Shalom B’Shem Yeshua,
The Hebrew month of Elul, the traditional month of repentance before the High Holy Days, occurs this year during the entire month of September (Sept. 1, 2019–Sept. 29, 2019). Following Elul is the month of Tishrei, which begins with the Feast of Trumpets on the eve of September 29, 2019.
Each year at this time, I have asked the Lord what specific aspect of repentance, or what change of heart and mind, He wants us to focus on. He spoke two words: boundaries and brokenness. They seemed unrelated at first, until the Ruach HaKodesh revealed their relationship: Without brokenness, there is no acceptance of boundaries. Both brokenness and boundaries can be good in God’s eyes!
It all happened on Fort Lauderdale Beach as I went there to be alone with God on my “special” day of the year: July 25. I met my beloved, greatly missed husband Neil on July 25, 1970. I met my Beloved, greatly honored Messiah on July 25, 1973. The seashell ministry that God gave me began on July 25, 1979. At 8:00 a.m., on July 25, 2019, as I was casting seashells with messages from God upon the waters and on the sand, I heard God speak in a gentle voice: “I have set boundaries.” My immediate thought was that, of course, God has determined how far the ocean can come. This is based on verses such as Proverbs 8:29, which says that God “…gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment.” Jeremiah 5:22 echoes the same truth: “‘Do you not fear Me?’ says the LORD. ‘Will you not tremble at My presence, who have placed the sand as the bound of the sea, by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass beyond it?‘”
When I heard, “I have set boundaries,” I asked the Lord, “Is that a verb or an adjective You are using?” He answered, “Both.” I knew, for sure, that God was talking about much more than the ocean. He is a God that has set or established (verb) boundaries in many areas. These boundaries are fixed, non-negotiable parameters (adjective) that we must honor if we are to obey the Lord and please Him in all things.
Boundaries in Torah
The word “boundary” refers to a border, limit, line, or frontier. The Hebrew word for boundary is ְְְְגבו, gebul, geh-BOOL. The first boundaries that we find in the Torah are the boundaries that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob established for the Land of Promise. “Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Command the children of Israel and say to them: ‘”When you come into the land of Canaan, this is the land that shall fall to you as an inheritance—the land of Canaan to its boundaries“‘” (Num. 34:1-2). The Lord continues, in the following ten verses, to set boundaries for His Land—north, south, east, and west. Very specific boundaries.
This is the land that God had promised to Abram by covenant in Genesis 15:18, “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates—” The covenant was everlasting: “I will give your descendants all the land as an everlasting possession” (Gen. 17:8). (See also Ps. 105:8-11.) But God is the One who personally owns the Holy Land. “The land shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with Me” (Lev. 25:23). This truth is problematic for unbelievers, the U.N., Arab Muslims, and the world in general.
God’s original boundaries have been chopped away over the centuries, but the non-negotiable boundaries of God’s Land, according to the Bible, extend from “Dan to Be’er Sheva,” mentioned nine times in the Bible. God’s set boundaries include Judea and Samaria (what the world calls the “West Bank”). The Messiah Himself was born in the Judean town of Bethlehem. God appeared to Abraham in a town of Samaria called Shechem (now the Muslim city of Nablus), declaring, “To your offspring I will give this land” (Gen. 12:7).
Jewish settlements today in Judea and Samaria are the fulfillment of many Bible prophecies such as Jeremiah 30:3, “‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will bring my people Israel and Judah back from captivity and restore them to the land I gave their ancestors to possess,’ says the LORD.” (Judea and Samaria roughly correspond to the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah, also known as the Northern and Southern Kingdoms.) Jewish settlers are not stealing Palestinian land; they are honoring God’s ancient boundaries. This is a dangerous, brave stand. Pray for angelic protection over Judea, Samaria, Jericho, Hebron, and East Jerusalem.
