In Paths of Righteousness

Ps 23:3 He restores my soul: He leads me in paths of righteousness for His names´ sake.

This is a pretty typical English translation of this very well known verse of probably the best known and most oft quoted Psalm of David. We have generally considered it to mean that He will direct us, day by day, as we go about our business, if we are careful to listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit within.

That is certainly a valid interpretation and it is true; He does guide and lead us every day both through the written Word, by His example and through promptings of the Holy Spirit (if we are willing to stop and listen).

In the Hebrew text, though, we find a much deeper, older meaning that has been pretty much lost to the church over the last 1700 years or so, one that I would like to briefly explore.

The phrase that is translated “He leads me in paths of righteousness for His names´ sake” in Hebrew is “yanheni bema´geley tzedeq lema´an shemo“.

yanheni – He leads/guides/bestows on me
bema´geley – be=in, ma=out of, galah=circles, cycles, round paths
lema´an=heed, purpose, on account of
shemo=His Name, authority.

A more literal translation could be, “He leads me in, guides me from and bestows on me his paths/cycles of righteousness on account of His name and authority.”

In Hebrew thought life  is cyclical; everything is based on cycles that we can observe and see around us in creation. Seed -> plant -> fruit -> seed for example.

God also gave His people a calendar to keep track of the cycles of days, weeks, months and years and set the sun, moon and stars in place to help us keep track of those “cycles of time” by which he governs the universe.

Genesis 1:14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs (l´otot) and seasons (u´le´moedim) and days (u´le´yamiym) and years (v´shaniym).

There are 2 significant words I´d like to focus on here; signs (oth, plural. otot) and seasons (moedim).

The term signs refers to way markers or sign posts and is spelled in Hebrew Aleph-Tav-Hey.

Hebrew is a pictoral language: each letter in Hebrew has a distinct meaning (shown by the picture that the letter represents) and an understanding of the meaning of a Hebrew word can be gained by looking at the meaning of the individual letters making up the word.

Aleph is a picture of an ox head and the basic meaning is strength.
Tav is a pair of crossed sticks and represents a cross.
Hey is a picture of a man with his hands raised saying “Behold” and can also mean revealed.

Aleph, Tav, Hey then literally means “the strength of the Cross revealed”. So, Oht, the way markers or sign posts, are “the strength of the Cross revealed”. Hold that thought, all will become clear in a minute.

The other word is “moedim” – in Hebrew mem-yod-ayin-dalet-mem. The “im” on the end makes it a plural.

Ed  (Ayin-dalet) means “see the door”, as in coming to a place or a tent of meeting and entering in. It is a place, time or event that is repeated over and over again. It also carries secondary meanings of “eternity” and “witness”.

When we add the “mo” prefix it means “from, out of or for the sake of”, so “moedim” literally means all of “times and places from, out of, for the sake of eternity/witness”, or in other words, “appointed times” or simply “appointments”.

So, the signs and seasons are the strength of the cross revealed in the appointed times.

What are these appointed times?

Lev 23:1-2 And the Lord (YHVH) spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak unto the children of Israel and say unto them, The Feasts of the Lord (YHVH), which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations (miqrey qodesh), these are My Feasts (moeday)”.

The words “holy convocations” or “miqrey qodesh” literally mean set-apart rehearsals“. God says, “these are my appointed times”. They are the times that He set apart for His people to celebrate Him and rehearse the fulfillment of His promises.

Ps 65:11 You crown the year with goodness; and thy paths drop fatness.

The word “paths” here again is “cycles”. The cycles of His moedim, His appointed times, drop fatness i.e. leave behind abundance.

So, what are these appointed times that He has promised are abundance and goodness for His people, that the writer to Hebrews told us are shadows of good things to come?

Lev 23:3 “Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, a holy convocation (set apart rehearsal); you shall do no work. It is the sabbath of the Lord (YHVH) in all your dwellings”.

OK, so it is holy (set apart from all other days) and it is a rehearsal. Of what? Good things to come.

All of the appointed times both teach us of events in the past (looking back) and teach us of events that are still to be fulfilled (looking to the future). In fact, it is impossible to understand Bible prophecy of the end times without the context of the Feasts of the Lord (note – they´re not Jewish feasts, God says they´re His Feasts).

Sabbath (Shabbat in Hebrew) teaches us firstly that in 6 days, God created all that was made, and on the 7th day he rested from His labours (as it says in Genesis). It also teaches us that man´s time to labour on earth will be 6 days, and that there will be 1 day of rest at the end of days.

Huh? What does that mean? Peter told us in 2 Peter 3:8 (quoting David from Ps 90:4);

“But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing; that one day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years is as one day”.

