Posts Tagged ‘faith’

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 KJV)

I have heard many Christians quote that verse in 2 Timothy when discussing if the Bible is true. Some modern versions even translate that verse as, “All scripture is God breathed…” And yet most Christians today rarely (if ever) have read anything other than the New Testament writings.

We must remember that when the apostle Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy, the only Scripture that was available at the time was the Tanakh; the first Hebrew letter of each of the Masoretic Text’s three traditional subdivisions: Torah (“Teaching”, also known as the Five Books of Moses), Nevi’im (“Prophets”) and Ketuvim (“Writings”) hence the name, TaNaKh. It is also known that the majority of the things that Paul wrote in his letters were taken from the Tanakh, or the Old Testament.

So am I saying that the New Testament writings are not inspired by God? Certainly not. But I don’t believe that the New Testament writings are any more inspired by God than say, the writings of John Bunyan, George Whitfield, Charles Finney, Andrew Murray and so many others.

But for someone to read only the New Testament writings is like reading a Bible commentary without studying the verses themselves. And yet, so many do exactly that when they only rely on pastors to explain snippets of Bible verses from the pulpit on Sunday mornings.

If you ask anyone who knows the story of the great flood, “Did Noah warn the people?” Most people would answer something like, “Yes, he warned them that a flood was coming and preached for them to repent for 100 years but the people didn’t believe him and even laughed at him.” But after searching the Scriptures I could not find anything conclusive which indicates that Noah said anything to anyone about the impending judgement to come. And there’s a good reason why.

In Genesis 6: 2-8 we read: “When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose…”

It goes on to say that the Nephilim (the offspring of the sons of God i.e.; fallen angels) were on the earth in those days and because of this, the wickedness of man became so great that every intention of the thoughts of people’s heart was only evil continually. So much so that God regretted that he had even created man on the earth. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But verse 9 states that, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation.”

Many have been taught that Noah was the only person on earth at that time who was without sin, but the Bible states that there in no one who is righteous. (Ecclesiastes 7:20, Psalm 143:2, Romans 3:10) So what could this mean for Noah? Strong’s translates the Hebrew word  for “blameless” (H8549) as: without blemish, perfect, without spot.

The Nephilim were doing such a good job of breeding with humans and creating more Nephilim that the human bloodline was almost completely destroyed. God saw the corruption and knew that the only way to get rid of it was to destroy the earth and everything on it. But then God noticed Noah; a blameless man—a man whose bloodline had not been corrupted by the Nephilim—i.e.; without blemish.

When the door to the Ark was shut, there was probably room for more people. But if everyone else on earth were corrupted by the Nephillim, why would God want Noah to warn them so that they could storm the ark at the last minute? Both 1 Peter 3:20 and Genesis 6:3 indicate that God waited a period of time before judgement, but not that they were warned of the coming judgement. Why? Perhaps God wanted to protect Noah and his family from the wicked people and Nephillim who would no doubt pollute their bloodline. Notice that there was only one door—which was not closed by Noah, but by God. (Genesis 7:16)

Often when preachers teach things about Scripture they make unbiblical assumptions when they try to fill in some gaps and we end up repeating them as truth. I am amazed at how most people today get their ideas about the Bible from movies, TV specials and greeting cards and how little is said about the the importance of the deep study of Scripture.

Some may say, “But I don’t understand a lot of the Bible; so I have to rely on my pastor or other more experienced Bible scholars to explain it to me.” Then you need to repent of your laziness, go out and buy yourself a Strong’s Concordance (or go to one of the many online Bible sites) and set aside some time to really study the Bible.

Noah heard God and believed and obeyed him by faith.The Apostle Paul writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Eph. 2:8–9)

This is exactly how Noah was saved. Not because he more righteous spiritually than anyone else, but because he had faith in God. Noah realized that he could only be saved by God’s grace, through faith. Genesis 6:8 tells us that “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” Noah’s salvation, like ours, was by grace. Had Noah not listened and obeyed God through faith, he and his family would have been destroyed with all the rest.

I discovered a great truth in studying the story of Noah and the great flood in Scripture.

Included in God’s instructions for building the ark, God told Noah, “Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch.” (Gen. 6:14) Strong’s translates the Hebrew word for “pitch” as atonement. (H3722)

You see, pitch was used on the ark to prevent anything on the outside (water) from getting into the inside. So Noah and his family were literally protected by the atonement God directed Noah to apply to the ark! And just like Noah and his family were protected by the atonement covering the ark, we too, by faith, are protected by Jesus’ atonement. And by grace through faith in Jesus, when we repent and turn from our sins, Jesus’ atonement prevents anything on the outside (sin, and worldliness) from getting into the inside of us.

We read in Matthew 24:36-39 that Jesus said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. Just as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.”

As we see what is happening in the world today, can there be any doubt that we are living “as the days of Noah”? But unlike the days of Noah, you don’t have to be left unaware until tit’s too late. Repent, turn from your wickedness and be cleansed and transformed by God’s atonement through his son, Jesus.

This is true for Christians as well as unbelievers. God wants more from you than just your belief in him. He wants you to act on your faith by living it out in every part of your life. That’s the only way you can grow closer to God and let others know that your faith is real, so they’ll be inspired to seek God themselves.

Casting Crowns – Jesus, Friend of Sinners

The Church today needs to follow the advice of this song. Love first and stop judging others who don’t yet know God and the salvation that is available to them through His son, Jesus. We get so caught up in trying to change a person that we sometimes forget why we are here—to show others His love.

It is very important for every student of the Bible, in fact, it is absolutely necessary for every Christian, to see the distinction the Bible makes between the Jews (The House of Judah) and the other Tribes of Israel. (The House of Israel)

Many people today suppose that where Israel is mentioned in the Bible, it means the Jews. We read articles and hear sermons today in which the writers and speakers refer to Abraham as a Jew. Isaac and Jacob are often called Jews. But that is an impossible thing as we shall see from the Scriptures.

Thousands of Christians use the terms Israel, Jew, The House of Israel, and The House of Judah, as if the Bible always refers to the same people. But according to Biblical history, there were no people known as Jews until about 15 centuries AFTER Abraham was born, and until 600 years after the death of Moses!

Most Hebrews are not Jews

Beginning with Adam, we have not only the chronology, but the genealogical tables of the Bible. There are ten generations from Adam to Noah, and ten generations from Shem, Noah’s son, to Abraham. Eber or Heber (or descendants of Heber) was the fourth in the generation from Shem. All of the descendants of Heber were Hebrews. Abraham wasn’t born until six generations later. He, therefore, was a Hebrew. The Hebrews were not Jews, because Judah, from whom the Jews descended, was not yet born! When that time came, there were a very small portion of Jews on the earth. And the great mass of Hebrews were not Jews then, and are not today. Let us closely follow the facts.

Sons of Abraham

Abraham had eight sons. One son was Ishmael whose mother was Hagar. One son was Isaac, whose mother was Sarah. After Sarah’s death, Abraham married Keturah, and she bore unto him six sons. Abraham, being a Hebrew, his descendants would of course be Hebrews; and their descendants would also be Hebrews. But their descendants are not Jews. If they were, that would make the Arabs Jews!

