Sukkot 5779

The Ultimate Sukkah

We interrupt our series on Eliyahu once again to consider the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. This is the third and last of the traditional Fall Holy Days. In 2018, the festival of Sukkot – the Feast of Tabernacles, begins at sundown on Sunday, September 23rd.

Sukkot is the third of the great annual pilgrimage festivals (Vayikra 23:33-43). Each year, all adult Jewish males were required to go up to Jerusalem to celebrate the feasts of Matzah, Shavuot, and Sukkot. The festival is also called the “feast of ingathering” (Sh’mot 23:16; D’varim 16:13). It is celebrated immediately after the harvest, in the month Tishri, and the celebration lasts for eight days (Vayikra 23:33-43). During this period the people leave their homes and live in a sukkah, a temporary dwelling, formed of the branches of trees as a memorial of the wilderness wanderings when the people dwelt in sukkot (Vayikra 23:43).

Typical Backyard Sukkah

Like Thanksgiving Day in the United States, Sukkot is a time of feasting, rejoicing, and giving thanks to God for His bountiful gifts (D’varim 16:13-15). It is widely believed that the Puritan colonists, who were great students of the Hebrew Scriptures, based on the first American Thanksgiving on Sukkot.

We are to “rejoice before the Lord God” during all the time of this feast (Vayikra 23:40). The tradition of the Jewish people is that they were to express their joy by dancing and singing hymns of praise to God, with musical instruments.

Sukkot (the plural form of sukkah) are temporary dwellings, many with canvas walls. The roof is made of natural materials such as bamboo, corn stalks, or other greenery, usually supported by a few wooden beams. It provides more shade than sun, but you can still see the sky through it and the stars at night.

Today, as in the Second Temple days, we still wave the lulav (palm branch) and etrog (citron) as mandated in the Torah. The lulav is made of a palm branch, arava (willow), and hadas (myrtle). The etrog is a citron. Together the lulav and the etrog are referred to as the Four Species.

Of all the feasts of the Lord, Sukkot best illustrates the fact that God would dwell in the midst of His people through the presence of the Messiah (John 1:14). He may have fulfilled His promise on the very day of Sukkot. We don’t know the exact date of Yeshua’s birth. But we do know; it indeed wasn’t December 25th. For me, there is sufficient evidence to corroborate that Yeshua’s first coming came on Sukkot.

Sukkot pictures the future kingdom God has prepared for Israel when Messiah returns (see Zechariah 12:10-13:1; Isaiah 35; Luke 1:67-80). The Prophet Zechariah described the changes that will take place in the topography of the holy land and how the Gentile nations will celebrate Sukkot along with the Jewish people (see Zechariah 14:16-19).

For Israel, the best is yet to come! The scattered people will be gathered; the sinful people will be cleansed; the sorrowing people will rejoice. And for Messianic Believers, the best is yet to come; for we shall be together with the Lord and His people, every stain washed away, rejoicing in His presence.

Sukkot has always been known as the appointed time that commemorates God dwelling with His people. How fitting for the Kingdom of God, when it entirely comes to the redeemed earth, to be considered the ultimate fulfillment of this appointed time. God himself will finally dwell with His people in all His fullness. The Sukkah of God will be among men when Messiah Yeshua resides as the ruler of the 1000-year Messianic Kingdom!

All the Feasts of the Lord have their particular lessons to teach. Because of its latter-day fulfillment, Sukkot seems to be the apex of all the other appointed times of God. The goal of God’s plan is ultimately the establishment of His Kingdom here on earth. This explains why, of all the appointed times, Sukkot is said to be the premier celebration of the Millennium.

As the Prophet Zechariah has told us in Chapter 14, in the last days all nations will be gathered against Jerusalem. They will take the city and plunder it. (Zechariah 14:1, 2) The Lord will then take charge of His people; He will appear upon the Mount of Olives. By splitting this mountain, He will prepare a safe way for the rescue of those that remain. He will come with all His saints (Zechariah 14:3-5) to complete His kingdom.

