Hanukkah: The Light of Rededication

Tonight begins the first night of Hanukkah. Every year, I get quite a few questions about this holiday. “Is it the Jewish Christmas?” “Do you get presents?” “Do you have a Hanukkah tree?” “This is the holiday where you’re fasting, right?” But probably the most frequent, and important, question I get asked is, “What are you celebrating at Hanukkah?”

The short answer to these questions is, no, Hanukkah is not the Jewish Christmas, traditionally there are no presents at Hanukkah, there is no Hanukkah tree, and we don’t fast during Hanukkah.

But the answer to what we’re celebrating at Hanukkah requires more explanation.

While Hanukkah is considered a minor holiday on the Jewish calendar (Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Passover are the major holidays) it is still a very significant and meaningful time for all believers. Hanukkah is the season where we celebrate a military victory of the Maccabees over the Romans and a spiritual victory of YHVH’s way of life over assimilation and a loss of faith.

A Hanukkah History
In 200 BC, Antiochus III the Great of Syria defeated the Egyptian Ptolemaic Kingdom and gained the region of Judea (modern day West Bank area) as part of its kingdom. Antiochus III wanted to make peace within his new kingdom so he allowed the Jews to continue worshipping as they pleased and to live according to Torah.

But in 175 BC, after killing his two nephews who were the legitimate successors of the throne, Antiochus IV Epiphanes took the throne. As a side note, Antiochus IV Epiphanes’ original name was Mithradates. This is important as it connects to the pagan origins of Christmas.

After assuming the throne, rumors spread that he had been killed and in his “death” a revolt was taking place in Jerusalem. In response, he stormed Jerusalem, quelled the revolt, and subsequently killed 40,000 Jews and sold another 40,000 into slavery as recorded by the contemporary historian Josephus and the apocryphal book of 2 Maccabees.

In order to strengthen his hold over the region, he outlawed Jewish traditions and practices and, instead, ordered the worship of Zeus as the supreme god. He then sent his army to enforce this decree. They defiled YHVH’s Holy Temple by dedicating it to Zeus, bringing obelisks and other abominable objects into the Temple, and pouring the blood of slaughtered pigs in the Temple and the Holy of Holies.

According to Josephus, public worship of YHVH, including sacrifices, was shut down for 3½ years because of Antiochus IV’s proclamation.

The Maccabees
After Antiochus Epiphanes’ decree spread, a Jewish priest named Mattathias and his five sons Jochanan, Simeon, Eleazar, Jonathan, and Judah led a rebellion against Antiochus. This rebel group became known as the Maccabees or “hammer” in Hebrew.

The Maccabean revolt began when Antiochus’ army ordered that Mattathias sacrifice a pig on the altar of YHVH. When he refused, a fellow priest stepped forward to sacrifice the pig in hopes the army would then leave them alone. Mattathias, rather than see YHVH’s altar profaned and a priest commit blasphemy, killed the priest and afterwards fled to the wilderness with his sons.

Jewish opinion differs on how long the Maccabean revolt actually lasted. Some believe the revolt lasted 20 years, ending only when the entire Judean region had been reconquered and the Hasmonean Dynasty was established. Most, however, believe the revolt lasted 7 years – starting when the sacrifices were stopped and ending when the city of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple were reclaimed.

Rededication of the Temple of YHVH
After seven years of living in the wilderness, hiding in caves, and engaging in rebel warfare, the Maccabees emerged victorious. They entered Jerusalem with their hearts full of joy, only to find the Temple of YHVH completely defiled.

Pigs had been slaughtered on the altar of YHVH. Pagan asherah poles, obelisks, and dozens of idols had been placed in the Temple. There was fornication and orgies, worship of hundreds of pagan gods, and many more blasphemes that had taken place. In order to restore the ways of YHVH and Temple workings, the Maccabees began the task of cleansing the Temple.

Part of Temple protocol is that the light from the menorah must burn continually. Thus, lighting the menorah was one of the first actions the Maccabees took. According to Rabbinic tradition, the Maccabees could only find enough oil to keep the menorah burning for one day, but miraculously the oil lasted for eight days and they were able to cleanse and rededicate the Temple.

Rededication of Our Temples
As you can see, Hanukkah is indeed a very significant holiday filled with a rich history and spiritual inspiration. Hanukkah is about searching our own hearts and lives and reexamining any areas we may have gotten off the path of God. It is a time for us to rededicate the temple of our lives to YHVH and return to His purpose for our life. In a world that is trying to erase  Judeo-Christian values and redefine what is right and wrong, we need to be like the Maccabees who defended what they knew to be right, no matter the sacrifice.

This Hanukkah, as we light the candles and reflect on our own lives, I pray God would give each of us the courage to stand strong in the face of adversity and would reveal how we too can be a light to the world.

Chag Urim Sameach! Happy Festival of Lights!

Yom Teruach: the Feast of Trumpets

Many people incorrectly know this day as Rosh Hashanah or literally the Head of the New Year. However, Biblically, this day was known as Yom Teruach or the Day of Trumpets. According to YHVH’s Word, the new year is actually to begin in the spring time at Passover.

In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, between the evenings, is the Passover to YHVH. Leviticus 23:5

YHVH called the month in which Passover occurs the first month. This month, the seventh Biblical month, is not the new year but, rather, the month containing 3 of the 7 feasts of YHVH.

Speak to the children of Israel, saying, ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you have a rest, a remembrance of blowing of trumpets, a set-apart gathering. You do no servile work, and you shall bring an offering made by fire to YHVH.’

But what exactly is Yom Teruach?

Yom Teruach is the Day of Trumpets. When you see the word “trumpet” in the Bible, it is almost always referring to a shofar or a ram’s horn. The sounding of a shofar signifies a significant event is about to take place. A shofar was blown to gather all the tribes of Israel together for a meeting with YHVH, religious ceremony, or battle. It was used in battle to direct soldiers. It is also frequently used to wake those who slumber from their sleep. On Yom Teruach, the shofar is blown 100 times and is blown every morning during the month of Elul in preparation. It is truly a wakeup call to those who have ears to hear.

Yeshua warned us of a future Yom Teruach.

And immediately after the distress of those days the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give its light, and the stars shall fall from the heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Adam shall appear in the heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth shall mourn, and they shall see the Son of Adam coming on the clouds of the heaven with power and much esteem. And He shall send His messengers with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His chosen ones from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

But concerning that day and the hour no one knows, not even the messengers of the heavens, but My Father only. And as the days of Noah, so also shall the coming of the Son of Adam be. For as they were in the days before the flood, eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and they did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also shall the coming of the Son of Adam be. Then two shall be in the field, the one is taken and the one is left. Two shall be grinding at the mill, one is taken and one is left. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Master is coming. And know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Because of this, be ready too, for the Son of Adam is coming at an hour when you do not expect Him. – Matthew 24

It is imperative that we understand and live Torah in order to fully understand what these verses are saying. The Torah is the basis for everything we believe. It is YHVH’s timetable and the compass that will point us to our Messiah.

The “day and the hour which no man knows” was a Hebrew idiom or nickname for Yom Teruach. Why? Yom Teruach is the only feast that begins on the first day of it’s month. In order to know when the new month begins, one must first spot the new moon in the sky. In Biblical days, a watchman would stand outside every night in his watchman’s tower and look for the sliver of the moon that indicates the new month had begun. Even today with our fancy NASA calendars and technology it’s still impossible to know exactly what day the new moon will appear. This explains the nickname the day and the hour which no man knows.

When Yeshua said this, it would have been no mystery to the disciples or anyone obeying Torah to understand what He meant. They would have immediately known He was referring to Yom Teruach.

