A Call to Awaken
The Hebrew calendar is one to encourage the culture of the Kingdom of heaven here on earth. It brings to our attention weekly, monthly, and yearly seasons of rest and times to connect with the Lord. These times are meant to bring us closer to Him. To do this, we must set priorities and need to ask ourselves, "What is my highest priority?" How intentional are we at setting aside special times to seek greater intimacy with the Lord? We have an opportunity this evening at sundown to join with our Jewish brothers and sisters in the celebration of the New Year 5783. After all, we have a common history with them. In Leviticus 23 we find a list of the Feasts of the Lord, and we are told in verse 4, "These are the Lord's appointed festivals, the sacred assemblies you are to proclaim at their appointed times." We also see throughout the New Testament that Jesus kept these feasts.
The spring feasts are a reflection of the Messiah's appearance on earth and His death and resurrection. The late spring feast demonstrated the power of the Holy Spirit as He poured it out on those who were gathered in Jerusalem. The fall feasts are thought to be the time when Messiah will return to earth to fulfill the Feast of Tabernacles. He will come for the pure and spotless bride called The Church and take her to heaven for eternal fellowship.
Rosh Hashanah means "Head of the Year" and is also referred to as the Feast of Blowing (Yom Teru’ah) or Trumpets. It begins on the first day of the seventh month on the Hebrew calendar called Tishri. For two days sacred assemblies take place, and the shofar (ram's horn) is blown 100 times each day. It is thought to be the day that God created the world and announces the beginning of the fall feasts and what is called "The Ten Days of Awe." These days are meant for self-examination and repentance, prayer and fasting. From Biblical times, these ten days have been set apart as a time for preparation of Yom Kippur or The Day of Atonement. The Israelites would gather as their High Priest went into the presence of the Lord in the Holy of Holies, the innermost sanctuary of the Temple. Here he would present sacrifices and prayers to the Lord on their behalf. During the final celebration, the harvest of the fields is brought in, booths are built for families to live in for seven days so that they are reminded of God's care for their ancestors in the desert, time is set aside to rest and fellowship, and offerings of thanksgiving are brought to the Lord.
In the book The Messianic Church Arising by Robert Heidler, the yearly feasts are called a "Cycle of Blessing." Robert writes, "The fall feasts provide the pattern for revival for any individual or nation. The fall feasts were given to create a pathway into God's glory." Here is what each feast is meant to do:
The Feast of Trumpets: A wake-up call
The Days of Awe: A time for seeking Him
The Day of Atonement: A day to be restored
The Feast of Tabernacles: A week to experience glory
Robert continues. "...I believe Tabernacles is the key feast for the church today. We live in a day when God wants to draw us into His presence in a unique way. It is a time for His power and blessing to be poured out. He wants us to experience His glory."
Our wake-up call comes this evening. We are being called into a new season. We are being called to awaken. God is ready to meet us. Are we ready to meet Him? We can join our Jewish brothers and sisters in the Spirit by remembering our blessings, confessing and repenting of our sins, and bringing the Lord a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. This will set us on a path of blessing for the new year.
Separated Unto God
The word "kadosh" in Hebrew is holy. Its meaning is sacred, devout, pure, spotless, and untainted. To be holy requires one to be set apart and separated from the typical pattern of life. From the beginning, it was God's desire to have a special people that were separated unto Him. He began to implement His plan through Abram. (Later Abraham) In a divine encounter, Abram was instructed to "Leave it all behind.” and "Follow me." (Genesis 12:1-2 - TPT) God gave him a promise if he would follow Him. "I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all people on earth will be blessed through you." (Genesis 12:2-3)
Later, a covenant was made between God and Abraham as the meaning of being separated from the other nations became clearer. The covenant required that every male be circumcised. This would be a physical sign of separation. The people God called to be separated from other nations became known as the Israelites. After they were rescued from slavery in Egypt, God gave them commandments and told their leader, Moses, "...Though the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." (Exodus 19:5-6) God set before the children of Israel commandments and laws to follow and put in place a tribe of people who would be consecrated to serve Him. In Israel there were twelve tribes. The tribe of Levi was separated out from the others. They owned no property, and dressed differently, and their daily provisions were supplied by the other tribes.
