IMPORTANT MESSAGE

IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT IF YOU ARE GOING TO USE THIS BIBLE STUDY THAT YOU BEGIN AT THE INTRODUCTION AS IT WILL NOT MAKE SENSE OTHERWISE. PLEASE USE THE ARCHIVES AT THE RIGHT.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Very Brief History Lesson

We left off, before the festivals, in Genesis with Abraham’s, Isaac’s, and Jacob’s descendants in Egypt. Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy cover the 40 years of wandering and giving of the laws. After over 400 years as slaves in Egypt, and the 40 years in the wilderness, Israel entered into the promised land. In the book of Joshua we read of the battles that were fought to get that land. It is in this time period and up to David and Goliath, that we see that the giants again roamed the earth. There were again fallen angels or demons who again came and had sexual intercourse with humans to produce giants. The spies that Moses sent out to scout out the land said that they were so large that the Israelites seemed like grasshoppers by comparison. I have no doubt this is not an exaggeration. Goliath at 9 feet was the runt of the litter. We know from the Bible that there was one at least 13 feet tall and probably some were more than this as these were not first generation giants, but a few generations down the road, which means that the more human blood they had, the shorter they would become, so the older generation ones would be much bigger. Lev. 13:33 After conquering the land and each tribe getting its section, we have Israel being ruled by judges. (Book of Judges) This is the time of Samson and Delilah. The people didn’t like the way God would have them ruled and clamored for a king, as like little children they were whining, “everybody else has one”. So God gave them a king, Saul. He fell away from the Lord and was tormented by a demon. David was anointed to take his place. David made Jerusalem the capital and started gathering the materials to build a temple, but as he was a soldier, God wouldn’t let him build the temple. So it fell to his son Solomon to build it. Upon Solomon’s death, the ten northern tribes split away from the two southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin. (The books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles) The ten became known as Ephraim as that was the dominant tribe, and the two became known as Judah, from whence comes the name Jew. So Jews today are only from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. (This needs to be remembered for future reference). They both went through a series of kings. Back during the time of the judges, the tribe of Dan had lapsed into idoltry and led the other tribes astray. The tribe of Dan was held responsible for corrupting the entire northern tribe of Israel. As a result, during the time of the kings, God allowed Israel to be conquered by Assyria around 721 B.C. Unlike Judah, which retained its identity even during captivity, the ten tribes were assimilated into the culture and have come to be known as the ten “lost” tribes of Israel, although historians have found records that show where some of these tribes settled. Dan has been traced through Europe - Danube, Dnieper, Denmark (which means Dan's mark), just to name a very few, up into Ireland. In Jacob's blessing to Ephraim, he had predicted that Ephraim would become a multitude of nations. He was supposed to have gone north into Europe/Britain also. About 100 years later, the Babylonians conquered Assyria assimilating them, and then they went on to conquer Judah in 586 B.C. The reason God allowed their captivity was that they had not been observing the Sabbath seventh year of rest for the land. God had warned them after giving the laws that they would be blessed or cursed according to their obedience. He said that he would reclaim those years where they didn’t observe the seventh year Sabbath, by sending them into captivity until the land had its rest. Lev. 26:33-35. Given the supposed dates (and we know that even historians can’t be totally accurate on dates, given the changes in calendars, etc.) they had not observed this law for long, if ever, as they were in captivity for 70 years, Dan. 9:2. One year for every year of Sabbath they had not observed. The Babylonians were then conquered by the Persians and King Cyrus made a decree allowing the exiles to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. That was in 536 B.C. Ezra (that’s what that book of the Bible is about) led them back and rebuilt the temple. Following him, Nehemiah (that‘s what his book is about) goes back to Jerusalem and rebuilds the walls of the city. That is 445 B.C. (Understand that all of these dates are approximate). Persia rules from this time until 330 B.C. when Alexander the Great conquers the Medo-Persian Empire. After his death seven years later, his generals divide his empire into four parts. The Seleucids become the rulers over Judah and forbid the practice of Judaism. This leads to the Maccabean revolt (which we already covered). Judah became an independent state from 145 to 63 B.C. At that time Roman troops invaded Judah and it became part of the Roman Empire, which it remained through Christ’s lifetime and up to 70 A.D., at which time Jerusalem was sacked, the temple burned, and the Jews fled into an exile called the diaspora. Thus ended the nation of Israel until 1948 A.D.

I will just mention a couple of passages in the book of Job that are interesting. Chapter 1:6-12. The sons of God (these are angels, the same term used in Genesis to talk about the fallen angels cohabiting with the daughters of men) come before the Lord and Satan is among them. When the Lord asks where he has been, his reply is that he comes from walking up and down the earth. Many people get the impression that Satan is in hell. Not so. It is necessary to point out here that he is allowed access to heaven and can enter it whenever he wants (to accuse us). This needs to be noted, as at some point in the future, he will finally be once and for all cast out of heaven. This passage also points out that Satan and his minions cannot touch us without God’s permission. He can do what he wants with others, but he has to get permission to give us trials. That should make us stop and think. Every trial is allowed by God for some reason. Are we sinning? I know I certainly am guilty of that. Is it merely to show our faith to Satan such as Job did? Is it for someone else’s benefit? No matter what the reason, we are to understand that God is allowing it for our or someone’s good and has things totally in control. We just need to keep the faith.

The next set of passages in Job relate to Genesis in the area of creation science and actually there is something there about the end times also. Chapters 38-41 have God telling Job all about creation. In 38: 22-23 God mentions his treasures of snow and hail. If one studies creation science further, after the Flood, there was a short ice age. What’s interesting is what this snow and hail has been reserved for - “against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war.” Whenever the phrase “time of trouble” is used, it is in reference to what is known as “Jacob’s trouble” which as we will see refers to the tribulation of the end times. We will see in Revelation that hail is part of the wrath of God, so this store of ice and snow is partially for that eventuality. That the constellations are of some significance (we had discussed there being a possible “gospel in the stars” scenario) is seen in that God mentions them by name, and that He is in control of them. Some people say that the Bible doesn’t talk about dinosaurs, so they are a problem. Nonsense. Job 40:15-24 describes a dinosaur perfectly. The interesting thing is - God expects Job to know exactly the animal about which He is speaking. That means that they weren’t extinct then. Even today there have been reports that in the deep, dark jungles of Africa, some tribal people have seen dinosaurs. Chapter 41 is even more exciting. It describes a sea creature that is actually a fire-breathing dragon. Yes, folks you heard me correctly. Fire-breathing dragons are not myths. So now, we must consider all those old legends of King Arthur and his knights battling fire-breathing dragons. Maybe not so far-fetched after all. As I keep saying, all myths have some basis in reality. What exactly are Champ and Nessie?

The Book of Psalms has many psalms that refer to the end, but we can go back and refer to them as needed rather than going over each one separately. As to the prophets, they are all about the end times. Some people think the Old Testament is irrelevant and that it is over and done. They believe that all the prophetic books were fulfilled. It is true, they did have an initial near fulfillment, but they all have a larger more dramatic far fulfillment in our future. In fact most of the Bible is all about the Second Coming of the Lord. Why people don’t realize this is easy to understand. They don’t pick up their Bibles and study them. They “read” the Bible, but just as you can listen but not hear, look but not see, you can read and not comprehend. The pastors never preach on the Second Coming, so they never hear any of this from the pulpit. It is no wonder people are so ignorant of what the Bible says.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Other laws

Besides the festivals there were some other regulations that God instituted. He had already established that there was a seven day week with one of the seven days being a Sabbath. Now he creates a seven year week with the seventh year being a Sabbath with the land being allowed to lie fallow for that year. Another Sabbath was that of the Jubilee year. After seven weeks of years (49) or seven sevens as it is sometimes referred to, there was a 50th Jubilee year at which time slaves were given their freedom, debts were forgiven, and property that was mortgaged reverted back to its owner. Lev. 25:1-17

Another regulation was the law concerning redeeming property. The Bible tells us that property, if it could not be redeemed by the person who sold or forfeited it, could be redeemed by a kinsman who could pay the price. Although the Bible does not specify this, there could also be conditions associated with the payment. This was the custom of the time. From historical records, we know that when a man lost his property, the judges prepared a document stating that the land had passed from the debtor to the one owed. This was not meant to be a permanent transfer. It was returned in the Year of Jubilee, however a relative who could meet the terms of the agreement could redeem it for the debtor. Originally the terms were put on two scrolls, one sealed, one left open so that all could read the terms. Later the terms were put on the inside, the scroll sealed and the terms put on the outside, possibly on the seals themselves. For each condition that had to be fulfilled, there would be a seal. Many people are under the misconception that scrolls were rolled up a ways, then sealed with one seal, then rolled and sealed again, etc. An examination of scrolls in Mid-East museums shows this to be untrue. They were rolled all the way then all the seals were applied on the outside in a row. For the property to be redeemed, if a person could not do it themselves, a kinsman had to present himself at the temple, show his ability to meet the conditions of the law and be able to pay the mortgage price. He then was given the sealed scroll. He would break each of the seals as he filled each term of the agreement and when the last seal was broken, the mortgage was invalidated and the property reverted back to the original owner, who could then do with it as he pleased. The reason this is important has to do with what happened in Genesis. Before Adam and Eve sinned, they were the “owners” of the earth, as it had been given into their stewardship. When they sinned, they forfeited that right over to Satan as the earth was now cursed and given into his control. He is now the prince and power of the air. This is his dominion now, not ours. The mortgage price that had to be paid was a perfect blood sacrifice. Why blood? Why did there have to be blood involved? Because in their sin, Adam and Eve forfeited both our spiritual life and physical life. First they had to pay the punishment that God had stated, and that was physical death. Since as the Bible says, the life is in the blood, their blood was forfeit to God. But as blood is the source of life and Satan now was the owner of our lives and souls due to the sin nature with which all men are born, by right, Satan could demand our lives - our blood and our spirits. There had to be a substitute for God to spare our lives so that we could have a chance to choose Him over Satan and be saved. That is why God immediately instituted sacrifice, even though it was not sufficient to cover people’s sins and consequently had to be repeated over and over. Non-believers see the God of the O.T. as a cruel and bloodthirsty God because of the multitudes of sacrifices. It isn’t that God is bloodthirsty, it is that we forfeited our lives by disobedience. In actuality it is a blessing that God instituted, as now we can be redeemed instead of having to live eternally in a sinful state. Satan is bloodthirsty though. He would love our immediate death and the bloodier the better. I don’t think God liked to have to kill His beloved creatures to satisfy the blood requirement for our sins. It was simply the only temporary substitute He could provide to save us from the mess we brought on ourselves. Ultimately He had to provide the blood sacrifice Himself that was perfect and sufficient - a human sacrifice (as it was a human that sinned, not an animal - which is why animal sacrifices weren't sufficient) who was not guilty of sin, (and therefore His life and soul was not forfeit to Satan) as we all are. As we will see, this information about redeeming property is important to know when we get to Revelation.

