Sunday, 27 September 2015

Sukkot – Feast Of Tabernacles. ~ Rabqa

Sukkot-The Feast of Tabernacles is in the months of September or October – the month of Tishri. Sukkot is the plural of Sukkah which means Tabernacle, booth, tent, or temporary shelter.

Sukkot is the third festival in the three festival cycle of mandatory annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem. These three recount the history of Israel Passover (pesah) reminds us of Israel’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Pentecost (shavuot) is a celebration of giving the Torah, that is God's law, at mount Sinai.

The feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) reminds us of the time the Israelites wandered for forty years in the desert living in temporary shelters Lev 23:33-43

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the LORD. On the first day there shall be a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it. For seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation, and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD. It is a sacred assembly, and you shall do no customary work on it.These are the feasts of the LORD which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, to offer an offering made by fire to the LORD, a burnt offering and a grain offering, a sacrifice and drink offerings, everything on its day— besides the Sabbaths of the LORD, besides your gifts, besides all your vows, and besides all your freewill offerings which you give to the LORD. ‘Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the LORD for seven days; on the first day there shall be a Sabbath, and on the eighth day a Sabbath. And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days. You shall keep it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It shall be a statute forever in your generations. You shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your
generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.’”

One of the main aspects of Tabernacles (Sukkot) Is remembering the ways God tabernacled or dwelt with His people, Stephen summarised it just before he was martyred. In Acts 7:44-47 He said that the Tabernacle of witness refers to the stone tablets of the ten commandments, of the testimony being contained in the ark of the covenant in the tabernacle of Moses.

Stephen was not opposed to the temple itself, but to the lifeless institutionalism it came to represent.

During the feast of Tabernacles were offered sacrifices for the nations of the world. All the nations were invited to join in the festivities of the Feast of Tabernacles as a foretaste of the peace that will be in the New Heaven & the New Earth When God will again dwell with man. Zechariah (Zeharyah) foretells the day when all the nations of the world will travel to Jerusalem to celebrate this festival together. Zech 14:16-17

And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to
worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, on them there will be no rain.

Rejoicing in the Law (Simhat Torah) comes to an end at the feast of tabernacles (Sukkot) but it is actually a holiday in it's own right. In Israel it is celebrated, like Shemimi atzeret, on the eighth day of Sukkot. Elsewhere people celebrate it on the following day.
On this day all the scrolls are taken out & paraded around the synagogue by singing, reciting alphabetical verses & dancing, while children carry flags topped with apples & miniature scrolls. The next morning, celebrants make seven circuits around the synagogue!
During the festivities, the congregation listens while readers finish the reading cycle for the year & begin a new cycle.

Rejoicing in the law (Simhat Torah) is a relative holy day. It is neither mentioned in the Bible or in the Talmud. However, the regular reading of the whole Torah is commanded in Scripture.

Before this Moses commanded the people to read the law that is the Torah every seven years. Deut 31:10-13

And Moses commanded them, saying: “At the end of every seven years, at the appointed time in the year of release, at the Feast of Tabernacles, when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Gather the people together, men and women and little ones, and the stranger who is within your gates, that they may hear and that they may learn to fear the LORD your God and carefully observe all the words of this law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God as long as you live in the land which you cross the Jordan to possess.”
The story of Simhat Torah: During the early history of the nation, the kings often neglected God's command to read the Scriptures, But some kings led people back to the Lord & had the whole law (Torah) read aloud to them at least once during their reign.

By the time of Jesus, most Jewish groups read through all the books of Moses in a three year cycle.

Around the sixth century, most of the Jewish world excepted a one year cycle. Eventually they began to celebrate the completion of one cycle & the beginning of the next. The ceremony was called rejoicing in the law (Simhat Torah).

By the fourteenth century, the celebration had become quite elaborate. Celebrants read the last reading in Deuteronomy & then rolled back the scroll & read the first reading in Genesis. Many other customs were adopted including the seven circuits around the synagogue (hakafot), the invitations to read (alliyot) extended to many individuals, the blessing of children, & feasting.

We will now look at some of the old traditions:
Hakafot: "Encirclement" The highlight of rejoicing in the law (Simhat Torah) features & celebrates taking turns carrying the Torah around the sanctuary seven times.

