Take Hold of the Rain

“Let my teaching drop as the rain, My speech distill as the dew, as raindrops on the tender herb, and as showers on the grass” (Deut. 32:2).

As Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, 5782 dawned, it seemed prophetic that a heavy cleansing rain moved through the region, followed by a persistent, gentle shower – a cleansing picture of sorts. In this week’s Torah portion of Haazinu, “give ear,” the Torah is compared to rain. Rain is generally understood to be a blessing of the Lord associated with His demonstration of common grace in creation. Yet, the Torah – the instruction of the covenant Lord – is joined to the special revelation of covenant to the children of Abraham (Gal. 3:29).

What do we learn from Deuteronomy 32:2?

Rain has been known to spoil many a plan. How many of us can relate to planning an outing on a day off, only to have rain, which had not been forecast, suddenly enter the timeline of the day? Rain is necessary, but it can also be devastating in many ways.

On days when we have plans, dry weather is usually preferable. Still, even on those dry days we are eating the fruit of rain. We need it. When we eat, or admire creation, we appreciate the rain, that often causes annoyance, differently, in its fruit. The fresh produce; or the beauty of flowers, trees, and flowing streams. This fruit, however, takes time to be realized.

The Lord is telling us in Deuteronomy 32:2, to take hold of His teaching, His Word, with rain in mind. As noted above, rain can be inconvenient. If we are honest, faith, and the requisite time needed to study or devotionally read the Word of God can also be inconvenient. So we are told to take hold of it, like the rain.

יַעֲרֹף כַּמָּטָר לִקְחִי, “My teaching shall trickle as the rain.”

The word translated as “teaching” or “doctrine,” depending on translation, לֶקַח/leh’-kakh, means to take hold of something received, in hand or mind, in this case, rain. I’ve translated “drop,” עָרַף/aw-raf’, as trickle in order to illustrate what seems to be the meaning behind this verse.

On a recent long day hike I run out of water. While there were plenty of ponds on that section of the trail, even when filtered, pond water does not always taste that great. I knew there were several good running streams on the trail ahead, so I decided to wait. They were a bit further, well, a lot further than I remembered. Thirsty, I needed water. I decided the next pond would work. Thankfully, as I continued on the trail I heard a trickle of water in the woods; which fed a small stream further down in the valley. The water was clean, cool, and, well, water; but it was also a trickle. So I positioned my water bottle for the fill up. It took time, and while I drank one bottle, I filled a second bottle for the trail until the next water source. The trickle took a lot more time to fill my bottle than a rushing stream; but it gave me comfort, health, and renewed life for the journey ahead.

Bible study takes time, and might seem like a trickle. The fruit of study, like that of rain becomes apparent with the passage of time – a trickle of water filled the liters I needed, and the fruit of the trickle was readily apparent.

Study of His Word, and the fruit it produces will become apparent over time as life circumstances press in, and the well of encouragement, promise, and His faithfulness fills a thirsty soul seeking comfort, and refuge. So take hold of His rain, even a trickle can change your life.

Be well. Shalom.

Busy … Holy … Time

Luke 10:41-42, “Martha, Martha, you are fretting and worrying about so many things! But there is only one thing that is essential. Mary has chosen the right thing, and it won’t be taken from her.”

Can’t we all place ourselves in Martha’s position? Couldn’t we all insert our names into the correction offered by Jesus? What is Jesus saying to Martha’s frenetic and distracted situation and lifestyle? Mary has chosen the good portion – what is essential – but Martha chose something else.

We live in an age of busyness. We are all busy, busy, busy, and we never seem to have enough time. Professor Bruce Hindmarsh calls busyness “moral laziness.” This sounds rather harsh, but give attention to his reasoning, “Busyness is moral laziness because it is often a statement of our self-importance and our excuse to be inattentive to people . . . But God has given us just enough time to do what we need to do moment by moment to respond to him. And his grace is there; it is eternally present. Every moment is a sacrament where time touches eternity and there is exactly enough time to do what God has called us to do.” Everyone is busy, and there are often good reasons to be busy – but who are we living for? who are we testifying to? and who is the author of our days?

According to Professor Hindmarsh’s reasoning, time has an ethical, as well as, spiritual value to it. This begs the question? Is the Lord concerned with how His people spend their time? According to Leviticus 23, the answer is yes.

Leviticus 23 details the festival seasons of the Lord. Beginning with Passover in the Spring, and ending with Sukkot in the Fall, the seasons of the Lord show us how to make time holy – or set apart. These seasons are called – מוֹעֲדִים – often translated as “appointed times” or “designated time.” These “designated times” can be seasons of rest, joy, or even times of atonement.

Why does the Lord designate time?

The Torah of Moses created distinctions on numerous levels, but these distinctions were not to causes us to become arrogant or haughty, rather, to demonstrate who the Lord of our life is. The Lord, by the Torah, not only provides a normative standard for our conduct – but also for our time. Why? The feasts of the Lord are called “Sabbaths,” or times to rest. How can time become an ethical issue?

First, that the Lord created “designated time” demonstrates that rest is an ethical issue – why – because the Lord Himself rested. The normative standard is a call to rest. The existential motive is our response in obedience to His standard to rest by resting ourselves. Finally, the teleological witness is our response by creating an environment where others can rest.

