Wednesday, December 25, 2013

God Will Provide Himself a Lamb

Today I was meditating on the akedah, the time when Elohim tested Abraham and asked him to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac. His specific instructions in Genesis 22:2 are this:  “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

What??  This was Abraham's long awaited, miraculous son!  How could God ask that of him??  But look at the faith that Abraham displayed when Isaac wanted to know what was going on:

Genesis 22:8 says, And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb (Hebrew seh) for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together.

We know the story.

Abraham passed the test, and Elohim stayed His hand.

Genesis 22:13 says, Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram (Hebrew ayil) caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. 



What happened to the lamb that Abraham prophesied?  Lambs and rams are not quite the same thing.

God provided Himself - the Lamb - about 1000 years later, who was sacrificed on the very same mountain that Abraham passed the test.

John 3:16 is a fulfillment of the shadow that was cast in Genesis 22:2...  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.




Monday, December 23, 2013

Word Became Flesh

Most of us know that Yeshua was not born on December 25, but since the eyes of the Gentile world are focused on the birth of Yeshua right now, I thought it would be a good time to post this beautiful reminder from the scriptures. 

And the Word became flesh and tabernacled (dwelt) among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.   John 1:14

Keep in mind that Yeshua is the Jewish Messiah, foretold over and over again in the Hebrew scriptures.

The Lord Yehovah gave us His feasts (the word for feast actually means appointed times, see Leviticus 23), along with a pilgrimage requirement, so that every time something big was to happen in his plan with mankind, great multitudes of His people would be on hand in Jerusalem to see it.

Naturally, God would send His Messiah to the world during one of His three required annual pilgrimage feasts, when Jews from all over the world would travel to Jerusalem in obedience to the Torah. The inns would be crowded. Many sheep would be in the fields round the clock in preparation for the great number of sacrifices by the pilgrims.

So which feast was it? A careful study of scripture points to the Feast of Tabernacles.

John the Baptist
The conception of John the Baptist would have taken place following Zechariah's time of service in the temple. Luke 1:5 tells us he served in the course of Abijah, which would have been the eighth course of the year according to 1 Chronicles 24. That course falls either just before or just after Shavuot (aka Pentecost to the Gentile world), depending on the lunar calendar. Zehariah would have continued his service through the busy pilgrimage feast of Shavuot, when all priests were required to serve at the temple.  Zechariah's son John would have been conceived by Elizabeth right after that time, as promised by the angel who visited him at the altar of incense in the temple.

(The counting of the courses began at the start of the new year - the first week of the first month Nisan, in the spring.  Passover fell on the third week of the first month, when all priests were required to serve at the temple.  Make sense?  Visit http://biblelight.net/sukkoth.htm for a more detailed description of the priestly divisions).

We know Yeshua was conceived six months after His foreunner and cousin John, per Luke 1:36. This puts the conception of Yeshua smack at Hanukkah, also known as the Feast of Dedication and Festival of Lights.  Isaiah 9:2 says,  The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined.  This passage is quoted in Matthew 4 when Yeshua began His ministry.  How fitting that the Light of the World would be conceived at Hanukkah.

John's birth would have coincided with Passover. Six months later we have the seventh feast, the most joyous of them all..  Sukkot!  Sukkot means booths, or tabernacles. It commemorated the Israelites' time in the wilderness, when the Lord Yehovah Himself dwelt (tabernacled) with them. Immanuel - God with us! Yeshua was quite likely born in a Sukkah booth!  Others have concluded a lambing cave, which is quite possible as well, seeing as He is the Lamb of God.  On the Gregorian calendar, the feast of Sukkot occurs in September or October.


If Yeshua was born on the first day of Tabernacles, then His cirumcision took place on the eighth day. He was given His name and became an Israelite on the Last Great Day of the feast, also called Simchat Torah, a day that celebrates the beginning of a new cycle of Torah reading.  A new beginning for the Word made Flesh.


Side note:  In Matthew 1:21, Yosef (Joseph) was told in a dream, And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Yeshua (meaning salvation), for He will save His people from their sins.

Timing of Yeshua's Ministry
Biblically, it can be shown that Yeshua ministered for three and a half years by counting all the feasts He celebrated.  It makes sense that He began His ministry at the Feast of Tabernacles, because exactly three and a half years later, He became our Passover Lamb.  (Remember, Passover and Sukkot are exactly a half year apart in the Hebrew calendar).  Priests begin their priestly service at age 30.  Does it not make sense that Yeshua would begin His ministry exactly when He turned 30?  God is so precise!

What was the first miracle that Yeshua performed?  It was at a wedding!  The Feast of Tabernacles is a picture of the future Wedding of the Lamb.

Why so hidden?
The timing of Messiah's birth can be gleaned from a close study of scripture.  But why would Yehovah require all the Biblical gymnastics to dig it out?

First of all, in the ancient Hebrew culture, birthdays were not the big deal.  Even today Jews celebrate a deceased person's yahrzeit, a Yiddish word meaning the anniversary of their death.  Perhaps this focus on the yahrzeit is because it looks back and celebrates the life a person lived, and not on the life that was yet to be lived. 

