En-Gedi: Springs in the desert
THE STONES CRY OUT
Jesus promised us that if human witness concerning the truth about Himself suffers lack or is blocked for some reason, the stones themselves “will cry out” and tell the story of His awesome work of creation, redemption and Kingdom reign (Luke 19:40). This was not a new concept in Hebraic theology as David sang one thousand years beforehand that “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.” Psalm 19. And while all creation all over the universe bears witness to God, His greatness, His wisdom and His kind purpose, the Land of Israel in particular has a unique and special role in providing this witness as her mountains, valleys and plains display the actual places and times of some of God’s most profound activity on behalf of mankind. This column features some of those special places and the stories they tell.
SPRINGS IN THE DESERT
Driving southeast from Jerusalem, the view of green mountain slopes quickly changes to dry and arid rocky terrain (still beautiful with its epic vistas) as you descend into the Jordan Valley. Within minutes of leaving behind downtown Jerusalem, the Judean wilderness swallows up the impressions of the modern world, and at once you are transported to an ancient, mysterious and a much quieter realm.
The Dead Sea, like a huge bowl of azure blue molasses, stretches between the nations of Israel and Jordan; its white shores linking the golden browns of the harsh landscapes to the deep blue waters. The rugged mountains rise in hues of red against the bluest blue of the Sea, and lavender and purple streak the skies as the sun sets over the wilderness, inviting the majestic silence of the desert night. Nothing lives in these waters, neither fish nor plant, ever since the fire of God consumed the region, and the only points of color and life along the long and lonely shores are spa resorts and hotels offering the visitors a truly “out of this world” experience.
There are numerous springs in the vicinity, most of them too salty to support life. The spring of En Gedi, however, one of only two fresh water springs, forms the largest and most treasured oasis along the western shore of the Dead Sea. Supporting human habitation, agriculture and industry for thousands of years, En Gedi appears in the Bible many times starting in the book of Joshua chapter 15 as one of the cities allotted to the tribe of Judah. This wilderness oasis, however, rose to prominence as the place appears in the colorful and epic story of David during his early years of fleeing the madness of King Saul. As I-Samuel 23:29 says, “Then David went up from there and dwelt in strongholds at En Gedi.”
Traveling to the oasis of En Gedi today and hiking alongside the riverbed to the hidden waterfalls and upper springs, no visitor can stay untouched by the rugged beauty of what the bible calls the “stronghold at En Gedi.” Immediately, you understand why David chose this remote and rough mountain valley as his hiding place during those early years, and also appreciate how this place left its own remarkable mark on David’s soul for the rest of his life.
PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE
Reading inspired poetry such as Psalm 23, the reader can easily find the rugged terrain and the steep valley walls shading the pools of cool waters in the burning desert, right in between David’s famous words as he sang, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters… Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me…”
In the Hebrew language, En Gedi means “the spring of the kid goat,” and both biblical and modern references confirm this hidden oasis as a favorite habitation of young ibex. Some even show up upon the steep rocks way above the valley floor as hikers pass by. And once, while chasing David, trying to eliminate this “threat” to his position, King Saul entered a cave in the area. David, hidden in the depth of that same cave, cut off the corner of Saul’s robe in order to prove that he meant no harm to the obsessed King. (1 Sam 24:4).
In His writings, King Solomon compared his beloved bride to “a cluster of henna blossoms from the vineyards of En Gedi” (Song of Songs 1:14), referring no doubt to the beauty and fruitfulness of this desert oasis, famous for its exquisite perfume products. Josephus, the First Century historian, admired En Gedi for its vegetation, and the prophetic word, according to Ezekiel, promises that “It shall be that fishermen will stand by it from En Gedi to En Eglaim; they will be places for spreading their nets. Their fish will be of the same kinds as the fish of the Great Sea, exceedingly many.” (Ezekiel 47:10). This prophecy speaks of the healing of the entire Dead Sea district during the coming season of restoration and renewal that will affect the geology and ecology of the entire region during the Kingdom age.
