Hag Pesach Sameach (Joyous Passover Holiday),
What Is On Your Shoulders?
Each year, as we meditate afresh on the meaning of Passover, the Lord brings to our attention another aspect of the holiday that is on His heart. This year, He led us to focus on “shoulders” and “burdens.” Shoulders in the Holy Scriptures usually convey the idea of power, might, and strength. Because of this strength, burdens were placed on the shoulders. We have a phrase in English, “to shoulder a burden,” which indicates this idea.
How strong are our shoulders? While we often sense our great weakness, in our Messiah we are strong, because the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). We can do all things through our Messiah who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). Not only can we bear our own burdens, we can also bear the burdens of others. The Bible exhorts us to do that. “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Messiah” (the law of love; Galatians 6:2). “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves” (Romans 15:1 KJV).
We have been greatly burdened recently by our nation’s tragic slide into infanticide. When New York passed the bill that allows abortions up to the moment of birth, we were aghast. At the end of February, the U.S. Senate failed to pass S.311, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which would have protected newborn babies that were alive after an abortion attempt. How much does this differ from Pharaoh’s edict that the Egyptian midwives should kill every male infant at the point of birth (Exodus 1:16)? “But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the male children alive” (Exodus 1:17). May we fear God as the midwives Shiphrah and Puah did (Exodus 1:15) and take a stand for life against this evil, unthinkable practice. “Abba, show us what each of us can do. Help us to bear the burden of the weak and defenseless, in Yeshua’s name.”
Moses: Burdened for Israel
Baby Moses, rescued from the death sentence, eventually became a redeemer of God’s people. His burden for them grew as he witnessed the opposition that they suffered at the hands of cruel taskmasters. “Now it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens. And he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren” (Exodus 2:11). Moses killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand, when he thought no one was looking. But he was seen, and Moses fled from Pharaoh to the land of Midian. Forty years later, the God of Israel, through Moses, delivered His people from Egyptian bondage. The Lord mentioned this deliverance in Psalm 81:6-7: “I removed his shoulders from the burden; His hands were freed from the baskets. You called in trouble, and I delivered you…”
Our grandson, Liam, age 2 1/2, is fascinated by the story of Moses and the Exodus. He loves watching the YouTube Beginner’s Bible version of the life of Moses and says, “Nana, I watch Moe!” Twenty-eight minutes, from the baby in the Nile to the tribes marching out of Egypt with dough on their shoulders, staffs in hand, articles of gold and silver in wagons. (See Exodus 12:34-36.) Liam will surely be very entertaining this year at our Passover Seder—especially when we get to the plagues.
Moses often found it difficult to shoulder the burdens of Israel alone. He complained to the Lord that He should send someone else to deliver the Israelites, since Moses insisted that he was not eloquent, but rather slow of speech and tongue. God, in His mercy, sent Aaron, Moses’s brother, to go with him to Pharaoh, to be the spokesman.
When Israel left Egypt and Amalek fought with them in Rephidim, Moses stood on the top of a hill with the rod of God in his hand. Aaron and Hur went with him. Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed. When he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’s hands became heavy, so Aaron and Hur helped support them. They helped bear the burden, and Israel defeated Amalek.
We all need people to hold up our hands from time to time. Whose hands are you holding up? If you can’t give physical help, you can lift burdens through prayer!
The Shoulders of the Levites
On the first day of the second month after leaving Egypt, Moses and Aaron assembled all the Israelites from 20 years old and above to be numbered. “All who were numbered were six hundred and three thousand five hundred and fifty” (Numbers 1:46).
The Levites were not numbered among them because God had a special calling for them—to be in charge of the tabernacle of the Testimony. “…they shall carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings; they shall attend to it and camp around the tabernacle” (Numbers 1:50). Years later, King David said, “No one may carry the ark of God but the Levites, for the LORD has chosen them to carry the ark of God and to minister before Him forever” (1 Chronicles 15:2).
