Month 8:22, Week 2:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year:Day 5937:229 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Sunday 24 November 2013
The Divine Embrace I
Between Left and Right in Love
"Ahavah (love) is patient and kind; ahavah (love) does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. Ahavah (love) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Ahavah (love) never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away" (1 Cor.13:4-8, ESV).
Shabbat shalom kol beit Yisrael and may the grace of our Master Yah'shua the Master (Jesus Christ) bless this assembly and all those who are following us. And above all, may the ahavah (love) that Paul speaks of with such inspired eloquence abide with us today and forevermore.
The Love Portal
I have chosen this passage of scripture as the spiritual portal to my sermon today not because it's my main theme but as a reminder that prophecy, linguistics and knowledge in general - though essential in some measure to a successful walk in this life - are not the primary thing. Rather, they are temporary and should not dominate our pursuit of El Elyon, the Most High.
Our spiritual life begins with the revelation that we are accepted and loved by Elohim (God) no matter what, that we are called to reproduce that ahavah (love) in our own lives, that it is impossible to do so without a supernatural connection between Him and us, and that that supernatural connectivity comes about, and is maintained thereafter, only as we remain properly surrendered to Him by making sure that the fleshy nature, which is egocentric and does not know how to love, is put to death. We do need to be reminded of this central Christian emet (truth) over and over again lest we be tempted to succumb to the lie that we have got to somehow earn that ahavah (love) by our performance or by our Torah-obedience. The true emunah (faith), and our deliverance from death to chayim (life) - that is, 'salvation' - is not based on personal merit or performance for Yahweh's acceptance of us even if at the end of the day it does depend on our maintaining the correct relationship.
The Blue Altar Revelation
I have to begin today by apologising for the long teaching last shabbat, Vision of the Blue Altar: The Three Tasks of Messianic Israel, that required two sessions to cover all the material. It was a vitally important vision and Davar (Word) that required careful dissection so that we could gain an in-depth understanding of what Yahweh is doing at this time, so I was pleased to see so many of you stay on for the second session after lunch. We have not by any means probed every level of this revelation yet and it will in part be my task to unfold it further as the Ruach (Spirit) leads over the weeks ahead. If necessary there will be some extra mid-week sessions if the need arises to disseminate this material more quickly.
A Frustrating Experience in 2008
About five years ago I had one of the most frustrating experiences of my life as a preacher. I had written what I considered at the time to be a very inspired sermon. But somehow in saving what I had done on my computer - which was the vast bulk of it as it was nearly all done - my fingers must have accidentally pressed the wrong keys and as a result the wordprocessor completely jumbled up what I had written when it saved it. To this day I still don't know how it did that. Paragraphs and chunks of text were all mixed together that would have taken an expert crypographer to decipher since there were so many pieces. All the indented paragraphs were 'assembled' together in one block and jumbled up, the same was done with the dozens of footnotes (whose numbering system was shredded), and the rest was just dotted here and there. I can't tell you how upset I was because so many hours of passionate and inspired writing had gone into it. No matter how hard I tried I just could not put the jigsaw pieces back together again and in the end I just gave up in a very depressed state indeed. I don't think I preached at all that sabbath which is why the sermon page remains blank to this day.
Finding the Old Jumbled Sermon
Unlike last week when my message for you was just pouring out and it was all I could do to write everything down, this week was most frustrating as nothing came until yesterday evening when I found the old computer-jumbled text from 2008. I had prepared the bulk of another sermon but it sat heavily with me and I could not find the inspiration to carry on with it. I have a couple of computer folders full of old half-done sermons! Not until I had set the sermon I had prepared aside did I 'stumble' upon this old text.