In Biblical days, once the watchman spotted the new moon, he would then blow the shofar and word would spread across Israel that the feast of Yom Teruach had begun. Because it is a holy day and treated as a Sabbath, all work wouldWatchman New Moon immediately cease. Therefore, when Yeshua said that two would be in the field and one would be taken and the other left, He was saying that one would leave His work and head to the Temple and the other would ignore the shofar and stay in the field. Most Christians are sadly taught that this is referring to the rapture. Again, without understanding Torah and YHVH’s timetable, it’s near impossible to truly understand prophecy, the words of Yeshua, or decipher the times and seasons we are living in.

Yom Teruach also marks the beginning of the fall feasts. As we read in Leviticus 23, we celebrate Yom Teruach on the first day of the month, then on the 10th day of the month we celebrate Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) and the 15th day Sukkot (Tabernacles) is celebrated.

The 10 day period between Yom Teruach and Yom Kippur is called the 10 Days of Awe. This is YHVH’s mercy to His Bride as she prepares to come before Him on Judgment Day. As I’ve mentioned in other posts about Elul, the month of Elul is a month to resolve issues and deal with your junk. If, for whatever reason, you still haven’t finished this process, YHVH gives you 10 more days before Judgment Day to make things right.

After Yom Kippur, Sukkot is celebrated. Sukkot is known as the Wedding Feast and is a weeklong celebration. It is an extremely joyous time!

So, now that Yom Teruach is upon us, rejoice, celebrate, give thanks to YHVH for His loving-faithfulness and goodness. But don’t forget to continue doing the hard work and take advantage of these last 10 days before Yom Kippur. Be blessed!

Chag Sameach! Happy Feast Days!

Trump reveals classified information during Russian meeting

The New York Times is reporting that President Trump revealed classified information provided by Israel regarding ISIS to the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak during their visit to the White House last week.

If The Times report is true, this could have serious implications to national security and even international relationships.

It is unclear at this time exactly what information Trump revealed to the Russians, however.

One claim made by The Times’ report alleges Trump revealed the city where allied spies infiltrated, cultivated a network of intelligence gathering and collected information which prevented attacks on civil aviation.

Compounding Trump’s troubles are statements made by officials within the Trump administration which seem to contradict the president’s statements on the issue.

The National Security Advisor, the Deputy National Security Advisor and the Secretary of State initially denied the claims Trump revealed any classified information and later flipped their rhetoric when Trump tweeted he did reveal some information to Russia in order to aid the fight against ISIS.

While the president is correct that what he revealed was not illegal, the president can choose to declassify any information at any time, there’s no denying what he did was reckless and could have far-reaching consequences.

By revealing in which city this intelligence was gathered, Trump revealed which city has a network of spies that have infiltrated adversarial and terrorist groups. By revealing their location, Trump endangers the network of intelligence gatherers and puts their lives at risk.

Russia is a key ally to Syria, where many of these terrorist networks are rooted. By revealing this information to Russia, Trump put intelligence assets at risk of retaliatory measures from Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.

This not only compromises our security assets but those of our allies as well.

Israel is our greatest ally in the Middle East. Without their support and collaboration we cannot hope to win the fight against terror. But if Israel feels they cannot trust the President of the United States with sensitive information, it could jeopardize our relationship – just as it was strained during the Obama administration.

Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., reaffirmed the relationship between the U.S. and Israel by issuing the following statement yesterday.

“Israel has full confidence in our intelligence-sharing relationship with the United States and looks forward to deepening that relationship in the years ahead under President Trump,” Dermer told The Times.

And the concern is that Israel won’t be the only one to cease sharing or limiting intelligence shared with us.

If countries around the world do not feel confident our president or government officials can properly handle information, they could cease to share or limit the intelligence shared.

While many opponents of Trump are using this to paint him as colluding with Russia, I believe it demonstrates Trump is simply politically incompetent and didn’t understand the implications of his actions.

While I don’t think this excuses his actions, it absolves him of any nefarious intent.

But this has been my complaint about Trump from the very beginning.

I did not think he demonstrated the political savvy I wanted in a president – not just in his attitude and behavior, which is severely lacking in presidential quality – but also in his understanding of the political process.

Trump is a very proud man and has little self-control with regards to his opinions and Twitter account. He frequently spouts off the first thought that comes into his head with little regard for the consequences. Couple this with the fact he has little understanding of diplomacy or political processes and we have the potential for very dangerous situations.

Trump should stay quiet on issues he doesn’t fully understand and allow the subject matter experts in his administration to take the lead on these matters.

Modern-Day Maccabees: UN Resolution 2334

President Obama has done everything he can to undermine and delegitimize Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the past eight years. Obama even went so far as to send an election team to Israel to campaign against Netanyahu in the most recent election.

Now, with three weeks left in office, he’s taking one final shot at the Jewish state.

Refusing to use its veto power, something the U.S. has regularly done when it feels the language is too harsh against Israel, the U.S. helped pass U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334 on Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Last week’s resolution passed 14 votes to 0 with the U.S. casting the sole abstaining vote.

The resolution is one of the harshest the UN has ever passed regarding Israel.

The resolution condemns Israeli “settlement” activity and calls for Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem” and declares that Israeli settlements have “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.” The resolution also asserts the Temple Mount and Western Wall are not historic Jewish territory.

Palestinian leaders have already said they will use the resolution to seek International Criminal Court indictments of Israeli leaders, push for a formal probe into whether Israel is violating the Geneva Conventions and petition foreign governments to ban the import of any products made in Israeli “settlements.”

Secretary of State John Kerry gave a speech yesterday defending the U.S. decision to not veto the resolution.

Kerry, no longer attempting to hide the administration’s disdain for Israel, repeatedly referred to Israel as “the occupier,” even going so far as to say that “it is not this resolution that is isolating Israel. It is the permanent policy of [Israeli] settlement construction that risks making peace impossible.”

Kerry went on to say, “Israel can either be Jewish or democratic – it cannot be both –and it won’t ever really be at peace.”

Not surprisingly, Kerry failed to acknowledge the role terrorist group Hamas plays in the Palestinian government nor of the Palestinian’s singular goal of “wiping Israel off the face of the earth.”

And yet, none of this is new for Israel.

This is not the first time Israel has had to defend itself against a more powerful enemy to ensure her survival. In fact, that spirit of survival is what we celebrate in this season of Hanukkah.

Over 2,000 years ago, the Maccabees, the rebel Jewish army, faced the mighty Greeks in a seven-year struggle to defend their right to exist, to worship in their own way and reclaim their God-given land of Israel. After miraculously defeating the Greek army, the Maccabees reclaimed the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. They cleansed and rededicated the Temple to YHVH and reestablished the Jewish way of life in Israel.

While the names may have changed, the situation has not.

Israel is still fighting for the right to simply exist and there are still those who seek to destroy her. But just as in days gone by, there are also those who choose to fight alongside Israel.

As many of you know, I did not enthusiastically vote for Donald Trump. Voting for Gary Johnson was not an option. Voting for Hillary Clinton was definitely not an option. And so I found myself somewhat backed into Donald Trump’s corner.

But to be honest, from the moment I realized he had beaten Hillary Clinton, I felt hope and excitement for the first time in eight years.

I was excited to see his plans for the economy, to see Obamacare repealed, to see stronger foreign policy and to see less of the debilitating political correctness that defined this administration. But most of all, I felt hopeful regarding policy towards Israel.

Trump has made no secret of his intentions to support and defend Israel, a markedly different approach from his predecessor. In fact, Trump tweeted out the following series of tweets in response to the Obama administration’s decision to not veto the UN resolution,

Trump Tweets UN

“We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect,” the tweets read. “They used to have a great friend in the U.S., but not anymore. The beginning of the end was the horrible Iran deal, and now this (U.N.)! Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!”

While I’m definitely not trying to promote Donald Trump as the savior for the Jewish people, it is encouraging to know the incoming administration is poised to be a true ally and friend of Israel.

