Born Again vs Reborn vs Convert

Track with me on my thought process…

(John 3:3) “I tell you the truth, unless a man is Born Again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
(Matthew 18:3) “Except [you] be converted and become as little children, [you] shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

Last week I was reading in the OT about Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, in Exodus 18:12. Jethro “took a burnt offering”. The commentary enlightens us that the burnt offering was related to him converting. It said in the commentary that he was “spiritually reborn” by the conversion. He immersed, was circumcised and gave a burnt offering. In Hebrew, to immerse is a mikveh.  When someone even today converts to Judaism, they do a mikveh as part of the process. John the Baptist was even coined John the Immerser, as well. Let’s look at baptism or baptize: baptizō, from a derivative of βάπτω (G911), to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge.  So, now we understand that baptism is the Greek translation of mikveh.  Matt 3:6 And were baptized G907 of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.

When we read John chapter 3:3, Jesus is telling Nicodemus that we have to be born again. In my keyword-study bible, Born Again is underlined. Keywords show- reborn, spiritual rebirth, convert, turn. Further study brought me to, “Born: of men who fathered children, and if you click the link for Born > Go to the section metaph. Notice point, B. “in a Jewish sense, of one who brings others over to his way of life, to convert someone.”  In actuality, the only sense that Jesus or John had was their Jewish sense and Hebrew heritage. And then it all connected into an ah-ha moment!

So, let’s change it to it’s synonyms, Jesus tells Nicodemus that we have to reborn to see the Kingdom of Heaven.  Again, let’s change it more closely. “Verily, verily, unless a man be converted, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  Wait! That makes more sense, because John the Baptist (Immerser) is right there to get people into the water, from the Jewish sense, to mikveh. It makes perfect sense!  After all, Jesus and John are both observant Jews and they understood what conversion meant and that a mikveh was needed.

In this light, Jesus never came to start a new religion of Christianity! How revolutionary. He was pointing people back to the Torah, the only Scripture that he knew, that housed all of God’s commandments. So simple, and yet it has eluded us for centuries. To follow his way. What was his way? The way of the Torah, to keep the commandments, as stated in John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commands.” In order to have a spiritual rebirth, convert to Judaism, turn to Torah.

This is the trouble to with so many bible translations, it gets diluted and the context changes. For instance, the New International Version, reads: “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Converted is removed and replaced with change. Immerse (mikvah) is replaced with baptism. How misleading! Perhaps it’s to discourage the true message of converting to the parent religion of Christianity, Judaism.

Instead of being grafted in, perhaps the path is to convert.

 

If you oppose Halloween, why not Christmas trees?

I had a discussion recently with a Christian mom who had strong feelings about not letting her children partake in Halloween with costumes and candy because “it’s pagan”.  She didn’t like hearing that the Christmas tree is as well. Quick to defend it, she didn’t know the history or the truth.  In case you don’t either….

The Prophet Jeremiah condemned the ancient Middle Eastern practice of cutting down trees, bringing them into the home and decorating them, as Pagan. Notably, these were not really Christmas trees, because Jesus was not born until centuries later, and the use of Christmas trees was not introduced for many centuries after his birth. Apparently, in Jeremiah’s time the “heathen” would cut down trees, carve or decorate them in the form of a god or goddess, and overlay it with precious metals. Some Christians currently feel that this Pagan practice was similar enough to our present use of Christmas trees that this passage from Jeremiah can be used to condemn both:

Jeremiah 10:2-4: “Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.” (King James Version).

During the Roman celebration of the feast of Saturnalia, Pagans did decorate their houses with clippings of evergreen shrubs. They also decorated living trees with bits of metal and replicas of their god, Bacchus.

The English Puritans condemned a number of customs associated with Christmas, such as the use of the Yule log, holly, mistletoe, etc. Oliver Cromwell preached against “the heathen traditions” of Christmas carols, decorated trees and any joyful expression that desecrated “that sacred event.” [Diane Relf, “Christmas Tree Traditions,” Virginia Cooperative Extension, 1997-AOR, at: http://www.ext.vt.edu/ ]

In America, the Pilgrim’s second governor, William Bradford, a Calvanist, tried hard to stamp out all “pagan mockery” at Christmas time. 4 Christmas trees were not used by Puritans in colonial times. [“What is a tree?,” at: http://www.serve.com/ ]

In Northern Europe, the ancient Germanic people tied fruit and attached candles to evergreen tree branches, in honor of their god Woden. Trees were viewed as symbolizing eternal life. This is the deity after which Wednesday (Wodensday) was named. The trees joined holly, mistletoe, the wassail bowl and the Yule log as symbols of the season. “Should Christians celebrate Christmas?,” at: http://www.sovereigngrace.net/ ]

Well, there you have it.  Now, what will you do?

Commandment to keep the Sabbath

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. (NIV) (Exodus 20:8-11; 31:13-16).  This post is about the commandment to keep the Sabbath.

Read all these verses to be clearly reminded what God told us Himself.   “On the venerable day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed” (Codex Justinianus lib. 3, tit. 12, 3; trans. in Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 3, p. 380, note 1). [This was done because he wanted to introduce Christianity to the pagans, who worshipped the Sun.]  “Constantine seems to have made this change himself and not through the papacy, since the papacy had not really come in to being at that time. The papacy grew gradually out of the office of Bishop and for many years this was centered in Rome. In any case, it should be noted that in doing this, Constantine is not changing the Sabbath; he is merely making Sunday the official day of rest for the Roman Empire”.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church then says: “The Church celebrates the day of Christ’s Resurrection on the ‘eighth day,’ Sunday, which is rightly called the Lord’s Day” (CCC 2191).  Catholics do not worship on the Sabbath, which according to the [Old Testament] Jewish law is the last day of the week (Saturday), when God rested from all the work he had done in creation (Gen. 2:2-3). Catholics worship on the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week (Sunday, the eighth day); the day when God said “Let there be light” (Gen. 1:3); the day when Christ rose from the dead; the day when the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles (Day of Pentecost).  The Catholic Church did not move the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. Instead the Sabbath, which represented the completion of the first creation, has been replaced by Sunday, which recalls the new creation inaugurated by the Resurrection of Christ” (CCC 2190). Sunday is the day Catholics are bound to keep, not Saturday.”

