Over the last three years or so, we have been using the phrase, “Revolution for Restoration.” So many people have come to this understanding and are in full agreement that the time is now to draw closer to one another awaiting the day that God makes us one in His hand. But how does one go about a revolution like this? What exactly is expected of each of us? How does this revival of epic proportions even begin?
Well, I would be entirely remiss if I didn’t begin by saying that this great revival begins when it is God’s timing for it to begin. We cannot force God’s hand in anything, He alone is God and He alone will do what he has appointed for Himself to do. With that said, the concept of restoration has become so prevalent throughout those who identify as Israel that perhaps this great gathering is closer than we might think? After all, why would so many have such a strong drive to unite with all of God’s Israel when just 40 years ago or less, this wasn’t even a consideration?
With His timing seemingly within reach, I find myself influenced by many aspects of Scripture as I consider those questions asked above. To address those questions I offer the following three points for consideration. Perhaps we all might glean something that we can use to discern God’s purpose for us in the days ahead?
1. Cycles of Righteousness – The Feasts of God (see Lev. 23) have been called “Cycles of Righteousness” by various teachers throughout time. The reason is that they run in an annual cycle and they each feature various aspects through which we can learn. They teach about the history that each feast was derived from, they carry a meaning that is relevant to the day in which you live, and they also point forward at work that God would do, in general, through His messiah. In doing this, the feasts reveal aspects of God’s heart and desire for His people as they reveal His righteousness. Since they repeat on an annual basis, they have been called, “Cycles of Righteousness.” The repetition of His Holy Days, year after year, helps to drive home the points being made, keep them fresh on our minds, and allow us to build on what we learned the prior year. The learning truly never ends.
For the purposes of this article, I am only going to look at an aspect of the first two fall feasts, Yom Teruah (Trumpets, AKA “Rosh Hashanah”) and Yom Kippur (atonement/ coverture). Yom Teruah is a high Sabbath that marks the beginning of the month of Tishri (generally in September) and traditionally the Jews have viewed this as the anniversary of the first day of Creation. It also marks the first of 10 days known as “the Days of Awe.” It is during these 10 days when one, traditionally, is expected to dig deep into oneself and recall all areas where they might have fallen short not only before God, but before each other. It is also the time when we ask God to reveal those areas where we fell unknowingly short. It is a time to reconcile our differences, repent and go and make peace between one another. We then stand before God at the end of those 10 days, on Yom Kippur, another High Sabbath and perhaps the highest of all, having reconciled any and all differences we had not only with God but with each other. It is a time of individual and national cleansing.
Revival can not come, restoration cannot happen, if we stand at odds with our brothers and sisters. God “hates” division among the brethren (Proverbs 6:16-19) and if we love God then we must love what He loves and hate what He hates. And if God hates division, then we must also hate division. Therefore, if we seek revival and restoration, we must take the Days of Awe very seriously and make peace with those we have wronged while repenting of those things we knew… and didn’t know of… before God.
2. Changing the culture – Our congregation has been following a triennial Torah Portion for the last 4 years or so. Last week we brought the book of Genesis to a close and when we did, a realization came to me. Joseph was able, seemingly single-handedly, to change the entire Egyptian culture. As we consider his time in Egypt, we see him begin as a slave with few personal rights. Yet despite all he had gone through in getting to Egypt, he retained a positive demeanor and managed to continue reflecting the character attributes of God. He impresses Potifer, makes an impact on at least one of his jail-mates, and then wins over Pharaoh to the point of being placed above all of Egypt, save for Pharaoh. His decisions and actions save the Egyptian people and through the entire process the Egyptians go from extreme xenophobia to an all out embracing of not just Joseph, but of Joseph and all the Israelites in that land. This is made obvious when Jacob dies, as all the elders of Egypt, including all the elders of Pharaoh’s house, travel with Joseph and his brothers to Canaan to bury Jacob. We even see that the Egyptians mourned over Jacob’s death for 70 days.
