Archive for the ‘Hanukkah’ Category

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 know 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? Anti-semitism.

In the past few years I hear many say that we shouldn’t listen to the rabbis, the sages, the Jews, because they added to the Torah, the created the Talmud, they don’t know Messiah. I often wonder if these same people realize where these Jewish men came up with all of their rules and regulations. It was their heart to obey God even in the smallest ‘jot and tittle’ and so they spent hours and days, months and years, studying the commandments of the LORD and outlining the best ways they could understand for obedience. Their intention was not to add burdens upon the people even though that is what many of their ideas became when others made them equal to commandments. They were just men trying to obey the God of Israel to the best intent of their heart and mind. We can learn a lot from those who went before us and we should. Rather than calling everything that has bound the Jewish people together for millennia ‘manmade traditions’, we should seek to understand their reasonings. With the Spirit of God in our lives, we should be able to discern which traditions nullify God’s Word and which traditions do not (Mark 7). When we as non-Jewish believers put as many years into study and obedience to the best intent of our new hearts and minds, perhaps then we can make judgmental assumptions. Otherwise it’s anti-semitism.

Anti-semitism is a lurking disease in the darkness of this world, but when it appears in the hearts 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 more understanding than the Jewish people from whom God chose to bring salvation. The Word says they have a veil over their eyes. It needs to be removed, not judged. It is anti-semitism to read a Hebrew Bible, written by Jewish people over many centuries, and not love those same people who gave their lives to protect it so they could be the light to the nations they were called to be. 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, by empowering a mighty deliverer, Judah Maccabee, along with a small army of courageous, spiritual men, gave His people victory over anti-semitism and restored them to their Land, their Biblical ways and even their traditions.

Let’s remember that God says curses and blessings come from how we treat the ancestors as well as the brothers and sisters of Yeshua. They were human like each of us desiring to obey the commandments of God through the grace and mercy of salvation.

“Indeed, if someone gives just a cup of cold water to one of these little [Jewish] ones because he is my disciple — yes! — I tell you, he will certainly not lose his reward!” (Matthew 10:42).

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 very smart, they are social, gentle, and loyal. Stoney was trained to kneel down almost laying flat on the ground so I could get on him. His gait was gentle and 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 at all 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 time that the Maccabees began to say “stronger and smarter than an elephant” as they prepared for further military encounters with these massively strong and smart 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 letters symbolize “mouth, finished work, shepherd staff” suggesting to me that these mighty blessed elephants were God’s trumpeting mouthpiece prophesying the finished victory through the miraculous hand of the Shepherd of Israel bringing forth the restoration and re-dedication of His Temple in Jerusalem – Hanukkah.

©2016 Tentstake Ministries

Miriam and the Oil Lamps

Miriam gazed at the flickering shadow in the room of the one oil lamp sitting on the bare wooden table.   She could barely recall the story of Judah Maccabee and the desecration of the Temple a hundred years earlier that had been told to her by her grandparents and parents.  This year, like the many years that had passed since she was a young girl,  her heart recalled a personal miracle.

She had just readied herself for the night and shivering from the winter’s chill slid between coverings on her bed.   In the darkness of the room as she began to warm, she could feel herself slipping into a peaceful sleep.     She thought she was dreaming when a great light suddenly illuminated her room.  She tried to open her eyes, but the light was so bright that she had to squint until the light enveloped her.  A heavenly being stood before her.  She could still hear his words as if that moment had just happened, “Shalom favored woman!  Elohim is with you!”

She had been deeply confused by his words and wondered why she was being greeted by an angel.  She got out of bed and knelt before him with her head bowed.  “Don’t be afraid Miriam for you have found favor with God.  You will be come pregnant and you will give birth to a son.  You are to name him, Yeshua.  He will be great, he will be called the son of the Great I AM, the Most High God. Elohim will give him the throne of his father David and he will rule the house of Jacob forever.  There will be no end to his kingdom.”

Astonished with his words, she understood that she had become highly favored.  She was receiving the message of hope that all young women for generations desired – to become the vessel for the coming Messiah.  She responded with the only words that came to her heart, “I am the servant of the Most High Elohim.  May it happen to me as you have said.” 

Immediately she felt the Spirit of the Living God come upon her. It sweetly and gently touched and filled her womb. She knew that within her body a baby had been conceived.

Gentle chills passed through her body as she remembered the breath of Elohim emanating through her womb consuming it with a holy life.  She shivered again in the coldness of this winter evening.  It felt like it would snow, but that rarely happened in the Galilee, only on Mt. Hermon.  Her heart warmed with the memory of Yosef’s enduring devotion in the midst of the local scandal.  Being pregnant and only betrothed made her appear to be a fornicator, a common whore.  Yosef, who knew the truth and loved her deeply, remained faithful to her and believed her because he, too, had had a visit from an angel.  

