“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Tabernacle – The Divine Plan of God

WHY STUDY THE TABERNACLE?

Many dismiss the study of the tabernacle as irrelevant, and others have made the study of 'Jewish' things the locus of their entire Christian experience. I hope to be balanced in my treatment of this subject. We study the Tabernacle because it points to Messiah; in the Tabernacle we see the plan of redemption laid out clearly. I pray that this series of posts will provide a fresh appreciation of our Triune God!

When the Lord created the heavens and the earth, and all that is in them, He described this process in two chapters. The Tabernacle and the associated services take up more than fifty chapters in the Bible! A full 1/3 of the book of Hebrews is concerned with Tabernacle service. So we see that the Tabernacle was no ordinary building! God was adamant that Moses build the Tabernacle in a very specific fashion! In Exodus 25:9 we read these instructions to Moses -- "According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it... And again in Exodus 25:40 -- "And see to it that you make them according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain…” And on it goes throughout the construction of the Tabernacle, God is always reminding Moses to build everything according to the plan that he was shown on the mountain.

When did Moses get all of this divine insight into the construction of the Tabernacle? Many people think that Moses went up on Mount Sinai and came down with the Ten Commandments, two pieces of stone written on by the finger of God. While that is true, that is not all that he came down with; go and read through Exodus 19 – 25. Part of the information was the construction of the Tabernacle.

In Hebrews 9:19 - 24 we read -- For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, "This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you." Then likewise he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry. And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission. Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us…

Notice that the Tabernacle was a copy of the things in heaven -- keep that in mind as we examine the Tabernacle.

As we study through the Tabernacle, I pray that you are challenged to look afresh at God's plan of redemption. The Tabernacle, it’s utensils, and altars reflect aspects of the plan of God! This is why it was imperative that Moses built the Tabernacle exactly as shown on the mountain! The Tabernacle illustrated God’s redemption for His people and His dwelling with them. It also brought home the fact that no one could approach the Lord without their sins being dealt with. All of which points to the only pure sacrifice, the Messiah!

Through this series of posts I pray that we will be able to see the ‘forest’ of God’s plan. We can get so enamored with the 'trees' that we forget the fact that there is actually a forest of information in the Bible that all points in one direction. This is how we get some of the more bizarre theories that emanate from some pulpits. People don’t step back to take a look at the whole of God’s plan and get wrapped around the axle on the details of one or two passages of Scripture which validate their ‘pet’ theory. I have heard people teach on the tabernacle and attach no significance to the Tabernacle at all, and on the other hand, I have seen people who stretch for meaning in every number, letter, and detail while losing sight of the larger picture that is being taught. While I believe there is a tremendous amount of typology in the Tabernacle, I also know that this can be taken to extremes which are counter-intuitive to the text.

So let’s start at the beginning; Man and God met together in the Garden, you could say that God ‘dwelt’ with Adam. They had a face-to-face relationship, and because Adam was sinless he and God shared a relationship which was beyond our ken. In the midst of this Garden was a tree, the Tree of Life. Genesis 2:9 -- And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Adam and Eve enjoyed full fellowship with God, until one fateful day when the serpent deceived them and convinced them to eat of the Tree of Good and Evil. At this point, because of their disobedience to the Lord, Adam and Eve suddenly realized that they were naked, and cut off from the fellowship that they had enjoyed with the Lord. In Genesis 3:22–24 we read this -- Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever"; therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.

Adam and Eve were banished not only from the Garden but from the intimate relationship that they had enjoyed with God. God prevented them, in His mercy, from eating of the Tree of life, causing them to live forever in a fallen state. Already at this point in the Bible we see God’s mercy and desire to bring the people back into a relationship with Him!


Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Next Series

I am working on another series that I hope to soon post on. This will be on the Tabernacle, and will follow the lines of the recent Feasts series.