It is necessary to cover a brief history of Israel for future reference. I forgot to include one Genesis story that is pertinent to the end times, so while I know you are familiar with it, I will include it here. During the time of Abraham, he and his nephew Lot, who was living with him, came to a place where the size of their herds required that they have a parting of the ways. Abraham could have chosen whatever land he wanted, but he gave Lot the choice. Lot chose the land near the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. In the years that follow, Lot moved into the city and became a person of importance there. In time the cities’ sin of homosexuality and no doubt other sexual perversions made God decide to destroy them. Some angels showed up to tell Abraham what they were about to do (also affirming at that time to Abraham that at the same time the next year he would have a son by Sarah - note that Ishmael was also promised 12 sons or tribes -they are the Arabs, just as there are the 12 tribes (sons) of Israel (Jacob)). Abraham tried to negotiate for the saving of the cities, as he knew Lot’s family lived there. After bargaining for a while, God said that he wouldn’t destroy the cities if ten righteous people could be found. They couldn’t. Even Lot’s family didn’t have enough people to qualify. So the angels went to the city to tell Lot to get his family and get out. The men of the city tried to get the angels for homosexual relations, but were struck blind by those angels. They had to grab Lot and his wife and two daughters by the hand and literally drag them out of the city. Lot had more daughters than the two girls, by the way. He also had sons-in-law. They all perished. On the way out of town his wife turned around to see the destruction and was turned into a pillar of salt. Many people today (pro-homosexuals) are interpreting this destruction as the result of “lack of hospitality”. While I’m sure God doesn’t appreciate it if we are inhospitable, it is ridiculous to think he would destroy the cities for it. Homosexuality is the reason they were destroyed. This is important because of what Christ has to say about the end times and Lot later on.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Non-Biblical Festivals - Purim

Purim is a conundrum. It is based upon a book of the Bible, Esther, and yet even in that book there is a mystery. In the entire book, not once is there any reference to God, the Lord, or any mention of God in any way. That God’s sovereignty is at work is not in question when one reads the story, yet He is not mentioned once. The second puzzle is the way in which Purim is celebrated. It is celebrated in an outrageously pagan fashion and does not resemble any other festival whatsoever. That God not only allowed this to develop, but includes this book in the Bible explaining why it is celebrated is peculiar. The fact that Jesus must have been obligated to celebrate this festival as part of the Jewish tradition defies understanding. Yet, it does exist and there must be a reason. We will try to see why God has allowed this festival to develop.

To understand Purim, one needs to read the book of Esther. The story of Esther is one of court intrigue. Queen Vashti is banished because she defies King Ahasuerus, therefore a beauty contest is staged for the king to choose a new bride. Mordecai sends his niece Esther to compete. She is so beautiful and sweet that the king falls instantly in love with her and makes her queen. Mordecai warns her not to tell anybody she is Jewish. While sitting in the gates of the king, Mordecai overhears a plot against the king. He tells Esther who tells the king, thus saving his life. Haman is an employee of the king who gets advanced to a very high position, even above the princes basically making him second in the kingdom. Mordecai refuses to bow down to Haman, which makes him extremely angry. Someone tells Haman that Mordecai is a Jew, so Haman decides he will not only go after Haman, but after all the Jews to destroy them. He gets the king to make a decree to kill all the Jews by promising to give money to his treasuries. When Mordecai hears the news he has a message sent to Esther asking her to speak to the king. She sends the message back that she hasn’t seen the king in a month and that if anyone goes in without being called, it is instant death unless the king holds out his scepter. Mordecai reminds her that she is a Jew too, and can’t escape the decree, and that if she doesn’t do something the Jews would be delivered by someone else, but she and her father’s house would be destroyed. He also tells Esther that perhaps she has been put in the position for a purpose, namely to save her people. Esther tells Mordecai to have the people fast for three days and that she and her maidens would do likewise and then she will go in to the king. She does so and he holds out the scepter. She invites him to a banquet along with Haman. So they come to the banquet. He asks her what her petition is and tells her it will be granted even to half of the kingdom. She asks if they would come to another banquet the next night and she would make her request then. Haman is full of himself and happy until he sees Mordecai who again refuses to bow down to him. A friend suggests that Haman build a gallows (to hang Mordecai), which he does. That night the king can’t sleep, so has someone bring the records of the chronicles to read to him (nothing like a boring book to send you off to sleep). They read about Mordecai letting him know about the plot to kill him. He asks what had been done to reward this service, to which they reply that nothing had been done. He asks who is around that can deal with this. They tell him Haman is available, so he calls in Haman. Haman was there to speak to the king about hanging Mordecai. The kings asks Haman what should be done for the man that the king wants to honor. Being all full of pride, Haman thinks the king is talking about him, so he says that the person should be given royal robes to wear, put on the king’s horse, given a crown to wear, and have the princes parade him throughout the city proclaiming why he is being given this honor. So the king tells Haman that he has to do this for Mordecai. Haman is so upset at this humiliation that he runs home in mourning with his head covered. Now Haman has to report to the banquet Esther has prepared. The king asks what her petition is, and she asks for her life and the lives of her people. She tells him that if they had just been sold into slavery, she wouldn’t ask for anything, but since their lives are at stake she is asking. The king, surprised, asks her who would dare do this. She replies that it is Haman. The king is furious and walks out, while Haman asks Esther to intervene for his life. Haman has fallen on Esther’s bed (people reclined on couches when eating back then) to make his pleas and the king comes back and finds him on her bed, at which point, he thinks Haman is trying to force himself upon Esther. He tells the chamberlain to hang Haman, which they do, on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai. Esther admits to the king who Mordecai really is and he gives Mordecai Haman’s job. Esther, now crying, asks the king to stop the decree. He says that once he sets his seal to a decree, it can’t be reversed, but he sends out a new decree that the Jews can fight back against anyone that dares to touch them. This support from the king so scares everyone that a lot of the people convert to Judaism. The rulers of the provinces, lieutenants, deputies, and officers of the king all help the Jews, as they fear Mordecai since he has become very powerful. So the Jews kill all of the enemies that would hurt them. Haman’s ten sons also get hanged. Mordecai then declares that from that point on, the two days of this event will be a perpetual holiday with feasting and giving of gifts.

I have tried to make some connection between the people of the story to Christ, the church, Satan, Antichrist, anything that might make sense. So far this is what I came up with, however there are things in the story which don’t fit. Let’s say the King = God and Vashti = Israel. Vashti (Israel) is rebellious, so the king (God) banishes her and looks for a new bride. Mordecai = Christ. Esther = Church. Mordecai (Christ) brings Esther (Church) for the king (God) to accept as a new bride. Haman = Satan. Haman (Satan) hates Mordecai (Christ) as Mordecai won’t bow down to him and seeks to kill not only him, but Esther (Church). Mordecai is honored for his service to the king by being paraded in kingly apparel and accoutrements and Haman is the one forced to carry this out. Where this spiritualized interpretation falls apart, is the conspiracy that Mordecai overhears, Esther’s intervention for her people, and the king’s decree that the people can fight back (and they win). I can’t make a connection with these things to anything. And even the symbolism applied above is somewhat tentative. Rather than being a spiritual metaphor, it may simply be that the story is merely illustrative for us. If we are abundantly blessed or given a position of authority, epecially if we have done nothing to bring it about or deserve it, it may be that God has put us in that position as He will require somthing from us, not for ourselves but for others. When we come to that point in our lives, it is imperative that we gather up our courage and do what needs to be done.

Another interesting thing about this festival is the Mardi Gras spirit that runs wild, even in the most straight-laced parts of the Jewish community. There is no sense of sacredness about the day, and none of the restrictions or prohibitions associated with the other festivals. That it is celebrated in this way, and that the book has no mention of God, although His sovereign control and intervention is seen in the story, is odd. The day is celebrated with costumes, masquerades, plays, parodies, feasting and a heavy consumption of liquor - in other words drunkenness. This is certainly not something God would promote, so we have to look at the festival and the way it is celebrated to see if we can draw any parallels to Satan’s part in the end times, as that might teach us something about what will happen. God uses negative things as well as positive things to teach us, and maybe this is the case here.

The Mardi Gras feeling of this celebration is confusing. In the Talmud (one of their holy writings) they are instructed with these words. “It is the obligation of each person to be so drunk [on Purim] as not to be able to tell the difference between ‘Blessed be Mordecai’ and ‘Cursed be Haman’”. This is such an ungodly directive that it is bizarre. The story of Esther is always read aloud, with noisemakers being used every time Haman’s name is mentioned. At this time they also have parodies and outright mocking of the traditions as well as the Torah (scriptures). They feel that they hold the Torah so sacred the rest of the year that they need to let loose and not be so sanctimonious about it. Purim is considered to end the cycle of yearly festivals (the first being Passover). At Passover, God is the author of their redemption. They say the cycle ends with Purim where God has retreated (His name is not mentioned once) and they have brought about their own salvation (without God’s help). The sin of pride in their boast of having brought about their own salvation is akin to Satan’s pride of his own importance. This festival seems to be more authored by Satan than God and its meaning for us (if there is any) in relation to what we are studying still eludes me. The only idea that has come to mind is that this is an object lesson for us. Even when God is the one who saves us from a bad situation, many will ignore the fact that God has had anything to do with it. They take credit for themselves. The celebration that man created around “his” victory is lewd, crude, and rude. It only goes to show that when we are our own “god”, we get more sinful and debased. It allows us a good look at ourselves compared to God. If anyone else can contribute to this, please do so. I admit I am reaching for any idea that will make this make sense at all.

