Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, as we mature to the full measure of the stature of Christ.
Where are we all going? And what will it take to get there? You may have noticed significant lag time and formidable distance between the maturity we hope for and the immaturity we find ourselves in. Fear not. It is time for the spirit of Peter Pan to be bound and banished so we can flee the Neverland of mediocrity, compromise, and childishness God is intent on growing us up—for without maturity, we will not have the wisdom, the discernment, the endurance, and the good judgment we will need to navigate the rough waves and dark waters ahead.
We must face, brothers and sisters, that we have been, at times, or at all times, lax in our utter pursuit of God. It is time to run at full speed and to pursue God with wild abandon. It is time for us to grow up. Children rarely make good leaders. They are too self-focused and too inexperienced to understand a wide range of nuanced situations and to judge fairly between what is best for them and what is best for another or all. The Apostle Paul said, “the Law is a tutor to bring us to Christ.” We need to be instructed before we can walk well with Christ and teach others to walk well with Him. Our first attempts may be dodgy indeed: there is simply too much to take in and too much of our flesh present to win, place, or even show early on. Fear not—it is God’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom. We all start where we start, but the Lord intends for us to finish well.
God allows us time to grow, to let the Holy Spirit within us teach us and bend us to the likeness of Jesus. When we are fully molded to be and behave like Christ we will be fully prepared to enter our destiny as mature sons and daughters of God. Part of the mystery of God’s timing, and the increasing desperation of the Maranatha cry, arises from our awareness that we still have a ways to go in the maturing process. Jesus is not returning for spiritual toddlers but people who have sought Him long and hard, in all seasons, and who have learned obedience, like their Master, through the things they have suffered and that which has befallen them. Hebrews 2:10 (NIV) tells us that “in bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what He suffered.”
Why or how would Jesus need to be made perfect? And no less through what He suffered? What comfort there is in this verse! The Father asked Jesus to walk out His obedience, and that took Him straight through the briar patch of betrayal, sorrow, pain, and grief. He chose to obey God in real-time difficult, even excruciating, circumstances. There is comfort in knowing that we are called to follow Him on a challenging path—one that Jesus already pioneered for us. It was Jesus’ complete resistance to evil and the steadfast setting of His face to obey God that caused Him to be perfect not just in heaven but in the dust of earth before principalities and powers! Praise God!
We must ask ourselves what things need to be matured in us in these turbulent times. First of all, we need to make an undivided commitment to follow the Lamb wherever He goes. Our lives are not our own but belong to the One who loved us and gave Himself for us. There is no maturity without obedience, even unto death, if need be. We cannot waffle between two masters. We must consecrate ourselves entirely to the Lord not just in word, but in deed and truth.
Secondly, we must allow the Lord deep access to our inner lives both to heal us and to disciple us. Our inner terrain may be quite ravaged and out of order. Perhaps things happened to us that were completely out of our control—things that deeply wounded us. Perhaps we were somewhat or wholly prodigal in enjoying the excesses of life, leaving our ability to rule ourselves, under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit, quite crippled. Perhaps no one taught us how to follow the Lord within. It is now time for a deep inner checkup to see where we are in need of growth, healing, succor, rebuke, or rehabilitation.
Third, we must be willing to enter more deeply and experientially into the unity that Jesus has called us into with Himself and each other. Jesus has prayed that we would be one, even as He and the Father are one. He asks that we might be united in Him so that the world may believe that God has indeed sent Christ! How amazing is that! You do not think that Jesus’ prayer will go unanswered, do you? He will find people that are willing for this to happen. Let it be us! We have some significant jobs to do and we must do them together.
My faith is not for myself and my benefit alone but for what God wants to accomplish. Maturity involves sacrifice. Jesus had to fall into the ground alone so that He might inherit a mature Bride—a promise He is still waiting on! Press into your growth, dear friends, for the sake of your Beloved! Allow your senses to be trained to discern good and evil by eating solid food, and not sticky buns. There are many paths and many voices gone out into the world but only One can lead us to the Kingdom. He is waiting for a generation that will eagerly follow Him, walking intimately and closely with Him, laboring with Him as He gathers the harvest for Himself.
Our God is a God who gathers and is waiting patiently so that no one will perish. Offenses will come to turn you back from maturity. Circumstances will press you so that you are sorely tempted to jump off the path of growth. Jesus is not asking you to do something that He did not do first and do well.
Some of the things that will happen to you will make you scream, so scream for grace to endure! Some of the things that will befall you will momentarily knock the wind out of you. Get up and breathe the air of heaven! Soar on the winds of the Spirit! Keep going, keep your eyes on the prize of who you really want to become. Maturity awaits you with each lesson learned and each victory earned. Do not progress, or indeed further regress, from the expected immaturity of youth to a foolish, unbecoming, silliness in your old age. Let us not be the potential teachers who never grew up: brothers and sisters of Peter Pan who remain spiritually adolescent rather than the gloriously mature fathers and mothers of the Kingdom of God. Shine on, dear ones. Marantha!
Rose-Marie Slosek came to know the Lord in the early seventies and has a passion for organic church and the maturing of the Body of Christ. She serves on the Emmaus Online Lead Team, leads Maranatha Northeast, and a local home fellowship. She also serves Women of the Word on their Board of Directors. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was re-posted here with permission. It was originally posted on faipublishing.org
 Ephesians 4:13, Berean Standard  Galatians 3:24  John 17:21
Although written from the perspectiveof a widow, this article speaks to women of all ages in whatever situation they are; single, married, separated, divorced or widowed. Karen’s testimony exemplifies the truth of Isaiah 54:5; “For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is His name; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; He is called the God of the whole earth.”
When I first gave my life to Yeshua (Jesus), as a single Jewish woman in my early 30’s, I soon discovered the beautiful Song of Solomon in the Hebrew scriptures and I began to enter into an intimate “bridal” relationship with the Lord that far surpassed any human love I had ever experienced. The divine love of my Creator streamed into my life through Yeshua, bringing healing to every area of my heart that had been hurt by broken relationships and family tragedies. I began to walk in a deep contentment as a single woman that I had never known before and was set free from the need to be validated by being in a relationship with a man.
In the midst of this new freedom and unspeakable joy, having also received the gift of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the Lord brought David Davis into my life, a wonderful Gentile man of God. The Lord called us together as a “one new man” (Jew & Gentile) couple to immigrate to Israel and pioneer ministries on Mount Carmel. For 30 years of marriage we partnered in the work of the Lord in Israel, also travelling and ministering as a team internationally. I was exceedingly blessed to have been nurtured, released, and encouraged by my husband to fulfill the giftings the Lord had placed within me.
The day we received the shocking news that a biopsy of a growth on David’s neck showed malignancy, great fear rose up in me. What would this mean? Would I lose my husband? Would we lose our ministry? Suddenly I heard these words in my spirit: “You have already lost your life!” “You have already died and your life is hidden with Messiah” (Col. 3:3). With a deep revelation of these words, the fear suddenly left me.
As David and I walked together through the journey of medical decisions and treatments, I became his primary caregiver. For eighteen months, I watched as this powerful man of God slowly deteriorated into a state of helplessness. Although we both strongly believed in the healing power of God and many were standing with us for a miraculous healing, we began to understand that the Lord was going to take him home to Himself. For me the process of grief had already begun in those last few months of David’s life, as I wept night after night from heartbreak and sheer physical and emotional exhaustion.
One night after David had fallen asleep, I went into our living room and knelt in prayer before the Lord. In the midst of a flood of tears I became aware of an inextinguishable flame of the fire of the Lord’s love on the altar of my heart. The words “Many waters cannot quench love” (Song 8:7) came to me. I knew then that nothing could separate me from that vehement flame of the love of God. “Nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39). The source of my joy, my strength, my peace, since surrendering my life to Yeshua, had always been His love that had poured so lavishly into my life. I began to comprehend Paul’s words that I could even be “sorrowful yet rejoicing” (2 Cor. 6:10).
The day that the Lord took David home, He placed His loving arm around me and we continued on in the divine dance that had begun decades earlier, when I first met my Heavenly Bridegroom. As I sat on my balcony looking out over the lush green mountain of Carmel, out to the Mediterranean Sea, I understood that Yeshua would be by my side as I ventured into this uncharted territory of the rest of my life.
