The Ways Of God In Israel
“The LORD executes righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed. He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel.” (Psalm 103:6-7)
In this epic 103rd Psalm, King David lays out a sweeping view of God’s benefits and provisions, reminding the readers to not forget God’s gifts of forgiveness, healing, redemption, love, and life. Next, he points to the contrast between the ACTS of God and the WAYS of God, suggesting that knowing and understanding “God’s Ways” is superior to merely see His miracles. The question is, what are these “Ways of God?”
Psalm 95:10 confirms this principle. In this portion of Scripture, the Lord grieves over the hard-heartedness of the Hebrew generation who were rescued from Egypt’s oppression during the Exodus, saying, “For forty years I was grieved with that generation, and said, ‘it is a people who go astray in their hearts, and they do not know My ways.’”
No one could say that a particular generation of Israelites lacked a demonstration of God’s acts. In fact, they were probably the generation that had seen more of God’s mighty miracles and supernatural acts than any other generation ever had. They saw the ten plagues of Egypt systematically destroy the world’s greatest empire; they saw the Passover blood miracle sparing their families from God’s wrath; the opening of the Red Sea; the Pillar of Fire and the Pillar of Cloud leading them through the wilderness; the fire and smoke on top of Mt. Sinai; the daily miracle of Manna; the abundance of quail meat to satisfy their cravings; the water coming from a rock; and much more… And yet, in spite of all these mighty acts which were performed in their sight and in their hearing, God concluded that they still did not “know My ways.”
What are these “Ways of God” that were revealed to Moses and yet remained hidden from the Sons of Israel? What patterns can we discover in the biblical stories that will teach us about our great Heavenly Father, His character, and His nature? And, more importantly for our purpose in this writing, what “Ways of God” can we find displayed in the story of the Land and the people of Israel that we can learn from in order to better know our Heavenly Father? Surely He wants us to know that He is deeply committed to us in the days ahead.
1. The Way of Humility
The name of the Land that the Lord God promised Father Abraham and his descendants was, and still is, the Land of Canaan. Stretching along the eastern Mediterranean Coast between Lebanon to the North and Egypt to the South, the Land of Canaan was promised as a homeland for Abraham’s family nearly 4,000 years ago, and it is the very same territory that is home today to the reborn nation of Israel.
Yet, not many can understand or appreciate the message that is hidden in the name of this ancient Land; the Land of Canaan. The word Canaan in the Hebrew language, כנען, is a derivative of the root word Canah, כנע, which speaks about submission, surrender, and humility. The very name of the territory God promised in covenant to His Hebrew nation reveals what is possibly the most foundational virtue that He wants to reveal about Himself; and that is that He is the God of humility. And in the very name of the Promised Land, Canaan, He is letting us know that without humility on our part it will be impossible to thrive with Him.
This is the Land where humble submission to the Creator is paramount since any other attitude, such as self-reliance or pride, will promptly disconnect us from the God of humility, from His protection and provisions, leaving us “fending for ourselves.” A quick review of Israel’s history shows that we, as a nation, don’t do very well when we are disconnected from our God.
Could this have possibly been the reason Moses warned the Children of Israel long before they entered the Land, saying, “….For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs that flow out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing … Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God … when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied … then your heart is lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt … then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’ … Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the LORD your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish...” (Deuteronomy 8:8-20).
Humility and gratitude were, and always shall be, the only way to prosper in God’s Promised Land, Canaan; the Land of surrender and submission to our Father’s rule.
2. The Way of Faith
It has been said that the Land of Israel responds to faith; faith in the Lord God of Israel, the Creator of heaven and earth. In fact, a quick review of the history of Israel shows that the Land generally languished under the rule of foreign powers, yet blossomed and produced her yields under the care of the children of Israel. In other words, the Land of Israel was appointed specifically for the Children of Israel.
Ezekiel’s grand prophecy about Israel’s ultimate restoration highlights this principle, saying, “O mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord GOD! Thus says the Lord GOD to the mountains, the hills, the rivers, the valleys, the desolate wastes, and the cities that have been forsaken, which became plunder and mockery to the rest of the nations all around … Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: ‘I have raised My hand in an oath that surely the nations that are around you shall bear their own shame. But you, O mountains of Israel, you shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to My people Israel, for they are about to come...’” (Ezekiel 36: 6-8).