Now Isaac had two sons, Esau and Jacob. If Isaac was a Jew, then both Esau and Jacob would be Jews. This would make the descendants of Esau also Jews, but the descendants of Esau became the Edomites, and later the Turks. Also the Pharaohs who oppressed the Hebrews were of the line of Esau, but none of these people were Jews.

To call Abraham a Jew would make him a descendant of Isaac’s yet unborn grandson Judah! The Tribe of Judah had no existence on earth during the time of Abraham and Isaac. If Isaac was a Jew, then surely his twin sons, Jacob and Esau would be Jews. We all know that Esau, Jacob’s twin brother, became the father of the Arab nations as they are known today. If Jacob was a Jew, how could it be that his twin brother would not also be a Jew, since they were both born of the same father and mother?

Descendants do not name their ancestors 

Jacob, one of these twin brothers had 12 sons, which came from four different mothers. None of these 12 sons were Jews. One of his 12 sons was Judah, but this racial type or remnant we know as the Jews is only a small portion of the descendants of Judah. There are no Jews among any of the descendants of Jacob’s other 11 sons.

Now Judah had three sons. The descendants of one son, Zarah, peopled the shores of the Mediterranean, leaving Egypt before the exodus of the children of Israel. Pharez, the twin brother of Zarah, became the father of the tribe of Judah. The tribe of Judah descending from Pharez was divided by the Lord into two Houses—the “House of David” and the “House of Judah.”

Abraham was the father of Isaac; Isaac was the father of Jacob; Jacob, who was later named “Israel,” and became the father of Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphthali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph and Benjamin. The 12 sons each became the head of a Tribe called after his own personal name. From Judah, the fourth son of Jacob, are descended the Jews. The word “Jew” being simply an abbreviation of the name “Judah.” A glance at the genealogy will show that it is impossible for Abraham, or Isaac, or Jacob to have been Jews.

Only the descendants of Judah—those coming after him—could be called by his name, not his ancestors. No one had ever been named Judah until more than 200 years after Abraham was named! Many parents give their sons the same name as a great grandfather or other ancestors. Your ancestor who lived two hundred years before you would not be named after you, but you would be named after your ancestor. So naming Jacob’s fourth son Judah would not make Abraham, his great grandfather, a Jew.

Israel and Judah are separate nations

The 12 Tribes of Israel became two nations, with widely different destinies, until the time when they will be united in the coming age. (Ezekiel 37:22) The distinction or separation between Judah and Israel was foreshadowed at an early date. We read in Psalm 114:1, 2 “When Israel went out of Egypt…Judah became His sanctuary and Israel His dominion.” In Samuel’s day, the two Houses, Judah and Israel, were numbered separately. In I Samuel 11:8 we read “And when he numbered them in Bezek, the children of Israel were three hundred thousands and the men of Judah thirty thousand.” Notice that Israel and Judah were numbered separately. And even at this early date, Israel numbered ten times more than Judah. The contrast today is even greater. The Bible tells us that the Jews would be “few in number,” (Jeremiah 44:28) but it tells us that Israel would become a multitude as the sands of the sea. (Hosea 1:10)

The Scriptures tell us that David reigned seven years over Judah before he was made King over Israel. If Judah and Israel are the same, how could David be king for seven years over Judah before he was made King over Israel? Until the year 975 B.C. the descendants of Jacob formed one nation. But they are spoken of as “the two families which the Lord hath chosen”. (Jeremiah 33:24)

In the year 975 B.C. at the death of King Solomon, the nation was divided into two nations. In I Samuel 18:16 Israel and Judah are separated in this passage: “But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he went out and came in before them.” In II Chronicles 10:12-14 we are told that when Solomon died, and his son Rehoboam came to the throne, the ten tribes rebelled, and under Jereboam, formed the Northern Nation; while Judah, along with Benjamin and certain Levites, formed the Southern Nation.

The ten tribes of Israel are never called Jews

The Northern Nation, which consisted of the Ten Tribes of Israel were not Jews and nothing can be more unscriptural than to call all Israelites Jews; it is as absurd as calling all Americans Californians! Most Israelites are not Jews because they are the descendants of the other tribes of Israel. The term “Jew” is never used until more than a thousand years after Abraham. It appears for the first time in II Kings 16:6, where we are told that the King of Israel, together with the King of Assyria, made war against the King of Judah. Now if the Israelites and the Jews are one and the same, how could it wage war against itself? The Scriptures never once refer to the Ten-Tribed House of Israel as “The Jews;” neither past, present, nor future.

The ten lost tribes of Israel

The subject of the lost tribes of Israel is a study of great interest. Yet it is remarkable to me that there is little or no serious enquiry in Christian circles regarding the fate of the ten tribes. Two perplexing questions continue to captivate Bible scholars and students alike: How is it that so little is known of the ten tribes of Israel, and why has so little enquiry taken place concerning them? This may well be because the devil has succeeded in frustrating any serious research into the matter.

The distinction between the two nations of Judah and Israel began before their final separation under Jeroboam, and Rehoboam. You will find in 2 Samuel 2, that David was anointed king over Judah only, while Ishbosheth, Saul’s son, was made king over all Israel. Immediately after the death of Solomon, and from that time to the present Judah and Israel have remained absolutely distinct. They were carried into captivity separately, at different times and by different nations: Israel was taken in captivity by the Assyrians B.C. 721 (2 Kings 17:6), while Judah was carried into captivity by the Babylonians B.C. 588 (2 Kings 25:21). A portion of Judah was permitted to return after seventy years, as had been predicted (Ezra 2:1), but Israel never returned nor was there any prediction that they should return until the final glorious restoration at the return of Messiah.

The descendants of the tribes of Israel certainly exist, the question is, Where? The Jews we know, but where is Israel? Some people assert that God has cut Israel out of His divine program, and replaced Israel with the Church. But in Jeremiah 31:35-36 we read:

“Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light by day and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar: The Lord of Hosts is His name: If those ordinances (that is the sun and moon and stars) depart from before me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever.”

This passage distinctly declares that while sun and moon and stars exist the nation of Israel will remain before God. Where are the ten tribes? Where is the nation of Israel? Which nation on earth today represents them? I have learned that if we really want to know about God’s people, the Bible is the book in which to look; let us, therefore, go to the Bible for the history of God’s chosen people Israel. Unless God’s promises have failed, Israel must still be in existence today.

It is perfectly clear that Israel, who had been dispersed for more than 700 years, was much in Jesus’ mind during His three years’ ministry upon earth. Because many references to Israel were made by Him. Christ Himself declared in Matthew 15:24 regarding His own mission: “He answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Again our Lord says in Matthew 21:43: “Therefore say I unto you (He was speaking to the Jews), the kingdom of God shall be taken from you and given to a nation (the Jews had long since ceased to be a nation) bringing forth the fruits thereof.”

The Jews themselves evidently understood His statements, for in John 7:35 we read: “Then said the Jews among themselves, Whither will He go, that we shall not find Him? Will He go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles?” (The word “Gentile” is derived from the Hebrew word “Goyim” and means non-Jew i.e.; not from the tribe of Judah)

Israel was evidently in the minds of the apostles themselves. On the day of the ascension they asked Him: “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the Kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6)

Scripture appears to me to furnish strong evidence that the Anglo-Saxon race today are the physical descendants of the house of Israel. If this be true, it adds tremendously to our responsibilities—spiritual responsibilities as well as temporal responsibilities, and will open to us possibilities that no human tongue can describe.

