I call you friends
I no longer call you servants…Instead, I have called you friends…’ – Yeshua (John 15:15)
These words spoken by the Messiah to his disciples were uttered at the celebration of Passover in Jerusalem. The central memorial of that festival is the remembering of Israel’s exodus from Egypt, where a nation of slaves became a nation of free men and women. The long-standing Passover tradition is the singing of avadim hainu (‘we were slaves’) ‘but now we are free’. It is in that context that Yeshua spoke those revolutionary words in Hebrew, the word for ‘servants’ being avadim,the same word for slaves. Thus a closer translation would be, ‘No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.’
The Hebrew word for friends is haverim, from the singular haver, the root word meaning to be closely connected. It is written of Abraham, the father of all Israel and of the faithful, as well as of Ishmael, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God’ (James 2:23). The town in which Abraham and Sarah his wife are buried (as well as his sons Isaac and Israel, and their wives) is called Hebron (Hebrew: Hevron), and in Arabic Al-Khalil, both meaning ‘the friend’, after Abraham, the great friend of God. Thus the allusion of Yeshua’s pronouncement at the Passover was to that relationship that Abraham had with God as a friend, which his work and mission was to restore that personal relationship between men and God as it was with Abraham. They would no longer be slaves to sin and thus enemies of God, or slaves even to God, but would now become close friends with God- and to each other. That is the central message of the Gospel.
What is a friend? A friend is one with whom we have a close and deep relationship of trust and love and loyalty. A friend is one you can count on, who gives you the benefit of the doubt, often overlooking shortcomings. It also may be said that it is a long and lasting relationship, which normally entails at times even misunderstandings and disagreements, as do most long and close relationships. A real friend is one who know just how bad you can be- and also how good. But patience and respect and love- and very often forgiveness- are applied in maintaining that friendship, including marriage. That is the essential recipe given to the disciples of the Messiah, to whom he said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Though sometimes easier said than done, that is the intended universal objective of the Gospel.
At that same Passover, the Messiah said also, ‘Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’ (John 15:13), which he would certainly do for not only his disciples the following day in crucifixion, but for all humankind that would trust in his kindness and grace, and call him Friend.
There is nothing quite so precious as old and true friends. They are like an old wool hunting shirt that has kept you warm in the blowing winds of winter and adversity, and are full of memories. They are also like your old faithful hunting dog that saw you miss the shot and spew obscenity and looked the other way and never brought it up again. Old friends are folks you have trusted and continue to trust because they have proven trustworthy, for without trust there cannot be friendship, or real love. Your real friends know your strengths and also your weaknesses, having weathered some good and bad times together, and who love you despite both, appreciating you for who and what you are, not for what you should be, or are not yet.
I have been blessed with a score of real old friends- several as long as sixty-five years so far, nearly twice the time my firstborn son has been alive. My business partner and I have known each other that long – since five years old- and have worked together successfully for nearly forty without a written agreement, or even a handshake – just trust. Other longtime friends share a very different political and even spiritual understanding from myself and we have wrestled quite heatedly but, giving each other the benefit of the doubt, continue tolerating and respecting and loving one another as friends.
Old friends are those you may not speak with for years at a time, but when you reconnect you pick up right where you left off without a hesitation in the conversation. They are folks who can be counted on to cover your back in a struggle, even if you may not be completely right. Those real friends, even when you aren’t thinking of them, are like stars in your skies, that if one should disappear your night would be darker for lack of their light. My wife is my old friend at forty years so far, being through thick and thin, sick and sin, sharing memories and still laughing and in love most of the time. My golden retriever is my loving friend at all times, day and night, never disappointing (and would expect to see in Heaven). Some people I have offered friendship, but they were either unwilling or unable, or unworthy. And the worst of pains is a trusted friend who has betrayed trust, which is irreparable as a broken spinal cord. I have been the true friend to my children since they were born, though it takes time for them to understand that.
My brother is my oldest of old living friends, who has known me since I was born seventy-four years ago, even before I knew him. And the Lord is the most amazing and faithful of old friends, also loving for who I am currently, not for what I should be, but never giving up on urging me forward toward that better goal. He said, “I call you friends,” and that is what counts in the end, and beyond. May the communion we take in this Passover eve be among friends indeed.