I hope to put up the first article in the next few days, work permitting.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Sukkot (Feast of tabernacles)

Leviticus 23:33 – 44 - And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to the people of Israel, saying, On the fifteenth day of this seventh month and for seven days is the Feast of Booths to the LORD. On the first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work. For seven days you shall present food offerings to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall hold a holy convocation and present a food offering to the LORD. It is a solemn assembly; you shall not do any ordinary work. "These are the appointed feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim as times of holy convocation, for presenting to the LORD food offerings, burnt offerings and grain offerings, sacrifices and drink offerings, each on its proper day, besides the LORD's Sabbaths and besides your gifts and besides all your vow offerings and besides all your freewill offerings, which you give to the LORD. "On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the LORD seven days. On the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest. And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days. You shall celebrate it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It is a statute forever throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God." Thus Moses declared to the people of Israel the appointed feasts of the LORD.

DISCLAIMER -- Before I continue with this post on Sukkot, I felt it necessary to explain myself a bit. I do not believe that these feasts must be celebrated by the church, nor do I think that one is ‘extra-spiritual’ by observing the feasts. I believe that the feasts are part of our heritage and may be used to teach about the Messiah. Please read these posts with this in mind./DISCLAIMER

Sukkot finishes out this Feasts; I hope that through these posts on the Feasts you were able to see clearly how God’s plan of redemption is perfectly fulfilled by Messiah. The time of Sukkot is a time of joy, contrasted with Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. These two earlier Feasts are a somber time, focusing on judgment, whereas Sukkot is joyous, and celebrative. In this post I hope to show how this final feast is a picture of the Feast we will celebrate with Messiah in eternity!

The Talmud teaches that, in the days of the temple, if you had not been to Jerusalem for the celebration of Sukkot, then you had never witnessed true joy (Sukkah 5), remember this as you read through this post.

BIRTH OF THE MESSIAH

First, let me start by painting the significance of Tabernacles in the birth of Messiah: God established the feasts as a symbol of His great plan of redemption; Messiah was crucified on Pesach, John the Baptist was born at Pesach, Messiah was raised on Yom HaBikkurim, the Church was born on Shavuot. We see God using the ordained times that He laid out in the Old Testament for all of these events, why would we believe that the birth of the Messiah not be in that pattern?

Let’s examine this idea that the Messiah was born at this time. It says in Luke 2 - And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. The Romans, as we know from history, ran a very tight ship, to use a colloquialism, so when would they choose to perform a census? If we look at history, the Romans had a tendency to perform these types of censuses around the holidays of the subjugated people. It is a logistical nightmare to do this at a random time, especially if there were already times when the people gathered together to celebrate a holiday.

Therefore, when all of the people were heading to Jerusalem for a sacred holiday, it would be easy for them to be gathered into one place for registration. There were three times when this would occur in the cycle of Feasts – Unleavened Bread; Shavuot (isn’t it interesting that God chose this Feast to birth the Church?); and Tabernacles. Recent discoveries have shed new light on these censuses. The census played a part, but was possibly not the sole reason for Joseph's journey. As it turns out, the census was not something that had to be done by a specific date. It wasn't like filing taxes - do it by April 15th or face the consequences. We know from recent discoveries that these censuses went on for quite some time - in many cases over several years.

So, if not to meet the deadline for registration, why would Joseph risk a long, hard, dangerous journey with a wife about to give birth? If you have plenty of time for this census, then there is little likelihood that you would endanger your family like this. Is there another feasible explanation for a journey at this point in time? Since Sukkot is one of the Feasts that required Joseph’s presence in Jerusalem, it would make sense to make the trek at that time, and since Mary and Joseph would have been going to Jerusalem, a mere 5 miles from Bethlehem, for the festival, it would be reasonable to assume that they would make the relatively short side trip to attend to the census registration as well.

Being that Bethlehem is only a few miles from Jerusalem; people would have been gathered there to head into Jerusalem for the Sukkot. Hence, there would be no rooms available, as the Jews from the entire countryside returned to Jerusalem for the Feast.