Let none of us, however, be so taken up with the literal fulfillment of prophecy that we forget the spiritual interpretation of it. For this reason it is extremely important that those who study this subject should be filled with the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the full knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and the fullness of spiritual blessings that goes with it.

Remember what the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 11:16-18: “…if the root is holy, the branches are too. But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you…”

Therefore, as we learn day by day to see more evidences of the fulfillment of these prophecies, may God possess in us individually and collectively, and in the thousands of others who in one body of men and women, the ability to yield to Him in heart and life and learn to do His will, proclaim His truth, and glorify His name.

“These are the commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses for the CHILDREN OF ISRAEL in mount Sinai.” (Leviticus 27:34)

“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that YOU CAN DO IT!” (Deuteronomy 30:11-14)   (Emphasis mine)

Most Christians think of the “Last Supper” as more of a symbolic communion than a feast meal. Because of this, many often miss out on the full meaning of the Passover and the additional meaning Jesus gave to it.

Jesus kept Passover as a child and an adult. (Luke 2:41-43; Mark 14:12-26; John 12:12) Mark 14:12 shows that the last supper was not a memorial observance, but a Passover meal. “his disciples said to him, where do you want us to go and prepare, that you may eat the Passover.” (cf. Matthew 26; Luke 22)

If Passover was replaced with the Last Supper, shouldn’t it also be commemorated once a year? Because once a year on the anniversary date of Jesus’ death would be more consistent with the belief that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper at the time of the Jewish Passover.

Many believe that Passover is a Jewish festival made only for Jews. And some even teach that every Jew who has become a Christian, should no longer celebrate these very important festivals. Because they believe that the Lord’s Supper replaced the annual feast days, they say that no Christian should observe the Jewish Passover and that the death of Jesus Christ is the only event, which Christians should memorialize.

But Scripture states that Passover, and ALL the feasts that are celebrated once a year are God’s feasts. In Leviticus 23 we read, “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: The feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts.’ “ (Emphasis mine)

These are God’s feasts, NOT just Jewish feasts!

“And a mixed multitude went up also with them…” (Exodus 12:38) Some of these “mixed multitude” were Egyptians, and some of other nations that had resided in Egypt, and who, for various reasons, chose to go along with the children of Israel. In doing so, the mixed multitude became part of the children of Israel—And were recognized as such by Moses and by God.

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:33-34)

“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 one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you.” (Exodus 12:48-49)

“You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the foreigners residing among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel.” (Ezekiel 47:22)

“Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:11-13)

Did Jesus and his disciples observe Passover or the Last Supper?

Passover associates 4 or 5 cups of wine, not just one. In Luke’s account of this supper the wine is taken at least twice; at the beginning and end of the meal. It is most likely that the ‘last cup of wine’ is associated with the third Passover cup, the cup of  redemption, (Exodus 6.6) associated with the coming of Elijah and the expectation of the coming of the Messiah. The fourth cup—the cup of consummation, Jesus declined to drink (Matthew 26.29; Mark 14.25; because between the third and fourth cups he would not drink until his return and consummation of his kingdom.

‘Dipping in the bowl’ in Matthew 26:23 and in Mark 14:20 may refer to the dipping of bitter herbs in either water or wine during the Passover Seder.

The meal concluded with the singing of hymns (Matthew 26.30; Mark 14:26), possibly the second half of the Hallel, (Psalms 113-118) traditionally associated with Passover.

The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church these words: “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.” (I Corinthians 5:7-8)

Notice, Paul said plainly enough, “Let us KEEP THE FESTIVAL” Not only did Paul in this verse exhort the Corinthians—many of whom were Gentile believers—to observe this Passover festival season, but he himself did so, setting them an example. Keeping the festival of Passover and Matzah symbolizes living the Christian life in holy dedication to God. That is why Paul uses the illustration of leaven when writing to the Corinthian Church.

What other scholars say about this:

“The construction of the Greek verb translated “let us keep the feast” is called horatory subjunctive, which is commonly used to exhort or command oneself and one’s associates. This use of the subjunctive is used to urge someone to unite with the speaker in a course of action upon which he has already decided.” (Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, p. 464)

“Some go to great lengths to attempt to sidestep this clear command to “keep the feast” by alleging that the expression is in some way figurative, since he uses other figurative language in this section of Scripture. But the reason he gives to “keep the Feast” is because “Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us.” Christ’s sacrifice was a literal event; so is keeping the festival that relates to His sacrifice. And a cardinal rule of interpreting the Bible is to prefer the simple, obvious meaning.” ( Edward W. Goodrick, Do It Yourself Hebrew and Greek, p. 12:1 )

Jehovah Witnesses claim to know exactly the date when Jesus Christ introduced the Last Supper.

According the Jehovah Witness website, “Jesus Christ instituted the Memorial of his death (the Lord’s evening meal or Supper) on Nisan 14, according to the biblical Jewish calendar that was common in the first century. Jesus Christ also died on Nisan 14 (in the afternoon about three o’clock). Why that? Because in the first century the Jewish day began at sundown and extended until the following sundown. So Jesus Christ died exactly on the same Jewish calendar day. Jesus instituted the Memorial of his death after sundown on Nisan 14, at the beginning of this day.”

But when is Nisan 14 in our calendar? Jehovah Witnesses claim it was March 23, 2016. But the14th of Nisan in 2016, (Hebrew calendar 5776) begins at sundown on April 22, 2016 not March 23rd. March 23, 2016 is the 13th of Adar II and is the date that Purim begins. (http://www.hebcal.com/hebcal/?year=2016&v=1&month=x&yt=G&nx=on&o=on&vis=on&d=on&c=off&maj=on&min=on&mod=on)

It is interesting that Hebrews 11:28 regards Moses’ keeping of the Passover as an act of faith, not ritual. It was observed in direct trust in God’s means of salvation from Egypt—however illogical it may have seemed at the time.

Thus, the “last supper” was not a memorial symbolized with just the breaking of bread and drinking wine, but a full feast meal—not only looking back on the exodus, but also looking forward to the crucifixion and ultimately towards the second coming of Jesus and the consummation of the messianic kingdom. (cf. Isaiah 25:6-9)

As such, the early church continued to observe it, but eventually exchanging God’s Agape (love) feast for the more symbolic last supper/eucharist. (Perhaps because of the kind of excess mentioned in 1 Corinthians 11:17-22)

In the end, the Agape was forgotten and the eucharist became more formal, central and even ‘magical’ in the later doctrine of transubstantiation. The Passover symbolism is mostly lost on gentile believers. Jesus was the ultimate Passover lamb, (1 Corinthians 5:7) and as such died with all his bones intact. (cf. Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12; Psalm 34:20)

God’s Passover feast is considered by some to be outdated history. But the treasuring of our freedom through education and enactment is a joyful occasion.

Why does the Church emphasize the morbid death of Christ through the symbolic last supper/eucharist more than his joyous resurrection or return? Indeed, the purpose of Passover is a way of proclaiming our redemption and freedom from the bondage of sin through the sacrificial blood of the Lamb of God!

NEXT YEAR IN THE NEW JERUSALEM!

