Some find it surprising that the only place in the Bible where we find the festival of Hanukkah is in the New Covenant (John 10:22-30). Here, in the context of this eight-day celebration, Yeshua taught that faith in Him is the victory.
And it was at Jerusalem, the Feast of the Dedication [Hanukkah], and it was winter. And Yeshua walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch. Then came the Jews round about Him, and said unto Him, “How long do you make us to doubt? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly (John 10:22-24).
At that time Yeshua was teaching in Jerusalem at the Temple by Solomon’s Colonnade (Acts 3:11; 5:12). According to Josephus, the eastern part of the colonnade walkway surrounded the outer court of Herod’s Temple, and served as a shelter from the heat of the sun in summer and from the cold rain in winter. Since there were always people present for worship at the temple, Yeshua used this as a center for informal teaching and preaching. The yearly celebration of this victory forms the backdrop of Yeshua’s Hanukkah Message.
The Savior from God
At every Hanukkah, our people desired Messiah to come and free them from yet another enemy, in this case the Romans. Notice the question the people raise: “Why do you keep us in suspense? Are you the Messiah?” (John 10:24). This would be a timely question for this holiday, as people would be wondering “Where is the Messiah, the greater Maccabee?”
Yeshua answered them, “I told you, and you believed not: the works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you believe not, because ye are not of My sheep, as I said unto you” (John 10:25-26).
Why didn’t Yeshua just say ‘Sure, I’m the Messiah’? This is how familiarity with Hanukkah helps us understand Yeshua. The people were expecting a political warrior to throw out the Romans, just as the Maccabees threw out the Syrians. With a mere “yes,” He would have been accommodating Himself to their narrow expectation heightened at the time, only part of the biblical picture to come later. Had He said “no,” it would not have been true. So Yeshua wisely responds, “I’ve already told you.” In both words and deeds, He had already answered their question (John 8:58; 10:25).
God provides the eternal salvation that we need, not merely the temporary solutions that we desire. Is your faith in God’s Word, or your own expectations and experience? Like Job, true faith sees beyond the immediate and trusts God’s wisdom and care: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” (Job 13:15).
With the Maccabees, short-term faith was required. They pointed to a desecrated temple by an oppressive Syrian regime and said, “Let us defeat them and rededicate the temple.” However, Yeshua points to us and says that we are ‘the desecrated temple,’ and we need to be cleansed and rededicated in order to walk with God. The problem, O Israel, is not outside of you, but within you. Our need is not for a quick fix of short-term problems, but for an eternal relationship with God.
The Shepherd to God
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.(John 10:27-28)
His sheep have faith in Him: “My sheep hear My voice.” His sheep are His followers: “They follow Me.” There is mutual recognition and a reciprocal action. The shepherd knows and directs His sheep; and the sheep respond in obedience. Messiah guarantees life eternal to His followers. People do not always understand what eternal life is. Some think that their eternal rest is in their coffin! Passing a cemetery one day, an Irishman paused at a startling inscription on a tombstone. He read the words: “I still live.” Puzzled, the Irishman scratched his head for a moment, then exclaimed: “Goodness, if I were dead I’d be honest enough to admit it!”
Eternal life comes from God by faith in Yeshua, who alone can relate us rightly to the eternal God. Furthermore, eternal life is a new kind of existence for believers. It is God’s own life. Through Yeshua the fullness of God dwells within us—and His life will never end! God is immortal; those who believe in Yeshua will live on with Him. Messiah then teaches that we must have faith in Him as the Son of God:
My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one (10:29-30).
Yeshua’s assertion that He is one with the Father is meant to give assurance to His followers: “No one will snatch them from My hand” anymore than from the “Father’s hand.” Defeat is measuring your life by your problem, rather than by your God. Victory is measuring life’s challenges by the size of your God! God has provided salvation in Messiah, His Eternal Son. By dying for sins, He conquered death.
Despite temporary trials there is ultimate victory in Messiah. Yes, Messiah demands a greater loyalty than the Maccabees, because He provides greater security. Trust in Him as the Savior, Shepherd, and Son. Yeshua is the Victor, and following Him brings the victory!
We tend to be suspicious of authority, as the very idea seems to require that one give up independence and autonomy so as to be exploited by others. But lack of authority has also led to an increasingly fractured world. Perhaps the relevant question then is: Who actually deserves authority? And what is the relationship between unity and authority? Genesis 49:10 reveals that the secret to unity and community is found in obedience to God revealed in His Messiah.
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)
In this text, Jacob was prophesying regarding what would befall his sons be’aharit hayamim, “in the last days” (Genesis 49:1). The Targum, or ancient Jewish translation, adds “for he was revealing to them all that was going to occur at the time of the Messiah.” Jacob bestows sovereignty on Judah, prophesying his future greatness and leadership over the tribes.
Another Targum expands on Genesis 49:10: “The transmission of dominion shall not cease from the house of Judah, nor the scribe from his children’s children, forever, until the Messiah comes, to whom the Kingdom belongs, and whom nations shall obey” (Sanhedrin 98b, Genesis Rabbah 97-99, Lamentations Rabbah 1:51). In other words, the tribe of Judah would become the leader officially through David, and ultimately in David’s greater son, Messiah.
