Month 2:15, Week 2:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year:Day 5936:044 AM|
SHABBAT 2:2, Omer Count Sabbath #4
Gregorian Calendar: Saturday 5 May 2012
Late Chag haMatzah 2012
1. The True Season of Teshuvah Revealed
Continued from Part 2
Shabbat shalom kol beit Yisrael and chag sameach Chag haMatzah for those of you celebrating a late Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread. Once again I hope that those who have already celebrated this feast a month ago will join in the spirit with those who are celebrating it for a week starting today and that both will be blessed from the hochmah (wisdom) and ahavah (love) of Yahweh that is hidden up in this 'second chance' festival. I have a rather speacial message I want to share.
"So the children of Israel who were present at Jerusalem kept Chag haMatzah (the Feast of Unleavened Bread) seven days with great gladness; and the Levites and the cohenim (priests) praised Yahweh day by day, singing to Yahweh, accompanied by loud instruments. And Hezekiah gave encouragement to all the Levites who taught the tov sekel (good knowledge) of Yahweh; and they ate throughout the feast seven days, offering peace offerings and making yadah (confession) to Yahweh-Elohim of their fathers" (2 Chron.30:21-22, NKJV).
Over the 13 years I have been a Messianic I have been forced to discard one Jewish tradition after another as I have discovered their origins in the vain imaginations of man, just as I have done as an Evangelical Christian throwing out the pagan traditions of Rome. Man, when he wanders beyond the hedge of safety of Yahweh's Torah or Law ends up corrupting everything he touches. He either subtracts or adds from what Yahweh has commanded. It is therefore a very rare thing to find a man or woman walking the straight and narrow as he should be these days.
This is the first time we have acknowledged the plain teaching of Torah that Yahweh has ordained a second Passover season for those who missed the first one and it also the first time we have done anything concrete about it. You know, one of the most beautiful thing about doing Yahweh's mitzvot (commandments) is that you learn things you never would if you had not; and when you learn things, and rejoice over them, you grow in emunah (faith), in ahavah (love), in tavnith (pattern), in hope, in simcha (joy) and in spirituality.
As you all know, the opportunity for a second season of Passover and Unleavened Bread was seized upon by righteous Judahite King Hezekiah when he realised that his people couldn't make the first one. As I re-read the 30th chapter of 2 Chronicles this morning I was struck by a number of things, not least of which was the simcha (joy) with which the people approached this second chance to get right with Yahweh (v.21). So great was their enthusiasm that they begged the king to make it a two week festival so that they might devote more time in worship and celebration (v.23). How many of us when we assemble to worship Yahweh want to stay on to enjoy the fellowship and the worship? Or are our feet itching to get away to do other things? And if we are itching to leave, do we know why?
My wife pointed out to me last autumn (fall) that the 40 day period of time we call the 'Season of Teshuvah (Repentance)' leading up to Yom Kippur is not actually a convention revealed by Yahweh in the Bible but is another of those man-made Jewish traditions that has all but drowned out the simplicity of Torah. I have left it in place only because Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is also the Day of Judgment; and before that day, we very definitely need to be repenting! However, as it stands, Teshuvah comes across as more of a last-minute repenting when making teshuvah (repentance) is actually integral with the whole Besorah (Gospel) way of life.
Indeed, there is a biblical Season of Teshuvah (Repentance) and it has been staring us right in the face - it's the seven day-long Chag haMatzah or Feast of Unleavened Bread! Not only that, but the number symbolism is better too because the Jewish 40-day long observance implies compulsory purging as a result of disobedience and rebellion (the 40 year wandering in Sinai) whereas 7 is the number of spiritual completion and perfection that implies voluntary repentance, not as something 'added on' in a last desperate hope to be admitted into the Kingdom at the last minute, but as a recognition that repentance is natural, tov (good) and to be enjoined every day of our life. In fact, making teshuvah (repentance) is so tov (good) that the people begged Hezekiah to extend Chag haMatzah by another 7 days to do more repenting and celebrating!
