Meaning of Christmas

 

I know I am in the minority, but for a number of years, I have struggled with Christmas.

First of all, let us be clear. Jesus was a Torah keeping Jew. There are no ordinances described in scripture for keeping either Christmas or Easter. In fact, both of these Holidays have pagan roots with respect to their origin and traditions. There is an ordinance about keeping Passover, but the church has lost touch with its Hebraic roots, in my opinion.

I have learned that I am not one who easily goes along with traditions without understanding the reasons why we are doing something. I have always needed to know the “why” before I can be onboard.

I have learned that I don’t want to be a “Scrooge,” nor do I want to be negative or critical. However, I do want to be authentic and I do want to be sincere.

Philippians 4:8 teaches us to focus on what is true, what is good, and what is worthy of praise. So does love for that matter.

8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

As I have wrestled this internal conflict this year, I have come to understand that the cross of Christ is the central event of scripture. His supernatural entry into Mary’s virgin womb made a way for that to happen, but this is an entryway into the incarnation of God for humanity and not the culmination of God’s story.

If I can’t give praise for trees, ornaments, gifts, and shopping, what can I give genuine praise about?

I can be thankful that God sent his Son into the world for me. That is the greatest gift I can ever receive. God cared enough to give me the greatest gift of all. The gift of love.

Of course, this gift is not for me alone, but for you, too. Will you discover this gift this year?

John 3:16-17
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

I believe that this is the message we should be focused on. 1 John 4:19 teaches us that we love because He first loved us. In knowing how much we are loved, we will care more for ourselves and for one another.

What could be more important than that?

I don’t know what day of the year, his birth actually fell on, but that isn’t that important when compared to love entering the world in order to redeem it.

If Christmas is to be about anything, I want it to be about being thankful. I want to be thankful for the Father’s gift of life for me. I want Christmas to be a time of reflection and thanksgiving, focused on Jesus. When our focus is there, we can love out of an overflow, not out of meeting or managing the expectations of others.

Take the time to know that you are loved. When you get it, please pay it forward.

Be loved this Christmas…

 

Markers of His Love

 

Isaiah 49:14-16

Zion says, “The LORD has abandoned me;
The Lord has forgotten me!”

“Can a woman forget her nursing child,
or lack compassion for the child of her womb?
Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you.
Look, I have inscribed (H2710)  you on the palms of My hands;
your walls are continually before Me.”

The apostle Paul exhorts us to put on the full armor of God (Eph 6:15).  When I gird my loins with the belt of truth, I remember to thank God for His love and that He will never leave me nor forsake me.  That helps me remember to abide in His love (John 15:9).

In our initial text, Isaiah uses the Hebrew root “Chaqaq,” meaning to inscribe or engrave.  I believe Isaiah is seeing prophetically into the future where Christ would have spikes driven into his hands as marks of His love for us.  Just a few chapters later, Isaiah would prophesy that he would be pierced for our transgressions (Isa 53:5).  The holes in his hands and wound in his side serve as everlasting reminders of His love for us.

Like Thomas in the gospel account of John, many of us doubt the love of God.  We need to have an experience in order to believe in God’s love for us.

John 20:26-28
26 After eight days His disciples were indoors again, and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, “Peace to you!”
27 Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and observe My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Don’t be an unbeliever, but a believer.
28 Thomas responded to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

After Thomas’ experience, Thomas believes in God’s love for Him.  Like Thomas, we doubt the reality of God’s love for us, but the markers in His hands and His side are an everlasting reminder of God’s love.  He died for me in order to bring me home to the heart of God.

Behold the lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:20, Rev 13:8).  In many charismatic circles, there is a preoccupation with the lion of the tribe of Judah.  However, there is only one reference to this lion in the book of Revelation.  Every other reference is to the lamb.  Why?  I believe the lion shows the lineage of Jesus, tying it back to the prophetic word given to Judah in Genesis 49.  The lamb used throughout the book of revelation demonstrates His personal love for me and for you.  In my opinion, That is the more important revelation with the most spiritual weight.

Our flesh wants the heroic lion to represent God; a strong, courageous, majestic king.  The God we need however is and will forevermore be a lamb.  Meek, humble, innocent.  Totally dependent.  Offered up as a sacrifice to take away the sins of the whole world.  All as an expression of His love.

I learned recently that the first occurrence of the word “love” (“ahav” in Hebrew) in the scriptures occurs in Genesis 22:2.  In this text, God is foreshadowing having to give up the only Son that he loves as a love offering. In this love test, Abraham prophetically says that God will provide the lamb for the sacrifice.  Love is revealed.

