The King is in the Field

Elul-BannerElul 1, 5777

The King is in the Field

 

Elul is the month of our spiritual workdays. We begin our journey up to the High Holy Days of Tishrei. It’s the month of paradox. The paradox of letting go and holding on; a time of haven after the turmoil of Av; a time of work and a time for the Holy.

 

Elul begins our preparation for our meeting with the King. It is also the month of teshuva (repentance). We reflect on the past year. We repent and humble ourselves to be ready for the day when the books are opened (The Feast of Trumpets). It is the time of meeting with the King in our everyday lives.

 

Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi explains how God is approachable during Elul. His teaching takes the form of a parable. He teaches, “A king normally lives in a palace, separated from and unapproachable by ordinary people – this is how our relationship with God seems as we become bound up in the world with its distractions, frailties and concerns. During Elul, however, the king (God) might be experienced as having left the hiddenness of the palace and having entered into the field (i.e., that place where ordinary people are) and so becoming available to his subjects. In this month of Elul, while people continue with their normal activities they are at the same time aware of the presence of God and are drawn to prayer, reflection and response.”  (Likkutei Torah)

 

Let today begin a time of prayer, reflection and response. Let today begin our preparation.

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What about the Great American Eclipse?

-1The sun will be casting a shadow across America on Monday August 21, 2017. It’s a big deal because it will be an amazing display of a total eclipse. As a believer in Jesus, there are a few other things that make you want to pause and take notice. First, let’s recap what the Rabbis say about an eclipse. The Talmud says in Sukkah 29a, “When the sun is in eclipse, it is a bad omen for the whole world.” It also says, “When the sun is in eclipse it is a bad omen for idolaters; when the moon is in eclipse, it is a bad omen for Israel, since Israel reckons by the moon and idolaters by the sun. If it is in eclipse in the east, it is a bad omen for those who dwell in the east; if in the west, it is a bad omen for those who dwell in the west; if in the midst of heaven, it is bad omen for the whole world. If its face is red as blood, [it is a sign that] the sword is coming to the world; if it is like sack-cloth, the arrows of famine are coming to the world; if it resembles both, the sword and the arrows of famine are coming to the world. If the eclipse is at sunset calamity will tarry in it’s coming; if at dawn, it hastens on its way: but some say the order is to be reversed. And there is no nation which is smitten that its gods are not smitten together with it, as it is said, And against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments. But when Israel fulfill the will of the Omnipresent, they need have no fear of all these [omens] as it is said, Thus saith the Lord,’ Learn not the way of the nations, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven, for the nations are dismayed at them, the idolaters will be dismayed, but Israel will not be dismayed.”

One thing that can be said ­when one looks at any eclipse as a possible sign is this: it isn’t a sign if it can’t be seen. Monday’s eclipse is called the Great American Eclipse because it will be a total eclipse that will affect only the United States. In other words, it will be seen in the United States. If an eclipse is a harbinger for the Gentiles as the Jewish sages indicate, it would seem as though it may be a harbinger for the USA.

The last time an eclipse travelled across the United States was in 1918. However, this eclipse was also seen in Japan and Bermuda. This time its path of totality makes landfall exclusively within the United States, making it the first such eclipse since the country’s independence in 1776 (The path of totality of the eclipse of June 13, 1257, was the last to make landfall exclusively on lands currently part of the USA).

Carl_Schleicher_Eine_Streitfrage_aus_dem_TalmudAccording to another Jewish tradition a solar eclipse is related to the actions of the people. I wonder what that means for the US?

There has been a lot of talk about the “REVELATION 12 sign” that will occur on September 23, 2017. I have more to write about that but if it is a sign (which I am not convinced it is) the Great American Eclipse occurs one month before the “sign.” Another peculiar significance of this eclipse is the fact that it occurs the day before the new moon of Elul. Elul is the month of teshuva (repentance). It is a time of reflection before the Feast of Trumpets and the High Holy Days of the Jewish calendar.

The final oddity of this eclipse will be its totality which means the stars will be visible.  The fact that it’s a total eclipse is not odd but the moon will eclipse the sun in the constellation Leo. In ancient times, Leo was known as the Royal constellation. It was also a constellation tied to Israel because of the symbolism connected with the Lion of Judah. Not only will the eclipse occur in the constellation Leo but it will occur at the King star, Regulus. In ancient times, this was considered a sign for a coming Jewish King. ­­­It’s all rather interesting.