The only two birthday celebrations recorded in scripture had less than ideal results.  One was Pharoah's in Genesis 40, whereupon the baker was hanged.  The other one was Herod's in Matthew 14, whereupon John the Baptist was beheaded.  It seems that something about birthdays makes people lose their heads!

The main reason that the details of His birth are recorded in the gospels of Matthew and Luke are to show how the events of His birth fulfilled prophecy.  The gospel of Mark does not even mention His birth, and the gospel of John only mentions the verse which is written at the top of this post:  And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Perhaps Yehovah in His infinite and all-knowing wisdom knew what the celebration of His son's birth (at the wrong time of year) would become.  I wonder what it would be like if the true timing of His birth was restored?  Can you imagine a world with no Black Friday?  No holiday stress?  No overspending?  No fighting over which holiday greeting to use?  Ahhh, bliss.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Hanukkah - Past, Present, and Future

This year we celebrate an early and unique Hanukkah (meaning dedication); the only time in our lifetime when Hanukkah converges with Thanksgiving.  The last time it happened was 125 years ago, and because of the nuances of the calendars, it will not happen for another 70,000+ years.

In other words, never again.



Hanukkah Past

Going back a few centuries, we can discover that the first Thanksgiving in America, celebrated by the Pilgrims, was based on Sukkot, or Feast of Tabernacles.  This seventh feast of the Bible can be likened to a Jewish Thanksgiving.  Sukkot has always been a time of celebration after the last great harvest of the year (and has a future fulfillment of the last great harvest of the Earth).



Going back even further, we discover that Hanukkah was a celebration to re-dedicate the refurbished holy temple in 165 BC.  It had been desecrated by the Syrian ruler Antiochus IV, who was then defeated by a small but feisty band of Jewish fighters known as the Maccabees.

What you may not know is that this particular celebration of Hanukkah in 165 BC was also based on Sukkot - in particular the Sukkot when Solomon dedicated the first temple in I Kings 8.  They were having such a blast at that dedication that Solomon decided to add a second week to the festivities, and finally on the eighth day of the second week, he sent them home.

This year's "Thanksgivukkah" brings them all together again.


Hanukkah Present

In this period we live in, between the previous second and future third temples, the Word tells us that we ARE the temple of the Holy Spirit. 

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your body."  I Corinthians 6:19-20


Thinking about the cleansing and rededication of the Temple - that Hanukkah commemorates - reminds us that we are to be continually cleansing and dedicating our lives and our bodies to the service of the Lord.  This dedication is not a one-time event, but a continual process of sanctification that lasts the rest of our lives.
 
 
Hanukkah Future
 
This will also have a future fulfillment when the third temple will be re-dedicated after the desecration by the antichrist.
 
The book of Daniel gives us a prophecy of the last seven years of history.  Without going into too many numerical details, after sixty-nine weeks (seven-year periods), a Messiah was to show up and then be cut-off (meaning be killed).  Guess who showed up 483 years after this prophecy?  The math shows Him riding into Jerusalem on a donkey at exactly the right time.
 
When the Jews as a national body rejected the Messiah, that seventieth week was put off until a future time so that the kingdom could be offered to the Gentiles. 

(Thank you, Lord, for the opportunity to join Your kingdom!)
 
Daniel 12 speaks of the horrible things that will happen during the second half of that 70th "week," which will last 3 1/2 years.  Revelation speaks of 1260 days, and Daniel speaks of 1335 days.  Why the extra 75 days?
 
It is interesting to note that there are 75 days from Yom Kippur to Hanukkah.  While we cannot dogmatically predict how every element of the fall feasts will be fulfilled, it seems to me that the national salvation of Israel on a future Yom Kippur will be followed by the third temple's dedication (or re-dedication) 75 days later. 
 
And the best part of all this is that the Lion of Judah - Yeshua, our King of Kings - will be present during all the festivities!
 


 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

New Covenant Giving

The church today teaches that Jesus fulfilled the law given to Moses at Mount Sinai.  Which is a good thing to teach, because this is true.  He became our Law when we put our trust in Him.

I find it interesting, though, that the one aspect of the Sinai covenant still taught by congregations today is tithing; the giving of ten percent of your income to your local church body.  Believers are often surprised to learn that this is not taught anywhere in the New Testament.



Under the Mosaic covenant, the main purpose of tithing was to support the priesthood. Numbers 18:21 said, - “Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting.

The priests and Levites had no inheritance of land for farming.  They needed to be freed up to concentrate on their service at the holy temple.  (Side note: if you add up and estimate all the required tithes and sacrifices that were required under the Moses Covenant for various holy days and special offerings, it was more like 22 percent).

In Genesis 14, Abraham gave a tithe of war spoils to Melchizedek in Genesis 14.  This mysterious priest shows up out of nowhere, with no geneology, as a snapshot of our future High Priest, Yeshua.
 
Melchizedek shows up again in Hebrews 7:11-12, which says, Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron?  For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law. 
 
Since Yeshua fulfilled the tenets of the Sinai covenant perfectly, he was qualified to become our new high priest.  And WE are now priests in His kingdom. 1 Peter 2:9 says we are a royal priesthood.  Revelation 1:6 tells us that He has made us kings and priests forever!  There is no longer a Levitical priesthood to support, since we are all the priesthood. 
 
So does the New Covenant get rid of giving altogether?  By no means!
 
