Thorny Breakthroughs

It’s already been seven days that we’ve camped here, and our seven lessons about Manna are almost over.  This is kind of a weird time to finally look around and see where we’ve been camped, but we’ve been so busy collecting Manna for the past 6 days, this seems like a good time to rest and reflect.  We’ve been in the “Wilderness of Sin, between Elim and Sinai”.  

To put our location in context, let’s flash-back to Moses’s first encounter with Yah at the burning bush, further back in Exodus Chapter 3.  Moses was told he was to lead his people out of Egypt, and Moses is very skeptical. So Yah gives him a few “signs” to show the people that he indeed is the chosen messenger.  Nevertheless, Moses is still not sure that Yah has picked the right guy. So Yah says this (one of my favorite verses in the whole Bible):  

He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” (Exodus 3:12)  

In other words, when you’ve ACCOMPLISHED  THE MISSION is when you will truly know that Yah was behind it all. Yah starts by showing Moses some token motivational-mini-miracles, which includes even the burning bush itself–but the true  sign Moses is given won’t appear until after the mission is accomplished.  

Supernatural faith, walking not by sight alone but by being sustained by faith in the promise itself, is what Moses is being taught in this one sentence. That’s an applicable lesson, regardless of who or where we are in our walk of faith. 

However, the actual geographic goal needs to be kept in mind as well. Moses isn’t just leading us to wander in the wilderness (yet).  He’s taking us somewhere specific. He’s heading back to the location of the burning bush.  He’s not alone this time, he’s brought literally millions of Hebrews, combined with a mixed-multitude of other freshly-redeemed and spiritually clueless refugees.  Our destination is the ‘Holy ground’ where Moses was told to take off his shoes.  

The word for ‘bush’ in Hebrew is pronounced ‘Seen-eh’. 

The mountain the bush was on is pronounced  Mount ‘Seen-aye’. 

Our current campsite is called simply pronounced, ‘Seen’.  

By setting this part of the story in the Wilderness of Sin, again pronounced ‘seen’ (Strongs H5512), we are being reminded that we are heading in the right direction.  

Brace yourself for linguistics. 

This root word “sin” implies a hedge of thorns.  In Hebrew the word “Sin” is spelled ‘samech’, ‘nun’. In the oldest form of the Hebrew language, ‘samech’ is a thorn, and represents a protective barrier, as a way to fence something in or keep something out. ‘Nun’ is a little sprouting seed (looks also like a little swimming sperm) which represents life. Combined, sin is a picture of life being protected inside the boundary of a thorny razor-wire-like fence.  

(Samech is also the middle letter in ‘peSach‘, the Feast that launched us out of Egypt towards Sinai. The condensed definition of Pesach is “complete separation and protection”.)  

So then, the location we’ve been camped is essentially a Holy border crossing. We’ve left the 12 springs and 70 palms of Elim, and have entered the Wilderness of Sin, the first stage of what could be imagined as concentric circles of borderlines around ‘Sinai’, many of which we have yet to cross.  Again, we aren’t wandering, we are heading somewhere specific, and this reminder is present in the names of these places.  The wilderness that we are forced (by our lack of faith) to wander in later in the Torah, has no name besides ‘wilderness”.  Now that is LOST.

The word ‘Torah’ is based on the Hebrew word for ‘target’, so you could also imagine these concentric circles around the Mountain as an archery target, with Sinai as the bull’s eye. (Oh, don’t get me started on the Hebrew letters that mean ‘Bulls Eye’!) 

More linguistics: 

“Horeb” (pronounced with a guttural H), is the original name of the location of Mount Sinai.  The two phrases are inseparable.  Although most bible dictionaries simply say the word Horeb means ‘desert’, it can’t be overlooked that the first letters ‘H’ and ‘R’, mean “mountain” in Hebrew.  (There’s another famous biblical location called Mt. Hor—i.e. ‘Mount Mountain’, and it’s anybody’s guess where that mountain actually is.)  So, since the Hebrew letter for ‘B’ is a picture of a house, you could say the word “horeB” could imply ‘Mountain Home’.  These ancient letters and themes all make perfect sense in the context of where we are going, and who we are going to meet.  

Here’s a funny little trick that often works in Hebrew, if you spell a word backwards you can learn more about the nature of what’s being implied in that word.  HoReB backwards is the word BaRaH (it’s the consonants that matter), which means “to flee”.  This word is first used in scripture when Hagar FLED from Sarai—a reference back to the fugitive spirit we are told to leave behind at the bitter waters!  In other words, if you are redeemed and still running aimlessly, you might be accidentally heading backwards–not just in circles.  In fact, its likely, as the playing field is not level ground–it’s a hill that we are climbing and it tilts back towards Egypt.

This idea of progressively more challenging “levels” did not start with video games. This is truly how the Kingdom is designed. 

Level 1: We accept the redemption at Pesach, we’ve accepted Yah’s offer of protection from death.  

Level 2: We are invited to accept Yah’s righteousness as a cure for our bitterness, guilt, or shame from where we’ve come from.  

Level 3: We are now best prepared for the blessings of listening and obeying.  

Level 4: We pass a new spiritual milestone by accepting the offer to keep Yah’s Holy Sabbath.  

If these steps are done out of order we aren’t heading in the right direction.  If we skip any steps due to our pride or arrogance or bad doctrine, perhaps we still have that fugitive, rebellious spirit. 

Paul’s intention with his letter to the very confused church at Corinth, is summed up in his warning, “…all things should be done decently and IN ORDER”. (1 Corinthians 14:40). 

In Acts 15, Peter also warns us not to forget the nature of The Way—it neither begins with a set of Holy Laws nor a heavy yoke of man-made religious traditions.  “Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?  But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Yeshua, just as they will.” (Acts 15:10-11

Grace is the mechanism of redemption, as well as the beginning of the process of salvation. That amazing grace is supposed to motivate us to reach for each new level, and the Holy Spirit is designed to empower us to accomplish those breakthroughs victoriously.

The road to Sinai has always been a journey, beginning with a mustard seed of Abrahamic faith, and growing towards increasing obedience and fruit through Mosaic faithful action–and that very road, each and every spring, is reinforced by our counting toward Shavuot. 

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