A little over a month ago someone forwarded me an e-mail that had been sent out as an advertisement from Arutz-7/Israel National News. The banner headline emblazoned across the top of the AD read:
What is your family doing for Sukkoth this year?
It went on to say below this banner: "Join us to celebrate Sukkoth 2009 at the Disneyland Resort, Anaheim, California." Under this was a cutesy kind of logo for this event that was comprised of an entwined blue ribbon that formed an outline that almost looked like Aladdin's castle. Within this blue ribbon outline was the word "SUKKOTH" in bold letters. Above the center of the word and protruding into the dome of the ribboned castle was a small structure with overlapping palms for a roof and a palm on the ground. Finally, under the word Sukkoth, within the ribbon were multi-colored words that read: "At the Disneyland Resort."
The AD page showed pictures of the castle at the Magic Kingdom; roller coaster rides; a family of four holding cotton candy, a Mickey Mouse doll, and laughing hysterically in front of a roller coaster and a Ferris wheel.
I clicked on the website for this extravaganza and it explained a number of the highlights of Sukkoth at the Magic Kingdom:
Beautifully appointed accommodations at Disneyland's Paradise Pier Hotel. Mouth-watering Glatt kosher cuisine (supervised by Rabbi Eliazar Eidiltz, a leading authority on the extremely intricate laws of kashrus).
Disneyland theme park and exciting daily activities program, including a Shiduch program designed especially for Orthodox Jewish singles hoping to find their "soul mate."
Sukkoth 2009 at the Disneyland Resort provides one of the most unique and fun filled environments to find that "special someone."
Two spectacular shows will be held on Tuesday, October 6, 2009 at the Festival Arena, Disneyland Park. These concerts will certainly be a "once in a lifetime" experience for young and old alike.
The afternoon performance will begin at 4:30pm, while the evening showcase will start at 8:20 pm. Both shows are perfectly timed to allow our guests to enjoy the internationally renowned Disney Fireworks Show, either immediately after the afternoon concert, or prior to attending the evening showcase. Either way, you will not be disappointed!
Also a medical conference offering CME & CLE credits will be held in conjunction with Sukkoth 2009 at the Disneyland Resort. The topics will include: sleep disorders; diagnosis, causes, and legal ramifications in cases of trauma; personal injury; workers compensation and malpractice; Botox injections; side effects and interactions of medications; medical complications from systemic low grade inflammation; and informed consent.
The conference will be held within the magical Disney complex in Anaheim on October 5th and 6th. This offers attendees the unique and fantastic opportunity to participate in a world class medical conference secure in the knowledge that while they attend the conference and gain valuable CME and CLE credits their families will also be having the time of their lives at the "happiest place on earth."
There will be a huge Sukkoth built on the Dream Lawn at Disneyland Resort; built following the strict "kosher" requirements and built specifically for our events this year.
World class lectures (Shiurim) presented by learned scholars and teachers discussing an array of topics. Whatever your personal interest or style, whether you enjoy politics, humor, youth and education, or a Torah lecture, you will be captivated by our many speakers. This exciting line-up is facilitated by Gateways who is dedicated to ensuring a vibrant Jewish future; our immersion learning approach enables Jews of all backgrounds to engage the richness of Jewish values and traditions while building and reinforcing their bond with Jewish people and Israel. We have a wonderful daily schedule, which is sure to make a creative and rewarding vacation.
Daily activities including cooking demonstrations, movies, balloon making, art auction, and much, much more!
Brethren, please turn with me to Leviticus 23:
Leviticus 23:39-43 Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the LORD for seven days; on the first day there shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day a sabbath. And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days. You shall keep it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It shall be a statute forever in your generations. You shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
By this point, the ancestors of this remnant of the tribes of Judah, Levi and Benjamin had seen the administrations of Joshua, the judges, Samuel, Saul, David, Solomon, all the kings of Israel and Judah, following the split after Solomon's reign, and then the captivity of Judah in Babylon. Now we come to the point where the returning remnant had rebuilt the wall following that Babylonian captivity.
