Category Archives: Holidays & Festivals

The Feast of Tabernacles

Jesus, Himself  is the fulfillment—He is God in the flesh who tabernacled among us.

Shalom,

It is hard to believe another year has passed! The Fall Feasts are upon us, and Jewish people all around the world will soon begin to celebrate the New Year (Rosh Hashanah), the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot)—the three great Fall Festivals described in Leviticus 23:23-44.

We believe that each of the Festivals points to Jesus in one way or another, and this is wonderfully true of the Feast of Tabernacles! This Feast, in particular, carries a rich meaning for both Christians and Jewish people alike.

Yeshua the Messiah and the Feast of Tabernacles

Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew) is the fulfillment of all the Jewish Festivals, and this includes Sukkot. First of all, we understand that Jesus Himself is the fulfillment of the Festival in that He is God in the flesh who “tabernacled” among us. As John wrote,

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

The Greek word John used for “dwelt” is skene, a word that refers to the pitching of a tent. The image is easy to grasp—through the incarnation, God pitched a tent, which was His flesh, to veil His pure glory. Jesus pitched His tabernacle and dwelled among us for a short sojourn until the day He returns to reign as King. The incarnation was a foretaste of the experience of God’s glory we will enjoy when the kingdom is established on earth. In that day, the Messiah will be King over all, and both Israel and the nations will bow to Him as their sovereign Lord.

…so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:10-11)

In the 7th chapter of John, we see that Jesus Himself celebrated the Festival and, in fact, He used the celebration to make one of the most profound announcements regarding who He is. Specifically, it was on the seventh day of the Feast, called Hoshana Rabbah. This day is also known in Judaism as the last Day of Judgment. It was customary at that time for the Jewish people to send a choir of Levites and a priestly orchestra to the pool of Siloam to gather water in giant urns, which were then brought back to the altar.

They would march around the altar crying out Hosheanah—“Lord save us…Lord save us,” many times over. They would then pour the water from the urns at the base of the altar. This ceremony symbolized the future hope of the Jewish people—looking forward to the day when God would pour out His Spirit upon the people of Israel in fulfillment of Joel 2:28-29:

It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind: And your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.

According to Jewish tradition, these events were expected to take place when the Messiah appeared on the earth. This “pouring out” was foreshadowed in the Temple by the pouring out of the water at the base of the altar. The water drawing ceremony, as it was known, was a portrait of the day when God would send His Messiah and His Spirit, and the Jewish people would become alive spiritually as they had never before.

Jesus understood the traditions associated with this great day of the Feast, and He knew this was the last opportunity on the Jewish calendar to repent of sins and be cleansed. It is a common misconception that Judaism teaches that the Books of Life and Death are sealed at the conclusion of the Day of Atonement; however, Jewish tradition dating back to the first century tells us that the judgment, which determines one’s fate for the year, is actually finalized on Hoshana Rabbah—literally, the great day of salvation.

It was at the high point of this ceremony when Jesus rose up and cried out:

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ ” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39)

Clearly, He was telling the crowds He was the Messiah, and that the Spirit of God is now being poured out, and that He is the living water. Those who drink, or believe in Him, will never thirst again! The Jewish people had a chance to find forgiveness of sin at the conclusion of the High Holiday cycle, and that moment had arrived—the way of salvation was through faith in Him!

It is safe to assume that Jesus’ declaration was heard by many Jewish people that day, because Sukkot is one of the three biblical Festivals which required all Jewish males to travel to Jerusalem from around the world.

The Future Sukkot

We will also see the Feast of Tabernacles fulfilled in the Kingdom period when the nations will be commanded to come up to Jerusalem and celebrate the Feast (Zechariah 14:16-19). If not, the prophet tells us that a drought would come upon those who disobey. We may assume that this is speaking of God literally withholding water, but also refers to a spiritual drought as those who do not follow the Lord also do not enjoy His favor and goodness.

There is a final unfolding of this great Festival which is described by the Apostle John who writes,

And I heard a loud voice from the thrones saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among men and they shall be His people and God Himself shall be among them, and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, crying, or pain, the first things have passed away. (Revelation 21:3-4)

We believe God will fulfill the kingdom promises to the Jewish people and establish the throne of Jesus in a literal and renewed Jerusalem. But that is not the end of the story—there is more to come. Ultimately, the whole earth will become the Sukkah booth of God, and He will reign for all eternity. As Paul describes,

When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:28)

This is a description of heaven, as after Jesus reigns as King over Israel and the nations for what many believe is for a literal thousand years (Revelation 20:1-5), the events described in Revelation 21 and 1 Corinthians 15 will take place. First, He literally fulfills His promises to Israel based upon the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12:1-3), and then the eternal reign of the Triune God is established forever.

