Friday, January 13, 2017

Jacob's Burial and the Crown of Thorns


In Parashat Va’ye’chi we read about Jacob’s departure from his earthly sojourn and his amazing burial. Not only was he embalmed, Egyptian style, he was also mourned for 40 days, after which his hearse went with great pomp and ceremony to the land of Canaan, accompanied by a large entourage which included “all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the leaders of the land of Egypt, as well as all the house of Joseph, his brothers… and there went up with him both chariots and horsemen, and it was a very great encampment” (Genesis 50:7,8,9).  Next “…they came to the threshing floor of Atad which is beyond the Jordan, and they mourned there with a great and very solemn lamentation. …” (v. 10).  Interestingly “atad”, which is rendered as a proper name here, actually means “bramble”, being a type of thorn.

The midrash in the Babylonian Talmud has some interesting things to say about this episode. Here is just an excerpt: “Joseph's crown lay on top of the hearse. Behind them followed members of the royal family of Pharaoh, princes and nobles and common people, in a procession that seemed to have no end. On the border of Canaan, 31 Canaanite kings were waiting to pay homage to the patriarch [as well as Ishmaelites, according to more of the midrash]. Seeing Joseph's crown on the hearse, they placed theirs, too, alongside. A memorial service was held in which great tribute was paid to Jacob.”

Rabbi Fohrman from Aleph Beta (www.alephbeta.org) adds that, these Canaanite kings were there to originally strike the massive party that was carrying Jacob’s coffin. But when they saw Joseph’s crown laid on the hearse, they all proceeded to lay down theirs. So let’s ask: what was it about Joseph’s crown that brought about such a drastic change in the attitude of these warring individuals who were prepared to attack the entourage? These Canaanites and Ishmaelites were the descendants of two unwanted and rejected ancestors, namely Canaan in Ham’s family and Ishmael in Abraham’s. So, again, what was it about Joseph’s crown that caused these ones to lay down their own and give up their belligerent attitude? The rabbi explains that, they knew that Joseph, like them, was rejected and abandoned by his family. And because Joseph, although oppressed and afflicted, did not open his mouth (see Is. 53:7, not that R. Fohrman quotes this...), he was able to fully identify with the outcasts in a powerful and effective way, and thus disarm them by his very presence and action. In Revelation 4:10 - 5:1 we read about the twenty-four elders who fell “down before Him who sits on the throne and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:  ‘You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.’" 

What’s more, rabbi Fhorman informs us that the crowns around the coffin formed an arrangement which looked like thorns. Here we recall the name of the place of the burial, which was the Threshing Floor of Atad, with the latter, as mentioned above, being a bramble, a thorn. King Yeshua was coronated with a crown of thorns as He was being mocked and oppressed but, “He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).


So, whether the account in the Babylonian Talmud is true or just a conjecture, its interpretation by a contemporary rabbi (namely, rabbi Fohrman) certainly reveals a timeless truth that casts light upon the One who “was despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Is. 53:3), who by identifying fully with Man’s suffering was and is able to disarm all warring entities, causing them to humble themselves before Him. Philippians 2:10-11, quoting in a modified fashion from Isaiah 45:2 declares:  “… that at the name of Yeshua every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,  and every tongue should confess that Messiah Yeshuah is Lord, to the glory of Elohim the Father,” even some day all of Joseph’s brothers, as well as the Canaanites and Ishmaelites.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Idolatry