Not only is the Land of Israel responsive only to the Sons of Israel, but even they have to be armed with faith in order to unlock the Land’s favors. We see this principle displayed during the tragic drama of the generation that left Egypt but did not enter the Land because of unbelief. Having heard the bad report of the ten fearful spies, “… all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, ‘If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! Why has the LORD brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” (Numbers 14:2-3).
In response, God said, “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who complain against Me? … The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness … from twenty years old and above. Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in. But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised … And your sons shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years, and bear the brunt of your infidelity, until your carcasses are consumed in the wilderness.” (Numbers 14:28-33).
The New Testament book of Hebrews offers a succinct analysis of this same drama, saying, “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” (Hebrews 3:19). No doubt, faith is the “ticket” to enter and prosper in God’s territory, making faith in God and in His Word another one of the “Ways of God” that are displayed in the Land of Israel. Our first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, expressed it beautifully when he said, “In order to be a realist in the Land of Israel, you must believe in miracles.”
3. The Way of Covenant
Another spectacular display of the “Ways of God” found in the Land of Israel is shown in the fact that our God is a God of covenant; a great distinction from the many pagan gods and idols that were worshiped in the ancient world. Not only was the territory of Canaan promised to Abraham and to his descendants in Covenant, a permanent, all-encompassing mutual agreement, but that initial Abrahamic covenant was reiterated and played over and over again as we find in Psalm 105, saying, “Oh, give thanks to the LORD! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; talk of all His wondrous works … Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth … He remembers His covenant forever, the word which He commanded for a thousand generations, the covenant which He made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac, and confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, saying, ‘to you I will give the land of Canaan as the allotment of your inheritance…”
Binding Himself in an everlasting covenant with His people Israel is one of “God’s Ways” of showing how serious and committed He is to His purpose. Covenant is an all-encompassing unbreakable contract that summons the deepest and most comprehensive commitment, such as the covenant of marriage, where both parties agree to a 100% commitment of sharing all things and being accountable in all matters to one another, to death.
“God’s Way” of making and keeping covenant is displayed not only in the original Abrahamic promise concerning the Land of Canaan, but again while performing the Covenant of Circumcision at Gilgal, a national circumcision act which Israel had to observe soon after they crossed the Jordan River and before they could take the Land. As you remember, the wilderness generation did not perform any circumcisions during their 40 years of wilderness journeys, but now, before they could possess the Land, the sign of the covenant had to be applied to every male in Israel.
The book of Joshua chapter 5 tells us that “… at that time the LORD said to Joshua, ‘make flint knives for yourself, and circumcise the sons of Israel again the second time…’ and this is the reason why Joshua circumcised them … for all the people who came out had been circumcised, but all the people born in the wilderness, on the way as they came out of Egypt, had not been circumcised. For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the people who were men of war, who came out of Egypt, were consumed because they did not obey the voice of the LORD … Then Joshua circumcised their sons whom He raised up in their place; for they were uncircumcised … Then the LORD said to Joshua, ‘This day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.’ Therefore the name of the place is called Gilgal (rolled away) to this day.”
Israel’s prophets, however, raised the physical act of circumcision to a spiritual level as we hear Jeremiah cry out, saying, “Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your hearts, you men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem…” (Jeremiah 4:4). No doubt, Jeremiah was more concerned about the spiritual condition of the nation of Israel than its physical one. The Apostle Paul, when writing to the Roman disciples, drew the same conclusion as Jeremiah, saying, “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit …” (Romans 8:28-29). Paul is telling them, and us, that the Covenant of God must run through the hearts of His children; not their bodies.
And so we recognize that “God’s Way” of Covenant is strongly connected to the Land and to the people of Israel. It was through a binding covenant that God promised the Land to Abrahams’ descendants through Isaac; and it was by the performing of the sign of the covenant at Gilgal that they could enter into the Land and possess it under Joshua nearly 500 years later. Covenant is one of the “Ways of God” we discover in Israel; a strong testimony regarding the unchangeableness of His character and His plans.