Also, the shepherds probably would not be watching their flocks by night in December; it would be a much more natural event during the time of Sukkot. In the Talmud it states that sheep should be put up in sheepfolds, or pens, from November to February. An interesting factoid about the Bethlehem sheep is that they were raised specifically to be used in the Temple sacrifices. The area where the shepherd’s would have been watching their flocks was known as Migdal Adar, or the Tower of the Flock.

Let us look into Scripture; Micah 4:1 – 8 talks of the days of Messiah; It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and it shall be lifted up above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it, and many nations shall come, and say: "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples, and shall decide for strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore; but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid, for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken. For all the peoples walk each in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the LORD our God forever and ever. In that day, declares the LORD, I will assemble the lame and gather those who have been driven away and those whom I have afflicted; and the lame I will make the remnant, and those who were cast off, a strong nation; and the LORD will reign over them in Mount Zion from this time forth and forevermore. And you, O tower of the flock, hill of the daughter of Zion, to you shall it come, the former dominion shall come, kingship for the daughter of Jerusalem.

In first century Israel, the people were looking for the Messiah. The fact that Messiah was to be born in Beit Lechem was a settled conviction amongst the people. Equally so was the belief that His birth was to be revealed from Migdal-Eder, the tower of the flock. (See above Micah Scripture). In fact, Jewish and Rabbinical tradition named Migdal-Eder as the place where the long awaited announcement of the coming of the Savior would occur. In answer to that very tradition, the scriptures tell us that, upon hearing this from the heavens, and seeing the child laying in the manger, the shepherds "made known abroad all they had heard and seen."

LIVING WATER

John wrote his Gospel around the feasts, showing how Messiah fulfilled them perfectly. In the first few verses of John that he makes allusions to Messiah being born during Tabernacles, John 1:14 - And the Word became flesh and dwelt (tabernacled) among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

And in John 7 we find Messiah going to Sukkot, and during that Feast, making some very bold statements about His Person.

First, a bit of background – in the Jerusalem of Messiah’s day, the people would circle the Temple one time while singing the Hallel (Psalms 113 – 118) each day of the Feast. On the final day of the feast, called Hoshana Rabbah (The Great Hoshanna), the people would circle the Temple seven times. The priest would then go down to the pool of Siloam, outside the ‘water gate’ so named for this ceremony. He would fill a golden pitcher with water from the pool and would return to the altar. At the altar he would ceremoniously pour the water out into a silver basin at the altar. This had a much deeper meaning than simply praying to the Lord for the rains to come during the winter for the next season. In the Talmud, Sukkot 55, we find that this was prophetically illustrating the days of Messianic redemption when the water of the Holy Spirit would be poured out on the people of Israel. The people would be crying out to the Lord to pour His spirit out on them. The rabbis taught of this ceremony that there was a deeper meaning, and it was found in Isaiah 12:3 - Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. Interestingly enough, the word for salvation is… Yeshua.

The air would be electric, the people, concluding their seven days of feasting, would be in total worship crying out to the Lord to pour out His Spirit on them, the water would be poured out and (John 7:37, 38) - On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."

HEY, wait a minute, who is this itinerant rabbi from the Galil? And we continue; (John 7:40, 41) - Therefore many from the crowd, when they heard this saying, said, "Truly this is the Prophet." Others said, "This is the Christ." Have you ever wondered why these words would cause that reaction amongst the crowd? They understood what He was saying, unlike so many ‘bright scholars' today who say He never claimed to be the Messiah! Yet the blindness of the Pharisees is clearly shown here; (John 7:47, 48) - "Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed."

There are several other passages that the people would have been reciting during this time, all from Isaiah: Isaiah 44:3 - For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, And floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, And My blessing on your offspring; and again in Isaiah 55:1 - Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk Without money and without price. And finally in Isaiah 58:11 - The LORD will guide you continually, And satisfy your soul in drought, And strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.

