Posts Tagged ‘Altar of Sacrifice’

Parashah 22: Vayak’hel (He assembled)

Exodus 35:1-38:20
(In a regular year, read with Parashah 23; in a leap year read separately.)

“Moshe assembled the whole community of the people of Isra’el and said to them, ‘These are the things which Adonai has ordered you to do’” (Exodus 35:1).  

The instructions given to the Israelites are sometimes referred to as ‘The Mosaic Law.’ Though that delineation differentiates the Torah from other laws like man-made traditions or even the ‘law of sin and death,’ it has been wrongly interpreted to mean ‘the law that came from Moshe that has nothing to do with anyone who isn’t Jewish.’   In truth, Moshe was only the intercessor between Elohim and the Israelites and did not make any commands or instructions.

Elohim reminds His people to remember the Sabbath day once again.  He places considerable value on this commandment! The Israelites are to work only six days because the seventh day is a holy day of complete rest, the Shabbat. Whoever works on the Shabbat is to be put to death. This seems like a harsh consequence, but the wages of breaking Adonai’s commands is death.  He knows that if one person begins breaking the Sabbath, others will follow, and eventually His holy day will be forgotten. It is important that while the Israelites work to build the Tabernacle, they only work six days and enter His rest on the seventh.

Hebrew Word Pictures 
Sabbath or shabbat – שבת – shin, bet, tav
– the covenant sign consumes the house

Seven or sheva – שבע – shin, bet, ayin
– consume the family, understand

“Then he [Yeshua] said to them, ‘Shabbat was made for mankind, not mankind for Shabbat; So the Son of Man is Lord even of Shabbat’” (Mark 2:27-28).

According to Yeshua, the Sabbath was created for man. Elohim created Adam and Eve, and then created the Sabbath day so they could fellowship with Him. Elohim did not create the Sabbath and then humanity; he did not want any bondage to the day. No man-made rule should keep anyone from peace, joy, and fellowship with Adonai on His holy day.

Because Yeshua is Lord of the Shabbat, he can determine what is lawful and what is not. He can decide whether picking grain on the Sabbath is lawful because his disciples were hungry. He can heal on the Sabbath because he came to set people free from ‘carrying a burden.’ As the Son of Man, he also implies that an individual has the authority to decide the proper halacha or ways for walking out the command of Sabbath. With the Ruach haKodesh, true halacha is written on the hearts of the followers of Messiah and not in the traditions of the rabbis and sages.

“A man there had a shriveled hand. Looking for a reason to accuse him of something, they asked him, ‘Is healing permitted on Shabbat?’ But he answered, ‘If you have a sheep that falls in a pit on Shabbat, which of you won’t take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore, what is permitted on Shabbat is to do good’” (Matthew 12:10-2).

“You are not to kindle a fire in any of your homes on the Shabbat” (Exodus 35:3). 

Adonai gives the first of six commands for honoring the Sabbath. While the Israelites were living in the desert, they didn’t need much fire during the day; at night they had the pillar of fire to keep them warm. However, they needed fires for cooking so they were being commanded not to cook on the Sabbath.  They had already been instructed about collecting extra manna on the sixth day, now they are not to cook it over a fire on the seventh.

Over the centuries Jewish traditions turned this simple command into a plethora of rules regarding kindling a fire.  Shabbat candles, for example, are not to be lit after sundown as that is considered kindling a fire.  Hanukkah candles on Shabbat must be lit before the Shabbat candles, both before sunset. In some parts of the colder regions of world, gentiles were hired to kindle fires on Shabbat so Jewish families could stay warm. This type of behavior goes directly against the command for anyone within your home to honor the Shabbat. Kindling a fire is different from maintaining a fire to keep from freezing to death.

Years ago I heard a rabbi teach about living, not dying by Torah. He used the example in Matthew 12:1-6 of Yeshua going through the fields and picking grain on the Sabbath, which was considered work according to Jewish tradition.   The leaders judged him for breaking the Shabbat.  He reminds them of David who, when he was hungry, took the consecrated bread that was supposed to be only for the priests and fed it to his men (1 Samuel 21:1-6, Luke 6:1-5). This was ‘unlawful,’ but acceptable to the priest. Why? When faced with a life or death situation, the priest knew that Elohim desires that we choose life over death (Deuteronomy 30:19). It is a command of Adonai not kindle a fire on Shabbat; however, if someone is going to die from the cold or starvation, it is His will to choose life and kindle that fire.