The letter of the law was abolished, and we now have the Spirit to lead us.  New Covenant law gets rid of the externals of the law, and magnifies the internals – the matters of the heart.  New Covenant law is MUCH more difficult to keep, which is why we need the power of the Holy Spirit.  Some examples given by Yeshua are:
  • Don’t murder, but you are just as guilty if you hate your brother.
  • Don’t commit adultery, but you are guilty even if you harbor lust in your heart.
Giving is definitely a matter of the heart.  If other internals were magnified, would giving not also be magnified?  Let's look at some concepts of New Covenant giving taught by Yeshua:

In Matthew 6:19-25  Yeshua tells us, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! 

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

The middle part of this passage, referring to good and bad eyes, seems out of place.  But when you understand that it is referring to a Jewish idiom (a good eye means a generous eye, bad eye means a selfish eye), the  passage suddenly makes much more sense.

The account of the rich young ruler is told in Matthew, Mark, and Luke:  He asks Yeshua,  "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?"  He’d kept the letter of the law all his life. Yeshua replied,  You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.  Yeshua knew that this man's heart was given over to his money.

Mark and Luke record the story of the widow's mite:  Jesus says, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.”



Both accounts underline what Matthew 5 tells us; that where your heart is, there will your treasure be.

(May I just insert here an exhortation to the wealthy American church?  We are approaching the holiday called Thanksgiving, where we spend the day being thankful for all that we have. Then the next day, we celebrate "Black Friday" and get a whole bunch more stuff.  Just sayin'...  Traditions die hard, but really, aren't we supposed to avoid being conformed to this world?  Can I get an amen here?  Hello?  Anyone?  Cricket, cricket...)

Anyhoo, let's continue our perusal of New Covenant giving.  How did the early believers give, and to whom or what did they give their money?
 

1.  To each other
 
Acts 2:44-46 - Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
 
Acts 4:34-35 - Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.

These accounts are a narrative of what the early believers did, and not a command for us to go live on a socialistic kibbutz (although you can if you want to).  The point is, that these believers had an attitude of generosity among each other, giving wherever there was a need.  They didn't give ten percent, they gave EVERYTHING, knowing that it was all God's money.
 

 

2.  To the Jewish believers in Judea
 
Paul spent close to 10 years soliciting funds for the believers in Jerusalem.  Then and today, life was difficult for Messianic Jewish believers in Israel.  As a tiny minority in Israel today, they are sometimes persecuted and/or have a hard time finding a job.
 
Acts 11:29 - Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea.
 
1 Corinthians 16:1-3  Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem.
 
Romans 15:25-27  But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints.  For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem. It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things.

 Below are listed several Biblical reasons to support Jewish missions:

1.  Genesis 12:3 - I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. It is important to note that two different words are used here for "curse." the second one means to treat as unimportant, or lightly esteem.

2.  Romans 1:16 -  For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.

3.  Isaiah 40:1-2 - “Comfort, yes, comfort My people! says your God. “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her.  Isaiah is talking to us here.  He isn't telling Israel to comfort herself.

4.  Matthew 25:40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
The word used for brethren here is literally close kinsmen.  How you treat the Jews matters.
 
5.  Romans 11:15 -  For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?  The salvation of the Jews is the culmination of God's many promises to Israel throughout the scriptures, and will be accompanied by a tremendous, worldwide harvest.  It should be high on our priority list indeed!


 
3.  To missionaries

In Matthew 10:9-10, Jesus is sending out the twelve to the house of Israel:  Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food.

In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul speaks further of financially supporting gospel workers.  "If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more?

Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ. Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.

But I have used none of these things, nor have I written these things that it should be done so to me… What is my reward then? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge, that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel.”

Paul, one of the church-planting apostles, is saying that it is not wrong to support workers for the gospel.  However, he himself will not accept such support – he was a tentmaker.   Each person must allow the Spirit to lead him/her in this matter. 

2 Corinthians 9 really seems to capture the essence of giving:  But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.

Put another way, you simply cannot outgive God!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Musings on the Fifth Commandment

Exodus 20:12 tells us, Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.



Obedience to the fifth commandment comes with a special blessing, unlike the other nine.  Could there be more to this commandment than meets the eye?

I have said before that Yeshua did not come to Earth to start a new religion called Christianity. (I know, I am changing the subject, but bear with me). 

He is the Messiah, the fulfillment of all that was written about Him in the Tanakh, the Hebrew scriptures (aka the "Old Testament"). Christianity is simply a continuation of YHVH's plan. He was first promised in Genesis 3:15 as the Seed of the woman... the first suggestion of parenthood in scripture. 

Biblical Judaism and Christianity were both birthed from the ultimate parent, YHVH Himself.  But scriptures are filled with all sorts of family analogies.  We can also say that Christianity was birthed out of Biblical Judaism, after Yeshua came to earth - as the Seed of the Woman - and was sacrificed for our sins.  In this way, Biblical Judaism can be called our parent faith.  (Rabbinic Judaism, birthed after the destruction of the temple, re-wrote Biblical Judaism).

