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House of Issachar – High Days & Holy Days

House of Issachar – High Days & Holy Days

We all know that our English word Holiday was originally a ‘holy day’; but what, or rather who, made one day more special or set apart than another? – Holidays…

House of Issachar – High Days & Holy Days

House of Issachar

the tribes gathering to feast
the tribes gathering to feast
the tribes gathering to feast

We all know that our English word Holiday was originally a ‘holy day’; but what, or rather who, made one day more special or set apart than another?

Holidays were in fact God’s idea.  He created all that we know in 6 days, and then He ceased from work Genesis 2:1-2

“And so the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their heavenly lights. By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because on it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.”

God did not need to rest, but He chose to do so; and He included this advice to Moses at Mount Sinai when He said “Remember day 7 and set it apart as holy”, and then in Leviticus 23, Moses recorded that Day 7 – the Shabbat, from Sheba, the Hebrew word meaning ‘seven’ – would be a special holy feast day.  God told Moses to earmark the day on his calendar as special, along with certain days that were significant on God’s calendar.

We all have dates that are special to us in our calendars – birthdays and anniversaries which we pencil into our diaries and try to avoid unnecessary work so that we can celebrate and spend time with those we love.  God’s calendar is no different – though Moses would have had no idea at that time of the significance of those particular days and festivals in world history when he repeated the instructions to God’s people.

Leviticus 23 contains all of the relevant details of the Feasts of the LORD, and it is important to note that these were, and are, the Feasts of the LORD – not simply the Feasts of the Jews, or the Feasts of Moses – they were decreed to be Feasts of the LORD for all time!

Leviticus 23:4 “These appointed times/feasts/Moedim of Yahweh (are) holy/sacred assemblies that you shall proclaim at the appointed times/Moedim”

Leviticus 23:14 “… it shall be an enactment/a statute forever”.

This same phrase ‘huqqat owlam’ – ‘a statute forever’ is repeated in verses 14, 21 and 31 of Leviticus 23.

 

Why do we put dates in our calendars?  Either to remember and commemorate something special such as a birthday or anniversary – or because we have an appointment and plans that we do not want to miss.  The Feasts of the LORD are no different.  It may seem strange at first, but these special holy days – and several of them were week long events, would mark out God’s redemptive plan throughout the generations and the plan is still to fully unfold on the world stage.  For more than 1700 years, since the rule of Emperor Constantine in Rome, the Church has tried to dissociate itself from its Jewish roots, and over time, the Jews have created many additional fast and feast days, but the truth remains that the 7 feasts listed in Leviticus 23, along with the weekly 7th day – are special times, set apart on God’s calendar, for believers to take time away from work, to eat together, and observe God’s redemptive plan as it unfolds.

Generally speaking, the Feasts can be understood as the spring feasts of: Passover, Unleavened Bread and First Fruits which all take place within a week of each other.  Fifty days after the First Fruit offering was made there would be another feast – known as the Feast of Weeks or Shavuot which did not have a specific name in Leviticus 23, but it would become the date when God revealed His glory and truth to the people at Mount Sinai as He instructed them in how they should live.  The Greek word for ‘fifty’ is ‘Pente’ and Shavuot became known as Pentecost in the Greek speaking world.  We often speak of Pentecost as though it began when the tongues of fire descended upon the believers, however Pentecost was the name that Greek speaking Jews would use to describe a Feast that had been celebrated since the time of Moses, and that was the very reason the believers ‘happened’ to be in Jerusalem to experience this incredible phenomena. Acts 2:1-3

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.  And suddenly a noise like a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.  And tongues that looked like fire appeared to them,  distributing themselves, and a tongue rested on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with different tongues, as the Spirit was giving them the ability to speak out.”

Pentecost does not mean ‘the day the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit’ – Pentecost means ‘fifty’ – as in the 7 weeks plus 1 day after the Feast of First Fruits when those observing the Feasts of the LORD would gather to see what He would reveal concerning His redemption plan!

The final 3 Feasts occur in the autumn and they are Yom Teruah, which is the Feast of Trumpets, the 10 Days of Awe culminating in Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) and the Feast of Tabernacles which is known as Sukkot in Hebrew.

 

Since Passover begins on the evening of Monday 22nd April 2024 I would like to spend some time demonstrating the significance of this annual Feast as it will help us understand the notion that certain days are more important or holy than others.  Our western mindsets are so focussed on an alternative calendar based around the ‘holy days’ of Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday that we can easily miss the specific Feasts of the LORD recorded in the New Testament.