4. The Way of Prayer
When Moses reiterated the terms of the covenant and instructed Israel, again, how to conduct their national life in the Land they were about to enter and possess, he said: “For the land which you go to possess is not like the land of Egypt from which you have come, where you sowed your seed and watered it by foot, as a vegetable garden (referring to the canal irrigation system that brought water from the River Nile). But the land which you cross over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water from the rain of heaven, a land for which the LORD your God cares; the eyes of the LORD your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the very end of the year… (to) give you the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain, your new wine, and your oil.” (Deuteronomy 11:11-15).
Following nearly 400 years of watering their fields and gardens with the canal irrigation system of Egypt which drew its water from the great River Nile, the Sons of Israel were about to face a brand new agricultural reality that was totally unfamiliar to them. In the Land of Canaan there isn’t a giant river which supplies water steadily and regularly year round to the entire land, but rather most of the water supply upon which their livelihood will depend was to come from the rains of heaven. And rains, as we know, aren’t as predictable in the Middle East, and often it is only the prayer of faith that opens up the heavens and brings down the blessed rains we need so badly.
In the Land of Canaan, prayer is as necessary for the preservation of life as are the other, “natural elements,” which secure the national prosperity such as having a clear vision, an effective organization, a credible economy, strong military, and much more. In fact, prayer has emerged over the centuries as the most essential element of the entire national mission without which we never would reach the goal. No doubt, a life of prayer is one of the key “Ways of God.” As the Spirit of God foretold, following the divine chastisements, Israel’s restoration will be entirely dependent upon the following principles, saying, “… (and) My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2-Chronicles 7:14). A life of prayer is a life of victory.
5. The Way of Rest
Preparing the young nation for their life in the Promised Land, having just emerged from a prolonged and traumatic slavery, God commanded Moses regarding the Sabbatical year, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give you, then the land shall keep a Sabbath to the LORD. Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather its fruit; but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the LORD. You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard.” (Leviticus 25:3-4). Notice that this Sabbatical commandment was applicable ONLY in the Land of Canaan and nowhere else; pointing us to the next “Way of God” that the Land of Israel teaches all who have eyes to see; the way of REST.
Trusting God for their provisions and livelihood during these (non-productive) Sabbatical years, God’s people are called into a life of rest and trust where even creation itself can enjoy peace. As it is written, “What grows of its own accord of your harvest you shall not reap, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine, for it is a year of rest for the land.” (Leviticus 25:5). In fact, even today, in the reborn State of Israel, there are farmers who abide by the biblical commandment and leave their land untilled and unproductive in fulfillment of God’s word.
And while this “Way of Rest” comes into clear view only in the agricultural cycles of the Land of Israel, the principle of trusting God and resting in Him was embraced and presented as apostolic instruction to New Testament believers. As it is written, “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His (God’s) rest, has himself also ceased from his (own) works...” (Hebrews 4:9-10). Especially while passing through challenging seasons, the “Way of Rest” is a must for the child of God.
Seeing this “Way of Rest,” perhaps we are better able to understand the invitation of Jesus of Nazareth when He said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light…” (Matt 11:28-30).
6. The Way of Liberty
Not only is the Sabbatical year serving as an ongoing reminder for God’s children to mature and enter into God’s Rest, but the Lord commanded Israel to observe yet a greater Sabbatical year that was also applicable ONLY for God’s people in the Promised Land; and that is the Year of Jubilee.
As it written, “And you shall count seven Sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years; and the time of the seven Sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years. Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement you shall make the trumpet to sound throughout all your land. And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you; and each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family.” (Leviticus 25:8-9).
Only in the Land of Israel, once every 50 years, a great event took place. On this Jubilee Year, this “super (7th) Sabbatical,” God had decreed an unheard of and revolutionary nation-wide mandate that would “reset” and “restart” the entire economic and social structures as three incredible things took place:
- All properties returned to their original owners.
- All debts were canceled.
- All slaves were set free.