The world continues to put pressure on Israel to give the Palestinians Judea, Samaria, and the eastern half of Jerusalem. If Israel did this, the same thing would occur that happened when Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005: Hamas would turn the areas into rocket launch sites against Israel.
Ask God what He thinks about this. I think He is very concerned about His boundaries and the people who have chosen to honor them.
Limitless Boundaries of God’s Love
God’s boundaries are always Good, because God is Good. On Monday, July 29, 2019, four days after casting the seashells into the ocean in Fort Lauderdale, with my phone number on the back, I received the following text: “Hello madam or sir! I found your shell that says ‘Love never fails…God is Love. Open up your heart to Him.’ I just wanted to say thank you for such a heart warming message. Based on the image of the Star of David on the exterior, I take it that you may be Jewish. I, however, am Catholic. The beautiful thing is that the message on the shell can go for both faiths. When I read the shell, I felt that God was with me right then and there and it motivated me to continue bearing my burdens in my journey to God. Once again, thank you and God bless!”
This was the first time, since 1979, that I received a text message rather than a phone call in response to a seashell found on the beach. I texted this person back (no name, no idea of age or gender), asked them to read Matthew 11:28-30, and directed them to Neil and me on Jewish Jewels on the internet. The text continued: “I will use this shell as an instrument to teach and help my friends at school. I help other kids in the struggle against impurity. I strive to lead them towards a more chaste life.” He or she obviously understands God’s boundaries concerning purity! All this from one seashell—one of seven. Please pray for those who find the other six!
Personal and Interpersonal Boundaries
This led me to ponder the other meaning of gebul—the personal and interpersonal boundaries that God has prescribed for His children. Purity is one of them. Two verses immediately come to mind: “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes…” (Ps. 101:3), and “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). O, be careful little eyes what you see. Our Lord has set boundaries concerning what he wants us to focus on. There is much on television and the internet that crosses the boundaries of decency and godliness. This is the month to call sin “sin,” submit to godly boundaries, and turn from sin in repentance.
Note that the boundaries set by the Lord in the Garden of Eden were violated by the eyes. “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil…so when the woman saw that the tree was good for food…” (Gen. 3:5-6). Adam and Eve already knew good—they knew God. When Eve yielded to the enemy’s temptation, both she and Adam had their eyes opened to evil. Then they hid from God. They separated themselves from His love. When we ignore or go beyond God’s boundaries, we also separate ourselves from His love. Thank God, He doesn’t leave us in that condition, but makes a way for us to return to Him—through t’shuvah (teh-shoo-VAH), repentance.
Both personal and interpersonal boundaries were set by the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when He gave the Law to the Children of Israel through Moses in Exodus 20. Israel was to worship no other god but the LORD who brought them out of Egyptian bondage. (Idolatry, bowing down to idols, and worship of Baal and the Queen of Heaven were all “out of bounds.”) A boundary of time was established when God set apart one day out of seven as a day of rest and called it Shabbat, the Sabbath. Boundaries with people included honoring one’s father and mother, not murdering nor committing adultery, not stealing from another, not giving false testimony against one’s neighbor, nor coveting anything that belongs to one’s neighbor (Ex. 20:1-17).
Have these boundaries changed? No. The Messiah came to redefine the boundaries of the Law, not to destroy them. Yeshua said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17). The Messiah actually made the boundaries more narrow, since through Him, the Law would be written on the heart rather than on tablets of stone. (See Jer. 31:33.) Two examples of this deal with murder and adultery. “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment,’ but I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment” (Matt. 5:21-22). On adultery: “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28).