Why was Judah given authority, and not any of Jacob’s three elder sons mentioned in the verses before? The narrative shows the reason. Judah had suggested that Joseph be sold into slavery instead of being killed (Genesis 37:26). But later Judah took the initiative in repenting of this sin, and by contrast he then was willing to sacrifice his own freedom for his younger brother Benjamin (Genesis 44:33).
God through Jacob’s prophecy honors Judah with leadership, for repenting and being willing to sacrifice himself as a substitute for his family (1 Chronicles 5:2). Judah himself foreshadows Messiah’s sacrifice for us, even as Messiah’s rule is only a blessing for the truly repentant. Biblically, authority is never to be used for selfish purposes, but is for the building up of others.
This leadership is described in Genesis 49:10 by the word shevet, a rod, or scepter, signifying capital and executive authority, and chakak, meaning lawgiver, signifying judicial and legislative authority. Within the people of Israel, this authority was Judah’s, even after the Babylonian captivity. Throughout the Scriptures, God put prophets, priests and kings in charge to guide and rule until Messiah, for He is the perfect prophet, priest and king. All Jewish authority culminates in Messiah.
The timing indicated by the word until needs to be seen in a historical context. The Talmud relates, “Forty years before the destruction of the Temple the Sanhedrin did not judge in capital cases” (Shabbat 15a). In John 18:31, the Judeans said, “We’re not permitted to put anyone to death.” Today, the tribe of Judah has for millennia been completely assimilated with the other tribes, and since the Dispersion, we no longer have records for determining this tribal affiliation. Hence, if the Messiah described in Genesis 49:10 did not already arrive, the verse can no longer be fulfilled, and the scepter would have departed. Yet on the contrary, Messiah—the Lion of Judah—lives and reigns! The timing prophesied here reveals Yeshua for who He is.
Shiloh was rendered as a personal name in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 98b). There are many names for Messiah in Scripture, such as Immanuel, or “God with us” and Adonai Tzidkenu, or “the Lord our Righteousness.” Each name represents another aspect of His character or ministry. Shiloh describes His authority, as testified by the ancient versions which translate the Hebrew “to whom it belongs.” Judah held the leadership prophetically awaiting Messiah.
Moreover, all authority, whether ecclesiastic or rabbinic, is illegitimate unless it genuinely exalts Messiah’s authority. Yeshua has all authority in heaven and earth.
At His return, everything will be surrendered to Him, and all human authorities will have to give an account. Even the nations reverently yield to the Jewish Messiah: the obedience of the peoples (yeqqehat amim). This continues and clarifies the promise of the Seed through Abraham in whom all the nations and families of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:3; 22:18).
The involvement of the Gentiles (nations) does not undermine but confirms the truth of Messiah’s Jewish credentials. Thus, this prophecy illustrates how diverse peoples find unity in their obedience to Messiah. It is not through losing our distinctiveness and diversity, but through trusting in His leadership that brings victory. Respond by faith to Messiah and follow His word, for to Him is “the obedience of the peoples.”
When our economic and political future is uncertain, clearly we need Thanksgiving—a time when we can give thanks to the One who holds all things securely. We see the principles of this attitude in the offerings laid out in the Hebrew Scriptures. The thanksgiving offering found in Leviticus 7 was called todah, the Hebrew word for thanks, and was part of the peace offerings.
“If he offers it [the peace offerings] by way of thanksgiving, then along with the sacrifice of thanksgiving he shall offer unleavened cakes mixed with oil… of the sacrifice of his thanksgiving peace offerings” (Leviticus 7:12,15).
It is only when we have true peace with God that we can offer true thanksgiving to God. If we lack a thankful heart before God then perhaps we should see if we have genuine peace with God. This is why Yeshua is also our “peace [offering]” in Ephesians 2:14, “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one.” Both Jews and Gentile are made into one family in God by partaking together in Messiah our peace offering. Indeed, peace with God is the basis for peace with one another. The Scriptures mention that no leftovers were permitted with the Thanksgiving offering:
Now as for the flesh of the sacrifice of his thanksgiving peace offerings, it shall be eaten on the day of his offering; he shall not leave any of it over until morning” (Lev. 7:15).
There was sense of urgency to be thankful as a testimony to God’s faithfulness. Our giving of thanks must not be left over until morning. So often we want to wait to see how things will turn out before we give thanks to God. But this ‘wait and see’ attitude reveals a lack of faith. In the midst of problems, faith testifies that “we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). This is why the New Covenant teaches, “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Messiah Yeshua” (1 Thess. 5:18).
Do not wait to see how things will turn out, instead, give thanks to God now. Thanksgiving is a sacrifice of faith that reflects trust in God’s sovereign will. In fact, those who left over the todah (offering) for a later time committed a sin, and were not accepted before God (Lev. 7:18).
God does not force us to believe; we believe Him because He is trustworthy. Personal faith in God means dependence on who He is. Sometimes our circumstances are so difficult that giving thanks to God is truly a choice —a free will offering of faith. We are exhorted to offer the fruit of our lips, the sacrifice of thanksgiving to our God today, this month and forever (Hebrews 13:15).
We are thankful to you and for you, as together we are reaching out to Jewish people around the world. There is no better time than this Thanksgiving season to express our deepest appreciation to you. Todah rabah—Thank you very much!
In light of the upcoming Hanukkah season, this year it begins November 27 at sundown, let’s take a look at what the Scriptures teach us through Hanukkah and our new life in Messiah. Hanukkah teaches us what it means to be truly dedicated to the Lord.
