God’s Land Journey

Blessings friends!

I would like to share an inspiring video series produced by my academic advisor, mentor, and friend Dr. Karl Coke, Ph.D. This series visits 52 biblical sites in Israel, and opens for the viewer the geographic importance of each location. Having viewed several episodes, I can confirm that each episode is enjoyable, informative, and opens the text of Bible in a way that only Israel can; at each site, Scriptures are displayed on the screen related to the location. It is simply an amazing production, and a gift to the Body of Messiah.

From God’s Land Journey website:

We invite you to join us on a virtual journey to the place where the Bible and the Land speak for themselves. Dr. Karl Coke and Anton Farah, Senior Israeli Guide, take us on a geographical tour through the most important Biblical sites in Israel. From Mount Hermon in the North, to Eilat in the South. From the Jordan River in the East, to the Mediterranean Sea in the West.”

Visit their website!

http://godslandjourney.com

Passover Meditation #3

When is it dayenu?

The Passover Seder is a generational event; not only with those present, but with those who were, and those who are yet to be. It’s just that type of moment in time. The text itself leads us to believe this.

One of the most recognizable elements of the Seder is the singing of דַּיֵּנוּ/dayenu. While only a couple stanzas of this section are usually sung, in total, there are fifteen stanzas. Five stanzas speak of the deliverance from Egypt, the next five of the miraculous provision in the wilderness, and the final five of being with God.

The melody of dayenu is memorable, haunting, exciting. When done with heart and spirit it lifts us beyond our present circumstance into an unlikely place: contentment.

The apostle Paul wrote, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Phil. 4:11-12).

Paul’s thoughts here always remind me of dayenu. דַּיֵּנוּ/dayenu literally translates: enough for us. The usual construction of the stanzas flow in this manner:

“If He had taken us out of Egypt and not made judgements on them; [it would have been] enough for us.”

“If this … but not this … דַּיֵּנוּ/dayenu.”

Paul is sitting in a cell; yet, he speaks of being content with his circumstance. It is a recognition of the Lord’s will, even in the midst of terrific hardship, but it is also guards against the loss of joy.

The heart of dayenu is joyfully recognizing the grace of God’s provision. Every year we sing dayenu – “enough for us” – with an immediate memory of all that is pressing in on us: the present Egypt. Yet, dayenu.

For Paul, his dayenu might have sounded something like: “Had He saved me by the blood of Yeshua/Jesus, but not delivered me from this cell, dayenu.”

It is a difficult lesson, perhaps among the most painful, but the Lord has given us a yearly exercise to help us strengthen our present dayenu, to reflect on the grace of His supply, however that might appear.

But when is it enough? Watch this.

“Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us” (Jn. 14:8).

On the evening of Messiah’s Seder, Philip says, show us the Father, and it will be “dayenu,” as dayenu is also translated as “sufficient.” How does Yeshua respond?

“Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father,” (Jn. 14:9).

When it is dayenu, enough for us? When we know, and are known, by Yeshua. That is enough for all eternity.

Be well. Shalom.

The Ones We Embrace

Who knew that a “thumbs up” would become one of the most recognizable of international hieroglyphs.

Never before has humanity been able to say so much with so little: enter the emoticons. With these little symbols we are able to communicate the vast range and subtlety of human emotion, evaluate our interest, announce our disdain or pleasure.

Imagine, if you will, that we applied the emoticon to actual life circumstances: walking down the street I give a thumbs up to show approval for someone eating their lunch; or I displayed a red frowny face when overhearing a conversation in passing; or, I hugged myself when hearing something nice, or eat something yummy.

I would surely gain more followers: some police officers, maybe an investigator or two, perhaps even a therapist. Not at all pleasant.

How has emoticon shorthand changed relationships? Perhaps a question best answered by social anthropologists. Still, as a shepherd, I do have some thoughts.

The Lord said of Abraham:

אַבְרָהָם אֹהֲבִֽי

Recorded in Isaiah 41:8, these two Hebrew words are often translated as “Abraham my friend,” slightly differently, “Abraham my beloved,” or a little deeper, “Abraham whom I embrace.” The word translated friend above is אָהַב/ahav, meaning to love, desire, breathe after, beloved, or friend.

The Torah says that Abraham “walked with God” (Gen. 17:1). Abraham had relationship with the Lord. They walked, talked, interacted, and lived together; apart from emoticons: real, personal emotion and intimacy.

Social media was already radically changing human relationships. Now, coupled with a pandemic (at the time of this writing), many of our relationships have been reduced to emoticons, text messages, or socially distant interaction. It has rekindled, in many of us, a strong desire for the closeness of a handshake, a friendly embrace, and crowded congregational fellowship.

In the gospel of John, 15:12-17, Yeshua/Jesus calls us friends, those He embraces, just as the Father called Abraham His friend. As our Emmanuel, Yeshua is ever-present with us (Matt. 28:20), in living relationship.

When speaking these words, Yeshua was reclining with the disciples at the Passover Meal: close, sharing food, remembering the exodus, teaching, communing over the bread and cup, creating the embrace of friendship; and real emotion as the disciples wondered who would betray Him (Jn. 13:25-26).

Emoticon approval, in most cases, keeps a distance between us. Yet, in so many other instances, they introduce a door to deeper communication leading to a real embrace, a real friendship; with living faces, living emotions, and living experience of the human dynamic in friendship.

While social media has a place in modern society, it cannot, and should not replace living, breathing social interaction. And what many of us are most certain of: it will not.

Be well. Shalom.

The Winter of Life

Winter in many places can be a long and dark season. In the absence of sunlight one day does not seem all that different from the next or the previous.

Winter in many cultures is viewed as an ending, death, or bleak, frigid darkness. Poetically, we speak about our winter years as we grow old. Yet, in Hebrew winter does not carry this connotation. In Job 29:4, we read:

‎כַּאֲשֶׁר הָיִיתִי, בִּימֵי חָרְפִּי
“As I was in the days of my youth.”

The word translated “youth” is חֹרֶף/choreph, meaning autumn and winter, the picture of a gathered crop, but also youth. Why?

Winter in Hebrew isn’t considered a time of ending or, metaphorically, death; but of renewal, growth, and preparation. Life is still happening, and new life is developing beneath that snowy frozen ground; life, we cannot as of yet see, but is still active.

Whatever your condition this winter season, as difficult and different as it is this year, meditate on scriptures of renewal, and know that He is renewing you even while you appear frozen in place. Focus not on death or growing old, but on renewal.

Suggestions:

Isaiah 40:30-31
Psalm 1
Psalm 23
Psalm 51:10-12
II Corinthians 4:16
II Corinthians 5:17
Colossians 3:9-10

Be well. Shalom.

What Are You Hearing?

There is entirely too much silent reading of the Word of God. Read it out loud. It does not have to be at full volume, just enough for your ears to hear.

When reading in the mind, silently, we miss the breath, the life, and the tonal experience. The words we are reading are then drowned out by the cacophony of voices and words pummeling us daily.

The rabbis say, “Voice arouses כַּוָּנָה/kavannah.” כַּוָּנָה/kavannah means intention or deep feeling.

The Word of God voiced impacts not only the intellect, but also the body and soul. The voice arouses our intention for hearing the Word, and stirs in us a desire to know its Author more deeply.

The voice gives feeling to the words, texture and color. We are all stirred by the words of a love song because we can connect to the feeling of love with our beloved, and experience the words we are hearing as an extension of our own heart and memory.

So give voice to the words, not specifically for the benefit of the one next to you, but for the life in you.

“Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Ro. 10:17).

Be well. Shalom.