The name Levi means joined or attached. Indeed, he and his tribe were joined to God and had the privilege of ministering in the tabernacle. Out of this tribe God called the priests (Cohanim) who were the sons of Aaron. Priests from this order would minister to the Lord and were the only ones chosen to minister in the Most Holy Place. We see levels of ministry or separation being formed. Each separation came with a cost. The people of Israel were taught how to live and knew they could not participate in the ways of the world. The cost for the tribe of Levi was that they had no inheritance and no land. They were expected to depend entirely on the Lord. Priests had additional requirements and instructions to abide by. When Rabbi Jonathan Cahn writes about these restrictions, here is what he says: "The greater the calling, the greater the separation. The greater the separation, the greater the limitations. But the greater the limitations and requirements, the greater the ministry, and the greater the blessing."
Christians are called priests unto the Lord. Each of us is called to fulfill a unique purpose of God and His Kingdom. That means our separation to walk in our calling requires us to be distinctly different. We must separate ourselves from sin, the ways of the world, and the flesh. How do we view ourselves? We have been sanctified and consecrated to the purposes of the Lord. We have a different standard than the rest of the world. As members of His church, we are called the ecclesia, which means "called out ones." The only way for us to fulfill our callings is to separate ourselves from the expectations of the world. We must let God set the standard for our lives, a standard that requires holiness.
A Haven in Time - Elul
Why would the sixth month on the Hebrew calendar be referred to as "a haven in time"? To answer this question, we must look back at the last two months, Tammuz and Av. The fourth month, Tammuz, is remembered as the time when the Israelites sinned by building the golden calf and worshiping it. Av, the fifth month, is known as the low point on the Hebrew calendar. It was during this month that the children of Israel decided to receive a negative report from the ten spies who searched out the Promised Land. Their sin of unbelief and negative confession put them under a curse. This has allowed Israel's enemies to destroy what they are attempting to build.
Now comes the sixth month—Elul. God is so in love with His children that it is painful for Him to be separated from them. Hence, Elul has been designated as the month of repentance, mercy, and forgiveness. Our Heavenly Father gives us an opportunity to repent for past sins so that He can extend mercy and forgiveness. And, He has decided to do this in a very personal way! He wants us to prepare ourselves for a face-to-face meeting with Him.
The Jewish people say that this is the month that "The King is in the field." Most of the year the King lives in a palace, separated from his people. But during this one month the King left His palace to be with His people. He selected this time to set up His tent in the field of His people so that He could make Himself accessible to us. His heart is set on tabernacling with us, and, as a sign of this passion for intimacy, the Hebrew letter for the sixth month is Vav, which pictures a tent peg or nail.
Let us take God's eagerness for connection with us a little further. His yearning for intimacy is the reason He sent Jesus to earth. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us." (John 1:1 and 14) The word dwelling is the word for tent or tabernacle. Jesus left His throne to live in our fields. For 33 years the King lived in the fields on the earth. He lived in a tent of mortal flesh during that time so that we could relate to Him more closely. He came to extend mercy and forgiveness and to show everyone what love looks like. Jesus did that by dying on the Cross, by allowing the nails to attach Him to that Cross and making a way for us to spend eternity with Him. That way is through repentance of our sins and acceptance of His offering to be Lord over our lives. We become His dwelling place forever as we receive Him into our hearts.
The King's delight to walk in the fields with us is so strong and beautifully expressed in several passages in the book Song of Solomon. He calls to us as expressed in Song of Solomon 2:14. "...Show me your face, let me hear your voice." Song of Solomon 6:3 is actually a Hebrew acronym for "Elul." "I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine..."
