Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

“In sukkot you shall dwell for seven days: all citizens of Israel shall dwell in sukkot.”  (Leviticus 23:42) 

October 2nd— October 9th, 2020 the Biblical Holiday of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles / Booths) begins. This wonderful holiday lasts for a full seven days and completes the cycle of the Fall Feasts. This is is my favorite of all the fall festivals because it points to God’s promise that Messiah will tabernacle with his people when he returns to set up God’s kingdom here on earth. (Micah 4:1-7; Isaiah 9:7; Zechariah 8:3; Luke 1:32,33)

After the somber time of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), Sukkot is a joyous celebration of a renewed relationship with God and His atonement for sin. The Feast of Tabernacles is a special time for all believers to come together and be a blessing to the needy by presenting our financial gifts to God’s people—and God has promised a blessing for doing this! Even the Apostle Paul and the early Church who we know was in Jerusalem for these Feasts (Acts 20:16), must have presented the gifts he collected from the churches across Greece and countries in Asia to assist the poor among the saints in Jerusalem.

Just as the Israelites dwelt in temporary shelters called a sukkah, we are also to dwell in a sukkah for this entire week. “On the first day you are to gather the fruit of majestic trees, the branches of palm trees, and the boughs of leafy trees and of willows of the brook. And you are to rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days.” (Leviticus 23:40,41) 

For seven days and nights, we eat in the sukkah and consider it our dwelling. Some live in the sukkah entirely for the duration of the festival—even sleeping in it through all kinds of weather. The sukkah is made with 3 sides with an opening in the front and the roof is made in such a way that the moon and the stars are visible as we remember the promise God made to Abraham that his descendants  would be more numerous than the stars. (Genesis 22:17)

During this festive season, we also recall how God’s faithfulness provided for our ancestors as they wandered the Sinai Desert wilderness for 40 years before entering the Promised Land of Israel. “You shall dwell in sukkot for seven days…that your future generations shall know that I had the children of Israel live in sukkot when I brought them out of Egypt.”  (Leviticus 23:42–43)  

Another observance carried out each day of Sukkot  is the Four Species: an etrog (citron), a lulav (palm frond), three hadassim (myrtle twigs) and two aravot (willow twigs).  They are bound together in such a way that they can be held together easily. Then the four species are taken up with the right hand and the etrog is taken with the left hand. A blessing is recited over the Four Species: “Blessed are You, Lord God, king of the universe, who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us to take the lulav.” Facing the direction where the Temple in Jerusalem once stood, the Four Species are then shaken in all six directions: right, left, forward, up, down and backward. This may seem strange to most Christians today, but is it any more strange than churches’ order of worship service—stand up, sit down, kneel, or the time when worship services begin? I am of the opinion that if God told us to perform all these things while sitting cross legged in a lotus position, I would gladly comply. 

Rabbinic tradition explains that the Four Species represent the various personalities that make up the community of Israel.  They are held together while a blessing is recited over them to bless the unity of all people, which is emphasized on Sukkot. But another reason for this strange commandment may be that the four species represents all the people whom God had dispersed to the four corners of the earth. (Isaiah 11:12; Mark 13:27) We move the Four Species three times in each of six directions immediately after reciting the blessing. We do this by extending the Four Species in each direction: eastward, southward, westward and northward, upwards and downwards. After each movement, the lulav and etrog are brought towards the heart. We do this to possibly remind ourselves that omnipresent God is everywhere—and in our hearts.

One of the names for Sukkot is ‘The Season of Our Joy’.  In fact, in Scripture the word “joy” appears several times in connection with Sukkot. “Be joyful at your Feast—you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites, the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns.…For the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete.”  (Deuteronomy 16:13–15) Did you miss that? God said it was a joyful celebration for everyone—including the aliens, or non-Jews! (See Exodus 12:49 and Numbers 15:15) Since Sukkot is also a harvest festival, we can well imagine that there is great reason for joy.

Eating and drinking during Sukkot? 

“You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. And before the LORD your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the LORD your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the LORD your God chooses, to set his name there, then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the LORD your God chooses and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household. And you shall not neglect the Levite who is within your towns, for he has no portion or inheritance with you.” (Deuteronomy 14:22-27) 

Did you see that? God tells us to “spend the money for whatever we desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves.” But let me repeat this because most Christians don’t understand this. God tells us to eat, drink and be merry before Him! We are commanded to have a good time at the feast! So much for the teaching that strong drink and wine are forbidden by Scripture. Many may misinterpret this Scripture to mean that God commands us to get drunk. This could not be further from the truth! Scripture is clear that getting drunk is forbidden. (Proverbs 20:1; Leviticus 10:9; Romans 13:13; Ephesians 5:18)  A person should only drink if it will lead to positive spiritual results. (e.g. under the loosening affect of alcohol, having a greater awareness of the love for God and His word and the people around you found deep in the heart.

The whole point of God’s feasts is to allow us to be joyful before the Lord and to worship Him for all the good things He has given us. So eat, drink and be merry for all of God’s many blessings!

What’s so bad about that? 

“Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths.” (Zechariah 14:16)

As a father myself, my heart breaks when my children are bitter towards me. I remember years ago when I was living in New Mexico I paid for my daughter to come and visit me. After she arrived she spent most of her time with her cousins and  other family members while ignoring me. One day I began complaining to God. I said, “God, I paid for her to come here so we could spend time together and she’s spending time with everyone but me. I’ve done so much for her and she just ignores me as if I wasn’t even here and…” Then I stopped myself and said, “ Oh God, is this how I made you feel when I ignored you? I am so sorry. Please forgive me.”

In 2013 my wife and I discovered that our oldest granddaughter was sexually abused when she was 11 years old by her then step-father. We took steps to gain legal custody of our grandaughter in order to keep her safe. The step-father was later charged and convicted of child abuse, but was only sentenced to probation. My daughter still blames us for her ex-husband’s legal problems and for destroying her marriage. Currently my daughter still refuses to speak with me or allow my wife and I to see our grandchildren.

How much more must it break God’s heart when He sees His children ignoring Him and His word while behaving so badly toward each other with instances of everyday nastiness, foolishness, lack of empathy and shortsightedness. 

I remember when my grandfather was on his death bed and called his for his children to come to his hospital bed. After my aunts and uncles arrived they asked my grandfather what he needed. He just smiled and told them that he didn’t need anything. He just wanted to be surrounded by his children without having them fight with each other.

The Day of Atonement (September 27th – 28th, 2020) is a solemn day when God instructs us that we must set aside our usual family and commercial activities to fast and pray and mentally review our actions over the past year, identifying all those whom we have caused pain, or behaved unjustly towards. And to seek out those whom we have frustrated, angered, discarded casually or otherwise betrayed and offer them a complete and sincere apology—and recompense them, if necessary. This is God’s will for the requirement for forgiveness—so long as the apology is real. 

I challenge all of God’s people reading this to take a cue from God’s word and use the Day of Atonement (And every day) to repent, fast and pray and make amends with those you have hurt with either your words or actions. 

“With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, this should not be!” (James 3:9-10)

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like fine oil on the head, running down on the beard, running down Aaron’s beard over the collar of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon falling on the mountains of Zion. For there the LORD has bestowed the blessing of life forevermore.” (Psalm 133)

Yom Kippur / The Day of Atonement Begins at sundown on September 27th – 28th, 2020. It is the second of the Fall Feast Days commanded by God. Although, it is not so much a Feast day as it is a fast day and a repentance day—and why it is one of the most holy days of the Hebrew calendar.

“This is to be a permanent statute for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month, you shall humble yourselves and not do any work—whether the native or the foreigner who resides among you—because on this day atonement will be made for you to cleanse you, and you will be clean from all your sins before the LORD. It is a Sabbath of solemn rest for you, that you may humble yourselves; it is a permanent statute…This is to be a permanent statute for you, to make atonement once a year for the Israelites because of all their sins.” (Leviticus 16:29-34)

The Day of Atonement points to the day of the Second Coming of Messiah when he will return to set up God’s kingdom on earth. It will be the Day of Atonement for all nations when they will “look upon him whom they have pierced,” repent of their sins, and The Jews will receive Yeshua (Jesus) as their Messiah. (Zechariah 12:10; Romans 11:1-6; 25-36)

Yom Kippur is described as a Shabbat of solemn rest in the Torah, a day of fasting, prayer, and reflection. It is the culmination of a period of time during which we are required to take stock of their lives, to ask forgiveness from friends and family, and to take steps toward self-improvement for the year to come. As with other of God’s holy days, the Day of Atonement is not a “Jewish only” holy day. Notice that in Leviticus 16 God told Moses that the Day of Atonement is a “permanent” statute. And it is to be observed by both the “native or the foreigner” who resides among the Israelites.

Traditionally, Jews believe that after judging a person for their deeds over the past year, God decides who will be sealed in the Book of Life. But most simply use the day as a time to reflect on what they want to do differently and how to improve their lives in the year to come.

Yom Kippur is observed for a 25-hour period, beginning at sundown, by refraining from work that is prohibited on Shabbat, and refrain from eating or drinking. Some add five additional prohibitions: bathing; anointing the body with oil; wearing leather shoes; and having sexual relations, but I have yet to find any Scriptural proof of this. In fact, Jesus said, “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get.” And in Isaiah 58 the prophet tells us that the fast that God chooses is to “loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free.”  

There are two meals associated with Yom Kippur: the pre-fast meal and the break-fast meal (obviously, for the duration of the fasting holiday, no food or drink is allowed). The pre-fast meal is known as seudah ha-mafaseket (literally, “meal of separation” or “concluding meal”). Meals usually should be prepared with minimum salt, as this could cause dehydration during the fast. It is also important to drink plenty of water before the fast. *Because of health problems or because of their age, some may be excused from a complete fast. To avoid complications, those people should try to only drink fruit and vegetable juice. 

The break-fast meal usually consists of hi-carb dairy foods, and sometimes brunch-style recipes like bagels, quiches, soufflés, eggs, cheese, etc. While others indulge in heavier traditional meals with soups, salads or brisket. 