It is well taught that the early church adopted Sunday, replacing Saturday Sabbath, as their day of worship based on: Acts 20:7 speaks of this, “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread.  Paul spoke to the people …” and 1 Corinthians 16:2, “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made” [tithing].

However, it’s important to understand what’s been lost in translation and interpretation, most noteworthy, what has been “adopted” or “replaced” from God’s Instruction.  Pastors teach what they’ve been taught in Seminary and that is, that these passages indicate that Christians were to keep Sunday (the first day of the week) as the Sabbath, continuing what Constantine started, as well as, that Christ rose on the first day of the week.  It wasn’t until hundreds of years later that the death of Christ became the focal point of Christian worship services.  God made no mention of tithing on the Sabbath, but somewhere along the way, Pastors translate 1 Cor. 16:2 as a sabbath passage vs. a reminder for people to set aside money to tithe.

“There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9-13, NIV), with vs 4:11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.

Was Constantine and the Catholic church disobedient to God’s Word regarding the Commandment of the Sabbath?  It may be revolutionary to consider that.  It’s a personal decision once the history is made clear to us, as I have tried to do today.  It’s important to think about if you are following something that was added to or subtracted from God’s Commandment regarding the Sabbath.  Knowing the sequence of history, is Sabbath for you Sunday or Saturday?  Choose with discernment so that you are confident you are being obedient.


 

The Number 12 in the Bible

Well, I finally did it – researched the number 12 in the bible.

For so long, I’ve wondered about the number twelve:  12 apostles, 12 months, 12 sons of Jacob, 12 tribes.  Our God is a God of detail. Goodness, ever notice how detailed He is in describing the materials and size of things for the Tabernacle or High Priests robe?  Everything He says has purpose and meaning.

Here’s what I found:  The number 12 is found in 187 places in the Bible. Revelation alone has 22 occurrences of the number. The meaning of 12 seems to symbolize completeness or the nation of Israel as a whole. For example, Jacob (Israel) had 12 sons, each of which represented a tribe begun by a prince, for 12 princes total. Ishmael, who was born to Abraham through Hagar, also had 12 princes.
God specified that 12 unleavened cakes of bread be placed every week in the temple with frankincense next to each of the two piles that were to be made. The priests were commanded to change the bread every Sabbath day (Leviticus 24).  Jesus called and choose 12 men Apostles, to bear witness to what he did.

Twelve thousand from each tribe of Israel (144,000 total) will receive salvation during the end time’s tribulation (Revelation 7). Another set of 144,000 (12 x 12,000) will be taken from earth in order to serve and follow (Revelation 14:1 – 5).  Many Christian’s believe that “Christ’s bride” in Revelation 12, the church, wears a crown containing 12 stars.  In truth, Israel is God’s Bride.
Heaven evidently, according to Revelation, contains 12 gates made of pearl which are each manned by an angel. Over each gate will be one of the names of Israel’s 12 tribes. The walls are 144 cubits high (12 multiplied by itself – Revelation 21:16 – 17), with the city itself being 12,000 furlongs square.
Plus, let’s not forget that Solomon appointed 12 officers over Israel.

12 people are also noted in scripture as being anointed for a special responsibility. They are Aaron and his four sons to serve as priests (Exodus 29:7 – 9) and Saul (1Samuel 10:1), David (1Samuel 16:13) and Solomon (1Kings 1:39) to serve as kings over a united Israel. David’s son Absalom, who wanted to take the throne of his David but was killed (2Samuel 19:10), was also anointed by some to be king. The remaining three specially anointed are King Jehu of Israel (2Kings 9:6) and Kings Joash (2Kings 11:12) and Jehoahaz (2Kings 23:30) of Judah.
And finally, the high priest’s breastplate, also called the breast-plate of decision, had 12 stones embedded in it. Each stone represented a tribe of Israel. The Urim and Thummim were part of the High Priest’s garment, the breastplate. They were primarily used to consult God regarding important matters (1Samuel 28: 3 – 6, Numbers 27:21 and so on). Both the first century historian Josephus and the Talmud identify the Urim and Thummim with the breastplate stones.

I can’t offer you a conclusion to my study of insurmountable insight, as I’m not a prophet with vision, but, I can note that 12 is special to God.  Oh yes, and at 12 a boy has his bar mitzvah; and wasn’t Jesus 12 when he spoke to the congregation?!

 

 

 

 

Genesis 23, The Life of Sarah

The verses regarding the Life of Sarah (Chayei Sarah) is an interesting portion. It’s not unusual to find that a portion of the Scripture dealing with death begins with a word connected to life.  Thus, “the Life of Sarah” deals with the death of the matriarch at age 127; similiarly, the portion that beigns, “And Jacob lived”, tells the story of the dealth of the aged, tortured third patriarch.  It’s tempting to think that one person’s dealth is in essence the beginning of somebody else’s independent life.  It’s only when Abraham and Sarah pass away, for example, that Isaac and Ishmael are able to come together for the funeral.  In the same manner, only when Jacob dieds can a real dialogue begin between Joseph and his brothers.  When the old folks die, the young are free to redesign the world according to the understands of their generation and the next.

