Month 8:1, Rosh Chodesh, Year:Day 5939:208 AM|
ROSH CHODESH VIII (Shemini haChodesh), 2Exodus 1/40
Gregorian Calendar: Friday 24 October 2014
Rosh Chodesh VIII
The Path to Biblical Love
Chag sameach Rosh Chodesh kol beit Yisra'el. The Feast of Sukkot (Tabernacles) and the annual festivals for this year are over and we enter into an important six-month phase of our journey before Pesach (Passover) rolls around again. Sukkot (Tabernacles) was not exactly what everyone expected.
I am sure that in your lives you have all attended weddings. The older you get, the more weddings you will attend, of course, and every single one of them will be different. Some of those marriages will prosper, some will stagnate, and others will tragically end in divorce. All earth-bound marriages end in death leaving those widows and widowers left behind, if their relationships were good, longingly look forward to a happy reunion in the heavenlies with their dearly-departed spouses. Perhaps you have been to weddings you felt uncomfortable or worried at (especially if you thought the couples were unsuited), some may have been boring (because you didn't know the bride and bridegroom very well), and others wonderfully happy (especially if they we're your own children and the matches were good). No two weddings are the same to be sure.
Waiting for the Sukkot Wedding
Sukkot (Tabernacles), which has passed for this biblical year, is a wedding. It looks forward to the reunion of the Messianic Bride with the Bridegroom, Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ). It's not, of course, a literal wedding - we use marriage as an allegory to describe the joyful meeting of the faithful and obedient qodeshim (saints, set-apart ones) with their Master, whom they have been betrothed to and for whom they have been patiently and hopefully waiting during mortality for many years. This will be the first time that the Bride has seen the Master face-to-face since the pre-mortal life. When they last saw Him He was a spirit-being; when they see Him again He will be a glorified, resurrected being having a physical dimension they never saw before. So He will be both very familiar indeed as well as different. There will be something of the old as well as something of the new.
Experiencing the Festivals Differently
No two people ever experience the moedim (appointments) alike and those of you who celebrated Sukkot (Tabernacles) this year will likewise have experienced it very differently from one another. Though there will be shared memories the spiritual interactions will largely be different depending on all kinds of factors. It's true of every and any meeting. Even at the end of this Rosh Chodesh (New Moon) assembly today no two people will have experienced it in the same way. Only if there is a shared spiritual experience, like being bathed together in the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) as the first talmidim (disciples) were at that first New Covenant Shavu'ot (Weeks, 'Pentecost'), when Yahweh dramatically broke into the lives of all the believers assembled, will there be a shared experience and sense of echad (oneness). Thus Luke could write on behalf of them all in his account in the Book of Acts telling of the marvellous things that happened; and indeed other witnesses could share what they saw and heard too. That's what festivals are for. They are designed by Yahweh for the people to meet with Him and share a common immersion into His reality.
The Psychic Stemning
Man has his substitutes for such encounters. He creates 'atmospheres' of a psychic nature rather than a spiritual one. When people gather with certain expectations and repeat the traditions of building sukkot or huts, when they talk about certain themes and sing certain songs, or whatever it is they do at their regular annual Sukkot (Tabernacles), they create what in Norwegian is called a 'stemning' or an 'atmosphere' that is familiar, comfortable and congenial. And you don't have to celebrate Sukkot or indeed any of the biblically-mandated moedim (appointments) to experience this congeniality - it can be any kind of traditional gathering from Christmas to some Wiccan festival like the approaching Samhain - all of these produce a familiar stemning or 'atmosphere'. People find them cosy, safe and pleasant precisely because it's what they have done year after year, and often from generation to generation. And the longer people do these things over the centuries, the stronger their hold and spirit seem to be.
Yahweh's Purpose in the Festivals
Yes, we certainly repeat certain things every year at the festivals, as we are supposed to. At Pesach (Passover) we have the traditional meal called a seder and at Sukkot (Tabernacles) we built huts, to cite two examples. We do these things in imitation of our ancestors and connect back to them across the centuries, creating many such 'stemnings' or 'atmospheres'. These are blessed by Yahweh when they follow the correct tavnith because then desirable connections are created between people, between believers, between messianics, between messianic evangelicals, whatever your group may be. And lovely though it is to make these connections and to carry the memories of these reunions with brethren and sisters we love, dare I say the obvious, and yet that which is most often missed? Namely, that this isn't the main purpose of the moedim (appointments) at all - the main thing is crossing the veil and communing with Yahweh in such a way as to be changed or transformed forever individually and corporately as a fellowship.