A month or so after Purim is the festival of Passover. It can be clearly seen that this is exactly what the Catholic church celebrates today before Easter. Mardi Gras, followed by Lent about a month (40 days) before Easter (Passover). The similarity between Mardi Gras’ and Purim’s festivities cannot be dismissed. An online search showed that the history of Mardi Gras is traced back medieval Europe and before that they vaguely reference Roman spring pagan rituals. It would seem that the actual source of this festival comes from the ancient Jewish festival of Purim. The timing of the year, the association with Easter (Passover) and the way of celebrating it are simply too coincidental to not believe they are connected.

As one final note on Purim, I find it disturbing to read what one author says about it. The italics and parenthesis are mine. “We can live by the Torah all the rest of the year, because for one day we can let out our repressed feelings as we overturn all the rules, even turning the Torah itself upon its head. Both for the sake of Torah and ourselves, we need Purim to laugh at what we value (God and His Word?) and thus paradoxically gain a real sense of self-worth (pride?)…. Ad de-lo-yada - the state when all rules and inhibitions are swept away…when entering the world of the drunk, a world of blissful ignorance of reality - has another level of meaning as well. It is not an animalistic state of stupor, (Really. Have any of you seen a drunk before? I’d say it is a state of stupor.) but rather a higher degree of consciousness (that is so New Age and ridiculous - drunk is drunk. Intelligence goes out the window). It is a messianic/mystical moment when there is no difference between Haman and Mordecai, good and evil, for both are found in the Holy One ‘who created light and darkness, made peace and created evil’” (Totally New Age)

They feel resentful and repressed by all the rules the Torah inflicts. Without Christ they don‘t understand that we are free to live by the law (love God and your neighbor for in these two laws are found all of the law), not repressed by the law. The attitude of pride and rebellion towards God (when we consider how they view Purim) seems to be summed up in this last statement. “When all the other festivals will be abolished [in messianic times], Purim will remain.” This last statement from the Midrash not only shows the pride and rebellion against God and His festivals in favor of a holiday created “by themselves”, but an ignorance of Scripture by the writers of the Jewish commentary writings. We have just recently seen that the Feast of Tabernacles is mandated by God for the millennium. (As Christ’s wedding anniversary perhaps?) I have no doubt the other festivals will be celebrated as remembrances also. Purim may be the one festival that God does eliminate. Any insights here from you listeners would be greatly appreciated.

* Coming back now several years after writing this I have seen something that makes sense.  The last feasts that are celebrated before this are the ones about God's wrath.  What if this festival is a picture of the afterlife for those who go to hell?  The celebration smacks of paganism or Satanism.  The drunkenness, the attitude of contempt for God's law?  Is not this the sort of thing that will be found in hell?  Maybe this is a picture of what happens to those who do not make it into the Kingdom of God.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Non-Biblical Festivals - Hanukkah

The Non-Biblical holidays of Judaism

Since we are covering the feasts of Israel, it would be neglectful to not take a look at the non-mandated-by-God festivals that they observe. We have seen how traditions have crept into the Biblical festivals and while Jews can’t understand many of these traditions, we as Christians can see the importance of them as they relate to Christ and His comings. That God allowed other festivals to come into the traditions may be of significance. As we shall see, one of them is based upon a book of the Bible, Esther, so we do need to consider their content.

Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days beginning on the twenty-fifth of Kislev which falls anywhere from late November to mid-December. The word Hanukkah means dedication. It is the re-dedication of the temple that is the focus of this holiday. The common version of this historical event is as follows. In the 4th century B.C., Alexander the Great conquered the Near East including Israel. After he died, his empire was split into four dynasties. Israel came under the Seleucid dynasty which ruled the region of Syria. In 167 B.C., Antiochus Epiphanes (the king of this dynasty) wanted to hellenize all the people. He outlawed Jewish rituals such as the Sabbath and circumcision. He then set up a statue of Zeus in the temple which he forced people to worship, and he had pigs sacrificed on the altar. Many Jews went along with this, but others resisted and died as martyrs. One day the Greeks came to the village of Modi’in and set up an altar commanding the Jews to sacrifice a pig. An old priest, Mattathias was so outraged when he saw a Jew about to make the sacrifice, that he killed him. He and his five sons then fought the Greek detachment and fled to the mountains to begin guerilla warfare against the Greeks and Jews who were their accomplices. When Mattathias was near death, he passed on the leadership to his son Judah the Maccabee. Judah led his forces against a series of armies sent by Antiochus Ephiphanes. The Maccabees defeated them all. Finally they liberated Jerusalem and reclaimed the temple. Legend says they could only find one small cruse of oil, enough to last a day, and re-lit the temple menorah with it. The menorah burned eight days - a miracle. That is why the festival lasts eight days.

The interesting thing in this story is that there is nothing in the historical accounts that mentions the cruse of oil and the miracle. The only place this miracle is mentioned is in some late rabbinic writings. Not even the earlier writings refer to this legend. For some reason, it just appeared at some point, and the festival formerly celebrating the victory of the Maccabees over the Greeks, became instead a celebration about the miracle of the oil lasting eight days.

While there is no Scriptural basis for this festival, I ran across some interesting statements concerning it. The menorah is “a reminder of the Light that is ever present in this world”. This quote is from a Jewish book and the word light was capitalized, which is interesting in that Jesus is referred to as the Light of the world. While seven is the perfect number, the number of completion and the one that is used over and over - 7 day week, 7 year week, etc., eight is (again according to a Jewish writer) beyond completion. Seven marks the limit of time. Eight is beyond time and therefore signifies the eternal. Another interesting connection is the one Hanukkah has with Sukkot. The Maccabees celebrated for eight days in the manner of the Feast of Tabernacles. Just as the hallel is recited every day of Sukkot, it is also recited every day of Hanukkah. A tradition says that the Tabernacle construction was begun on Sukkot and finished on the same day as Hanukkah.

Jews say that metaphorically Hanukkah represents a time of dedication and renewal. The old altars, which have become impure, are torn down and new ones are built. It is a time of re-dedication to the service of God. The importance of the connection between the dedication of the temple and the miracle of the oil may be that the light stands for the Light of the world, Jesus, and He will never stop “shining”. We no longer need the temple because He was the ultimate temple sacrifice giving us access to God. A 19th century Hasidic rabbi said something interesting. He said that on Hanukkah the Jews are given a part of the primordial light, which has been hidden away since Creation and is preserved for the righteous in the world to come. With this light, you could see from one end of the earth to the other. With this light, God’s people are not allowed to kindle mundane lights; they can kindle only other holy lights - the souls within each of us. What an accurate description of the Lord Jesus Christ, although He is no longer hidden; however, they don’t realize that. It is also a description of what we are supposed to be and do, lights in the world to lead others to the Lord.

It is possible, and we will consider it much later, that this festival will be the festival that celebrates the re-dedication of the millennial temple that Antichrist has defiled, exactly like his predecessor Antiochus Epiphanes, after God’s wrath has concluded and the millennium is about to commence. God does like to reuse dates so it is highly possible.

The following are a list of traditional readings that can be used for the week of Hanukkah.
Two that are traditional are Psalm 30 and Psalm 44:2-8. The following are a list of readings given on a daily basis. These readings are quite interesting and are worth the time to look up and read. They need to be read in the order given, as there is a continuity of thought in the way they are laid out.
1st night: Gen 1:2-5, 14-18.
2nd night: Is.5:20-24
3rd night: Ps. 115:5-6, Job 24:13,17; 18:5-6; 12:25, Jer. 25:10, Ez. 32:8, Is. 42:18
4th night: Is. 42:5-7; 45:7, 42:16
5th night: Ps. 13:4; 139:12, Dan. 9:17, Ps. 43:3; 36:10; 18:29; Prov. 20:27, Ps. 56:13, Job 33:29-30
6th night: Ps. 27:1; 104:1-2; 119:105; 19:9, Prov. 6:23
7th night: Prov. 4:18, Ps. 97:11-12, Is. 9:1, Ex. 10:23, Is. 60:1; 2:5
8th night: Is. 30:26, Zech. 14:6-7, Is. 60:19-20

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Festivals of God - Pt. 8 Feast of Tabernacles

The Feast of Tabernacles

The Feast of Tabernacles or Booths (Sukkot) is the final festival God gave the Israelites. Lev.23:33-36, 39-43. In Bible times this was the final fall harvest festival, a time of ingathering at Jerusalem. The Jewish people built booth-like structures and lived in them for seven days during this feast as a reminder of the temporary dwellings they had lived in, in the wilderness. The first and eighth days (even though this is considered a seven day festival, the eighth day is a Sabbath day) were to be days of rest, however this was not as restrictive as the Day of Atonement or normal Sabbaths. This was simply no laborious labor, such as their occupation would demand. The rest of the week was to be a celebratory atmosphere. Since this was a time of thanksgiving, there were more sacrifices offered in relation to this feast than any other. The book of Numbers tells how many sacrifices there were to be. 70 bullocks (which some believe were to be for the 70 nations), 14 rams, 98 lambs, which adds up to 182 sacrifices. Each of them individually divisible by the number 7. Added to that was 336 tenths of ephahs of flour (also divisible by 7) for a meal offering. As compared to the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the number of rams and lambs was doubled, as compared to the bullocks of Passover, it was five times as much. It was a seven day holiday in the seventh month with sacrifices numbering many times seven. They were to take four different types of tree branches into the Sukkah (booth) with them: boughs of goodly trees, palm trees, thick trees, and willow trees. Rabbis have decided that goodly trees are citron (specifically the yellow citron known as etrog), and thick trees are myrtle. Palm and willow are recognizable by their name. I don’t know that there is any way for us to now know what these other two trees really represent, although myrtle has associations with weddings. It was used in bridal processions and as wreaths for the heads of bridegrooms (not brides as we would use it). For Jews, it has connection with the messianic theme of Sukkot in that it describes the return to Zion - Is. 55:12-13.

