Posts Tagged ‘Persia’

In the Days of Nehemiah

“It was the first day of the seventh month” (Nehemiah 8:2).

After our family began celebrating the ‘appointed times’ found in the Leviticus 23, days, times and seasonal cycles stood out on the pages of the Scriptures.   This specific verse in Nehemiah is no different.  It sets the time for the events to follow as the ‘first day of the seventh month’ or Yom Teruah, the Feast of Trumpets.  This ‘appointed time’ of God begins His season of the fall feasts which are about repentance, atonement and a vision of the coming Millennial Kingdom.

The events in Nehemiah 8 are not some random occurrences in the history of Israel.  They are a testimony to the restoration of the Feasts of Elohim to a people who had lived in exile for over 160 years.  Though there was a first wave of Jewish return to Jerusalem 70 years after being taken captive, Ezra and Nehemiah were in the second wave 90 years later.  It was during this time that the priests gathered the people together on the ‘first day of the seventh month’.

Yom Teruah 445 B.C.E.

A wooden platform was made on which Ezra, the priest,  stood and could be seen and heard by all of the men and women who came to listen to the reading of the Torah.  As he opened the Torah scroll, everyone stood.  Then Ezra blessed Yahweh, the great God.  As the people answered with “Amen”,  they lifted up their hands, bowed their heads and fell prostrate before Elohim with their faces to the ground. 

“Amen” has a very interesting root history.  It comes from the Hebrew word aman meaning ‘to nourish, support, make sure and strong’.   The word emunah or faithfulness also has its root in aman.   The Jewish sages say that amen is an acronym for el melek ne’eman or “God is a faithful King’.  According to Revelation 3:14, Yeshua is the “the amen, the faithful and true witness … he is the faithful King.”   What the people said  as they were about to hear the Torah was “God is a faithful King!”

Days of Awe and Repentance

The Levites had the responsibility to explain Torah to the people.  After being in a foreign country for several generations, they needed to translate the Hebrew so that the ‘Persian’ Jews would  understand the words being read.  When they heard the  instructions that God gave them through Moshe, the people began to weep. 

Repentance or ‘turning back to God’ or teshuvah  is central to the fall ‘appointed times.’   After hearing the words of Torah for the first time standing in Jerusalem, the people wept.  They grieved.  They understood they had lost the very essence of their national heritage from the LORD and had not lived accordingly.

Ezra, along with the rest of the Levites, told them not to weep, not to be sad for this day was ‘set apart to Elohim their God.’  It was an ‘appointed time’ of the LORD.  They were told to go out, eat rich food, drink sweet drinks and give portions to those who couldn’t provide for themselves.  Even today sweet foods are eaten on Feast of Trumpets with apples and honey being the traditional foods.

How sweet to my tongue is your promise, truly sweeter than honey in my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103).

Mouth of God

Yeshua said in Matthew 4:4 “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every Word that comes from the mouth of God.”  What does the mouth or ‘voice of God’ sound like?

Ram's Horn ShofarWhen John was exiled on the island of Patmos, he has a revelation of Messiah.  He says,  “I came to be, in the Spirit, on the Day of the LORD; and I heard behind me a loud voice, like a shofar ….”   The voice of the LORD sounded like the blowing of a shofar.   A shofar, or the horn from a ram, is blown on the Feast of Trumpets.  Obviously, it is only when breath goes through the shofar that it is able to create a sound.  Being vessels of Elohim’s Spirit, it is taught that the ‘breath of God’ or Ruach HaKodesh blows through a shofar when it sounds.  

(Note: John heard the voice that sounded like a shofar on the Day of the LORD.  This is in reference to the events surrounding the coming Millennial Kingdom and a time of judgment, not the first day of the week.  The events for the Day of the LORD will begin on ‘the first day of the seventh month’ or Yom Teruah.)

The Spring of Living Water
Pool of SiloamThe original city of Jerusalem had very different boundaries than modern-day Jerusalem.  In fact, remnants of the city are found in what is known as the City of David.  Within the ‘older’ city of Jerusalem, the Water Gate led down to the Gihon Spring which was located in the Kidron Valley.  This spring was the main source of water for the Pool of Siloam.   The priests would go to the Pool of Siloam to collect the water for each day’s water libation ceremony.  During this event, they would pour water over the altar in the Temple during the Feast of Tabernacles.   On the last and greatest day of this feast, Yeshua stood and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him keep coming to me and drinking! Whoever puts his trust in me, as the Scripture says, rivers of living water will flow from his inmost being!” (John 7:37-39).

As the people gathered at the Water Gate, it is symbolic of the pathway to the living water of the Word of God.  With the reading of the Torah by Ezra, the Jewish people had been ‘washed in the water of the Word’ and began preparing themselves as a pure and holy bride (Ephesians 5:25-26).   