Breaking With the Past
Were you to interview the brethren and sisters who assembled here at Mishpachah Lev-Tsiyon (MLT) at Sukkot (Tabernacles) and asked them what they experienced, they will all tell you a different story. One brother told me it was "the worst Sukkot" (Tabernacles) he had ever celebrated with us. One of the sisters said it had been "a special time indeed". My own family experienced it differently too. One said she had sensed a "great change" take place even though it hadn't been at all in the way she had been anticipating. I experienced many different things, some of which I have shared in the Sukkot sermons, some of which I have not. One thing I did experience very strongly, which I haven't shared with anyone until today, was the very real sense that a huge break with the past had been made. I will try to explain what I mean presently.
Gathering to Be Changed
Yahweh gathers us together at these times for many reasons and one of them is to change us. Sukkot (Tabernacles) is supposed to be a wedding-like celebration but like I said, not everybody experiences weddings in the same way. When it comes to our own weddings specifically, the marriages did not all turn out the way we hoped. Some have been utter disasters filled with grief, bitterness and desolation. Not every wedding leads to good things because of the people themselves who get married. Some never marry again after a painful experience, others do so with lower expectancies, and others in disbelief that it can last. We can bring all kinds of baggage with us into marriages, whether our own, or whether spiritual ones like Sukkot (Tabernacles).
Deep Rumblings Within
We forget, I think, that last Sukkot was for us totally unlike any other one we have ever experienced. And though we weren't, in most cases, fleeing on land from some tyrrany as Christians in Iraq and Syria are currently doing, we have most certainly been going through parallel journeys within. Nothing is ever still inside even if we have allowed the outer surface of our spirits to become encrusted with unbelief. Under every dry crust are rumblings, deep and ominous, things that have been buried deep beneath our consciousness, like seams of lava under the earth pressing upwards and at length giving away or finding release when they encounter points of weakness. There is always tremendous activity in each soul, just as there is in the earth beneath our feet which we almost never become aware of until we feel a tremour or an earthquake.
The Licence the Covenants Give Yahweh
I can tell you now that there were rumblings in the deeps in many of the souls who attended Sukkot (Tabernacles) and that they were different in every person. Next Sukkot (Tabernacles) will be completely unlike the last one. And I don't just mean because external conditions like war, economic collapse or other things may have by then occurred. We will not be the same people we are today in a year's time, and not just because change is what happens anyway, but because we are walking in a spiritual stream unlike any other in the history of the world. Whether we are aware of it or not in our spirits, whether we like it or not in our hearts, Yahweh is acting on the basis of the covenants that every soul has made with Him this past year - whether the standard baptismal covenant renewals at Yom haBikkurim (Firstfruits) or the standard Torah-covenant renewals at Shavu'ot (Weeks) - whether they also be the marriage covenants married people have made, or any other kind of covenants or vows that we have made personally with Yahweh or one another - Yahweh will come, because we invited Him, to not merely confirm or ratify those covenants but He will act on us, in order to change, based on the permission we have given Him in those covenants. He will put us through circusmatances over the next twelve months that will change us, for better or for worse, depending on the choices we make as we are put into situations that will require moral, ethical and spiritual responses, and from which we cannot escape.
Fleeing Like Jonah
We are all, like Jonah, called to our Nineveh. Some will flee west in order to escape the covenants made and have frightening appointments with monsters in the great deep, and others will move east in obedience to those covenants. The situations you meet will involve, first of all, people you don't want to meet and people you do; the situations will involve mental, emotional, physical and spiritual challenges. And though, perhaps, you have escaped dealing with issues in the past by hiding or suppressing the emet (truth), you cannot, like Jonah, run indefinitely. He not only holds you to account because of your covenants but out of love for your well-being, and the well-being of those whose lives you impact, He desires your deliverance and that you can come up to His Wedding with simcha (joy) and not carrying a heavy yoke of doubt, fear and pain. How is this to be done?
