Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Most High God - Daniel 3:8-12


What happened after King Nebuchadnezzar set up the large image and commanded that all bow down in worship before it?

Daniel 3:8-12 (KJV)
8 Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews.
9 They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever.
10 Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, shall fall down and worship the golden image:
11 And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, that he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.
12 There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

What group of people came to the king? Some Chaldeans came to the king. These were some of the highly born members of Babylonian society. Why did they come to the king? They came to accuse the Jews.  With which Jews do you suppose the Chaldeans were having a problem? Likely, the Chaldeans were jealous of the high positions that Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego had been given in the government. Notice the greeting that they used in verse 9. "O king, live forever" seems to be a great way of playing up to the king's grandiose ideas of himself. This may have been a standard greeting that any visitor to the king was required to say. What was the purpose of verses 10 & 11? The Chaldeans were "reminding" the king about his decree. They wanted to make sure that the king understood what the Jewish men were guilty of and what the decreed punishment was. They didn't want the king to find any escape for the Jews. What were the three men guilty of (verse 12)? They had not "regarded" the king. They were not serving the king's gods nor were they worshiping the golden image. Notice how the Chaldeans mixed a little truth in with a lie. The three Jewish men undoubtedly paid much heed to the king, but the Chaldeans didn't want the king to think that there may have been any other reason to disobey than rejection of the king. Notice, too, that Daniel is missing from the indictment by the Chaldeans. Perhaps Daniel was away on government business at the time and the Chaldeans used that absence to attack his friends who probably were not as well known to the king as Daniel. If Daniel had been accused maybe the outcome would have been different.

How will King Nebuchadnezzar react to the Chaldeans' accusation? We will find out next time.


Friday, December 28, 2012

The Difference Between Israel and the Church

I have received much criticism over my understandings of Israel and the Church. I have been accused of "blurring" the lines between them. So, today, I'd like to tackle this topic head on, in the hopes of clarifying what I believe the Bible says.

There are a couple of ways in which the definitions of Israel and the Church can be "blurred." The first comes from doctrine known as "Replacement Theology." According to this theology, Israel has been so rebellious that God is basically done with Israel and the promises given to Israel are now given to the Church. Israel is viewed as having turned her back on God and having rejected God to the point of no return. This philosophy has led to various Christian organizations saying that unbelieving Israel is no longer God's chosen people and that the nation of Israel today should not be given any rights to the land.

But this theology ignores the many Bible passages that say that there will always be a remnant that remains faithful to God and that one day God will restore Israel.

Isaiah 40:1-2 (KJV)
1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins.

Romans 11:26 (KJV)
26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:

The scariest thing about this theology is that if it is true, no one can have any confidence that God will not revoke His promises again. What if the Church, overall, becomes so bad that in its need of punishment God revokes His promises of salvation to the Church? Obviously, this theology is Biblically unsupportable and I do not subscribe to it. This kind of blurring between Israel and the Church is just plain wrong.

 The second way of "blurring" the lines between Israel and the Church is to recognize that Israel is and will forever be the people of God, and that the Church must become a part of Israel in order to participate. This is the type of "blurring" that I do believe in. Let me explain. The opposing camp to Replacement Theology is Dispensationalism. While this theology has some merit, it also fails in that it believes that Israel and the Church are forever separate entities, that each people group has its own separate part in God's plan.

Initially, Israel was God's chosen nation.Then, both the Replacement Theology camp, as well as the Dispensationalists, believe that when God was rejected by the religious leaders of Yeshua's day, the Church became His people. The Dispensationalists differ from the Replacement people in that they believe this situation (a Church age) would continue until the Rapture, the time when the Church would be rescued from the Tribulation. During the Tribulation Israel would again believe as stated in the Bible.

Many in this camp believe that the end of the Church age can be demonstrated in Revelation 3:22. Whether or not this is the case, there is a massive body of prophecy in the Old Testament where the Church is never mentioned. This seems extremely odd in light of the fact that the Church is supposedly so important. Also, the prophecy in the Old Testament, although not complete without Revelation, does cover history from the time of ancient Israel right through to the end of time. See Daniel 12 for example. So the absence of the Church is very telling.

In the Old Testament there is always only Israel.

Jeremiah 31:33 (KJV)
33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Here we see that the New Covenant is not with an entity called the Church, but rather with the house of Israel.

Zechariah 14:16-17 (KJV)
16 And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.
17 And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain.

The Millennial Kingdom, the thousand year reign of Yeshua here on earth, is characterized by all the nations going up to Jerusalem to worship at the Feast of Tabernacles.

Isaiah 2:3 (KJV)
3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

Another picture of the Millennial Kingdom in Isaiah demonstrates that the Word of the Lord and the Law will go forth from Jerusalem and other nations will desire to go up to the house of the God of Jacob (Israel).

These examples run throughout the Old Testament. They are not hard to find. Then there is an interesting passage in Acts that speaks about the Israelites of Moses' day.

Acts 7:38 (KJV)
38 This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:

In this passage the first Christian martyr, Stephen, was giving a history of Israel to the people who were going to stone him.  He called the people of Israel, "the church in the wilderness." Obviously, in the mind of this early Christian, the Church could not be separated from God's people, the people of Israel.

Ephesians 2:12-14 (KJV)
12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;

When we become believers we become a part of the body of Messiah. Jews and Gentiles are made one, not two separate entities. While we remain ethnically Jew or Gentile, as believers we are one, which is the true Israel (all believers in Yeshua). This does not mean that unbelieving Israel is no longer important, but rather has not yet entered into salvation.

Paul describes what had occurred in Romans.

Romans 11:17-19, 23-24 (KJV)
17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;
18 Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.
19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in,
23 And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again.
24 For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?

God is the root. The original olive branches are the Jews. The wild olive branches that are grafted in are the Gentiles, but not all the original branches are broken off, only those in unbelief. Eventually, the original branches will be grafted back in.

It is time for the Church to see Israel as its natural sibling and to be grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the promised people of God. There is a difference between Israel and the Church, but not as much as some believe. Some "blurring" is essential.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Return to Bondage

2 Corinthians 5:17 (KJV)
17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

When we come to salvation in Yeshua, we truly become new creatures. We are filled with the Holy Spirit and the orientation of our lives turns God-ward. Those who have experienced this will testify that there is nothing like it in the entire world. Yet, we still live in the world and have battles to fight, both worldly and spiritual. It is in the spiritual battles where eternity is impacted, where Satan fights most fiercely, and where in some ways we are blinded. It is through the Bible that we receive our sight and our instructions for the battles ahead. Therefore, it is essential that we understand as best as we can those instructions.

We're going to again look at a passage in Scripture that has traditionally been interpreted as a warning to Christians not to attempt going back to Jewish ways. Yet, as we will see, this traditional interpretation does not fit the context of the passage.

Galatians 4:1-11 (KJV)
1 Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all;
2 But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.
3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:
4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
8 Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods.
9 But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?
10 Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.
11 I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.

Verses 1-3 continues an analogy from chapter 3 of Galatians where it is learned that believers in Yeshua are children of Abraham. Prior to salvation, however, these children were in "bondage under the elements of the world." Traditionally, this has been interpreted as being in bondage to all the minutiae of the Laws of Judaism and/or the works based philosophies of paganism. There is a contrasting between law and grace. In other words, now that these Galatians are saved they are under grace and no longer subject to law.

