Celebrating Desert Wanderings

I don’t do very well with in-between times. I don’t like waiting, especially after sensing God’s leading in a certain direction. It doesn’t make sense to me why sometimes God doesn’t speed up the process. His timing is, so often, not mine.

I have been reading through the book of Exodus with my children this year. We’ve studied the miraculous saving of the baby Moses, his own exile to the desert, his encounter with the Great I Am, his return to Egypt and then we read about the plagues, the Passover and Israel’s final departure from Egypt.

But we realized that God doesn’t lead his people straight to the Promised Land. As if reading this for the first time, I stumbled out loud over Exodus 13:17-18.

 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, for that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea.

God leads his people to the desert because they weren’t yet ready for war. They had a lot to learn before they marched around the walls of Jericho with Joshua some forty years later. They needed to understand the nature of this God who led them with a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. They needed to trust in God’s provision of food and water for them daily. And they needed to receive his law in order to know the holiness of God and just what he required of his people.

During this time in the desert the Israelites did not settle down in order to live there permanently, but lived in tents, or booths. It was a time of in-betweens where God’s people were already delivered (from Egypt) but not yet living where God intended them to (The Promised Land of Israel).

One of the commands given to Moses by God (yes there were more commands than just ten) was to celebrate a yearly feast to the LORD called the Feast of Booths, which celebrated the LORD’s provision for and presence among the Israelites during their desert wanderings. (See Leviticus 23)

Starting on the fifteenth day of the Jewish month of Tishri, many Jews and some Christians will celebrate the Feast of Sukkot, or Booths. This is the final festival in the seventh month of Tishri, preceded by the Feast of Trumpets and the solemn Day of Atonement. Sukkot is a joyful time, celebrating the autumn harvest of grapes, figs and olives in Israel and commemorating Israel’s sojourn in the wilderness for forty years. There are differing opinions on when this feast begins, but many will begin their celebration on sundown of September 27 by constructing sukkah, or tabernacles, to remember how the LORD provided for the Israelites during their wandering in the desert.

I am intrigued by the Jewish Festivals, but especially by the Fall Festivals. Jesus, through his death, resurrection and the giving of the Holy Spirit, has already fulfilled the Spring Festivals. The Fall Festivals of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot look forward to the things that have not yet been fulfilled through Jesus Messiah. We look forward to the return of Christ and to his setting up of his kingdom on this earth. We look forward to his conquering of our enemies and doing away, once and for all, of the curse of sin and death. We look forward to his actual, physical presence! I believe that this Feast of Sukkot looks forward to the time when we will be forever with the LORD.

I want to learn about this feast and try to celebrate it as best as I can, not because I am under compulsion to do so, for I am not bound to the Law as those who were under the Old Covenant. No, I want to celebrate because I want to look forward to the day when we will feast with Jesus and remember his faithfulness to us during our own desert wanderings on this earth. Our own time of already but not yet. For now we see as in a mirror and are looking forward to that time when we shall see face to face!

“Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4

 

A Mighty Rushing Wind

I met an old man from Bangladesh the other day. He had bright white hair and only one tooth in his mouth. I was drawn to him. He asked me about the baby I pushed in the stroller. The baby that looks nothing like me, with her deep brown eyes and jet black hair,but who has belonged to me for these past nine months. I tried as best as I could to explain to him what fostering meant, and maybe he got it a little, but it was apparent I could not communicate exactly to his understanding. But that encounter that morning was no accident and I could feel the Holy Spirit within me pushing me towards him. I could sense the love that God had for this precious Muslim man. So I asked him if he knew that Jesus loved him. “Oh, you mean Isa?” he asked. “He is one of our prophets.” “Yes!” I cried. “And Isa loves you!” And he began to speak to me that he did not believe that Isa died, but was taken up to heaven. And then he told me that he believes that Isa is coming back to fight alongside militant Islam. And I told him, with great joy, “Oh yes! Isa is coming back. I believe that too!” And as I spoke so briefly with this Muslim man, I stood before him and I held out the good news of Jesus’ love. This. This in the face of the grand scale persecution going on throughout the world of militant Muslims against my own Christian brothers and sisters. Today is Pentecost Sunday. The day the Holy Spirit came upon the believers for the first time as they waited and prayed together for that power that Jesus had promised would come over them.

Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Acts 2:2-4

Jews from many countries were gathered in Jerusalem for their pilgrimage to the Feast of Pentecost. Jews from the nations, speaking different languages, heard the good news of Jesus being preached to them in their very own tongue. Peter preached from the Hebrew Scriptures and they were convicted and responded to the message. And three thousand were baptized and added to the church. The Jews knew Pentecost or “Shavuot” to be a festival of the first fruits of the wheat harvest. This came fifty days after the festival of the early first fruits of the barley harvest. In this feast of Pentecost, the first of the wheat harvest was taken from the earth and baked into two loaves of bread and waved before the Lord in praise for the promise of a greater harvest at the end of the season. In Jerusalem, when the disciples received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, God was fulfilling the meaning of this festival harvest by a harvest of souls. But not just for the nation of Israel. For all the nations of the world.

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations. Psalm 67:1-2

This morning I awoke to the most violent wind blasting through my backyard. I pray that the Holy Spirit would break out upon us in a mighty rushing wind. Oh church, let us rise up and proclaim the rich message of salvation, through the power of the Holy Spirit, so that all nations will come to King Jesus. Let us get down on our knees and pray that God would send us out to the fields, white for harvest. The time is now. So that one day, we will hear every nation, every language, every tribe declaring the praises of Jesus. And I hope to hear that man from Bangladesh, with the snow white hair and the one tooth, declaring the praises of Isa.

The Firstfruits of the Harvest


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The festival of Sfirat HaOmer celebrated the earliest harvest of the year for the nation of Israel. This was the firstfruits of the barley harvest. An obscure holiday, even for the Jews today, this festival was laid out in Leviticus 23 as the Lord commanded Moses to make this one of His appointed feasts. After the feast of Passover, on the day after the Sabbath, the priest was to wave before the Lord a sheaf of the first of the barley harvest. He was to wave it in all directions, as a testimony that this was the first of a much greater harvest to come.

Generations after God had appointed the feasts for the nation of Israel, the Roman Empire had risen to power and had extended its control throughout the known world, including Israel. A man, Jesus, as we know him to be, claimed to be the King of the Jews, the Messiah who was to free Israel from bondage, and was murdered on the Feast of Passover just outside the city of Jerusalem. He was buried that same day before sundown, which signaled the start of the Sabbath day for the Jews. He lay in the tomb that whole Sabbath day and the next day, well the next day just happened to be Sfirat HaOmer, the feast of the early firstfruits. At the very first glimmer of dawn that first day of the week, the massive stone had been moved away from the sealed tomb and Jesus’ body was gone!

But the fact is that the Messiah has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have died. For since death came through a man, also the resurrection of the dead has come through a man. For just as in connection with Adam all die, so in connection with the Messiah all will be made alive. But each in his own order: the Messiah is the firstfruits; then those who belong to Messiah at the time of his coming… 1 Corinthians 15:20-23

There was no mistake or accident about it! Jesus Messiah was raised to life on the day of the first harvest of the earth. The significance of the Resurrection is so profound. In an agrarian society, the firstfruits of the harvest signified that a greater harvest was coming. So also, the Resurrection of Jesus signifies that a greater harvest is coming. A harvest of souls! And a guaranteed resurrection for those who belong to the Messiah!

IMG_1297This morning, in the blue light just before dawn, my son, Jeremiah, told the world that he was choosing to follow Jesus.

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Today is the feast of the early firstfruits. The day Jesus rose from the dead, conquering the power of the enemy, breaking the curse of sin and embodying the truest meaning of the festival of firstfruits.

IMG_0138Buried with Christ in the likeness of his death, raised to walk in newness of life, waiting for that day when our bodies will be resurrected just as the glorious body of our Savior, Y’shua Messiach.

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The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Yes, indeed! I tell you that unless a grain of wheat that falls to the ground dies, it stays just a grain; but if it dies, it produces a big harvest…..As for me, when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.

John 12:23-24, 32