Fall Feasts

“A lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.” Matthew 5:15

The Jewish Hanukkah celebrations began this last Sunday night. We are now on night four. Eight nights of commemoration, celebration, and remembrance centering around a nine branched candelabra.

Hanukkah is a commemoration of the Hanukkah miracle. In order to rededicate the Temple after desecration, the Jews needed to have enough lamp oil to keep the Temple’s menorah lit eternally, but only had enough for one day.

One day versus eternity is quite a shortfall.

But, the insufficient oil miraculously lasted for 8 days. Still a laughable difference, however–not only did this eight day portion allow the rededication to begin, it also gave the Jews enough time to press more oil so that the Temple lamp could stay lit eternally as it is commanded in Temple protocols.

Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning. In the tent of meeting, outside the curtain that shields the ark of the covenant law, Aaron and his sons are to keep the lamps burning before the Lord from  evening til morning. This is to be a lasting ordinance among the Israelites for generations to come. (Exodus 27:20-21)

God performed a miracle that allowed the Temple to be rededicated and purified.

His people had the will to do it. But it was physically impossible without God inserting Himself into natural reality, commanding physics to rearrange its principles, and giving to men the element they needed to act on the obedience already in their hearts.

There is such encouragement to someone like me to see on record the principle of rededication.

There is a lot of discussion about assurance of salvation. There is now. There always has been.

Can you lose your salvation? If you apostasize does it mean you were never saved? When a professing, discipled Christian defiles himself with rebellion, stubbornness, and periods of recreational sin, is there a way back for them?

Are we once saved, always saved, if saved at all?

Well, no people has ever belonged to God simply by His confession, except for the ancient Israelites.

But, God Himself said repeatedly that there was no people on earth as rebellious, stubborn and determined to sin as the Israelites. He said the most sinful of their neighbors would be aghast at what they did.

God also said of them:

As for you, O people of Israel, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Go right ahead and worship your idols, but sooner or later you will obey me and will stop bringing shame on my holy name by worshipping idols. For on my holy mountain, the great mountain of Israel, says the Sovereign Lord, the people of Israel will someday worship me, and I will accept them. (Ezekiel 20:40-41)

Sooner. Or later. You’ll stop prostituting yourself out to other gods. Sooner or later. And when you do: I. Will. Accept you.

Jesus is the sooner or later. God has unleashed the irrepressible power of His acceptance. The Holy Spirit submerges us in the permanence of God’s confession to keep as as His treasure.

Jesus died for all peoples so that those who would confess Him as Lord would be saved, and adopted into the people of Israel that God unequivocally claimed as His own possession (John 3:16-18; Galatians 3:5-29; Deuteronomy 7:6).

Our confession for Him is one day’s worth of oil to light our Temple lamp. God’s confession for us is eternity’s worth of oil to provide us the means to obey the command that: “There in my presence it is to burn from evening until morning. This command is to be kept forever by the Israelites and their descendants,” Exodus 27:21 (GNT).

The Hanukkah menorah is placed in a window after it is lit, so that everyone who sees will remember the Hanukkah miracle.

We proclaim the Gospel as part of our confession of salvation through Christ.

It can be easy to conflate works of evangelism as our “eternal oil.” The “good things” we do “for God.”

As if God is not capable of exercising all manner of good on earth. As if God does not create and destroy with the perfect goodness of His will and judgment.

No. We put our light on a stand to say, “For one day I had a fleeting moment of belief. Somehow in one hour, my senseless skin felt a touch of the Spirit; and in a hasty moment my mouth broke free from my brain and I confessed Jesus as Lord of my life.”

We act on this one brief portion of the Anointing Spirit that draws near to us. And in return that Oil redoubles and reproduces and grows and increases from age to age– and keeps us forever as a people holy unto the Lord (Deuteronomy 7:6).

 

 

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven,” Matthew 5:16. 

 

 

The Proverbs 31 Family

“Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife,” Matthew 1:20

I want to talk about Mary and Joseph as a picture of submitting our physical realities to spiritual realities. We live in the natural but are called to the supernatural.

