“Our Eyes shall behold Your return with mercy to Zion.
Blessed are you, LORD, that brings back His Shekinah to Zion.”
(Prayer from the Siddur: See under Shekinah in Torah Portion below)
1. TO AND FROM “THE LAND OF SINIM.”
“It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth…Behold, these will come from afar; and lo, these will come from the north and from the west, and these from the land of Sinim. Shout for joy, O heavens! And rejoice, O earth! Break forth into joyful shouting, O mountains! For the LORD has comforted His people and will have compassion on His afflicted!” (Isaiah 49:6, 12-13 NASB; Emphases ours.)
Sunday afternoon Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara landed in Beijing. Several of his ministers accompanied him on the three-day visit to China where he is scheduled to meet with China’s three most senior officials, President Xi Jinping, Prime Minister Li Keqiang, and parliament-head Zhang Dejiang. Mr. Netanyahu has timed his trip to China to coincide with and celebrate 25 years since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1992. Since his last visit there in 2013, China has become Israel’s largest trading partner in Asia and the third largest in the world, a relationship the Prime Minister will seek to nourish and advance during his visit. One thing setting this trip apart is that accompanying Netanyahu and his ministers are around 90 Israeli businessmen representing various industries—the largest-ever business group to join an Israeli Prime Minister on a foreign trip. On Tuesday they will take part in a business forum chaired by Netanyahu with over 500 invited guests. (1)
As we see gateways widening between Israel and China in the area of governmental and economic relations, we are aware also of passageways which the Holy Spirit has been opening and networking between believers within the two countries! Each year sees multiple thousands of Chinese brothers and sisters pouring into Israel—to praise and worship in Jerusalem, to connect with the Body of Messiah here, to intercede over God’s purposes in the Land, and to cry out for harvest from Zion. And their number is increasing. Many are part of the Back to Jerusalem movement, a vision birthed in China almost a century ago, with a fervent goal of spreading the Gospel from the east coast of China through Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim lands westward until it reached the birthplace of Christianity, Jerusalem. Surviving intense persecution, that vision endured and has grown in recent years into a mighty wave. With this mobilized passion, has come an awakened hunger for understanding and reembracing the Jewish roots of their faith, and a desire to bless Israel. At the same time, Messianic Believers from Israel have been welcomed into China, to teach and share—some long-term, others traveling about the nation, praying over the land, visiting with the Brothers and Sisters. Leaders from houses of prayer in Israel have been invited to visit and teach in houses of prayer in China; large groups of Chinese have visited houses of prayer in Jerusalem. Only this week a Messianic pastor returned from a visit to China, where he was very graciously honoured by the Church there. Also this week, a Messianic congregation in Tel Aviv were presented with a gift of a golden trumpet from believers in China.
Isaiah 49:12 (quoted above) speaks of a time when along with His people Israel, the LORD will bring other peoples from far-away nations who have seen His light—including a people from the “Land of Sinim.” The Modern Hebrew name for China is Sin (pronounced “seen”); the name for “Chinese” is Sinim. From ancient times many Biblical authorities have supposed China to be the people referred to in this passage. Believers in Israel are humbled and strengthened by the blessings released through the Chinese brothers and sisters whom God is presently bringing into our land. On one occasion, we personally witnessed a shift in atmosphere of intense violence hanging over Jerusalem as a large group of visiting Chinese interceded fervently for two hours over the city from a prayer house overlooking the Temple Mount. We have been privileged to host gatherings of leaders from Sin in our home, some of whom have endured years of suffering, even imprisonment for their faith. We think it very possible that God has brought some of these seasoned and tested brothers and sisters into Israel to impart grace for when the Body here may be called to face similar testings in days ahead.
* That the hand of God rest on Mr. Netanyahu for graciousness, sensitivity, integrity and insight as he visits China. That relations would be strengthened; that only those ties which are in line with God’s good purposes between the two countries would be made.
* That Chinese leaders would sense the “fear of the Lord” in their dealings with Israel. That on behalf of their people, they will bless the “seed of Abraham”—and that Israel will be a blessing to China.
* That with the opened doors between the two nations, there will be a flow of grace between the believers in China and those in Israel.
* That the Messianic body in Israel will be granted insight and unction in praying God’s redemptive purposes over China.
* That we will graciously receive the strengths and blessing which God wishes to impart to His Body in Jerusalem and Israel through the Church in China.