Reassembling the Sermon
Last night in the very early hours of the morning I sat in fron of this old jumbled-up sermon, asked Yahweh to take control, and asked Him to reassemble it five years later. As I copied paragraph chunks out and scrolled down the text, I knew when I had to stop and incorporate the next chunk. As the sermon began to come together it was not nearly as 'fantastic' and 'inspired' as I had then thought it to be though there were some important parts which I am bringing to you today. In fact, I was not only slightly embarrassed but grateful I had never given that sermon as I had originally written it. Though there was a lot that was good in it, some parts of it were just plain wrong because I had not been given the keys to certain things that have since come over the last five years. It was a sermon written before its time and Yahweh had providentially allowed the sermon to become electronically scrambled to make sure I wouldn't use it. But at the time I did not see it that way. In many ways I see this old sermon as a parable of our own lives when Yahweh intervenes to stop something we passionately want. We're upset at first but only with hindsight so we appreciate His timely intervention.
Missing the Mark
We so easily miss the mark, don't we? Like an arrow aimed at the roundels of a target, the arrow flies past and can do immense damage where it was never intended because our focus was all wrong. 'Missing the mark' is actually the proper definition of the biblical word 'sin', chatta'ah. Repentance is getting back on course and on target. And one of the simplest adjustments we are called to do in our daily work is to get our focus off self and onto Yah'shua (Jesus). Yahweh's people are a focussed people. We know from whence we started and we know where we're supposed to go. Physically we all start life at birth and everyone knows the inevitability of death. But spiritually it is not so certain or clear always. We have no control over our physical birth or death so it's not something we can ever plan, unless we're planning to kill ourselves, but even then Yahweh has the final say.
Spiritual Birth and Death
Things work a little different spiritually. There's an appointed time for our New Birth if we choose it and there are many appointed times for deaths and rebirths (I do not, of course, speak of the false doctrine of reincarnation. Every ending spiritually is either a new beginning or an old re-start (because of regression caused by sin and a lack of repentance), depending whether we have passed the test or not. Provided we have our eyes focussed on Messiah continuously, repenting when we miss the mark and trying again, every ending is also a new beginning and at the same time a progression.
Locating Horizons and Taking Bearings
The world in which we stand has a continuous horizon all around wherever we may stand and yet for us, as humans, moving in a single direction, there may be said to be a horizon 'behind' us and an horizon 'in front' of us. No journey has any sort of meaning or purpose unless we know where we're coming from and and where we're going to. Without a clear target we will wander aimlessly, usually in circles. Even believers, when they lose their Messiah-focus and get distracted by other things, can find themselves lost for a while. When that happens the important thing is to stop, get one's bearings, locate the target, and move in a straight line toward it. Though it is not visible to the physical eyes, there is a Derech or Path ordained by Yahweh for our spiritual walk. To find it you have to locate a spiritual gate:
The Gate and the Way
"Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the desech (way) that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the derech (way) which leads to chayim (life), and there are few who find it" (Matt.7:13-14, NKJV).
Both the Gate and the Goal are one and the same, only two different aspects. They are both Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), but the Gate is represented by the first spring festival of Pesach (Passover) and the Goal is represented by the autumn festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles). The Derech (Way) is what lies between, and is made narrow by the summer festival Shavu'ot (Weeks, 'Pentecost'). The narrowness is caused by the voluntarily-accepted hedge that lies on either side of the Derech (Way) which is the Torah. The reason so few people find this Derech (Way) is because, from the fleshy point-of-view, Yah'shua (Jesus) is unattractive and therefore 'small' and is therefore practically invisible. He only becomes more visible in proportion to our need and realisation that we can't actually make it successfuly through life without Him. In this vast cosmos of carnality the Goal is as a pinprick of light, a single faint star in the heavens, that is so easy to lose sight of if one is distracted or takes one's foot away from the road.
