Lenses: Part 2 – Morning and Evening


Last post, we began “turning the lenses of Scripture” around again, as we seek to look at the familiar stories of the Bible in their original historic, geographical, cultural, and religious context.  We saw how the instruction found in the Torah – the Law of God – to wear tassels, or “tzitzit”, on the corners of their garments reminded Israel of the responsibility to keep God’s commandments.  We saw how David made a powerful statement in cutting off Saul’s tzitzit in the cave of Ein Gedi.  And we learned that the woman who grabbed the “hem” of Jesus’ robe was doing much more than seeking healing.  She was boldly declaring that Jesus was the promised “Sun of Righteousness” who had risen with “healing in His wings” – His tzitzit.  She was telling all, that she believed that Jesus was the Messiah.

 Part 2: Morning and Evening

 Abraham and the Covenant – Genesis 15

Would you have the “chutzpah” to question God, straight to His face?  That’s the way the story of Genesis 15 begins.  God shows up at Abraham’s tent to remind him of the promise made to him in Genesis 12.  God promises that He would protect Abraham and that he would be blessed beyond all imagination.  And Abraham basically tells God that it doesn’t matter all that much, because he has no heir to carry on the line anyway.  But rather than condemning Abraham, he lovingly understands Abraham’s doubts and asks him if they could go for a walk together.  God tells Abraham to count the stars spread above him – an impossible task.  And then God promises that Abraham’s descendents will be just as innumerable.  But that’s not enough for Abraham.  He boldly asks God to prove it to him.  And God does.

God tells Abraham to go get five animals: a cow, a goat, a ram, a turtledove, and a pigeon.  Now, the Bible doesn’t tell us that Abraham was given any further instructions, but he seems to know exactly what God was thinking.  Abraham cuts the animals in half and creates a “path of blood” between them.  In doing this, Abraham is preparing for an ancient covenant ceremony that is still practiced among the Bedouin culture of the Middle East today.

This covenant ceremony involves both a greater and lesser party.  The greater party makes a series of promises to the lesser, and the lesser party agrees to follow certain practices as a result.  Then, the greater party walks through the “path of blood” between the animal halves, stomping in the blood the whole way.  In doing this, he’s saying, “If I fail to honor my part of this covenant, you may slay me like these animals and stomp through my blood.”  Then, the lesser party repeats the act, making the same oath.

God’s promise to Abraham was that all who bless him and his descendents would be blessed; all who curse them would be cursed; and through Abraham’s line a descendent would come that would bless all of humanity.  Abraham’s part was simple: walk before God and be blameless; be perfect; no sin; no errors; no mistakes.

Genesis 15 says that Abraham is overcome with a “thick and dreadful darkness” (verse 12).  This phrase is an ancient Hebrew idiom for someone becoming completely overcome with terror.  And when Abraham hears of his responsibility in the covenant, this is the only response he could have.  He cannot fulfill his end.

It is after this that God manifests into a smoking fire pot – smoke being a common Biblical metaphor for God: the Pillar of Cloud (Exodus 13); at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19); in the Tent of Meeting (Exodus 40); above the Ark of the Covenant (Leviticus 16); in the Temple (I Kings 8; 1 Chronicles 5); Isaiah’s vision (Isaiah 6); in Heaven at the judgment of mankind (Revelation 15) – and as He declares the future of the descendents of Abraham, the smoking fire pot proceeds to pass between the pieces.

And now it is Abraham’s turn.

Every Morning and Every Evening – Exodus 29

It’s early in the day.  As has been the custom for centuries, a priest stands at the brazen altar with a knife pressed against the throat of a lamb.  Another priest is waiting at the pinnacle of the Temple, with a ram’s horn (shofar) pressed to his lips.  A third priest is waiting in the Temple courtyard watching a sun dial.  As the sun dial indicates the specified moment in time, he signals the priest on the pinnacle; the shofar is blown, and the lamb is slain.  The priest sprinkles the blood against the base of the altar, as the people plead with God to be faithful to the covenant promise made to Abraham.  And the day’s worship begins.

For the next six hours, animal after animal is sacrificed on that same altar.  Sin offerings; trespass offerings; burnt offerings; peace offerings; meal offerings are offered again and again.  Cows; rams; goats; turtledoves; pigeons; the same animals Abraham slaughtered to create the “path of blood” 1,800 years earlier, are slain in the Temple.

