Tag Archives: sacrifice

Reflective Offerings

living-tabenacles

This is the tenth article of our Living Tabernacles series, where we study the Tabernacle in depth. It is exciting to see how each element symbolizes some characteristic of Yeshua.  It is also challenging when we examine what each element means for us, since each of us is now a living tabernacle of YHVH [Yehovah].  We are posting two articles each month as part of this series. YHVH is building His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.  A king reigns from his throne and also pronounces judgment from there. 

Our previous article discussed the altar of incense.  Closely connected with that altar is the altar of burnt offering, also called the brazen altar. This altar was reserved for sacrifices and was overlaid with bronze instead of gold.  Bronze is symbolic of judgment.  Without the temporary sacrifice of the burnt offerings and the permanent sacrifice of Yeshua, human prayers (symbolized by incense) would not be acceptable to YHVH.

Using acacia wood, construct a square altar 7 feet wide, 7 feet long, and 4 feet high. Make horns for each of its four corners so that the horns and altar are all one piece. Overlay the altar with bronze. Make ash buckets, shovels, basins, meat forks, and firepans, all of bronze. Make a bronze grating for it, and attach four bronze rings at its four corners. Install the grating halfway down the side of the altar, under the ledge. For carrying the altar, make poles from acacia wood, and overlay them with bronze. Insert the poles through the rings on the two sides of the altar. The altar must be hollow, made from planks. Build it just as you were shown on the mountain (Ex 27:1-8).

The Hebrew word for altar is mizbeach (Strong’s Concordance Hebrew 4196). In Arabic, it means “place of slaughter”.  The bronze altar was placed in the courtyard of the tabernacle and was used for burning sacrifices.  There were several different types of sacrifices made on this altar which are listed below with a brief explanation of each[1].

Burnt Offering:  Sometimes called the whole burnt offering because the whole animal (except for its hide which was given to the priest) was consumed in the fire on the altar.  The Hebrew word is olah (meaning “ascending”).  This entire sacrifice was for YHVH alone and had to be made before other sacrifices would be accepted by YHVH. Burnt offerings dealt with the sinful nature of people and were offered twice daily (morning and evening) with additional offerings to be made on Sabbaths, new moons and feast days and other special occasions.  Burnt offerings were offered before other offerings could be made.

Grain Offering:  Flour and oil were offered to express gratitude to YHVH.  A small portion was burned on the altar and the rest was reserved for the priests.  A drink offering (wine) was poured out on top as a symbol of joy.

Peace Offering:  This offering was optional and ended in a meal that could be shared by the priests and the individuals offering it.  The sacrifices needed to be eaten within two days.  There were three main reasons for peace offerings:

  • Thanksgiving offering for a specific blessing from YHVH (Lev. 7:12-13)
  • Wave offering where the priest’s portion was waved before YHVH (Lev. 7:30-31)
  • Votive offering for a vow or a simple voluntary act of worship (Lev. 7:16-17)

Sin (or purification) Offering for unintentional sin (Lev 4:2-3) in order to cleanse the Tabernacle from human defilement.

Guilt (reparation) Offering:  A ram was offered after confession of the sin.  If YHVH’s sacred property was unintentionally damaged, reparation was to be made (plus an additional twenty percent) (Lev 5:16)

What can we learn from the offerings made in the Tabernacle?  How do they relate to Yeshua and to us?

  • Sin always results in death even if it is unintentional. Atonement is always necessary.  Yeshua is our Atonement.  Only through Yeshua can we approach YHVH and have a relationship with Him.
  • While some of the offerings were to atone for sin, others were voluntary gifts meant to bless YHVH, just as He blesses us abundantly.
  • The animals to be offered were young (usually one year old) and without blemish, thus representing Yeshua who was sacrificed in His prime and who was sinless. We are always to come to YHVH in Yeshua’s name and covered by His blood.
  • The best or the choicest of the herds or other offerings were to be used, for YHVH has offered to us nothing less than His own Son, Yeshua.
  • Burnt offerings were an abomination if the people did not forsake their sins (Is 1:11-15). We can ask for forgiveness and plead the blood of Yeshua over ourselves, but true repentance (teshuva meaning a complete turnaround) only is acceptable to YHVH.
  • Hosea 6:6 states “For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice. And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”  Our primary goal must be always to deepen our relationship with YHVH (Mic 6:6-8).
  •  Burnt offerings were not just for the Israelites, but for all humans. Burnt offerings started long before the time of Moses.  For example, upon exiting from the Ark, Noah offered burnt offerings to YHVH, using some of the clean animals he had taken with him (Gen 8:20).  The basis of YHVH’s covenant with Noah was not because of Noah’s goodness, but rather his sacrifice.
  • Abraham was commanded to offer Isaac as a whole burnt offering (Gen 22:2 NLT).  Abraham was willing to sacrifice his long-awaited only son if YHVH requested it even though Abraham had been promised many descendants through Isaac.   Man had sinned and only through the sacrificial death of a righteous man could mankind be saved.  YHVH did not allow Abraham to go through with the sacrifice of Isaac, but provided His own Son to be the sacrifice.