The Importance of Atonement 

‘Atonement’ to many is an unfamiliar and foreign word. According to the dictionary, it means the action of making amends for a wrong or injury, but in the context of the teachings of the prophets, Jesus and apostles, it also involves reparation or amendment for sin:

 “…If someone sins and acts unfaithfully against the LORD by deceiving his neighbor…He must make restitution in full, add a fifth of the value, and pay it to the owner on the day he acknowledges his guilt.” (Leviticus 6:1-6)

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven…For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:36-38) 

“But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, half of my possessions I give to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone, I will repay it fourfold.” (Luke 19:8)

It seems that Christians today believe that the way to amend for a wrong is to pray, ask God for forgiveness, and God will cleanse them of their sin. This is always a good thing to do, but they fail to deal with what is the far larger problem of wrongs committed: Instances of everyday nastiness, error, foolishness, lack of empathy and shortsightedness. Leaving the wrongs unaddressed is not only wrong, but sinful.

Here, as in so many areas, we can be inspired by the example of God’s word. God’s word has always given us a particular insight on how to focus on the hurt of others. God knows how easy it is for us to feel it, how hard it is to express it, but also how awkward but necessary it is for us to make amends for perpetrating it. We discover God’s response in the Day of Atonement. 

The Day of Atonement is a solemn day when God instructs us that we must set aside our usual family and commercial activities and mentally review our actions over the past year, identifying all those whom we have caused pain, or behaved unjustly towards. And also to seek out those whom we have frustrated, angered, discarded casually or otherwise betrayed and offer them a complete apology and recompense, if necessary.

This is God’s will as the requirement for forgiveness—so long as the apology is real. I have experienced people who have told me that they were sorry for doing something that hurt me, but their actions let me know that they weren’t sincere. I have even had some who claim that they wanted to apologize to me for bad feelings they had against me, but they really only wanted to let me know what I said or did that upset them.

Too many times we run away from our victims and act with strange rudeness towards them—not because we aren’t bothered by what we did, but because what we did makes us feel uncomfortable around them. Our victims therefore, have to suffer not only the original hurt, but also the subsequent coldness we display towards them on account of our own guilty conscience. 

But the Day of Atonement helps to correct this. A period in which human error is proclaimed as a general truth makes it easier to confess our sins to each other. It is more bearable to own up to the hurt we have caused others when we realize how cleansing it will be for us.

We, as God’s people, need to learn from the Day of Atonement. Functioning without a culture of atonement implies that we are okay, or that our imperfections and sinfulness are all covered by God’s grace. Of course we are deeply imperfect, but we can’t ever progress and live together in harmony if we can’t regularly offer and accept a sincere apology. We need to learn, from God’s word and the example of Jesus and the apostles how to confess our sins, not only to God, but to each other. And forgive ourselves and others. So what’s so wrong with that?

And after we complete our fast and realize how much we need to repent and change maybe, just maybe, we will begin to try to understand each other a little more. 

“We’ve turned from Your ways

Lord Your fruit we’ve ceased to bear

We lack the power we once knew in our prayers

That gentle voice from heaven

We cease to hear and know

The fact that He has risen no longer stirs our soul

Revive us oh Lord

Revive us oh Lord

And cleanse us from our impurities

And make us holy

Hear our cry

And revive us oh Lord!”

“With trumpets and the blast of the horn shout for joy before the LORD, the King.” —Psalm 98:6 

“When you enter into battle in your land against an adversary who attacks you, sound short blasts on the trumpets, and you will be remembered before the LORD your God and saved from your enemies. And on your joyous occasions, your appointed feasts, and the beginning of each month, you are to blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, and they will serve as a reminder for you before your God. I am the LORD your God.” —Numbers 10:9-10 

“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” —1 Corinthians 15:51-52

In next the few weeks I will be writing a series of articles about God’s Fall Feast Days. No, this is not another article about how we are commanded by God to observe His Feast Days. I have written enough on that subject. Besides, there enough books to fill libraries across the world on what the Bible says what we should and should not do. No, this is about the instructions on how we observe His Feasts and ask the question, “Why do Christians think it’s so bad to observe God’s Feast Days?” 

To many, the fall is their favorite time of year—the cool, crips air, the beauty  of the turning of the leaves, harvesting apples and savoring the flavors of fall. But my favorite part of fall are the Fall Feast Days ordained by God in the Bible. These Feasts Days also point to Messiah. But unlike the Spring Feasts Days that represent Jesus’ first coming, It is generally believed that the Fall Feasts refer to his return, or the Second Coming. Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) this year begins at sunset, September 18th and ends at nightfall, September 20th. 

On the first day of the seventh month (Tishri) the Hebrews were instructed to have a special solemn Sabbath followed by a ten-day period of repentance known as the High Holy Days. (Leviticus 23:23-25) The new year of the civil calendar began on this day. (Nisan was the beginning of the religious calendar) 

I know I’m in the minority of Christians who observe these holy days, but I delight in the opportunity to proclaim what God has done for me and those around me. Unlike ancient Israel, I am not bound by the law for God’s favor and forgiveness, but it is my joy and privilege to reflect upon Gods faithfulness throughout the course of history. 

During Rosh Hashanah we celebrate the harvest and God’s faithfulness in providing for us. When we blow the shofar, we remember how He has shown up over and over again to defend us in our battles and we celebrate His victories with praise. The trumpet (or shofar) sounded a battle call (Numbers 10) so when we blow the shofar, we are both declaring war on our enemy, the devil, and remembering the source of our strength—our God. 

