Hanukkah Blessings Point to Christ

Hi everyone!  Hanukkah ends on Monday, but meanwhile, I hope you are enjoying a little bit of Hanukkah as we join with our Jewish friends in celebrating the miracle that happened!  We’re in the midst of a series of posts about Hanukkah, so if you don’t know what that miracle was, please review:

We know that lighting candles of the Hanukkah menorah is the focus of the celebration.  It happens each evening for 8 days, and in between placing the candles and lighting the candles, blessings are pronounced.

There are three blessings.  One is given only on the first night, but the other two are repeated each night.  As with most Hebrew blessings, they are typically sung, not said, so I’ll share those blessings in audio!  (Each is only about 30 seconds long and I’ve transcribed them in English below!)

Blessing #1:

Praised are You,
Our God, Ruler of the universe,
Who made us holy through Your commandments
and commanded us
to kindle the Hanukkah lights.

Blessing #2:

Praised are You,
Our God, Ruler of the universe,
Who performed wondrous deeds for our ancestors
in those ancient days
at this season.

Blessing #3 (given only on the first night):

Praised are You,
Our God, Ruler of the universe,
Who has given us life and sustained us
and enabled us to reach this season.

Beautiful, aren’t they!  But what are the “take aways” for a Christian?  We talked previously about Jesus being the Light of the world, to which these blessings allude.

Secondly though, it is significant that each Hanukkah blessing begins with praise to God, and acknowledgement of Him as Ruler of the universe!

Though Hanukkah has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas in terms of how they are celebrated.  I find it interesting that so many parallels exist!  For example: both are celebrated in close proximity time-wise, light plays a significant part in each, both commemorate supernatural miracles, and many other similarities.  Not to mention the fact that Hanukkah celebrates the failed attempt to eliminate the Jews and their culture. No Hanukkah, no Christmas!

But back to the idea of Jesus being the Ruler of the universe, the Old Testament clearly prophesied of One who would come as a Ruler:

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders.
~Isaiah 9:6a

And New Testament passages quoted and confirmed those prophesies:

And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah;
For out of you shall come forth a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.
~Matthew 2:6

Jesus, of course, was the fulfillment of those prophecies!  Jews acknowledge the Ruler of the universe in their Hanukkah celebration, while Christians celebrate the birth of the Ruler of the universe in our Christmas celebration!

Jesus is also the fulfillment of these truths expressed in the blessings as well:

Hanukkah blessings are steeped in truth about our Lord.  How many more can you find?

Tomorrow we’ll examine why some Christians celebrate Hanukkah.  See you then!

Trumpets, Atonement and Tabernacles …what Does it All Mean?

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If you study Jewish culture and tradition, you are likely aware that we’re in the midst of the fall feasts of Israel.  There are 7 major feasts, originally prescribed in Scripture, but lived out in either secular context or rabbinic context by most Jews.  The first three (Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread and Feast of First Fruits) are bunched tightly together in the spring, Pentecost follows 50 days later, then three more feasts (Feasts of Trumpets, Yom Kippur/Day of Atonement and Feast of Tabernacles) are bunched tightly together in the fall.  Jewish feasts and festivals follow a lunar calendar, so do not occur on the same day each year on our Gregorian calendar.  Also, days on the Hebrew calendar begin at sundown.

This year, the Feast of Trumpets commenced at sundown on September 10.  It is also known as Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish civil new year, so is marked by celebration and great joy.  That feast is followed by 10 “days of awe” when Jews fast, pray, examine their lives, repent, forgive and prepare for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  It is a very somber day for Jews, as many wail in repentance, attempting to insure their names are written in the Book of Life.  This year, Yom Kippur occurred between sundown on September 18 and sundown September 19…just a few days ago!  Next up is the Feast of Tabernacles, which is a 7-day feast, beginning on September 23 this year.

But what does it all mean?  Well, on more than one occasion we have discussed each feast and provided Biblical evidence that Jesus is the fulfillment.  (Here and here, for example)  Today, we’ll go a different direction.

Among believers, there are different ideas about Jesus’ fulfillment of the feasts and what it means for us as Christians.  Some of those ideas are just plain wrong.  For example, some say, because the Jews rejected Jesus, the church has replaced Israel and Jesus’ fulfillment of the feasts now applies to the church.  WRONG!  God has not rejected the Jews (read Romans 11:1-2), and the feasts still apply to Israel.

