This Saturday evening begins the celebration of Shavuot. Most Christians might recognize this as the celebration of Pentecost in Acts 2. However, the very first Shavuot actually took place fifty days after the Israelites crossed the Red Sea about 1500 years before Acts was even written. It was on this day that the law was given on tablets of stone.
In Israel, we often see goats and sheep roaming the countryside. Driving through rural Israel often involves suddenly stopping to allow a herd of sheep or goats to cross the road. But interestingly, I have never seen "sheep kill" on the side of the road in all the years that I've lived in Israel. It's because sheep don't roam without a shepherd!
The New Testament records that when Yeshua (Jesus) died; there was a great earthquake and the veil of the Temple was torn in two. The size of this gigantic veil is not recorded in the NT…but we read from other sources that it was roughly 60 feet long and 30 feet wide with multiple woven layers the thickness of a man's hand! It was hung on a crossbeam stone – a lintel – which was over 30 feet long and weighed more than 30 tons! It was not an easy cloth to tear…
In the mid 1850's a troubled teenager from Northfield, Massachusetts moved to Boston to try to find work. He hadn't gone to school beyond the fifth grade; he couldn't spell, his grammar was awful and his manners were brash and crude. Thankfully, an uncle took him on as a shoe salesman–on condition that he be obedient and that he attend church.
Over the past few weeks, rockets have been landing roughly 30 miles from where we live in southern Israel, and we've been overwhelmed with the number of emails from people who are praying for us– which we so appreciate!… more than you could imagine! We're living in a unique time in history, as once again Israel finds herself surrounded by enemies with few friends willing to stand with her. So often we are asked, and we wonder, how things will turn out here…we've found it's usually foolish to try and predict; but one thing is absolutely certain; the God of Israel is watching over this tiny nation!
A careful reading through the life of the Apostle Paul will yield insight concerning those who surrounded him. In this brief devotion, I want to focus on two of Paul's friends — Luke and Demas.
One of the more beautiful ceremonies of the Jewish faith is called "Tashlich". Tashlich means to cast away. Every year between Rosh haShana and Yom Kippur, Jewish people around the world journey to a nearby river or stream and cast in bread crumbs as they confess their sins. As the bread crumbs are swept downstream soon to be out of sight, so they believe God will sweep away their sins.
In the early 1800's a preacher gave a message to call men to join him on the mission field in Africa. In the audience were only a few women along with a boy. The pastor knew that few women were expected to volunteer to face harsh African jungle conditions. However, he gave the message; and no one responded. What he didn't realize was that he had touched the heart of a little boy whose name was David Livingstone. This boy would grow up to spend the rest of his life ministering to Africa's unreached tribes.
Many of you know that we've been in Israel a little over ten years now. I am still trying to adjust to the spiritual atmosphere, culture and language. Those few things, in and of themselves, are enough to become overwhelmed. But if that's not enough, we are pioneering a new ministry here, trusting totally in God for His provision, trying to raise two young children in a way that is pleasing to Him and all the while, going through our own personal trials.
Here in Israel, I have to carry my passport everywhere. It's always in my pocket where ever I go. It's my source of American identity here in the Land, should anyone ever question it.
Moses was used mightily by the Lord, yet we all know he had his inadequacies and limitations too. Still he was the vessel through which God chose to work through as He carried out the plagues over Egypt, divided the Red Sea and miraculously led and fed the children of Israel for forty years. That's pretty big stuff. Can you imagine having to be Moses' successor after all that? That's exactly what Joshua had to do. I can't even begin to imagine what Joshua was thinking at the time — How can I possibly live up to Moses? But the Lord comforts and reassures Joshua and says, "as I was with Moses, so I will be with you!"
Have you ever felt uneasy, unsettled or unstable? Or maybe a better question is — who hasn’t? How do we overcome these feelings?
Do you ever wonder why it is that sometimes we don't get the things we pray for? James hits it on the nail when he says that we ask amiss, that we may consume it upon our pleasures.
There is an old Persian fable of a hen, a mouse, and a rabbit who lived together in a little house in the woods. They shared all the work and lived in harmony. The chicken found the firewood, the mouse brought the water from a nearby brook, and the rabbit cooked the meals. Each did his work faithfully and contentedly.
Long ago, the shepherds of Israel learned to find grass where most people wouldn't think to look. Here, green pastures are created as the breeze from the Mediterranean Sea brings moisture into our arid climate. It is from this moisture that a kind of dew settles upon the sides of certain hills creating little tufts of grass — just enough for one day's feeding for a flock of sheep.
F.B. Meyer once said, “The education of our faith is incomplete [till] we learn that God’s providence works through loss…that there’s a ministry to us through the failure and fading of things. The dwindling brook where Elijah sat is a picture of our lives.
A father asked his son to carry a letter from their camp to the village. He pointed out a trail over which the lad had never gone before. “All right Dad, but I don’t see how that path will ever reach the town,” said the boy. “Well son, I'll tell you how. Do you see that big tree down the path?” asked the father. “Oh, yes, I see that far.” “Well, when you get there by the tree, you’ll see the trail a little farther ahead — and farther down you'll see another big tree — and when you reach that one you'll be closer and so on until you get within sight of the houses of the village.”
Here's another interesting Hebrew word parallel. The Hebrew word for "love" or "affection", "chiba", is formed by the same root letters as the word, "chova", "obligation", "debt", or "duty". In Hebrew, the only difference between these two words is a few vowel points. But you say, "Isn't love the very opposite of obligation !?" Well, yes and no. The Hebrew language has a wonderful way of relating concepts which seem incompatible.
We tend to focus on the part of that scripture where God does the blessing — but why did He bless Him? The answer lies in the passage! The Lord told Abraham: "I will bless you — and you shall be a blessing." Abraham was blessed so that he could be a blessing!
When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt I'm sure several million people were wondering, "How am I going to be fed? How am I going to survive in this wilderness?" Imagine the logistical nightmare. An incalculable quantity of food and water were needed to survive in the desert. Where would it come from? Yet, in this seemingly impossible situation, God provided!