I hope this gives you a whole new perspective on why the Feast of Tabernacles is also called the “Season of Our Joy.” What can bring greater joy than remembering how God tabernacled among us, while also looking forward to the day when He will be with us forever?

The Gospel and the Middle East Conference

There is much to learn about the present and future of Israel and the nations! This is why we have planned a major conference on biblical prophecy to study these very issues in the Scriptures! It is critical for us to look at current events through the lens of the Bible.

Speaking of which, I have some good news: we still have some room for you to join us at The Gospel and the Middle East conference scheduled for October 13-14 in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex! This is going to be an exciting opportunity to hear speakers like Joel Rosenberg, Darrell Bock, Craig Blaising, and others from the Chosen People Ministries staff. We are also bringing in speakers from Israel, and we will hear testimonies from former Muslims who know the Lord and love the Jewish people.

The conference will be an incredible time of exploring what the Bible teaches about Israel and the Middle East, but it will also be a time of celebration as you hear directly from those who minister in Israel about how God is moving in the Holy Land! We are grateful for our co-sponsors, Dallas Theological Seminary and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, so please join us if you are able! The registration information is on the enclosed card, or you can register online at thegospelandthemiddleeast.com.

Thanks for your prayers and faithful financial support as we share the Good News of Jesus the Messiah with Jewish people around the globe!

Enjoy the remainder of the newsletter, especially the information about Jewish views of the end times. I pray you have a blessed High Holiday season. Please remember to pray for Your Mission to the Jewish People and for the many outreaches we are having at this time all around the globe.

In Him,

Mitch

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Understanding the Significance of Purim

Jewish people around the globe will celebrate the Jewish holiday of Purim for two days beginning Saturday evening March 11 and concluding Sunday evening March 12.

This is one of my favorite holidays as it focuses on God’s faithfulness and the preservation of the Jewish people during a difficult and dark season.

The original story of the Purim holiday, found in the Book of Esther, describes the ways in which Queen Esther and her “smart-as-a-fox” uncle, Mordecai, outwitted the evil Haman and shifted the balance of Persian power, enabling the Jewish people to survive an attempt to destroy them.

Purim is a joyous festival and loved by young and old. We put on plays, children dress up as Esther, Mordecai, and even Haman, and we eat what is called “hamantaschen,” a delicious cookie filled with fruit and supposedly shaped like either Haman’s hat or ears!

An Expression of Hope

Along with these joyous expressions of deliverance and hope, the message of accountability for how Israel and the Jewish people are treated should be sobering to us all.

I believe the most stunning and bone-chilling line in the inspired story is when the fate of evil Haman, who had tried desperately to destroy the Jewish people, is described.

Then Harbonah, one of the eunuchs who were before the king said, “Behold indeed, the gallows standing at Haman’s house fifty cubits high, which Haman made for Mordecai who spoke good on behalf of the king!” And the king said, “Hang him on it.” So they hanged Haman on the gallows which he had prepared for Mordecai, and the king’s anger subsided. (Esther 7:9-10)

Haman dies on the very gallows he had built for Mordecai. This is an epic end to the life of a man who had made himself an enemy of God by becoming an enemy of the Jewish people.

This is a timeless principle attached to a covenant that has never been rescinded or changed (Genesis 12:1-3)! When individuals or nations curse the Jewish people, it is implied that they could be cursed with similar judgments brought upon the children of Israel for their disobedience (Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 28).

I am not suggesting that judgment will fall upon those who disagree with Israel’s leaders over an aspect of policy. This is expected and since Israel is a democratic nation, dissent is woven into the very fabric of the modern state.

I am referring to something deeper. We are expected to have a fundamental respect and love for Israel and the Jewish people. Perhaps the Apostle Paul expressed the rationale for this heartfelt attitude when he wrote,

From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Romans 11:28-29)

This means we must reject the idea that God no longer has a plan for His chosen people, and practically speaking we must reject any suggestion that the Jewish people do not have a biblical right to the Land of Israel. As the spiritual sons and daughters of Abraham, we cannot affirm one part of our inheritance while denying another.

Purim Today 

We must also oppose any hint of antisemitism, which is making an unfortunate comeback in our present day. In fact, the Jewish people are still threatened by Persia — as in the story of Esther:

Iran is the new face of ancient Persia. Unfortunately, the threats to Israel and the Jewish people do not end with Iran: almost every fundamentalist and radical Islamic movement in the world today, from ISIS to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, are intent on seeking the destruction of the state of Israel and the Jewish people.

The potential danger to the Jewish community and Israel extends to the West as countries like France, England, and even the United States are also afflicted by the rise of a new grass-roots antisemitism that has Israel in its crosshairs.