And again, at the close of the day’s worship, the sacrifice of the lamb is repeated.  This sacrifice had been made ever since the Hebrews left Egypt, as God commanded; in the Tabernacle while wandering in the wilderness; in Shiloh; in Jerusalem; in the glorious Temple constructed by Solomon; in the Temple rebuilt by Zerubabel; in the beautifully renovated Temple of Herod.  And every day, a river of blood flowed from the Temple, down into the Kidron Valley; reminding all of Israel of the “path of blood” that God passed through 1,800 years earlier; of God’s promise to them.

The Day of the Cross – Mark 15:25-39

And it was the third hour when they crucified him.  And the inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.”  And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left.   And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!”  So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself.  Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.  And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.  And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.”  And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.”  And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last.  And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.  And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

Six hours.  Jesus hung on the cross from morning till evening.  As the people prepared to offer up cows, rams, goats, turtledoves, and pigeons as sacrifices, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29) was being nailed to a tree.  Mark wrote his gospel to those in Rome, so he uses the Roman reckoning of time.  “The third hour” would be 9:00am – and it was at this specific time for 1,200 years that the lamb was slain on the altar to begin the worship in God’s House.  The offerings commenced.  And as Jesus’ blood was being shed, the blood from the altar began to flow from the Temple Mount into the creek that ran through the Kidron Valley: water and blood.

A Flaming Torch – Genesis 15

Abraham realized immediately that his life was over.  There was absolutely no way he could honor his side of the covenant being made.  God’s promise was amazing, but God would be released from it the very first moment that Abraham sinned.  God had been clear: Abraham was to be perfect before God.  Abraham was 86 years old.  He’d learned early on that he couldn’t go a day being blameless.  The very second that he dipped his toe in the “path of blood,” his fate would be sealed.  It was only a matter of hours before he would be judged.

Genesis 15:12 says that Abraham fell into a deep sleep, but this misses the nuance of the language.  It really means that Abraham passed out in fear.  He had no chance.  God was standing before him, and Abraham understood immediately the gravity of the situation he was in.  Abraham knew he was expected to walk the “path of blood”.  He couldn’t do it and live.

We miss the point of the story.  We know that God passed through the animal halves, but there’s an important verse that reveals the beauty of the story:

When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot AND a flaming torch passed between these pieces. – Genesis 15:17

We’ve already looked at the smoking fire pot, but this verse reveals a second manifestation of the presence of God.  In Hebraic religious writings, fire always symbolizes God: the Burning Bush (Exodus 3); the Pillar of Fire (Exodus 13); God descending in fire on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19); a Consuming Fire (Deuteronomy 4); the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7); the Eternal Messiah (Revelation 1; 19).

And the Fire of God crossed through the “path of blood” in Abraham’s place.  God broke the protocol of the covenant, and declared to Abraham and all who would read this story after, “If YOU fail to honor YOUR part of this covenant, you may slay ME like these animals and stomp through my blood.”

And Jesus fate – not Abraham’s – was sealed. 

Century after century thereafter, as the morning and evening sacrifices signaled God’s promise to keep the covenant, Jesus saw the blood flow.  He heard the animals cry.  He saw the fire on the altar and smelled the smoke rising to the Heavens.  And he thought about His future.  He saw the picture of His own death.

It Is Finished – Hebrews 10:5-14

That is what is meant by this prophecy, put in the mouth of Christ: 


You don’t want sacrifices and offerings year after year;
you’ve prepared a body for me for a sacrifice.
It’s not fragrance and smoke from the altar
that whet your appetite.
So I said, “I’m here to do it your way, O God,
      the way it’s described in your Book.”


When he said, “You don’t want sacrifices and offerings,” he was referring to practices according to the old plan. When he added, “I’m here to do it your way,” he set aside the first in order to enact the new plan—God’s way—by which we are made fit for God by the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus.
 

