Monthly Archives: November 2016

Safe Shelters

refuge-under-your-wingsIn my blog two weeks ago, I wrote about Yeshua as the Door of the sheep, and how He protects from us from all dangers.  Another closely related Biblical concept is that YHVH shelters us, but how does He shelter us?  In many places in the Psalms, David talks about YHVH sheltering us in His hiding place, for example:

  • Psalm 91:1 – He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty [El Shaddai].
  • Psalm 27:5 – For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His sanctuary; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me (the Orthodox Jewish Bible says that He will keep us safe in His Sukkah and shelter us in His tent)…He is our refuge and our fortress;
  • Psalm 32:7 – You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance;
  • Psalm 119:117 – You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word;
  • Psalm 144:2 – My lovingkindness and my fortress, my high tower and my deliverer, my shield and the One in whom I take refuge

Other scriptures speak about God sheltering us in His high tower, on a rock that is higher than us, or in his fortress, just to name a few of the graphic images He paints.  Many times David and others speak about YHVH as not only keeping them safe in His secret hiding place, but as actually being that hiding place, refuge, fortress, high tower, stronghold, rock, sanctuary, Sukkah, etc.  As an illustration of a high / strong tower, Sh’lomo says in Proverbs: the name of Yehovah is a strong tower; and the righteous run to it [Him] and are safe.  Now we are getting to the purpose of YHVH sheltering us in all these amazing ways: He is keeping us safe from the enemy.  Psalm 32:7 above provides one of the most beautiful word pictures of God’s protection in all of Scripture: He is not only our hiding place, but He protects us from trouble and surrounds us with songs of deliverance.

In Psalm 91, David says that no evil will befall him because he has made YHVH his refuge and dwelling place.  Because David is abiding under the shelter of His wings, YHVH has promised to give His angels charge over David to keep him safe against all physical and spiritual enemies and attacks.  In Verse 14, He says that because we know and trust in His name (Yehovah), He will set us up on high places (a high rock, high tower, etc.).  He also promises that no evil will befall us, no plague will come near our dwelling, and we do not need to fear the arrows by day or the pestilence that comes in the night.  Finally, in Verse 7 He paints an even more vivid picture of how he delivers us in the middle of great battles: “Though a thousand fall at our side and ten thousand are dying around us, these evils will not touch us” (NLT).

Even from the beginning, God has always been there to shelter us and keep us safe.  When He created the Garden for Adam and Eve, He created it as an enclosed garden that was protected on all sides against enemies.  The meaning of the “Garden of Eden” [Gan Eden] from Hebrew is a sheltered or enclosed garden.  There are many examples of how God has provided for our protection in His creation. For instance, the way an eggshell protects the baby chick as the strongest shape in the world, or the way a mother’s womb protects her unborn baby against environmental dangers.

When God saved Noah and his family from the flood, He once again protected them with an Ark that provided their covering and protection from all the devastation that was going on around them.  Another example of YHVH’s protection was the lamb’s blood covering He told the Israelites to apply to their doorposts to protect them from the angel of death.  In the end times, YHVH’s remnant will be sheltered in the protective rocks of Petra (Bosrah in Hebrew), waiting for our King, Messiah Yeshua, to come and usher us into the homeland of Israel.

As you think about all the ways YHVH protects and shelters us in His fortress or high tower, think about the Hebrew letter “tet”, which in the ancient word pictures represented a shelter for protection.  It is used in the word beten to mean the house that surrounds life (the mother’s womb), and in the word for trust (batach), which pictures us being safe inside the surrounding fence.  The word seter means a hiding place or covering, and from the ancient word pictures it literally means a secret hiding place.  Whereas the word for adversary (satan) means the snake that devours life, YHVH provides the seter hiding place which protects us from evil.  Would you rather be under YHVH’s wings which protect your life from harm, or the enemy’s snake-coil which devours your life?

Loving Father

loving-father

For many years I kept my distance from God the Father mostly because He seemed so distant and impossible to please.  Over the years many people I have encountered have revealed that they had or still do regard God the Father as distant and at least somewhat cold and demanding.  Many of us imagine God the Father residing at His ease in heaven, where everything is perfect and there is no hurt or uncertainty.   How could He know what it is like to struggle  as we do?  He has everything, while we have lost much.  Yet Scripture reveals just how loving Abba is and how much he shares in our joys and sorrows.

YHVH, our Father, was not content to remain isolated and aloof in heaven, but rather created people in His own image.  He lovingly fashioned a world that would meet our needs.  He desires not to just view us from afar, but to live among us and share in every moment of our lives.  What could God the Father know of our pain and loss and heartache?  Everything, for by interacting with people, He has suffered as we do.