Hanukkah was established in 165 BC as a memorial to the purification and rededication of the temple in Jerusalem. This cleansing was necessary due to its defilement three years earlier. In 168 BC Antiochus Epiphanes, the king of Syria, captured Jerusalem, plundered the temple treasury, and to add insult to injury, profaned the temple by sacrificing a pig to Zeus on the temple altar. His persecution of and attempt to Hellenize the Jewish people in Judea resulted in what is called the Maccabean revolt. Led by Judah Maccabee, the Israelis resisted and fought against the occupying Syrian army, and after three years, defeated them.
Why Eight Days?
The celebration lasted for eight days, beginning on the 25th of the month of Kislev (December). Hanukkah is thought by many people to be eight days long because of a legend regarding the oil in the Temple. According to this tradition, when the Maccabees recaptured and rededicated the Temple, they attempted to light the Temple menorah. This menorah, which was to burn continually, represented the eternal light of God. But alas, there was only enough oil to last for one day. Miraculously, the oil lasted eight days when the Temple was rededicated. However, the legend of the oil is not historically accurate. It developed during the Roman occupation long after the events occurred. Why this legend? Perhaps to avoid the warlike aspects of the holiday, the legend of the oil became popular. After all, celebrating the overthrow of your oppressors would be perceived as politically incorrect by the Roman army, and would likely have caused unwanted trouble for the Israelis of that day.
Perhaps a better explanation of why Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days is because when the Temple was rededicated for holy worship, the great feast of Sukkot had already passed. Hanukkah, therefore was considered an additional, second Sukkot for the victorious Jewish army.
Hanukkah today centers on a nine-branch menorah called a hanukkiyah, in contrast to the temple menorah, which has only seven branches. The nine branches include the shamash, or “servant” candle, which is used to light the other eight candles. These represent the eight days of Hanukkah. Interestingly, the shamash is usually higher than, or separate from the other eight candles, and as a servant, it presents a beautiful picture of Messiah Yeshua! But as the name indicates, Hanukkah is about dedication, specifically, the dedication of the temple of God.
Jesus and Hanukkah
Messiah came to dedicate and restore humanity back to God so we could worship Him in spirit and truth. As His temple, at every Hanukkah season we recognize that unless we are dedicated, we simply are not spiritually useful to God, and we, therefore, live unfulfilled lives. Dedication is similar to the idea of holy, or kadosh, which means “set apart, to hallow, or to consecrate,” which carries the idea for God’s use only. So also Hanukkah illustrates God’s purpose for His Temple, to be consecrated and dedicated for worship only. Just as Judah Maccabee came to remove the enemies’ defiling hold over God’s Temple, Yeshua came that we would be “delivered from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son” (Col. 1:13).
The idea of dedication involves “limitation” if we are truly dedicated to the Lord; we restrict ourselves for His use only. For all of us, spiritual maturity is the result of consistent dedication which is based on a relationship with God. Dedication is not just a matter of a well-rounded education, but rather being properly focused on the Word as well as consistent application of the Word. Who does God use to free those dominated and ensnared by the enemy? He uses only the dedicated servants (hanikim). It is not our ability, but our availability that counts. The dedicated are spiritually successful and those who completely give themselves to God will share in His victory and glory. Many lives were sacrificed for the cause of liberating and rededicating the Temple. In a similar way, Messiah gave His life as a sacrifice to redeem us as a 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 from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Dedication is measured by sacrifice. When the Temple was dedicated, it fulfilled God’s purpose. When you are dedicated to Him, you find God’s purpose for yourself as well. Your heart is His dwelling place, an altar for prayer. This is where we meet with God intimately. If you restrict your life “for God’s use only,” then you will find fulfillment. Our Messiah is the perfect example of a dedicated life.
Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).
He came only to serve. He gave up the glory of heaven to become a servant and to fulfill the will of God. Yeshua is the Son of God, who models for us the sonship that faith brings. He is the eternal Sanctuary of the living God:
I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple (Rev. 21:22).
Yeshua died for you. He paid a great price that you might be set free from the bondage of sin and live unto God. Victory is certain; therefore, be a dedicated temple of God. Dedicate, or rededicate, your life to Messiah, and have a Happy Hanukkah.
By Sam Nadler
The festival of Sukkot (knows as “booths,” or “tabernacles”) is an eight-day harvest festival, and the culmination of all the feasts on God’s redemptive calendar (Exodus 23:16; Leviticus 23:34-43; Deuteronomy 16:13-15).
It consists of seven days of joyous celebration, followed by a solemn assembly on the eighth day. Because of its place in the biblical calendar, by the time of Solomon this festival had become most important, and was simply called “the Feast” (1 Kings 8:2, 65). There are many festive traditions in a contemporary Sukkot celebration, but when the Temple stood there were unusual ceremonies that today are no longer conducted. One was the water pouring ceremony. Each day a priest proceeded from the Temple down to the pool of Siloam carrying a golden pitcher. He was followed by lulav-waving pilgrims who had come to Jerusalem to celebrate Sukkot. The priest would fill the golden pitcher with water from the pool of Siloam and return to the Temple, followed by crowds chanting “with joy we will gather water from the wells of salvation” and “Hoshia-na” or Hosanna. The priest would then circle the altar in the Temple one time, pouring out the water. As he poured, he would pray for the water of life, even the Spirit of God, to be poured out upon the people.