 

Every priest goes to work at the altar each day, offers the same old sacrifices year in, year out, and never makes a dent in the sin problem. As a priest, Christ made a single sacrifice for sins, and that was it! Then he sat down right beside God and waited for his enemies to cave in. It was a perfect sacrifice by a perfect person to perfect some very imperfect people. By that single offering, he did everything that needed to be done for everyone who takes part in the purifying process. – Hebrews 10:5-14 (The Message)

At 9:00am on the “Day of the Cross”, Jesus was nailed to His execution stake – at the very moment that the morning sacrifice was taking place.  And again, at 3:00pm – as the final sacrifice of the day was slain in the Temple – Jesus cried out that once and for all, “It is FINISHED!” (John 19:30)

The Wondrous Cross

When I survey the Wondrous Cross, on which the Prince of Glory died;

My richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, save in the death of Christ, my God;

All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet; sorrow and love flow mingled down;

Did e’er such love and sorrow meet or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine that were an offering far too small.

Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all!

 

Next Post: He Shall Be Called a “Nazarene”

We must have the intellectual integrity to understand that there are Scriptures regarding Jesus that have some problems.  If we press the Scriptures hard, will they still stand up under the scrutiny?  Matthew writes that Jesus fulfilled the prophecy that “He shall be called a ‘Nazarene’.”  But do the ancient Hebrew prophets ever predict this?  Why does Matthew 1 indicate that there are “14 generations from Abraham to David, from David to the Babylonian captivity, and from the captivity to Jesus?”  But there are only 13 generations listed from the captivity to Jesus in Matthew 1.  Why?  And for that matter, why are there two different genealogies of Jesus that both claim to be through his earthly father, Joseph, but come through two different sons of David?  Are there answers to these challenges?

Readings for the Week:

  • Matthew 2:21-23
  • Matthew 1:1-17
  • Luke 3:23-38
  • Isaiah 11

Previous Post: Lenses: Part 1 – Healing In His Wings

Return to Eden: Part 9 – A New Heaven & and New Earth

A New Heaven and A New Earth

The idea is so foreign to us that we can’t really even envision it.

Eden restored.

Life as it was intended before we chose our own path and corrupted it. No pain. No death. No crying. No conflict. And if that were all, it would be amazing beyond comprehension, but that’s not even the best part.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” Revelation 21:4 ESV

And this is why we can call it Eden again. It is then that we will experience our existence as God originally created us; in perfect, intimate, unrestricted relationship with the One True God.

We spend so much of our time and energy focusing on the lives we have now; our Genesis 3 to Revelation 20 existence. Now there is pain. Now there is death. Now there is crying. Now there is conflict. And now our relationship with God is limited.

Now we live in the wilderness. We’re Israel after the Red Sea and before the Jordan River. We live as nomadic wanderers, never fully feeling like we fit. As soon as we get comfortable in one spot, it seems as if God says it’s time to pick up and move again. We wait daily for the provision of God. We wonder if this was all a mistake. Every moment of every days whispers to our soul that we’re not home yet. As the old gospel song says, “This world is not my home; I’m just’a passing through.”

Please remember this. We aren’t home yet. We struggle and hurt and fall and cry. But a day is coming when that will all be changed.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:5 ESV

And so, whether we realize it or not, our hearts are longing for the day when we hear our Messiah say these words:

It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. Revelation 21: 6-7 ESV

But for now, while we live in this broken world, we are called to live differently. We are called to be the light that guides others to follow the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I’m reminded of the lyrics to this song:

I Then Shall Live

I then shall live as one who’s been forgiven.

I’ll walk with joy to know my debts are paid.

I know my name is clear before my Father;

I am His child and I am not afraid.

So, greatly pardoned, I’ll forgive my brother;

The law of love I gladly will obey.

I then shall live as one who’s learned compassion.

I’ve been so loved, that I’ll risk loving too.

I know how fear builds walls instead of bridges;

I’ll dare to see another’s point of view.

And when relationships demand commitment,

Then I’ll be there to care and follow through.

Your Kingdom come around and through and in me;

Your power and glory, let them shine through me.

Your Hallowed Name, O may I bear with honor,

And may Your living Kingdom come in me.

The Bread of Life, O may I share with honor,

And may You feed a hungry world through me.

And let us also remember what awaits us:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband…

And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God…

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day–and there will be no night there.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

Revelation 21 & 22 ESV

It sounds a whole lot like Eden to me. And so I join with John the Revelator in saying, “Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus!”

Return to Eden: Part 8 – The Presence of God among Men

What was it like for God to have His relationship with us cut off?  Have you ever taken the time to think about that?  We focus a lot on what sin meant for us, but what about God?

