Saturday, October 31, 2015

Sabbath Sanctuary: The Burning Bush Finding the Holy Among The Common

Earth's crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes. The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries. Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The Messenger of Yahweh appeared to him there as flames of fire coming out of a bush. Moses looked, and although the bush was on fire, it was not burning up. So he thought, “Why isn’t this bush burning up? I must go over there and see this strange sight.” When Yahweh saw that Moses had come over to see it, Elohim called to him from the bush, “Moses, Moses!” {Ex. 3:2-4 Names of God Bible, God's Word Translation).
I love fall. Aesthetically, it is my favorite season. The red, yellow, and oranges consume the landscape; standing in oceans of red and orange of their own fallen leaves. This year, some trees are exhibiting a dark Merlot that is simply breathtaking. The glory of God displayed in awesome wonder through His creation. His paintbrush is evident everywhere. When I glimpse at these brilliant colors, they often evoke images of the burning bush, though I am sure not quite as magnificent, dramatic, marvelous or wonderful, for what can compare to the burning presence of Yahweh?

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth {John 1:14 NASB}.

And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high {Heb. 1:3 NASB}. 

I am reading Exodus this morning, and I couldn’t help but notice, that when Moses reached Mount Horeb, the mountain of Elohim, he happened to see this bush that was burning—but not being consumed. The Word says, that Moses went over to see it, and because Yahweh saw that Moses came to see…then He spoke out of the bush. 

The bush was burning before Moses arrived, but because he turned aside to see this marvelous sight {Ex. 3:2-4} God spoke to Him.
The beauty and the glory of God are all around us, burning to spark our attention. God is not just babbling and hoping someone hears; He is patiently waiting for us to turn aside and see the marvelous sight, so that He may fellowship with us.

This Sabbath, look—seek the divine callings of God. So often the holy is hiding among the common. Don't miss burning bushes all around you; turn aside to His marvelous wonder, take off your shoes—for this is holy ground—and rest in His Presence.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Simchat Torah: Rejoicing In Torah

The Feast of Tabernacles has drawn to a close, and today marks the Simchat Torah, A day of rejoicing with the Torah. This is not a biblical feast, it was added later to the Jewish holidays, but I love the implications. 
Devout Jews read through the Torah cyclically through the year. The eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles marks the end of the cycle of weekly Torah readings with Deuteronomy 34, and the new cycle begins, going back to Genesis 1. Synagogues hold services on this day, and at the end of the reading service, a ceremony call the Hagbah is performed. The Hagbah is lifting the Torah Scroll for the people to see. It is held in a way where it is reversed with all the weight of the scroll on one side to symbolize turning the Torah back to its beginning. This eighth day is said to be the last great scene of Jehovah’s joy in the accomplishment of His purposes of grace.
What are the implications here for believers in Yeshua? Jesus is the Living Word, the Living Torah, written upon our hearts, so that we can truly dance and embrace God’s Truth. David said of the Torah:

I delight in following your commands more than in having great wealth. I study your instructions; I examine your teachings. I take pleasure in your laws; your commands I will not forget {Ps. 119: 14-16 NASB}.
In Nehemiah 8, Nehemiah, Ezra, and the Levites, gathered the people to read them the Law {Torah}, because it had been lost for so long, and the people did not know or understand what was written in the Law:

Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”  So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.”  All the people went away to eat, to drink, to send portions and to celebrate a great festival, because they understood the words which had been made known to them {vv. 9-12}.

The people were weeping at the reading of the Torah. If Only we would be in awe over hearing God’s Word. Nehemiah instructs the people not to mourn, but that this is a time of celebration. Celebrate over the Word—celebrate over the Word. Right after this, the people realized that the Feast of Booths had not been celebrated since the days of Joshua.

The sons of Israel had indeed not done so from the days of Joshua the son of Nun to that day. And there was great rejoicing. He read from the book of the law of God daily, from the first day to the last day. And they celebrated the feast seven days, and on the eighth day there was a solemn assembly according to the ordinance {vv.17-18}.

Again there is celebration over obeying the Word; such an example for us.