She reached for a jar of oil sitting on the shelf above where the shadow continued to flicker.    The oil of gladness. The oil of anointing.  The oil that miraculously lasted eight days at the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem.   Tonight her son was in Jerusalem walking in the Temple among the Jewish leaders.  She could almost hear him speaking as she took another lamp, filled it with oil and placed it on the table.  “You have seen me do many miracles – good deeds that reflect the Father’s power.”

Yes, she had witnessed his first miracle when he changed water into the most delicious wine at Solomon and Rachel’s wedding.  The whole village of Kana couldn’t stop talking about the quality of that wine, even today Chava told Miriam she wished she had some of that delicious wine for the coming Shabbat.   After he raised Lazarus from the dead, all of Isra’el seemed to be talking about her son. Some murmured about him while others wondered at his authority and followed him.  For those in her own village of Nazareth, he was unable to do any miracles because of their unbelief.   They had thrown him out of the synagogue and tried to push him off Mount Kedumim.    

 She went around her simple home collecting several more lamps and filled them with oil.  From the lamp on the table, she lit four lamps and they began burning brightly.  The flames of two lamps lit her path as she walked toward the window holding one in each hand.   As she placed them on the sill,  she looked out over the countryside.  The clear sky allowed the waning moon to shadow the hillsides in the Galilee all the way to the Temple so far away.

She remembered the first time she went to the Temple with her husband and son.  She had just completed her days of purification.  She and Yosef offered two turtle doves for redeeming their firstborn according to the commandment.  Moments after, as they walked through the Temple courts, an old prophet named  Shimon stopped to look at her baby.  His words filled her mind as she again contemplated the prophecy over her son.  “Now, Elohim, according to Your word, your servant is at peace as you let him go; for I have seen with my own eyes your yeshua, which you prepared in the presence of all peoples – a light that will bring revelation to the nations and glory to your people Isra’el.”

As she turned from the window to retrieve the other two lamps from the table where their flames still burned brightly, a familiar voice echoed off the walls in the quiet room; the voice of her son teaching his younger brothers and sisters who always looked at him with wide eyes, open ears, and tender hearts.  “My sheep listen to my voice.  I recognize them, they follow me and I give them eternal life.”  A smile crossed Miriam’s face as she could still see young Yakov’s upturned face reflecting the radiance of his older and wiser brother. 

The second time she and Yosef visited the Temple they thought they had lost their son in the crowds as Pesach, but they found him teaching in the Temple.  To Yosef’s amazement, he had been instructing the rabbis with the same compassion and authority as he did his own siblings.   She took two more burning lamps to the window sill. She still had two more to go.  Tonight was the sixth night of the Feast of Dedication.  

She lit two more lamps from near her bedside and the room began to glow.  In the midst of the fluttering light, she remembered the other prophecy given to her and Yosef at the time of their son’s redemption.  A beautiful old woman with a radiant countenance named Anna came to them and touched the cheeks of their baby.  She smiled at Yosef and then spoke to Miriam, “This child will cause many in Isra’el to fall and to rise, he will become a sign whom people will speak against; moreover, a sword will pierce your own heart too.  All this will happen in order to reveal many people’s inmost thoughts.” 

Miriam spoke out loud breaking the quietness of the room, ‘My son and His Father are one.’   Perhaps tonight would be the night he would tell our people who he is.  Perhaps he will finally reveal his identity to Isra’el.  Suddenly, her thoughts frightened her.  She wondered what would become of her son as he walked in Solomon’s Colonnade?  Though he always imparted wisdom from his Father, the leaders were always anxious to rid themselves of him.  She had heard rumors they wanted him dead, but could find no reason to pursue it. Would they find a reason tonight? Would they stone him as a blasphemer or follow him as the shepherd of the lost sheep of the house of Isra’el?

Many Jews in Israel died by the sword in the days of Antiochus Epiphanes.  Could it happen again?  Now?  Tonight?  She shuddered as she carried the final two oil lamps to the window.  She noticed that many of the village homes had oil lamps burning in their windows. It seemed as though they lit up the world with the reminder that Isra’el would always be victorious over their enemies.  

After she watched the flames of the village burn for several minutes, she walked across the room toward her rocking chair.  It was made of twisted olive wood and was uniquely fashioned by the hands of her beloved Yosef.  He had been such an honorable husband and a good father.  She missed his tender heart and strong hands. She sat down and began to rock in the glow of the oil lamps.  She could almost feel their warmth and her face reflected the presence of El Shaddai in her home.

Shalom came to her heart with the warm luminesce of the flames and replaced the unwelcome fear with a song, “My soul magnifies Yahweh Elohim and my spirit rejoices in God, my yeshua.  Once again, He takes notice of his servant woman in her humble position.”  Comforted by the Spirit of Elohim, she knew nothing could take her from His hands.

As she continued to rock, she gazed around the room where her children used to play with the wooden tops their father whittled for them when they were each old enough to spin one.   Nun, gimel, hay and peh – a great miracle happened here.  Everyone in Isra’el remembered the miraculous days of the Maccabees, but for Miriam the letters on the tops reminded her of her own personal miracle.  She paused in her thoughts.  For a long time she could only treasure in her heart the gift she had been given, the gift to birth the light of the world.  

