Once again, it’s time to hear from our sister in Jerusalem about what she is witnessing there as a believer in Yeshua. Put your prayer shawls on and pray for Israel and Sister J. Now here she is —
1 Timothy 1:1 “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope, 2 To Timothy, a true son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Beloved sisters and brothers, I also pray for you − “Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ, Yeshua h’meshiach our Lord.”
Passover (Pesach) is rapidly approaching, with all of the signs evident in the streets of Jerusalem which I enjoy sharing with you. But as I prepared myself to write, just as the Passover Seder reminds us of Who God IS and what He has done. Seder in Hebrew means order, as in things being in order and a certain order to things. The term is even used medically referring to a pulse rate being “mesudar” (in order) or “lo mesudar” (not in order).
So as I read the first verses in Timothy this morning, I thought again of my place in Him. These letters, which have evolved over 21 years, also caused me to think where we came from, for what purposes, and where we are going. It’s a time for assessment to make sure the goal and the path are “in order.”
The above verse said clearly that Paul was called to be an apostle; Timothy, a true son in the faith. Each one had their “place.”
I remember well my own deliverance and exodus from slavery and bondage. Almost immediately, the One who set me free told me to DELIGHT myself in being a “nobody”, an unknown and to keep to the middle of the path. And it was to me, truly, a DELIGHT to know that this was what He was calling me to be.
When I began these letters, they went to three friends. Because they were long and I was hand writing the same thing to each, describing my new life and what I was seeing and hearing and smelling, I photocopied them. Soon it was spreading to other friends and then several pastors saw them and asked to share them with their congregations. A computer came along, and then email and eventually they were being shared more and more.
Now, many of you who get these, I don’t even know you face to face, or even your names. I have heard that they have been translated into other languages and all sorts of things. They don’t belong to me; they are His. But it is VERY important to me that I remain mesudar before Him.
That’s why I re-affirm at times that I really am no one with any authority but that which we sheep all have in Him. I am not a prophet, a teacher, nor an authority on Israel or Judaism. I am a Jewish believer who lives in Jerusalem longing to follow The Lamb wherever He goes, to know Him Face to face, and to be obedient. No more and no less. He told me to bear witness to what I see, hear, smell, taste, where I walk, because the time is short and many others will not get to walk here. And what He is doing here impacts His body worldwide AND the entire world.
It is not better, nor is it special. It just IS and IS HIS PLAN FOR HIS GLORY. And it IS SO IMPORTANT for the body, worldwide, to respond to Israel and Jerusalem according to HIS Heart, which the world so hates. Both His Heart and this nation and people. Luke 17:10 has a WONDERFUL verse that I almost never hear anyone quote, but Yeshua SAID THIS:
” So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’”
So much for the importance of self -esteem!
Aside from Shabat, Pesach is probably the centerpiece of who a Jew is. The Passover traditions vary from place to place and even family to family, but the book of Exodus records the history that we are to remember, re-live, and never forget. Although the release from slavery through the judgment of Egypt and her gods is the center of the Passover narrative, the ENTIRE BOOK of Exodus is nothing short of breathtaking. I love reading it again and again.
The command that was for the children of Israel, repeated many times throughout scripture, is to remove all leaven from all dwelling places and to eat matzo (which also reminds us of the manna in the wilderness) for 7 days. On the first and last days of this holiday, there is to be a holy convocation and no work is to be done but we are to REMEMBER.
Since the main hands-on task given to the tribes of Israel is the physical removal of all leaven, it is done with great diligence (as I have described time and again). Thankfully, just in the years that I have lived here, I have also seen (and heard on the radio) increasing emphasis placed on removing the leaven from our hearts as well.
What does it look like on the streets of Jerusalem?
So, of course, the first thing that happens here in Jerusalem is the massive cleaning of the food stores (every store for that matter). Every shelf, every cabinet and every surface space is scrubbed. Every item removed from the shelf, checked and washed. (NO SMALL JOB!)
As this takes place, the foods containing ingredients “not-kosher for Passover,” begin to move to a designated (messy) aisle. At the end of this preparation time, a rabbi will come and seal off this area with an official seal (shrink wrapping many shelves). At that point, the act of breaking the seal becomes punishable until the end of Pesach.