“Anyone whose heart makes him willing” (Exodus 35:5).

Moshe tells the Israelites everything that Adonai told him on the mountain.   In order to make the Tabernacle, a dwelling place for Adonai’s presence, a collection was taken of gold, silver, bronze, blue, purple, and scarlet yarn, fine linen, goat’s hair, tanned ram skins, fine leather, Acacia wood, oil, spices, along with onyx and precious stones.

The key to the contributions concerned the heart of the individual.  Adonai knows the hearts of His people and He doesn’t want their contributions if they don’t have a willing heart. Most, if not all, of these items were received when plundering Egypt and weren’t actually Israelite property. The property belonged to Adonai who delivered the Israelites. Any person who wanted to hold onto the plundered goods would not be included in worshiping Adonai through a free-will offering.

Adonai knows our wicked hearts better than we do which should make us fearful of Him.  In Acts 5:1-11, Ananias and Sapphira are perfect examples of ‘half-hearted’ giving to Adonai and they received their reward.  They died.

Moshe begins listing everything they will be making for the Tabernacle.   He calls on craftsmen to come forward and help building the Mishkan, all the furnishings, and the garments for the priesthood. Everyone whose “hearts were stirred” brought their offerings to Adonai. Everyone whose “spirit made him willing” brought offerings of gold (Exodus 35:20-22).

None of the Israelites, except a chosen few, were given the Ruach Elohim.  Adonai’s Spirit has not yet been poured out for His instructions to be written on the hearts of His people. The Israelites were filled with His Spirit and desiring to obey and live by His rulings. Each person acted out their faith through a willingness of heart, a stirring of their human spirit.

Born again believers who have the indwelling Ruach haKodesh and should have Torah written on their hearts have become much less willing to live by Adonai’s instructions. There seems to be no issue with blaspheming the greatest power ever given to us –– the power of the Ruach haKodesh that transforms us into obedient children in His family.

“Also, everyone who says something against the Son of Man will have it forgiven him; but whoever has blasphemed the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit,  will not be forgiven” (Luke 2:10).

Only a select few Israelites, which included Betzal’el and Oholi’av, were filled with the Ruach Elohim.  They were given wisdom, knowledge, and understanding about working with gold, silver, bronze, precious stones, and woodcarving, and the skills for every kind design work including embroidery. They were also given the ability to teach others.

The Feminine Touch

“Likewise the women whose heart stirred them to use their skill” (Exodus 35:26).

Women also gave what they had of the plundered goods; they were not separated out or ignored.  They had skills which were needed and used in creating the Tabernacle. Spinning was a woman’s work and the Israelite women immediately began spinning the blue, purple, and scarlet yarn, fine linen and goat’s hair.

With the modern-day feminist movement, women in the Body of Messiah have bought into the same lies as the women of the world.  They believe they need to be equal to men, not accepting that they were created differently. The ‘spirit of Jezebel’ has bewitched women to rise up and take positions of leadership over men. When Eve stepped out from under the authority of Adam, she became the catalyst for bringing sin into the world. The failure of men to be strong spiritual leaders has occurred because women have stepped out of their place of authority, which is under man, who is under the authority of Messiah, who is under the authority of his Father (Luke 7, 6-8, 1 Corinthians 11).

Women argue against wearing a head covering as a sign of their authority, but some women in the Hebrew roots movement will wear tzizit and prayer shawls that are supposed to be worn by men.  They have embraced the idea that ‘Israelites’ includes both sexes, when only Israelite men were counted when leaving Egypt or for the census.  Women were not considered less valuable than men or unequal, they were placed under the authority of men: fathers, brothers, and husbands protecting them from being raped, sexually assaulted or abused within the community. In their proper position, women had much to offer in the building of the Tabernacle.

Some may argue that in Adonai’s Kingdom there is no difference between men and women (Galatians 3:27-28). This is true spiritually. Both men and women sin, and both need redemption.  However, in the physical world, there are obvious physical differences between men and women.   Though physically weaker than men, women are to be respected as heirs to the Kingdom. If husbands do not respect their wives as fellow heirs, their prayers will be hindered (1 Peter 3:7).