The other pilgrimage feasts (Matzah and Shavuot) have been fulfilled, but the Feast of Tabernacles – Sukkot finds its fulfillment during the millennial kingdom of the Messiah (Vayikra 23:33-44; B’midbar 16:13-15; 31:10; Nehemiah 8:17, 18; Revelation 20:1-6).

The remnant of the nations will turn to the Lord and come yearly to Jerusalem, to keep the feast of Sukkot (Zechariah 14:16-19). Can’t you imagine it? The feast of the Millennium! What a party that will be! This feast will be kept by all who have come to believe in Messiah, to thank the Lord for His grace in that He has brought them out of the wanderings of this life into the blessedness of His kingdom of peace.

In the perfected kingdom of God there will be no more sinners, but only those who are righteous and holy. This is affirmed in the last clause of Zechariah’s prophecy: “there will be no merchants anymore in the house of Adonai.” (v. 21)

Thus, does Zechariah’s prophesy close with a prospect of the completion of the kingdom of God in glory. All believing commentators are agreed that the final fulfillment of Zechariah 14:20-21 lies before us in Revelation 21 and 22.

According to Isaiah, God has promised His people a new heaven and a new earth (see Isaiah 65:17; 66:22). The old creation must make way for the new creation if God is to be glorified.

Indeed, many interesting questions could be asked about our future abode in heaven, but most must go unanswered until we reach our glorious home. John closed his book by reminding us that we have responsibilities today because we are going to heaven.

Sukkot has always known as the appointed time that commemorates God dwelling with his people. How fitting for the Kingdom of God, when it fully comes to the redeemed earth, to be considered the ultimate fulfillment of this holy day. God, Himself will finally dwell with His people in all His fullness. The Sukkah of God will be among men when Messiah Yeshua tabernacles with us as the ruler of the 1000-year Messianic Kingdom!

What a celebration there will be as His people, both Jews and Gentiles, wave the lulav and chant, Ana Adonai Hoshiana! (Lord, do save us!) Amen. Come quickly, Lord Yeshua! Come and dwell in Your Ultimate Sukkah!

In my next post, we will return to our series on Eliyahu.

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Yom Kippur – 5779

The Day of Atonement

In this post, we take a break from the series on Eliyahu to observe the second of the fall Jewish feasts of Yom Kippur.

In 2018, Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement begins at sundown on September 18th. The Tanakh says that the blood of the sacrifice is given to make atonement. The Hebrew words translated as “atonement” in English are Kippur (noun) and Kaspar (verb). The root occurs about 150 times in the Tanakh and is intimately linked with forgiveness of sin and with reconciliation to God. What does “atonement” mean?

Atonement means making amends, blotting out the offense, and giving satisfaction for wrong done; thus reconciling to oneself the alienated other and restoring the disrupted relationship.

Vayikra (Leviticus) 16 provides detailed instructions for a unique sacrifice to be offered once a year, on the tenth day of the seventh month – Tishri. On that day the whole community of Israel was to gather at the Tabernacle (and later, the Temple) to fast and to pray. The high priest followed carefully prescribed steps and entered the Especially Holy Place (Holy of Holies), bringing the blood of the sacrificed animal. There he sprinkled the blood on the mercy seat. This animal was a sin offering for the people (16:15). That sacrifice was an “atonement … to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.” Following that sacrifice, Israel was told, “You will be clean before Adonai from all your sins” (v. 30).

It is essential in looking at the Tanakh to realize that in it we see realities acted out that would be unveiled later. The whole of scripture is a progressive revelation of God. He reveals Himself more and more throughout human history. God planned for continuous enactments of reality so that when Yeshua finally came to lay down His life for us, we would realize just what He was doing? Should we be surprised at the centuries of animal sacrifice, and the stress on the shedding of blood as necessary for forgiveness? No. In the repeated sacrifices of the Tanakh we are led to understand that, to God, death has always been the price of life for sinful men.

Yom Kippur in Yeshua’s Time

Vayikra 16:7-10 states that the Cohen HaGadol (High Priest) is “to take the two goats and place them before Adonai at the entrance to the tent of meeting. Then (he) is to cast lots for the two goats, one lot for Adonai and the other for ‘Az’azel (scapegoat). (He) is to present the goat whose lot fell to Adonai and offer it as a sin offering. But the goat whose lot fell to ‘Az’azel is to be presented alive to Adonai to be used for making atonement over it by sending it away into the desert for ‘Az’azel.”

