Fellow blogger Carole Sparks wrote “Sabbathing: Is that a word?” on her blog Not About Me. She brought up a lot of good points in that post as well as her follow up post. You can read it here.
As I read her post, it made me think of my time in Israel and celebrating a Shabbat meal with a host family. They were so kind and allowed 17 of us to share a meal with them while they taught us about their custom that night.
I am working on a Bible study on the Book of Hebrews. Hebrews is probably a book of the Bible some would avoid like Numbers or Leviticus. It has a lot to do with the Moses, the Law, and the Levitical priesthood. However, the author of Hebrews wrote his letter to people who were leaving their faith in Yeshua to return to Judaism.
He wants to show them how superior Yeshua is to everything from angels to Moses, to the Law and even the Sabbath. In Hebrews 4:1-11, the author reflects back on Old Testament verses found in Psalm 95:7-11. God is speaking of the generation from the time of Moses, their rebelliousness, and eventual death in the wilderness. They were unable to enter God’s rest which was Canaan because of their disobedience.
The Hebrew passage takes a course change from the Canaan rest to the Sabbath rest. At this point, without going into everything I cover in my study, I will give an excerpt from my Hebrews study:
In Exodus 31:13, God wants us to keep (or to remember) the Sabbath so we may know that he sanctifies us. He also says in verse 14,
“You shall keep the Sabbath because it is holy for you.”
Sanctify means to set us apart or to make holy. Why is this important?
God wants us to be His light. He wants us to be different. How can we be His lights if we are as tired and overworked as the rest of our culture? If each day is like all the rest, how do we show the world that we are set apart? How do we display that our Sabbath is holy to us as God said it is?
When I was in Israel, the group I went with was fortunate enough to be part of a Shabbat (Hebrew Sabbath) meal. Shabbat is 25 hours long and includes turning off all electronics (yes, all of them), spending time at the synagogue (at the time of Yeshua, they recited Psalm 95:7-11 every week on Shabbat), and spending time in the Torah with God and family. Friends and family members eat a meal which consists of many courses. Dinner begins with a blessing over the breaking of bread which represents peace from any conflict that may have occurred during the week. Next, there is blessing recited over a glass of wine or grape juice which represents sanctification of the day of rest. It is like Communion.
Psalm 95:7-11 (ESV)
7 For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
Today, if you hear his voice,
8 do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
9 when your fathers put me to the test
and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
10 For forty years I loathed that generation
and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart,
and they have not known my ways.”
11 Therefore I swore in my wrath,
“They shall not enter my rest.”
At one point during the meal, the head of the household sings Proverbs 31 to his wife to bless and honor her. He and his wife then take the face of each of their children in their hands and speak blessings over them individually. The look on the kid’s faces was priceless! They loved it and looked forward to it.
I felt almost intrusive as I watched their interactions and the intimate way they spoke to each other. There weren’t many dry eyes in the room.
So, let’s look at the Sabbath another way. Every week, an Orthodox Jewish family gives reverence and praise to God, makes peace with God and family, blesses and honors the women and children, all while resting from work and spending time together reading the Word. How different would our families be if we kept the Sabbath like this, instead of just hurrying to church?
This is an example of being set apart, not like the rest of the world, but living out devotion, faith, honor, obedience, and rest.
Psalm 31:10-31 The Woman Who Fears the Lord
10 uAn excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than vjewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She wseeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
14 She is like the ships of the merchant;
she brings her food from afar.
15 She xrises while it is yet night
and yprovides food for her household
and portions for her maidens.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
17 She zdresses herself with strength
and makes her arms strong.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
19 She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
20 She aopens her hand to bthe poor
and reaches out her hands to bthe needy.
21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,
for all her household are clothed in cscarlet.
22 She makes dbed coverings for herself;
her clothing is efine linen and fpurple.
23 Her husband is known in gthe gates
when he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes hlinen garments and sells them;
she delivers sashes to the merchant.
25 iStrength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many jwomen have done kexcellently,
but you surpass them all.”
30 lCharm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates.
Life happens. We have all heard that phrase and have probably said it. I don’t believe in coincidences. Most things happen for a reason, like the people we meet, and others occur because we live in a fallen world where Satan has power, for now.
It is hard to understand why difficult or even horrible things transpire in our lives and why we lose those we love dearly. It takes time, the help of the Holy Spirit, and the love of others to get us through the challenges this life throws at us.
Through it all, we have a Father and Savior who stick by our side. Yeshua came to be Hope in our darkest most difficult times.
I have suffered the loss of loved ones like most of you. My father died 25 years ago. It was difficult, even though at that time, I knew it would happen soon. It took years before I could talk about him without tears.
I suffered a miscarriage of our first child too. We had tried for 3 years to get pregnant. Even though I knew it was a baby, it was easier to think of it as a bunch of cells, at first. Once I allowed reality to set in the pain was unbearable.
I was angry at God. I found it impossible to pray. Grief overwhelmed me.
My God was with me. He allowed me to grieve.
Then He started to heal my pain.