What did Jesus say to the women at the well in John 4? John 4:14 - "but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life." When we drop our buckets into manmade wells of our own design they eventually come up dry.

Oh, how we need to plumb the depths of the water whereby we will never thirst again!

This time of the pouring of the water, called Simchat Bet Ha Shoevah, or The Rejoicing of the House of Drawing Water, also celebrated how God provided for His people by bringing water out of the rock. Exodus 17:6 - "Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink." And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. Messiah was saying that the rock that provided sustenance in the wilderness was He! In 1st Corinthians 10:1 - 4 we read this - Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.

In today’s synagogues we find a ceremony called, “Taking of the Willow”. It involves the people circling the altar seven times with the lulav (palm branches), waving them, and on the final circuit the branches are beat on the seats and floor of the synagogue while the people chant, “The voice announcing the coming of the messiah is heard.”

What a great and tragic thing it is that Israel is still blinded, but there are signs that she is coming out of the blindness! There is an estimated 1,000,000 Messianic Jews just in the United States and that number is growing all the time. We also know that there are now around 200 Messianic congregations in the United States and another 50 or so in Israel. As we read in Zechariah 12:10 – 13:1 - "And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. "In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning at Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. "And the land shall mourn, every family by itself: the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; "the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of Shimei by itself, and their wives by themselves; "all the families that remain, every family by itself, and their wives by themselves. "In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness. Messiah said this to Jerusalem in Luke 13:34, 35 - "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing! "See! Your house is left to you desolate; and assuredly, I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!'" May that day come soon!

The final Sukkot is recorded in Revelation 21:1 – 4“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’”

What a day of celebration that final Sukkot will be!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Modern Evangelism?

In a recent Nightline article, the following was noted, (emphasis mine)

"As Osteen grew into his message — a gentle, positive one that often sounds more like self-help than sermon — so did the congregation, doubling that first year and then again and again.

The limelight became him, and his uplifting messages moved around the world and into a best-selling book, all without speaking of abortion, gay marriage, sacrifice or Satan.

And while some may disagree with Osteen's message, the numbers don't lie. And the simplicity of his sermons — to go with the flow, to put aside negative thoughts, to visualize your best self — seem to resonate in a meaningful way with the thousands upon thousands who connect with his quiet dynamism every Sunday."


This is the modern evangelical???

Ohhhh, Mr. Wizard, I don't want to be an 'evangelical' anymore!

"Twizzle, Twazzle, Twizzle Dum -- time for this one to come home......."

poof!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Yom Kippur

Leviticus 23:26-32 - And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying; Now on the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be for you a time of holy convocation, and you shall afflict yourselves and present a food offering to the Lord. And you shall not do any work on that very day, for it is a Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God. For whoever is not afflicted on that very day shall be cut off from his people. And whoever does any work on that very day, that person I will destroy from among his people. You shall not do any work. It is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwelling places. It shall be to you a Sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict yourselves. On the ninth day of the month beginning at evening, from evening to evening shall you keep your Sabbath.

Let's take a look at the commands in this passage a bit closer:

1. We are to hold a "holy convocation". We don't hold holy convocations anymore. Oh yes, we gather together in one place, but the sense of the miqra kodesh was to gather in a focused and common cause. Today we are more concerned that everyone gets their needs met, as opposed to the concept of a Holy Convocation gathering together to ensure that God gets worshipped! A Holy Convocation brings with it the sense that God has our complete and total attention.

2.We are also told to "afflict ourselves" as well. Rabbis interpret this verse to mean that we must restrain from our earthly appetites. This is part of bringing God into focus, and denying ourselves. We don't do much of this anymore either. For the Christian today, it is about comfort, not sacrifice, or denial. Now, I understand that Christ is our sacrifice, and we do not need to 'afflict ourselves' however our obsession with our own creaturely comforts has made the practices of fasting, prayer and meditation on God's Word, relics of a past age. Fasting is such an important part of Yom Kippur that the alternative title of the day is "Day of Fasting".