John 12:1-13

“Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.  So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial.  For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.  So the chief priests (that’s the corrupt inner circle of the Sanhedrin) made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.  The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”

The bold highlight is mine, but John was equally clear in highlighting that six days before Passover, Mary anointed Jesus with oil at Bethany and on the following day Jesus entered Jerusalem, along with Lazarus who had been raised from the dead, and the disciples – five days before Passover.

There are several key points that I would like to address:

  1. Why was the timing significant?
  2. Why was Jesus riding on a donkey?
  3. Why did Jesus cleanse the Temple before Passover?

 

According to Torah, lamb selection day was 5 days before the Passover and families would choose their lamb for the Passover sacrifice on this very day – see Exodus 12:1-13.  According to John’s account as we have just read, it was 5 days before the Passover as Jesus entered Jerusalem, and God the Father made a choice for His sacrificial lamb!

Questions 2 and 3 will take a little more time to explain.

The phrase ‘on a donkey’ is not as common as you might expect to find in the Bible!   The expression is found only once within the Torah – and that is in the book of Exodus 4:20 – just after Moses had his encounter with God at the burning bush.

Exodus 4:19…

Now the LORD God has said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who sought to kill you are dead” (bearing in mind Moses had fled Egypt after killing an Egyptian guard and he had been a shepherd for the past 40 years – so it was time now for Moses to return and lead his people to freedom).  Exodus 4:20 “So Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey, and headed back to Egypt.  And he took the staff of God (which represented his authority and his anointing) in his hand.

When Moses returned to Egypt, he asked Pharaoh to let God’s people go.  We are familiar with the Ten Plagues culminating in the Plague of the First Born when first born sons would escape death if an unblemished male lamb was sacrificed and its blood was daubed on the sides and top of the doorframe.

There was always a heightened expectation that a 2nd Moses would come to free the people from captivity at Passover.  Moses had returned to Egypt from exile riding on a donkey so it had become an annual tradition to tie up a donkey at one of the gates in the expectation that the Messiah would arrive and have need of it!   Just as Moses, the first Messiah had arrived in Egypt riding on a donkey, Jesus would enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey, a humble righteous anointed king, a chosen Lamb.  Incidentally, Moses, or Mosheh as he is called in Hebrew, shares the same root as Ha Moshiach – The Messiah, as Jesus/Yeshua is known in Hebrew, Yeshua Ha Moshiach: Yeshua = ‘Yah saves’; and Ha Moshiach = the Anointed One.

The chief priests were not happy, and they had good reason to be concerned.  Upon entering the city of Jerusalem, Jesus headed straight for the Temple!

Have you ever thought about why Jesus thought that the week before Passover was the appropriate time to cleanse the Temple?  Matthew, Mark and Luke all record that Jesus emptied the Temple courts after His triumphant entry into Jerusalem.  It was one of His last acts before the eventful night in the Garden of Gethsemane – in fact only one miracle is recorded after the cleansing of the Temple and that was the healing of the centurion’s ear which took place there on the Mount of Olives.

Matthew 21:9-12  “The crowds that went ahead of Him and those that followed were shouting “Hosha-na to the Son of David.  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD.  Hosha-na in the highest!’  When Jesus had entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?’ The crowds replied, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee”.  Then Jesus entered the Temple Courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there.  He overturned the tables of the money changers and those selling doves.  And He declared to them, “It is written, my house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers!”.

John, however, records in chapter 2 that at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry a similar cleansing took place straight after water was turned into wine at Cana in Galilee, John 2:11-16

“This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and revealed His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.  After this He went down to Capernaum, He and His mother, and His brothers and His disciples; and they stayed there a few days. The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And within the temple grounds He found those who were selling oxen, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. And He made a whip of cords, and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables;  and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away from here; stop making My Father’s house a place of business!”

Essentially we have:

1st miracle – at Cana in Galilee, closely followed by the cleansing of the Temple on the week before Passover – as recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke.

The 2nd cleansing of the Temple on the week before Passover, as recorded by John, followed by the final miracle in the Garden of Gethsemane.

We can see a pattern developing – but why here at the Temple, and why now on the week before Passover?

The Jewish people understood the significance of the annual calendar and the Feasts of the Lord that have been long-forgotten by His Bride, the Church.  Until the Bride is waiting expectantly, aware of the significance of dates in God’s calendar, she is like the unwise virgins who knew that the Groom would return for His Bride but they had neglected the preparation of their oil lamps so that they could greet Him.