However, this contrast of law and grace goes too far. The meaning of "elements of the world" is somewhat uncertain. While it could refer to aspects of the Oral Law (man made traditions) that the Jews observed that were burdensome and were not to be imposed on these new believers, it cannot refer to the Law of God, since the Law handed down to the Jews through Moses came directly from God, not the world. Also, the majority of believers in Galatia were not Jewish, but Gentile. They would not have been in bondage to any Jewish anything. So, it is likely that the "elements of the world" is referring to some pagan aspect of religion that they would have seen as foundational.

Verses 4-7 speaks about the salvation that these Galatians had experienced. Then in verse 8 Paul asked the question (my paraphrase), "How can you Galatians, who were once unbelievers who served false gods, want to return to those weak and beggarly elements, now that you've been saved?" The tie in between verse 3 and verse 9 are those "elements of the world." In verse 9 Paul called them "weak and beggarly." It should be obvious that these elements cannot refer to the the Law of God since Paul would never refer to the Law of God in that manner.

Romans 7:12 (KJV)
12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.

Verse 10 describes what the "elements of the world" caused the Galatians to do before they were saved and what things they wanted to either go back to or to continue in, i.e. the observing of "days, and months, and times, and years." Bible commentators have been quick again to say that this list is referring to the observance of the Sabbath, the New Moons, and the Feasts of the Lord. But since these are tied into the "elements of the world" Jewish practices cannot be the intended problem since they come directly from the commands of God and not the world. Also the observance of "times" was strictly forbidden in Scripture.

Deuteronomy 18:10 (KJV)
10 There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch,

Although it is unclear about what these particular practices were, they were of obvious pagan origin. They have nothing to do with authentic Jewish practices commanded in the Bible.

Paul then remarked sadly in verse 11 that he was afraid that he had labored in vain over these believers.

When we are saved we are new creatures. This means that we should leave sin behind. Too often, however, we try to retain those sinful things that God hates. This really is the message of Galatians 4:1-11, the leaving behind of sin or the relying on those things that come from tradition, but are contrary to the Word of God. This is what the Galatians were doing. It has nothing to do with putting aside the Law of God in favor of lawlessness. Grace is not the opposite of Law, but its compliment. We are saved only by grace, the Law cannot save us, but God still expects us to be righteous and to follow His commands.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Gospel Found in Genesis 5

I just came across this and was so moved by it that I had to share!

In Genesis 5 we are given the line of descent from Adam down to Noah. Rather than give you the entire chapter I will just list the names and the Hebrew meaning of the names.

Adam (mankind)
Seth (appointed to)
Enos (feeble, frail, mortality)
Cainan (a fixed dwelling place)
Mahalaleel (God who is praised)
Jared (comes down, descend)
Enoch (to instruct, train up)
Methuselah (a man sent forth)
Lamech (to be beaten, smitten, and tortured)
Noah (to bring rest, a quiet peace)

If we put these together we get something like this:

Mankind is appointed to a feeble, frail, mortality in a fixed dwelling place. God who is praised comes down to instruct as a man sent forth to be beaten, smitten and tortured bringing rest, a quiet peace.

Imagine, the Hebrew speakers in the earliest days of mankind's history had access to the Gospel message! Should this really surprise us?

John 3:16 (KJV)
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

If God was willing to suffer and die for a sinful race of people, He definitely would have wanted us to know His plan and to know it as early as possible.

This information came from Good News for Israel's Christmas 2012 newsletter. I did look online and I found this also on a couple of other sites. I knew the meaning for a couple of the names and they are stated correctly. Apparently, though, there are some alternative meanings for some of the names, so if you get ambitious please check them out and let me know what you find! God's blessings!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Being Told to Abstain From Certain Foods

Christian behavior should be characterized by obedience to the Word of God. This seems to be a given. Unfortunately, our world is complex and obedience can be dependent on many different factors. Too often, we analyze situations to the point that we rationalize why we don't have to obey. This is what often caused the Pharisees to violate the higher laws in favor of keeping secondary laws.

In today's Christianity we also have a similar problem, in that, we have a history of tradition and religion that we have bought hook, line, and sinker. It is time to view that tradition and the Word of God from a different perspective.

We're going to look today at another passage in Scripture that has been interpreted in a way that allows Christians to be disobedient to the Word of God. It comes from 1 Timothy 4.

1Timothy 4:1-5

1. Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
2. Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
3. Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.
4. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:
5. For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

In verse 1 we notice that this passage concerns the latter times. While we often associate the "latter times" with those things that will occur at the very end of time, the "latter times" in a way began in the first century. It is speaking about the fact that as time goes on more and more will fall away from the faith. This is what we see in our world today. Many so-called Christian churches are falling under the influence of seducing spirits and the doctrines of devils.

One of the admonitions resulting from listening to seducing spirits is the command to abstain from meats. Most of Christianity has believed that this proves that Christians can now eat anything they want, that the forbidding of eating meats comes from a seducing spirit. I believe this is a misinterpretation. If one understands that the Bible is one book and not two, and that the New Testament cannot contradict the Torah, there must be a better explanation.

This is what I believe 1 Timothy is trying to tell us, that in the latter days new/old religions are going to come along and espouse the abstinence of meats (and other foods) that God created for us to eat. For example, think about how the New Age movement has influenced the idea that vegetarianism is the most healthful lifestyle. But according to 1 Timothy this not an essential way of eating. It is this type of command that 1 Timothy is warning us against. It has nothing to do with the non-food items that God placed off limits to us in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. Pigs are not food (meat) and are not the topic of 1 Timothy.

Verse 5 also tells us that the meat forbidden by these seducing spirits is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer. The unclean meats listed in the Word of God can never become sanctified by the Word of God and prayer. This is contradictory and God does not contradict Himself.

If we want to be obedient to the Word of God we must obey all of it! Let's not buy into the misinterpretations that have allowed disobedience to characterize the majority of Christianity.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Most High God - Daniel 3:1-7


We last left King Nebuchadnezzar grateful for learning his dream and its interpretation. In fact, he moved a little closer to understanding that Daniel's God was powerful. While he recognized Him as the highest of the gods, he wasn't ready to state that God was the only God. Daniel became head of the province of Babylon and his three friends became the administrators under Daniel.

Daniel 3:1-7 (KJV)
1 Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.
2 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.
3 Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together unto the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
4 Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages,
5 That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up:
6 And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.
7 Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of musick, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.

What happened next? King Nebuchadnezzar had an image of gold made that was 60 cubits high (a score is 20) with a breadth of six cubits. He set it up in the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. In feet the measurement of this statue was 90 feet tall and nine feet wide! From where might Nebuchadnezzar have gotten the idea for this statue? Perhaps he was trying to recreate the image that he had seen in his dream, except that the entire statue was made of gold. According to Edward J. Young in The Prophecy of Daniel there is a mound of brick in that area that measures 45 feet long and 20 feet high. The archaeologist that found the structure said that it appeared to be a pedestal for a large statue (Showers, Renald, The Most High God, p. 30). What did Nebuchanezzar do after this (verse 2)? He had all the officials come to the dedication of the image. Did the officials come to the dedication (verse 3)? Yes, they came to the dedication. What does the herald announce in verses 4 &5? All the people were to fall down and worship the image when the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music began to play. According to verse 6 what would happen if the people did not fall down and worship the image? At that very same hour the person(s) would be cast into a burning fiery furnace. So when the music began to play what did the people do (verse 7)? They all fell down and worshiped the image that Nebuchadnezzar set up. What impact did this have on Daniel and his three friends?


Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Further Thought on Hanukkah

How many of you, who know about the history of Hanukkah or read my last post on Hanukkah See here:, cheered for the Jewish underdogs when that little group of freedom fighters were victorious over Antiochus Ephiphanes, his army, and his evil plot to destroy Judaism? It is an incredible account of how God works for His people. We should all give God praise for what He did. We should also be encouraged by the faith and determination of the Maccabee family.

However, it got me thinking. The Seleucid government was trying to impose Hellenism on the Jewish people. This meant that they could no longer practice Judaism. Specifically, they couldn't:

1. Circumcise their sons
2. Observe Shabbat (Saturday worship)
3. Eat kosher (in fact, they were forced to eat "unclean food")
4. Observe the Lord's feasts

For freedom loving people this is an atrocity! No government should impose restrictions on this kind of behavior. Thankfully, here in America, we don't have this problem, at least not yet.

Although we don't have this situation because of high-handed government officials we do have it in the Christian church! What, you say? Think about this. What happens when a person comes to faith in Yeshua? He or she is expected to attend church on Sunday, eat non-kosher food (think of all the potlucks where ham is served), and ignore the feasts. Circumcision for newborn boys is optional.

Hmm! How ironic! The Christian church falls perfectly in line with Antiochus Epiphanes! This should cause us to sit up and take notice! How did evil become good? Have we made an error in interpreting Scripture? What must we do to get back to viewing good as good and evil as evil?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Make Sure Your Tires Are Inflated Properly!

We had a sizable snowfall this past weekend and the season switched from fall to winter in a matter of hours. Many, I know, are happy. The skiers, snowboarders, and sledders all are having visions of glorious fun in the snow. Even I am glad for the moisture that has been so lacking over the last year.

But it's the driving that gives me grief! As I took my son to school on Monday my car at first neatly plowed through the piled up snow. However, when I turned my car around to return home, a woman, who must park as poorly as I do, had to readjust her park job and backed out right in front of me. My car managed to stop, but when I sat there waiting for her to drive back in, my foot was off the gas pedal and the car was not going forward. Oh, no, I knew that was not a good sign. Sure enough, my car didn't want to go forward, even with my application of pressure on the gas pedal. My tires just could not get any traction. I had to back up and then try going forward again. This time my car cooperated and I was on my way. That is until I got to a stop light. At first my car didn't want to stop. Thankfully, I was going slow and with the anti-lock brakes I stopped just before the intersection. Wouldn't you know, though, the car again did not want to go forward right away. Well, I made it home, but I struggled with that car later in the afternoon when I picked my son up and then again when I took him to work.

What did this intelligent woman do about her car troubles? She lamented to her husband just as soon as she saw him. But the intelligent husband knew just what to do. He checked the tires to see if they were properly inflated. I heard him using our air pump, so I knew that my tires must have been low. Later, when I picked up my son from work there were still some slippery patches, but the drive was much better. Thank you, intelligent husband!!!

Many things in life are like this. We have to get enough food in our bodies for energy, enough sleep in order to function, and enough exercise to stay healthy. Are our spiritual lives similar, too? We need to have enough prayer in our life to stay connected to God and enough Bible reading and studying to grow in our faith.. But each of these things can become pointless and dry, which can then lead us to fall away from God if we don't also have the proper filling of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 26:56 (KJV)
56 But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.

Notice that when Yeshua was arrested His disciples became afraid and fled away from Him.

Acts 2:4 (KJV)
4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Acts 2:14 (KJV)
14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:

Yet after the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit the disciples stood up and Peter began preaching. What a change!

Acts 1:8 (KJV)
8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

It is the filling with the Holy Spirit that gives our spiritual life its power. It is what enables us to live our lives in obedience to God. But this filling isn't a once and for all deal. Let us seek to continually be refilled with the Holy Spirit so that our prayer, Bible study, and faith are vibrant and alive. May our spiritual lives be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit so that we are not getting stuck at every intersection and can't seem to move forward!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Reasons to Keep Hanukkah

Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday. At least that's what the majority of Christians have been taught. Consequently, few understand it and even fewer observe it. But this is such a shame, because it commemorates the miraculous working of God in the lives of His people, no less than David slaying Goliath, Joshua and the "battle" at Jericho, or the return of the people to the Land after the Babylonian captivity.

So today I'd like to share five reasons why keeping Hanukkah is important for the Christian. The following list comes from Light in the Darkness: Hanukkah and the Disciples of Yeshua. First Fruits of Zion. Littleton, CO. 2003. pp. 18-19.

1. Did you know that Hanukkah is in the Gospels? 
2. Did you know that Hanukkah is a story of religious persecution?
3. Did you know that Hanukkah is the Festival of the Light of the World?
4. Did you know that Yeshua talked about Hanukkah?
5. Did you know that Hanukkah commemorates the dedication of God's Temple?

Hanukkah is not one of the Biblical feasts of Leviticus 23. However, it is mentioned in John 10:22.

John 10:22-23 (KJV)
22 And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter.
23 And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch.

It was winter in Jerusalem during the feast of dedication (Hanukkah). Yeshua was there in the temple. If Yeshua observed this feast why wouldn't we observe it since we are His disciples?

During the days of the Seleucid reign over Israel, a very wicked man, by the name of Antiochus Ephiphanes, came to power. He was very interested in spreading Hellenism throughout his kingdom. Eventually, he made Torah observance, circumcision, Shabbat (Sabbath) observance, and the sacrificial system illegal. In fact he put up an altar to Zeus in the Temple of God and slaughtered pigs there (the abomination of desolation from Daniel 12:11). Women who had their infant boys circumcised were killed and had their sons hung from their necks. Many Jews accepted Hellenism to save their lives, but a family, the Maccabees, refused to submit to the persecution and started a revolution. Although seriously outnumbered, the Maccabees were victorious. This story is worth knowing and repeating to our future generations.

When the Maccabees retook Jerusalem they needed to cleanse and rededicate the Temple. One of the items that they needed to set up was the menorah. Tradition says that they only had enough oil for one day and it would take eight days to prepare more. Yet, when they lit the menorah it miraculously lasted for the full eight days. No one knows if this was true or not, but this became the basis of the holiday. A special eight branched menorah is lit each night of Hanukkah as a reminder. It has become known as the festival of lights. The menorah has been called "the light of the world". Yeshua called Himself the Light of the World (John 8:12) and drew a connection between the menorah and himself. Why shouldn't this be important to us?

In Mark 13:14 and Matthew 24:15 Yeshua spoke about a coming time of trial for Israel that would look very similar to what had occurred during the days of the Maccabees. Although the time may also depict another yet future time, Yeshua was referring to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D.

Mark 13:14 (KJV)
14 But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains:

Matthew 24:15 (KJV)
15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)

Again Yeshua was drawing connections between the past, the immediate future, and potentially the far future. Shouldn't we understand these things?