The Levites were given this special privilege because of their response at the episode of the Golden Calf (Exodus 32). When Moses said, “Who is on the LORD’s side? Let him come to me” (verse 26), all the sons of Levi gathered unto him. Zealous for the LORD, they obeyed Moses and killed 3,000 men by the sword. Consider the burden that was placed on their shoulders that day. Imagine having to slay your own brothers, companions, and neighbors because of their sin!
Although documents that prove Jewish tribal lineage perished in the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D., there is an unbroken oral tradition regarding the identity of the Levites and the Cohens (priests), within the tribe of Levi. The Levites who have a direct lineage back to Aaron are called Cohens. Throughout Jewish history, and even today, the Cohens and Levites have certain privileges and responsibilities. In synagogues all over the world, Cohens (priests) are the first to be called up to read from the Torah, and the Levites are second. We experienced this in Cuba many years ago. We were at an Orthodox synagogue on Shabbat and they asked if there were any Levites in the congregation. Neil raised his hand. [He found out that he is a Levite at Jonathan’s Brit Milah (circumcision) when Neil’s older brother identified the family as Levites.] Neil was called up to recite the blessing before the reading of Torah. They chanted in Hebrew with a kind of salsa beat!
Israel on the High Priest’s Shoulders
The High Priest, as a Levite, was charged with ministering to the Lord. His very specific ministry involved carrying the twelve tribes in a physical way on his shoulders. The Cohen Gadol (Kow-HEN Gah-DOLE) wore a garment called an ephod that hung over the shoulders and covered the front and back. Two onyx stones were fastened to the shoulders of the ephod. On each stone were engraved the names the children of Israel, in the order of their births. On one stone: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, and Naphtali. On the other stone: Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin.
The Torah states the reason for the two onyx stones on the High Priest’s shoulders: “And you shall put the two stones on the shoulders of the ephod as memorial stones for the sons of Israel. So Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD on his two shoulders as a memorial” (Exodus 28:12). The word memorial in Hebrew is zikkaron (zee-kah-RONE). The Cohen was to remember and intercede for the children of Israel, by name, when he entered the Presence of the Lord.
Do we bear Israel on our shoulders when we enter into God’s presence? We are commanded to pray for the peace of Jerusalem in Psalm 122:6. We believe that includes the peace of God’s People Israel. As the New Covenant royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), we have the power and authority to intercede for our Jewish brethren before the Throne of Grace. They need our prayers! We recently received a brochure from the World Jewish Congress listing what they see as the “10 Contemporary Plagues” that the Jewish people worldwide are experiencing today. They include: violence, online hate, political unrest, fear, vandalism, bias, ultra-nationalism, silence, intolerance, and ignorance. For complete information, visit 10plagues.wjc.org. Please read and share with others.
The Government on Yeshua’s Shoulders
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulders: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). (Note that Isaiah 9:6 comes shortly after 9:4, where the LORD breaks the yoke of a burden and a staff off the shoulder and the rod of Israel’s oppressor.)
This prophecy, spoken approximately 700 years before the birth of Messiah, looks forward to His sovereign reign over the entire earth. The government and rule of the world will be His. The shoulders of Yeshua, strong enough to bear the sins of the world, will one day bear the rulership of the world. “And the LORD shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be…’The LORD is one, and His name one’“(Zechariah 14:9).
Even now, Yeshua rules and reigns. He has all power in heaven and on earth. His kingdom has no end. It is constantly increasing (Isaiah 9:7) and will continue until all things are put under His feet. We like how Adam Clarke, a great Bible expositor, expressed it: “His kingdom is ordered—every act of government regulated according to wisdom and goodness; is established so securely as not to be overthrown; and administered in judgment and justice, so as to manifest his wisdom, righteousness, goodness, and truth.”
Oh, that we would have such a government in Washington, D.C. Prayer needed!