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Elul 2

On this 2nd day of Elul, I’d like to share a couple of things about the Hebraic way of thinking and understanding Scripture. The first thing for us to remember is Hebraic thinking is circular as opposed to Western thinking which is more linear. The explanation sounds more artistic than cultural; however, it affects much of our understanding of the Scriptures.

 jews-and-christians1

To help us see some of the differences, here is a very linear chart that compares the two ways of thinking:

Western Approach Hebraic Approach
Life analyzed in precise categories. Everything blurs into everything else.
A split between natural & supernatural Supernatural affects everything.
Linear logic Contextual or “block” logic
“Rugged Individualism” Importance of being part of group
Equality of persons Value comes from place in hierarchies
Freedom orientation Security orientation
Competition is good Competition is evil (cooperation better)
Man-centered universe God/tribe/family-centered universe
Worth of person based on money/material possessions/power Worth derived from family relationships
Biological life sacred Social life supremely important
Chance + cause & effect limit what can happen God causes everything in his universe
Man rules nature through understanding and applying laws of science God rules everything, so relationship with God determines how things turn out.
Power over others achieved through business, politics and human organizations. Power over others is structured by social patterns ordained by God.
All that exists is the material The universe is filled with powerful spirit beings
Linear time divided into neat segments. Each event is new. Cyclical or spiraling time. Similar events constantly reoccur.
History is recording facts objectively and chronologically. History is an attempt to preserve significant truths in meaningful or memorable ways whether or not details are objective facts.
Oriented to the near future Oriented to lessons of history
Change is good = progress Change is bad = destruction of traditions
Universe evolved by chance Universe created by God
Universe dominated and controlled by science and technology God gave man stewardship over his earthly creation. Accountability to God.
Material goods = measure of personal achievement Material goods = measure of God’s blessing
Blind faith Knowledge-based faith
Time as points on straight line (“at this point in time…” Time determined by content (“In the day that the Lord did…”)

Sources: Irrational Man, by William Barrett; Christianity With Power by Charles Kraft; Hebrew Thought Compared With Greek by Thorleif Boman; Judaism and Christianity – The Differences by Trude Weiss-Rosmarin, Our Father Abraham, by Marvin Wilson, God in Search of Man by Abraham Heschel.

Abraham Heschel was a Rabbi, theologian, and Jewish philosopher.   He wrote, “To try to distill the Bible, which is bursting with life, drama, and tension, to a series of principles would be like trying to reduce a living person to a diagram” – God in Search of Man by Abraham Heschel, p. 20. When we study Scripture, or when we consider the nature of the early church, we must take into account the myriad differences between Hebrew and Greek thought. Intellectually, we are Greeks, not Hebrews. We apply Aristotelian and Socratic thought patterns to practically everything. It is difficult for us to enter into the Hebraic mindset. We tend to try rendering everything into logically consistent patterns, on systematizing it, on organizing it into tight, carefully reasoned theologies. We have difficulty living with inconsistency or contradiction. We tend to define everything and neatly compartmentalize our faith and our life. We cannot live with the Hebraic idea that God is simply ineffable, and that God’s Book doesn’t lend itself to systematization.

The Western mind tends to organize everything into manageable intellectual blocks and structures. We want all questions answered, all problems solved, and all contradictions resolved. But, “To the Jewish mind, the understanding of God is not achieved by referring to a Greek way to timeless qualities of Supreme Being, to ideas of goodness and perfection, but rather by sensing the living acts of His concern, to His dynamic attentiveness to man. We speak not of His goodness in general but of His compassion for the individual man in a particular situation” (Heschel, p. 21).

A good example of the difference in thinking can is seen in the English word “faith.” Our Greek mindset equates belief with faith, but that is not the Jewish way. Belief is only a component of faith in Jewish thinking; however, it is far more than simply belief. Hebrew “faith” is steadiness, steadfastness, persistence, loyalty, firmness and fidelity. If you could just use one English word to describe it, it would be faithfulness. In fact, the opposite of faith in Hebrew thinking is not unbelief but rather disobedience.

The basis of your entire relationship with God is related to his faithfulness, which should draw forth your faithfulness. Anyway, that is another discussion for another day. The only purpose here is to draw your attention to the difference in Hebraic thinking and Greek (Western) thinking.

The reason all of that was important to include is because of our second point. Jewish sages and Rabbis approach Scripture with a different mindset. They look at Scripture as having levels of understanding or interpretation. The levels are as follows:

  1. Peshat (simple) – the plain or primary meaning. It is the “face value of a text.”
  2. Remez (clue) – the allegorical. It links concepts and ideas of the text or texts.
  3. Drash (to explain, to inquire) – the homiletical. It is the personal application of the text.
  4. Sod (secret) – the mystical. It is searching for deeper and more intimate meaning in the text.

hebrew-bible

Now, each of the levels remains within the boundaries of Biblical truth and morality. Each level also complements the other levels while allowing an exploration of the many levels of Scripture. Although there is vast exploration, the parameter of exploration is to recognize and respect the character and nature of God. The name of God must always be honored and glorified.