It is nearly impossible for us, living in the 21st Century, to even begin to appreciate the radical and earth-shaking implications of the Law of the Year of Jubilee. This 50th year repeatable decree effectively erases past errors, generational flaws, family curses, and even regretful personal choices, granting each person an opportunity to start over again free from the burdens and shadows of the past.
Putting it simply, if applied today, the Jubilee Mandate would seriously challenge the banking and credit system; reshuffle the Real-Estate market; restore private land-ownership; humble aristocratic and corporate power-hungry structures; and create social justice and equity the likes of which this world has never seen! In fact, the Jubilee Mandate, possibly more than any other of God’s instructions to Israel, reveals His chief desire and intention for His children, which is Liberty. Why? Because freedom from oppression is necessary for true worship to emerge, as we see in Moses’ bold demand of Pharaoh, telling him, “The LORD God of the Hebrews has sent me to you, saying, ‘Let My people go, that they may serve (worship) Me in the wilderness.’” (Exodus 7:16).
Freedom for the sake of freedom only creates lawlessness and anarchy. The freedom that God points to in the Year of Jubilee is the kind of freedom that sets people free from abuse, ungodly controls, generational flaws, and even personal mistakes and sins, so that they can turn to Him by their own free will and enter into His embrace. Only the Year of Jubilee provides this level of ultimate social, economic, and personal freedom that the Scripture speaks of in John 8:36 when it says, “Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”
No wonder then that Messiah Yeshua, in His first publicly recorded teaching given in His childhood synagogue in Nazareth, quoted the awe-inspiring Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 61 which says, “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the good news to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; (and) to proclaim the acceptable (Jubilee) year of the LORD.” (Luke 4:18-19).
In His very first recorded public address, Yeshua of Nazareth declared clearly and without any ambiguity who He is, and what His mission was and still is. He came into the world and He was anointed, so that He could then declare the good news; heal our brokenness; open blind eyes; proclaim liberty to all who are oppressed; and legally announce the “שנת רצון,” “the Year of Acceptance,” which is the Year of Jubilee. Only the Son of God can carry out this mission; only He can make this claim; because only He could pay the price to set the people free from the inevitable condemnation and judgment.
Has this “Way of Liberty” taken a hold of our hearts so that we are free from oppression, no matter what our circumstances may be, and live indebted only to God? As the Apostle instructed the Roman disciples, saying, “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:8). This promised freedom is the embodiment of the “Way of Liberty” which our God has foretold us about in the Year of Jubilee.
7. The Way of Giving
As all who visit the Land of Israel have seen with their own eyes, there are two lakes in the territory that God gave the twelve tribes as an inheritance: The Kinneret Lake which is also called the Sea of Galilee in the north; and the Dead Sea in the south. The first is situated in one of the most fertile and well-watered regions of Israel, the Galilee; the second is located at the deepest depression of the surface of planet earth at 1,400 feet below sea-level in what is undoubtedly the most arid and lifeless region in the land after it became the subject of God’s terrible judgment raining fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah. One Lake is full of life and vitality, surrounded by fertile well-watered fields; the second is literally a Sea of death with no life forms in it whatsoever, surrounded by arid and mostly lifeless expanses.
What is the main difference between these two lakes? The Lake of Kinneret receives the abundance of water that the upper Jordan River brings down from the snow capped mountains up north, and then it sends these waters downstream southward toward Jericho and the wilderness. The Lake of Kinneret receives and gives the water of life, keeping itself fresh and renewed from season to season. The Dead Sea, on the other hand, only receives water yet it lets none out. It takes, but it doesn’t give. The waters that enter this lake have no outlet and go nowhere. They simply mix with the hot mineral-heavy water, join the lifeless muck, and eventually evaporate in the scorching sun.
Only in the Land of Israel will you find the phenomenon of two lakes connected to one another by one river, yet one is full of life while the second is dead. Could the lesson be the “Way of Giving” that God placed in the very topography of the land of Israel, showing us how life finds its most profound purpose in giving and serving others? Wasn’t that the lesson we find in the Lord’s great invitation when He cried out in the Temple Courts during the Feast of Tabernacles, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-38).