It is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The end-time plan of God has the lamb as the key symbol in God’s story and plan of redemption.

Revelation 5:6 (HCSB)
Then I saw One like a slaughtered lamb standing between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent into all the earth.

Revelation 7:17 (HCSB)
For the Lamb who is at the center of the throne will shepherd them; He will guide them to springs of living waters, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

Revelation 21:23 (HCSB)
The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because God’s glory illuminates it, and its lamp is the Lamb.

 

I believe the “slaughtered” description is reference to how Jesus died.  The book of Revelation shows us that even in the eternal plan of heaven, Christ’s markers will be a permanent memorial to us that “I love you.”

His side, feet, and hands were all pierced for our transgressions.  These are the everlasting markers of the lamb of God.  These are the markers of His love.

For God so loved the world…

The Sign of Jonah

Luke 11:29-30 (HCSB)
As the crowds were increasing, He began saying: “This generation is an evil generation. It demands a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.
For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation.

One of the things that we often forget is that Yeshua (Jesus), like Jonah, was also a prophet.  Yeshua fulfilled the sign of Jonah.  So what does that mean?  I have been studying the book of Jonah for the past month as part of a Biblical Hebrew course I have been taking.  I have discovered some fascinating symbols in the Hebrew as part of my spiritual journey.

Today, I want to look at the book of Jonah as a typology that Yeshua (Jesus) fulfilled and consider both how the type applies and how the type differs.  Let’s start with the gospel accounts and work backwards into the book of Jonah.

Like all prophets, some of what Yeshua shared was not always popular.

Matthew 12:40-41 (HCSB)
40 For as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.
41 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at Jonah’s proclamation; and look, something greater than Jonah is here!

You are free to disagree with me, but I believe that Yeshua fulfilled the sign of Jonah and was in Sheoul (the place of the dead – the belly of the fish) for three days and three nights before his resurrection (being delivered from the belly of the fish).  Why?  I am more inclined to take Yeshua at his word rather than the traditions of men.  What was Yeshua doing during this time?  In the belly of the fish, Jonah had an opportunity to repent and be saved (delivered).  In like manner, I believe that Yeshua was giving the people who had died before Him a chance to repent and be saved (delivered) (Acts 2:31 – Ephesians 4:8-10).

Now let’s turn to our text in Jonah.  Since this is four chapters of scripture, I will summarize the narrative for you, and draw out key symbols and points as we go.

Jonah was called by God to proclaim a message of repentance to those living in Nineveh, as the evil of the people had risen before the face of God.  Jonah rebelled (transgression) against God’s direction, and went to Joppa to find a ship headed to Tarshish, which was the opposite direction of his calling.

Jonah literally went in the opposite direction (nearly 180 degrees), and headed due West – Tarshish, instead of East – Nineveh.  In Hebrew idioms, East is considered facing front or the direction of the Sun (Son), and West is turning towards death or away from God.  See the map posted below:

Jonah's Journey

Let’s look at some interesting names and symbols in the beginning of the narrative.

Jonah, son of Ammitai

  1. Jonah – “dove” in Hebrew.  This represents his calling (to walk by the spirit) as much as it represented a struggle for him to get there.  The dove was also appointed to be a messenger of peace (shalom).
  2. Ammitai – “My truth” in Hebrew.  Jonah was called to be Fathered by the truth found in the Son of Man (Yeshua), not his own understanding of truth.
  3. Tarshish – while a shipping hub, represented a place of commerce.  This name also has a double meaning of yellow topaz as worn on the breastplate of Aaron and may have represented the familiar and comfortable for Jonah.  An interesting implication for the name seems to be “soul urge.”
  4. Joppa – meant “beautiful.”  This was the place Jonah found a ship to go to Tarshish.  This port town may have represented a ‘gate’ for Jonah and indicated a way of the flesh.  There is a way that seems right to a man but ends in death (Prov 14:12).
  5. Nineveh – capital city of Assyria, a Gentile nation.  while the etymology isn’t clear, the most fitting seems to be from Nuna, house of fish.  Just as Peter was to become a fisher of men, Jonah was to proclaim a message of repentance to the people of Nineveh.