The early church was all Jewish.  But as it grew and expanded, it became more and more Gentile.  By the fourth century, the Roman Emperor Constantine had adopted Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire.  Tragically, he (and so many others) did not like the Jews.  He forbade any Jewish expression of faith within the Roman church.  The Sabbath was changed to Sunday.  The Biblical feasts - which ALL point to Yeshua - were made illegal, and are still generally not taught in the church today.  The faith became something that was totally unrecognizable to the Jewish people (much like Joseph, who had fully taken on the look of an Egyptian and was not known by his brothers).

Even worse, the disassociation did not stop here.  Throughout history, Jewish people have been horribly persecuted, many times in the name of Christ.  Major events like the crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the Pogroms, and the Holocaust, are accompanied by hundreds of lesser-known tragedies such as forced conversions, expulsions, tortures, and massacres.  It is not hard at all to understand why Jews would distrust Christians.

We did not honor our parent faith. 

Genesis 12:3 says this:  I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.


There is a promise of blessing when we bless Israel.  There is also a curse attached to cursing them.  But it is important to know that two different Hebrew words are used for curse here.  The first one, arar, means to curse, and the second one, qalal, means to lightly esteem, or treat as unimportant



The very last verse in the Tanakh, Malachai 4:6, is in the context of the Day of the Lord, when Messiah returns to Earth. 

And he will turn
The hearts of the fathers to the children,
And the hearts of the children to their fathers,
Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.


Can this mean that the historical rifts between the Jews and the Christians will be healed in the days leading up to Yeshua's return?  I hope so!
 
The church has a lot of repenting to do for its sins against the Jews.  And many in the church still cling to Replacement Theology, the idea that YHVH is done with the Jews, has disowned them, and has instead given all the Biblically-promised blessings to the church.

To the early church fathers, Replacement Theology seemed logical.  The Jews had been scattered to the four corners of the Earth after the temple was destroyed 70 AD.  No ethnic group could possibly keep their cultural identity and then be re-gathered from such a scattering abroad, not even after one generation.  No, that was humanly impossible; it had never happened in the history of the world.




All that changed in 1948.  The miraculous  rebirth of Israel took place, as foretold in the scriptures.  The Jewish people came - and are still coming - from the four corners of the earth to settle in that little gem of land no bigger than New Jersey.

To cling to the idea that YHVH has disowned His chosen people is to miss the heart of the Father for His chosen people.  Yeshua gave us the story of the Prodigal Son.  It is a terrible thing for the church to take on the attitude of the arrogant older brother.



Now more than ever, we need to bless and esteem the members of our parent faith.  Very soon, Yeshua will return to the very soil of Israel and reveal Himself to those who do not yet believe.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Rock and Roll... Bible Style!

Okay, now that I have your attention, I'm really talking about the connection between stones and bread. (Get it?  Rock and roll?  Stones and bread?   I know; not that funny...)



I was hanging out in Deuteronomy 8 the other day, and came across this:

So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth YHVH.

In context, we see that Moses was on the mountain for forty days with no bread, and at the end, he received YHVH's instructions - written on stone tablets.

Moses, a foreshadow of the Messiah, was given the Word - the Bread of Life - on stones.

Fast forward to Yeshua, spending His own forty days in the wilderness with no bread.  The accuser, who knows the scriptures probably better than anyone, challenged Yeshua to turn the mountain stones into bread.  Yeshua went right back to Deuteronomy 8 and quoted the aforementioned verse.

Several chapters later, we find Yeshua teaching His disciples how to pray.  About halfway through, He said "give us this day our daily bread."  Do you think He is talking about food?  Hmmm, just a few verses later He told His disciples not to worry about what they shall eat or drink.  It looks to me like He is talking about feasting on the daily Word!

We see another connection in the very next chapter, when Yeshua said Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Yeshua is saying that it is a good thing to desire the Bread, the One who fulfilled everything that was written on the stones of Sinai.

The purpose of the law, written on stone and given to Moses, was to reveal our sinful nature and demonstrate our need for redemption.  Yeshua, the Bread of Life, fulfilled the law, gave His life for us, and became our Chief Cornerstone in Whom we are to place our trust.

John 6 is full of references to bread.  The chapter begins with Yeshua feeding the 5000.  The next day, people showed up for another free meal, and were taught about the Everlasting Bread instead. 

Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. 

This caused grumbling among some of the people.  Yeshua continued, "I am the bread of life.  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead.  This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”
 
Wonderful, awesome Bread!  No need to worry about gluten or carbs.  This Bread gives life!
 
Have you had your Bread today?



Friday, October 18, 2013

A Fresh Look at the Third Commandment

For a long time, the term OMG has really bothered me.  People would throw His name around so casually!  Haven't they heard the third commandment?  I even wrote a blog post awhile back called "Oh, My Bob!"  (Click here if you feel like reading it).


I must confess, I have been looking at the original language of the third commandment, and have come to realize that the commandment is saying something altogether different than what I have always thought.

(If you think this releases you to run around OMG-ing, please read Ezekiel 36:23, Joel 2:26, and many other places - His name is YHVH and it is HOLY).

The text in question is Exodus 20:7:  You shall not take the name of YHVH your God in vain, for YHVH will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.

First, the word translated take.  It means to lift up.  This is the origin of placing one's hand on a Bible in a courtroom and swearing an oath, in the name of God.

Now, let's look at the word translated vain.  It means falsehood; empty lies. 