Eliakim: A Type of Yeshua
During the time of the prophet Isaiah, there was a man named Eliakim (El-ee-ah-KEEM) which means in Hebrew: “my God will raise up.” God calls Eliakim “His servant” and gives him authority and responsibility, and a burden of love concerning God’s people. “He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah” (Isaiah 22:21). The Lord says of Eliakim, “The key of the house of David I will lay on his shoulder; so he shall open, and no man shall shut; and he shall shut, and no one shall open. I will fasten him as a peg in a secure place, and he will become a glorious throne to his father’s house” (Isaiah 22:22-23). This sounds like Yeshua. In fact, Eliakim is seen as a “type” of the Lord in the Tanakh.
Yeshua also has the key of the house of David on His shoulder. He said to the angel of the church of Philadelphia, “These things says He who is holy, He who is true, ‘He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens’” (Revelation 3:7).
May Yeshua open a door for you this month that no one can shut, and shut a door that no one can open!
Yeshua’s Yoke on Our Shoulders
We have taught on the biblical concept of “yoke” for years, but it bears repeating, since our Messiah made one of His most famous statements concerning yokes: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
A yoke is a wooden cross piece that is fastened over the neck of two animals and attached to a plow or cart that they pull. It is also the part of a garment that fits over the shoulders and to which the main part of the garment is attached.
But the yoke that Yeshua was referring to in Matthew 11:28-30 was spiritual—a concept well known and practiced by His Jewish listeners. The rabbis of Yeshua’s day (and even today) taught about two spiritual yokes—the Yoke of the Kingdom and the Yoke of the Torah. Pious Jews symbolically put on the Yoke of the Kingdom upon reciting the Shema. This Yoke involved loving God with one’s whole heart, soul, and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5). Putting on the Yoke of the Torah involved a commandment to keep the entire law—all 613 commandments.
When the preacher from Galilee told His fellow Jews to take His yoke on them, it must have been shocking. Rest for the soul? An easy yoke? A light burden? Many were probably unaware of the heavy burden they had been carrying on their shoulders by trying to keep the entire Torah. Some received the truth and, no doubt, rejoiced.
Note that Yeshua never said, “Come to Me, and you will have no more yokes!” Yokes are part of life. With age comes increased responsibility, authority, and yokes. A single person may have a yoke at work, in caring for family, etc. When one marries, there is a yoke of marriage. If children come, there is the yoke of parenthood. Ministry presents an additional yoke. It continues throughout life. The key to rest and success is taking on the easy yoke of Yeshua, so that none of the other yokes overwhelm us or become too heavy to bear. His shoulders are much stronger than ours.
Embrace a promise from Isaiah 10:27 this month concerning any heavy burdens or yokes that you have been carrying: “And it shall come to pass in that day, that his burden shall be taken away from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from off thy neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing” (KJV). Expect a Holy Spirit breakthrough!
The Lamb on Yeshua’s Shoulders
In the Parable of the Lost Sheep of Luke 15, Yeshua tells the story of a man who had a hundred sheep. He loses one of them and leaves the 99 to go after the one that is lost. He perseveres until he finds that one sheep. “And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing” (Luke 15:5).
Yeshua gives the interpretation of this parable, explaining that there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 just people who don’t need repentance. For us as believers, each of us was that lost sheep. Our Messiah brought us home to our Father, carrying us on His shoulders. Love. Goodness. Security. Gratitude. We feel it all.
In similar manner, there are Christians from the nations who love God’s people Israel and are carrying them on their shoulders to Israel. This is in fulfillment of prophecy: “Thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Behold, I will lift My hand in an oath to the nations, and set up My standard for the people; They shall bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders’” (Isaiah 49:22).
The Shoulders of Issachar
When Jacob blessed his twelve sons before his death, he said of Issachar, “Issachar is a strong ass crouching down between two burdens” (Genesis 49:14). This was not an insult, since donkeys in ancient Israel were valuable animals of service. The tribe of Issachar was known to be valiant, hardworking, hardy, insightful, and bearing the burdens of others.
May we be like Issachar, who also “had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chronicles 12:32). May we know how to apply God’s Word to life! Love,
Praying for your burdens and yokes to be easy this Passover,