“Now in the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, on the thirteenth day of the same, when the king’s command and edict were about to be carried out, on the very day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, the reverse occurred: the Jews gained mastery over those who hated them.” (Esther 9:1)

Ancient Persia of biblical times is today known as Iran.It is now more than two millennia since the Purim story took place there and an attempted genocide against the Jewish people was miraculously aborted. Haman of old had a plan. “Death to the Jews” was his program. Celebrating Purim is our commemoration of his failure. But history has a remarkable way of repeating itself. Jew-haters still live on, renewing Haman’s efforts with even greater dedication and perseverance—not only from Iran, the biblical home of Haman, but also from ISIS and many other countries where sympathy  for Islamic radicals is on the rise.

Although celebrating Purim is not a commandment from God, it continues to be celebrated because its message needs to be remembered. Those who seek destruction of the Jewish people are evil. Their evil must be acknowledged. Their words must be taken seriously. Their goal must be prevented.

And how do we celebrate Purim today in light of modern day Haman’s seemingly rise to power, strength and wealth? Perhaps the most important words of the Megillat Esther, the Scroll of Esther are V’Nahafoch Hu – “it was reversed”. (Esther 10:1) Tragedy was turned around at the last moment, and all the plans that Haman tried to implement in order to destroy the Jews were used in the end to save the Jews.

Today, we celebrate Purim with costumes, noisemakers, and a feast that includes wine and Hamantashen, special filled cookies that resemble Haman’s three cornered hat. We give gifts of food to our friends, and money to the poor.

“…as the days on which the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and gifts to the poor.” (Esther 9:22)

We also read from the book of Esther and use a special noisemaker every time Haman’s name is mentioned as a sign of disrespect and make our hearts glad with wine.

“A person should drink on Purim until the point where he can’t tell the difference between “Blessed is Mordechai” and “Cursed is Haman. (Talmud – Megillah 7b; Code of Jewish Law 695:2)

Some think that just as the Irish have a springtime drinking holiday called St. Patrick’s Day, the Sages instituted Purim as Judaism’s springtime drinking holiday. This is absurd!

To begin, we first need to define the Bible’s concept of feasting and gladness. Throughout Scripture feasting is always associated with drinking and rejoicing. Rejoicing often includes laughter. Laughter occurs when the unexpected happens. A toddler puts on her father’s big shoes—and we laugh. Someone forgets their lines in a play—and we laugh. The sudden surprise catches us off guard. And the more unexpected it is, the funnier it is.

The story of Haman’s downfall and Mordechai’s rise teaches us that even at a time when we’re powerless to think and respond logically, God continues to protect us and shield us. On Purim, we drink to life (“L’chaim”) with the knowledge that all of our troubles are temporary. We capture the joy that just as God redeemed us from previous dangers, sins and problems, He will do so again. Because God is always here, running the world for our ultimate benefit.

Many people drink to forget their problems—and for a while, it works. But if we were on a higher spiritual level, we wouldn’t need to drink. But since we’re not on such a high spiritual level, we drink in order to loosen up, laugh at our troubles and forget our anxieties. If we were truly clear on the idea that the only real power operating in the world is God, we wouldn’t have nearly as much worry and anxiety as we normally do. If we trusted in God, we would be fully relaxed. Then we could really see that God has everything under control, and in spite of us, everything will work out.

The message of Purim is that even though it’s hard to see Him, God is here in the world. Even when things look bad, even if we’re suffering, in some way it has got to be all for the best, because there’s a benevolent God behind everything, manipulating events for our good. This is what is means to “drink until you can’t tell the difference between Blessed is Mordechai and Cursed is Haman.” It is only because of our limited perceptions that we see a difference. But in God’s infinite reality, there is no difference between the two. It is all ultimately for the good. (This does not mean that we are to drink to the excess where we cannot walk or talk at all, but just to the point of not being able to use our logic)

A fun fact on this theme: In Hebrew, the numerical value (gematria) of “Cursed is Haman” is 502. The numerical value of “Blessed is Mordechai” is also 502. On Purim we drink to the point that we can no longer compute the mathematics.

A final word on drinking:

Let us use good judgement on Purim. We should set a model for our children by not drinking to excess and by supervising adolescents and teenagers to make sure that they do not drink. In this way we can all enjoy a safe, respectable Purim. There have been far too many teenagers as well as adults who require emergency attention after becoming too drunk. Drinking and driving is not only against Halacha, but obviously against common sense. Rabbis, teachers and parents should be encouraged to discuss this issue with all children and adults not only before Purim, but throughout the year.

Many have been commenting on how ugly the 2016 presidential race has become. Many more have become confused over how the most vulgar and the most insincere candidates seem to be leading in the polls.

Everyone seems to be casting the blame for our country’s woes from former President Bush to President Obama. But the real blame belongs to all of us! You see, our leaders are merely mirrors of those they lead. That was how it was for ancient Israel when they cried out for a king in 1 Samuel 8, and how it has been ever since then.

When the Israelites wanted a king like other nations had, they were rejecting their unique, set-apart position as God’s people. The nation whose God was to be the Lord alone was envious of the nations who followed false gods. It is no surprise, I suppose, that the powers of government have always been expanded under this same faulty way of thinking.

God warned Israel that a king would be costly both in goods and in freedom. He told them that they would have to give up their freedom to make your own choices, their land and resources. God also pointed out that there is a point of no return on having a king. There will come a time, God says in vs. 18, when you will “cry out for relief from the king.” But then it will be too late.

Throughout history, the more people moved away from God and his laws, the worse off the people became. It was the same during Israel’s captivity in Babylon. God allowed Israel to be captured and ruled by an evil king because Israel had turned away from God and followed false prophets and evil kings.

It is no different now. And unless we repent of our wickedness and turn back to God and serve him, we too, will find ourselves taken captive by an ungodly government.

We need to pray for America the way the prophet Daniel prayed for captive Israel. A prayer something like this: (Taken from Daniel 9:1-19) “O Lord, our great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments. We have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name.
To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men and women of America, and to whole world—those who are near and those who are far away. To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our leaders to our fathers and to our father’s fathers, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, but we have rebelled against you and have not obeyed your Word which you set before us by your servants the prophets. We have all has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice.

And the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against you. We have confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us, by bringing upon us a great calamity. For under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what has been done against us. As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not entreated the favor of the Lord our God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by your truth. Therefore, this calamity and has been brought it upon us.

Lord God, you are righteous in all the works that you have done, but we have not obeyed your voice.  O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your people because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, because we have become a byword among all who are watching us.

Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake O Lord, make your face to shine upon our country, which is desolate. O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive! O Lord, pay attention and act! Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your people who are called by your name. Amen”

A deeper understanding of Daniel’s prayer:

 

The 2016 elections have become a media circus of insults, lies, and mudslinging that the modern world has not seen before. According to politifact.com, not one of the leading candidates have been completely honest.

Donald Trump has taken many political pundits by surprise and has left the Republican Party scratching its head and wondering why he is leading the pack. Others are wondering how someone who is under a federal probe can still be so popular with Democratic voters. Some have even stated that this year’s elections could mean the destruction of our political process and the end of our constitutional freedoms.

So how did this happen?

When the Israelites wanted a king like other nations had, they were rejecting their unique, set-apart position as God’s people. The nation whose God was to be the Lord alone was envious of the nations who followed false gods. (1 Samuel 8:4)

The prophet Samuel answered the people and said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men[a] and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” (1 Samuel 8:11-18)

But the people no longer wanted to be ruled by God and they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” (v. 19-20) And God’s people suffered great calamities for years afterward because of their decision.