Jesus said in Matt. 5:17, that He came not to destroy the Torah, but to fulfill the Torah. He is the embodiment of the Word. Jesus Is the Word and He came down and dwelt among us;

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.  In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.  The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it… And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth {John 1:1-5,14}.

Jesus is the Word and we should be celebrating Him every day. We should be thankful for His Word, and allow it to guide our lives—daily.
The Word came to make you whole, and to heal you. I love the account of the woman caught in adultery. The religious leaders threw her at the feet of Jesus, at the end of Sukkot {Jn.8}. Jesus had remained in Jerusalem during the conclusion of the eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles, and it was during this time that a woman caught in her sin, had an appointment with the Word Himself. Not to be condemned by it, but cleansed by it.   

The Torah in which they were celebrating, {Numbers 5} describes a test for a woman suspected of adultery. If a husband suspected his wife committed adultery but could not prove it, he would bring her to the priest. The priest wrote the curses of the law on parchment. He would then mix the water from the dirt and pour it over the ink-stained parchment. This would cause the ink to bleed into the cup. The woman then was required to drink it. If she was not guilty she would have no ill effect. If she was guilty her thigh would swell.

This test for adultery is known as the trial of bitter waters, and it usually is performed in the temple. The leaders however, decided they would kill two birds with one stone; condemn the woman and trap their enemy. They did not understand that they brought her to Christ—for the Living Torah Himself to bring judgement according to the Word. He simply knelt down and wrote in the sand. He wrote in sand with the finger that created the universe.

Lord, you are the hope of Israel; all who forsake you will be put to shame.Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of living water {Jeremiah 17:13}.

They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.  When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more” {John 8:6-11}.

Whatever Jesus wrote in the sand that day, we will not know—at least not on this side of eternity. But He was most likely writing in the very dust that would have been used at the woman’s bitter waters trial that day. The religious leaders brought her to Jesus to condemn her according to the Torah; He restored her according to the Word. He told her to go and not sin—He never condoned her sin, He freed her from it. Now we can rejoice that the living Torah delivers us the sinner from sin and guilt, and restores us to life. This is worth celebrating. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sukkot—The Feast of Tabernacles- God Dwelling With His People

Forgive the belatedness of this post; my seminary studies have kept me occupied. Beginning this past Monday through this approaching Monday, is the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles on the Hebrew calendar. Sundown will mark the end of the appointed time with Simchat Torah—the celebration of Torah.

It is important to note, the reason for examining the feasts, is to celebrate the Christology in them, and the fulfillment of them in Christ. I do not “keep” the feasts, but I celebrate them, and I study them to gain an understanding of end time events. Not all of the feasts have been fulfilled. The fall feasts, (The Feast of Trumpets, The Feast of Tabernacles, and the Day of Atonement), speak to future events. For believers in Christ, He is our atonement, but there is coming a day when all Israel will look upon Him who they pierced (see Zech. 12:10) and receive Him as the Messiah.

 I do not waste time trying to determine when Christ is coming back, for no man knows the hour (see Matt. 24). But Jesus does tell us that we will know the season: Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door (vv. 32-33). He also warned us that we would see signs in the heavens (see Lk. 21:25).

Leviticus 23 describes the Lord’s command for the Feast of Tabernacles. The people are to build temporary tents. The NASB renders it the Feast of Booths; it is the Lord’s appointed time to remind the Israelites of their season in the wilderness, of living in tents, and how the Lord sustained them (Lev. 23:33-44). It is also a time to celebrate in awe and wonder that the Creator of the universe came to dwell with His people.
The feast falls at the end of the harvest, and ushers in the beginning of the rain and new winter planting season. Tabernacles is kept for eight days after the corn and wine have been gathered. The corn represents the Word of God; the corn and wine together represent the fullness of God’s blessing, and speaks to the millennial kingdom when all God’s people will be gathered to Him. For this world is temporary:

Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near (Jas. 5:7-8).

A sacrifice was to be offered—there must be a blood offering. The priests sacrificed seventy bulls—one for each nation of the earth and the seventy souls that came out from Jacob.