In Hebrews 10:12 Paul states, “But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand”.  Since the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD the sacrificial system has been suspended.  However, several passages of Scripture indicate that sacrifices will be resumed during Yeshua’s millennial reign (Is 56:6-8, Zech 14:16, Jer 33:15-18, Mal 3:3-4).  Why?  There are numerous proposed explanations and much speculation.  We know that YHVH will dwell with us during this time. Shout and be glad, Daughter Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,” declares the Lord  “Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people.  I will live among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you (Zech 2:10-13). We also know that YHVH’s throne is surrounded by fire (Dan 7:9) and that not even the slightest impurity can be in His presence.  The millennial kingdom will be a time of refinement and perfection until we are ready for the new heaven and new earth.  At that time speculation will die away as the mystery of the renewed sacrifices unfolds.  We will then more fully understand how the sacrificial offerings enable us to reflect YHVH’s glory back to Him.

[1] OFFERINGS IN LEVITICUS–WHAT THEY WERE AND WHY THEY MATTERED.  Wayne Stiles, https://www.waynestiles.com/offerings-in-leviticus-what-they-were-and-why-they-mattered/.

Fragrant Reflections

This is the third article of our Living Tabernacles series, where we study the Tabernacle in depth. It is exciting to see how each element symbolizes some characteristic of Yeshua.  It is also more challenging when we examine what each element means for us, since each of us is now a living tabernacle of YHVH.  We are posting two articles each month as part of this series.

In the first article in this series, Nancy studied the significance of the metals used in the Tabernacle.  In the second article she examined the items YHVH specified in Exodus 25:4-5 as materials to construct and cover the Tabernacle.  In this article we will cover the oil and spices to be used for the anointing oil and the incense in the Tabernacle.

In Exodus 25:6, Abba tells Moshe that they are to gather from the people…”olive oil for the lamps; spices for the anointing oil and the fragrant incense”.  Later on, in Exodus 27:20, YHVH tells Moshe: “Command the people of Israel to bring you pure oil of pressed (beaten or pounded) olives for the light, to keep it burning continually”.  Yeshua is continuously our pure Light.  When we think of Yeshua as the Light of the world, and His command to us to shine that light throughout the world, then we can see how important it is to keep that light shining through us 24/7.

In Exodus 30:23-24 YHVH provides details of the ingredients and preparation for the anointing oil listed in Exodus 25, and how it is to be prepared – He says to Moshe: “Collect choice spices—12 1⁄2 pounds of pure myrrh, 6 1⁄4 pounds of fragrant cinnamon, 6 1⁄4 pounds of fragrant calamus, and 12 1⁄2 pounds of cassia—as measured by the weight of the sanctuary shekel. Also get one gallon of olive oil”. In Verse 25, He then explains how these ingredients are to be mixed together: “Like a skilled incense maker, blend these ingredients to make a holy anointing oil”.  Note that YHVH has added yet another qualification to the anointing oil – as I highlighted in the last verse, it is referred to as a “holy anointing oil”.  This tells us that it is to be set apart and made in a very special way compared to all other oils, such as the oil for the lamps.  Yeshua baptizes us with the anointing oil of the Holy Spirit.

Let us look at the spices to be used in the anointing oil in more detail:

  • Myrrh is a pale yellow gummy substance extracted from a small thorny shrub, typically used in spices and ointments. It is very costly and is known to be purifying to the body, and has a pleasant fragrance.
  • Fragrant cinnamon oil is distilled from the bark of a special type of cinnamon tree. It is very tasty and is often used to flavor food because of its pleasant aroma.
  • Fragrant (or sweet) calamus is a tall wetland plant with scented leaves – it is a fragrant cane whose root is highly prized as a spice. When it is crushed, it exudes a sweet fragrance. The more it is broken and crushed, the more of the fragrance that is exuded. In its spiritual application, the calamus speaks to us of brokenness, and reminds us that Yeshua was crushed and broken for us.  There are times in our lives when we must be crushed or broken in order to be purified.
  • Cassia comes from the aromatic bark of a Middle Eastern tree, and represents the true humility of anointed worship. It is sometimes used as a natural medicine. Cassia is derived from the Hebrew root “quadad”, meaning to bend or bow. This can be seen to represent us as God’s people, who are to bow down in humility before the strong hand of God (1 Pet. 5:6).
  • The main ingredient by volume in the Holy Anointing Oil is olive oil, which has both secular and sacred purposes. The olive tree is very important in secular life for cooking, cosmetics and soaps, and as a fuel for oil lamps. The olive tree has been a symbol of peace and prosperity since the time the dove returned to Noah’s Ark with an olive branch.