There were also a few traditions that were added to the scapegoat ceremony. According to the Mishna, lots were drawn to decide the fate of both of the goats. The lot for the sacrifice said for the Lord, and the lot for the scapegoat said, scapegoat.  The people considered it a good omen if the lot for the Lord came up in the Priests right hand. Also, a red sash was tied to the scapegoat’s horns, and a portion of it was also tied to the door of the Temple. The sash on the Temple turned from red to white as the goat met its end in the wilderness, signifying to the people that God had accepted their sacrifices and their sins had been atoned. This idea came from Isaiah 1:18 which says, “Even if your sins are like scarlet, they will be white as snow…”

Also stated in the Mishna as well as the Talmud, four events occurred during the forty years before the destruction of the Temple which foreshadowed its doom. (This would have started at the time when Yeshua was sacrificed once and for all.) For forty years:

  • The lot that said “for the Lord” did not come in the Priests right hand…this was considered a bad omen.
  • The portion of the red sash that was tied to the temple door stopped turning white with the death of the sacrifice.
  • The westernmost light of the temple candelabra would not burn. This was crucial because this was the “shammash” (servant) used to kindle the other candles.
  • The temple doors opened by themselves. The rabbis saw the prophetic fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah 11:1 that says, “Open your doors, Lebanon, so that the fire can consume your cedars.” Fires did consume the cedars of Lebanon that may have adorned the inside of the temple.

Yeshua’s Fulfillment

What should surprise us is that God would give His Son for us. What should amaze us is that the blood spilled on history’s ultimate altar would be His own. But we should never be surprised that only the sacrifice of another life can exempt one from the death penalty that sin and guilt deserve. Sacrifice has always been central to the history of God’s gracious dealings with men. Over and over again, that picture is presented to us. Over and over again we see the blood. Over and over – till with awed amazement we look at Calvary and suddenly the pictures from the past merge into one. And we bow, stunned by the reality.

He died.
He died for me.
He died for you.

Even in ancient times, God lifted the veil to let us peek beyond the shadows of the reality.

Isaiah 53 was long understood by the Jews to speak of the coming Messiah – the Deliverer to be sent to them by God. In this passage, we have a clear picture of Yeshua, and of sacrifice.

“Like a lamb led to be slaughtered” (v. 7).

“He would present himself as a guilt offering” (v. 10).

“He exposed himself to death” (v. 12).

“Actually bearing the sin of many” (v. 12).

We cannot read these words today without realizing that they contain God’s explanation for Yeshua’s life – and for His death.

According to Hebrews Chapter10, the sacrifices of old were “a shadow of the good things to come, but not the actual manifestation of the originals” (v. 1). The blood of bulls and goats could not take away sins (v. 4). The sacrifices only covered and concealed sin, thus permitting God to overlook His people’s sins until Yeshua could come to take away sins by the sacrifice of Himself (Romans 3:25-26). What the ancient sacrifices foreshadowed, Yeshua accomplished! By one sacrifice, He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

In Yeshua, our sins and lawless acts have been forgiven entirely, and we have been cleansed. (Hebrews 10:14) Thus “an offering for sins is no longer needed” (v. 18). We need to appropriate for ourselves the atonement of the shed blood of Yeshua.

The animal sacrifices had to be repeated again and again. Their repetition was a continual reminder to Israel that sin, while temporarily covered, must still be dealt with. The repeated sacrifices served to demonstrate that no animal’s life could ever satisfy the righteousness of God. What a different message the bread and wine of Communion! No longer is fresh blood required. Yeshua has died, offering “for all time one sacrifice for sins” (v. 12).

It is enough.
Redemption’s work is done.
By the blood of Yeshua, you and I have been set forever free.

The focal point of God’s atoning work is Yeshua’s death on the execution stake. Sha’ul wrote, “we were reconciled with God through His Son’s death when we were enemies” (Romans 5:10). These words not only define the meaning of atonement, but they also reveal the heart of the gospel as well.