No doubt, if you visit the En-Gedi oasis today, hike its rocky paths and dip in its cool pools, these scriptures, as well as many other precious words of God, will gain greater meaning and significance, impacting your life as you walk on with the Lord.
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Tabernacling with God at the Feast of Sukkot
All of the biblical feasts are prophetic; rich with symbolism and laden with spiritual nourishment for both Jews and Gentiles. They speak of who God is, our journey with Him and his plans for the future. The Spring feasts speak of the Messiah’s coming: Passover is a foreshadow of Calvary, Firstfruits of the resurrection, and Shavuot (the Feast of Weeks) is a forerunner to the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. The Fall Feasts symbolize the last trumpet that will sound as the Messiah returns, Yom Kippur points to the final judgement, and Sukkot is the final feast where God and man can at last move in together, like a newly-wed couple who have been longing for complete union.
The meaning of the Sukkah / Tabernacle
The sukkah (which means tabernacle or booth, sukkot is the plural) reminds us of the wandering in the desert as God led Israel from slavery to the Promised Land.
You are to live in sukkot for seven days. All the native-born in Israel are to live in sukkot, so that your generations may know that I had Bnei-Yisrael to dwell in sukkot when I brought them out of the land of Egypt. I am Adonai your God. (Leviticus 23:42-43)
God’s point about making these makeshift homes for a week is to help the children of Israel remember this particular part of their journey with him. The desert times were intense and temporary, but a very special time of forging the relationship between God and his people.
Following the covenant they made at Sinai when they agreed to follow him, Israel was then escorted by God to the place he had prepared for them. In fact, God refers to it as a honeymoon period:
I remember the devotion of your youth,
your love as a bride,
and the way you followed Me in the wilderness,
in a land not sown. (Jeremiah 2:2)
Many times throughout scripture, God paints a picture of himself as a husband and his people as his bride, often lamenting Israel’s unfaithfulness, as in the book of Hosea. It is a deliberate metaphor that God often uses to communicate his passionate love, the seriousness of his devotion and commitment, and the way he wants us to see him.
The tent of meeting in the desert similarly provided a prototype of the reality of God’s holy temple in heaven. These things are shadows, types, and are temporary and passing away. But they speak of the tremendous and permanent reality to come. Several times throughout scripture God offers a dwelling place and a covering. A shelter and a canopy. He brings us to his banqueting table and his banner over us is love.
The meaning of the Chuppah / Wedding canopy
The word chuppah means covering or protection, and acts as a symbolic roof, covering the couple who are getting married. It is where the legal business of betrothal takes place, and symbolizes the home of the groom, into which the bride is welcomed. In a Jewish wedding ceremony, the bride and groom stand under the chuppah, as a symbol of the bridegroom’s permanent and real home, and the bride in Song of Songs talks about being invited into her love’s chambers. Like a sukkah, it’s a temporary shelter symbolizing a home, where there is great rejoicing and intimate fellowship.
In Jewish weddings, rejoicing is taken very seriously! So too with the Feast of Sukkot. It is the only feast in which we are actually commanded to rejoice!
“You are to keep the Feast of Sukkot for seven days, after gathering in the produce from your threshing floor and winepress.” So you will rejoice in your feast—you, your son and daughter, slave and maid, Levite and outsider, orphan and widow within your gates. Seven days you will feast to Adonai your God in the place He chooses, because Adonai your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hand, and you will be completely filled with joy. (Deuteronomy 16:14-16)
The link between the joyous feasting in the sukkah at the Festival of Tabernacles and the joy under a wedding chuppah is noted by the rabbis (Tractate Sukkah 25b), which releases wedding parties from the obligation of rejoicing in sukkot during the feast:
“What is the reason? Because they have to rejoice… There is no proper rejoicing but under the wedding canopy… There can be no real rejoicing except where the banquet is held.”