And so, with the death of Sarah, the domineering and rather devious matriarch, a great many things became possible that couldn’t have happened when she was alive.  Hagar, according to the Aggadah, changed her name and returned to Abraham’s tent as Keturah.  Ishmael was able, as we noted, to reestablish his connections with his brother and childhood friend, Isaac.  Buth the most importat change was that Rebecca was brought from Aram to Canaan to be Isaac’s wife.  “And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and he took Rebecca, and she became his wife; and he loved her. And Isaac was comforted for the death of his mother”, Gen. 24:67  (Very Near To You, Avraham Burg)

1803-1677 BC- Sarah is the first of the four Matriarchs, wife of Abraham. Together with her husband, she was instrumental in converting thousands of people to monotheism.  The greatest insight we can gain into this woman is, most interestingly, in her name. As learned from the Torah, words and names are not given haphazardly. In most cases, we can find very clear meaning and insight into something or someone based on the name.

When Sarah’s name was changed from Sarai, it was symbolic of a greater spiritual refinement. Thus, we can assume that Sarah went through 2 transformations in her life, each reflected in a name change.

There are two qualities for which Sarah is most noted by the sages of the Torah: her prophecy and her beauty.  First, she is said to have been born blessed with divine inspiration. Second, it is said that she was exceedingly beautiful to behold. Both of these attributes deal with sight. The first being a spiritual insight that Sarah herself possessed, which clearly affected the way she perceived the world; and the second, regarding how the rest of the world perceived her.

Sarah is also considered to be the mother of every convert to Judaism.  Interestingly, Sarah and Mary of the NT both share the theme of the miracle of the womb of Jewish mothers.

2014 – A review of the Biblical Calendar

One of the first things you will probably notice when studying any chart of the Biblical Calendar is that they do not fall on specified dates according to the Gregorian calendar that we use today. The reason is that the Gregorian calendar (adopted in 1582 during the reign of Pope Gregory XIII) is a solar one that is related to the earth’s revolution around the sun. The Biblical Calendar, in contrast, is based on a lunar (moon) calendar.

A year on the Gregorian calendar runs 365 days. But since it takes approximately 365 and a 1/4 days for the earth to make a complete circle around the sun, an extra day is added in February every four years, making a Leap Year of 366 days.  The Biblical calendar is based upon the movement of the moon around the earth. A full circle takes about 29 days. Thus, twelve of these lunar months add up to 354 days in a year. So, a solar year is 11 days longer than a lunar year. By the way, the 12 months correlate to the 12 tribes, which correlate to Jacob’s 12 sons. (That’s another study!)

In Deuteronomy (Devarim) 16:16, G-d instructed the people to come to Jerusalem (Yerushalayim) three times a year to observe the feasts. As they came, they observed ceremonies given by G-d that were performed in both the temple (Beit HaMikdash) and the home.

These were appointed feasts, meant to be a sacred time, 3 of these appointed feasts were pilgrimage feasts to the Holy Temple.  If you are not familiar much with the Biblical Holy Days, take the time to learn about them.
PASSOVER– Ex 12:1-4; Lev 23:5; Num 9:1-14; 28:16; Deut 16:1-3, 4-7; Mt 26:17; Mk 14:12-26; Jn 2:13; 11:55; 1 Cor 5:7; Heb 11:28.
FIRST FRUITS (YOM HABIKKURIM)- Ex 23:19; 34:26; Lev 23:9-14; Deut. 26:5,9-10; Matt 28:1; Mk 16:1-2; Lk 24:1; Jn 1:20; Rom 8:23; 1                                 Cor 15:20-23
SHAVUOT/PENTECOST=50thday in Greek-Ex 23:16; 34:22a; Lev 23:15-21; Num 28:26-31; Dt 16:9-12; Act 2:1-4; 20:16; 1 Cor 16:8
ROSH HASHANA/TRUMPETS – Lev 23:23-25; Num 29:1-6; 2Sam 6:15; 1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Thes. 4-16
YOM KIPPUR/ DAY OF ATONEMENT – Lev 16:1-34; 23:26-32; Num 29:7-11; Ro 3:24-26; Heb 9:7; 10:3, 30-31; 10:19-22; Act 27:9;
2 Ptr 3:7; Rev. 17:4 & 20:12
SUKKOT/ FEAST OF BOOTHS *TABERNACLES – Ex 23:16b; 34:22b; Lev 23:33-38; 39-43; Num 29:12-34; Dt 16:13-15; 1 Kings 8:3 & 65; 2 Chr 7:1; Zec 14:16-19; Jn 7:2; Matt24:35; 2 Pt 3:7, 10 &13; Rev. 21:1
PURIM, Feast of Lots -14th of Adar, Reading of the Book Of Esther.

I’ve frequently been asked by Born Again folk, why do you bother to keep the Biblical calendar?  My response, “Do you love Jesus?… they say, yes.  “Well then, if it’s good enough for Jesus don’t you think it must be good enough for you.”
It’s a sacred decision. You decide.

 

 

December 25 vs. Kislev 25

How did December 25 come to be associated with Jesus’ birthday?

The Bible offers few clues: Celebrations of Jesus’ Nativity are not mentioned in the Gospels or Acts; the date is not given, not even the time of year.  The biblical reference to shepherds tending their flocks at night when they hear the news of Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:8) might suggest the spring lambing season.  The non-biblical evidence from the first and second century is equally spare: There is no mention of birth celebrations in the writings of early Christian writers such as Irenaeus (c. 130–200) or Tertullian (c. 160–225).

Clearly there was great uncertainty, but also a considerable amount of interest, in dating Jesus’ birth in the late second century. By the fourth century, however, we find reference to Jesus’ birthday as December 25 in the western Roman Empire.  The earliest mention of December 25 as Jesus’ birthday is seen in a mid-fourth-century Roman almanac that lists the death dates of various Christian bishops and martyrs. The first date listed, December 25, is marked: natus Christus in Betleem Judeae: “Christ was born in Bethlehem of Judea.” 

So, almost 300 years after Jesus was born, we finally find people observing his birth in mid-winter. But how had they settled on the date December 25?