At the beginning of His ministry, Yeshua was identified as “the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The purpose of His coming was “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). He explained His death regarding His “bloodshed on behalf of many” (Mark 14:24).

The relation of Yeshua’s death to forgiveness of sins was implicit in the earliest Messianic preaching (Acts 2:21; 3:6, 19; 4:13; 5:31; 8:35; 10:43). Sha’ul proclaimed, “Yeshua died for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:3), that He was the “kapparah – atonement” (Romans 3:25 KJV; “sacrifice of atonement,” NRSV, NIV; “expiation,” RSV), that He became “a cursed on our behalf” (Galatians 3:13), and that those “who were once far off have been brought near through the shedding of the Messiah’s blood.” (Ephesians 2:13). Furthermore, Yeshua has been “offered once to bear the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:28) and has become “a new and living way” (Hebrews 10:20) into God’s presence. He is the one who “bore our sins in his body on the stake” (1 Peter 2:24).

Though atonement is focused on the execution stake, the Brit Hadashah makes clear that Yeshua’s death is the climax of His perfect obedience. He “became obedient unto death, even the death of the execution stake” (Philippians 2:8). “Even though he was the Son, he learned obedience through his sufferings” (Hebrews 5:8). Romans 5:12-19 contrasts Yeshua’s obedience to Adam’s disobedience. His sinless obedience qualified Him to be the perfect Sacrifice for sin (see Hebrews 6:8-10).

The atonement for sin provided by Yeshua’s death had its origin in divine love. No other reason can explain why “God reconciled us to himself by Yeshua” (2 Corinthians 5:18). The anthem that continuously peals from the Bible is that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only and unique Son” (John 3:16; see 1 John 4:9-10). This does not mean that God loves us because Yeshua died for us. Rather, Yeshua died for us because God loves us. Thus, “God demonstrates his own love for us, in that the Messiah died on our behalf while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:8) Because atonement issues from love, it is always seen as a divine gift, never as a human achievement.

No day was, or is, as sacred to the Jewish community as Yom HaKippurim, the Day of Atonement.

After the high priest had made atonement for his sins and those of his household, he proceeded with the rites of atonement for the whole community.

“God put Yeshua forward as the kapparah – the atonement – for sin through his faithfulness in respect to his bloody sacrificial death.” (Romans 3:25) Scripture depicts all human beings as needing to atone for their sins but lacking all power and resources for doing so. We have offended our holy Creator, whose nature it is to hate sin (Jeremiah 44:4; Habakkuk 1:13) and to punish it (Psalms 5:4-6; Romans 1:18; 2:5-9). No acceptance by, or fellowship with, such a God can be expected unless atonement is made, and since there is sin in even our best actions, anything we do in hopes of making amends can only increase our guilt or worsen our situation.

As a perfect sacrifice for sin (Romans 8:3; Ephesians 5:2; 1 Peter 1:18-19), Yeshua’s death was our redemption. He paid the price that freed us from the jeopardy of guilt, enslavement to sin, and expectation of wrath (Romans 3:24; Galatians 4:4-5; Colossians 1:14). Yeshua’s death was God’s act of reconciling us to himself, overcoming his hostility to us that our sins provoked (Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19; Colossians 1:20-22).

Yeshua’s atoning death ratified the inauguration of a renewed covenant, in which Yeshua’s one sacrifice guarantees access to God under all circumstances that cover all transgressions (Matthew 26:27-28; 1 Corinthians 11:25; Hebrews 9:15; 10:12-18). Those who through faith in Yeshua have “received reconciliation” (Romans 5:11) in him… become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

We no longer need the blood of bulls or goats. Yeshua is our perfect atonement. He is the Messiah!

In my next post, we will return to our series to continue to explore the life of Eliyahu.

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Eliyahu ~ Part 12

In my last post, Eliyahu hears The Angels Message of Grace in 1 Kings 19:5-8. In this post, Eliyahu hears the Creator’s Message of Power in 1 Kings 19:9-14.