Let us now take a look at the spices YHVH specified to be used in the Tabernacle:

  • When Frankincense is burned it emits a fragrant odor, and hence the incense became a symbol of the Divine name (Malachi 1:11) and an emblem of prayer (Psalm 141:2; Luke 1:10; Revelation 5:8; 8:3).
  • Stacte is generally understood to be the purest kind of myrrh; and as the Hebrew name implies a drop, it would seem to refer to this type of myrrh as dropping from the tree of its own accord, without any cutting. This makes me think of Yeshua’s precious teardrops of blood in Gethsemane.
  • Onycha: Hebrew shechelet is thought to be the resin from a Mediterranean shrub that has been used for medicines and sweet perfumes for hundreds of years.
  • Galbanum: this rather foul-odored spice, when mixed with all the other spices, produces a perfect mixture for the incense. An ancient story tells of a perfumer who experimented with the biblical incense recipe and discovered that when the galbanum was left out of the mixture, the other ingredients still produced a pleasant fragrance. However, when the galbanum was added, something quite wonderful happened chemically: “the full mixture of the spices, including the foul galbanum, smelled infinitely more delicious than the mixture without galbanum”. The experiment showed that the galbanum transformed the sweet spices to produce the most beautiful incense possible. In the same way, as saved believers, we are transformed through the cleansing of our “foul” sins into beautiful children of God.

It is wonderful that YHVH explained to His people the precious spices they were to gather and use in the holy anointing oil and the incense, but we need to always remember that our obedience to Him is the sweetest aroma we can sacrifice to Him (1 Sam 15:22).  Our prayers are the most powerful incense we can offer up to YHVH (Rev 5:8).

The holy anointing oil that was to be used in the tabernacle can also be related to the oil of the Holy Spirit, flowing through our own tabernacles, purifying us and making us holy to stand before YHVH in His heavenly Tabernacle.  Let us welcome the oil of the Holy Spirit to keep our bodies and souls pure and set apart from the lusts of the world, such as power, greed, arrogance, hostility and envy.  We are called to be set apart to be with YHVH for all of our days, both here on Earth and forever in Heaven.

Material Reflections

living-tabenacles

This is the second article of a new series (Living Tabernacles)  where we study the Tabernacle in depth. It is exciting to see how each element symbolizes some characteristic of Yeshua.  However, it is more challenging when we examine what each element means for us, for each of us is now a tabernacle of YHVH.  There will be two posts each month for this series.

In the first article in this series, we studied the significance of the metals used in the Tabernacle:  gold, silver and bronze.  In this article we continue examining the list YHVH gave to Moshe itemizing the components He desired to build His Tabernacle.  We will cover the items listed in verses 4 and 5 of Exodus 25: colored threads, fine linen, goat hair, ram skins, fine goatskin leather and acacia wood.

Thread is interwoven throughout the material just as the spiritual significance of these threads should be interwoven throughout our lives.  The scarlet thread symbolizes cleansing, purification, sin, riches, a marker, and/or clothing of a valiant man.  We know what “valiant Man” has died for our sins, cleansing and purifying us.  He still wears those markers on His hands and feet.  He has gained for us untold wealth.  In Him, we must root out the sin that is interwoven in us, so that His cleansing and purifying may permeate every part of us.  We are abundantly wealthy in Yeshua and we wear His mark on us (Rev. 7:2-3).

The blue thread symbolizes holy covering, heavenly, holy service, chastening and water (Spirit).  We are no longer naked in our sin (Gen 2:25, Is 47:3), but are covered with Yeshua’s righteousness.  Yeshua came down from Heaven for the express purpose of establishing (or perhaps re-establishing) YHVH’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.  Yeshua baptizes us with the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit fills us, chastening, strengthening and preparing us for holy service to YHVH.

The purple thread symbolizes royalty and riches. The Roman soldiers placed a purple robe on Yeshua during his trial in order to mock Him.  Little did they realize that Yeshua, above any other human, is entitled to wear the color of royalty.  Yeshua is our King and High Priest.  We are a royal priesthood and adopted children of YHVH.  Our wealth is in Messiah Yeshua, for without Him we have nothing and with Him we have an abundance of treasures.

The fine linen spoken of in Exodus 25 is the Hebrew word bad.  The word is from a root which means “separation”.  The Hebrew word for holy is kadosh which means to be set apart.  The fine linen worn by priests indicated that they were set apart to YHVH. YHVH is set apart and we are called to separate ourselves from the world and be dedicated solely to YHVH.  Our clothing must be the fine linen of Yeshua’s righteousness (Rev. 3:18), for without it we will not be welcome at the wedding of the Bridegroom (Matt 22:12).

Goat’s hair is used in Bedouin camps today for tents, tent ropes and rugs.  Goats’ hair cloth is able to stand the hard usage of a frequently shifting encampment.  We must be resilient enough to follow our Leader wherever He takes us.  Goatskin leather was used as a covering for the Tabernacle.  Yeshua is our spiritual covering.  With Yeshua’s covering, we are able to withstand many trials and persecutions.