Feminism has blurred the roles between men and women so decisively that if this were the days of Moshe, women would be forcing men to spin goat’s hair while they fought for the right to melt gold.  The confusion of gender roles would undermine ‘hearts being stirred’ to offer what each individual was gifted to offer.   Dissatisfaction with the gender roles would have never propelled a physical Tabernacle to rise up in the wilderness, let alone a spiritual one built with living stones.

Women also served at the Tabernacle. The Hebrew word for ‘served’ is tzaba and means to ‘minister.’  Tzaba also infers ‘a soldier who goes off to war’ and is the root for the Hebrew ‘hosts,’ tzvaot. Tzaba is used to describe the service of the priests, Aaron’s descendants in the Tabernacle (Numbers 4:23,35,39).  Though it is believed that those who performed Tabernacle duties were only men, it is implied that Levitical women also had ministering roles in the Tabernacle.

The hearts of the children of Isra’el were stirred above and beyond what was asked or imagined (Ephesians 3:20-21). Their willingness to give for the Tabernacle proved their desire for Adonai to live among them.

“The people were restrained from making additional contributions.  For what they had already was not only sufficient for doing all the work, but too much!” (Exodus 36:7)

Yeshua and Thyatira
Revelation 2:18-29

Yeshua reveals himself to Thyatira as the ‘Son of God’  with a very detailed description of his glorified person. His eyes are a fiery flame and his feet are burnished brass.  With his fiery eyes, he searches minds and hearts and gives to each person what they deserve. Everyone, including followers of Yeshua will be accountable for everything said and done in this life, as well as how they build on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (1 Corinthians 3:13, Ephesians 2:20).

Thyatira was named after the Greek goddess Pelopia and was located south of modern-day Istanbul (aka Constantinople named after Constantine).  A god-fearer named Lydia who sold purple cloth was from Thyatira.  When she heard Sha’ul’s message of salvation, Adonai opened her heart.   She was so full of joy that she invited Sha’ul and Silas to her home (Acts 16:14-15).

The believers in Thyatira have love, faith, service, and perseverance.  They continue to spiritually grow and their works increase as they mature.  However, they tolerate a woman known as Jezebel, a false prophetess who leads Adonai’s people into sexual immorality and encourages them to eat food sacrificed to idols.   Yeshua has dealt with this woman and given her time to repent, but she has refused.  He will judge her by throwing her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her will have great trouble.  He will even strike “her children dead!” (Revelation 2:23).  

The account of Jezebel is found in 1 Kings 16-21 and 2 Kings 9. Jezebel married Ahab who was the King of northern Isra’el.  He was a weak man and allowed Jezebel to take authority over her him and the kingdom.  She did not love the Elohim of Isra’el and she had zero moral compass.  She had her husband steal Nahab’s vineyard and kill him.  She had many of Isra’el’s prophets murdered. She allowed temples to be built in the northern kingdom for worshiping Ba’al. Only the prophet Elijah stood against her and her 450 prophets of Ba’al.  When the Elohim of Isra’el is proven greater and more powerful than the Ba’als, Elijah and Jezebel become mortal enemies, and Jezebel seeks his death.  After King Ahab dies, Jehu is anointed by Elisha to overthrow the house of Ahab and confront Jezebel.  She eventually dies by falling from a balcony and her body is eaten by dogs.

According to Yeshua, Jezebel knows “Satan’s deep secrets” (Revelation 2:24). This makes her not only a false prophetess, but a woman of the occult.   She is called an adulteress and those who follow her false prophecies commit spiritual adultery with her will suffer the consequences.  They will endure a bed of suffering, trouble, and watch their children die!

To be thrown onto a bed of suffering alludes to the ‘lake of fire that burns with sulfur’ which refers to the second death or complete spiritual death (Revelation 20:8).  Spiritual death is eternal without any hope of redemption. It is the final judgment for the Adversary, the beast, the false prophet, and those who follow Jezebel.