There are two theories today connecting the Christmas date as a spin-off from other cultures.  One extremely popular, the other less popular.  The most standout theory about the origins of the Christmas date is that it was borrowed from pagan celebrations. The Romans had their mid-winter Saturnalia festival in late December.The first is that by the 12th century we find the first suggestion that Jesus’ birth celebration was being set at the time of pagan feasts.  Why?  Because they claimed that because the early Christians didn’t know when Jesus was born, they simply assimilated the pagan festivals for their own purposes, claiming it as the time of the Messiah’s birth and celebrating it accordingly with established pagan ideas.  Early Romans marked the solstice with a feast called the Saturnalia in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture. The Romans knew that the solstice meant that soon farms and orchards would be green and fruitful. To mark the occasion, they decorated their homes and temples with evergreen boughs. In Northern Europe the mysterious Druids, the priests of the ancient Celts, also decorated their temples with evergreen boughs as a symbol of everlasting life. The fierce Vikings in Scandinavia thought that evergreens were the special plant of the sun god, Balder.

More recent studies have shown that many of the holiday’s modern trappings do reflect pagan customs borrowed much later, as Christianity expanded into northern and western Europe. The Christmas tree, for example, is linked with late medieval druidic practices. This has only encouraged modern audiences to assume that the date, too, must be pagan.

The lesser popular theory, is that it is a spin-off of Kislev 25, Hannukah.  Kislev is the month of Chanukah in the Jewish Calendar which spans 8 days and often falls during November or December. Chanukah begins on the 25th day of  the month of Kislev and concludes in the month of Tevet.

In 140 BC, the Maccabees defeated the vastly more numerous and powerful armies of the Syrian-Greek  king Antiochus IV, who had tried to forcefully uproot the beliefs and practices of Judaism from the people of Israel. The victorious Jews repaired, cleansed and rededicated the Beit HaMikdash in Jerusalem to the service of Hashem. All the Beit HaMikdash‘s oil had been defiled by the pagan invaders; and when the Jews sought to light the Beit HaMikdashs Menorah (candelabra), they found only one small cruse of ritually pure olive oil. They lit the Menorah with the one-day supply, which miraculously, burned for eight days, until new, pure oil could be obtained. 

What strikes me as I do this study, is that in the Old Testament, God is quite clear about His appointed times and dates, and yet the most celebrated Christian holiday is left to speculation in the New Testament.  No doubt that Christmas is a combination of spin-offs over the centuries from Kislev 25 to evergreens in the home.

As for me, I ask, which would Jesus have celebrated?  I think Kislev 25 and not brought a tree into his home according to Jeremiah 10:1-5.

 

 

Significance of ‘three days’ in scripture

The reference of ‘three days’ occurs 75 times in the bible.  Whereas it only refers to five days three times.  It’s always wise to notice when God places emphasis on something repetitively…and certainly 75 times is worth noticing!

In Scripture the number three is one of the so called “perfect numbers.” The other “perfect numbers” are seven, ten, and twelve.  In Scripture the number three signifies completeness or perfection and points to what is solid, real, and substantial.  As a number which indicates completeness, the number three always identifies some important event.

Of course referencing all 75 would make this too long a read to stick with, so for brevity I’ll mention only several.  For instance, the earth was separated from the waters on the 3rd day.  Moses requests of Pharaoh that he let Moses take his people on a 3 day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifice to their God (Exodus 3:18).  The Theophany at Sinai was on the 3rd day after the people arrived.  Jesus was missing for 3 days when He was twelve years old (Luke 2:46).  Jesus prophesied that He would arise from the dead on the 3rd day (Matthew 16:21: 17:23; 20:19; Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34; Luke 9:22; 18:33).  Saul was blinded for 3 days (Acts 9:9).

Gen 40:12  And Joseph said unto him, This is the interpretation of it: The three branches are three days.

Exo 5:3 And they said, God has met with us: let us go, we pray thee, three days’ journey into the desert, and sacrifice unto the LORD our God; lest he fall upon us with pestilence, or with the sword.  Exo 10:22  And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days.  1Sam 20:19  And when thou hast stayed three days, then thou shalt go down quickly, and come to the place where thou didst hide thyself when the business was in hand, and shalt remain by the stone Ezel.  1Ch 12:39 And there they were with David three days, eating and drinking: for their brethren had prepared for them.  Mat 26:61 And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.

Sometimes this symbolic expression for divine intervention and restoration after a time of trial is expressed as “on the third day” and at other times as “after three days.”   Another reference to restoration on the third day is found in Hosea 6:1-2 where God tells His prophet a time will come when His covenant people will acknowledge their sins and seek redemption and restoration, as they cry out, Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn, that he may heal us; he has stricken, and he will bind us up.  After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him.   While the prophetic reference to “the third day” in Joseph’s prophecy in Genesis 40:12-23 may have been literal as well as symbolic, the prophet Hosea promised a third day restoration that is understood by the Old Testament faithful to be symbolic of God’s plan of salvation and redemption.  The Hosea passage was not concerned with a literal three day period but with a short period of intense trial followed by God’s divine intervention to bring about the restoration of God’s people in God’s own time.

