Chag Sameach (KHAG sah-MAY-AKH)—Joyful Feast!
God Speaks as the Shofar Sounds
The shofar, or ram’s horn of God’s people Israel, has been sounded daily this year from August 16, 2023, until September 15, 2023, calling Jews worldwide to repentance. Have you heard it? The sound of the shofar has been connected with the voice of God since the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. This understanding is based on Exodus 19:16 and 19, “Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet (shofar, שפר SHOW-far) was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. . .and when the blast of the trumpet (shofar) sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice, b’kol בקול (beh-KOHL).
“On the third day” God spoke—as He was about to give His wife Israel the ketubah כתובה (keh- TOO-bah) or marriage contract. The God of Israel also spoke loud and clear at another bridal celebration “on the third day.” The event is recorded in the New Covenant: “On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee…” (Jn 2:1). This time, there’s no record of a shofar being blown, but it might have been since the shofar was often blown at joyful occasions such as weddings. But God spoke loudly that day in Cana of Galilee through the first of the Messiah Yeshua’s miracles. When He turned water into wine, a deep truth was being proclaimed, as if a voice from Heaven was saying, “Only God can create the fruit of the vine. Yeshua just did that very thing. He is God.” For that reason, His talmidim תלמידים (tal-me-DEEM) who were accustomed to praying, “Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheynu Melech HaOlam, borei p’ree hagafen” (“Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine”), realized who Yeshua was. “. . . and His disciples believed in Him” (Jn. 2:11).
What is God Saying this Month?
This is my constant quest—to hear what the Lord is saying. While I don’t always hear well, or completely, I trust God’s promise of John 10:27, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” As the shofar sounded at Temple Aron HaKodesh one Shabbat in late July, the Lord confirmed to me the verse that He wanted me to explore this month: Revelation 19:7..
“Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, AND HIS WIFE HATH MADE HERSELF READY [emphasis mine]” (KJV).
“Let us rejoice and be glad!
Let us give him the glory!
For the time has come for the
Wedding of the Lamb and his
His bride has prepared herself.” (AMPC)
“Let us rejoice and shout for joy—exulting and triumphant! Let us celebrate and ascribe to Him glory and honor, for the marriage of the Lamb [at last] has come, and His bride has prepared herself.” (AMPC)
No matter which version you read, an important truth is expressed concerning you, me, and what we are supposed to be doing in these Last Days: The Lamb’s (Messiah’s) bride is preparing herself for the wedding.
Are We Ready?
If your Heavenly Bridegroom came for you this month at the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah), at Yom Kippur (with the shofar of jubilee), or even Sukkot (with the shofar of celebration), would you be READY? What does “ready” mean? If we look at the Body of Messiah in our country, we have cause to wonder. When the secular world is interviewed concerning believers in Messiah, the words used to describe us are disturbing. A “Jesus in America” study asked, “What characteristics do you associate with Christians in general?” The nonreligious answered, “hypocritical” (55%), “judgmental” (54%), and self-righteous (50%). After these came: “arrogant,” “unforgiving,” and “disrespectful.” These words certainly do not describe Yeshua’s beautiful, prepared bride, who looks and acts like Him.
But there is Good News! First of all, I know in my heart that most of you reading this newsletter can not be described by the negative words expressed in the survey. Secondly, not all people who call themselves “Christians” are really Christians. A true believer in Messiah, while not perfect by any means, strives to follow Yeshua by living according to His Word and dying to self, the flesh, and the love of the world, by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Thirdly, even mature believers in the Lord are guilty at times of judging others, being hypocritical or prideful. But, as the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) convicts us of ungodliness, we repent and the blood of Yeshua cleanses us of all sin (I Jn. 1:8-9).
No. The bride of Messiah is not ready yet, but she will be! An amazing picture of this truth was revealed to a photographer in Gainesville, Florida—a friend of my son Jonathan. He often photographs weddings and mentioned to Jon that it always amazes him how quickly a bride can get herself ready. Fifteen or twenty minutes before the ceremony is to begin, the bride still has “things” (e.g. curlers) in her hair, makeup not finished, etc. His thought: “There is NO way she is going to be ready on time!” Then, sure enough, he sees a vision of beauty walking down the aisle on time. The Lord spoke to the photographer one day and said, “I can do a quick work with My bride, too!” Selah.