Let us be encouraged this Hanukkah as we remember what this season represents.

As we light the candles on the menorah, let us remember there is always light to be found in the darkness. Let us remember we can be that light in the midst of darkness if we are willing to stand for truth and righteousness. May we remember the Maccabees of old and be reminded we, too, are modern-day Maccabees who are not alone in the fight for Israel’s right to exist.

And above all, let us remember that the same God who delivered Israel 2,000 years ago is the same God who will defend and protect Israel today.

Am Israel chai! The people of Israel live!

Chag sameach Hanukkah! Happy Hanukkah!

A Shavuot Love Story: Ruth and Boaz

The story of Ruth and Boaz is a beautiful story of redemptive love and devotion. It is a story that demonstrates the redeeming power of love, devotion, and obedience. The story of Ruth is commonly read during Shavuot for several reasons. The first reason is the physical harvest that occurs in story. The “courting” of Ruth and Boaz takes places during Shavuot. The second reason is the spiritual harvest that takes place in the story. This is demonstrated when Ruth accepts and joins herself to Torah, and simultaneously the God of Israel, and becomes grafted into Israel. Through the union of Ruth and Boaz, not only did we receive Messiah Yeshua, but we can also glean much insight into the season of counting the omer and Shavuot.

A Few Things from Torah Before We Begin
Before we begin, there are a few things we need to first understand from Torah.

  1. Laws of redemption (Lev. 25:32-55)
  2. Laws of Shemittah and Jubilee years (Lev. 25:4, 10, 23)
  3. Laws of family inheritance (Num. 27:8-11): if a man died without a son, the inheritance would be transferred to the daughter, and since Ruth was the widow of Machlon, she was the legal heir of the line of Elimelech. In other words, if Boaz could be persuaded to marry Ruth, then he could redeem the land and save the family from being obliterated in Israel.
  4. Laws of yibbum or “levirate marriage” (Deut. 25:5-10): Naomi understood that Boaz was a “near kinsman” to her husband Elimelech, and therefore he was qualified to redeem her land from those who presently were leasing it. Recall that the Torah allowed for the redemption of land based on its pro rata value before the year of Jubilee. The “law of redemption” required that a next of kin had the duty to redeem (buy back) the land of their close relative if the relative was in such financial difficulty that he was forced to sell it: ‘If your brother becomes impoverished and sells some of his property, then his near redeemer shall and redeem what his brother has sold” (Lev. 25:25). Since Naomi was destitute, she needed to persuade a close relative to redeem her land for the legacy of her family’s name in Israel.
  5. Various farming laws regarding leaving food for the poor and the stranger (Lev. 19:9-10; 23:22; Deut. 24:19)
  6. God’s repeatedly stated commandment that Israel must be holy and not assimilate with surrounding cultures (Exod. 34:12; Deut. 7:1-6; 14:2, etc.). This restriction applied not only to the seven Canaanite nations (Deut. 7:1; 20:17-18), but also to the descendants of Lot (i.e., Amnonites and the Moabites), since they showed enmity to Israel when they first came to the land (Deut. 23:4-6).

The story of Ruth provides a strong message to believers: to understand the story of redemption, you must first understand the Torah and its commandments!

The Story of Ruth
The story takes place during the time when judges ruled Israel, before the monarchy was established. In Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, there was a man named Elimelech who lived with his wife Naomi and his two sons Machlon and Chilyon. There came a great famine in the land and Elimelech decided to lease out his land and move his family to the land of Moab, where he died shortly thereafter. His sons each married a Moabite woman; Chilyon married Orpah and Machlon married Ruth. Soon, Elimelech’s sons died too, leaving Naomi, Orpah, and Ruth as widows.

Naomi decides to go back to the land Israel and urges her two widowed daughters-in-law to return to their fathers’ homes. Orpah returns to her people but Ruth remains devoted to Naomi. Despite Naomi’s warning that Ruth would be regarded as an outcast in Israel who would likely remain a perpetual widow, Ruth refused to be dissuaded. Once Naomi understood Ruth’s heartfelt resolve, she accepted Ruth’s decision, and the two women arrived in Bethlehem in the early spring, during the time of the barley harvest in Judah.

“Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you” Ruth 1:16-17

Naomi sends Ruth to glean in the fields. Boaz sees Ruth while she is working and is immediately drawn to her BUT he doesn’t yet know if he has a claim to her…..that will be revealed to him later. But he does decide to keep her close to him…and good thing he does because YHVH eventually reveals to him (with a little help from Ruth and Naomi) that he is, in fact, the kinsman redeemer for Ruth!

Boaz and Ruth have a type of courtship during weeks of the barely harvest – during the counting of the omer. Boaz was a “near kinsmen” to Naomi’s late husband Elimelech (perhaps the son of Elimelech’s brother), so he had a legal claim to redeem the land. Moreover, Boaz had a legal entitlement to marry Ruth, but he needed to be persuaded to do so.

Ruth also had a legal right to ask for Boaz to perpetuate the family line in Israel by marrying her. Before Boaz could do so, however, Ruth had to express her “legal intent” by claiming him as her “near kinsman.” In preparation of this significant event, Naomi instructed Ruth to beautify herself and present herself before Boaz at the end of the harvest, when the harvesters would be joyfully celebrating God’s provision – during the holiday of Shavuot. After the feast, Ruth was told that Boaz would sleep at the threshing floor and was instructed to lay at his feet and pull his covering over her feet to symbolize her claim.

And Boaz ate and drank, and his heart was glad, and he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. And she came softly and uncovered his feet, and lay down. And it came to be at midnight that the man was startled, and turned himself, and saw a woman lying at his feet! And he said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your female servant. Now you shall spread your covering over your female servant – for you are a redeemer.” And he said, “Blessed are you of YHVH, my daughter! For you have shown more kindness at the end than at the beginning, not to go after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do nRuth and Boazot fear. All that you say I do for you, for all the people of my town know that you are a capable woman. And now, it is true that I am your redeemer. However, there is a redeemer nearer than I. Stop over tonight, and in the morning it shall be that if he does redeem you, good – let him do it. But if he is not pleased to redeem you, then I shall redeem you, as YHVH lives! Lie down until morning.” Ruth 3:7-13

Boaz then discusses the matter with the man that is the nearer kinsman redeemer in the presence of the town elders. The nearer kinsman redeemer refuses as it would jeopardize his own inheritance. And Boaz said to the elders and to all the people,

“You are witnesses this day that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s, and all that was Kilyon’s and Mahlon’s, from the hand of Na‛omi. And also, Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, I have acquired as my wife, to raise up the name of the dead on his inheritance, so that the name of the dead should not be cut off from among his brothers and from the gate of his place. You are witnesses today.” And all the people who were at the gate, and the elders, said, “Witnesses! YHVH make the woman who is coming to your house as Rachel and as Leah, the two who built the house of Israel. And prove your worth in Israel and proclaim the Name in Bethlehem. And let your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, of the seed which YHVH does give you from this young woman. And Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife.” Ruth 4:9-13

The blessing given to Boaz suggests that God’s plan of blessing overcame the weakness and frailty of all the people involved. Isn’t it encouraging that no matter what your struggle, no matter the battle that wages all around you, God is more than able to accomplish the promises He has made?

Lessons About the Counting of the Omer and Shavuot
As you can see, there are many things that the story of Boaz and Ruth reveal to us about this season of counting the omer and Shavuot. Here are just a few:

Joining Ourselves to YHVH, Israel and Torah
It is a time to leave our old ways behind us and join ourselves wholeheartedly to the God of Israel…to YHVH. It was through Ruth’s obedience to the laws of Torah that allowed her to find life, love, and blessings beyond that of anything she could have imagined. Once Ruth vowed to join herself to YHVH, the ways of Torah, and to the people of Israel, she was able to fulfill her destiny of bringing forth the line that would bear the Savior of the world. In the same way, we too will never be able to fully walk out the calling on our lives until we join ourselves to YHVH and His ways.