May we all grow in this “Way of Giving” where we receive and give again; and may we take to heart the apostolic exhortation to the Ephesian Elders, saying, “I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35). No doubt, Paul was thinking about Yeshua’s words during the Sermon on the Mount when He said, “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38).
8. The Way of Diversity
God is perfect in His eternal oneness, and yet He reveals to us in the Holy Scriptures a profound and multi-faceted complexity within the Godhead. While our Creator God is definitely “One God,” (Deuteronomy 6:4), He has chosen to reveal Himself to His people in a variety of ways including The Father, Elohim, The Son, YHVA, The Angel of YHVA, The Lord of Armies, The Holy Spirit, The Great I am, the Lamb of God, and more. The apostle John goes even further “outside the box” when he describes the “Seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.” (Revelation 4:5).
In His great complexity and unsearchable depths, our Heavenly Father wants His children to know Him better and to celebrate His multifaceted character and personality in true worship. Therefore, He placed a permanent reminder of His commitment to diversity and creativity in the Land of Israel when He promised it as an inheritance to the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Of course, Israel is one nation under God, but in its cohesive oneness, it was made of 12 very different tribes who went by different names, dwelled in different regions, and displayed different personality traits.
Judah was a warrior tribe called to lead the nation. Spreading across the vast southern regions of the Land of Israel, Judah became the tribe producing the line of the rightful kings of Israel from David all the way to the expected King Messiah. It was Yeshua of Nazareth, Son of David, upon whose cross the Roman government pinned a sign displaying the criminal charge for which He was crucified, reading, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”
Simeon and Levi were known as hot headed who got their father’s house in trouble because of their temper (Genesis 34, 49:5-7). And yet, it was the Tribe of Levi (probably because of that same zeal, now harnessed for God) who was later appointed to serve in God’s Sanctuary and were given no territory of their own as its members were spread among the other tribes to minister to their brethren (Joshua 13:14).
Zebulun settled on the Coast and was known for its sea-faring skills. Asher, whose territory bordered the Mediterranean Sea, was given a mysterious blessings from his father Jacob regarding oil as his provision (Genesis 49:20). This was a puzzling ancient prophecy that remained hidden for millennia until it has come to light in recent years when the State of Israel discovered and is now drilling for oil and gas in what is considered to be the Mediterranean waters of Asher’s territory.
Dan, who was slated for authority and governance, failed to claim his territory in the north of Israel, and instead compromised and settled on the Mediterranean coast to eventually disappear altogether from the final tribal record of Revelation chapter seven. Benyamin was nearly annihilated by the other tribes of Israel because it defended the reprobate residents of Gebe’ah (to whom they were bound in covenant), and had to be artificially replenished with wives from other tribes in order not to completely perish (Judges 20&21). And the Tribe of Ephraim lost 42,000 men in battle simply because their unique tribal accent exposed them to their enemies as recorded in the Book of Judges 12:6. In other words, the Tribes of Israel were very different one from another, and yet they formed one cohesive nation under God.
And not only were there twelve very different tribes occupying the Promised Land side by side, but also many non-Hebraic minorities concerning whom the Lord commanded Israel, saying, “The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt…” (Leviticus 19:34). All through the biblical narrative we find non Hebrew minorities dwelling in the Land of Promise. And under what terms did they live in the Land? All who accepted Israel’s position as the national heir to God’s inheritance and who honored the God of Israel and His laws were welcomed to live alongside the Hebrew nation and share in the abundance of the Land.
In other words, the biblical population of the Land of Israel was typified by rich tribal diversity, and was multi-ethnic and inclusive for as long as the residents honored God and His laws. This is the “Way of Diversity” that God displays in the Land of Israel; one whole and united national body that is made up of a rich tapestry of tribes and ethnic flavors. Sounds too good to be true? Perhaps, unless we believe the words of the Lord, saying, “… With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26).
This “Way of Diversity” which was displayed by God in the Land of Israel is a precursor of the great crowd of worshippers described in the Book of Revelation of whom it is written, “And they sang a new song, saying: You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God...” (Revelation 5:9-10). God is not into uniformity; rather He loves and encourages creativity and diversity within His wise boundaries. Let us pray that we do so too.