To this day, the first 5 books of the Old Testament, the books which are known as Torah because they contain all of God’s instructions and guidelines for His people, are read publicly every year.  The Torah is divided into weekly passages that are known as Parasha, and every year the same Parasha is read at Passover, and then the following chapter is read every year on the week after Passover etc.

This week is the week before Passover and it is known as Shabbat HaGadol – meaning the Great Sabbath, and a certain passage from Leviticus is read.  It would have been the exact same passage that would have been read the week when Jesus performed His first miracle at Cana before entering Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, and it would have been ringing in the ears of the chief priests too as Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time three years later.

Leviticus 14

“The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “When you enter the land of Canaan (that is Israel), which I am giving you as your possession – if you find mould…..the owner of the house must go and tell the priest “I have seen something that looks like mildew in my house.  The priest is to order the house to be emptied before he goes in to examine the mildew, so that nothing in the house will be pronounced unclean.  After this the priest is to go in and inspect the house…. On the seventh day the priest shall return to inspect the house.  If the mildew has spread on the walls, he is to order that the contaminated stones be torn out….Then they are to take other stones to replace these and take new clay and plaster the house.  If the mildew reappears after the stones have been torn out and the house scraped and plastered, the priest is to go in and examine it and, if the mildew has spread in the house, it is a destructive mildew; the house is unclean.  It must be torn down!”

God had decreed in the Book Of Leviticus that if a house had disease in its very walls, then a priest must come and empty the house, examine the disease and ensure that contaminated stones are removed and replaced.  If the disease reappears the priest must return, declare the house to be unclean and see that it is torn down!  How much more for the House of God!

This instruction was not an obscure detail that fitted the story – every Jew in Jerusalem would have been within earshot of this Torah reading and those within the Temple courts would have been in no doubt that Jesus was declaring judgement on the chief priests and elders responsible for permitting the corruption and disease within the Temple walls!  God is a gracious God and for a further 37 years the Temple remained standing before being destroyed in AD 70.  For 37 years large numbers of Jews recognised Jesus as the long awaited Messiah, while others continued to make their own sacrifices at the Temple.  AD 70 the Temple was destroyed and for almost 2000 years there has been nowhere suitable for Jews to make their sacrifices – but Jesus was the perfect sinless spotless sacrifice.

I don’t believe that it is just an interesting story – God cares about the appointed times and seasons within His calendar.  They are a focal point to remember and celebrate God’s faithfulness, but they also point us towards future events that are unfolding before us.  They are dates with significance, and times for Gods people to come together and lean in to see what God is doing.  We can continue to celebrate chocolate eggs and colourful bunny costumes, or we can take our place and be history makers for the Kingdom.

Written By Roz Mitchell…(Rooted and Grounded Ministry)

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The true meaning of ‘Torah’ is something which is rarely talked about in our modern day churches.  As the Apostle Paul said “we are no longer under the Law” but…

Issachar – The Torah Tribe? by Roz Mitchell

House of Issachar

The hands of God...

The true meaning of ‘Torah’ is something which is rarely talked about in our modern day churches.  As the Apostle Paul said “we are no longer under the Law” but did he mean that we are now free to be ‘lawless’?  Did the God of the Old Testament decide to abandon Plan A when he sent Yeshua to fulfil the ‘Law’?  Let’s look at the evidence with some fresh eyes?

 

Issachar was known as the ‘Torah Tribe’ and we probably imagine that they wore black and refused to do anything fun – other than reminding everyone of what they were doing wrong!  Please do not be offended – I am not trying to be deliberately facetious; I am simply trying to stir up our thoughts.  Issachar is one of our ‘Tribes’ or ‘Houses’ and it is good for us all to ‘get’ what makes each Tribe uniquely different so that we can appreciate what each brings to the table.

 

Hopefully, by the time you have read this article, we will have been able to address 3 important areas that are closely related and I promise this will bring significant revelation to what is largely ignored as too ‘difficult’ a topic to be relevant today:

  • What is the Fear of the Lord?
  • Why was it wrong to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil?
  • What does the original version of the Torah say?

We will begin with the ‘Hand of God’.  I’ve never watched a football match but the world sat up and took notice in 1986 when Diego Maradona scored an ‘impossible’ goal in the quarter finals of the FIFA World Cup.  With the benefit of hindsight, and some fairly grainy camera footage we can now see that as Maradona jumped to head the ball his right hand also directed it into the net.  None of the referees were in a position to confirm a penalty so the goal was allowed and after the match Maradona boldly stated “it was a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the Hand of God!”  Incidentally, the No.10 shirt that Maradona wore was swapped with England midfielder Steve Hodge following the match and sold at auction in 2022 for £7.1 M!