My daily prayer became Paul’s words in Eph. 3:19, “to know the love of Messiah which passes knowledge, that [I] may be filled with all the fullness of God.” I knew that I would not need to live out my life in a state of loneliness or emptiness, that I could truly be filled with all the fullness of God. I determined that I would not allow the enemy of my soul to rob me of that promised fullness of His love.
In Jewish tradition, on the thirtieth day after a loved one’s passing, another ceremony takes place at the gravesite with the placement (“unveiling”) of the headstone. As I prepared myself that morning to return to the cemetery with close family and friends, I went to my keyboard to pour out my heart before the Lord. My hands began to move over the keys and a new song came forth, as these words flowed from my lips: “Ever present help, ever present love, ever present peace, as a seal upon my heart. Passing through this valley with you hand in hand, You’ll turn every tear to springs of living water in this land. Yeshua, You are here! Yeshua, You are here! I’ll go from strength to strength, strength to strength, glory to glory!”
As I sang these words, the Lord lifted the raw grief from my heart, and a deeper well of fresh living water was opened to me. Through the painful loss of my precious husband, I have gained the reality of eternity in greater measure than I had ever known before. David’s passing has “provoked me to jealousy,” to continue to run hard after the Lord, to finish my course, knowing that there is a glorious inheritance that awaits each of us who are found in Messiah. “Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Karen Davis is an Israeli worship leader, recording artist, songwriter, and speaker, well-known internationally for her Messianic praise and worship music. Based on Mount Carmel, Israel, Karen has a passion to see the “warrior bride” of Messiah rising up throughout the world. Learn more>>
Karen and her late husband David are the founders of Kehilat HaCarmel, a congregation of Messianic and Arab believers. People travel to the congregation from all over the world to take part in prophetic worship and prayer watches. Karen continues on as the congregation’s worship director and to speak and lead worship internationally.
Women of the Word holds events in the United States and hosts trips to Israel where we visit the biblical sites and also the “living stones,” the people of the land. The Amazing Israel Adventure includes taking part in a worship watch led by Karen Davis and visiting the women’s and children’s refugee shelter at Kehilat HaCarmel. We also visit with other Messianic and Arab believers. Join us for our next trip February 26 – March 10, 2023.
When I was a child, Good Friday was always a very serious day. Banks and some places of business were closed from noon until three, kids were supposed to be very quiet during these hours, and I was convinced that the sun never shone on Good Friday afternoon. It was a very serious religious day. The church service was always quiet, the cross was draped in black and sometimes the lights would grow more dim as the service progressed, ending the service in the dark. It was kind of scary. We didn’t understand everything, but we knew we had to be quiet AND serious.
The term Good Friday has evolved over the years. The English phrase “Good Friday” came from the Old German name Gottes Freytag which means “good” or “holy” Friday. In the present time the Germans call the day Karfreigta, which means “Care Friday” of “Friday of Mourning.” Other nicknames include “Black Friday,” (not to be confused with the day after Thanksgiving) or “Sorrowful Friday.” 1 Even when I was very young, I began to question why everyone was so sad about it. It was the day Jesus paid for my sins…a debt that I couldn’t begin to pay. He went to the cross so I didn’t have to go to hell. I thought this should be something to be happy about.
When it becomes a day of mourning instead of thanksgiving, the question comes up “Who is responsible for this death we are mourning?” There are two possible answers: the most common one is the Jews! The term “Christ killers” has been used against Jews for centuries. If you want to get it historically correct, the Jews had no power of crucifixion. It was the Romans who gave the death sentence. (I don’t see anyone blaming Italians.) The second response is more correct — my sin! However, that can cause a problem if Good Friday is a day of mourning for my sins, the focus can become my sin instead of my Savior! Focusing on sin allows the enemy to bring new accusations against us, even for old sins. Why should we spend time meditating on sins that have already been forgiven? In Isaiah 43:25 the Lord Himself says “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” Now, if there are sins we haven’t repented of, mourning is still not the answer….repentance is.
Another problem was the math--I knew even as a child that Jesus said He would be in the grave for three days and three nights. No matter how I counted it out, Friday just didn’t work! Those who chose Good Friday negated the fact that the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus were all related to Passover! He couldn’t have died on a Friday.
You might ask, “What’s the difference when we celebrate the Lord’s crucifixion? After all, isn’t the important part the fact that it happened? And besides, we celebrate Christmas, and we know Jesus wasn’t born December 25.”
The connection with the Spring Feasts of the Lord is the answer: Passover, Unleavened Bread and First Fruits. The chart below shows the correct sequence of events regarding the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord during the Biblical month of Nisan from the 14th – 18th.
Separating what has come to be known as Holy Week or Passion Week from the Spring Feasts of the Lord happened in 324 CE; the Council of Nicaea established that Easter would be held on the first Sunday after the first Full Moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox, which is usually March 21. This decision wasn’t made just to keep the date consistent; it was made to remove from the church anything connected to Jews. The basis for moving the date was anti-Semitism! The following is from an article which discusses the Council’s decision.
… And first of all, it appeared an unworthy thing that in the celebration of this most holy feast, we should follow the practice of the Jews, who have impiously defiled their hands with enormous sin, and are, therefore, deservedly afflicted with blindness of soul….Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd, for we have received from our Savior a different way….and consequently, in unanimously adopting this mode, we desire, dearest brethren, to separate ourselves from the detestable company of the Jews, for it is truly shameful for us to hear them boast that without their direction we could not keep this feast… it is our duty not to have anything in common with the murderers of our Lord.2
Apparently the fourth century church forgot something that many today often forget: JESUS WAS A JEW! The Bible was written almost totally by Jewish people. God calls these feasts not the Jewish Feasts, but the Feasts of the Lord.
God was very specific in describing the dates and times of Jesus’ death. Why? He wanted us to see how Jesus fulfilled the Feasts that have been celebrated from the times of Moses. Understanding that Jesus fulfilled these ancient feasts to the exact day and time, would make it almost impossible to deny that Jesus is Messiah.
Passover was so important to God that He made the month in which it occurred the beginning of the year (Exodus 12:2). On the Jewish calendar, a month begins with the sighting of the new moon, so the months don’t directly match the months of our western calendar. The chart below shows the relationship of the calendars.
Overview of Spring Feasts
• The Feast of Passover comes first (Nisan 14) and is followed directly by the Feast of Unleavened Bread (on Nisan 15).
• The Feast of Unleavened Bread is the longest of the three Spring feasts, lasting for seven days.
• After the Feast of Unleavened Bread, comes the Feast of First Fruits, which is celebrated the Sunday following Passover.
• Sometimes all three feasts are collectively referred to as the Feast of Unleavened Bread and sometimes all three are called Passover (Acts 20:6; Luke 22:1).
Let’s look at the details set out in Exodus 12:1-14, 21-27
• On the tenth day each man is to take a year-old lamb without blemish for his household.
• They were to watch over the lamb until the 14th day. It became part of the family for those days.
• The whole congregation are to slaughter their lambs at twilight
• The blood was put on the two doorposts and the crossbeam of the house
• The meal had to be eaten that night (now it is the 15th) with matzot and bitter herbs
• If there were any leftovers, they must be burned in the morning.
• They were to eat it dressed and ready to travel
• This day must be a memorial throughout the generations
On Day 1 of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Nisan 15, the Israelites left Egypt in haste. (Exodus 12:31 – 34, 39).
