- Refreshing Contrast to Holiday Stress
- The Lamb and The Harvest
- Stronger Together Than Apart…
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Refreshing Contrast to Holiday Stress
The bright red embroidery of the aboriginal costumes matched the cheery smiles on their faces. We couldn’t help but be moved by their joy as they presented their traditional dance before us: “Heya, Hoya, Hiya, Halleluyah! Heya, Hoya, Hiya, Halleluyah!” As we welcomed the group of eleven Taiwanese Christian volunteers on their first day, I wondered how we could connect or even manage to work together without having a common language of communication between us. One gracious translator bridged the gap for each and every conversation, but their contagious excitement spoke more eloquently than words.
In the two weeks prior to Passover, much of Israel’s population is nearly crazed with personal and family stress. Each home is busy with hectic Passover cleaning, which is not the run-of-the mill spring cleaning but more like spring cleaning on steroids, along with preparing for the night of the Passover Seder (commemorative festive meal). Some families paint the whole house. Some have saved money all year to buy new furniture during this season or to purchase elaborate gifts for friends and family. Those with children must juggle childcare and activities since they are already on holiday from school, while adults are still working regular hours (Passover vacation for adults is only the week of Passover itself). As a people, we like Passover, but we also collectively stress out before the actual holiday.
Thus, the cultural meeting between us and our joyful, selflessly-serving friends from Taiwan was striking and significant.
Every year we prepare and distribute a large number of holiday food bags to new immigrants and needy families in our area, and this year was no different. Eight hundred bags had to be packed. Packed they were. In record time. With precision and with a smile.
“All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name. For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God” (Psalm 86:9-10).
Today, at the end of their visit, our Taiwanese brothers and sisters helped distribute the bags. I could see that their contagious joy was rubbing off on the recipients of the holiday bags. They came to receive free food to celebrate the holidays, but left knowing they were cared for and even prayed for. Some conversations were had that we, as locals, could not or would not have initiated in the same way. However, God’s love was all over the place. It was funny to me as I said goodbye to our dear guests, still not really having a common language, to feel so united with them and bonded over the days of working and serving together. This is certainly what it means to be the One New Man, Yeshua’s hands and feet together – one body, united by the amazing love of the Heavenly Father. – Avi Tekle
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The Lamb and The Harvest
Passover is the first of the biblical feasts mentioned in the Bible (Exodus 12). It is also one of the three festivals during which the nation was commanded to come to Jerusalem, bringing their sacrifices to the Temple (Exodus 23:14-17). I also call Passover the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Freedom and the Feast of Spring. Each name is connected with the historical commemoration of Israel’s exodus from Egypt.
During the festival of Passover we are commanded by God to follow what today might be referred to as traditions, each one pointing to the Messiah. The story of the exodus is a parallel to the exodus we will have with the Lord when He comes to redeem us. Even now Israel, by and large, is still living in “Egypt,” living according to the world’s system.
The Lord’s redemption of Israel from the hands of the Egyptians is full of miracles and wonders. Throughout history, until this present day, God commanded that we remember and retell this great event to our children and our grandchildren (Exodus 13:8). Therefore, on the eve of Passover we read and recite the story of the Exodus using the Hagaddah. Here we see the symbolism of the six elements on the Passover Seder plate: roasted egg – festival sacrifice; shankbone – Passover lamb offering; charoset (apple, nuts and honey mix) – like the mortar that the Hebrew slaves used to build Egyptian structures; parsley dipped in salt water – the tears of the slaves; “bitter herbs” (horseradish) – bitterness of slavery; lettuce – part of the “bitter herbs.” The matzah or unleavened bread is eaten for a week to commemorate the fact that the Israelites did not have time to let their bread rise before their departure from Egypt.
Before the festival of Passover, the entire nation of Israel is commanded to remove all yeast or leaven from the home. We as believers are also called to remove the leaven (sin) from our lives. Removing the leaven means searching our hearts for inner impurities, in other words taking a good look at our spiritual condition.
The feast of Passover according to Leviticus 23:5 starts at the very end of the 14th of the month of Nisan; the lambs were to be slaughtered “between the twilights”, on the cusp of the change from the 14th to the 15th day. Thousands of years later, before nightfall on the 14h of Nisan, Yeshua, the Passover lamb was sacrificed. He is the Passover lamb who died on the cross, carrying on Himself the iniquities of the world and redeeming all who believe in Him.
When God sees the blood shed by Messiah on the doorpost of our hearts (our lives), He passes over us, giving us life. Yeshua is the Passover lamb. In the same way, the angel of death passed over the homes in Egypt which were marked with the blood of the lamb on the doorposts.
The 15th of Nisan, including the Passover Seder itself is a holy convocation, and the start of the seven-day period of eating unleavened bread begins. For us as believers, this is symbolic of the lifestyle we should be living (I Corinthians 5:7-8).
Then on the day following the Shabbat, which was the third day 17th of Nisan, the day of Yeshua’s resurrection in that year, we begin the counting of the Omer, the barley harvest.