Similarly, the cloud that protected the Israelites by day during their desert years has also been likened to this canopy:
“With the cloud of a chuppah and the shadow of a sukkah, Israel will commune with their God.”1
A wedding equals maximum rejoicing in rabbinic thinking. But the connection between the joyful times in the sukkah and the unbridled joy of the chuppah is a link that makes perfect sense. This is what Sukkot is all pointing towards. This is our joy – the ultimate wedding feast of the Lamb of God and his spotless bride.
A wedding invitation
Yeshua speaks of the ultimate wedding at the end of time in Matthew 22, and John’s Revelation pulling back the curtain on the best and most joyous wedding feast humanity has ever known:
“Behold, the dwelling of God is among men,
and He shall tabernacle among them.
They shall be His people,
and God Himself shall be among them
and be their God.
He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes,
and death shall be no more.
Nor shall there be mourning or crying or pain any longer,
for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)
As human beings, we can’t boast about anything that we intend to do in the future, since we have no idea what will end up happening, but God can say with absolute certainty what will be. All of his feasts are called moedim in the Bible – the word moed meaning appointed time, something that is destined to happen. This is God’s purpose, and this is our destiny – to dwell together in perfect union with him. This is the wonderful meaning of the Feast of Tabernacles: a small preview of the last page in God’s magnificent story of redemption.
- Mordechai Breuer, Isaiah chapters in Tvunot (Ed: Yosef Ofer) p.159
This article originally appeared on One For Israel and is reposted with permission.
ONE FOR ISRAEL strives to be the leading organization in sharing the Gospel of Yeshua the Messiah with Israeli Jews and Arabs in the Hebrew language. Our staff is comprised of both Jewish and Arab Israelis, with the shared belief that true peace in the Middle East can only come into existence under Yeshua.
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Israeli journalist impressed by Messianic Jews
In response to Faydra L. Shapiro’s article, “Jewish Communities in Unexpected Forms,” (JPost, 9/16/18), Ms. Shapiro takes great pains to let us know she is not a sympathizer of what she labels Jewish Christians (the more appropriate term being Messianic Jews) and an individual who has been an observant Jew, committed to a life of Torah and mitzvot, so it’s all the more credible when hearing from her that this non-mainstream group of Jews deserves a second look rather than a rush to judgment.
Her own observations, as a result of recently being invited to a Messianic Jewish conference, has led her to conclude that a Jewish lifestyle, the perpetuity and continuity of Jewish culture, expression and tradition is foremost on the minds of those with whom she had an opportunity to become better acquainted. This especially has impressed her in light of other more disturbing observations concerning the non-Messianic Jewish community over whom she worries are not taking concerted steps to ensure their own Jewish survival.
As a Messianic Jew, on the eve of Succoth, I am a perfect example of someone whose house adorns an adjoining succa and who will host a holiday dinner for family and friends just as I did on the eve of Rosh HaShana and just as I do each year for Shavuoth, Passover, Chanukah and Tu b’Shvat, eating the traditional foods, reciting the traditional prayers and observing the holiday events as prescribed by the Jewish scriptures. As an individual who chose to make Israel her home, keeping kosher is a lifestyle made easy by the products sold in our supermarkets, and speaking Hebrew has become my first language. Marrying under a chuppa, by an orthodox rabbi is what I did, and passing on those values must have worked, because my own son decided to immigrate to Israel as well along with my grandchildren who are now in their fourth year of Hebrew schooling.
I would say that I am typical of the vast majority of today’s Messianic Jews, especially those who live in Israel, but among those who still live in the diaspora, I dare say that most, if not all, are Zionists with great loyalty and love for Israel, have aspirations to, perhaps, one day live in Israel and learn Hebrew and also live as observant Jews as it relates to holidays, diet and lifestyle. Because we choose to go to our own synagogues which recognize Yeshua as the Messiah does not make us any less committed to our culture, our land and our people, and to write us off as “no longer being Jewish,” is a decision which comes either from ignorance of not personally being acquainted with this community or just plain demonization and delegitimizing a large group for reasons of unjustified prejudice or intolerance, something to which, sadly, our Jewish people have fallen victim for centuries. How then can such hateful prejudice be perpetrated upon Jews by Jews – simply because they think differently?