Rosh Hashanah has become very special to my heart. A lot of time is spent around the table tasting and savoring God’s goodness. In my home, we invite friends to gather with us in celebration and praise to God for all the good things He has given us and for His promise of a good year to come. We even take turns  sounding the shofar to proclaim God’s goodness. We spend hours planning a special meal filled with the traditional, sweet foods of Rosh Hashanah. We dip a special round Challah bread and apples in honey as a way to remember God’s goodness. It is a festive celebration of God’s goodness. It’s not something we have to do, it’s something we get to do. 

Setting aside these Feast Days, helps me put a grounding and purpose to my life. Celebrating God’s Feasts also puts structure in my life. When our time is our own, we’re often prone to wander from God’s commandments. But when we surrender our life and our time around God’s works, our thoughts are taken captive to the obedience of  Messiah. (2 Corinthians 10:5) Above all, by observing God’s Feast days we show God how much we love Him in return. (1 John 5:3) 

So this Feast of Trumpets, I’ll stop and remember the goodness of God in my life. I will thank Him for His faithfulness in the past year and pray for the upcoming year to be sweet. 

Our table will be opened to friends and family, so together, we will partake in celebrating God’s Feast and His goodness. I think of it as practice for when every tribe and every nation will gather around the Lord’s table for the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.

So I ask, “What’s so bad about that?”

My wife and I had the privilege of sharing Passover with our granddaughter last night. 

Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) commemorates the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt after suffering over 400 years of slavery. Passover is regarded by many  Christians as a “Jewish only” celebration. Some even claim that Yeshua (Jesus) and his disciples didn’t observe the Passover—even though it states in Matthew 26:17, Mark 14:12, Luke 22:8, and John 13:1 that they did! 

So why should Christians observe the biblical feasts? My answer has always been this: We don’t HAVE to observe the feasts—we GET to observe them. But the most important reason for us to observe Passover and all the feasts is that God told us to. We show our love for God by doing what He says. “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.” (1 John 5:2)  

In Exodus 12:38 we read that there was also a “mixed multitude” that left Egypt with the Hebrews. They were possibly Egyptians who followed them because of the miracles they witnessed, or were from other countries that the Egyptians conquered and forced some of the people into slavery.

We also need to remember that there were many members of  the 12 different tribes of Israel that left Egypt at the time of the Exodus. Not just Jews. (or the tribe of Judah) You see, every Jew is an Israelite, but not every Israelite is a Jew. And every one of us are descendants of those who belonged to one of the mixed multitude that God told Moses that, “The same law shall apply to the native ‘Hebrew’ as to the stranger.” (or non-Jew) And in Exodus 12:48-49 we read that “The same law shall apply to the native as to the stranger (or non-Jew) who sojourns among you.” 

Yeshua said: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them. For I tell you truly, until heaven and earth pass away, not a single jot, (The smallest letter in the Hebrew language) will disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (Matthew 5: 17-20) Many Christians claim that everything was accomplished when Yeshua  was crucified and raised from the dead and that all the Old Testament laws were done away with. The only thing that Yeshua’s crucifixion and resurrection did away with was the sacrificial and ceremonial laws—since he was the ultimate sacrificial Lamb of God. But EVERYTHING will not be accomplished until AFTER Yeshua returns and sets up God’s kingdom and government on earth. 

Yeshua also said “If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.” (John 5:46) Why would we want to miss out on something that Yeshua said points to him? Besides, throughout the Scriptures we are told that the Passover and other Feast Days and Sabbaths are not Jewish Feast Days and Sabbaths. They are GOD’S. And God said that they are a  permanent statute wherever we live for the generations to come. ( See Exodus 12:14-28; Leviticus 16:29) 

I am amazed that so many Christian pastors and Bible teachers can spend years and years studying in Bible colleges and seminaries and STILL refuse to see this in the Scriptures. And worse yet, refuse to teach God’s truth to their followers! Not only have they rejected God’s Feats Days, but they have replaced them with traditional holy days of man such as Good Friday, Lent, Ash Wednesday, Easter and Christmas—which none of Yeshua’s disciples, the apostles, or any of the early Church ever observed.  

Remember Yeshua, in verse 20 of Matthew 5 said, “…So then, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do likewise will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever practices and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” All my life I have been considered to be least here on earth. I don’t know about you, but I want to be considered great in kingdom of heaven.

The special foods we eat on Passover not only reminds us of the Exodus, but also helps us to focus on God’s love for us. But what many don’t recognize is that every thing in the Passover Seder, and in fact, all of God’s feasts, points to Messiah.  

Remember the words of the apostle John: “By this we can be sure that we have come to know Him: if we keep His commandments. If anyone says, I know Him, but does not keep His commandments, he is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone keeps His word, the love of God has been truly perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him: Whoever claims to abide in Him must walk as Jesus walked.” (1 John 2:3-6) 

“By this we know that we love the children of God: when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome…” (1 John 5: 2-3)

Observing God’s Feast Days and Sabbaths and obeying God’s commandments has nothing to do with salvation. It has to do with obedience to God out of our love for Him. When my children were young they obeyed my rules. Not because they thought I would love them more if they obeyed me, or afraid that I would love them less if they disobeyed. But BECAUSE they loved me, they obeyed my rules. 

And in the same way, we don’t obey God’s commandments because we think He will love us more or that we can work our way into salvation. But BECAUSE we love Him we obey His commandments.