In the days of Eli the High Priest and his two sons Hophni and Phinehas, who were officiating in the Mishkan in Shilo, the Philistines were at war with Israel.   Shmu’el who had joined that family as a child, grew up in the proximity of the Mishkan, and when just a lad he heard the voice of YHVH declare the demise of Eli’s family.  Idolatry was running rampant in Israel at that time, including in the priesthood.  As a result YHVH caused the Philistines to make war on Israel. Over time, the Israelites had lost a number of their cities to the enemy.  On this particular occasion, Eli’s sons decided to carry the Ark of the Covenant to the battlefield, as Israel was being defeated by the enemy.  They had in mind that this holy article would bring them ‘good luck’ in the war.  Thus, the Ark itself had become an idol; just another of the gods, or an object that the Israelites were putting their trust in.  Our forefathers seemed to be prone to idol worship, adulterating their relationship with their Spiritual husband, Elohey Israel.
Is it any different today? Do we still serve idols, even as believers in the New Covenant?  Idol worship during those times was external and tangible in nature; objects that could be seen, like the Ashtarot, Baals and the many foreign gods of the nations.  In his letter to Timothy, Paul describes other types of gods that would become prevalent in the latter days: “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:  For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good,  traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:1-4 emphasis added).  The one most common idol in today’s world is humanism, which is the result of worshiping oneself and exulting in pride and self-righteousness manifested in the works of the flesh. This is illustrated in the book of Daniel by Nebuchadnezzar, who was the representative head of the statue which epitomized humanity and its achievements (ref. Daniel 2:36-38).
But this of course does not apply to us, believers in the Gospel of the kingdom… or does it?  In our day idol worship is seen as a thing of the past, definitely not pertaining to those who worship the God of the bible.  We attend church, synagogue, congregation, or a home fellowship, study the Word and give praise, honor and glory to Whom it is due.  This all seems well and good, but do we still have idols in our lives that we are concealing in our hearts?  To the New Covenant believers it is written:  Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is [oopsss..] idolatry! (Colossians 3:5 emphasis added).   Have you ever considered that when entertaining the “works of the flesh” (see Galatians 5:19-21) you were actually serving an idol and adulterating your relationship with Yeshua?  In the days of Shmu’el, the enemy was allowed to make war against Israel because of idolatry.  Is it not written: “Now all these things happened to them [Israel] as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Corinthians 10:11)? 
We read in the scriptures: “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves servants to obey, you are that one's servant whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16)  “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts” (Romans 6:12), which is idolatry Yeshua spoke a truth that not only pertained to Him and the Father, but can also be applied to our relationship to Sin:  "Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him” (John 13:16).  Satan is the prince and power of the air, which is the spirit realm of the kingdom of darkness. Thus Satan, who is the “strong man” of his kingdom, sends his underlings to carry out his will – killing, stealing and destroying. These lesser entities are the ones that tempt us to cooperate with their fallen nature.  If we submit our will to their dominion, we become their servants, and in actuality we are worshiping the one who is greater than they, “Satan”.  Many are led to believe that Satan worship is some grotesque occult practice (which it is), but the evil one also masquerades as an angel of light, and his subtle tactics can fool even the most mature believers.  We need to realize that when we cooperate with the nature of sin, we are actually worshiping Satan and will experience the consequences by being defeated by our spiritual (and natural) enemies, as did Israel of old, unless we repent.  
After the loss of the Ark of the Covenant and the ensuing death of Eli and his sons, YHVH raised up Shmu’el to bring the nation to repentance.  “Then Shmu’el spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, ‘If you return to YHVH with all your hearts, put away the foreign gods and the Ashtarot from among you, and prepare your hearts for YHVH, and serve Him only; He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines’" (1 Samuel 7:3 emphasis added).  The Spirit of YHVH warns us throughout the Word that, if we entertain idols we will not inherit the Kingdom of Elohim (see Galatians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 6:9).  We cannot serve two masters.  When Yeshua was casting out demons, He was accused by the religious leaders for invoking Beelzebub. Yeshua’s response to them is also very important for us, helping to gain an understanding about YHVH’s Kingdom:  "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of Elohim, surely the kingdom of Elohim has come upon you” (Matthew 12:28).  The evidence of YHVH’s Kingdom is our ability to cast down every evil thought and imagination that exalts itself against the knowledge of Elohim and His righteousness, peace and joy (see 2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Distractions