It is time for us to pursue the King as He comes to walk in our fields. We must open our ears to hear what He has to share about our fields as He guides us with wisdom and kindness. He wants to provide for every one of our needs. As it says in Matthew 6:33, "But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." The Lord is here to remind us of His love and desire for us. We must respond with open arms that welcome Him. This is truly "a haven in time."
Redeeming Unbelief in Av
As part of an inner healing team at my church, I see many ways in which the devil and his demons try to trick people into coming into agreement with the kingdom of darkness. I am reminded of a line in Martin Luther's hymn, "A Mighty Fortress." The first verse declares that God is our mighty fortress who helps us against the enemy. However, our enemy never stops trying to trick us. "For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe—His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal."
One of the devil's primary weapons is that he plants seeds of doubt in our minds. We can go all the way back to the Garden of Eden to see the first time he used this trick to destroy the lives of Adam and Eve. The Bible describes his aptitude for deception: "Now the snake (serpent) was the most cunning of all living beings that Yahweh-God had made. He deviously asked the woman, 'Did God really tell you, 'You must not eat fruit from any tree in the garden?'' But the woman interrupted: 'We may eat the fruit of any tree in the garden, except the tree in the center of the garden. God told us, 'Don't eat its fruit, or even touch it, or you'll die.'' But the snake said to hear, 'You certainly won't die.'" (Genesis 3:1-4 - TPT)
We all know the result of Eve's doubt—She ate the forbidden fruit along with her husband. Why? It was because of doubt and unbelief. Scriptures are filled with stories of individuals who discounted God's promises and doubted the veracity of His word. The Israelites made the month of Av, our current month, the lowest point on the Hebrew calendar through their unbelief. God's intent was that this would be the month to celebrate His goodness. The Israelites stood at the border of the Promised Land, the place where God wanted them to live and demonstrated to the rest of the world His loving kindness and faithfulness. Spies sent into Canaan brought back the amazing fruit of the land. Grapes were so huge that they were carried back to the tribes on a pole between two men. Yet, there were two voices amongst the twelve men who spied out the land. Caleb and Joshua declared the voice of faith while the other ten men declared a voice of unbelief. God's promise to the tribes of Israel was undeniable. "The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still." (Exodus 14:14) The Israelites had a choice to make. Would they partner with God or with doubt and unbelief? The fear they took on made them embrace unbelief. On the 9th of Av, they made a wrong decision and a negative confession that placed them under a curse. As they partnered with doubt and unbelief, the promises of God were delayed. The manifestation of the curse went on year after year and continues today. The cycle of destruction can be seen in the events that have occurred on the 9th of Av. Here is a short list: Babylon destroyed the first temple, Rome destroyed the second temple, Hitler began deporting Jews to death camps, Jews were expelled from England, Spain, Portugal, and Gaza, all in different years.
You may ask why this cycle of destruction has continued. Hebrews 4:1-3 explains what happened. "Now God has offered to us the same promises of entering into His realm of resting in confident faith. So, we must be extremely careful to ensure that we all embrace the fullness of that promise and not fail to experience it. For we have heard the good news of deliverance just as they did, yet they didn't join their faith with the Word. Instead, what they heard didn't affect them deeply, for they doubted. For those of us who believe, faith activates the promise, and we experience the realm of confident rest..."(TPT) The children of Israel never repented for their sin of unbelief which allows the enemy to continue on his path of destruction. The sin was repeated when Jesus, the Messiah, came to earth. He told the Jews He is the Son of God, demonstrated His Kingdom through miracles, and gave them words of life. The promises Jesus brought were not received, and they embraced unbelief.