It should be no surprise then, I suppose, that the powers of government have always been expanded under this same faulty way of thinking. Think of almost anything now provided by government today, (which is almost everything) and you will quickly realize that it could easily have been provided without government intervention!

God warned the Israelites that being ruled by a man would be costly both in goods and in freedom. Government is a very expensive item: you must pay for the bureaucrats who are always very wasteful, and you must give up the freedom to make your own choices, which is also very wasteful of human initiative and talent. God also pointed out that there is a point of no return on having government rule rather than God. There will come a time, God says in vs. 18, “when you will cry out for relief from the king whom you have chosen for yourselves. But the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

This is happening now! 

But it wasn’t always this way. A tiny band of religious outcasts who founded this country hit upon a formula for success that went way beyond what they could have imagined and established a nation that became the best example of civil, economic and religious liberty that the world has ever known.

Although not all the signers of the Constitution, the Declaration Of Independence and the Bill of Rights may have been Christians, they were wise enough to follow the example of those religious outcasts and use God’s rules as a blueprint for true freedom and liberty.

Sadly, it took less than 100 years for corruption to creep into our government of and by the people. Today we no longer want to be ruled by God, but like Israel of old we say,  “No! Let there be a government rule over us, that we may be like all other nations, and that our government leaders may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”

So how can we apply these same foundational truths that brought our founding fathers liberty and freedom today? By turning from our wicked ways and turn back to God with a truly repentant heart; and realize that it is God alone who judges. And it is He who decides who will rise and who will fall. (Psalm 75:7; Daniel 2:21;1 Samuel 2:7)

I only pray that it’s not too late.

“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, THEN I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.…”But if you turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments that I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will pluck you up from my land that I have given you, and this house that I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight, and I will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples. And at this house, which was exalted, everyone passing by will be astonished and say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land and to this house?’ Then they will say, ‘Because they abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods and worshiped them and served them. Therefore he has brought all this disaster on them.’” (2 Chronicles 7: 13-22)

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Most people never question why they believe certain things or why they practice certain religious traditions. In a world filled with popular customs and traditions, very few seek to understand the origin of those things. People most generally accept common religious practices without question, choosing to do what everyone else does because it’s easy, natural and comfortable—they can go along with the crowd without rocking the boat.

Most follow blindly along as they have been taught, assuming that what they believe and do is right. They never take time to prove what they believe is true. Nowhere is this more true than in the observance of Christmas, Lent, Good Friday, Easter and other supposed Christian holidays.

Many millions keep these days without knowing why—or where they originated from. Most suppose that they are found in the Bible because they see millions of professing Christians observing them. Surely hundreds of millions of people can’t be wrong—Or can they?

Many Christian churches have agreed that the upcoming holiday of Halloween is rooted in paganism and witchcraft, and yet, these same churches have tried to “Christianize” even Halloween by calling the celebration a “Harvest Party”—complete with “more appropriate” costume contests, (No witch or devil costumes) games and bobbing for apples! (If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…)

Here is what Jesus said about the popular customs and traditions of this world: “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!” (Mark 7:6-9 ESV c. Isa 29:13)

The proof is overwhelming that these modern holidays that the churches embrace and promote are “traditions” and “commandments of men.” But vast multitudes keep them anyway, seemingly content to worship God in vain!

Open your Bible and your mind

You must be willing to open your Bible and honestly accept what it says about the holidays of men—and about God’s Holy Days. It has been almost universally taught that the annual Sabbaths and feasts mentioned in the Bible have been done away with—that they were only for ancient Israel, or just for the Jews. Many churches teach that Jesus “nailed them to the cross” along with most everything else in the Old Testament.

The majority of people will strongly defend what they have been taught simply because they have been spoon fed these beliefs in their churches. And believing them to be true, they will read with prejudice anything that contradicts their assumptions—even if it is proven to be false in Scripture.

II Timothy 2:15 commands us to, “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” God expects us to study his Word so that we can act on it.

No matter how comfortable a lifelong practice may be, shouldn’t we base our decision on proof from God’s Word instead of what some man has told us?

Since the Bible condemns these almost universally observed “Christianized” holidays of men, how did they come into popular practice?

The Prophecy of the “Little Horn” that changed everything

Daniel 7 contains an extraordinary prophecy that reveals exactly how the professing Christian world came to celebrate “Christianized” pagan holidays in place of the annual days that God made holy.

When carefully examined and compared to other Scriptures, it becomes clear that Daniel’s vision describes four world-ruling empires as four beasts. Beginning with Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian (Chaldean) Empire, they would span the last 2,500 years preceding Christ’s Return.

Virtually all serious students of Bible prophecy will recognize that the ten-horned fourth beast is the Roman Empire, and the ten horns are its ten historic resurrections. (or revivals) Verse 8 introduces a “little horn” that arises among the ten horns of the Roman Empire.

Here is what Daniel records: “I considered the [ten] horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.”

Verse 20 describes this little horn as one “whose look was more stout than his fellows.” (he looked greater or more important than the others) Those who understand even the most basic elements of Bible prophecy will recognize that this “little horn” is a small kingdom or government that took a prominent position in history within the ten successive resurrections of the Roman Empire.

It is also obvious from the description of this little horn that it is a small but powerful religious hierarchy government associated with and controlling Rome. Because Daniel states, “And he shall speak great words against the most High God, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws.” (Dan.7:25)

For those with eyes to see, God gives tremendous insight into the work of this little religious kingdom. Over the last 2,000 years, only one church fits Daniel’s description. Only one church has continually spoken “against the most High God” by trying to change the LAWS and the TIMES that God has made holy! Only one church has continually persecuted the true Church and saints of God, who have not been willing to compromise his laws and times. And there is only one church that all other denominations are derived from and continue to uphold its doctrines, laws and times of IT”S holidays!

It is time for God’s people to really study and obey his Word, so we can truly be a people separated for God’s own purpose! (Deuteronomy 7:6; 1 Peter 2:9)

During the recent Feast of Tabernacles this year I had conversations with some of my Christian friends about observing God’s feasts that are recorded in the Bible. Like many Christians, my friends believe that all of God’s Laws were done away with and fulfilled by Jesus’ death and resurrection—that we are no longer under the Law, but under grace and we are no loner are required to observe the feasts.

Whose Feasts are they?

Even before the Old Covenant was ratified and before he scaled Mount Sinai to receive the Law from God, Moses was instructed about Passover and the first Feast, The Feast of Unleavened Bread. God told Moses to “Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance.“ (See Exodus 12:12-17) [Emphasis mine throughout]

We learn first of all that it is a festival to the Lord,”  Later in Leviticus, a book that details each of the seven annual Feast observances, God commands Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘These are my appointed festivals, the appointed festivals of the Lord, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies.” (Lev. 23:2) He leaves us with no doubt as to whom these observances belong. They are God’s feasts, not Israel’s; and not Feasts just for Jews.

Lest we wonder whether all the Feasts are God’s, He details each one for us in Leviticus 23:4-43. But carefully notice how God prefaces the feasts He is about to list:

“These are the Lord’s appointed festivals, the sacred assemblies you are to proclaim at their appointed times.” (v.4) So Scripture proves that all these special annual times belong to God and are given to those who seek to truly know and love Him.