Elhanan ben-Avraham, born in 1945, is a professional artist, poet, writer and father of two, grandfather of four, living in Israel since 1979. He has served in the IDF, taught the Bible internationally, published two illustrated books of poetry, and painted two large Biblical murals in public buildings in Jerusalem, among many other works. He and his wife live in a quiet village in the Mountains of Judah.
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Passover, leprosy and forgiveness
I love the Passover season when we begin preparing our homes for the observance of the memorial celebration of the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. Weeks before Passover begins, we start searching our homes and our hearts for chametz (Leaven). This process means searching every room, cleaning and vacuuming the entire home, making sure you either eat or give away any items that contain chametz before the day of Passover. While we are literally turning our houses upside down in the search for chametz, we also begin to search our hearts for any spiritual chametz or sins that we have allowed to find a place to attach itself to. Sin like little hidden crumbs can be hidden in many ways and in many places. Like the little crumbs which were dropped, we had intentions of picking up spiritual chametz which requires more than a simple scan from across the room to notice. We need to lift rugs, clean hard to reach corners, pick up the curtains and blinds, and move furniture. The search for chametz has to be intentional and purposeful.
During this time of year, as we begin our search, we read a portion from the book of Leviticus that includes the commandments concerning commonly translated leprosy. It is interesting that the commandments concerning this disease, like searching for chametz, required not only the person to be examined but also the home in which they dwelled. Traditional teaching connects with Lashon Hara (evil speaking).
This teaching comes from the Torah in Numbers 12 where we read of the rebellion of Miriam and Aaron against Moses. They spoke evil against Moses, and Miriam was stricken with tza’arat. From this example as well as other verses such as Deuteronomy 24:9 we see the direct connection between tza’arat and Lashon Hara.
Because at this time of year at our home we are actively searching for chametz both spiritual and physical and considering the annual reading of the reading about tza’arat, I make it a point to include in my focus searching particularly for any hidden spiritual chametz caused by evil speaking about others, especially about those called of G-D to leadership. Tza’arat like chametz can be removed and the home and or person made clean. One key part of the commandment that must be observed is that once the person or home is made clean the person must go to the Priest. The Priest must pronounce them clean.
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Eric Tokajer is author of With Me in Paradise, Transient Singularity, #ManWisdom, OY! How Did I Get Here?: Thirty-One Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before Entering Ministry, Jesus is to Christianity as Pasta is to Italians, God Has No Plan "B", and his most recent book Galatians in Context.
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The introverted people person
Recently I’ve realised that there are a host of people out there who are called to people, but are naturally introverted themselves.
This is me. I never realised it was me until I found myself day dreaming of quiet vistas, lakes, forests, mountains and isolation. I don’t know if I changed over the years, or it’s just been highlighted by the fact that I have less time alone due to being a mother, and having a business.
It’s a difficult tension to balance when you are called to connect and to genuinely touch heart to heart with others, while also needing space and time alone and quiet, in order to fill up so you can cope with the people you’re called to!
I think that God has made us this way on purpose and probably more of us are made this way than we realise. I think it’s easy for extroverts to find their fuel from being around people and interactions from others. I think I used to be like this. I used to get such a high from being around others. But then something changed! I don’t even know what it was, but suddenly I found that if I hadn’t had some down time, alone and quiet, then people just positively drained me.
It’s interesting that even the gift that God puts in us, when it’s not framed by him can become the very thing that drains and empties us. Our gifts are only effective when they’re fuelled, and anointed by him. The moment the gift itself becomes ‘enough’ to get us through, it will eat us from the inside out and be a loud and clanging sound.
Our gifts are there to both reflect an element of God’s character and to bless the hearts of those around us. Our gifts are not only there to enjoy by ourselves. If you’re an introverted people person like me, then your gift is only going to be effective when you’re filled up in the secret place, so that you can be the fullness of the blessing that he wants you to be when you’re with the people that he wants you to bless.
Sometimes loving others well is a sacrifice, and the opposite of what we feel like doing. It fills us with dread and we’d rather run away and hide alone somewhere (preferably somewhere with an epic view, some hot chocolate and a crackling fire!). But it’s in those moments when we’re filled up by him, and we don’t feel like it, that we can be the greatest blessing. I believe that Yeshua meant so much more by the verse ‘greater love has no man than he who gives up his life for his brother’ (John 15:13), than life and death. That’s not to belittle or reduce the enormity of the sacrifice of life, however I do believe that we can show this same love by putting others before ourselves, especially when we don’t feel like it.