The Feast of Firstfruits was to take place when they entered the land; it was to occur on the first Sunday after Passover. On this Sunday the priest would wave a sheaf (omer) of green barley of the new harvest before the LORD (north, south, east, then west) as a symbolic gesture of dedicating the coming harvest to Him. As they returned to the Temple with the sheaves, the choir of Levites led the worship music with these words from Psalm 30:1-3– “I will extol You, O LORD, for You have lifted me up, and have not let my foes rejoice over me. O LORD my God, I cried out to You, and You healed me. O LORD, You brought my soul up from the grave; You have kept me alive…”
Jesus Fulfilled the Spring Feasts
Nisan 10, Lamb Selection Day was what we call Palm Sunday (which probably wasn’t Sunday, but Saturday), Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. Up until that day, Jesus had avoided being called king, but on that day, He not only accepted the praise, He deliberately arranged for it to happen. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation. Lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.“ Zechariah 9:9
According to Exodus 12, the people kept their lambs for four days examining them to be sure they were without blemish. What was Jesus doing during those four days? After his triumphal entry on Nisan 10, Jesus spent the next four days in the temple area: the lamb was on display for all to examine. “And in the daytime, He was teaching in the temple, but at night He went out and stayed on the mountain called Olivet. Then early in the morning all the people came to Him in the temple to hear Him.” Luke 21:37-38
Jesus the Passover meal with His disciples the beginning of Nisan 14. (Remember, that the Jewish day begins in the evening —“the evening and the morning were the first day” from Genesis) The only thing is they didn’t have a lamb at that meal. It was there that Jesus presented Himself as the Lamb. “This is my body given for you; do this is remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19
We know Jesus was arrested after the Passover meal and condemned to die. He was on the cross on Nissan 14 from nine in the morning until three in afternoon, and at the exact time that the Passover lambs were being killed at the temple, Jesus said “It is finished.”
Jesus was buried on Unleavened Bread. Remember there was a rush to get the victims of crucifixion off the crosses before the high holy day…the special Sabbath being the first day of Unleavened Bread (Thursday). If the Sabbath referred to had been a regular Saturday Sabbath, when would the women have had time to prepare the spices they were bringing to the tomb before dawn on Sunday morning? They would have been forbidden to do that work on the Sabbath. The events of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion happened in rapid succession; they couldn’t have planned for it. Friday was the only day they could have shopped for and prepared the spices.
Jesus rose from the dead on First Fruits. First Fruits is always the day after the regular Sabbath after Passover (always a Sunday). “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.” 1 Corinthians 15:20
Summary of the Spring Feasts
• Passover represents our salvation and deliverance by the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Jesus the Messiah. We are justified by trusting in the sacrificial blood of the Lamb of God (Revelation 7:14; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
• Unleavened Bread represents our sanctification as we rid ourselves of the old leaven of “Egypt” and die to the carnal nature. This is represented by the burial of Jesus and our identification with Him.
• First Fruits represents the resurrection of Jesus our Messiah and our future glorified state as part of the coming harvest of God at the end of the age.
So, I stopped celebrating Good Friday because it doesn’t fit anywhere in the biblical story of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. So the question remains: Should we move Easter to line it up with First Fruits? That’s a hard one because it is so ingrained in our culture. I leave it at this–I am always very happy when Resurrection Sunday falls on the day of First Fruits, as it does this year (2022). Even though Passover doesn’t begin until Friday this year (2022), First Fruits is Sunday.
May you have a blessed Resurrection Sunday!
Romans 14:5-6a (NKJV) “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it.”
2“Israel Betrayed: The History of Replacement Theology.” Published by Ariel Ministries in 2019.
Sue Priebe is the Pastor of City of Hope Church in Janesville, Wisconsin, and serves on the Board of Directors for Women of the Word. She is passionate about teaching the Word of God in ways that are relevant and applicable to daily life. She also has a deep love for Israel and travels there frequently connecting with believers there and teaching God’s Word on location.
It’s hard to see that Spring has arrived up in the great state of Maine! But, soon the lawns will grow green and the trees will bud and bloom showing forth the evidence of this season of New Beginnings. The life of a Christian is much like this. We pray, believing to see our requests bud and bloom into reality even though many times there is no seen evidence. However, by faith, we must trust that God is working even when everything seems contrary.
A time of protection!
In the realm of nature, one of the most important things for growing occurs in the winter season called vernalization. This is a biological function meant to ensure that plants do not break dormancy and start to grow until winter is over. God has controls in place to hold and keep the plants until they are READY to flower or bear fruit. Amazing—these parallels from nature and what God does with us! These times of waiting God has prepared beforehand for our PROTECTION – when we are in the cold – when it seems like nothing is going on – and we are tired of waiting – when we want it now!
However, these are necessary times of protection in order for us to be able to eventually and healthily bloom. During this cold rest period, (ironically called Chill Hours) the leaf growth on lawns stop but the root system is still growing and forming foods to bolster the spurt of new growth in the spring. Without this rest, the lawns would not survive !! Did you catch that…did you? The root system is still growing even though everything else that you can see on the surface is not! As we cooperate with the Word and Spirit, God is forming our foundation and our character. He forming food/sustenance to enable us in our next season!
A proper root system
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been a Christian. God is still working things out in us so we may have a proper root system so that Godly character is firmly planted in our hearts. Godly character can be defined as “the ability to discern God’s right way from the wrong, and to voluntarily surrender one’s own will to do what is right in God’s sight and, with the promised supernatural help, to resist the wrong even under pressure and temptation.” A shorter definition is: “Godly character is consistently doing the RIGHT THING at the RIGHT TIME in the RIGHT WAY for the RIGHT REASON.”
Remember as you pray, even if we can’t see anything happening, God is always working behind the scenes in our lives and in our loved ones’ lives. Believe and understand that He is most interested in growing our roots before we see the fruit. Philippians 2:13 says, “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”
Kim Warf is Associate Pastor and Women’s Ministry Director at New Beginnings Church in Bangor, Maine. She is on the Board of Directors of Women of the Word and has chaired several WOW conferences in Maine. She and her husband Paul have two daughters and a granddaughter.
March 16, 2022, marks the convergence of two festivals: The Feast or Festival of Purim and the Festival of Fire (Chaharshanbe Suri which means “the scarlet Wednesday”). Both began in ancient Persia, now modern-day Iran. The exact date on the Gregorian calendar is different each year. Purim is celebrated on the 14th and 15th day of the Hebrew month of Adar (normally late Feb/early March). The Fire Festival is on the last Wednesday of the last month of the Iranian calendar before the start of their New Year at the Spring equinox (late March). Celebrations for both begin on the “eve” before.
Why should we as modern-day people care about these two festivals?
Both festivals are “spiritual”. Many people today are seeking out spiritual things and think that as long as it’s “spiritual” it’s good. This is not true. The question we need to ask is “Of what spirit is each festival?”
The Feast of Purim is found in the biblical book of Esther. It tells the story of a Jewish girl named Esther who became Queen of Persia. The King of Persia, now modern-day Iran, reigned over one hundred and twenty-seven provinces stretching from India to Ethiopia (Esther 1:1). The King’s advisor Haman had devised a wicked plot to annihilate the Jewish people because they were different. The King agreed!
The Persian King did not know that Esther was Jewish. She kept it a secret.
Her cousin Mordecai heard of the plot to annihilate the Jewish people and implored Esther to intercede on behalf of her people. Esther was afraid knowing that if she went to the King without being summoned, she would be killed unless he extended his scepter of favor to her. Mordecai pointed out that Esther would not escape the decree just because she lived in the King’s palace. She would be found out and die also.
The Jewish people in the City of Susa fasted for three days at Esther’s request. She then went bravely to the King who did extend his royal scepter of favor to her. Esther invited the King and Haman to two banquets. At the banquets the King offered Esther whatever she would want, up to the half of his kingdom! At the second banquet, Esther pleaded for the life of her people, exposing Haman’s plot to annihilate them. Now knowing that his Queen was Jewish, the King became angry at Haman which resulted in Haman’s death. Another decree was written. Hallelujah! So, instead of being annihilated on the set day of the 13th of Adar, the Jewish people were able to defend themselves and overcome their enemies. The original decree’s intent was reversed. A great celebration happened on the 14th and 15th of Adar. From that time on, the Feast of Purim has been celebrated by the Jewish people commemorating the courage of Queen Esther and the deliverance of her people from death to life! Gifts are traditionally given, especially to the poor and needy.
In contrast, the Festival of Fire is in honor of the spirits of the dead. It includes such things as “fire jumping,” which is meant to purify those jumping over the fire. Fortune telling and eating “wish granting” snacks are among some of the other practices during the festival. Does that sound at all superstitious and even occultic? It is!!