I do see some immediate hope for the future as the European Parliament finally produced a statement condemning modern day Iranian antisemitism. According to a report in the Jerusalem Post, 

With 590 in favor, 67 against and 36 abstentions, lawmakers at a plenary in Strasbourg, France, on Tuesday overwhelmingly backed the amendment, put forward by Dutch Liberal parliamentarian Marietje Schaake, that the house “Strongly condemns the Iranian regime’s repeated calls for the destruction of Israel and the regime’s policy of denying the Holocaust.”

European Jewish Congress President, Dr. Moshe Kantor, expressed great enthusiasm over the statement saying:

“We welcome this amendment, as it is essential to couple Iran’s extremism, Holocaust denial and call for genocide with its nuclear program and relations with the international community. It is vital that Iran is pressured to improve its human rights record and belligerency towards Israel and the region before the European Union resets its relations with the Islamic Republic.”

We live in perilous times and yet we also live in times of great opportunity. Jesus told us what to do in a world that is far from its Creator and in need of redemption. He calls us to be a light to the nations beginning with the Jew first and also to the Gentile (Romans 1:16). 

God Is Working Among Jewish People Today

Thanks to the love and compassion partners like you have for Jewish people everywhere, we are seeing God’s Spirit at work. With your help:

  • We are reaching out to elderly Holocaust survivors.
  • We are engaging secular Israelis through our online campaigns.
  • We are touching the lives of young adults and families through our new Tel Aviv Messianic Center.
  • We sponsor trips to India, New Zealand, and Latin America where Israelis are traveling. We meet them with love and the Gospel message!
  • We are planting Messianic congregations.
  • We are working on campuses, teaching Bible studies, and much more through our Brooklyn Center in the heart of Orthodox Jewish Brooklyn, and in cities like Chicago, Los Angeles and Boston, where there are large Jewish communities.
  • We are now in 18 countries and 25 cities in North America and we are officially 123 years old as a ministry. I know…we do not look that old!

Again, we live in perilous and difficult times…just like the days of Queen Esther and Mordecai. But, we serve an all-powerful God who gives us a message of forgiveness and hope for His ancient people. Thank you for helping to share it with Jewish people today!

May God bless you for caring, and for your prayers and support.

Mitch

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A New Haman Has Risen

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Dear friend of the Jewish people,

Shalom in the great name of our Messiah!

One of my favorite Jewish holidays has always been Purim—the biblical Feast of Esther (Est. 9:22). The holiday is observed on the 14th day of the Hebrew month Adar, which corresponds to our solar calendar date this year on March 24. The celebrations last for a full day, but remember, the Jewish day begins the night before and concludes at sunset; therefore the Festival begins on the evening of March 23.

There are many reasons why I enjoy Purim (a Hebrew word which means “lots”). But perhaps the foremost reason why I love Purim is because I am Jewish and if the evil Haman had succeeded, I would never have been born! On Purim we celebrate the survival of the Jewish people, usually against greats odds and far more powerful enemies.

We Are Still Here!

In fact, this pattern of deliverance is such an important part of the Jewish story. As my good friend Dr. Michael Rydelnik, who teaches at Moody Bible Institute, humorously summarizes: “They tried to kill us, we won and so—we ate!” On Purim we celebrate by eating special baked goods called hamantaschen—sometimes referred to as “Haman’s hat” or “Haman’s ears”! These are wonderful pastries with various types of fruit and poppy seeds enfolded into a very buttery and delicious cookie.

The Scroll of Esther

The main event of the Purim celebration is the reading of the Book of Esther, called in Hebrew, the Megillot Esther, the Scroll of Esther; and oftentimes a play based upon the story is used to entertain and educate both children and adults alike. Jewish people are at their most creative in putting on these plays and use different themes each year to keep the story interesting.

I am sure there will be plenty of Purim plays with a Star Wars theme this year! The plays are supposed to be fun and are not viewed as irreverent as they do tell the great story of God’s deliverance of the Jewish people from the hateful hands of Haman.

Second Purim

There is also a phenomenon in Jewish history called the second Purim. These events are not widely known, but perhaps you can already understand why Jewish people created them. A second Purim refers to an instance, aside from what was recorded in the Book of Esther, when the Jewish people were saved from imminent destruction.

The enlightening description of second Purim on the website Jewishgen.org concludes,In a few fortunate cases, the danger (facing the Jewish community) was suddenly removed, or the dreaded law was inexplicably abrogated. Then, that community would commemorate each anniversary of the happy change by observing a “Second Purim,” a festival, which mimicked the original Purim, which marks the deliverance of the Jews of Persia from the evil machinations of Haman. Historians have listed some 90 “second Purim” anniversaries observed by various Jewish families and communities, beginning with the early Middle Ages.1 

There were even times throughout Jewish history when the enemies of Israel selected Purim as the day they would attack the Jewish people. There was an instance during the Holocaust period when Purim became a day of slaughter for a local Jewish community.

