Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Elijah's meeting with God



What was the question that God asked Elijah?

In 1 Kings 19.9 God asks Elijah an odd question:
Elijah went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the Word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’

There are 5 options for us to choose to understand the real question…depending on where we think the emphasis was in the question:
1. What are you doing here, Elijah?
2. What are you doing here, Elijah?
3. What are you doing here, Elijah?
4. What are you doing here, Elijah?
5. What are you doing here, Elijah?

There are several clues in the following 9 verses that provide the answer to our question:

Clue 1.  Why did God asks the same question again in verse 13?:
Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’

Answer:  Because Elijah had given the wrong answer to the first question

Clue 2. Why did Elijah answer both questions with the same answer in verse 10 and verse 14:
‘I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.’

Answer: Because Elijah was consumed by fear and insecurity following Jezebel’s threat in 1Kings 19.1-2:
Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, "So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time."
Elijah had lost his trust in God

Clue 3. How did God respond to Elijah’s answer in verse 10?:
Then He said, ‘Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD.’ And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.

Answer: God showed Elijah Who He was; the Creator of the universe….and so much greater than any threat by a puny human being like Jezebel

Clue 4. How did God respond to Elijah’s identical answer in verse 14?:
Then the LORD said to him: ‘Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, anoint Hazael as king over Syria.Also you shall anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king over Israel. And Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place. It shall be that whoever escapes the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill; and whoever escapes the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill.Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.’

Answer:  God retired Elijah early because of Elijah’s probable nervous breakdown, and He gave Elijah his final tasks….pointing out to him, gently, that his complaint that I alone am left was very mistaken since God had reserved seven thousand in Israel

Clue 5. Why did God respond differently in Clue 3 and Clue 4?:
Answer:  Because God, in His mercy and compassion, was more concerned with Elijah’s healing, restoration, and peace…..in his relationship with God Himself….than He was in using Elijah as His standard bearer in continuing conflicts with pagan opposition.

So, What was the real question from the 5 options listed?:

Probably, the answer is Option 4: What are you doing here, Elijah?

And there is an unspoken addition: Because you should be confronting Jezebel’s threat with the power of God…as Daniel was to do in response to Nebuchadnezzar’s threat in Daniel 6.16:

King Nebuchadnezzar gave the command, and they brought Daniel and cast him into the den of lions. But the king spoke, saying to Daniel, "Your God, whom you serve continually, He will deliver you."

What lessons can we learn from Elijah’s discussion with God in 1Kings19?:
1.      When God asks us a question twice don’t give the same answers, because the first answer was clearly wrong!
2.      Trust in God however great the pressure seems to be.
3.      Enjoy the fact that, if Elijah can fail and be restored and healed by God, we should accept our weakness and trust in His strength:
Habakkuk 3:19  The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet,  and He will  make me walk on my high hills.
2Corinthians 12:9  The LORD said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." 


Friday, 3 May 2013

Counting the Omer - What does this mean?


As we approach the Feast of Shavuot, Weeks, Pentecost, we should have been Counting the Omer according to Leviticus 23.15-17, and subsequent Jewish tradition:

You shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the omer of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD. You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two–tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the LORD.

When we count fifty days (7 weeks) to the day after the seventh Sabbath, we arrive at the Feast of Shavuot.

But why do we need to count each day for fifty days?....and What is the significance and the difference between the omer of the wave offering a few days after Passover, and the new grain offering...of two wave loaves ...baked with leaven?

There are several given reasons in Jewish tradition that answer the question why we need to Count the Omer, and all the reasons give variations on the theme of spiritual preparation and anticipation for The Giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.

For example, Jewish mysticism considers Counting the Omer to be a time of potential for inner growth; for a person to work on one's good characteristics, middot, through reflection and development of one aspect each day for the 49 days of the counting.

Other traditions view the period of Counting the Omer as a time of semi-mourning in memory of a plague that killed 24000 students of Rabbi Akiva at the end of the Bar Kochba revolt in 136CE.

However, the real significance and meaning of Counting the Omer is explained and understood in the context of Messiah. In all the Biblical Feasts, there is an historical connection and remembrance of a major event in the experience of the Children of Israel, AND a connection, fulfillment, or remembrance of God's plan in Messiah.