While on his journey, God appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah ended up in the place of the dead – the belly of the fish for three days and nights until Jonah remembered God and repented (Jonah 2:7-10).  God then appointed the fish to deliver him onto dry land (vomited out of Hades, you might say).  Jonah was given a second chance to carry out God’s word and went to Nineveh to deliver the word to the nobles and king.  Much to Jonah’s disappointment, the king subsequently proclaimed a 40-day fast and repentance from evil and violence, not just for the people, but for the livestock too!  When food is withheld from cattle, they will cry out too (moo)!  LOL!  It wasn’t just the people who were crying out to God to save them, but the livestock too! God withheld his judgment towards the city as a result.

There are several verses in Jonah chapter 4 which reveal things about Jonah’s heart and about God’s heart.

Instead of pity towards the people of Nineveh, Jonah has a pity party.  Jonah, clearly doesn’t understand God’s heart towards this Gentile nation.  We don’t know all that was in Jonah’s heart, but we do know that often Assyria was considered to be an enemy of Israel.  Jonah didn’t want this Gentile nation (them) to be saved, but rather wanted them to be judged and destroyed.

Jonah 4:1-3 (HCSB)
1 But Jonah was greatly displeased and became furious.
2 He prayed to the LORD: ‘Please, LORD, isn’t this what I said while I was still in my own country? That’s why I fled toward Tarshish in the first place. I knew that You are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to become angry, rich in faithful love, and One who relents from sending disaster.
3 And now, LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.’

Jonah doesn’t want God to be a God of mercy, but one of judgment.  How often do we see that in today’s so-called prophets and churches? How often do we want God’s judgment towards those we think are our enemies?

Jonah had heard about God’s good nature (revealed to Moses and David – Ex 34:6-8, Ps 103), but didn’t really want to come to know this kind of God, especially towards those who didn’t “deserve” mercy.

John 3:17
17 For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

God transacts a trial for Jonah having to do with a castor-oil plant. Jonah chooses not to repent, but to stay in his attitude of judgment and pride (the flesh) versus choosing God’s way which is the life of the spirit (represented by the “oil plant” placed above him for a time).

Jonah 4:10-11 (HCSB)
10 So the LORD said, ‘You cared about the plant, which you did not labor over and did not grow. It appeared in a night and perished in a night.
11 Should I not care about the great city of Nineveh, which has more than 120,000 people who cannot distinguish between their right and their left, as well as many animals?’

The number 12 is a type which represents the fullness of a people group.  That the king, his nobles, and a town of 120,000 people would all be saved is nothing short of miraculous.
God’s heart was that none would perish, but that all would be saved through him.

  • Unlike Jonah, Yeshua was without sin and always did what pleased His Father out of a relationship of love and unity.
  • Unlike Jonah, Yeshua didn’t need to repent in order to qualify for his resurrection.
  • Unlike Jonah, Yeshua knew the compassion and goodness of God.
  • Unlike Jonah, Yeshua immediately embraced the death of his flesh (not my will) and accepted His cross.

 

  • Like Jonah, Yeshua experienced separation from this world and from God (when he took on our sin).
  • Like Jonah, Yeshua offers a message to the Gentiles for salvation and that the fullness might be saved.
  • Like Jonah, Yeshua witnessed miraculous signs and wonders when he simply did what the Father asked him to do.

Going back to our opening text, the sign of Jonah is really about God making a way of salvation and deliverance for the world (Nineveh).  This opportunity comes through Christ who died on a cross, was swallowed up in death and was raised up to life again after three days and three nights.  There is an invitation to the world to turn from evil and our violent ways and towards Yeshua and His way of love.  While the cross of Christ is offensive and foolishness to some, it is the power of God to save those who believe.

Do you ever wonder if you have avoided the really difficult things we are called to do (our Ninevehs), and instead chosen the ways that are comfortable and prosperous (Tarshish)?  I do.  I work in commerce, and sometimes wonder if I have chosen the way of Tarshish for my life, but I have to trust in the grace of God to both help me in the choosing and to work out the plans that He has prepared for me.

May the grace of God be with you all as you make your choices and help you fulfill all that our divine Conductor has set in motion for you to accomplish.

Your heart in the presence of God (part 5 of 5)

 

Dreams are the language of symbols.  Looking at what symbols might mean in the context of scripture and its Hebraic roots, often reveals interesting insights.

As a recap from part 4, we have been looking at the ark of testimony and the things inside it.   First described in the book of Exodus, the book of Hebrews piques our interest in the ark and suggests that there is symbolic relevance.