Today Jewish people build open-roofed, three-sided huts for this festival. Tradition has decided that it is important that they be associated with beauty, so they decorate them with tree boughs and autumn fruits to remind them of the harvest, as well as beautiful tapestries, carpets, vines, wreaths, etc. (Sort of like what we do at Christmas, in fact in the city it is not unusual to see the booths decorated with Christmas lights). The hallel (Psalm 113-118) is read every day during the festival just as it is read at Passover. (It might be beneficial to read these chapters if you haven‘t already, to see what they are about. 118 is especially significant). On the Sabbath (8th day) Ez. 31:18-39:16 is read. These passages are about God’s judgment on some of the nations and the final war of Gog and Magog. Considering this is the time that God’s wrath will be poured out on the nations at the end and Armageddon will occur, it seems appropriate for them to be reading this. The seventh day of the week long festival is known as Hoshana Rabbah. It is known as the final day of judgment. We will have to see later on if this tradition that it is the final day of judgment fits with what we learn from Revelation and Daniel.

Sukkot also touches on several other subjects: the building of the Tabernacle in which God dwelt in the wilderness, the final rest from agricultural work for the year, as well as the final harvest of the year. This would correspond to the final harvest of Christians at the end and the rest that we will enter into when Christ reigns during His kingdom. For Jews who accept Christ once they see Him at His coming (but miss being among the Bride of Christ) God will be their shelter (both physical and spiritual) when He is pouring out His wrath, another connection to booths.

The temple worship for the holiday included the ritual pouring of the water from the Pool of Siloam. It was at this time that Jesus cried out, “if any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.” John 7:37-38. It also included an illumination ceremony where the priests erected four enormous candelabra with four bowls each in the courtyards. To get the relative size of these, each bowl contained 10 gallons of oil. These would light up all the courtyards, the light was so great. It was during this setting and ceremony that Jesus spoke of being the light of the world. It was after this that he healed the blind man by putting clay on his eyes and sending him to the Pool of Siloam. The healing of the man brought the two declarations Christ had made come together.

As before mentioned, there are several names for this holiday. The Feast of Booths reflects the commandment in Lev. 23:42-43, “You shall live in booths for seven days so that your generations may know that I had the sons of Israel live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” These booths were called Sukkah. It is also the Feast of Ingathering, because it coincides with the final harvest. The main crop being harvested at this time was grapes. This is significant given what the angel cries in Revelation as God’s wrath is poured out. Rev. 14:18 “And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe.” The harvest is then thrown into the great winepress of God’s wrath. Another name was “The Season of Our Joy.” As it was a joyous, rejoicing time after the harvest was brought in, God gave them seven days of feasting and celebration to thank Him for His abundance. This celebration was so important, that it was also known as the Feast of the Lord, which was shortened to simply “The Feast” or “The Festival”. Whenever anyone would be talking and refer to “the Feast” (Festival), everyone knew that the feast that was meant was this feast. It was also called the Feast of Sukkot, which simply means the Feast of Booths in Hebrew or the Feast of Tabernacles, which refers to a temporary shelter. Sukkot is also the festival of the millennium when all nations are commanded to come to Jerusalem and celebrate - Zech. 14:16. As the holiday of biblical times, it was chosen for the consecration of the temple by Solomon - 1 King 8. It was also the occasion every seven years when there was a public reading of the Torah before all the people - Deut. 31:10-13.

So, the fall festivals talk about the crowning of the kings, the resurrection of the dead, the judgment of mankind, the final ingathering, the final rest, and a huge feast that is so big and so associated with the Lord that it is just referred to as “The Feast”. In Biblical times a wedding feast lasted a week, as does this feast. This feast starts five days after Yom Kippur, which is by Jewish tradition, the coming of the Messiah, and the closing of the gates of heaven to those not sealed. This festival easily represents the wedding feast of the Church and Christ. All of these are associated with the Second Coming of the Lord. This would seem to indicate that as Christ fulfilled the spring festivals at the time they occurred, he will fulfill the fall festivals by coming at the time these festivals take place.

As a side not, it is this festival that the Pilgrims were seeking to copy when they decided to have the first Thanksgiving in America. They had removed all holidays that they thought were a result of the compromise Constantine had made with paganism when he declared Christianity the state religion. They refused to celebrate Christmas and were searching the Scriptures to try to get back to the Biblical holidays that God had instituted. As the Feast of Ingathering was tied to the fall harvest, they decided to celebrate it when they harvested their first real harvest here in America. (Obviously they didn’t celebrate it at the end of November).

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Festivals of God - Pt. 7 Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur - The Day of Atonement

Lev. 16; 23:26-32. Once a year on Yom Kippur, the High Priest would enter into the Holy of Holies to offer a blood sacrifice upon the mercy seat. After the Babylonian captivity, the ark and mercy seat were no longer in the Holy of Holies, and God had departed from the temple. There was nothing there but a rock protruding a few inches above the ground. In spite of this, they continued to go through the ritual of sprinkling the blood in the room. The story goes that priests wore bells on their robes and they would tie a rope around a foot of the priest, so that they could hear if he was still alive and if not, they could pull him out in case they died in there. Normally nobody could look upon God and live, but on this one day (when the ark was there before God left the sanctuary) an exception was made when the priest would enter into the Holy of Holies and be in the presence of the Shekinah glory of God. The priest didn’t wear the usual colorful garments, but wore special linen garments that were just for the occasion. Two goats had been chosen beforehand. Lots would be cast over them, one for the Lord and one for the scapegoat. The one for the Lord would be offered as a sin offering. They would take the blood of the goat and other animals that had been sacrificed and sprinkle them on the mercy seat. The other goat would be presented alive before the Lord to make an atonement. The priest would lay his hands upon the head of the goat, confess the iniquities of the children of Israel, putting all their sins on it, and then send it away into the wilderness for Azazel. The scapegoat as it was known would be taken out and pushed over a cliff. The two goats were considered one offering. One shed the blood as the penalty for sin, and the other took away the sins to be forgotten. Christ was able to do both things. Tradition has an interesting story about the scapegoat. When choosing which goat would be sacrificed and which would become the scapegoat, the priest would choose lots from a golden urn, one with the right hand, one with the left. If the lot for the Lord came up in his right hand, it was considered a good omen. If it came up in the left, it was a bad omen of impending doom. For about forty years before the destruction of the temple, (from the time of Christ’s crucifixion) it had come up in the left hand. After choosing the goats, a red sash was tied around the horns of the scapegoat. When the goat was led out into the wilderness, a portion of the sash was taken and tied to the temple door. Before the goat was pushed over the precipice, the sash was again divided with part being tied back onto the goat’s horns and part being tied to a protrusion from the precipice. According to tradition when the goat met its end, the red sashes would turn white, letting the people know that their sins were forgiven. From the time of Christ’s death until the destruction of the temple it is said that the sashes quit turning white.

In referencing back to Azazel, Scripture is a little vague as to what this is, and it seems that in Judaism, they have no idea what it means also; however, the Book of Enoch says that Azazel is a demon who was the leader of the fallen angels that corrupted man in Noah’s day and caused the world to be destroyed by the flood. They educated mankind in heavenly secrets that led mankind to sin. The angels charged Azazel before the Lord with his crimes. He was then punished by being bound hand and foot and thrown into darkness among the sharp and jagged rocks of the wilderness, where he remains until the day of judgment when he will be thrown in the fire. Tribal groups of Biblical times worshipped goat-devils of the desert or wilderness. Leviticus 17:7 and 2 Chronicles 11:15 speak of devils, but when one looks up the Hebrew word, it turns out that the Hebrew definition for devils in these two verses actually means a he-goat, faun, or satyr. So indeed the mythological faun (as I have always suspected) is not a myth at all, but indeed the appearance of a particular species of devils. As we will see when we come to Revelation, they are not the only “mythological” creatures that are actually devils. While it is speculation, it would appear from all this information (the Scriptural part is obviously reliable) that 1) there exist devils who are half-goat/half-man, 2) that ancient tribal people worshiped goat-devils who lived in the wilderness, 3) that one of these goat-devils is named Azazel as he was chained there as punishment, 4) and that he was given a scapegoat as a sacrifice for the sins of Israel.

According to Jewish writings from that time, when the destruction of Jerusalem came, it was not a surprise to the people. They felt that God had been warning them that it was going to happen and that they were being given time to restructure their worship around the synagogue instead. They felt that these following signs were the warning of the impending doom: 1) the lot for the scapegoat did not come up in the right hand of the priest, 2) the sash no longer turned white, 3) the westernmost light on the temple candelabra would not burn. This light was used to light the other candles in the candelabra and 4) the temple doors would open by themselves (kind of creepy). They felt this was a fulfillment of Zech. 11:1 “Open thy doors O Lebanon that fire may devour thy cedars.” I’m sure they were also a little scared of the fact that the veil of the temple was rent in two at Christ’s death.

