Adorned for Such a Time

“Unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days; no leavened bread shall be seen with you, and no leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory. You shall tell your son on that day, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ And it shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth. For with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt” (Ex. 13:7-9).

In every generation we are to regard ourselves as having been taken out of Egypt. We are to answer our children when they ask, “What’s this service about?” Not only is the exodus remembered on Passover, but it is memorialized daily. How?

‎וְהָיָה לְאוֹת עַל-יָדְכָה, וּלְטוֹטָפֹת בֵּין עֵינֶיךָ: כִּי בְּחֹזֶק יָד, הוֹצִיאָנוּ יְהוָה מִמִּצְרָיִם

“And it shall be a sign upon your hand, and as frontlets between your eyes; for by a strong hand the Lord brought us out from Egypt” (Ex. 13:16).

This is the practice of Tefillin, or phylacteries as they are called in the New Testament (see included pic). Tefillin are adorned every day except Shabbat and some holidays. They are a sign, for what?

There is an interesting answer in the text. The “sign upon your hand,” לְאוֹת, “sign” is in the singular. While the “frontlets between your eyes,” וּלְטוֹטָפֹת, “frontlets” is plural. Why? The Tefillin, the black boxes used during prayer, as a memorial adorning the body are incomplete without the hand and the head adorned together. In order to be a sign and as frontlets, they must be together, not separate.

The Tefillin of the hand actually rests on the bicep of the weak arm, for right handed people the left, adjacent the heart. While the Tefillin of the head rests upon the forehead, equidistant between the eyes, upon the mind.

These two, connected as memorial signs, teach us that we need to think and feel. Our intellect and our heart must be connected; and together they inform our thoughts and actions in this world.

But how are they connected?

Leather straps. The leather once used to enforce the crushing harshness of slavery in Egypt by the whip, now adorn the freed man as a sign of freedom of thought, action, and time. Freed by God to obey Him. Freed by God to do. Freed by God to live. The boxes contain four paragraphs of text from the Torah: Exodus 13:1-10, 13:11-16; Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:12-21, each a reminder to set this memorial, but also a reminder of our relationship to God.

“Frontlets” is an interesting word. Worn by brides, princesses and women of position, it was an adornment of beauty worn around the head. Not for labor, but for beauty signifying position and occasion. Commanded for memorial above, the וּלְטוֹטָפֹת, frontlets, bands, or marks, were to adorn the betrothed of God as a memorial of deliverance from slavery to freedom.

This memorial reminds one of deliverance. As freed people, we have the liberty to translate the meditation of our heart and mind into godly action for those bound up in sin, or to come alongside those stumbling. At times the Word upon our heart convicts the thoughts of our mind. While at other times, the Word upon our mind convicts the hardness of our heart.

Beloved friends, in messianic faith you have been adorned. You are robed in the righteousness of Messiah (II Cor. 5:21), crowned with the mind of Messiah (I Cor. 2:16), and sealed upon the heart by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13). These also resulting from deliverance, from the greater and more brutalizing enslavement: to sin. Set not upon crippling weakness, but the Fathers grace, as Paul writes:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (II Cor. 12:9).

Today, remember your adornment. The sign and frontlets upon you, the Word and the Spirit, as you engage the life around you. Yes, you may be laboring in the harvest field, dirtied by the trauma of life, but remember how He sees you: adorned beautifully for an approaching wedding feast (Rev. 19:9).

For such a time as this, you have been equipped in His Kingdom.

Shabbat Shalom.

Learning from the Children

וְהָיָה, כִּי-יֹאמְרוּ אֲלֵיכֶם בְּנֵיכֶם: מָה הָעֲבֹדָה הַזֹּאת, לָכֶם

“And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?” (Ex. 12:26).

As the time of the exodus from Egypt drew near, Moses tells Israel that their children will ask on the night of Passover: “What does this mean?” What is he saying? Be ready to answer them.

If you know me as a minister, I love having children around, especially with the adults in worship: “the service.” Children bring an honesty we should all learn from: with their laughter, tears, energy or just napping on the chairs, include them. Let them be part of the service.

How can they ask unless they observe us? And how can we answer without a question? The Lord is creating a generational connection, a contact point to learn and remember. So often the formality or sanctity of an observance closes the doors of inquiry, yet this simple statement of Moses puts a stopper in the door that keeps it from closing. The opening welcomes in those who do not know, but would like to ask.

I’ve heard much too often that questions regarding faith have been discouraged by those in a position to answer. We learn when we ask, and when we are asked. Moses is telling us, as parents, friends, or leaders to be ready. Think, reflect, consider closely. As the apostle Peter wrote:

“but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (I Pet. 3:15).

The word ἀπολογία/apologia, “defense”, used by Peter also means answer. Be prepared, as Moses and Peter tell us, to provide an answer when someone asks a question regarding the hope we have: at the Passover, “What’s this business with the lamb?” Now, “Who is Messiah as the Lamb of God, the source of your hope?”

We learn from Him, and we are able to answer those drawing near to ask. We ask our own questions, and learn in order to share. We learn so we will know, and in knowing we can can answer.

The heart of this knowing is your testimony, your story in relation to the Lamb, and what His service has done for you. Children can inspire us in faith if we open our hearts, our minds, our very souls to their question: What does this service mean to you? Faith then becomes a living experience of relationship, not just an intellectual pursuit.

What does הָעֲבֹדָה, “the service, the worship, the work” mean to us? It means we believe the One the Father sent (Jn. 6:29), and we have given our lives completely into His hands: our worship, our service, our work, the life He rescued and renewed.

Do not close the door to the question, welcome in those who do not know, but would like to ask, even when they do not know how. He has given you the answer, now share it.

Be well. Shalom.