He would do this each of the first six days of the feast, but on the 7th day Hoshanna Rabbah (the Great Salvation), the last day of the celebration, the priest would circle the altar seven times. With each circuit the crowds would grow louder and louder in their cry for the provision and salvation of God (in the Talmud, Sukkah 34a, 54b, 48b, 51a; Rosh Hashana 16a).
One reason for this ceremony might be seen in the need for God to provide rain for the next growing season. But the issue is much more profound. Regarding this harvest festival, Zechariah provides vital information on how the first century worshipper would look at Sukkot:
Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. (Zechariah 14:16-17)
I’m not sure of all that we’ll be doing in the Kingdom of Messiah, but we will be celebrating Sukkot! In this feast, all will celebrate Yeshua as He reigns upon His glorious throne in Jerusalem. Therefore, to the first-century Jewish worshiper, Sukkot became identified with the King and the Kingdom. Along with this idea came one of the most longed for aspects of the Kingdom as found in the Hebrew Prophets:
For I will pour out water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring and My blessing on your descendants.”(Isaiah 44:3)
This is the very truth which the New Covenant declares to be fulfilled in Messiah (see Acts 2:17, 18, 33, 10:45; Romans 5:5).
THE HOPE OF SUKKOT
Every Sukkot while the Temple stood, the water-pouring ceremony symbolized the Spirit being poured out, even as the prophets predicted. At the height of the celebration, on the last day of the feast, Yeshua Himself was at the Temple in Jerusalem. At this crucial point, He declared the fulfillment of the promise of God, the true hope for Sukkot.
Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “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).
Perhaps you can picture it: the priest has finished his 7th circuit around the Temple altar. As he is pouring out the water, praying for God’s provision, thousands of people are crying for the salvation of God. Suddenly Yeshua proclaims loudly above the din of the people, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink…”
The Greek word for “come” is a present, on-going tense: as you come and keep coming, He will fill and keep filling. The circumstances we go through, whether relational, health, or financial problems, are more than enough to dry us out spiritually and leave us feeling like a desert. We are to come to Him, recognizing and relying upon Him for the grace that He alone can provide, sufficient for all our wilderness experiences.
Did you notice Messiah’s promise for those who come to Him? He promises that “out of his innermost being will flow rivers (literally, “torrents”) of living waters.” Initially, this speaks of Yeshua’s ascension to the right hand of the Father, and the subsequent outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (John 7:39; Acts 2). But in our personal lives, when Yeshua is glorified, the Spirit is given.
Where I live we just had a good rain, but we’ve been in drought so long that after the rain stopped there weren’t any puddles. Why? There wasn’t enough rain to saturate the ground, much less produce any excess or overflow. Not only is Messiah’s grace enough for your life, but there will be an overflow, indeed torrents of living water, to you and through you into the lives of those around you! In fact, you’re probably in those tough situations now just so the Lord can use you to water a few dry hearts in your community, family, school, or workplace.
We are all going through our share of afflictions. That’s why we are to come to Him, living in His all-sufficient grace, so that we might overflow into lives around us. Are you presently coming to Him? You may believe in Yeshua, but does He reign as King in your heart? Sukkot reminds us that when the King reigns on the throne, God’s provision is there for His people. As Yeshua is glorified, the Spirit is poured out.
By Sam Nadler
“Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘In the seventh month on the first of the month you shall have a rest, a reminder by blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation.’” (Leviticus 23:24)
Though we don’t want to overly speculate about numbers in the Bible, the Scriptures clearly instill the number seven with symbolism. For example, in the creation account we read that “God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it,” making the seventh day to be the Sabbath (Gen. 2:2-3; Ex. 20:8-11). Seven times, God said His creation was “good” (Gen 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31).
The Scriptures conclude with seven beatitudes in the final book of the Revelation (1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7; 22:14). We learn that the number seven in the Scriptures generally refers to completeness, fullness, or perfection. To highlight that seven symbolizes completion, in Hebrew the word for “seven” is the same word for “vow,” sheva
In a sense, when you make a vow, you make a “seven,” dedicating it to completion. For example, Abraham had seven lambs as the symbol of the vow of witness with Abimelech. They called the well and area around it Beer Sheva, which can mean either “well of seven” or “well of vow” (Gen 21:27-32). Even in eternity this same number and meaning is represented by the Lamb with seven horns and seven eyes, showing that He has complete power and knowledge (Rev. 5:8; Isa. 11:2).
Again, in the Tabernacle and Temple offerings there were seven lambs for the monthly offerings, seven for the Passover offering, seven for the Shavuot
offering, seven for the Trumpets offering, and seven for the Yom Kippur
offering (Lev. 23:18, Num. 28:11, 19, 21, 27, 29; 29:2, 4, 8, 10). Then there were fourteen lambs - a double seven- for each day of Sukkot, and seven on the eighth day of Sukkot (Num. 29:13, 36). Without seven, the offerings would be incomplete. Is it any surprise that “in Him you have been made complete” (Col. 2:10)? Completing and Restoring
God’s redemptive program has the last of the seven feasts concluding in the seventh month, as His unalterable vow to completely redeem His lost humanity. Just as the Spring festivals pictured the establishment of our salvation in Messiah and our sanctification in the Holy Spirit, so the three Fall Feasts are God’s “final rally,” concluding His work of gathering His people to Himself. Next month we’ll dig a bit deeper into the Feast of Sukkot, but for this issue let’s review the Feast of Trumpets and Day of Atonement. The Feast of Trumpets (also known as Rosh Hashanah
) finds significance in the last trumpet that gathers the Body of Messiah to be with Him. The Day of Atonement marks Israel’s repentance that gathers the people of Israel in national revival to their God. The Feast of Tabernacles gathers the nations of the world as the completed harvest of God. What sin has destroyed, God’s grace in Messiah can restore to its original purpose. God concludes His redemptive program in Messiah in the seventh month (Etanim
) by bringing humanity back into its original state of enduring permanence with Himself.