Characteristics of the Bride
It may come as a great surprise to some but the Bride is supposed to be attractive. Did you ever go to a wedding where the bride was dressed in rags and wore a miserable face? None, I hope. The Bride of Messiah is known in Scripture to possess certain unmistakable characteristics which are collectively known as the nine-fold "fruit of the Ruach (Spirit)" and these are "ahavah (love), simcha (joy), shalom (peace), patience, , goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Gal.5:22-23, NIV). Scripture does not say that there are two different sets of fruit for the Bride - one set for those who have had an easy life and another for those who have had a difficult life. The same fruit characterises the Bride whether her experience has been heaven or hell on earth. Notice that "fruit" is in the singular - it's one fruit, not nine fruits - this one fruit produces all of these characteristics. Indeed, it's what gives the members of the uniplural Bride their commonality - it's what identifies them. They may all have different personalities but one thing they share is "ahavah (love), simcha (joy), shalom (peace), patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control". It's their trademark, their 'tune', their hallmark, their signature tune. The Bride is identified in this way and only in this way. You might say that this is the 'trade description' of those who have truly come up to Sukkot (Tabernacles). Leave any one of these nine characteristics out and you've likely got a counterfeit or something unripe.
Now obviously we are all at different stages of maturity and we don't all arrive at the same place at the same time. We may not, for instance, be fully ripe in maturity, but the tell-tale sign that we are in Messiah and are truly growing in Him is that each Sukkot (Tabernacles) we will be found to be more patient, not less; more gentle, not less; more self-controlled, not less. People have to mature no less than fruits. So what will stop that fruit from maturing? What will prevent the Bride from growing up into something round and whole?
Lies. Lies about the Besorah (Gospel), lies about Torah, lies about self worth, lies about the nature of Elohim (God) Himself and much else besides. The fruit will stop growing and start shrinking and drying out if there is an absence of authentic spiritual nurturing. If a believer is surrounded by mean-spirited, condemning, self-righteous and manipulative 'do-gooders', that is to say, believers who think they are righteous but who are in truth conceited and self-righteous, then they will find themselves living next to rotten fruits wearing the lable of Christianity but lacking its substance.
Rotten Apples, Wolves and Tares
You have all heard of the expression 'one rotten apple can spoil the whole basket' and it is true that rotten souls can negatively impact unshielded young, maturing ones. This is a reason pastors and elders must be every watchful over their congregations to make sure that sin is not allowed to go unchecked or unrepented off, and even more importantly that false fruit is identified and exposed. Wolves always get amongst the flock if they can and the Enemy loves to sow tares amongst the wheat - we must bear with them until they are distinguished by their maturing. For as you know, wheat and tares look identical while they are immature and can only be told apart when they have come to fruition. The fruits identify who we really are. Ripe wheat is bowed in humility but tares stand tall in pride. And in the course of our history, as in the courses of the histories of many other fellowships, we have had the unpleasnt surprise of discovering that those whom we thought were talmidim (disciples) of the Master were but agents of the Enemy bent on destruction, even though these agents did not always know that themselves until they suddenly openly displayed the character of the devil and set themselves upon the flock as predators.
Committment vs. Feelings
It may surprise some that the fruits of the Ruach (Spirit) have little to do with having a 100% correct theology. And whilst that is not to say that theology is unimportant, it is to say that theological correctness occupies a firm second place in importance in the priorities of true believers. Indeed, one part of that fruit of the Ruach (Spirit) has not only nothing much to do with theology but also it has little or nothing to do with feelings or attitudes either. It requires only committment, that is to say, faithfulness in covenant. It heads the list of those nine characteristics of the fruit of the Ruach (Spirit) and it isn't properly the word that is used in our English translations either because that word means different things to different people, since our language has diluted and twisted its meaning into something other than the original sense of Scripture.
Biblical Love and What Hangs on It
That word is LOVE which in Greek is agapé and in Hebrew ahavah. And I would like to suggest to you that one of the biggest mistakes that is made by believers and unbelievers alike is in thinking that this 'love' is an emotion when it is not. Ahavah or agapé is nothing more or less than a committment or a covenant of loyalty - committment and loyalty to Elohim (God), committment and loyalty to our marriage spouses, and committment and loyalty to one another in the Besorah (Gospel). It is so important that we understand what this word ahavah or agapé actually is and means because otherwise we will never understand anything else in the Besorah (Gospel). The whole Torah (Law) and the Nevi'im (Prophets) hang on, or depend on, or rely on, our understanding and using this word correctly, as Yah'shua (Jesus) Himself said:
Our Enemies Reveal Biblical Love
"'You shall love Yahweh your Elohim (God) with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great mitzvah (commandment). And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself.' On these two mitzvot (commandments) hang all the Torah (Law) and the Nevi'im (Prophets)" (Matt.22:37-40, NKJV).
The thing to realise and understand is that if your Torah-obedience, if your emunah (faith), if the way you live out your life, if your use of the nevi'im (prophets) for blessings and condemnations is not founded, built or hanging on this true ahavah- or agapé-type of love, then everything you think, feel and do is automatically corrupted and destructive of others. If you are in any doubt about what ahavah- or agapé-love is, just see it in another context that Yah'shua (Jesus) gave:
Seeking the Child in Sinners
"Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect" (Matt.5:44-48, NKJV).