9. The Way of Abundance
Of the many blessings and provisions that awaited Israel in the Promised Land, seven were specifically mentioned and named. Moses promised Israel, saying, “For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey…” (Deuteronomy 8:7-8). These, as every student of the Bible will recognize, are the Seven Species of the Land of Canaan.
Before the Jewish People were known as the People of The Book, the ancient Israelites were known as the people of the Land with most of them being farmers and shepherds. Rather than contemplating God’s sacred writings, they were cultivating God’s sacred creation; and instead of reciting a prayer book, they brought hard earned offerings from their flocks and fields to God’s holy altar. For biblical Israel, the Seven Species were a beautiful and seasonal reminder of God’s bounty and love toward them. A combination of two grains and five fruits, the number seven speaks of completion and perfection as God is teaching us about His “Way of Abundance” which provides so richly and wisely for His people.
- Wheat – the most elementary ingredient of the biblical diet, wheat provides the body’s basic sustenance and the energy to go on from task to task. Our sages compare wheat to the virtue of loving and caring for our neighbor; love being humanity’s most basic need and sustaining strength.
- Barley – another common component in the biblical everyday diet, barley is known for its resiliency and durability. Its seeds are so tightly enclosed in a strong shell that they often resist even the brutal process of threshing. Likewise, our sages associate barley with the strength of our souls, that inner resiliency that will withstand life’s worst assaults and keep our hearts at rest, trusting in the God.
- Vine - grapes make wine, and wine speaks of gladness which is at the heart of the experience of God’s people under God’s care. Biblically, the vineyard often points to the community of Israel, appearing in numerous parables in both Old and New Testament texts. The Lord Yeshua said to His disciples, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5). He is the head of our community now.
- Figs – are known for having the longest ripening periods in the Middle East, and once a tree is ripe for harvest, the farmer must watch carefully since most of the figs ripen at the same time and need to be harvested immediately before the birds of the air peck at them and destroy them. Delicious and nutritious both fresh and dried, figs can be eaten year round and are therefore symbolic of perseverance and resilience. This might be the reason the Lord Yeshua pointed to the fig tree in His Olivet Discourse of Matthew chapter 24, metaphorically speaking (according to Bible scholars) about the nation of Israel as the final sign before the end of the age.
- Pomegranate – showing off its spectacular crown at the top of the fruit, with the multitudes of its precious gem-like seeds, the pomegranate speaks of majesty, royalty, and fruitfulness, and its juice is known for its exceptional health benefits.
- Olive – the olive oil has been a foundational ingredient in Israel’s biblical culture and sacred customs. The olive oil served for ceremonial anointings, healing, cooking, cleaning, lighting and more. Seeking peace and safety after Noah’s flood, the dove brought an olive branch back to the ark, making it the symbol of peace and security.
- Honey – When the Bible describes Israel as the land of milk and honey, it actually refers to Date-Honey, or “Silan” in Hebrew, which has been produced in the Land for thousands of years from the fruit of Dates. Sweet, delicious and nutritious, Silan is a frequent ingredient in many dishes in Mediterranean cuisine.
Our God could have given Israel one single source of nutrition, a super-food like the Manna for example, in order to keep things simple in the Promised Land. But our Great Father is a God of abundance as He has shown from the beginning of His creation, and these Seven Species of the Holy Land are a constant reminder of His generosity. May this “Way of Abundance” be realized in all our lives as we learn to freely receive our Father’s rich blessings and provisions, and share His abundance with others.
10. The Way of War
Probably not the most popular of the “Ways of God” that we find displayed in the Promised Land, warfare is nevertheless necessary in the overall plan of making a people for Himself. Though the Land was promised by covenant to Father Abraham, the Lord allowed adversarial powers to occupy the land and to surround it, providing Israel an endless opportunity to learn and practice war.