Have you noticed that in the past few years, since the Media has given everyone a voice through the cyber entertainment world, there are more distractions, confusion, and mesmerizing influences, even to the point of gender mix-up?   However, what is more disconcerting is that multitudes of distractions are also operating in the Christian world, especially in the so- called Hebrew Roots movement.  The cyber world is full of teachers (rabbis, prophets, etc.) who are taking shots at what is happening, or will happen in the future. Some are even trying to take actions that they deem may help fulfill or advance their ideas of end time interpretations. 
The fascination and interest regarding the timing of Yeshua’s return is at epidemic proportions.   Sadly all of the above, and more, could create false hopes, accompanied by fears of apocalyptic destruction.   Instead of coming to know the Creator and Sustainer of life, these seekers reach for doctrines of escapism or knowledge that is even supposed to bring about (or hasten) Yeshua’s appearing on the Mount of Olives (Who will then ‘take care of everything’ for them, and ‘bring an end’ to all their troubles). 
One example of this kind of fascination and involvement is the building of the Third Temple. This being so because the Temple/Tabernacle/altar has to be in place so that the anti-Christ can come and set up his rule in Jerusalem (there is more to this scenario), as this is supposed to precede Yeshua’s stepping down on the Mount of Olives.  Here enters another factor: Are the individuals who are caught up with this really interested in the deep and sincere yearnings of the Jewish people for the rebuilding of the Temple, or are they propagating the idea (and perhaps even helping with this endeavor), just so that “anti-Christ” or a false messiah can (supposedly) deceive the Jews who will then suffer the consequences? This is a critical heart matter that has to be examined by those ‘to whom it may concern’. 
With all this activity, commotion, and goings on, one can miss the Spirit of prophecy (Yeshua) who is being made manifest (or “trying to”) in and through His presence in us, individually but more so corporately, in what we call His “body”.  Not to mention the fact that He is also fulfilling His promises and prophecies pertaining to and in the House of Judah - remember what YHVH said to that house in Hosea 1:7. 
The prophets of old always reminded YHVH’s people of Who Elohim is, and ‘quoted’ His own descriptions of Himself, such as in the following:   “For thus says YHVH, Who created the heavens, Who is Elohim, Who formed the earth and made it, Who has established it, Who did not create it in vain, Who formed it to be inhabited: ‘I am YHVH, and there is no other. I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth; I did not say to the seed of Jacob, 'Seek Me in vain'; I, YHVH, speak righteousness, I declare uprightness [truth/justice]’” (Isaiah 45:18-19).
Isaiah goes on to prophesy against the (religious) daughters of Babylon: “Therefore evil shall come upon you; You shall not know from where it arises. And trouble shall fall upon you; You will not be able to put it off. And desolation shall come upon you suddenly, which you shall not know.  Stand now with your enchantments and the multitude of your sorceries, in which you have labored from your youth -- Perhaps you will be able to profit, perhaps you will prevail. You are wearied in the multitude of your counsels; Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, and the monthly prognosticators stand up and save you from what shall come upon you” (Isaiah 47:11-13 emphases added).  These words may be applicable to some among us who are looking to “prophets” or “prognosticators” for the purpose of calculating when Yeshua will appear and what will be the signs of His arrival.*  Yeshua left us with examples of such, regarding His “appearing” in Mathew 24.  For over two thousand years some of these signs have been occurring in many of the generations (which only shows that His unseen presence has been present in all the generations).  However, He also said to His inquiring disciples, regarding His “coming” (though the term used there is, again, “perousia” – presence):  "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (v. 36).  So why do we spend so much time trying to figure out what the Father will not reveal until His determined time?
Many (spirit filled) believers have their eyes turned to these external signs and so have inadvertently strayed from the knowledge of His (Yeshua’s) Spirit that is now present in their own bodily mishkan/tabernacle.  The distraction of having to know the day and time of His appearing on the Mount of Olives, and all the accompanying signs which are supposed to take place before this happens have become an obsession, taking away from the believer the knowledge and purpose of His indwelling spiritual presence.  “And because you are sons, Elohim has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:6). “For as many as are led by the Spirit of Elohim, these are sons of Elohim. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption [Spirit of Yeshua] by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’" (Romans 8:14-15).  Paul again stresses the meaning of “Christ” or “anointing” in the following statement:   “For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Yeshua the Messiah” (Philippians 1:19 emphasis added).  
Much of the strife and contention that is rife among believers, as well as personal inner conflicts, actually originate from an “anti-Christ” spirit which is working in their bodily ‘mishkan’, that being so because they are  blinded to Yeshua’s presence in them (read 1 John 2:18-29; 1 John 4:2-4).  The evidence of His indwelling Spirit is the manifestation of Elohim’s righteousness and our love one for another.  Yeshua makes several emphatic exhortations in regards to being watchful and preparing for His coming (e.g. Matthew 25:1 ff.), but none of those point to end time determinations or calculations.

So let us ask ourselves: Which is more important, to prepare for His coming so that His “perousia” presence in us will be revealed more and more, or to try and calculate and busy ourselves with endless end time predictions, especially when the latter is at the expense of the former?

Personally let me say that it has not been easy writing this, but since this issue has been weighing heavily on my heart, I felt that it had to come to the light, particularly as it seems to be a distraction taking away from the most weighty matter, which is “the Spirit of Yeshua in us the hope of glory” – to be displayed and made manifest in a most real and authentic way as a witness to the reality of our Creator “Father” and His more-abundant life.

