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!

From “Death to Israel” to Salvation: An Iranian Muslim’s Salvation Story

When God told Abraham He would bless all the people on earth through him and his descendants (Genesis 12:3), He meant ALL people!

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in “who is against who,” and on what side we will stand, we forget that when God created man, He created all of us in His image (Genesis 1:27, Colossians 3:10).  We are all His special creation, He desires that none should perish (2 Peter 3:9), and indeed, He blesses ALL people through Abraham and his descendants.

Furthermore, take a look at Zechariah’s prophecy regarding those who will ultimately join themselves to the Lord:

Many nations will join themselves to the Lord in that day and will become My people.
~Zechariah 2:11
(Read the entire chapter!)

God’s Word tells me He is intent on drawing all people to Himself!  He is able, and our prayers should echo His sentiment!

To cement the point, here is a fascinating testimony of an Iranian Muslim who met the Jewish Messiah.  Heaven will be filled with those from people groups we often view as enemies on earth.  So, rather than praying only for those who are “just like us,” let’s step outside our comfort zone and pray for those who are not like us!  Enjoy!

Time to Celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles!

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Shalom friends!

Tomorrow night at sundown marks the beginning of the Feast of Tabernacles, the seventh (and final) annual feast of Israel.  What an incredible celebration it is!  (Be sure to read to the end for a special invitation to celebrate!)

Yesterday, we reviewed the fall feasts, beginning with the Feast of Trumpets and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement).  Now we come to the culmination of the feasts!  Jesus will fulfill the Feast of Tabernacles, just as He has already fulfilled the spring feasts (Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, Feast of First Fruits and Pentecost).  In fact, fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles will also fulfill the Davidic Covenant, and we know that time period as the Millennial Kingdom!

It is this time period that the prophet Zechariah writes about in the passage above.  Notice that ALL nations are invited to the Feast of Tabernacles to worship the King of Kings!  This is the only Jewish feast that isn’t totally, 100% Jewish.  Why?

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
~Galatians 3:28

Related imageOne in Christ Jesus!  No Jews, no Greeks (no Gentiles)…just one in Him!  No need for “Jewish feasts” any longer because Jewish feasts are simply shadows of what is to come.  Jesus is the substance!  (See Colossians 2:17.  The context is a bit different here, but the principle is the same: God uses certain things to teach about Himself.  Those things, however, are not the “real deal,” they simply point to the “real deal” – Jesus!)

Thus, we are all invited to the Feast of Tabernacles, where the greatest worship the world has ever seen will take place!  It comes after the Feast of Trumpets (to be fulfilled when a trumpet sounds and Jesus’ foot touches down on the Mount of Olives) and Yom Kippur (to be fulfilled when the eyes of our precious Jewish friends are opened, they repent and finally see their Messiah).

For those who follow this blog, we just finished a study called Why Israel Matters.  In it, one of the foundational principles is that all nations will be blessed through Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 12:3), and we know that blessing to be salvation.  Put the puzzle pieces together and you come to this:

  • God set apart a special group of people (Abraham and his descendants) for a very unique purpose: to be vehicles of world redemption.
  • They became that, but missed the day of His visitation (Luke 19:41-44).  ie – they did not recognize Him as the Messiah.
  • That opened the door for Gentiles to be grafted into the olive tree.  (The olive tree represents spiritual Israel.  Thus, Gentiles were offered a means of salvation through the Jewish Messiah!)
  • God implemented the 7 major feasts as a calendar of His plan for His people (the Jews), which includes drawing them back to Himself…in salvation.  Four of the seven are already fulfilled, the final 3 will happen in very quick succession!
  • Once the trumpet sounds and Jesus physically appears, the Jews will repent and turn to Him, THEN Jesus says He will “tabernacle” among His chosen ones…both Jews and Gentiles, and there will no longer be a distinction!

Wow!  Incredible, isn’t it!?!  I can hardly wait for that day!

But…we can practice while still on earth!  It is a faint glimpse, but a glimpse nonetheless, when the Feast of Tabernacles kicks off in Israel tomorrow evening.

Did you know the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem hosts a huge Feast of Tabernacles celebration each year, and that people come from all over the world to worship the King of Kings right there in the Holy City!?!  Yes, its a preview!

Most of us cannot physically go to Jerusalem to participate, but thanks to modern technology, the ICEJ sends the Feast of Tabernacles celebration right to our computer screens!  They will live stream (and record) events during the Feast of Tabernacles, and they invite us all to join!  You will find a calendar of events here, so join in by clicking the “Media/Live Stream” button on the top right!

Take advantage!  Join the celebration, and rejoice with believers around the world in worship of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!  Enjoy!

Yom Kippur: Shadow or Substance?

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Sundown this evening will mark the beginning of the most solemn day on the Hebrew calendar: Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement).  Ten days of awe follow the recently celebrated Rosh Hashanah (Jewish civil new year) and lead into Yom Kippur.  These have been days in which the Jewish people have prayed, fasted and examined their lives, ahead of the Day of Atonement.  They know repentance is necessary, but trust in the rituals of their feasts (and other things) to bring atonement.

Leviticus 23:27-28 provides Biblical foundation for this important Jewish commemoration:

On exactly the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement; it shall be a holy convocation for you, and you shall humble your souls and present an offering by fire to the Lord. You shall not do any work on this same day, for it is a day of atonement, to make atonement on your behalf before the Lord your God.

The King James Version translates “humble your souls” as “affliction of souls.” Rabbis have interpreted that to mean observant Jews should afflict their souls by fasting.  But is it the soul or the body that is afflicted by fasting?

Perhaps the greatest affliction of soul is brought about when one realizes they are sinful and have absolutely no means of becoming holy on their own.  There is no chance!  To be eternally hopeless is the greatest possible affliction of soul (mind, will and emotions)!

Furthermore, what are the offerings by fire to be offered?  Not only are sinful humans hopeless in affliction, but we are also hopeless in offering the perfect sacrifice (offering).

As a Jewish person commemorates the feasts of Israel, they view only a shadow rather than the substance, and the shadow leaves them hopeless.

For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near.
~Hebrews 10:1 [Emphasis mine]

things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.
~Colossians 2:17 [Emphasis mine]

You see, the feasts so faithfully commemorated by practicing Jews, are simply shadows.  Christ, the fulfillment of the feasts, is the substance!

As Christians, we understand the Passover Lamb (Jesus) was offered as the perfect sacrifice for us!  In so doing, His holiness was imparted to us, thereby forgiving our transgressions and covering our sin!  The blood of Jesus did what we cannot do on our own: it atoned for our sin.  It will atone for theirs as well!

However, before our Jewish friends can see the substance, they must come to the place of affliction by understanding their own strength and deeds will not atone for sin.  Their eyes must gaze upon Jesus, the fulfillment of each feast, rather than the rituals that are merely shadows of Christ.

Believers, we are not perfect, so we must not lord salvation over our Jewish friends.  However, we must pray for the Substance (Yeshua…Jesus) to become recognized and trusted by the Jewish people.

This Yom Kippur, will you faithfully pray for the Jewish people?  They have brought us salvation through Jesus Christ.  Let’s pray they will claim Jesus the Messiah as their own.  May there be a great awakening on this Day of Atonement!