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How God Saved the Jewish People

Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, placed his reputation and political career on the line to warn the U.S. Congress of the dangers of a nuclear Iran. His historic speech on March 3rd just happened to take place one day before the start of the Jewish holiday of Purim. The meaning of this was clear to many Christians and Jews, that history had come full circle, and Netanyahu stood as an Esther, pleading with the leaders of the United States to stop this evil Haman, in ancient Persia, and his plans to annihilate Israel.

The Jewish people have at various times faced threats so serious they were considered “existential”—a threat to their very existence. For example, the Jews of Europe are now questioning their future on the continent due to rising anti-Semitism, and many scholars are proclaiming there is no future for Jews there anymore.

They are now joining a long list of persecuted Jewish communities who, over the last 150 years, have been forced to abandon centuries of historic ties in other lands, and return to their ancient homeland where they could at least defend themselves and secure their own future. As a result, the largest Jewish community in the world now resides in Israel, but faces a very serious existential threat of its own from Iran.

Modern day Hamans in Iran—ancient Persia-- are devising an evil plot to annihilate Israel while building the nuclear and conventional weapons capable of doing so. One cannot help but see the eerie parallels between this current situation and the story in the book of Esther, in which the largest Jewish community of her time was also under a threat of annihilation.

As Jews around the world are reading the book of Esther this month, and celebrating the miraculous Purim story, it is a good time to apply some key elements of the story to our day.

The Seriousness of the Plot

There have been a number of Hamans throughout history who have threatened and even attempted the annihilation of the Jewish people. One would have to concede that Adolf Hitler was a perfect example of a modern Haman.

The seriousness of the threat in the book of Esther was amplified by the fact that the bulk of the Jews of that day lived in the Persian Empire. If Haman had succeeded in killing the Jews of Persia, it would have ended the existence of the Jewish people altogether. There would have been no one to later return and rebuild Jerusalem such as we read about in the book of Nehemiah.

There would have been no Jewish people left to birth the Messiah, Jesus, who came in fulfillment of God’s promises to their fathers. God’s plan would have failed and it would have been all over. For this reason, we should all be celebrating the miraculous deliverance of the Jews of Persia along with our Jewish friends during Purim this month.
The fact that today’s Haman is found in the very same geographic location as the first one – ancient Persia—does give one pause. History seems to have come full circle and that in itself should have our full attention.

Esther

God is never mentioned in the book of Esther, yet His hand can be seen busy at work in many elements of the story. Most notably is the way He used the courageous Jewish girl, Hadassah, who became Queen Esther. She risked her life to go before the King and uncover the plot of Haman, a man who was so powerful the people of Persia had to bow down to him and pay homage. She knew that if her plan failed, it would not only mean her death, but that of her people.

However, the King accepted her request for an audience, and granted her anything she asked. Esther was then faced with a grave dilemma: how to stop the execution of Haman’s plan. Haman had issued the royal decree, sealed with the King’s signet ring, that in all provinces of the Persian Empire, from India to Ethiopia, the Jews were to be killed on a specific day. The King’s royal decree was law and could not be rescinded.

The Right of Self Defense

There was no changing the fact that the Jewish people were going to be attacked, so a new royal decree was issued giving them the right of self-defense. And that is how the Jewish people survived the plan of Haman. They fought back.

Today, the people of Israel have also been granted the right of self-defense when they established a state and were accepted into the United Nations in 1948. While Israel is pleading with the United States, and indeed the international community, to place enough pressure on Iran to make them give up their evil plan, it increasingly seems as if, once again, the Jewish people’s only recourse will be that of self-defense.

Calling all Mordecais

Esther was not the only heroin of the story; in fact, Mordecai was just as essential to God’s plan. It was Mordecai, a good loyal citizen, who uncovered a plot against the King and saved the empire. He seemed to be a man of intelligence who had discernment and his “ear to the ground.”

He wisely counseled his niece, Hadassah, not to reveal her Jewishness in the competition to be Queen. And it was Mordecai who alerted Queen Esther to Haman’s plan and pleaded with her not to consider her own life, but that of her people. At the end of the story, Mordecai was elevated to Haman’s previous position and given authority to use the King’s seal. It was Mordecai who issued the royal decree granting the right of self-defense to the Jews of Persia.

