Archive for 2016

Hanukkah Word: Tradition

When I think of the word ‘tradition,’ I immediately hear Tevye’s booming voice singing ‘TRADITION,’ in “Fiddler on the Roof.” Along with singing the word ‘tradition’ over and over, he explains the purpose of traditions:   “Because of our traditions, we’ve kept our balance for many, many years. Here in Anatevka, we have traditions for everything: how to sleep, how to eat… how to work… how to wear clothes. For instance, we always keep our heads covered, and always wear a little prayer shawl that shows our constant devotion to God. You may ask, “How did this tradition get started?” I’ll tell you! … I don’t know. But it’s a tradition… and because of our traditions… Every one of us knows who he is and what God expects him to do.”

I remember hearing a statement years ago that went something like “It’s not that the Jews keep traditions; it’s that the traditions keep the Jews.” There is truth in that statement because it’s not the only the Jews who have traditions. Some of us macro-tradition and follow the ways of our ancestors in how we carve a turkey, the ethnic meals we make during holidays, or the educational institutions we choose. Some of us micro-tradition with how we wash our clothes, wear our hair, or brush our teeth. Traditions not only help us order our daily lives, but they maintain a sense of family identity throughout the generations.

Tevye doesn’t know ‘where’ he received the traditions of keeping his head covered and his little prayer shawl. He doesn’t know ‘where’ the traditions of how to sleep, eat, work and wear clothes came from either. However, Tevye does know that they are expressions of who he is, who God is, and how he is expected to live in God’s design for life. His traditions bring balance to his life and, from what I can tell, Tevye’s traditions do not break any of God’s commandments. In fact, they are expressions of those commandments in his life.

“He [Yeshua] answered, “Indeed, why do you break the command of God by your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3).   “Thus, with your tradition which you had handed down to you, you nullify the Word of God! And you do other things like this” (Mark 7:13).

Hanukkah and the Temple

In John chapter 10, it is winter and the Feast of Dedication or Hanukkah has arrived. Yeshua is walking around in Solomon’s Porch, the covered area on the far eastern side of the Temple. It joined with the Court of the Gentiles where non-Jews would come to the Temple to worship the God of Isra’el as God-fearers. It was in this area that Yeshua’s Jewish brothers surrounded him and demanded that he reveal his identity as Messiah … or not.

This is a dangerous confrontation because they have already seen that Yeshua has no problem rebuking anyone when they are living or speaking contrary to the will of God. He had already chastised some of the Jewish leaders regarding the ceremonial hand washing. He called other Jewish leaders blind fools and white-washed tombs full of dead men’s bones. He completely discouraged the rich young man who wanted to follow him on his own terms. And, he told Peter, “Get behind me Satan.”

If Yeshua believed that Hanukkah was a manmade tradition that nullified the commands of God, he would have spoken up and clarified that point. He would have marched over to the Altar and rebuked the priests. He would have entered the Holy Place and overturned the Temple Menorah. He would have cried out in a loud voice for all of the men and women in the Temple area to hear, charging them with great sin in their idolatry of manmade traditions in the Temple. He would have reprimanded them for commemorating the re-Dedication of His Father’s House when it wasn’t in Torah.

Instead of acting like the anti-Messiah and a lunatic, he speaks to them of sheep hearing his voice, the miracles he has done in his Father’s name, and his Oneness with his Father. Whether he lit a Hanukkiah, played dreidel, or ate latkes, no one knows. But, we do know he did not rebuke anyone for being in the Temple at Hanukkah.

A Jewish Heritage

Yeshua’s own Jewish ancestral history is tied up in the miraculous victory of Judah Maccabee and his small army over the Greeks. His own cultural history included the desecration and restoration of the Temple in which he was now standing! He knew better than anyone that had Antiochus Epiphanes annihilated the Jewish people, he wouldn’t be standing in their presence speaking about his sheep and bringing eternal life.