Care and Provision
Once we fully and completely join ourselves to YHVH and walk in His Torah, the blessings and provisions that YHVH promised would follow can now freely flow forth. Ruth was obedient not only to Naomi and Boaz, but also to YHVH. Through her obedience and servitude, YHVH’s care and provision were afforded to her. She was obedient in her time of mourning and her time of waiting. She didn’t jump the gun and she didn’t question the instructions given to her. She was obedient and was richly blessed because of it.

Shavuot is a season of rejoicing in YHVH’s provision and guidance. Through Ruth’s story, we see that the counting of the omer is a season of waiting. Shavuot is the subsequent celebration and fulfillment of the promises we have anticipated and prepared for.

Finding Favor with Our Bridegroom
Ruth did not go after other lovers – even in her precarious situation. She had dove’s eyes for Boaz. We too need to have dove’s eyes for YHVH. We cannot go after other lovers but instead seek to please YHVH and find favor with Him alone.

Redemption Through Our True Kinsman Redeemer
When we think of redemption in the story of Ruth, we tend to focus on Ruth alone being redeemed. However, there were actually several things that were redeemed in this story. The land that belonged to Elimelech’s family – to include Ruth and Naomi – was redeemed. Naomi’s family line and lineage was redeemed – and even produced King David and Messiah Yeshua! Last, but certainly not least, both Naomi and Ruth were redeemed from a life of widowhood. They were taken from a season of death and mourning to a season of life and rejoicing! So you see, redemption of persons was not the only thing that needed to be redeemed by Boaz. Through Boaz’s willingness to be the kinsman redeemer, we see that property, family lineage, and people were all redeemed. This shows that YHVH is not only concerned with our spiritual welfare but our physical as well. In the end, everything we have is His and YHVH will not let His treasured possessions be lost forever; He will redeem what is His and restore all things.

Ultimately, the story of Ruth provides a powerful message to believers: to truly understand the story of redemption, you must first devote yourself to YHVH and His commandments!

Part 3 of 5 in the Shavuot series.

First-Fruits of Shavuot: Giving Our Best to YHVH

In my last post, I began the topic of Shavuot by showing how we all as believers in Messiah are made part of the House of Israel by being grafted into the olive tree. As members of Israel, the Torah –or God’s Word—is, indeed, for us too! In this post, we will talk about the giving of first fruits at Shavuot and how we can offer our own first fruits to God.

Leviticus 23 summarizes the feasts – or appointed times – that YHVH calls us to celebrate.  The below verses are describing Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the bringing of the first fruits at Shavuot (highlighted portion).

“These are the appointed times of YHVH, set-apart gatherings which you are to proclaim at their appointed times. ‘In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, between the evenings, is the Passover to YHVH. And on the fifteenth day of this month is the Festival of Unleavened Bread to YHVH – seven days you eat unleavened bread. On the first day you have a set-apart gathering, you do no servile work. And you shall bring an offering made by fire to YHVH for seven days. On the seventh day is a set-apart gathering, you do no servile work.’

“And YHVH spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, and you shall say to them, ‘When you come into the land which I give you, and shall reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the first-fruits of your harvest to the priest. And he shall wave the sheaf before YHVH, for your acceptance. On the morrow after the Sabbath the priest waves it. And on that day when you wave the sheaf, you shall prepare a male lamb a year old, a perfect one, as a burnt offering to YHVH, and its grain offering: two-tenths of an ĕphah of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering made by fire to YHVH, a sweet fragrance, and its drink offering: one-fourth of a hin of wine. And you do not eat bread or roasted grain or fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your Elohim – a law forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.

“And from the morrow after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, you shall count for yourselves: seven completed Sabbaths. Until the morrow after the seventh Sabbath you count fifty days, then you shall bring a new grain offering to YHVH. Bring from your dwellings for a wave offering two loaves of bread, of two-tenths of an ĕphah of fine flour they are, baked with leaven, first-fruits to YHVH. And besides the bread, you shall bring seven lambs a year old, perfect ones, and one young bull and two rams. They are a burnt offering to YHVH, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, an offering made by fire for a sweet fragrance to YHVH. And you shall offer one male goat as a sin offering, and two male lambs a year old, as a peace offering. And the priest shall wave them, besides the bread of the first-fruits, as a wave offering before YHVH, besides the two lambs. They are set-apart to YHVH for the priest. And on this same day you shall proclaim a set-apart gathering for yourselves, you do no servile work on it – a law forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.” Leviticus 23:4-21

Counting of the Omer
The counting of the omer begins on the first Shabbat after Passover. An omer is a unit of measurement. During the counting of the omer, an omer-measurement of barley was offered in the Temple every day until Shavuot. You count 7 full weeks…meaning you count 49 days. The 50th day is Shavuot – many might know this as Pentecost which is Greek for “50” or “the 50th day”; in Hebrew Shavuot means “weeks”.

The importance of counting the omer is oftentimes overlooked. But one way to look at it, is that counting the omer is an important part of preparation for Shavuot. It was on Shavuot when the children of Israel received the Torah and, later, the prophetic outpouring of the Spirit read about in Acts 2.

One thing we as Americans have a hard time understanding is the concept of preparation and the time we spend waiting as we prepare. We want to rush through seasons and don’t understand the profound nature of waiting. As we count each day of the omer, it creates a sense of expectancy within us. If we truly take the time to count the omer, we will not try to rush forward from Passover to Shavuot and miss the lessons that can only be found in the waiting of preparation. Instead, we will learn to walk out each day and live in every moment as we wait for the appointed time. It makes waiting seem less difficult as we begin to see the importance of every, single day and the role each day plays in getting us to the ultimate goal.

Shavuot is the day that the children of Israel received the Torah at Mount Sinai. It is a holiday that in modern times is unfortunately overlooked. However, this is certainly no small festival and there is great reason to rejoice and celebrate. In fact, this is one of 3 feasts that YHVH required us to go up to Jerusalem to celebrate; sounds like this feast is VERY important to YHVH.

In order to come before YHVH, the children of Israel had to prepare for 49 days, including having to refrain from anything that would make them unclean in the final 3 days. For those that were obedient, their reward was the gift of the Torah. We talked last week how important the Torah is; how Torah tells us what sin is, how it lights our path, directs our steps, and allows us to draw closer to YHVH. No wonder Shavuot is so important to YHVH.

Later, we read in Acts 2 of the disciples who, just days before had been walking with the resurrected Messiah, were celebrating Shavuot. We are told they were all gathered together of one mind to celebrate Shavuot. Had they not been keeping Torah and been obedient to YHVH’s commands to keep His feasts, they would not have been at the right place at the right time in order to receive the prophetic spirit of Joel 2. We will talk more about this in another post.

First Fruits
In ancient times, the grain harvest lasted seven weeks (49 days) and was a season of gladness. It began with the harvesting of the barley during Passover and ended with the harvesting of the wheat at Shavuot. Shavuot was thus the concluding festival of the grain harvest. During this time of first fruits, an offering of two loaves of bread from the wheat harvest is made on Shavuot.

Bikkurim, Ceremony of First Fruits
Shavuot was also the first day on which individuals could bring the Bikkurim (first fruits) to YHVH. The Bikkurim were brought from the Seven Species for which the Land of Israel is praised in Deuteronomy 8:8: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates.