The verb used in many of Yeshua’ references to His “return” is “erchomai” – arrival, whereas in 2nd Thessalonians Paul uses “parousia” – the Presence (shekina), being also the term found in the disciples’ question in Matthew 24:3

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Servant Priesthood

“YHVH sent a word into Ya’acov and it fell on Israel, and all peoples know it” (Isa. 9:8-9). Although this scripture is interposed in a negative context, its truth is doubtlessly applicable to everything that YHVH ever spoke to our forefathers. In spite of the fact that His word was imparted to them thousands of years ago, a historical perspective, as well as present day reality, both reveal that, “His word has fallen on the entire nation of Israel as a testimony to all peoples”.  Historically YHVH divided the Israelite nation into two, Judah and Joseph/Ephraim.  This in order that He would have two witness nations for a time, until He would join them again in His hand and in the land (see Ezekiel 37:19-21).

One of the many roles that Israel plays in being a witness nation. Is that of YHVH’s priesthood.  One of the “words which fell on Israel”, is, ”to be a kingdom of priests” (Ex 19:6). However, this proclamation may be read in a number of ways. The Hebrew word used in this text for “kingdom” is “mamlacha”, which can mean “priests who are under a kingly authority”, or “priests who themselves have dominion, sovereignty or royalty”. The Apostle Peter, in his letter addressing “the aliens scattered abroad” within the Gentile nations, refers to his addressees as “a royal priesthood and a set apart nation” (1 Pet. 2:9).  The noun “aliens”, or “strangers”, is translated from the Greek word, “parepidemos” which literally means “a people living alongside the heathens” (ref. 1 Pet. 1:1). It behooves us to ask, then, whom is Peter referring to? Who was the nation that was not residing on its own real-a-state?  It appears then that the Apostle is writing to Israelites who are not in their own land, but are scattered among the other nations.

Peter continues to identify these people by quoting the prophet Hosea. He addresses those he is writing to as “not My people”, being a reference to Israel of the House of Ephraim, or Yoseph (Hos. 1:10).  He goes on to say that through the redemptive work of the Messiah they are now “a royal priesthood”.  But as we know, Levi was the tribe that was selected temporarily to serve the Tabernacle and Aaron their firstborn maintained the priesthood. However, it is not that priesthood that Peter is referring to as fulfilling the divine call conferred upon the nation as a whole (ref. Ex. 19:6). Hosea already hints at this priesthood when he says to Ephraim: "Hear this, O priests! Take heed, O house of Israel! Give ear, O house of the king! For yours is the judgment…though I rebuke them all. I know Ephraim, and Israel is not hidden from Me; for now, O Ephraim, you commit harlotry; Israel is defiled” (Hos.5:1-3). Why did YHVH refer to Israel (Ephraim) as a “priest”?

There was a priestly office in Israel before the Torah was given, other than the Levitical one, which is mentioned shortly before the latter order came into being.   In Exodus 19, which is one of the most dramatic chapters in the entire bible, Israel, YHVH’s national first born, arrives at the mountain of His presence in the third month. “I bore you on eagles wings and brought you to Myself” (Ex 19:4), is YHVH’s description of that part of their journey. He then goes on, elaborating on the special status they are to have among all the other nations.  And although all the earth was and is YHVH’s, these children or seed of Ya’acov were to belong to Him as His special treasure, or possession, and thus were not “their own”. Immediately following these declarations, YHVH identifies them as “a kingdom of priests”

Before YHVH descended upon the mountain in the cloud and fire, He gave orders for the consecration of the people, so as to enable them to stand before Him and hear His voice indicating their priestly role. When all of this is said and done, the people gather on the third day around the mountain, which YHVH had warned them not to touch. But they were to be present there, before Him, in order to hear His Word. One of the conditions for becoming YHVH’s kingdom of priests was to “obey His voice and keep covenant” (Ex. 19:5).

Because of man’s inherent weakness and tendency to worship that which he sees with His eyes and touches with his hands, YHVH had to send Moshe down the mountain a second time to warn the people not to touch the mountain, or break through the set boundary.  At this point YHVH commands Moshe to go down and to tell the priests to consecrate themselves (ref. Ex 19:22), repeating this charge twice. "Away! Get down and then come up, you and Aaron with you. But do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to YHVH, lest He break out against them" (Ex. 19:24).