His Father’s House

Yeshua is the Son of God, the Temple is his Father’s House, the place where he spent time instructing those in Jerusalem who had ears to hear. Had the Maccabees not had victory over the Greeks, the Temple would have remained a desecrated and unholy place. There would be no account of a young Yeshua teaching in the Temple at Passover nor would he have overturned the tables of the money changers. He would never have been able to quote the prophets that his Father’s house is a ‘house of prayer for all nations’ (Isaiah 56:7, Matthew 21:13).

The Altar of Sacrifice

The re-dedication of the Altar had great significance to Isra’el and the Jewish people. Without an Altar there could be no place for the burnt offering, grain offering, guilt offering, fellowship offering or sin offering – all offerings that brought atonement and fellowship with God. And, all of these offerings through the high priests pointed to the coming One, the ultimate sacrifice of the Messiah ben Yosef, the suffering servant written about in Isaiah 53. As the ‘Lamb of God,’ Yeshua would one day soon because the ultimate offering for sin and bring fellowship with his Father on his Altar of Sacrifice (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The Menorah Miracle

Yeshua is the Word in the flesh, the Living Torah (John 1:14). According to Psalm 119:105, the Torah is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. The Living Torah is the Menorah of Yeshua walking around the Temple in the flesh. Within him dwelt the fullness of God’s Spirit. Whether the story of one flask of oil lasting eight days is true or not, it is recorded that the Menorah stood in the body of Yeshua inside the Court of the Gentiles during the Feast of Dedication and revealed to the ‘lost sheep of the house of Israel’ his identity, “I and the Father are One” (John 10:30).

The Voice of God

Yeshua is God’s prophetic voice to Isra’el and the world. He uses the very events of the days of Antiochus and the Maccabean Revolt to give light and understanding for the time of his return and the end of days (Matthew 24:15). He says there will be another ‘abomination of desolation’ in the Holy Place of his Father’s House. According to Yeshua, we need to understand the prophetic vision which comes from knowing the historical events surrounding the days of Judah Maccabee. Without that prophetic knowledge and understanding, the coming darkness can envelope us until we fall into the end times great deception.

Together in Traditions!

According to the actions of Yeshua, the ‘tradition’ of Hanukkah does not nullify the commands of God. Traditions define us as individuals and join us as family. As part of the commonwealth of Isra’el, lighting an eight-branched menorah unifies the family of God as ‘one new man’ as He intended.

We should never forget the power great world leaders have to challenge and even subdue our faith in the God of Isra’el along with our traditions. As we spin the dreidel with its Hebrew letters, remember how many centuries of Jewish men, women, and children lived, fought the forces of evil, and even died so ‘salvation could come from the Jews’ (John 4:22). From their persecutions, many ‘traditions’ have arisen that have kept them alive and united as a nation for millennia.

Yeshua is our Jewish brother, Jewish Savior, Jewish High Priest and Jewish King. He celebrated Hanukkah with his Jewish brothers and sisters. Along with his words in Solomon’s Colonnade, all of the history and traditions around Hanukkah, become part of our spiritual history, journey, and prophetic vision.

Nes Gadol Haya Peh, ‘A Great Miracle Happened Here!’ May these words be our victory cry whenever we are persecuted for our faith in the Jewish Messiah, keeping Jewish traditions, or for standing with our Jewish brothers and sisters. Nes Gado Haya Sham, “A Great Miracle Happened There,’ May these words remind us that Yeshua, the Menorah, revealed himself to be ‘one’ with the Father in the Temple in Jerusalem at the Feast of Dedication – the greatest miracle of all.

©2016 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing.  

Hanukkah Word: Assimilation

“Many peoples will go and say, “Come, let’s go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob! He will teach us about his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” For out of Tziyon will go forth Torah, the word of Adonai from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3).

Watching a documentary recently on the history of Hanukkah, it became clear that the Jewish people did not want to assimilate into the Greek Hellenistic culture being forced upon them. They did not want to lose their identity to be a light to the nations, their Biblical calling as the people of God.

