Monthly Archives: December 2017

The Christmas Story begins in the Book of Genesis

Dear friend,

Shalom and a Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to you! 

We celebrate two great festivals of deliverance and joy during December. One of the holidays is observed by Christians and the other by Jewish people. There is some crossover today as, once in awhile, I find a Christmas tree capped with a Jewish star or see a Jewish person with a Hanukkah bush in their home! 

Sometimes this is done to ease the tension of a mixed marriage by bringing the holidays together for the sake of the children. Rarely is there recognition that, at its root, Christmas is a Jewish holiday and Hanukkah finds its ultimate fulfillment in Yeshua, the Messiah, and Light of the world.

Believe me, it is not easy to persuade the most ardent adherents that the above is true, but when recognized, it brings a greater delight and joy to each of the holidays. Let me explain by reminding us of the story of both holidays, beginning with Christmas.

The Christmas Story Begins in the Book of Genesis

Where does the Christmas story begin? Most people would answer correctly—in the Bible. However, they would begin the story with the wrong Testament by jumping right in with the birth of the Messiah! The story, in fact, begins much earlier. The story of Christmas begins in the Old Testament as far back as the book of Genesis. The first promise of a redeemer is found in Genesis 3:15:

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.”

Moses tells us that God would one day deliver mankind from sin and death, from disobedience, and from all the evil and human hardship that came about as a result of the fall of Adam and Eve. This deliverance would come through the seed of the woman who, in the process of destroying the serpent, would bruise his heel—not with a mortal wound but painful nonetheless. 

The wounding of this son of Eve points to Jesus who bore our sin. He was born of a woman, innocent, perfect, and without sin. His death may be viewed like the bruising of the heel, painful but not fatal since He rose from the dead. In Yeshua’s rising from the dead, He proved that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had accepted His sacrifice for sin. Later on, in Isaiah 53, we read these words,

“All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on him.”

We are all sinful and we all need a Savior. We are unable to save ourselves because we have inherited the disobedient nature of our “parents,” Adam and Eve. All praise be to God who sent His Son to die as the solution for our sins—for both forgiveness and transformation!

This glorious story of redemption begins with the first sin because God’s grace has been available from the very start to all those who would receive it! The drama of redemption unfolds throughout the Old Testament Scriptures.

In Genesis 12, we discover that God calls an elderly couple, Abraham and Sarah, to be His bridge of grace to a broken and sinful world. Their descendants, the Jewish people, were chosen for the sake of those who were not part of their own community and who ultimately would be used by God to bless the world: “And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you, all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3).

Eventually, these blessings to the world would come through one descendant of Abraham, the Messiah Jesus, and through Him, the world would receive the blessings of redemption.

But, how would the one promised in Genesis 3:15 be recognized? The Scriptures begin filling in His qualifications. The first one is that He would come from one particular tribe of Israel. He would be from the tribe of Judah, the fourth-born son of Jacob. As Moses describes, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples” (Genesis 49:10).

Even the rabbis of old recognized that the name Shiloh was a reference to the Messiah and Redeemer promised to Israel and the nations. These promises shaped the expectations of the Jewish people so that when the Messiah came He would be recognized by His people.

The qualifications for the Messiah continue as the Bible tells us that He would also be a Son of David. This was promised through the prophecy of Nathan to King David:

“When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever… Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:12-1316).

David thought he would build a house for God—the Temple—but instead, God created a house for the king assuring him that one of his descendants would sit on his throne forever. 

The Savior would be a Jewish man, a true prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15) who dies for the sins of both Jews and Gentiles (Isaiah 53, Psalm 22) and rises from the grave as the all-powerful Son of God “…who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:4).

Christmas is the drama of redemption fulfilled through the Jewish Messiah, and the story does not begin in the New Testament but is rooted and grounded in the Hebrew Scriptures. This is why I believe Christmas is a Jewish holiday! 

Salvation is of the Jews

Jesus made a profound comment in the Gospel of John when speaking to the well-known Samaritan woman: You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22).

What did He mean? The answer is simple. Jesus let the Samaritan woman know that salvation has its origins in God’s promises to the Jewish people, but the blessings that come through the Jewish Messiah would extend to all who want to have a personal relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This salvation has “Jewish origins” but is available to all who believe!

In a similar way, Hanukkah, the Jewish holiday celebrating the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrian Greeks and their wicked king, Antiochus Epiphanes, also points to this same Savior. Did you know that the observance of Hanukkah is mentioned in the Bible?  In John 10, the Apostle writes,

At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon. The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me. (John 10:22-25)

The Messiah took this occasion to reveal Himself to His people and, in so doing, He was telling the Jewish hearers that there is a salvation coming that is far greater than the one won by the Maccabees on that first Hanukkah. In fact, the lights lit for this holiday are designed by our tradition to remind us of the miracle that kept aflame the eternal light in the Temple. There was only enough oil to last for a day, but it lasted for eight days. The story may or may not be true, but when a Jewish person sees the glow of the Hanukkah candles, they are reminded of His power to deliver His chosen people from destruction! 