The people of Israel desperately need Mordecais and Esthers today who have discernment, strategy and are willing to speak up. Since the United States is a democracy, all citizens can be Mordecais and Esthers by contacting their elected representatives to make their voices known.


Do you have a question about Israel? Visit us at IsraelAnswers.com and get it answered!


For more than thirty years, Susan Michael has pioneered the development of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem in the United States and around the world. She currently serves as the ministry’s USA Director and is a member of the ICEJ’s international Board of Directors.

Celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles

For 35 years some 5,000-8,000 Christians have travelled from over 100 nations to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. The biblical holiday, which lasts for seven days, commemorates God’s supernatural provision for the Israelites during their wilderness wanderings and celebrates God’s provision. Why do Christians come to Jerusalem to celebrate this Jewish feast?

 

 

 

The feast of Passover was the most familiar one that commemorated the Jewish people’s freedom from the bondage of slavery in Egypt and the deliverance of their firstborn from death through the blood of the lamb painted on their doorposts. Since Jesus’ sacrificial death for the sins of the world occurred during Passover, this is a Jewish feast which has a Christian fulfillment and broad general awareness within Christian circles.

The second feast is that of Shavuot or Pentecost. Shavuot means “weeks” in Hebrew. It is seven weeks or 50 days after the first day of Passover and was translated to “Pentecost” in Greek. It was during this festival some 2,000 years ago that God poured out the Holy Spirit upon the believers gathered in prayer. Many churches celebrate Pentecost Sunday, however with minimal understanding of the Jewish feast of Shavuot that the early believers were celebrating when the Holy Spirit fell.

A feast with future fulfillment
 

The third great feast is the Feast of Tabernacles, which is known even less by churches because it does not have a corresponding Christian event as its fulfillment. The problem is that the Feast of Tabernacles is a forward looking feast with a future fulfillment. It is the only one of the three feasts that will be celebrated during the Messianic era, and by the gentiles as well, according to Zechariah 14.

The Watsons and their colleagues felt that it was time for Christians to understand this third great feast and what it meant. So in 1980 the first international Christian Celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles took place in Jerusalem and was attended by some 1,000 Christians from a number of countries. It was at this Feast that the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ)was launched.

For 35 years the ICEJ’s celebration has annually drawn some 5,000-8,000 Christians and they have come from over 100 nations. This celebration is now expected to grow even larger thanks to a new, larger arena in Jerusalem that can accommodate thousands more. While this annual celebration is not a fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy, it is clearly an indication that the days of Zechariah are approaching.

 


Celebrating God’s provision



The word “Tabernacles” in Hebrew is Sukkoth, which means “booths” and refers to the temporary dwellings that the Jewish people lived in during the wilderness wanderings and are commanded to live in during this holiday. The biblical holiday lasts for seven days and has dual significance: commemorating God’s supernatural provision for the Israelites during their wilderness wanderings and celebrating the current year’s harvest—another sign of God’s provision. As a result, it is the one feast of the year when the Jewish people are commanded to rejoice! There is also rich symbolism in Feast traditions that indicate God’s beckoning of the nations.

 

Celebrating the Kingdom of God

 

 

It has been said that redemptive history has three segments. There is a Passover segment from Moses to Jesus. There is a Pentecost segment in which we are now living when the Spirit of God is being poured out and the harvest is being gathered from every nation of the world.

The final great segment of human history will be the Tabernacles segment. After the Messiah’s feet stand on the Mount of Olives, His visible kingdom will break in on the world. This will be the age of Tabernacles, and it will be an age of unparalleled joy over the largest harvest of souls the world has ever seen, their deliverance from the power of evil, and the arrival of the Kingdom of God on earth.

Christians now understand that the Feast of Tabernacles is an opportunity to celebrate the Kingdom which is in individual hearts now while looking forward to the joyous time spoken of in Revelation 21:3 when God will “tabernacle with men.”


Susan M. Michael is US Director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.  Her writings can be found at www.icejusa.org/susans-blog” 


The Rest of the Hanukkah Story

The story of Hanukkah takes place during the period in-between the Old and New Testaments, when Antiochus IV Epiphanes became the King of the Hellenistic Seleucid empire. While the Hellenization of the region, including Judea, already threatened the survival of the Jewish religion, Antiochus seemed obsessed with ensuring the demise of the Jewish faith and thereby, the future of the Jewish people.