It is important to understand the above discussion (as brief as it is) because when expounding on a topic like the Last Days or the Rapture many of the arguments against such teachings don’t consider Hebraic thinking or interpretation when they come to their conclusions.

With that in mind, let us consider why Jewish Feasts matter.

Elul 1

elul

At sundown, we begin the Jewish month of Elul. About two years ago, the Lord began to speak to my heart about studying the Jewish Feast Days. Thus began a period of serious research on just the feasts.

The Jewish aspect of studying Scripture and theology has always been so important to me personally, especially during my undergrad seminary days. When I studied in Germany, one of the requirements to complete theological studies was a mandatory class with Hebrew University in Jerusalem. We had to complete three credits in Biblical Archeology; as well as, an extensive daily regiment from Dan to Beersheba and all parts around Israel. I realized then that studying the cultural aspects of Jesus’ life and Judaism was important. It made the words of the Bible come alive for me. Studying in this way allowed me to solidify my faith in a way beyond apologetics or philosophical argument. It helped me to realize in a very tangible way that the Word of God is never static but it is living and active (Hb. 4:12).

There is a lot more about Hebraic thinking that has shaped my faith but that’s not why I write today. I write because we are at Elul 1. During this time of study in the last two years, God has really changed me. One thing I’d like to share is that when I began this study the first thing the Lord told me to look at was the Shemitah. Now we hear about Shemitah quite a bit, but this was before the book and all the stuff we hear about now. So I began researching the Shemitah and I wrote a teaching about it. On a Sunday about two years ago, I began teaching about the Shemitah that was coming and how important it was because it’s ending would probably be major. What’s funny about it is that the Tuesday after that message, Jonathan Cahn’s book about the Mystery of the Shemitah was released. People that heard the teaching on the Sunday before were calling me and talking about TV shows where they were talking about the Shemitah and what the TV was saying was the same as the teaching we had done. For me, that was a major confirmation that God was definitely leading me to study this subject.

That leads me to today. We are at a crossroads. It is the time in a Christian’s life where the rubber meets the road. We are either all in or we are not. The month of Elul generally ushers in a season known as Teshuva. Teshuva in Hebrew simply means, “to return or repent.” The time of repentance is 40 days and begins on Elul 1 and continues through Yom Kippur. Thirty days into Teshuva we have Rosh HaShanah and this begins the final ten day period known as the “Awesome Days,” “The Days of Awe” or “The High Holy Days.” The Shabbat that happens during the Days of Awe is called “Shabbat Shuvah” or the Sabbath of Return. Now if you are a Christian that believes in the Rapture, that’s kind of exciting!

The month of Elul leads up to the Feast of Trumpets; which is significant because each morning during the month of Elul a shofar (trumpet) is sounded. The shofar is sounded to warn the people to repent and return to God. The shofar sound on each morning of Elul is a blast called Tekiah. The Tekiah blast is to awaken. It is one continuous sound that extends for several beats (musically speaking). The Tekiah is the blast that announces God’s intent to establish His righteous boundaries in an area He wants to occupy.   Again, this is rather exciting to a follower of Jesus.

Remember, the whole month of Elul is a daily process of preparation through personal examination and repentance for the coming High Holy Days. If you were Jewish (which you are because you are grafted in), a shofar would sound each morning to awaken you and then you would read or recite Psalm 27: “

The Lord Is My Light and My Salvation

Of David.

27 The Lord is my light and my salvation;
    whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold[a] of my life;
    of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me
    to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
    it is they who stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me,
    my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
    yet[b] I will be confident.

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
    that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
    and to inquire[c] in his temple.

For he will hide me in his shelter
    in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
    he will lift me high upon a rock.

And now my head shall be lifted up
    above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
    sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud;
    be gracious to me and answer me!
You have said, “Seek[d] my face.”
My heart says to you,
    “Your face, Lord, do I seek.”[e]
    Hide not your face from me.
Turn not your servant away in anger,
    O you who have been my help.
Cast me not off; forsake me not,
    O God of my salvation!
10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
    but the Lord will take me in.

11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
    and lead me on a level path
    because of my enemies.
12 Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
    for false witnesses have risen against me,
    and they breathe out violence.

13 I believe[f] that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the Lord!

and each evening you would read or recite the same Psalm 27.

The important message that begins on Elul 1 is an alarm to repent before Yom Teruah (Rosh Ha Shanah, The Feast of Trumpets). Why? That is a subject for another post.

We have to examine our hearts and our lives and remove anything that is not of God. The day of the opening of the books is at hand and we want to be ready. Have a good Elul 1.