Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Isaac - A Snapshot of Messiah

I've been doing a study on the life of Isaac in the book of Genesis, and am amazed at the similarities between him and Yeshua our Messiah.  Here is a list of parallels between them:
  • God waited a long time before sending the promised child.  Isaac arrived at the God-appointed time, after being eagerly anticipated for what must have seemed an eternity to those whom he was promised
  • He was conceived and born miraculously
  • He was offered up in sacrifice by his father before God intervened
  • He was himself was obedient, willing to be sacrificed
  • The timely intervention of God represented his "being brought back from death."
  • The place of obedience unto death was at Mt. Moriah - the same location as the future crucifixion of the Messiah
  • He would be the head of a great nation and bless many peoples.
In Genesis 24, Abraham concludes that it is time for Isaac to be married.  In this account, we again see numerous parallels to the Messiah and His bride.

  • The bride must be from his own people (to the Jew first)
  • Her marriage was planned long before she knew about it
  • The servant of Abraham, who is a picture of the Holy Spirit, interceded in prayer for the bride  (Romans 8:26-27)
  • Rebekah learned of the son from the servant
  • She was a chaste bride-to-be (a virgin)
  • She left her family without delay and eagerly went to be with Isaac
  • She loved Isaac before she saw him
  • She journeyed through the wilderness with the servant guiding her
  • Isaac was back at his father's house, preparing a place for his bride
  • After the time of his sacrificial offering, Isaac was not seen again in scripture until it was time to be united to his bride
  • Rebekah attired herself appropriately as she was about to meet her bridegroom

The story of Rebekah and Isaac is arguably the most beautiful love story in scripture.  How much more beautiful will the final fulfillment be - when we are united with our Bridegroom at His return!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Look at Priesthood

A recent comment by a Catholic friend of mine has raised a question in my mind.

What exactly is a priest?

Let's look at the definition of priest, according to the dictionary (American Heritage by Houghton Mifflin, 2000):

priest [priːst] feminine, priestess
1. (Christianity / Ecclesiastical Terms) Christianity a person ordained to act as a mediator between God and man in administering the sacraments, preaching, blessing, guiding, etc.
2. (Christianity / Ecclesiastical Terms) (in episcopal Churches) a minister in the second grade of the hierarchy of holy orders, ranking below a bishop but above a deacon
3. (Christianity / Ecclesiastical Terms) a minister of any religion
4. (Non-Christian Religions / Judaism) Judaism a descendant of the family of Aaron who has certain privileges in the synagogue service
5. (Non-Christian Religions / Other Non-Christian Religions) (in some non-Christian religions) an official who offers sacrifice on behalf of the people and performs other religious ceremonies
6. (Life Sciences & Allied Applications / Breeds) (sometimes capital) a variety of fancy pigeon having a bald pate with a crest or peak at the back of the head (side note: is this where that bald-on-top monk haircut came from? Just curious!)
7. (Individual Sports & Recreations / Angling) Angling a small club used to kill fish caught 

In Biblical Judaism, priests came from the tribe of Levi.  They were the ones who served at the temple.  The High Priest was the head honcho, the one who went in to the Holy of Holies once a year to atone for his own sins and the sins of Israel.  He was the mediator between man and God.  The Hebrew word is Kohen.  Today, the Jewish surnames such as Cohen, Cohn, Levine, Levy... they all reflect back to the priestly tribe of Levi.

The first mention of a priest in scripture, however, was Melchizedek, king of Salem, in Genesis 14:18, which is actually a preincarnate appearance of the Messiah.  The next mention of a priest is in Genesis 41:45, where Joseph marries the daughter of a priest of On in Egypt.  There are numerous other references to these Egyptian priests.  The next mention comes when Moses is taking a wife in Midian - her father Jethro was a priest.  After the Levitical priesthood was established in the Moses Covenant, the scriptures make hundreds and hundreds of references to the Levitical priests, and to pagan priests as well (priests of Ba'al, for example).

After the temple was destroyed in 70 AD, the Judaic priesthood was abolished along with the temple sacrifices.  Since then, the Jewish faith has had rabbis and sages, but no priests.  The early believers in Yeshua did not have priests, either. (Paganism, however, continued to have priests and priestesses at their temples that were scattered throughout the Roman Empire and all over the world.)

As that early body of believers grew, the congregations began to appoint leaders to their fellowships.  Several words are used for this leadership, and they are synonymous and used interchangeably.  The word bishop comes from the Greek word episkopouv, meaning overseer.  The  Greek word presbureros means elder. The word for pastor - poiemen - means shepherd.   Look at Acts 20:28, in which Paul was addressing the elders (presbureros) of Ephesus: Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers (episkopos), to shepherd (poimaino) the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.  This is not a hierarchy of church leadership (ie: priest, bishop, archbishop, cardinal, pope).  This is a group of godly leaders - protecting, guiding, and discipling their local fellowship, with Yeshua as the head.

The entire book of Hebrews gives a wonderful description of the priesthood, and explains how Yeshua has now fulfilled this office for us.  The curtain was torn, and we now have direct access to Almighty God through Him, our mediator and High Priest. 

There are three more references to the priesthood in scripture after the book of Hebrews; two in 1 Peter 2, and one in Revelation 1:6.  These do not refer to church leadership, but to US!  Listen to this:

1 Peter 2:9  But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. 

ALL of us as believers are to be priests... that is, mediators between God and a lost and dying world!  Living stones, according to verse 5, being built up into a spiritual household!

So why do some churches still distinguish between clergy and laity, the clergy being the priests?  In the 4th century, the Roman Emperor Constantine had a vision which led to him declaring Christianity as the legal, state religion of the Roman Empire.  All the pagan temples that were scattered about became "Christian," as did the priests that served there.  Thus, there was a "resurrecting" of the priesthood for church leadership.  Much more could be said on that subject, and in fact, my posts under the label seven churches have a lot of information regarding church history if you wish to read further.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Israel Day 14

Our last day in Israel.

I thought that this trip would finally get the desire to go to Israel out of my system.  I was wrong.  The desire to return has now been multiplied!  I love the people here.  They are a living, breathing, miraculous people!

This last day was spent, again with a small team, visiting the sick and the elderly in Jerusalem.  We visited with an artist, a retired Russian General and his wife, a single mom and her young daughter, and two lovely single ladies.  Most were immigrants who spoke Russian, and we had an interpreter with us.

Yacov, a retired Russian general
Yacov's wife proudly displays his medals

Part of our team

We then met back at Jerusalem Assembly for a rooftop going away reception for our whole team.  Some of the students from Yuval Messianic School of Music gave us a concert.  When the reception ended, we had to rush back to our hotel to grab our luggage and depart for the airport.  This was easier said than done, however.  Crowds of people were in Jerusalem, preparing for Jerusalem Day (the day that celebrates the recovery of Jerusalem after the Six Day War in 1967).   However, we made it to the airport on time and hopped on our El Al flight to New York.

Lisa with Pastor Meno

Marcelle (whose apartment was painted) and Ilona

Arrival back in NY at sunrise
Next year in Jerusalem... again?