The rededication of the Temple was important to the Jewish people. It was important to God. Believers are also called the Temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16). Shouldn't we learn something from this?

Hanukkah is indeed a Jewish holiday, but it is so much more than that. It mattered to Yeshua and it should matter to us. Hanukkah is also a holiday for the Christian.

See also:

Friday, December 7, 2012

All Israel Will Be Saved


God's master plan encompasses all of human history. Initially, Israel was to be a light unto the Gentiles. But after Yeshua's death and resurrection the roles were somewhat reversed. It is now the responsibility of the Gentiles to provoke Israel to jealousy.

Romans 11:25 (KJV)
25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.

First off it is important to notice that Paul has given the Gentiles a warning, that they are not to think themselves wise. God was the one who had placed the blindness and allowed the Gentiles to come in. Any thinking on the Gentiles' part that their understanding and acceptance of Messiah is due to their being better than the Jews is arrogance and is sinful.

Secondly, the blindness that has been placed over Israel's eyes will last "until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in." But what does this mean? Many have believed that it refers to a specific number of Gentiles that are added to the Kingdom of God. Others have believed that it refers more to the quality or maturity level of the Gentiles. This is probably more likely. But the determining factor seems to be the provoking of Israel. When this is complete the blindness will be removed.

What happens when the blindness is gone?

Romans 11:26 (KJV)
26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:

All Israel will be saved! At some point in time the nation of Israel as a whole will realize that Yeshua is indeed her Messiah. She will accept Him and He will deliver her from her sin.

Zechariah 12:10 (KJV)
10 And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.

This will be a glorious time!

But a question remains. By God's placing a blindness on the Jews has He allowed countless Jews to die in their sin, condemning them to Hell? The answer is "no". Throughout history God has accepted any Jew or Gentile who has come to Him in faith. Salvation has always been available by faith to anyone who sought the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The truth of the matter is that most human beings reject Yeshua. But there has always been a remnant of true believers throughout history. When Paul spoke about all Israel being saved he was referring to the remnant of Israel that survives the tribulation and then as a nation is saved.

But what an amazing thought. Human beings who are so fallen, can through faith participate in the Kingdom of God, whether they are Jewish or Gentile. Praise God!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Role of Israel in the Salvation of the Gentile


Regarding the relationship between Jews and Christians at this point in history, it is the job of the Christian to "provoke Israel to jealousy." This comes from Romans 11:11. But how did this occur? If the Jews are the chosen people of God what happened to cause the situation to become turned on its head?

Deuteronomy 7:7-9 (KJV)
7 The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people:
8 But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
9 Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;

Deuteronomy 7 confirms that Israel has been chosen by God, not because Israel was better than any other nation, but because of the oath that He had sworn to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Isaiah 49:3,6 (KJV)
3 And said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.
6 And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.

The verses of Isaiah show that God would be glorified by Israel's raising up the tribes of Jacob, restoring the preserved of Israel, and being a light to the Gentiles. Salvation is the message of verse 6 and clearly God's intent was to bring salvation to the entire world, not just the Jews.

So the job that God had given the Jews was to be as a light to the Gentiles. They were to cause the Gentiles to become curious about God and to desire to enter into relationship with God. Did they do their job? Actually they were pretty successful. Huge numbers of Gentiles came into Judaism just before the coming of Yeshua. (Baron, Salo. "Population." Encyclopaedia Judaica 13 and Social and Religious History of the Jews.)

But when Yeshua came as Messiah most of the Jews did not accept Him as such. In Mark 11 the religious leaders of the Jews came to Yeshua and asked Him by whose authority did He do the things that He had been doing (cleansing the temple for one).

Mark 11:29-33 (KJV)
29 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I will also ask of you one question, and answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things.
30 The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? answer me.
31 And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then did ye not believe him?
32 But if we shall say, Of men; they feared the people: for all men counted John, that he was a prophet indeed.
33 And they answered and said unto Jesus, We cannot tell. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.

Mark 12:10 (KJV)
10 And have ye not read this scripture; The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner:

After this interchange Yeshua stated that the religious leaders representing Israel had rejected Him as their Messiah.

 From this point on salvation was extended to the Gentiles. This is where Romans 11:25 comes in.

Romans 11:25 (KJV)
25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.

Although all of the original disciples of Yeshua were Jewish, Israel's rejection of Messiah resulted in a "blindness" being placed on the Jews. But it wasn't until Peter's vision in Acts 10 (See here:) that the disciples understood that  salvation was  now open to the Gentiles. Paul was the apostle who first brought the message to the Gentiles of the Mediterranean world. It caught on. Within three centuries Christianity grew to become the religion of the Roman Empire. It had also become predominantly Gentile.

The plan of God was for Israel to be a light to the Gentiles. After Messiah's rejection salvation was overwhelmingly in the hands of the Gentiles who are now to provoke Israel to jealousy. This is the current situation. Will the "blindness" on Israel continue? How long will it continue? And what will happen after that? Stay tuned for the next post!


Monday, December 3, 2012

The Gentile's Role in Israel's Salvation

In our women's Bible study this weekend one woman asked, "We have our work cut out for us, don't we?" She said this in regard to some passages in the book of Romans. Let's examine one of them today and  see what work my friend was talking about.

Romans 11:7-11 (KJV)
7 What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded
8 (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day.
9 And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them:
10 Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway.
11 I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.

In verse 7 we see that Israel has not obtained what she sought. What is it that Israel is after? The end of the verse gives us a clue. "The election has obtained it, but the rest were blinded." This is referring to eternal salvation. Those of us who have received forgiveness of our sins through grace by faith are the election. Those who have not are blinded. This means that they are unable to understand the gospel and virtually have a curtain covering their eyes. They cannot perceive the truth. Most of Israel is in this condition as well as most of the world. Verse 8 goes on to describe this blindness as a stupor that exists until "this day". This condition existed during the days of Paul, but actually continues to our current modern day. In verses 8-10 Paul tells us that these verses come from the Old Testament. Isaiah 6:8-10 and Psalm 69:22-23 are the references.

Isaiah 6:8-10 (KJV)
8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
9 And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.
10 Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.

Psalm 69:22-23 (KJV)
22 Let their table become a snare before them: and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap.
23 Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not; and make their loins continually to shake.

Does Israel's blindness or stumbling mean that they fall permanently? Are the blessings of eternal salvation removed from the Jews? Paul's answer in verse 11 is, "God forbid!" Verse 11 states that through the fall of the Jews salvation came to the Gentiles. For those of us who are Gentiles it was this stumbling that made our salvation possible. We should be so grateful for this plan of God!

It is at the end of verse 11 where we find out what the Gentiles' job is now, since we have had salvation extended to us. We are to "provoke Israel to jealousy". What does this mean? In some way we are to cause the Jews to become curious and jealous about our relationship to God so that they will desire to enter into the same kind of relationship that we have. But how do we do this? Judaism sees Christianity as a false religion begun by a false prophet. Because of this understanding Jews rightfully reject Christianity (See here:). Somehow we must convey that Christianity is not a false religion and it was not a NEW religion begun by a false prophet. Yeshua is the Messiah of Judaism. Is it possible that we as Christians need to show Judaism how to be God's people, that we obey the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob more completely than what they are doing? I believe that large numbers of Jews will not come to faith until we Christians are obeying Torah better than the Jews themselves. In this way we will provoke them to jealousy. They will look at our obedience, see our salvation, and will say something like, "Hey, that salvation belonged to us, we want it back!"