The Blessing of the Torah Hedge
The narrow path is not, however, something weak and feeble. There is more light on it than many orders of magnitude of combining the light-power of all the other heavenly hosts massed together. It's extraordinarily bright. It is lit by the hedge of Torah on either side, is very safe and restriction is only felt if one looks to the right or the left and tries to imagine what is on either side. Think about it - how many of you feel chlostrophobic when you are driving along a road with a destination in mind? Do you feel the need to turn off and go and explore elsewhere? Of course not! So long as you know where you're going, why should you? Many misguided people will tell you that you haven't really explored life until you have climbed those hedges and explored the other side. Those who have been foolish to do so and have managed to eventually find their way back to the Derech (Way) will unanimously agree that the deviation - which can waste years of your life - was not worth it. For on either side of this hedge there is a great darkness that extends in all directions and has no ending in which getting lost takes next to no time at all.
A Red Sea Illustration
The supernatural parting of the Red Sea (Yam Suf) for the children of Israel in exodus from Egypt is a prophetic picture of this narrow Derech (Way):
Then, with their eyes open, no one in their right mind would have wandered off to the left or right, for they would have known, without a particle of doubt, had they done so, that they would have drowned. No emunah (faith) was required of them to walk ahead down what was, we must suppose, a narrow and straight path between the waters. Instict alone would have driven them forwards knowing what lay behind them too. But the spiritual Derech (Way) is not visible and emunah (faith) is required to move safely ahead. And just as the children of Israel had the physical assurance of Moses standing visibly before them leading the way, so the children of Messianic Israel today have the spiritual assurance of the invisible Yah'shua (Jesus) standing before them directing their lives too.
"So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left" (Ex.14:21-22, NKJV).
Passing Through Gilead
When the children of Israel asked permission to pass peacefully through King Sihon's territory on their way to the Promised Land they said:
That is the way we must pass through this world too. Had Sihon agreed to the suggestion and Israel had subsequently broken the agreement, he would have had the right to exact his vengeance. Likewise, if we break out Covenant with Yahweh and turn to the left or right and leave the Way, clibming over the hedge of Torah into lawlessness, then the king of this world has the legal right to attack and injure us. We are warned:
"I will keep strictly to the derech (road), and I will turn neither to the right nor to the left" (Deut.2:27, NKJV).
Keep the Torah
"Therefore you shall be careful to do as Yahweh your Elohim (God) has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left" (Deut.5:32, NKJV).
This instruction was repeated several times (Dt.17:10,20; 28:14; Josh.1:7):
"Therefore be very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Torah (Law) of Moses, lest you turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left, and lest you go among these nations, these who remain among you. You shall not make mention of the name of their elohim (gods), nor cause anyone to swear by them; you shall not serve them nor bow down to them, but you shall hold fast to Yahweh your Elohim (God), as you have done to this day" (Josh.23:6-8, NKJV).
Later King Solomon would admonish:
Concentration and Effort
"Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil" (Prov.4:25-27, NKJV).
It should be plain by now that a life in Yahweh requires much self-discipline. It's about a straight walk not even considering what lies to the right or left where the nations of the world - Babylon - hold sway over the minds and hearts of men. Living the Besorah (Gospel) requires not only emunah (faith) but concentration and effort. In the spiritual dimension, unlike the physical, you can't take a nap. Yah'shua (Jesus) Himself said:
The Loving Design of Limitation
"Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man" (Luke 21:36, NKJV).
There are those who are carnal who argue that this is a chlostrophobic and unnecessarily limiting way to go. That, of course, is nonsense and born of a foolish mind. For one thing, the way ahead stretches out into the eternities - we are not bounded in on all sides - the path ahead is always open and is filled with heavenly delights along the way. A river, bound by banks, is a safer course than a flood over the plain destroying all in its path. The Torah is our friend, a shield of armour, protection for us and our families. It was designed out of an intense ahavah (love) for our well-being. It was custom-made for a journey through the difficult and dangerous terrain of mortality. The problem with those who think the left and right are open territory is that they have bought into the lie that it is perfectly safe without Torah. Their excuse is that they now 'follow the Spirit' but make the dangerous assumption that they are always 100% tuned when most of us are not.