מוֹעֲדִים, or “appointed time,” comes from the verb root, עֵד, meaning “witness.” What is it that we are a “witness” of by honoring the Lord’s appointed times? The Sovereignty of the Living God. Still, this root, עֵד, also tells us how we demonstrate this witness: 1) in the עֵדָה, or in our “congregation” – as we sanctify our time in response to the Lord, 2) with our עֵדוּת, or “testimony” of who He is and what He has done for us. We find that our “witness” is a triad: 1) time, 2) assembly, 3) and testimony; and each of these speak to “life” itself.

This was the heart of the correction that Jesus gave Martha: How are you spending your time? Who are you honoring with your time? Mary has chosen the good portion – what is essential – but Martha chose something else. Martha was trying to demonstrate how important and how essential she was, even in her devotional serving. Yet, Mary demonstrated how important and how essential Yeshua/Jesus is.

How we spend our time, and how we designate our time also reveals something of vital importance – who we are betrothed to. The root עֵד, referenced above, can be conjugated into another verb יָעַד, meaning “to betroth.”

“I will betroth you to Me forever – yes, I will betroth you to Me with righteousness, justice, lovingkindness, and mercy. I will betroth you to Me with faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord” (Hos. 2:19-20).

How we spend our time shows who we are betrothed to – whether honoring his times and seasons, or pausing just to sit in the quiet with the Lord – the appointed times demonstrate His love and faithfulness for us, and our love and faithfulness to Him. The Lord provides so much time for us each day, week, and year; and He only asks for a small portion of it to be dedicated to Him.

What, or who, are you pursuing with your time, and why?

Be well. Shalom.

Shofar, So Good, Now What?

Familiar sounds, those we hear often, no matter how disturbing they once were, the brain can learn to ignore, or not focus on. We can also do that with physical and emotional pain, or in the face of need – someone else’s need.

The sound of the shofar awakens us, draws our attention to, and resets us to God’s purpose: new sound drawing our ear, and ultimately our hearts, minds, and bodies to the source of the sound.

Four calls are heard on Rosh Hashanah, traditionally 100 times:

1. Tekiah – To awaken or summons, the King is enthroned; one note of the shofar.

2. Shevarim – To break or fracture; three short, connected notes.

3. Truah – To alarm, and awaken you from spiritual slumber; a series of many short connected sounds made with the tongue.

4. Tekiah gedolah – the great tekiah; one long, single sound longer than a standard tekiah.

Spiritual meaning for reflection:

1. Tekiah: What and to Whom are you awakening? The tekiah stimulates passion to fill the Lord’s will and desire in life – the doing of His Word (Jn. 14:15).

2. Shevarim: Where in your life do you find brokenness, and need for repair? Shevarim draws attention to that place (Ps. 34:18).

3. Truah: Once awakened, are you ready, and/or willing to respond to the call, the need, and the work? Get up, go (Eph. 2:8-10)!

4. Tekiah Gedolah: Recognize where and how you have been healed in life, celebrate and give thanks to the Lord, Hallelujah (Ps. 150)!

The sound of the shofar changes our environment, thus changing our minds in the midst of it. More and more people are numb to life because of the repetition of daily schedules, or brokenness not tended to.

The calls of the shofar wake us up, drawing us to the Great Physician, sending us out to be about His business, and celebrate in praise all that He has accomplished.

Glory to God, He wants us awakened, healed, and in life; until the final shout, and the return of the enthroned King, Messiah Yeshua/Jesus:

“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (I Thess. 4:16-17).

Be well. Shalom.

What’s in a Name?

If you are reading this, you are probably familiar with the name of the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah, literally “the head of the year..”

Yet, Rosh Hashanah is also called by four other names:

1. Yom HaZikaron, the Day of Remembering.

2. Yom HaDin, the Day of Judgment.

3. Yom Harat Olam, The Day the World was Conceived, in God’s plan.

4. Yom Tru’ah, the Day of the Broken Sound, the name of the holiday in Leviticus 23.

Each name is ripe with meaning, and leads one into deep reflection. As we approach the High Holiday season, consider the above names, but as questions:

1. What am I remembering? What am I thinking on, dwelling on, or bringing into living? Is it reflective of the new man in Messiah, or a lingering presence of the old? Also, what or who am I forgetting, and in need of remembering?

2. Who is the judge? Do I set myself in His position, or am I allowing His grace to penetrate the hard shell that the human heart is prone to develop?

3. What has God conceived me to be in Messiah? What has He purposed for me to do while on this earth?

4. Why is my sound broken, when He has made me whole in Messiah? What are you called to by the shofar (trumpet)?

Rosh Hashanah awakens the heart to a season of new beginnings, renewal, and anticipation for the coming of Messiah Yeshua/Jesus (Rev. 7:9). The sound of the shofar causes “us to turn away from to,” as we look to see the sound.

As you prepare for this holiday season, reflect on the above questions, but also allow your mind to construct your own, specific to your situation. Look to the Word of God for answers, direction, and correction. Hear the shofar, and anticipate with joy all that the Lord has planned as He moves you through this season.

Be well. Shalom.