Harp and Story

Feast or Famine — Which Is It?

I love spring time in California! The hills are a vibrant green with an abundance of wild flowers poking their heads up through the grass. Poppies are a favorite; they look like brilliant declarations of sunshine in the grass. I also like Tidy Tips and Baby Blue eyes and Lupines, Shooting Stars, Indian Paintbrush and Chinese Houses; I suppose the list could go on forever! What flower don’t I like?! I love the blue skies and the warm days, the Oak trees bursting forth their new, fresh, spring-green leaves. In all that I love about spring I never stopped to think about how this time of the year relates to scripture, outside of Passover being the first of the spring festivals, (which is soon upon us!), followed by a week of Unleavened Bread during which First Fruits is celebrated which begins the counting of the Omer. (Now tell me again, just what is the significance of counting the Omer?)

From the celebration of First Fruits to Pentecost or Shavuot is the time of the counting of the Omer — 50 days we are commanded to keep count, but for what purpose? I have read a lot of ideas about the significance of the Omer, and they are all good ideas, but none of them really answer the question of why. We do it because scripture commands us to, but why? We know the “why” behind Passover and Unleavened Bread and Shavuot and Trumpets, Atonement and Feast of Tabernacles, so it seems to follow that there should be a “why” for the counting of the Omer as well.

We have just returned from spending three months “down under”. While in New Zealand we met some new friends that through this encounter I believe I may have discovered a “why” for the Omer. During one of our conversations the man said to me, everyone loves spring, winter is releasing its grip on the land, the days are getting longer, warmth is creeping back into our bones, but because we no longer are an agricultural society we don’t realize that spring is actually a time of want and potential starvation. Wow! That was a new thought!

Fall is the time of plenty; the harvest is brought in and either canned, dried or preserved in some manner to be eaten during the long winter months. By the time the days lengthen and the sun warms up the soil enough to plant most of the winter food stores have been eaten.

In an agricultural society as soon as the soil can be worked people are out preparing it for planting. They put the seeds in the ground and pray for enough rain to germinate the seeds and then they wait. Each day during that anxious time they check their planting. Have the seeds sprouted? Have the deer or rabbits or gophers gotten into the fields? Are the plants flowering yet? Will the weather remain stable? Is the fruit coming on?

Passover is a time to remember our story of deliverance from bondage. The first fruit offering is a sacrifice of trust. And what exactly is our First Fruit offering; along with barley, the people were to offer a male lamb one year old without defect for a burnt offering to the LORD. Its grain offering shall then be two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering by fire to the LORD for a soothing aroma, with its drink offering, a fourth of a hin of wine. Until this same day, until you have brought in the offering of your God, you shall eat neither bread nor roasted grain nor new growth.” (Leviticus 23:12-14) It is the end of winter, your food supplies are pretty low, it will be a bit of time before the garden is producing and God wants you to bring Him, besides barley, a lamb, your reserve of fine flour (wheat) mixed with oil and wine and on top of that you are not to eat bread, roasted grain or new growth until you have made your offering!

Planted in the fall, barley matures 60 days after spring growth begins, providing there are no frosts. (-1 degree C will cause a loss of up to half the crop and -5 degree C will destroy the entire crop.) With a good growing season barley will begin to mature in time for Passover with harvesting continuing through the counting of the Omer. As the barley harvest is ending the wheat harvest is beginning. At Shavuot, or Pentecost, bread made from the freshly harvested wheat, which is known as the finest of the grains, is brought before YHVH as a wave offering. This is the second of the wave offerings presented to YHVH; one still being the grain in the sheaf, not yet ready for use — that being Barley, and the second being a product of threshing, winnowing, grinding, fire, in other words refined; Bread made from Wheat. This makes me think of us as Believers in Yashua YHVH; when we first come to know our Messiah we are like barley; the most basic, the coarsest of grains. We are not yet ready for use. But as we keep our eyes on Yashua and allow the Ruach haKodesh/Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth, we are cleansed and refined, nourished and strengthened; transformed into the finest of grains, an acceptable offering before YHVH!