My husband and I discussed how we had to come out of ‘Rome’ and leave behind all the doctrines of Roman catholicism that the modern-day evangelical, protestant church has embraced. It was difficult to drop cherished family traditions that were contrary to the Word of God. Sometimes it seemed as insurmountable as the rag tag Jewish army fighting the great and mighty Syrian military on elephants. Our families didn’t understand this change. Moreover, our church brothers and sisters denounced us as legalists fallen from grace! Some said we even ‘left the fellowship of God’!

The documentary stated that the four-year battle was more than a fight to regain the Temple in Jerusalem and the ordinances given by God of Sabbath and circumcision, it was a battle for the very existence of the nation of Isra’el. Without an Israel, there could never have been the birth of the Messiah, Yeshua. Without an Israel today, there can never be his return. The battle still rages even among those who have embraced the Biblical holy days, but deny the foundation for the Feast of Dedication.

As we watched the documentary, we could see how Christianity, by negating and removing much of the history of the Jewish people from their Scriptures, has lost the understanding of what Yeshua/Jesus meant when he spoke of the ‘abomination of desolation’ and the ‘man of lawlessness’ that is at work already in this world. Without the foundational prophets, they must create their own prophetic perspective rather than having eyes to see that Yeshua was referring to the days before Hanukkah and the battle of assimilating into a world religious system contrary to the Hebrew Scriptures. It is much easier to assimilate into the world and its culture and create rationalizations than it is to stand as Mattathias did against the Syrian generals who wanted him to sacrifice to a false god or fight as the Maccabees did with few weapons, or to follow the Jewish Jesus, the Lion of Judah.

Yeshua said it clearly in Matthew 5:14-16:“You are light for the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Likewise, when people light a lamp, they don’t cover it with a bowl but put it on a lampstand, so that it shines for everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they may see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.”

We are the lights of the world.  As lights in a dark world, we cannot join the darkness, but must shine in the darkness. We must set our Hanukkah lights on by a window for everyone who passes by to see.   We cannot assimilate into the darkness or we will lose ‘the light’ and be no better than those Jewish people who succumbed to the Greeks and became Hellenized.   Sha’ul told the non-Jewish followers of Yeshua in Corinth how important it is to remain separate and full of light; what the result is of remaining righteous in a world of lawlessness – a concept that was new to them living in an unclean and blasphemous culture.

“Do not yoke yourselves together in a team with unbelievers. For how can righteousness and lawlessness be partners? What fellowship does light have with darkness? What harmony can there be between the Messiah and B’liya‘al? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?  What agreement can there be between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God — as God said,

“I will house myself in them, . . . and I will walk among you. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Therefore Adonai says, “‘Go out from their midst; separate yourselves; don’t even touch what is unclean. Then I myself will receive you’ says Adonai-Tzva’ot.”  Therefore, my dear friends, since we have these promises, let us purify ourselves from everything that can defile either body or spirit, and strive to be completely holy, out of reverence for God.”  (2 Corinthians 6:17-7:1).

Hanukkah is more than just jelly-filled donuts, lights and candles, it is about purifying ourselves from everything that contaminates our Temples and purifying our walk with God.  It is about standing firm in the faith and not assimilating into the culture around us. It is about being willing to die for what we believe in order to remain ‘set apart’ for Yeshua and His coming Kingdom.

It is about the miracle of Yeshua becoming the Temple of the Living God. It is about the miracle of the Spirit of God living in us as we become living stones of His Temple. It is about allowing His light to shine through us in the darkness around us.  It is about lighting a symbolic lamp, placing it in a prominent place to show the world that your light in the Jewish Messiah continues to shine brightly in the darkness.

“Likewise, when people light a lamp, they don’t cover it with a bowl but put it on a lampstand, so that it shines for everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they may see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:15-16).

©2016 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing. 

Hanukkah Word: Anti-semitism

“I will bless those who bless you, but I will curse anyone who curses you; and by you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).