After the destruction of the temple there were no priests or sacrifices, so the rabbis decided to replace them with repentance, prayer, fasting, charity, personal suffering, study of the Law, and of course one’s own death. As charity is one of the substitutions for sacrifice, long tables with alms plates for every charity going are put out in the synagogue. While only practiced in orthodox circles today, in times past a pious man would take a white chicken (rooster for a male, and a hen for a female) and wave it over his head three times while reciting “This is a substitute for me; this is in exchange for me; this is my atonement. This cock (or hen) shall be consigned to death, while I shall have a long and pleasant life and peace.” They then slaughtered the bird and either ate it for the evening meal and gave its financial worth to the poor, or gave the chicken itself to the poor, even though this kind of sacrifice is not specified in Scripture. Nowadays people tie some money in a handkerchief and swing it around their head three times while reciting a similar phrase.

The day before Yom Kippur, people eat a large meal in preparation for the complete fast (not even water is allowed during the fast) that is incumbent on all who are thirteen years and older, except for the seriously ill. Then they take the mikvah, a ritual bath, to cleanse themselves before going to public confession in the synagogue later that evening. This is not a confession of one’s personal sins, but a corporate ritual confession. Women wear white and men wear kittels (a white robe worn over the clothing). Besides fasting, there are some other restrictions to be observed: no bathing (I’m glad some take the ritual mikvah beforehand), no anointing the body with oil, no wearing of leather shoes, no sexual relations, no cooking, no using fire, and no carrying of heavy objects. These would appear to be more the rabbis’ ideas rather than God’s. Yom Kippur ends with the blowing of the shofar, (the last trump) which is supposed to herald the coming of the Messiah. It also symbolizes the closing of the gates of heaven. (Amazing how they have no idea what the meaning of the “last trump” symbolizes for us, yet it is there in their observance.) Then everyone goes home to hammer the first nail of the Sukkah, the booth for the Feast of Tabernacles which begins in a few days. Then they can sit down to a big festive meal.

The shofar sounding on Yom Kippur also announces the Jubilee year when land and estates are returned to their rightful owner and slaves are given their freedom.

Another interesting piece of information was found in a book about Jewish Feasts and Festivals (written by a Jew, not a Christian). It seems that one of the readings (which they find a total puzzle) is Lev. 18. This author says that it “talks about forbidden sexual relations.” He suggests a couple of reasons it might be read, 1) that on Yom Kippur of all days, they need to be especially careful in this area, and that 2) it reflects a strange tradition which says the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur were the merriest days of the year, for young women would dress in white and go out in the fields to dance, and young men would come and choose brides. Here is another obvious tradition that God had a hand in, that they have no idea what it is about, but it is so obvious to us. Yom Kippur to them is a solemn day, a day of atonement and judgment. To us, it is the Lord’s returning for his bride, so of course we joyously dance (in white for righteousness) and wait for our bridegroom to come for us. As to the reading, Lev. 18 is all about illicit and perverted sex. Incest, homosexuality, fornication, and God’s warning that they were not to defile themselves with these things, as this is why he punished the nations before them as they defiled the land with these sins. He talks of how he will cut off the land and the people for these sexual sins. It can be seen that this is talking about the Day of the Lord and His wrath upon the world for its perversions, among chief is the sexual sins of our world. Pornography, homosexuality, bestiality, incest, pedophilia, etc. This always has been an abomination to God and caused nations to fall, and will again bring God’s wrath down on our nation as well as other nations. Again, the Jews don’t understand, but we certainly do. Another reading which they don’t understand is the book of Jonah. They don’t understand the symbolism of the three days and nights in the belly of the whale, but the connection to Jesus’ three days and nights in the grave can’t be missed. They also have some suggestions as to why this is read, some of which I think are probably a good reason it is read. 1) It is an example of a whole city with no relationship to God who repent their evil ways and are forgiven. For them this speaks to the whole idea of repentance at Yom Kippur. For us this relates to the N.T. story (Matt. 20) where the workers agree to work all day for a particular wage. During the day more workers are hired, but given the same wage at the end of the day. The first workers complain that those hired at the end of the day didn’t work the same length of time. They are told that they agreed to the wage, so they have no reason to complain, that the employer has the right to give what wage he wants. We should not rejoice at the end of days to see people who have rejected the Lord and persecuted us punished. We should still show mercy and want them to accept the Lord, right up to the end. God has said that as much mercy as we show others, He will show us (James 2:13). It also reminds us that the Scriptures say that when the fullness of the Gentiles comes in, all Israel will be saved (Rom.11:25-26). The story of Ninevah will be their story at the return of Christ. They will repent. We should not begrudge them that, even though they have rejected their Messiah for 2000 years. 2) The message that God cares compassionately for all living things and prefers repentance to destruction. (Well, that’s a given as to how He feels, but unfortunately it isn’t how the world reacts). 3) Jonah shows us we cannot escape God’s will for us. We cannot flee His service if He intends for us to do something. (A message to all of us). The author of the book on Jewish festivals makes an interesting observation. Jonah was the only successful prophet in the whole Bible. The only one to whom people listened and actually repented. Yet it was this very knowledge that he would succeed, (not doubts about his failure) that made him flee. He knew they would repent. Jonah 4:1-2 “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. And he prayed unto the Lord and said, I pray thee O lord, was not this my saying, (I said that they would repent) when I was yet in my own country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.” This is an interesting observation, one that I had never considered. This would make a good discussion topic if anyone wants to comment here.

Just as traditions says that the messiah is crowned King on Rosh haShanah, it also says that Yom Kippur is the day when God closes the books and He decides people's fates. It also says it is the Day that the Day of the Lord will begin, and the resurrection will occur.  This makes perfect sense that Christ would be crowned King in heaven before He comes to earth, that He gives the world ten more days to decide their fates (book of life or God's wrath) and then He comes on Yom Kippur to resurrect/rapture His people and pour out His wrath on the world.  By the time this day comes, the world will have lost all sense of the calendar and it is most probable that nobody will know  when the day will occur.

Lastly, as Yom Kippur draws to a close, the ritual of blessing the moon is performed. In tradition circles, Jews go outside near the beginning of every month and bless the moon. Interestingly according to one of their writings (this particular writing is not from the Bible, but this information is found in the Bible, they just don’t know it.) at the end of days, the moon will be restored to a splendor equal to the sun. In a way that will happen, as will be seen when we get to Revelation, but now is not the time to go over that Scripture.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Festivals of God - Pt. 6 Rosh haShanah

Before discussing the fall feasts, I would like to mention other holy days.  The New Moon was the first day of each month.  It was determined when two witnesses saw the first sliver of moon and reported it to the temple authorities.  At that point the temple declared the first day of the month and trumpets were blown over the sacrifices for that day.  It is interesting that in Revelation there are seven trumpets sounded before the wrath of God falls.  There are seven New Moon trumpets sounded from the first month of the year (when Passover occurs) to the seventh month when the Feast of Trumpets occurs.  The Feast of Trumpets is the seventh trump of the year.  As will be seen, the Feast of Trumpets holds a special connection to the seventh trumpet of Revelation.

The Fall Festivals

There is a stretch of time between the spring festivals and the fall festivals. This corresponds to the time gap between the first and second comings of Christ. There are three festivals in the fall, just as there were in the spring. Rosh haShanah - The Feast of Trumpets, which is the New Year; Yom Kippur - the Day of Atonement; and Sukkot - The Feast of Tabernacles or Booths. Rosh haShanah and Yom Kippur deal with judgment, repentance, and restoration. They are really two connected festivals, one being the beginning of what is known as the Days of Awe, a significant ten day time period in between the two festivals, and ending with Yom Kippur. The Feast of Tabernacles is also the Feast of Ingathering which deals with the gathering of the harvest (both wheat and grapes which will be significant in Revelation). Just as the spring festivals deal with the sacrifice for sin and the beginning of the church, the falls festivals deal with Christ being crowned King, God’s judgment, and the gathering of His people at the end of the age.

Rosh haShanah

Rosh haShanah is known by several names (as are many of the festivals). It is known as Yom Teruah, The Day of Sounding the Shofar. It is also known as Yom HaDin which means Day of Judgment and Yom ha-Zikkaron , The Day of Remembering. Rosh haShanah means Head of the Year. It is the New Year’s Day celebration which is actually a two day celebration. Offerings were to be offered at the beginning of every month, but this month, more sacrifices were required in addition to the New Moon and daily offerings. Num 29:4.

Lev. 23:23-25. The first day of the 7th month of the religious calendar is the first day of the civil calendar and according to Jewish tradition, was the anniversary of the day God created the world. Now God has them celebrate this day as a Sabbath day and they were to memorialize it by blowing the trumpets. There were two kinds of trumpets in Israel. The shofar or ram’s horn and silver trumpets. The shofar was used to announce the beginning of festivals, to muster troops, to warn of danger, to assemble the people, in the midst of battles, at the year of Jubilee, and for coronations. The silver trumpets would have been used at the daily burnt offerings, at the beginning of each new month (except this one when the shofar is blown) and for music in the temple.

It was a common Jewish teaching that the blowing of the shofar on this day would among other things, sound the coronation and hailing of God(or the Messiah) as King, announce the Day of the Lord or Judgment Day, herald the Messianic age (God will fully reveal Himself and bring about the end of days and start His reign), and announce the resurrection of the dead at the Last Trump. As a side note reminder, the First Trump was blown at Mt. Sinai at the giving of the Law. We know from New Testament Scriptures that the blowing of the trumpets is associated with the Day of the Lord judgments in Revelation, the resurrection of the dead and with those events accomplished, the Messianic Age of Christ is ushered in. He is also crowned King of Kings when all of this commences. In Rosh haShanah services, the shofar is blown in specific ways with a specific order to accompany the reading of Scriptures.

Rosh haShanah is a two day celebration. There are evening services on the night that the New Year occurs. Then there are services the next morning and afternoon, after which really orthodox people go to a stream or river to symbolically cast their sins in the waters to be washed away by throwing crumbs in it. On the home front, the mother stays home from the evening services and prepares a lavish meal for the family to enjoy. This requires the best silver, crystal, china, and linens. In the center of the table would be an arrangement of fruits and honeycake. It is considered bad luck to eat anything sour or bitter as that would be an omen of bitter times to come. Also nuts are not allowed as the word nut in Hebrew has the same numeric value as the word sin. After chanting a special blessing, the father dips an apple into a bowl of honey and recites some things. The apple symbolizes the Shekinah glory of God. The next night, the same ritual is repeated only a new fruit is dipped in the honey. Challah bread, which is a braided loaf, represents the crown of kingship.