As a Jewish follower of Jesus, when I see the beautifully lit Hanukkah menorah, I am reminded of the One who claimed to be the Light of the world (John 8:12) and through whom we all have redemption from sin and the hope of everlasting life.

I hope you will enjoy the brief Bible studies on various Messianic prophecies and that they will encourage your heart. I also pray that you might share some of these prophecies with your Jewish friends who look forward to the great deliverance to come but who do not yet know that the Messiah, predicted in the Hebrew Scriptures, has come and His name is Yeshua—the Savior of the world.

Have a great holiday season and remember to pray for Your Mission to the Jewish People as we reach His chosen people in dozens of cities across the Americas and in seventeen other countries around the globe! 

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah,

Yours in the Messiah,

 

Dr. Mitch Glaser
President of Chosen People Ministries

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What can we do while we wait for Jesus to return?

Dear friend in the Messiah,

Shalom! I just returned from a quick trip to Israel to plan some of our ministry events in honor of the seventieth anniversary of the formation of the State of Israel. Can you believe it? What a difference a few years makes.

I wish I had been alive in 1948 to see the formation of the modern State of Israel. Really, I am jealous of everyone who was there at that time and who believed that one day God would indeed bring the Jewish people back to the land of Israel. The horrors of the Holocaust were still just being uncovered at the end of World War II in 1945. I still meet soldiers who entered the concentration camps and made these gruesome discoveries. Most of these elderly heroes can barely keep from weeping whenever they talk about these horrific events.

For those Christians who watched the early films or heard the reports of what the Nazis had done in slaughtering six million Jewish people, the biblical promise of Israel’s restoration seemed more improbable than at any other time.

But, out of the ashes of the Holocaust God raised up the modern State of Israel, and who could read their Bibles and not see this as one of the great miracles of our modern day?

I believe the return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel and the birth of the State of Israel is just a first and magnificent step in God fulfilling His covenants and promises to the Jewish people (Genesis 12:1-3, 2 Samuel 7:14ff., Jeremiah 31:31-35).

The presence of the modern State of Israel energizes our faith and helps us believe that God will one day keep all His promises to Israel and the nations!

Many Christians travel to Israel and are sometimes disappointed because Israel today is quite secular. Of course, there are hundreds of thousands of religious Jewish people living in Israel today and a growing Messianic Jewish movement of perhaps 25,000-30,000 followers of Jesus.

We are thrilled to see the way God is moving in Israel and drawing Israelis to His Son—but the number of Jesus-followers in Israel today still only constitutes fewer than 1 percent of the population. This is why we are so grateful for our staff around the world who have dedicated their lives to reaching Jewish people everywhere with the life-changing message of the Gospel!

 

ISRAEL IS NOT THE ISRAEL GOD DESTINED HER TO BE!

This is exactly what the Scriptures teach us about the last days. In Ezekiel 36, the prophet speaks of a future return of the Jewish people to the Land after having been scattered among the nations. He says that God Himself would initiate the return and that the Jewish people would return to the land of Israel in unbelief.

The prophet writes,

Therefore say to the house of Israel, “Thus says the Lord God, ‘It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord,’ declares the Lord God, ‘when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight. For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land.’ ” (Ezekiel 36:22-25)

I am often asked whether or not I believe the modern State of Israel is the fulfillment of prophecy and my answer is a resounding yes. Thoughtful Bible students usually respond and ask, “How can Israel today be the fulfillment of prophecy when the Messiah has not returned and the Jewish people living in Israel are generally not following the Torah and not believing in Jesus as Messiah?”

My quick response to this very good question is to say that this is exactly what God promised through the prophet and, unlike any other previous generation, we are seeing God’s word come to a very specific fulfillment.

What’s next? According to Ezekiel, the next two items on God’s timetable will be the spiritual restoration of the nation of Israel and then the physical restoration of Israel.

Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. You will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God. (Ezekiel 36:25-28)

I envision these next events taking place at a future date—at the second coming of Jesus! We can be certain that as sure as God brought Israel back to the land, God will also pour out His Spirit upon the Jewish people. He will turn them to Himself through His Son as He returns to establish His kingdom. Jerusalem will be His capital and Jesus will reign as sovereign over both His Jewish and non-Jewish followers, and in that day His promises to the Jewish people and the nation’s will be fulfilled.

I believe that this is what the Apostle Paul predicted when he wrote to the Roman believers, “Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be!” (Romans 11:12).

And again, “For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” (Romans 11:15).

Knowing the future He has planned for Israel and the nations—what should we do about it today?

The Apostle Paul also tells us in Romans 10,“How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14).

Would you join Your Mission to the Jewish People in preparing the nation of Israel for the second coming of the Messiah? We can partner with God by sharing the Gospel with the Jewish people in Israel, North America, and across the globe! This is our mandate today.

As Paul writes,“I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous” (Romans 11:11).

 

 

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!

Yours in the Messiah,

 

Dr. Mitch Glaser
President of Chosen People Ministries

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