It is that time of year that Christians celebrate Christmas and Jews celebrate Hannukah, and all of us Messianic and Hebrew Roots folks are somewhere in the middle.
Actually, we’re not really in the middle. Most of us have opted out of Christmas and opted into Hannukah. Not because we have rejected Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ), mind you. We understand that His birth happened in the fall, most likely at the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah in modern Jewish practice) rather than in December. We also understand that all the Feasts of the Lord presented in Leviticus 23 are connected to Messiah’s redemptive and restorative work for the nation of Israel and all the world.
The fact is, we celebrate Passover (Pesach), Unleavened Bread (Matzot), Firstfruits (Yom Habikkurim), Pentecost (Shavuot), Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah), Atonement (Yom Kippur), and Tabernacles (Sukkot) because God established them and called on His people to observe them “as a statute forever”. That’s different from Christmas, which is a human tradition rather than a Divine decree. Christmas is a Christianization of the old festivals our ancestors celebrated in honor of other gods before they learned about the One True God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We have learned that our Messiah is Jewish, which is why we prefer to follow His example rather than the traditions which overshadowed and obscured His Jewishness and the Hebraic origins of our faith.
One might argue that Hannukah is a tradition as well. Indeed it is, but it is rooted firmly in history as a tale of our God’s salvation of His people in a time of great distress. Why is it not in the Bible? Well, it is, in some canons. The Catholic Bible still has 1st and 2nd Maccabees, the books that tell the Hannukah story. There is also a mention of it in the New Testament: John 10:22 tells us that Yeshua was in the Temple during the Feast of Dedication, which is another name for Hannukah. The point is, the origin of Hannukah is no less real and no less miraculous than the origin of Purim as recorded in the book of Esther. Our Jewish brethren established both feasts to commemorate the provision of the Almighty and His faithfulness to His covenant. Is there a better reason to celebrate?
What does it mean to repent? How much repentance is necessary? Perhaps it means far more than we think, and perhaps there is much more need to repent than we may understand. This is not a casual thing – especially in this increasingly chaotic time.
It is no coincidence that the first major initiative of B’ney Yosef North America is a call to YHVH’s people to examine themselves thoroughly in a humble, repentant attitude at this season moving into the High Holy Days (Rosh Hashana/Feast of Trumpets, Yom Kippur/Day of Atonement, Sukkot/Feast of Tabernacles). In this, as in many other areas, we are grateful for the understanding we have gained of repentance from both Christian and Jewish sources. The details of repentance, or teshuva, is something our Jewish brethren understand very well; our Christian brethren understand that repentance is made complete by the atoning work of Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ).
These two perspectives are two halves of a picture that is only now beginning to come into focus. These short daily meditations are one means of acquiring that focus. As of this posting, we are already one week into the 40 Days, but it is a simple matter to jump in at any point. Whatever you do, take time in this season to ask the Almighty for revelation on how to make things better in your relationships with Him and with others.
As we proceed through these forty days of repentance, through the month of Elul and into Tishri through Yom Kippur on 10 Tishri, we are going to look at what happens to our hearts when we are unrepentant. In other words, what we are introducing into our lives and our relationships when we do NOT repent. [please click on the link below to continue reading]
What is the purpose of a covenant if the parties in it do not keep their ends of the agreement? The parties enter into a covenant expecting certain results, but those results cannot come about if the covenanters fail to do what they said they would do, or do what they agreed not to do. With that in mind, look at what the New Covenant says:
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34 NASB, emphasis added; see also Hebrews 8:8-11)
This is YHVH’s part of the New (or Renewed) Covenant. He enters into this agreement with the entire nation of Israel, promising to put His Law (or Torah) on the hearts of the people so they will live as He created them to live. Then He will be the God of Israel, and they will know Him intimately.
This is the New Covenant that has come into effect by the redemptive work of Messiah Yeshua’s atoning sacrifice, and it applies to all who accept this gift of salvation offered by YHVH. What, then, is our part of the bargain? Do we agree to sit around for eternity, enjoying an endless party at God’s expense, and literally living happily ever after? Not exactly. Eternal life and the joy of the Lord are the rewards of keeping this bargain with God, but our part of the agreement involves things like this:
Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You. (Psalm 119:11 NKJV)
By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. (I John 2:3-6 NASB)
In other words, our part of the covenant is to learn the Word of God and do what it says; His part is to help us in this process. That is the purpose of His Holy Spirit, the Gift of God to make our hearts ready to receive His truth, which He writes on our hearts (John 14:16-26; Ezekiel 11:19-20; Deuteronomy 30:6-8).
Here is a tool to help God’s covenant partners keep their part of the agreement. This is a Bible reading plan that goes through the entire Bible in one year, but in a slightly different way. This plan is a combination of the Jewish and Christian approaches toward the Scriptures.
The Jewish approach is to read through the Torah (the books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) in weekly portions, combined with selections from the Haftorah, which are selected readings from the Prophets and other books of the Tanakh (Old Testament). The Torah cycle begins after the Fall Feasts of Yom Teruah (Trumpets, also called Rosh Hashanah), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), and Sukkot (Tabernacles) and goes through the entire year to the next occurrence of the Fall Feasts. This year the cycle begins the week of October 4-10. In this reading plan the Torah cycle is broken down into daily portions as one would normally find in any Jewish or Messianic reading plan. The weekly Haftorah readings occur each Shabbat (Sabbath), with additional Haftorah selections for the Feasts appearing at those special times during the year.
One Christian approach to reading the Bible is to go through all 66 books of the Tanakh and Apostolic Writings (New Testament) every year. This plan does that also. All of the Tanakh, starting with Joshua and ending with Malachi, as well as the Apostolic Writings from Matthew to Revelation, appear as daily portions along with the daily Torah and weekly Haftorah readings. There is no intentional connection of these daily readings with the Torah portions, just a straightforward presentation of each book in bite-sized portions in the order they appear in the Christian canon.
If you are in search of an organized approach to the Word of God, maybe this can help. Whatever you do, please do get into the Word so that it can get into you!
We see from Scripture that the Creator’s processes are lengthy, thorough, and often completely different from what humans desire or expect. This should not be a surprise. YHVH says quite plainly that His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. Nevertheless, He does tell us what we need to know, and He reveals things at the appointed times to those who bother to seek Him. What we often learn is that the answer has been there all along, but we have never understood it correctly until the right time and until we approach with the right heart. When it comes to the purpose of the Lord’s processes regarding His people Israel, the answer has been staring at us for about 3,000 years. He spoke it through Moses to prepare the people for their first great meeting with Him at Sinai:
In the third month after the sons of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. When they set out from Rephidim, they came to the wilderness of Sinai and camped in the wilderness; and there Israel camped in front of the mountain. Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.” (Exodus 19:1-6 NASB, emphasis added)
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One of the most colorful characters in the Bible is Samson, the Judge of Israel from the tribe of Dan. His story is in Judges 13-16. It begins like this:
Now there was a certain man from Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren and had no children. And the Angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Indeed now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. Now therefore, please be careful not to drink wine or similar drink, and not to eat anything unclean. For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.” (Judges 13:2-5 NKJV, emphasis added)