It is easy to love the lovable, not so easy to love those who are obnoxious who, because of bad choices, have allowed the personality and character of the devil into their soul. Loving your enemies does not mean that we necessarily have a gushing compassion for them - at least not at the beginning. Our feelings may naturally be of repulsion but we are commanded to love them nonetheless. By that the Master meant that we are to love them in spite of their spiritual ugliness, we are to demonstrate committment and loyalty towards them even if they do not reciprocate it back to us, and by the by our reward may well be to witness their transformation and to experience positive and upbuilding emotions in us that at first were absent. And as we mature in this ahavah- or agapé-type love, then those warm feelings will come earlier and earlier until we come to the point that we start to instantly view every sinner, no matter how removed from ahavah (love) with the warm feelings that were initially absent because we were reacting so much to the ugliness of the devil within them. And that maturity comes about as we learn to look past the devil that is in them and to the child that our Heavenly Father years to have back in His arms.
Ahavah- or Agapé-love is therefore to be understood as a committment on my part to serve your best interest not matter what it may cost me or what it may cost you! Though feelings have their necessary place, feelings do not line up at the head of ahavah- or agapé-love - they are the tail, not the head, and must grow into place in our hearts as we mature in the true spirit of ahavah (love).
What is in Your Best Interest?
The big question then becomes: what is in a person's best interest? I cannot possibly know what is 100% in your best interest though I may have a good idea, and as I mature more and more in the emet (truth), I will understand more and more what that best interest is. Only Yahweh can know what is 100% in a person's best interest which means that we cannot love in our own capacity but in His, and you all know what that means.
A person who is spiritually dead cannot possibly know what the best interest of someone is. He may think he does and will act accordingly but the fruit will always be the opposite of one or more of "ahavah (love), simcha (joy), shalom (peace), patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control". If any of these are absent then it means we need healing as must as those whom we view as our adversaries. And if we see someone who is truly walking in that ninefold spirit when we are not, then we are seriously in need of help because it means we are not yet the Bride, we are not yet walking in the Sukkot (Tabernacles) anointing. We have first to become fully alive in the Ruach (Spirit) so that we can properly know Yahweh's mind and heart in order that we can know what the best interest of another truly is.
Reasoning vs. Revelation
This is not, moreover, something we can figure out through our own reasoning processes because it has to come through direct revelation. Scripture can, and must, prime our minds but until the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) is teaching us its emet (truth) in our hearts we are going to be fumbling around in the dark and instead of helping others we will be clashing with them. Good intentions are a start but they are never enough. To be able to know another's best interest we must first seek others who for sure know what our best interest is first and who can help guide us into healing and deliverance. And that is why we have elders in the messianic community to help us with such things.
Motive and Cost
If ahavah- or agapé-love is committment or covenant, as it most definitely is, then there must also be motive. And that motive is 'no matter what the personal cost' may be. If we're only loving or serving someone when we feel good about it, we're missing the mark and sinning. Loving the ahavah-way means there is a cost for us to pay. That cost includes being willing to take the knocks when the devil in people strikes out at us and not to end our committment to them when we are hurt. We understand Yahweh's own heart in this matter when we reflect on what saving us cost Him, and if you are in any doubt about what His cost is, just look at the Cross - that was the price He paid for us to be able to know His ahavah (love).
Man Has No Love of Himself
Those who are spiritually regenerated in every part of their soul are able to have the same mind and heart as Messiah, having the ninefold fruit of the Ruach (Spirit) and are therefroe able to know what is in other's best interest and therefore how to reach and help them, as every true believer desires to do. That means loving others selflessly, becoming vulnerable and taking the knocks of the dark spirits whom they are still hosting in their blindness. Who will take care of you while you are selflessly serving your enemy's best interest? Yah'shua (Jesus). He will supply whatever is needed whether directly to you in the form of an anointing or by means other people who can assist you. Where will the motive come from for you to persist in helping the person striking out at you? From Yah'shua (Jesus) alone because man is not able to do things like that. Man, in his own strength, reacts to the blows of others whom the devil is inhabiting - he wants what he terms 'justice' because of the offense that he takes at the injustice, meanness, selfishness and pure nastiness of others. A person alone, by definition, does everything with selfish, fleshy, carnal motives in mind, even if it is just to protect himself, including the seemingly 'good' and 'benevolent' things. Therefore a man without Messiah cannot have ahavah- or agapé-love-motives in anything.