It is time that the Jewish thought police recognize their own proclivity to herd Messianic Jews into a “you’re no longer Jewish ghetto” and mark them with the ever-identifying letters – NLJ (No longer Jewish). We are part of you and the practice of Orthodox rabbinic Judaism is not a pre-requisite to belonging to this tribe. Haven’t 2,000 years of persecution taught us anything? It is the whole reason that the State of Israel was created. It’s high time to welcome all Jews of every stripe to this wonderful, democratic and free country. Chag Sameach!
Chava Stein, the granddaughter of Jewish European immigrants to the U.S., made Aliyah to Israel in 1993. Married to an Israeli, they live in the center of the country.
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The seventh shofar and the rapture (Part 2)
- In Rev. 14 we read what many scholars historically have said is the rapture and the resurrection of the saints. There are two angels, one harvests the earth in what seems like a harvest of the righteous (14:16). Then another angel gathers the grapes into the winepress of the wrath of God. This fits the idea that the wrath of God is a very brief period at the end of the tribulation, and we are not here for that. It fits the time between the Feast of Trumpets and Yom Kippur.Some who say they believe in a pre-wrath rapture find support for this here. Some of them claim to be mid-tribulation, pre-wrath in their view of the timing of the rapture, but this mistakes the tribulation as a seven-year period and coordinates it with the seven trumpets, whereas the Bible tells us it is 3 ½ years or half a seven. So, the bowls of wrath come at the very end and occur as we are returning with him from heaven to deliver Israel. It also includes the picture of the Lord slaying the armies of the nations that have come up to destroy Israel (Rev. 19, Joel 3; Zech. 12, 14).
- The seventh shofar view again fits what happens after the armies of the nations are destroyed. The Feast of Trumpets/New Year in Jewish tradition leads to the Days of Awe, the days of judgment between Rosh Hoshana and Yom Kippur, but on Yom Kippur we have the final day of repentance. So, there will be a great Yom Kippur in Jerusalem, Israel and the nations.It would seem that the return of Yeshua to the earth after the rapture and resurrection leads to the repentance of those who were not raptured. This fits the picture of Zechariah 12:10-14 when all of the tribes of Israel mourn. They look on Him who they have pierced and mourn for him. This does not seem to be a heavenly vision where they see him, but that He will be literally here and will be seen on earth. Some do see this as a pre-rapture turning of Israel, but I think the idea of the last war and Israel’s deliverance comes first, for in a time of war, one would not be able to fit this picture of everyone mourning. No, they would be fighting. Indeed, this is a picture after the war where Israel, in their natural bodies, will be mourning and realizing that He was the one, their Messiah and Savior, all along. So, in these pictures, Yom Kippur fits if it follows the rapture and resurrection.
- At the end of Yom Kippur, a shofar is blown. It could be the last of this Age, and the inauguration of the Age to Come. In Lev. 25:10-12 the shofar blown on Yom Kippur announces the Jubilee year. Indeed, Israel and the nations have repented and all can now celebrate Sukkot together or Tabernacles (Zech. 14:16). The First Tabernacles of the Millennial Age would fit as the celebration of the Bride of the Messiah being joined to the Messiah, or the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. So, the shofar blast of Yom Kippur on this scheme would not be the rapture and resurrection but the Jubilee shofar that ends the old age and begins the Millennial Age and the reign of the Messiah and his Bride, of Jew and Gentile who reign within Israel and the nations. The rapture shofar is not the shofar announcing the age of peace as at the end of Yom Kippur after repentance, but the seventh also announces the final judgment of Rev. 19 and Zech. 14 and the very last battle that takes place.
