Tag Archive | Firstfruits

The Shemitah and The Yovel:  Examining The Relevance of God’s Appointed Times, Part III

Diaspora Does Not Mean Destruction

The Assyrian conquest of Israel (Ephraim) began under Tiglath-Pileser III and ended with the destruction of Samaria under Sargon V.  Engravings by Henri Faucher-Gudin from a sketch of Tiglath-Pileser III by Eugène Flandin and of Sargon V by Austen Henry Layard, in G. Maspero, History of Egypt, Chaldea, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria, Vol. VII, Part B.

The Assyrian conquest of Israel (Ephraim) began under Tiglath-Pileser III and ended with the destruction of Samaria under Sargon V. (Engravings by Henri Faucher-Gudin from a sketch of Tiglath-Pileser III by Eugène Flandin and of Sargon V by Austen Henry Layard, in G. Maspero, History of Egypt, Chaldea, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria, Vol. VII, Part B.)

Ephraim:  Still Enduring the Exile

By the time of Nebuchadnezzar’s first conquest of Jerusalem in 605 BC, the Ephraimite (Northern) Kingdom of Israel had been in exile for over a century.  As with Judah, the exile of Israel by the Assyrian Empire proceeded in stages, beginning with the invasions of Tiglath-Pileser III (Pul) in 734 BC, and concluding with the siege and conquest of Israel’s capital, Samaria, by Shalmaneser V and Sargon II from 724 to 722 BC.  The account of II Kings 17 contains the summary of the conquest, as well as an explanation of why the exile took place:

Now the king of Assyria went throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria and besieged it for three years.  In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria took Samaria and carried Israel away to Assyria, and placed them in Halah and by the Habor, the River of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.  For so it was that the children of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt, from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and they had feared other gods, and had walked in the statutes of the nations whom the Lord had cast out from before the children of Israel, and of the kings of Israel, which they had made.  Also the children of Israel secretly did against the Lord their God things that were not right, and they built for themselves high places in all their cities, from watchtower to fortified city.  They set up for themselves sacred pillars and wooden images on every high hill and under every green tree.  There they burned incense on all the high places, like the nations whom the Lord had carried away before them; and they did wicked things to provoke the Lord to anger, for they served idols, of which the Lord had said to them, “You shall not do this thing.”  Yet the Lord testified against Israel and against Judah, by all of His prophets, every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways, and keep My commandments and My statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by My servants the prophets.”  Nevertheless they would not hear, but stiffened their necks, like the necks of their fathers, who did not believe in the Lord their God.  And they rejected His statutes and His covenant that He had made with their fathers, and His testimonies which He had testified against them; they followed idols, became idolaters, and went after the nations who were all around them, concerning whom the Lord had charged them that they should not do like them.  So they left all the commandments of the Lord their God, made for themselves a molded image and two calves, made a wooden image and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served Baal.  And they caused their sons and daughters to pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and soothsaying, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger.  Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them from His sight; there was none left but the tribe of Judah alone.  Also Judah did not keep the commandments of the Lord their God, but walked in the statutes of Israel which they made.  And the Lord rejected all the descendants of Israel, afflicted them, and delivered them into the hand of plunderers, until He had cast them from His sight.  For He tore Israel from the house of David, and they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king.  Then Jeroboam drove Israel from following the Lord, and made them commit a great sin.  For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they did not depart from them, until the Lord removed Israel out of His sight, as He had said by all His servants the prophets.  So Israel was carried away from their own land to Assyria, as it is to this day.  (II Kings 17:5-23 NKJV)

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When Empires Die: Thoughts on the Centennial of World War I

When Empires Die was originally published June 28-July 28, 2014, as a six-part series.  The original six part format is accessible here.

I.  THE ROAD TO SARAJEVO

Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Duchess Sophie with their three children in 1910

Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Duchess Sophie with their three children in 1910

The world took a giant step toward death on June 28, 1914.  On that day a young atheist shot and killed a prominent Catholic and his wife in an obscure Southeast European city.  Within five years, four world empires were dismembered and two new ones arose in their place.  Within 40 years, three more global empires breathed their last as the new world system spawned in 1914 grew to maturity.  Today, one hundred years later, that world system wheezes with its own death rattle, soon to expire in the process of giving birth to yet another global system which may be the last – and worst – of its kind.

As a historian, a political scientist, a soldier, and an intelligence professional, I cannot let the centennial of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination pass without pausing to remember what his life and death meant to the world.  The circumstances that brought the Archduke and his wife, the Duchess Sophie, to Sarajevo, Bosnia, are not difficult to explain, but to understand the significance of their deaths, both in their day and in ours, requires a detailed explanation.  If that explanation seems too focused on Europe, the simple reason is that Europe in 1914 ruled the entire world.  No nation outside Europe – neither ancient India, nor populous China, nor even the rising powers of America and Japan – was immune to events that shook the state system of the Continent.  If we are to know why the world went to war in 1914, we must look at the major players of that state system.  Only then can we begin to discern what happened to the world in the summer of 1914, and what is happening to the world now in the summer of 2014.