3.We are also told that, on Yom Kippur, we are to refrain from work. We are not to mix our daily routine with this holy day. For our status-enamored society, this is a burdensome weight! We have made our jobs idols (Christians (me) included). The punishment for not obeying this commandment was death! How often do we actually set aside a day for the Lord? Even on the 'Sabbath' we turn the TV on, and we putter about doing all sorts of things, but how often are we focused on the Lord fully, and completely.

4.The next commandment that God gives is one concerning offerings. There are to be many offerings during the day. The whole chapter of Leviticus 16 is dedicated to describing these offerings. These sacrifices are required because, during the time this feast was implemented, it was the only way to access God. He could not look upon sin, so an offering had to be made to atone for the people's sins before they could enter into His Presence. The High Priest was used as the mediator between the people and God. The High Priest was given instructions regarding the Tabernacle and the Holy of Holies. He was not to enter in to the Holy of Holies except on the day of Yom Kippur or he would face the punishment of death. Inside this most holy place was the Ark of the covenant and the Mercy Seat. Above the Mercy Seat dwelt the Shekinah Glory, the visible presence of God. I believe that many in our churches today are so cavalier regarding our salvation and entering into God's Presence because they have never understood the Holiness of God. In the day of Israel's sacrificial system the entire nation waited with bated breath to determine whether or not the sacrifice and actions of the mediator were accepted. Today, Christians treat our mediator, and sacrifice, Jesus Christ, as their personal buddy. I am angered by this; it shows a complete lack of understanding for the plan of salvation!

The Tabernacle was the center of attention during Yom Kippur; The Presence of God, the Shekinah, dwelt between the cherubim inside the Holy of Holies. The High Priest would enter into the Holy of Holies after proper preparation, bearing the blood of the sacrifice in his hands. He would then sprinkle the Mercy Seat with the blood, and make prayers atoning for the sins of Israel. The actions of this mediator determined the future for the entire nation! The Ark, and Mercy seat were covered with the blood of the sacrifice and God's wrath was appeased.

Inside the Ark we would have found three things; The tablets containing the Law, the rod of Aaron, and a pot of manna. The inclusion of these three items in the ark symbolizes man's utter rejection of God. First, we rejected the giving of His moral Law on the tablets. Then we rejected His attempt to give us daily provisions of food or manna. Finally, Aaron's rod reminds us that we rejected His authorized leadership. The word pesha (transgression) in Leviticus 16:16, 21 reflects this idea of rejection. This word implies revolt or rebellion, and is the gravest word for sin that can be used.

Sacrifices had to be made to cover the sins of Israel from God's eyes. For this reason, the lid of the ark was named the Mercy Seat, in Hebrew "kipporah", or "propitiation". The Mercy Seat was the seat of atonement. The blood of sacrificed animals was to be sprinkled on this Mercy Seat, to make atonement for the sins of Israel. But it was not simply a sacrifice, but a sacrifice delivered by a mediator.

This mediator, the High Priest, did not just stroll in and sprinkle the blood; he was prepared for his task. Before atoning for the sins of the people, the High Priest had to make atonement for his own sins. Even the High Priest Aaron was not above cleansing himself and his family first before any redemption of the people could take place. He brought a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for the burnt offering. Before the blood could be applied to the altar, Aaron donned himself in special linen garments. These did not include the breastplate with the urim and thummim he and the other Priests to follow would wear on other days. Those were instruments of communication between God and the people. Only on Yom Kippur did the High Priest communicate with God in His very presence on the Mercy Seat.

The High Priest was to sacrifice two young goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. The two goats were brought before the door of the Tabernacle, and lots were cast to determine which goat would be the one designated for the sacrifice, and which goat would be the scapegoat, the one led away to die in the wilderness.