Building Sukkot

On the second day,  the heads of the clans of the people joined the Levites and Ezra to study the words of the Torah again.  They found that Elohim had ordered through Moshe that the people of Isra’el were to live in booths or sukkot during the ‘appointed time’ in the seventh month known as the Feast of Tabernacles.  They were to announce the festival of Sukkot in all of their cities and in Jerusalem.  

“Go out to the mountains, and collect branches of olives, wild olives, myrtles, palms, and other leafy trees to make sukkot, as prescribed” (Nehemiah 8:15).

Olive TreeIn Jeremiah 11:16, God calls Isra’el an olive tree. In Romans 11,  Sha’ul speaks about branches of olives and wild olives that make up the Olive Tree of Isra’el.    The natural branches represent the 12 Tribes of Israel  and the wild branches the nations that join with them.  Both receive the same living water of the Word through the same spiritual root.   Though both branches will continue to produce either natural olives or wild olives, they both produce olives.

“A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24). 

Middle Eastern MyrtleMyrtle trees are considered an evergreen and are very hardy.   They produce a purplish-black berry called the mursins.  This fruit can be dried then ground and used as a flavoring.  It is one of the four leafy trees bound together for Sukkot that over time have been given the symbolism of ‘good smell, but no taste,’ like a person who has ‘good deeds, but does not study the Torah.’

The prophet Zechariah lived during the time between the first and second returning remnants.  He has a vision of God, angels and horsemen standing in the midst of a myrtle tree.  This vision was given to reinforce God’s promise that the exiles who returned to Jerusalem would be prosperous.  For the Jewish people of Zechariah’s time to prosper, they would need to repent and serve the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, rebuild the Temple and learn Torah.  In the time of Nehemiah 8 and Yom Teruah, the repentance had begun. 

“Therefore this is what the Lord says: ‘I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there my house will be rebuilt. And the measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem,’ declares the LORD  Almighty” (Zechariah 1:16).

Palm TreePalms, or lulav in Hebrew,  were also part of the branches collected to make a sukkah.  It is known for its uprightness, fruit and its beauty.  The Jewish sages say that the palm tree, which has taste but no smell, can be compared to a person who studies Torah, but has no fruit of good works. 

The first mention of palm trees in Scripture is when the Israelites camp at the oasis of Elim during their trek in the wilderness.  It is during the Feast  of Tabernacles that palm branches are waved signifying the coming Messianic kingdom. This is why palm branches were waved when Yeshua entered Jerusalem during the Passover season.  The people believed that the kingdom of God hadarrived; however, it was the wrong ‘appointed time’ and season.    In Revelation 7:9, multitudes from every tribe and nation will be waving palm branches and giving glory to the King of Kings.  Today, the lulav is a special binding of three species of branches along with an etrog (a type of citrus fruit).  It is used to worship the LORD during Sukkot and reminds everyone that one day the nations of the world will gather in Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles (Zechariah 14:16). 

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The people went out from the city, collected branches from specific trees and made sukkot for themselves on the roofs of their homes, in their courtyards, in the Temple courts and in the open spaces by the Water Gate and the Efrayim Gate. The entire community of those who had returned from the exile made sukkot and lived in them for the commanded time of eight days.   They had not done this since the days of Joshua and they celebrated Sukkot with great joy.  They also read the Torah every day from the first day until the last day of the ‘appointed time.’

In Our Day

The Feast of  Trumpets begins on the first day of the seventh month and Sukkot begins on the fourteenth day. On our Gregorian calendar, these fall festivals occur in our months of September/October.   They are a vision of the coming Kingdom of God when Isra’el, the natural branches of the Olive Tree will gather in Jerusalem along with the nations, the wild branches of the Olive Tree, to worship the King of Kings.  Everyone will wave olive, palm and myrtle branches for they will not just study Torah, they will bear the righteous fruit of the etrog.

The Jews in the days of Nehemiah prepared for this coming Kingdom by repenting and returning to the Torah of God and celebrated the ‘appointed times’ on their commanded days.  As wild olives, we can also embrace the vision of the coming Kingdom millennia later in the say way: repenting and turning back to God, learning Torah,  and proclaiming the ‘appointed times’ to those who stand by the Water Gate desiring spiritual nourishment from the spring of living water.  Amen. “Yeshua is the faithful King.”  

©2016 Tentstake Ministries

The Cast of Purim

JacobJemimaPurim

The Cast of Purim

“Mordecai recorded these events and sent letters to all the Jews in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, instructing them to observe the fourteenth day of the month of Adar and the fifteenth day, every year, [to commemorate] the days on which the Jews obtained rest from their enemies and the month which for them was turned from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; they were to make them days of celebrating and rejoicing, sending portions [of food] to each other and giving gifts to the poor” (Esther 9:20-22).

