A Donkey, an Ox, and the Bridge.

(An article anticipating ordinary life circumstances.)

Messiah Yeshua/Jesus taught, “You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:43-45; cf. Lev. 19:18).

Messiah is referencing, not the Torah, but a folk teaching informed by human wisdom and experience. Yeshua, however, corrects this: “you have heard … but I tell you …”

Is it really so easy? Simply, that depends; but many of us would say, no, it’s not so simple.

As we approach all people, we need to remember that they too, no matter our differences with them, are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). We must approach them in faith, remembering the fallen nature of humanity, and that, at times, struggles we have with others may be used by the Lord to humble us, drawing us closer to Him.

Yeshua, further in Matthew 5:45, references what is called common grace, “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

Common grace provides for, and safeguards life. Here we find how we can begin to “love your enemies.”

The bridge.

“If you find your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you must surely bring it back to him again. If you see the donkey of the one that hates you lying down under its burden, do not leave it. Rather, you are to release it with him” (Ex. 23:4-5).

The above is the biblical origin of “love your enemies.” Returning the lost animal to your enemy would likely preserve his life and that of his family; and keep them from potentially slipping into poverty. Helping him to unburden his animal brings two separated, oppositional parties together.

The Lord does not just tell us to “love your enemies because I said so!” He directs us to see their humanity, their life, and their value.

Yeshua references the provision and care of the Father to the evil and the good, the righteous and the unrighteous: safeguarding life. The Torah earlier instructs us to see them, our enemy or the one who hates us, in their fragility. As Proverbs 24:17 says, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles.”

The act of love, by common grace described above, is the act of building a bridge, a גֶּשֶׁר/gesher in Hebrew, in faith strong enough to hold you and your enemy, the proverbial bridge over troubled waters.

In faith, He is the bridge. He is strong enough. His Word is able. Can you see Him in the life of your enemy, or those hating you?

It may not be an ox or a donkey that necessitates the interaction today, but any number of circumstances, tragic or simply inconvenient, may be the mitigating factor that brings you together.

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

Be well. Shalom.

If you …

If you have suffered, you know how to comfort.

If you have been afraid, you know how to calm.

If you have been hungry, you know how to feed.

If you have been a stranger, you know how to welcome.

If you have been lost, you know how to find.

If you have been hurt, you know how to heal.

If you have been loved, you know how to love.

If you have been forgiven, you know how to forgive.

… But you must be vulnerable, exposed, willing to go when called, and act knowing that God has ordered your steps by grace, bringing you to that place, for such a time as this (Esther 4:14; Mal. 1:2; Ps. 37:23; Matt. 6:14-15; Phil. 4:12-13).

The Bread of the … Wow!

The Torah, the Law of Moses, commands three feasts of ingathering, when Jewish men were to appear before the Dwelling Place of God (Ex. 23:17; 34:23).

Exodus 34:23 usually reads in a fashion similar to: “Three times a year all your men shall appear before the Lord God of Israel.” The text is saying, “Three times a year all your men shall see the face of the Lord God of Israel.” Notice the difference?

To read this in English, one would assume that they simply appeared before the presence of the Lord in the Tabernacle, or Temple in Jerusalem. Yet, there was a practice adopted for the three feasts of ingathering in the Second Temple period that is well documented, but not well known, described below.

The Lord commanded, among other things, that bread be included in the Holy Place of the Sanctuary: the Bread of the Presence. In Hebrew: the Bread of the Face(s).

This was a memorial bread of twelve loaves, only consumed by priests on Shabbat, each of whom received about an olive sized piece. It was offered as a bloodless sacrifice at the Brazen Altar before it was set in the Holy Place.

The Bread of the Presence was the memorial of God’s presence in the place of light, Menorah, and prayer, the Golden Altar. While only one priest ministered at a time in the Holy Place, kindling the Menorah morning and evening, God was always present in that light (cf. Luke 1:5-23; Jn. 8:12).

The priest had to be ever mindful of the Lord’s presence, set as the Bread of the Presence, and as wine.

According to the Babylonian Talmud, Menahoth 29a, a practice developed, but not specifically commanded by the Torah, that was preformed by the priests. Before the assembled pilgrim men at the Holy Temple, the priests would lift up the bread, displayed on the Table of Shewbread, and recite, “Behold, God’s love for you.”

The Bread of the Presence, a memorial of the miraculous heavenly bread (manna), of which the Talmud records this miracle: “for at its removal it was as fresh as when it was set,” was evidence of God’s love for Israel.

The men were commanded to go, and see the face of the God of Israel, there in the bread; and this hidden bread, ordinarily seen only by a priest, was revealed and elevated.

Then, the Bread came down from the heavenly Tabernacle, and there in the feasts of ingathering, Yeshua/Jesus met His people face to face; and before His elevation He gave us a remembrance of bread and wine, a memorial of His presence and salvation.

So many Scriptures in the Apostolic Writings attest to the fact that Yeshua is the fullness of God manifest in the tent of human flesh, given by God’s love for His people, succinctly, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16; cf. Jn. 1:1-4, 14: 6:33, 35, 48, 51).

To behold the Son, is to behold the One who sent Him, and in His lifting up, we see the greatest love displayed, and His abiding love for us; and now, every believer, called as a kingdom of priests (I Pet. 2:9; Rev. 1:6), shares in the Bread of His presence, His face, and in the rest He secured for us.

Be well. Shalom.