It’s a spiritual war between satan and God.
Both festivals are celebrated today all over the world wherever Jewish and Iranian people live. Many people of other cultures participate not even knowing what they are doing. Some modern-day Jews and Iranians don’t know the whole story either.
These festivals are not just meaningless “let’s have some fun” celebrations. They are rooted in an ancient conflict between death and life, between satan and God. While Purim celebrates the life and the victory brought by our covenant-keeping God, the Festival of Fire celebrates death! The powers of darkness try to entice us with “fun and games”. This is true with the Festival of Fire. After all we just want to have fun, right?? It’s all a disguise to entrap people, to get them to open a door in their hearts allowing the enemy of our souls an entrance into lives which will only lead to torment and destruction.
God, on the other hand, does require us to stand in faith and sometimes even risk our lives to be part of His eternal plan of redemption just like He did in the book of Esther. He promises to always be with us and to lead us in paths of righteousness and peace.
Right now and right here in 2022 the power of satan is trying to defeat the power of God! We see this not only in the celebration of death, but wars and rumors of wars are growing daily. Our world is in great turmoil on every level. The Bible tells us there is a path that leads to life and a path that “seems right to man” but leads to destruction. Which path will you choose?
The path of life!
When we choose the path of life in Christ Jesus we have favor with God because of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. We have access to the throne room of grace to ask for help in time of need. What a comfort! What an assurance! Though the earth is shaking, we have an unshakeable God. We can ask Him to reverse the wicked decrees of the “kings” of the earth bent on war. May God give us the grace and courage to be a modern day Mordecai or Esther. Our world surely needs us!
Believers in Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew) also have the privilege of co-laboring with him in prayer and intercession through the power of the Holy Spirit! So let’s pray right now….
Father, in the name of Jesus we thank you that we have access to the throne of grace to find help in time of need because of the atoning work of Jesus on the cross. We can come to you knowing that we will receive favor as we join together in Spirit led prayer. The earth is shaking but you remain steadfast and faithful. We trust you Lord and we do not lean on our own understanding. We ask you to shed light into the darkness. Reveal the plans of the evil one and deliver us from his schemes. Strengthen us to stand strong and be your instruments of peace. May your kingdom come and your will be done. Maranatha!
I’m going to share today something of the mystery of the Bride, and it will surely touch upon the subject of Israel, because the mystery of the Bride includes so many things. And this is what we want really to understand today. The book of Revelation, which you can say is the consummation of the revelation of God from Genesis to the end of the Bible, focuses particularly on the mystery of the Bride who makes herself ready for the coming King. And if that’s the focus and that’s the high point of the book, which I do believe it is, then I believe that the Lord would have us give this subject great priority in our lives. And it is a subject that needs much time so I will try to focus on some of the points I think are essential for us to hear today.
I would like to say that the mystery of the Bride is both an inner and outer reality. An inner reality, because it firstly speaks about our individual and our collective relationship of love and intimacy with the Bridegroom, Yeshua. And of course, an outer reality, because it works in a process that God is working on the earth in connection to Israel, Jerusalem and the nations to bring forth finally the incarnation, one can say, of the finished work of redemption of Yeshua—which is seen at the end of the book of Revelation in the marriage supper of the Lamb, which is the great goal of redemption, that is the thing that we can say that is written of in Isaiah 53, “…He will see the travail of his soul and be pleased…” (vs 11). And there is nothing more for… than the Bride …who can really bring that great pleasure to the Lord, for she is the one who fully appreciates and yields herself to the Lord for the fulfillment of that mystery in her life.
So I would like to begin with some readings, we’ll begin with a reading from: Revelation chapter 10:7 “but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished as he declared it to his servants the prophets.”
And then in Revelation 11:1-2 “Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod and the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the Temple of God”…(and I believe this is speaking of the Temple of Living Stones and not a temple on the temple mount as many and most think.)…..”measure the Temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. 2) “But leave out the court which is outside the Temple, and do not measure it….”
And let’s read now: Revelation 19: 6-10 “And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!” 7 “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” 8 And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. 9 Then he said to me, “Write!: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.” 10 And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
And as I was saying, just a few moments ago, I believe that the bride of Messiah, though obviously the whole church of the Lord is called to be part of that Bride and that bridal company, if we look more closely even to the messages to the seven churches in the book of Revelation…and beyond that…we can understand that though the whole church is invited to be the Bride, the Bride is that part of the church that responds to the Lord in a very deep and real way. And understands, the admonitions of the Lord and the encouragements of the Lord the whole way long, that God would bring us finally to this great and wonderful marriage supper of the Lamb when we come into full union with the Lord. And this of course is a process and it’s a mystery. It’s a mystery because it expresses the ultimate reality of this love relationship between God and man. It expresses the ultimate fruit of what the Lord has finally laid down his life for, in perfect love and a perfect offering.
And so I believe it is the great fulfillment. And the marriage supper of the Lamb of course is the consummation, which is then the beginning of all that is to follow. It’s not the end in any way. In actuality, it’s the beginning.
And so if we have the vision of the Bride of Christ, which comes of course from the vision of the Bridegroom Himself, we submit ourself to a process of God, of yielding ourselves to Him in faith and love and giving God full access and authority over our lives to bring this fulfillment that HE so longs to bring forth in each one of our lives. But of course the Bride is not just a collection of individuals but the Bride very much is the answer to the prayer of Yeshua in John 17. And is a company of people who have really understood the heart of God, not just in a theological way, but in a walk of Life and in a vision that includes in every aspect of one’s walk with the Lord from morning to evening and through the night until the morning.
And so we can say that the Bride is truly the one who is the resting place of the Lord. The place where, the Ark of the Covenant, The Lord, can finally rest. And as we read in Revelation, it is that part of the church that God measures in the sense of those who are worshiping and living at the altar and the outer court is left out. And in order for the Bride to become the Bride there needs to be a deep correspondence between the nature of the Bridegroom and the nature of the Bride. And therefore, we can say that the Bride is the one who has the longing to behold the true image of the Bridegroom.
I think one of the main tactics of the devil throughout the centuries has been to distort the image of Jesus. And we know that He is the image of the invisible God. The book of Revelation ultimately is not just a series of prophetic events that take place, which of course it is as well, but it is ultimately the unveiling of the face of Yeshua. And the beholding of that face which reveals the fullness of the nature of God…it’s the glory of God in the face of Yeshua, as Paul says, that captivates us! It captivates us in a way that it becomes the central reality in our lives and all that we live no matter what the ministry is or the different aspects of the ministry. All become an offering up of our love to Him for His glorification.
And this is a continuous process in our lives of responding to the Living Word of God. Because, Yeshua, Jesus IS the Word of God and His word is Spirit and Life. And therefore, has the power to an abandoned heart to bring forth a transformation of mind and a transformation of heart. And as we all know, this is a process, a continuous process that God takes us through in our lives which ultimately leads to transfiguration. Which ultimately leads to our discovery of ourself in Him in the realm of His glory, because it’s in His glory that we find our true identity.
I remember many years ago I was battling with the whole question of my identity as a Jew who has found the Messiah. After I came to Israel there were very few believers at that time, it was 51 years ago and I met the gentile believers and coming from a religious Jewish background it was a little shocking for me that what the Lord was taking me through. And I was saying to the Lord, “Lord, where am I and why have you brought me to this country? And how do I find myself in You as a Jewish believer?” It was a very special day and I was actually in Germany, and one day the Holy Spirit came upon me in a very powerful way and God let me behold the face of Yeshua, actually it was more His eyes that I had seen. And the moment I looked into His eyes I found my complete identity, I found my complete identity. I realized it wasn’t an issue of outer things of putting on a tallit, or putting on a kippah. I had known that, I mean I had lived that way for many years and that’s the way I was raised. And when I saw His face, first of all I saw the perfect man, and I saw the God-Man. But I also saw the perfect Jew. I saw the incarnation of Israel in One Man and as it says in Isaiah 49. And when I looked into His face, into His eyes, for the first time in my life, I had an experience of such a similar experience when I met Him, but this was even more complete…I knew that my entire identity was in Him. And by seeing Him, I knew who I was and there was no other way for me to know who I was except to see that I was complete in Him as a Jew and as a man.