In the primarily farming society of ancient Israel, Hebrew farmers would tie a reed around the first ripening fruits from each of these species in their fields. At the time of harvest, the fruits identified by the reed would be cut and placed in baskets woven of gold and silver. The baskets would then be loaded on oxen whose horns were gilded and laced with garlands of flowers, and who were led in a grand procession to Jerusalem. As the farmer and his entourage passed through cities and towns, they would be accompanied by music and parades. First Fruits Going to Temple

The ceremony of Bikkurim conveys the children of Israel’s gratitude to God for His provisions, for the first fruits of the field, for His guidance throughout the year in their own lives, and for His guidance for the nation as a whole.

Shavuot & Firstfruits in Our Own Lives
Are we offering YHVH our best? Are we offering Him our firstfruits? Are we giving Him our best or are we scraping the bottom of the barrel? Psalm 106 is a good reminder to us to stop allowing other things to take precedence over YHVH. It is a reminder to offer up to YHVH our first fruits from a thankful heart; not just on Shavuot, but every day.

Praise Yah! Oh, give thanks to YHVH, For He is good! For His kindness is everlasting. Who does relate the mighty acts of YHVH? Or declare all His praise? Blessed are those who guard right-ruling, Who do righteousness at all times! Remember me, O YHVH, in the acceptance of Your people; visit me with Your deliverance, to see the good of Your chosen ones, to rejoice in the gladness of Your nation, to make my boast with Your inheritance. We have sinned with our fathers. We have acted perversely; we have done wrong. Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders; they did not remember Your many kindnesses, but rebelled by the sea, the Sea of Reeds. But He saved them for His Name’s sake, to make known His might. And He rebuked the Sea of Reeds, and it dried up; And He led them through the depths, through a wilderness. And He saved them from the hand of the hater, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy. And waters covered their adversaries; not one of them was left. Then they believed His words; they sang His praise. They soon forgot His works; they did not wait for His counsel, but greedily lusted in the wilderness, And tried God in the desert. And He gave them their request, but sent leanness within their being. They forgot God their Savior, the Doer of great deeds in Egypt.” Psalm 106: 1-15; 21

We read throughout the Bible of YHVH’s faithfulness and loving-commitment; we read of how He never fails us and we tend to focus on that when we need something. But do we ever stop to think about how we fail Him? How we don’t always show Him the same loving-commitment or faithfulness He shows us?

We put others before our relationship with Him. We let other things get in the way of drawing near to Him. We let our emotions cloud our vision till it’s so small there isn’t room for anything else. And then, after we have reached a point of desperation, we remember Him. We remember His faithfulness and His loving-commitment. He has been there the whole time waiting for us; beckoning us to draw ever-nearer to Him.

Why don’t we wait? Why do we let so many other things get in the way? Why do we so easily forget the wonders He has done in our own lives? We read how the children of Israel forgot the wonders and miracles of YHVH and we think that we could somehow do a better job than they did. But there is nothing new under the sun…would we really be any different?

“They then despised the pleasant land; They did not believe His word, and they grumbled in their tents, they did not listen to the voice of YHVH. So He lifted up His hand in an oath against them, to make them fall in the wilderness”Psalm 106: 24-26

“They did not destroy the peoples, as YHVH had commanded them, but mixed with the surrounding nations and learned their works, and served their idols, and they became a snare to them. And they slaughtered their sons and their daughters to demons, and they shed innocent blood; the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they offered to the idols of Canaan; and the land was defiled with blood. So they became unclean by their own works, and went whoring by their own deeds. And the wrath of YHVH burned against His people, and He loathed His own inheritance.”Psalm 106:34-40

Put aside the iPhone. Turn off the TV. Get off the couch. Stop letting family and friends interrupt your time with YHVH. Put Him first and see what a difference it makes. What would happen if we cultivated our relationship with Him as much as we do our Facebook “friends?” Why do we faithfully watch our favorite TV show and never miss an episode but constantly miss or cut short our time with God? Why do we always have time for the things that don’t really matter but never seem to have enough time to worship our King? I am guilty of all these things too.

“Many times He delivered them; but they rebelled in their own plans. So they were brought low for their crookedness. But He would look on their distress, when He heard their cry, and remember His covenant for their sake, and relent according to the greatness of His kindness. And He would let them find compassion, before all those holding them captive. Save us, O YHVH our Elohim, and gather us from among the nations to give thanks to Your set-apart Name. To exult in Your praise. Blessed be YHVH Elohim of Israel from everlasting to everlasting! And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’ Praise Yah!”Psalm 106:43-48

We cannot let the distractions of this life trip us up. Why do we think we are the exception to the rule? That we can put other things before YHVH and not call them an idol? Why do we think we are invincible or that the rules and standards somehow don’t apply to us? Time is short and our calling and purpose too important. If we are not prepared, YHVH will find another. He won’t have time in the middle of the battle to call a time-out and get you prepared; you have to be trained and ready to go when the battle begins!

When the battle starts, I want to take my place fighting alongside my King! I don’t want to be put on the side lines, thinking the entire time how if I had just shut off the distractions or gotten off the couch I could be fulfilling the role and destiny I was meant to play. How incredibly sad would that be? Let’s vow to be ready. Let’s make more of an effort to build, strengthen, and prioritize our relationship with YHVH. Isn’t He worth it? Doesn’t He deserve more than our half-hearted attempt?

He deserves our first fruits.

This is part 2 of 5 in the Shavuot series.

A “Thriller” Passover!

One of my new favorite things about the Passover season are the awesome parody videos out there! Last year, I was obsessed with the Passover version of “Uptown Funk” — here’s my post from last year in case you missed it — and this year is no different. I give you, “Seder” based off of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller!” Trust me, you won’t want to miss it!

You’re welcome.

Echad: Many Communities, One People

Echad. United as one.

We hear this phrase used a lot when we talk about the Church or the Bride of Messiah. We stress the importance of being united in Christ and in being one body. But oftentimes, we don’t really understand the meaning of this.

As those of you who follow me on social media know, I recently moved to a new state. Everything is new and every day is an adventure and I navigate through new streets, meet new people, learn a new job, and create a new normal for myself.

Part of all the newness also means searching for a new congregation to call home. I’m always nervous when visiting new groups – you never know what you’re going to find! But so far, I have been pleasantly surprised by the groups I’ve attended. But visiting new groups has opened my eyes to a whole new aspect of what it means to be echad.

Oftentimes, when we think of being echad or “one,” we think of being one with Messiah Yeshua or one with those in our congregations. But it also means being echad and united with other believers around the world.

I realized something beautiful as I’ve visited new congregations: we are many communities, and yet we are one people.

Each congregation may do things a little differently, but we are all doing the same thing. For instance, one group may sing the Shema in a different tune than another, but they are both singing the Shema. Another group may meet at a different time but we all gather on Shabbat. One group may say the prayers in a different order but we are all saying the same prayers. It was a beautiful sight to see!

This past weekend, I fellowshipped with a group that welcomed me in as if I had always belonged there with them. As worship began, I felt so excited to hear songs I was familiar with and loved being sung. It was comforting to see tallits being put on; to see the menorah being lit. It made me feel at peace to hear songs welcoming the Holy Spirit and worshipping Our Heavenly Father. And it made me realize that even though we are different congregations, we are all one people when we come together to worship our Father.

So let’s not let the little things get in the way of being echad. In the end, the little things are important, but they’re not the most important. In the end, all that really matters is bringing glory and honor to YHVH. And that can only be achieved when we are echad with one another.

2015: A Year in Review

Welcome to 2015. Where man-buns are a thing and more deaths are caused by taking selfies than shark attacks. Deaths by selfies gone wrong: 12. Death by shark attacks: 8. There have been an estimated 105 billion photos taken by Americans this year and 104.9 billion of them were seflies! We have definitely become a more selfish and self-centered generation this year – with the Kardashians leading the charge on this one! Kim Kardashian (in)famously “broke the internet” this year with her butt. [I cannot believe I just wrote that sentence.] But I guess Ariana Grande wanted a piece of the limelight so she took to donut licking to find it. She may have taken it a bit too far when she said she hated America and Americans because her stunt backfired and people began to realize they’d have one less “Problem” without her so she eventually apologized and now all is right with the world.

