Greetings from the Holy Land of Israel which is, at this moment, enjoying one of its likely final spring rains! Praise Adonai who sends showers of blessing that water the earth. (Psalm 72:6)
We also wish you a ‘Chag Sameach’, which means Happy Holiday, as we are still celebrating the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread (Matzah), with the Jewish community worldwide.
Each Shabbat we are sending you a Teaching on the weekly Torah portion.
This Torah portion is studied by Jews and read in every synagogue around the world during the Shabbat (Saturday) morning service.
This week’s Torah portion and our Messianic Jewish Commentary is on:
Numbers 28:16-25, Ezekiel 37:1-14, Luke 24
The parashah (scripture portion) for this Shabbat, which is during the Passover week, begins by describing the Passover of the Lord (14th day of the first month), followed by the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Matzah) which began on the 15th day and lasts for seven days which is what we are still celebrating.
An Orthodox Jewish man harvesting wheat to be used to make matza for Passover Usually we blend these two special times into one, calling it Passover, but I believe there is a crucial difference between the two, which we will explore in this study.
Also, the day after the Sabbath is the Feast of First fruits (Bikkurim), at which time the first fruits of the harvest are brought to the priest (Cohen) as a wave offering before the Lord. (Lev. 23:9-11)
We have three distinct time frames here, representing three unique spiritual states or conditions of the soul:
- Passover represents Salvation – we are saved from the wrath of God by faith in the blood of the Passover Lamb. “And when I see the blood I will pass over you.” (Ex. 12:12) Yeshua was slain in Passover as the perfect fulfillment of the Lamb: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” (John 1:29)
- Unleavened bread, also called Matzah, or bread of affliction, represents the wilderness experience. Matzah is flat, devoid of yeast (chametz) which represents pride (puffs us up) and all wickedness (a souring agent) (1 Cor. 5:8)
- The week of unleavened bread which we are now in, represents sanctification. It is a time of affliction, trials and testing, to purge us of our pride; to teach us humility and obedience by the things we suffer.
“And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” (Deut. 8:2)
- First Fruits, also called Bikkurim, represents resurrection. Just as the barley is offered up to the Lord as the first crop from the death of winter, so Yeshua was also raised from the dead on the Feast of Firstfruits, on the First day (Sunday) (2000 years ago), which begins Saturday night.
“But now the Messiah is risen from the dead, and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Cor. 15:20)
Passover (Salvation) – Unleavened Bread (Sanctification) – First fruits (Resurrection)
From this picture, we may see that between salvation and resurrection is sanctification.
The Intermediate Sabbath – Losing Heart in the Wilderness
Between the stake and the resurrection lies the wilderness, a dry and thirsty land where water is scarce.
Here in Israel we have the Negev (the desert), and it is not an easy place to live – even with air conditioning!
It is a land of snakes and scorpions; a place of great danger. Yet, the wilderness is not a punishment, but a necessary stage in our spiritual journey.
Notice that the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) led Yeshua into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan.
It is God who leads us into our wilderness experiences, to humble us, to test us, to refine our faith,
to teach us perseverance and endurance. It is a place that, if we come out of it alive, we walk out ‘leaning on our beloved.’
We have finally learned to trust in and depend upon the Lord. Our response to the wilderness, however, may determine if we ever make it to the resurrection or not. Because it is in the wilderness that it is so easy to lose heart.
It was because the Israelites became discouraged along the way that they stayed in the wilderness.
Discouragement caused them to lose heart, to lose hope for the Promised Land, and too look back to Egypt where they were slaves, and so they murmured and complained.
Except two, Joshua and Caleb – who followed the Lord wholeheartedly and kept their faith!
WHEN HOPE IS LOST – THE DAY WITH NO NAME
The Scripture reading today between Passover and Bikkurim is simply called ‘Intermediate Sabbath.’
It doesn’t even have a name like the other parashot.
It is a day when all hope seems lost; we wonder if it has all been in vain, if the sun will ever shine again in our grieving hearts.
Israel asked the same question in the haftorah reading for this intermediate Sabbath. The dry bones, which represent the whole house of Israel say: “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off.” (Ezekiel 37:11)
Sometimes we feel that we have been cut off from hope itself. But so often, when we feel the closest to darkness, it is in that moment that God is doing His greatest work. It is when Israel’s hope in itself is completely destroyed
that God’s promise of restoration comes forth as a breath of life.
“Behold, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, O My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the Lord…And I will put My spirit in you, and you shall live…” (Ezekiel 37:13-14).
The Hebrew word for spirit here (Ruach) is the same one used in verses 5 & 6 translated breath. “I will cause breath (Ruach) to enter into you and you shall live.” Just as Israel’s restoration could not be achieved by human power, but only by the spirit of God, so too will our restoration be completely supernatural!
RESURRECTION AND LIFE
In the New Testament, we see Yeshua literally fulfilling this Word of God. Lazarus had died and been in the tomb already for four days by the time Yeshua arrived so that their hope was completely lost.
Why did Yeshua wait for four days? Jewish tradition believes that the person’s soul hovers around its physical body for three days, but after this time period, the soul leaves.