* We believe that there is a deposit of grace over Shanghai, which opened its gates to twenty thousand Jews during the Holocaust, when many nations closed theirs. We pray for this deposit to be released in the gift of a deep love and support for Israel, in a time when many nations will bring judgment upon themselves by turning in another direction. “How great is Your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you!” (Psalm 31:19)
(1) Information on the PM’s trip drawn from, “Eyes on boosting trade, PM lands in China…”: The Times of Israel, 19 March 2017
THIS WEEK’S TORAH PORTION:
From ancient times there has been a weekly portion (Parashah) from the first five books of Moses (The Torah) and an ending (Haftarah) from the Prophets read on the Sabbath in synagogues around the world. This portion is given a Hebrew name drawn from the opening words of the Torah passage. An illustration of this practice appears to have been recorded in Luke 4:16 where Yeshua (Jesus) arrived in the synagogue in Nazareth and was asked to read the portion (Isaiah 61) from the Prophets. We have found that in perusing these weekly readings, not only are we provided opportunity to identify in the context of God’s Word with millions of Jewish people around the world, but very often the Holy Spirit will illumine specific passages pertinent that week in our intercession for the Land and people of Israel. The Haftarah, unless otherwise noted, will be that read in Ashkenazy synagogues around the world. The references for all texts are those found in English translations of the Scriptures.
The Parasha for this week 19-25 March 2017 is a “double reading”:
TORAH I: VaYakhel—“And He Assembled”:
TORAH II: P’kudei—“Accountings of”:
HAFTARAH: Ezekiel 45:18—46:15
(NOTE: As with last week, this is one of two special Shabbats in preparation for Pesach/Passover containing an additional Torah reading and a replacement for the usually-read Haftarah reading. This one is called HaChodesh—“The Month” because it is the last Shabbat before Chodesh haChodeshim—the “Beginning of Months” in the Hebrew religious calendar (The agricultural “new year” comes at Rosh HaShanah in the fall). This First Month Nisan (or Aviv) begins on March 28th, commencing the previous evening at sundown).
In this week’s readings, Moses gathers together the congregation of Israel and relates to them what God has instructed regarding the construction of the Tabernacle. In effect, Exodus 35:4—39:43 carefully repeats what was recorded earlier in Chpts. 25-28 (T’rumah) and subsequent passages. But here certain details have been clarified. For instance, unlike the earlier passages, this one makes specific mention of women . Verses 35:25-26 refer to “Each woman who is a gifted artisan” and “whose hearts stirred with wisdom.” Verse 29 is careful to mention both “men and women” whose hearts moved them to volunteer materials and to labour as a freewill offering for building the tabernacle. In 36:6, this had in fact been done with such generosity and cheerfulness that Moses was forced to issue a command, “Let no man or woman any longer perform work for the contribution of the sanctuary!”
PLEASE PRAY: for hearts of Israeli believers to be moved to offer up their craftsmanship and creative energies as a free-will offering to the Most High. Pray for women and men to be equally valued and recognized in their talents and giftings. Pray for “cheerful” giving from the heart (II Cor. 9:7) on the part of Israeli believers, both of physical resources and of talents and time, not merely as a mitzva (an obedience to gain favour)—but at the moving of the Holy Spirit within their hearts.
*Exodus 35:1-3. “…These are the words which YHVH has commanded you to do: ‘Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh day shall be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of rest to YHVH. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. You shall kindle no fire throughout your dwellings on the Sabbath day.”
Attempts to observe the prohibition related to fire in the last verse of this passage continue amongst many observant Jews today, in some cases reaching extremes which, to our understanding, go far beyond the original intent of the prohibition. From the time the Shabbat Lights are lit just before sundown on Friday until candles are again kindled at Havdalah following sundown on Saturday, no lights are to be kindled by Jews. Electric timers are placed on light switches and stoves so that the owners will not be guilty of lighting a fire (i.e. initiating an electric spark by flipping a switch). This is also the reason religious Jews don’t drive on Shabbat (starting a car involves making the battery produce a spark to ignite the engine). Pressing a button at a streetlight in order to cross the street also initiates a “spark”, as does pressing a button in an elevator (Kosher hotels and many fancy apartment buildings in Israel are equipped with “Shabbat elevators,” which are set to unceasingly go up and down automatically throughout the Sabbath. We do not mock the earnestness of those who genuinely feel it to be God’s will, and who are trying to please Him by observing these strictures. But we do believe them to be misguided; that in some instances, such prohibitions slip into a category which Yeshua condemned in Matthew 23:4—that of heavy burdens not intended by God being laid on people’s shoulders by religious leaders, rules which often become mere works for show.
The context for this lone passage about lighting a fire on the Sabbath is God’s instructions for the construction of a place for His habitation among His people—the Mishkan, Dwelling Place, the Tabernacle. It was a construction of craftsmanship requiring all the creative, “artistic” gifts, energies and skills of which humankind (made in the image of God) is capable. Yet the fashioning of this Holy place with all of its Holy furnishings was not to cancel out the pattern set by the Master Artist when He Himself fashioned the universe. He worked for six days, then ceased work and was refreshed on the seventh (Genesis 2:3; Exodus 31:17). Much of the work being described in these chapters would require building a fire to smelt and fashion the metals—melting, bending, shaping and forming everything, from Cherubim of gold, to tools, to ornaments, to bolts and pins of brass. Making the fire involved a lot of work—finding, gathering and chopping the wood, then kindling the flame with a friction method involving much exertion (The one record we have of judgment coming on an individual for breaking this law is found in Numbers 15:32, where the offense was specifically for gathering wood on the Sabbath) . The joyous sacrifice of yielding up one’s gifts and skills to God for “holy work” must also include respect for His “times and seasons” in exercising those gifts, chief amongst them being what He first called “holy”—the Seventh Day (Genesis 2:3).
