Shalom Shalom in Yeshua, the Sar Shalom,
Days of Awe
The month of October, 2005 is the month during which Jewish people (and children of Abraham by faith) celebrate the three final Feasts of the Lord outlined in Leviticus Chapter 23: Yom Teruah (also known as The New Year or Rosh HaShanah), Yom Kippur (also known as The Day of Atonement), and Sukkot (also known as The Feast of Tabernacles). Yom Teruah begins on the evening of October 3, 2005, Yom Kippur on the evening of October 12, 2005, and Sukkot on the evening of October 17, 2005.
The expression “Days of Awe” (Yamim [yah-MEEM] Nora’im [nora-EEM]) refers to the ten days between Yom Teruah and Yom Kippur. The Book of Jewish Knowledge makes the following statement regarding the Days of Awe, “For the past 2,000 years, the primary theme of the Yamim Nora’im has been judgment.” In traditional Judaism, the Creator of the Universe judges all creation on Yom Teruah. One’s fate is sealed on Yom Kippur.
The ten days between Yom Teruah and Yom Kippur can alter the sentence if a person repents of his sin, makes restitution, and returns to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The goal of the Yamim Nora’im, therefore, is teshuvah or returning.
In Jewish understanding, teshuvah means returning to a life of wholeness, caring and mitzvot (good deeds). This results in divine forgiveness and “at-one-ment” with God. As Messianic Jews, we believe that “at-one-ment” with God is only possible through Messiah’s forgiveness, extended to all those who embrace His “once-for-all” sacrifice for our sin. However, the fruit of our oneness with God through Yeshua should indeed be a life of wholeness, caring and good deeds ([biblegateway passage=”James 2:17″ display=”James 2:17″]). The Feast of Yom Teruah (Rosh HaShanah) is especially connected
biblically with giving to the poor ([biblegateway passage=”Nehemiah 8:10!” display=”Nehemiah 8:10!”]).
In the aftermath of the unspeakable tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, we should certainly call the days in which we are living Yamim Nora’im. The word noRA in Hebrew means “fearful” or “awesome.” It is found in Exodus 15:11 in a phrase referring to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who caused the waters of the Red Sea to stand upright as a heap and also caused the same sea to cover the Egyptians. This God is nora tehillot (fearful in praises). God is to be feared (revered). He controls the sea. He is a good God. He is also a Holy God, and He is trying to get our attention. We can not keep living our “same old” lives. We are living in awesome, fearful days that demand a shift in priorities – from setting our affections on things below to things above. “If then you were raised with Messiah, seek those things which are above, where Messiah is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Messiah in God” ([biblegateway passage=”Colossians 3:1-3″ display=”Colossians 3:1-3″]). These are days to stay hidden in the cleft of the Rock. In a moment, any of us could lose all our possessions, even our lives.
We are Vulnerable
Other concepts connected with the “Days of Awe” are vulnerability and loss of privacy. In some communities, Jewish people used to spend the day before Rosh HaShanah going to their neighbors’ homes asking for forgiveness. Repentance and confession of sin was often done openly in public. This reminds us of James 5:16, “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” Consider Katrina: Can there possibly be any more vulnerability or loss of privacy than being a victim of this horrific storm? The images of the people in New Orleans, especially those in the Superdome, are indelibly etched in our minds and hearts. Total, painful vulnerability.
Life is Fragile
The fragility of life is one of the pervading themes of Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, which begins this year on October 17th and ends on October 25th. Sukkot looks back to the time in the wilderness, “You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” ([biblegateway passage=”Leviticus 23:42-43″ display=”Leviticus 23:42-43″]). Traditional Jews still build sukkot, and both eat and sleep in them in obedience to this scriptural injunction. As they voluntarily leave the comfort of their homes to dwell in temporary huts for a week, they affirm that their security and their joy is in God, not in their material possessions.
As we have expressed in the past, one is more secure in a sukkah with God than in a castle without Him! The idea that we are “just passing through” this life, as “strangers and pilgrims” is implicit in the practice of sukkah-dwelling. Like the Children of Israel, we are on our way to the Promised Land. This world is not our home. God sustains us in our wilderness wanderings, and by His grace, we will come up from the wilderness “leaning on our Beloved” ([biblegateway passage=”Song of Songs 8:5″ display=”Song of Songs 8:5″]). We appreciate a comment about sukkot made by Mitch and Zhava Glaser in their excellent book The Fall Feasts of Israel, “The impermanent, vulnerable, leafy shelters were to remind the Israelites of God’s faithfulness during their forty years of wandering in the desert. The booths symbolized man’s need to depend on God for His provision of food, water, and shelter. This is true in the spiritual realm as well, for without the provision of His presence and power, all men would be left naked and destitute. Our world is a spiritual desert, scorching the soul without the Holy One’s life giving intervention on our behalf.” How true!