At the end of our Passover seder we pray this blessing: 

“Blessed are You Lord G-d king of the universe, for the produce of the field, and for the precious, good and spacious land, to eat of its fruit and be satisfied by its goodness. Have mercy, Lord our G-d, on your people, Send us your New Jerusalem, your holy city, in our days, and we will rejoice in it and bless you in holiness and purity. And remember us for good on this day of the Festival of Matzot. 

And we all end by saying: NEXT YEAR IN NEW JERUSALEM! AMEN!

Hanukkah and Christmas are similar in the fact that they both promote false narratives and traditions of men.

The Hanukkah story essentially describes a culture war—Us against them, rather than us against the Greeks and Syrians.The Hellenists were the Jews who had assimilated into the Greek culture, adopted some of the Greek ways of life and incorporated them into the Jewish culture. The group led by the Maccabees resisted any outside influences and not only purged the Greeks, but even their own countrymen. Similar to those in the United States today where much of the population is involved in some sort of culture war and promoting false narratives.

Although the New Testament records that Jesus was at the temple during the Feast of Dedication (John 10:22-23) I don’t believe he was there lighting  a nine branched menorah and playing Dreidel. 

The real story of Hanukkah begins with a revolt, for reasons that would resonate to this day—gross inequality, immoral ideology and religious coercion. The truth is, is that Hanukkah originally had nothing to do with a miraculous oil supply or playing Dreidel, any more than the birth of Jesus originally had anything to do with decorating trees and houses, Mistletoe, caroling or exchanging gifts. 

I see nothing wrong with family traditions as long as they don’t take away from God’s truth of  the Bible. 

Since the Bible teaches that we are the temple of God’s Holy Spirit, (1 Corinthians 3:16) perhaps we should consider rededicating ourselves to God, just as the Jews rededicated God’s temple. 

For more information see:

https://www.haaretz.com/jewish/the-astonishing-real-story-of-hanukkah-1.5296084

https://www.livescience.com/61073-hanukkah-history-traditions.html

Shavuot 2019 (pronounced SHävo͞oˈōt) will begin in the evening of Saturday, June 8 and ends in the evening of Monday, June 10. In ancient Israel various herbs and legumes were harvested in spring, but the most important spring crops were cereals—barley and wheat. A spring ritual took particular note of the cereals: Newly harvested grain could not be eaten until the first fruits of grain had been offered on the day after the sabbath of the Festival of Unleavened Bread. (Leviticus 23:9-14) Shavuot, near the end of the grain harvest, included grain and loaf offerings. (verses 16-17) Shavuot was also called “the Feast of Harvest” (Exodus 23:16).

Although Shavuot began as an ancient grain harvest festival, the holiday has been identified since biblical times with the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. It is customary for modern Jews to decorate their homes with greens and fresh flowers on Shavuot as a reminder of the spring harvest and the ancient ritual of bringing the first fruits to the Temple. Many Jews prepare and eat dairy foods (often cheesecake or blintzes) on Shavuot as a reminder of the sweetness of Torah.

Many people stay up all night studying Torah on the evening of Shavuot. This custom evolved from the story that says that when Moses went up Sinai to receive God’s laws many of the Israelites fell asleep and had to be awakened by Moses. As a result, many modern Jews stay up all night to study and celebrate receiving the Torah. Interestingly, when Jesus went away to pray in Gethsemane, his disciples also fell asleep and had to be awakened. So to honor our Messiah we too, may want to stay up at night reading Scripture. 

Traditionally, the Book of Ruth is read during services in synagogues on Shavuot. Ruth was a young Moabite woman who married an Israelite man. The Bible refers to both the Moabites and Ammonites as Lot’s sons, born of incest with his daughters. (Genesis 19:30-38) When Ruth’s husband died, she followed her mother-in-law, Naomi and adopted her Hebrew faith and her people as her own. (Ruth 1:16–17) To feed herself and Naomi, she gleaned in the field of Boaz, a rich man. Boaz is taken with her, and eventually they marry. Among their descendants is the famed King David. Ruth (a non-Jew) should be considered an example for all Christians to accept and obey the Torah as God’s holy instructions, just as the Israelites did at Mt. Sinai. 

In Exodus 19:1 we read that the Israelites came to the foot of Mount Sinai in the third month. The third month after the Exodus is Sivan; since this was also the month of Shavuot, the rabbis deduced that God gave the Torah on Shavuot. Today, it is widely accepted that the Torah was given by God to the Hebrew  people on Shavuot. In this sense, every year on the holiday of Shavuot the Jewish people see themselves as renewing this experience. We too can use Shavuot to renew our acceptance of the Torah and observe all that He commanded. 

We need to understand that although God had given the Torah to the Hebrew people, (Israelites) this also included the mixed multitude that left Egypt with them. (Exodus 12:37-38) It is possible that many of these Egyptians were the offspring of Egyptian task masters who had relations with Hebrew slaves. Just as many of the slaveowners (such as Thomas Jefferson) did in America’s history. The Hebrews of the Exodus did not become Jews until after the kingdom was divided into two, with 10 tribes in the northern kingdom of Israel and two in the southern kingdom of Judah. (1 Kings 12; 2 Chronicles 10) This means that all Jews are Israelites but not all Israelites are Jews.