Yes, 2015 was indeed a busy year. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest stories from this past year.

Politics and the Fight Against Terror
We started off 2015 with the attacks by two brothers with ties to Al-Qaeda, against Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine in Paris who had published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. They killed 11 people and injured 11 others. A massive manhunt for the two terrorists led to an altercation with police two days later. The terrorists were found hiding in a printworks factory. They emerged from the building firing at police. Both suspects were killed. Meanwhile, two other terrorists with connections to the brothers had taken hostages inside a Jewish supermarket. In total, 17 people were killed in the course of three-days.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Congress this year in March speaking against the nuclear deal with Iran. President Obama was busy golfing or something and subsequently couldn’t find time to meet with our “strongest ally in the Middle East.”

In May, the U.S. along with several other world leaders struck a nuclear agreement with Iran. Supporters of Israel and common sense all over the world urged their leaders to oppose the deal. In his address to the country, President Obama gave us some information about the really bad deal.

An arms embargo would be in place for 5 years while a ballistic missile embargo would be in place for 8 years. The deal is not contingent on Iran changing its behavior or acting like a civilized nation. We are hoping this deal will lead to future talks in hopes that they will lessen their violence and take a more constructive path — but we’re not betting on it.

It does not give me pause the others in Tehran or Mr. Assad are praising this deal as victory against America. The facts are the facts. I’m not concerned with what others say about it.

We have huge differences with Iran. Israel has significant concerns with regards to its security. Iran has a military, they deny the holocaust, they have called for their destruction and have missiles pointed at [Israel]. For all the objections of Netanyahu and republicans no one has given me an alternative.

24/7 monitoring of the “known” and “declared” facilities. What if they try to develop a covert program? The benefit of sophisticated monitoring throughout the entire process is that it’s hard to create a covert program. But if they are so determined, the IAEA has the authority to declare they want to inspect the suspicious areas. If Iran wants to object to any inspections, we can override that decisions. This is the most vigorous inspection process ever negotiated. The only argument you could make against it is that Iran is no intent that no inspection team would ever be sufficient. At that point, the only alternative is to go to war with Iran.

We didn’t make the release of hostages part of the deal because we didn’t want Iran thinking they could get more out of this deal by using the hostages as leverage. If we had walked away from the negotiating table we’d still be pushing hard to get them out of prison.

There are quite a few sketch details in this nuclear deal with Iran. I’m sure we will hear about this in 2016.

The world was rocked again when terrorists carried out attacks in the capital of France. Terrorists executed at least 158 people in coordinated attacks around Paris. The terrorists were heard shouting “Allahu Akbar” and “this is for Syria” before opening fire. French President Francois Hollande closed the French borders and declared a state of emergency. The terrorists involved were killed.

ISIS took more ground in Syria and Northern Iraq. More people were brutally murdered by the terrorist group which also led to the height of the refugee crisis facing the world. For years, Syrians had been fleeing their country because of the devastating civil war taking place. But now with ISIS being added to the mix, the number of refugees was becoming almost overwhelming. The debate reached its height in America this year after it was discovered that at least one of the terrorists involved in the Paris attacks had snuck in with the Syrian refugees.

While most American were having Turkey for Thanksgiving, so was Russian President Vladmir Putin. After ISIS claimed responsibility for attacks against Russians and around the world, Putin ordered attacks against the terrorist groups and many Americans day-dreamed about impeaching Barack Mom-Jeans Obama and replacing him with Vladmir I-Wrestle-Bears-With-My-Bare-Hands Putin to be our next President.

And just when we all thought the Greek economy couldn’t get any worse, it did. Throughout the year, we’ve watched as the Greek economy collapsed – again…again.

2015 was also the year of Ben Carson and Donald Trump. Both entered the Presidential race this year and both have lead the ratings as the two front-runners in the GOP party. I think this shows that people are ready for some real change – not more politicians promising the world and then delivering none of it. Although, I still think Ted Cruz is the best candidate. Anyhow, this should make for an interesting election this coming year!

Race Issues
After the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody, two weeks of protests erupted in downtown Baltimore. The incident reignited the debate about police brutality and brought the Black Lives Matter movement back to the forefront of American’s minds.

On June 17, a gunman opened fire at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina and killed nine people. In the subsequent investigation, photos of the gunman posing with a Confederate flag emerged which sparked a debate on the Confederate flag. South Carolina representatives voted to remove the Confederate flag.

Rachel Dolezal came under fire this year after city officials investigated her claim that she was African-American only to find out she was actually white. She claimed that she “identified as African-American” because apparently in 2015 we became a society that made it ok to just “feel” whoever we wanted to be. Which leads us to one of the top social stories of the year.

Social Issues
Bruce “Call Me Caitlyn” Jenner made waves in April 2015 when he announced he identified as a woman and would be making the official change from Bruce to Caitlyn.

In a 5-4 decision this June, the Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage was legal in all 50 states. However, many questioned the validity of the ruling and whether or not the Supreme Court, who cannot make laws but only enforce existing laws, had the authority to make such a decision.

Pope Francis made headlines this year when he visited the United States. He also addressed Congress on his September visit – becoming the first Pope ever to do so. In his speech, he advocated on behalf of the poor and Mother Earth and lambasted greed.

On April 25, the world jumped into action after an 8.1 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal and destroyed thousands of homes. The earthquake triggered a massive landslide on Mount Everest and killed approximately 9,000 people.

But the earthquake in Nepal wasn’t the only reason thousands of people died this year. Planned Parenthood earned themselves national criticism when undercover videos revealed the horrifying truth behind Planned Parenthood. While most of us already knew that Planned Parenthood doesn’t actually care for women or children, it seemed their depravation goes even further than any of us thought possible. Planned Parenthood officials were caught on video selling aborted baby parts for thousands of dollars. It seems that their procedures even took special precautions to ensure the parts were as intact as possible to ensure the highest price. Little was done in response to prevent this from happening again and many even bolstered their support for Planned Parenthood in spite of national criticism. Meanwhile, the dentist who killed Cecil the Lion in a small African village drew public outcry and even received death threats while the villagers in Africa went on with their lives as normal.

Meanwhile, college students across America whined that they needed “safe-spaces” on campuses so that no one would feel marginalized or have their feelings hurt. Because 2015 was the year of the cry-baby. In generations before us, young adults fought wars and built a life for themselves and their families but today, they cry for their blankies and safe-spaces. What is America coming to?!

Mass Shootings
Charleston, Oregon, San Bernardino. This year, it seemed as if there were too many mass shootings. It seemed like every day there were alerts of gunmen on a college campus, or walking down the street, or at their job. While the liberal left were crying for their blankies and more gun control (which is obviously the solution), common-sense thinkers recognized that it won’t take more gun control, it will actually take less government intervention to help keep America safe. Bad guys will find a way to murder and kill. The delay in time it takes a police officer to respond to a 911 call could mean the difference between life and death. And that means that if the bad guys are the only ones with guns, there will be no one to protect innocent civilians – especially with the wave of distrust arising against police officers.

Undefeated UFC champion Ronda Rousey was defeated by New Mexico native Holly Holm and Americans across the nation engaged in a throwdown of their own when that stupid dress came on the scene. You know which one I’m talking about. The gold and white one. Or was it the blue and black one? Either way, people almost died over that controversy.

We also saw, or at least learned, about the Gilmore Girls reunion! Fans all over the world pulled out their “Babette Ate Oatmeal” shirts, drank gallons of coffee, and practiced saying “Oy with the poodles” hundreds of times fast in preparation for the big day. We also saw Star Wars make a HUGE comeback this year. In what is the eighth highest-grossing film of all time, Disney takes us to a galaxy set 30 years after Return of the Jedi. I don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t seen it yet, but, seriously, SO. MANY. QUESTIONS.