Yeshua and Narrow Boundaries
Is the way really so narrow? Are the boundaries set by God really good? Yes, to both. It all begins with our concept of God. If we see Him as a vengeful, capricious, cruel God, we will see His set boundaries as punitive, and strangling. However, if we see God as He really is—a loving Father—we will see His set boundaries as protective, instructive, and freeing. What good parent does not set boundaries for his or her child? When I babysit our now three-year-old grandson, Liam, during the week, I tell him not to touch the stove, not to put his toys into my crystal bowl, not to eat the wax from the candle, not to let go of my hand in the parking lot, etc. I set boundaries—for his good. (By the way, Happy Grandparents Day on September 8, 2019. Neil would have loved that we have a granddaughter now as well—Lucia Paz, born on June 24, 2019.) Neil liked to use an analogy when referring to God’s boundaries: The Lord has put His children on a path. On either side of the path is poison ivy. He doesn’t want us to veer off the path, because of the consequences. But the sin on either side of the path has much more serious ramifications than poison ivy. God wants to protect us. He set boundaries for our good.
During the month of Elul, as the shofar calls God’s people to repentance daily in synagogues throughout the world, let us ask the Lord if we have violated any of His boundaries in our relationship with Him and others. Have you accepted God’s spiritual way? “Enter by the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it” (Matt. 7:13). Yeshua said, “…I am the way, the truth, and the life; No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jn. 14:6).
What about boundaries of our time? Are we wise, redeeming the time because the days are evil? (Eph. 5:15-16; Col. 4:5).
How about boundaries of forgiveness? When Peter asked Yeshua how often he should forgive one who sinned against him, the Messiah said, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matt. 18:22). God has open boundaries where forgiveness is concerned. He forgave us. We must forgive others, over and over.
Boundaries of love? “…Love each other deeply with all your heart” (1 Peter 1:22 NLT).
Boundaries of speech? “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Eph. 4:29).
Boundaries of friendship? “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed” (Prov. 13:20). “Do not love the world or the things in the world” (1 Jn. 2:15). “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” (Jam. 4:4).
We are all guilty of not living within the boundaries that our loving Father has set. We have all sinned. The good news from the Brit HaDasha is found in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Admit. Confess. Be forgiven. Turn. Be cleansed.
Brokenness: The Key
Yeshua said, “Ani HaDerek” (AhNEE ha-DEH-rek), “I Am the Way.” Narrow, yes, but the true path to abundant life. What does it take to accept Yeshua’s way as THE way? Brokenness. Humility. Yielding to God’s will—and a heart broken by sin. Before receiving Yeshua as Messiah and Lord, we go our own way, do our own thing, determine our own boundaries. We set our own standards and establish our own rules of conduct. We decide what is right and what is wrong. Actually, we become our own gods. But the Holy Scriptures make it clear that “there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Prov. 16:25).
King David knew the secret of being able to go on and stay on God’s path, within His set boundaries. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise” (Ps. 51:17). This is repentance—the breaking of our will, dethroning self, and choosing to go God’s way. It is a heart broken over sin.
Yeshua led the way in brokenness. We see His broken will in the Garden of Gethsemane when He prayed, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matt. 26:39). The Messiah foretold His broken body at His last Passover on earth when He broke bread and said, “…This is my body, which is broken for you…” (referring to His imminent death) (1 Cor. 11:24). Yeshua’s broken body makes it possible for our stubborn wills to be broken, and for us to live the life that God has always wanted us to live…a life of peace and joy within His set boundaries. Yeshua broke the power of sin and death on the tree of sacrifice, giving us the power to overcome the world, the flesh, the devil, and our propensity to go “out of bounds.”
Neil and I always prayed that we would stay on God’s road, which we see as the one mentioned in Isaiah 35:8-10. It has boundaries, to be sure, but there are no lions nor ravenous beasts on it. Afflictions, yes, but joy in the midst of trial. “A highway shall be there, and a road, and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness (de-rek ha-ko-DESH). The unclean shall not pass over it, but it shall be for others. Whoever walks the road, although a fool, shall not go astray. No lion shall be there. Nor shall any ravenous beast go up on it; It shall not be found there; But the redeemed shall walk there, and the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”
In His Set Boundaries, by the grace of God-