And that the whole destiny of Israel, because there’s always this struggle of Jewish identity in Israel, was Yeshua….Yeshua who was in the incarnation of Israel my servant. And also the longed for Bridegroom as God manifested Himself to Israel as the husband God Bridegroom who then comes in human flesh and is identified first by John the Baptist not only as the Lamb of God, but as the Bridegroom. And John the Baptist hears the voice of the Bridegroom. And I think this is very important in the hearing and in the seeing. Seeing the Bridegroom, not just seeing the Savior, of course, we need to see the Savior and the Savior is the Bridegroom. But we need to see the Bridegroom and we need to hear the voice, not only just the Voice of God, but the voice of the Bridegroom and to know His Voice.
I think of when we were children, there was that RCA Victor…I think probably some of you probably know what that is…there was this little dog, I think he was a terrier. And he was standing at a gramophone and he was listening to the gramophone…a very primitive thing in comparison to what we have, and it said on it, “his master’s voice.” And the voice that was heard through that gramophone was known to that little dog. And I think when we hear the voice of the Bridegroom it is always a call to go deeper, to leave the outer court, to realize that the veil has been torn from top to bottom, that we have access to live with God in the Holy of Holies and to come into ever increasing union with Him. And to allow Him to tear that veil over our mind and over our hearts, which is the deeper circumcision that we all need, and I know that I need it, and I continue to ask God to bring it forth in the whole process of life that we live… which is a process, that has, as we all know, suffering, tribulation….but surely not only that, but in these end times we experience that very much also within the body of Messiah and also in relation to the world around us which we see that we are more estranged as the time goes on from this world. And we sense more and more God’s love for this world and God’s desire to bring salvation to this world. But we are strangers and pilgrims on this earth though we are bringing at the same time the message of salvation and holding the Kingdom for the Lord during the time that we live on this earth.
And so the Bride makes herself ready. As it says in I John 3:1-3 as well that we will be like Him when we see Him. (vs. 2 Beloved, now we are the children of God, and it is not yet revealed what we will be, but we know that, when HE IS revealed, we will be like Him; for we will see Him as HE IS.) This is something enormous if we think about it, that we will be like Him when we see Him and everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself even as He is pure. (vs. 3)
So I can say that our walk with the Lord as bridal souls is an inner highway to Zion as has been spoken of in the Psalms. And we all have to go through the valley of Bacca (Ps. 84) so that God can bring forth that inner spring of life, those inner wells, that they can be released, to release the rivers, the rivers of Living Waters that the Lord prophesied about at the end of the Feast of Tabernacles. And in many ways that’s connected to our living out the reality of our baptism and entering with Him into His death, His burial, His resurrection, His ascension, and ultimately into His priesthood.
And so our intercession is not just a prayer that we offer up to God for different things, even with a deep burden of the Holy Spirit, but our intercession becomes an offering of our lives for the very things that we are praying for. Through the offering up our lives for those things, God begins to manifest those things in us so that we can become an expression of the Lord and even that people can eat from us the broken body and drink of the blood of Yeshua as we partake in His very life. In Revelation 19:10c we read..”Worship God, for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
Now I’d just like to speak about this and explain how I have come to understand this in the last years. First of all, the whole book of Revelation is a prophecy, as I said it’s the unveiling of Jesus Christ, of Yeshua Ha Mashiach. It’s the beholding of the true nature of the Lamb. And as we follow Him, wherever He goes and wherever HE leads us, HE reveals Himself to us from within. That’s part of the mystery, it’s not just a revelation that we receive, it’s a revelation that comes as we follow the Lamb wherever HE goes. He reveals Himself to us and He begins to manifest HIs Name and His Father’s Name upon our forehead which has to do with the whole way we think, the whole way we see, the whole way we live our lives which become an act of true worship. And as we all know, worship is not only through song, and what we call worship….but worship is really, again as I said of intercession, it’s the offering up of our lives to the Lord at the altar as an expression of our love and making a place for Him to live His life out more and more in us as He captivates us, as we yield to Him. The Lord begins to take deeper and deeper possession of our lives within and that taste is so sweet to us that it creates a deeper longing, a deeper desire to surrender to Him.
So the true testimony of Yeshua, of Jesus in our hearts is to live in the Spirit of prophecy. The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy. Not only through faith in the prophecy but that the prophecy which here, in Revelation 19, is the prophecy of the Bride making herself ready. That prophecy becomes our life vision. We live in that prophecy, we see through that prophecy, we relate to all things that are happening on the globe, in Israel, in the nations, in relation to that prophecy. When I live in Israel of course I see the various aspects of the prophecy speaking to Israel and the end times to the restoration of Jerusalem, but I see through that prophecy, I understand through that prophecy. My heart longs to see the first fruit from Israel and the nations that the prophecy becomes flesh and blood. That is we have dove’s eyes we see all things good and bad. The dealings of the nations, the dealings of Israel we see all in relation to the Lord summing up all things in the Messiah to bring the ultimate fulfillment of the mystery. Because when the Bridegroom will be married to His Bride, We know that the Kingdom age will follow and he will rule and reign with His Bride on this earth for a thousand years.
Jerusalem from above is actually the picture of the ultimate fulfillment first of all of the mystery of the Bride. That’s what John sees …the fulfillment of the mystery of the Bride. But the Jerusalem from above is also the ultimate fulfillment of the mystery of Israel who was called at first to be the Bride of the Lord. We know there is a whole chapter in the book of Ezekiel that speaks about God’s marriage covenant with Jerusalem and how God found Jerusalem and made her into His Bride and she became a terrible harlot and prostituted herself with other loves. God chasens her bitterly and finally brings her back to Himself and restores the covenant with Jerusalem. Jerusalem of course being the sign for the whole nation of Israel. So the Jerusalem from above we see the 12 foundations are the 12 apostles of Israel, the 12 gates are the 12 Tribes of Israel. And it’s a cube that is that the height, the length, the width it’s all the same measurement. Just like the Holy of Holies in the Sanctuary of God. It’s also a cube. And we see the transparency of the City, the glory of the City, and it shows how the mystery of Israel who is called to be the Bride of Messiah comes into her ultimate fulfillment in the word Yeshua. And of course as we know, the Gentile part of that community has been grafted in and has been received into the full citizenship of that commonwealth of Israel.
So the restoration of the earthly Jerusalem in our day, is leading to the return of the Lord to the establishment of His Kingdom. And so we believe that what God is doing in Jerusalem today to restore His House of Living Stones is to join together, ultimately…. It’s the heart that is to join together ultimately all the different parts of that remnant church, the remnant Bride who the book of Revelation says, are the called, the chosen, and the faithful. The called, the chosen and the faithful who are the overcomers in the end time battle. And so this united Bride, and I believe that…we know that the gospel has gone out for 2,000 years and the church over many centuries was known as the church of Rome. Of course after the protestant reformation we know the whole story of how many breakaways there were and how many denominations there are. But the mystery of the Bride is the answer of Yeshua when HE celebrates that evening of the New Covenant meal and beseeches the Father that the unity and the union that exists between Father and Son through the Holy Spirit would be manifested in His people and literally that we would come into that unity.
Now Jerusalem is the city where the Lord laid down His life. It’s the city of the altar. It’s the city where the redemption has taken place. It’s the city where the wall of partition was broken down between Jew and gentile. It’s the city where the New Covenant meal was celebrated as the clear sign of the union of Yeshua and His people. And so we believe that as we move more and more into the end time and we see a growing apostasy in all of the traditional churches which is spreading also into the evangelical churches, there is coming a calling as we read in Revelation 18: “Come out of her my people.” Come out of that part of the church which has become a prostitute and has married herself to the world system. And this is the great exodus of the end time. It’s the exodus of the church from Babylon, even the evangelical church, of all that which is Babylonian and it speaks of a homecoming….a homecoming out of Babylon to Zion, but to the true meaning of Zion in the Spirit. And it’s the time of exodus for Israel as well coming out of everything that is other than the true faith in Yeshua and a restoration of Israel to the true foundations of God in the end time.