Nehemiah 8:1-3 Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.
Nehemiah 8:13-18 Now on the second day the heads of the fathers' houses of all the people, with the priests and Levites, were gathered to Ezra the scribe, in order to understand the words of the Law. And they found written in the Law, which the LORD had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths during the feast of the seventh month, and that they should announce and proclaim in all their cities and in Jerusalem, saying, "Go out to the mountain, and bring olive branches, branches of oil trees, myrtle branches, palm branches, and branches of leafy trees, to make booths, as it is written." Then the people went out and brought them and made themselves booths, each one on the roof of his house, or in their courtyards or the courts of the house of God, and in the open square of the Water Gate and in the open square of the Gate of Ephraim. So the whole assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and sat under the booths; for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun until that day the children of Israel had not done so. And there was very great gladness. Also day-by-day, from the first day until the last day, he read from the Book of the Law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day there was a sacred assembly, according to the prescribed manner.
This does not mean that Judah had never kept the Feast of Tabernacles in all that time! There are a number of indications in God's word that they probably did, especially under a good king like Josiah, who had found the book of the law and sought to do the will of the Lord with all his heart, as Richard pointed out on the first day of the Feast. However, they most certainly had not observed it in most recent generations, and even if it had been observed it prior to that, it had not been kept with the same kind of fervor that these people had, as they once again were released from bondage and could see the direct relationship between God and themselves: "That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God."
Carnal men, within the hardness of their hearts, even those who were chosen by God as His physical nation, have short-term memories. It took another miraculous release to jar their memories, but they still did not really get it for long, as we have seen down through the years even to this day and 'Sukkoth at the Magic Kingdom', because something was missing! But we should know, and know that we know, that it must be much different for us, as God has driven home to us these last seven days!
We are going to turn to Ezekiel 16, and I know that this can be both addressed to Israel in the Old Covenant and the modern nations of Israel. I would like us to think about these verses personally, and consider ourselves within this context, especially in the light of what we have learned this week.
We will not be reading through to the verses of physical Israel's betrayal, because I really want you to focus just on the picture of how much God loves those that He has chosen, and what we have done to deserve that love... nothing.
I will be reading from the New Living Translation because I think it paints a magnificent word picture of God's feelings for each of us.
Ezekiel 16:4-14 On the day you were born, no one cared about you. Your umbilical cord was not cut, and you were never washed, rubbed with salt, and wrapped in cloth. No one had the slightest interest in you; no one pitied you or cared for you. On the day you were born, you were unwanted, dumped in a field and left to die, But I came by and saw you there, helplessly kicking about in your own blood. As you lay there, I said, 'Live!' And I helped you to thrive like a plant in the field. You grew up and became a beautiful jewel. Your breasts became full, and your hair grew, but you were still naked. And when I passed by again, I saw that you were old enough for love. So I wrapped my cloak around you to cover your nakedness and declared my marriage vows. I made a covenant with you, says the Sovereign Lord, and you became mine. Then I bathed you and washed off your blood, and I rubbed fragrant oils into your skin. I gave you expensive clothing of fine linen and silk, beautifully embroidered, and sandals made of fine goatskin leather. I gave you lovely jewelry, bracelets, beautiful necklaces, a ring for your nose, earrings for your ears, and a lovely crown for your head. And so you were adorned with gold and silver. Your clothes were made of fine linen and were beautifully embroidered. You ate the finest foods—choice flour, honey, and olive oil—and became more beautiful than ever. You looked like a queen, and so you were! Your fame soon spread throughout the world because of your beauty. I dressed you in my splendor and perfected your beauty, says the Sovereign Lord.
This, brethren, has been God's word to you throughout this Feast of Tabernacles. He is in the process of dressing us in His splendor, and we become more beautiful than ever; and through the finest of foods He is perfecting our beauty within Himself!