We must be the generation that redeems the sin of unbelief. It might seem like an impossible task, but the Lord has shown us how to do it. The steps follow: Confess the sin of believing a lie; Forgive those who contributed to the way we formed the ungodly belief; Ask for and receive God's forgiveness; Renounce and break any agreement with the powers of darkness; Choose to accept, believe, and receive God's truth. Verse 3 of "A Mighty Fortress" says it all: "And tho this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us. We will not fear, for God hath willed, His truth to triumph thru us. The prince of darkness grim—we tremble not for him; His rage we can endure; for lo his doom is sure—One little word shall fell him." Let's choose to believe God's promises and enter His blessing!
Empowerment for Harvest
Harvests are linked with God's feasts. In ancient Israel, before the yearly summer wheat harvest began, the people of God would gather in Jerusalem to celebrate Shavuot (The Feast of Weeks). It marks the beginning of the great wheat harvest. Before the harvest actually took place, the Jews would go out into their fields and pick the best of the crop to bring as an offering to the Lord at the Temple. They used their initial harvest to make two loaves of bread that would be used as a first fruits offering or Bikoreem. Obviously, these loaves contained leaven, signifying sin. It is thought that two loaves could represent the two houses of God (Judah and Ephraim) who both fall short of the glory of the Lord. They could also stand for Jew and Gentile or the Old and New Testament. Either way, they were used as a wave offering at the Temple.
Shavuot also became a celebration of the giving of Torah. It was during this period that the children of Israel would have been at Mt. Sinai where Moses received the two tablets containing the Ten Commandments and other laws. God had commanded the Jews to count seven full weeks from the second day of Passover to determine the exact day when they would bring Him an offering of first fruits (the new grain). (Leviticus 23:15-21) After celebrating, all the people would go out to the fields and reap their great summer harvest.
Is it any wonder that God chose this festival as the time when he would pour out His Spirit on the disciples and those gathered with them in the Upper Room? The church calls this day Pentecost (meaning 50 days). At the Pentecost celebration 2,000 years ago, God was offering the first fruits of the harvest to come. He was giving a demonstration of the spiritual empowerment for those who became part of the Kingdom of God. Three thousand souls were added to the ranks of Christianity that day. It was a mighty beginning! In some circles, this day is designated as the day that the Church became the Bride of Christ. Hebrew tradition encourages the groom to bring a gift to the bride. On this day, our bridegroom, Jesus, gave to His bride, the Church, the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is only the Spirit-filled Believer that is able to go out and fulfill the commission they are given to bring life to the lost.
Here are some interesting facts to consider that make this year's celebration of Pentecost particularly exciting. In Song of Solomon 8:4 the bride says, "Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you..." I learned from Rabbi Jonathan Cahn that the word "charge" in Hebrew is "shaba." Shavuot comes from the root word shaba. Therefore, Pentecost could be called "the day of charging." We are charged to live a life of commitment to God by His Spirit. He gave us the power and authority to live an anointed life of joy, praise, and victory that impacts everyone around us.
I believe that the glory of God is magnified during times of the feasts when communities gather to glorify Him and remember what He has done. There are seasonal portals opened to the heavens where the supernatural activity of God is increased. We are called to recognize God's special seasons by setting ourselves apart to worship Him and to advance His Kingdom. I am anticipating a breakthrough. Every seven years God commands His people to rest and watch Him pour out provision and revelation in abundance. This is called the Shmita year, and we are currently in that year. In addition, both Shavuot and Pentecost fall on the same day. This rarely happens—usually only every ten years. Also, look at the year we are in. It is 2022! Two is the number of agreement, one accord, and union (as in marriage). This is a year of the double portion. Let us not miss our appointment to meet with the Lord. These "kairos" or opportune moments are opportunities to bring heaven to earth. This is our time to advance the harvest as we welcome revival to the earth.
Tomorrow, we celebrate a day called "Memorial Day." The end of the Civil War, in 1865, was the impetus for the establishment of the country's first national cemetery. Also, John A. Logan, who was the leader of the Northern Civil War Veterans called for a day to commemorate the sacrifices of the veterans of the Civil War. This holiday evolved as one to remember all American service people who died in any military conflict. Originally known as Decoration Day, it became an official federal holiday in 1971.
