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?
Shabbat (Sabbath) in a Jewish community in Israel is different from Shabbat at home in America. What we have experienced in Israel may be similar to what one would encounter in an American Jewish community, but it is new to us. We non-Jewish Sabbath keepers, even those of us who have been keeping Shabbat for many years, are still finding our way. What we know is that Messiah Yeshua kept it, that He taught His disciples to continue obeying the commandments, and that we want to do as He did because we love Him so much.
Our Christian traditions have forbidden us from keeping Shabbat ever since the days of Emperor Constantine, and many of the Jewish traditions seem to make Shabbat incomprehensibly complicated. Even so, we know that Shabbat is a bubble in time which occurs once in seven days. When we enter that bubble, we come into a place where YHVH is waiting. America continues at its frenetic pace around us, with its Saturday football games, festivals, work opportunities, soccer matches, and all the myriad other things we deemed important for much of our lives. For us that world drifts into the shadows as we turn our attention inward toward home, family, gathering with friends, and meeting with the holy, loving, and kind God Who has invited us to be still and know that He is indeed God.
This is not to say that our Shabbat observance is perfect. We live in a world where Shabbat is not even a word most people recognize, nor a concept they understand. We juggle our schedules as best we can to avoid any normal business, work, travel, or other things which keep us from this divine appointment. That in itself strains relationships with family and friends who do not esteem the day as we do. Then there are the constant temptations to bend the rules: to finish that one last bit of work just after the sun sets, or to check up on the scores when our favorite teams are playing, or to compromise by meeting our non-Shabbat-keeping family at a restaurant early on Saturday evening. We do our best not to be legalistic, but to manage these competing requirements of life in Babylon while obeying our King.
This is where we begin to identify with our Jewish brethren. They have been living this balancing act for millennia, and it is logical that we look to them for inspiration. Thus we have come to Gi’vat Ye’arim, not even knowing that we have come here for reasons the Almighty had determined before we even heard of the place.
Jesus was perhaps the greatest Torah teacher of his day.
Think about that for a moment. We do not often consider the fact that Yeshua haMashiach (Jesus Christ) taught from the Torah, and that he was recognized by Jewish leaders as a great teacher. It began in his youth, when at the age of 12 he astounded the doctors of the Law (Torah) in the Temple (Luke 2:41-52). When he entered into public ministry, the teacher of Israel himself came to inquire of Yeshua about spiritual matters (John 3:1-21). His greatest oration, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-7:29), was in fact an extensive midrash on the Torah and its application in daily life. That is why Yeshua stated early in that sermon that he had not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it – meaning to teach it correctly and live out its full meaning (Matthew 5:17-20).
This should lead us to the conclusion the Torah was given not only to the Jews, but to all of God’s people. In fact, the Torah applies to every person on earth, or at least it will when Messiah reigns from Jerusalem. How else are we to understand such passages as this one from Isaiah?
Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. (Isaiah 2:2-4 NKJV, emphasis added)
Notice the key to Isaiah’s oft-quoted prophecy: universal peace does not happen until after the nations of the earth submit to the judgment of YHVH’s Messiah and learn and obey the Law (Torah) which he shall teach.
What do Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the pre-Tribulation rapture have in common? There is probably a joke in there somewhere, but the punch line escapes me. The answer, though, is that all of them are part of mainstream Christian practice (at least in the West), but none of them have much basis in Scripture. When held up to the light of Scripture, the Jolly Elf, the Whimsical Rabbit, and the Get-Out-of-Persecution-Free Card actually belong more in the realm of legend, myth, and wishful thinking.
There is no need to explain to Christians that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny do not exist. Everyone knows that – and it would be better if our children understood it from the start rather than having to face their first crisis of faith when their kindergarten friends expose the truth. What everyone does not know, or does not want to admit, is that the doctrine of Jesus coming back to snatch His people away from the earth before the trials of the Last Days is not consistent with Scripture. The problem up to now is that there has been no comprehensive reference book written to examine this question from a critical point of view.