He not only murdered the High Priest, Onias III, but he slaughtered 40,000 inhabitants of Jerusalem. All sacrifices, the service of the Temple, and the observance of the Sabbath and feast days were prohibited. The Temple was dedicated to Zeus, the Holy Scriptures were destroyed, and the Jews were forced to take part in heathen rites.

In his attempt to destroy every trace of the Jewish religion, the final assault was the slaughter of a pig on the sacrificial altar of the Temple, thereby desecrating it. The Maccabean family, from the priestly line of Aaron, led a revolt against this evil ruler and miraculously experienced victory after victory over the mighty Greek forces, until at last the Temple could be purified and its services restored.

As I noted in my article “What Jesus Understood About Hanukkah,” the revolt against the forces of Hellenization actually saved the Jewish people from extinction because they would have assimilated into the pagan culture around them. This preservation of Judaism and the rededication of the Temple helped set the stage for the birth of Jesus into a traditional orthodox Jewish home in Judea. It is no surprise that He went to the Temple for Hanukkah - the Feast of Dedication - in John 10. 

The End of Antiochus and His Empire

But wait, there is more to the story. The rededication of the Temple took place on the 25th day of Kislev, which was December 14, 164BC. Within weeks, if not days, the evil Antiochus IV Epiphanes died suddenly. The Greek historian Polybius said that Antiochus was on an expedition to the eastern part of the empire to rob another temple when he died of a sudden illness and “certain manifestations of divine displeasure.”

Polybius hints at the very real possibility that the King suffered judgment by God. Whether he understood it to be the God of the Jews we do not know. The non-canonical book of 2nd Maccabees claims that he did. But, his sudden death is just one example out of many of the demise of those who have come against the Jewish people. Upon the king’s death, the Seleucid kingdom began to weaken and fell into irreparable decline. 

The Israel Test

The Bible is clear that God will judge the nations over their treatment of the Jewish people. Both Old and New Testaments teach this, and the principal has been played out over and over throughout history.

The most obvious explanation is the Jewish people are very special to Him. He did not just choose them, but created them through Sarah who was past child-bearing years, and He takes their treatment by others very seriously.

More than this, God uses Israel to test the hearts of the nations, thereby exposing either their goodness, which leads to blessing, or their evil intent, which leads to judgement. Some have likened Israel to litmus paper that when dipped into water shows whether the water is acidic or alkaline. Israel exposes what is in the heart of people.

George Gilder, a venture-capitalist businessman, proposes in his book The Israel Test that Israel presents a moral and ethical challenge to the world and therefore has become the ultimate fault line. At the root of the Israel Test is the knowledge that Israel is contributing more to the human cause through its scientific, technological and financial advances than any other country in the world, except the US. He predicts that over the next two decades, Israel will grow into the dominant economy in the Middle East and one of the most productive economies in the world.

This is the test that Israel presents to the world: what is your attitude towards people who excel you in the creation of wealth or in other accomplishments? Do you aspire to their excellence, or do you seethe at it? Do you admire and celebrate exceptional achievement, or do you impugn it and seek to tear it down?

God is using Israel to test the hearts of the nations and their future will be determined by how they respond. Could it be that the same test is at operation within the Church?

In Romans 11, the Apostle Paul addresses the attitude of the Roman church towards the Jewish people. He warned the believers to make sure their attitude was humble and honoring of the Jewish people. He even cautioned them about possible judgment by God if their attitude was not right. A church that honors its Hebraic roots, as wild branches that are grafted into the olive tree, receives great strength and nourishment. To dishonor the very root that supports our faith brings spiritual decline and even death.

Antiochus IV Epiphanes failed the Israel Test and his kingdom is long gone. Others throughout history have also fallen short on the test and experienced decline and extinction. My prayer is that our nation and our churches pass the Israel Test, exhibiting good hearts, and experience the many blessings God has promised.