Upon entering the Holy of Holies, the High Priest would burn incense. The smoke created from this incense shielded him from actually seeing God's presence, and symbolized the sweet aroma of the people's prayers ascending to God. He then sprinkled the blood from the sacrificed goat, chosen by the casting of lots, onto the Mercy Seat. The blood of both the ram and the goat were sprinkled onto the Mercy Seat. This act made atonement for the Holy of Holies, the Tabernacle, and the altar itself. Even these objects had to be atoned for because they had become contaminated with the sins of the people. Only after these preparations had been completed could the main event of the Yom Kippur service occur; the leading of the scapegoat into the wilderness, carrying the sins of Israel with it. The role of the scapegoat is found in Leviticus 16:21, 22.

Today, the Jewish people call the days from 1 Tishri to 10 Tishri (Rosh HaShanah to Yom Kippur), the 'Days of Awe'. These days emphasize our relationship with God, His holy nature and our sinful nature. Approaching Yom Kippur we concentrate on how to reconcile the gulf of sin that separates us from Him. Yom Kippur is when the books of life and death are sealed, and Jewish people receive their coming judgment. The greeting for this holiday, "G'mar chatima tovah!", or "May you be sealed in the Book of Life for a good year!" reflects how serious this time is for us. The rabbis command the people to begin the process of repentance in the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur by turning, or returning, to the Lord (teshuvah). The Talmud reminds us to: "Remake yourselves by repentance during the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and on the Day of Atonement, I [God] will hold you guiltless, regarding you as a newly made creature."

We are incapable of making ourselves new creations. As believers in Messiah, we know that only the He can make us new creatures, we cannot remake ourselves. The goats of the Yom Kippur ceremony foreshadowed the sacrifice of Christ. He paid the penalty of death for us as with the first slaughtered goat, covering our sins. He also removed our sins as seen by the second goat, the scapegoat. He was the final payment and sacrifice for sins, covering and removing them so that we do not have to make atonement year after year. Literally making us new creations!

So, we should then just throw Yom Kippur out the door, and not get all tangled up in celebrating this, right? That is what many in the Christian community would have you believe, but I disagree with them. I do not believe that we are 'saved' by our observance of Yom Kippur, but I believe it has a valid place in the life of the Church.

We have lost something very important in the church. That is, an AWE for God! We see it in our services which contain worship songs mostly referencing me and my feelings, and sermons that primarily focus on what God is going to do for me. Yom Kippur is a great time for us to refocus on the holiness of God, and His great plan of salvation. Let's put down our tambourines, and 'specialty' bibles, and return our gaze to the sacrifice made for us by a sinless mediator, so that we can say "My name IS written in the book of life".

Have you contemplated God's amazing grace lately? Do you understand that the original Yom Kippur showed that same amazing grace? God KNEW that His people would be unable to observe the law -- it was a tutor, to paraphrase Paul -- so He gave Israel the sacrificial system in order for them to be temporarily 'made right', and dwell in His presence. God saw the priest presenting the sacrifice as the mediator of His people, and saw the sacrifice as the means by which they could approach Him. This is the essence of the idea of the substitute sacrifice, the death of what is innocent for that which has sinned.

Jesus gave His life to be the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. As believers in Messiah, we should be joyous at Yom Kippur because we do not have to wonder if our repentance has been adequate! The average Hebrew could never approach the Holy of Holies, even the High Priest could only approach it once a year. When Messiah died on the cross, the heavy veil in front of the Holy of Holies was torn. God was stating that those who trust in Him can have a true Yom Kippur experience and may be shown God's mercy. We can rejoice in God's plan of forgiveness!

Romans 3:21-26 - But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it -- the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Who Are These People?

1. They walk about quoting from their sacred scriptures as if these writings contained something more than just words.

2. They denigrate anyone who disagrees with them, painting a false picture of dissenters as hopelessly lost and unenlightened.

3. They believe that their faith is the only correct one.

4. They attempt to force their views into politics, classrooms and the public sphere at large, claiming a superior knowledge.