I hesitated to read the rest of the chapter because Israel's end was that they squandered God's gifts of love, puffed up in their own beauty. But you have seen throughout this week, with the mind of God working within you, and through His spirit, that He expects much more from us so we will not dwell on failure of a people who were not given the heart to succeed. We will go on now with the renewed strength to move forward and carry out our royal responsibilities to be holy as God is Holy.
Why were each one of us here this week and not at the Magic Kingdom?
Because God put us here to seek His will as citizens of His glorious Kingdom! Because God is perfecting the beauty of each of us, His very own beloved, in separating us from Satan's system of conspiracies that only produce destruction and death!
We were to learn God's law so well that we will be able to rule with a just rod of iron because God's law is becoming part of our DNA and we shall be the living word of God, just like Jesus Christ.
We were here to learn to, "Act like men, be courageous and committed to giving our lives, if necessary, pinning ourselves to stand our ground!"
We were here to understand that God handpicked each of us, and that all of our time and energy must be expended in service to our God now, not dealing with a slack hand but diligently charging steadily forward while knowing that God is keenly interested in every detail of our lives!
We were here this week to learn that it is our individual duty to take God's favor to each of us and to "Pay it forward," carefully considering our personal responsibility and commitment to serve others now and later!
We, personally, were put here by God this week to understand that our words, feelings and thoughts have more power than we ever imagined and that it is now our personal responsibility, as beloved of God, to shun profane and vain babblings, which only generate strife, rightly dividing the holy words of truth!
God brought us, His beloved, here to see just as Joshua did, that God stands behind each of us in the battle, and constant contact with the Commander is absolutely necessary to carry on the battle.
God brought strength to each of us, His elect, as He drove home that this election must continue to be the driving reality that moves us forward! He brought us here to recharge our strength to faithfully understand that only you-in-Christ are chosen of all men to be blessed to be seen with the same love that God the Father sees Christ, and to understand the intense concern that He has for our well being, no matter what we may be going through! We are nothing without Christ, but because He chose us, we are now made alive and blessed in a new birth, and He will not allow any of us to go over our heads. Our life is specifically being directed from heaven going from the glory of man to the glory of God in order to make each of us ready for complete glory in the family of God.
We were taught by God this week, that all offices within the Body are given to keep the Body in line with the Head, and that we are required now to be in the image of God and our preoccupation must be in following the Head wherever He leads us, as the work of God!
We were taught that God has set many boundaries, and that within these boundaries we have been invited through the gates, that puts each of us within the property lines of the Father and the Son. Through these words of truth, and the Son living within us, we can be in the Father and the Son. And that Their glory is shared with us, that we may be one with them and with each other, now! This glory is not complete, but despite the imperfections the Father still loves you just as He loves His Son, because you are in Him and He is in you!
We are here this week to understand that the marriage contract has already been signed and the bride is now being made ready for the presentation to the groom followed by the greatest wedding banquet of all time! That this preparation entails building on the already established foundation of Jesus Christ; not being moved off that foundation by the slick marketing of evil that could wear down the saints and overwhelm. We must watchfully, carefully and continually build on the solid foundation, to be pillars that will never be shaken! Christ comes quickly, do not waste the gifts that God has given you.
We have been told by God that our physical insecurity is often His way of pointing us towards Him, and each has the power to trust God in finding the best way to live in the moment as God shapes each one of us in the most dire moments of our physical insecurity!
We have been told that the words we use are being built into our DNA, and that how we speak and what we say now affects what and who we are! God expects a sincere trust and cooperative effort to develop purity of heart and a pure language now!
God taught us today that even in the midst of the calamity of this world, and even at times within the church, God will always provide for His unique children!
