Sunday, October 23, 2011

Why have the Jews been persecuted over the centuries?

            Without doubt the Jewish people have been the most persecuted group of people throughout the centuries.  Over the history of man, there have been major attempts to remove Jews from society or limit their activities and ability to do business.
            The book of Esther describes an early holocaust plotted by Haman who became enraged at Mordecai, a Jew who refused to pay homage to Haman.  Haman projected his anger not just at Mordecai but to all Jews living in the country. 
            Herod was so threatened by the news of a baby born in Bethlehem that he had all baby boys two years old and younger slaughtered.  Rachel wept for her children.
            Jews were thrown out of Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella.  They were hounded from one country to another—generation after generation.  They were blamed for the black plague in Europe because there were fewer deaths among Jews (who avoided the ravages of the bubonic plague simply by keeping Mosaic law of washing their hands and handling human sewage).  The Russians and Polish people drove the Jews from their homes with pogroms. 
            There was the holocaust—calculated to be the “final solution” to the Jewish “problem”.  And lest we think that is all over and done with, there is a resurgence of Nazi ideology today complete with burning of Synagogues, desecration of Jewish cemeteries and frequent violence against Jews, especially in Europe.
            Sadly a significant portion of this persecution came from misguided Christians who blamed the Jews for the death of Jesus.
            What is the explanation for this sad history of persecution, of which we have just barely scratched the surface?   
            The only explanation that makes any sense is that this persecution is spiritual in nature.  Satan hates the Jewish people with a malevolence we cannot begin to understand.  He has hated them from the moment he realized that the Savior of the world would come through the sons of Abraham.  Over and over Satan has tried to eliminate the Jews as a people group to keep the Messiah from accomplishing His mission.  When he was not able to keep that from happening, he has continued his assault on the Jews to express his hatred for the covenant people of God.
            Now, in the 21st Century, Satan knows his days are numbered.  As a result he has stepped up his persecution of the Jews.  This includes the Messianic community who have a double reason for being an object of his hatred—Jews by ethnicity and believers by faith. 
            We Gentile believers need to step up our prayers and support for our Jewish cousins.  Like Ruth, we need to embrace the people of God.  (More on that another time.)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Simchat Torah (Joy of Torah)

The Feast of Tabernacles is celebrated for seven days by building a booth, or sukah, in the back yard or on a balcony—anywhere outdoors where you can view the sky through the branches placed as a roof on the temporary shelter.  Israel was commanded to celebrate it every year and a warning of judgment was given for those nations that wouldn’t celebrate it:  no rain was to fall on them.  Zech. 14:16-17.
            We have celebrated this feast every fall for the last 20 years and find it to be a great time for family to gather and share God’s faithfulness.  It is a time to think about how God has blessed through the year.  This year we even had a basket of vegetables on the table in our sukah that we had grown in our small garden.  We talked about how the Israelis had to live in booths like this for 40 years as they wandered in the wilderness after believing the bad report of 10 spies who had checked out the land promised to them by God.  We tried to imagine what it must have been like to live day and night in a booth like this.  We also talked about how this flimsy, temporary shelter is a picture of our physical bodies that we will shed some day when we receive our heavenly bodies and live in eternity with our heavenly Father.
            After taking meals and even sleeping in a sukah for seven days, the eighth day is called Simchat Torah, which means Joy of the Torah.  On this day, the most joyful day of the year, the Jews finish reading the Torah for the year by reading Deut. 33:1 through Deut. 34:1.  They also begin reading the Torah for the coming year by reading Gen. 1:1 through 2:3.  This is considered the most joyful day of the year because the Torah is life!  We could learn much from the Jewish perspective of reverence for the Word!  Big celebrations are set up throughout Israel on Simchat Torah—all centered on celebrating the Torah.  Circle dances to lively music fill the parks and families joyfully gather to honor the Torah.
            As Believers in Yeshua, this day ought to be our day to celebrate the Living Torah and declare all that He has done in setting us free from sin.  The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  Let’s celebrate true life in Yeshua.  Happy Feast of Tabernacles and Simchat Torah. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Feast of Tabernacles

            This Wednesday at sundown is the beginning of The Feast of Tabernacles (or Booths).  It is the only feast in which we are commanded to “rejoice”.  It is celebrated by building a small, temporary structure outside with the ceiling covered with branches so those inside can see the sky and behold God’s creation.  The walls are decorated with art work by children of things we’re thankful for—especially harvest items.
            This feast is a joyful time for families to gather to remember how Israel lived in booths for forty years in the wilderness after coming out from Egypt.  Lev. 23:33-43 gives specific instruction on how the feast is to be celebrated as a remembrance of how God delivered Israel from slavery.  What a great time to share with our children and grandchildren how God has delivered us from the tyranny of sin.  We need to make a big deal of the difference Yeshua makes in our lives—freedom from all sorts of bondage.  If it weren’t for the blood of Yeshua, what would your life look like?  The blessings of a righteous lifestyle need to be taught to our families.
            This feast also looks forward to the seven year Bridal feast of the Lamb when we will enter the joy of the Lord for all eternity.  It is a great time to teach the spiritual truth that our bodies are a temporary dwelling place but one day we will be given eternal bodies and live with Yeshua throughout eternity.
            Our family has celebrated this feast for the last 20 years and my grandchildren enjoy it as a special time with the family.  They help put up the pvc pipe framework and hang blue canvas on the walls.  We gather branches from various trees and bushes and lay them over the network of rope that forms the ceiling.  It is usually too cold in Central Oregon to sleep out in the booth, but it is great fun to lay out sleeping bags, look at the stars in the evening and talk about the goodness of God and our righteous heritage.  May God especially bless you and your family as you celebrate the Feast of Booths this year!
            Next week I will share about the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, Simchat Torah (Joy of the Word). 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement
            On Saturday (sundown Friday to sundown Saturday) this coming week, Oct. 7-8, we celebrate the Day of Atonement—Yom Kippur.  It was on this day during the First Testament period that the Priest went into the Holy of Holies to make atonement for the sins of the people from the prior year.  It was repeated every year.  Heb. 10:1-7 teaches us that it was a reminder of their sins, but didn’t make the people perfect.  It covered their sins before God but didn’t remove the consciousness of those sins.  It was impossible for the blood of animals to take away their sins.
            But now, as we celebrate the Day of Atonement, we do so celebrating the perfect sacrifice of Yeshua on the cross.  His blood has opened a new a living way for us into the Holy presence of God.  By His blood our sins are removed from us and our consciences are made clean from the guilt of sin.  We can live in “full assurance” of faith that “our hearts are sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”  Heb. 10:19-22. 
            What pure joy is ours in Jesus.  What great freedom for this life and confidence for eternal life!  Instead of the wrath of God, we have entered into the love of God!
            Pray that your neighbors will see the peace of your heart and be prompted by Holy Spirit to ask you about it.  Pray for Gentiles and Jews alike to come to an understanding of the Atonement available to them in Yeshua.  Pray, pray, pray.  It is the key to seeing God’s kingdom come—and how desperately we need His kingdom to come!