On Yom Kippur, two goats were selected and lots were cast for them.  One goat would be sacrificed for the sins of the people and the second goat would bear the sins of the people and be sent out of the camp and into the wilderness, signifying how YHVH has removed our sins far from us (Lev 16).  Yeshua is both the sacrifice that atones for our sin (Heb 9:26) and the One who carries our sins as far as the east is from the west (Ps 103:12).

Tanned lambskins were also used to cover the Tabernacle.  Some versions translate this word as badger skins, but this is unlikely since badgers are considered to be unclean animals.  The skins of lambs have significant spiritual relevancy since Yeshua is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29) and Yeshua is a covering for us.  Some versions translate the tanned lambskins as lambskins died red.  The blood of Yeshua, the Lamb of YHVH, covered His skin as He hung on the cross.  His blood now covers us.

When Adam and Eve had sinned, they realized that they were naked.  YHVH made the first animal sacrifice on their behalf and clothed them with the skins of the animals signifying a much greater and more effective covering to come (Gen 3:21).

The acacia tree mentioned is likely the gum-arabic tree.  It is a gnarled and thorny tree.  Acacia trees are plentiful in the wilderness where the Israelites traveled.  Acacia wood is not desirable to insects and is virtually indestructible.  Was the cross made from acacia wood?  Possibly, but we have no proof of the type of wood used by the Romans in Jerusalem for crucifixion.  We do know, however, that Yeshua, even though He died, is indestructible.  Was the crown of thorns woven from acacia thorns?  We do not know for sure. The tree is formed much like an umbrella, just as Yeshua’s sacrifice provides us protection from the sentence of eternal death.

What is the significance of all the wood being overlaid with gold?  The acacia wood is gnarled and crooked signifying the twistedness of sin and evil.  The long thorns are menacing.  Yeshua willingly allowed Himself to be beaten beyond recognition.  He wore a crown of thorns and was humiliated and despised.  However, the reward He has reaped for Himself and for us is eternal glory and untold riches.  What appeared to be a disgrace and defeat, has turned into triumph and victory beyond measure (Rom 6:4).  Yeshua now wears a crown of unsurpassable glory.  On our own we are defeated, but in Yeshua we are victorious!

As we reflect on these materials, let us, living temples of the Holy Spirit,  be transformed into the image and likeness of YHVH, reflecting His glory.

Lessons from Bees

bees and creationOur Creator God (Yehovah Elohim) has made some awesome creatures, and I’ve written about some of them in previous blogs.  From my vantage point as a human being, though, there is none more awesome than the humble honey bee.  Evolutionary scientists used to describe the bee and their brain and body functions as being very simple.  However, the more that is discovered about these amazing creatures, the less you hear them described in this way.  As recently as 2006, a well-known scientist said this about bees’ brainpower: The brain of the honeybee is “relatively simple.” (Evolution Research – General Evolution News, August 5, 2006).

Let’s look at some known facts from scientific studies of bees and their anatomy and behavior.  A number of years ago a study was done to compare the processing power and speed of a bee’s brain to that of a supercomputer. The findings showed that the bee’s brain was 7-8 times more efficient than the most advanced computer chips, and about 1,000 times faster in processing instructions.  A bee’s brain can process one trillion instructions per second.  With the latest generation of supercomputers, it is now possible for them to process information faster than the brain of a bee, but there is no comparison in efficiency.  The Fujistsu “K” computer runs 8 times faster than a bee’s brain, but it takes enough electricity to power a city of 10,000 people, while a bee’s brain fits on the head of a pin and takes less than a microwatt of power!

Much of the bee’s incredible brainpower is used to control and process information from their two compound eyes, each of which contains 7,000 hexagonal facets.  Using these light-detecting facets, each pointed in a slightly different direction, the bee has an uncanny ability to detect different types and colors of objects, how far away they are, and how quickly they are moving towards them.  This allows them to see flowers quickly (with a built-in mechanism for detecting whether or not they have pollen), know exactly how far away they are and to find them in any type of weather.  The bee’s eyes (and other sensors in their bodies) also allow them to tell if a food source has been moved to a different location.  Being a God of meticulous design and possessing a great sense of humor, Yehovah’s amazing bee creatures are programmed to do a little “waggling” dance to tell their fellow workers how far away a food source is, and when and where it has been moved.

If Abba put so much thought and creativity into making these tiny pollinating creatures, then how much more does He love us, who have far more intricate, complex bodies than our miniature friends?  In a recent Independent news story, a beekeeper in the UK witnessed the most amazing episode of loyalty to a hive’s queen bee.  As the beekeeper was moving a hive, the box she was transporting them in blew over in the wind, and somehow the queen bee was attracted to something sweet in the trunk of a Mitsubishi Outlander.  She then got herself lodged into the back of the SUV.  About 20,000 bees (from her hive that was being moved) attached themselves to the back of the SUV.  When the car drove off, the swarm of bees followed it for over 48 hours, while the SUV was driving around various parts of western Wales.  They were seeking to rescue their queen!