Fighting against the ‘spirit of Jezebel’ is oppressive and burdensome.  There is always the temptation to fall into spiritual adultery because the Adversary’s ways are enticing.  The battle is so fierce for the believers in Thyatira that Yeshua adds nothing more for them except to “hold fast to what you have until I come” (Revelation 2:25).

Those who overcome the ‘spirit of Jezebel’ will receive authority to rule over the nations.  Their authority will not be usurped by any demonic spirit.  They will rule with an iron staff and crush the nations to pieces like pottery.  Their authority will not be readily accepted, but they will have victory because they overcame Jezebel’s deep secrets. They will also be given the Morning Star.  Discerning true prophets of Adonai who give light to the congregation and put to death the false ones like Jezebel is utterly important for receiving a reward from Yeshua.

“Yes, we have the prophetic Word made very certain. You will do well to pay attention to it as to a light shining in a dark, murky place, until the Day dawns and the Morning Star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19)

(See Study Helps for information on the book Illusion of Truth, a testimony about spiritual warfare and the victory over the ‘spirit of Jezebel.’) 

The Tent Coverings

The tent covering was made of layers from different fabric. On the inside where the priests would minister, ten sheets, all the same size, were made with finely woven linen and blue, purple, and scarlet yarn. They were joined together so the interior part of the tent formed one single unit. The next covering layer was made of spun goat’s hair. The sheets were made in the same way, ten sheets, all the same size, joined together into one single unit. Another layer of covering was made of fine leather from rams’ skins.

The tent was set up using planks and cross bars made of Acacia wood overlaid with gold and set in silver sockets. For the entrance to the tent, a screen of blue, purple, and scarlet yarn and fine linen were woven together in colors. It had five posts and hooks. Everything was overlaid with gold while the five sockets were bronze.

K’ruvim or Cherubim

“He made the [holy] curtain with k’ruvim worked in that had been crafted by a skilled artisan” (Exodus 36:8).

Skilled men made the Holy Curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place of blue, purple, scarlet yarn and fine linen. Other skilled artisans wove k’ruvim into each sheet and the Holy Curtain. K’ruvim is the Hebrew word for ‘cherubim’ and means ‘nearness’ or ‘intimacy.’ They are a type of angelic being anointed to guard the heavenly sanctuary, and one specific k’ruvim guarded the Garden of Eden (Ezekiel 28:13).

K’ruvim has the same root as korban which means ‘offering. ’ Each of the artisans ‘drew near’ to Adonai as they worked His instructed designs into the fabric.  Imagine how the Ruach Elohim was moving, teaching, and showing these men things they could never have imagined without divine guidance!  Consider that the Tabernacle would become a very spiritual place where the priests, and especially the high priest and Adonai would meet, but it was also very physical ‘tent’.  Through the physical actions of these men and women, as they created and worked, they entered the spiritual realm.

The prophet Ezekiel describes a k’ruv, who had “the seal on perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in Eden, the garden of God” (Ezekiel 28: 11-12)  This particular k’ruv protected a large region and was placed on Adonai’s holy mountain.  “You walked back and forth among stones of fire.  You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, until unrighteousness  was found in you” (Ezekiel 28:14-15).  

This k’ruv became filled with violence and sinned.  He was thrown out from the mountain of Adonai and destroyed by fire and turned to ash. “You protecting k’ruv, your heart grew proud because of your beauty, you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. Therefore I have brought forth fire from within you, and it has devoured you; I reduced you into ashes on the ground”  (Ezekiel 28:17-18).

Hebrew Word Pictures
Cherubim or k’ruvim – כרבים – kaf, resh, bet, yod, mem
– to cover the highest authority of the house, the mighty finished work

The Holy Place

“A tent was set up, the outer one, which was called the Holy Place; in it were the menorah, the table and the Bread of the Presence” (Hebrews 9:2).

Every object in the Holy Place within the Mishkan was made from gold.  Gold comes from the Hebrew word zahav and means ‘brilliance and splendor.’  Gold is associated with all that is ‘Kadosh l’Adonai.’ The judgments of Adonai are true and righteous and are to be desired more than fine gold (Psalm 19:9-10). King Solomon compared instruction, wisdom, and understanding to gold (Proverbs 8:10, 16:16). Faith is tested in the fire like gold because it is very precious (1 Peter 1:7).