He created us out of a longing to be with beings that could choose to love Him.  He wanted, probably even more than we do, to be with us.  And sin broke that relationship.

So He tried to maintain it as best He could after Eden.  But it was never the same.  The sin that we hold on to so tightly kept Him from us.  At times He had relationships with individuals – Enoch, Noah, Abraham – but it wasn’t what He truly desired.

So in the wilderness of Sinai, He decided to change things up.  He commanded Moses to construct a place where He would dwell on Earth.  It was to be patterned exactly after Heaven (see Hebrews 8:5), and God promised that in it He would sit on the throne – the Ark of the Covenant.  That’s why Moses was told to be sure that Angels and gold, and silver, and precious woods were used in the Tabernacle.  It was His attempt at making Heaven on Earth.

But it still wasn’t the same as Eden.  God was there, but only one time per year would humanity be allowed to enter into the throne-room and come before God’s presence.  It was better than nothing, but not what God longed for.

King David longed for that same type of relationship.  He understood, as best as his limited mind could, that God desired to be present among us.  So he asked if he could build a permanent residence in Jerusalem for Him.    David’s history as a warrior and murderer prevented him from building it, but he was given the honor of preparing everything for his son, Solomon, to build it.  And the Temple was stunning.  It was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World.  It was absolutely glorious.  But it still wasn’t Eden.  And just as with the Tabernacle only one man was authorized to enter before God’s presence in the Temple, and then only once per year.  It was closer to Heaven on Earth, but still not what God desired.

So God again took a different approach.  If man couldn’t enter before His presence in the Temple, He would leave the Temple and come to them:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 ESV

That Greek word for “dwelt” is actually the same as the Hebrew word “tabernacle.”  That verse could just as accurately – maybe even more accurately –  be translated, “And the Word (Jesus) became flesh and tabernacled among us.”

That’s why we see Jesus refer to His body as the Temple of God over and over again.  The prophet Ezekiel wrote that he saw God’s presence leave Solomon’s Temple (Ezekiel 10:18).  God wasn’t in the Holy of Holies anymore.  The Temple was never a building.  It was the place that God chose to dwell on Earth.  That’s why Jesus so many times said that the “Temple” would be destroyed and rebuilt in three days.  He was the Temple.  God was dwelling among the people, and they finally had a relationship with him.  But as much as Jesus was God, He was still man.  He could only be in one place at a time.  His original desire was still not fulfilled.  It still wasn’t Eden.

And then He left.  Forty days after rising from the grave He returned to Heaven.  And God was no longer on the Earth.  But then on Shavuot, God came back.  He returned, this time as His very Breath filled the Believers on Shavuot.  And God was able to be with humanity wherever His people were.

The Temple became His people.  Paul tells us that we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).  Peter goes so far as to tell us that each one of us who receive Jesus have become a Living Stone being built up into God’s dwelling place on the Earth (1 Peter 2:5).  As His people, together we carry God’s presence on the Earth.  It’s closer to what He desires, but we know that it still isn’t Heaven on Earth.  We are broken.  We are weak.  And there are billions who still don’t have a relationship with Him.  It still isn’t Eden.

And a day will come soon, when Jesus will return.  Those of us who have yielded ourselves to Him will be resurrected to live forever in perfect bodies free from the sin that separates us from Him.  And Jesus will begin a thousand years of showing us what this life could have been like had we followed His Torah, and allowed Him to be our Ruler and Messiah.  But there will be those who have yet to receive His Spirit, or been resurrected to new life.  There will be those who will enter into Messiah’s Kingdom rule after the world nearly destroys itself trying to be its own god.  They will live under His rule and reign, but many will still seek to be separated from His presence.  While life during the Millennial Kingdom will be the most amazing experience since Eden, it still will not be Heaven on Earth.  It still won’t be Eden.

That’s why we will continue to observe the Feast of Sukkot.  Zechariah tells us that each year, there will be the command to go up to Jerusalem and remember that, while Jesus will be here ruling, things still won’t be as they were intended  (Zechariah 14:16-19).  And at the end of those thousand years, many will choose separation from God over relationship with Him.  There will be war again.  But when that is finished, God will finally return us to Eden.