A Bible pattern is when a spiritual truth stated in one part of the Bible is repeated in a similar fashion in yet another portion of the Bible. Examine the third day patterns. The first two days don’t tell the whole story – the third day is the conclusion.  Here are some others:

  1. On the third day — “the earth brought forth vegetation: seed-bearing plants of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit.” (Genesis 1:12)
  2. On the third day — “Abraham looked up and saw the place [Mount Moriah] from afar.” There he intends to offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering to God. Yet he assures his companions, “We will worship and return.” (Genesis 22:4-5)
  3. On the third day — Pharaoh releases his chief cup bearer from death-row. (Genesis 40:20-21)
  4. On the third day — Joseph releases his brothers from prison in Egypt. (Genesis 42:17-18)
  5. On the third day — The Israelites request Pharaoh’s permission to make a three-day journey to offer sacrifice in the desert to God. (Exodus 3:18)
  6. On the third day — Plague Nine, the Plague of Darkness, in Egypt ends, “though the Israelites enjoyed light in their dwellings.” (Exodus 10:22)
  7. On the third day — God descends to Mount Sinai in fire with the sound of a shofar. He then reveals The Ten Words, Israel’s constitution of new life as a nation after their resurrection from the death of slavery in Egypt. (Exodus 19:16-19)
  8. On the third day — Israelites are to purify themselves with water after being in contact with the dead. (Numbers 19:12)
  9. On the third day — After coming to the river and preparing themselves, the Israelites cross the Jordan “to enter and possess the land that the LORD [their] God is giving to [them] as a possession.” (Joshua 1:11; 3:2)
  10. On the third day — Joshua’s spies emerge from hiding from the Jerichoites, then return to their commander. (Joshua 2:16, 22)
  11. On the third day — a famine during David’s reign ends. (2 Samuel 21:1).
  12. On the third day — a famine called for by Elijah the prophet ends. (1 Kings 18:1)
  13. On the third day — after asking God for release, King Hezekiah is healed of his fatal disease and offers thanks in the temple. (2 Kings 20:5)
  14. On the third day — Jonah is expelled from the fish belly. (Jonah 1:17/2:1 Heb) (Matt 12:40; cf Matt 16:21; 17:23)
  15. On the third day — After fasting, Esther puts on royal apparel and enters the palace of the Persian king in order to thwart a death-plot against her people, the Jews. (Esther 4:16; 5).

The number three is used in the Torah to mediate between two opposing or contradictory values. The third value mediates, reconciles, and connects the two. Three is the number of truth.

Time is divided into three portions: The past, the present, and the future. The position in time that is most expressive of the non-physical is the present, because it is so fleeting and instantaneous. The function of that time, the present, is its service as connector. The number three expresses connection.

 According to Jewish law, once something is done three times it is considered a permanent thing. This is called a “chazakah[1]“. Once we have done something three times, we have connected to it and connected it to this world.

Other fun facts about the number 3 in scripture:

The Torah was given in the third month of the Biblical year, to a threefold people (Priests, Levites, Israelites), through the third born – Moses, who was the third child in his family (after Miriam and Aharon).

 We have the three Patriarchs: Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaaqov.

 The 3 mitzvot (deeds/blessings) of the seder (the lamb, matzah, and maror).

The Torah lists 3 animals that chew their cud but are unkosher because they do not have split hooves:

 The camel, it says in the present tense, “its hoof is not split.” The hyrax, it says in the future tense, “it will not split its hoof.” The hare, it writes in the past tense, “it did not split its hoof.”

And, finally, it’s 3am and time to complete this post!

 

 

Sukkot or Christmas?

The Gospel writers either did not know when the event happened or they did not feel the information was important enough to pass along.  We can only speculate.  Some speculate that the church associated the birth of Jesus with the winter solstice and assume that the church chose December 25 as a matter of syncretism with Hanukkah, Kislev 25 in the Jewish calendar.

In the Gospels, John comes in the role and spirit of Elijah. Jewish tradition maintains that Elijah will appear at Passover to announce the coming of the Messiah. For that reason, Jewish homes set a place at the Passover Seder table for Elijah. If John was “the Elijah who is to come” (Matthew 11:14), it isn’t reasonable that his birth took place at Passover.  If John was born on Passover, then it is reasonable that Jesus should have been born six months later at the onset of the Feast of Tabernacles/Sukkot.  Luke 1:36- And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month”.

Additionally, traveling to Bethlehem at instruction from Herod, the wise men found a child and his parents in a house, (Matt. 2.11); whereas, in the Luke account the shepherds found Him in a stable (Luke 2.7,16). There is no discrepancy between these two accounts, for likely the new mother and child were moved from the stable following the birth. The fact that he was born in a stable is a clue to the time of his birth, for in Hebrew a stable is called a “sukkah” (Genesis 33.17). “Sukkot,” the name of the festival, is the plural form of this word. It is even significant that they had to seek shelter in the stable, “sukkah” due to “no room in the inn” (Luke 2.7). It was only during the 3 pilgrim festivals (Passover, Sukkot and Shavuot) that Bethlehem would overflow with people.

In ancient times, reporting for a census would be done over a several month period due to the difficulties of travel, as well as the economics of an agricultural society. It is highly improbable that so many people would be in Bethlehem for Caesar’s census all at one time.

As stated above, Joseph and Miriam (Mary) bring the child into Jerusalem forty days after Yeshua’s birth. This indicates that Herod died within this same forty days. The chronology of these forty days is imperative in correctly finding His birth date. The probable scenario is this:  Joseph and Miriam (Mary) come to Jerusalem for the festival of Sukkot (September or October), planning to stay in the nearby Bethlehem in order to register for the census. Unable to find a room at the Inn due to overcrowding for the pilgrimage, they are given shelter in a Sukkah, or stable. During the night the wise men arrive in Jerusalem and speak to Herod. Meanwhile, Miriam gives birth.  They go to pay homage in the sukkah, while the wise men are making their way to Bethlehem.  The wise men arrive and during the night are warned by G-d concerning Herod. Joseph and Miriam take the child and flee to Egypt and remain there until they are told by G-d that Herod is dead. On returning to Judea, they circumcize Yeshua according to the Law on the 8th day.

It is apparent that as long as Herod was alive, they could not appear at the Temple. Therefore, if the approximate date of Herod’s death could be determined, it would establish the season of Jesus’ birth. The Jewish historian, Josephus, who lived during the first century C.E., documents in detail Herod’s death.