The ceremony is started by taking Torah scroll(s) out of the ark. A group of worshippers carries the scrolls once around the sanctuary, the children following with flags & miniature scrolls. When the scroll has gone around the sanctuary the people burst into singing & dancing. Then a new group takes the Torah for a second circuit, & another for a third. The Torah goes round the sanctuary seven times in this way to the western wall singing, dancing, & carrying the scrolls.

Kol Hanearim: All the children are called up front. The men of the congregation make a canopy over them with a large prayer shawl. Blessings are recited over them & over the Torah. The final blessing is taken from Jacob blessings on the sons of Joseph. as we see in Gen 48:15,16

And he blessed Joseph, and said: “God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has fed me all my life long to this day, The Angel who has redeemed me from all evil, Bless the lads; Let my name be named upon them, And the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; And let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”

Alliyot: Means going up. Often each man aged thirteen or older is invited to go up front & read a section of the passages for the day.
Hatan Torah "Groom of the Torah." This title is given to the member of the congregation who is given the honour of completing the reading of Deuteronomy. Jesus tells us that He fulfilled the law (Torah) in Matt5:17-18

Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfil. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.

Understand that Jesus' ministry fulfilled the law; it did not abolish it. Be warned that those that teach lawlessness will not be great in the kingdom.

Hatan Bereshit: "The groom of the beginning." After the last reading from Deuteronomy, the scroll is rolled back to the beginning, & "the Groom of the Beginning" reads the first part of Genesis.
Maftir: The third reader, the Maftir, reads the first chapter of Joshua, which shows the continuity of God's chosen leadership after the death of Moses.

Celebrate The Whole: Today since we have the end of the story, the whole Bible including the "Good News" of the gospel should be celebrated Jesus tell us in JN 5:46 If you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about me.
We also see that it is Jesus who completes God's plan for mankind only started in the Torah Jn 1:17

For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

We see from Paul that Scriptures are important 2Tim 3:16-17
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Revere God's Word very highly, recognise it's fully divine source of inspiration. Submit to it absolutely. Faith believes absolutely in the divine inspiration of the Scriptures. Therefore the man or woman of faith has a very high view of the Bible, & is able to courageously face opposition unmoved.

The New Testament (B'rit Hadashah) & the Torah are treasures, old & new. Many People miss out one or the other. Jesus tells us to treasure both Matt 13:52

Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new & old.
The disciple who has been properly instructed has at his command both Judaism (old) & Christianity (new)

Some people would say that the highlight of the year in the feast keeping would be Sukkot, this may be the end of the festival year, but it is where many people find their first & greatest enjoyment.
It was when they first began to leave home & gather with families for Sukkot that they got really excited & began to realise the filling of the celebration void they had been in for many years!

It was also the filling of a fellowship void, because if the extent of your family’s previous experience of fellowship is just meetings that last a few hours & then you go home, you find the incomparable joy of not having to "go home" & realise why in the book of Acts 2:46 They "ate their food with gladness & sympathy of heart." There are bonds that have developed in the realms of worship & edification that never happen by just attending a church.

One of the reasons that Father Abraham, the only human with a God-given deed to land, & a rich man also, never built a building or city (as far as we know). Is because he knew we were created to worship outdoors. He was looking for a city...made by God (Heb 11:10) There is nothing quite like the city, made by our inviting the Bridegroom, that you look out on tent upon tent of feast keepers It is SUCH an atmosphere for worship.

Some people take an open area of a camp ground & make off the actual dimensions of the Tabernacles in the wilderness. Most will mark of the Holy Place, & the Holy of Holies. Many may have a giant Menorah (candelabra)made from seven bamboo tiki-lamps connected by strings of gold bead garland, & across from it a table with a Bible on it. There would be appropriate banners, & around the outside, tribal standers with the names of the tribes.

Some could have a "going up" procession in which a leader with a bull horn called the various tribes from around the camp ground. Everyone would have a copy of the Psalm of Ascent (Ps 120-134). At the sound of the trumpet which could be heard over the whole camp, all began to read aloud. When the Psalms were finished another trumpet blast was sounded to begin the next. Even though the tribes starting with the furthest tribe, each group came forth. When they all get to the central area of the Tabernacle, they have a time for worship.

