Month 7:16, Week 3:1 (Rishon/Pesach), Year 5935:187 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Thursday 13 October 2011
Sukkot 2011 II
The Banqueting House of Messiah
Continued from Part 1
First, before I begin today, I want to thank all of you who have been praying for me at this difficult time of poor health. It was a miracle that I had a sermon at all yesterday which had to be shortened because I was too ill to both fully prepare let alone deliver it. What I wanted to speak about yesterday but didn't get around to, I want to do today as it was also part of what Yahweh gave me.
Sukkot is known as 'The Season of our Simcha (Joy)' because it is a Wedding Feast. It is also the time-marker for the beginning of the Millennium, the thousand year sabbath rest for the elect of Yahweh. For those who have struggled and are weary, who have suffered persecution and are in search of reprieve, who have been plagued by illness and seek relief, Sukkot is indeed a very happy time. It marks Journey's End, the culmination of the quest for completeness and shalom (peace), the end of the long trek. So the final Sukkot will be a time to heave a huge sigh of relief, to finally take off ones spiritual armour and let down one's guard (since the enemy will have been cast into the Pit), and to laugh, dance and feast with brethren and sisters in the Everlasting Covenant. And more than even all of this, it will be the much yearned for moment of the Messianic Bride - to finally be in the Presence of the Bridegroom - to be home again.
A couple of days ago I watched a very moving interview with a 12 year-old Catholic boy called Garvan Byrne who died of a rare disease. He had a wisdom, a spiritual depth, and spiritual sublimity that would put most adult believers to shame. It was so very clear listening to him that he had met Yah'shua (Jesus), knew him personally, and had obtained his daily sustenance from Him. Here was a boy at total shalom (peace) and who had a genuine simcha (joy) in his living emunah (faith). He was fully prepared for death.
As I was watching this his last ever interview I was filled with a sense that this boy knew exactly what the spirit of Sukkot was. Now he believed in some false Catholic doctrines, such as in the Mass, which had had a profound impact on him, but you must remember it is possible to release one's faith through all kinds of things that have no direct relationship to the matter being addressed or the blessing sought - thus in apostolic times people sought healing, and obtained it, though taking hold of handkerchiefs and waiting for an apostle's shadow to pass over them (Ac.5:15): obviously handkerchiefs and shadows possess no power to heal of themselves. I realised that Yahweh first and foremost looks at our lev (heart) intents before he reviews our doctrinal belief system. The latter, I concluded, take a firm second place in His judgment when we know no better. Doubtless Garvan had only ever known Catholic teachings, and listening to him you could tell that most of his company had been adults. He was mature beyond his years, had profoundly thought through his situation in an intelligent and submissive way to Elohim (God), and made contact witb Heaven. There was no doubt that Yah'shua (Jesus) was within the boy.
Ultra-Protestants and ultra-Messianics will be able to make little sense of this because their religion is first and foremost in their heads and not their levim (hearts). They are so blinded in their hatred for anything Catholic that they are unable to separate Catholics from Catholicism. Yahweh judges us first and foremost by our intents and not where we happen to be in our institutional attachments. And as I have said so many times, but will repeat it again, we are going to be very surprised indeed by the way Yahweh sorts out the sheep from the goats. For sure we are incapable of doing the job.
I am, as you know, no ecumenical. I am firm and passionate about my beliefs and will not dilute them by one drop in order to be 'acceptable' to someone. However, I do believe that true believers must discover how to live with others of different beliefs and interpretations, and of no religious belief at all. And as I have also said elsewhere, what's important is not how we started but how we end. I do not have the slightest doubt that Gavan is in heaven today and it wouldn't surprise me if he inherits the first resurrection. I don't know, of course, for I am a mere man, but I would wager his chances as far higher than a lot of evangelicals and messianics that I know.
Sukkot is, more than anything else, a state of mind and lev (heart) than it is something you do for eight days starting on the 15th day of the 7th month. I do not doubt that a lot of people who observe Sukkot are hell-bound, of both non-messianic and messianic varieties. As I have also said, whilst obedience to the outer forms is important (because Yahweh has commanded it) what matters ultimately is in what spirit you performed them. (By the same token we are not given the right to ignore the outer forms either). Each week we recapitulate Sukkot on the Sabbath as we remember that the purpose of the festivals is to bring us into heavenly tavnith, a spiritual rhythm that both breaks down time into segments as well as tunes us into the divine mind and lev (heart). We are literally tuning into another dimension.