How does this relate to us as Christians?

The Bible also says: “count fifty days”, which is why, in the New Testament, the name for the holiday is usually translated as “Pentecost”. Shavuot and Pentecost are actually two different names for the same Festival. Therefore, the events of the first two chapters of the book of Acts must be seen against this biblical background. For instance, when in Acts 1:4 Jesus commanded his disciples not to depart from Jerusalem, we would better understand this command if we remember that Shavuot is one of the three Biblical pilgrimage festivals, when all Israelites were expected to be in Jerusalem: “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God at the place that He will choose: at the festival of unleavened bread, at the festival of weeks, and at the festival of booths.” (Deut. 16:16) Many Jews and non-Jews alike describe these as Jewish only celebrations. But Leviticus 23 makes it plain that these are God’s feast days: “Then the LORD said to Moses, Speak to the Israelites and say to them, ‘These are My appointed feasts, the feasts of the LORD that you will proclaim as sacred assemblies.” (vs. 1 & 2) 

Remember  that mixed multitude that traveled with the Hebrews on their Exodus? Concerning His feast days God proclaimed to them, “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.” (Exodus 12:14)  And in case it wasn’t clear enough God also said, “The same law shall apply to both the native and the foreigner who resides among you.” (v. 49)

Preparing for the Holiday

The Bible teaches that the Israelites had three days to prepare to receive the Torah at Mount Sinai. To ready themselves for the momentous occasion, they were instructed to wash their clothes and to stay ritually pure. (Exodus 19:10-11) By recalling those three days, today we can use the three days before Shavuot to prepare ourselves personally and spiritually, as a family, and as a community to re-experience this life-changing event.

Shavuot in the New Testament

In Acts 2 we read, “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.”  (Acts 2:1-3) 

We  have to remember  that the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot) forms the background of this event and that by the first century the festival was already associated with the covenant made with Moses. We would then understand that it was certainly no coincidence that the descending of God’s Spirit is described on the day of Pentecost, and we would be able to see these beautiful and profound parallels between God giving His Torah and giving His Spirit. On both occasions, Shavuot becomes the day when Heaven is opened and God Himself claims His people. 

The “noise like a violent storm” in Acts 2 definitely echoes the thundering and the fire of Exodus 20:18. It seems that Luke consciously builds these parallels and describes the events of Acts 2 in terms of a “second Sinai”, thus, Jesus’ command to the Apostles to wait in Jerusalem might also be understood as a hint that, as God’s Torah was given on Shavuot, God’s Spirit was also given on Shavuot. 

The Christian version of Pentecost

Today, many Christians are taught that Pentecost was the day that the Church was born. But if Pentecost was the birth of the Church, why did Peter not include Gentiles in his message? Why did Peter not mention the cross, salvation through the blood of Christ, or forgiveness of sins based upon the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ? Why did he not offer salvation by faith alone, apart from works? Why did he not say a word about the body of Christ? To press further, why did Peter or any of the Twelve ever mention the body of Christ? 

Because Peter didn’t know anything yet about God’s salvation based upon the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ—salvation by faith alone, or even the significance of the blood of Christ! Peter didn’t even know what Church was let alone the teachings associated with it. Peter only knew God’s prophetic, kingdom program. He only knew the prophecies of the prophets which Jesus had proclaimed throughout his earthly ministry. God had kept this revelation a secret until He revealed it to Paul. (Ephesians 3.1-7) The term ‘Gentiles’ would be better translated ‘Goyim’—meaning non-Jew. Or someone outside the tribe of Judah. (Remember, all Jews are Israelites, but not all Israelites are Jews) The prophets reveal that the Goyim will be blessed through the Jews. (Zechariah 8:23)

The confusion continues

Great confusion has resulted from failure to understand that the events of Shavuot in Acts happened to believing Jews and Israelites—not to the Church. Because the Church did not exist yet! Another area of confusion has been the speaking in tongues. Some denominations and churches teach that believers are supposed to speak in tongues as proof that they “have the Holy Spirit” because that was the evidence experienced by Peter and the other followers in the upper room. Some even claim that a person cannot even be saved until they speak in tongues! 

Lastly, we should note that when one is saved by believing Paul’s gospel (1 Corinthians 15.1-4) he is immediately baptized by God’s Holy Spirit into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12.12-13). This baptism has no sign—such as speaking in tongues. The gift of tongues all but ceased long ago, and one day will be done away with completely. (1 Corinthians 13.8) But even when they operated in the Church, they were not a sign for believers but for unbelievers. (1 Corinthians 14.22)

The Scriptures indicate clearly that the Church—the body of Christ, did not begin at Pentecost. Pentecost is one of God’s feast days and is still in effect today. God had never revealed or even hinted that His feast days were only for Jews, that they would ever end, or that the Church would replace the Israelites as the new body of Christ. What He had revealed was that Goyim would be blessed through the Jews. The Church was merely the method God used to bring us all—Jew and non-Jew alike, to the knowledge of His saving grace through His son, Yeshua Ha’Mashiach. 

And I long for the day that we will all worship him around the throne of God!

Passover is regarded as a “Jewish only” celebration by many Christians. But is it? 