Immediately after the angel’s visit, Miriam had gone to visit her cousin.  The angel had told her that Elisheva, who was past childbearing years, was also expecting a baby.  Their children would also be cousins!  When she arrived in the Judean hill country where Elisheva and Zechariah lived, she knocked on the door never expecting to see Elisheva’s expanding belly or hear the words that still penetrated Miriam’s soul, “How blessed are you among women!  And how blessed is the child in your womb!”  Elisheva knew.  Elisheva understood.  For the next six months,  they worshipped and blessed the Most High and His miracles to them. 

The oil lamp on the table flickered.  Shadows from the flames in the window danced on the walls.  Miriam hummed and then began singing, “He has performed mighty deeds with his arm, routed the secretly proud, brought down rulers from their thrones, raised up the humble, filled the hungry with good things, but sends the rich away empty.”

The lamps on the window sill  burned for several hours until only one continued with its dwindling amount of oil.  A miracle was happening now, in the present.  Her son, no longer a child but the grown Son of the God, would fulfill Elohim’s promises to their forefather Abraham and his seed forever.  Tonight in Jerusalem, her son walked in his Father’s house, the Temple.  His ancestor, King David desired to build a house for Elohim, but was given the greater promise of an eternal kingdom.   Her son was that  promised seed, the evidence that the Kingdom had arrived.  

As the last lamp flickered out, Miriam continued to rock and closed her eyes in the darkness.   Yeshua carried his Father’s name, the I Am.  He was no ordinary son.  She was favored to be his mother; he was the reason she dedicated her life and soul to embracing the words of the angel.  They named him Yeshua, the name given to Yosef when the angel spoke with him.  Her son is the Light of the world, the One who fills all lamps with oil.   He is the miracle who is bringing the eternal kingdom into this world. And tonight, he would reveal his Father to Isra’el and Miriam knew that someday in the future a sword would pierce her heart.   

(Exodus 3, Matthew 1, 2, 25, Mark 6, Luke 1, 2, John 2,  10, John 1, 11)

©2016 Tentstake Ministries

December 14, 2015 – A ‘Last Day’ Hanukkah Thought

The Light to the Nations

The Light to the Nations

“It is not enough that you are merely my servant to raise up the tribes of Ya‘akov (Jacob)  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).

In order to be a light to the nations that would bring salvation to the world, the Jewish people had to stand against assimilating into the idol worship being forced upon them by the Syrians. They could not allow the culture and customs of a different religious system to infiltrate and destroy their Biblical heritage within the Torah and the promises of God to their fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When it did, they fought against it with their lives.

“When you enter the land Adonai your God is giving you, you are not to learn how to follow the abominable practices of those nations” (Deuteronomy 18:9).

In order for each of us as believers in the Messiah of Israel, the salvation of the world, to be a light in the darkness of this world, we cannot assimilate into any culture and customs that are contrary to Biblical truth. Through various points in church history, the assimilation of pagan practices and nations into the pure faith of the prophets and apostles has slowly taken place. This mixing of the holy and the profane has created a lukewarm faith to the world; a faith that doesn’t bring the hope of salvation, but a faith people that not only the world rejects, but Messiah will vomit out of his mouth as well.  Because we are not taught and are unwilling to use the whole counsel of God’s Word for a life of holiness, from Genesis to Revelation, a great deception has been in progress and has become the foundation of a lawless gospel on which ‘the man of lawlessess’ will be free to set up the final ‘abomination of desolation’ in a temple in Jerusalem.

“Let no one deceive or beguile you in any way, for that day will not come except the apostasy comes first [unless the predicted great falling away of those who have professed to be Christians], and the man of lawlessness is revealed, who is the son of doom (of perdition), who opposes and exalts himself so proudly and insolently against and over all that is called God or that is worshiped, [even to his actually] taking his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming that he himself is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 Amplified Bible).

"Your word is a light to my path and a lamp to my feet" (Psalm 119:105).

“Your word is a light to my path and a lamp to my feet” (Psalm 119:105).

We must always be willing to cleanse and purify our spiritual temples from everything that contaminates whether physical or spiritual.  We must search for the idols on the altars of our hearts and remove them, even if it is painful and contrary to everything we have ever known.  We must begin to embrace a Biblical faith that includes an obedient life to the commandments of God that honors and glorifies, Yeshua, the Light of the World.

“Therefore the LORD (YHVH) says, “‘Go out from their midst; separate yourselves; don’t even touch what is unclean. Then I myself will receive you. In fact, I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters.’ says YHVH, LORD of Hosts”. 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).

Until next Hanukkah, Feast of Dedication … 

“Pay careful attention to how you conduct your life — live wisely, not unwisely.  Make the most of every opportunity, use your time well, for these are evil days” (Ephesians 5:15-16). 

©2015 Tentstake Ministries Book Nosh

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