We have been called individually, as well as as a group, to be in Christ, with Christ and the Father in us. This is an honor and privilege given now to God's elect! Only a very few, before God made the New Covenant, had been given the same honor. It is important that we look at one of those people, because I think that there is something here, in conjunction with what we have seen this week, that will greatly encourage you to carefully think on these things that you have learned and do them! It is especially uplifting as we grow closer to the return of Jesus Christ, and as our preparations for the kingdom seem to be an overwhelming struggle with weariness within the jobs that God has given us to do, within the Body of His Son.
God had chosen Moses, from before he was born, for a job of leadership within His plan to remove His people from bondage.
God patiently prepared his mind, heart and body for the leadership role that He had for him for eighty years before He was ready to use Him as His chosen vessel.
Moses physically had been prepared to rule with the authority of a king! He had been humbled for sacrificial service through hardship and shame! God brought Moses to the place where he could be of use as His chosen vessel in God's deliverance of Israel from Egypt. But brethren, it did not happen before Moses went to Pharaoh, nor did it happen as they marched out with a high hand, nor did it happen as they crossed the Red Sea, but it happened in the presence of God at Sinai!
For lack of time, we certainly cannot read through all these chapters, but I encourage you to read through them because what we see here is what God expects of us.
In Exodus 19, we see Israel's arrival at Sinai in the third month of their journey. Moses, in his capacity as their leader, had already dealt with more problems and grumbling from those in his charge than we could ever begin to imagine having to put up with.
Exodus 19:1-13 In the third month after the children of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on the same day, they came to the Wilderness of Sinai. For they had departed from Rephidim, had come to the Wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness. So Israel camped there before the mountain. And Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, "Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel." So Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before them all these words which the LORD commanded him. Then all the people answered together and said, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do." So Moses brought back the words of the people to the LORD. And the LORD said to Moses, "Behold, I come to you in the thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and believe you forever." So Moses told the words of the people to the LORD. Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes. And let them be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, 'Take heed to yourselves that you do not go up to the mountain or touch its base. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. Not a hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned or shot with an arrow; whether man or beast, he shall not live. When the trumpet sounds long, they shall come near the mountain."
We see Moses twice going up Sinai for instructions and God's intent to make Israel a special treasure unto Himself, but not within the boundaries of His holy mountain. Moses carefully instructed the Israelites, in the following verses, of their duty to prepare themselves for God's descent to instruct them from Sinai while maintaining their distance, not to touch the Holiness of God.
In verse 20, we see God calling only Moses up to Him within the boundaries set.
I strongly urge you to read, and meditate, on chapters 20 through 31 for yourselves later, because it is something that we really need to understand about the awesome Holiness of God and the meticulous details of the honor and worship due to God from those with whom He makes the covenant. It also clearly shows that He is the one who provides all our needs even in that worship and the preparations for it.
However, for our purposes I would like us now to go to chapter 32, which is the incident with the golden calf.
Exodus 32:7-8 And the LORD said to Moses, "Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, 'This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!'"
Exodus 32:15-16 And Moses turned and went down from the mountain, and the two tablets of the Testimony were in his hand. The tablets were written on both sides; on the one side and on the other they were written. Now the tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God engraved on the tablets.
Exodus 32:19 So it was, as soon as he came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing. So Moses' anger became hot, and he cast the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain.
Notice the hints that God gives us here that Moses' thinking was not yet quite in line with His. In verse 7, God says "get thee down for your people which you brought out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves" and knowing Moses as well as He did, He knew what he would do as recorded in verse 19, as he presumptuously lost his temper, and cast the word of God on the ground. It reminds you of what he had done forty years before, when he took it upon himself to kill the Egyptian that was beating a Hebrew.
We see further hints of Moses' mind in his prayer in verses 31-33, where it says, "And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written. And the Lord said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book." I think that God was telling Moses something there that was hidden in between the lines.
God had been preparing Moses to be a great and compassionate man, but God gives us a few clues here that He had not quite finished the most important part of the process, yet! His mind was still not in sync with God's!
Exodus 33:12-14 Then Moses said to the LORD, "See, You say to me, 'Bring up this people.' But You have not let me know whom You will send with me. Yet You have said, 'I know you by name, and you have also found grace in My sight.' Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people." And He said, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."