Susan M. Michael is US Director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.  Her writings can be found at www.icejusa.org/susans-blog” 

When Jesus Attended the Feast of Tabernacles

For centuries Christian churches had little appreciation for the biblical Feast of Tabernacles. They understood Passover was the foundation for Jesus’ atoning death on the cross, and they understood Pentecost, or the Feast of Weeks, was a Jewish feast on which the Holy Spirit was poured out on the early church. But, there was no Christian fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles for them to celebrate.

This is because the Feast of Tabernacles is a forward looking Feast with a yet future fulfillment. The founders of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) understood this and how that the prophet Zechariah had foretold of a day when all the nations of the world would celebrate the fulfillment of this Feast. Therefore, they began an annual Christian celebration in Jerusalem in 1980. Some thirty-six years later churches all around the world now celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles in anticipation of its ultimate fulfillment when Jesus returns and the Kingdom of God is established in our midst.

Jesus also celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles and we read about that in John 7 – 9. While there, He used the special ceremonies taking place around Him to point the people to Himself as the ultimate fulfillment.

He Offered Living Waters

Each day of the seven-day Feast began with a water-drawing ritual which was a great time of rejoicing over God’s provision of water for the crops that year and of the Holy Spirit which would provide personal refreshment. A priest would take a golden pitcher and lead a musical procession to the pool of Siloam where he plunged the pitcher into the waters while reciting “Therefore, with joy you shall draw water from the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3).

Jerusalem’s sole water supply was from this pool and the Gihon Spring that feeds it. Therefore, water was precious. Yet, the priest returned to the Temple with the golden pitcher of water and began to pour it out over the altar while reciting “Hosanna, I pray, O Lord… send now prosperity!” (Psalm 118:25). The pouring of the water symbolized the pouring out of the Holy Spirit and was followed by a great silence that descended on the sanctuary as the people reflected upon the Holy Spirit–the only true refreshment for their thirsty souls.

This ritual took place every day but on the seventh day it took on an intensity filled with excitement and anticipation. It was on that day that Jesus “stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me, and drink’” (John 7:37). In this context it was clear to the people that He was inviting them to accept Him as the one who would give them the “living waters” of salvation (John 4:10).

He Proclaimed Eternal Light

Another fascinating ceremony associated with the Feast of Tabernacles involved lights. Each afternoon four huge menorahs illuminated the court of the Temple and the pious men would dance before the lamps with burning torches in their hands. It is said that the light from these menorahs was so bright it penetrated every courtyard in Jerusalem. This festivity would last all night until dawn.

The light of the menorahs had two meanings: the first was symbolizing the Glory of God that had filled the first Temple (I Kings 8:10-11). The second was anticipating the “Great Light” who would soon come and bring light to those who were spiritually dead and dwelling in darkness (Isaiah 9:2).

Perhaps it was during the light celebration, or when the lights were extinguished on the eighth day, that Jesus said for all to hear, “I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12). The crowd understood that Jesus was proclaiming that He is the Great Light who Isaiah said would come, and is God in the flesh–the Glory of the Temple (John 1:14).

He Affirmed Who He Was

The eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles was called the “Last Good Day.” It was a Sabbath day, designed for rest and reflection on all that had been celebrated during the previous seven-day festival. On this day Jesus came to the Temple and healed a blind man by anointing his eyes with clay and then sending him to the pool of Siloam to wash (John 9:7).

With this miracle Jesus validated everything He had said and done during the Feast. By doing the impossible, He proved He was God in the flesh–the true dispenser of the Holy Spirit and the only source of light and life.


Susan M. Michael is US Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.
 

THE MOTHER OF US ALL

Hebrews 11 is the well-known New Testament Hall of Fame—or as some call it, Hall of Faith— because it lists the great heroes of the Old Testament who exhibited extraordinary faith. One such hero is Abraham.

We are familiar with Abraham’s story and the great faith he exhibited when he obeyed the voice of God and left his home, not knowing where he was going. He then lived in the land God promised to him by faith—as a pilgrim in temporary dwellings. His greatest act of faith was offering up his son Isaac, even though the Lord had told Abraham it would be through Isaac that his seed would continue. Abraham believed God would raise his son from the dead.

Often overlooked, however, is verse 11 of this chapter, which extolls Sarah’s great faith that bestowed on her the ability to conceive when she was past childbearing age. Indeed, she was already 65 years old when God made His initial promise to Abraham and was 90 by the time the child was born. She nevertheless knew that He who had made this promise to her was faithful and would keep it.