And then there was the sad news that oldest Duggar son Josh, had not only molested some of his younger sisters and family friends growing up but that he had been unfaithful to his wife, Anna, as well.

New Year, New Start
As 2015 comes to a close, its easy to look back at this last year and see only the negative. But in the midst of the bad there are stories of good. Stories of people helping others. Stories of lives being changed forever. Stories that restore our faith in humanity.

I don’t normally make New Year’s resolutions, but just think what would happen in 2016 if we all resolved to be a force for good this year. If we stopped and helped someone in need. If we thought of others first and gave of ourselves. We could be the light in a very dark world. We could give others hope in a world of despair. So let’s charge into 2016 ready to face all the challenges that lay ahead knowing that God is the Light that goes before us!

Be blessed and be a blessing in 2016!

The Birth of a Savior: For Unto Us a Son is Given

Many believe the Bible does not say when Yeshua (Jesus) was born and because of this, claim Christmas is as good a time as any to celebrate it. But what if the Bible did spell out when Yeshua was born? What if all it takes is looking at Scripture with an understanding of how YHVH’s system operates, specifically the timeline of His feasts? The following is the Biblical timeline for the birth of our savior.

Let’s read Luke 1 together and I’ll give you some explanation along the way.

There was in the days of Herodes, the sovereign of Judah, a certain priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And it came to be, that while he was serving as priest before Elohim in the order of his division, according to the institute of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to burn incense when he went into the Dwelling Place of YHVH.    Luke 1:5, 8-9

Often times, we gloss right over some very important pieces of information that are critical to our understanding of the Bible simply because we don’t understand its importance! Here, we see that Zechariah is a priest of YHVH in the division of Abijah. According to the pattern that David established through his son Solomon, the priesthood of YHVH was divided into 24 divisions. Each division would come to serve YHVH in the Temple one week twice a year. There were also three times a year when all 24 divisions would serve together because YHVH commanded that on these feasts, all of Israel would gather together: Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot.

There were always priests serving in the Temple because there were continual sacrifices offered to YHVH. Therefore, if each division served two weeks out of the year and there were three weeks that all the priests served together, the entire year was covered (24 x 2 + 3 = ~ 51 weeks). The Biblical calendar, which is centered around the moon not the sun as is our Gregorian calendar, is approximately 11 days shorter than our sun-centered calendars of today. Therefore, this 24 division setup allowed for the Temple service cycle to start with division 1 every single time a Biblical new year began.

1 Chronicles 24 tells us when each of these 24 divisions would serve in the Temple.

And David, with Zadok of the sons of Eleazar, and Aḥimelech of the sons of Ithamar, divided them according to their offices in their service. And there were more leaders found of the sons of Eleazar than of the sons of Ithamar. So they divided the sons of Eleazar into sixteen heads of their fathers’ houses, and the sons of Ithamar into eight heads of their fathers’ houses. And they were divided by lot, one group as another, for there were officials of the set-apart place and officials of Elohim, from the sons of Eleazar and from the sons of Ithamar…the seventh [lot] to Hakkoz, the eighth to Abijah, the ninth to Yeshua, the tenth to Shecaniah. 1 Chronicles 24:3-5,10

This scripture tells us that Zechariah was in the 8th division of the priesthood and would come to serve in the Temple the 8th week of the year. An interesting side note, is that the division of Yeshua would have immediately followed Zechariah’s division in the Temple service. Leviticus 23:5 tells us that Passover occurs in the second week of the first month and verses 15-16 tell us that Shavuot is 7 weeks after Passover. Therefore, the 9th week of the year would be the approximate time of Shavuot (Pentecost) every year. This means that Zechariah would have to work two weeks in a row every year because of his Temple division coinciding with the requirement for all Israel to be in Jerusalem for Shavuot.

Going back to Luke 1:8-9, we see that Zechariah was serving in the Temple and was chosen by the casting of lots to bring incense to the altar of incense. This was a very special job because whoever brought the incense to the altar was allowed to make one personal request of God that was guaranteed to be granted. However, once a priest was given this privilege, he could never have this job again. We see from Luke 1: 13 that Zechariah’s one request was for his barren wife, Elizabeth, to have a child.

But the messenger said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer is heard. And your wife Elizabeth shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.

Luke 1:23-25 tells us that after his time serving in the Temple, Zechariah went home and Elizabeth conceived.

And it came to be, as soon as the days of his service were completed, he went away to his house. And after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived. And she hid herself five months, saying, “YHVH has done this for me, in the days when He looked upon me, to take away my reproach among men.”

Shavuot occurs roughly about the May/June time every year on our calendars. This means that by the time Zechariah finished his division’s Temple service and made the journey home, several weeks had already passed and it was roughly July/August time when Zechariah returned home and John was conceived.

And the messenger answering, said to her, “The Set-apart Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow you. And for that reason the Set-apart One born of you shall be called: Son of Elohim.

“And see, Elizabeth your relative, she has also conceived a son in her old age. And this is now the sixth month to her who was called barren, And Mary said, “See the female servant of YHVH! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the messenger went away from her.

And Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, and entered into the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And Mary stayed with her about three months, and returned to her home. And the time was filled for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Luke 1:35-40, 56-57

These above verses tell us that Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel in Elizabeth’s sixth month of pregnancy. Remember, Elizabeth became pregnant roughly in July/August; six months later would be roughly December/January right around the time of Hanukkah — the Feast of Dedication and Lights. What a perfect time for the Light of the World and the Son of God to be conceived!

We then see that Mary stayed with Elizabeth and Zechariah three months and then went home. After this, Elizabeth gave birth to John. If Elizabeth conceived around the time of June/July, then nine months later would be approximately March/April – right around the time of Passover.

Now let’s read the story of the birth of Yeshua from Luke 2.

And it came to be in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus for all the world to be registered. This took place as a first registration while Quirinius was governing Syria. And all were going to be registered, each one to his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth to Judah, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, who was engaged to him – being pregnant. And it came to be, that while they were there, the days were filled for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her first-born Son, and wrapped Him up, and laid Him down in a feeding trough, because there was no room for them in a lodging place.

And in the same country there were shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And look, a messenger of YHVH stood before them, and the esteem of YHVH shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. And the messenger said to them, “Do not be afraid, for look, I bring you good news of great joy which shall be to all people. “Because there was born to you today in the city of David a Savior, who is Messiah, the Master. “And this is the sign to you: You shall find a baby wrapped up, lying in a feeding trough.”

And suddenly there was with the messenger a crowd of the heavenly host praising Elohim and saying, “Esteem to Elohim in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased!”

And it came to be, when the messengers had gone away from them into the heaven, that the shepherds said to each other, “Indeed, let us go to Bethlehem and see this matter that has taken place, which the Master has made known to us.”

And they came in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a feeding trough. And having seen, they made known the matter which was spoken to them concerning the child. And all those who heard marveled at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary kept all these matters, considering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, boasting and praising Elohim for all they had heard and seen, as it was spoken to them.

And when eight days were completed for Him to be circumcised, His Name was called Yeshua, the Name given by the messenger before He was conceived in the womb. And when the days of her cleansing according to the Torah of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to YHVH – as it has been written in the Torah of YHVH, “Every male who opens the womb shall be called set-apart to YHVH” and to give an offering according to what is said in the Torah of YHVH, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

And see, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and dedicated, looking for the comforting of Israel. And the Set-apart Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Set-apart Spirit that he would not see death before he sees the Messiah of YHVH. And he came in the Spirit into the Set-apart Place. And as the parents brought in the Child Yeshua, to do for Him according to the usual practice of the Torah, then he took Him up in his arms and blessed Elohim and said, “Now let Your servant go in peace, O Master, according to Your word, for my eyes have seen Your deliverance, which You have prepared before the face of all the peoples, a light for the unveiling of the gentiles, and the esteem of Your people Israel.”