Josephus relates that Herod became very ill immediately following an act of impiety against the priesthood, at which time an eclipse of the moon occurred. This eclipse, the only one mentioned by Josephus, happened March 13 in the year of the Julian period 4710, and the fourth year before the Common Era. Herod’s illness lasted several months and is documented in great detail as being painful and distressful. Many times cures were sought and brought about temporary relief; however, nothing prevented imminent death. According to Josephus’ calculations, Herod’s death occurred about September, in the fourth year before the Common Era. Therefore, with the knowledge that Herod died in autumn, the same time of year as Sukkot, and that his death was within forty days of the birth of Yeshua, it is convincing that Jesus was born at this time of year.

 

What’s in the Sukkah anyway?!

Shraga Simmons teaches that for seven days, during God’s appointed time of Sukkot, we symbolically move out of our wall-to-wall carpeted, air-conditioned house, into a little hut or booth called a Sukkah. But how is this supposed to make us happy?!… [and what’s in it?]

The lesson is that the physical objects with which we surround ourselves are not what make us happy. A person can live in a gorgeous home and be absolutely miserable. Or, he can live in a shabby hut and be ecstatically happy. The key to joy is success in our relationships. This includes our relationship with other people, with ourselves, and with God.

 Relationship With Others

Scholars say that the four species of the Lulav represent four different types of people, and is placed in the sukkah:

  1. The Esrog has a good taste and a good fragrance. It represents a person with both wisdom (Torah learning) and good deeds.
  2. The Hadas (myrtle) has a good fragrance, but is inedible. It represents a person who has good deeds, but lacks wisdom.
  3. The Lulav (date palm) is edible, but has no smell. This represents the person with wisdom, but without good deeds.
  4. The Aravah (willow) has neither taste nor smell. It represents a person with neither good deeds nor Torah learning.

On Sukkot, we gather these four species, bind them, and wave them all together.

Relationship With God 

The four species also represent the Name of God. Aravah (willow), Hadas (myrtle), Lulav (date palm) and Esrog represent the Yud and Heh and Vav and Heh of the four-letter Name of God.

Again, the key here is unity. As we say everyday in the Shema prayer: “God is One.” Whether things may appear to us as good or evil, we must realize that it all comes from God. One must deal with various pleasant or unpleasant circumstances ― ultimately for one’s maximal growth, but at the root everything comes from God.

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The Importance of Sukkot

Sukkot, comes four days after Yom Kippur, (starting on the fifth day) and lasts for seven days.  During that time, we remember the protection God gave to the people during the forty years they spent travelling in the desert.  Sukkot, is also referred to as the Festival of Booths and is the last festival on God’s biblical calendar, as recorded in Leviticus 23.  God wanted the people to observe this festival by living in temporary shelters “sukkahs” for seven days as a reminder that when their ancestors were in the wilderness God protected them after He had saved them.

The sukkah is a four-sided, temporary structure; with palm branches for the open roof, through which the night sky is visible, and sometimes canvas for the walls. For the seven days of this holiday, many God-fearing families eat their meals there, and others sleep in it, too.  Sukkah actually means “booth”.

Leviticus 23 tells us how the holiday is to be observed. The Lord tells Moses in verses 33-36, “Tell the people, ‘On the fifteenth day of this seventh month is the Feast of Sukkot for seven days to Adonai. On the first day there is to be a holy convocation; do not do any kind of ordinary work. For seven days you are to bring an offering made by fire to Adonai; on the eighth day you are to have a holy convocation and bring an offering made by fire to Adonai; it is a day of public assembly; do not do any kind of ordinary work.’”  If God commands us not to work on this holiday, it must be very important, as the Sabbath is!

So important, that even Jesus observed it – John 7 tells us Yeshua celebrated the festival. Verses 1-4 say, “After this, Yeshua traveled around in the Galilee, intentionally avoiding Judah because the Judeans were out to kill him. But the festival of Sukkot in Judah was near; so his brothers said to him, ‘Leave here and go into Judah, so that your talmidim [disciples] can see the miracles you do; for no one who wants to become known acts in secret. If you’re doing these things, show yourself to the world!’”

Other scripture references on Sukkot/Festival of Booths/Feast of Tabernacle:  Exodus 23:16, 34:22; Leviticus 23:34-43; Numbers 29:12-40; Deuteronomy 16:13-15; Ezra 3:4; and Nehemiah 8:13-18.

During Sukkot, two important ceremonies took place. It is critical to know that the Hebrew people carried torches around the temple, illuminating bright candelabrum along the walls of the temple to demonstrate that Israel is the Light to the Nations meaning, a Light to the Gentiles. Also, the priest would draw water from the pool of Siloam and carry it to the Temple where it was poured into a silver basin beside the altar.  In the New Testament, Jesus attended the Feast of Tabernacles and spoke these amazing words on the last and greatest day of the Feast: “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7:37-38) The next morning, while the torches were still burning Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12).

As a Jew, Jesus was a Light to the Nations and asking those to follow him in His ways, the ways of His heritage.

 

The Four Days Between Yom Kippur and Sukkot

There are four days between Yom Kippur and Sukkot, which is the biblical holiday that commands to make a Sukkah. Some bible scholars say that the influence of Yom Kippur and its power to expiate sins extends into these four days.  Just as before Rosh Hashana we are given a minimum of four days of Selichot (prayers for forgiveness and mercy) in order to prepare ourselves to enter Rosh Hashana as a blemishless sacrifice, so too we are given four days after Yom Kippur to settle back to our real level into Sukkot. The accounting of our sins during these four days is then retroactively calculated according to the level we reach on the first day of Sukkot. The four days between Yom Kippur and Sukkot also correspond to the four letters of God’s Ineffable Name. Our feelings during these four days are raw material to be shaped in calm reflection, and transformed into our calculated service of God on the first days of Sukkot.