Not only did the apostle Paul call Abraham the “father of us all” who believe (Romans 4:16), but in Galatians 4:26 he implied that Sarah is “the mother of us all.” To understand how this can be, we must first understand the significance of the covenant God made with Abraham, and through him, his wife, Sarah.

The Pivotal Moment in the Biblical Story

The first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis set the stage for a pivotal moment that occurs in chapter 12. The backdrop is the detestable and hopeless condition of fallen mankind. But, in Genesis 12:1–3 a light is seen at the end of the tunnel. This is the moment when God spoke to Abraham and initiated His plan to redeem this fallen world.

The entire Bible hinges on that moment and, in fact, only makes sense once we grasp what God was announcing to Abraham. God told Abraham He would lead him to a land and he would become a great nation that would bless all of the families of the earth. The apostle Paul declared that the third verse of Genesis 12 which says, “In you all the families of the earth will be blessed,” was the first preaching of the gospel (Galatians 3:8). According to Paul, Genesis 12:3 refers to the great redemption that would be won for the world through the Christ, the Seed of Abraham, the Messiah of Israel.

But the plan hinged upon Abraham having a child—and his wife, Sarah, was barren. Though she was not named in the covenant, she was an integral part of it. She, too, would play a crucial role in the birthing of a nation that will bring about the great redemption of mankind and the blessing of all the nations. Her loving relationship with Abraham, which had caused her to give up everything and follow him to a land where they would live in tents as aliens, would produce a lineage that would change the world.

It All Depended on Sarah

And, so, she waited, for ten years. With each year that passed, Sarah must have felt more and more guilty. God had made such wonderful promises to her husband, but because she was barren, they were not coming to pass. She was the unnamed but implied partner in the covenant, and upon whom the covenant hinged—but by whom it was being blocked. Perhaps she felt like a complete failure.

Many a sermon has been preached about Abraham and Sarah’s lack of faith that caused them to devise the carnal plan of a surrogate mistress. However, the Bible never scolds them for losing faith; instead, they are memorialized in the Hebrews 11 Hall of Faith. They believed what God had promised would come to pass! Their error was concluding He would do it some other way than through Sarah, Abraham’s wife.

Their carnal minds probably reasoned God had never specifically said the child would come through Sarah. In fact, it was not until 13 years after Ishmael’s birth to Hagar that God explicitly stated the promised son would be through Sarah and would be named Isaac. At that point, Sarah was no longer an unrecognized party in the covenant. She had been called out by name. What should have been obvious from the start had finally been stated unequivocally: the child would come from Abraham’s wife.

Promise Fulfilled

Some 25 years after the promise was first given in Genesis 12, Sarah gave birth to Isaac at the age of 90. God’s plan all along was that Sarah would have her first and only son in her old age when it was humanly impossible. In this way, God would show His power, and there would be no doubt that this was His doing in fulfillment of His promise and His covenant.

Hence, from this point, the biblical record begins to tell the story of the nation God birthed through Abraham and Sarah, and through which He gave to the world the great redemptive products of the covenants, the law, the promises, and Christ Jesus the Messiah. Through Jesus’ atoning death the price was paid, and consequently, redemption has now been offered to all of the families of the earth.

Abraham and Sarah did not just birth a physical nation, but a family of believers. Through faith in Christ Jesus, we are Abraham’s spiritual seed and heirs to the promises; we have been grafted into the family tree of faithful followers. We, too, can call Abraham “father,” and Sarah, “our mother.”


Susan M. Michael is USA Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. Her writings can be found at www.icejusa.org/susans-blog.

What Jesus Understood About Hanukkah

A common understanding of the December holiday season is that Christmas is the holiday for Christians and Hanukkah is the holiday for Jews. Few Christians relate to Hanukkah since it is not one of the biblical feasts of Israel. But, the fact that Jesus celebrated Hanukkah should make Christians curious enough to investigate the possible importance of the festival to their faith.

It is no exaggeration to say that had it not been for Hanukkah, there could have very well not been a Christmas. Hanukkah prepared the way for the birth and ministry of Jesus. Therefore, Christians may want to not only wish the Jewish community a Happy Hanukkah, but celebrate it themselves! 