The Ark of the Covenant 

“Arise, Lord, and come to your resting place, you and the ark of your might” (Psalm 132:8).

Betzal’el made the Ark of the Covenant from Acacia wood and overlaid it with gold inside and out.  He put molding at the top, made rings for the corners, and put carrying poles in the rings. He made the kaphar or cover for the Ark.  On the cover were two k’ruvim made of pure hammered gold which were one piece with the cover. The k’ruvim had their wings spread so they covered the Ark. They faced each other, but their eyes looked down toward the center of the Ark covering where Adonai and the high priest would meet. The k’ruvim on the Ark of the Covenant match the descriptions of the k’ruvim found in Ezekiel 1:4-14 and Revelation 4:6-8.  In both references, the k’ruvim are with Adonai as part of His chariot and His Throne.  They are so close to Him that to be close to them brings nearness to Him.

The Table of Presence

“The altar was of wood, five-and-a-quarter feet high and three-and-a-half feet long; its length and walls were also of wood. He said to me, ‘This is the table which is in the presence of Adonai’”
(Ezekiel 41:22).

Betzal’el made the Table of Presence of Acacia wood with a molding and overlaid it with pure gold. He made four gold rings and attached the rings to the corners of the table near the legs for the gold-covered carrying poles.  All utensils that were used with the table, its dishes, pans, bowls, and pitchers, were made of pure gold.

The Altar of Incense

“All the people were outside, praying, at the time of the incense burning, when there appeared to him an angel of Adonai standing to the right of the incense altar” (Luke 1:10-11).

Betzal’el made the Altar for burning incense from Acacia wood with a molding and overlaid its top, sides, and horns with pure gold. He made two gold rings to hold the gold-covered carrying poles fastening them under the molding at the two corners of the Altar on both sides. He also created the anointing oil and pure incense as instructed by Adonai.

The Menorah

“Then the angel that had been speaking with me returned and roused me, as if he were waking someone up from being asleep, and asked me, ‘What do you see?’ I answered, ‘I’ve been looking at a menorah; it’s all of gold, with a bowl at its top, seven lamps on it, and seven tubes leading to the lamps at its top’” (Zechariah 4:1-2).

Betzal’el hammered the holy Menorah from 60 pounds of pure gold.  He made its base, shaft, cups, rings, outer leaves, and flowers a single unit. Six branches extended from its sides –– three on one side and three on the other.  Each branch had three cups shaped like almond blossoms with a ring of outer leaves and petals. On the central shaft, he made four cups shaped like almond blossoms, each with its ring of outer leaves and petals.  Where each pair of branches joined the central shaft was a ring of outer leaves with a pair of branches. The rings of outer leaves and their branches were one piece with the shaft making the whole Menorah one piece of hammered pure gold. He also made its seven lamps, tongs, and trays of pure gold.

In Hebrew, ‘almond’ is shakeed which means ‘diligence, perseverance or watchfulness.’  In Judaism, the ‘Tree of Life’ is believed to be an almond life.  In Scripture, the almond symbolizes old age (Ecclesiastes 12:5), a rod of authority (Numbers 17:8), and the eyes of Adonai.

“The word of Adonai came to me: ‘What do you see, Jeremiah?’ ‘I see the branch of an almond tree.’ ‘You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that My Word is fulfilled’” (Jeremiah 1:11-12).

Hebrew Word Pictures
Almond or shakeed – שקד – shin, kof, dalet
– consume what is behind the pathway

Imagine standing in the Holy Place as a Levite priest. Every object is covered in gold from the poles and crossbars holding up the tent to the frame around you. It would be like standing inside a cubed golden box. The thickness of the outer coverings blocks the light from the outside. The Menorah is filled with oil and glows. Its light reflects from every golden object from the tables to the utensils. A supernatural light –– The Divine Presence –– guarded by the k’ruvim, the angels of Adonai, surrounds you in its perfection.

Now imagine stepping through the thick curtain separating the Holy Place from the Outer Courtyard into the sunlight. The difference between the divine light in Holy Place and the sunshine in the Outer Courtyard makes you squint your eyes. This difference between the place of purification and the place of sacrifice is the difference between the ‘light’ on the first day of creation and the light of the sun, moon, and stars on the fourth day.