This article originally appeared on Revive Israel, September 13, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Dr. Daniel Juster, founder and director of Tikkun International, has been involved in the Messianic Jewish movement since 1972 and currently resides in Jerusalem, Israel, from where he serves and supports the Messianic movement worldwide. Dan was the founding president and general secretary of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations for 9 years, the senior pastor of Beth Messiah congregation for 22 years, and a co-founder of the Messiah Bible Institute in several nations. Dr. Juster serves on the board of Towards Jerusalem Council II, provides oversight to 15 congregations in the USA as well as overseeing emissaries in Israel and the Former Soviet Union. Daniel has authored about 20 books on topics ranging from theology, Israel and the Jewish people, eschatology, discipleship, and leadership.
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Bitter or sweet
Has your summer been fruitful?
I think for many of us, we don’t really think about being fruitful as we go about our busy lives. This evaluation comes more as a result of hindsight.
It also really depends on what ‘fruitful’ means to you!
For me, the summer, and so much of life, has been a wrestling match between work and business commitments and deadlines, vs kids, family, summer vacation and fun!
How do we determine if we’ve been fruitful or not?
How would you determine if a tree has been fruitful?
Is it quantity?
Last year my vine produced a SHED load of grapes, but this batch had skin that was really bitter, and we ended up throwing them all away because no one enjoyed eating them.
This year, we had a much smaller quantity of clusters. We had learned that spacing them out while they’re growing, and pruning them back as the year progresses is a better method for healthy and delicious grapes. Our harvest this year is unbelievably sweet, despite there being less of them.
One thing I noticed in our pruning experience, was that it wasn’t easy. My husband would have to climb up and do some sort of contortionist gymnastics to reach these premature clusters. They were hacked down and thrown into a trash bag. He would get down off the ladder dishevelled and sweaty, and with nothing to show for it.
I also noticed that I had uncomfortable feelings bubbling up, I felt guilty that I was wasting all these potential grapes and just throwing them away… When so many are starving in Africa! It felt like a waste. It felt like I wasn’t being a good steward of what I had been given.
I think the vine’s story is a beautiful commentary on life. Sometimes we try and cram so much in. We work hard to have a high output, but do we have a bitter taste in our mouths at the end of the season?
The act of pruning doesn’t always make logical and rational sense. We may be cutting back on something that looks like it’s growing beautifully. We may be giving something up that we have always depended on or needed. Maybe God has called you to step out of the boat, or to trust Him to calm the waves or provide for the 5000?
Life isn’t about doing as much as we possibly can, it’s about doing the right things, and finding ourselves in the riptide of his will.
Only then do we start seeing the quality of our fruit improving and bringing sweetness to our lives and those around us. Sometimes we beat ourselves up for not doing enough, or feel the need to cram our day to the max with ‘stuff’. But what is the quality of it?
Sometimes it’s all about biting off less to chew, and savoring the moments that come our way. I’ve worked hard in this season at balancing, and often failed. But I think the taste at the end of the season, is more one of sweetness, even though there’s been a few bitter seeds along the way!
How is your season tasting?
This article originally appeared on Simcha Natan’s blog, September 13, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Simcha emigrated to Israel from the UK, with her husband and three children. Having studied theology and music and worship in London, and trained as a worship leader and song writer, she went on to teach music and be involved in worship teams in several congregations in the UK, and now in Israel as part of Sarah Liberman's team. Simcha is the author of the “Dare to Ask” project, comprising of the book 'Dare to Ask', and 3 CD's, Dreaming', 'Awakened' and 'Soar (To come) which each have a counterpart 30 day devotional study guide to accompany them. She is passionate about enabling people to engage with God in the way which they were made to, and is committed to multi sensory expressions. Simcha is also an artist, and paints her songs and messages to accompany the music and books. She is also the coordinator Ascend Carmel Programs.