Putting the two together, we see that this verse is telling us how serious YHVH is regarding the taking of an oath.  This can be confirmed many times in scripture. 

Remember the Gibeonites in Joshua chapter 9?  They dressed themselves up as if they had come from a long way, and tricked the Israelites into making a treaty with them in order to save their hides.  The Israelites made the mistake of not consulting YHVH first.  Later, when they realized that the Gibeonites lived nearby, this is what they had to say:

But the children of Israel did not attack them, because the rulers of the congregation had sworn to them by the Lord God of Israel. And all the congregation complained against the rulers.
Then all the rulers said to all the congregation, “We have sworn to them by the Lord God of Israel; now therefore, we may not touch them.  Joshua 9:18-19



Even rash oaths must be honored.  Are you familiar with Jephthah's rash vow in Judges 11?  He came home from war, and enthusiastically promised YHVH that he would offer the first thing that he saw as a sacrifice.  He did not anticipate that it would be his daughter.  (Biblical scholars differ on the result of Japhtheh's vow).

In Matthew 5, Yeshua reiterated the importance of an oath, to the point of cautioning us not even to do it.  James 5 repeats this caution in verse 12.  But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No,” lest you fall into judgment.

Are you with me so far?  You can search the scriptures and find much more on the importance of oaths.  The Lord God takes them very seriously.

Genesis 26:3 tells of an oath that YHVH swore to Abraham:  Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father.  We can go through the book of Genesis and see this promise repeated several times.  Genesis 13:15 reveals that the promise is forever.

Hebrews 6:17 tells us that it is impossible for God to lie. 

Now that Israel is back in the land that was sworn to her by Almighty God so very long ago, there are many who would like nothing more than to see her gone, and her enemies fight tooth and nail to see that happen.   However, their fight is futile... God CANNOT lie.  His purposes WILL go forward, whether people like them or not. 

Israel has endured four major wars, countless minor wars, a media war, and a commerce war (the BDS movement, which stands for Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions against Israel).  None of these things are working for those opposed to Israel.  Zechariah 12:3 warns us "In that day I will make Jerusalem a stumbling block for all people; all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth gather against it." 



Ouch.  I don't think it gets much clearer than that. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Creation and Millenia - A Godly Pattern

I just love how our God is a God of order!  I have been recently studying the correlation between the seven days of creation and the millennia (thousand year periods) of human history.  The Word speaks often of the number seven, which represents completeness.  In fact, seven in Hebrew is sheva, which carries the threefold meaning of seven, completeness, and a sworn oath.  (Note:  If you don't believe in a literal 7-day creation or that the earth is young, this post is probably not for you)



Day 1 – God separated light and dark
The first words of Elohim were "Let there be light."  Notice the sun and moon were not created yet; He Himself was the light!  So what was happening during the first thousand years of man's existence? Let's take a look.
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Millenium 1 – 4000-3000 BC (approx.)

  • Creation and the fall of man – God’s presence was light.  Separation from Him was darkness.
  • God's first covenant with man took place in Eden – The Redeemer was promised through seed of Woman (notice: not man), and Elohim provided skins for Adam and Eve.  This was the first bloodshed, which provided covering, or atonement, for them.
  • Cain and Abel.  Abel's sacrifice (which included bloodshed) was accepted.  Cain's was not.
  • Toward the end, Noah built a boat and preached to the people (who all thought he was crazy).
  • There was a great increase of wickedness in the world.  Again, light versus darkness.

 
Day 2 – God separated the waters
The waters were separated; some to the earth and some to the skies.  The part in between was called the expanse, or firmament.  Its purpose was to divide.  What took place during the next millennium?

Millenium 2 – 3000-2000 BC (approx)

  • The great flood took place at the beginning of this era, involving massive amounts of water, and also the separation of wickedness and righteousness.
  • God makes the second covenant with man - the rainbow and the promise to never again destroy the earth with a flood.  The flood was the first time the earth saw rain.
  • The Tower of Babel took place - a major occurance of separation and division as Elohim scattered the people and confused their languages.
  • Abraham was born toward the end of this time period and he separated from Ur in obedience to Elohim.

 
Day 3 – The dry land appears, vegetation begins to grow
This day saw the birth of sustenance that would be needed to sustain life on Earth.  What was going on in our corresponding thousand-year period?

Millenium 3 – 2000-1000 BC (approx)

  • God’s plan of redemption for mankind began to take shape
  • Abraham obeyed God, even to offer his own son as sacrifice - a picture of a future sacrifice
  • God instituted the 3rd Covenant - the unconditional Abrahamic covenant – which included the Land (Israel), the Seed (Messiah), and the Blessing  (Redemption).  The promise was repeated to Isaac and to Jacob.  This is a never-ending covenant - the promise was forever.
  • The nation of Israel was forged in the fires of Egypt, while  they were in slavery.
  • Israel was delivered - on dry land - through the Red Sea.
  • Yehovah instituted the 4th covenant – the covenant made at Sinai with Moses, conditional upon obedience (Torah, Law).  The purpose of this law was to reveal sin and to highlight the need for redemption.  He also revealed His holy name (YHVH) to Moses. 
  • Israel was sustained in the desert with manna from heaven.
  • Israel entered the Promised Land.
  • Yehovah gave the 5th covenant – the permanent Davidic covenant (the promise of the Messiah coming from the line of King David, 2 Samuel 7:12-13)

 
Day 4 – The sun, moon, and stars appear for signs and seasons, days and years
The earth, along with its newly-formed vegetation, was given the sun so that the vegetation could bloom and grow. The earth was also prepared to sustain the life that was about to come.