After establishing His people in their homeland, YHVH fashioned a home for Himself on earth so that He could dwell among His beloved ones.  Always thinking of others, His home was designed to glorify His Son, Yeshua, and to teach us about His plan of salvation.  (see other blogs on Temple and Tabernacle)  Yet, YHVH left His home in Jerusalem when His people rejected Him even after many attempts on His part to reach out to them.  He watched in sorrow as His beloved ones went their own way.  He saw His Temple destroyed three times:  the physical structure in Jerusalem twice and Yeshua’s body as an atonement for our sin.  The special implements from His earthly home were carried off to Babylon and defiled.

YHVH’s desire is to live among His people, yet so many times He has been made unwelcome.  People have denied His existence, blasphemed His name, ignored Him, or blamed Him for the results of their own bad choices or the bad choices of others.

YHVH loved His spouse, Israel, and cared for her even when she scorned His love and turned to false gods.    He knows what it is like to have a spouse leave to run off after another.  He even sent His beloved Son to become one of us so that we could see how much He loves and understands us, but even His Son was rejected.

Scripture is the story of unrelenting love.  Let us examine just a sampling of Scripture verses that describe our Father’s love for us.  “[The Father] guarded [Jacob] as the apple of his eye.” (Deuteronomy 32:10)  “A Father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.  God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing.”  (Psalm 68:5-6)  “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:8)  “Your Father in heaven is not willing that any one of these little ones should be lost.”  (Matthew 18:14)  “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1)

How should we respond to our loving Father?  He tells us in His own words in Scripture:

Love Him:  “You shall love YHVH your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deut 6:5) 

Trust in Him:  “But I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation. (Ps 13:5)

Obey Him:  “You must love the Lord your God and always obey his requirements, decrees, regulations, and commands. (Deut 11:1)

Keep your promises just as He does: “But whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.” (1 John 2:5)

Yeshua shows us how to love our Father, for Yeshua did all these things.  He also did one more thing:  He kept His focus on His Father at all times and learned from Him. So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.”  (john 5:19)

If you feel far from Father, let go of your fears and doubts and run to Him.  He is waiting for you with open arms! “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran and threw his arms around him and kissed him warmly”. (Luke 15:20)

Yeshua is the Door

the-door-of-the-sheep“Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.John 10:7

In Yeshua’s “I am” statement about being the Door of the Sheep,  He teaches us that He is “the Door”, not just “a door”.  He is saying that He is not only our Shepherd who leads us into the sheepfold of the Kingdom, but He is the only door by which we can enter and be saved and find safe pasture (John 10:9).  There are deeper meanings for understanding Yeshua as our door into the Kingdom of God, so come with me now as we dig deeper into the Word to explore these meanings.

It is helpful to understand more about sheep and shepherding in general and specifically during Yeshua’s time.  Of all domesticated animals, sheep are the most helpless.  Sheep will spend their entire day grazing, wandering from place to place, never looking up. As a result, they often become lost. But sheep have no “homing instinct” as other animals do. They are totally incapable of finding their way to their sheepfold, even when it is in plain sight. By nature, sheep are followers. If the lead sheep steps off a cliff, the others are likely to follow.

Also, sheep are very susceptible to injuries and are utterly helpless against predators. If a wolf enters the pen, sheep won’t defend themselves or run away.  Sheep are totally dependent upon their shepherd for food, shelter, guidance and protection. So close is the bond between shepherd and sheep that to this day Middle Eastern shepherds can divide flocks that have mingled at a well or during the night simply by calling their sheep, who know and follow their shepherd’s voice. The shepherd leads the sheep to safe places to graze and makes them lie down for several hours in a shady place (think of the parallel to Psalm 23). Then at nightfall, the shepherd leads the sheep to the protection of a sheepfold.

In ancient times, there were two kinds of sheepfolds or pens. One kind was a public sheepfold found in villages. It would be large enough to hold several flocks of sheep. This sheep pen would be in the care of a “doorkeeper”, whose duty it was to guard the door to the sheep pen during the night and admit the shepherds in the morning. The shepherds would call their sheep, each of which knew their own shepherd’s voice, and he would lead them out to pasture (see John 10:4).

The second kind of sheep pen was in the countryside, where the shepherds would keep their flocks in good weather. This type of sheep pen was nothing more than a rough circle of rocks piled into a wall with a small open space to enter. Through it the shepherd would drive the sheep at nightfall. Since there was no gate to close—just an opening—the shepherd would keep the sheep in and wild animals out by lying across the opening. He would sleep there, in this case literally becoming the door to the sheep[fold].

Several ancient Hebrew word pictures point to Yeshua as the Door in a powerful way.  The ancient letter for door is dalet.  This meant the tent flap or door originally, but also the “path” or the “way of life”.  Devar in Hebrew means “word”. When we look at the ancient characters for Devar, though, the root meaning is “the Door of the Son”.  Since Yeshua is the living Word, Devar can also be interpreted as “The Word of YHVH”, as in the book of Deuteronomy [Devarim].  Psalm 19:14 says: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, YHVH, my rock and my redeemer”.  In Hebrew, a word for redeem is Padah and the word picture meaning is “redemption comes by the mouth of the door”. The ancient letters tell us that redemption is by the words of the door, and we know that door is Yeshua. Another significant word is the Hebrew word for Righteous, Tsedek, and the word picture tells us that  a person is righteous when their hook is the Door they follow (hook, or fishhook, refers to that which draws you – your passion or desire).