It is because we want to honor, respect, and recognize our soldiers that we remember them. Because of their sacrifices we live in a land of freedom. We cannot take these freedoms for granted. We must recall the reasons for their sacrifices and live God-honoring lives. Our history is rich with stories of how God established our ancestors to be shining lights for Him. He knows how important it is for us to recount the times when He showed His mighty hand on our behalf. Over 200 times the Bible uses the word "remember." The Lord does not want us to forget the way He cared for our forefathers or the covenant that He made with them. Generations later God still keeps His covenant and tells us to remember.
In Exodus 6:5 God assures the Israelites that He remembers the covenant He made with them. This remembrance brought Him to lead the Israelites out of bondage. They saw many signs and wonders including the opening of the Red Sea so that they could walk to the other side, the drowning of the Egyptians who pursued them, and the provision of water, bread, and quail in the wilderness. It was so important to God that the Israelites and subsequent generations remember what God did for them and the covenant He made with them that he designated a time at the beginning of each year to retell the story of His faithfulness. We call this remembrance Passover. God told His people, "Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you..." (Deuteronomy 15:15) "...for seven days eat unleavened bread, the bread of affliction, because you left Egypt in haste—so that all the days of your life you may remember the time of your departure from Egypt." (Deuteronomy 16:3) "Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you." (Deuteronomy 32:7)
The stories of the Lord's goodness and faithfulness were to be shared regularly; one generation was to tell the next generation, and they in turn would tell the next one. "Remember the wonders He has done, His miracles and the judgments He pronounced..." (1 Chronicles 16:12) It is not only important to tell of what God did, but to teach His commands to the next generation. "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commands that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." (Deuteronomy 6:4-7)
Like the soldiers we honor on Memorial Day, let us give honor to God for all the victories He has given to our ancestors and to us. We want to learn the lessons our ancestors learned so that we do not repeat any mistakes that they made. We want to remember the faithfulness of God. God's willingness to send us a Savior and a Redeemer point to His commitment to our futures. The events of the past are meant to give us hope for the future. Through respecting the Lord, remembering His covenant, and making a commitment to live a life that honors Him, we set into place a future rich in the abundant blessings of the Lord. Let us remember His love and faithfulness.
Iyar - A Hinge Month
Three days after leaving the Red Sea area the Israelites found no water in the Desert of Shur where they were walking. When they arrived at Marah the water was bitter and undrinkable, and they began to grumble. The Lord instructed Moses to throw a piece of wood (King James Bible says "tree.") into the water, and it was transformed into drinkable water. Scripture says, "There the Lord issued a ruling and instructions for them and put them to the test. He said, 'If you listen to the Lord your God and do what is right in His eyes, if you pay attention to His commands and keep all His decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord who heals you." (Exodus 15:25-26) In Hebrew it is Jehovah Rapha.
The Israelites had to learn to trust in God. He knew their faith in Him would be tested many times. Their journey to Mt. Sinai would be used to introduce them to His character. It would also be used to teach them to depend on and trust Him for all their needs. Instead of murmuring to Him they should have been praising Him for His faithfulness. They watched as the wood placed into the bitter water turned it sweet. (This is a foretelling of the future when Christ would hang on a wooden cross to take away the bitterness of our lives and heal them.) God wanted the Israelites to know that they could rely on Him when they were in need and that He would turn their obstacles into opportunities and their problems into promises. They failed the test at Marah and continued to need teaching that if they followed God's commands, they would have a blessed life.