Next, we'll discuss the plan of God and how our job of "provokers to jealousy" fits in.


Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Most High God - Daniel 2:46-49


Daniel told the king's dream to King Nebuchadnezzar and its interpretation. What would Nebuchanezzar make of it and what would be his response?

Daniel 2:46-49 (KJV)
46 Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odours unto him.
47 The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret.
48 Then the king made Daniel a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon.
49 Then Daniel requested of the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, over the affairs of the province of Babylon: but Daniel sat in the gate of the king.

What did the king do after hearing the dream (verse 46)? King Nebuchadnezzar fell down in front of Daniel and worshiped Daniel as the representative of Daniel's God. What did the king command? He ordered that an offering be made unto him. What does the king acknowledge in verse 47? Nebuchadnezzar tells Daniel that Daniel's God is "a God of gods", a "Lord of kings", and a revealer of secrets. Notice that although King Nebuchadnezzar is acknowledging that God is the greatest god, he is not the only God. According to verse 48 what did the king do for Daniel? Nebuchadnezzar made Daniel a great man. He gave him many gifts. He made him the ruler over the whole province of Babylon (the home district, not some far out unimportant location!). He also made Daniel the chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon. Wow! What did Daniel request in verse 49? Daniel asked the king to set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon. By doing this what was Daniel was able to do? With his friends taking care of a lot of the administrative duties in Babylon, Daniel was able to sit in the gate of the king. In other words, Daniel was able to work right in the heart of Babylon, where the king was.

What can we learn from this section of Daniel? God can take an obedient servant and do mighty works through him or her. Are you being obedient to God? Do you follow the Bible in how He wants you to live? God always rewards obedience, either here on earth, or one day in eternity! Has God placed you in an important place? What work do you have to do? Is He blessing you? How should you respond?


Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Amazing Love of God!

After Adam and Eve disobeyed God, He could have wiped humanity off the face of the planet and begun again with another couple, but He didn't. Nor did He completely destroy mankind when the heart of mankind was revealed to be continuously evil. He sent a flood, but He saved eight people. God also threatened to kill all the Israelites because of their sin during the time of the Exodus from Egypt, but He didn't because Moses interceded on the people's behalf.

Amazingly, God still loved mankind!

Think about it!

But mankind consists only of sinners. Each one of us is guilty. Each one of us has committed sin and each one has broken the law of God. There is a penalty and it must be paid by each individual that is guilty of sin. That punishment is death and eternity in Hell. And we are helpless to do anything about it. We are hopeless and without remedy.

Yet, God still loved mankind!

Think about it!

There was only one way in which the penalty for sin committed could be satisfied and yet save mankind from death and Hell. God was the only one who could provide the remedy. Only a holy sinless human being could die on behalf of all mankind and thereby pay each person's penalty. God himself would provide the means of salvation. Yeshua, God, was sent to earth to be born as a human being, yet would never sin so that He could pay the penalty for our sin. He willingly died on the cross, taking our sins upon Himself. He paid the penalty, paid our fine!

Yes, God still loved mankind!

Think about it!

Mankind now has the ability to claim that the penalty for sin has been paid. Each one of us, by faith in the work that Yeshua did on the cross, can claim that their penalty has been paid in full. Each one that does so will never have to pay for sin by dying spiritually and spending an eternity in Hell.

Is there any doubt, that God still loves mankind?

Think about it!

And take advantage of the free gift of salvation that God has made available by His own sacrifice. Repent of your sins and trust in Yeshua's death and resurrection. Make Him Lord of your life.

Know that God still loves you!

Think about it!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Is There an Idol in Your Worship? Part 2


Yesterday we saw how the Jews have had issues with syncretism, the blending of pure worship with the impure, throughout their history. But this problem is not confined to the Jews. All people have trouble staying within the confines of what is acceptable to God and certainly Christianity is not an exception. Our worship throughout our own history has been tainted with the impure.

Let's look at several examples:

The Christianity that many people practice today is rife with New Age/Hinduism. This is probably most evident in what is called Contemplative Spirituality as expressed in Contemplative Prayer.  A Christian word or phrase is repeated over and over again until the mind is emptied of any other thought. At this point it is believed that God's voice can be most clearly heard. Unfortunately, prayer was meant to be a communication with God involving an active mind. Emptying the mind (or centering) allows demonic voices to be heard rather than God. Contemplative Prayer is also used in the walking of labyrinths (somewhat like a maze, but has only one direction to follow).

Mysticism in Christianity is today highly desired. Many of the so-called "desert" fathers and contemplative orders in Catholicism in history were engaged in mystical (occult) practices. Some of Christianity's favorites are mystics such as: Bernard of Clairvaux, Theresa of Avila, Ignatius Loyola, St. John of the Cross, Thomas Merton, and Henri Nouwen.

Another practice that has crept into the Church is yoga. Although its practitioners claim that it has been "Christianized", Hindu yoga masters say that that is impossible, since the positions and moves are all geared to moving kundalini energy (serpent power) through the body.

A new kid on the block is Chrislam, the blending of Christianity with Islam. But just as with Hinduism, Islam has nothing in common with Christianity. The blending of these false religions with Christianity does nothing but destroy the truth of Christianity.

But there is more! Even more subtle than these are some of the most accepted practices in Christianity. Almost every Christian celebrates Christmas and Easter. These have become the defining holidays of Christianity. But are they even proscribed by Scripture? The answer is "no". Does this mean that the celebration of Yeshua's birth and resurrection should not be done? The answer to this question is a little more complicated. Since there is no command not to celebrate them, technically, Christians are at liberty to make up their own minds about whether to celebrate or not (See Romans 14:5). However,  there are problems with the days that have been selected as well as the practices involved.

Yeshua was not born on December 25. See here: The date was already a pagan holiday. Saturnalia was a Roman holiday celebrated from December 17-25. It was a week long celebration of lawlessness. When Christianity became an accepted and eventually primary religion of the land the leaders wanted to encourage the pagans to come into Christianity. By keeping their "beloved" holiday many of the pagans were then willing to convert. Similar circumstances brought in the traditions that Christians so love today, like having a Christmas tree in the home, mistletoe, gift giving, and Santa Claus. All of these come from pagan traditions.

Easter is also problematic because Yeshua was resurrected on the Feast of First \Fruits, which falls right after Passover. Again, in the 4th Century the date was officially moved to the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs after March 20th. This means that Easter and the Feast of First Fruits rarely falls on the same day. The name Easter refers to a pagan goddess (Ishtar) and again the traditions surrounding the Christian celebration (sunrise service, bunnies, and eggs) all come from pagan sources.

Co-opting pagan holidays does not make them Christian. Just like the blending of Christianity with Hinduism, blending Christianity with paganism only destroys Christianity. It is a form of IDOLATRY.

God has given us in His Word the ways that He wants us to worship Him. He has given us the holidays that we are to celebrate. They are listed in Leviticus 23. We don't need to add to them. There is richness and profound meaning to be had if we would but listen to His Word and embrace His feasts. This is the only way that we can be assured of staying within the confines of what is acceptable to God. Why would a Christian want anything else? Why would we want to practice syncretism?