Jesus said “If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for He wrote of me.” (John 5:46)  Throughout the Scriptures we are told that the Passover and other Feast Days are “the LORD’S feasts”. Not just the Jewish feasts or feasts of the Jews. Jesus also said: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them. For I tell you truly, until heaven and earth pass away, not a single jot, (The smallest letter in the Hebrew language) will disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (Matthew 5: 17-20) 

Many Christians believe that everything was accomplished when Jesus was crucified because before he died he said, “It is finished.” He said that because everything that God had asked him to do he finished. But EVERYTHING will not be accomplished until the new heaven and new earth are created and God will dwell physically with mankind. (Revelation 21: 1-4)

God told Moses, “These are the LORD’s appointed feasts, (Not the Jewish feasts) the sacred assemblies you are to proclaim at their appointed times. The Passover to the LORD begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. On the fifteenth day of the same month begins the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD. For seven days you must eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall hold a sacred assembly; you are not to do any ordinary work. For seven days you are to present an offering made by fire to the LORD. On the seventh day there shall be a sacred assembly; you must not do any ordinary work.” (Leviticus 23: 4-8) *See also Exodus 12:14-28; Numbers 28:16-25; Deuteronomy 16:1-8 

God also told Moses concerning the “mixed multitude” that joined the Israelites in the Exodus, “If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. There shall be lone law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you.” (Exodus 12:43-49)

Christians should realize that everything in the feasts all point to the Messiah (Jesus).

I have no problem with Christians who want to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus. I don’t even mind if they call this commemoration Easter. But what I don’t understand is how those who profess to be Bible believing, God loving, Jesus following, Christians can reject God’s command to observe HIS feast days while replacing them with man’s traditional, non-biblical celebrations that include the Easter Bunny, Easter egg hunts and dressing up in fine clothes to be noticed by others. 

Here’s something to think about: Knowing that Jesus was a practicing Jew, I wonder how many would invite him to join you at your Easter dinner that includes the traditional Easter ham? 

Here’s wishing you a blessed Passover and Resurrection celebration.  

Shavuot is a little known holiday among Christians today. It is ironic to me, since it commemorates the single most important event in Judeo-Christian history—the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. And in the 3,300 years since, the Torah’s ideals—monotheism, justice, responsibility—have become the moral basis for Western civilization.

Shavuot (Hebrew for “Weeks”) occurs on the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan (late May or early June). Shavuot commemorates the early harvest in the land of Israel. (See Leviticus 23:9-16 and Deuteronomy 16:9-11) It is one of the three biblical pilgrimage festivals. It also commemorates the anniversary of the day God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses and the Israelites at Mount Sinai.

Since Shavuot occurs 50 days (7 weeks) after the first day of Passover, it is sometimes known in Christian circles as “Pentecost,” a Greek word meaning “50 days.” Shavuot, however, has no connection to the Christian Pentecost holiday.

Many people today are taught that after leaving Egypt on the day of the Passover, only Jews traveled into the Sinai desert. And there, God spoke to the entire Jewish nation and  instructed them to keep the Ten Commandments He inscribed on the stone tablets. (See Deuteronomy 4:1-14) So they mistakenly assume that all of the feasts mentioned in the Old Testament are meant only for Jews. But what most Christians fail to understand is that when the Hebrews left Egypt they were also joined by non-Hebrew people. We read in Exodus 12:38 that a “mixed multitude” went with them. Some perhaps, willing to leave their country after it was laid waste by plagues; others, out of curiosity; perhaps a few out of love for the Hebrews and their religion. And the same laws applied both to the native-born Hebrew and to the foreigner. (verse 49) Also, the Bible never refers to the feasts as Jewish feasts, but the “Feasts of the Lord”. (See Leviticus 23:2, 4, 37, 44; 2 Chronicles 2:4; Ezra 3:5)

How to Celebrate Shavuot

In biblical times, Shavuot was tied to the agricultural calendar. It originally celebrated the first fruits of the wheat harvest seven weeks after Passover (Leviticus 23:15-16). Counting the omer between the holidays added an element of anticipation of looking forward to Shavuot and a bountiful harvest. On this pilgrimage feast, Israelites traveled to Jerusalem to offer the first portion of their crops to the Lord in thanksgiving for His provision of food.

Celebrating the Spiritual Harvest

But Shavuot is more than the celebration of the first fruits of a physical harvest. Today, we observe it as the first fruits of a spiritual harvest. On the first Shavuot after Jesus’s death and resurrection, the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit that enabled them to speak so that many people in attendance heard their words in their native tongue! Many who heard these messages in their own languages were amazed, though others thought the disciples were just drunk. (Acts 2:12)

Peter went on to explain that Jesus had been raised from the dead and God had poured out His Spirit in fulfillment of His promise through Joel 2:32-33. When the crowd asked what they should do, Peter urged them to turn their lives around and be baptized in the name of Jesus. Then they would be forgiven and would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:37-39) About 3,000 people were added to the church that same day!

Just as Jesus promised, God sent His Spirit on that Shavuot to enable His people to be witnesses for Him: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Anticipating the Future Harvest

Thus, Shavuot is a reminder that we are living in anticipation of a harvest that is yet to come when people from every nation will be gathered into God’s Kingdom. Until that final harvest time, God expects us to be His witnesses to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection to all peoples and nations. And He has empowered us for this task. How we celebrate Shavuot can impact the size of that future harvest as we obey God’s commandments and share the gospel to all peoples, nations and tongues.

