Grace and Truth

…all the words of this life…


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A Jewish Girl and a Kingdom

Picture it – a young orphan girl, brought up by her uncle in a foreign land where her jewish girlpeople had been carried away as captives years before….She had known the sorrow of the loss of her parents, of poverty and hardship. But now she found purpose in looking after her uncle and hope in looking forward to a future as one day becoming a Jewish wife and mother, even in the foreign land of Persia.

But one day, the King of the land of Susa, where she was dwelling, issued a decree and this young lady, as well as some others, was brought into the custody of a eunuch in the King’s palace.

For the King was seeking a bride.

Imagine this young Jewess, Hadassah, in the King’s palace, gazing at the splendor surrounding her.  The fierce might of the palace’s guards, the opulence of the furnishings.  Everything so beautiful, so different than she had ever known.  And what of her future hopes now?  Would she ever become a wife and mother?  Would this Gentile king cause her to have to relinquish her future and remain with him in his palace?

anointing oilFor one whole year this young lady remained in the eunuch’s care, and eventually Hegai, as he was called, became her friend, her helper, her adviser.  Each day for twelve months she was prepared and beautified for her first meeting with the King.  Each day she wondered what that one night with the King would mean for her and what her future held.  And as she soaked in the oil of myrrh, tears as bitter as that herb flowed down mingling with the oil and softening the harsh callous places of her skin.

After six months of the oil of myrrh preparation, Esther, as she was now known, was led by Hegai to begin the beautifying preparation with perfumes.  Soft and supple now, her skin had been made tender by the bitter treatment of myrrh.

But that wasn’t the only thing that had changed.  Soaking in the myrrh Esther’s heart and character had also been softened by the bitterness of her own “death”.  Death to her future, death to her own plans, to what she had desired for her own life.  But even further, the tender treatment and counsel of her constant companion Hegai had taken her through that bitterness of death and brought her into something new, something fresh, even…exciting.  Now she was filled with a different hope, a different expectancy for the future that was laid on the foundation of a humble yet mature character wrought through endurance.

The perfume preparation complete, Esther was now ready to enter the King’s presence.  Having come through this next stage of preparation Esther had become even more dependent on her friend Hegai and sought his counsel as to what she should take with her to the King.  He, after all, knew the King and the King’s taste.

jewish-wedding-giftIt was Esther’s turn.  Hegai took her to the King and “the king loved Esther more than all the other women and she obtained grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins so he set the royal crown upon her head and made her queen….” Esther 2:17

Esther, now as the King’s bride, settles into life as a Queen.  She of humble origins, an orphan, now the Queen of 127 provinces, from India to Ethiopia.

One day Esther receives some troubling news from her uncle.  Haman the Agagite has decreed to exterminate all of the Jews, her people, and her husband the King has authorized this decree!  Her uncle tells her to make a plea to the King for her people.

Deeply distressed, Esther hesitates.  She knows, as does her uncle, that to enter the king’s presence unbidden brings the immediate sentence of death.  Yet she loves her people, her heart yearns for her people with every day that goes by.  Her uncle’s heart breaks, he loves her and knows her dilemma – yet he must utter these words:

““Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews.  For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13, 14)

Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai:  “Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!” (Esther 4:15, 16)

If I perish, I perish

As her tears had rolled into the waters of myrrh long ago Hadassah had known that her life was no longer her own.  It was then that she had perished.  Long ago she had been prepared for this.

And it was because she had perished then, that she could intercede now for those who were perishing.

cropped-girl-praying1.jpgOH Lord, make us into a people like Esther, who would die to ourselves, our plans and our own lives.  Make us into a prepared and beautified Bride, who will come boldly before the throne of grace in Your presence and plead for the lives of those around us who are perishing. Father we thank you for Your Son, Yeshua, the ultimate intercessor, who did give up His life for us, who stood in the gap for us, so that we should not perish but have everlasting life.  OH Lord, help us to be led by Your Spirit only, to seek You only and Your will.  May we be brave and stand in the gap, even in the midnight hour.  In the Name of Yeshua Hamashiach, Amen.

Happy Purim everybody!

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The Beauty (and Significance) of Jewish Marriage Customs

jewish-wedding-gift

In my last post (Marriage, yep marriage) I wrote briefly how marriage was specifically designed by God for a purpose.  The purpose of marriage between a man and a woman is that it is to be a testimony and a prophetic signpost in order to point the way to Christ and His Bride – the Church.

In this post we will look at Jewish marriage customs.  Why?  Because I believe that as followers of Jesus Christ in this post-modern age it is easy to miss the beauty and significance of the eternal truths displayed in Jewish marriage.  Jesus Christ’s words and actions take on greater meaning when we understand the culture of Christ’s day.  I believe it will be beneficial to us, as His  Bride, to understand the nature of our covenant relationship with Him, the importance of His promises made to us and to understand the true beauty of marriage.. It is my hope that through this we will get a glimpse of the eternal significance of marriage and the hope that we have in Christ, as His Church….

jewish girlSo, I will start by asking you to picture a young woman living at home with her father, mother, brothers and sisters.