By Messiah’s completed work we see the seventh month as a time when God completes His redemption plan:
- The gathering of the Body - Feast of Trumpets
- The gathering of the nation of Israel - Day of Atonement
- The gathering of all nations - Feast of Booths.
If we have trusted in His Passover salvation, we’re ready for Him, restored to Him, and ruled by Him. Let’s be mindful of this season to reach out and share His message while we still can. Invite a friend and gather with us for special services celebrating these great fall festivals! Yom HaTeruah
The day of Trumpets, yom hateruah,
literally means “the day of blasting,” (Lev. 23:23-25) commonly called Rosh Hashanah
or the Jewish New Year. Why is that? When the Jewish people came out of Babylonian captivity, they adopted the Babylonian civil New Year as their own. So, even though it falls on the first day of the seventh month, it is called New Year’s day. Because there is very little Biblical information on this feast, Jewish tradition teaches that this mysterious Feast of Trumpets recalls the ram’s horns Joshua and the Israelites used at Jericho, and of the ram that Abraham sacrificed in place of Isaac. Scripture notes a time when Israel is gathered back to the land by the “blowing of the great ram’s horn” (Isa. 27:13), and in the New Covenant Paul explains this mystery as a time when all believers will be gathered to Messiah (1 Cor. 15:51, 52; 1 Thess. 4:16-18). Since none of us know the exact time of this future “blowing of the trumpet,” the Feast of Trumpets should motivate us to readiness and service. Remembering “our blessed hope” (Titus 2:13), we want people to believe now, before the day of wrath appears (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9). Right now we must be ready to be with the Lord (Revelation 22:7, 12, 21). Yom Kippur
The next feast is Yom Kippur,
or day of Atonement. In Jewish tradition, this day is for Jewish individuals to ‘get right’ with God. Biblically, it was a day for Israel to be restored to God as a servant nation (Lev. 16 and 23:26-32). Prophetically, it points to the time when Israel as a nation will be gathered to Messiah Yeshua. At the end of the Tribulation, Israel as a nation will “look on Me [Messiah] whom they have pierced, and mourn for Him as one mourns for a firstborn son” (Zech. 12:10). In that day, all Israel will receive “cleansing from sin and impurity” (Zech. 13:1).
In that day, the great confession of national Israel will be lamented, “All we like sheep have gone astray, each one has turned to his own way, but the Lord has laid on Him (Messiah) the iniquity of us all
” (Isaiah 53:6). And in that day the natural branches will be grafted back into “their own olive tree,” and “thus all Israel will be saved!” (Romans 11:23-26).
The Day of Atonement reminds us that this national gathering of Israel is coming. Let us be hopeful and be sharing Messiah especially to the Jewish people and equally to the Gentiles. Let us not be merely religious, but truly restored to the Lord ourselves. Next month we will take a look at the Feast of Tabernacles and what it teaches traditionally and prophetically. May you be encouraged by learning more about God’s redemptive plan portrayed through the Fall Festivals.
One of the most misunderstood aspects of Romans 11 is the picture of the olive tree. Yet it is clear that the image is meant to bring Jews and Gentiles together in some sense. The tree itself has some fascinating uses in Jewish history. Every part was used in service, especially Temple service. Its fruit could be used for food, oil, and salve; its wood was most favored for its beautiful appearance and durability (1 Kings 6:23-33); its leaves could be used for feeding livestock, its dried leaves for writing materials.
Olive oil was used in the Temple for the anointing of all sacred articles, and to fuel the menorah. Even the olive pits were used for toothaches (Avodah Zarah 28). Thus, the tree itself came to symbolize Israel’s service to God. The rabbis were pondering this symbolism even as late as the medieval era:
For just as oil gives forth light, so did the Temple give light to the whole world, as it says, and nations shall walk at thy light (Isa. 60:3). Our forefathers were accordingly called “A leafy olive tree” because they gave light to all (with their faith) (Exodus Rabbah 36:1).
The olive tree symbolized Israel’s ministerial life, Israel’s privileges of promise. It spoke of Israel’s calling and service: “The Lord called your name, ‘A green olive tree, beautiful in fruit and form’” (Jeremiah 11:16; Hosea 14:6). In Romans 9:4-5, Paul writes of Israel,
…to whom belongs the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the torah and the temple service and the promises, whose are the Fathers, and from whom is the Messiah according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.
Just as this passage connects God’s promise to Israel with Israel’s service to God, Paul uses the illustration of the olive tree to represent Israel’s service. Israel as the olive tree is a picture of our future service, when by faith in Messiah the natural branches are grafted back, “and thus all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26). In the millennial kingdom when Messiah reigns, Israel will once more be the head of nations (Deuteronomy 28:13, Micah 7:16-17), fulfilling their calling before God.