Most people view repentance in purely negative terms, as self-inflicted punishment, when the lesson of Chag haMatzah has always been that removing the leaven of sin out of our lives (the many acts of repentance we should be going daily) is actually sweet because repentance leads to the removal of the bitterness, hate, depair, hopelessness and the void of being without ahavah (love) in your lev (heart) that is the condition of the soul that has admitted demons into his life. Repenting is changing direction and heading for the right target.
Today's passage records that "Hezekiah gave encouragement to all the Levites who taught the tov sekel (good knowledge) of Yahweh; and they ate throughout the feast seven days, offering peace offerings and making yadah (confession) to Yahweh-Elohim of their fathers". To make yadah or confession is the first stage of making teshuvah (repentance) - it is owning up to the responsibility of having sinned. It is done vocally either to a private confidant or before the congregation, depending what the nature of the sin is. For one, this keeps the soul humble and for another it keeps it accountable. The Judahites were joyfully making this yadah or confession because they were walking in a spirit of teshuvah (repentance). Why were they doing this? Because they had received "tov sekel (good knowledge)" from the Torah - Yahweh's Davar (Word), so they did not withhold their sins but rather got them out and were done with them. It was because of this right lev (heart)-attitude that they were justified. They hadn't done things completely right in their haste to be on time for the feast but Yahweh saw the intent of the inner man:
(2 Chron.30:18-20, NKJV).
"'May good Yahweh provide atonement for everyone who prepares his lev (heart) to seek Elohim (God), Yahweh-Elohim of his fathers, though he is not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary.' And Yahweh listened to Hezekiah and healed the people"
I particularly want Messianics to take note today and to stop condemning their evangelical brethren who are ignorant of the Torah's demands and who do not know or use the divine Names but whose levim (hearts) are pure and who truly seek to please Yahweh and to save lost souls. Stop bashing them and look to your own levim (hearts). I personally absolutely refuse to judge those whose levim (hearts) are right because I would run the risk of Yahweh's displeasure, He who can see what I cannot. My job is to teach Torah in ahavah (love) and leave the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) to do the rest - it is not for us to condemn but to patiently correct as opportunity is provided and as the Ruach (Spirit) leads. We can no more condemn such people any more than we could have condemned the people in Hezekiah's day for failing to perform the ritualistic Torah in its right order under the Old Covenant when they had truly been doing their best.
The late Pesach and late Chag haMatzah is a lesson in Yahweh's grace - His undeserved loving kindness, His unmerited favour, which we are supposed to be demonstrating to others too. Yahweh is not seeking instant perfection in His people but a spirit of teshuvah (repentance) - woe unto anyone who condemns a repenting soul for not being perfect! Repentance is the process of yielding and surrendering, which is all Yahweh wants at any one moment. Thus earlier in the 30th chapter we read:
This is a good rule-of-thumb to live by. I can think of plenty of stiff-necked Torah-obedient Messianics and legalistic Evangelicals who have yielded to the letter of the Davar (Word) but not to its ruach (spirit). Yahweh judges us by the condition of our levim (hearts) first and foremost because He knows that a tov lev (good heart) will always lead a soul to works of righteousness, and it is by that tov lev (good heart) that we are justified (made right with Him), not by our good works. Our good works only count for rewards if our levim (hearts) are right!
"Now do not be stiff-necked (proud and arrogant), as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to Yahweh; and enter His sanctuary, which He has sanctified forever, and serve Yahweh your Elohim, that the fierceness of His wrath may turn away from you. For if you return to Yahweh, your brethren and your children will be treated with compassion by those who lead them captive" (2 Chron.30:8-9, NKJV).
This, to me, is the message of the Late Festival of Unleavaned Bread. If we have gone about repenting - getting the leaven of sin out of our lives - with a wrong lev (heart), now is the opportunity to do it the right way! We must learn that deeds, whilst vitally important, are not the main thing, but that which drives us to do good deeds - is it the love of Yahweh or because of an egotistical search for self-validation or recognition amongst men?
I am therefore, from now on, going to preach Chag haMatzah as the higher season of repentance - the true way to make teshuvah (repent). I will still be preaching a Teshuvah before Yom Kippur but I will be pointing out that this is the inferior way for the one likely repenting with wrong motives: to be saved from hell instead of being saved for Heaven!
Have a blessed Shabbat and late Chag haMatzah!
Continued in Part 3