God Gives the Victory

The story of Hanukkah begins during the period in-between the Old and New Testaments, when Antiochus IV Epiphanes became the ruler of the Seleucid empire. While the Hellenization of the area already threatened the survival of the Jewish religion, Antiochus seemed obsessed with ensuring the demise of the Jewish faith and thereby, the future of the Jewish people.

He not only murdered the High Priest, Onias III, but he slaughtered 40,000 inhabitants of Jerusalem. All sacrifices, the service of the Temple, and the observance of the Sabbath and of feast days were prohibited. The Temple was dedicated to Zeus, the Holy Scriptures were destroyed, and the Jews were forced to take part in heathen rites.

In his attempt to destroy every trace of the Jewish religion, the final assault was the slaughter of a pig on the sacrificial altar of the Temple, thereby desecrating it. The Maccabean family, from the priestly line of Aaron, led a revolt against this evil ruler and miraculously experienced victory after victory over the mighty Greek forces, until at last the Temple could be purified and its services restored.

This rededication of the Temple to the God of Israel is celebrated during Hanukkah, originally known as the Festival of Dedication. Hanukkah is a Hebrew word derived from the word “to dedicate.”

The defeat of the Greek forces by this small band of Jewish zealots was nothing short of a miracle. God had once again demonstrated His steadfast love and faithfulness to His people by saving them from the threat of extinction. This in itself is cause enough for celebration!

The story goes on to claim that when the Jews re-entered the city of Jerusalem and the Temple, there was only enough of the special oil to light the Temple menorah and keep it burning for one day. But, the oil miraculously burned for eight days while more was being brought from the Galilee—an eight day trip there and back.

The story of the miracle oil is nowhere found in the inter-Testamental writings, therefore it is largely believed to be a legend, however, the very first Hanukkah was indeed celebrated for eight days, and the festival was called the festival of lights as early as the first century. Perhaps archeology will one day uncover a clue to the story’s authenticity. 

A Turning Point in History

The events leading up to the Maccabean revolt were prophesied in vivid detail in the Old Testament book of Daniel. In chapter 8, the Angel Gabriel described to the prophet Daniel the coming abomination of a king who would put a stop to sacrifices and desecrate the sanctuary. 

The fact that it was prophesied some 250 years before it occurred indicates how serious the threat was to the Jewish people. The Maccabean revolt was a turning point in history that saved the Jewish people and their religion from the threat of extinction.

This story, and the various archeological finds that support it, provide further proof as to the existence of the Temple in Jerusalem. So, while Israel’s modern-day enemies attempt to rewrite history and distort fact by denying the Temple ever existed in Jerusalem, the celebration of the Hanukkah story takes on new meaning. 

Jesus and Hanukkah

In John's Gospel, chapter 10, Jesus entered the Temple during the Feast of Dedication. He would have surely known the story behind the Feast and that the Temple He stood in would not have been in operation without it.

Christians today would also do well to remember the faithfulness of God to the Jews on that first Hanukkah. Had Antiochus succeeded to annihilate the nation of Israel, there would have been no Jewish woman named Mary to become the mother of Jesus Christ.

There would have also been no Temple for the beginning of the Christmas story. Luke 1 starts the nativity story in the Temple with an angel announcing to the priest Zacharias that his wife would give birth to John the Baptist. It is no coincidence that God chose to begin the Christmas story in the Temple, the heart of Jewish life and faith at the time.

Without Hanukkah, the celebration of Christ’s birth could very well have not been possible. So as you wish friends and family Merry Christmas this year, you might also like to wish them Happy Hanukkah! 


Susan M. Michael is US Director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.  Her writings can be found at www.icejusa.org/susans-blog” 

The Passover Lamb

Passover is known as the Festival of Redemption, because it commemorates the children of Israel’s freedom from slavery in Egypt some 3,500 years ago.

We know the story in Exodus well: God chooses Moses and sends him to tell Pharaoh to “let My people go.” Pharaoh refuses and Egypt is visited with ten different plagues that practically destroy the nation. The last plague is the death of the firstborn male of every family.