Exodus 33:17-19 So the LORD said to Moses, "I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name." And he said, "Please, show me Your glory." Then He said, "I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion."
Brethren, chapter 34 is the record of Moses' second forty days and forty nights on Sinai, in the presence of God, but this second time Moses became more like God, through God sharing His spirit with him.
Notice the first signs of Moses' change in verses 8 and 9:
Exodus 34:8-9 And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped. And he said, If now I have found grace in thy sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray thee, go among us; for it is a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for thine inheritance.
Moses no longer saw himself as separate and above Israel with any kind of self-righteousness at all, but by the end of the forty days it was totally within his heart that this truly was the work of God, and God alone, and that God uses and prepares whomever He will to assist in His plans and purpose. It was at this time that God shared His glory with Moses; again through His words, but this time with His spirit in Him, and Moses not only knew the words, but the plan and purpose behind them.
Exodus 34:29-35 Now it was so, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the Testimony were in Moses' hand when he came down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him. So when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. Then Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned to him; and Moses talked with them. Afterward all the children of Israel came near, and he gave them as commandments all that the LORD had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face. But whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with Him, he would take the veil off until he came out; and he would come out and speak to the children of Israel whatever he had been commanded. And whenever the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face shone, then Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with Him.
Brethren, that word translated as shone is the Hebrew word kaw-ran' and it means to radiate, to send out rays. It can even mean horns that grow from the inside out.
For any of you who have ever seen Michelangelo's statue of Moses, he is portrayed with two horns growing out of his forehead and that is because of the Latin Vulgate mistranslation of that word!
But the idea is that he was not merely reflecting the glory of God, he was radiating the glory of God from within Him.
Similar to the one time episode of Pentecost where God visibly showed His Holy Spirit given to those chosen with a rushing mighty wind and tongues of fire. Here too, God was giving outward evidence of His servant working through His Holy Spirit within Him.
This time, as Moses came down from Sinai, the Word of God was not merely in his hands, but in his heart and radiating out of him!
But, brethren, this gets better for us! Jesus Christ, our Elder Brother, and the Light of the world, says to us, the chosen, to those that He has called now:
Matthew 5:14-16 You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Can you guess what the word "light" means? It is the word foce' meaning to shine or make manifest, especially by rays, implied from the inside out!
In verse 15, the phrase "it giveth light" is the word lam'-po and it means radiate brilliancy. The word "house" (oy-kee'-ah), in the same verse also implies family. So you are to give a light to the world, but you are to give a light to the household of God.
Brethren, these were Jesus' words to those who had been called to follow Him. Blessings poured out to those chosen to act on His words, while being driven by the Holy Spirit dwelling within them and radiating the glory of God, just like Moses, not only to the world but more importantly to those within the family of God!
Brethren, tomorrow is the Last Great Day, picturing a time of judgment and a time when all mankind will have the opportunity to know God. But, we have been given the privilege to know God now. Because of this, we see the insanity of the world as it exists today under Satan. We also have to deal with the difficulties that come with the territory and boundaries of being chosen by God, and being the enemy of Satan and this world!
It surely seems to be a wearying task sometimes, but God has clearly given us direction this week in one solid string of messages. He has shown us that we are His beloved, and that He sees those He has already chosen as His elect in the same way that He sees His son.
He has made it clear to us how close our relationship is within the Family of God now and our responsibility to courageously stand fast within the duties that He has given us, continuing to hold our ground no matter what!
The Apostle Paul tells us in II Corinthians 3:7-15, that the veil is still over the glory of God to the world, and even to the Jews Sukkoth is just a nice vacation. But as Paul also says in verse 18, "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord!"
God commanded us to be here this week, and He gave us, through His words and His Holy Spirit, what we are to do to continue in His work without growing weary, and continuing to radiate the glory of God!
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