I would imagine that the waters at Marah would not have been sufficient for the enormous number of people and livestock that were traveling together. As a confirmation of His faithfulness, God took the Israelites to Elim where there were 12 springs and 70 palm trees. It is here that they camped and were refreshed until they set out for their destination. Exodus 16:1-2 tells us that "on the 15th day of the second month (Iyar) after they had come out of Egypt" the "whole community grumbled" again because of the uncertainty of their circumstances. They desired to return to Egypt where they had food, but God desired for them to know Him as a provider. Moses told them, "You will know that it was the Lord when He gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because He has heard your grumbling against Him..." (Exodus 16:8)
It would do us well to recall who God was for the Israelites and who He still is for us today since we are crossing over into the month of Iyar tonight. During this month, the Lord came to His people and showed them His glory in a cloud. He spoke to Moses saying, "I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, 'At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning, you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.'" (Exodus 16:12) Thus God introduced Himself as Jehovah Jaira, the Lord our Provider.
It is so important to God that we remember Him as a provider that He told Moses, "Take an Omer of manna and keep it for generations to come, so they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the wilderness when I brought you out of Egypt." (Exodus 16:32) God confirmed His personality through another act of provision. As the Israelites camped at Rephidim they grumbled again and longed to return to Egypt as they found no water. The Lord instructed Moses to strike the rock at Horeb with His staff and water came out for them to drink.
We can learn a lesson from the children of Israel and apply it to our lives, especially during this month of Iyar. Iyar is sometimes referred to as the "hinge" or "connecting" month because it is associated with the Hebrew letter VAV which is a picture of a connecting pin. Picture a hinge on a door. The door only moves because of the hinge and is what allows us to move over the threshold from one room to another. In this month we are moving from the redemption of Passover to the outpouring of God's Spirit in Pentecost. Transition is occurring and fullness will be realized. Our prosperity comes as we are obedient to God's commandments. During Iyar God gives us opportunities to trust Him. We should be praising Him for HIs faithfulness. God looks for a teachable spirit and a humble heart in us so that He can give us increasing revelation of the secrets of His covenant and blessings throughout the year.
Passover with Easter
One of the most significant months on the Hebrew calendar is Nisan. We are in it now. It is the first month on the Biblical and seventh month on the civil calendar. God told Moses that he was to create a calendar based on the cycle of the moon. "While they were still in the land of Egypt, the Lord gave the following instructions to Moses and Aaron: 'From now on, this month will be the first month of the year for you.” (Exodus 12:1-2) There are many celebrations in the month of Nisan, so it is known as one of repentance, redemption, and miracles. Rose Chodesh (Head of the Month) began when the sliver of the new moon was visible and was commemorated in every month. The new moon was a symbol of new beginnings and of rejoicing in the truth that God would provide for the needs of His people for the entire month. To demonstrate their trust in God, the Jews brought a "first fruits" offering to the Temple which was the first and best of their crops, orchards, or flocks. Rose Chodesh is still celebrated today. Festivals that were initiated during the month of Nisan were Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits.
Excitement wells up in me when I see that the 2022 Jewish and Gregorian calendar coincide. Passover Eve and Good Friday both occur on April 15 so that means Resurrection Sunday and Firstfruits also coincide. A long time ago, Satan put it in the heart of man to separate the commemoration of the death and resurrection of Jesus from Passover. Satan hates Passover because it truly is the celebration of Jesus and the covering of His blood. During the fourth century, Emperor Constantine decided to merge Christianity with paganism, and he made it illegal for Christians to celebrate Passover. This was done by The Council of Nicea in A.D. 325. Constantine removed Jesus from the context of Passover and changed the date for the celebration of Resurrection Sunday to the spring festival of the pagan fertility goddess Ishtar, also known as Eastre.
Through the centuries the church councils continued to make celebrating Passover illegal and in A.D. 345 they even pronounced a curse on Christians who dared to commemorate Passover. Satan continues to place evil thoughts toward Jews and Passover through the hearts of humankind. Why? Because there is power in the shed blood of Jesus, and when we connect with God through Passover remembrances, He blesses us. There is a connection in the events of Passover and the One whose life was sacrificed for our deliverance. God intended for the events before and during Passover to be a foreshadow of the events of His Son's last days on earth.
