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.

Second Thoughts, On the Water

Have you ever walked on water? What happened when Peter did? And what do we learn from his steps?

“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God” (Matt. 14:30-33).

I do not believe that I would have behaved, believed, or fumbled about any differently than our apostles presence of Yeshua, face to face. It seems arrogant to believe that if any of us had been alive, and then called by Him, that we would have achieved some measure of understanding missed by the original twelve apostles.

Just prior to Peter walking on water, the apostles witnessed the feeding of the 5,000. Yeshua/Jesus then sent them ahead, to cross the Sea of Galilee as a storm begins to churn the waters. When Yeshua sends them ahead, it’s as if He is saying, “You go ahead, I’ll catch up,” but they were not considering just how He would meet them.

Then, at the 4th watch – 3am to 6am – Yeshua comes walking upon the sea. Hours earlier the disciples took part in distributing food and gathering the leftovers from the masses of people Jesus fed with 5 loaves and 2 fish. Now, seeing Yeshua walking upon the water, they assume it is His ghost, in order words, He is dead.

In Matthew 14:27, Yeshua says, “Take courage, it’s Me. Do not be afraid.” What is He saying? Literally, “Comfort. εἰμί/eimi, I Am. Do not fear.” Yeshua the Comforter of Isaiah 40:1, He is alive, not dead; so what do we have to fear?

Peter brashly tests Yeshua, “If it really is you, command me to come to You on the water.” The Greek in Matthew 14:29 is more picturesque than is depicted in English, at the command of Yeshua he climbed out of the boat, he did not just get out, it took a moment, there was hesitation.

He steps on to the water.

The “I Am” having commanded Peter, did for Peter, just what He had done for the children of Israel at the Red Sea (Ex. 15:8), as the waters congealed and allowed Israel to walk through their midst on dry ground. Now, Peter steps upon waters congealing beneath his feet as he walks to Yeshua.

Peter, stepping out and taking more steps on water than any of us, before or since, sees the circumstance that he has stepped into, no longer in the relative safety of the boat that he knows how to expertly control, he looks away from Yeshua, and His command, and begins to sink. He calls out the shortest and most to the point prayer, “Lord, save me!” Anything more than this, and he would have been gargling.

Yeshua immediately reaches out, pulls him up, rescues him, then corrects, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

“O you of little faith,” ὀλιγόπιστος/oligopistos, “little faith,” meaning “short duration faith.” “Could you only believe for such a short time?”

Yeshua gets to the heart of the matter, “why did you doubt?” Doubt: διστάζω/distazō, doubt, meaning to “duplicate.” Yeshua is asking, “Why did you second guess?” This is the same word in Matthew 28:17, when the disciples saw Yeshua on the mountain in the Galilee, worshipped Him, but second guessed, doubted, the resurrection – “Is He really standing here?”

In this miraculous scene, as Yeshua rescues Peter, there is no fiery chariot of Elijah, or angels swooping in to take them back to the boat: they walked. Getting back into the boat, the winds ceased.

Yeshua, with the storm coming, sent them ahead knowing that once they saw Him, Peter would attempt to rush boldly into the circumstance, only to be frightened by it, and need His rescue. He knows us, as He is the Good Shepherd.

Peter sank because once out in the elements of life, outside of his control, the winds pressed in on him, the waves soaked him, and Yeshua seemed much further away.

The Lord called Peter, and us, to Himself, not the circumstance. Not to the wind and the waves. Not to the choppy waters of life, but to Himself. Yet, we will not overcome this world unless we sink a little, and learn to cry out, “Lord save me!”

Peter had faith to step out of the boat, onto the water, but it was short lived because he second guessed the call and command of Yeshua. He began to rethink the boat, the storm, and the Lord standing upon water. Yeshua never calls us to the storm, or the unknown, but to Himself. At times, we must go through the storm, the wind and the waves, into the unknown in order to reach Him. Nevertheless, He is always the direction and destination.

Do not second guess His call. Do not second guess the call of the I AM. Go to Him in the midst of the storm and the circumstance, seeing that He has done and will continue to do the impossible.

Peter’s faith was short in duration, because he rethought the Word of God. Even then, the Lord rescued him when he cried out, “Lord, save me!” A short, concise, prayer resulting in the nail scarred hand of the Messiah reaching directly to where we are calling to Him.

Be well. Shalom.