(For further information read In Defense of Truth, Replacement Theology, and Messianic Guide to the Epistles by Ray Looker.)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Is There an Idol in Your Worship?

Exodus 20:3 (KJV)
3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

The first of the Ten Commandments is the basis of all the commandments of God. Yet in spite of its simplicity human beings have an incredibly difficult time keeping it. While we are too "sophisticated" in this day and age to bow down to a hunk of rock or metal, most would readily agree that we have competing interests in our hearts that tower in importance and threaten our love and worship of our God. We can all probably point to the many sermons that we have heard that delineate the danger of the love of money, self-centeredness, and any other worship of toys, property, or people that comes before God.

But there is a more subtle danger out there that is often overlooked by the devout Christian. That danger is called "syncretism", the blending of pure and holy worship of God with the impure and false worship of anything else. Syncretism is dangerous because we often don't realize that we are engaging in it. Human beings have been guilty of syncretism from day one.

Here are some examples:

Genesis 4:3,5,7 (KJV)
3 And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD.
5 But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.
7 If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.

Right away in Genesis God had apparently set out the requirements for an acceptable offering. When Cain decided to go his own way and offered something of his own choosing, God did not accept it. God told Cain that he had not done well and that sin lay at his door.

Exodus 32:1-6 (KJV)
1 And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.
2 And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me.
3 And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron.
4 And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
5 And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the LORD.
6 And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.

In Exodus, while God was giving the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai, the people became restless and weren't sure that they were going to see Moses again. So what did they do? They complained to Aaron, Moses' brother and high priest, and as a result, Aaron fashioned a golden calf which the people then worshiped and offered to it burnt offerings and peace offerings. Although this looks like the people were worshiping false gods this was not completely the case. Verses 4 and 5 point to the golden calf as being the representation of the "gods" that brought the people out of Egypt (which is actually the true God). Aaron also stated that the next day would be a feast to the Lord! The most insulting aspect of this is how Aaron used LORD, which in the Hebrew is God's four letter name as the God to whom the feast was directed.

When Moses returned to find the people participating in this idolatry, he threw down the tablets of the Law and broke them. He ended up by having the golden calf melted down, mixed with water, and drunk by the people.

Then in the later history of Israel we find many references to "groves" and "high places". These were places where the idolatrous people around Israel would worship their gods. Israel often joined in, but a few of the good kings of Judah (the southern kingdom of the Jewish people) would remove these high places and receive commendation from the Lord.

2 Chronicles 14:3 (KJV)
3 For he took away the altars of the strange gods, and the high places, and brake down the images, and cut down the groves:

These are just some of the many examples that can be found throughout the Bible. In fact, it seems more the norm for the Jewish people to have mixed their pure worship of God with the unholy than for the pure to exist alone as God wanted it.

We even find syncretism in the days leading up to the time of Yeshua.

During the time of the Greek Empire begun by Alexander the Great and continued through the Seleucid Kingdom the influence of Hellenism (Greek culture, etc.) was felt keenly by the Jews. The country was very divided. Many had fallen in love with Hellenism and wanted to be as Greek as possible. Greek gymnasiums sprang up in Jewish towns, boys were left uncircumcised or altered to appear uncircumcised (!), and even the Hebrew language fell into disuse. All the while the nation continued to observe Judaism, at least nominally. However, the rest of the nation was very alarmed at the influence of Hellenism and wanted to shun it. During the days of Antiochus Epiphanes the Maccabees revolted and ended up by wresting control of the country from the Seleucids.

But syncretism was not banished for good. It continues to this day. However, before we cast too many stones in the direction of the Jews we need to look at our own Christian history and practices. In the next post we'll examine where we have also fallen into syncretism and are maybe not even aware of it. Stay tuned.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Finding the Good Part

I am exhausted and it's my own fault!

My oldest daughter, her husband, and baby daughter were coming for a visit over Thanksgiving. It had been a couple of months since we had seen them. My youngest daughter, her husband, and baby son were also coming for our Thanksgiving meal, although they live close by and we see them relatively often. This made for a hugely exciting, wonderful, anticipated time of family.

So for three days before Thanksgiving I cleaned and prepared for the holiday. However, life didn't stop because of the upcoming event, so I had all the normal busyness besides. Then, because of some personal issues before hand, I was already in a stressed state. By the time Thanksgiving came I was tired. Well, having two six month old babies in the house, lots of food to cook (Thank goodness my husband does about half the cooking in our house!), math to help my son with, and all the excitement (I took zillions of pictures), I never seemed to fully relax and truly enjoy the wonderful family time that was all around me. We even got to watch some fun TV, play a couple of games, and watch the two little cousins interact with each other. Yet, I remained on edge.

Why does this happen? I was reminded of Mary and Martha and how in Luke, Yeshua gave some loving advice to Martha.

Luke 10:40-42 (KJV)
40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Mary had chosen to sit at Yeshua's feet while Martha had been so consumed with providing hospitality that she hadn't enjoyed being around Yeshua. This was so like my being consumed with all the stresses in my life that I couldn't seem to enjoy my family. I even saw it happen and couldn't seem to disengage from the extraneous details. I, too, needed to learn how to choose the good part!

Obviously, I am a work in process. One day I hope to be more like Mary.  In the meantime, I need to make that a conscious action rather than letting my circumstances determine what I'm focused on. And God will help if I focus on Him.

Lastly, I thought about how Shabbat (Sabbath) crept in on Friday night, continued on Saturday, and then crept out on Saturday night oh, so quietly. God had been there reminding me of His presence and His love for me despite my Martha-ness.

Love your family, enjoy each loved one, and embrace the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Choose the good part!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Peter's Acts 10 Vision

The proof that the food laws of the Old Testament have been done away with, is found in the tenth chapter of Acts. At least, that's what the vast majority of Christianity believes. But is this truly the case? We are going to examine this issue today and I just ask that my readers have an open mind, set all assumptions aside for the moment, and go with me on this journey.

Acts 10:1-8 (KJV)
1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,
2 A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.
3 He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius.
4 And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.
5 And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter:
6 He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.
7 And when the angel which spake unto Cornelius was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually;
8 And when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa.

Chapter 10 begins by introducing a man by the name of Cornelius. He was a centurion in the Roman army and lived in Caesarea. According to verse 2 he was a God-fearer that gave alms to the people and prayed to God. A God-fearer was an individual that followed the God of the Jews, but had not gone through ritual conversion. Since ritual conversion for men included circumcision, many more women actually converted than men. I can understand this! It also makes mention that all his household apparently were of like mind.

At the ninth hour of the day (3:00 p.m.) Cornelius had a vision. Why was the time mentioned? At the ninth hour of the day all the Jews were engaged in prayer. This speaks of Cornelius' devotion to Judaism. In the vision an angel appeared to Cornelius. God had noted Cornelius's prayers and alms. The angel then gave Cornelius some instructions. He was to send to Joppa for Simon Peter, who was lodging with Simon the tanner at the sea side.  Peter would give him further instructions.

When the angel left, Cornelius sent two servants and a soldier to Joppa.