Hashem gave the Torah, even after the golden calf was made, on the Yom Kippur after the second Tablets of the Ten Commandments which illustrated Hashem granting us forgiveness . Right away He gave the commandment to make the Mishkan (The Tabernacle), which showed Hashem’s love for Israel because Hashem put His Shechinah amongst them. The Sukkah has the same message; all year we do mistakes like the golden calf, but then comes Yom Kippur- Hashem forgives us and then comes Sukkot where He tells us to make and sit in the Sukkah and “I will Protect you”. The connection is that Yom Kippur and Sukkot are connected in that they illustrate Hashem’s forgiveness of our Aveiros (the word comes from the Hebrew root ayin-bet-resh, meaning to pass or cross over with the implied meaning of transgressing from a moral boundary).

The Old Testament has several teachings and illustrations such as these, of how HaShem offers us forgiveness for our transgressions.  The symbolism is very rich and significant, after all, if it’s in the Torah/Bible, it’s important and not to be ignored.

 

Omer Count for Sunday Night May 5, 2013

Today is forty-one days, which is five weeks and six days of the Omer.

May the Merciful One restore unto us the service of the Bet Hamikdash to its place, speedily in our days; Amen, Selah.

For the Choirmaster; a song with instrumental music; a Psalm. May God be gracious to us and bless us; may He make His countenance shine upon us forever; that Your way be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations. The nations will extol You, O God; all the nations will extol You. The nations will rejoice and sing for joy, for You will judge the peoples justly and guide the nations on earth forever. The peoples will extol You, O God; all the peoples will extol You, for the earth will have yielded its produce and God, our God, will bless us. God will bless us; and all, from the farthest corners of the earth, shall fear Him. Amen

On this 41st day of the Omer, let’s reflect Bonding, Yesod. Bonding is an emotional connection.  Other attributes such as love, discipline, compassion, endurance and humility place an emphasis on an individual’s feeings, not necessarily mutuality.  Bonding, however, is the fusion of two mutually.  Endurance is to Bonding as committment is to devotion. Bonding channels the giver and the receiver, an everlasting union.  Therefore, the 5 attributes of love, discipline, compassion, endurance and humility are all integrated through bonding and that creates a foundation.  Just for today, examine how well you bond with others.  Does it come to you with difficulty or easily.  It is doesn’t come easily look at why it doesn’t – Am I too critical?  Do I focus on faults?  Am I too set in my ways?  Have I been hurt before swore not to trust again?  Remember, God gave you a divine soul that, if you get out of the way of it, is nuturing and loving.  Make a choice today to purpose to bond with someone that matters to you and devote attention to constructively be in their life with more consistency.

 

The Days Between Passover to Shavuot (Pentecost)

 


 

The seven-week period between Passover and Shavuot has a name – the time between the two biblical holidays is called the Omer or the Counting of the Omer.

The Omer was a measure of about two quarts of barley that ancient Jews brought to the Temple in Jerusalem as an offering on the second day of Passover. In Leviticus 23:15 “‘From the day after the day of rest -that is, from the day you bring the sheaf for waving -you are to count seven full weeks, 16 until the day after the seventh week; you are to count fifty days; and then you are to present a new grain offering to God.”

Shavuot is the holiday celebrating the revelation of Moses receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai, for without the Torah there would be no standard for righteous living. It was at this time that God himself thundered our guidelines for living through Moses.

On each of the 49 nights between Passover and Shavuot (50 days of Pentecost), 1st century Jews like Jesus would recite blessings and take note of the number of days before Shavuot. The whole idea of counting the Omer is to recognize the freedom of Passover and with Shavuot brings freedom with purpose, because Shavuot commemorates the receiving of the Torah and the purpose to live holy according to God’s instructions.

These 49 days (7×7) has also come to be a period of intense spiritual reflection with the idea of incremental personal refinement during the Counting of the Omer. The six weekdays represent ordinary time and ordinary consciousness, and the seventh day, Shabbat, represents a time of transformation into purity and holiness The 49 days of the Omer covers the seven days over seven weeks from Passover to Shavuot.  Also, it took 49 days from Egypt to reach the foot of Mount Sinai and it must have been the feast that God referenced when He had Moses to tell Pharaoh, “Let my people go so that they may celebrate a festival to Me in the desert”, Exodus 5:1.  Since the festival is celebrated seven weeks or fifty days after the Passover, is derives it’s name in Hebrew, Shavuot (Weeks), and in Greek, Pentecost (meaning fiftieth).  Of all the biblical holidays, Shavuot is the longest beginning the morning after the Sabbath after Passover and ending the morning after 7 additional Sabbaths had passed, or fifty days later.  The day of Shavuot (Pentecost -the 50th day) was “fully come” (And when the day of Pentecost (Shavuot) had come they were all together in one place, Acts 2:1).

The earliest church continued to observe Shavuot, renamed in the NT as Feast of Pentecost. This is seen of Paul being in Jerusalem for Shavuot (Acts 20:16) and in his travel schedule (1 Corinthians 16:8).

The Torah tells us how to count the Omer:
• On days one through seven – Each day is counted. For example: “Today is one day of the Omer.”
• After the seventh day – We count both days and weeks. For example: “Today is eight days, which is one week and one day of the Omer.”
• Each day, a blessing is recited – Baruch Atah ADONAI, Eloheinu Melek ha’olam, asher kidshanu bemitzvotav vetzivanu al sefirat ha’omer (Blessed are You, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with commandments and instructed us to count the Omer).

How Is Shavuot Celebrated?