The Lord uses this plague to teach the children of Israel the principal of redemption through a substitute. He instructs them to choose a young male lamb or goat on the tenth day of the month of Nisan and observe their lambs for three days to ensure they are without blemish. Then, on the fourteenth day of the month they were to slay the lamb and place the blood on the doorposts and lintels of their houses. That evening, when God saw the blood, the plague would pass over those dwellings and would not strike that home.

On the night of that first Passover, all the firstborn in Egypt were under the sentence of death. However, if the Israelites followed God’s instructions, the lambs became their substitutes. God said “When I see the blood, I will pass over you” (Exod. 12:13).

He also instructed them to roast the meat of the lamb in fire and to eat it along with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. The Passover Seder meal enjoyed by Jews today takes those original elements, and a number of others, transforming the meal from a somber time of dread into a joyous celebration of that great deliverance.

A LAMB WITHOUT BLEMISH

Passover became one of three major feasts during which the men of Israel were to make pilgrimage to Jerusalem for its celebration. There they would present their lamb to the priests in the Temple on the 10th of Nisan for inspection and approval. The lamb was then taken home and observed for the next three days to be sure it was perfect, without defect.

Jesus went to Jerusalem for Passover, as did thousands of others, even though He knew what awaited Him there. His Palm Sunday triumphal entry to Jerusalem, followed by His appearance in the Temple, may have, quite prophetically, been on that day of inspection of the Passover lambs.

John the Baptist, a Levite, had already declared Jesus to be the Lamb of God at His baptism when he said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). The Apostle Paul later wrote that we are redeemed by “the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (I Peter 1:19), and in I Corinthians he said “Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (I Cor. 5:7-8).

A SACRIFICIAL LAMB

When the 14th day of Nisan arrived, it was time to observe Passover, so Jesus instructed the disciples how to find the place where they would eat the Passover meal together. They were told to go into the city and find a man carrying a pitcher of water and follow him to his master’s house where there would be a large upper room for them to use. They were to prepare the Passover meal there. Scripture does not tell us what was involved in the preparation of the Passover meal and assumes we know that in addition to preparing the unleavened bread, wine, and bitter herbs, there was the task of killing a sacrificial lamb at the Temple (Mark 14:12).

On that day, the Temple would have been filled with worshippers, each bringing their family’s lamb. At the threefold blast of the priests’ trumpets, the lambs were slain and their blood spilled into a golden bowl and passed up to the great altar. While this was being carried out, the Levites chanted the “Hallel” which is Psalm 113-118. The Hallel ended with the crowd of worshippers proclaiming the last two verses aloud, Psalm 118:25-26.

Hosanna,” or “Save now,” was what the throngs had also cried out earlier when the Lamb of God, who would be slain for the sins of the world, had passed by them on His way to the Temple.

[“Hosanna”] Save now, I pray, O Lord;
O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity,
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
(Psalm 118:25-26)

A SUBMISSIVE LAMB

The prophet Isaiah had prophesied that the Messiah would be like a lamb: submissive even while being led to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7). Jesus did suffer silently before the religious and civil authorities and gave no defense for Himself as they interrogated Him (Matt. 27:12-14).

Jesus fulfilled all of the requirements of the perfect Passover Lamb of God. No wonder the Apostle John saw in his vision of heaven the angels crying out: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!” (Rev. 5:12).  

- by Susan Michael, US Director

Passover appeal


Susan M. Michael is US Director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.  Her writings can be found at www.icejusa.org/susans-blog” 

A New Chapter in the Hanukkah Story

The story of Hanukkah is often told with an emphasis on the evil ruler, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, King of the Hellenistic Seleucid empire, who was bent on the Hellenization of the Jewish people. Had he succeeded it would have meant the demise of the Jewish faith and thereby, the Jewish people. God’s plan to bring salvation to the world through their Messiah would have died with them.

In his attempt to force the Jews into compliance, Antiochus IV slaughtered 40,000 inhabitants of Jerusalem; murdered the High Priest; and prohibited sacrifices, the service of the Temple, and the observance of the Sabbath and feast days. The Temple was dedicated to Zeus, and then desecrated with the slaughter of a pig on the sacrificial altar.