So this Spirit of prophecy is bringing all things together into Yeshua the Bridegroom. That means that all the tribulations of the end time, the purification of the earth, the preparing of the earth for the Kingdom age, the tribulation that Israel will go through, whatever it is, it’s to work redemption. It’s the work salvation, but not only salvation, but salvation that will lead to transformation. Because the goal, the goal of course is that the Bride would be transformed into the very image of the Bridegroom. I mean that is the work of the new creation…we are a new creation. All the old things have passed away, all things have become new! But the work of God through the tribulations, through the sufferings, through His dealings, through His revelations, through our worship, through our prayers it’s all to bring forth this great reality. And of course it must take place in Israel and of course the Bridal company in Israel is very, very precious to God and has a very specific calling to fulfill in the end time just as the gentile remnant…..the Bridal remnant amongst the nations has a very key calling to fulfill in relation to the Jewish people through prayer, through intercession and all the other ways God works through gentile believers to provoke Israel deeply to jealousy….but a holy jealousy that will really allow Israel to taste this amazing thing that is taking place. Because for the Jew to really consider that God has put us aside for 2,000 years and has gone to the nations and that all that we have suffered from the side of the church, that now God is working redemptively and bringing forth a holy remnant that actually loves Israel….this is the wonder of wonders! This is the ultimate sign of the work of redemption amongst the gentile believers. And bringing us together into one in the humility of the spirit. And Each recognizing each other in the one new man not to dissolve identity, but to bring identity in Messiah into true focus. Because God is a god of tremendous, tremendous diversity and variety and ultimately everything has been created through the Word Yeshua and for the Word Yeshua. And redemption is to bring us all back into that which was in the heart of God from the beginning in the Word who is Yeshua.
And that is the process that we are going through in these end times. So prophecy has many workings. But this I believe must be the great reality that should be our main focus….preparing ourselves for the marriage supper of the Lamb. And it does not in any way make the other aspects of prophecy insignificant. It, I believe, it just brings all of the other aspects into their right correspondence to that which is ultimately in the heart of God for the end time.
And so the Lord is bringing us together to share that one, let us say that one covenant meal that He celebrated on that Passover eve when He made the New Covenant with His disciples. And of course we know that the Covenant meal, the Lord’s supper, has been something that rather than expressing the unity of Yeshua with His people and the covenantal relationship between the people of God, satan has used that specifically to divide the people of God over a period of 2,000 years. And that Covenant meal is the expression, ultimately, to manifest the reality that we are flesh of His flesh, bone of His bone that we share together in His life giving blood and that we partake as the early church did in the Lamb of God together as a community. And this is the reality that the Lord has been waiting for for 2,000 years….that only the Bride can manifest the manifold wisdom of God to the principalities and powers the joining of Jew and gentile. The true unity that Messiah prayed for. This is the ultimate destruction of the power of satan, because it’s the hidden mystery of God that is now being, not only revealed, but being made flesh on this earth as the testimony of Jesus, the spirit of prophecy, that is being complete as Jesus cried out on the cross, “It is finished!” And now God is completing and finishing that mystery.
And as I said, it’s only the beginning. After the marriage supper, comes the Kingdom Age where Israel will take up her place as a nation among the nations as the firstborn son. And after that we come into the eternal reality of all that which God has prepared for us. But we need to focus on what will be. And what will be, should also affect what is today. When the Lord celebrated the supper, He spoke of the supper, the supper speaks of what He has completed, what He has finished. It speaks of His Presence amongst us now and it speaks of the fact that He will not take it with us again until all is fulfilled in His Kingdom. So it’s past, it’s present, and it’s future and it’s that reality that we are to celebrate as a Bridal company. So this mystery continues in all eternity.
And just to conclude, I think it’s important with all that I said to remember Paul’s words to the Corinthian church that He was concerned that the enemy had led the church astray from the simplicity of devotion to Jesus Christ. There are so many things connected to the Kingdom of God. And they’re all, I mean the Bride is the Kingdom. If we look at the early Jerusalem church, it was already a very pure and beautiful expression of the Kingdom. That’s what the Lord spoke to them about for 40 days when the Spirit was poured out. The Kingdom came in their inner most person and they shared the Kingdom life, they lived that unity of the Bride. It was a reality of what God promised to do and what God will continue to do. But there was a simplicity, a simplicity of love, a simplicity of devotion and that’s why we need to get back to that simplicity and have those dove eyes and allow God to teach us to see all through those eyes of the Bridegroom who gave His life for this world, who is yearning for His Bride, who is calling us into intimacy who wants us to know Him in a very deep way in the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings and being conformed to it with Him in His death that we might come into that union of Life with Yeshua Ha Maschiach. And really know the deeper things that are in His heart.
And I think if we have this focus and come into this simplicity it will affect all of our other ministries in relationship to the Lord. I think one of the great challenges is to be so occupied and to be so busy to lose the focus, to lose the first love for the Lord. But not only to lose the first love, but to lose that deep reality of union with Messiah, which ultimately is the thing alone that can bring fulfillment into our lives. Even if we saw millions coming to the faith, even if we saw millions being healed and we did not have that inner life walk with the Messiah, we would rejoice for the things that we would see and experience, but there would be a vacuum and an emptiness which would just leave us in many ways unfulfilled. And so the Lord wants to conquer us….the Lord wants to take possession of us, like He wanted to take of the land of Canaan. And He wants to complete this mystery of the Bride of Jew and gentile. And Jerusalem and Israel and the Messianic community are key to this mystery. And therefore, we need to see again, and with this I’m concluding. The Lord wants us to see all through the focus of the eyes and the voice of the Bridegroom. And if we do that we will see all of the other things, all of the other things in the light that God wants them to have in relation to the bullseye focus of His heart as His heart was pierced and He poured out the water and the blood to give birth to that Bride…that Bride who was before but the actual birth came at the cross and that’s the bullseye that the Lord wants His Bride to focus upon. And as we come deeper and deeper into Him we find our unity with each other. That’s the message of John 17. As we abide in Him and He in us, He shares His glory with us and we experience the unity of the Godhead and we share it with Him and we share it with each other and we have His mind and His heart and His Spirit.
Reuven’s Closing prayer:
Lord we thank you, we thank you for that which is Your Heart for this time and Lord we ask you to open these things up unseal them to our hearts that we can find fulfillment, deep fulfillment in our walk, in our life with You. Not only as individuals, but collectively and wherever we are located. Lord that we can bring that fragrance, that fragrance of love, that fragrance of Bridal union, that fragrance of life which is the most attractive thing there is. Because once we lose that fragrance Lord, everything becomes black and white. And that fragrance, Lord, makes the Kingdom life technicolor because we behold the true face of, we behold the true image of God in the Face of Yeshua Ha Maschiach which draws us, which transforms us, O God, and which brings us into the true worship of God….which we all long for. So we bless you and we thank you for this time together, Father in Yeshua’s Name.
Reuven Berger, along with his brotherBenjamin pastor the Congregation of the Lambon Mt. Zion in the Old City of Jerusalem in Israel. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family they came to faith in Yeshua (Jesus) as Messiah over 50 years ago and were called of the LORD to move to Jerusalem. The Congregation is a Hebrew-speaking Congregation that meets at Christ Church inside the Jaffa Gate opposite the Tower of David.
Thanks to Beverly Doty for taking the time to transcribe the message!
Our Bible is a LOVE Story – not a romantic one, although it has elements of romance. God does draw us and allure us. The Bible is a story of God’s love first for the people of Israel and then also for the Gentiles. It shows us His covenant love and faithfulness over thousands of years. The Old Testament, which is also known as the Hebrew Bible contains the story of God’s love for Israel. The Hebrew Bible (OT) consists of three parts: the Torah (the first five books), the Prophets and the Writings. Together they show a picture of God’s love.
To begin to understand God’s kind of love, let’s look at some words that mean love. In English we have one word LOVE. We know there are different levels of love. While I love ice cream, that’s different from a deeply committed covenant type of love as exhibited in marriage for example.
In Hebrew and Greek the context in which a word is used is very important.
There are basically two Hebrew words used for love in the Old Testament (OT). They are ahav and hesed. The two words used in the New Testament (NT) in Greek to describe love are phileo and agape.
