More Than Rules to Live By

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“And you shall serve the LORD your God, and He shall bless your bread, and your water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of you.”  Exodus 23:25

These are the words of the LORD to Moses to give to the people of Israel as they were in the wilderness.  Well, Lord, You shared a lot more than these words, but this is a good start.  This is exactly where our new beginning begins.

I’m not so different from the Hebrews here.  They had lived in Egypt so long that Egypt’s ways had become patterned into their life.  Egypt’s thinking and eating styles and thinking styles were ever so familiar to them.  Yet You were turning them to You, calling them back, showing Yourself to them, and showing them a Better Way.  Actually, You are more than a better way, You are the Only Way.  You are the True Way.  You are the Way that leads to what we were created to search for.  You are the Way that leads to fulfilment of our heart’s desires.  You are Satisfaction in every way.

But we can’t get into the promised land, we can’t find satisfaction, without first learning what it is to come to You, to see our need for You, and to serve You.  But if I go back and read the rest of this chapter or the prior chapters, maybe I find myself asking, “What do all these ‘rules’ mean?”  Are they really rules?  Or are they invitations to know You and understand Your character?  Are they really rules or are they invitations to come and experience Your character and subsequent provision and personal acquaintance with You by our identification totally with You in every aspect of our life?  If you want to look at them as rules, you can.  But I want to look at them as invitations.

If all you see them as are rules, that’s all they’ll ever be.  And all the Lord will be to you is a task master.  You won’t be able to keep all those rules.  But, if you switch your perspective and hear God’s invitation to You to experience Him and to learn firsthand from Him, You will.  I mean, why would You, Lord, “make” the people keep three particular feasts in the year?  Isn’t that just keeping a ritual?  So what if people form a habit of offering and celebration.  Everybody loves a holiday but what does that really do for us?

What if Exodus 23:14 is an invitation?  “Three times you shall keep a feast unto Me in the year.”  What feasts and why?  If I read on I find You invite me to keep the feast of unleavened bread, the feast of harvest or firstfruits, and the feast of ingathering.  Isn’t it funny how yesterday we talked about this whole process from a different aspect?  Hmm.  Is that funny or supernatural?  Are You trying to tell me something?  Are You inviting me to understand You more deeply?

How would the feast of unleavened bread be an invitation?  The feast of unleavened bread is tied to the celebration of Passover.  The feast of unleavened bread leads to receiving and celebrating the deliverance in the Lamb of God.  That’s You, Jesus.  It reminds us of the preparation it takes of our lives in You.  It’s a turning from the old ways unto the new ways.  It’s about obedience to the You instead of our habits or our culture.  It’s about trust.  It’s about readiness and removing sin.  We’re removing death and decay’s effects from our lives, removing the “evil impulse” from within us.  It’s an invitation to sanctify ourselves by removing the influences that corrupt us.

But the unleaved bread isn’t just about us.  It represents You, Jesus.  It’s about Your purity, holiness, and sinlessness.  It’s about the truth that in You there is no corruption, no decay.    Paul, continued to encourage us to remember this feast.  Why?  To have another ritual?  Or so I could remember to “purge” the old ways out of my life and be inhabited by Your new ways?  Paul encouraged us to keep the feast with the new leaven we have received in Christ.  I can’t do that if  it’s just a holiday.  A holiday has no power.  But if this is something that You actually do in me, if this is actually a part of Your character that You have imparted in me, and You want me to realize that and live empowered in that, then by Your power, I can keep this feast because it’s not just a holiday; it’s a reality in my life in You!

This is where You have planted Your seed in me.  This is where You scattered and I took root.  And once I get rid of the old leaven, I can receive the new leaven, the Heavenly Leaven, the Heavenly Seed.  Now, this unleavened bread is also known as the “bread of affliction.”  This is where I trust in Your afflictions.  This is where I identify with all that You went through, all that You suffered for me.    You make me holy by what You endured.  You make me into delicious bread by what You are performing in my life.  The old leaven did the work in itself, through the effects of decay.  But the unleavened bread isn’t effected by history, there is no sourdough starter inside.  It’s just pure ingredients mixed together.  It’s a new lump, not  created by my own labor or design, not created by my past history.  It’s all about Your work in me and You miraculously spreading Your kingdom in Your power.  It’s all about You creating a seed after Your own heart and then planting it and giving it life.  I want to be part of that festival!

The feast of harvest, firstfruits, follows.  Actually, there is an overlap.  First I come to trust in the You, Lord, and Your work on the cross and Your subsequent work in me.  I need to see my need for Your work in me.  This is when the first stalks of the grain would be waved before You by the priest while they were still green.  This is acknowledging You in the whole process of growth and provision.  Paul puts it into spiritual life perspective for us.  “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (like a seed dies when it is planted to arise in new life-new form!).  For as by a man came death (Adam), by a man (Jesus) has come also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.  But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at His coming those who belong to Christ.” (1 Corinthians 5:20-23)  Christ was waved before the Father as an offering but did you realize we are His firstfruits?  He waves us before  the Father?  The day He died, the day He became the offering for us, He waved His firstfruits before God.  “The tombs also were opened.  And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.”  (Matthew 27:52-53)  And Jesus is still waving His own before our Heavenly Father!

And then the feast of  ingathering. The feast of ingathering, Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles is a time of celebrating  “the blessings of God’s provision and care for our lives.”  It’s a time of restored fellowship with You, Lord.  This is when You came to dwell with Your people.  Am I seeing the progression here and what You want me to come to realize in Your “holidays”?  You want me to come to know You and experience You and walk with You.  You want to gather me to You.  You want me to gather You to me.  You want me to wave You before everyone and You want to wave me.  You want to say, “Look, all of creation, this is the beautiful work of my hands!  This is the beauty of My life in My child!  This is the power of my Spirit in My child!  Look and see what I have done!”  You planted, You caused it to grow, You and I rejoice together over the work You have done and allowed Your people to each be partakers in.

And as You wave me around, all I can do is say, “Look, all of creation, see what My God has done!  Look what He has done in me.  Adonai, you are my God.  ‘I exalt You, I praise Your name.  For You have accomplished marvels, [fulfilled] ancient plans faithfully and truly…For You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in distress, shelter from the storm, shade from the heat…See!  This is my God!  I waited for Him to save me.  This is Adonai; I put my hope in Him.  I am full of joy, so glad He saved me!'”  (from Isaiah 25)

So what does all this have to do with that first verse, “And you shall serve the LORD your God, and He shall bless your bread, and your water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of you.”  (Exodus 23:25) ?  I only become a part of Your harvest, Lord, if I choose to serve You and You alone.  Have I made You my Lord and my God?  Are You my ONLY LORD and GOD?  If I have become Yours and You are mine then You will take care of me like that beautiful seed You invested Your life in.  You will feed me and water me and meet my every need so that I can bear the fruit that You intended me to bear.  I don’t have to worry about how it’s going to happen or where or when it’s going to happen.  I can just trust You that in the right order, in the right time, You will do everything You need to do in me to bring me to full fruition.  I can count on being a seed filled with the fruit of the Father.  I can count on bearing that fruit just like the Father.  I can count on everything that the Son has done for me and everything that You have promised to do in me.  I can count on the blessing of You in my life and it’s influence on those around me.  I can count on the blessing of the presence of God in my life, the work of God in my life, and the power of God in my life because of the price of Jesus Christ and His investment in me because I have invested all of myself in Him.  Yes, I will and I can serve the Lord because He first served me.  And in Him I can always count on His blessing and His work to be completed in me.  What You promise, Lord, will come to pass.  This is my God!  I am so glad of that!

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