The common misunderstanding.

The mistaken assumption many make is in thinking that all laws in the Bible are the same. The fact is, we find five different kinds of law in Scriptures:

• Spiritual law

• Civil law

• Ceremonial-ritual-sacrificial law

• Judicial-criminal law

  • Natural law

The Feasts (as well as the Ten Commandments) fall into the category of spiritual law. They reveal the spiritual attributes of God and they transform us spiritually to be more like Jesus when we observe them. They also remind us of how God will always watch over us and protect us with His mighty power.

The laws that many refer to as being changed by the New Covenant of Jesus are actually the ceremonial-ritual-sacrificial laws. The book of Hebrews speaks of that change:

“This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order. But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Hebrews 9:9-14)

These ritualistic ordinances had been added to the law obligation because of Israel’s continued transgressions. (Gal. 3:19) It was imperative that Israel learn the important lesson that sin is a serious thing that separates us from God and requires blood-shedding for atonement. But now we rely on the Savior as the ultimate sacrifice, and who now intercedes for us as our High Priest. His blood and not the blood of bulls and goats is the only effective antidote to counteract and blot out sin.

THIS is the change in the law that the Bible speaks of. But we find nothing here or anywhere else in the Scriptures about a change in our responsibility to keep the spiritual law—meaning either the Ten Commandments or God’s Feast days. That is because neither the Commandments nor these annual observances are part of the ceremonial-ritual-sacrificial law that was changed with the death and resurrection of Jesus.

The apostle Paul observed God’s feasts.

In Acts 21 we are told that the Apostle Paul arrived in the city of Jerusalem from his third missionary trip. When he arrived, the apostles in Jerusalem told Paul that there were rumors in the city that he had been speaking against the Mosaic law, had encouraged the men to not be circumcised, and had tried to motivate others to ignore the Jewish customs during his missionary travels (v. 20-21). Consequently, in order to counter these false rumors, the apostles encouraged Paul to purify himself according to Jewish custom (v. 24) and to pay the cost for four Jewish men to have their heads shaved, (v. 23-24) In other words, they wanted Paul to demonstrate that he still followed the Mosaic customs. (But not the sacrifices) Paul agreed and did as they suggested. (v. 26)

This raises a important question. Why did Paul follow the Mosaic customs? In Acts 16:1-3 we discover that Paul circumcised Timothy himself — a Jewish custom. In Acts 18:18, Paul had his hair cut “for he was keeping a vow” —a Nazirite vow. In Acts 20:6 we are told that Paul observed the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and in Acts 20:16 he observed the Feast of Pentecost. If all of God’s laws were replaced at Jesus’ resurrection, why did Paul follow the Mosaic customs? Was he wrong to do so?

Did Jesus’ death and resurrection change God’s spiritual laws?

Some may be asking, ”But doesn’t Colossians 2:14 say that all of God’s laws, including the Feasts, were nailed to the stake when Jesus died?” Not if we study (in context) what Paul was explaining to his readers.

Paul begins by saying, “ See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” (V. 8) Then he goes on to say that we were not circumcised with human hands but by Christ. (Vs. 11-12) Paul then adds, “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” (Vs. 13-15)

Here we find that the legal indebtedness (or obligations) that were nailed to the tree were “against us.” Is God’s law against us? Does not Paul write, “Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good?” (Rom. 7:12)

If the law is against us, why does I John 5:3 say, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous”? In fact, God’s laws are intended for our good! God’s commandments are good, and so are his Feasts. WE are the ones who have the problem!

Many Christians pick out Colossians 2:16-18 and mistakingly believe that Paul is telling us not to observe the feasts: Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”

Paul is not telling us not to observe God’s festivals or Sabbaths, he is telling us not to let others JUDGE us when we DO observe them! And who are those who would judge us? The legalistic Jews and the world who would impose man-made ordinances and rules on us: “Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules:  ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings.” (Vs. 20-22)

The New Testament Christians Kept the Fall Holy Days

The Apostles Paul and John wrote:

“Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)

“He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” (1 John 2:6) And that included keeping the Fall Holy Days.

Notice that even after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the importance that the Apostle Paul attached to keeping a Feast in Jerusalem: “I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing.” (Acts 18:21 KJV)

I find it interesting that many Bible translations today have removed the part of that verse that says, “I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem.” Compare it to the NIV which reads, “But as he left, he promised, “I will come back if it is God’s will.” Then he set sail from Ephesus.” Why no mention of keeping the feast in Jerusalem?

The Apostle Paul kept the Fall Holy Days. Paul wrote that he needed to keep the feast (possibly meaning the Feast of Tabernacles) Paul also apparently kept the Day of Atonement (known as the Fast): “When considerable time had passed and the voyage was now dangerous, since even the fast was already over, Paul began to admonish them, and said to them, “Men, I perceive that the voyage will certainly be with damage and great loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” (Acts 27:9-10)

Notice some statements from the Apostle Paul:

“…Men and brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers.” (Acts 28:17)

“..though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” (Philippians 3:4-6)

Since Paul kept the customs of his people, he, too, kept all the Holy Feast Days. If not, he could not have made that statement which is in Acts 28:17 nor the ones about being blameless in the law in Philippians 3:4-6.

Did the 2nd or 3rd Century Church Keep God’s Feasts?

There are at least five reasons that it can be concluded that the second century church observed the feasts:

1. The original Apostles did. (Acts 18:18-21; 27:9)
2. They are mentioned in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments.
3. Polycarp , a disciple of the apostle John, said he followed the practices of the Apostles in regards to holy days.
4. There were early Christian meanings for them.
5. If they were not being kept, then certain leaders in the Roman Catholic Church would not have later felt the necessity to drive the observances out.

There is also an indication in an old, 4th century writing, that Polycarp discussed the Fall Holy Days:

“What must one say, when even He that was gentler than all men so appeals and cries out at the feast of Tabernacles? For it is written; And on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried saying, If any man thirsteth, let him come to Me and drink. (Pionius, Life of Polycarp (1889) from J. B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 3.2, pp.488-506.)

Fall Holy Days Preached Against, Though Observed, in the Late 4th Century

According to Eusebius’ Life of Constantine, Book III chapter 18, the Roman emperor Constantine stated:

“Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd; for we have received from our Saviour a different way.”

Constantine was a worshiper of the sun-god Mithras and December 25th was Mithras’ birthday, and later that day became adopted as Christmas. A few decades after Christmas was adopted by Rome, the Roman Catholic saint John Chrysostom preached the following in 387 A.D.:

“The festivals of the pitiful and miserable Jews are soon to march upon us one after the other and in quick succession: the feast of Trumpets, the feast of Tabernacles, the fasts. There are many in our ranks who say they think as we do. Yet some of these are going to watch the festivals and others will join the Jews in keeping their feasts and observing their fasts. I wish to drive this perverse custom from the Church right now…If the Jewish ceremonies are venerable and great, ours are lies…Does God hate their festivals and do you share in them?”

Notice that he did not say this or that festival, but all of them together. (John Chrysostom. Homily I Against the Jews I:5;VI:5;VII:2. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/chrysostom-jews6.html 12/10/05)

Had Jesus or Paul told us that under the New Covenant we don’t need to observe the seven annual Feasts, then we wouldn’t have to bother. The reality is, NO ONE in the New Testament said such a thing! In fact, we find a myriad of passages in the New Testament where people intended to keep them, continued keeping them, and would keep them in the coming Kingdom.