It is believed that the world was created at this time, and also that God will judge man on the anniversary of his creation. Judaism teaches that man was created with both a good inclination and an evil inclination. Each man must choose to obey God’s law rather than follow his evil tendencies and reap judgment. A man’s righteous deeds could offset his evil deeds. A thorough, sincere repentance could make up for an entire life lived in sin. By the Day of Atonement, it was imperative that the scale be tipped in favor of the good to assure a positive judgment. Every deed had a lasting value. One good deed could outweigh a multitude of evil ones, and likewise one evil action could negate a lifetime of good works. Ez. 33:12. So they believed that the ten days between Rosh haShanah and Yom Kippur, called the Days of Awe were crucial in securing your place for the next year. According to Jewish tradition, Rosh haShanah is the beginning of ten days of judgment when all the children of men pass before the Creator. The righteous are written into the Book of Life, the wicked are condemned, and those who are not wholly righteous nor wholly wicked are given ten days to repent and thus escape judgment. The ten days of repentance lead to the most solemn day of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, at which time their fate is decided and names are written into one or the other of the books. So important is this particular holiday season that spiritual preparation begins a month in advance with the start of the sixth month. According to Jewish tradition, Moses went up to Mount Sinai to receive the second tablets of the law on the first day of the sixth month and returned forty days later on the Day of Atonement. Prayers of repentance are recited the entire week before Rosh haShanah and the shofar is blown every day after services the entire month before to warn the people that Rosh haShanah is coming. It is Jewish teaching that the Day of the Lord will begin on this day and that the Messiah’s reign will begin with His being crowned King.

The three themes that are preached on in the synagogue on this day are God’s sovereignty over the world, God’s remembrance of all our deeds good and bad, and the revelation of God and the final redemption to come. The passages of Scripture recited that day are from the book of Genesis. They are the Garden of Eden story, the story of Noah and God remembering and saving him from the flood, and the Tower of Babel. That they recite these stories cannot be irrelevant. We see from the significance of the aphikomen that nothing in the traditions are there “just because.” God has woven importance into things, even when they have not been outlined in the Scripture and have only come about by tradition. I can certainly understand the story of Noah, as it represents the saving of the righteous when the world is being subjected to God’s wrath. This certainly symbolizes our being saved from the wrath of God in the end by being raptured when He again punishes the world. I can associate the garden story with the fact that this holiday is supposed to be the New Year’s celebration of the creation of the world. The only connection I can make to the Tower of Babel story is that at the end when God pours out His wrath, (which will come at the timing of these fall festivals) the harlot Babylon will finally be destroyed thus ending her history. If someone can see more relevance to the stories than that, please comment.

The Sabbath day between Rosh haShanah and Yom Kippur is known as Shabbat Shuvah or the Sabbath of Turning. It is also called Shabbat Teshuvah, the Sabbath of Repentance. A particular Scripture verse associated with this day is Hosea 14:2 “Return O Israel to the Lord, your God.”

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Festivals of God - Pt. 5 Firstfruits & Pentecost

The Festival of Firstfruits

The second festival is tied to Passover in that the Passover meal is eaten at the beginning of the day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, which is a week long festival. The first day (15th) and the last day (21st) are Sabbath days in that no work is to be done on them. According to Lev. 23:5-8, they were also to offer sacrifices every day during the week.

This second festival after the Passover, within the week of Unleavened Bread is the Feast of Firstfruits. Lev. 23:4-14. The week of the Festival of Unleavened Bread has at least two Sabbaths, the 15th and the 21st, but it also has a regular Saturday Sabbath (which could conceivably fall on either the 15th or the 21st, but doesn’t have to). On the day (Sunday) following the normal weekly Sabbath (Saturday) during the week of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, they were to offer a sheaf of the first fruits of their grain harvest as a wave offering to the Lord. They were also to offer a lamb as a burnt offering as well as other offerings. This Firstfruits was always on the Sunday following Passover. Christ rose from the grave on the same day as the Festival of the Firstfruits, and he was the first fruit of the resurrection. 1 Cor. 15:20-23. This festival also commemorates the crossing of the Red Sea, when the people went down into the depths of the water and came out the other side a free people. When Moses made the deal with Pharaoh, it was to go into the desert for three days to make a sacrifice unto the Lord. Pharaoh owned the Israelites, as they were his slaves. The deal struck with Pharaoh was broken by his going after them and the Red Sea incident occurred, freeing them from Pharaoh’s rule. Tradition says that the crossing of the Red Sea took place on a Sunday, which knowing God’s predilection for patterns would make sense. They would be the first fruits of the newly freed Israelites having gone in as slaves and coming out the other side free. There would have been three days that passed going from the bondage of Egypt to freedom, (the 14th to the 17th) just as Christ was three days in the grave. Another use of the day was to compare it to the civil calendar. Knowing some things we can make some deductions. 1) Red Sea incident took place on the 17th (the Passover was on the 14th and they were three days into their journey) and it was a Sunday (according to tradition that is, it didn't necessarily have to be a Sunday). 2) the Passover takes place on the 14th, and if the Feast of Firstfruits on which Christ arose did take place on the 17th (it doesn't have to, but He was 3 days and nights in the grave so that would seem to make it the 17th) it would be the same day as the Exodus. The crossing didn't have to be on a Sunday, but it did have to be three days after. The festival of firstfruits doesn't have to be on the 17th, but it does have to be on a Sunday. God made these two events happen with the same timing. Another connection is found within the civil calendar. According to Genesis 8:4, the ark rested on the 17th day of the 7th month. The seventh month of the civil calendar is the 1st month of the religious calendar. The ark came to rest on Mt. Ararat on the same day that the Israelites gained their freedom or "rest" from slavery, and Christ arose and entered into the “rest” from his work on earth. (Remember when we were covering Noah’s flood that I said those dates were important?) There is a reason for God to use the same dates over and over. He is trying to use patterns to help people understand (especially to understand) and remember. He wants us to see the connection so that we make the connection for future prophecies (about the Second Coming).

The last festival of spring is that of the Feast of Weeks, otherwise known as Pentecost, (because it is 50 days after the Festival of Firstfruits), or Shavuot. Lev. 23:15-21. On this day, they were to offer sacrifices of all kinds. It was a thanksgiving of the first (or spring) harvest. It was also a Sabbath day. According to tradition, this was the day after the exodus that the congregation presented itself before God at Mr. Sinai and he handed down the commandments. Ex. 19. Traditions also say that the thundering that the Israelites heard were not only the commandments given in Hebrew, but in the languages of the seventy nations for all man to hear. It is interesting that the Jewish tradition would say that given what happens in Acts 2, since they don’t believe in the New Testament teachings. Tradition also says that a ram's horn was sounded to call the people at the giving of the Law. This was the first trump sounded for God's people. The second horn of this ram is supposed to be sounded at Rosh HaShanah at the end of the age. This is the last trump to call God's people. Pentecost was also the day that the Holy Spirit would descend after Christ’s resurrection and speak in many different tongues through the disciples. (The first or spring harvest as many people came to the Lord that day). It was the birth of Judaism when God gave the Law, and it was the birth of the Church when God gave the Holy Spirit, both on the same day.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Festivals of God - Pt. 4 Passover (cont.)

The two important items that need to be discussed are the wine and the unleavened bread/matzo or aphikomen. First we will address the wine. Nowhere in Scripture is the use of wine commanded. The Paschal lamb, bitter herbs and unleavened bread were the only requirements, and yet by the time of Christ, somehow those four cups of wine had apparently made their way into the seder ritual. Now it is not unreasonable to understand that wine was a drink of the people, as the grapes had to be preserved somehow, so the drink of the day would be wine, and it was definitely used at special occasions such as the festivals, weddings, etc. (and probably daily too, as water was not safe to drink without a little wine added in to purify it.) What is a mystery is to the use of four cups, the significance of each, and the way each is a ritualistic part of the ceremony, not just something to drink. What is also interesting is that it has to be red wine. Today the four cups of wine for the celebration of the Passover, or Seder, are actually mandatory. No Jew can keep the Passover without them. Why not? Because Jesus said, “Drink ye all of it.” Even if they don't realize it. Even further, The Shulchan Aruch (Jewish Book of Rules) instructs that the wine has to be red. Why? Because Jesus said, “This is my blood which is shed for the remission of sins.” Again, they are unaware. And it is to be warmed also. Blood is warm. We can see the significance ascribed to them in relation to Christ’s sacrifice, but the Jews cannot, so it is a puzzle as to how it made its way into the Jewish ritual so that when Christ celebrated His Last Supper, he was able to make the new connection to his blood being sacrificed. Also is the significance that it is attached to Elijah announcing the coming of the Messiah, which indeed was the case. The Messiah had come.