5. They claim every new archeological, or geological find 'proves' their faith.

Who are these people, and how dare they act this way? Well, if you read much, you would say that this is the Christian Coalition, but I am speaking of those who promote the THEORY of evolution and humanistic perspectives.

Everyone uses the term theory when they speak of evolution, but no one, sad to say even Christians, treat it as a theory at all. The humanist will argue as if he/she is disseminating empirical data, rather than the writings of a group of people within the scientific community.

And when pressed about the apparent inconsistencies, they will always fall back on the trusty 'randomness' of nature, when there is no appearance of randomness in nature. When you peer through the Hubble you do not find random, you find order -- an order so exacting that we are able to launch rockets aimed at planets millions of miles away, that will pass within a hairsbreadth of said planet in order to do a photo shoot.

Now, why am I taking time out of the Feasts to make these points? Well, I am not writing this to start some kind of blog war amongst all 4 of the people who read this blog, rather I tire of the evolutionists who often paints Christians as throwbacks, with limited intelligence and infantile reasoning.

Unfortunately, there are some who do fit that description, but likewise, there are many on the evolutionary side of the debate who also fit that. And that has nothing to do with the veracity of our beliefs.

The evolutionist has comfortably sat in his/her glass tower and thrown stones for far too long. All the while the Christian community tries to debate using the arguments crafted by the evolutionist, thereby lending credence to their claims. It is time for Christians to call the evolutionist on the carpet using the same criteria that they use to judge (and quite frankly, ridicule) us.

Does the universe REALLY lend itself to an evolutionary mindset, being nothing more than a random series of 'accidents' that led to life as we know it, or is it not only possible, but MORE probable that an intelligent being created this environment? Have we somehow bucked the theory of entropy, and are moving towards more and more order as opposed to less and less?

Is man still evolving? If so, when was the last MICRO-evolution?

I don't expect to get answers to these, nor do I even want to get into some huge debate about these things (I am anxious to continue with my series), I simply tire of being painted as some kind of ignorant, superstitious, cave-dweller (intellectually), while the evolutionists paints themselves as 'higher-beings'.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Yom Teruah

Rosh HaShanah, the next Feast in our mosaic of the Moedim, begins on 1 Tishri -- the seventh month in the liturgical calendar, but the first month in the civil calendar.

This Feast is never actually addressed by that title in the Bible. It has several names, Zikhron Teruah - Memorial of Blowing Trumpets; and/or Yom Teruah - Day of the Blowing of the Trumpets.

Thirty days before Rosh HaShanah, beginning on 1 Ellul, the Jewish people begin their time of preparation for the High Holy Days. This time of preparation culminates on Yom Kippur, the Great Day of Atonement. The forty days between 1 Ellul and Yom Kippur (10 Tishri) are a time of great reflection for the Jewish people, as they prepare.

Yom Kippur is a day without precedent in the Christian calendar. Observant Jews will contact the people in their lives and apologize for anything that they might have done improper over the past year. This is a time of ‘getting right’ with those around them, as they attempt to 'get good enough' to be written in the Book of Life for another year! We will cover Yom Kippur in an upcoming post.

The essential mitzvah (command) of Rosh HaShana is to hear the sounding of the shofar. The shofar soundings represent three distinct themes;

1. The first sounding -- a long, straight blast is known as the Tekiah; it is the sound of a King’s coronation. This represents the Kingship of God (Reverence).

2. The second sounding -- three medium, wailing sounds, known as the Shevarim, are representative of the sobbing of a Jewish heart. As we reflect on the year gone by, we know deep down that we've failed to live up to our full potential, (Remembrance). In Messianic hearts [Jews and Gentiles], this should also be the sober realization that, while we have failed, we are under the blood of the unblemished Lamb of God, who was sacrificed that we may have eternal life with Him!

3. The third sounding -- 9 quick blasts in short succession, known as Teruah is an alarm clock, arousing us from our spiritual slumber. (Return).