One day a young man comes to her home.  He has travelled all the way from his father’s house in order to ask for her hand in marriage.  The young man brings three important things with him:

  •  a large amount of money,
  • a skin of wine and
  • a betrothal contract, called a Shitre Erusin.

The young woman’s father goes with the young man into a private room and they discuss the price that must be paid by the young man in order to purchase his prospective bride (the mohar).  Once the bride-price is agreed upon, the young man must pay the price in full to the father for the marriage covenant to be established.

A glass of wine is poured.

It is at this point that the young woman is invited into the room.  She sees the young man who has come all this way for her.  Perhaps it may be the first time she has met him, perhaps they have known each other for a long time.  In any case, the terms of the marriage covenant are explained to her and her father asks for her consent to the marriage.  If she approves and consents to the marriage she drinks from the glass of wine that has been poured.  As a symbol of the covenant relationship that has been instituted, the young man also drinks from the same cup of wine, over which a betrothal benediction has been spoken.

cup

The young couple are now considered husband and wife, although their status is betrothed, rather than that of fully married.  By her partaking of the wine, the young lady is now wholly set apart, sanctified or consecrated, for her husband and exclusively committed to this young man.  She has willingly entered into a legal contract with him and now it’s only a divorce that can dissolve the union.

The young man now prepares to depart from her home.  He is going away, back to his father’s house, to prepare a place for her, his bride.  As he gets ready to leave he notices the sadness of his young bride at his departure and he thus makes her this promise:

In my father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.  If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”

Comforted by the promise of her betrothed, she watches him depart, knowing that he will return for her, just as he said he would.  She keeps herself busy preparing for his return, even though she does not know exactly when that will be.  The fact that she has been bought with a price and that she is now no longer her own, brings her great comfort for it gives her the assurance, along with his promise, that he will return for her.

And so, day by day she watches for his return.  She knows that she must be ready to go at any given moment.  As she waits for her wedding day, it brings her great joy to learn how to live as a wife and mother in Israel and to put together her wedding clothes and linens.

Her betrothed, meanwhile, has not forgotten his bride and is busy preparing for her a place.  He wants his bride to be happy and so sets about building and organizing her living arrangements in his home.  He also does not know when the day of the wedding will take place.  In fact, no one knows the day except his father.  His father will only give permission for him to go and collect his bride when he is fully satisfied with the living arrangements made by his son.

When the time comes, the father gives permission to his son, and the betrothed takes three days to prepare before he begins his journey to go and collect his bride.  He brings with him two of his closest friends and other male escorts.  This would usually take place at night and a torch light procession is made to the young lady’s home.

shofarThe groom’s arrival is preceded by a loud shout and the blowing of a trumpet (shofar) in order to alert his bride that he is on his way.  Her heart leaps for joy at the sound.  She knows that her faithful waiting and watching for him has not been in vain.  He is returning for her as he had promised.

She is taken, along with her female attendants, back with him to his father’s house.  There the wedding guests are already assembled in expectation of the wedding ceremony.  At the ceremony another contract, the Ketubah, which contains the promises made to the bride by the groom, is witnessed by the two friends of the bridegroom and then given to her parents.  During this whole process she remains veiled.

jewish bride

Next, the bride and groom are escorted to the bridal chamber, (huppah), where her groom gives her some gifts.   The following seven days are spent together in the huppah as the friend of the groom stands outside the door.  He waits for the groom to relate to him the news of the consummation of the marriage.  At the announcement of the consummation to the wedding guests, there takes place feasting and joy for seven days. At the completion of the “seven days of the huppah”, the groom brings out his bride, finally with veil removed.  Now all can see his bride as they join in the wedding feast.

“This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32)

Next time, the explanation of this analogy in Marriage and the Church


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Pentecost (and a Hard Question for You)

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I would like to share something of urgency, which God has put on my heart today.  Firstly though I need to do a little background on the Feast of Pentecost, which, so happens, is today.

Today (from sundown May 14-15) is the national observance of the Feast of Pentecost, or Shavuot, in Israel. Shavuot is considered to be the time when God gave Moses the Torah on Mount Sinai after the exodus from Egypt.  The giving of the Torah to Moses was by God Himself coming down to meet with him on the Mount in a cloud, accompanied by smoke and fire and a blast of God’s trumpet. This was to establish His covenant with His people and so Shavuot is celebrated as the biblical birth date of the nation of Israel.