When I thought about the unwavering loyalty of these bees to their queen, I realized that God has put a deep desire into human beings as well to be loyal to their leaders, or to the homeland where they dwell.  On this Memorial Day weekend in the US, I reflected on how this relates to our soldiers’ pledge to fight for our nation under the most severe conditions, risking their lives to preserve the security of our country.  We know from God’s word that “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).  But what about Yeshua and what He did for us – He laid down His life for his enemies; those who persecuted and hated Him and put Him to death in the most brutal, painful way.  He gave up His life willingly – He said: “No one can take My life from Me; I sacrifice it voluntarily” (John 10:18).  While it is true that bees would sacrifice their lives for their queen, and soldiers for their country, they are sacrificing for the one that gives them safety and livelihood, not for someone who beat and cursed them and then put them to death.

If we are loyal to our family, friends and nation, how much more should we be loyal to our Savior.  We should be willing to lay down our lives for our Lord at any time, just as we see modeled for us by martyred believers in terrorized nations across the world.  When we think of our awesome God who created bees and humans, our greatest desire should be to follow Him at all costs, boldly telling others of His amazing love and sacrifice for us, and praising Him for who He is and what He has done for us.

Is Persecution part of YHVH’s Plan?

persecuted for righteousnessRemember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than their master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you…” (John 5:20)

What do you think of when you hear the word persecution? Do you think it is something God sanctions as part of His plan, or something He is working to eliminate? Listen to Sha’ul [Paul] when he is speaking to the Corinthians (II Cor 11:21-26):

“…But whatever they dare to boast about—I’m talking like a fool again—I dare to boast about it, too…I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles”.

This was part of a long passage where Sha’ul was boasting in what Yeshua was doing through him – not that he was boasting because of his own merit or abilities, but because YHVH had blessed Him to be able to survive and endure through trials and unjust persecution.

So what does YHVH Father say about persecution (speaking through Yeshua, since we know that Yeshua speaks only His Father’s words (John 12:50) and that He is One with Abba Father (John 10:30). In Matthew 5:10-12 He says:

“God blesses those who are persecuted for righteousness, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way”.

In the verse at the top of this blog (John 5:20), Yeshua says that persecution is a natural result of being His follower. Why would we not be persecuted, since He was persecuted so viciously, and as His servants we are no greater than our Master?

Sha’ul says he was persecuted by his own people, the Jews, as well as by the Gentiles (the Romans). This time period (64-68 AD) was also the beginning of the first government sponsored persecution of Christians. This was during the reign of Nero, and began a long succession of cruel and merciless tyrants who ruled the Roman Empire from the 1st – 3rd centuries AD. Nero was the last of the Caesar’s and was known for his hatred of the Christians. Tacitus the historian wrote that Nero was strongly suspected of setting the great fire in Rome (64 AD). He went on to lay the blame on the Christians, which justified his subsequent persecution of believers: “Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians” (Tacit. Annals XV).

By the mid-2nd century AD, mobs could be found willing to throw stones at Christians, and they might be mobilized by rival sects. The Persecution in Lyon in which Christians were mass-slaughtered by being thrown to wild beasts under the decree of Roman officials for reportedly refusing to renounce their faith (according to St. Irenaeus) was preceded by mob violence, including assaults, robberies and stonings.

The persecutions culminated with Diocletian and Galerius at the end of the third and beginning of the 4th century. The Great Persecution is considered the largest. Beginning with a series of four edicts banning Christian practices and ordering the imprisonment of Christian clergy, the persecution intensified until all Christians in the empire were commanded to sacrifice to the Roman gods or face immediate execution. Over 20,000 Christians are thought to have died during Diocletian’s reign. This persecution lasted until Constantine I came to power in 313 and legalized Christianity.

Over the last 1700 years, persecution against Jews has been rampant and widespread across the world, but persecution against Christians, although strong in Islamic nations and Godless nations such as China and India (and historically Russia) for many years, has greatly intensified in the Middle East over the past 10-15 years. Christians in America have not generally known true persecution, but we are now seeing the atrocities of it reported daily in places like Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. We are seeing beheadings like we have never known in our lifetimes, and detestable acts of cruelty against men, women and children that are too horrible to even describe.

This could be a sign that the End Times are drawing closer, as Yeshua described in Matthew 24, but it could also be a warning to all believers that they will be persecuted: “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Messiah Yeshua will suffer persecution”. (II Tim 3:12) How will you prepare yourself to be stand firm in the face of persecution – will you be able to face the worst form of persecution, and will YHVH be able to say of you that you were one of the martyrs who: “… overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death”? (Rev 12:11) The best way to prepare yourself is by strengthening your relationship with YHVH.