On that day the high priest would lift up the Omer (a sheaf of barley) in a ceremony thanking God for the first fruits of the harvest. He then would begin the count – asking God to bless the harvest. This period lasts for fifty days and brings us to Pentecost or Shavuot (Leviticus 23:11-16). Yeshua is the first fruit (I Corinthians 15:20-23); He is the first resurrection (Colossians 1:18).
We are called to be one in Yeshua’s death and resurrection. We who are dead in Messiah will be raised up with Him (I Thessalonians 4:6). Yeshua is the first fruit of the harvest and we are the harvest. – Guy Cohen
Perspectives on the Sermon on the Mount
Yeshua said “Blessed” nine times referring to nine human “conditions,” yet these seem not to be permanent. They seem not to be absolutely constant in one’s behavior. “Blessed are those who mourn…” Yet a grieving person will over time be comforted. “Blessed are the meek…” Yet you may be meek when you feel humiliated or ashamed, but not afterwards. “Blessed are the merciful…” Yet, you may be merciful today helping everyone around you, but tomorrow, after conflict with someone, you may temporarily become selfish, irritable and sarcastic. So how can Yeshua speak of the rewards of these conditions: “Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven…they shall be filled…comforted…called the sons of God?” (Matthew 5)
Those who grieve eventually find solace. But to feel sorrow when one is convicted by the Spirit of God is a different characteristic, as in the case of King David when he committed adultery with Bathsheba. David’s grief at the loss of the Divine presence made him scream, “Don’t take your Spirit away from me!” God’s Spirit remained with David—the same Spirit about which Yeshua said later, “…He will send you a Counselor [Comforter]” (John 14:16). This is the deep, divine consolation of which the Sermon on the Mount speaks.
How Can a Strong Leader be Meek?
Be meek! But how can a leader, breaking through resistance, be meek under the attacks of this world? This is true not just for leaders. For a husband or wife in a family, the question is how to be meek, suspecting that if they do, “everything can go out of balance”? The Torah’s words about Moses, the greatest leader—that he was the humblest of all—sound like a joke! How was this possible, given the rebellion of Datan, Abiram and Korah? Such behaviors naturally push us to initiate confrontation, to shout, to be uneasy. But it was precisely at this time that Moses showed humility. And it is namely this pattern that Yeshua, the Messiah and the Savior of all, used in His Nine Beatitudes! Reach meekness, and your destiny will be to “inherit the Earth.”
How far from the standard of meekness are modern leaders! And not only leaders—all of us fall short of this standard! And it is here that Yeshua challenges us to “reach and see the fruits of God’s glory in life.” Sometimes we hope to receive the glory of God in prayer as if it were like “instant coffee,” but these blessings listed in the sermon on the mount will also involve decisions and actions on our part.
9 Beatitudes & 9 Fruits of the Spirit
It is possible that these nine commandments or beatitudes, or nine states of a person, from Matthew 5 can be connected with the nine fruits of the Spirit, about which we read in Galatians, chapter 5, verse 22-23: “The fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, mercy, faith, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
Interestingly, at the end of the nine beatitudes, Yeshua talked about the permanence of God’s law (His Torah, Matthew 5:17-18). Paul, after listing the nine fruits of the Spirit, says that “against such things there is no law.” The power of the New Covenant is exactly in the fact that the Torah no longer tells us from the outside how to live, but it is recorded within us, in our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33), by the Sacrifice of the Messiah.
The goal, by God’s grace, is reaching the qualities of the Sermon on the Mount (at least much of the time), and experiencing the fullness of the Lord. – Leon Mazin
Stronger Together Than Apart…
A little over eight years ago, I immigrated to Israel completely by myself. However, I never felt alone. For, you see, I was leaving a wonderful community that had modeled intentional relationship building, whether it was directly volunteering in congregational ministries or receiving one-on-one discipleship and mentorship. People were truly involved in one another’s lives and the fruit that it produced was evident. I experienced the beauty of friendships, and I had no doubt that God would pave a way for me to once again know these types of interactions in my new community in Israel.
Now, my “new” community of Tents of Mercy is like an adopted family. In particular, I have enjoyed being involved in our Women’s Ministry, which really means that I have figuratively a thousand mamas and my three little girls have a thousand and one doting Jewish grandmothers. I figure we’re set for life with this ratio. 😉 Indeed, the ladies in our community are an incredible picture of strength, dignity, determination, resilience and sacrificial love. I have been blown away in hearing their stories – each so different – yet so similar in their mutual quest for re-establishing their lives in a new land with a new culture and language.
This year, our Women’s Ministry is focusing on lifting one another up through prayer, words of encouragement and times of fellowship. At every meeting, we make a point to allow time for small group discussion and space for praying over each another. I can personally attest to a greater sense of openness among our ladies, as they more freely share with each other.
We are also seeking to encompass various types of activities or themes for our meetings. Our most recent time together focused on understanding what true beauty is according to God’s word. The discussion was lively, honest and inspiring. In addition, we shared homemade beauty tips using common items found around the house. Talk about helpful! We are truly blessed and thankful for this season of growing closer to one another while going deeper in our faith together! For as Matthew 18: 19-20 states, “… truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Thus, our women are stronger together than apart! – By Blair A