It seems that both the Jewish people and enemies of Israel understood the symbolic value of the story of Esther.

New Hamans Arise in Every Generation

There are new Hamans on the world scene today seeking the destruction of the Jewish people. Israel is under attack and antisemitism is on the rise. We understand that ISIS and all forms of Islamic extremism seek the destruction of Israel. In fact, the existence of the modern state of Israel is actually opposed by almost every manifestation of Islam—
though various brands of Islam exercise this antipathy in different ways. Some are more violent than others.

The rise of global antisemitism has begun to permeate our society and is often subtly wrapped in the guise of an anti-Israel position. We see this virulent form of anti-Jewish behavior actively engaged on our college campuses today.

Unfortunately, this anti-Israel spirit can easily cross boundaries and align itself with an anti-Jewish position, even flowing into the lives and ministries of good Christians and churches seeking to bring the Gospel and comfort to those viewed as suffering injustice.

Let’s face it—there is a lot of propaganda and noise bombarding our culture through the media. It is hard for everyday sincere people to distinguish between what is true and what is false.

As followers of Jesus the Jewish Messiah for all, and as those who believe the Bible, composed by primarily Jewish authors, we should be sympathetic to the Jewish cause.  Historically, most true Christians have been pro-Israel and pro-Jewish without being anti anyone else…but today winds of change are in the air and therefore it is important to reread what the Bible says about Israel and the Jewish people. Unfortunately, we see a growing anti-Israel movement within the church today that also shows the telltale signs of an historic anti-Jewish position as well.

God Is Faithful to His Promises

As followers of Jesus the Messiah we understand that God still has His hand on the Jewish people! This is why we have a long history of second Purims, where we celebrate God’s faithfulness to the Jewish people.

May I summarize the remarkable promises penned in Jeremiah 31:35-37?

The Jewish people will not be destroyed until they fulfill all God intended them to do. God is not yet finished with His chosen people (Rom. 11:29).

The above rests upon the foundational passage in the book of Genesis when God promised Abram that He would bless those who bless the Jewish people and curse those who curse them.  We also see in this passage that God promised to bring blessings to the entire world (Gen. 12:3) specifically through the Jewish people. God created the Jewish people to be a bridge of blessings and revelation to the nations.

These truths of Scripture are clear to me and are a great foundation for our understanding of God’s plan and purposes for the Jewish people!

Happy Purim! I pray the Lord will guide us as we try to understand our times, stay true to the teachings of the Scriptures and remain faithful to our Messiah, Deliverer and Lord!

In Him,

Mitch


1  http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/Piotrkow/pit237.html

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The Gospel According to Hanukkah

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Shalom dear friend,

I remember the first time I read the New Testament like it was yesterday. I was attracted to the book—especially to the words of Jesus, but had sweaty palms as I turned each page.

You see, I was raised in a traditional Jewish home in New York City and though my family was not religious I was raised modern Orthodox. Everything I knew about Judaism was Orthodox and nobody needed to tell me that I should not read the New Testament. I cannot even begin to describe the guilt I felt in reading and enjoying the New Testament.

May I step back for a moment? I probably never would have even read from the New Testament—I was 19 years old at the time I encountered my first New Testament. And again, I would not have read it unless I had received it in a miraculous way. I was becoming interested in the message of Jesus, because the lives of my two best Jewish friends were transformed right before my eyes once they believed in Jesus.

They witnessed to me, but I resisted and tried to talk them out of it. I was trying to get them out of what I felt was probably some kind of weird cult. Instead they kept encouraging me to read “my Bible”—what is commonly called the Old Testament. As you probably know, Jewish people do not call the Bible the Old Testament—even though we do not read the New—because, in the Jewish mind, there is no New Testament! That’s the book that Christians read—not the book that Jews follow.

I loved what I was reading in the Old Testament and found myself wanting a relationship with God that was personal, intimate and even supernatural, just like Abraham, Moses and King David experienced. I had never noticed that what made these forefathers of mine so great was their relationship with God.

Weeks and months passed and I became more and more interested in knowing more about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I just did not want to believe in Jesus, because I would have to tell my family and I knew that I would be rejected.

One day I just could not take it anymore, and I prayed my first spontaneous prayer (Jewish people usually pray in Hebrew and follow written prayers). I asked God, “If you are real, please show me and show me how to get you.”