Who are these pre-Levitical priests?  Let us take a look at the ordination of the Levites. "Now behold, I Myself have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of every firstborn who opens the womb among the children of Israel. Therefore the Levites shall be Mine” (Num. 3:12). The Levites had replaced the firstborn’s position and role as priest. However not all Levites were to be the priest, only Aaron (the firstborn in Levi).  What made YHVH change the priesthood.  As is noted it occurred almost immediately after the Torah was given.
So with the coming of the Torah of Sinai, something changed in the heart of the people.  Paul in his commentary to the believers in Rome, he explains what happened.     Therefore by the deeds of the Torah no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the Torah came the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20).  With the conviction of sin and its results “death” and separation from a Holy Elohim and Father.  YHVH immediately gave Moses the Mishkan and an officiating priesthood to this day in the Nation of Judah.  However, with the New or renewed Covenant, YHVH through the death of Israel’s Messiah Yeshua gave to not just Israel, but for all the Adamic family a future and a hope.  

Let us venture back now to the day on which YHVH took the sons of Israel out of Egypt. One of the first things that He did was to take the first fruit unto Himself.  "Consecrate to Me all the firstborn, whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and beast; it is Mine." (Exodus 13:2).  These firstborn of man and beast did not belong to themselves, rather they were YHVH’s for His purposes. These were the priests and the animals that were set aside, or separated, holy unto YHVH.

By scriptural definition a priest is a firstborn who does not belong to himself; he is YHVH’s special treasure and possession through whom YHVH will do His work.

After Messiah fulfilled His redemptive role as the Lamb that takes away the sin of the Cosmos (the present sin and death world in humanity), YHVH, in the form of the Holy Spirit, began to draw out of the progeny of Avraham a first fruit of the New Cosmic order (ref. Rom. 4:16; James 1:1,18, Heb 2:16). Ever since the initial outpouring upon the disciples on the Feast of Shavuot –Pentecost - in the third month, He has been germinating a remnant of the Abrahamic seed, which is to grow and become an expression of a Servant Priesthood after the Order of Malchizedec.  “To Him (Yeshua our high priest), who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and made us kings and priests to His Elohim and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Rev.1:5-6).

Ephraim


Friday, November 4, 2016

Overview of the Second Bney Yosef National Congress

Overview of the Second Bney Yosef National Congress

The dedication of the First Temple in Jerusalem took place on the 7th month, during Succot, and beyond, with additional seven days of celebration (ref. 1 Kings 8:65, 66). Similarly, the celebration of Succot was restored in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, but following that celebration, on the 24th day of the 7th month the returning remnant from Babylon donned sackcloth and ashes and took stock of their disobedience to YHVH and His Torah (ref. Nehemiah 8:16 ff).

These two monumental events in the lives of our forefathers were echoed in some small way in the 2nd Bney Yosef National Congress which commenced immediately after Succot (on the 24th day of the 7th month), on the hills of Ephraim in the town of Ariel. Yes, the event was almost an overflow of the joy of the Feast, and went on for the next 5 days. Yet, it was also a time of humbling and repentance for the Israelite family gathered from 14 countries; from as far as the islands of Indonesia and Fiji, to the southern tip of Africa and all the way to North and South America and other continents and countries in between. Fourteen representatives gave brief reports on their countries of origin, and thus we were privileged to meet and hear from lesser known people groups, such as an Australian Aboriginal lady, Indonesian Papuans, and a Peruvian sister, not to mention videos and reports from Uganda, Pakistan, Finland (whose representatives were not able to attend this time), Mizoram and Kashmir in India, and some relevant historical data regarding China and Myanmar (Burma). However, we were exhorted by the moderator of the Congress to drop the ‘hyphen’ from our national description. In other words, we were not to see ourselves as Indonesian-Israelites, South-African-Israelites, Swiss-Israelites etc. but rather as all belonging to the one nation Israel, irrespective of current national origin.

This family reunion required of us to stretch the tent pegs of our hearts and minds in order to encompass our brothers and sisters whose culture, mentality, language, customs etc. were vastly different from ours.  “How does a global family walk together as one?” was one of the last subjects addressed and discussed. What are some of the prejudices we still cling to and how do we get rid of them? In order to get to our desired destination we had to trace the steps of our people by examining their/our history, and its defining moments. We also had to ask ourselves how those defining moments may define our present and future. This session led to a deep time of collective repentance, following a survey which probed deeply into some of the origins of Israel’s sinful ‘tendencies’.  Later we learnt that as repentant Israelites, the Gospel’s accomplishments are fully available to us if we only make ourselves ‘available’ (open and receptive) to It’s benefits.