My favorite themes in 1 Corinthians are: first, the discussion of the physical body vs. the spirit– and how those competing appetites affect how we worship and serve God, and second is, the way that Christians are assigned, appointed, anointed, and arranged in the spiritual realm to be useful in the Body of Christ with intent and specificity by the Lord.

The interplay of the physical and the spiritual pervades the New Testament– starting in the Gospel narratives. There are a lot of picnics, meals with disciples, lunch at the in-laws, dinner parties with sinners, biblical feasts, festivals, weddings, Passover, the Last Supper. Jesus’ earthly ministry is punctuated by meals.

Jesus also tells the woman at the well that he can give her living water so that she will never be thirsty after drinking it. He speaks of us “feeding” on Him, the bread of life– A spiritual meal that does not lack, does not require more meals after.

The Gospel of John, the most “spiritual” gospel, reveals Jesus as the Holy Spirit, yet talks repeatedly of food, in order to talk about spiritual hunger, and that Jesus satisfies.

This seemed the premise of Jesus’ rebuke of Martha. Martha was busy with her, possibly usual task, of preparing the meal for Jesus and his disciples. She was attending to her physical assignment, which probably would have been fine had she not complained about Mary. Mary was not preparing a meal for Jesus but was receiving a meal from Him. She was fulfilling her spiritual assignment to feed on Jesus.

We have both physical and spiritual assignments from God, but! Our physical duties always yield to the spiritual ones. Your earthly life must punctuate your spiritual life. If your spirituality is just a comma in between your workday and dinner, don’t be surprised that your soul continues to hunger and that your flesh continues to lust.

The account of Joseph’s encounter with the angel Gabriel in Matthew 1:18-25, brings insight into the gravity of both the physical and spiritual assignments that God gives us, and how we are called to submit our physical assignments to our spiritual ones.

Joseph was physically anointed, as a man, to be head of a household, husband to a virtuous woman, father to legitimate children. He was called in the natural to be religiously observant, an adherent to the law, an abhorrer of sinfulness. Yet, Gabriel tells Joseph “she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus,” Matthew 1:21. (emphasis mine)

Before this dream of Gabriel, Joseph had planned on quietly breaking off his engagement to Mary. He didn’t want to embarrass her, but it seems that he was “afraid” (Matthew 1:20) of what the implications of marrying a pregnant Mary might be.

Could the implications have been feeling like he had botched his earthly mantle as a faithful Jewish man? That he had failed to be a strong leader over his household, in which his wife and children respected him? That he might not be admired for his morality, but that people might snicker at him as a cuckold? That he’d sacrifice the satisfaction of living a righteous life in the eyes of man?

Could taking Mary as his wife– throwing away his fear– mean throwing away everything he thought God had called him to as a man?

To be the leader who would raise, protect, provide for, and name Jesus– “And Joseph named him Jesus,” Matthew 1:25– would require that Joseph lay down every right inherent to his God-given, physical assignment as a man.

He would lay down everything he had ever been taught about being a religious man in order to take up the demands of his new spiritual assignment.

The first counter-intuitive, counter-cultural aspect of this assignment was that Joseph had to tailor the very beginning of his marriage and family life to his wife’s calling and his son’s purpose. Men in his time did not organize their lives around their wives and children.

A patriarch in Joseph’s day would probably feel that it is their right to set the agenda, to take the most important role, to delegate menial tasks to others, to arrange themselves in the natural position to receive praise. Women and children wouldn’t even be part of the plan, let alone “be the plan.”

It must have been hard to believe that this was what God was asking him to do! Wasn’t this opposed to the natural order of things?!

In his calling, to be Mary’s husband and Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph did not: set the agenda, was not even nearly the most important actor, accepted menial tasks rather than delegating them, and was completely outshone by every one else in the Nativity narrative.

Joseph, Jesus’ father, is an early and strong example of living Christianity. He completely submitted his physical duties to his spiritual assignment. He did not reserve any natural craving, but satiated his spirit with his faith in God’s word over his life.

If we continue to be hungry for the rights inherent to our physical identities, we forfeit our time at Jesus’ feet and our usefulness to the kingdom.