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The Shemitah and The Yovel:  Examining The Relevance of God’s Appointed Times, Part II

Consequences of Missed Appointments

Why Do These Things Matter?

As with everything else that comes from the Torah, there is the question of whether this principles of the Shemitah and the Yovel apply to anyone but the Jewish people.  The answer is yes, on several counts.  First, the people who received the Law included the Jews (mostly the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi), but also included the other Ten Tribes of Israel now scattered among the nations, as well as a large collection of foreigners who had attached themselves to Israel at the time of the Exodus.  Thus the Torah was and is not exclusively a “Jewish thing”, but something that is instructive to everyone who is part of Israel.  And who is Israel?  According to the Apostle Paul, Israel includes anyone who has professed faith in Messiah Yeshua and, by virtue of the grace of God, become part of the Commonwealth of Israel and Seed of Abraham (Ephesians 2, Romans 11, Galatians 3:26-29).

Second, when the Lord God gave His final instructions to Moses regarding the Shemitah in Deuteronomy 31, he specified that at the Feast of Tabernacles at the end of each Shemitah every single person in Israel was to assemble at the place He designated (Jerusalem) and hear the entire Law read to them.  That included all men, women, and children of both the native-born Israelites and the foreigners.  Why?  So 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.”  (Deuteronomy 9:13 NKJV)

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The Shemitah and The Yovel:  Examining The Relevance of God’s Appointed Times, Part I

Counting the Days

Rabbi Jonathan Cahn and his bestseller, The Mystery of the Shemitah, as featured in Charismanews.

Rabbi Jonathan Cahn and his bestseller, The Mystery of the Shemitah, as featured in Charismanews.

Rabbi Jonathan Cahn has made quite a stir with his recent book, The Mystery of the Shemitah, by applying an ancient biblical principle to current events to see if there is a correlation.  The average person might be inclined to dismiss his findings as circumstantial at best.  And yet Rabbi Cahn’s extensive compilation of data and events documents far too many correlations with Shemitah years to be dismissed as simple coincidence, hype, or superstition.  The discerning person would do well to take a closer look and see what this is all about.

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Trumpets For All Israelites: Why the High Holy Days Are More than Just “Jewish” Feasts

Blowing the Shofar is the central observance of the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah) is the "Jewish New Year" (Rosh HaShanah).  (Blowing the Shofar - The Nahmias Cipher Report.)

Blowing the Shofar is the central observance of the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah) is the “Jewish New Year” (Rosh HaShanah). (Blowing the Shofar – The Nahmias Cipher Report.)

The “Jewish” High Holy Days begin at sundown on September 24, 2014[1], with Yom Teruah, the Feast of Trumpets.  It is also called Rosh HaShanah, the Head of the Year.  Many people call it the “Jewish New Year”.  But what exactly is this festive day?  And should Christians even care about this “Jewish” holiday?

According to Hebrew understanding, Yom Teruah is the day God completed His work of creation by making human beings, the crowning achievement of His work.  In the agricultural cycle of the Ancient Near East, where the Bible was written, this day points toward completion of the growing season when the long-expected “latter rains” come.  It is the completion of the civil year, a tradition even the United States government has adopted.  These are all good reasons for God to command His people to set this day apart by blowing trumpets and observing a special Sabbath day of rest.

Yet there are some confusing things about Yom Teruah.  This “Head of the Year” happens on the first day of the seventh month in the Hebrew calendar.  One would expect that the New Year would be in the first month, but God Himself directed that the first month would be in the spring (Exodus 12:1-2).  That month, called Nisan or Abib in Hebrew, is the month of three great feasts of the Lord:  Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits.  In that time long ago God delivered His people Israel from bondage in Egypt.  Yet the First Month is not the same as the Head of the Year in the Seventh Month, Tishrei.  Both months have prophetic significance according to God’s plan for the redemption and restoration of His creation.  Through the Feasts celebrated in these months the Lord tells a prophetic story.  In the First Month He redeems and delivers His people, and in the Seventh He restores them.  One might say He is pressing the reset button to get things back to the way they were before sin caused all this trouble.  But why is this “Jewish” feast of Yom Teruah, or any of these “Jewish” feasts, important to Christians?

The answer to that is quite simple:  These are not Jewish feasts.

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When Empires Die: Thoughts on the Centennial of World War I, Part VI

TO SURVIVE THE COMING NIGHT

"Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" Viktor M. Vasnetsov

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Viktor M. Vasnetsov

Is the Apocalypse Nigh?