Lilly Freeman (Wrote a Complete guide to celebrating Our Messiah in the Festivals), said that the first time she celebrated Sukkot was on a camping trip with her sister & her friends, what she kept seeing was how different Sukkot was from Christmas.

Christmas she said is all about the rush. All ones time & money are spent long before all the presents are bought & holiday activities are done. This is on top of what has to be done to make life happen. & for what? Two hours of present opening & rushed family time.
She went on to say that they celebrated Sukkot in a wooded area by a lake away from all the urgent cares of home & work. They all had time to study, dance, cook, & eat. But more then that time to visit & great visits they were.

She has a friend who was her room mate at boarding school – but life had taken them in different directions. Now she got to spend a week watching & visiting, not only with her but with her children – all fourteen of them! She felt privileged to get an inside glimpse into the family dynamics that only time can give.

She also was able to get into the lives of her nieces & nephews. She had the time for cuts & bruises, hugs & walks. She had the time to tell them stories of their mum & dad from long ago times. Time to hear their plans & dreams & what they were thinking. They had a time of opening presents around a tree & the gift of time they had to share.
The best time was the time they had to learn about God & His feasts

They saw God's masterful plan throughout the whole of history & Scripture. & were drenched in the understanding of why praying for rain was left for the last part of the feast.

On the last day of Sukkot was Hoshana Rabbah which means the great Hosanna. First the High Priest descended with a throng of people to fetch water for the water-drawing ceremony. They went to the pool of Siloam where sick people waited to be healed when the water was stirred up became "living water." (Jn 5:2-7) Singing &dancing, the worshippers shook willow branches & the lulav. The Priests blew trumpets (shofars) & the crowds sang the Hallel (Ps 113-118) The High Priest filled the flask & returned to the temple.

When he reached the water gate, other priests sounded three notes on the ram's horn (shofar) He went up the ramp to the alter & poured the water into a special bowl with spout through which the water flowed out.

A second bowl with a smaller opening was pouring wine. Both bowls emptied at the same time. It is said that one has not seen rejoicing until he has witnessed the water-drawing ceremony.
On this day, the celebrants went seven times round the alter praying, singing, & waving willow branches, remembering that is God's mighty hand that can save them, just as when Jericho was destroyed once the Israelites had circled seven times. The celebrants cried "Hoshana! save us now!" Each time around the alter, a portion of the Hoshana Rabbah liturgy was recited. People beat their willow branches on the ground until the leaves came off. The beating sounded like a rain storm, & was symbolic of beating off ones sins & praying for life-giving rains.

The Hoshana chants included prayers for the nation, for Jerusalem, for crops, & for plentiful rain. The priest spoke of the coming Messiah (haMashiah) Who would pour out His Holy Spirit (Rauh hakodesh) on them Isa 43:3 speaks of God answering both of these prayers. Jesus also answered the prayers spiritually & eternally & He taught that He Himself is the Spirit of Living Water Jn 4:10;7:37-39.

They had night time discussions – about life & death, hope & prayers, insight & wondering about God & the world. & laughing. Lots of laughing. But this only happens when you step out of the world & take the time. Sukkot gives a precious gift that is missing at Christmas – the gift of time.

Sukkot can bring fond memories of spending one whole week with friends & family, worshipping God with singing & dancing for bringing His people out of the wilderness into the promised land.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Yom Kippur ~ the Day of Atonement.~ Ganeida

In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and you shall not do any work ... For on that day he shall provide atonement for you to cleanse you from all your sins before the LORD. -Leviticus 16:29-30

Before Paul laid out his doctrine of salvation by grace, Jesus declared a new covenant: for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins ~ Matthew 26:28. Jesus death was the once & for all sacrifice.  There is now no other. As High Priest he entered the Holy of Holies in the heavenly temple & made atonement for us, once & for all.

So what are we to make of Yom Kippur ~ a day that is all about repentance.  All about a failure to keep the Law of Moses.  All about a need for forgiveness. A day that has been the holiest day of the Jewish year for centuries.

I think for us who are under the New Covenant it centres around 1 John 1:9 ~ But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

We don’t hear much about sin these days.  We don’t hear much about repentance.  That is a great pity because we have lost the heart of gratitude that understands exactly what Jesus has saved us from & how wonderful that redemptive act was & is.  We end up somehow thinking we are entitled to our salvation & losing our awe of God who will judge both the living & the dead.