Joseph changed the culture of Egypt, not so much with words but with actions and a godly character. His walk reflected the one He served, which was Pharaoh perhaps in the flesh, but the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in his soul. Joseph “walked in the name of YHWH.” This means he walked in a manner consistent with the character and reputation of YHWH and it was that, above all else, that changed the Egyptian culture. This is what happens when our walk does the talking. Words are fine, there are times to answer questions and share truths. But nothing speaks louder than a walk that consistently reflects the one we serve. The the world around us sees God in our actions, and even hears Him in our words, lives are changed.
3. Going to your brother – A friend and mentor of mine, Frank Houtz, read Matthew 5:23-24 at our last Sabbath meeting. Like so many verses before this one, I learned that I had been hearing this backwards despite reading it properly. The verses state that if you come to the altar with a gift and then remember that your brother has something against you, that you are supposed to go to him and reconcile this and then come back and offer that gift before God. This verse is not telling me to go apologize and make right something I did wrong to my brother, it is telling me to go and make peace with a brother who has a problem WITH ME. What a humbling realization! This verse is telling me to push the button marked “PRIDE” and go to a brother who might have wronged me, and make peace. This could mean that I have to walk away from that meeting allowing that brother to think he was right and I was wrong the entire time even if I wasn’t. Talk about humility! And do note, these verses are dealing with a “brother,” a fellow believer, not a stranger or enemy. Yet Yeshua’s statement is not unique… we have others like it. The ancient sages once taught that the ones on the receiving end of a wrong-doing have an obligation to present an opportunity for someone to reconcile a wrong they have committed against us. That isn’t us going into that situation saying, “Here I am, I was right, apologize to me,” it is us standing before them in humility hoping they too see the need to make this right and reconcile. We also have 1 John 4:20 which reads, “If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.”
There are more verses like this that extend from loving your neighbor in Lev. 19:18 to Proverbs 25:21 which commands us to feed even our enemies (Paul quotes this in Rom. 12:20). This line of thinking even extends to Yeshua saying, “turn the other cheek” when confronted with an evil person. The theme of these, seemingly; to humble ourselves before all others in a manner that encourages peace. Loving neighbor isn’t exactly the easiest command to follow because sometimes our neighbor isn’t as cooperative as we might like. Yet, God’s will is for us to love them and love is shown, not spoken.
Bringing it all together
Everything that has been shared to this point is dealing with our relationship to not only God but all those we encounter, whether “brethren” or not. Are we willing to humble ourselves before a brother who wronged us for the sake of peace? Can we find it within ourselves to offer food (or meet any other need) to an enemy? Are we able to love a neighbor who abhors us? Is it possible to walk among the strangers without compromising our values or allowing the light of the one we serve to diminish from within us? Can we change the culture we find ourselves in by reflecting the one we serve?
Brothers and sisters, I truly believe we are able to take all the correct steps but I also know it will take great commitment, strength, and humility. It all must begin with us on our knees, daily, in order to address our own shortcomings and repent of those areas we have fallen short in. It will take us reaching out to those we have wronged and making those situations right. But even more, it will take a willingness to reach out to those who have wronged us, making peace on our end while praying that they do the same from theirs. It will mean us truly walking Torah as the spirit of Torah has been revealed to us. It is no longer enough to claim we walk in Torah, it is time to let the world see the Torah in our walk. We know what to do, it is time to do it.
As the fall feasts approach, I encourage you to take this time to seek the face of God like you never have before. This Revival, this “Revolution for Restoration” begins with each one of us getting right with God and each other. We have an opportunity right here, right now… to become part of the answer rather than part of the problem. And as more and more of us accept the challenge to humbly become part of the answer, then we will change the culture in which we find ourselves and bless the nation of Israel at large to which we belong. This house is being rebuilt one stone at a time, and only through love, peace, and mutual understanding will each piece properly fit.
We are all standing at a fork in the road. One path leads to an extended visit in the wilderness while the other leads to the Promised Land. The former really doesn’t take much work, our pride alone almost guarantees a lengthy stay in the wilderness. The latter will take work, it will take great amounts of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. In other words, it can no longer be us, me, I… it has to be Him through us or restoration and revival will remain but a dream.
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