The historical connections in the experience of the Children of Israel are straightforward:
Each weekly Sabbath recalls the seventh Day of Creation when God rested from His work.
Passover recalls the Exodus from Egypt
Unleavened Bread recalls Deuteronomy 16.3: the bread of affliction (for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste)..
Shavuot recalls the Giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai
Rosh HaShanah is the Jewish New Year and recalls the anniversary of the Creation of Adam and Eve
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the Day, according to Jewish tradition, when God inscribes each person's fate for the coming year into the Book of Life. During the 10 Days of Awe between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, every Jew tries to amend their behaviour and seek forgiveness for wrongs done against God, and against other human beings. 
Succot recalls the 40 years of Wilderness wanderings during which the Children of Israel built temporary shelters, booths, succot, and depended on the protection of God.

But...the connections with Messiah are usually missed in Jewish tradition because of the, thus far, refusal of Rabbinic Judaism to accept that Jesus is the Messiah.
Passover recalls Messiah's Crucifixion and Resurrection which gave ALL humanity the opportunity of restoration in God.
Unleavened Bread recalls Messiah's perfect, sinless Life, lived as Man without the leaven of sin.
Shavuot recalls Messiah's Gift of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2.
Rosh HaShanah looks forward to the First Resurrection at Messiah's Second Coming
Yom Kippur recalls Messiah's Crucifixion in which, in accordance with Leviticus 17.11, He gave His life in His blood...to make atonement for your souls, so that, as in Colosssians1:14, in Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
Succot looks forward to the Second Coming of Messiah when He inaugurates the Messianic Age in which, in accordance with Daniel 7:18,27: The saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever. Then the kingdom ...shall be given to the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him.

So, having made the dual connections of the Biblical Feasts to the experiences of the Children of Israel AND to the actions of Messiah.....What is the connection between the Counting of the Omer and Messiah?

The key to the answer is in the two offerings of grain. The first grain offering was made three days after the Passover when Messiah was Crucified, as in Leviticus 23.10-16:
When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring an omer  of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest. He shall wave the omer before the LORD, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it (3 days after the Passover when Messiah was crucified).......You shall eat neither bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your God....

Then, fifty days later, you shall offer a (second) new grain offering:
You shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the (first) omer of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a (second) new grain offering to the LORD.

BUT...the (second) new grain offering is different... You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves ... baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the LORD.

This time, at Shavuot, the grain offering is not an omer, defined as an amount of grain large enough to require bundling,  it is two loaves ... baked with leaven. So, the first grain offering was the raw material of harvested grain, and the second grain offering at Shavuot was the finished product of two baked loaves.

In addition, there is an important note in Leviticus 23.14 that connects with the time between Messiah's Crucifixion and His Resurrection: You shall eat neither bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your God. 

We have already established that, after the Passover in the year that He was crucified, the first grain offering was offered 3 days after Passover.  Why, therefore, does God instruct that you shall eat neither bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain until the day (three days later) that you have brought the grain offering?  
Because the three day period recalls the three days before Messiah was resurrected, as in Mark 8.31, when He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again...and, as explained in  1Corinthians 15.20-22, He became the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.


So, the first grain offering recalls Messiah's Resurrection as the firstfruits of ...the resurrection of the dead.  What, then, does the second grain offering fifty days later either recall or look forward to?

Surely the answer must be that the work of Messiah for Man is not complete until he pours out the Spirit on Shavuot, because God inaugurates His Kingdom through the Messiah who imparts the Spirit, as explained in John 14.16-17, He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever; the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.  

This promise was fulfilled fifty days after His Resurrection in Acts 2.1-4, When the Day of Pentecost, Shavuot, had fully come ... suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.. 

Now that we have given a possible answer to why there were two grain offerings fifty days apart...
What might be the significance of the instruction in Leviticus 23.15-16 to Count the Omer?
What happened in the fifty days between Messiah's Resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2?
What should we recall, celebrate, and concentrate on, for the fifty days of Counting the Omer? 

Acts 1.2-3 gives us the answer: After He through the Holy Spirit had given Commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to The Kingdom of God.
Therefore, during the fifty days of Counting the Omer, we are to recall, study, and enjoy His teaching in the Gospels of the things pertaining to The Kingdom of God.  

Jesus illustrated most of His teaching by using Parables. there are some 37 Parables recorded in the Gospels, of which 80% are about The Kingdom of God. 
Perhaps we should study a Parable per day?  This will leave us some 10 days in which to to contemplate and anticipate the Second Coming of Messiah when the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever. Then the kingdom ...shall be given to the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him.   Quite a prospect!!   Enjoy Counting the Omer...

Until next week...