Being human, we sometimes find it difficult to walk out a balanced scripture where we are at one & the same time, made in the Image of God [Gen.,9:6], The righteousness of Christ [2 Cor., 5:21] yet believers who on occasion still sin.

What Yom Kippur does then is give us an occasion to examine ourselves as 2 Cor.,13:5 exhorts us: Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.

Now I don’t want to spend our time covering the way the temple service was organised.  By now we are mostly conversant with the symbolism that points directly to the Messiah.  Instead I want to go to the heart of Yom Kippur.  All the sacrifices, all the glitz & glitter is designed for one purpose & one purpose only: to help people realign their hearts correctly with God.

At the core of Yom Kippur is the Amidah.  We have discussed this when we looked at what we erroneously call The Lord’s Prayer.  What Jesus was discussing was the Amidah. Jews refer to it simply as The Prayer. It is made up of 3 main parts: Praise, petition, thanks.
If the Amidah is the heart of Yom Kippur then understanding what we are to pray, meditate on & fast about will help us orientate our own hearts.  It gives us insight into what the Father expects of His children.

In Hebrew the term usually used for father is Av.  Abba is the term used by small children.  We have been taught it is a term of intimacy, of closeness ~ & that is correct.  However it is never meant to be used presumptuously or in such a way that it diminishes God’s glory. This is immediately obvious as we follow the prayer through because the Holiness of God’s name, the exaltedness of his position, are the first things mentioned.

The first thing we need to understand is that the Amidah is not a liturgy set in stone.  It is an outline.  The Jews often begin their prayers to *The Creator of the Universe*.  We saw this in the Passover.  We remember that God dwells in the 3rd Heaven.  He is over All.  He made All.  Everything is & was & will be because everything is generated from the thought & will of the Father.

The next thing is we are to keep The Name holy. We tend to think in negative terms, that simply we are not to blaspheme. That is only a very small part of it.  The Lord generally issues more positive instructions than negative ones.  We are meant to remember the names of God as Healer, redeemer, saviour, comforter, shepherd etc.  There is a covenant contract with the Names of God.

Hebrews 13:20 Now may the God of peace--who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood-
"for all the promises of God in him are yes, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us [2 Corinthians 1:20].

Jesus is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises [1 Timothy 2:5]

"if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" [Galatians 3:29].
The promises are conditional.  If we are His then…
This is the blessing of Yom Kippur.  It is time to asses ourselves before the Lord & as Paul says, examine ourselves in the light of God’s Word, in the light of His covenant promises to His people.
Yom Kippur deals specifically with sins between man & God, not with sins between people. Any unforgiveness, any fault between people, is meant to be dealt with before Yom Kippur during The High Holy Days. Technically we are still there as Yom Kippur falls on Wednesday this year.

In The Prayer we pray for forgiveness & also that we forgive but during the recitation of the Amidah during Yom Kippur there is an insertion   emphasizing communal responsibility for sins. Forgive us as we forgive… As the salt & light of the earth that Jesus commanded us to be we can stand in the gap for our nation shouldering our share of the responsibility for our nation’s sins: abortion, homosexuality, war… sins we may not be personally guilty of but sins the nation as a whole is guilty of.  Scripturally we are our brother’s keeper.[Gen 4:8~12]

Yom Kippur is also a day to focus on charity & social justice because it reflects God’s heart of Mercy towards His people.

His tender mercies are over all His works’ (Psalms 145:9)

Having received mercy we are ourselves to be a merciful & compassionate people.

The Amidah concludes with thanksgiving. Traditionally this will be the Priestly blessing from numbers:
“May the Lord bless you and keep you
May the Lord cause His favour to shine upon you and be gracious unto you
May the Lord lift His favour unto you and give you peace”
(Numbers 6:24-26).

Finally our focus is very different to that of Jews on this special day.  You see God ordained that there was only one place where sacrifice could be made for the atonement of sins: the temple in Jerusalem.  There has been no temple in Jerusalem since 70AD.  There has been no sacrifice offered for sins since 70AD.  There has been no way to receive forgiveness since 70AD.  There has been no blood poured out in the Holy of Holies since 70AD.