 

How would you have felt on that day?  Elation, if you were on the Argentinian side at the divine intervention of God!  Or frustration, if you were an England supporter, and indignance at the injustice that God would turn the ‘fate’ of the match in Argentina’s favour?  If a ‘hand’ ball should have been disallowed, then God’s hand should have been disqualified too!

 

What is the ‘Hand of God’?  If you were into astrology then you might be familiar with the expression ‘Yod’ which they believe to be the ‘Finger of God’ – or ‘Finger of Fate’ to those unwilling to recognise a Supreme Being.  In Exodus 8 we read that when the 3rd Plague struck the land and Egypt struggled with the biting insect infestation, Pharaoh summoned his magicians to replicate the plague, thereby proving that it was all ‘smoke and mirrors’.  Exodus 8:19 the magicians held up their hands in defeat and said ‘This is the finger of God!’ but Pharaoh remained stubborn.

 

Yod is not an astrological word – it is actually the Hebrew word for the hand.   The hand is an important concept, hence there are several words found in Biblical Hebrew and they each symbolise something quite unique:

Yod = the hand (often referring to the hand of God)

Kaph = the palm (usually of man, expressing availability/vulnerability)

Etsba = finger

Yamin = right hand (as in Benyamin/Benjamin = son of my right hand)

Semol = left hand

 

We too, in the UK, equate the right hand with greetings, for example, we shake or salute with the right hand.  Engagement and wedding rings are worn on the left hand, here too, as the left hand is believed to be closer to the heart.  In Poland, and other countries, the wedding ring is worn on the right hand and then moved to the left following the death of a spouse.

 

The right hand is a very important biblical concept.  Ben-Yamin, son of my right hand, was Jacob’s right-hand man in old age.  He could be relied upon to do the ‘right’ thing at the ‘right’ time.  In the New Testament Jesus described how ‘sheep’ would be positioned on the right hand of the Father and ‘goats’ on the left.

 

Sheep follow the Shepherd; goats do their own thing!  Sheep know the voice of the Shepherd; goats have their own agenda.  Goats may appear to follow the Shepherd for a time because they can see that he is leading the flock towards good pasture but there is no commitment or submission to the Shepherd.  Breeds of goat in the UK are fairly distinguishable but in many countries it is hard to tell the difference.  I was informed once, by a tour guide, that sheep hold their tails down while goats lift their tails up; but I am no expert!

 

 

Sheep to the right, goats to the left.  God’s right hand is often used as a metaphor for His power extended towards His chosen ones as divine intervention i.e. to provide and protect.

  • The right hand was used to give the special double blessing usually awarded to the firstborn son; which is why Joseph was annoyed that his father, Jacob, gave the double-blessing to his grandson Ephraim instead of his older brother Manasseh ( Genesis 48:17).

  • The right hand is the hand of power: for example, speaking of how Pharaoh’s chariots were destroyed in the Red Sea: Exodus 15:6,12 “Your right hand, Yahweh, has become glorious in power. Your right hand, Yahweh has dashed the enemies in pieces”….”You reached out with Your right hand and the earth swallowed them”.

  • When Aaron and his sons were consecrated as priests (Exodus 29) the blood from the ram that was sacrificed was placed upon the right ear lobes of Aaron and his sons, and on their right hands, and on the toes of the right feet (v20). Similarly, the wave offering included the right thigh of the ram of ordination (v22) (Also see Leviticus 7:32,33, 8:25.26, 9:21).  The right side was often deemed to be the favoured side.

 

  • New Testament – Acts 2:33-35 “Therefore, since He has been exalted at the right hand of God, and has received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, He has poured out this which you both see and hear.  For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: ‘THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD,“SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET.”’

A place of double blessing, a place of power and deliverance.  A place of favour.  This is where Jesus sits at the right hand of God and we can easily miss the nuances without an understanding of the Hebrew concept of the right hand of God.

The Yod is the Hebrew word for a hand, but Yod is also a letter in the Hebrew alphabet and it looks like an apostrophe.  Like a hand reaching down to intervene.

The Hebrew word often used for the ‘Fear of the Lord’ is Yarah and it is derived from the root word YR – which is spelt Yod-Resh.  Hebrew root words ‘contain’ the DNA meaning like building blocks spelling out a message.

Quite simply,

Yod = hand of God or divine intervention

Resh = the head, thoughts, mindset

Together, they mean the intervention of God that impacts the mindset.  To those walking in the ways of the Lord and who have witnessed the goodness of God’s intervention and provision; Yarah will mean ‘respect’, ‘admiration’, ‘awe’.  The terror filled opposite may be equally valid to those who walk according to their own understanding and care less for the Lord as they will become aware of the awesome fear of divine retribution.  Both interpretations are equally valid and give some insight into the expression – ‘the fear of the Lord’.