Next Post: A New Heaven and a New Earth

5 Ways My Faith Has Changed After Returning from Israel: The Feasts

My Faith Changed After Returning from Israrel

Have you ever tried to pick up the storyline of a movie after it was half-way over?  Not easy is it?

That’s what most of Christianity has been doing for about 2,000 years.  In fact, we celebrate this approach.  I had a pastor who founded three of the largest churches in my city actually tell me that he tries not to teach the Old Testament because it’s too confusing.  He sticks with the New Testament story.  When children are baptized or dedicated, we give them New Testaments to commemorate the event.  When new Believers ask what they should read, we tell them to start with John and stick to the Gospels.  We ignore the first two-thirds of the story.

This confusion and lack of understanding has hurt us as Christians.  We miss that God laid out His plan for humanity very early on.  The first Christians understood this plan.  They were Jews who had been rehearsing it for 1,500 years.  The plan is seen in the feasts.

You should take a few minutes to read through Leviticus 23.  God’s plan for humanity is described in it.  The cross (Passover).  The burial (Unleavened Bread).  The resurrection (First Fruits).  The Spirit (The Feast of Weeks).  The Second Coming (The Feast of Trumpets).  The Judgment (The Day of Atonement).  The New Heaven and New Earth (The Feast of Tabernacles).

God’s roadmap is there.

And understanding this roadmap makes reading the Scriptures – both the Old and the New Testament – much easier.  You see God’s hand moving to accomplish His plan through these feasts.  Jesus’ teachings take on greater significance.  As do the rest of the New Testament writers.

Understanding the feasts has changed the way I read the Bible.

Want to learn more?  Read Return to Eden here!

5 Ways My Faith Changed After Returning from Israel: Introduction

Return to Eden: Part 7 – The Symbols of Sukkot

Pictures can unlock the Scriptures.  Truths are revealed when we can step back and see the common threads that tie it all together.

The lulav.  The etrog.  The sukkah.  The living water.  The Tabernacle in the midst of the people.  A week of celebration.  These aren’t  just details.  They are the images that God has chosen to use to reveal what His ultimate plan for humanity is.

On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the Lord seven days. On the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest.  And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. You shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It is a statute forever throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths,  that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.  Leviticus 23:39-32 ESV

The lulav is actually a general term for a grouping of the different plants that God instructed Israel to decorate their dwellings with during the feast.  It specifically refers to the palm branches used, but also includes the etrog – a citrus fruit, the myrtle branch, and the willow branch.  In addition to each booth being constructed of these items, all four are combined into a single item that is left at the entrance of the booth, or sukkah.

The sukkah is the special booth that Israel was commanded to construct and dwell in during the feast.  It is important to understand that it became the tradition that continues today that the family should eat the evening meal inside the sukkah each night of the feast.  In the Eastern culture, eating a meal with someone was a picture of relationship.  Covenants were agreed upon this way.  That’s when Jesus renewed the covenant with His disciples.

Now, by the time of Jesus, further traditions had arisen around the Feast of Sukkot, none more important than the Water Libation Ceremony.  The Mishna (Jewish commentary on Scripture) describes it this way:

Whoever has not seen the celebration of the water libation has never experienced the feeling of true joy – great lamps of gold were hoisted, with four golden bowls at the top of each lamp. Four young priests-in-training would climb to the top, carrying immense oil jugs with which they would fill the bowls. Once lighted, there was not a courtyard in all of Jerusalem that did not glow with the light that emanated from the celebration in the Temple courtyard.

As the people sang, the righteous and pious men would dance before them while juggling flaming torches. The levites, standing on the fifteen steps that descend from the Court of Israel to the Women’s Court, played on lyres, harps, trumpets and many other instruments. Two priests who blew silver trumpets stood at the top of the stairs on either side of the entrance to the great gate of the Court.

All this was done to honor the commandment of the water libation.

(based on Mishna, Tractate Sukkah, Chapter 5)

Every morning during the feast, a priest would proceed from the Temple down to the Pool of Siloam where he would draw water from the pool with a special golden decanter.  He would be accompanied by thousands who were waiting for this moment each day.  After returning to the Temple, he would poor the water into a silver cup at the corner of the altar.

This was a ceremony that tied directly to the need for rainfall.  The fall of each year is the rainy season in Israel.  If the rains came, along with it came abundance and prosperity.  If it did not, then famine and death.