YHVH has promised in His word to never leave us or forsake us and in the cycle of seasons He demonstrates His loving care for us year after year. In this modern era of grocery stores and supermarkets we, most likely have lost sight of the agricultural significance of YHVH’s cycles. The fall of the year represents plenty; the harvest provides for the dark days of winter. The barley, planted in the fall, is waiting for six hours of intense sun to begin growing again. March and April are generally the beginning of harvest time for the barley crop which extends until the time of the beginning of the wheat harvest in May/June. This is the time period of the counting of the Omer. Our Israelite forbearers were eating sustenance food during these fifty days all the while thanking their Heavenly Father that they had food to eat after the long winter, however coarse it might be, while they eagerly anticipated the wheat harvest and the abundance of summer produce.

As our own spiritual journey relates to these feasts we too await the intense rays of the SON to shine on us and bring us into maturity so we may be waved before our Heavenly Father. We joyfully suffer the trials and tribulations that cleanse and refine us, making us acceptable before the Throne of YHVH to sit at His banqueting table and sup with Him!
This is such an example of our sojourn on this earth; barley is our earth walk of cleansing and refining while heaven is the finest of grains. We live on the barley, the coarsest of grains, but we long for the wheat. Barley keeps us alive, but wheat is the bread that is waved before the King of Kings. And to help us, even more intently long for His Kingdom and His Righteousness He follows the wheat harvest with harvests of figs, dates, pomegranates, grapes and olives. This is the food that was set before kings and magistrates!

There are patterns in scripture, one of them being the order of the days, “and the evening and the morning were the first day.” YHVH started the day at the evening. This is a pattern that repeats itself many times throughout scripture. Why would YHVH begin the day in the evening? Could it be as a lesson in trust for us? Even in the darkness, when things seem most bleak and frightening I am still with you, watching over you, protecting you, delivering you, caring for you. Trust Me to bring you through the darkness into MY marvelous light! David tells us in Psalm 23 that “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me, Your rod and Your staff they comfort me…” Don’t wait until you see the light to celebrate. That’s what the pagans do. Don’t wait until the fruit of your fields is ready to pick and eat before you give thanks; YHVH wants us to rejoice now, with whatever we have, trusting Him to bring us into the full LIGHT of His glory. Celebrate in the dark while you wait for the light; celebrate while you are waiting for the first fruits of your field, celebrate that YHVH is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow and He never changes. What He did for Abraham, Moses, David and others He can and will do for you!

Come on and let’s celebrate!

P.S. Another reason for barley being the grain the Israelites ate while they counted the days of the Omer is its health benefits. After spending a winter of eating preserved foods a general internal cleaning would be in order; barley provides for just this overhaul. It helps to lower cholesterol and provides for intestinal protection, helps to balance blood sugars, helps prevent gallstones, aids in the development and repair of body tissue, eases arthritis symptoms, protects against heart disease and cancers. YHVH knows what His people needed to maintain health so He gave them/us a 50 day cleansing regimen!

On the Journey to Pentecost

The Road to There

Forgiveness from the heart that is surrendered to Y’Shua haMashiach is not a stroll through the park; there are many circumstances and situations that work very hard to keep the door to our heart closed.  (Refer to Revelation 3:20) One of these, I believe, is bullying. Were you ever bullied as a child?  Have you experienced bullying as an adult?  Are you a bully?  I believe bullying is one major factor that works to keep the door of our heart closed.  A key to overcoming this wearisome spirit is to pray for revelation as to whether or not you are a bully, a victim of bullying or both. Pray that YHVH will break down your “denial defense” that works so hard to keep you from overcoming so you can know the truth – which will set you free.

When someone domineers, menaces, browbeats, threatens, is quarrelsome, overbearing or arrogant they are most likely a bully.  If this person happens to be a parent, that parent’s child either learns to protect itself from the bullying or they follow their parent’s footsteps and become a bully.  Protecting one’s self from bullying often means isolating; you learn to be a turtle, going into your shell whenever you feel threatened or coerced.  This often makes the bully more dominate or overbearing.  Many children, to get away from a bully will run and hide, or get lost in a book, or be moody, or become silent as in non-communicative, or begin acting out less than desirable behaviors.  They have a hard time developing lasting friendships and spend much of their life cowering, adrift in a raft on the open sea, a sad and lonely life.  Even if one marries and has children most likely there is no real communication for these skills were not developed during childhood.  The angry, frustrated tears of childhood become the agonized, despondent tears of adulthood; confrontation is answered by teary-eyed emotion, or isolating, or silence, or moodiness, or even with threats and/or aggression.  The role model of childhood becomes the point of reference for adult relationships whether in these relationships there is a bully or not.  The bullied child/adult perceives everyone is a bully to some degree or other and can really trust no one.  The door to their heart is shut tight.  It’s everyone else’s fault, if only they would love me more, or not take me for granted, or cherish me, or pay attention to me or honor me, or just love me for who I am.  But there’s a problem; people respond to the image you project of yourself – if you project the image of being bullied, you will be bullied.  It’s like you have a target painted on your chest that says in bright red, flashing letters, “Bully Me”, or reject me, or abandon or despise or ridicule or treat me like a prostitute; what is sown in us will grow and be reaped.