That night, believe it or not, I found a copy of Good News for Modern Man—a modern English version of the New Testament—in a phone booth in the middle of a campground in the redwood forest where I was working at the time! I began reading the New Testament and fell in love with Jesus. He was the smartest person I had ever met—He knew how to answer people and was nobody’s fool. What really struck me was how Jewish He was!

I soon found myself wrestling with Jesus the Jew rather than Jesus the Gentile and I began to be attracted to the very person that the Jewish people mistakenly thought had inspired antisemitism and hatred of the Jewish people. I just could not figure out how a Jewish person would have inspired antisemitism. Of course He didn’t, but like most Jewish people I really didn’t know a lot about Jesus.

The more I read in the New Testament the more I understood that He was Jewish, celebrated the Jewish holidays and held the answers I was seeking. I finally came to the point where His words brought peace to my heart.

Finally, I accepted Jesus as Messiah and Lord in November 1970. The first holiday I celebrated was Thanksgiving, and that was really wonderful.

Soon after, I came upon a dilemma because both Hanukkah and Christmas were approaching. Some of my new Christian friends thought that I would really enjoy celebrating Christmas and of course I was raised in Jewish New York and we celebrated Hanukkah, almost as a protest holiday to the majority who celebrated Christmas. I loved Jesus, but I was not yet comfortable with the holidays usually associated with Him, as I was not raised that way.

Someone pointed out to me that Jesus celebrated Hanukkah. I think at that point I was still trying to figure out when and how Jesus celebrated Christmas. I was a little slow and it took me awhile to get the point! But I was very intrigued by His celebrating Hanukkah.

In fact, the only time Hanukkah is mentioned in the Bible is in the New Testament. It is not mentioned in any of the Hebrew Scriptures. After reading John 10 and studying the passage, I finally understood that the Gospel and Hanukkah were intertwined…it was really the Gospel according to Hanukkah!

One of the greatest statements Jesus ever made about Himself was during the feast of Hanukkah. As you will read in this newsletter, Hanukkah is a post-Old Testament holiday that developed during the centuries immediately prior to Jesus’ birth.

I believe that Hanukkah is all about the Gospel. Please take a moment and read this text!

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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. But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand (Jn. 10:22-29).

The above statement is simply incredible! To think that the Messiah said this during the great festival of Hanukkah is astounding to me, having grown up in a Jewish home. But Yeshua did not stop there as He continued to infuse new meaning to the traditional festival of lights and redemption by showing the linkage between Himself and the Father.

The Apostle John records Jesus saying,

I and the Father are one (Jn. 10:30).

Believe me, the Jewish people of the day knew exactly what He was saying and His statement was not well received!

Look at what happens next,

The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him (Jn. 10:31).

The idea that a man would claim to be God is understandably offensive to the Jewish people who are taught that God cannot take on human form. I was taught this as well growing up in a Jewish home. And ordinarily this would be true. But, this perfect man would be the Messiah who died for our sins.

Dear friend, this is the Gospel according to Hanukkah. God sent His only Son as His greatest gift to you and me—better than any Christmas or Hanukkah present by far! And through this divine Messiah we have true spiritual freedom that will endure forever.

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah—May the Lord fill your home with His light and joy.

Your brother in the Messiah,

Mitch

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Shavuot – The Day of Pentecost and The Festivals of Israel

Shavuot – The Day of Pentecost The Festivals of Israel

The festivals of Israel were designed by God to focus the hearts and minds of the Jewish on various elements of God’s person and plan.   In addition, the Festivals, as much as any other portion of the Hebrew Scriptures also point to the coming of the Messiah. This is especially true of the seven great festivals outlined in Leviticus chapter 23.

I believe the four Spring Festivals were fulfilled in the first coming of Jesus.   The three Fall Festivals will be fulfilled in His second coming.

The Fourth Spring Festival

The Biblical Names

Shavuot – Weeks – 7 weeks after Passover

The fourth and final Spring Festival is called Shavuot. This word means seven because seven-sevens – or seven, seven-day weeks are to be counted by the Jewish people; beginning with Passover and then Shavuot is to be observed on the 50th day.

Pentecost – Fifty – 50th day after Passover

In Christian tradition the festival is called Pentecost – the Greek term which means 50, as this fourth spring festival is observed on the 50th day after Passover.

The Traditional Jewish Names

Zman Matan Torah – ‘the season of the giving of the Law’ – One of the Hebrew titles for the holiday in Jewish tradition is Zman Matan Torah – ‘the season of the giving of the Law’ as the Rabbis believed that the Torah was given on the day of Pentecost.  We eat special holiday bread – a reminder of the Jewish tradition that Moses climbed a ladder to heaven to receive the Law.  Shavuot is a Jewish holiday that celebrates the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people and the Talmud tells us that God gave the Ten Commandments to the Jews on the sixth night of the Hebrew month of Sivan.