Millenium 4 – 1000 BC to the birth of Messiah (approx)

  • The word for seasons is mo’ed, meaning appointed times in Hebrew.  The seven "mo'ed" (also called Feasts) were given in the Torah during the previous era, and in this millennium, they began to take form.
  • This was the age of the prophets, who confirmed the appointed times through prophecy.
  • The forthcoming new covenant to be made with Israel and Judah was announced in Jeremiah 31:31, which would eventually take the place of the Sinai covenant.
  • Israel was exiled for 70 years and then returned to the land, to prepare for the first arrival of Messiah to the earth.
  • At the end of this era, Yeshua the son of God arrived on Earth.  (born in about 4-5 BC)


Day 5 – The creatures of the ocean and the birds of the air created
It is interesting that only animals of the sea and the air were created on this day, but not the land animals yet. Is there significance to that?  (Rhetorical question - everything has meaning in scripture)

Millenium 5 –  Birth of Messiah to about 1000 AD (approx)

  • The 6th covenant - Yeshua instituted the new covenant through the shedding of His blood
  • The age of God’s spiritual kingdom on earth began
  • The Holy Spirit was sent to indwell the saints on Shavuot (Greek:  Pentecost)
  • The fish became a major symbol of Yeshua and of the early New Testament church
  • The Holy Spirit was represented by a dove
  • 'Earth to sky' is a picture of the prayers of the saints reaching the heavens.
  • The fifth article of the Tabernacle is the altar of incense, which represents the prayers of the saints ascending to the Almighty's throne (Revelation 8:3-4)

Day 6 – Creation of man and land animals
This is the day that Elohim finishes His work, perhaps saving the best for last?  Let's look at how the creation of man and animals corresponds with the sixth millennium.

Millenium 6 – 1000 AD to now (approx)

  • We have a picture of man taking dominion of the earth
  • Around 1000 AD, gunpowder was invented by the Chinese.  Hmmm, a turning point?
  • Great changes began about halfway through the sixth millennium.
  • Great advances were made in science and technology.  Think of Galileo, Copernicus, da Vinci, Newton, Edison, Bell,  Ford, Wright Bros, to name a few.
  • Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1450.   Another major turning point?
  • World exploration and expansion began around the same time.
  • Electricity discovered.  Ask the CEO of Best Buy Company if this was important.
  • The Industrial Revolution ushered in the 19th century (For 5000 years, sojourners had relied on their feet and their animals for transportation)
  • The steam engine was invented in the late 1700s.
  • The 1700s also saw the rise of Humanism, the Enlightenment, and Darwinism - very man-centered.
  • Technology began growing exponentially (bicycle, car, plane - all invented within 20 years of each other)
  • The Earth has been filled – the number of people alive today make up half the people who have ever lived.
  • More people have been killed by wars and dictators in the 20th century than all previous centuries combined.
  • Exponential growth of population and technology will continue till Yeshua returns.
  • The mark of the beast (whatever it is) is represented by triple six, the number of man.
  • Today's fast-paced escalation of life can be compared to a Jewish family preparing for Shabbat.  Hurry!  So much to do to get ready!  I saw a wonderful picture of this while visiting the Jewish marketplace in Jerusalem on a Friday afternoon.  So much preparation and excitement in the air!  And speaking of the Jewish people, one of the key events in this sixth millennium was the birth of Israel in 1948.  Isaiah 66:8 says, Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion was in labor, She gave birth to her children.  Israel was not born out of another country, as was the case with the United States (and pretty much every other new country ever birthed).  She literally was born - reborn, actually - out of the four corners of the earth!
 
Day 7 – And God rested from His work - Shabbat (Sabbath)

Millenium 7 – Coming sometime soon, to last for 1000 years

  • Yeshua will return for His bride and will dwell with her on Earth.
  • Satan will be bound, and it will be a time of peace and rest.  Hallelujah!
  • The 7th covenant awaits future fulfillment - it is the covenant of peace in  Ezekiel 37: I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Then the nations will know that I am Yehovah who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.  As grafted-in believers, we Gentiles get to be a part of this covenant, too.
So what happens next?  At the end of the seventh millennium of rest, there is a brief war in which satan is unbound and utterly vanquished.  Then the New Jerusalem will come down from the New Heavens and be joined with the New Earth.  Isaiah 66:17 promises, "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind."  Revelation 21 completes the picture.
 
 
Bonus: My friend Jill showed me this cool correspondence within the Days of Creation:

  • Days 1 and 4 – light; sun, moon, and stars
  • Days 2 and 5 – Waters divided between earth and heaven; fish and birds
  • Days 3 and 6 – Land and vegetation; man and beast. 
  • Day 7 is holy and set apart.
In closing, I just want to say that all of this beautiful order laid out by our Creator should give great reassurance to those of us living in these last days.  We do not have to have any fear of whatever trials about to come on the Earth.  Our loving Father has a master plan, and we are privileged to be a part of it. 
 