Put back in the context of the creation account and shabbat, man´s days of labour on earth will be 6000 years, and then there will be the “shabbat millenium”, 1000 years of rest with Christ reigning on earth from Jerusalem.

That is what the sabbath is rehearsing. And that is what the writer of Hebrews was alluding to when he wrote,

…so there remains a sabbath rest (sabbatismos) for the people of God…thus we must make every effort to enter into that rest, so that no-one may fall by following the same pattern of disobedience (apatheia).”

What about the rest of the chapter?

Lev 23:4-21 tells us about the “Spring” Feasts of The Lord – Passover/Unleavened Bread, First Fruits and Pentecost. I will do a more in depth study on these later but to give a really brief synopsis:

Passover/Unleavened Bread – teaches about the redemption of Israel from Egypt, points forward to the crucifixion of Jesus and also looks forward to the future redemption of exiled Israel from out of the nations at Jesus´ return. The days of unleavened bread remind us of the 7 days spent walking from Goshen to the Red Sea where they finally left Egypt (remembering that the Sinai Peninsula was still a part of “greater Egypt”) and crossed over into Midian on their way to Mt Sinai. At the end of the 7 days they experienced God’s salvation (lit. Yeshua) as they crossed over on dry land and then witnessed Pharaoh’s chariots being drowned.

First Fruits – a thanksgiving offering of the first fruits of the harvest, points forward to the resurrection of Jesus.

Pentecost – a memorial of the giving of Torah (“the Law”) at Mt Sinai, points forward to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit after Jesus´ ascension and also looks forward to the “latter rain” double-portion outpouring of Holy Spirit prior to the return of Jesus.

In Lev 23:24-44 we see the instructions for the “Fall Feasts” of The Lord. Again, more detail coming later, but in brief:

Trumpets – a memorial of the “Blowing of trumpets” to call the people together at Mt Sinai; no intermediate fulfillment yet, looks forward to the resurrection of the saints “at the last trump” (1 Cor 15:51-52).

Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement (also known as The Day of The Lord); a day of national repentance, reflection, fasting and prayer. Not yet fulfilled – looks forward to God´s judgment on the earth immediately before the return of Jesus.

The Feast of Tabernacles: a memorial that when God brought our fathers out of Egypt that they “dwelt in tabernacles” in the wilderness. We believe that Jesus was born on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles (John 1:14 “and the Word became flesh and Tabernacled among us…”). Looks forward to the triumphant return of Jesus and the beginning of the millennial reign of Christ on earth and even further to the new heaven and the new earth after the final judgment (Rev. 21:3, “…Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men…”).

There is one odd thing about this chapter of Leviticus, though. Right in between the Spring and Fall feasts is one verse that seems rather out of place.

Lev 23:22 And when you reap the harvest of the land, you shall not clean out the corners of your field when you reap, neither shall you gather the gleanings of the harvest: you will leave them for the poor, and the stranger (foreigner). I am the Lord (YHVH) your God..

What on earth is that doing there? This is the provision for the gentiles and it is right between the Spring feasts and the Fall feasts. There is a clear link to the story of Ruth here. Ruth was a gentile who took advantage of the provision made for her in the Torah, and was thus grafted into Israel and into the lineage of Jesus.

I want to (very quickly) highlight an event in Jesus ministry that occurred between Pentecost (the last of the Spring Feasts) and Trumpets (the first of the Fall Feasts). It was during this time that He went up to Samaria and met the woman at the well (you know the story). The Samaritans were gentiles and He stayed with them for 2 days before returning to Israel . Remember what we quoted from 2 Peter 3:8 before?

The provision for the gentiles is to be made between the fulfillment of the Spring Feasts (Passover/First Fruits/Pentecost) and the Fall Feasts (Trumpets, Day of Atonement, Tabernacles) and is to be for 2000 years!

Just as the Sun was created on the fourth day, so Messiah (Jesus) appeared on the fourth day (4000 years) from creation and then the time of the gentiles is 2000 years. 4000 + 2000 = 6000 years, the first 6 days of creation. The Sabbath Millennium begins year 6001 to 7000, then the final judgment, new heaven and new earth.

All of that, we learn from the Feasts of the Lord as given to us in Leviticus 23 as holy rehearsals of good things to come.

We in the church as believers in Jesus have been robbed of our heritage for long enough. I believe that 2010 is the year of restoration of God´s ways of righteousness. His ways are contained in His Word. There so much richness that we´ve been missing out on for too long. Please, Lord, restore to us the fullness of “the faith that was once delivered to the saints”. Bring us close to you and teach us your ways. Lead us in the “cycles of righteousness” for your Names´ sake, even as your Word promises.

Amen – come Lord Jesus

Rodney posted at כ״ב בשבט ה׳תש״ע (February 6, 2010) Category: Feasts, Torah

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