The magnificent Presence of the Almighty during the periods of worship, led to impromptu prayers even during these times, with His spotlight shinning brightly into the recesses of the hearts, there to touch each of us at the core. The historical process of YHVH’s relationship with Israel, as His Bride, was well demonstrated by a two part ‘epiphanic’ dance of two brides; each looking for her Messiah in her own way, while at the same time the one (the ‘church’) tries to coerce the other (Judah) to become like her. The beautiful reconciliation of the two demonstrated a glorious oneness with the emergence of a single, ‘golden’, bride. The participation of several from Judah during the Congress, and especially our beloved Hanoch, and several more visiting and having meaningful dialogs (on the last day), signals the hope that the day of union is already in the foreseeable future.

The second part of the dance, performed at the going out of Shabbat, demonstrated both the wedding and the coming down of the heavenly Jerusalem, now in the form of an open Hupa that until then was covered up. This expression of the wedding feast and union with the Bridegroom, followed in the footsteps of Shabbat’s presentation on the man-woman/husband-wife relationship.  Here we had more than a teaching. The Spirit was seeking to convey to us the intimacy that we have (or ought to have) with our Bridegroom, and hence, for the married couples, with one another as husband and wife. An opportunity was given for a time of restoration of relationships, of rekindling the love – the Hupa was made available for individuals and couples to go in and rededicate themselves, and even seal it off with wine and bread. “Dance with Me Oh Lover of My Soul” was sung and played as a very appropriate finale, especially when it was repeated the next night, upon the closing of the Congress, at which time most of the couples took the opportunity to ‘apply’ the heart’s lesson of intimacy and closeness of “bride” and “groom”, as they danced with each other being locked in an embrace of arms or eyes.

And as if that were not enough, another ‘cherry’ on our ‘wedding cake’ was ending the hotel’s Biblical Gardens tour by the Mishkan replica, where an awesome sense of worship enveloped all.

We stand in awe at how the Spirit directed and led both the planning of the Congress, and then the procedures during the event. It was nothing short of our Bridegroom’s wooing His Bride (His Israelite family) to follow after Him, AND also to meet Him unashamedly eye to eye, as He is retracing our steps back to the Garden of His delight, whether it be in our hearts and/or in our relationships, while our task is to "prepare the way of YHVH; Make straight in the desert a highway for our Elohim” (Isaiah 4:3).



Friday, October 14, 2016

Succot's Seventh Day Mystery

Have you every wondered why Succot’s seventh day is not a day of rest, while ‘Shmini Atzeret,’ (Eighth Day) the day that follows the Feast, is a Shabbton which seems to be actually separate from the seven days of the Feast. “Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of YHVH for seven days; on the first day there shall be a sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a sabbath-rest” (Leviticus 23:39).  Why, contrary to Pesach for example, is Succot’s seventh day not a Shabbaton?   As the feast days are prophetic of things yet to come, (see Colossians 2:17) Succot, being the last mo’ed, is symbolic of the Last Days and it therefore behooves us to seek YHVH for a clearer understanding of this Shabbaton discrepancy.  The answer to this question may also give us a better handle on the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel and the millennial reign of Messiah.

The Israelites were commanded to live in a “succah” for seven days.  What does the succah represent?   The imagery used in Psalm 139:13, as applied to us, humans, may help us discover the meaning of the “succah”: “You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb.”  The Hebrew term which is used for “covered” (“te’sukeni”) in this instance is more like “you have made a succah of me,” that is, ‘You formed me as an outwardly temporary dwelling.’  If we take this idea one step further, adding it to Succot’s seven days, “You shall dwell in succahs for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in succahs” (Leviticus 23:42), it could imply that man was destined to live in his succah - “flesh body” - for seven days. Bearing in mind the concept of a day being as a thousand years (ref 2 Peter 3:8), what would the seventh day, and then the eighth, represent?