Many years ago I was listening to a Messianic Jew and non-Jew discuss the Biblical roots of the Christian faith on a talk radio show. A woman called in and said, “If I had known Jesus was Jewish, I would not have become a Christian.”

Anti-semitism.

When our family began celebrating the Feasts of the LORD in Leviticus 23 along with Purim and Hanukkah, we were asked if we were becoming ‘Jewish.’ What is wrong with becoming ‘Jewish’ when all of our Scriptures were written by Jews (aka physical descendants of Abraham, Issac and Jacob) and our Savior is Jewish? What’s wrong with looking ‘Jewish’ when Sha’ul commended those in Thessalonica for being imitators of those Jewish congregations that are united in Messiah Yeshua?

“For, brothers, you came to be imitators of God’s congregations in Y’hudah that are united with the Messiah Yeshua …” (1 Thessalonians 2:14).

Anti-semitism.

In the past few years I hear many say that we shouldn’t listen to the rabbis, the sages, the Jewish people, because they added to the Torah, they created the Talmud, and they don’t know Messiah. I often wonder if these same people realize from where these Jewish men developed their rules and regulations. It was their heart to obey God even in the smallest ‘jot and tittle’ so they spent hours and days, months and years studying the commandments of Yahweh. They described their understanding for how to obey the commandments. Their intention was not to add burdens upon the people even though that is what happened when their rules were considered equal to God’s commandments. But, they were just men trying to obey the God of Isra’el to the best intent of their heart, mind and soul.

We can learn a lot from those who went before us and we should. Rather than calling ‘madmade’ tradition something that has bound the Jewish people together for millennia, we should seek to understand the reasoning behind the tradition. With the Spirit of God in our lives, we should be able to discern which traditions nullify God’s commandments and which traditions do not. When non-Jewish believers put as many years into studying the Word and perfecting obedience to the best intent of our hearts and minds, perhaps then we can make judgmental assumptions. Until non-Jewish believers depart from the human traditions that have bound their ideologies, there can be no judgment on the Jewish people.

“You depart from God’s command and hold onto human tradition” (Mark 7:8)

Anti-semitism.

Anti-semitism is a lurking disease in the darkness of this world, but when it appears in the lives of those who carry the Light of Messiah Yeshua, it needs to be dealt with, however subtle it may appear to be. It is anti-semitism to believe that the myriads of Christian denominations, Hebrew Roots groups, Torah Observant groups, and the plethora of other religious delineations have greater understanding of the God of Isra’el than the Jewish people through whom God chose to birth salvation, Yeshua.

“You people don’t know what you are worshipping; we worship what we do know, because salvation comes from the Jews” (John 4:22).

The Word of God says the Jewish people have a veil over their eyes. It needs to be removed, not judged. The only One who can remove the veil is the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua. For those who know his personal deliverance, it is anti-semitism to keep that salvation from even one of ‘lost sheep of the House of Isra’el.’

“What is more, their minds were made stonelike; for to this day the same veil remains over them when they read the Old Covenant; it has not been unveiled, because only by the Messiah is the veil taken away”  (2 Corinthians 3:14-16).

Never forget. Without the Jewish people, there would be no covenants, no promises, no Word of God: written on pages between leather covers or in the flesh as Messiah. To read the Bible, written entirely by Jewish people over many centuries and not love those same people who gave their lives over and over to protect it is:

Anti-semitism

“It is not enough that you are merely my servant to raise up the tribes of Ya‘akov and restore the offspring of Isra’el. I will also make you a light to the nations, so my salvation can spread to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6).

Anti-semitism in the heart of Antiochus Ephiphanes led to the near destruction of the Jewish people, their Torah and their Temple. But our great God, Yahweh Elohim, empowered a mighty deliverer. Judah Maccabee, along with a small army of courageous, spiritual men, brought his brothers and sisters victory over anti-semitism and restored them to their Land, their Biblical traditions, and their Temple.