Hebrews 9:3-5
3 Behind the second curtain, the tabernacle was called the most holy place.
4 It contained the gold altar of incense and the ark of the covenant, covered with gold on all sides, in which there was a gold jar containing the manna, Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant.
5 The cherubim of glory were above it overshadowing the mercy seat. It is not possible to speak about these things in detail right now.

As I mentioned in the first of the series, I believe that the ark is a metaphor for your heart.

The ark along with your heart were created to bring glory to God and to be pure both inside and out.  The ark was coated with pure gold both inside and covering the ark.  Gold is a symbol representing purity and high value.

Your heart was created to be in the presence of God, 24×7, just like the ark.

The three items inside the ark were the pot of manna, Aaron’s rod, and the tablets of testimony.

In part 2, we established manna as a symbol for faith.
In part 3, we established the rod as a symbol for hope.
In part 4, we established the tablets as a symbol for love.

Faith, hope, and love are what is referred to be a “triad.”
There are a number of interesting triads in the new covenant.  In terms of dream symbols, the number three often represents the holy trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit). Yeshua said “I AM the way, the truth, and the life,” another triad.

I believe many things in the scriptures are intentional and that God knew what he was doing when he established numbers and details.  Yeshua said himself that not one jot or tittle would pass away until everything had been fulfilled.  The elements in the ark form a triad.  Are there other triads in the new covenant that we can connect with the triad in the ark?  I believe there are.

Not to get carried away with it, but there are some interesting symbols in the ancient Hebrew pictographs.  For example, the Hebrew pictograph for Father (“Ab” in Hebrew) is aleph-bet, symbolized by an ox head as a strong leader (aleph), and a house or dwelling place (bet).  The Father was to be a strong leader for His house.  “Coincidentally”, it also happens to be the first Hebrew word in the Strong’s concordance (#1).

אב

I was praying about which pictographs out of the 22 Hebrew letters would best represent faith, hope, and love, and here is what I believe I received.

1.  Faith is best represented by the cross (tav), as this is the truth that will set us free.  In the ancient Hebrew pictographs, the cross was a sign, mark, or memorial.

ת

The cross is a symbol of humility.  God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble.  That is the truth connected to love and life.  It is the secret to every marriage and relationship.

2.  Hope is best represented by the seed (nun), as it correlates to offspring, heir, and sonship.

מ

This also matches very nicely to power and resurrection life. The promise of eternal life gives us hope.  Yeshua is known as the seed of Abraham, producing new life and many sons for its fruit (Rom 4, Gal 4).

3.  Love is best represented by the house (bet), as it represents belonging and being cared for as part of a family.

ב

Love is the way we are called to live our lives.  Love is what will impact others and is eternal.

 

Here are some pairings of triads which you might find interesting…

Faith  <-> Truth <-> Cross  <-> Son              <-> Manna
Hope  <-> Life    <-> Seed    <-> Holy Spirit <-> Rod
Love   <-> Way   <-> House <-> Father         <-> Tablets

See if the Holy Spirit leads you to other triads, i.e., righteousness, peace, and joy.  How do those words connect with the trinity?

It is these things in your heart which bring glory to God.  Faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love.

To return to our original text in Hebrews, the scripture concludes that the old covenant is a shadow of the substance that is fulfilled in Christ.  In fact the thread of the text comes to these conclusions (Hebrews 10:19-24).

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Jesus,
20 by a new and living way He has opened for us through the curtain (that is, His flesh),
21 and since we have a great high priest over the house of God,
22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.
23 Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
24 And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works.

By believing, we have life in His name.  The same power that raised Christ from the dead lives in you, if you have accepted His offer.  It is Christ in you, the hope of glory.  We are called to be like Christ who humbled himself for the sake of love.

To conclude, my encouragement to you is to spend time in the presence of God where your heart can find acceptance, hope, and your faith strengthened.  Every person is uniquely created.  As such, we experience God in different ways.  How can you creatively connect with the presence of God?  Take some time to rest in His presence, reflect, and be loved.  There, your heart will find life.

 

Your heart in the presence of God (part 4 of 5)

Tablets of Testimony

As a recap from part 3, we are looking at what Mosaic covenant symbols might mean in light of a new covenant.  Particularly, I wrote that the ark of the covenant is a metaphor for your heart.  The intended destiny for your heart is to be in the presence of God, 24×7.  Inside the ark were a pot of manna, a rod, and two tablets (Hebrews 9:4).  In this section we’ll look at the symbol of the tablets of testimony and how they map to love.