Follow the World or YHVH?

do not worship their godsIn this second blog of our series on Chanukah and the Maccabbees, we show the distinction between the people of Israel who were staying faithful to YHVH’s appointed times and commandments, and those who were following the pagan ways of the Greeks and Romans. In our previous blog (The Mighty Power of YHVH), we saw that Onias, the high priest of the Jews, stayed faithful to YHVH’s Laws, even when Simon, an Israelite from the tribe of Benjamin plotted with the king to confiscate money from the Temple treasury that was designated for widows and orphans. When the Israelites prayed fervently, YHVH showed great signs and thwarted the intentions of the pagan government to keep the Temple from being defiled.

In II Maccabees 4, Onias’ brother Jason betrayed Onias by telling lies about him and even claiming that he had plotted against the government. He then became the High Priest deceitfully by offering large sums of silver and gold to the king.  He even offered additional silver to build a gymnasium beneath the Temple, and convinced the people to use this pagan facility for nude games in the style of the Greeks. He encouraged the people to follow Greek customs that were contrary to the Law [Torah] and even the priests lost interest in Temple services and sacrifices and would rush off to participate in the games that were forbidden by the Law (II Maccabees 4:14). The people stopped keeping the Feasts and Sabbaths and kept Greek celebrations instead.

Jason was so corrupt that he sent men to the “games” in Tyre with a large amount of silver for a sacrifice to the pagan god Hercules (II Maccabees 4:18-19). Once the Jews moved into actively participating in the ways of the world instead of YHVH’s ways, things went downhill for them very quickly. As recounted in Maccabees 6, There was dissension and jealously among the priests and Jewish leaders, and they killed and bore false testimony to the king about each other, until finally the king decided to become more vindictive about having the Jews abandon their Feasts and Sabbaths, and he defiled the Temple by dedicating it to their chief god, Zeus.

Jason had started the downward spiral of the Jews into the abominations that were committed in the following months. The verse in II Maccabees 4:17 gives the reason for the serious judgments against the Jews that followed their disobedience: “It is a serious thing to disregard God’s Law”. Persecution increased greatly from this time forward, and the Greeks defiled the Temple by holding drinking parties and conducting their immoral sexual rituals with prostitutes there. The altar was filed with unclean animal sacrifices. King Antiochus then prohibited the Jews from keeping their Sabbaths and Feasts, and forced them to eat unclean meats that were sacrificed to the false gods. “Then, during the festival in honor of the wine god Dionysus, they were required to wear ivy wreaths on their heads and march in procession” (II Maccabees 6:7). From this time on, as described in II Maccabees 6:9, the Greek leaders “were told to put to death every Jew who refused to adopt the Greek way of life”.

When Onias was high priest, the people kept the Torah. However, our suspicion is that they were more into following the leaders than they were truly seeking YHVH and His ways. When Jason unjustly replaced Onias, many of the Jews were all too ready to follow him into every type of evil and apostasy. When we look at our modern times, we see that most people (Christian, Messianic or otherwise) tend to follow the ways and customs of the world’s culture, rather than seeking to follow God’s ways and keep His appointed times.

Many today do not realize that they are fighting a battle. Even those who do often fail to recognize that the battle is spiritual. Many followers of Yeshua do not understand the spiritual realm and do not operate in the spirit. However, there is no excuse for ignorance since we have ready access to many versions of Scripture and study tools. We also have the Holy Spirit to guide us.   We must not blindly follow human leaders, but must realize that we as individuals are accountable to YHVH for our choices.

The most glaring examples of this relate to the holidays of Christmas and Easter. Our ancestors celebrated these holidays and many continue to follow suit. When we look at the ancient pagan celebrations, the birth of their chief gods was always celebrated on December 25th. These gods include Zeus/Jupiter, Dionysus/Bacchus, Hercules, Tammuz, Apollo, Mithras, Sol Invictus and others. Birthday celebrations for these pagan gods date back to the time of Nimrod, who was alleged to be Tammuz’ father. Note that Zeus, Dionysus, and Hercules were all being worshiped by the Greeks, and then were adopted by the Jews as part of their apostasy. YHVH established seven feasts to point to the work of His Son. We sin against YHVH when we seek to “honor” Him by celebrating holidays that have always been an abomination to Him. Many try to justify celebrating Yeshua during these pagan holidays, but to mix the pagan and the sacred is an even worse abomination to YHVH. We must not yield to the predominating culture any more than the Jews should have yielded to the predominating Greek culture of their day.

We know that HaSatan attracts followers by counterfeiting the true God. From pagan beliefs, we see a counterfeit parallel between the Greek god Dionysus (Roman god Bacchus) and Yeshua. Dionysus was purported to have been born of a virgin (Ishtar/Isis), son of the heavenly father (Zeus), performed miracles such as turning water into wine (he is the god of wine), died and was raised again on the 3rd day (on March 25th), was identified with the lamb, and given titles such as: “only begotten son“, “king of kings”, “god of gods”, “sin bearer”, “redeemer“,  “anointed one” and “the alpha and omega“.