Is the Feasts commanded to be observed forever?

In Zechariah 14:16-19 we read:Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, and to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles. If any of the peoples of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, they will have no rain. If the Egyptian people do not go up and take part, they will have no rain. The Lord will bring on them the plague he inflicts on the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles. This will be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles.

In Leviticus 23:41 the word used for “forever” is the Hebrew עוֹלָם (`owlam) and means, long duration, antiquity, futurity, everlasting, evermore, perpetual, always, continuous existence, unending, eternity—In other words, FOREVER!

The New Testament Greek word for forever: aion (ahee-ohn’) and means at all times, always, perpetual, continuously, or continuous—In other words, FOREVER!

The account in Zechariah 14 refers to the time AFTER Jesus returns to earth and emphasizes the fact that this Feast is a statute forever. All nations are commanded to observe this Feast in the millennium whether they prefer to do so, or not. Eventually, all nations will come to understand and appreciate God’s commanded Feasts.

Peter likely alludes to this holiday when Jesus appears in His full glory next to Moses and Elijah. (Matt. 17:1-13; Mark 9:2-13; Luke 9:28-36). Peter then asks Jesus if it would be appropriate to build three tents. (or booths) This was obviously a vision given by God since none of the disciples knew what Moses and Elisha looked like.

Besides, why would Moses and Elisha need earthly shelters, if they already had their dwelling in heaven? Is it possible that the Feast of Tabernacles was being observed at this time? Sukkot looks forward to the day when God will once again dwell in the midst of His people as Messiah did. The Feast of Tabernacles thus looks forward to the return of our Messiah and the establishment of His Messianic Kingdom.

Human tradition stops many from observing God’s feasts. Notice some of what Jesus taught about religious people who preferred traditions over the commands of the Bible:

“Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:7-9)

Those who have their minds set on earthly things lose sight of the world to come. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. (Phil.3:19) Esau was faithless and willing to give up his inheritance in exchange for the immediate gratification of his earthly hunger. We do not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

It is very easy to become ensnared by the superficial trappings of worldly comforts so that we fail to realize just how vulnerable and naked we are in this world. The Sukkah reminds us of our weakness and vulnerability: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary, troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1)

The Feast of Tabernacles is not just to remind the people that they lived in booths, but also that God dwelt among his people. They were led by his glorious presence and the tabernacle of the Lord was pitched in the midst of their tents. The Sukkah reminds us that as we live within this mortal, temporary body, God also dwells with us as he leads us by His Spirit to our eternal dwelling.

Only when we put aside this earthly tent and receive our glorified immortal bodies will we rejoice in the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promises,  yet we rejoice even now because we have been given the first-fruits of the Spirit guaranteeing our citizenship in the heavenly Jerusalem which is yet to be revealed.

Not one professing Christ kept Halloween, All Saint’s Day, Christmas, or even Easter until hundreds of years after Christ died. The biblical holy days were sadly rejected by people who had anti-semitic feelings and who wanted to endorse pagan practices.

The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th was in 336AD, during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine, who was a self proclaimed sun worshiper. A few years later, Pope Julius I officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on the 25th December.

The Feast of Dedication, or Hanukkah, occurs at about the same time as Christmas. Hanukkah celebrates when, after the Romans desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem, the Maccabees fought and won against the Romans and the Jewish people were able to re-dedicate the Temple and worship there again. In John 10:22 we read that even Jesus went to the Temple to observe the Feast of Dedication.

Although most who profess Christianity now celebrate it, Easter-Sunday was not observed by the second century Christians in Asia Minor. They observed Passover instead. Although the Bible does mention that Jesus was resurrected, it never once suggests that it be observed as some type of holiday. Jesus specifically mentioned that Christians were to observe the Passover as He did. (Luke 22:14-20)

I have no problem with Christians celebrating Christmas and Easter as remembrances to honor Jesus’ birth and resurrection; but what does Jesus’ birth have to do with Christmas trees, Mistletoe, and Santa Claus? And what does Jesus’ resurrection have to do with the Easter Bunny and Easter egg hunts?

So should we obey the teachings of God as revealed in the Bible and as practiced by Jesus and the early Christian Church, or celebrate the pagan-based holidays of men?

This week signaled the beginning of Sukkot, (Feast of Tabernacles) and many will be attending the Feast at various campgrounds around the country.

Each of the three major festivals, the sacred seasons sanctified by God, are designated in Scripture. And each one possess a special quality even today. Passover, commemorating the Exodus from Egypt, is known as “the time of our freedom;” this is the holiday of national emancipation. Shavuot, the anniversary of the Sinai Revelation, is “the time of the giving of our Torah.” During these holidays, the entire nation of Israel made the pilgrimage up to Jerusalem and the Holy Temple.

The Lord said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘On the fifteenth day of the seventh month the Lord’s Festival of Tabernacles begins, and it lasts for seven days. The first day is a sacred assembly; do no regular work. For seven days present food offerings to the Lord, and on the eighth day hold a sacred assembly and present a food offering to the Lord. It is the closing special assembly; do no regular work. (These are the Lord’s appointed festivals, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies for bringing food offerings to the Lord—the burnt offerings and grain offerings, sacrifices and drink offerings required for each day. These offerings are in addition to those for the Lord’s Sabbaths and in addition to your gifts and whatever you have vowed and all the freewill offerings you give to the Lord.) “So beginning with the fifteenth day of the seventh month, after you have gathered the crops of the land, celebrate the festival to the Lord for seven days; the first day is a day of sabbath rest, and the eighth day also is a day of sabbath rest. On the first day you are to take branches from luxuriant trees—from palms, willows and other leafy trees—and rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. Celebrate this as a festival to the Lord for seven days each year. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come; celebrate it in the seventh month. Live in temporary shelters for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in such shelters so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in temporary shelters when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” (Lev. 23:33-44)

It is appropriate that the Festival of Sukkot is referred to as “the time of our joy.” For although it is marked by the observance of special, highly visible commandments such as the “four species” (referred to by the Jewish people as the lulav) and dwelling in huts, commemorating a specific period in Jewish history, (When Israel dwelt in huts in the wilderness) nonetheless, the central theme of this season is the pure joy of having a relationship with our Creator.

Now, some sages have stated that those original “huts” of that generation were actually God’s Clouds of Glory, which He spread over Israel in His protection and Divine grace. (BT Sukkah 11:B; Rashi) Whether or not this statement is taken literally is irrelevant—for what it symbolizes is a concept that not only personifies the very essence of this holiday, but the essence of our faith in God as well.

That is why Sukkot is marked by such great joy in Israel. Of all the sacred seasons that God commanded Israel to observe, the festival of Tabernacles has the strongest implications for the nations of the world. Even today, vast numbers of Gentiles identify with the holiday of Sukkot, and converge on Jerusalem just to be in the holy city at this time of year. It is as if their heartstrings are pulled by some invisible force.

And yet here in the United States Sukkot has become more like so many of the Christian music festivals—complete with all the venders and money changers profiting from those attending. Is this any different than when Jesus chased away the money changers from the Temple? (Matthew 21:12-13)

For that reason we observe the Feast at home. We stay home and study the Scriptures and do the best we can to capture the spirit and joy of the Feast.