We just survived another Valentine’s Day that is supposed to be about love, but often isn’t.  I lost my wedding ring a few weeks ago.  After realizing its loss, I humbly asked people everywhere if they had seen it, to no avail.  After looking for the ring in every place I could think of, I had chalked up the loss as having been careless with it in my pocket.  As I was helping with tasks around the house on Valentine’s Day, my wife found my wedding ring on the floor of the bedroom.  As I reflected on it, it would appear that covenant (what a wedding ring represents), was God’s gift of love to me.  In new covenant scriptures, the writer John can be described as a mystic and represented by the sign of the eagle, would go on to pen that “God IS love” (1 John 4:8).  The tablets, like love were a sign of covenant, albeit with some marked differences.

As I have written about in other blogs, the law of commandments are often misconstrued by well-meaning people who take scripture in isolation and do not consider what I would call the full counsel of His word.  For example, while on hand Paul writes that the law is no longer the yardstick for righteousness (Rom 10:4), we have to consider that Jesus said that not one jot or tittle of the law would be done away with until everything has been fulfilled.  Jesus took the law and amplified it to be about issues of the heart.  Take Matthew 5:21-22 as one of many examples:

21 “You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment.
22 But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Fool!’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, ‘You moron!’ will be subject to hellfire.”

While I have heard many teachings about the Ten Commandments, the teachings that I had heard never sat right with me until I heard a teaching indirectly from the late Pope John Paul II.  John Paul taught about the outward appearance of the law as the ethics of the law (loving God with your mind), and the inner truth as the ethos of the law (loving God with your heart).  The law reveals the condition of both your mind and heart, and is a holy tutor to lead you to the place of needing a savior to change your mind and to change your heart.  Once your mind and heart have been sanctified, there is no longer a need for that particular law.  Love is fulfillment of the law.

With that background, let’s look at a few scriptures which reveal the supernatural creation of the tablets and what their function might be in a new covenant context.

Exodus 31:18, 32:15-16
18 When He finished speaking with Moses on Mount Sinai, He gave him the two tablets of the testimony, stone tablets inscribed by the finger of God.

15 Then Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides – inscribed front and back.
16 The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was God’s writing, engraved on the tablets.

To clear up what was written on the tablets, it was Ten Commandments as described in Exodus 20.  Deuteronomy 4:13 makes that clear.

13 He declared His covenant to you. He commanded you to follow the Ten Commandments, which He wrote on two stone tablets.

What is important is that you don’t miss that the finger of God wrote the tablets.  If you think that Moses carefully chiseled out what God told him to write, you have missed the sign.

I have a confession to make.  I got wrapped up in trying to know the form of that tablets.  There is all kinds of speculation about what the tablets were like, such as whether they were granite, lapis-lazuli, or sapphire, what form of language was used, and what was written on them.  I had a dream revolving being distracted by a blue bottle on top of an airplane that I was flying on.  It was a correction dream letting me know that I was spending my time outside the kingdom by the appearance of something (idolatry).  Doh!  Remember I have been teaching about symbols being about their function (Hebraic) more than about their form (Greek).  In seeking what the Holy Spirit would want me to know about the tablets, here are my impressions.

1) Focus on my word
2) The purpose of my word is that love is demonstrated.

I believe the closest metaphoric purpose that we have in a new-covenant context is one of fire.  His word is to burn in us like fire as love is fueled with passion.

Jeremiah 23:29
29 “Is not My word like fire” – this is the LORD’s declaration – “and like a hammer that pulverizes rock?”

Luke 24:32
32 So they said to each other, “Weren’t our hearts ablaze within us while He was talking with us on the road and explaining the Scriptures to us?”

I have listed my take on the words that may have been written on the tablets, taking the Jewish perspective on the commandments.  There is debate on whether the original pictographs were used or the more modern version of the Hebrew language.  The English is for your benefit.