Jesus is aptly called our Passover Lamb. On the 10th of Nisan each family would bring a spotless lamb into their home. During the days of Jesus, only a lamb from Bethlehem was acceptable for the Passover sacrifice in Jerusalem. The lamb was carefully examined for four days to be sure there were no defects. Jesus would have been at the Temple during these four days, being endlessly questioned by the teachers of the Law. However, they found Him faultless and without blemish. Part of the tradition after the Israelites were delivered from Egypt, was that their homes had to be cleansed of any leaven (Impurity) as a remembrance that during the first Passover the children of Israel left Egypt in such hast that their bread did not have time to rise. Jesus was filled with zeal for His Father's House. Before Passover He entered the Temple and cast out the moneychangers (leaven). On the 14th of Nisan, the lambs were led to the altar and bound for everyone to see. Jesus was led to Calvary and bound to the Cross at this same time. It was 3 p.m. when the throats of the sacrificial lambs were cut by the high priest. After completing his job, the priest would cry out, "It is finished!" Jesus, our Passover Lamb and High Priest, crucified with common criminals, likewise called out at 3 p.m., "It is finished!" In Greek it would be "tetelistai" or "The debt has been paid in full!"
There is such a strong bond between Passover and Easter that one must wonder how the Church buckled in allowing the dates to change. Perhaps in this year, where the two celebrations occur during the same time frame, the blinders will be removed from our eyes, and we will be able to see God's plans in demonstrating the details of the sacrifice of Jesus to take away our sins so that we may have eternal life with Him.
Roots of Faith
Yearly, on the 15th of Shevat, the Israelis celebrate the "New Year of the Trees" or TuBi Shevat. The day is commemorated as Israelis spend time planting trees. When the Jewish pioneers came to the land of Israel, they found parts of it void of trees. Their decision to plant the naked landscape has produced much fruit.
In Scripture we see that people are compared to trees. The Lord calls us to look to our roots and to recognize our identities through Him and the Jewish people. "Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream..." (Jeremiah 17:7-8) In both the natural and spiritual realms roots are of critical importance. Tree roots anchor a plant, keeping it in place. It is through the roots that a tree is established. Roots are like the foundation of a building: The stronger the foundation, the more secure the top. Tree roots also serve the function of holding the soil around them together and preventing erosion when heavy rains come.
The tree with the strongest and healthiest root system will grow the fastest and produce the best top. Roots are the lifeline for a plant as they absorb water, minerals, and nutrients from the soil and disperse them to the branches and leaves above. Healthy soil that is moist but well drained and rich in organic matter is a necessity for healthy roots that function properly. At times, a tree's roots secrete compounds into the soil that affect its microorganisms, helps protect the plant from disease, and encourages the absorption capabilities of the roots. In addition, roots have the capacity to store nutrients and food for any future needs of the tree. If the ground around the tree freezes, the roots can still release what is stored to the top.
When we look at roots from a spiritual perspective those who know and love the Lord are encouraged in the Bible to plant themselves by rivers of living water so that they can grow up to be like the mighty oak tree of righteousness, a "planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor," that is written about in Isaiah 61:3. We, like the tree planted by streams of water, are called to bear fruit. As we see in Jeremiah 11:16, the Lord referred to His people as a "thriving olive tree." It is through the line of Abraham that the Church inherited the promises of God. Paul's discourse to the Romans in Chapter 11 explains how Jews and Christian Gentiles are represented by different types of olive trees. Jews are represented by the cultivated olive tree while Gentiles come from the wild olive tree. The Lord willingly makes room on the cultivated tree for the branches from the wild tree (Gentile Believers) to be grafted in by removing the "rebellious" branches of the cultivated tree.
