Words Can Mean So Much

The wilderness sanctuary is called the אֹהֶל מוֹעֵֽד/ohel moed, the tent of meeting. In this tent, at the center of the camp, at the very center of holy space, Aaron and his sons would minister before the Lord on behalf of the children of Israel: ministering for a nation of ministers.

The portion of אמר, “say” (Leviticus 21:1—24:23), however, opens with a rather unusual repetition.

The Lord draws Moses to Himself, to the אֹהֶל מוֹעֵֽד/ohel moed, the tent of meeting, and as the Torah records: He said, He speaks and directs him, Moses, “to say.” Is it important to consider a repeated word in a verse or in successive verses of Scripture? What does a threefold repetition of a word mean to us?

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, אֱמֹר אֶל-הַכֹּהֲנִים בְּנֵי אַהֲרֹן; וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם, לְנֶפֶשׁ לֹא-יִטַּמָּא בְּעַמָּיו

“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: ‘No one is to be defiled for the dead among his people’” (Lev. 21:1).

Here we find a threefold repetition of the word “אמר” meaning “say.” According to some rabbinic opinion, אמר, “say,” implies speaking with softness. The implication being that those whom you are speaking to are close to you: a friend, a spouse, a child or a disciple. It is important that we recognize the value of close relationships, where our voices need not be raised, because we are close enough to אמר, “say.”

This type of close relationship between family, friends, or faith brethren is becoming increasingly out of fashion. For lack of a better reason, time seems to get in the way of relationship; and because of this, a distance has grown between people, when the Lord desires us to be together: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Ps. 133:1).

While the tent of meeting represents space, another subject in this portion represents time:

דַּבֵּר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם, מוֹעֲדֵי יְהוָה, אֲשֶׁר-תִּקְרְאוּ אֹתָם מִקְרָאֵי קֹדֶשׁ–אֵלֶּה הֵם, מוֹעֲדָי

“Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, These are the appointed feasts of the Lord that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts” (Lev. 23:2).

These seasons are called – מוֹעֲדִים/moed’im – often translated as “appointed times” or “designated time.” The seasons of the Lord show us how to make time holy, or set apart. They expect us to step out of our busy lives, and yes we are busy, to come away from distractions and experience the Lord and family anew.

מוֹעֲדִים/moed’im, “appointed times” derives from the root, עֵד, meaning “witness.” What is it that we are a “witness” of? The Sovereignty of the Living God. Still, this root, עֵד, also tells us how we demonstrate this witness: 1) in the עֵדָה, or in congregation as we sanctify our time in response to the Lord, 2) and with our עֵדוּת, or “testimony” of who He is.

We find that our witness is a triad: time, assembly, and testimony. Each of these speak to life itself. Yet, there is more.

The word מוֹעֵד/moed, used to designate time, is also used to designate space: אֹהֶל מוֹעֵֽד/ohel moed, the tent of meeting. מוֹעֵד/moed and מוֹעֲדִים/moed’im, are used to express sacred space (the tent) and sacred time (festivals).

But wait, there’s more…

How we spend our time, how we designate our time, and where we spend our time also reveals something of vital importance: Who we are betrothed to. That root עֵד, is also related to another word, יָעַד, meaning “betroth.”

How we spend our time shows to Whom we are betrothed, within that sacred space. In life we set-apart time for those we love. The Lord has also done this for us. Why? He loves us, and in that love He desires to meet with us, at designated times, each day, week, and season; and in doing so we are joined to our first love, Yeshua/Jesus.

It is time for us, who love Yeshua, to break away from social convention and expectation, and return to His feet, to be close to Him.

When we consider the repetition of say, above, as a sign of drawing near to in relationship, in the space of His choosing, and the stepping out of our busyness (time) to Him, we find the beauty of our relationship with Him: He desires to be with us, and where He is, we are in a holy space.

Why do these words stand out to me? The closeness of say, and the relationship it implies, and expects, is coupled with time and space. Have you ever noticed that we can revisit a space, but the time vanishes? While we can revisit the same place, we cannot return to yesterday. Moed expresses both time that disappears and space that endures.

CS Lewis wrote, “Though our feelings come and go, God’s love for us does not.” The Lord’s love for us endures, and the space that He calls us to also endures, but the time, from our perspective disappears. Time, dear friends, is short. Yet, in the scope of eternity the enduring space changes as well. Yet another twist.

In Hebrew the word עוֹלָם/olam means both the world and eternity. The world, our space, will be changed, but when we are united with Him, He becomes our dwelling place, eternal, and unchanging. What did Messiah say?

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (Jn. 14:1-3).

The place He prepares for us, in that time when we are caught up in His presence, will endure. Then, we will be dwell with He Who is the same “yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8). No longer concerned with the busyness of life, and it’s many distractions, and we will behold Him forever! Hallelujah!

Be well. Shalom.

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