Ahav or aheb (to love) basically means to have affection for, love, like, to befriend. The Greek word phileo is similar in meaning. In describing God’s divine love, the Hebrew word hesed is used in the OT and agape in the NT. Hesed is difficult to translate into English because it has a range of meanings. Context is important!
Hesed can be translated into English as unfailing love, steadfast love, mercy, faithfulness, faithful love, lovingkindness, goodness, loyal, unchanging love, covenantal faithfulness
One definition of hesed is “completely undeserved kindness and generosity” (John Oswalt).Hesed is not just a feeling, but it is love put into action. Author Lois Tverberg states that hesed “intervenes on behalf of loved ones and comes to their rescue.”
The word hesed is used to describe God himself. When God revealed Himself to Moses, the Bible tells us that God proclaimed Himself as merciful, gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (hesed) and faithfulness. (Exodus 34:6 )
God has called us to be a holy people! .
In Deuteronomy 7: 6-9, the Torah says, “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations….”
Just as God calls Israel to be a holy people, He also calls believing Gentiles to be holy and set apart unto Him (see 1 Peter 2:9-10). What is true in the book of Deuteronomy for Israel, is also true for us today as we are grafted into the rich olive tree that is Israel (see Romans 11:17-18). He loves us with a steadfast love.
In the Writings Psalms 136, which is the Great Hallel (praise) Psalm, hesed is used in every verse as the Psalmist recounts many of the mighty things God has done for His people. “His steadfast love(hesed) endures forever.” It is good to remember and reflect upon how God has shown us His steadfast love throughout our lives.
In Isaiah 54:10 (Prophets) God makes a beautiful promise to His people. “For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love (hesed) shall not depart from you and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the LORD who has compassion on you.” We can count on His steadfast love to bring us through even the most difficult of circumstances.
Basically, HESED is the expression of God’s covenant love for His people expressed throughout the Bible.
Remember the children’s song, “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so?” The Bible does tell us so! There are times we don’t “FEEL IT.” That’s when we have to remind ourselves what the BIBLE says and believe it. Have faith!!!!
To be sure God’s covenant love also involves discipline and correction. God expects his people to keep (obey) His commandments, and He disciplined them when they didn’t. We see this pattern throughout the Bible. Israel possessed her inheritance when she obeyed God. When she stopped obeying and went down the path of sin, practicing idolatry and sexual immorality, she eventually was driven into exile. But, she was restored when she repented of her sin. God will restore when we sincerely repent; this requires not just words but action !!! See , we can honor God with our lips but our hearts can be far from him and so we worship Him in vain (Matthew 15: 8,9 ).
God highlighted the above verse to me once over 20 years ago. I remember where I was standing that day. I had been struggling with a sin, and God wanted to deal with me! It was time to stop talking and start doing!! It was time to repent (change my mind), acknowledge my sin, and rely on the power of the Holy Spirit working through me to change my behavior. I felt very convicted, but I also knew I was greatly loved. God took the time to CORRECT ME!!
The question we need to ask is not so much does God love us, but have we learned to love as He loves?
God requires surrender and obedience from His people. Whenever I have felt a distance between God and me, it’s because I hadn’t surrendered or hadn’t obeyed. I know this can be painful to walk through, but it is absolutely necessary!!
Proverbs 3:3-4 says, “My son (my daughter), do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love (hesed) and faithfulness forsake you, bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart so you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.”
We are to have steadfast love towards God !!
Jesus was clear when he said, “Hear (in Hebrew “Shema” which means to listen and obey), O Israel, the Lord our God is One (Only). And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30 refers to Deuteronomy 6:4. This is the GREATEST commandment.
In John 14:15 Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep (obey) my commandments.” He repeats this principle in John 14:21. “Whoever has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me. The one who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and reveal Myself to him.”
God spells love O-B-E-Y. Can we do this on our own? No, we can’t. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to do it, and we do it because we have learned to love God. God will still love us if we don’t obey, but we lose the blessing of intimate fellowship with God and the protection that obedience brings.
A friend shared something that happened in her life that illustrates the above principle.
MartyLee shared an experience she had years ago. She often struggled thinking that God did not love her when she sinned but that He loved her when she was “good.” She had two dogs that she loved very much. Fred was very obedient; Barkley was not. One day they were in the yard playing and a squirrel ran into the street. The dogs started to run after the squirrel. MartyLee yelled “STOP!” Fred stopped immediately, but Barkley ran into the street and was killed. She was heartbroken. She felt the Lord ask her, “Did you love Barkley less than Fred because he was disobedient?” Of course not! Fred’s obedience, however, saved his life. And so it is with God. He loves us no matter what. Obedience protects us. It’s really for our benefit.
Exercises to help you live out the Word!
Write out Deuteronomy 7:9. Then list some ways in which God has shown you His steadfast love and faithfulness in concrete ways in the everyday circumstances of your life. It may be helpful to list each one, and then follow each one with the sentence “His steadfast love endures forever.” Use the format of Psalm 136 to guide you.
Write out the “Greatest Commandment” from Mark 12:29-30 which Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 6:4-5. Remember “Hear” is the Hebrew word “Shema” which means to listen and obey!
Write out John 14:15 and John 14:21. List specific action steps you will take in obedience to God. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you and He surely will!
Be accountable. Share this blog with a friend and invite her do the exercises too. Then set a time to call each other or meet to talk it over.
Hanukkah took place around 165 B.C. and has something to say to us today. It should move us to prayer and action!
Should Christians even care about Hanukkah? The answer is “yes” because according to John 10:22 (NLT) Jesus was in Jerusalem at the Temple during “the Festival of Dedication” (Hanukkah). While Hanukkah is a celebration of the victory won during the Maccabean revolt it also points to Jesus because it is also known as the Festival of Lights and Jesus is the Light of the World. Most importantly if what happened during Hanukkah had not happened the Jewish people would have been wiped out and so our Savior would not have been born. Jesus was prophesied to be of the House of David and God’s promise would not have been fulfilled if His ancestral line had not continued.
God brought a victory to the Jewish people against all odds during the Maccabean revolt – the real Miracle. But there also had to be people for God to use that were willing to stand up to the injustices of an oppressive regimen. Enter the Maccabee family which were of the tribe of Levi and therefore had a divine calling to be priests of the Lord. Jerusalem and the Temple were under the control of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (means “God Manifest”- oh my!). He persecuted the Jews, decreeing that they could not keep the Sabbath, nor celebrate their Feasts, nor read their Bible. They were forced to participate in pagan practices. Antiochus went so far as to desecrate the altar in the Temple by sacrificing a pig on it to Zeus! Under the leadership of the Maccabees the Jews said “NO!”, revolted and ultimately succeeded.
The Legend of the Hanukkah menorah.
The legend that a one day supply of oil to light the menorah was found that lasted for eight days did not come into play until about 400 years after the Maccabean revolt and is probably a fake-news miracle!
An Eight Day Festival
It does seem that the reason that the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah), which is a celebration of the rededication of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem lasts for eight days is because the Jewish people were not able to celebrate the eight day Feast of Tabernacles (or Booths) that year because it was forbidden. So when victory was won and the Temple rededicated in the winter the people celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles. This is recorded in 2 Maccabees 10:5-8, written less than 100 years after the event and is more likely. Regardless, the tradition of lighting the Hanukkah menorah is over eight days and a beautiful symbol of how God empowered a people willing to stand against oppression and for HIS ways.
“Even if all the nations that live under the rule of the king obey him, and have chosen to obey his commandments, everyone of them abandoning the religion of their ancestors, I and my sons and my brothers will continue to live by the covenant of our ancestors. Far be it from us to desert the law and the ordinances. We will not obey the king’s words by turning aside from our religion to the right hand or to the left.” (Matthias Maccabee, 1 Maccabees 2:19-22)
God will bring deliverance to His people even in extremely dire circumstances!
That is the real miracle! But God is looking for people who will co-labor with Him in the working out of the victory. That’s what speaks to us today. The Hanukkah story is a source of inspiration and also a call to stand-up and not bow to a godless society! As never before believers in the Lord Jesus Christ must pray and stand together for righteousness and Biblical truth.