Notice that the Scripture commands us to OBSERVE His feasts, not just ATTEND His feasts. We are commanded to observe the Sabbath and the festivals, even if we are unable to attend a service. It isn’t ideal, but when one is unable to attend the Feast or Sabbath services during times of sickness or other hardship, one can still observe them at home.

God intends that we experience the Feast of Tabernacles in a place that He has chosen. He expects us to attend the Feast when feasible, but it is possible to ATTEND the Feast and not properly OBSERVE the Feast. I’m afraid that at times some have treated the Feast as they would a music festival or vacation—simply time away from home and the normal schedule.

Having observed the Feast at home, I can tell you that when you’re alone with your family, you are forced to consider the spiritual meaning of the Feast in a different way. I am not advocating that you stay away from attending God’s festival at one of the many campgrounds, but I am happy that I learned to observe the Feast before ever attending the Feast. And I believe it made a difference.

I sincerely encourage you to observe the Feast. And if you feel the need to attend the Feast, remember, it’s not a vacation, or a music festival, but a holy assembly. It should be the highlight of your year. Above all, I pray that this Feast will be spiritually rewarding and bring you great joy—indeed, the greatest joy you’ve ever known! Don’t just attend the Feast this year, but make sure you also observe it as God commanded.

“Behold the Lord’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save, nor his ear heavy that it cannot hear, but your sins have separated you from your God and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he will not hear.” (Isaiah 59: 1-2)

There are many Christians today that excuse their sin by claiming that because we are human, we do not have the capacity to stop sinning. Isn’t that the reason that Jesus died and was resurrected? “We are no longer under Law but under grace.” they say. There are some in AA circles who have even referred to sin as “character flaws” or “allergies”. But it is the power of Jesus in us that REMOVES our character flaws! And even when one has an allergy to something, they CHOOSE to partake of it or refuse it. It’s not that it is impossible for us to NOT sin, it’s that we CHOOSE to sin.

But to have victory over sin will involve a total daily surrender of Self, (Our own desires, will, and selfish nature) to God. Surrender to God simply means acknowledging to Him that all things you desire; personal as well as spiritual, good as well as bad, by His grace and by the power of His spirit, you agree to give up in order that He might be glorified. You also have to acknowledge that in your flesh, (that is, in your own strength) this is impossible to accomplish.

Self is an impossible force to deal with on our own. It is the foundation of all sin and all the problems that have plagued societies and civilizations since the fall of man. Everything from lust, to murder, to war are all sins derived from Self. Wars are being waged simply because someone has something that the other wants and cannot have. Neither side will compromise, so they go to war. (James 4:5-6)

Sam Shoemaker, (December 27, 1893 – October 31, 1963) is considered one of the best preachers of his era, whose sermons were syndicated for distribution by tape and radio networks for decades, Shoemaker served as the rector of Calvary Episcopal Church in New York City, the United States headquarters of the Oxford Group during the 1930s, and was a significant influence for the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. http://aa-history.com/samshoemaker.html Shoemaker wrote over thirty books, about half of which were circulating before A A’s 12 Steps were first published in the Big Book in 1939.

A year after his death, Shoemaker’s daughter, Helen Shoemaker-Rea, compiled a collection of Shoemaker’s writings for the book, “Sam Shoemaker-at his best EXTRAORDINARY LIVING FOR THE ORDINARY MAN”. They first appeared in, Faith At Work Magazine, New York, N.Y.

The following are excerpts from the chapter called, “Victory Over Self” of that book:

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“We are at war today as surely as we were in the ‘40s and are in the midst of making the same mistakes again… We fight with force against the enemy without because we have not learned to fight with faith against the enemy within. The real war is within. What we need today, more than anything else, more than victory in the war against aggression, are weapons, manpower, and strategy to win the war against selfishness. We need, and must have, victory over ourselves, before any outward victory will mean anything more than a temporary cessation of human conflict….”

“Let us face at the outset how many Christians are not victorious, but defeated. Defeated by circumstances, defeated by other peoples’ natures and wrong-doings, defeated by the down-drag of the flesh, defeated by loss, by pain, by suffering, by worry. Instead of saying with confidence, “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith,” they have to say in honesty, “This is the defeat that has been caused by the world, even our self-centeredness.” That is the opposite of faith. Unbelief is not the opposite of faith; self-centeredness is—being centered in self rather than in God.”

“Victory over sin. This victory begins in the life and death of our Lord himself—in his life, because “he was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin”—in his death, because there he took upon himself the sin of the world, suffered in our stead, made redemption possible for us. We need to be redeemed from sin first, to have salvation put in its place by our Savior. Then we need to claim his power over our sins, one by one. Most of us fight a dreary battle for character, or else give it up entirely, and just give in to the desires that assail us—desires to coddle and indulge the body, to please and amuse the mind, to fritter away the life with trivial pursuits, to win out over somebody else, to “get ours.” The way to deal with sin is not to try to hate sin more, but to love Christ more.”

“All the victory of which we have been speaking is a derived victory. We can win the victory only because Christ won it long ago. We participate in his victory by faith.Faith is like a wire, along which he sends the power, the love, the guidance, that enable us to share in his victory. Faith is not just a belief of the mind; faith is the set of the whole personality God-ward. It doesn’t begin with beliefs, but obedience.”

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If only people could realize that by surrendering Self to God and living by principles taught through the Holy Scriptures wars would cease, crime rates would go down and divorce would be all but non-existent. But as long as people refuse to surrender Self to God, all of these things will continue to plague the world and will increase in its intensity over time. That’s why we must rely on God to give us the grace we need that will allow us to surrender Self to Him. God promises in his Word that if we’re honest, admit that we’re powerless in our own nature to surrender, and humble ourselves before him, he’ll give us the grace we need to do it.

There are some who will still be convinced that it is impossible for one not to sin. But listen to what God says:

“For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.“ (Deuteronomy 30:11-14) [Emphasis mine]

The apostle John wrote in 1 John 5:3, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” (Burdensome)

But it is only by God’s grace that we can accomplish this. To some surrendering Self to God will become as easy as shedding a winter coat in Spring, while others will struggle daily to accomplish it.

The apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 how he struggled with what he calls his “thorn in the flesh”. Some have suggested that Paul struggled with some physical malady, while others are convinced that it was spiritual in nature. We may never know until the resurrection what it was, but we do know that God gave Paul the grace to endure it.

Grace is not a replacement or an excuse for sin. Paul himself said, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2)

Before becoming Navy SEALs, candidates are put through some of the most mentally challenging and physically demanding training in the world, commonly referred to as “hell week.” Very few candidates successfully complete the training. I recall hearing a story about the last day of training. Just after completing a rigorous exercise, the instructor told the candidates to complete another 1000-yard swim with fins in 20 minutes or under. Two of the candidates staggered over and rang the bell, signifying that they could not physically complete the task. The remainder of the candidates immediately received their SEAL Trident, designating them as Navy SEALs. You see, the instructor wanted to see who was WILLING to go the extra mile.

We too, need to be willing to do what it takes to have victory over sin. So with the help of God’s grace, we must decide to die to self and follow Christ no matter what.

“Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will not be put to shame.” (Isaiah 50:7)