This feast is not yet fulfilled, the answer to this season of festive joy is still in the future— the future days of glory when Christ and His risen saints will return with Him, and reign over a world rejoicing in His coming. Israel will be restored to their land and to Yeshua, their Redeemer. He will be head of the nations and under His righteousness creation will no longer groan, but will rejoice at the redemption of all things.

For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven {Col. 1:19-20}.

To all the people of the earth, the Feast of Tabernacles points to the joy and rejoicing that waits them in the millennial reign. The feast will be kept, and all the nations will go up to the city of the great king to celebrate it (Zech. 14:16, 17).

God Dwells With His People

The booths were made of palm and willow branches. They serve as a reminder for God’s chosen people of His strength and victories in the wilderness, and His mighty works on their behalf. The willows represented the tears that He wiped away—they have so much to be thankful for, and this festival should evoke a worship from Israel worthy of the Lord of Glory.

Three Ways to Worship

During the Feast of Tabernacles, there were possibly two million Jews in Jerusalem celebrating Jehovah’s feast; it was a time of great rejoicing—because Yahweh is dwelling with His people. Due to the great number of people, the priests were divided into three groups. The first group was responsible for offering of the sacrifices. The High Priest led the second group to the Watergate, and the Pool of Siloam. The Third group of priests went out the Beautiful Gate to cut the palm and willow branches.

The Women’s Court was the main place for the celebration of the feast, and it was here that the Levites played music in praise to Yahweh. As people sang, the men would dance. While ascending the steps to the court of Israel, the Levites played lyres, trumpets, and harps. Two priests would blow the silver trumpets while positioned on either side of the great gate of the Court.  

In the Women’s Court stood four massive lampstands. Each lampstand was capped with a golden bowl, and they stood approximately seventy-five feet high. The wicks for these lampstands were worn-out priestly garments, and young priests in training would climb to the top carrying large jugs of oil to fill the bowls. The light emanating from these lampstands filled every courtyard in Jerusalem. It was during this feast, with the lampstands burning bright, that Yeshua proclaimed Himself to be the Light of the World. I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life {Jn. 8:12}. Oil also represents the Holy Spirit.

The water libation ceremony commenced at the Watergate. A parade of faithful Jewish pilgrims marched with the high priest to the pool of Siloam; the pool of living water. The priest then filled a golden vase (representing divinity) with living water from the pool, while a second priest filled a vase of wine in a silver pitcher (representing redemption); speaking to the blood and the water—the two elements of the crucifixion.

On the last day of the feast the pilgrims then performed a “Jericho march” around the altar seven times, and with singing, ascended the stairs to the Temple, and poured out the blood and water on the altar. This is the water libation. The people pray for rain and blessings upon the earth for the coming year. The liturgy continues with the singing of Psalm 118:

The Lord is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation. The sound of joyful shouting and salvation is in the tents of the righteous; The right hand of the Lord does valiantly (vv.14-15).

This song of praise is re-iterated in Isaiah’s twelfth chapter:

Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For the Lord God is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation.” Therefore you will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation. And in that day you will say, Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name. “Make known His deeds among the peoples; Make them remember that His name is exalted.” Praise the Lord in song, for He has done excellent things; Let this be known throughout the earth. Cry aloud and shout for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel {vv. 1-6}.

The imagery is stunning. The blood sacrifices and the water is a picture of Christ pouring blood and water from His body on the altar of redemption. Through His blood we are saved and our sins are symbolically washed away through water baptism {see Acts 22:16}. The Brazen Altar is a shadow of Christ’s blood sacrifice and the Brazen Laver, the washing away of sin.

The third group of priests marched from the Beautiful Gate to the Motzah Valley to cut branches from the willows, palms, and other luxurious trees. Imagine the scene. Thousands of priests walking in sync and waving the branches; stepping and waving, stepping and waving. The waving created a swooshing noise. The Hebrew word for wind is ruach, meaning spirit. The word for the Holy Spirit is ruach hakodesh. The swishing is an illustration of the Holy Spirit’s breath that would blow in the temple. It was symbolic of the Spirit of God coming to Jerusalem.