As pointed out above, if we are still in our ‘temporary dwellings’ on the seventh day of Succot, then 1 Corinthians 15:51-57 (“But we shall all be changed --  in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet... death is swallowed up in victory”), for example, would not be applicable. If we are still in our flesh bodies, then death has not yet been swallowed up.  So how are we to view Succot’s seventh day? Could it represent the Millennial Kingdom, when Yeshua the Messiah of Israel will rule the nations with a rod of iron (Revelation 19:15) through the united House of Jacob and set up His everlasting Kingdom for a thousand years?   

As we know, Elohim declared the seventh day of Creation to be a day of rest. It may be assumed that when creation (all that has been created) comes to its full rest then, Yeshua and the Father also cease from all their work. Yeshua, however, pointed out that He and the Father are (presently) at work (ref. John 5:17).  This would indicate that we are still in the sixth day of Creation.  But if that is the case, with Adam having been around for over 5777 years (according to the Jewish calendar, so what does that say about the sixth day?  We must conclude, therefore, that there are seven thousand-year ‘eras’ within the sixth day of Creation, which means that the seventh millennium is just ahead of us.  If that indeed is so, it would explain why the seventh day of Succot is not a rest day, as Yeshua and the Father will still be working during the seventh millennium, which is within the sixth day (of Creation). 


To reiterate: If we look at the seven days of Succot from the perspective of “a day is as a thousand years,” then Messiah’s millennial reign would start in the last day, or in the seventh millennium of the sixth day of Creation, which would not be a rest day. Thus the Father and Son will complete their work through the restored nation of Israel, and bring all things into subjection to Messiah’s dominion.  Therefore, like Succot’s seventh day, it will not be a day of rest. The following day, however, called the Eighth Day, is a Shabbaton and would actually represent, or be the fulfillment of the seventh day of Creation (the “Shabbat”). It is on that day that Yeshua will return everything back to the Father.  How will He do this?  As the High Priest He must offer up this present creation as a burnt offering.  “But the day of YHVH will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up" (2 Peter 3:10). Thus on the eighth day we will see the fulfillment of the following scripture "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind" (Isaiah 65:17). 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Gather or Scatter


Shalom Fellow Israelite,

That Scriptures’ quality of freshness never ceases to amaze me.  Their timelessness, just like that of their author’s, is full of life’s beauty.   Regardless of the number of times read, there is always something hidden within its pages waiting to be revealed or understood in a different way, depending on what the Spirit of the Word (Yeshua) happens to be enlightening to the heart at a particular moment. 

One such passage hidden in the pages of a “minor prophet” suddenly became “major” for this time:

“The one who scatters has come up against you. Man the fortress, watch the road; strengthen your back, summon all your strength.  For YHVH will restore the splendor of Jacob like the splendor of Israel, even though devastators have devastated them and destroyed their vine branches” (Nahum 2: 1-2).

For thousands of years the heartland of Israel, Samaria, testified to the reality of the devastation of its inhabitants and of the destruction of their vineyards.   But today there is a different reality that stretches across the hills of Menashe and Ephraim.  The vineyards are back and the farmers are on the mountains again gathering the grapes at the time of the Fall harvest and feasts. 

As we know, the scriptures have a very literal meaning, but not without a spiritual counterpart.  The words may have a message for us individually, and/or corporately.  The above word from Nahum, spoke to me a warning, namely that when YHVH is in a season of restoring and gathering His people, the enemy will work in opposition, in order to scatter them or keep them scattered.  We can see this very plainly in the recent history of the house of Judah (the Jews).   The Hebrew Roots Movement within the Christian world is YHVH’s declaration that He is gathering the House of Joseph while turning them back to their forefathers (see Malachi 4:6), and writing the Torah on their hearts (see Jeremiah 31:33).   However, the scatterer has been working overtime to prevent this ingathering from taking place.  Yeshua warned:  “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters”.  

Some of those causes for scattering and shattering are enumerated by Paul in his warnings to the congregations, and they are:  pride, jealousy, envy, strife, and contention, fear etc., all of which are contrary to “love”, and could result in maintaining and even adding to the devastation.  Therefore encouragement is a much needed commodity. So, with this in mind, I would like to rephrase Nahum’s words:   

Even though devastators have devastated us and destroyed our vine branches, YHVH is restoring the splendor of Jacob and the splendor of Israel. However, the one who scatters has come up against us. Therefore man the fortress, watch the road; strengthen your back, summon all your strength.   

Yom T’ruah is coming soon. May we hear the same clear sound of the T’ruah that our ancestors heard as they/we stood before the burning mountain in the Sinai desert.

Shabbat Shalom,


Ephraim