This month, many will gather around the dinner table to celebrate Thanksgiving. For many Americans, the Thanksgiving meal includes seasonal dishes such as roast turkey with stuffing, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, yams and pumpkin pie.

For years we have been taught that in 1620 the Pilgrims sailed from England on the Mayflower to escape religious persecution and landed at what became Plymouth, Massachusetts. Over 1/2 of them died during the winter of 1620—even though by local standards, that winter was a fairly mild one. The Plymouth settlers were inexperienced at farming and not used to being exposed to the elements. The next year, with the help of the local natives, the pilgrims celebrated their first good harvest and invited a group of Native American allies to celebrate with them. The feast lasted three days. And ever since then, as the story goes, Americans have celebrated Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, this is a celebration that is based on a lie.

So what’s the true version of what happened?

The notion that the first Thanksgiving was some kind of cross-cultural love-fest, as it has been portrayed, has even been disputed by historians, who say that the settlers and the Indians were brought together more by their mutual need than by genuine friendship. The two struggling communities were never more than wary allies against other tribes. More like, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”.

The colonists were actually contemptuous of the Indians, who they regarded as uncivilized, paganistic heathens, and the fragile early peace between Native Americans and the early settlers would soon unravel into a horrific slaughter. When their “Native American allies” were celebrating their own green corn festival, a band of Puritans descended on their village and shot, clubbed and burned alive over 700 native men, women and children.

This slaughter, according to Robert Jensen, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, was the real origin of Thanksgiving—so proclaimed in 1637 by Massachusetts Bay Governor John Winthrop in gratitude for God’s destruction of the defenseless Pequot village. Thereafter massacres of the Indians were routinely followed by “days of thanksgiving.”

Native Americans and Israel

Although many of the early European settlers saw the Native Americans as savages (and treated them accordingly), others believed them to be the lost ten tribes of Israel. William Penn, for whom the US Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is named, was one who believed strongly that Native Americans came from the stock of Israelites. He was well known for his good relationships and successful treaties with the natives.

Although many Jewish scholars and historians have disputed this for years, the similarities between Israelite and Native American culture are remarkable:

They both worship one God. (Or one Great Spirit) Both groups were minorities in the face of enemy oppression—The Native Americans faced off against the expanding European colonists, while the Israelites were crushed by the powers of the Assyrians and Babylonians. Both groups have faced slavery, exile and the threat of genocide throughout history.

But what I find particularly remarkable is the similarities between Native American feasts and celebrations and God’s feasts set in the Bible. Both the Native American celebrations and the biblical Fall Feast Days typically coincide in the late summer and early fall and are tied to the ripening and harvesting of crops. They are both marked with dancing, feasting, fasting and religious observations. Activities vary from tribe to tribe, but the common thread is giving proper thanks to God.

In 1973 Dr. Joseph Mahan, an expert in ancient Indian ethnology of the southeastern Indians of the United States, discovered that the Yuchi tribe of Florida and Georgia amazingly showed strong evidence that they had contact with some form of Judaism in historic times. They had a custom that every year on the fifteenth day of the sacred month of harvest, in the fall, for eight days they lived in “booths” with roofs open to the sky, covered with branches and leaves and foliage. During this festival, they danced around the sacred fire, and called upon the name of God.

The ancient Israelites had virtually the identical custom in many respects. In the harvest season in the fall, on the 15th day of the seventh month, (Tishri) Jews and Torah observant believers celebrate the festival of booths for eight days. (Also known as the Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot in Hebrew) They live in temporary booths, covered with branches and leaves from “goodly trees”. This festival, and many others, goes back to the time of Moses and the Exodus from ancient Egypt. (See Leviticus 23)

Dr. Cyrus Gordon, of Brandeis University in Boston, was privileged to sit in on one of the fall harvest festivals of the Yuchi Indians, and listened to their chants, songs, and sacred ceremonies. An expert in Hebrew, Minoan, and many Middle Eastern languages, he was incredulous as he listened to the chants. He exclaimed to his companion, “They are speaking the Hebrew names for God!”

How is it that two totally separated peoples observe the identical custom? And since it has been a long standing custom during Sukkot to invite friends and family to share a meal inside their Sukkah, or shelter, is it possible that it was the Native Americans who invited the Pilgrims to celebrate their own fall harvest feast, and not the other way around?

Summary: 

In any civilization, error can be present, and false spirituality can arise. While I am not suggesting that Thanksgiving should become the occasion for a yearly guilt trip, we would do well to remember, as we sit around the bountiful table with our family and friends, the high price the first indigenous Americans paid for European expansion into their territories. Only by openly acknowledging the sins of our collective past, is it possible to proceed toward a future that all Americans can feel thankful for.

We need to de-program ourselves from arrogantly thinking that God would only want to reveal himself (and his laws) to just one part of his creation. We need to realize that God wants ALL of his creation to know him as Father, Creator and supplier of all our needs.

It is also worthy to note that the Native Americans themselves did not choose to identity themselves with the oppressed Jews, but outside powers did that for them.

It is clear that Native Americans possess a special spirituality, that should remind us of the holy teachings given by God—if we would only study God’s holy word and listen to his small, still voice.