1. It is to be treated as a Sabbath. Leviticus 23:21 “On that same day you are to proclaim a sacred assembly and do no regular work.” (NIV)

2. The Ten Commandments are read to reaffirm the covenant with God and His Torah.

3. The Book of Ruth is read. (Opinions differ regarding its significance to read it.)

a.  It is a story about harvest so it is fitting to read on Shavuot.

b. Ruth was a sincere convert who embraced the Jewish Roots/Judaism with all her heart, soul and might and accepted the Torah and all of its precepts.

c. Shavuot also marks the birthday and death King David, and the Book of Ruth records his ancestry. Ruth and her husband Boaz were King David’s great-grandparents.

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4 Hebraic Levels of Biblical Interpretation – PARDS

The four levels of interpretation are called: Parshat, Remez, D’rash & Sod. The first letter of each word
P-R-D-S is taken, and vowels are added for pronunciation, giving the acronym PARDES (meaning “garden” or “orchard”, paradise). Each layer is deeper and more intense than the last, like the layers of an onion.

1- P’shat  (pronounced peh-shaht’ – meaning “simple”).  Other spellings include P’shat, Peshat.

The p’shat is the plain, simple meaning of the text. The understanding of scripture in its natural, normal sense using the customary meanings of the word’s being used, literary style, historical and cultural setting, and context. The p’shat is the  keystone of Scripture understanding. If we discard the p’shat we lose any real chance of an accurate understanding and we are no longer objectively deriving meaning from the Scriptures (exegesis), but subjectively reading meaning into the scriptures (eisogesis). The Talmud states that no passage loses its p’shat.
Note that within the p’shat you can find several types of language, including figurative, symbolic and allegorical. The following generic guidelines can be used to determine if a passage is figurative and therefore figurative even in its p’shat:   When an inanimate object is used to describe a living being, the statement is figurative.  Ex:  Isaiah 5:7 – For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant; and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry. When life and action are attributed to an inanimate object the statement is figurative.
Ex: Zechariah 5:1-3 – Then I turned, and lifted up my eyes, and looked, and behold a flying scroll. And he said to me, What do you see? And I answered, I see a flying scroll; its length is twenty cubits, and its width ten cubits.  And he said to me, This is the curse that goes out over the face of the whole earth; for everyone who steals shall be cut off henceforth, according to it; and everyone who swears falsely shall be cut off henceforth, according to it. When an expression is out of character with the thing described, the statement is figurative. Example: Psalm 17:8 – Keep me as  the apple  of the eye, hide me under the shadow of your wings …

2 – Remez  (pronounced reh-mez’ –  meaning “hint”)

This is where another  (implied) meaning is alluded to in the text, usually revealling a deeper
meaning. There may still be a p’shat  meaning as well as another meaning  as any verse can have multiple  levels of meaning.

An example of implied Remez is Proverbs 20:10 – Different weights, and different measures, both of them are alike an abomination to the  Lord. The p’shat would be concerned  with a merchant using the same scale to weigh goods for all of his customers.   The remez implies  that this goes beyond this into aspects of fairness and honesty in anyone’s life.

3 – D’rash (pronounced deh-rahsh’ also called “Midrash”)

This is a teaching or  exposition or application of the P’shat and/or Remez. (In some cases this could be considered comparable to a  “sermon.”) For instance, Biblical writers  may take two or more unrelated verses and combine them to create a verse(s) with a third  meaning.

A Drash understanding can  not be used to strip a passage of its p’shat meaning, nor may any such
understanding contradict the p’shat  meaning of any other scripture  passage. As the Talmud states, “No passage loses its p’shat.”   Let scripture  interpret scripture. Look for the scriptures themselves to define the components  of an allegory.  The primary components of an allegory represent specific  realities. We should limit ourselves to these primary components when  understanding the text.

4 – Sod  (pronounced sewd or sood – meaning “hidden”)

This understanding is the  hidden, secret or mystic meaning of a text. Some examples of this would be the dragon, whore of Babylon, and number “666,” all from the book of Revelation

* Thanks to James Trimm at www.nazarene.net from whom much of the above material is derived from.

The four levels of understanding each a layer diving deeper than the last, like onion layers.
Peshat = Literal meaning; the  contextual, philological level
Remez = Allegorical meaning; cross-reference  to other texts; rational or philosophical level
Derash = Moral or homiletic  meaning; aggadic level; midrashic [= interpretation via derash] level
Sod =  Mystical or anagogic meaning

P’shat examples:
When an inanimate object is used to describe a living being, the  statement is figurative.  (Prov. 18:10)
When life and action are attributed to an inanimate object the statement is figurative.  (same Prov. 18:10)
When an expression is out of character with the thing  described, the statement is figurative. (Psa. 17:8)
Example: Gen. 1,2- And the earth was empty (tohu) and formless (vohu).   Rashi – The Hebrew word ‘tohu’
means astonishment in English and the  word ‘bohu’ means emptiness and  next to emptiness. Thus the phrase is ‘amazement and desolation’. This means  that a person would  be amazed and astonished at anything that was  there.

Remez example:
Ex. 21:26-26-27 where we are told of our  liability regarding eyes and teeth. By the Remez understanding we know that  this liability also  applies to other body parts.

Three important  rules when using the D’rash level of understanding a scripture:
1 – A drash  understanding can not be used to strip a passage of its PASHAT meaning, nor may any such understanding contradict any  PASHAT meaning of any other  scripture passage. As the Talmud states “No passage loses its PASHAT.” (b.Shab. 263a; bYeb. 24a)

B – Let scripture interpret scripture. Look for the scriptures themselves to define the components of an allegory. For example use  Mt. 12:18- 23 to understand Mt. 13:3-9; Rev. 1:20 to understand Rev.1:12-16; Rev. 17:7-18 to understand Rev. 17:2-8 etc.

C – The main components of an allegory represent specific realities. Drash examples:
Mt. 2:15 on Hosea 11:1
Mt. 3:11 on Isa.  40:3
Rom. 5:14 (14-21) on Gen. 3:1-24
Gal. 4:24(21-31) on Gen. 17-22

Sod examples:
Visions of prophets