The word ‘Torah’ is actually derived from this very same root word.  Torah does not mean ‘Law’ – it means ‘instruction’ or ‘teaching’.  The word ‘torah’ is used both of the instruction and guidance given by a parent and the instructions given to Moses on Mt Sinai – there is no difference in the Hebrew.

Proverbs 1:8 “My son hear the instruction of your father and do not forsake the teaching (torah) of your mother”.

Proverbs 6:20,23; “My son keep the command of your father and do not forsake the teaching (torah) of your mother”… “For the command is a lamp and the teaching (torah) a light and reproofs of instruction are  the way of life”.

Inevitably there will come a season when a toddler throws a tantrum refusing to obey the ‘rules’ jeopardising their health and well-being by running onto a busy street, or striking out at their siblings – but it doesn’t mean that the ‘rules’ were bad.  Similarly, a teenager may want to stretch the boundaries by staying out later or having their boyfriend or girlfriend stay over and it may become necessary for the parent/s to ‘lay down the law’ – but it doesn’t mean that the parents were being ‘legalistic’ or harsh.

We are told that Moses spent 40 days up the mountain leaning in to Yahweh, hungry to learn how to lead His people.  We assume that Moses fasted, but we are never told that he deprived his body; indeed he returned for a further 80 days and his face was shining!  We know that our bodies cannot survive even a week without water so Yahweh must have provided for Moses just as He provided manna for 40 years in the wilderness.  God provides and sustains His people.

I believe Moses would be shocked, today, to discover that those incredible months spent with Yahweh when he was coached and instructed by God and given all the answers to how to move forward as the people of God might be ignored and relegated to the back shelf as irrelevant!  To those who had an encounter with God, this instruction, this torah, was precious.  Psalm 19:7, 9, 10:

The laws (torah) of the Lord are perfect, converting the soul.  The testimony of the Lord is pure making wise the simple…. The fear of the Lord is pure enduring forever, the judgements of Yahweh are true and righteous altogether.  More to be desired than gold and fine gold and much sweeter than honey and honeycomb.

Just as the ‘hand of God’ and the ‘fear of the Lord’ can understood very differently, depending on the relationship of the person on the receiving end!  To those who sought to live their lives in relationship with God, as the people of God, God’s instructions were considered a privileged insight into the ways of the Lord.  To those who were only hearing the instructions second-hand as a list of rules and regulations, but without the context of relationship; the Torah was an insurmountable challenge – made worse by centuries of additional manmade laws and clauses!

Ever since the Garden of Eden, there has been a tendency in Man to add to God’s instructions.  Adam was told ‘of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil’ you may not eat or you will surely die.  Eve was then created and she encountered the serpent in the Garden.  We do not know whether Adam ‘elaborated’ on what he had been instructed, or whether Eve ‘exaggerated’ when she told the serpent that if they even ‘touched’ the fruit, but by ‘adding’ to God’s instruction, God was made out to be either a liar, or incapable of carrying out a threat.

Adam may have believed that by adding another layer to the law/instruction that he could prevent either of them from even coming close to crossing over the line and eating the fruit.  Eve may have believed that touching the fruit was as bad as eating of it; but by confusing God’s instruction with a manmade additional clause she believed that the damage was done when she touched the fruit, so what harm in eating of it too!  Like a person who sabotages their healthy eating plan by overly restricting their diet and then recklessly over-eating as they have ‘failed’ to keep their own restrictive law.  God’s laws and instructions were designed to bring health and wholeness to God’s people; with not an extra ‘dot or title’ added by Man.

Knowledge is good, knowledge brings understanding and we value both intellectual knowledge and common knowledge gained from the University of Life.  Knowledge is good, with God in the equation.  On the contrary, knowledge not born out of humility, love nor relationship, will simply cause us to become puffed up with pride, just as it was in the beginning.

We probably might find it easier to explain the issue with eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil if it had simply been the ‘Tree of Evil’!

I love to learn, I love to research and gain understanding, and take me to a bookshop and I am in my element!  So imagine if we could just drink a glass from the font of all knowledge, or eat something which would result in us literally ‘knowing it all’, without any effort or context or hard work!  We would become independent and need no-one to help us, we wouldn’t need to be in relationship with anyone – we would be entirely self-sufficient.  That was the problem!  The knowledge gained from eating the forbidden fruit possibly afforded Adam and Eve the wisdom to live long lives, indeed Adam lived 930 years; but along with a complete download of knowledge concerning ‘good’ and ‘evil’, they would learn that life would never be quite the same again, without God.