*Exodus 35:36. “And He has put it in his heart the ability to teach, in him and Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan.” Last week we read of Betzalel (a descendant of Judah) and Aholiav (of the tribe of Dan)—artisans whom God had filled with all wisdom and grace for performing and overseeing the intricate workmanship required in preparation of the Tabernacle. In this later passage it is mentioned that He also put it in their hearts “to teach.” Indeed, 36:1 mentions others whom the LORD had filled with artistic grace to work under them (36:1), subject to their wise instruction.
PLEASE PRAY: that those released in the artistic skills in the congregations in Israel will focus not only on the work allotted to them for their own times—but will be stirred in their hearts with a desire and ability to pass on their wisdom and skill to the men and women of the generation rising after them.
*THIS TORAH PORTION carefully describes the concluding stages of constructing the Tabernacle, even down to itemizing the amount of precious metals used. It is noteworthy that neither in this account of finishing the work, nor in last week’s account of beginning it, are the Urim and Thumim (Exodus 28:29-30) mentioned. This suggests that they were not “fashioned” by the creative skills of men, but given by God to be placed in the Breastplate of Judgment. The Portion then ends with the completion of the work of the Tabernacle (39:32), its erection (40:17), and the coming of the manifest Presence of the LORD to fill it with His Glory—that He might dwell among His people in their travel to Canaan. SIMILARLY, THE HAFTARAH ends with the Ark of the Covenant being brought up from the City of David to the new Temple built by Solomon, with its being placed in the Temple’s inner court, and with the cloud of God’s glory filling the House of the LORD (I Kings 8:11).
*I Kings 8:8. This takes care to point out that in Solomon’s Temple, the poles used to transport the Ark of the Covenant were so prominent that they extended out of the Inner Sanctuary of the Temple so as to be visible in the Holy Place. The LORD’s instructions in the Torah for carrying the Ark had evidently been viewed as ‘lesser details’ by David when he sought to bring it up to Jerusalem from Kiryat Yearim (II Samuel 6:3), resulting in the death of one of his men when the ox pulling the cart stumbled. PLEASE PRAY that we be attentive to the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27)—realizing that details are just as critically important as what seem to be the ‘big pictures.’
Both of the readings this week have to do with completing preparations of a place—and then the coming of God’s Presence to dwell among His people. Although it does not appear in Scripture, a Hebrew word sometimes used for the manifestation of the glory of His Presence on Earth is Sh’khinah, or in English: “Shekinah.” It is related to the word shakhan which we discussed several weeks ago, when we read in Exodus 25:8 of God’s desire to shokhen—to dwell closely with, to neighbor with His people. And of His delight that they should so also desire for Him to be among them, that they would willingly sacrifice to prepare a mishkan (tabernacle)—a place for Him to dwell. In this week’s Parahsha, the Glorious Presence—the Shekinah of God—comes into the place prepared for it. There would be a tragic time, many years later, when that Presence would depart from its mishkan (Ezekiel 11:23). It has been a longing within the Jewish soul ever since that it return. The Siddur, an ancient Hebrew prayer book still used in Synagogues today, contains the following prayer:
Our Eyes shall behold Your return with mercy to Zion. Blessed are you, LORD, that brings back His Shekinah to Zion.
In parts of the Body of Messiah today, one may hear of a longing for the coming of the Shekinah—the manifest presence of the Glory of God. This can be of course a blessed longing (Moses cried, “Show me your glory!”). In welcoming Shekinah—we are not merely calling for some “glorious” experience or manifestation—we are instead responding in our hearts to His desire to shokhen—to dwell among us!
“I will dwell among the children of Israel and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them up out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them. I am YHVH their God” (Exodus 29:45).
“And I will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that the LORD of Hosts has sent Me to you.” (Zechariah 2:11).
“Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him, that glory may dwell in our land” (Psalm 85:9).
“ ‘For I,’ says the LORD, ‘will be a wall of fire all around her [i.e. Jerusalem], and I will be the glory in her midst’” (Zechariah 2:5).
PLEASE PRAY: for an awakened longing in Israel for the Presence of the LORD to return to His Land. Pray for grace among us as Believers in preparing the way for His Glory. And pray for revelation among Israelis that preceding Messiah’s physical return to the Land, it is possible for His glorious Spirit to take up residence within the individual hearts of all of His people (Ephesians 2:22)—to commune with them and encourage them, and to lead, even as did the cloud and the fire of His Presence in the wilderness.
Martin & Norma Sarvis
[The Parasha for next week 26 March-1 April 2017 is called VaYikra—“And He Called”. TORAH: Leviticus 1:1—6:7; HAFTARAH: Isaiah 43:21—44:23]