The next item is the unleavened bread/matzo or aphikomen. The unleavened bread of ancient times was flat, round, and irregular in shape. Nowadays they use the typical matzos that you find in the store. The matzo symbolizes the Paschal lamb. It is encased in a special container called a matzo tash, which is a square, white, silk bag that is divided into three compartments to hold three matzo wafers which sit prominently on the seder table. Why three? Some Jewish scholars see them as symbolic of the three divisions of the Jewish people: Priests, Levites, and Israelites. Others see them as a reminder of the three Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The middle matzah, the one broken, the one symbolizing the Passover Lamb, would correspond to Isaac. How interesting that Isaac, the miraculously born son of Abraham, was taken to what would become the Temple Mount to be offered as a sacrifice. We can see that the true meaning of the three are the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, with the Son (the Passover Lamb) being represented by the middle matzo. The aphikomen itself is a half-piece of matzo that has been broken in the early part of the seder and set aside to eat as dessert after the meal (or after the actual sweet desserts). The aphikomen is prepared after the first dipping of herbs into the salt water. During this ritual, the leader of the seder takes the middle piece of matzo out from the stack of three whole matzo on the seder table. He breaks the matzo in two, (Jesus was “broken” for our sins) returning the smaller piece to the stack and putting aside the larger piece to be eaten later during the part of the seder which immediately follows the main meal and just before the third cup of redemption. This is the aphikomen, which is wrapped in a napkin before being hidden (or another word commonly and interestingly used to describe it - buried, just like Christ was buried) by the host. In some families there is a custom of having the children either “steal” it and demand a reward for it or search for it and get a reward for finding it (bringing it back or resurrecting it) , when it is time to eat it. After the meal and desserts, the host breaks the aphikomen into pieces and gives a piece to each guest at which time they say, “In memory of the Passover sacrifice”. (“Take eat this is my body; This is my body which is given for you, do this in remembrance of me.”) If there is not enough to go around, more matzos can be used.) A quarter-sized piece of matzo is be eaten to fulfill the requirement of eating the aphikomen. Many people eat a second quarter-sized piece. The first piece commemorates the Paschal lamb whose meat was the last thing allowed to be eaten at the seder in the days of the temple. The second piece commemorates the matzo that was eaten with the lamb in the days of the temple in fulfillment of the Torah commandment “And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread, and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.” Ex. 12:8. According to the rules, the aphikomen must be eaten before midnight, just as the lamb was to be consumed before midnight (the lamb was to be consumed before morning, and midnight brings morning). After eating the aphikomen, no other food is to be eaten for the rest of the night (just like with the Paschal lamb) other than the wine and any other beverage. According to the Shulchan Aruch (Jewish book of rules) the aphikomen is to be treated with special regard and eaten at the close of the seder with special reverence, because, it says, it represents the Passover Lamb which was eaten at the close of the meal. As things now stand, it is no longer the Passover Lamb which constitutes the main feature of the Jewish Passover, but the bread (aphikomen) and the wine. This marks a radical departure from the feast initiated by Moses. What was the cause of this departure? Who substituted the matzo for the Passover Lamb? Who made the wine an essential part of the seder? Why should it be red like blood? Any Christian can tell you that the Jewish Passover is now (unknown to Jews) being celebrated as the Lord’s Supper the way the Lord instituted it. Every time a Jewish person celebrates the Passover, he is actually celebrating the Lord’s Supper until He comes. Ironic, isn’t it? One has to wonder how God made it come about. God’s sense of irony in action, I guess.

Why is this final piece of matzo called the aphikomen? It appears to be a Greek word, and most scholars agree it is, although it is curious to find a Greek word in the middle of a Hebrew feast (unless you consider that Greek was the major world language at the time of Christ, which is when this probably came into being). The problem is, most scholars cannot agree as to its meaning. Some say it comes from the word Epikomos (a stretch to see it turning into aphikomen) and means dessert. Others say there is a Greek definition which means “that which is coming” which they also take as being dessert (looking forward to dessert “which is coming” after the meal).Others take it to mean “he who is coming” based on the Jewish tradition that Messiah would come at Passover to bring redemption, which is why they have the place set for Elijah (who announces the Messiah’s coming). There is another definition which is more satisfactory. The word referred to reads the same as the word aphikomen and means “I came”. This is the most applicable meaning as Jesus did come.

As to how all of this made its way into the Jewish seder, I found online a possible answer. The Jewish Passover in its original form was one outlined by a man named Hillel. Hillel (110BC-10AD) was a famous Jewish religious leader, one of the most important figures in Jewish history. He is associated with the development of the Mishnah and the Talmud. Renowned within Judaism as a sage and scholar, he was the founder of the House of Hillel school for Tannaim (Sages of the Mishnah) and the founder of a dynasty of Sages who stood at the head of the Jews living in the land of Israel until roughly the fifth century of the Common Era. This was the Passover that was being observed in Israel before the destruction of the temple. After Christ instituted the new Passover (Lord’s Supper) the Jewish followers of Christ would observe the Passover as it was observed the night of the Lord’s Supper. A complete original Passover with the new elements added. When the temple was destroyed, there was no way to continue observing the original Passover without the lamb, and the only Passover left, was the one the Lord instituted, but without the actual lamb as the meal. The void of having no sacrificial lamb to be the center and main focus of the seder forced the Jews to turn to another option in order to preserve their traditions and survive as a nation. (Remember Fiddler on the Roof and how the song speaks about traditions and their importance in keeping them a people?) The Passover had to be changed to one that wasn’t tied to the temple and priesthood, as they no longer existed. The only Passover tradition left was that of the followers of Jesus. This answered the purpose of the Jewish leaders (who were Kaballah and not above inserting stuff into Judaism anyhow). They therefore incorporated it into their religion, changing the symbolism enough to not refer to Christ and adapting it to suit their purposes. What they couldn’t eliminate is the original meanings and obvious connection to the Last Supper. So while the true meanings remain hidden to the Jews, they celebrate the Lord’s Supper every Passover.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Festivals of God - Pt. 3 Passover (cont.)

After the destruction of the temple, people lost the ability to offer a Paschal lamb. They also felt the need to make the holiday even more special, because of the diaspora, so they wrote special songs to be sung at the seder, added ornamentation in the form of candles and lamps, comfortable cushions on which to relax, and new foods from the various cultures to which they were dispersed. What was missing, was the roasted Passover lamb for the meal, as only a lamb sacrificed at the temple could be used, and that was no longer possible. The way of replacing the lamb was the creation of what is known as the aphikomen (afikomen). The aphikomen (to be explained shortly) is a mystery to the Jewish people as they don’t really know how it came about, nor for what it really stands. To see the importance of the aphikomen, we need to look at a modern day seder.

The modern seder has been altered to suit modern man. The homes originally were not to have any leaven in the house at all. Anything that might have the capability of becoming leavened must go. Bread, cookies, (even stray crumbs), yeast, baking powder and soda, grain products, etc. Nowadays if there is too much of these items in the house that the loss of it would be costly, there is a solution devised by the rabbis. The items are stored in one place in the house, preferably an unused room, or at least a high out of the way shelf. Then a Gentile friend can buy title to the items for a token amount of a dollar or two. Technically the leaven is no longer in the possession of the Jewish person, although it is still in their house. At the end of the week, the Gentile friend can sell it all back for the same price.

The following ritual was enacted in ancient times as well as today. Before the Passover officially starts, a prayer and search must be made by the man of the house for any leaven to make sure the house is clean. Since the man searches the whole house for leaven, (a symbolic search at best), he is given the credit for cleaning the house (isn’t that just like a man?), even though the wife or family does all the work. For the search, the man takes a child with him to hold a light, a wooden spoon, a feather, and an old cloth napkin. The man searches all the rooms until he comes to the last room. The wife clues him in as to which room should be last - (you have to wonder how many wives give them a hard time, just to get even for him getting the credit of cleaning the house), so that he can find a few crumbs left for the benefit of the ceremony (so that his search is not in vain). When he finds the crumbs, he sweeps them up with the feather into the spoon, then wraps the spoon, feather, and crumbs in the napkin and pronounces the house clean. The next day everyone gathers at a ritual bonfire (probably at the synagogues) to burn the bundles and then they go home for Passover. After the house is clean, the special dishes used only at Passover are taken out. For people too poor to have a second set of dishes, a complicated ritual of cleansing has to take place on the everyday dishes. Metal utensils have to be heated until red hot. Cutlery has to be sterilized in boiling water. Glazed pottery has to be soaked in cold water. Unglazed pottery cannot be purified and is therefore not usable for Passover unless it is only used for the Passover.

For today’s ritual, the best linens, dishes, clothing, etc. are used for this meal. The focal point of the seder is the seder plate. It is a large blue enameled brass plate. It is designed with divisions for each of the symbolic foods. Lacking this, a large serving plate may be used. The symbolic foods on the plate are much the same as the past centuries. As there is no longer a roasted lamb, they now put symbolically in its place a roasted shank bone of a lamb. This is called a zeroah, which means “arm” or “shoulder”. It speaks of the outstretched arm of the Lord by which He freed His people from Egypt. Next is a hard-boiled egg that is roasted to a brown color. Its symbolic name is haggigah, meaning the holiday sacrifice that was made in Temple times. Many interpret this egg as a symbol of new life and triumph over death (resurrection). Actually one has to wonder if it is somehow related to the importance of eggs in the Eastre (remember this goddess from the Babylonian mysteries?) pagan celebration, considering how many of the religious leaders were into kaballah. Anyhow, the plate holds three kinds of bitter herbs. Two we recognize as being bitter, horseradish root - chazereth, and freshly ground horseradish - maror. The third herb is lettuce, parsley, or celery - none of which we would really call bitter. It is called karpas and is the first food eaten at the actual seder meal. Last on the seder plate is the charoseth. Charoseth is symbolic of the mortar or red clay of Egypt, where they had to make bricks. The table holds three more items. The unleavened bread, the wine, and the Haggadah (the book which contains the order of service, questions, answers, prayers and songs).

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Festivals of God - Pt. 2 Passover (cont.)

To find out more about the Passover or Last Supper that Christ celebrated, we need to check the four gospels. Matt. 26:17-30; Mark 14:12-.25; Luke 22:7-23, John 13:1-30.