Power from on High
This, then, is the core of the Besorah (Gospel) at work - it is its very test and evidence! Ahavah- or agapé-love require that you have that committment and motive that come from Elohim (God). But there's a third vitally important component of this heavenly love that we must not miss and that is the power to accomplish the best interests of others.
The Reason for Perfection
C.S.Lewis once said that "love (agapé) demands the perfecting of the beloved" - do you remember what Yah'shua (Jesus) commanded about being perfect? "Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven... For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect".
The Power to Love the Unlovable
So now we know what we need perfection for! And the power that enables us to love others the ahavah or agapé way is emunah or faith - not, I hasten to add, 'faith in faith', but enumah (faith) in Yahweh Himself, since it is His power we are calling to work for us, not our own!
The Faith That is Needed
One of the big mistakes that Christians and Messianics make is the belief that they can get 'more faith' as they go along. No! The emet (truth) is that we have all the emunah (faith) we need already - we just have to make the choice to believe, nothing more, and to act on that. There isn't a heavenly petrol or gas station to which we must keep going in order for our spirits to be topped up. It isn't like that! Emunah (faith) is a choice to trust Yahweh and act on the basis of that trust. Period. The ability to exercise that emunah (faith, trusting) will grow as we learn more about our Heavenly Father in prayer, Scripture study, communion, revelation, service and experience. Our school is the field of life, the field of serving. We learn imperfectly at first but more perfectly as we keep on trusting and acting. Yahweh will always respond to such emunah (faith), turning up the brightness of the light of emet (truth) and inspiration as we stick our necks out and risk serving those in need.
Choosing the Right
And here is the proof - the recipient of ahavah (love) always get better - always! But they must choose to receive it first, in emunah (faith, trusting). No one can do another's trusting. Once we know what Yahweh's purpose for us, we have to align ourselves with that purpose through constantly and habitually choosing the right, aligning ourselves more and more up with Torah principles.
Evangelical Before Messianic - Justic, Mercy and CDompassion Before All Else
The Besorah (Gospel) is first evangelical and then messianic - first comes the trusting, the committment and the power to love. Then comes the need to stay within Torah parameters. We have to get our priorities. Though the two are, in fact, a partnership like marriage, there is definitely a hierarchy of values. Yah'shua (Jesus) was constantly pointing out how the Pharisees got these upside down, reiterating the mitzvah (commandment) in the Tanakh (Old Testament):
New Covenant Heights
"This is what Yahweh Almighty says: 'Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another'" (Zech.7:9, NIV).
Yah'shua (Jesus) took this to a whole new height when He told us to do the same to our enemies, which is the way we are to evangelise. And we are to evangelise with the ahavah (love) which knows what the needs and best interests of lost sinners are, not to mention the qodeshim (saints, set-apart ones) themselves who must also "work out [their] salvation with fear and trembling, for it is Elohim (God) who works in [them] to will and to act according to His good purpose" (Phil 2:12-13, NIV).
We are enabled to move out of stemnings or atmospheres that are generated by gathering to do shared things and into the life, love and power of the Ruach (Spirit) onoly as we dare to execercise the right kind of emunah (faith). The Besorah (Gospel), while it has some ritual to help teach is emet (truth), is primarily about emet (truth)-guided chayim (life). We gather at the moedim (appointments) to encounter, bathe and be endowed spiritually by our Creator, both to worship Him for His own sake but also to equip us to meet people's actual needs and interests. That means coming out of a pattern of relying on our own intellect and flesh, turning our lives fully over to Messiah in emunah (faith, trusting), and so receiving genuine life-changing Ruach (Spirit). If we return year after year basically the same person that we were before, and if those ninefold aspects of the fruit of Ruach (Spirit) continually elude us, then we have to awaken to the realisation that we have gone seriously wrong somewhere. There is still making teshuvah (repenting) to be done, there is still fundemental surrendering to be done sufficient to enable us to trust Yahweh to take over the reins of self-control. Though not not easy, it is absolutely essential and ultimately very, very satisfying. It is the only way to perfection that Yah'shua (Jesus) commanded us seek. Amen.
 Michael Bunker & Steve Danaldson, Persecution 2000: Preparing the Underground Church (The prophecy Club, Topeka, Kansas: 1999)
Comments from Readers
 "So wonderful sermon!" (SW, Germany, 24 October 2014)
 "This is very much needed in my life today. Thank you" (DL, USA, 24 October 2014)