Loving God

  1. I AM Adonai your God.

א אנכי יהוה אלהיך

א אנכי יהוה אלהיך

  1. You shall have no other gods before me.

ב לא יהיהלך אלהים אחרים עלפני

ב לא יהיה לך אלהים אחרים עלפני

  1. You shall not take the name of Adonai your God in vain.

ג לא תשא אתשםיהוה אלהיך לשוא

ג לא תשא אתשםיהוה אלהיך לשוא

  1. Remember to keep the Sabbath day holy.

ד זכור אתיום השבת לקדשו

ד זכור אתיום השבת לקדשו

  1. Honor your father and mother.

ה כבד אתאביך ואתאמך

ה כבד אתאביך ואתאמך

 

Loving your neighbor as yourself

6.  You shall not murder.

ו לא תרצח

ו לא תרצח

7. You shall not commit adultery.

ז לא תנאף

ז לא תנאף

8. You shall not steal.

ת לא תגנב

ת לא תגנב

9.  You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

מ לאתענה ברעך עד שקר

מ לאתענה ברער עד שקר

10.  You shall not covet.

י לא תחמד בית רעך

י לא תחמד בית רעך

 

Again, the purpose of His word is that love is revealed to God’s glory and credit.  We are able to love because He first loved us (1 John 4).

There are two important number symbols regarding the tablets.  I believe there were five commandments regarding loving God and five commandments regarding loving others as we would want to be loved.  I believe there were five commandments on each tablet.  This is also in keeping with Jewish tradition.  In terms of symbols, five is considered to be the number of grace as revealed in the new covenant.  In context, the number of two is the number of witness or of testimony.  Without grace, it will be impossible to keep the law.  It will be the grace of God that empowers you to fulfill the call to love God and love others.  If you think you can love on your own without the grace of God, you have been self-deceived. Your heart will bear witness to the grace of God enabling you to love.  There are two parts to this heart.  You can not separate the command to love God from the command to love others.  If we have one without the other, the law has not been fulfilled.  Hebrews 8:10 describes the new covenant function of the tablets of testimony and is the fulfillment of one of the most amazing prophecies written in Jeremiah 31:33.

10 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people.

One of the beautiful things that is revealed in this scripture is belonging as part of a healthy divine family.  It was in the heart of God to belong and be loved.

2 Cor 3:2-3

2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, recognized and read by everyone.
3 It is clear that you are Christ’s letter, produced by us, not written with ink but with the Spirit of the living God – not on stone tablets but on tablets that are hearts of flesh.

The tablets of stone, while glorious, were hard and rigid.  Now we can know that the purpose was always to be about love, and that it was to be soft and pliable.

Love in action brings glory to God.  This is what we were created for.

To be continued (conclusion)…

Your Heart in the Presence of God (part 3 of 5)

Aaron’s Rod Redo

DISCLAIMER:  This is a redo from the previous go around as I realized I didn’t have peace about the previous result and felt like I went down the wrong trail.  I’m not the first man to admit he was wrong.  🙂  I like this version much better.  It starts the same, but finishes in a different place.

As a recap from part 2, we are looking at what Mosaic covenant symbols might mean in light of a new covenant.  Particularly, I wrote that the ark of the covenant is a metaphor for your heart.  The intended destiny for your heart is to be in the presence of God, 24×7.  Inside the ark were a pot of manna, a rod, and two tablets (Hebrews 9:4).  In this section we’ll look at the symbol of the rod and how this maps to hope.  By the way, rod and staff are mostly used interchangeably.

Numbers 17:1-8
1 The LORD instructed Moses:
2 “Speak to the Israelites and take one staff from them for each ancestral house, 12 staffs from all the leaders of their ancestral houses. Write each man’s name on his staff.
3 Write Aaron’s name on Levi’s staff, because there must be one staff for the head of each ancestral house.
4 Then place them in the tent of meeting in front of the testimony where I meet with you.
5 The staff of the man I choose will sprout, and I will rid Myself of the Israelites’ complaints that they have been making about you.”
6 So Moses spoke to the Israelites, and each of their leaders gave him a staff, one for each of the leaders of their ancestral houses, 12 staffs in all. Aaron’s staff was among them.
7 Moses placed the staffs before the LORD in the tent of the testimony.
8 The next day Moses entered the tent of the testimony and saw that Aaron’s staff, representing the house of Levi, had sprouted, formed buds, blossomed, and produced almonds!

Of course, in context, the staff is seen as a symbol of authority.  Authority was being contested.  Yet, whose authority was it, man’s or God’s?  Reading further in the text reveals that the purpose of the supernatural demonstration was to stop their grumbling.  We, however, are looking for a life-giving understanding of the symbol in the context of a new and better covenant.  Yeshua came to bring abundant life not condemnation.

As we discussed in a previous section, the Hebraic way of understanding a symbol is looking at what something does.