Until now, that is. Author Michael Snyder has at last filled the void with his latest book, The Rapture Verdict. It is 268 pages of systematic investigation of the subject from a man who simply wants to sort out the truth. His stark conclusion is stated in the first chapter:
Unfortunately, there isn’t going to be a pre-Tribulation rapture. In fact, millions of Christians are going to die waiting for a pre-Tribulation rapture that is never going to happen.
Depending on the reader’s disposition, such a statement will make him or her angry, fearful, or vindicated. Those with the latter reaction would be the ones who grew up learning about the rapture in church, but who could never shake the nagging doubt that the few dozen verses pulled out of context to justify the doctrine leave far too many unanswered questions.
What to Do When the World Blows Up: A Review of “Know the Time, Change Your World”, by Barry L. Miller
It seems that everyone is expecting the world to change for the worse in September 2015. That, at least, is a prevailing topic of conversation here in the United States. I have been part of such discussions many times over the last few months, and regardless how the discussion begins, it invariably comes down to the question, “What do we do now?”
The people of YHVH should be paying attention to the signs of the times. We are indeed on the brink of major changes to the world system, and these changes likely will involve a combination of economic, military, political, and civil unrest, with a few major natural disasters thrown in for good measure. It is, after all, the end of the Shemitah, the seventh, or sabbatical, year in the seven-year cycle the Lord explained to Moses (Exodus 23:10-12; Leviticus 25:1-7; Deuteronomy 15:1-6, 31:9-13). It is also the time of the fourth Blood Moon of the tetrad we have seen at Passover and Tabernacles over these last two years. What, if anything, are we to do about all of this?
Happily, there is someone who has undertaken the task of answering that question in a rational, systematic fashion using principles derived straight from the Bible. We can thank people like Rabbi Jonathan Cahn and Pastor Mark Biltz for bringing the Shemitah cycle to the attention of the world. Now we can thank Barry L. Miller for helping us understand how to live within that cycle. That is the message of his book Know the Time, Change Your World: The Reappearance of the Seven- and Fifty-Year Biblical Cycles.
It is understandable why Peter Jackson had to take considerable license with The Lord of the Rings when he brought J.R.R. Tolkien’s mammoth work to the screen, and yet his choices inevitably brought disappointment to Tolkien aficionados. Why, for example, did Jackson choose to minimize the presence of Farmer Maggot? Tolkienists take issue with the fact that his role in The Fellowship of the Ring was diminished to the point of insignificance. In the book, Farmer Maggot saved Frodo and his companions as they fled the Shire, giving them provision and helping them elude Sauron’s dreaded Black Riders. It was unexpected help, for Frodo had considered Farmer Maggot an enemy. As a child Frodo had taken a liking to Maggot’s mushrooms, and on more than one occasion absconded with portions of the good farmer’s crop. Such youthful mischief roused Maggot’s anger, compelling him to chase Frodo from his land and threaten him with his very large dogs should he ever return. And so it was that Frodo grew up fearing Farmer Maggot, never knowing that beneath his fierce anger lay a loyal, generous, and hospitable heart. Thanks to the mediation of his companion Pippin, and to the dire need of the moment, Frodo at last gained opportunity to get to know the real Farmer Maggot. He explained as much as they prepared to leave Maggot’s home:
Thank you very much indeed for your kindness! I’ve been in terror of you and your dogs for over thirty years, Farmer Maggot, though you may laugh to hear it. It’s a pity: for I’ve missed a good friend.
Frodo’s words present us with an all-too-familiar and all-too-tragic reality. How often have individuals, families, and nations remained at odds over ancient offenses, the causes of which are long forgotten? How much suffering has multiplied on the earth because natural allies regard each other as enemies, or at least minimize their contact with each other out of mistrust and misbegotten fear? And how much greater is that tragedy if the people who regard each other in this way are the two parts of YHVH’s people? In truth, Moses and Yeshua have no contradictions or arguments, but their followers think they do, and for that reason Jews and Christians have separated themselves from one another for twenty centuries.
It has been two weeks since the B’ney Yosef (Sons of Joseph) National Congress adjourned on May 25. The delegates are even now sharing their impressions of the event. Over the next few weeks we can expect the publication of articles, interviews, videos, pictures, and much more regarding the work YHVH established in Ariel, Israel. A number of us have already had opportunity to share our experiences and impressions. Here is a list of the ones that have come to my attention.