Ready by the Ruach
Many years ago, I mentioned in a newsletter that the Ruach HaKodesh is actively involved in the preparation of Yeshua’s bride (composed of both male and female believers). A foreshadowing of this process is found in the Book of Esther, a prophetic picture of a bride who prepares herself for a king. Esther followed the advice of Hegai, the custodian of the woman, in her bridal preparations. In the same way, Yeshua’s bride makes herself ready by following the leading of God’s Spirit in all things pertaining to life and godliness. When the bride of King Yeshua does this, she attains favor in the sight of all who see her, just as Queen Esther did (Est. 2:15). The secular world will yet see us as yafa— יפה (yah-FAH)—lovely!
In Kiss Me Again, my second devotional on the Song of Songs, I mention a number of ways in which Messiah’s bride, with the help of the Ruach, makes herself ready.
Going to the Mountain of Myrrh
“Until the day breaks and the shadows flee away, I will go my way to the mountain of myrrh…” (Song 4:6a). The day will break, and the shadows will flee away when our Heavenly Bridegroom returns for us. Until then, it is up to us to engage our will as He directs. One of these directions is toward a “mountain.” What type of mountain? A mountain of myrrh, המור הר (HAR ha-MOHR). Myrrh was a costly oil in Bible times with both negative and positive connotations. There was one Israelite custom of placing perfume on the back of the hand, the coolest part of the body. Liberal use of myrrh was a statement of how much a bride welcomed her bridegroom’s presence (similar in meaning to the woman with the alabaster box who poured out costly oil on Yeshua as an expression of love and devotion, Matt. 26:7). There is an underlying notion of long-suffering love implied, which connects with the predominant idea of myrrh related to suffering in general. Suffering. Bitterness. The bitter herbs on the Passover seder plate are called maror, מרור (mah-ROHR). When the Israelites came out of Egypt, they came to a place called Marah where they could not drink because the water was bitter (marah).
Are we, as the bride of Messiah, to embrace suffering as part of our preparation for His return? Yes. Possibly one half of our preparation might involve suffering, if, like Queen Esther, we experience six months with oil of myrrh and six months of perfumes and sweet odors before going to meet the King (Est. 2:12). Trials as well as blessings are the bride’s portion.
If we follow our Messiah closely, I believe that, like Rabbi Saul (Paul), we will experience the “fellowship of His suffering” (Phil. 3:10). We will feel what He feels, especially His broken heart over a hurting, sinful world. Yeshua has gone to the “mountain of myrrh” before us. In fact, His whole life was dipped in myrrh. There was myrrh prophesied before His birth (Ps. 45:8), myrrh at His birth (Matt. 2:11), myrrh at His crucifixion (Mk 15:23), and myrrh at His burial (Jn. 19:39). (Myrrh was used to embalm dead flesh.) Selah.
In the Lord, suffering is always redemptive. Myrrh is not only bitter, it also relieves pain and heals. Yeshua was offered myrrh as a pain killer when He was on the cross. He refused it. Why? He wanted to take ALL our pain upon Himself (see Mk. 15:23).
As I say in Kiss Me Again, the next time you experience stress, pressure, trials and tribulations, and the heat is turned up in your life, perhaps the wrinkles are being ironed out of your wedding garments. Never forget that your compassionate High Priest Yeshua understands all about myrrh and cares deeply (Heb. 4:15).
Going to the Hill of Frankincense
“… and to the hill of frankincense” (Song 4:6b). The same Holy Spirit who leads Messiah’s bride to the “mountain of myrrh” leads her to the “hill of frankincense.” Frankincense comes from a tree where bark is pierced so that the resin flows forth. This resin is then used to make fragrant incense. Frankincense is first mentioned in the Torah in Exodus 30:34 when the Lord tells Moses to use this spice in making a special, holy incense to be used in the worship of God. The priests, kohanim— כהנים (co-hah-NEEM)—burned the incense daily as part of the offerings commanded by the Lord.