Let’s intercede on behalf of the victims of Katrina that they might experience the provision of God’s presence and power, even in the midst of their temporary dwellings. May they find their home, their security in the Lord, as they await His supply of a home in the natural. May this tragedy be turned to good as thousands of souls turn back to the God who is more than able to make their desert blossom as a rose ([biblegateway passage=”Isaiah 35:1″ display=”Isaiah 35:1″]). May each of us embrace the truth that our real home is not here – but in heaven. May we obey Matthew 6:20 and store up our treasure there as well. As we saw with Hurricane Katrina, in a moment, it could all be washed away.
A Homeless Messiah
It’s hard for most of us to imagine becoming homeless, jobless, “ID less,” “petless,” “moneyless,” “cityless,” “familyless” and even “hopeless” in a matter of days. We can feel compassion, but only One, our “homeless Messiah, Yeshua” feels the depth of the pain ([biblegateway passage=”Hebrews 4:15″ display=”Hebrews 4:15″]). “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” ([biblegateway passage=”Matthew 8:20″ display=”Matthew 8:20″]). Surely Yeshua knows how the people of New Orleans (and Miami, Mississippi and Alabama) feel. As we help feed, clothe and provide sukkot (temporary dwellings) for those who have lost everything, we are providing for Yeshua Himself.
Yeshua, the God-man who left the splendor of Heaven to dwell among sinful men, was the supreme example of a “stranger” and “pilgrim” on this earth. He constantly directed the eyes of His talmidim (disciples) to “higher ground.” In one of His mashalim (parables), Yeshua instructed His followers concerning the foundation of their lives. The Lord has brought this parable to our attention a number of times since Katrina came our way, “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock” ([biblegateway passage=”Matthew 7:24-25″ display=”Matthew 7:24-25″]).
Build on The Rock
We know for a fact that storms (hurricanes, tornadoes, afflictions of all sorts) will come. Houses made of wood, stucco, plaster, concrete and steel can be swept away by wind and water, but there is a house that will stand. That “house” is the “life” founded on The Rock – Yeshua HaMashiach, The Rock of our salvation, The Stone that the builders rejected which has become the Rosh Pinah, the Chief Cornerstone ([biblegateway passage=”Psalm 118:22″ display=”Psalm 118:22″]; [biblegateway passage=”Matthew 21:42″ display=”Matthew 21:42″]).
If our lives are built upon anything else – our reputations, our jobs, our children, our homes, our possessions, pleasures, hobbies or sports – they are founded on sinking sand and offer us not only false security, but impending disaster. When we build our lives upon the “Rock of Revelation” that is Yeshua, and live in obedience to the Word of God, our lives, our “spiritual home,” is safe and secure. Not even death can rob us of our security. “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” ([biblegateway passage=”II Corinthians 5:1″ display=”II Corinthians 5:1″]). Furthermore, a life built upon Yeshua, The Rock, is one whose treasure is not here on this earth. What’s not here can’t be taken away! (Read [biblegateway passage=”Matthew 6:19-21″ display=”Matthew 6:19-21″])
An Awesome Connection to Consider
As we watched settlers in God’s land being evicted from their homes, we wondered if it would have any impact on the U.S. Would the pressure put on Israel by our government for disengagement bring judgment upon us as a nation? Could we possibly be bringing a curse upon ourselves by dividing God’s land? ([biblegateway passage=”Joel 3:2″ display=”Joel 3:2″]). The Land, including Gaza, belongs to God according to Leviticus 25:23, who chose to give it to the Jewish people in an everlasting covenant. (See[biblegateway passage=” Genesis 13:12a; 14-17; 15:18-21″ display=” Genesis 13:12a; 14-17; 15:18-21″]) Days later, Hurricane Katrina careened with vengeance onto the shores of the U.S., leaving thousands dead and hundreds of thousands of U.S. Citizens homeless in her wake.
This is not the first time that a natural disaster in our country has immediately followed or simultaneously occurred as we have been a precipitating force in the division of the Holy Land to create a future Palestinian State (see table on last page). Is God speaking? Pray and judge for yourselves. We believe there is a connection, and recommend a book by William Koenig, White House Correspondent, titled Eye to Eye, Facing the Consequences of Dividing Israel. An eye-opener!
Bring Down A Blessing!
Both Israel and the U.S. are passing through very difficult times. Homelessness. Poverty. Despair. Hopelessness. We who have must give. We who care must share. Proverbs 19:17 says, “He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given.” While we are acutely aware of the desperate need in the U.S., we also know that there are great needs in Israel and that the U.S. needs to bless Israel now more than ever. If there really is a connection between our involvement in the “land for peace” process and the natural disasters in the U.S., it would behoove us to put our nation in a place of blessing, according to Genesis 12:3. On our 2005 Mercy Mission to Israel (October 16 to October 27, 2005), we will have the opportunity to personally bless some of the children of the Gaza disengagement, as well as poor Ethiopian and Russian immigrants, soldiers, holocaust survivors, victims of terrorism and their families and even needy teenagers. If the Lord speaks to your hearts to give, we can receive donations even while we are in Israel. Just call 1-800-2-YESHUA or write to Jewish Jewels.
Please keep us in your prayers as you have in other years. A full report will be given in December!
Our love and prayers are with those of you connected in any personal way with the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. May the Ruach HaKodesh comfort you and keep you on The Rock.
Love in Yeshua,
Neil and Jamie