The Biblical Commands

  • Sheuvot always falls 50 days after the second night of Passover. The 49 days in between are known as the Omer.  A later Jewish tradition teaches that the Torah was given on Shavuot.
  • The counting for the 50 days was to begin on that ‘day after the Sabbath’(Lev. 23:15), the day when the First Fruit/sheaf was waved occurred on the day.
  • They offered two leavened loaves of bread concluding the grain harvest. (Lev. 23:17), which was the Tithe (Lev. 27:30).
  • The two-loaves were the results (symbolically) of the one sheaf, waved before the Lord on the Day of First Fruits mentioned in Lev. 23:11
  • Shavuot is also one of the three pilgrimage feasts when all Jewish males were required to appear before the Lord in Jerusalem.

Jewish Traditions

  • There are many Jewish traditions associated with Pentecost.
  • The reading of the Book of Ruth as it is a harvest time story – King David was born and died on this festival and Ruth took on the burden of the Law.
  • Many religious Jews commemorate Shavuot by spending the entire night studying Torah at their synagogue or at home.
  • Chanting the Ten Commandments.

The Messianic Fulfillment of the Festival

Now if Passover was fulfilled in the death of the Lamb of God and unleavened bread in his sinless character and His resurrection the fulfillment of First Fruit then we must ask ourselves – how was the of day Pentecost fulfilled by the first coming of Jesus?

It is no coincidence that God selected this Jewish festival as the day when he would send his Holy Spirit.  In Acts, chapter 2 we see this festival fulfilled in some remarkable ways. To understand why God would choose to pour out His Spirit on the day of Pentecost – we must rehearse the relationship between all the Spring Festivals.

  • Passover – redemption – death of Christ
  • First Fruits – first results – Resurrection (1 Cor. 15:23)
  • Pentecost – Fruition – Birth of the Church

In Acts, chapter 2 God fulfills this festival in some remarkable ways.

The Promise

The 120 Disciples (Acts 1:15), were in one place, in one mind, praying and focusing on God’s work. They were waiting in obedience to the command of Jesus (Acts 1:4-5) and also in obedience to the Laws of Shavuot regarding “no work’ – Lev. 23:21.  Many were pilgrims who had left their homes in other places to be part of this Festival. God would bless their obedience now in a powerful way – some of those waiting were pilgrims as Pentecost was one of the three Festivals where Jewish people were commanded to go “up to Jerusalem’ to worship.

God would bless their obedience.

And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:45-49)

And further, before His ascension to the right hand of the Father He says to His disciples,

… He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”(Acts 1:4-5)

Signs and Wonders

After some days of patient waiting – the presence and power of the Holy Spirit fell upon the disciples on the 50th day after Passover.  It was a new revelation given on a new Pentecost!  The initial giving of the Torah by Moses at Mt. Sinai had come with signs and wonders in the heaven as seen in Exodus 19.

Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.

Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice. (Ex. 19:16-19)

There were now signs and wonders in the Upper Room marking this new Pentecost as well.  It was the birthday of a new revelation and the fulfillment of God’s promises to pour out His Spirit in the last days! (Joel 2)

Hearing the Good News in their Own Language

The Tradition of All Israel Being Present at Sinai

According to our Sages, every Jew who would ever live was at Mount Sinai, pledging their obedience to the Law.  According to Jewish tradition this was not limited to the Jews alive at this time.  The Rabbis believed in the pre-existence of the soul and that every Jew who would ever live – was at Mount Sinai – with or without a body! The rational for this is that every Jewish person at that moment agreed to keep the Torah.  The verse used to teach this is,

Ex. 24:7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said,  “All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient.”

In light of this, it makes sense that there was also a Jewish tradition that every Jew present at Mount Sinai that day actually heard the giving of the Law in their own native tongue – after all how could they obey what they did not understand.

The fulfillment on the day of this new Pentecost, which took place 50 days after Jesus the Lamb of God died for our sins, is obvious.  There were signs and wonders, just like at Mount Sinai and those who heard the disciples preaching heard this new revelation in their own native tongue.  Can you imagine what it would have been like to be present at this new Pentecost?  It would have been amazing especially as the Jewish people realized that the new had come with the power of the old!

How gracious of God to use a tradition of man to communicate His truth to the Jewish people.  God Himself is our role model for missionary service and evangelism.   He seeks to communicate with us in ways we can understand…He could prove His point otherwise, but He deigns to prove Himself in ways that we humans can understand…as our ability to understand spiritual truth is so limited.  Perhaps the best example of this is the Son of God Himself, who took on flesh in order to communicate with you and me…to show us His love and to help us better understand the Father through His role model and example.  We too need to incarnate the Good News in ways that our families, friends and neighbors understand …through love, helping in practical ways and doing whatever it takes to help those we pray for understand that God is not far away, He is close and He loves them.