And Joseph and His mother were marveling at what was said about Him.

And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “See, this One is set for a fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign spoken against – and a sword shall pierce through your own being also – so as to reveal the thoughts of many hearts.”

And there was Ḥannah, a prophetess, a daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, and had lived with a husband seven years from her maidenhood, and she was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not leave the Set-apart Place, but served Elohim with fastings and prayers night and day. And she, coming in at that moment, gave thanks to YHVH, and spoke of Him to all who were waiting for redemption in Jerusalem.

And when they had accomplished all matters according to the Torah of YHVH, they returned to Galilee, to their city Nazareth. And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, being filled with wisdom. And the favor of Elohim was upon Him.

And His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Festival of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the practice of the festival. Luke 2:1-42

These verses are very informative in terms of what the details reveal. For instance, look at how many times the author specifically mentions that Joseph and Mary raised Yeshua according to YHVH’s Torah. They were completely obedient. They did not take part in the mixed worship that some of the other Hellenized Jews had adopted at this time. They remained completely set-apart and holy to YHVH.

Next, let’s talk about the shepherds. Not in Biblical days and not today do shepherds watch over their field by night in the dead of winter! Going back to what we have already learned about Mary’s pregnancy, we know that Mary conceived at Hanukkah (December/January time). Meaning that nine months from then would be September/October – the time of YHVH’s feast of Sukkot!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with Elohim, and the Word was Elohim. He was in the beginning with Elohim. All came to be through Him, and without Him not even one came to be that came to be.

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from Elohim, whose name was John. This one came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all might believe through him. He was not that Light, but that he might bear witness of that Light. He was the true Light, which enlightens every man, coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came to be through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the authority to become children of Elohim, to those believing in His Name, who were born, not of blood nor of the desire of flesh nor of the desire of man, but of Elohim. And the Word became flesh and pitched His tent among us, and we saw His esteem, esteem as of an only brought-forth of a father, complete in favor and truth. John 1:1-14

These verses tell us that not only were the births and lives of John and Yeshua intertwined from the beginning, but that Yeshua “pitched His tent among us.” Some versions will say “He tabernacled among us.” The word “Sukkot” means tabernacle. It’s the time of year where people build sukkahs or tents/temporary dwellings and live in them for a week to remember how YHVH brought the children of Israel out of Egypt and delivered them from their bondage. This wording did not happen by chance or coincidence. It is a reference to the lost sheep of Israel (who understand His Torah) that Yeshua came to us at Sukkot.

Something else that both Luke 2 and John 1 have in common are two characteristics given to Yeshua. He is called both a Light and a Divider.

…a light for the unveiling of the gentiles, and the esteem of Your people Israel…And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “See, this One is set for a fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign spoken against – and a sword shall pierce through your own being also – so as to reveal the thoughts of many hearts.” Luke 2:32,34-35

He was in the world, and the world came to be through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. John 1:10-11

Yeshua is and always has been the Light to those who seek Him and His truth; but He has also been a Divider which tests the hearts of man in order to separate the sheep from the goats.

There are a lot of Christians who, when presented with the facts about the pagan origins of Christmas, say that they are not celebrating Christmas with this intent but, rather, they are celebrating Christmas as the birth of the Savior. They go on to say that since the Bible doesn’t specifically say when exactly Jesus was born why not just celebrate it at Christmas.

But if, after the presentation of the facts, you still won’t change your mind about Christmas then perhaps you should reevaluate why you really celebrate Christmas. Is it really to honor our savior or is it to make yourself feel good? God specifically spells out how much He hates the ways of the nations of the world and goes to great lengths to warn His chosen people against following these ways. Why then, after learning the truth about these abominable traditions that have been passed down and seeing Scriptural evidence that our Savior was not born at Christmas, would you continue to celebrate it? Is it because of the happy, jolly way it makes you feel? Is it that warm, fuzzy feeling you get this time of year? What is more important? The way you feel or the way He feels?

“For unto us a child is born; a son is given.” He gave His very life in spite of His own desires in order to do His Father’s work and save us all from sin. Why then do we insist on corrupting His Holy life with our pagan practices? Why do we insist on putting ourselves and our wants and our desires and what makes us feel good ahead of our Heavenly Father? That is idol worship in its truest, most basic form.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the authority to become children of Elohim, to those believing in His Name, who were born, not of blood nor of the desire of flesh nor of the desire of man, but of Elohim. John 1:12-13

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. Isaiah 9:6-7

Standing Firm Against the Rise of Palestinian Violence

Fifteen years ago today, two IDF soldiers, Vadim Nurzhitz and Yossi Avrahami, accidentally passed an Israeli checkpoint and entered Ramallah. They were detained by Palestinian police only to have the police station overrun by an angry mob of Palestinians. What happened next is one of the most horrific acts of violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The soldiers were beaten, stabbed, had their eyes gouged out, and were Ramallah Lynchingdisemboweled. At this point, the Palestinian pictured below appeared at the window and displayed his blood-soaked hands to the crowd which erupted in cheers. The crowd clapped and cheered as one of the soldier’s body was thrown out of the window and stamped on and beaten by the frenzied crowd. The other bid was set on fire. Soon after this, the crowd dragged the two mutilated bodies to Al-Manara Square in the city center as the crowd began an impromptu victory celebration. Palestinian police did not attempt to stop any of this violence but instead joined in the violence.

Fifteen years later, not much has changed. While there is rarely true peace in the Land, there has been a fresh wave of intensified violence from the Palestinians as the result of a call to violence from Hamas and the Palestinian government in the region.

There have been countless stabbings, molotov cocktails, car rampages, beatings, and attacks from the Palestinians against Jews — simply for being Jewish.

How can the world be silent on the wave of terror happening in Israel right now?! The people calling for and committing these acts of terror are sick and evil. How else could you explain murdering people in this manner with no regard for human life? It’s pure evil.

Take the video below, for instance. This Palestinian man uses his car as a weapon and bulldozes Jews walking down the street. Next, he gets out of his car and begins hacking at the people lying on the sidewalk with a butcher’s knife before being stopped by a pedestrian with a gun. Who does this?! How could any sane, good person do these things to another human being for no reason?

And yet, this is what the Jewish people have faced their entire existence. There has always been someone that wanted to destroy and exterminate Israel. And while there is nothing new under the sun, the one thing that has changed is you.

You are alive and here for such a time as this. You may not be able to do anything to change the past but you can surely do something to change the future. It starts with you standing for what is right and not backing down in the face of evil. When someone speaks against Israel, be ready with an answer and stand firm for what you know is true. Pray for Israel and her people’s safety and peace. Get on your face before YHVH and ask Him to protect and comfort His people.

YHVH’s promise to His people is that He will never leave them nor forsake them. He will comfort them from Zion. YHVH will defend and rescue His people! He will not forget them nor let them be destroyed! Try as they might, the enemy will never succeed in destroying God’s people! Remember, we do not fight against flesh and blood and that vengeance is God’s; therefore, prayer is our most powerful weapon right now. We should not be fearful but remember that YHVH will deliver His people from the hand of the enemy!

The time is now. Will you be ready to stand firm? Will you be willing to stand for truth? You can make a difference and you can help change the future. Let’s stand firm with our brother Judah during this time violence.

*WARNING: Some viewers may find the following content disturbing*

Blood Moons, Shemitah Year, and the Feasts of YHVH: The Importance of Living in Torah

From the Summoned by the King Women’s Conference on October 3, 2015
PowerPoint Slides: Blood Moons, Shemitah Year, and the Feasts of YHVH