The Maccabean family, from the priestly line of Aaron, led a revolt and miraculously experienced victory after victory over the mighty Greek forces until, at last, the Temple could be purified and its services restored. Hanukkah is known as the Feast of Dedication because it commemorates the cleansing and rededication of the Temple to the God of Israel. Its symbol is the Temple Menorah which allegedly burned miraculously for eight days on just a small amount of oil.

Ancient Means of Control

This story, however, is about more than an evil ruler. He was imposing the ruling culture and ideologies of the empire upon the Jews, including paganism and an immoral pagan society; as well as the Greek language; culture; and ruling philosophies of reason, humanism and pursuit of knowledge. This is how kings subdued and controlled the people in their kingdoms.

In the ancient world, Jews often clashed with pagan rulers such as Antiochus Epiphanes, who demanded obedience to them and homage to their gods as a means of proving one’s loyalty. The Jewish people could not bow down to these pagan leaders, nor their gods, and were bound by the Mosaic Law to certain behaviors and observances that set them apart from other societies and brought upon them great persecution, exiles, and threats of extinction.

Modern Imposition of Ideologies

A new chapter in the Hanukkah story is being written today—godless world leaders are attempting to impose on all of us the ideologies of secularism, globalism, and moral relativism. Once these ideologies take hold, the masses can then be easily controlled, because they will have no loyalty to a religious creed, national identity, or moral code.

Israel, a Jewish nation-state, is antithetical to all three of these modern ideologies. Therefore, its Jewish national identity is accused of being racist by secular globalists. The very nation that gave to the world the Ten Commandments, on which Western civilization bases its legal code and definition of morality, is hated by those attempting to impose their ideology of moral relativism: the belief that there is no objective right or wrong, truth or falsehood, nor good or evil.

The seemingly contradictory part of this secular movement is that its proponents are not just tolerating but are assisting in the global dominance of Islam—a religion with a very strict legal and moral code that it seeks to impose on the world, especially upon the secularist “infidels!” There is only one explanation for this strange alliance and that is deep down, both movements share something in common: they are both anti-Christian and anti-Semitic at heart.

UNESCO Imposing Islamic Ideology

In this context, the recent attempt by the United Nations Educational, Science, and Cultural Committee (UNESCO) to deny the historical and biblical connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem and, indeed, all the land of Israel begins to make sense. The Arab voting block and their secular, globalist cohorts in the UN, ignore what is a written and historical record of ownership by the Jews.

Islam teaches that the Jewish and Christian Bibles are corrupted. Therefore, Muslims completely disregard biblical accounts proving Jewish ties to the land of Israel, including the city of Jerusalem, and most importantly, the Temple Mount.

This is in spite of the fact, the biblical record has been backed by one archaeological find after another proving not only the existence of the Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount, but a 3,000 year history of Jews in the city of Jerusalem. Islamic groups bent on taking over Israel, therefore, prefer to destroy archaeological remains than allow them to prove a historical record that stands in their way.

This history, however, is not just found in the Bible, or in archaeological finds, but in historical Ottoman Empire decrees, and in many Muslim writings. The truth of the matter is, that to destroy all evidence of the existence of the Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount, they would also have to destroy Muslim artifacts such as the recently excavated central mosque in the village of Nuba near Hebron. Inside is a thousand-year-old Arabic inscription that calls the Dome of the Rock "Bait al-Maqdess," the Arabicized version of “Beit Hamikdash,” the Hebrew name for the Temple.

This is the new chapter in the Hanukkah story: leading world powers attempting to deny the Jewish people their Bible, history, faith, and holy sites. Because they won’t comply, they are demonized and threatened with extinction.

The Jewish Bible is Our Bible

Christians need to stand up on behalf of Israel and the Jewish people because their Bible and history of faith is also ours. If we do not speak up and stop these attempts to rewrite biblical and historical fact, we will one day wake up to the reality that Evangelical Christians are next on the list of undesirables.

The Hanukkah story is a reminder that when we stand up against the mighty powers of our day, we do so not in our own strength, but with God’s help. No matter how hard it may look, we can expect to take back lost territory and rededicate ourselves and our nations to the God of the Bible. He will give us the power to become a light—like a Hanukkah Menorah—shining forth into a dark world, bringing hope and truth to those with hearts to receive it. 


Susan M. Michael is US Director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.  Her writings can be found at www.icejusa.org/susans-blog” 

 

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