The Hebrew word translated here as rod or staff comes from the Hebrew word ‘Matteh.’  It can also translate as tribe, branch, or vine.  However, in this case its natural function doesn’t help understand the symbol.  We will need to look at how God used the symbol in previous scriptural references.  In Exodus 4, God supernaturally transforms Moses’ staff into a snake and back into a staff again.  God’s power and authority were demonstrated.  In the beginning of Exodus 3, Moses was tending sheep giving us the impression that this ‘matteh’ had the appearance of being an ordinary shepherd’s staff.   Later in Exodus, we see Moses and Aaron seemingly sharing the same staff as more signs are given towards Pharoah, such as turning the Nile to blood (Exodus 7).  Generally speaking the usage of the word ‘Matteh’ in scripture was for ruling and exercising dominion.

Why are the Israelites complaining?  What is this really about?  The complaints begin with Miriam in Numbers 12 regarding Moses being the only one to hear from God.  It continues to build with the sons of Korah not being content with their roles as Levites and not being the chosen one to go into the temple.  Really?  Or perhaps would they like to run things differently.  What I see at the heart of all this is jealously, even if it doesn’t make a lot of sense.  With great privilege comes great responsibility.  One wrong move on Aaron’s part and the others would have to drag him by his ankles out of the temple, dead on arrival.  I wouldn’t want Aaron’s job.

Why are they jealous of Aaron?  I believe it is because he was chosen.  Don’t we all want to be chosen?  Don’t we all want to be special and have some sense of powerful purpose?  I think many of us fear a life without meaning.

In context, I believe Aaron’s rod represents the hope of God’s power.  I believe we all have a need to feel powerful.  That’s why superhero movies are so popular.  Powerlessness leads to hopelessness.  If we see God’s power demonstrated even once, it gives us hope that he will do it again.

About five years ago I prayed for a family member whose hand was stuck with arthritis and pain (think claw).  I watched as I held her hand, prayed, and waited for God to heal her.  After a bit I could see all the inflammation draining out of her hand.  To the astonishment of both of us, all the pain and inflammation left her hand and full mobility was restored (it had been crippled for about eighteen months).  Her healing remained months later.  The most beautiful part of the whole process was the Holy Spirit whispering to my heart that the healing was just an expression of His love for her.

Having seen that power demonstrated gives me hope that God will do it again, even if I haven’t seen it since then.  I experientially know that He can.

In the new covenant Paul writes that the same power that raised Jesus from the lives in you.

Hope in a body resurrected is certainly part of what we are to carry in our hearts.  In context, God took a dead stick and supernaturally brought it to new life.  Like the rod, God has the power to raise you from the dead and bring you into a resurrected life.

We don’t need to fear and worry about our health or what the future holds.  The world worries about those things.  One of the scriptures that helps me to focus is 2 Timothy 1:7, “He hasn’t given us a spirit of fear [or worry], but of love, power, and a sound mind.”

The promises of God can give us hope as an anchor for our souls (Hebrews 6:19).  A promise that gives me hope and stabilizes my heart is when Yeshua tells me “never will I leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

In our text, the rod supernaturally sprouted buds, blossoms, and even produced almonds!

In Israel, almond trees would first begin to blossom in the month of Adar (February) after the coldest and darkest month of the year.  The almond tree was a sign of hope and marked the new season of life.

Almonds were the fruit of the branch.  The fruit of hope and remaining in Yeshua.  Like the branch in the ark, the fruit is to be eternal and born of hope.

As we remain in Yeshua, we will bear fruit.

John 15:16
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last – and so that whatever you ask in my name, the Father will give you.”

There are specific things that God has called you to do (Ephesians 2:10).  I am not called to those same things as you are.  In fact, comparing ourselves with others does not often bring life.  Jealousy and strife resulted from the Israelites going after Aaron’s calling.

Remaining in His presence will encourage your heart.  As you remain in this place of hope, fruit will happen.  It won’t look the same as the fruit that I am called to bear, but it will be good and look like life.

Your heart belongs in the presence of God.  Ask Him what He would say to you.  Ask Him what it means to have your hope in Him.  Hope looks like something.

To be continued (tablets)…

 

Your Heart in the Presence of God (part 2 of 5)

As a recap from part 1, we are looking at what Mosaic covenant symbols might mean in light of a new covenant. Particularly, I wrote that the ark of the covenant is a metaphor for your heart. The intended destiny for your heart is to be in the presence of God, 24×7. Inside the ark were a pot of manna, a rod, and two tablets (Hebrews 9:4). In this section we’ll look at the symbol of manna and how this maps to faith.