How Do You Trust the Invisible?
All of this raises a big question for us today. We are not on a half-day's journey across the dry bottom of the Red Sea with everything in plain physical sight. How do we 'see' the invisible Messiah? How do we obtain the assurance that He is standing before us, leading the way as the navi (prophet) "greater than Moses"? How can we have confidence in Torah as our protective hedge and in an invisible Messiah who makes such great promises to us? What guarantee do we have?
The only way you can know that this is both safe and tov (good) is by getting to personally know the One who makes these promises. The best and most trusted military commanders are those who get to know their men. And the only way to get to know our Commander, Yah'shua (Jesus), is through the intimacy of a relationship that results from self-surrender and expose to Divine Ahavah (Love). We have to get to know Him in the way we come to get to know our own spouse.
Feelings and Self-Gratification
Now comes the difficult part because most have been brainwashed by secular humanism into believing that relationship and intimacy only come about when you feel good. But true relationship is not about Yahweh, a spouse or a friend making us feel good. That is New Age thinking! It's psychic thinking, not spiritual. We don't, in the first instance, embrace in order to experience that. We embrace because we trust - because we have emunah (faith). If we do, we have entirely missed the mark and fallen for the devil's lie that life is about self-gratification. None of this is, of course, to say that feelings are unimportant, but it is to say that feelings must be subtended to higher spiritual realities and truths first. When we embrace Yahweh, a spouse or a friend, it is a pledge, in emunah (faith, trusting), to serve and give no matter what happens, no matter how we feel. Joseph Stowell rightly observes:
Our Calling and Purpose Made Sure
"When the arrows of my passions and worship point from me to [Yahweh], I've successfully reversed the direction of my [wrong] expectations [from self to Him]. And as I worship Him with the purity of my life and the service of my hands, I can say with Job, no matter what happens, 'Though He slay me, I will hope in Him' (Job 13:15). Intimacy begins by giving self away. It gives self to [Yahweh] as the ultimate gift of our ahavah (love)".
Relationship with Yahweh is not an experience in self-gratification. It is about surrendering in emunah (faith) to our Creator, learning what our calling in life is, and derviving the most profound pleasure and satisfaction in doing it with the promise of even greater pleasure in the eternities to come. So what is Yahweh's call in your life? What does He want you to do with it? How can you be sure you know what His calling is? At some time or another, whether believer or unbeliever, we wonder why we are here and what we are supposed to do with our lives. Upon meeting Elohim (God) for the first time and discovering that we are owned by Him and created with a purpose, we then want to know from Him what He wants us to do. The problem most of us have - until we have learned to hear His voice - is discerning His will. Hearing Him then becomes the most important business in life of all.
Created to Be Useful
You and I all have callings. Before we were born or were even conceived in our mother's womb, Yahweh set us apart to do an important job for Him‚ just as He did the prophet Jeremiah (Jer.1:5) . Everyone is important to Him and everyone has a purpose. We are not products of chance trying to make the best of things or get the most pleasure for ourselves before it all suddenly ends. We were created to be useful and to find happiness in being useful. There is not a soul who does not have a purpose in life. Indeed there may be said to be two purposes in life: a general purpose which is true for every human being, and a specific purpose which is unique to you. That is what I want to talk to you about today.
The First Purpose of Life: Heavenly Embrace
Your first and most important purpose - your overall goal, if you like - is to embrace the Most High Êl, Yahweh-Elohim, like a wife embraces her husband, and to stay in that embrace forever. You are to do that by emunah (faith) - actively trusting in, clinging and adhering to, Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) and worshipping Yahweh by living a qodesh, set-apart, consecrated, holy, dedicated and Torah-obedient life in His service as His fully-owned servant. That is your primary purpose, that is my primary purpose, it's all our primary purpose. Until this has been understood and realised, our secondary purpose - our life mission as it were - will neither be understood ror even started, but will be pursued in a wrong spirit that will leave us struggling against the odds, defeated and without energy. The result can be a wasted life. There is therefore no more important thing in this life and it's far more important than your personal calling. Get this first imperative wrong and you'll never fulfil Yahweh's purpose for yourself and you will leave this life for the next one frustrated and kicking yourself for not having been more careful and dedcicated. Indeed you won't even understand the basics of relationship-building and, the chances are, you'll totally miss what marriage and family are all about too. Literally everything hangs on getting the first purpose right - learning how to embrace, and be embraced by, our Heavenly Father.