If this truly is the beginning of the end of this age, then we should expect wars and rumors of war to increase until the entire globe is consumed, just as it was in the Great War of 1914-1918, and again in the Second World War of 1939-1945.  Depending on one’s perspective, the Tribulation either begins with or is immediately preceded by this period of escalating war.  This is the time of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the rider of a White Horse going out to conquer, the rider on the Red Horse who takes peace from the earth, the rider on the Black Horse bringing famine, and the Pale Horse bearing Death and Hades.  In short order these Horsemen bring an end to the lives of one fourth of the population of the planet.  The Horsemen are followed by the revelation of multitudes of martyrs slain for their adherence to the Word of God who ask how long before the Lord will judge the world and avenge their blood.  They are told to wait until the number of martyrs yet to die is complete.  Then comes a great earthquake and many signs in the heavens, followed by the selection of the special servants of God (12,000 from each tribe of Israel, 144,000 total) and the deliverance of multitudes from the Great Tribulation.  After that comes silence in heaven for a short time, and then the judgment of God begins in earnest.

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What We Missed About Pentecost

"The Numbering of the Israelites" Henri Félix Emmanuel Philippoteaux

The Numbering of the Israelites
Henri Félix Emmanuel Philippoteaux

Here are some things that seldom come together in the same sentence:  genealogy, Israel’s tribes, Apostle Paul, Moses and Aaron, Ruth and Boaz, the Holy Spirit, and Torah.  What could these all have in common?  They all come together in the Feast of Weeks, known in Hebrew as Shavuot, and in Greek as Pentecost.  Together they reveal to us is God’s plan to bless every family and nation on earth.

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Five Loaves, Two Fish, One Messiah: Lessons on God’s Plan from the Feeding of the Five Thousand

"The Feeding of the Five Thousand" Victoria & Albert Museum

“The Feeding of the Five Thousand”
Victoria & Albert Museum

One of the most familiar Bible stories is that of Yeshua (Jesus)[1] feeding the five thousand.  This amazing and encouraging story is the only one of Messiah’s miracles recorded in all four gospels.  Since all four gospel writers deemed this event significant, there must be some deeper meaning to it than is apparent in a casual reading.  Yeshua demonstrated His compassion and ability to meet human needs, but He also taught His disciples a valuable lesson in faith and in doing the will of God.  By satisfying the hunger of 5,000 men and the women and children with them, Yeshua brought the Kingdom of God into their midst in ways none of them had experienced before, and He did so in a demonstration of Holy Spirit power.  What more could there be to the feeding of the five thousand than this?  Much indeed.  In this one miracle, Yeshua provided a sign of His Messiahship, a teaching on the seven thousand year plan of God, and a prophecy about the end of this age.

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Commonwealth and Cooperation

This paper was presented on September 8, 2012 at a conference hosted jointly by Healing Tree International and Israel Arise at Hershey, PA, and again on May 25, 2013, at a fellowship hosted by Proclaiming Justice to the Nations in Franklin, TN.

140103 Pink Elephant BalloonPink Elephants

Most people have experience the peculiar phenomenon of the pink elephant in the living room, that awkward situation in which a group of people are confronted with an obvious, but uncomfortable, issue.  Because it is obvious everyone knows or suspects what the others are thinking, yet because it is uncomfortable no one is willing to address it.  Therefore the issue goes unresolved and the relationships within the group, however cordial, remain tense, fragile, and shallow.

My purpose is to address the pink elephants that keep Jews and Christians from cooperating in a spirit of mutual trust and support, touching on areas of disagreement and misunderstanding that have bedeviled us for centuries.  The intent is not to pour salt old wounds, but to move through the uncomfortable territory and arrive at common ground where we may stand together as one people united in the service of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  This journey is beset with many openings for offense.  Given the likelihood that I shall stray into one of those openings, I ask in advance for pardon, for no offense is intended.  I am confident that if we persevere together, we will overcome the awkwardness and find the common ground which we desperately need in this critical hour.

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Commonwealth and Cooperation: How Jews and Christians Can Work Together, Part III

This is the third in a three part series that addresses the implications of Christian support for Israel.

The Commonwealth and the Symbol of Godly Marriage.

In Matthew 7:21-23, Yeshua says that in the Kingdom of Heaven He will declare that those who practice lawlessness, or Torahlessness, must depart from Him.  That is a sobering message, but consider it from another perspective.  God went through every conceivable obstacle to win his people back to Himself, even when we were not willing to acknowledge him.  The clearest picture we have of this is in marriage.  Here is what God said regarding marriage and divorce:

When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man’s wife, if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife, then her former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the Lord, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.  (Deuteronomy 24:1-4, NKJV, emphasis added) Please click here to continue reading

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