We do not have space for full discussion here, but many of the other rituals and symbols of Christmas and Easter (whose name comes from Ishtar) originated from pagan rituals and symbols. The wreath comes from the wreath worn at pagan sports celebrations, the tree comes from a pagan ceremony at the time of Nimrod, which claimed that the resurrected Nimrod returned each year to leave gifts under a decorated tree. Read Jeremiah 10 if you want to find out what YHVH says about cutting down and decorating trees for pagan celebrations, and Jeremiah 44:17-19 to read God’s admonition against worshiping the Queen of Heaven (Ishtar in pagan lore).

Armed with this knowledge, how does this affect your view of the main Christian holidays, and more importantly, what does it say to your heart about keeping YHVH’s Feasts and Sabbaths and not the festival celebrations of the world? As we read the story of the Maccabees, it is easy to condemn the Jews who strayed from Yehovah’s commands. Are we guilty of the same thing?

”You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD [YHVH] hates they have done for their gods…” (Deut 12:31).

A Pleasing Fragrance

aroma pleasing to GodIn Exodus 30:34-38, YHVH instructs Moses concerning the incense that is to be made for YHVH’s altar. This incense was to be used solely for YHVH and not for anyone else. Each of the ingredients has much significance for us, both spiritually and physically.

The first ingredient mentioned is stacte, which is a product of myrrh. Modern authorities believe that the stacte was taken from other sources, but ancient authorities equate stacte with myrrh.  It seems more likely that the stacte YHVH intended was from myrrh because of its spiritual significance in Scripture. The wise men offered myrrh to Yeshua as a child (Matt 2:11) and Nicodemus supplied a mixture of myrrh and aloes for Yeshua’s burial (John 19:39). When Yeshua returns, Psalm 45:8 tells us that His robes will be scented with myrrh, aloes, and cassia (cinnamon).

The Hebrew word for stacte is nataph. Both words mean drop or tear. The resin is naturally produced, but sometimes the plant is bruised In order to release more resin. To obtain stacte, the bark of the tree must be cut. The resin is placed in a container and hot water is poured over it. Lumps of myrrh resin and oil sink to the bottom and the water is drained off. Stacte is the liquid taken from within the lumps of myrrh. The lumps must be broken in order to obtain the stacte.

Since ancient times, myrrh has been used in salves for cuts and sores, in rejuvenating facial creams, and in perfumes. Today, myrrh can be found in toothpastes, creams and cosmetics, and is recommended for healing a variety of illnesses including digestive disorders, arthritic pain, and regeneration of healthy cells, to name a few.

The second ingredient is onycha, a Greek word meaning fingernail or claw. The Hebrew word is shecheleth, which means “to roar as a lion”. The root of the Hebrew word means to exude a fragrance. Once again, there are various opinions as to the source of onycha, but the most likely seems to be a type of rock rose. The flower petals resemble a human fingernail that has been painted red.   The twigs and roots of the rock rose are still used for medicinal purposes.

The third ingredient is galbanum, a gum resin with a musky odor. The resin comes in either lumps or tears and has a bitter taste. Both Hippocrates and Pliny extolled its medicinal qualities. Pliny asserted that “the very touch of it mixed with oil of spondylium is sufficient to kill a serpent.”

The final ingredient for the incense is pure frankincense, another aromatic resin. It is produced by slashing the bark in a process called “striping”. The hardened resins are called tears. The Boswellia sacra trees that produce frankincense are able to live in harsh, unforgiving environments and can even grow out of solid rock. The Hebrew word for frankincense is lebonah, which means “white”. YHVH commanded that frankincense be included in the grain offerings (Lev. 2:1) and meat offerings (Lev 2:15). A very pure type of frankincense known as lebonah zakkah in Hebrew, was to be presented with the showbread (Lev 24:7).

Just as Yeshua shed His blood for our healing and restoration, the sap in the tree or shrub produces the resins that are so healing for us.  The sap is the “lifeblood” of the tree or shrub.  Yeshua only is pure enough to be our perfect sacrifice, even more pure than the purest frankincense.  Sap or resin leaks out only when a tree is damaged or cut, just as Yeshua’s blood was released during His suffering and crucifixion.  We can readily see how each ingredient in the incense points to Yeshua’s most precious sacrifice on our behalf. The incense was to be used only for YHVH just as Yeshua alone was worthy to be our sacrifice. Yeshua’s sacrifice is the most pleasing odor to YHVH, the most perfect expression of love.

What does this mean for us? We see that the ingredients of this most sacred incense glorify Yeshua and point to His precious work of redemption. We are restored to YHVH and healed in body and soul. In Yeshua’s righteousness, we can offer ourselves as living sacrifices to YHVH (Rom 12:1).   We too can be pleasing fragrances to YHVH.