All have sinned.  There is none righteous, no not one ~ Romans 3:10

Yet Romans 3:23-25 says:
23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past

A sacrifice has been offered.  One that is perfectly acceptable to the Father.  One that never needs to be repeated.  One that is actually able to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  We have no need to offer the blood of bulls & goats.  We have no need of a human High Priest to intercede for us.  Jesus has become our atonement.  His blood cleanses us from all unrighteousness.  He is able to present us faultless before the Father.  He has torn away the curtain that separated us from the Holy presence of God.

For us Yom Kippur is as much as anything a day of celebration.  We can rejoice that we do not have to wait a whole year to be cleansed.  We do not have to wait for sacrifice to be made.  It is already done.  It has been accomplished.  If we sin we have immediate access to the blood of Jesus.  We confess, are made clean, we go on.

Repentance, for us, is more than a ceremonial ritual for Jesus has declared us a new creation.  When we turned away from our old life to follow Jesus ~ that is repentance.  That is the true repentance God desires. We have put our faith in the One who is able to cleanse us of our sin.  We no longer trust in our works.  We no longer have to carry our guilt. It is Jesus who said:
34"Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. 35"The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. 36"So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed…

Has the son set you free?  Then rejoice, for you are free indeed.  You are granted the status of sons of the house & you remain forever.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Rosh Hashanah-Feast of Trumpets. ~Rabqa


Rosh Hashanah means head of the year, it is a one or two day celebration of the beginning of the Jewish civil New Year. It falls in September or October on the first day of Tishri. This festival is considered the anniversary of the creation of the universe & mankind.

The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), ten days later, represents God's redemption of mankind. which Ganeida will teach on next week.

The days from Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur are called ten days of repentance, the Days Awe or Holy Days. These ten days are a time of introspection, a time to recognise & confess failures to others, to ourselves, & to God. This self-examination is not meant to cause self-condemnation but to motivate us to seek forgiveness & to start the New Year older, wiser, & determined to have a deeper, more intimate & loving relationship with God & fellow man.

The first day of the Jewish civil New Year is the biblical Yom Teruah, that is the day to sound the trumpets which are called shofars (Num 29:1)  This day has four themes & names in addition to New Years Day – Rosh Hashanah.
1.Yom Teruah- A day of Trumpets. This day was established by God during the time of Moses.
Num 29:1-6 NKJ 
And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work. For you it is a day of blowing the trumpets. You shall offer a burnt offering as a sweet aroma to the Lord: one young bull, one ram, and seven lambs in their first year, without blemish. Their grain offering shall be fine flour mixed with oil: three-tenths of an ephah for the bull, two-tenths for the ram, and one-tenth for each of the seven lambs; also one kid of the goats as a sin offering, to make atonement for you; besides the burnt offering with its grain offering for the New Moon, the regular burnt offering with its grain offering, and their drink offerings, according to their ordinance, as a sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the Lord.
The Hebrew for grain offering is minchah means an offering, gift, tribute, present, sacrifice, portion, or donation. Although the offering of Cain & Able are termed minchah in Gen 4:4-5, minchah is usually translated grain offering (Lev 6:14). Elsewhere it is translated gifts, presents or tribute as seen in 1Kin 4:21. The minchah is primarily a religious offering, but may also be a personal gift that one gives to his ruler.

Trumpets or shofars play an important part in this festival with there sound & their symbolism. They are sounded one hundred times of each of the ten days of Awe & symbolise some of God's actions & ways.

The rams horn (shofar) that sounded at Mount Sinai when God made His covenant with the Israelites reminds us that God always works toward having a permanent relationship with mankind.

The ram caught by his horn (shofar) in the story of Isaac reminds us that God is merciful. He provided a ram to die in Isaac place, & a Saviour to die for the sins of the world.

2. Yom Hazikkaron – Day of remembering. This is a time to reflect on the past. It is traditional to remember loved ones who have died. People visit the graves of family members & reminisce before moving on & celebrating a new beginning in a New Year.

3 Birthday of the world. Rosh Hashanah is considered the anniversary of the creation of the world with an emphasis on God's ongoing relationship with man. He is the King who created our world& continues to renew it, & who created man & continues to pursue a relationship with us.