The Outer Courtyard

Everything in the Outer Courtyard was made of bronze.  Bronze comes from the Hebrew word nechosheth and can mean brass, brazen or copper.  Bronze is an alloy mixed with other metals such as zinc, aluminum or nickel and easily cast into a shape.   It was not a precious metal, but was strong, durable and resistant to corrosion. The serpent that Moshe held up in the wilderness was made of bronze (Numbers 21:8-9) and Goliath had a bronze coat of chain mail, a bronze helmet, bronze leg armor, and a bronze javelin (1 Samuel 17:5-6).

Betzal’el made the Courtyard tapestries of finely woven linen. He also cast bronze sockets and posts with silver rings for hanging the tapestries and banded silver posts. The screen for the entrance gate to the Most Holy Place was woven in colors of blue, purple, and scarlet yarn and fine linen. The tent pegs for the Tabernacle and the Courtyard around were made of bronze.

The Altar of Sacrifice

“Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous, in burnt offerings offered whole; then bulls will be offered on your altar” (Psalm 51:19).

Betzal’el made the square Altar for burnt offerings from Acacia wood.  He made horns on its four corners and overlaid the whole Altar with bronze. He made the pots, shovels, basins, meat-hooks, and fire pans out of bronze.  He made a grate of bronze netting for under its rim that went halfway up the Altar.  The corners had four bronze rings for the four bronze carrying poles that fit into the rings on the sides of the Altar.  The inside of the Altar was made of planks and remained hollow.

The Bronze Laver

“He made the basin of bronze with its base of bronze from the mirrors of the women serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting” (Exodus 38:8).

Betzal’el made the Laver of bronze creating its base from the mirrors of the women serving at the entrance to the Tabernacle.  Mirrors in ancient times were not glass like mirrors today, they were highly polished bronze. By making the base from a reflective material, the priests could see whether or not their face and bodies were washed of blood before entering the Holy Place.

Yeshua and Ephesus
Revelation 2:12-17

In the message to the congregation in Ephesus, Yeshua describes himself as the “one who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven gold menorahs.” Yeshua, as the holy and beaten Menorah, walks among the menorahs of his people because he is the one from whom the congregation receives its light. Without him, there is no light in the darkness (John 1:9).

Ephesus was a Greek metropolis known for its Temple to Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  Acts 19 recounts Paul’s visit to Ephesus and his comments regarding the goddess Artemis and ‘the fallen stone.’ Within this city, there is great darkness and the light of the Menorah, Yeshua, is of utmost importance.

Yeshua knows the Messianic believers in Ephesus work hard; they persevere and they don’t grow weary for his sake.  They hate wickedness and liars. Yet, they have one grievous sin –– they have lost their first love. Their works have become either mundane, are just an outward act for others to see or done for personal satisfaction. Though they may take care of the poor, the widow, and the orphan, they no longer do it out of love for the ‘light of the world.’

When Sha’ul’ wrote to the Ephesians, his letter was filled with hope and encouragement. He writes about their inheritance and standing in the heavenly realm.  He explains  how they have become part of the Commonwealth of Isra’el and are being built into a holy, spiritual temple.  He compares a marriage relationship to Messiah and his Body.  It is to Ephesians he writes that their salvation is by grace through faith, not their works. 

Yeshua sees only their works, not their love for him. The consequence for this sin is the removal of their menorah.  If they don’t repent and return to loving Yeshua with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, they will be left in darkness.  Without his light, they will no longer shine in the dark city around them and their testimony will be snuffed out.

In their favor, they hate the Nicolaitans. In Greek, nico means ‘conquer’ and laitan refers to ‘lay people.’  Nicolaitan means ‘conquer the lay people.’ This implies there is a hierarchy of those who rule and those who submit to their rule. Yeshua hates this hierarchy because he is to be the Shepherd over his sheep, King over his kingdom, High Priest over his priesthood, and the Bridegroom of his bride.

When Yeshua returns with his reward, the overcomer will be allowed to enter the Garden of Eden and eat from the Tree of Life. They will experience the total restoration of everything, including the eternal Sabbath (Revelation 22:14). Until that time, the Ephesians must return to Yeshua, their first love, so that their menorah will not be removed from its stand and they assimilate into the darkness of the world.