Jesus is the Light of the World
While Hanukkah is known as the Feast of Dedication (referring to the re-dedication of the desecrated Temple back to the God of Israel), it is also known as the Festival of Lights. Traditionally some Jewish people place their Hanukkiahs (a 9 branched menorah) in their front windows as a symbol of victory of light over darkness. When I light my Hanukkiah I think of the courageous Maccabees and the victory won against seemingly unsurmountable odds. Only God could have brought the victory! I also think of Yeshua (Jesus) who is the light of the world. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (John 8:12 NKJV) When Jesus returns there will come a day of total victory over evil. Until then may we, His disciples, shine brightly in this dark world bringing hope and faith to others, “for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (1 John 3:4-5 NIV).
Maranatha – Come Lord Jesus Come!!
A Hanukkah Miracle
In December 2020 Karen Davis and Chaya Mizrachi joined us on Zoom from Israel for a special time of anointed worship, messages and prayerfor the US and Israel. Karen spoke powerfully on “A Hanukkah Miracle” about the ongoing struggle of the Sons (and Daughters) of Zion (those that believe in the One true God) against the Sons of Greece (the world). See Zechariah 9:13. This is where we are! God is rousing us to fight the good fight of faith!. Chaya told us a very moving, inspiring and personal family story regarding how Jews were saved in Bulgaria during WW2. They were saved because the King of Bulgaria and the Church rose up and said “NO!” to Jews being deported to the death camps! The King lost his life over it!
For more history on what happened in Bulgaria watch the 30 minute film put out by Frontier Alliance International entitled “The Fox and the Fuhrer”. Definitely worth the watch! For more understanding on Hanukkah read articles written by Avner Boskey, a Messianic believer who lives with his wife Rachel in Israel.
This blog was originally published in December 2020. It has been updated.
Betsy and her husband Jim lead the trips to Israel, which include visiting with local believers, both Messianic and Arab. Together they have 3 daughters and 4 grandchildren who are the delight of their hearts. God’s mercy endures from generation to generation.
Ask the Lord of the Harvest…(Written last year) It’s harvest time in New England. I went to pick up my veggie share at the local farm and they have tomato plants where you can pick tomatoes when you go to the farm. The frost has mostly killed the plants but they are still laden, laden, laden with tomatoes. I went to glean as many as I could but did not make a dent in them. I could hear them calling out “pick me” (I’m joking but I almost could) but there were too many of them and only me, so far, to pick them.
Harvest time, at the end, yields a lot of abundance. At other local farms, the harvest of pumpkins and winter squash are way more abundant than can be used. Farmers pile extra produce, some with small blemishes, or in unsightly shapes into bargain bins, almost begging you to take it. Waste is sad to me. The food is grown to be enjoyed, eaten– a source of nourishment, not left to rot on the vine.
But now approaches a time for spiritual harvest also. God’s love and care for us is so great that He wants to gather us up so that none are lost. A harvest of souls is waiting like an overstocked pumpkin patch in the fields of the Lord, waiting right here in New England. But who will help them to be brought home to the Lord? Who will tell them that we are grown for a purpose, grown to bring joy and sustenance to each other and happiness to God. Some produce is more beautiful than others but who will take time to gather the bruised, the late fruit, the misshapen, the leftovers? All has worth and purpose.
Many years ago, in my senior yearbook, I wrote the verse, “Many are called, but few are chosen” underneath my senior picture. I picked that verse because I felt a sense of destiny to find my deepest purpose in God and fulfill it. So today, as I heard the unharvested tomatoes crying out to be harvested, it was not hard for me to hear the cries of souls crying out also. People are not meant to wither on the vine and die. We are meant for rich, full, purposeful lives. A young man in our town passed away unexpectedly. We do not know when our moment to pass over will come. Will we have found peace with God?
In 1734, Jonathan Edwards stewarded one of the most famous revivals in American history– a revival that changed the American landscape and history. We stand on the edge of another such time: a troubled time in our history where people are searching for meaning and hope that can only come ultimately when they are in right relationship with God and each other.
But where are the workers to midwife this? Jesus teaches on this when he says,“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest.” (Matthew 9:38) .
For it is surely His Harvest, and His hope that people would come out of the darkness of hopelessness into the marvelous light of the Kingdom of God. He is not willing that one should perish, that one should be sick or hurt or depressed or in need. But He has given some of that responsibility to us to partner with Him. Will we? Or are we pre-occupied with our own interests? busy with our own lives?
There is surely a clarion call being sounded, louder than the call of the wild geese migrating southward. It is time to gather the harvest of souls that is out there, waiting, clinging to the vine in hopes that their lives have some meaning, some purpose and will not be wasted. It is not just a soul here or there, but an abundant, overflowing harvest that will break our capacity to receive them unless we prepare.
Where there was no interest for God or His ways, suddenly will spring forth the Presence of God calling people home to Himself. And they will respond. So we who have known Jesus, and walked with Him, all these years through thick and thin, must get ready to gather with Him. Let nothing and no-one go to waste.
Harvesters, get ready. Get ready to help people know the Good God they never knew. The One who often has been sadly maligned and misrepresented— the Living God who is Life, and Love and Truth.
Discipleship making online classes
Want to learn more about making disciples? We encourage you to take a look here>>These classes will teach you from a biblical rather than a religious perspective and give you tools that bring people to Jesus. Gather a few friends and do them together!
This series of four articles was written by Women of the Word Board Member Rose-Marie Slosek. They were originally published by FAI and are being re-posted here with permission.
In Isaiah 42:1-4 the Scriptures read,
Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles, He will not cry out, nor raise His voice in the street. A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench; He will not fail nor be discouraged, Till He has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands shall wait for His law.
Our culture, including “church” culture does not like to talk about suffering, never mind actually experience it. This is probably more true in the Western Church where “entitlement” is expected. Human nature finds suffering by and large repugnant. We don’t want any part of it. We want to avoid it at all costs. Many in the church have been falsely taught that because of Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross believers will not have to suffer. This is not what Jesus taught. Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
The Scriptures tell us that Jesus was a man of sorrows. In this series Rose-Marie beautifully explores this aspect of Jesus as the Suffering Servant and how we might enter into His sufferings with Him. You may be reluctant to read further but there is a beauty here that is worthwhile to explore and to give ourselves to as the Lord leads us. May the LORD grant us His grace as we venture in. God bless you.
Part I: Our Call to the Broken
Bearing His Name, despite our own imperfections, is our great honor. Our many mistakes are rich fodder to learn the kind heart of God firstly toward ourselves so that we can share that honestly with others. If you are thinking that is too hard a task, know that He has already addressed that handily in this passage: “He will not fail nor be discouraged, till He has established justice in the earth.” He is up for hard! He will not give up on you or His mission till the ends of the earth are brought under His just rule. Read more here>>
Part II: The Specter of Laboring in Vain
God determines where we will be dispatched and what we must speak, and this brings us to the point I wish to highlight most: we can suffer because we may believe, whether it is true or not, that we have labored in vain. Our best efforts may seem to fail. All may seem lost. Yet there is no anguish that we need to stifle in this process. We do not need to be heroic while being obedient. We are not the final judge of whether we have succeeded or failed. We stand or fall on our obedience, not on our success. Read more here>>
Part III: The Suffering Servant and the Sons of God
Jesus had to set His face like flint to accomplish the destiny God had for Him. Refusing to suffer would have cost Him the victory of His earthly race and His ability to inherit His people—not only to purchase our salvation but the right to lead us as the righteously Suffering Servant. If Jesus had to be determinedly all-in, should I expect an easier path? Read more here>>
Part IV: The Fruits and Victory of Redemptive Suffering
There is no merit in just plain suffering. In the Kingdom to come it is said that “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Thankfully, the coming fullness of the kingdom of God has no suffering in it. We have, however, much that can be gained by our willingness to suffer as we minister to the pains of mankind, in general, and specifically Israel, in this age. Read more here>>
A Final Word
Take your time to prayerfully read and ponder this series. Mull it over before the Lord taking one article at a time. May the Lord lead you in His paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Maranatha!