Thus in Romans 11:16-24, the olive tree also illustrates the ultimate goal of Gentile service: the national redemption of Israel. In his address to Gentile believers, Paul transitions from Romans 11:15 with a declaration of the impact of national Jewish revival in the coming kingdom, to verse 16, illustrating how that revival is inevitable. Paul also wrote in Romans 11:28, “they [Israel] are beloved for the sake of the fathers.”
Again, he would later write in Romans 15:8, “Messiah has become a servant to the circumcision [Israel] on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers.”
By faith the fathers were first fruits, and as such were holy, that is, set apart unto the Lord. Also, their offspring, Israel, had a holy position as Moses noted: “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 7:6). Thus, Paul continued “if the root is holy, so are the branches.” The tree is Israel, and the root is the promises made to the fathers.
Wild Branches Grafted in
From that principle of the root Paul proceeds to describe the partaking of the root:
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree (Romans 11:17). Paul says to the Gentile believers, “and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them.” Note that it is not instead of them, but among them. Gentile believers, as wild olive branches, are added to the olive tree among the natural believing branches. Gentiles do not replace Jewish people. Partaking of the root means depending on the promises of God, which provide the spiritual nourishment for the soul.
It is possible to be saved, but under-nourished: feeding on fear, The promises to Abraham are certain, so we are certain that God will restore Israel when they come to faith in Yeshua. This certainty in God’s promises is seen in one’s attitude toward Jewish people, the natural branches.
There is a holy call upon the Jewish people to serve God, and the fulfillment of that call comes by faith. Jewish people individually respond with faith in Yeshua in order to enjoy the blessings and service that accompany salvation. Faith sets you apart; unbelief sets you aside.
We are to “desire the pure milk of the Word that you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Peter 2:2), and to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added on to you” (Matthew 6:33). May we all be diligent to pray for the salvation of Israel and seek that Jewish people be restored to the Lord.
Across the ages, God has sought after the people of Israel, in order to bless them and make them a blessing to many peoples (Genesis 12:2-3). He also gave Israel a sacred trust—to bear His Name and to be the nation from which His redemptive plan for the world would go forth (John 4:22).
This plan is illustrated in the various feasts He ordained. These feasts are called moedim in Hebrew, meaning “appointments” (Leviticus 23:2). In a sense, these times constitute God’s agenda with His redeemed people. Ultimately, they provide a Biblical and historical foundation for faith in Yeshua. Messiah was to be the fulfillment of the Feasts; He is the purpose for their existence. Indeed, all of the Scriptures are fulfilled in Messiah Yeshua, just as “with regard to a festival... or a Sabbath day— these are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Messiah” (Colossians 2:16-17).
Even as all Scripture is inspired and profitable, these “shadows” are relevant for followers of Messiah today, because they never stop pointing to Him (1 Timothy 3:16). God’s appointed times and seasons present us a clearer picture of the amazing, incomprehensible love of God and His eternal redemption. As we grow in understanding of His grace we will be motivated to walk closer with Yeshua.
The calendar as it is laid out begins to unfold in springtime. The first three feasts—Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits—illustrate the redemption accomplished in Yeshua’s first coming. The fourth, Pentecost, speaks of “the Body of Messiah” being established in the earth. In the fall, at the seventh month of the biblical year, we observe Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and Booths. These focus our attention on the period of time yet to come, the consummation of God’s redemptive program and also picture our glorification as Messiah gathers His Harvest: with the Feast of Trumpets, the Body of Messiah is gathered up to Him; with the Day of Atonement the people of Israel are nationally gathered to Messiah Yeshua (Zechariah 12:10); finally, the Feast of Booths pictures the gathering of all the nations to Messiah.
If so, then currently we are living in the summertime - not just literally for the season, but until the Lord returns. So what does that mean for us? In Leviticus 23:22 we read:
When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the Lord your God.
This Scripture teaches that there comes a summer of service and labor in the fields following the Feast of Pentecost that directly leads to the fall harvesting and gathering festivals. This verse gives us insight and perspective on our lives as believers living for our blessed hope, the return of Messiah.
We are in a time of service, a time of labor as we seek the lost and share the Great News of our Great God and what He has done for us in Messiah, so all may get to hear the Great News (Romans 1:16). Now following that long period of service, we anticipate the Fall Festivals in the 7th month as the program of God’s redemption takes the next turn.
However, before we can enter into His presence as these festivals portray, we need to know how to appear before the King of kings. In traditional Judaism, the month preceding the Feasts called, Elul, serves as a time for proper spiritual preparation. The month Elul is the sixth month of the Hebrew calendar and falls on August 7 till September 4 this year. One of the customs is the reciting of Selichot, special prayers for forgiveness where people consider the profound issues of life and death, sin and forgiveness. The significance given to these prayers in traditional Jewish thinking shows up in the three levels of forgiveness which people hope to attain.
Traditionally, these three levels are identified by three Hebrew terms: selichah (pardon), mechilah (wiping away), and kapparah (atonement). They are all related to forgiveness, but each has its own shade of meaning. In Israel selichah is a common word for “pardon” or “excuse me.” This is the first step someone takes if a sin has been committed, whether against God or man. One asks for forgiveness, saying to the offended party, “I am sorry for what I did; I sincerely regret having done it, and will never do it again.” It is considered cruel to disbelieve a person’s sincere apology and not accept it.