Another common misconception among believers is that, because a trumpet will sound at the rapture, it will occur on the Feast of Trumpets.  But we must understand at least two simple things:

  1. Trumpets are mentioned many times in Scripture, not simply at the rapture.  Thus, the Feast of Trumpets cannot be limited simply a signal of the rapture.
  2. The feasts are Jewish and apply to Israel…not Christians!  God did not implement the feasts as a “Christian thing,” but rather a “Jewish thing!”  Thus, it is highly unlikely the rapture will happen on the Feast of Trumpets!

At the rapture, the trumpet will sound from heaven, but only believers will hear it as we are snatched rapidly from this earth.  However, another trumpet will sound at the Second Coming of Jesus…when He physically returns to earth, stepping foot on the Mount of Olives at the end of the Tribulation.  Revelation tells us that we (“saints,” believers) will be with Him.  Thus, that trumpet is meant for unbelieving Jews, and WILL occur on the Feast of Trumpets, as Jesus fulfills that feast!

The progression of feasts will follow.  The trumpet will announce the coming of Jesus (Feast of Trumpets). Jews will “mourn for Him” and “weep bitterly” (Zechariah 12:10), fulfilling the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).  Then, Jesus will tabernacle with them (Feast of Tabernacles).  By God’s grace, all the nations of the world will be invited to go up to Jerusalem to worship at the Feast of Tabernacles, making that the only feast not fully Jewish!  (Zechariah 14:16-18)

Image result for feast of trumpetsNow, one last thing.  In Numbers 10, God commanded Moses to make 2 silver trumpets, then gave him instructions for using them.  Trumpets were sounded to gather and assemble the congregation.  That’s what the trumpets will do for both Christians at the rapture and Jews at the Second Coming!

But why two trumpets…and why silver?  The Old Testament (Isaiah 43:8-13) indicates Israel will gather the nations together and will be a witness.  The New Testament (Acts 1:6-8) identifies Christians (the church) as a witness.  Thus, two trumpets…Israel and the church…are blown to warn the world of what is to come.

Interestingly, silver is precious, but not perfect.  Such is the case with Israel and with the church….precious in God’s sight, though not perfect!

There is so much more to the feasts, the trumpets and all  the other symbolism God has given us in His Word to help us understand the days and times in which we live!  Over the past few days, we have focused on world events that assure us we are living in the last days.  Isn’t it good to know that, despite what might seem “scary” to some, God has laid out His plan for us and it cannot be thwarted!  We are safe in the plans of the One who fulfills those feasts!

I hope you are encouraged by these things!  Check back tomorrow, as we’ll talk more about the Feast of Tabernacles, which is quickly approaching on the Hebrew calendar!

Shalom!

3 Conditions Needed to Bring the King Home

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What is required in order for Jesus to return?  Did you know it has to do with the Davidic Covenant…and that happens to be our topic of discussion this week?  If you missed yesterday’s lesson, I encourage you to scroll back to it before jumping into today’s lesson.

In Acts 1:6-8, the disciples were trying to understand what Jesus was teaching them about His return (and the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant).  Jesus taught them “kingdom lessons” when He told them it wasn’t for them to know, since the kingdom they knew about would be destroyed in less than 40 years.

Today, we might ask the same question: “Lord, when will you restore Your kingdom?”

To get to that answer, recall the 3 great covenants we studied last week (Abrahamic, Mosaic and New).  Those will culminate in one final great covenant: the Davidic Covenant.  But there are 3 conditions needed to bring King Jesus home and fulfill that last great covenant:

  1. Israel must be back in her land.
  2. Israel’s historical mission (vehicle of world redemption) must not fail.
  3. Israel’s destiny must be national, not just spiritual.

Israel must be back in her land.

Jesus foretold destruction and dispersion of the land and the people prior to His return (Mathew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21).  How could Jesus possibly rule if no one is there?  Scripture says the Jews will welcome Him home…not the Gentiles!  Yet, for years, Gentiles ruled over Jerusalem.  In fact, the battle still rages over control of the Holy City.  However, on May 14, 1948, Israel was reborn and is now back in her land!  That condition has been met almost before our very eyes!

Israel’s historical mission must not fail.

If Israel’s historical mission fails, then God is a liar!  That will never be!  When God told Abraham (Genesis 12:3) that through him all the families of the earth would be blessed, He was actually making Abraham and his physical descendants (Israel) the vehicle of world redemption!  That is the blessing He had in mind!

God has not changed His mind…He has not replaced Israel…Israel’s role has never changed.  God made a promise, and He intends to keep it!  He does, however, use their unbelief to achieve His purpose!  How so?