“How blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they have the right to eat from the Tree of Life and go through the gates into the city!” (Revelation 22:14)

©2018 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing. For a hard copy of this Torah portion, the weekly readings of the Prophets and New Testament, and springboard for midrash, please purchase Open My Eyes: Wonders of Torah.

Hanukkah: The Truth in the 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’ repeatedly, 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 similar statement years ago: “It’s not that the Jews keep traditions; it’s that the traditions keep the Jews.”

The Jews aren’t the only people to have traditions. Some people macro-tradition and follow the ways of their ancestors in carving a turkey, ethnic meals or educational institutions. Some micro-tradition with how they wash their clothes, wear their hair, and brush their teeth. Traditions not only help order a daily life, but they maintain a sense of family identity throughout the generations.

Tevye doesn’t know from ‘where’ he received the traditions of keeping his head covered and his talit katan. He doesn’t know from ‘where’ the traditions of how to sleep, eat, work and wear clothes came either. Tevye does know, however, that the traditions express who he is, who God is, and how he is expected to live God’s way. His traditions bring balance to his life and, from what I can tell, Tevye’s traditions do not break any commandments; 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 connected with the Court of the Gentiles where God-fears could come to the Temple and worship the God of Isra’el. It was in this area of the Temple that Yeshua’s Jewish brothers and sisters surrounded him and demanded that he reveal his identity.

This was a dangerous confrontation because they had already seen that Yeshua had no problem rebuking anyone who lives 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 man-made tradition, he would have spoken up. He would have walked 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 in the Temple area for everyone to hear, charging them with sin and idolatry in their man-made tradition of Hanukkah, He would have reprimanded them for celebrating the re-Dedication of the Altar when it wasn’t in Torah.

Instead of acting like a lunatic, Yeshua tells them that his sheep hear his voice. He reminds them of the miracles he has done in his Father’s name. Whether he lit a hanukkiah, played dreidel or ate latkes, no one knows, but he did not rebuke anyone for being in the Temple at Hanukkah.

Yeshua’s own Jewish ancestral heritage is tied up in the miraculous victory of Judah Maccabee and his small army over the Greeks. His own Jewish cultural history included the desecration and restoration of the Temple in which he was now standing. He knew that had Antiochus Epiphanes annihilated the Jewish people, he wouldn’t be standing in their presence speaking about his sheep and his Father. Had the Maccabees not had victory over the Greeks, his Father’s house would have remained a desecrated and unholy place. There would be no account of him 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 re-dedication of the Altar had great significance to Israel 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 fellowship with God. All of these offerings pointed to the coming One, the Messiah ben Yosef, the suffering servant written about in Isaiah 53.

Yeshua is the Menorah, the Light of the world, walking around the Temple in a human flesh body. Whether the Talmudic story of one flask of oil lasting eight days is true or not, John wrote that Yeshua stood 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).

Yeshua is God’s voice to Israel and the world. He uses the events from the days of Antiochus and the Maccabean Revolt to give prophetic vision 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. We need to understand the prophetic vision which comes from knowing the historical events surrounding the days of Judah Maccabee. Without prophetic understanding, the coming darkness will envelope us until we fall into great deception of the end times.

The traditions surrounding Hanukkah do not nullify the commands of God. Traditions define us as individuals and join us as family. As part of the Commonwealth of Israel, lighting an eight-branched menorah unifies the family of Jew and God-fearing gentile as ‘one new man.’

World leaders wield great power to challenge and even subdue our faith in the God of Israel along with cherished traditions. As the dreidle spins with its Hebrew letters, it is important to 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, traditions have arisen that have kept them alive and united as a nation for millennia.

Yeshua is Jewish. He celebrated Hanukkah with his Jewish brothers and sisters. With his words in Solomon’s Colonnade, the history and traditions around Hanukkah become part of our spiritual history and prophetic vision. Nes Gadol Haya Sham, ‘A Great Miracle Happened There!’ Yeshua, the Menorah, revealed himself to be One with his Father in the Temple in Jerusalem, the greatest miracle of all at the Feast of Dedication.

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