava, Hamath, and Sepharvaim to inhabit Samaria,[2] and they intermarried with the remaining people left from the northern tribes of Israel. They became known as Samaritans. While they accepted a version of the Torah (5 Books of Moses), they rejected the Prophets and the Writings. They also mixed idolatry with their worship of the Holy One. They even set up their own temple on Mt. Gerizim. When Nehemiah worked to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, the Samaritans tried to stop the work. (Neh. 6:1-14)

Needless to say, the Jews were not fond of the Samaritans. Tensions between these two groups were high. In John 8:48, the Jews called Yeshua a demon possessed Samaritan. This was meant to be a highly offensive slur. In John 4:9, the (Samaritan) woman at the well was perplexed that Yeshua, a Jew, would even speak to her.

Yeshua gently corrected her understanding in several ways. He pointed out her “5” previous husbands, an allusion to the Samaritans false belief that their version of the Torah was legitimate. He also revealed Himself to her as the Messiah, the Living Waters, and extended salvation to this lowly Samaritan, something the religious leaders in Jerusalem would have never done. The woman dropped her water pot and ran to tell her countrymen the Good News. The men of Samaria believed the woman’s report and came out to meet Yeshua. She was actually the first effective evangelist!

Unity dreamstime_l_8808167Yeshua’s encounter with the woman at the well is chesed in action. She and the Samaritans didn’t deserve anything from Him; and yet, He extended mercy, grace, and kindness to them anyway. Because, He is chesed. He brought reconciliation to two alienated groups, which the apostles continued after the resurrection. (Acts 8:25)

Chesed doesn’t ignore past sins; rather, it chooses kindness over retribution, mercy over vengeance, grace over disdain, love over hate. Chesed doesn’t know the “tit for tat” scores that we keep. It is not intimate with wisdom from below.

Love covers a multitude of sins. (Pr. 10:12, 1 Pet. 4:8) That includes the sins of those that have been a bane to your existence. Yeshua, as the living embodiment of the Word and the image of God, chose chesed rather than sacrifice. This resulted in the miracle of salvation to those that were perishing in Samaria. Often our vision is impaired, and is need of adjustment.

The only way that one can love the way that Adonai loves is to KNOW the love He has for us. (1 John 4) Then, we won’t fear that our enemy might not get his “just desserts.” Instead, we can truly rejoice that forgiveness and salvation has been extended to them as well. The lawyer reluctantly admitted to Yeshua that in the story, it was the “evil” Samaritan that fulfilled the Law more fully than the priest and Levite by extending chesed to the brutalized man. Caring for human life, in all forms, is greater even than the two greatest commandments. Why? Because it is the epitome of chesed love, and the two great commandments hang from it. Yeshua says, “Go and do the same.”

Rom. 13:10 (NKJV) Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.

Disciples Prayer dreamstime_xxl_98596069The natural, earthy man struggles with the concept of chesed. Chesed is supernatural. To operate with chesed, one must continually have their mind renewed to align with the mind of Messiah. (Romans 12) Consider testimonies and stories that have had the greatest impact on your thinking. Do stories of radical forgiveness and sacrificial love inspire you more than rote commandments? In our heart of hearts, we hope that we can act with such sacrifice and loyalty to HaShem. We want to believe that we can radically forgive those they don’t deserve our forgiveness.

Chesed is so powerful that it can penetrate even the most callused heart. It is miraculous. It is the gift that keeps on giving. When one experiences true chesed, they are moved to extend chesed to another. It is freely given, underserved, and it certainly doesn’t expect anything in return. Though it is rooted in covenant love, it surpasses the letter of the Law, because it is pure Holy Spirit in action.

The Hebrew and Greek words for miracles (oht, pala, semeion, etc.) are often translated as signs and wonders. They are heavenly, like chesed. Miracles occur when heaven kisses earth (and earth beings). Thankfully, Adonai built (and continues building) the world with chesed (Ps. 89:2), which is the epitome of the Messiah. (Col. 1:15-20)

Ps. 85:10 (NASB) Lovingkindness and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

Perform chesed. Expect miracles.

Questions

  1. Read Genesis 4:1-12. What is Cain told to master? If emotions rule a person, can they fulfill the commandments?

 

  1. In the figurative sense, hating one’s brother/sister (or any other human) is akin to murder. Why?

 

  1. Read Romans 12. What is love without hypocrisy?

 

  1. Miracles encompass a range of wonders, including the plagues that fell upon Egypt. What is the purpose of miracles?

 


[1] James 1:1

[2] 2 Kings 17:24, Ezra 4:2-11

Categories: Biblical Symbols, Moedim, new moon | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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