He gave me HOPE. He reminded me that I did get pregnant. I was able to have a child. There would be other children.
A loss does not have to just be the death of someone we love but can take on many forms. It can be the end of a friendship, a dream, or the end of a marriage. Maybe you have lost your job or home.
The pain in our hearts can be excruciating, and you may feel like you will never recover. Still, there is hope!
Our family recently lost our beautiful, sweet, German shepherd. She was 7 years-old. We have had to put a couple of dogs down at the ripe old ages of 12 and 13. I still grieved their loss, but this time it was different. Olivia died when she fell through the ice on our pond and drowned. It was awful! We found her after getting home from a funeral of a family member. She was our family too.
Some may say she was just a dog, but she was my friend. While my children are moving out and going to college, that dog was like the child that never grew up.
The Lord was again with me in my grief.
He understands love.
He understands loss.
He never made light of my grief or my love for this dog. He was simply there. After a couple of weeks, I felt the Holy Spirit say, “If you really believe that everything you have is mine then she was mine too.”
I am not sure why that gave me comfort, but it did.
I do believe that everything I have belongs to God. I know I can trust Him with everything I love, including my husband, children, family, friends, pets, and home. He is in control.
I know I will see my dad, my baby and others I have lost again in Heaven. I have hope Olivia will be there too. If not, I’m glad I had her here.
Identity. What does it mean?
We all have one. We’ve all heard of identity theft, right?
Wikipedia says, “It means to assume another person’s private identifying information…to commit fraud or other crimes.” It also says, “The person whose identity has been assumed may suffer adverse consequences…”
But, what is our identity? Who seeks to steal it?
Some may have their identity in their ethnicity, like being Greek, Italian, or an American. Others in their vocations: I’m a doctor, a teacher, or a mom. You may call yourself a Baptist, Pentecostal, Nazarene, or Charismatic and honestly believe that defines who you are.
Maybe your identity is found in being a Republican, Democrat, Conservative or Liberal.
Our pastor has been doing a series on Sexuality and Gender. Many people find their identity in being Gay, Lesbian or a Transgender, among others. Their identity is wrapped up in their sexuality. A young girl I know recently told me about a friend of hers. She is struggling with gender fluidity. According to Gender.wikia.com, this is a gender identity which refers to a gender which varies over time. They may identify as male, female, or neutral on any given day.
Maybe your identity is called Rejected, Abandoned, Angry, or Fear.
Let’s face it, all of us have had or are having an identity crisis of some sort. If you’ve been through Middle school, you probably struggled with your identity in one way or another. It is normal (For a time) to not know who we are or what our purpose is on this Earth.
However, when we come to believe in Yeshua, we are given the most significant identity ever. We become the child of God. That means we are important, we are loved beyond belief, and we matter! Our life has always been important to the Creator even before we knew Him.
In the book of Hebrews, Yeshua is called our Great High Priest because He is a mediator between God and us. He is able to sympathize with our weaknesses because He walked in our shoes and was tempted in every way we are. He became like us to identify with us.
Yeshua gave up His identity so that we can have our identity in Him. In 1 Peter 2:9, Peter calls us a royal priesthood. Why? Because it is our calling to be like Yeshua.
In his book, Cup of Salvation, Rabbi Pesach Wolicki writes about Psalm 114:2: ‘”When God told the people of Israel that they will be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation He was telling them as follows: ‘You have a job to do. You will be the priests of the world. Your mission is to draw everyone on the earth closer to me. In order to continue to carry out that mission, you will need to be holy – to have a distinct and different identity from the rest of the world.'” (bold highlight is mine).
Our identity is NOT of the world. It is of God. We are set apart…that is what it means to be holy. Satan does not want us to have a heavenly identity, but a worldly one. He wants carbon-copies. He wants to steal your God-given individualism and uniqueness.
John 10:10 (ESV) “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
Satan is our identity thief. Remember the definition at the top of this page from Wikipedia? “The person whose identity has been assumed may suffer adverse consequences…”
That is precisely what happens when we let Satan steal or destroy our identity. We suffer! Satan wants to deceive us into thinking that we have no other identity except what we believe about ourselves, which is always changing with our circumstances. This is fluidity.
If a season of our life is fruitful, then we think well of ourselves, but when that changes in some way, our feelings about ourselves change too.
We are so much more than our sexuality. We are much more than the rejection we’ve experienced. We are more than a Baptist or Pentecostal. We are more than what we do for a living.
Satan wants us to believe the worst possible thoughts about ourselves.
However, we can not depend on how we feel. Our feelings lie to us. There is only one truth, that is found in Yeshua and in His Word.
Yeshua is truth. He will tell you the truth about yourself without condemnation. He corrects us in love. He wants to give you identity and purpose. He is our base-line. He is the beginning of our true identity. Our circumstances, whether we fail, succeed, lose, or win, whether we are rich, poor, happy, sad, sick, or healthy, do not change who we are in Yeshua.
You are forever His child. He will forever love you. Come to Him with the struggles of your life. He already knows them and is waiting to help you.
Yeshua came to give us identity and life.