Why do we often fail to trust Yahweh enough to open the door of intimacy? It is, I venture to suggest, because we have failed to appreciate that He has already done for us more than we deserve. We doubt that He will ever match the giving that comes from our surrendering, or that He will continue doing so afterwards when difficulties arise in life. So we hedge our bets - we ask for only a small portion Him in the futile belief that all that will then be required of us is something in proportion. We bargain with Him. 'If you do this for me, I'll do that'. Sometimes the terms we 'offer' are so appallingly pathetic that what we're really asking is for him to maintain us spiritually as though still in our mother's womb, with minimalr esponsibility and maximum comfort. We opt for the less personal amniotic bath in place of the more intimate postpartum personal touch of embrace in the real world with all its challenges and risks.
The Loneliness of Self-Ownership
It doesn't work, of course, because we're in no position to set terms. We don't even own ourselves because we don't even whow who we are apart from Him. Though we think we have control of our lives we sooner or later discover that we are the prisoners of all sorts of peoples, forces and events. We're not nearly as free to do as we want even without Yahweh in our lives. If we're not hedged in by Torah we will surround ourselves with man-made rules and discover them to be rather unsafe and unassuring at times. We soon discover that self-ownership is one of the loneliest conditions to be in. We want deep down to be owned but we don't trust anyone enough to do it. And yet everyone is owned by others, like it or not, even if it's that faceless corporation known as the State or the bank manager because we're in debt or have a loan.
Owned Without Even Knowing It
So we are stuck with a subject the flesh considers to be thorny but which to the spirit is redemptive and liberating: ownership. Satan doesn't want you to be owned by Yahweh because he wants to own you himself and without your ever knowing it. And he knows the best way to do this is to persuade you to try and own yourself. But Yahweh says it openly - He says He owns us lock, stock and barrel. He doesn't mince His words. He says it directly. It's reality. He also says the husband owns the wife in the same way as He own all of us. How? Because He transfers the deed of ownership from Himself to the husband at marriage just as Yahweh transferred the deed of ownership of us to Yah'shua (Jesus) .
Once we, who are the aspirant allegorical Bride of Messiah, are in the divine embrace of Yahweh, we are in a position to relate to one another properly in divine ahavah (love) in Torah-Order, that is, in divine tavnith (pattern). That is why we call the Chavurot Bekorot or Assembly of the Firstborn the Qodesh, Set-Apart or 'Holy Order'. It's the way things are done in heaven, at least in its intention. The German word Ordnung expresses this concept well because what we are speaking of here is an order, arrangement, disposition, routine, tidiness and hierarchical system that makes the Derech (Way) straight. When this vessel is filled with divine agapé- or ahavah-love, it results in the heartbeat of Yahweh-Elohim in our souls and the perfect harmony of divine male and female in heaven and on earth. But the Western mind cannot comprehend it, not even a Christianised version of it because it is essentially individualistic whereas the Hebrew mindset is communal.
Next time, Yah willing, we shall look at the left- and right-hand aspects of the Derech (Way), the differences between the Western and Hebrew mindsets, and how to be in Yahweh's double-armed embrace. Amen.
Continued in Part 2
 Joseph M. Stowell, Experiencing Intimacy with God (RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI: 2006), p.18
 See Pre-existence
 See‚ Yom haBikkurim 2007: The First in Your Life - An MLT Position Paper on Marriage