Relationship is key to how we ‘fear’ God, how we regard God’s instructions/teaching, and whether we confuse God’s teaching with the vast myriad of additional man-made laws and clauses that have been added to God’s teaching over many thousands of years – since the Garden of Eden, to be precise.

When Paul spoke of being ‘under the Law’ in 1 Corinthians 9:19-21 we possibly overlook the fact that he was well versed in the Law as he was well educated in the extra laws contained within the Talmud and the Midrash which sought to bring enlightenment to the Talmud and the Tanakh (Torah, Prophets and Writings contained within the Old Testament) and countless additional writings not contained within the canon of scripture.  So when Paul spoke of those ‘under the Law’ he was referring to those burdened with all of the additional teachings/torah of man.  He possibly would have also been clarifying that being in a relationship meant that he wasn’t ‘under’ anything – for the laws of the Lord were a pleasure to observe as a wife or husband who loves to serve their spouse.  When Paul encountered God on the Damascus Road he began a journey of realisation that the laws of man, however well meaning, had brought burden and confusion and Jesus had brought the true Torah or Law of God into proper focus when He fulfilled it for 33 years.

Not all of the laws are relevant today, for example, there is no Temple, so we don’t need to worry about observing the sacrificial laws, but we will look next time at aspects of the torah which have been dismissed somewhat prematurely that may well be worth reconsidering.

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House of Issachar

As numerous as the sand

“And Yahweh appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre….. and he lifted his eyes and behold a triad of men were standing by him…. and Yahweh said to Abraham why did Sarah laugh saying truthfully will I be with child when I am old?”.  It is very easy to miss that crucial detail “And Yahweh…” we have become so familiar with older translations which imposed their understanding and theology on Genesis 18 that the sheer magnitude of this event is lost on us as we assume that the Angel of the LORD appeared – but there is no ambiguity in the Hebrew text – Yahweh appeared and conversed with Abraham, just as He would do with Moses at the burning bush.

The Torah portion this week is entitled ‘Vayera’; so named because ‘vayera’ is the first word of the passage that we commonly refer to in English as Genesis 18, with Vayera meaning ‘And he appeared’.

From last week’s reading we know that Yahweh had already appeared to Abraham (Genesis 17) when Abram was 99 years-old and revealed His dream for him that he would become a father of nations and God had initiated His Covenant with Abraham.  The dream and vision were irrefutably God’s – Abraham was grappling to even comprehend how this plan could materialise – even suggesting to God “if only Ishmael were acceptable to you….?!” Genesis 17:18.  But God did not need to have a brainstorming exercise with Abraham in order to come up with a solution!  God had a plan that would gradually unfold for a child to be miraculously conceived, a son who would thrive and grow into a young man, a man who would travel by donkey to Mount Mariah (Jerusalem as it is known today) to be bound and placed on an altar (the Rock which lies behind the Western Wall below the Dome of the Rock), and for God’s merciful redemptive plan to be revealed as a ram caught in a thicket (a ram with a crown of thorns) was sacrificed in Isaac’s place.

The Haftorah weekly portion was 2 Kings 4:1-37 – the Widow’s Oil and then another story of a woman unexpectedly promised a son – a son who would die and then be raised from the dead.  Elijah had wanted to express his thanks for the Shunamite woman’s hospitality and his servant Gehazi had suggested that since the woman had no son and her husband was old they could pray for a son to be born.  Like Sarah, the Shunamite woman was not expecting to be expecting!  2 Kings 4:16 challenging his prophesy with “No, man of God – do not lie to me!”.

There are so many types and shadows contained within these stories and many of them are obvious with the benefit of hindsight to us as we stand on the other side of the most significant event in world history the life and death of Yeshua HaMashiach.  The miraculous birth, the Lamb slain, the crown of thorns, the resurrection to life, but there are more layers of detail often overlooked.

Do we fail to notice the food offered to the LORD by Abraham?  In Genesis 18:6-7 we read that Abraham ran to his herd to catch a calf while Sarah baked fresh bread, and then the following day when two angels entered Lot’s in Sodom, Lot prepared a feast of unleavened bread for them to eat.  Veal and fresh bread from Abraham, flatbread from Lot?  Maybe Abraham could display his wealth more ostentatiously by killing a calf whereas Lot, living in the city of Sodom, had less room for a herd of cattle?  Maybe Abraham was a carnivore and Lot a practicing vegan?  The danger in interpreting biblical events purely from our modern Western perspective is that we often misinterpret important details.