During the process of the covenant making protocol, God, while promising to give Abraham and his seed the Land of Canaan, also explained how the possession of the Land will take place. He said, “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge ... But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” (Genesis 15:13-16). Seriously? Was there no easier way to possess the Promised Land; a less complicated way that didn’t involve enemies? Apparently not.
Nearly 500 years later, facing these very adversaries and giants that God described to Father Abraham, Caleb tried to encourage the fearful Israelites, saying, “… Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.” (Numbers 13:30). War was unavoidable, yet that fearful and unbelieving generation was doomed to die in the wilderness in shame, leaving the burden of fighting for their Promised Land to their children and grandchildren.
Evil has been with the human race from the very beginning in the Garden of Eden, and in our Father’s great wisdom, as part of His “graduation program,” He plans for His people to learn to overcome it. Sometimes it’s our inner enemies that give us the most trouble; sometimes it’s those around us. Either way, Father God intends for us to learn war and to become overcomers.
Nearly 300 times in the Bible God’s name is mentioned as “Lord of Armies,” and one of Adam’s first assignments in the Garden of Eden was to face a cunning, lethal, and formidable enemy who was fully committed to the destruction of Adam, his wife, and their future generations. That mortal enemy prevailed on that fateful day when Adam and his wife disobeyed God’s voice, but even that was part of the overall plan as the first Messianic prophecy was declared during that tragic incident, promising the coming of the Savior, as God said to the serpent in Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” The “Lamb (who was) slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8) was already on the move, and the rest of Israel’s history was, and still is, the unfolding of this great prophecy foretelling God’s redemption story.
From that day forward, the human story has been stained with suffering, conflict, and war. Gazing through the haze of dark and troubled centuries and watching the never-ending march of armies going to and from throughout the earth, it is not always easy to discern who is right and who is wrong. At some point or another, everyone has wronged someone. Regardless, the assurance of a Promised Land remains, and the reality that the Land was occupied by pagan invaders in Joshua’s time and has been surrounded by hostile neighbors till today is on display for all who have eyes to see and heart to understand God’s ways.
The Bible tells us that God wanted His children to be able and willing to fight for His promises. In fact, so necessary is the presence of evil for the purpose of overcoming it, that the Book of Judges tells us that after the conquest of the Land of Canaan,“… these are the nations which the LORD left, that He might test Israel by them, that is, all who had not known any of the wars of Canaan (this was only so that the generations of the children of Israel might be taught to know war… ) namely, the five lords of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites who dwelt in Mount Lebanon … they were left, that He might test Israel by them …” (Judges 3:1-4). Notice the Scriptural language telling us that it was God Himself who left these nations in the Land; and that, for His own purpose.
Knowing the “Way of War” is part and parcel of being a child of God. And not necessarily a natural war of guns and missiles, but spiritual war which involves unwavering faith, thanksgiving at all times, obedience under temptation, perseverance under pressure, and repentance under conviction. The Apostle told us what the believer’s warfare is all about when he wrote, “… though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Messiah.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
The enemy is as vicious and effective today as ever, and our only victory is to abide in Messiah and let His perfect and holy life mature and manifest in and through us. The “Way of War” is a must, and all God’s children must be trained in it since all must become overcomers. Otherwise, what was the point of the Lord’s seven commendations to those who fought the good fight in their generation when He repeatedly addressed them in the Book of Revelation (chapters two and three) as “… overcomes?”
- “To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”
- “He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”
- “To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”
- “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations. He shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels, as I also have received from My Father; and I will give him the morning star.”
- “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”
- “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.”
- “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”
Heaven will be populated with overcomers. Let us therefore make every effort to learn this “Way of War,” grow in this overcoming grace, and change more and more into the image and likeness of our Lord.
These are the ten “Ways of God” that we find displayed in the Land and people of Israel from time immemorial; the ways that He revealed to Moses; the ways which point us to our Father’s heart; that great heart which is our ultimate and eternal home. Remember them:
Humility * Faith * Covenant * Prayer * Rest * Liberty * Giving * Diversity * Abundance * and War.
May we all be graced to learn of Him, to grow in Him, and to become like Him.
Looking forward to seeing you in Israel soon.
Your Sar-El team