So how does one get out of this vicious cycle? 

In Daniel 3 we find the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image.  Continuing the story from vs. 4-6; “Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, that at what time you hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, bagpipe, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, you fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up: and whoso falls not down and worships shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.”  This, I believe is one of scripture’s finest examples of bullying in the extreme.  The story continues with Nebuchadnezzar being told that certain Jews are not complying with the King’s command: Dan 3:12-15; “There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar spoke and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not you serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? Now if you be ready that at what time you hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, bagpipe, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, you fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if you worship not, you shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?”

Dan 3:16-18; “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”

Like the three men of this story in the book of Daniel those who are bullied need to learn not to cower in the threat of adversity, but to be a witness of YHVH’s love and power. A person that is either a bully or is bullied cannot effectively live in the admonition of this scripture though without the indwelling presence of the Ruach haKodesh/Holy Spirit.  When you invite the Ruach to come and direct your life you will be changed and you will continue to change – becoming more and more a reflection of Y’Shua as day by day under the Ruach’s care you surrender more and more of your life and control to the Ruach’s influence, which makes Philippians 2:3-4 more and more possible; “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than yourself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”  With YHVH All things are possible!

The woman is the “keeper of the light” in her home. It is her task to make sure that no defilement comes into the home.  Her children are a treasure given to her by YHVH to raise in holy awe of YHVH.  For a woman that has grown up suffering the effects of bullying this is almost an impossible task; just as it is an almost impossible task for a man that has grown up in a bullying household to fulfill his role as priest of his home.  The cycle of bullying and being bullied can only be broken as we realize that YHVH brought the woman forth from the man to be his equal – neither above him nor beneath him, but to stand at his side as his equal.  This is related very well in the 31st chapter of Proverbs which we will discuss in the next post.

 

Beginning the 2nd Week of The Feast of Weeks

My Garden

During the week of Unleavened Bread I took a closer look at Genesis 2:15, especially to the word “garden” as it relates to Isaiah 58:11, Jeremiah 31:12, and Song of Songs 4:12-16. where we are compared to a “well-watered garden”.

YHVH Elohim took the man, Adam, and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate and keep it.  A closer look at the word “cultivate” means, of service, to serve, to become a worshipper.  The Hebrew letters of the word cultivate stand for – “watching the door of the house”.  It is what a servant does; makes sure only good comes through the door into the house.  A look at the words “keep it” means to guard, to listen, to hedge about; it is a close watching of something for guarding or protecting; “guard the door” – keep the bad out.  As the first man, Adam, was commissioned with the task of watching, guarding, protecting the Garden of Eden, so we too are tasked with watching, guarding, protecting the purity and sanctity of our garden – the place where Y’Shua wants to dwell.  Song of Songs 4:12-16 says: “A garden locked is my sister, my bride, a rock garden locked, a spring sealed up.  Your shoots are an orchard of pomegranates with choice fruits, henna with nard plants, nard and saffron, calmus and cinnamon, with all the trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes, along with all the finest spices.  You are a garden spring, a well of fresh water, and streams from Lebanon.  Awake, O north wind, and come, wind of the south; make my garden breathe out fragrance, let its spices be wafted abroad.  May my beloved come into his garden and eat its choice fruits!”  We are a garden locked up, our spring sealed, until Y’Shua, and Him alone, come and we give Him entrance. Refer to Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock…” He is knocking on the door of the garden of our heart.

Y’Shua is attracted to our garden of the heart by the pleasant fragrances that emanate from our heart; by the care we take to protect and nourish and nurture what is planted there.  Isaiah 58:11 says: “And YHVH will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.”  How can we be that well-watered garden, that spring of water that does not fail?  Let me propose that the Ruach haKodesh is the husbandman or keeper of my garden and His purpose is to make my garden a pleasant, attractive, inviting place for Y’Shua to come and abide.  He is the one that spiritually fulfills in us Ezekiel 47:8-12; and everywhere the water goes, everything will live!