Leviticus chapter 23 contains important instruction on the 7 Feast of the LORD.  The Israelites were told to observe the Feasts, but the Feasts were not the Feasts of the Israelites; they were the Feasts of the LORD!  This may seem a minor detail but if we read through Leviticus 23 we will see that they were Feasts of the LORD – Lev 23:4 “These are the LORD’s appointed feasts, the sacred assemblies you are to proclaim at their appointed times”….(v14) “this is to be a permanent statute for the generations to come” (v14).  The appointed times, or Moedim as they are called in Hebrew, were significant times every year when Yahweh wanted to meet with His people, and God has not changed for He still wants to meet with all of His people on His Feast Days and Sabbaths.

What is particularly significant here, however, is that even prior to the time when Yahweh revealed the times and dates of the Feasts of the LORD to Moses, Yahweh appeared before Abraham (an appointed time of encounter, a Moed) with the calf and bread being offered to Yahweh and then the following day unleavened bread being eaten by Lot and the angels.  Abraham offered a calf on what may well have been the appointed time/date of Pesach and then Lot offered unleavened bread the following day on the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  Indeed we read in Genesis 19:3 that Lot prepared a Feast of Unleavened Bread for the angels.  I am not denying that the Feasts of the LORD were a reminder to Israel of how Yahweh had delivered His people from slavery, but we often miss an even greater plan that was already in place that there were appointed times and seasons which God had ordained for encounter.

But why The Litmus Test? The world seems to be caught up in a whirlwind of chaos and cruelty.  Externally we see confusion and mis-information and it can appear that events are out of control!  Many local businesses were reduced to nothing 3 years ago when Coronavirus impacted the world economy.  Dreams shattered.  Hopes in tatters….

Yes the account of Abraham and Issac and Lot and the Shunamite woman carry a prophetic symbolism of events to come when Yeshua would live and walk on this earth as Immanuel – God with us.  But the nugget of truth that when Yahweh, the LORD has a plan and a purpose it doesn’t matter if the circumstances are not ideal – indeed that is the very time when we will see the miraculous appear!  Neither Sarah nor the Shunamite woman were under any illusion that they would hear the patter of tiny feet – until the LORD’s plans were revealed to them.

Psalm 139:17-18 “How precious are your thoughts (purposes) oh God, how vast in number. If I could count them they would be more numerous than the sand”.  Our thoughts and dreams only succeed when they are in alignment with God’s purposes.  The Litmus Test is whether our dreams are our dreams or are we willing to take the risk and seek God’s dreams for our lives.  In the grand scheme we are small but are invited to be part of that great plan.  Our significance is in Him alone.

The Litmus Test

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Key Passages we were studying were Jeremiah 32 and Joel 2 (we are following the weekly Parashot/passages read by all Jews around the world).  They/we have a hope and expectation…

The Rock, Honey, The Eagle hovers, Living Sacrifice, Atonement and a year of Jubilee  22.09.23 

House of Issachar

Key Passages we were studying were Jeremiah 32 and Joel 2 (we are following the weekly Parashot/passages read by all Jews around the world).  They/we have a hope and expectation to see God move in accordance with the appointed times, the ‘Moedim’. 

Key Themes: 

(i) The Rock 

(ii) Honey 

(iii) The Eagle hovers 

(iii) Living Sacrifice 

(iv) Atonement and a year of Jubilee 

 

(i) The Rock 

Deuteronomy 32:4  

He is the Rock, His work is perfect; and all His ways are just. A God of faithfulness, without injustice, good and upright is He.  (This is the Song of Moses on the day of his death when he knew that he wouldn’t enter the Promised Land yet the song of his heart was that God was the Rock, His work was perfect and all His ways were just). 

God is in the detail – the place on Mount Moriah where Isaac was bound and the ram was sacrificed is the same place where Araunah had his threshing floor that David bought to build the Temple where the Holy of Holies would have been above the Western Wall in Jerusalem where the Dome of the Rock now stands.  The Rock being that place where Yahweh provided the sacrifice. 

The Rock was a place of sacrifice, the rock provided water for the millions of Israelites as they wandered around in the wilderness.  There was honey in The Rock (that was where the bees gathered).  The Rock produced oil as the olives were crushed and wine as the grapes were harvested. 