The liturgy of the feast represents the Trinity; the blood, water, and Spirit.

This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.  And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one (1 Jn.5:6-8).  

 The three processions make their way to the Temple, where a priest stands playing a flute,  calling each to the Temple. Because the flute is pierced, the flute player is known as the pierced one—the pierced one is calling for the wind and water to enter the Temple.  

I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn {Zech. 12:10}.

The Lulav

The liturgy of rejoicing is accompanied by a lulav which is made from the branches of four trees {Lev. 23:40}, each represents life in the wilderness. The palm tree represents the strength and victory of God, and it is a Jewish picture of joy. Remember that the people used palm branches to welcome Yeshua as the King of Israel {see Jn. 12:13}.  Palm branches will again be waved to welcome Christ:

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” {Rev. 7:9-10}.

The lulav also contained myrtle branches, which represents the rest God gives to the people on Sabbath cycles. The willow branches evoke memories of sorrow and weeping.  During the Babylonia exile, the Jews hung their harps on the willow trees and refused to sing the Lord’s songs while in exile:

By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion.  Upon the willows in the midst of it we hung our harps. For there our captors demanded of us songs, And our tormentors mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion.”  How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? {Ps. 137:1-4}.

The fourth branch in the lulav is the citron, which is a citrus tree that is bitter and sour—to remember times of bitterness and of their slavery.

Jesus and the Feast Of Tabernacles

On the last day of the feast, Christ is in the temple near the brazen altar as the high priest pours out the wine and water, prays for the rains, and for the Spirit to be poured out. Suddenly, according to v. 37, He cries out and interrupts the song service of Psalm 118 and Isaiah 12, and proclaims that He is very One about which they are singing:

Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For the Lord God is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation.” Therefore you will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation. And in that day you will say, Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name. “Make known His deeds among the peoples; Make them remember that His name is exalted.” Praise the Lord in song, for He has done excellent things; Let this be known throughout the earth. Cry aloud and shout for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel {vv. 1-6}.

Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified {Jn. 7:37-39}. 

Jesus declares that He is the water of salvation. Shout aloud for the Lord God is standing in your midst. The Hebrew word for salvation in Isaiah is Yeshua, He is the well of Salvation, and with joy, they shall draw water from His wells. He is literally standing in their midst.

The libations are to ask God for rain for the season, and for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to reach the four corners of the earth. Jesus connects the last day of Tabernacles with the coming outpouring of the Spirit.

The lulav branches are beaten on the side of the altar following the pouring out of the blood and water by the high priest. Christ then cries out for the outpouring of the Spirit. The coming of the Spirit was preceded by the beating of the Messiah, and the pouring out of the blood and water from His body. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit was only possible because of the death of Christ our Great High Priest {Heb.4:14-16], and the pouring out of His life on redemption’s altar.

The season of the fall feasts, are known as “the seasons of our joy.” It begins with the Feast of Trumpets and ends with the Feast of Tabernacles. The trumpet sounds as a warning that the Day of Atonement is coming, and on that day, God will determine judgment or mercy; it is a solemn day. However, repentance is followed by great joy and rejoicing. Jesus teaches us that the angels and all of heaven rejoice when one sinner repents {see Luke 15}.
Everything in this feast, like the others, speaks to the person, ministry, and work of Christ. The Bible says that all nations will celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles during the millennial reign of Christ. Every nation that does not come up to the Feast of Tabernacles will not receive the rain that the feast is designed to bring. 

In Mark 9:1-2, 5, Peter, James and John witness Christ in His glory in the Transfiguration. When Moses and Elijah appear to minister to Jesus, Peter is emphatic about constructing a tabernacle for the three of them. He thought this because the Transfiguration occurred during the Feast of Tabernacles. This reminds us that Jesus is coming back, and we will rule and reign with Him.  It is the only feast that Jews and Gentiles will celebrate and rejoice in together. Celebrate and look for the return of Christ; for it is near, even at the door, and we will dwell with Him forever.