Letting Go

your right hand upholds me

As newborns, we automatically close our little fists around objects near to us. When someone holds us, we cling to their clothing or to an offered finger or sometimes to a strand of hair. It seems that most of my life I have been clinging to treasured objects, precious dreams, or beloved people. It is difficult and painful to let go. Sometimes it seems impossible, certainly unthinkable.

We were born for love and fellowship, yet we must learn to let go of loved ones. We were created for enjoyment and pleasure, yet often we must let go of that which delights us. Why this paradox? I’m not sure I have the answers, but I will share the thoughts I have gleaned from decades of clinging, then letting go.

The more we value someone or something, the greater the pain when we must let go. The pain lasts for a long time, sometimes for the rest of our lives. At times we cling to the pain as a way of trying to hang on to what we lost. In the end, it becomes necessary to let go of even the pain if we are to move forward.

Why does YHVH allow loss and pain? He is the source of love, beauty, fellowship, joy, shalom. Why does He allow so much suffering and anguish? Doesn’t He realize how horrible it is to let go, especially to let go of someone you love and cherish?

Yes, He does know. He relinquished His only begotten Son to a fallen, cruel world to share in our sorrows and sufferings. He then allowed this precious Son to take on all the sin and pain and suffering and endure excruciating pain and misery in order to save us from an eternity of wretchedness and hopelessness. For a time, He put us ahead of even His most beloved Son.

We are on this earth to learn to let go (Matt 6:19-21; Luke 9:62)). That doesn’t mean that we are not supposed to love others, to enjoy or to cherish hopes, dreams, even objects. It means that we must be willing to release each treasure when the time comes until there is only One Whom our fists and our hearts embrace. We must put Him first.

We are on this earth to cling to the Source of all that we love and value. When we let go and cling solely to Him, we learn a valuable truth. YHVH released Yeshua and watched Him endure untold suffering and death. However, that is not the end of the story. Yeshua has been reunited with YHVH forever and sits at His right hand. All that we have relinquished will one day be restored to us if we cling to YHVH and put Him first. In the end, we can have it all.

Spiritual Maturity: Dying for the Kingdom

But the one who endures

What does it mean to follow the King? For Yeshua’s first followers, it meant leaving family, jobs, security and comfort in order to build up the Kingdom of YHVH. Yeshua Himself gave up everything for the sake of the kingdom. What does building up the kingdom require of us?

 Recently I wrestled with the challenge posed to all of us in Mark 10:17-27. The rich young ruler wants to know what is required for eternal life. Yeshua responds that he is to keep the commandments. The young man presses on to see if there is anything else required. Yeshua tells him that he lacks one thing: to sell all that he has, give to the poor, and follow Yeshua.

 All my life, I have been content with trying to keep the commandments, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing miserably. I have ignored the rest of the story of the rich young man. I didn’t even consider that I could be called to relinquish all my material goods, let alone ties to family and friends.

 In the documentary, The Father of Lights, there is a story of a young couple who had much wealth. When the Holy Spirit challenged them, the husband gave up his lucrative career, they relinquished their material wealth and took their young children to China. At first, they lived in squalor and the young mother struggled mightily with her decision. What was she doing to her children? Was she a responsible parent? Today, the couple runs an orphanage for handicapped children in a beautiful facility they call home. They are building up the kingdom, one abandoned child at a time.

 Daily Peter and I dedicate our house and all our belongings to YHVH to be used for His glory. Do we realize what we are saying? If YHVH tells us to give up everything, will we obey His command? During a recent prayer session with YHVH, the Holy Spirit challenged me as I was once again dedicating everything to YHVH. Would I be willing to relinquish my possessions for the sake of the kingdom? The words have long been on my lips, but were they in my heart?

 I struggled for over two hours during that session. For well over a decade, I had lived in poverty. As I learned to trust and obey YHVH more, I moved out of poverty into abundant material blessing. It was a long, tough process. Now that I am nearing retirement age, I relish this comfort and security. I tried to reason that perhaps it wasn’t necessary to be so radical. Wouldn’t it be irresponsible to become potential burdens on society, especially at our age? What sense does it make to give away our security? Deep down I knew that my logic could not stand up to the command, “sell all that you have, give to the poor, and come follow Me” challenged me. Yet, I could not bring my heart to accept the truth. Like the rich young man, I walked away from that session saddened because I too was not able to give it all up.

 A few minutes later I received an email from a friend reporting that ISIS had challenged a group of chidlren in Iraq to relinquish Yeshua and convert to Islam. Every child refused to give up Yeshua and every child was beheaded for his or her faith. I was humbled to the dust. These youngsters gave up their lives for their faith without hesitation while I balked over material goods. May I soon acquire their level of maturity. Yeshua’s words challenge each of us.  What is our response?