This ceremony was even more important on the final day of the feast, called the “Last Great Day.”  When the priest poured the water onto the altar, it was referred to as “living water.”

So as we turn to look at what these feast specifically symbolizes, these are the pictures that we must keep in the front of our minds:  greenery; fruit; the presence of God; living water; relationship.

Next Post: The Presence of God among Men 

Return to Eden: Part 6 – Paradise Restored

One glimpse of the camp of the Hebrews on the first day of Sukkot left the beholder nothing short of speechless.

The Tabernacle itself was always breathtaking; the tapestries and the gold and the sacrifices were beautiful.  But the presence of God was the most stunning feature.  To see the cloud of glory hovering over the Tabernacle instilled fear in any who saw it.  This same pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night that had guided the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob through the Red Sea on dry land, was a symbol of protection to the Hebrews and terror to their enemies.

But during Sukkot – the Feast of Tabernacles – the camp became something straight out of fantasy.  Every year during the forty years of wandering in the desert, the camp of Israel was transformed into a paradise.  Each dwelling was covered with palm fronds, willow and myrtle branches, and fruit.  And since the people dwelt encircling the Tabernacle – with God, Himself, in the center – it was simply amazing to see.

Don’t miss the imagery here.  The Hebrews are in the wilderness.  It’s dry; dusty; brown; barren.  And there are around two million former slaves encamping there, with the glory of God in the middle of them.  And then each one of these two million people’s tents is now overflowing with greenery and fruit and life.  What is God trying to teach them?

Walk with me through what we’ve already seen in this series.  The world was created perfectly.  There was a garden with life and relationship with God.  But man’s sin changed all of that.  So God had to send His only Son as the Passover Lamb to take away the sins of the world.  Jesus’ perfect body was broken as the Unleavened Bread.  He rose as the First Fruits.  His Spirit was sent on Shavuot to write the Torah on the hearts of mankind.  He will return at Yom Teruah – the Feast of Trumpets and judge the world shortly thereafter on Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement.  The only feast left is Sukkot , the feast that celebrates God dwelling among His people.

And that is the picture we seen in the wilderness.  We see a multitude of God’s chosen people dwelling in a beautiful paradise with God dwelling in the center of them.  The picture of Sukkot is a reminder of the Garden of Eden.  Sukkot is Paradise Restored.

But it isn’t really restored, is it?  The feast lasts eight days.  By the time the feast is completed, the greenery has become brown and brittle.  Sukkot is a reminder not only of Paradise, but that we are not there yet.  There is more that needs to happen first.

This is why the prophet, Zechariah, declares that during the reign of the Messiah, all mankind will be required to observe this feast (Zechariah 14:16-19).  Jesus will already have returned in power and glory; He will have judged the earth.  But mankind’s time on earth isn’t finished.  The world will still be broken.  Yes, Jesus will be ruling and reigning and it will be a wonderful time of peace, but the end of the 1,000 years sees rebellion and war again.

The Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) will be a reminder that Eden is not yet restored.  But the pictures of the feast have presented themselves in very interesting ways since the wilderness.

Next Post: The Symbols of Sukkot

5 Ways My Faith Changed After Returning from Israel: Introduction

My Faith Changed After Returning from Israrel

Growing up in a good Christian home, you would think that my religious beliefs would be pretty set by the age of 33.

And they were.  But that all changed in May of 2008, when I spent two weeks in Israel.  It was an amazing point in history, as during those two weeks modern Israel was celebrating their 60th anniversary since becoming a nation.  It was a powerful mixture of the ancient and the modern; of Biblical history and Biblical prophecy coming together.  And the two weeks shook my beliefs down to their very core.  (To learn more, check out About David)  In a nutshell, I returned from Israel with an overwhelming desire to go back in time, as best as I could, to rediscover the faith that Jesus and the Disciples experienced, without the 2,000 years of religious baggage.

Here are 5 ways my faith has changed as a result:

  1. The “BIG BAD LAW” isn’t so big or bad anymore
  2. We can’t fully understand God’s plan, until we understand God’s feasts
  3. The Church is a part of the true Israel, not the replacement for it
  4. Being a disciple means more than going to church on Sunday
  5. God believes in me

Keep checking back as I explain in detail WHY my faith changed in these ways!