The whole Torah, and in particular the Ten Commandments which are themselves a summary of the hundreds of other mitzvot (commandments), is summarised in one emet (truth):
Sukkot is the fullness of Divine Ahavah (Love):
"Elohim (God) is ahavah (love)" (1 Jn.4:8,15).
The final Sukkot will see us in that Banqueting House and the thing that will most overwhelm us, and probably be the only thing we are aware of, is precisely that Ahavah (Love). Obeying the Torah perfectly does not bring us to that Place. What brings us is our emunah (faith) in Messiah, but to feel at home in that House we will need to love the Master's rhythm and melody too - His tavnith (pattern) - which is Torah.
"He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was ahavah (love)" (Song.2:4, NKJV).
A lot of people are going to be in that Banqueting Hall who never knew or lived Torah but because they had the right lev (heart). Those who love Yah'shua (Jesus) with all their levim (hearts) will want to live His way. I think most Christians have this na´ve and fallacious notion that the Millennium (if they even believe in one) will be something like the earlier Christianised versions of their countries - Protestant America, Lutheran Germany, Catholic Italy, Orthodox Russia or Anglican Britain. The Millenium isn't going to be remotely like any of these! The lifestyle of its inhabitants isn't going to be anything like them either! Yes, there will be some similarities here and there, but in essence the tavnith (pattern) is all wrong. The calendar will be totally different. The set-apart festivals will be totally different. The system of theocratic law will be completely different. Marriage will be completely different. Dress codes will be completely different. The economic system will be completely different. The political system will be completely different. We have to accept that and get used to it. The Millennium will not be a spruced up version of America, Britain, Germany, Italy, Russia or anywhere else. It will be completely different.
However...some things will familiar. There will be a spiritual flavour that we will recognise, an inner spirit that manifests in the graces of a saved soul at rest, like that of Gavan Byrne. When Yahweh gather's His Bride for the Marriage Feast of the Lamb there will be people there who have lived out their faith in all kinds of different settings, because that is where Yahweh put them in mortality as the best place for them to grow and to shine for others, just as He used Joseph in prison even though prison was not his ultimate destinty, but the Court of the Pharaoh. His putting me, for example, in an Anglican environment was not, of course, an endorsement of all of Anglicanism, any more that His putting Gavan in a Catholic one was an endorsement of Catholicism: the world is a place of trial, and we must search the light out for it is hidden in all kinds of different places and man-made traditions. We should not, therefore, have any 'regrets' at where we started but rather aim for the goal: a full Torah lifestyle in Messiah Yah'shua (Jesus). And since none of us are there, obviously being 'there' is not the main thing at any one moment in time: what matters is where we are headed and the fact that we are moving.
A brother wrote in to me today to say, with some disappointment, that he was not yet one of the 100'ers and that he was still wandering metaphorically in the desert. I have news for him; we all are because earth life is the 'desert' and we haven't come up the the fullness yet, and won't until we are invited to the Marriage Banqueting House of the Lamb of Elohim (God). In saying this, I do not mean that he should slacken (since he is in the same predicament as us all) but rather he should measure - if measuring he must - in terms of where he's headed and the effort he is making to conquer sin in Messiah. The fact that we may be Torah-obedient proves nothing anyway - it's whether we are born-again first or not that matters and that we are on the Way. And neither should the born-again be so foolishly casual as to suppose that simpply because they have been regenerated at Yom haBikkurim that they have an automatic place in that Banqueting House because they do not - not until they have fully overcome and are spotless will they enter that hallowed place. They have got to get to Sukkot, and to get there, they have also got to pass through the spirit and covenants of Shavu'ot - in other words, they have to stop revelling in their lawlessness.
I am grateful for Gavan's testimony and how he broadens the horizons of thinking believer's minds to be less judgmental and bigoted. The truly wise will not judge according to the appearance but will always judge with righteous judgment (Jn.7:24). Let us keep a right perspective, not get conceited because of the right things that we do (such as observing the festivals) but rather rejoice in what Messiah has already done for us and is doing for us now! Hallelu-Yah!
Continued in Part 3