The most difficult thing for those of us who are called to connect deeply with people, and who’s greatest gift is to love others well, is to find the balance of self care, vs. others care. Sometimes we can pour out and keep pouring and seeing needs and forget that we are less effective and less loving when we have not taken care of ourselves and our own ‘filling up’ from God.
Sometimes introverts can assume that they mustn’t be people people. I think the ‘introverted people person’ is a special and deliberate breed, because God has made us with a need to be dependant on him. We cannot coast through on our nature, we NEED him. He’s given gifts which seemingly clash with how we’d choose to operate, so need to depend on him all the more for ‘enough’ to give to others. So if you’re an ‘introverted people person’, take encouragement that God is jealous over you. He wants you to be fully effective in your gift to love others well, by taking him along with you. He’s made you in a way that needs him.
This article originally appeared on Simcha Natan’s blog, March 7, 2019, 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.
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Reflections of redemption in Nisan, Part 2
We saw in Part 1 that rabbinic leaders created no community celebrations to mark Rosh Ha-Hodashim. For Yeshua’s disciples, this is a great advantage: We have a nearly empty arena in which to build traditions for this Milestone that are distinctly Messianic.
As always, we should build on a foundation of the Scriptures, and there we can find a surprising number of references to this date.
The Biblical Record
God’s word never gives pointless information, so we would do well to ponder the events that were recorded as happening “on the first day of the first month”:
– The Flood waters finally disappeared from the ground (Gen. 8:13).
– The Tabernacle was first set up (Exod. 40:2,17).
– Ezra began his journey from Babylon to Jerusalem (Ezra 7:9).
– Ezra finished his investigation of the men who had married foreign wives (Ezra 10:17).
– Priests under Hezekiah began to cleanse and rededicate the Temple (2 Chron. 29:17).
– God announced that He was giving Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar as wages (Ezek. 29:17).
– Ezekiel’s (future) Temple will be purified (Ezek. 45:18)
What do all these different events have in common, besides the date? We see here new beginnings, historical turning points… all following a theme of cleansing and closure. The earth emerged freed from an irreversible corruption, a Jewish leader left behind his life of exile, disobedient Jews were made accountable to the Covenant, God rewarded a king who had carried out His judgment, and three different Sanctuaries were (or will be) made ready for pure worship.
All of these can be seen as pictures showing the different results of being redeemed – in terms of both rights and responsibilities.
The absence of celebration doesn’t mean the rabbis never talked about the significance of Nisan 1 for Israel. Following are a few examples showing the unintentional (?) hints of the Messianic redemption that we experience through the New Covenant.
A new or stronger creation. As we saw in Part 1, Jewish teachers insisted that God’s activity in creating the world on Nisan 1 was stronger than any of the aspects of creation associated with Tishrei 1. And so it is with the New Creation, which God first promised through the prophets (the “Tishrei” phase) and then fulfilled through Yeshua (the “Nisan” phase). Even if someone learns to know God through the Scriptures, and/or has returned to the Land of Israel according to the promises, he is in an embryonic state of redemption. He must be “born of the Spirit” to enter the Kingdom of God and the New Creation (John 3:3-7). The teachers of Israel are supposed to know these things from what is revealed in Tanach (v.10).
The Patriarchs entered Heaven. According to a pre-existing tradition recorded in the Talmud, Avraham, Yitzhak and Yakov all died on Nisan 1. This provides interesting context for the statement in Hebrews that our faithful forefathers all considered themselves strangers in the earthly Land of Promise, because they were “looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Heb. 11:10) How fitting is the idea that they should receive that longed-for inheritance on Rosh Ha-Hodashim, the day of cleansing and closure in Scripture which God ordained to represent “the Head” of all “new things”. This idea in turn leads to Messiah – for in that Heavenly architecture built by God, we are told (Matt. 21:42, Acts 4:11, 1 Pet. 2:7) that Yeshua is the Cornerstone (Heb: “Rosh Pina”, quoting Psa. 118:22).