- Hebrew Nation Morning Show interviews of Ephraim and Rimona Frank (first hour) and Al McCarn (second hour) on June 3, 2015. (Click here to listen to the podcast.)
- Chazak Chazak V’nitchazek podcast by Tzefanyah Ben Yochanon and Al McCarn. (Click here to listen to the podcast.)
- “Resentment & Replacement or Reconciliation & Restoration”, presentation by Hanoch Young of Kol Yehuda. (Click here to watch the video.)
- Congress Report by Mike Clayton of Joined to Hashem. (Click here to watch the video.)
- United2Restore podcast by Ken Rank and Hanoch Young. (Click here to listen to the podcast.)
- Commentary in Swedish by Viveka Sjulmark on Sarahs Tālt.
- Commentary in Dutch by Hadassah Dee on Tegenhetlicht.
- Sunday School Report by Pete Rambo at the Lexington Baptist Church, Lexington, SC, delivered on May 31, 2015. Click here to watch the entire report. Click here to see the 10-minute Youtube video of Pete’s entire trip. Pete began posting updates on his experiences as soon as he arrived in Israel. The updates are available at his blog, www.natsab.com.
- As mentioned in an earlier post, it was my honor to be the first presenter at the Congress. Click here to read my address on the Foundations of Ephraimite Identity.
That is quite a collection of video, audio, and written material assembled in less than two weeks! It will take some time for the full impact of the Congress to manifest itself, but it is clear that something very significant happened at the Eshel HaShomron Hotel in Ariel. In essence, it was that 135 people from 12 nations came together to acknowledge that the Sovereign Creator of the Universe is at last restoring the entire nation of Israel just as He promised.
אַחֲרֵי מוֹת / קְדֹשִׁים
What is this fascination with the possibility of life beyond this planet? Are we so insecure in our human existence that we cannot bear the thought of dwelling on the only inhabited territory in the entire universe? Or is it, perhaps, a deep-seated sense of being incomplete in ourselves? Whatever the reason, since the dawn of human existence we have sought for something, or Someone, beyond ourselves who shares our experience of sentience and can explain it to us.
For over a century the search for the Interstellar Other has found expression in science fiction. Novelists like H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Arthur C. Clarke have made their marks on several generations of impressionable youth, yet the massive explosion of science fiction onto popular consciousness came not with books, but with movies. Clarke’s collaboration with Stanley Kubrick in the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey took science fiction movies to a new level. It combined world-class writing with world-class filmmaking to proclaim to audiences that we are not alone, but in so doing left more questions than answers. Ten years later, Steven Spielberg sought to answer some of those questions in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, proposing that the Interstellar Others have been visiting earth for a long, long time, and asserting that humanity had reached a point where these advanced beings could take us into their confidence and educate us further. Movies produced over the next generation investigated different aspects of this question. Some, like M. Night Shyamalan’s 2002 thriller, Signs, explored the dark possibility that alien visitors are not friendly. Signs clings to the hope that humanity can defend itself from alien intruders, and that the hostile encounter restores a sense of purpose we did not know we had lost. And then there is Knowing, a 2009 drama in which Dr John Koestler, played by Nicholas Cage, embarks on a search for the meaning behind clues predicting one global disaster after another. He learns at last that he can do nothing about the disasters; they themselves are clues all-knowing alien watchers have tracked through time to warn humanity about the imminent destruction of our planet in a massive solar flare. The aliens have no intention of letting the human race pass into extinction. Their clues guide people like Koestler in gathering children so the aliens can take them to a place of safety where humanity can begin again.
A recurring motif in these science fiction films is the search for meaning behind the evidence of alien presence. In 2001 the evidence is a mysterious monolith, and in Close Encounters it is the connection of unexplainable phenomena across the globe. In Signs it is the appearance of crop circles, and in Knowing it is the incomprehensible code of numbers and letters scratched by a child and left in a time capsule. The story tellers would have us believe that the answers to human existence are all there if we can only decipher the patterns.
The science fiction story tellers are correct in that an Interstellar Other has left patterns for us to decipher. What they have missed is that the Interstellar Other is the Holy One of Israel. His clues are in Torah, and His answers are in the rest of Scripture.