 

 

(ii) Honey 

Deuteronomy 32:13b “He nourished him with honey from the rock …” 

The Hebrew name for honey is Dabash which is derived from the root word Debar meaning a word from the heart.  A wife might say to her husband “You need to have a ‘word’ with your son!”, or a couple might feel the need to have a ‘deep and meaningful’ conversation.  When we take time to hear what the LORD is saying to us it is like honey.  It revives us. 

Dabar = word from the heart to the heart is spelt 

Daleth (a doorway, an opportunity, a choice) 

Beit (house, tent, the place where we are currently dwelling) 

Resh (our mindset, our thoughts, our thinking process) 

So a Debar conversation is when we allow God to enter into our situation where we are currently dwelling to impact our thoughts. 

Dabash = honey 

Daleth (a doorway, an opportunity, a choice) 

Beit (house, tent, the place where we are currently dwelling) 

Shin (when Shin appears at the end of a word it refers to change and transformation) 

So when David said that the Word (referring to the Torah which is the first 5 Books of the OT which is all that he would have known) “is like honey on my lips” he meant that it was sweet, and palatable but it also brought transformation and change. 

 

 

(iii) The Eagle hovers 

Deuteronomy 32:10-12 “He (Yahweh) found him in a desert land and in the wasteland, a howling wilderness – He encircled him, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye.  As an eagle stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, spreading out its wings, carrying them taking them up on its wings. So Yahweh alone led them and there was no foreign god with them.” 

V10 – the word for a desert or wilderness in Hebrew is Mid-Debar.  Debar is Hebrew for ‘Word’ or ‘a Word to the heart, a word in due season’ so Mid-Debar (desert place or wilderness) literally means ‘in the wilderness’.  Jesus went into the wilderness to spend time with his Father.  The Desert Fathers and the Essenes all went into the word, or into the wilderness place to be alone with the Father. 

V11 – The word “hovers” is  Rakaph and it only appears 3 times in the whole of the Old Testament  ie Genesis 1:2 when the Spirit was hovering over the waters, Deuteronomy 32:11 when God, like an eagle is hovering over the young who are about to learn how to soar, and in Jeremiah 23:9 when Jeremiah could sense his very bones trembling and vibrating at the words of false prophets.  Rakaph is derived from the same root as Kippur (Yom Kippur) which means ‘to cover’ as in the Hebrew letter ‘Kaph’ which is the Hebrew word for the palm of the hand. The Holy Spirit covered the waters as an eagle covers and protects its nest.  Yom Kippur is a time of ‘covering’.  God covers our dept, He protects us, God has this covered! 

  

(iv) Living Sacrifices 

Deuteronomy 32:15 “But Yeshurun (a pet name for Israel meaning ‘upright one’) grew fat and kicked – you grew fat, you grew thick, you grew obese and forsook the God who made you and you were scornful of the Rock of your salvation.” (literally “the tsur/rock of your Yeshua/Jesus/salvation”) 

Isaiah 26:4 “Trust in the LORD forever for the LORD is the eternal rock” 

If we lean on our own resources then we are being scornful of the rock of our salvation (Yeshua).  We must lean on the LORD our rock in order for Him to refine us.  This is a time to lean into Him and to become lean, alert and ready to move as the LORD leads.  This is a time for fasting.  Fasting clears the mind and creates sensitivity to what the Spirit is saying. I must decrease that He may increase…  

Romans 12:1 “Therefore I urge you, brothers, on account of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices…” 

We may think that it doesn’t matter whether we offer our bodies as living sacrifices day in daily or just when the Spirit moves us …. But it does matter! 

Genesis 8:21 “When the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, He said in His heart, “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from his youth.  And never again will I destroy all living creatures as I have done.”  When Noah sacrificed clean animals and birds on the altar it was a pleasing aroma to the LORD.  How much more when we choose to be living sacrifices.  This is a training ground for what is to come in the future! 

 

(v) Yom Kippur and a year of Jubilee 

Joel 2 is all about the arrival of the King “Blow the trumpet in Zion… the LORD utters His voice before His army….. Yom Teruah (the Feast of Trumpets) which we celebrated at the Hub on Saturday.  We are currently in the 10 Days of Awe which culminate on Sunday with Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement).  There is confusion in the churches and among the prophets over whether we are about to enter a year of Jubilee.  Some said it was a Jubilee year 2 years ago while some believe a Jubilee will begin on Sunday 24th September 2023 with Yom Kippur and we do not know with any certainty how it will be calculated but God says “Be ready, be ready in and out of season. Be ready whether you expect a Jubilee year or not, for what use is your release if you continue in bondage!”   

The Rock, Honey, The Eagle hovers, Living Sacrifice, Atonement and a year of Jubilee  22.09.23 

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