Happy Shevout/Pentecost and may the Lord fill you with the presence and power of His presence. 

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Because of the Blood of the Lamb

A Passover Devotional:

            Lessons on the Lamb of God Part 2

            Rev. Dennis Keating, Pastor,  Emmanuel Faith Community Church, Escondido, California

Today is Good Friday and I thought you might enjoy these thoughts on the Lamb of God from my friend Dennis Keating. Have a joy-filled end of Passover, Good Friday and Resurrection Day!

I hope these six outcomes will encourage you to give praise to the Lord today and prepare your heart for the celebrations that are coming next weekend.

Because of the blood of God’s Lamb we are:

            1. Released from sins penalty

            Remember what John the Baptist said when he was preaching in the wilderness and Jesus first appeared on the scene? John 1:29, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

John said, “There He is. God’s Passover ‘Lamb’ who [airo] ‘takes away’ (or literally) ‘lifts and carries away’ the penalty of the world’s sin.”

2. Redeemed from sin’s slavery

Not only has the penalty of sin been lifted from us, but its addictive power that binds us in slavery to sin has also been broken. That’s what the biblical term “redemption” is all about. Peter said it this way in 1 Peter 1:18-19,  “You were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, (19) but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Messiah.”

The original word (lutroo) translated “redeemed” means to purchase release by paying a price. The Greeks used it as a technical term for the spending of money to buy back a prisoner of war.

In the yearly, historic Passover celebration, the innocent lamb’s blood reminded us of the price paid to purchase and free the lives of Israel’s firstborn sons.

That was a divinely ordained illustration of what the blood of Yeshua would do for you and me at the moment of our salvation. It “redeems” us from the sinful “futilities” of life that paralyze us in our unregenerate state.

3. Rescued from God’s wrath

            According to the biblical account of the original Passover, God was offended by Pharaoh’s idolatry. The result was that the Lord poured out His righteous and justified anger against Pharaoh through the plagues. God experienced the same anger against our my/your/our sin as well, as according to Ephesians 2:3, in our unregenerate state, we were all “children of wrath even as the rest.”

But the shedding of Jesus’ blood on Calvary as our “Passover Lamb” rescued us for that well-deserved wrath. Paul said it this way in Romans 5:9, “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.”

4. Revel in heavenly worship

            According to the book of Revelation, the Apostle John saw an uncountable number of angels and people around God’s throne in heaven. Do you know what they were all exclaiming in worship? Revelation 5:11 tells us they were saying…“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”

5. Relieved of Satan’s accusations

            It may come as a surprise to you that, according to Revelation 12, the devil spends much of his time up in heaven “accusing” you before God the Father of being “unworthy” of salvation. See how he’s described in Revelation 12:10-11. The devil is…“he who accuses them before our God day and night. (11) And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb…”

Beloved, the devil can accuse a believer all he wants, but is powerless to bring a condemning judgment against any of us! Why? Because the fundamental basis for our spiritual victory over sin is “the blood of the Lamb.” It’s what allows us to victoriously overcome all accusations.

It’s why Paul asked in Romans 8:33, “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect?”

6. Restored Under a New Covenant

            If you read through your Hebrew Scriptures you will see that the agreement God made with mankind to forgive their sins by the shedding of innocent animal blood was an intentionally designed, imperfect system in that the blood sacrifices had to be repeated over and over again each year. Animal blood only provided a temporary covering.

Well, according to the New Testament, when Yeshua’s blood was shed, a “new covenant” or agreement was established by God with humankind because it was based upon the sacrifice of His Son’s perfect blood that cleanses the sinner permanently. That changed everything. Now the cleansing occurs within and not just without. It’s not based upon “law” but upon “love.” The “heart of stone” is replaced with a “heart of “flesh.” This is why at our communion services we read from 1 Corinthians 11:25, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood…”

The Lamb’s provision must be accepted BY FAITH. That was certainly true for the Hebrew people when the Passover ceremony was first revealed. Every Hebrew household had to decide, “Do we believe what God has said or don’t we?” It was even true of Moses. This is why the author of Hebrews wrote, “By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the firstborn would not touch them.” (Hebrews 11:28)

Beloved, that is true for believers and unbelievers alike. As a believer, I/you/we must accept these biblical truths as our own or their impact will be diminished. When doubts enter in, when faith is weak, our experience with these six realities will be muted. But when we study them, we are assured that our “Passover Lamb” has paid for our sin in full. To prove it true, after He died, He was buried; and after He was buried, He arose and is alive today.