Let us deal with each one of these themes briefly:

REVERANCE - THE KINGSHIP OF THE LORD

In this day and age of Jesus being your ‘buddy’, it is almost unheard of to bring up His Kingship. The sounding of the shofar is recognition of the Kingship of our Messiah. When a King was installed in Israel, the trumps would blow to initiate the coronation celebration. The sounding of the shofar should be a call to your heart to re-establish the Messiah in His proper place, on the throne of your Heart. In case there is any doubt about the Kingship of Messiah, and whether or not He is God and King of all, let’s take a look at Isaiah 45:21 – 23; Tell and bring forth your case; Yes, let them take counsel together. Who has declared this from ancient time? Who has told it from that time? Have not I, the LORD? And there is no other God besides Me, A just God and a Savior; There is none besides Me. "Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself; The word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, And shall not return, That to Me every knee shall bow, Every tongue shall take an oath.

And then take a look at Philippians 2:9 – 11; Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

There are many places where we read of God’s infinite power and handiwork, for example in Psalm 19:1-6 we find these words; To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language Where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world. In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, And rejoices like a strong man to run its race. Its rising is from one end of heaven, And its circuit to the other end; And there is nothing hidden from its heat.

This is the King of Kings that we serve! If you think that He is your personal insurance agent, then you will be casual in your relationship with Him, However if you believe that He is who He says He is, then you will be broken before Him! During the time of Yom Teruah we, (again), reflect on His Kingship and realize our need for a Savior…

REMEMBRANCE

In 2001, one week before Yom Teruah, America was struck a blow that cast the entire nation into a spiritual search for meaning. I imagine that everyone can remember exactly where they were and what they were doing on September 11th, 2001. How many of those folks in the towers knew it would be the last day of their lives? How did they leave the situation with their relatives and friends, did they leave arguments unsettled, did they forget to kiss their spouse goodbye in the morning because of a morning spat? Did they have a heated argument with a friend, which still smoldered under the surface? My friends, we live at the will of our Maker, and we do not pick the time of our departure. How often do we allow anger and contempt to separate the Body?

During Yom Teruah -- we remember: The second blast of the Shofar is the sobbing of the Jewish heart, but I say that it should be the sobbing of ALL of our hearts as we look back and see how we have treated our loved ones and friends. Husbands, do you love and cherish your wife? Does she know that? Are you more occupied with reaching the lost than with reaching across the sofa to clasp your wife’s hand? Are you spending time in prayer with her, or do you spend more time in prayer and companionship with your buddies? What about your children, are they more used to talking to you on the phone than being lifted in your arms? Wives, are you so busy that you never take the time to notice how lonely your husband looks at times as you speed off to another meeting, or prayer time, or coffee clatch? What about your friends? As I mentioned at the beginning of this, during the forty days of Teshuvah, the Jewish people are contacting friends and family and making right that which was made wrong.

The Christian community would do well to learn from this. We rarely, if ever, feel the compulsion to seek out our brothers and sisters and ask their forgiveness. Our solution, all too often, is to move to another church!

Messiah says it this way in Matthew 5:23, 24 -- So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

RETURN

Finally, the shofar is sounded during this feast as a wake-up call. We are called to be ready. In Jewish thought, this is the day when God opens the Book of Judgments, but we know that this day could occur for any of us at any time. We have no guarantee on our lives. This might be the last post I ever make, or this might be your last week. We must be prepared to meet God. The readiness of God’s people is discussed in many places in the Old and New Testaments.

Paul in writing to the Romans (Romans 13:11-14) says this -- And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.

And again in his letter to the Ephesians he says; (5:8-14) -- For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: "Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light."

Keith Green had a song called ‘Asleep in the Light’, and in it, he says that Jesus rose from the dead, and we can’t even get out of our bed, we are asleep in the light… Let us not only be ready and eager for the return of our Lord and Savior, but let us work while it is still light to do the Father’s business!

There is much more to say about Yom Teruah -- but I fear that I have written a much too long post already! We may revisit this one day again soon, and speak of Tashlich, and other items.