Anti-semitism in the heart of Haman, a descendant of the Amalekites, led to the near destruction of the Jewish people and their culture. But our great God, Yahweh Elohim, through the faithfulness of the humble Persian Queen Esther, along with everyone in the city of Susa who prayed and fasted for three days and nights, gave His people victory over death and anti-semitism. He eventually returned them to their Land where Nehemiah and Ezra rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem and the restored the Temple.

God says curses and blessings are determined by how the brothers and sisters of Yeshua are treated (Matthew 10:42). Like each of us, the ‘lost sheep of the House of Isra’el’ desire to know salvation and guard the commandments of God as He intended. Celebrating their miraculous deliverance as a nation of people is the first step in combatting anti-semitism.

©2016 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing.  

Hanukkah Word: Elephants

Many years ago, I was the turkey mascot for the National Home Brewing Association. One year for a shock effect at their national convention in Denver, I had to ride an elephant into a huge convention center room. Yes, I rode an elephant named Stoney in a turkey costume. According to Chazal, a Tamuldic sage, “When we are lucky enough to see an elephant we should bless God and say, “Blessed is the One who varies the creatures.” I was very blessed to not only see Stoney, but to have the privilege to ride him.

Elephants are really unique creatures. Apart from being massively large and inordinately smart, they are social, gentle, and loyal. Stoney was trained to kneel down almost lying flat on the ground so I could get on him. His gait was gentle as he lumbered slowly from side to side. I grabbed onto him to stay secure and felt the tiny stiff hairs all over his body. And social? He loved the attention he received from the awe-struck crowd. The flashing of cameras didn’t bother him and sometimes he would try to ‘hug’ with his trunk.

Throughout history, elephants were used like military tanks in Asian warfare. Though they were not native to the Middle East, the Seleucids rode elephants to terrify the Jewish fighters during the Maccabean Revolt.

“His [Antiochus’] army numbered a hundred thousand foot soldiers, twenty thousand cavalry, and thirty-two elephants trained for war” (1 Maccabees 6:30).

“Each elephant was outfitted with a strong wooden tower, fastened to it by a harness; each tower held three soldiers who fought from it, besides the Indian driver” (1 Maccabees 6:37).

“All who heard the noise of their numbers, the tramp of their marching, and the clanging of the arms, trembled; for the army was very great and strong” (1 Maccabees 6:41).

At this first encounter, Judah Maccabee and his men defeated 500 men and killed one elephant, but had to retreat. They were not expecting elephants in their battle plans. Perhaps it was at this juncture that the Maccabees began to say “stronger and smarter than an elephant” as they prepared for further military encounters with these massive animals.

Sometime later, “a Greek army of one hundred and ten thousand foot soldiers, fifty-three hundred cavalry, twenty-two elephants, and three hundred chariots armed with scythes” came to the Judean village of Moedin (2 Maccabees 13:2).

At this second encounter Judah left “the outcome to the Creator of the world, and exhort[ed] his followers to fight nobly to death for the laws [Torah], the temple, the city, the country, and the government…. Giving his troops the battle cry “God’s Victory,” he made a night attack on the king’s pavilion with a picked force of the bravest young men and killed about two thousand in the camp. He also stabbed the lead elephant and its rider. Finally they withdrew in triumph, having filled the camp with terror and confusion. Day was just breaking when this was accomplished with the help and protection of the LORD” (2 Maccabees 13:14-17).

There are those who say these elephant stories never happened or were embellished. Others say they were a metaphor for God’s Hand in the battles. Whatever is the truth, there is always that ‘elephant in the room’ that needs to be addressed – its loud voice.  Let’s see what the Hebrew word pictures say.

In Hebrew, elephant is Pil פיל. The individual letter pictures symbolize “mouth, finished work, shepherd staff” suggesting that these mighty blessed elephants were God’s trumpeting mouthpiece. They prophesied the complete and miraculous victory through Hand of the Shepherd of Isra’el bringing forth the restoration and re-dedication of His Temple in Jerusalem – Hanukkah.

Bring on the elephants!

©2016 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing.  

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