The roots of the Christian faith are firmly established in the Hebraic soil of Judaism. Christianity was birthed through Judaism. God established His covenant through the linage of Abraham that includes David and Jesus, who is called "The Root of David." And it is through Jesus Christ that we become joint heirs of God's promises. Our spiritual identity comes from our Jewish roots. Paul called this a "mystery" in Ephesians 3:16. "This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body and sharers together in the promises in Christ Jesus." In Galatians 3:29 he says, "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."
Since we know the function and benefit of healthy roots naturally, how should this impact us spiritually? I believe that the Church, for the most part, has disconnected from its Hebraic roots. How is she surviving? She must quickly reconnect with her roots. This can be done by improving the "soil" around her. The Church must make it a priority to bless Israel and the Jewish people. The Lord is our common "Blesser." It is imperative that we get to know Him more intimately so we can carry His Spirit wherever we go. Our goal should be to remove the walls of separation between Jew and Gentile so that we can unit as "One New Man"—a glorious olive tree ready to feed the world. Let us make this a matter of fervent prayer.
This Shall Be a Sign
Sprinkled throughout the Old Testament are signs that point to Jesus, the Messiah. In the New Testament we see the fulfillment of these words. Some of the most astonishing words were spoken to the shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem. "For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger." (Luke 2:11-12 - NKJ) Seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus the prophet Micah made two statements that pointed directly to the Savior and the places that would be impacted by His birth. "As for you, watchtower of the flock (Migdal Eder), stronghold of Daughter of Zion, the former dominion will be restored to you; kingship will come to Daughter Jerusalem." (Micah 4:8) "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times." (Micah 5:2)
Is it not fitting that Joseph and Mary had to travel to Bethlehem (Joseph's hometown) to register for the census that was being taken? As they neared Bethlehem, they would have passed Migdal Eder (The Tower of the Flock) which sat in the middle of the six miles between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. There were special sheepherders, called Levitical Shepherds, at this location. They would have come from the tribe of Levi and were chosen and trained to care for the flock of sheep that produced the sacrificial lambs for the Temple. The Tower had two levels and two purposes. Midgal Eder was initially used as a military tower to defend Bethlehem. The shepherds used the second story as a watch tower to look out for the sheep and protect them from predators and wild animals. The first story of the Tower had another purpose. Shepherds would bring the pregnant ewes into the Tower for birthing. Babies were swaddled at birth so that they did not harm themselves. Then they were laid in a manger until they calmed down.
One year-old male lambs would be herded to Jerusalem for Passover on a day called the Day of Lambs. Here the priests would inspect them and choose those without spot or blemish. During Passover, a lamb was needed for every household. Jenee Baldwin wrote in "The Dawson Creek Mirror" on December 25, 2019, that 250,000 sheep would have been needed each year to accommodate Passover. Every firstborn male lamb was marked as holy and set aside for sacrifice. When born, only the lambs born at Migdal Eder would be wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in a manger.
The need for blood sacrifices came about in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned. Blood was required to cover sin. A covenant was made with cutting and shedding of blood for life is in the blood. The flocks at Migdal Eder were considered sacred. They were meant to atone for sin and make peace with God. The birth, life, and death of Jesus is linked with the lambs destined for the Temple. He was born among the Temple flocks, wrapped in priestly cloths after being born in a stable, and placed in a manger (a feeding trough). Prophecy was fulfilled at His birth. He was a sign from God that the "Perfect Lamb of God" came to end animal sacrifices for He was the ultimate sacrifice.
After the three-year ministry of Jesus was completed, the Lamb of God was nailed to a cross outside the walls of Jerusalem. His blood was spilled while the priests would have been slaughtering the Passover lambs. Jesus was born to die and restore our covenant with God. "And this will be a sign to you," the angel said to the shepherds. The sign still speaks to us today! Jesus came to give us everlasting life. John the Baptist called it out: "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." (John 1:29) Our celebration of Christmas is intertwined with Passover. God's gift to us is one that keeps on giving. Eternal life has been imparted to us who accept and believe and receive the Sign.
Joan E. Mathias