Therefore the Jewish people standing around knew that by the fourth day, the situation was completely and totally without any hope whatsoever! Even the soul of the deceased had departed. But Yeshua called out to Lazarus, TZEH HAHUTZAH! COME OUT!
And Lazarus came up out of his grave and he lived!
One thing, however, needed to be done before Lazarus could come out of the tomb to resurrection life – the stone had to be rolled away. Somebody had to do it and notice it wasn’t Yeshua. No, he could have easily rolled it away himself or even commanded the heavy stone to move and it would have obeyed Him, but instead, he called upon the people involved to participate in the miracle.
Yeshua said to them, Take away the stone.” (John 11:39) Why?
Stone rolled away from the tomb
Perhaps he wanted to teach us that we are not to be completely passive and expect God to do everything for us. Maybe there is one stone standing between us and our miracle; and that all we need to do is draw upon the faith and strength within us to ‘take away the stone.” And then we will see God perform a resurrection in our own life!
Yeshua’s mother, Miriam, said to the servants at the wedding feast, “Whatever he tells you to do – just do it!” Maybe we need to listen to Mama Miriam’s advice ourselves – whatever He tells us to do - just do it!
We could sit there, looking at that stone, and crying, and thinking it’s just too heavy or too hard to move. OR, we can just do it, and see miracles as God moves in the situation.
May we hear the voice of our Good Shepherd and obey what He tells us to do – even if it doesn’t make sense or seems impossible in the natural.
Sometimes we may find ourselves in an utterly hopeless situation; it is so tempting to give in to despair and depression. But this is exactly when we should be reaching out for a miracle
to the One who said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25)
“NOW you will see what I will do to Pharaoh!” God said to Moses in Egypt after things only got worse instead of better. It may seem like things are going from bad to worse and then it’s all downhill from there – but God’s purpose is always redemptive – that the Son of God may be glorified through it!
BUT WE WERE HOPING
Yeshua’s disciples knew hopelessness. At Passover, after Yeshua was crucified it looked like all hope was lost; that the forces of evil had triumphed.
After Yeshua’s death, His disciples wandered in darkness, confusion, and sorrow. They were hoping that this finally was the ‘real deal.’ After so many false Messiahs, they were hoping that this man was truly the ‘mashiach’ who would redeem Israel from Roman oppression and restore the Kingdom of Israel.
“But we were hoping…” The Hebrew word used is ‘kavinu’, from the root kaveh. ???
Two of the disciples were traveling to a village seven miles from Jerusalem. Notice how disappointment was taking them away from Jerusalem?
As they walked, they conversed and reasoned and were sad. Isn’t this just like us when we’ve experienced a disappointment – we’ve just got to find somebody to talk to about it.
We try to reason the thing out, to somehow make sense out of something that just doesn’t make sense. This only causes more sorrow.
But then Yeshua came near and walked with them along the road. But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him. (Luke 24:16).
In their darkest hour, in their utter hopelessness, they didn’t recognize that Hope was walking right alongside them! For Yeshua is a ‘living hope.’
Yeshua’s disciples had a certain expectation of how God was going to work things out. It didn’t happen the way they thought it should. It took the Spirit of God to open their eyes to the truth of what they had not been seeing.
Beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, Yeshua explained the things concerning Himself from the Scriptures. (Luke 24:27) Again, when Yeshua appeared to them, they didn’t understand.
They were terrified and thought they had seen a ghost. And once again, Yeshua opened their understanding that they might comprehend the Scriptures concerning Him written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms.
We must never believe the lie that we are all alone; that we have been abandoned by God with no hope. For He has promised that He will never leave us and never forsake us. He has promised that His plans for us are for good and not for evil, plans to give us a hope and a future.
If we will seek Him with all of our heart, His promise is that we will find Him. Perhaps the answer has been with us all along; we just haven’t recognized it yet.
RESTING IN THE MIDDLE
The intermediate Shabbat (Sabbath) is the place in the middle, the place of transition.
We’ve left Egypt but are not yet in the Promised Land.
We’ve been saved and put our faith in Yeshua, but not yet seeing the Promises come to pass.
We’ve seen the work of the crucifixion in our lives but no sign yet of the resurrection power on the horizon. Now is not the time to give up or give in. The Shabbat (Sabbath) is a time to rest.
The Jewish Prophet Isaiah
The Prophet Isaiah gives us a beautiful promise that is commonly mistranslated in English. “But those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)
The Hebrew word used here again comes from the root ‘kaveh’ ??? which means hope, as in the Israeli National Anthem, Hatikvah. ?????.
Therefore it is not enough to just sit and passively wait on God, but to actively hope: Hope in His goodness, hope in His mercy, hope in His love, in His forgiveness and in His guidance.
Other meanings that branch out from this same root word kaveh (hope) are kav, which means ‘line’ and kavanah, meaning ‘intention’ and kivun (direction).
If we put all these related words together, we may glean what God is really meaning in this verse.
We must actually set the line of our hope intentionally in the direction of the Lord. For when we recover hope, we recover joy; and the joy of the Lord will be our strength.
“Do not fear; Zion, let not your hands be weak, The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zeph. 3:16-17).