When knowing the seder ritual, it makes it easier to understand the Lord’s Supper. Many think that Christ instituted a new type of ritual at the Passover meal, and in one sense, he did, but what he really did was to relate the symbols which already existed within the meal to himself. By piecing together the four gospel stories of the Last Supper, it would appear that it might have gone something like this. The Kiddush was recited over the first cup of wine. This first cup was known as the cup of sanctification. It sanctified the entire Passover ritual. Then came the ceremonial washing. This washing would have been done by Christ alone and set him apart from the rest of the company as the most important person there. Then the food would have been brought and the bitter herbs dipped in salt water. The green herbs represented life, the salt water the tears of life. The food was removed and the second cup of wine poured. The ritual questions would have been asked by John (the youngest) and answered by the Lord, as the host. The food was brought back, the explanation of the lamb, bitter herbs, and the unleavened bread would have been given. The first part of the Hallel or Psalms 113 and 114 were recited, the second cup was drunk, then the second washing of hands done. This time instead of the usual hand washing, Christ washed the disciples feet for the illustration of serving one another. This is the first mention that something is amiss. He said that not all of them were clean. At some point after they were reclining, before Christ dipped into the charoseth, He said that He would be betrayed. Apparently not all of the disciples heard him, as later when Judas left, they thought he was just going to get something for the feast. John and Peter did hear him and asked who it was. He told them the one to whom he would give the sop after he dipped it. The bread was broken, and thanks for the bread recited. It was at this point that Christ related that it was His body which would be broken for them. Christ then dipped the bread into the herbs and charoseth and gave it to Judas. He told him to do what he had to do, and Judas left. They then ate the Passover meal. After this Christ poured the third cup of wine and they all recited the after dinner blessings. He related to them that this was His blood as this was the cup of redemption. Then they chanted another blessing for the wine and drank the third cup. After that they recited Psalms 115-118 and drank the fourth cup of wine. There was more discussion as Christ had some last minute things he wanted to tell them, then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.

The modern church has taken the two elements (the bread and wine) out of the seder and turned it into the Lord’s Supper. When Christ said, “as often as you eat this bread and drink this wine, do it in remembrance of me,” He was really referring to the entire Passover seder. I don’t know if it was his intention that it be turned into a mini ceremony that some churches have on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. On the one hand it certainly does not hurt that we do this act of remembrance more often than once a year; however, the loss has been the knowledge of what the entire meaning behind the Lord’s Supper is, that is, the connection to the Passover seder and its importance as a foreshadow of His First Coming. This loss is significant when one realizes that if it is not understood that the festivals are all about Christ’s two comings, they miss the point that the fall festivals are about the Second Coming. And that is what has happened. The modern church has created a whole theology about the Second Coming that omits the connection to the fall festivals, which is crucial to understanding the signs and timing of the Second Coming.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Festivals of God - Pt. 1 Passover

Now we will jump ahead to the some of the laws that God gave Moses. In particular, we will start with the festivals that he commanded that the Israelites observe. It might be helpful just as a refresher to read Exodus 12:1-30 as to the origin of the Passover. Then the commands regarding the spring and fall feasts can be found in Ex. 23:14-19, Ex. 34:22-23; Lev. 23; Num. 28:16 - 29:40; and Deut. 16.

There are a number of feasts that God gave Israel to celebrate. He did this as a symbolic way of helping them to remember the promises of a redeemer to come and what that redeemer would do. They all would or will be fulfilled in the most literal sense.

The first festival of the religious new year is Passover (Pesach), followed immediately by the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Hag hamatzah) the Feast of Firstfruits. Fifty days after Passover is the Feast of Weeks, Shavuot, or as we know it, Pentecost. These are all spring festivals and have all been fulfilled in the First Coming of Christ.

There are several feasts and holy days in the fall. The Feast of Trumpets (Rosh haShanah) or New Year, The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles (Sukkot). All of these are yet to be fulfilled in the Second Coming of Christ.

The festivals have dual purpose in that some are commemorative of an event in Israel’s history, but all have a fulfillment in the two comings of Christ. Many have ties to agriculture, some have elaborate temple rituals, while some are home ceremonies.

The festivals are celebrated in the spring and the fall which ties to the two agricultural seasons in Israel. The spring festivals deal with the ingathering of the grain harvest, while the fall festivals deal with grain, grapes and other crops. There are two seasons of rain in Israel, the spring or former rains as they are called in Scripture, and the fall or latter rains. This corresponds to the two comings of the Messiah as mentioned in Hosea 6:3 ‘Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come to us as the rain, as the latter and former rains unto the earth.” This tells us that the spring festivals foretell his first coming with their significance and symbolism, while the fall festivals foretell of his second coming with their significance and symbolism.

While this is an end times study, and the spring festivals are about his first coming, which has been fulfilled, it is relevant to show how they were fulfilled, so that it may be understood how the fall festivals will be fulfilled by his second coming.

SPRING FESTIVALS

Exodus 12

The first thing to note is that God creates another calendar and adds another new year‘s day. The civil (or original calendar) new year’s day is in the fall (Rosh HaShanah) around Sept/Oct. This new calendar is the religious calendar by which the festivals are timed.

Passover was to start being celebrated on the 14th day of the first month of the new religious calendar. Before that on the 10th, each household was to take a one-year old male lamb from the sheep or the goats. It was to be without spot or blemish. They would keep him until the 14th (roughly 3 ½ days) during which time he would be inspected to be sure he was perfect. Oddly enough we always assume it was sheep, however a goat was an acceptable sacrifice as well. The days in the household would probably create an attachment to the animal, which would make the family feel bad when it had to be slain. Then everyone was to kill their animal “in the evening” of the 14th. When it says “in the evening” it doesn’t mean at 6:00 as we would refer to the evening. This is where knowing the history and customs of the time is crucial. They would count the evening as late afternoon or dusk. This would be the end of the 14th day, as their day started at 6:00 p.m., not midnight as it does for us. Thus they would kill the animal mid to late afternoon, before 6:00 so that it was still the 14th, roast it for a few hours until it was cooked, and eat the meal sometime that night, which would be the beginning of the 15th day, and the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The blood from killing it would be put on the lintels and doorposts of the houses that night. They were not to break any bones of the animal, roast it whole over a fire, not boil it, and there was to be nothing left over in the morning. The leftovers were to be burned. It would be sometime in the early morning hours when the people would leave Egypt (there were told to be ready and not go to bed) after the angel of death had passed through at midnight.

The people were to eat unleavened bread for the next week from the 15th to the 21st. This week would be the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The 15th and 21st were both to be holy days or Sabbaths (days of rest - not Saturdays). While the Lord decreed they were to eat unleavened bread, they really had no choice that first Passover, as they had no time to leaven it anyhow.

The Passover lamb foreshadowed the Messiah in a number of ways. The lamb was chosen to die, as was the Messiah before the foundation of the world. It was watched for about 3 ½ days to make sure it was perfect. The Messiah had 3 ½ years of public ministry when everyone was watching him, and it was seen that he was without sin. The lamb was roasted over a fire. Fire speaks of God’s judgment. The Messiah would stand in man’s place to be judged. Not a bone of the lamb was to be broken. Not a bone of the Messiah was to be broken.

How the entire elaborate ritual surrounding the Passover meal originated is not told in Scripture, but is it interesting in that, in the way the seder is now conducted, symbolism throughout the meal holds meanings of which even the Jews don’t understand and are completely unaware, so God must have had a hand in the development of the meal ritual.

The ritual starts days in advance with the thorough spring cleaning of the house to remove any bit of leaven that might be around. Pots and pans have to be scoured and boiled to remove any vestige of leaven. Baking and cooking are done. Only after all leaven has been removed, can the matzo or unleavened bread be brought into the house. Leaven is symbolic of sin. Getting rid of all leaven symbolizes the child of God being cleansed by Christ’s blood. The table for a Passover seder (meal) is set with four wine goblets at each place setting. There is also a larger cup set at an empty place at the table which is reserved for Elijah (who is supposed to come and announce the Day of the Lord)

Today the seder is slightly different than it was in Christ’s day, because of the destruction of the temple. In Christ’s day, the foods served at the meal consisted of the roasted lamb, the bitter herbs, the unleavened bread, and other ceremonial foods. These consisted of salt water in which to dip the bitter herbs and the charoseth - a sweet mixture of apples and nuts. It was into this mixture that they dipped the bitter herbs and unleavened bread. There was no dessert at that time, for the lamb was the last solid food that was to be eaten. There were also four cups of red wine mixed with warm water to be drunk at specific times during the meal. They have the following meanings: The first cup is the cup of sanctification. The second cup is the cup of praise. The third is the cup of redemption, blessing, or Elijah, and the fourth is the cup of acceptance.

In general, the seder meal followed this order. At the beginning of the seder, the host or head of the household would recite the kiddush (ritual blessing) over the first cup of wine. This was followed by the ceremonial washing of hands by the host only. This set him apart as the most important person at the table. Then a servant brought in a portable table of food and the first dipping of food took place. This was the raw vegetable, usually lettuce, which was considered a bitter herb. The host dipped it into the salt water and passed it around to all at the table. After this, the food was removed from the table and the host poured the second glass of wine, which was not drunk at this time. The food was removed before eating to raise curiosity, which was reflected in the youngest boy asking some ritual questions such as “Why is this night different from all other nights?“ and some other questions so that the story of the Passover from Abraham to the giving of the law could be related. Then the food was brought back and the host would explain the symbolism of the food. Then they would sing Psalm 113 and 114 and drink the second cup of wine. They all then washed their hands as an act of respect for the unleavened bread. The host would break the bread and say two blessings over it. The first was a prayer of thanksgiving to Him who brings forth the bread, and the second was thanking for the commandment to eat it. The host gave a piece bread dipped in bitter herbs and charoseth to each person. Then the Paschal lamb was eaten. The hands would be washed again. After this the host poured the third cup of wine and they all recited the after dinner blessings. This cup has three names, the cup of blessing as it follows the dinner blessings, the cup of redemption as it would be the cup that represents Christ blood shed for our redemption, and the cup of Elijah as Elijah heralds the coming of the Messiah and one of the after dinner prayers is a prayer for the coming of Elijah. At this point a child was sent to the door to see if Elijah is coming. Then they chanted another blessing for the wine and drank the third cup. After that they recited Psalms 115-118 (in Psalm 118 we find one of the Messianic prophecies. Vs. 21-23.) and drank the fourth cup of wine. The seder ended with a closing song or hymn.