There is a parable Y’Shua told of the sower; “Behold, a sower went forth to sow; and when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: and when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: but other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.  Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” 

During the days of Unleavened Bread if you are like me, you most likely discovered that you were on your way “around the mountain” again; issues that had been swept clean the year before were back, needing to be swept clean again.  Maybe patches of “scorched earth” where uncovered where good seed had been sown but there was no quality of earth and when the testings and trials came the good seed withered away.  Maybe while we slept an enemy came and sowed tares in our good ground. Maybe we discovered that the garden of our heart was no longer beautiful and inviting and pleasant. 

Could it be that the Ruach haKodesh is seeking our permission to cultivate the “scorched” earth of our heart garden?  Could it be with His ministrations the stony places, the patches of thorns, the hard-packed earth would become good ground bringing forth one hundred, sixty, thirty fold?  Jeremiah 31:12-14 says:  Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of YHVH, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd: and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all. Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, both young men and old together: for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow. And I will satiate the soul of the priests with fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, says YHVH.” 

When Y’Shua is abiding in the garden of our heart we can live in the reality of Jeremiah 31; our mourning will turn into joy, we will be satisfied with YHVH’s goodness, and what’s more the promise of Isaiah 58:12 is for us as well: “And those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; you will raise up the age-old foundations; and you will be called repairer of the breach, the restorer of the streets in which to dwell.”

My synopsis:  Unleavened Bread reveals sin, i.e. the scorched earth of the garden of our heart.  The Feast of Weeks or the Counting of the Omer which ties Unleavened Bread to Shavuot is a time of cultivation – the Ruach haKodesh cultivates our scorched earth turning it into good ground which leads us to the culmination of the Feast of Weeks, Shavuot, the outpouring of the Ruach haKodesh for the ingathering of the hundred, sixty, thirty fold harvest. 

It’s time to be about our Father’s business!

 

Another Look at the Omer

Another Look at the Omer

Passover and the week of Unleavened Bread have passed and we are now in the 4th of the 50 days of the counting of the Omer which culminates in the Feast of Shavuot or what is more commonly known as Pentecost.  What is the purpose behind YHVH’s command to count the Omer?   Do these 50 days of the counting of the Omer tie Unleavened Bread to Shavuot?   And if they do what is the significance of this time frame?  I’ve heard a lot of theories, teachings and traditions, but frankly, they have all left me dissatisfied.  Surely there has got to be a better reason for this appointed time than what I have heard thus far.

I believe trials and tribulations come to our lives for a purpose.  When we got back home from being out of country for almost three months, we discovered that our home had been broken into and we had been robbed.  A whole flood of feelings wash over you in a time like that; not the least among them anger, you feel like you have been personally violated.  Our discovery happened a week before Passover.  I got a sudden and unexpected look at the “leaven” in my life; even more discouraging was the realization that even though I had dealt in the past with those “leaven” issues there they were again, needing to be cleaned out one more time.  As I spent the next few days fussing and fuming about my losses, the voice of YHVH whispered in my ear, “How many times do you want to go around this mountain?”  (Refer to Deuteronomy 2:3)  As I thought about that question I realized that every year we go through our cupboards and take out everything that has leaven in it.  When the week of Unleavened Bread ends we are quick to bring those all back into the house; like long-lost friends we rejoice over their return!  I think we do this in our personal self as well.  We clean up our personal self and then as time goes on we fall back into old patterns and ways of doing and thinking and saying things until one day we wake up and realize that – oh my goodness – where’d all that “leaven” come from? It’s time to clean out the leaven…and around the mountain we go again!

I am wondering if YHVH has given us the 50 days of the counting of the Omer between First Fruits and Shavuot as an opportunity for us to move away from the mountain we have been circling – for who knows how long – and turn northward?  Northward for the Israelites was in the direction of the Promised Land, the land where YHVH would feed them on the finest of food, where He would place His Name and abide with them forever.  I want that. I want to stop circling this mountain and turn northward.  How about you?  For the remaining days of the counting of the Omer I am taking a journey, come and join me and let’s taste and see…is YHVH really good? (Refer to Psalm 34:8)