Acts 10:9-16 (KJV)
9 On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour:
10 And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance,
11 And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth:
12 Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
13 And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.
14 But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.
15 And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.
16 This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.

Meanwhile, as the party neared the city of Joppa, Peter had gone up onto the housetop to pray. Again, the time is mentioned. It was the sixth hour (noon). Not surprisingly, he became very hungry, but apparently, the food was not quite ready. He fell into a trance and saw a vision. Heaven opened up and a sheet like vessel descended down to him. In the sheet were all kinds of animals. A voice told Peter to "Rise, kill, and eat." But Peter's response was a refusal. He went on to say that he had never eaten anything that was common or unclean. Peter was basically saying that he had always followed the food laws of Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. The voice spoke a second time telling Peter that what God had cleansed, Peter was not to call common. The voice commanded again and then the vessel went back into heaven.

Acts 10:17-23 (KJV)
17 Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made enquiry for Simon's house, and stood before the gate,
18 And called, and asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there.
19 While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee.
20 Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.
21 Then Peter went down to the men which were sent unto him from Cornelius; and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what is the cause wherefore ye are come?
22 And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee.
23 Then called he them in, and lodged them. And on the morrow Peter went away with them, and certain brethren from Joppa accompanied him.

According to verse 17 Peter was confused about what the vision meant. As he was thinking this, the men from Caesarea arrived. They asked for Peter. Again in verse 19 Peter was still thinking about the vision, but the Spirit told him that three men were at the door seeking him. Peter was to go with the men doubting nothing, because God had sent them.

Peter went down to the men and asked what they wanted. They explained and then Peter brought the men into the house and lodged them. (Whoa! Wasn't it considered unlawful for Peter to do this?) On the next day Peter actually went with the men back to Caesarea with some of the brethren from Joppa. (Whoa, again! Even though Peter had been instructed by God to go with these men, wasn't that unlawful?)

According to the written Word of God there is no law that prevented Peter from lodging the Gentile men or from traveling with them. It was only in Jewish tradition where this was found as an unacceptable practice.

Acts 10:24-29 (KJV)
24 And the morrow after they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius waited for them, and had called together his kinsmen and near friends.
25 And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him.
26 But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.
27 And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together.
28 And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.
29 Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me?

Back in Caesarea Cornelius had gathered his kinsmen and close friends together to wait for Peter's arrival. When Peter entered, Cornelius fell down and worshiped him. Peter wouldn't allow this. He mentioned the fact that it was unlawful (but only according to Jewish tradition) for Peter, a Jew, to come into the house of a Gentile. He clearly stated that God had told him not to call any man common or unclean. So Peter had traveled with the men and he then asked what Cornelius had wanted.

This is the first time that Peter stated his understanding of the vision. It is about not calling any man common or unclean. Three Gentile men stood at the door. God gave Peter the vision that allowed Peter to change his thinking so that he would go with the men. This is the beginning of the Jews understanding that the Gospel message was not exclusively for the Jews, but also for the Gentiles. If Peter had not had the vision he would never have gone to see Cornelius. God had to intervene to make it happen.

Verses 30-33 explain Cornelius' experience and how he came to invite Peter to his house. Everyone gathered wanted to hear Peter speak.

Acts 10:34-35 (KJV)
34 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.

As Peter began to speak he again stated the meaning of the vision. God is no respecter of persons. He accepts anyone who fears Him and works righteousness. Peter then went on give the Gospel message in verses 36-43.

Acts 10:44-48 (KJV)
44 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.
45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.
46 For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter,
47 Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?
48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.

While Peter was speaking the Holy Ghost fell on the people in Cornelius' house. The Jews that Peter had brought with him were astonished because the Gentiles were receiving the Holy Ghost just as the Jewish believers had. They even spoke in tongues and magnified God. In verse 47 Peter offered them baptism. They were baptized in verse 48 and then Peter tarried in Caesarea for certain days.

Acts 11:1-3 (KJV)
1 And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God.
2 And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him,
3 Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.

When the apostles and brethren in Judea heard about the incident they confronted Peter. Their concern was that Peter had gone into a Gentile's home and had eaten with Gentiles.

Since Cornelius was a God-fearer and observed Judaism, the food was not likely to be a problem. He undoubtedly followed the food laws himself. From the Jerusalem elders' own words it is evident that the problem was not what Peter was eating, but rather the simple fact that Peter had gone to be with Gentiles.

Verses 4-16 repeat Peter's experience at Cornelius' house.

Acts 11:17-18 (KJV)
17 Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?
18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.

In verse 17 Peter ended his speech. In verse 18 the elders said nothing further and they glorified God and concluded that God had granted repentance unto eternal life to the Gentiles just as He had the Jews.

If the abolition of the food laws was the point in this whole account doesn't it seem strange that it is never mentioned? That would have been just as important to the Jerusalem apostles and brethren as the Gentile inclusion issue. But even as the elders were confronting Peter,  nothing is said. The absence of evidence is overwhelming. Yet, we hear over and over again about how Peter's vision was about the accepting of Gentiles into the kingdom of God. Why read something else into this narrative when it is so plainly described?

It is my belief that Christianity has accepted this proof not so much because of Scriptural evidence, but because of our own traditions and assumptions. Close reading of the passage reveals its true meaning. Isn't it possible that the Christianity we've been handed could be mistaken on this point?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Can an Abomination Be Anything Else?

As I was reading Scripture this morning I began thinking about the choice of words used in the King James Bible. One of those good old "King James" words is "abomination". It is colorful! It even sounds like something bad! But it just isn't a word that is used much today. From Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, "abomination" means:


1. Extreme hatred; detestation.
2. The object of detestation, a common signification in scripture.
The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord. Prov.xv.
3. Hence, defilement, pollution, in a physical sense, or evil doctrines and practices, which are moral defilements, idols and idolatry, are called abominations. The Jews were an abomination to the Egyptians; and the sacred animals of the Egyptians were an abomination to the Jews. The Roman army is called the abomination of desolation. Mat. 24:13. In short, whatever is an object of extreme hatred, is called an abomination.

"Extreme hatred" does sum it up pretty well. While human beings can have abominations, as shown above, Scripture usually uses the word in describing those things that God really, really hates. Doing a study of those things that God hates could be quite an eye opening experience. Do believers really want to know? I found the following list in the book of Proverbs.

Proverbs 6:16-19 (KJV)
16 These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,
19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.

This is a good representation of many of the things that God finds detestable or abominable. Pride, lying, murder, wicked imaginations, doing evil, being a false witness, and sowing discord make up this list. But these things are easy for the believer to understand. These are obviously wrong and sinful. Likewise, the believer knows that God will always find these things abominable. Sin will always be sin. There should be agreement that what God has called an abomination can never be anything but an abomination. This is a logical and reasonable statement based on the fact the God never changes.

Hebrews 13:8 (KJV)
8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

But what about some of the other things that God has said are abominations?

Leviticus 11:10 (KJV)
10 And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you:

Leviticus 11:13 (KJV)
13 And these are they which ye shall have in abomination among the fowls; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the ospray,

Leviticus 11:23 (KJV)
23 But all other flying creeping things, which have four feet, shall be an abomination unto you.

Leviticus 11:43 (KJV)
43 Ye shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creepeth, neither shall ye make yourselves unclean with them, that ye should be defiled thereby.