Exodus 16:31-32

31 The house of Israel named the substance manna. It resembled coriander seed, was white, and tasted like wafers made with honey.

32 Moses said, “This is what the LORD has commanded: Two quarts of it are to be preserved throughout your generations, so that they may see the bread I fed you in the wilderness when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.

The Hebrew word for manna is pronounced ‘men’ meaning “what is it?” Manna has the Hebrew root expression ‘mah’ which means “what.” Bread and wine are rich symbols that followers of Yeshua take in to their hearts during communion. The wine represents our acceptance of Yeshua’s blood sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. That part is pretty straight forward. I would suggest that many of Yeshua’s followers don’t really know what to make of the bread. Like the house of Israel, we ask “what is it?” If you are like me you may have wrestled with the account in chapter 6 of John’s gospel many times. In the context of communion, my working definition of taking in the bread is that of an exchanged life. An acceptance and trust of His life for ours. But what does manna symbolize in it’s original context?

A Hebraic way of thinking is looking at what something does or its function. A Greek way of thinking is looking at its form or appearance. For dreams and this exercise, what is the function of manna in the original text of Exodus 16? We will also look at how Jesus redefines the symbol towards Himself in John 6, where He proclaims “I AM the bread of life.”

The function of manna was to demonstrate God’s supernatural ability to provide Israel with life from heaven. In particular, in context, the people of Israel were going through a wilderness season, i.e. a time of drought and testing.  Like the ark, the pot was a container.  They generally needed to have enough to make it one day at a time.  The Israelites had to learn to rely on this supernatural provision for forty years.

So the manna provided for Israel in the wilderness. So what? What does manna mean to me in light of the new covenant?

I believe manna represents God’s ability to sustain me when I go through times of wilderness in my life. The manna hidden in my heart represents the faith that I carry regarding the faithfulness of God.

These wilderness seasons are not exclusive to me. I believe that everyone will go through a wilderness season at some time in their lives, whether we like it or not, or even believe it or not. Jesus is described as the first born of many siblings (Hebrews 2:11).

Jesus, as our prototype, also went through this same season of wilderness and testing (Matthew 4). Regarding the manna, Jesus quoted this passage from Deuteronomy when He was being tested in the wilderness.

Deuteronomy 8:3

3 He humbled you by letting you go hungry; then He gave you manna to eat, which you and your fathers had not known, so that you might learn that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

An interesting thing to note is that the word “word” is not in the Hebrew. I believe the last phrase would be more accurately translated “man lives by everything that comes from the mouth of God (Yahweh).

If you search the scriptures for life-giving references to the phrase “mouth of God”, you will find the following expressions: creation (something from nothing), instructions, the mouth of a prophet, and His promises. That which comes from the mouth of God generally needs to be received in faith to bring life to your heart.

He speaks his word through many forms and ways. Scripture is one of the obvious ways. One thing that the world wants the church community to admit is that God is bigger than the Bible. How big is your God? The Bible can give us instruction but does not automatically provide an experience with God. That comes through relationship. God can prophesy through man, nature, a sign, a donkey, a vision or a dream. For example, the prophetic word for Joseph’s life came to him in the form of a dream (Psalm 105:19).

If the function of the manna in Exodus was to give life from heaven, the expression of life is magnified in Christ in John chapter 6.

John 6:31-35,47-51

31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, just as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.

32 Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Moses didn’t give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the real bread from heaven.

33 For the bread of God is the One who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

34 Then they said, “Sir, give us this bread always!”

35 “I am the bread of life,” Jesus told them. “No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in Me will ever be thirsty again.

47 I assure you: Anyone who believes has eternal life.

48 I am the bread of life.

49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.

50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that anyone may eat of it and not die.

51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”

 

Whereas life from manna was temporary, the true bread of heaven gives us the assurance of eternal life for everyone who believes.

The most important word that you can carry in your heart is Christ. It is Christ, the Word in you, that is the hope of glory.

He is faithful and able to perform His word spoken to your heart, including His ability to give you eternal life.

Few of us would choose or deliberately initiate a difficult wilderness season, yet it is there that God demonstrates His ability to sustain us and show Himself faithful. I believe that his word coming to pass during a wilderness season teaches our hearts a living faith that a land of ease can not.

Like the Israelites, a wilderness season is met one day at a time.  We need encouragement (having our faith-tanks full) to take each day as it comes.

What are the dreams and promises that God has spoken to your heart? What are the scriptures you need to encourage your heart?

Jesus is praying for your heart.

To be continued…