New, clean shelves are clearly marked “Kosher for Pesach” and the foods appear: matzo, matzo meal, potato flour instead of wheat flour, Passover cookies and cakes made of coconut or meringue, gefilte fish and all sorts of special foods eaten at Passover. While down at the other end, the hometz − cereals, crackers, breadstuffs and foods you would never imagine are not Kosher − sit alone by themselves.
AND depending on the chief rabbinical ruling for various years, things you would never expect either appear or disappear. One year that stands out in my memory was the one that both most cheeses and dry animal food disappeared and became forbidden for Passover. Why? Who knew? There was definitely some grumbling, and that never did happen again − although I make it a point to check my dog and cat food supply several weeks ahead of time since that happened.
Several years ago to my shock, BAKING SODA became KOSHER FOR PASSOVER. Now, I am NOT “religious” and I know that this is not my salvation, BUT BAKING SODA?? You can’t tell ME that this is not a leavening agent!
I wonder if God laughs or if HE weeps…
Along with the foods, giant sales of cleaning items appear AND new sheets, tablecloths, beds, refrigerators, stoves, and so forth. Who knows WHERE the leaven has been dropped and is trying to hide! (Seriously think about our own hearts.)
But in many homes it is more than a ritual. Yes, there are hearts that want to please God and show Him that they love Him. They care about fulfilling His Word and teaching the generations to come as we were told to do. And so the work is done lovingly and the meals prepared to serve others.
“Where are you going for Seder?” Nena, a young secretary, asked me. “We would love if you come to our home.”
“Thank you, we are going to be with friends. How many will you have at your Seder table?” I asked.
“Oh! We have no idea. We cook for about 100 and we will see. It will be wonderful.”
She comes from a large Sephardic (Eastern Jews from Arab or Spanish countries) family who had been in Algeria generations ago. They are very warm and loving, a humble and kind religious family. She and I speak often about Truth and the scriptures.
As always at Passover, the shuk is filled with the fragrance of fresh garlic. It is not the kind that you generally buy, dried with defined cloves, but huge bulbs still moist and their long onion-like tops that can be beautifully braided together. It makes me think of the complaints of our ancestors in the desert when they longed to return to the leeks and garlic of Egypt. Had they only imagined that one day thousands of years later these very items their flesh longed for would flourish abundantly in the land that they had been promised. Every time I look at the garlic and leeks, it reminds me of the perfect faithfulness of God who is not limited by time or space or problems. It boggles my mind!
Part of my every-day reading just happens to have me in the book of Exodus − along with Ezekiel, Acts and 1 Tim. I was surprised one morning when I read God’s commands to Moses to “stretch forth your hand.” You remember, he had a shepherd’s staff.
“What is that you have in your hand?” God asked him and throughout the judgments placed on Egypt, he was told to “stretch out his hand.”
Exodus 14: 21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided.
The scriptures began piling up in my heart.
Mark 3:1-6 And He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand. So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. And He said to the man who had the withered hand, “Step forward.” Then He said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they kept silent. And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.
When He fed the multitude and asked, “What have you got?” And the few fish and loaves were multiplied to feed great crowd. I thought of this man with the withered hand standing in the Synagogue, probably wishing that no one would stare at him, yet wishing to be healed. The leaders were angry but Yeshua told him, “step forward and stretch out your hand.” He had to obey Yeshua in front of everyone. We KNOW that Moses said, “I CAN’T DO THIS GOD,” but God said, “What is that you have in your hand? Stretch it out.”
And I thought how He ALWAYS calls us OUT of our comfort zones with our “very little” and has us give it or break it or stretch it out − and often in front of people who might become angry.
Suddenly 40 years in the back side of the desert feeding the sheep looks VERY tempting!
These people were real: Moses, Pharaoh, the man with the withered hand, you, me, and the Jews of Jerusalem and the gentiles around the world. But more real IS the kingdom of God and THE KING Who has shown us all the way and given us each a small portion in our hand. Some smaller, some larger, but all just enough because HE is The One Who makes the way. Be it through the Sea of Reeds (Red Sea) with the armies of Egypt hot on our heels or through a debt, illness, grief, struggle, and so forth.
So today I’m choosing again to take the little in my hand and stretch it forth to Him because He says to do it.
May HE multiply food to SOMEONE for strength and may it be for His glory ALONE.
As we move on toward Passover, may we be found faithful to the One who took us from our Egypts and has gone to prepare a place.
Blessings with grace to worship Him today in Spirit and in Truth.
your sis J