It is written in the Talmud that because of the daily offerings, incense perfumed the air of Jerusalem, making it unnecessary for the daughters of Jerusalem to perfume themselves. Incense eventually became symbolic of prayers ascending to God, not only because of the daily priestly offerings, but because of verses such as Psalm 141:2, “Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” So, the hill of frankincense is the PLACE OF PRAYER. Messiah’s bride says that she (he) WILL GO to this place. We decide to pray, even if it involves sacrifice.
Prayer can be an uphill battle. We have an enemy whose job it is to keep us from climbing the hill, from going up to God (making aliyah) in prayer. Busyness. Wrong priorities. Distractions. Unbelief. Time pressures. So many things keep us from praying. Yet, that is the bride’s lifeline! “Abba, please teach us to pray. Holy Spirit, please draw me to the throne of God with expectancy to hear from You.”
The sweet fragrance of the Temple incense became the sweet fragrance of prayer. Prayer puts us on holy ground and delights the heart of God. He is our Father (Abba). What (good) father does not look forward to his child wanting to be with him, to talk to him, and express his love for him? Think about God our Heavenly Father. He longs for and waits patiently for our times of sweet fellowship with Him. Yeshua as well. He still stands at the door and knocks (Rev. 3:20).
In Our Father Abraham, Marvin Wilson mentions that in Judaism, the primary purpose of prayer is to praise, sing, and chant—not to make requests. That is why Hebrew prayer often involves music. I suggest playing worship music in your home and turning that music into prayer. I do that frequently when I listen to Marty Goetz. When he sings, “You are my defense …” I don’t sing along. I talk to the Lord, and say, “Yes! You are MY defense, I shall not be moved!” I also pray the Holy Scriptures and find that my mind is less prone to wander when I pray in this way.
Since God is inside each member of Yeshua’s bride, we can hear His voice, as promised in John 10:27. This two-way communication in prayer is the big difference between Messianic and traditional Jews. We speak to God, and He speaks to us.
Finally, our God delights in our prayers, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is His delight” (Prov. 15:8), especially when they are accompanied by thanksgiving (Col. 4:2). Thanksgiving can not be over-emphasized. We must cultivate a thankful heart. This is definitely an important part of our bridal preparation.
Spend time with the Lover of your soul. Immerse yourself in His presence. We were created for His pleasure. Your prayers are being collected even now as we await the Lord’s return (Rev. 5:8). No prayer is ever wasted.
Making Love Our Greatest Goal
Love is the adorning of the bride. God is love (I Jn. 4:16). Love can make us ready. Loving God. Loving people. Love (God’s unconditional love) never fails (I Cor. 13:8). Recently, I have had mature believers make very similar comments to me as questions or prayer requests: “How can I love more? Be more loving? Be less judgmental? Love God more?” The bride is recognizing our need for more of God’s kind of love. We should be known as loving people. Romans 13:8-10 are powerful verses: “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” Yeshua fulfilled the law because He was Love come down to earth in the flesh. He showed us that if we are ruled by love we will not lie, steal, covet, dishonor parents (etc.). The Ten Commandments are still valid (some deny this), but only through the power of God’s love can they be fully obeyed.
Love is not only our greatest goal, it is our greatest need. Biblical love is a decision and an act of the will. We decide to love. We put on love. What does this look like in our daily lives? One good example is found in Romans 15:12, “We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification.” That is love.
Our love for others flows from our love relationship with our Lord. It is bridal love and it is exclusive in the sense that we belong solely to the One who purchased us with His blood (I Pet. 1:18-19). We are separated unto Him, a consecrated bride. We only have eyes for our Beloved—dove’s eyes (Song 1:15). We are private property, a spring shut up, a fountain sealed (Song 4:12b). We are an enclosed garden (Song 4:12). We are growing daily in the fruit of the Ruach (Gal. 5:22-23; Song 4:13). Our love for our Messiah causes us to obey Him (Jn. 14:23). His love for us casts out all fear from our hearts (I Jn. 4:18). Our lives are hidden with Messiah in God (Col. 3:3). Our love for Yeshua will not grow cold (Matt. 24:12). We can do all things through the Messiah who strengthens us (Phil. 4:13).
WE ARE MAKING OURSELVES READY!
Bo, Yeshua, Bo (Come, Yeshua, Come)!