We celebrate God's loving interaction with mankind, with its many new beginnings or creations. The first was on the sixth day of creation when God created man & began a relationship with him. Next was Noah when God remembered him on the ark & dried up the flood  waters to start the world over again. The third creation was of languages at the tower of Babel, languages still baffle us today. How often our words have caused misunderstanding even in our own language.

We also study Sarah & Hanna who were barren & had nothing to look forward to but death. Then God remembered them & gave them sons & new beginning. Each of theses sons would change the world. Also there is the story of God telling Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. But it was not the end for Isaac. He was given back to his father – in a real way it was a new beginning.

4 Yom Hadin – Day of Judgement. In the Jewish tradition, a person's good deeds & bad deeds are weighed on a scale. if the good outweigh the bad   the person's name is written by God in the Book of Life, ensuring life & health for the next year. People believe they are to repent & make amends before God seals their fate for the year. Each year people face judgement with dread, wondering if their good deeds (mitzvot) will tip the scales in their favour.

Jesus stated that people will be judged, not by balancing good & bad deeds, but simply by their response to Him. This is what He said in (Jn 5:19-46 abridged) Jesus gave them this answer: The Father loves the Son & shows Him all He does for just as the Father raises the dead & gives them life, even so the Son gives life Whom He is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgement to the Son, You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me to have life. But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me.

For the whole month before the festival, the rams horn (shofar) is sounded every morning in the synagogue. it is to stir our slumbering spirits, waking them up to reflect on the past year. During each of the two days of Rosh Hashanah, a total of one hundred blasts of the shofar is sounded.
The rams horn (shofar) has four different sounds:
      Tekiah. one long beginning blast, a call to      wake up & search our hearts.
      Shevarim. three short blasts, our heart    groaning as we realise our wrong ways.
      Teru'ah. nine staccato blasts, our sobs as we      seek God's forgiveness.
      Tekiah Gedolah. one final blast sustained as       long as possible, God calling us back to Him.

A pattern made from these different sounds is sometimes called a "prayer without words." In the same manner, our comforter The Holy Spirit (Ruah Hakodesh), helps us when we don't have words for prayer Rom 8:26.

Under the New Covenant (Brit Hadashah), the sound of the shofar will announce the return of Jesus. 1 Thes 4:16-17
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.

 Kittel. A Kittel is a simple white outfit used as burial clothes. They are also worn during Rosh Hashanah to show that God in His mercy will forgive those who are sorry for their sins. The Lord promised in Isa 1:18
Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool
Scripture points out that there are different ways to be sorry 2 Cor 7:10
For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.
Being repentant isn't enough unless it leads to

Jesus our Salvation, for only by Him can we be forgiven & cleansed from sin is by His blood.
Heb 9:22 & 28 And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood & there is no remission.
So Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.
In addition Jesus will give white clothing to His faithful followers. He promised "He who overcomes will be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life,  but will acknowledge his name before My Father & His angels. Rev 3:5
We learn from this that God is so merciful that He sent the Messiah to shed blood for our cleansing,  to dress us in white & to write our names in the Book of Life for ever.

Tashlih – The symbolic casting away of Sin. In the afternoon of the first day, many people go to a nearby body of flowing water. they throw crumbs into the moving water, symbolically showing that God rids us of our sins.  Some people write a list of their sins on white paper with washable ink. They pass a large bowel of water around. Each person must slip his paper into the water, & their sins are washed away.
But sins don't just wash away because we want them to. All through Scripture God has promised us, but these promises only come together & are filled in Jesus Christ. Ps 51:1-10 (Abridged) have mercy on me, O God according to your unfailing love; wash away all my iniquity & cleanse me from my Sin. Cleanse me with hyssop, & I will be clean; wash me, & I will be whiter than snow. Create in me a pure heart, O God, & renew a steadfast spirit with me. Micah 7:19
He will again have compassion on us,
And will subdue our iniquities.
You will cast all our sins
Into the depths of the sea. I Jn 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful & just to forgive us our sins & cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

In Heaven John saw a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people & language, standing before the throne & in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes & were holding palm branches in their hands. (An elder explained) These are they that have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes & made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Rev 7:9-14 (abridged).