The Patriarchs were also portrayed (Pesiqta Rabbati 162) as interacting directly with Messiah during Nisan. “The Fathers [Abraham, Isaac and Jacob] will in the future rise up in the month of Nisan” to beg Him to go and redeem their descendants. Curiously, in the story they are conscious of “the sins of our children” and that Messiah has already “suffered on their account”; now they fear He has rejected Israel because of it. For the remarkable answer Messiah gives them (and similar stories), see our collection on the Restorers of Zion site
Future Nisan miracles will dwarf the Exodus. Hassidic teaching (Sefer Ha-Yetzira) characterized the First Month as brimming with miracles, by relating its name to “nisim/miracles” and suggesting a translation of “nisan” as “miracles of miracles.” For Israel’s future, the commentary quoted God as promising: “As the days of your exodus from Egypt, I shall reveal to him wonders.” They explained that the future Redemption will be like the deliverance from Egypt, but more miraculous.
What could surpass national liberation from slavery, except spiritual liberation from slavery to sin? This expectation is reinforced by God’s oft-repeated declaration (Exod. 13:3, 13:14, 20:2; Deut. 5:6, 6:12, 8:14, 13:5, 13:10, etc.) that He has brought us “out from Egypt” AND “from the house of slaves.” Given the Jewish view that God never needlessly repeats Himself, these are taken as two deliverance experiences. Yet the Talmud (Rosh Hashana 11a) expected that second deliverance also in the Passover month: “in Nisan they will be redeemed in the time to come.”
The consecration of God’s dwelling place. The Mishkan (Tent of Meeting) was first erected on the first day of the First Month, the date set by God (Exod. 40:2,17). After it was cleansed, His glory covered and filled it so intensely that even Moshe could not enter it (v. 35). Many details about this structure, beginning with its name (“mishkan” comes from “lishkon/to dwell”), portray the kind of intimate dwelling place that God desires within His people. Paul makes this connection explicit (1 Cor. 6:19).
The Talmudic rabbis also taught that we are meant to be individual dwelling places for God. “Since the Temple was destroyed, the Holy One has no place in this world except for the four Amot of Halacha” (Brachot 8a). “Four amot” are roughly 1 square meter, interpreted as the space occupied by a human torso. But we know that “halacha”, performance of the Law, will not make the human temple a fit dwelling place for Him. How do we know? The original Mishkan needed to be “atoned” by blood and “sanctified” by oil (Lev. 8) before God was willing to inhabit it.
To paraphrase Paul (1 Cor. 9:9-10), is God concerned about inanimate objects, or about us? Torah’s message: Yes, we are designed to be God’s Mishkan; but no, we cannot serve that purpose until we are cleansed with the Blood of Messiah’s atonement and set apart by the Oil of God’s Spirit. Both are essential in the gospel (Acts 2:38, 8:15, 19:2)
According to Torah, God’s indwelling Presence depended on one more thing: the Olat Tamid, the daily sacrifice. This was the first offering commanded for the newly dedicated altar, and note the amazing promise attached:
Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two one-year-old lambs each day, continuously…. And I will dwell among [or, within*] the sons of Israel and will be their God. They shall know that I am YHVH their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell among [or, within*] them; I am YHVH their God. (Exod. 29:38-46
*The Hebrew word here, unlike the more definite “bekerev/among” (בקרב), is “betoch” (בתוך) which can mean both “among” and “within”. It’s an unmistakable reference – twice – to some unique power of the Tamid (not attributed to any other sacrifice) to make Israel a fit dwelling place for their God.
The Mishkan’s first use and the Tamid command were logically assumed by the sages to have happened on the same day, Nisan 1. As we already saw, the command concerning the Passover lamb also came with the command to mark Nisan 1. It’s no coincidence that the Tamid and the Passover lamb both belong to the “first things” of Nisan, and now we will explore that connection.
Hannah Weiss lives in Israel with her husband Hillel, their three children and two grandchildren. Besides writing on issues relevant for followers of Yeshua, she also works as an English writer, editor and translator for Israeli exporters and academics. Hannah is part of a small home fellowship, Restorers of Zion, which serves the Body of Messiah by focusing on neglected or dysfunctional areas of Scriptural teaching and practice.
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Kevin Costner’s Waterworld and getting stuck in your most important projects
When Kevin Costner came up for air on the set of Waterworld (1995), he knew it would be a long day. So did the other cast and crew. Have you ever got stuck on a project you’re working on? Have you ever reached what author Seth Godin calls “The Dip”? I’m there right now. But I can’t stop. Not an option. So here’s what I’m doing about it…
In dreams begins responsibility. Adam Lee Rosenfeld, of the indie rock band Har Adonai, shares his lifelong pursuit of finding and creating beauty and truth. Check out more episodes here