Mechilah is usually translated as “wiping away” and it responds to the request, “can we normalize our relationship back as it was before I offended you?” In this level the relationship gets a “reset button.” It is more difficult than slichah but not impossible.
Kapparah is usually translated as “atonement,” (as in Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement). This level of repentance is the deepest of all because it addresses a person’s guilty conscience (Hebrews 10:22). It should be recognized that only God can heal and comfort the conscience of a person. In traditional Jewish circles “Kapparah” completes this three-part process on Yom Kippur.
We learn in the New Covenant that there is One who can fully forgive sins (Matthew 9:6) even to the core of our being and to the cleansing and healing of our souls. Hebrews 9:14 states, “how much more will the blood of Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”
Our prayers are now of praise and thanksgiving because of His once-and-for-all atonement; there is never a need for any other offering for sin (Hebrews 10:18). Therefore, let us confess our sins knowing that Messiah’s atonement is always sufficient (1 John 1:9). The Fall Festivals are the vivid picture of how we receive our atonement and how to receive forgiveness of sins.
In Messiah’s atonement we have the grace of God to forgive one another for any offense done against us (Ephesians 4:32). Indeed, by that same grace we can not only forgive, but also comfort any who are guilt ridden by their own consciences (2 Corinthians 2:7). In Messiah’s atonement is full forgiveness, not merely restoration to a previous relationship, but “forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith” (Acts 26:18).
The Feast of Trumpets reminds us of the day when Messiah will return; let us prepare our hearts that we will not be “ashamed at His coming” (1 John 2:28). The Day of Atonement reminds us of the day when national Israel will trust in Messiah’s atonement (Zechariah 12:10, 13:1) and will be restored back to God as His servant people. So let us plant those seeds of faith by sharing Yeshua with Jewish people and all people, for the Lord loves us all. And finally the Feast of Tabernacles reminds us that one day He will reign over all as He is glorified by all peoples (Zechariah 14:9). As we approach the High Holy Days during this month of Elul, let us commit to pray not only that we would be prepared, but that in the true forgiveness which comes only through Messiah, Israel and all people will be prepared to meet with the Lord as it says in Amos 4:12, “Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.”
On July 15th after sunset, many in the Jewish community will be in great distress. No, they will not necessarily be in harm’s way, but rather they will be in a state of mourning. You see, that date will coincide with the Jewish day of remembrance called Tisha B’Av. What’s in the Name?
Tisha B’Av, or “the 9th of Av” is a day on the Jewish calendar for fasting for the more observant among the Jewish people. Their distress comes from remembering the many tragic events that the rabbis teach happened on the 9th of Av in Jewish history.
These events include:
Who Observes Tisha B’Av?
- The sin of the spies sent ahead into Canaan, caused the Lord to decree that the Children of Israel who left Egypt would not be permitted to enter the Land of Promise.
- The First Temple was destroyed.
- The Second Temple was destroyed.
- Betar, the last fortress to hold out against the Romans during the Jewish revolt led by Simon Bar-Cochba in AD 135 fell, sealing the fate of the Jewish people and beginning the Jewish Exile from Judea.
- One year after the fall of Betar, the grounds of the Second Temple were plowed under.
- In 1492, King Ferdinand of Spain issued an expulsion decree, setting Tisha B’Av as the final date by which not a single Jew would be allowed to walk on Spanish soil.
- World War I began and with it the downward slide to the Holocaust.
Though most Jewish people have been secularized and are perhaps therefore unaware of Tisha B’Av, the Orthodox Jewish community takes it quite seriously. As the mourning period is at its pinnacle on this day, tradition prevents our people from shaving, eating, or partaking of any form of entertainment, etc. Thus if your Jewish friends and acquaintances are observing Tisha B’Av, treat them as those in mourning, and do not invite them to go out to eat, to the movies, or to any other enjoyable events. They will no doubt be quite reserved, solemn, and even sad. In fact, though they may be very good friends of yours, do not expect them even to greet you happily, because it is not permitted.
Tisha B’Av and Messiah
Though Tisha B’Av is a traditional commemoration, the rabbis have identified it with the biblical “fast of the fifth month [Av]” as noted in Zechariah 7:5, a fast which seems to have been instituted for repentance from the sins which brought about the Babylonian exile.
Interestingly enough however, Zechariah goes on to speak of a transformation that will occur in the fast: “Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘…the fast of the fifth… will become joy, gladness, and cheerful feasts for the house of Judah; so love truth and peace
This transformation is understood to occur in the Messianic age, when our sorrows will be turned to joy. However, we who have trusted in Messiah Yeshua have already experienced the reality of the Lord’s grace, which is able to transform our sadness into gladness. Those of us who have received His grace can “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4). However, we are still responsible for caring about those who are hurting, having compassion on them and even empathizing with them in their distress. What Can I Do?
Should Messianic believers observe Tisha B’ Av? That will be up to you and your congregation to decide for yourselves. If your personal or congregational witness identifies you with those who mourn, or if your congregation is located in a particularly observant Jewish community, it would be most appropriate to observe Tisha B’Av; for the Bible states that we should “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). You could have a day of prayer for Israel and the Jewish people, or at the very least avoid planning a celebration. If your witness is to a secular or less observant Jewish community, then commemorating Tisha B’Av might not communicate any witness at all and just seem odd.