If you have not yet responded to Him, you should, and by doing so you will experience His grace and overflowing goodness…and have life more abundantly. (John 10:10)

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The Lamb of God Who Takes Away the Sin of the World!

A Passover Devotional:

Lessons on the Lamb of God Part 1

The Hebrew Scriptures conclude with two prophecies in the Book of Malachi describing a Messenger (also the meaning of the prophets name!) who would prepare the way for the Lord.  The first of these prophecies is found in Malachi 3:1,

Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the Lord of hosts.

This Messenger would purify the priests so they might once again offer sacrifices on behalf of the Jewish people.  As the prophet writes, Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.(Malachi 3:3)

The Jewish people would be judged because of disobedience, but also left with hope. In fact the very last words recorded in the Old Testament (Malachi 4:5-6), predict that this messenger identified as the prophet Elijah would call the Jewish people to back to God and reconcile both fathers and sons.

“Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.

This call to repentance was God’s way of preparing the Jewish people for the One whom Elijah would introduce to the Jewish people. Jesus believed that John the Baptist fulfilled these prophecies and that He was the Elijah like messenger who came to turn the Jewish people back to the Lord.  Jesus affirms this in the Gospel of Matthew,

As these men were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ palaces! But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send MY messenger ahead of You, Who will prepare Your way before You.’ (Mt. 11:7-10)

John repeatedly denies that he is the Messiah and tells those gathered that the One they have really been waiting for is coming and it is simply his job to introduce Him.

Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, and said to him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them saying, “ I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie. (John 1:24-27)

The earth shattering moment comes when John’s introduces this One place at Bethany beyond the Jordan. (John 1:28). He was immersing Jewish people in water as a symbol of their desire to be cleansed from sin. But now he declares that the One who was to come – had come! John describes Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  The Jewish people on the banks of the Jordan would have understood this to be a reference to the Passover lamb in Exodus 12 with additional information provided by Isaiah in chapter 53.

John declares,

The next day he *saw Jesus coming to him and *said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘ After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me (John 1:29-30)

John mentions this again a moment later to two future disciples when he said,

Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and *said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. (John 1:35-37)

This theme of Jesus as the Lamb of God would become a major teaching theme by the writers of the New Testament. Peter, also establishes this link, as he was the brother of Andrew, one of the two disciples who heard John’s statement about Yeshua.

Peter writes,

…knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Messiah.(1 Peter 1:18-19)

This link between Yeshua and the Lamb had already made by Luke in the Book of Acts in reference to the encounter between Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch. Luke records,

Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this: HE was led as A sheep to slaughter; And as A lamb before its shearer is silent, SO HE does not open His mouth. (Acts 8:32), which is our first indication that Jesus was not only compared to the lamb in the Book of Exodus, but the Lamb as well in Isaiah 53.

Rabbi Saul, the Apostle Paul takes this link one step further and declares,

Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Messiah our Passover also has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Cor. 5:6-8)

The links between Jesus and the Passover Lamb are overwhelming. In describing the crucifixion of Yeshua John adds,

For these things came to pass to fulfill the Scripture, “ Not A bone of Him shall be broken.”(John 19:36), looking back to Exodus when Moses tells the Israelites how the lamb was to be sacrificed,

It is to be eaten in a single house; you are not to bring forth any of the flesh outside of the house, nor are you to break any bone of it. (Exodus 12:46)

The Lamb in Exodus 12 is a prophetic portrait of the One who would come and shed His blood for the sins of the world.

The Lamb of Isaiah 53

The prophet Isaiah develops the significance of the lamb as an atoning sacrifice.

There are two key passages in Isaiah 53 which conjoin the idea of the Messiah with the Passover lamb…

He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth. (Isaiah 53:7)

Admittedly, this can be a reference to the lambs that were regularly sacrifice at the temple and especially on some of the holidays. Yet, when you look at the entire passage it does seem that the prophet had the Passover lamb specifically in mind.

And additionally in Isaiah 53:1,

Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

The key link in this passage is that the term for arm is zeroah,which refers to the arm or forearm, but is more often used in passages which refer to God’s saving power and intervention in human history.  This idea easily brought the mind of an Israelite back to the deliverance from Egypt as a picture of God’s redemptive work on behalf of His people.

Exodus chapter 6, quoted in the Hagaddah teaches this very clearly,

Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. (Ex. 6:6)

Jesus is the saving zeroah of God who intervened in Egypt and into this world to deliver Israel and the nations from spiritual bondage.  And when a man or woman, Jew or Gentile, boy or girl, by faith “smear” the doorposts of their hearts with His shed blood with blood of the Lamb that the wrath of God passes over us and pass from death into life.

This is the way to begin the Passover season and Holy Week – knowing that God’s promises are true and that He has provided the Lamb of God to be the Savior for us all.

Happy Passover.

 

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