 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Happy Sukkot to you...

Today is the first day of Sukkot, also called Feast of Tabernacles, Feast of Booths, or Feast of Ingathering.  Sukkot is the seventh and final Biblical feast (literally "appointed time.").   It is a festival of great joy!

Preparing for Sukkot in Mea Shearim, and ultra-orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem

The ancient fulfillment of Sukkot occurred in the wilderness, when the Israelites dwelt in tents.  Today, people build temporary shelters to remind them of that time when God actually tabernacled (dwelt) with them in the wilderness.


There is a future fulfillment of Sukkot coming, too.  So many elements of Sukkot parallel the ancient Jewish seven-day wedding feast.  I believe that there is a Sukkot coming, in the not too distant future, when Jewish and Gentile believers will be celebrating the Wedding Supper of the Lamb after the Messiah returns as the Conquering King. 

A Jewish wedding chuppah - could the canopy foreshadow the sukkah?

There is also Biblical evidence demonstrating that Yeshua entered the world at the Feast of Sukkot. John 1:14 says, And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.  The Greek word for dwelt, skenoo, literally means to pitch a tent.  Some translations even use the word tabernacled.  The Hebrew word Sukkot included animal shelters... Genesis 33:17 says And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, built himself a house, and made booths for his livestock. Therefore the name of the place is called Succoth.

A study of the time of the conception of John the Baptist reveals he was conceived about Sivan 30, the eleventh week. When Zechariah was ministering in the temple, he received an announcement from God of a coming son. The eighth course of Abijah (Luke 1:5), when Zechariah was ministering, was the week of Sivan 12 to 18, according to the Talmud. Adding forty weeks for a normal pregnancy reveals that John the Baptist was born on or about Passover (Nisan 14).

We know six months after John’s conception, Mary conceived Jesus (Luke 1:26-33). Therefore, Jesus would have been conceived six months later in the month of Kislev. Kislev 25 is Hanukkah.  What?  The Light of the World conceived at the Festival of Lights?

Starting at Hanukkah, which begins on Kislev 25 and continues for eight days, and counting through the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy, one arrives at the approximate time of the birth of Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles (the early fall of the year).

During the Feast of Tabernacles, God required all male Jews to come to Jerusalem. The many pilgrims coming to Jerusalem for the festivals would spill over to the surrounding towns (Bethlehem is about five miles from Jerusalem). Joseph and Mary were unable to find a room at the inn because of the influx of so many pilgrims. They may have been given shelter in a sukkah, which is built during a seven-day period each year accompanying the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. Due to the difficulties during travel, it was common for the officials to declare tax time during a temple Feast (Luke 2:1).

Even though the Bible does not specifically say the date of Yeshua's birth, we know it was not during the winter months because the sheep were in the pasture. Round the clock shepherding would especially take place during a pilgrimage festival, where there would be great need of many animals for sacrifices.  

God does things with such precision!  If Yeshua was born on the first day of Sukkot, His circumcision would have been on the day after Sukkot ended, itself also a Biblical celebration.  Leviticus 23:36 tells us, For seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation, and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. It is a sacred assembly, and you shall do no customary work on it.  This is the day that Yeshua would have been given His name and entered into the Abrahamic covenant through circumcision.  (Luke 2:21)

Here's another thought: priests began their service at age 30.  We know that Yeshua, our high priest, began His ministry at that same age. It makes sense that he turned 30 at Sukkot and immediately began His ministry.  He served for 3 1/2 years and then died and rose at the time of Passover (which is a half year away from Sukkot).  I also don't think it is any mistake that His first miracle was at a wedding - another foreshadowing of Feast of Tabernacles and the Wedding of the Lamb.




Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Moses: Snapshot of Messiah

While studying Exodus the other morning, I was given yet another foreshadowing, or scripture picture, of our Messiah, as well as our justification and sanctification.

Exodus 18 speaks of Jethro's advice to Moses - Hey, you are doing everything yourself.  Get some peeps to help you, son!

I closed my eyes and thought of Moses as a picture of Yeshua.  The Lord God had used Moses alone to part the Red Sea and lead the Israelites across to dry land.  The fact that Moses stretched out his hand for physical redemption is a foreshadowing of our Messiah stretching out His hand on the cross for our spiritual redemption.

After Moses led the Israelites safely through the Red Sea, it closed up after them - completely destroying the Egyptian army.  The closing of the Red Sea is a foreshadowing of baptism.  The Egyptian Army represents the sin in our life that is completely wiped away by the water.   It is the trip through the Red Sea that represents our justification through the redeeming arm of the Messiah.



So now on the other side, it will no longer be Moses that does everything.  At his father-in-law's urging, Moses divides responsibilities among the people of Israel.  Verse 21 says, Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.

In Matthew 25, we read the parable of the talents.  Each servant was put in charge of a different amount.  They were then judged on what they did with what they were given.  Verse 21 says, His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.  Enter into the joy of your master.'