As Paul wrote regarding his own witness in the Jewish community, “To those under the Torah, as under the Torah… to those without Torah as without Torah…
” (1 Corinthians 9:20-21). Communicating the truth of Israel’s Messiah effectively to the Jewish people depends largely on where those people are coming from. In all things let us love as we’ve been loved and “comfort others with the very comfort we have received
” (2 Corinthians 1:4), that in all events and on all days Messiah Yeshua may be glorified and His grace proven to be sufficient for all.
Today there is a need to have more sound and functional Messianic congregations that effectively testify that Yeshua is the faithfulness of God to both Israel and the nations. It is my desire and goal for “all Israel to be saved,” that is, for the Jewish people as a whole to come to personal faith in Messiah Yeshua (Romans 10:1; 11:26). In Jeremiah 31:35-37 God has made a gracious commitment to preserve the Jewish people as an identifiable nation:
Thus says the Lord, Who gives the sun for light by day, and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The Lord of hosts is His name; “If this fixed order departs from before Me,” declares the Lord, “then the offspring of Israel also will cease from being a nation forever.” Thus says the Lord, “If the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth searched out below, then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done,” declares the Lord.
A Messianic congregation serves as an expression of God’s gracious commitment and is essential to His Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Yeshua has “all the authority in heaven and on earth,” and with that authority He has commanded us to make disciples (Matthew 28:18). If we are convinced of His Lordship, we must therefore be committed to His discipleship, for He said,“Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). This means raising new believers in the faith so that they will live out God’s faithfulness in their circumstances.
The primary function of any congregation is to be a disciple-making center, even as the Lord’s faithfulness is evidenced in a discipled believer. If a new believer understands his or her Jewish identity in Messiah then it will serve as a testimony of His grace to the Jewish community. Also, as Gentiles are saved through the evangelistic work of Messianic congregations they will be grounded and grow in the same faith, by the same discipleship. This makes their own communication of the Good News more clear and meaningful to their Jewish friends and neighbors. Despite all that the enemy has attempted to do, the Jewish people have been kept by God. In Messiah, we, as a remnant people, are restored to God’s service and testimony. The existence of Messianic congregations testifies to God’s triumph.
We are blessed to live in such a time where we see Messianic congregations springing up in the last century as part of the renewal of the Jewish testimony to Yeshua. Therefore, Messianic congregations serve as centers for worship, instruction, fellowship, and proclaiming the Good News of Messiah.
The ministry of the Word has two dimensions of service: inward and outward. Within the body of Messiah, the Word (Torah) provides edification, and outside the body, that same Word ministers evangelization. The Word testifies of Yeshua, and “the testimony of Yeshua is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10). We proclaim the Living Word according to the written Word, and proclaim the written Word to exalt the Living Word.
A Biblical Strategy
In Acts 20, Paul was speaking to his own disciples, who were now leaders of the congregation at Ephesus. He reminded them of the time spent with them, of his investment into their lives:
“You yourselves know…how I kept back nothing that was profitable, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house” (Acts 20:20).
Paul says he “taught publicly.” A biblically strong pulpit ministry in the congregation is vital.
Proper discipleship includes one receiving public teaching. When individuals want personal teaching (including counseling) I encourage them to come to services regularly (Heb. 10:25). In this way, they can gain the big picture from the weekly expository teaching.
However, Paul also taught “from house to house.” He encouraged personal application for the believer from the principles he gave publicly. Paul was not merely being sociable, but was seeking to build up individual lives. In addition to public teaching from the pulpit, there needs to be personal discipleship of individuals. New believers need to be individually grounded and rooted in the faith.
Don’t Hold Back
Paul says that in his teaching he “kept back nothing that was profitable,” that is, useful and beneficial to their spiritual lives. From this we learn aspects of the content of his discipleship work.
Kept back nothing. This word “kept back” was used by the Rabbis in the Septuagint (Greek text of the Hebrew Bible) for show partiality, as when Job skewers his friends for their speeches to him: “Will you show partiality for God?” (Job 13:8). Too many teachers shrink back from teaching publicly or privately the most difficult subjects of the Scriptures.
Leadership demands boldness to stand for the truth. Failure comes from cowardly rather than courageous leadership. Paul details the teaching further in Acts 20:21, “solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Yeshua the Messiah.”
Testifying is also used in Luke 16:28 and it means to give warning. Whenever one teaches the word of God, one never preaches an unimportant message. It is either vital or it is not worth anyone’s time to hear it. The unique unity we have in Messiah means no one may be excluded. We teach what is sufficient for all people, which results in unity in Yeshua for both Jews and Gentiles.
Repentance and faith, that is, turning from sin and also trusting in the Lord. The focus, though, is not what we have given up, but to Whom we have turned. This encompasses the grace of God and the whole counsel of God. A directive style of expository teaching helps the congregation to understand the focus of Scripture. The congregation is the place to give full discipleship, teaching the full counsel of God.
“Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:26-27)
Presenting the whole counsel of God was liberating to Paul and kept his conscience clear. Is courageous, constructive, and comprehensive teaching going on in your congregation? We would love to be praying for and assisting you in developing a 20/20 Vision, making maturing disciples who will glorify the Lord. May we all press on to finish our race with joy, and the ministry which we’ve received from the Lord Yeshua, to testify to the Good News of the grace of God. Please pray for us as we plan Congregation Planting Conferences in 2014 on the East Coast and let us know if you would like to be involved.