Day Of judgement & Book Of Life. all mankind will face the Final Judgement, not yearly but at Christ's return. we read about it in the New Testament in 2 Cor 5:10
For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Rev 21:27 But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Only those sins are washed away by the blood of Jesus the Lamb will have their names written in the Book of Life. 2 Cor 5:19
That is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. V 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

The Jewish New Year is about new beginnings. God remembered mankind when we were dying & barren of hope. He sent Jesus to bring a New & Eternal covenant to the world. As the old year ends a new one begins. So it is in the Spiritual realm the old nature dies, one gets a new lease on Life.  (2Cor 5 :17)

I will now cover a little on repentance.
In Luke 18:11-14 Jesus tells a parable of two men praying to God. One will be forgiven & one won't. To be completely forgiven we must recognise & confess every sin in our life, no matter how small. We cannot seek to justify ourselves by comparing ourselves with other sinners.

Jesus has a lot to say about humility & no wonder since it was pride that caused man's downfall. As the new Adam, Jesus exemplified the aspect of righteous living. Man fell because he presumed to go his own way above God's,  but godliness requires that man does the opposite & humble himself before God's will & way. Then true God gives exaltation & recognition to those who least expect it.

2 Cor 7:10 Shows that Godly sorrow, is a response of turning to God in repentance which brings salvation.

Act 2:38 WE see that Peter encourages unbelievers to change their attitude towards Christ & to be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ as a public acknowledgement that they had accepted Jesus as Messiah & Lord. They will receive full forgiveness of their sins which will be  also forgotten.

Paul says in Rom .2:4-6 That those who show contempt for God's riches of His kindness, tolerance & patience, are storing up for themselves God's wrath, when His righteous judgement will be revealed. God will give to each person according to what he has done.

Luke 15:7 Jesus teaches that there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents then over ninety nine righteous people who have no need to repent. 

Acts 3: 19-21 Shows that your sins are forgiven & forgotten by being converted, there is a refreshing that comes from God's presence. & we are to believe steadfastly that God will produce & fulfil everything that He has promised.

Acts 3;3-9 explains that the delay for Jesus return is because of End-time false teachers ridicule the prophetic promise of the Lords coming.

A positive explanation of the temporary lack of fulfilment is found in the character of a merciful God. Although the wickedness of humankind call for immediate action, God withholds His righteous wrath & delays judgement.

Jesus is waiting for those who are not yet saved. Maybe that someone is you or someone you know! The very last person to be saved before Jesus' return will rejoice for all eternity for the long wait!

God wants us to be sold out completely to Him. In Revelation we read about a group of people who are doing a lot right, to whom God has something stern to say. Rev 2:4-5 
Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lamp stand from its place—unless you repent.

Give your love to Jesus first place in your life. commit yourself both emotionally & intellectually. In v 5 where Jesus says "I will come to you," is not referring to the second coming but to a spiritual coming in blessing or judgement. The phrase "Remove your lamp stand means that a congregation may continue to exist without being a light in the darkness.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Something Beautiful...

We are entering into a most exciting season. Next week we see the celebration of Rosh haShana.  The week after we celebrate Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, & lastly we celebrate the festival of Sukkot.

Why?  We are not Jews.  We are not coming back under the Law of Moses. What do New Covenant believers have to do with Old Testament practices?

Romans 11:17~19 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in."…

Christianity is not independent of Judaism; it is the full flowering, the fulfilment of all the promises regarding the first coming of the messiah. Even the Hebrew word, moed, meaning appointed time, reflects the attitude with which we are to approach the festivals for they are God’s appointed times where we are to come apart & spend a special time with Him.

 Every single festival points in some way to Jesus. Over the coming weeks we will look at different aspects of the festivals & how Jesus fulfils them.  Today is just a brief introduction.

Take Rosh haShanah, which is celebrated as the anniversary of the creation of the universe.  Genesis 1:1… In the beginning Elohim created the heavens & the earth…Elohim is plural.  The Father planned; the son created; the Spirit revealed…& we see this again & again.
1Peter 1:20 God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but he has now revealed him to you in these last days.  

The Father planned that Jesus should be the perfect sacrifice.  Jesus became that sacrifice & the Spirit reveals the Truth to us by faith.  We always, always look for the New Testament application that was hidden in the old & which the Spirit now reveals to us.  I can’t say that enough because people easily misunderstand but considering the Feasts is to reveal Christ to us & for no other reason.