Scripture promises that we will reign with Yeshua in the coming kingdom (Rev 20:6).  The Word is telling us that we will have a position in the kingdom that reflects our works here on earth.  We are not working for our salvation; that happened when we accepted the finished work of the Lord on the cross as payment for our sins.  We are working out our salvation  (Philippians 2:12) because of our justification (redemption).  This is where we earn those jewels on our crowns!  Sanctification is a lifelong process.  1 Corinthians 3 gives us a picture of the judgment of our works: 

For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.  If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.



Justification is the work of the Lord.  Sanctification requires our cooperation, and will determine our position in the coming kingdom. 

So what are those works of sanctification?   We are told, firstly, to love the Lord our God with all we've got, and then love our neighbor as ourselves.  Everything we do, to His glory, is considered a work.  Praise, prayer, adoration, serving, using our gifts and talents... the list goes on.  Colossians 3:23 says, Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord and not for men.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Stunning Geneology

I have said it before... nothing is in scripture by mistake.  There are so many levels to God's word that we can spend our whole lives digging out truths and never find it all.

God has placed a beautiful account in the geneology of the first people.  Have you ever skipped over Genesis 5, thinking that it's just a bunch of ancient names?  I know I have.  But Genesis 5 is, in truth, a gold mine.



 The name of the first human being, Adam, means man.  That is pretty basic, and it makes sense.  Adam had a son, and named him Seth.  Seth means appointed.  OK, an unusual name to be sure.  "Hey appointed!  Can you bring me that flint rock so I can start a fire over here?"

Seth grew up and became father to Enosh, which means mortal.   Enosh named his son Kenan, which means sorrow.  I don't even want to think of the taunts poor Kenan must have received from his peers.  Kenan grew up and fathered Mahalael, which means the blessed God.

Mahalael became father to Jared (which does not mean I lost 400 pounds eating Subway sandwiches).   Jared means to come down, or he who descends.  Jared named his son Enoch, which means teaching

*Update!  I have studied the name Enoch (Hebrew chanak), and have discovered that it really means to dedicate, or inaugurate.  In other words, watch out, a new thing is coming.  The word Hanukkah is a form of the name Enoch, and it is the Feast of Dedication.  It commemorated the restoration and opening of the Jewish temple.

Enoch became father to the oldest man on record, Methuselah, which means his death shall bring.  (And guess what happened the very year Methuselah died?  The flood.)

Methuselah named his son Lamech, which means despairing (another great one for the school yard taunts).  Having grown up with that name, Lamech gave his own son the name Noah, meaning comfort or rest.

None of these names are accidental.  When put together, they read something like this:

Man [is] appointed mortal sorrow, [but] the blessed God shall come down, to inaugurate [that] His death shall bring the despairing comfort and rest.

Coincidence?  I think not. 

I wonder if there could be a message in the full geneology of Yeshua in Luke 3?  Hmmm.... stay tuned!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Water and Blood

This post ended up being a continuation of my last...  in case you haven't read it, you can go here:

Geology in Scripture - Rocks and Water

So, now I am going to step on a few theological toes here. 

The other night, we were singing a song about the blood of Jesus.  Of course, in the context of the redemption of man, it an excellent theme. 

 
However, I have noticed that in singing and prayers, we often call on the blood of Yeshua to constantly cleanse us.  We pray the blood of Yeshua over any number of conflicts in our life.  But is this what we should do? 
My last post dealt with the punishment of Moses when he struck the rock the second time, instead of simply speaking to it.  The meaning is that the Rock (Yeshua) only had to be struck once.  In other words, His blood was shed once for all to atone for our sin.  Once we have applied it to our lives, we are justified.  It’s a done deal.  No more blood needed.
 
When the Roman centurion plunged the spear into Yeshua, who was already dead, out flowed both blood and water.  The blood represents our justification, which happens as a one-time event:  when we turn to Him in faith.  The water, however, represents our sanctification… the process of our lives being cleaned up as we live for Him, empowered by the Holy Spirit.
 
This same pattern can be seen in the the tabernacle and also the feasts (both of which are rarely mentioned in the church).  Each is made up of seven parts (seven represents completeness), and it is amazing how they line up with each other!  
 
The first element of the tabernacle is the altar; a picture of redemption, which is also called justification.  The first feast, Passover, is also a picture of that redemption/justification with the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb.  Justification is a one-time deal... our redemptive price is paid in full.
 
 
 
The second element of the tabernacle is the laver; a basin of water that represents the cleaning up our lives.  After the sacrifice of the lamb on the altar, the priests would need to clean up.  Sacrifice is messy!  Likewise, we came to the altar flawed and sinful, and we were accepted as we were.  But in the same way, there is a lot of cleanup to do!
 
 
 
God loves us too much to leave us messy at the altar; thus the laver - which gives us a picture of our sanctification.  As a parallel, the second feast (of the seven )is Unleavened Bread.  Leaven in scripture symbolizes sin, and the seven day feast of Unleavened Bread is another picture of our sanctification, which takes place over the course of the rest of our lives (the seven days demonstrating that completeness).
 
I have often heard “the blood of Jesus” prayed over a situation with a believer that really calls for the cleansing, living water instead.  The blood was already shed, and there is no need to strike that Rock again.  Yeshua was raised from the dead, no longer mortal flesh and blood (1 Corinthians 15:50 says that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God). The Living Water flows constantly, purifying and cleansing us as we walk out our sanctification, serving our risen King!