God’s name, Yehovah, is spelled yod-hey-vav-hey in Hebrew. The letter dalet is added to spell “Yehudah” [Judah], out of whose line Yeshua was descended. These 4 letters of the Name of God plus the letter dalet which means “door,” paint a different word picture:  His name tells us that Praise opens the Door to God“.  Since Yeshua is the Door, and He said everyone must enter through Him, this is a graphic picture of the pathway to YHVH – the key to the Door is praise!

Yeshua tells us that He is not only the shepherd of His sheep, but also the door of the sheep. In doing so, He is inviting us to be part of His sheepfold, where we will never have to fear or want for anything.  All we have to do is praise Him, and follow Him on His path, trusting Him with every part of our lives!

Repairing Reflections

weapons-of-our-warfareThere is great temptation these days to succumb to fear and anxiety.  Yet, Scripture tells us repeatedly not to fear.   Isaiah 35:4,  John 14:27, Joshua 1:9 and Matthew 6:34, are just a handful of examples of YHVH’s teaching on fear. We know that YHVH does not give us a spirit of fear, but of love, power and self-discipline (2 Tim 1:7).  So when trouble seems to loom ahead or is already in our midst, how do we combat those anxious thoughts and feelings that arise?

Our tendency is to tackle the job in the physical realm.  This is a mistake.  Even though our problems are in the physical realm, their source is from the spiritual realm.  The following analogy may help to better illustrate.   Athletes regularly review videos of past games in order to discover what works well and what skills or strategies still need to be honed.  Even though the video reflects what happened during the game, the problems cannot be fixed by editing the video.  Our physical realm is a video or mirror image of what is happening behind the scenes, that is the spiritual realm (Heb 8:5, 1 Cor 13:12).  In order to make effective changes in the physical realm, we have to address the issues in the spiritual realm.

For decades, perhaps centuries, many people have tried to solve the Middle East crisis on the physical level.  There have been numerous treaties, division of land, wars, and discussions.  None of these attempts has been able to resolve the conflicts.  YHVH shows us how He handles the situation.  Prime candidates for terror are experiencing life-changing dreams or visions of Yeshua.  Once these individuals discover Yeshua, their lives are transformed.  Instead of attacking their enemies, they are praying for the salvation and welfare of their enemies!  YHVH is battling in the spiritual realm to resolve terrorism and His work produces everlasting results.

Yeshua came to the earth the first time and demonstrated by signs and wonders in the physical realm that He is the Messiah.  His followers were disappointed and even disillusioned to discover that He did not mean to physically attack the Romans, the physical enemies of that time.   Instead, Yeshua attacked a much more dangerous enemy in the spiritual realm and wrought for all humans a much greater triumph with eternal implications.

Many of Yeshua’s followers today realize that the true battleground is in the spiritual realm and are now publicly engaged in intercession , worship, repentance and reconciliation with others.  In July, evangelical Christians gathered around the Washington Monument to seek YHVH’s help in breaking racism.* Breaking Christian News recently reported that 1,000  “Native American Indian tribes from the United States and Canada collectively forgave the U.S. government for breaking treaties with their ancestors during a public ceremony on the National Mall.”**  There is great power in forgiving others and releasing them from debt.  “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Matt 6:12).

A number of us have experienced the power of forgiveness on a more personal level.  We have discovered that when we truly forgive individuals who have hurt us, amazing things happen.  People who were estranged from us contact us seeking reconciliation.  All we did was take our case to YHVH and tell Him that we forgave and released the person(s) from any debt owed to us.  We did not disclose to anyone, not even the individuals we forgave, that we had taken such a step.  Within a short time the physical realm reflected changes made in the spiritual realm.

When Yeshua returns, His job will be to complete the reconciliation and restoration that we have been addressing (Acts 3:21 NLT).   Our adversary and any one cooperating with him want us to be divided and at odds with each other (John 10:10).  Yeshua said that we would be known by our love for one another.  We certainly want Yeshua to recognize us as His own when He returns. Judging or arguing with others stems from fear.  Yeshua said that He would only recognize those who were reaching out in love to others.  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matt 3:43-44).   Does Yeshua recognize you as one of His sheep?

*   Rees, Steve.  ‘God break racism!’ Evangelicals on D.C. Mall pray for hope and reconciliation, The   Washington Post, July 16, 2016

** Zauzmer, Julie, An Kirkland and Michelle Boorstein.  “Must Read!  Native Americans are ‘Spiritual Sleeping Giants Awakened’ after Incredible Prophetic Act in Washington:  “May Go Down as One of the Most Important Days in American History,” Breaking Christian News,  Oct. 27, 2016, http://www.breakingchristiannews.com/articles/display_art.html?ID=19576