God loves Israel and wants to save her.  Not because they are “better,” but because He desires that none should perish.  But notice something:

  • The OT prophets were saved by looking forward to the cross in faith.  In that faith, they gave us the Scriptures!
  • We are saved by looking back to the cross in faith.  In Israel’s unbelief, God opened up a plan of salvation for the Gentiles.  (Check out Romans 11 if you need reference.)

Israel is fulfilling her historical mission.

Israel’s destiny must be national, not just spiritual.

The Abrahamic Covenant guarantees a national destiny.  Israel will have land and descendants of Abraham forever!  God needed a physical nation from which to love the world, and He placed real, physical people in the real, physical land He gave them!  One day, Romans 11:26 says, “All Israel will be saved!”  It will be a national revival, not simply a spiritual one.

BTW – if for no other reason than that, the church cannot be the “new Israel,” as Replacement Theology would suggest.

So, those are the 3 conditions, and keep in mind that God’s call is irrevocable!  His promises and His calling to Israel remain the same today as they have been throughout history.

I want to leave you with two passages that will set us up for tomorrow’s study.  Take so time and just let these passages sink in:

  • Isaiah 46:8-10 – God’s purpose is established and He will accomplish it!
  • Ezekiel 37:24-28 – God’s people will live in the land and David will rule over it!

Intriguing!  Come back tomorrow and let’s talk this out!

Week 8 – Three Great Covenants

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Oh how I wish all of you could be in class with us, as the discussion and interaction just simply can’t be replicated.  However, for those not able to attend live, pull up a chair to our virtual study table and I’ll do all I can to bring you up to speed!  Today, we’re moving into week 8, a session we’re calling Three Great Covenants.

Let’s get a running start into this week’s study by looking back in brief review of two important elements we studied previously: God’s 3-fold call given to Abraham and 4 Biblical principles regarding Israel and the nations.  In review:

God’s 3-fold call given to Abraham

  • Birthing call – God birthed His people through the Abrahamic Covenant
  • Suffering call – The “vultures” (evil opposition) faced by the Jewish people throughout history
  • Priestly call – Abraham offered his only son as a sacrifice, only to have God provide the sacrifice in his place

4 Biblical principles (Find them all here.)

  • Principle of Domicile – the land belongs to Israel, whether or not they live in the land
  • Principle of Righteousness – God desires righteousness from His people in order to live in the land
  • Principle of Discipline – God will use Israel’s enemies to discipline her
  • Principle of Retribution – Those who seek Israel’s total destruction will face severe retribution

Given God’s call and those Biblical principles, what are the implications for Israel and the nations?  We’ll consider Israel first.

Today, Israel is predominately secular, which is not a good position!  History tells us the Jewish people were exiled twice (to Assyria/Babylon in the 500’s BC, and by the Romans in 70 AD).  According to principle, we might expect correction and discipline.  However, I believe God has a different plan…He will save them!

The Bible teaches that a great revival will take place in which all Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26), and God will pour out His Spirit upon them (Ezekiel 37:14).

The prophets Zechariah and Isaiah provide insight into implications and instructions for the nations.  Take a look at Zechariah 1:14-15.  God is exceedingly jealous (and zealous!) for His people, and is very angry with those who are at ease and furthering the disaster upon His people.  Thus, we are wise to stand strong on Israel’s behalf!

Isaiah reinforces our need to take steadfast action.  Read Isaiah 62:1-2, 6-7.  Notice how adamant Isaiah is in telling us:

  • Do not be silent
  • Do not keep quiet
  • Take no rest
  • Give Him no rest

Until…

  • Israel’s righteousness goes forth like brightness
  • Israel’s salvation is a burning torch
  • God establishes and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth

BTW, Israel is the vehicle of world redemption…and the great revival that is coming includes all people that God loves!  (All of us!)

Need an example of the open doors to all?  Read the account of Pentecost in Acts 2:5-11 for a list of those present at Pentecost!  You will find Parthians (Persians/Iran), Medes (Kurds of northern Iraq), Elamites (southern Iraq), Judea (West Bank), as well as many other people groups in modern-day Turkey, Asia Minor, Egypt and Libya.  Indeed, all were present at Pentecost, and all will be included in the great revival that is coming!

Wow…we’ve got work to do!  So, let’s be about our Father’s business until those things are accomplished.  After all, there are implications for our obedience to the Lord’s commands.

Tomorrow, we’ll begin digging into three great covenants that are collectively vital to understanding that great revival!  Stick with us!