Look at the progression. From Rosh haShanah to Yom Kippur are the High Holy Days which were designed to motivate people to walk more closely with God.  Now isn’t that a good thing? The shofar is blown to stir our spirits with greater love for God & a greater love for our fellow men, who are made in God’s image. The shofar also announces the return of Christ ~ & we are closer to that reality today than we were yesterday so it is a good reminder to separate ourselves from the world & be holy, because God is holy. Remember holy simply means separated from the common for a particular use. The shofar also reminds people of judgement ~ & we will all be judged. Finally it is a reminder of new beginnings.

 2 Corinthians 5:17 very specifically tells us: This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! So you see, we have good reason to celebrate!

Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement.  Kippur means covering, specifically the covering of one’s sins.  Today is our Communion Sunday ~ a day in which we particularly remember & celebrate the sin offering of Jesus which, unlike the blood of bulls & goats, has the power to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Hebrews 9:12 - Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption [for us].

Yom Kippur is the only day on which the name of the Lord YWYH is uttered, the only day on which the High Priest wears special linen garments & enters the Holy of Holies where he sprinkles the blood offering on the mercy seat.

Now some of you have heard me talk about the day Jesus rose & how Mary mistook Him in the garden for the gardener ~ which always struck me as incredibly odd because how on earth could you make that sort of mistake?  And Jesus tells her bluntly she is not to hang on to Him because He has not yet ascended to His Father.  Being a curious soul I did some digging & found a gardener’s clothing closely resembled the High Priest’s garments that are only worn on this one day.  Mary saw Jesus as he prepared to enter the heavenly temple & make the sin offering there for us!

Leviticus 17:11 - For the life of the flesh [is] in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it [is] the blood [that] maketh an atonement for the soul.

Jesus fulfils all the requirements of the Old Covenant.  We can read through the Old Testament & find it confusing & obsolete.  When we read it with New Testament understanding it speaks to us clearly of the promises & of God’s great love for His creation.  Not only that, he so desires our company He set these moed in place to help us make space in our busy lives to spend quality time with Him.

The last festival is Sukkot.  One of its other names is The Season of our Joy.  I love that, don’t you?  Perry Stone, amongst others, teaches that this is probably the season when Jesus was actually born.  One reason for this is that the Greek phatnÄ“ would be rendered sukkot in Hebrew, meaning a temporary shelter such as are built during the festival Sukkot, rather than manger.

This festival has so many nuances it is impossible to cover them all briefly so I am only going to mention the lulav here because we have not discussed that before.

Leviticus 23:40 And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days.

The lulav is the combination of different types of plants that are waved before the Lord.  The etrog, a citrus, represents the heart, the palm spiritual backbone, the myrtle,  spiritual vision, the willow represents lips of prayer. The branches are waved in 6 directions symbolising God’s omnipotence.  On the last day they are beaten against the ground.  Many of the leaves fall off symbolising ultimate victory over our enemies.  Jesus is our victory.

When the lulav is waved it symbolises too the Holy Spirit, who is often depicted as a rushing wind.  The sound of the air moving reminds us of the move of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I don’t have all these different types of plants growing in my garden so I just brought some palm fronds.  It will give you a bit of an idea ~ & remember too, these are festivals Jesus took part in so it is another way of bringing us closer to Jesus.

Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who sanctifies us with His commandments & commanded us regarding the waving of the lulav.

There is a phrase used during sukkot: hiddur mitzvah.  It means to make a commandment beautiful. Isn’t this what Jesus has done for us?  He has taken the law, which brought nothing but death & condemnation to Israel, & made it into something beautiful for us. He left us really just 2 commandments: Matthew22 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Sukkot is a 7 day festival ~ 8 for the gentiles or the diaspora.  The 7th Day is known as the Great Salvation.  Jesus again.

So as we come to the communion table we remember all that Christ has done for us. He has taken our sin, our brokenness, our sickness & made it something beautiful for God.

1 John 2:2 says:  And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for [the sins of] the whole world.

As Revelation 5:9 says:  And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;

Thou hast redeemed us…

As you prepare your hearts to receive communion remember that we can celebrate with great joy.  Jesus has made something beautiful of us.  He has redeemed us.  He rejoices over us.  He has forseen this from before the foundation of the world. The Father planned it, the son executed it, the Holy Spirit reveals the truth to us. Praise the Lord.