Deuteronomy 14:3 (KJV)
3 Thou shalt not eat any abominable thing.

All of these verses refer to commands that God had given to His people regarding food.  He calls them abominations. Christians traditionally believe that Yeshua's death and resurrection changed the status of these so-called foods, that now believers can eat them. But how does God change something He hates into something that He doesn't hate?

Isaiah 65:2-4 (KJV)
2 I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts;
3 A people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face; that sacrificeth in gardens, and burneth incense upon altars of brick;
4 Which remain among the graves, and lodge in the monuments, which eat swine's flesh, and broth of abominable things is in their vessels;

In this passage God is speaking. In verse 2 He calls the people rebellious. He says they walk in a way that is not good. Verses 3 and 4 list those things that they do that provoke God to anger. One of the ways is by eating swine's flesh.

Isaiah 66:3 (KJV)
3 He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog's neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine's blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations.

The abominations listed here are slaying a man, cutting off a dog's neck, blessing an idol, and offering swine's blood. Again, the Lord says that they have chosen their own way and their soul delights in their abominations.

This is difficult for most Christians to understand. The prohibition of eating ham, shrimp, and other things doesn't make much sense. But if God has said that eating certain things are abominable to Him we need to understand it and obey. He will never change and He will never call it anything but an abomination. If believers want to be pleasing to God we need to look beyond traditions and Scripture interpretation that undermines the truth of God's Word and follow what it truly says.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Impossible Proof of Mark Chaper 7

The vast majority of Christianity believes that the food laws of Leviticus 11 are no longer applicable. One of the Scripture passages used to support this position comes from Mark 7, a passage where Yeshua himself seems to declare that all foods are clean. But is this the case? And if this is the case, doesn't this cause a theological problem?

Mark 7:1-9 (KJV)
1 Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem.
2 And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault.
3 For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders.
4 And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables.
5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?
6 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.
7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.
9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.

This passage is an example of one of the many times where the religious leaders came to Yeshua in an attempt to discredit Him by convincing the people that He was a false prophet that taught contrary to The Law. In this particular case Pharisees (representatives of a strict sect of Judaism) and scribes (copyists, editors, or teachers of authority that came to be called lawyers) came to Yeshua from Jerusalem. That they came from Jerusalem is a pertinent point in that customs and traditions varied in the differing areas of the country. People from Jerusalem were considered to be the "high society" of the nation whereas those from Galilee were considered "hicks". Verse 2 relates that the problem these men had with Yeshua had to do with the fact that some of the disciples ate bread with unwashed hands.

The fault finders go on to say that the Pharisees and ALL the Jews washed their hands before eating because this was a tradition of the elders.This statement is not totally accurate. Not all Jews held to this tradition. The Jews in Galilee were much less likely to wash their hands than the Jews in Jerusalem ( However, the statement is true in that the practice of washing hands before eating is a tradition. There is no law regarding this in The Torah.

In verse 4 these fault finders explain that Jews coming from the market would wash their hands before eating. Again, this hand washing is not proscribed in the Bible, but is influenced by Leviticus 11:32-38 where it describes how inanimate objects can become "unclean." Some Jews believed that by being in the market it was possible to pick up some "uncleanness" that needed to be washed away, just like when a carcase fell on a cup or pot that would have to be washed to be made "clean."

It is also important to note that the disciples were eating bread, a kosher food. This will come to play as this discussion continues.

The answer Yeshua gave to the religious leaders begins in verse 6. He called his opponents "hypocrites" because they gave God lip service, but their hearts were far from God. He further explained that these religious leaders were teaching tradition as if it were The Law of God, and in many cases they then violated The Law in order to fulfill their man-made traditions (verses 7-9).

In verses 10-13 Yeshua gave an example of how the religious leaders were setting aside The Law of God by their traditions and thereby making "The Word of God of none effect."

Mark 7:14-15 (KJV)
14 And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand:
15 There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.

Mark 7:21-23 (KJV) 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:
23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

In verse 14 Yeshua began to teach the people. The Pharisees complained that without washing their hands, the disciples could have become "unclean" by eating something that was "unclean". Since they were eating bread, which is kosher, they weren't talking about some "unclean" food entering into the disciples' bodies. Rather the concern was that they picked up something "unclean" on their hands. While washing their hands might be a good tradition it was not The Law and shouldn't have been treated as such. Yeshua brought the people's attention away from what the Pharisees were stressing and began talking about the weightier things of The Law that come from within a man that truly defile (verses 21-23).

Verse 19 could be considered as a summary of Yeshua's teaching.

Mark 7:19 (KJV)
19 Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?

This verse says that food taken into the body, after removing all the nutrients, leaves the body as waste. (The word translated "meat" means food in general, not meat specifically.) Then the end of Mark 7:19 says that this process "purges all meats." Traditional Christianity has determined that "purging" means to "purify" or "make clean". While these are acceptable meanings of "purge", it cannot mean that in this verse.

Deuteronomy 23:12-14 (KJV)
12 Thou shalt have a place also without the camp, whither thou shalt go forth abroad:
13 And thou shalt have a paddle upon thy weapon; and it shall be, when thou wilt ease thyself abroad, thou shalt dig therewith, and shalt turn back and cover that which cometh from thee:
14 For the LORD thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy: that he see no unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee.

This passage from Deuteronomy makes it clear that excrement was viewed as "unclean". So could this normal bodily function that is viewed as "unclean" somehow make something that had been eaten "clean"? Obviously, not. Therefore, the meaning of "purge" cannot mean "make clean". Rather, the meaning of "purge" that is most logical is "to remove". Yeshua's point here was that an unclean particle picked up by eating goes into the body and then is removed from the body and can no longer defile, unlike the wicked heart conditions listed that stay in the body and continue to defile. Remember, that non-kosher food was not the concern here, but rather the "uncleanness" that was picked up on the hands.

This passage, therefore, cannot be used to prove that the food laws are no longer applicable. However, other translations than KJV actually exacerbate the misunderstanding.

Mark 7:19 (NIV)
19 For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean.")

In the NIV, as an example, there is an extra comment made at the end of this verse. This is the comment that really seals the idea in readers' minds that this passage was about Yeshua making all foods clean. This is in contradiction to the rest of the passage and is not in all versions of Scripture. In The English Aramaic New Testament Andrew Roth states that none of the earliest Greek or Aramaic manuscripts contain this last phrase (Netzari Press LLC. 2008. Mark 7:19 footnote #27, p 108). The inserted comment must be an alteration of the text and the NIV and other versions should not have included this in their translations.

Some reading this blog will still insist that this passage is teaching that all foods are now clean. Unfortunately, that creates a problem. Yeshua had to have obeyed the whole Law in order for Him to be an acceptable sacrifice for sin. Obviously, He never ate anything that wasn't kosher. Yet, according to traditional Christianity He declared all foods clean even before He had died on the cross. If it was Yeshua's death and resurrection that "changed" The Law, it couldn't have been changed before His death. If Yeshua so declared it, He was then in violation of the Law and again could not have then saved anyone from sin. It comes back to the fact that "In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean" must be a spurious addition to the text and should be disregarded. This passage should no longer be used as a proof text regarding the abolition of the food laws.