The basic theme of Shavuot is “the harvest” and of giving thanks to God.  Passover marked the beginning of the Spring harvest and on the Feast of First fruits the first fruits of a sheaf of barley was required to be presented before the Lord, as a wave offering in thanksgiving for the harvest.  From the next day, seven weeks were counted until wheat harvest.  This is why Pentecost is also called the “Feast of Weeks”.

Why is this relevant to us?  Because God works by His prophetic calendar. In the year AD 30, on the day of Pentecost, something else of great importance was birthed.  At Passover Christ had died as the Lamb of God, at Feast of First Fruits He rose again, then 50 days after His resurrection, on the Day of Pentecost, the Church was born.

“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.  And suddenly from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.  And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.  And they were filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”  Acts 2:1-4

God once again used fire, wind and other demonstrations of the Holy Ghost to establish a covenant with His people.  This was also a time of great harvest, with many thousands of people being saved and brought into the Church at once.

So this leads to what the Holy Spirit has impressed on my heart this afternoon.  Over the centuries since the Church was born at Pentecost there have been other times of great harvest and the ingathering of souls.  As Peter said, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:  And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.” (Acts 2:17, 18) Times of the outpouring of God’s Spirit have been recorded through history.  There was the Great Awakening traced to the Moravians in 1727, there was Whitefield in 1742, John Wesley in the 18th century, Finney in the 1830’s, DL Moody in the late 19th century, the Welsh revival in 1904, Asuza Street in 1906 – just to name a few.

But will God do it again? Will there be another time of a great outpouring of His Spirt, of revival, before the end of the age?  It is my wholehearted belief that it will be so.

(It is not my intention here to prove that God will once again bring revival.  I can recommend the following books if you would like to pursue this question further.  One is Leonard Ravenhill’s “Why Revival Tarries”, the other is “In the Day of Thy Power” by Arthur Wallis.)

The scripture that God impressed upon me today was this:

“And he said, ‘Thus says the Lord, make this valley full of ditches.  For thus says the Lord, you shall not see wind, neither shall you see rain, yet that valley shall be filled with water…” 2 Kings 3:16, 17

God required Judah and Israel to prepare for the coming outpouring of the water which He was to send by making the valley full of ditches.  This was so when the water came it would fall into these catchment areas and not simply run-off and be lost and wasted.  This is what God is speaking to His Church even in this day.   It is no secret that water can be a symbol of the Holy Spirit in the Bible.  He is saying to prepare for the coming outpouring of the Spirit – by making ditches in the valley to catch the water as it flows through.

I guess the Israelites must have dug into the desert floor with some sort of spade instruments.  It can’t have been an easy task to make a valley “full of ditches”.  But while it was probably hard, it wasn’t impossible, and they did do it.

How do we make ditches today?  We need to dig into the hardness of human hearts with the instrument of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The hardness will be confronted with the power of the gospel and pride will be broken down when met with the Word of God.

Jesus said in Matthew 9:38 “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the labourers are few, Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.”

God needs labourers to go out into the harvest once again and gather in the lost.   God needs us to warn them that without Him, they will die.  I am not being melodramatic.  One thing God impressed upon me today is His urgency to have sinners turn to Him.  He says :

“Say unto them, ‘As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die?” Ezekial 33:11

This is serious.  If we truly believe that we are in the last days and if we truly believe that Jesus is coming back as the Lion of the tribe of Judah to judge the world in a Day of wrath, then we need to warn people.  It is God’s heart that none should perish.   But He has entrusted to us the precious task of preaching the gospel, of warning, of being watchmen.  And He actually, really expects us to do it.

“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, ‘You wicked person, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade them from their ways, that wicked person will die for[a] their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the wicked person to turn from their ways and they do not do so, they will die for their sin, though you yourself will be saved.”  Ezekiel 33:7-9

This is not a call for an elite set of evangelists, or for someone with a special anointing, this is a call for every Christian.  Jesus Himself said “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Mark 16:15

I am sorry if this makes you uncomfortable or if it bursts your happy bubble, but God’s heart breaks for the lost every single day.  And ours should too.

Of course, the very first thing that occurs when we are confronted by a hard truth, me included, is our sense of inadequacy.  That I am unfit for the task, that I am too weak, too female, or too imperfect hits me most of the time.  But God says we are not inadequate, we are not incapable.  He has called us for this very reason and He will put His words in our mouths.

Listen to this:  Ninevah turned from their sin when Jonah got over himself and warned them of their impending judgment.

They turned.

And they lived.

God is calling for someone to “make this valley full of ditches” in these last days.

Will it be you?

“The fact is, Christians are more to blame for not being revived, than sinners are for not being converted.  And if Christians are not awakened, they may know assuredly that God will visit them with His judgments.  How often God visited the Jewish church with judgments because they would not repent and be revived at the call of His prophets.”  Charles Finney