Is the world as we know it about to change? How is it about to change? And when is this change going to happen?
To the first question I respond with an unqualified yes. To the second I can only say, “In ways that no one expects – not even the most careful and prayerful observers.” Regarding the third question, I submit that it is changing even now. As a historian, political scientist, and former military professional, I can assert that the global political, economic, and military system of planet is undergoing a massive realignment such as has not occurred since World War I, and most likely not since the advent of the modern nation-state system in the 17th century. That is the subject of two blog series published by The Barking Fox in 2014 (“When Empires Die: Thoughts on the Centennial of World War I”; and “The Shemitah and the Yovel: Examining the Relevance of God’s Appointed Times”.
One sign of change is that people are now talking more openly about things that until recently were only whispered in secret. For example, in two weeks a gathering of mature, dedicated, sincere followers of Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ), along with a number of reputable Jewish colleagues who do not agree with Yeshua’s Messiaship, are meeting in Israel to discuss how the growing Messianic/Hebrew Roots Movement among non-Jewish believers is part of YHVH’s promised restoration of the “Lost Ten Tribes” of Ephraim (Northern Israel). Such a thing would have been laughable a few short years ago, but now there is genuine reason to believe the prophesied restoration of the entire nation of Israel is in motion.
That is a happy example of these changes now discussed openly. A not-so-happy example comes from what would be considered “conspiracy theory”. Is a global conspiracy about to enthrone a totalitarian regime that will bring down the nations of the world, and our personal freedoms as well? If so, what are we to do? Or can we do anything?
I have paid some attention to these rumors of conspiracy over the years in the interest of seeing whether there is any substance to them. Perhaps there is. What is certain is that events in the United States and elsewhere in the world are moving in directions that have brought great concern among people I respect and consider knowledgeable. Recently I have had conversations with family, friends, and associates that indicate they are all watching developments and wondering what it all means. I have no specific answers, but I can pass on something that might help. Bonnie Harvey of Hebrew Nation News has published an article which looks at several streams of reporting on events that seem to point to a culmination point of some kind this coming September. Is there any substance to this? Let the informed and prayerful reader decide.
Once again Peter Vest of Orthodox Messianic Judaism has provided thoughtful material worthy of consideration. In a blog post published earlier this week he invited discussion on the question of whether Israel includes Gentiles brought into covenant with the Living God by the Blood of Messiah Yeshua. What I appreciate most is how he uses the account of Ruth the Moabite, the most significant example of a foreigner who became part of Israel long before Yeshua’s work of redemption on the cross. This is timely since Ruth is the Scripture traditionally studied at Shavuot (Pentecost), which falls on May 23-24 this year. It is with the understanding that people from the nations are indeed brought into God’s nation of Israel that the First Ephraimite/Northern Israel National Congress will convene on the day after Shavuot to discuss how to walk out our identity as YHVH is restores the Whole House of Israel just as He promised.
Posted on Orthodox Messianic Judaism, May 3, 2015
by Peter Vest
So I’ve been wondering about this since last evening…
Ruth the Moabite became an Israelite. What initiated her into the People of Israel? Her faith, G-d’s grace, right?
Ephesians 2 says that Gentiles are saved by grace and brought “near” by the blood of Yeshua so that they are citizens in Israel. In other words, Gentiles should rejoice because they can join the People of Israel and have salvation, receiving in faith that which is given by grace.
But didn’t Ruth also join the People of Israel and have salvation? Receiving in faith that which was given to her by the grace of G-d?
So Ruth received the benefits specified in Ephesians 2 before the New Covenant was ever given?
Here’s the real question that I’ve been leading up to:
It is written that the New Covenant is made only with Israel. Yet Israel includes even Gentiles like Ruth who had not accepted Yeshua as the Messiah, Gentiles who belonged to Israel simply because they rejected idolatry and accepted both the G-d of Israel and the People of Israel and proceeded to live according to the Way of Life defined in the Torah of Moses (“…if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in His ways. So all the peoples of the earth will see that you are called by the name of the LORD…” Deut. 28).
So doesn’t that mean that the “Israel” with whom the New Covenant was made includes Gentiles (since Israel has always included Gentiles such as Ruth)?