Purim is a memorial to the deliverance of the Jewish people from near  destruction while they were in exile in Persia (modern-day Iran).  During the reign of Ahasuerus (aka King Xerxes), a wicked anti-semitic man named Haman came to power.  He wanted all Jews in the kingdom destroyed because they had customs that wouldn’t allow them to obey the king’s laws.  Purim or ‘lots’ were cast to choose the day of their annihilation.  A Jew named Mordecai along with his niece who had become Queen interceded for the Jewish people and their destruction was averted. 

Purim celebrations are joyous and center around audience-participation melodramas.  There are groggers or noisemakers used to either cheer for the heroes or drown out the name of the villain, Haman.  Cookies, called Hamantashen, are made to look like Haman’s tricorn hat.  Children dress in the costumes of their favorite Purim character.  Food is collected and put in baskets to give to the poor, the widow and the fatherless.

Within the account of Purim there are an array of characters.  As you read one or two specific verses from the megillah or scroll of Esther about each of them,  watch how power corrupts, faith overcomes and truth is revealed.  More importantly, watch God work His hand of protection for the Jewish people, for without it, they would have been destroyed.  As some have said, without Purim, there would have been no Jewish people.  If there had been no Jewish people, there would have been no salvation named Yeshua from the Tribe of Judah.

In these last days, the Jewish people and the nation of Israel are under great attack from the nations around the world.  As global events continue to unfold, everyone will have to  choose a side:  Israel and God’s people or the international community.  As you read the account of Esther, check your own heart regarding the Jewish people.  Are you rebellious Queen Vashti,  transformed King Ahasuerus, faithful Queen Esther, discerning Mordecai, vindictive Zeresh, or anti-semitic Haman? 

Vashti

The queen to Ahasuerus disobeyed the king’s command and lost her position in the kingdom.

“Therefore, if it pleases the king, let him issue a royal decree and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media, which cannot be repealed, that Vashti is never again to enter the presence of King Xerxes. Also let the king give her royal position to someone else who is better than she” (Esther 1:19).

Hadassah (Esther)

Hadassah in Hebrew means ‘myrtle’ while her Persian name means ‘hidden.’  She was ‘hidden’ in the king’s palace and became an intercessor for the lives of the Jewish people.

“Now there was in the citadel of Susa a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, named Mordecai … who had a cousin named Hadassah. This girl, who was also known as Esther, was lovely in form and features, and Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died” (Esther 2:4-5).

Ahasuerus

The king of Persia also known as King Xerxes.

Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on Esther’s head and made her queen instead of Vashti”

(Esther 2:17).

Mordecai

Hadassah’s uncle from the Tribe of Benjamin who remained faithful to the King and Queen of Persia.  His name means ‘warrior.’

“During the time Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, became angry and conspired to assassinate King Xerxes. But Mordecai found out about the plot and told Queen Esther, who in turn reported it to the king, giving credit to Mordecai” (Esther 2:21-22).

Haman

The king’s right-hand man who descended from Amalek, who was to be destroyed by King Saul.   Haman had an anti-semitic heart.

“Then Haman said to King Ahusuerus, “There is a certain people dispersed and scattered among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom whose customs are different from those of all other people and who do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them. If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them, and I will put ten thousand talents of silver into the royal treasury for the men who carry out this business” (Esther 3:8-9).

Haman’s Wife

A jealous woman who wanted her husband to rise to power in the kingdom.

“His wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, “Have a gallows built, seventy-five feet high, and ask the king in the morning to have Mordecai hanged on it. Then go with the king to the dinner and be happy” (Esther 5:14).

The Decree of Destruction

“Letters were sent by courier to all the royal provinces “to destroy, kill and exterminate all Jews, from young to old, including small children and women, on a specific day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and to seize their goods as plunder” (Esther 3:13).

For Such a Time as This

“When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape.  For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”  (Esther 4:12-14).

The King

“Go at once,” the king commanded Haman. “Get the robe and the horse and do just as you have suggested for Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate. Do not neglect anything you have recommended” (Esther 6:10).

The Queen

“Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor with you, O king, and if it pleases your majesty, grant me my life—this is my petition. And spare my people—this is my request. For I and my people have been sold for destruction and slaughter and annihilation. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king” (Esther 7:3-4).

The Jews

“The king’s edict granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate any armed force of any nationality or province that might attack them and their women and children; and to plunder the property of their enemies” (Esther 8:11).

Purim

Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews throughout the provinces of King Ahasuerus, near and far, to have them celebrate annually the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar as the time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration. He wrote them to observe the days as days of feasting and joy and giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor” (Esther 9:20-22).

©2012 Tentstake Ministries, chapter from Journey with Jeremiah on amazon.com