The Creator’s Message of Power

9 There he went into a cave and spent the night. Then the word of Adonai came to him; He said to him, “What are you doing here, Eliyahu?” 10 He answered, “I have been very zealous for Adonai the God of armies because the people of Isra’el have abandoned your covenant, broken down your altars and killed your prophets with the sword. Now I’m the only one left, and they’re coming after me to kill me too.” 11 He said, “Go outside, and stand on the mountain before Adonai”; and right then and there, Adonai went past. A mighty blast of wind tore the mountains apart and broke the rocks in pieces before Adonai, but Adonai was not in the wind. After the wind came an earthquake, but Adonai was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake, fire broke out; but Adonai was not in the fire. And after the fire came a quiet, subdued voice. 13 When Eliyahu heard it, he covered his face with his cloak, stepped out and stood at the entrance to the cave. Then a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Eliyahu?” 14 He answered, “I have been very zealous for Adonai the God of armies; because the people of Isra’el have abandoned your covenant, broken down your altars and killed your prophets with the sword. Now I’m the only one left, and they’re after me to kill me too.” ~ 1 Kings 19:9-14 (CJB)

It was about 250 miles from Be’er-Sheva to Sinai, a journey of perhaps ten days to two weeks. It had been three weeks at the most since Eliyahu fled from Yizre’el, but the trip expanded to consume forty days (19:8)! If Eliyahu was in such a hurry to put miles between himself and Izevel‘s executioners, why did he take such a long time to do it? Perhaps the Lord directed his steps (Psalm 37:23) – and his stops – so that he would spend one day for every year the Israelites had been in the wilderness after they were delivered from Egypt.

Perhaps, Eliyahu made the cave his home and waited upon the Lord. We might say he was “making a retreat” to solve some problems and get closer to the Lord. He was so depressed that he was willing to give up his calling and even his life.

When the Lord finally came and spoke to Eliyahu, it wasn’t to rebuke him or instruct him but to ask him a question: “What are you doing here, Eliyahu?” The prophet’s reply didn’t answer the question, which explains why God asked it a second time. Eliyahu only told Adonai that he had experienced many trials in his ministry, but he had been faithful to Adonai. But if he was a faithful servant, what was he doing hiding in a cave located hundreds of miles from his appointed place of ministry?

In this reply, Eliyahu reveals both pride and self-pity, and in using the pronoun they, he exaggerates the size of the opposition. He makes it look as though every last Jew in the Northern Kingdom had turned against him and Adonai when it was Izevel who wanted to kill him. The I’m the only one left refrain makes it look as though he was indispensable to God’s work when no servant of God is indispensable. God then commanded him to stand on the mount at the entrance of the cave, but it doesn’t appear that Eliyahu obeyed him until he heard the still, small voice (v. 13). Another possibility is that he did go out of the cave but fled back into it when God began to demonstrate His great power.

When Adonai went passed it reminds us of the experience of Moses on the mount (Exodus 33:21-22). All Eliyahu needed to get renewed for service was a fresh vision of the power and glory of God. First, Adonai caused a great wind to pass by, the wind so strong that it broke the rocks and tore the mountain, but no divine message came to the prophet. Then Adonai caused a great earthquake that shook the mount, but nothing from God came out of the earthquake. Adonai then brought fire, but it, too, gave Eliyahu no message from Adonai. Certainly, the prophet must have thought of the giving of the law as he witnessed this dramatic display of power (Exodus 19:16-18).

Try to place yourself in this scene. How would you react to these supernatural displays by the Creator? What was God trying to accomplish in Eliyahu’s life using these remarkable and frightening object lessons?

For one thing, He was reminding His servant that everything in nature was obedient to Him (Psalm 148)the wind, the foundations of the earth, the fireand He didn’t lack for a variety of tools to get His work done. If Eliyahu wanted to resign from his divine calling, Adonai had someone else to take his place. As it turned out, Eliyahu didn’t quit but was given the privilege of calling his successor, Elisha and spending time with him before being taken to heaven.

The wind, the earthquake, and the fire are all means that Adonai has used to manifest Himself to humanity. Theologians call these demonstrations “theophanies,” which means “the manifestation of God.” The pagan nations saw these great sights and worshiped the powers of nature, but when the Jews saw them, they worshiped the God who created nature. Perhaps Adonai was saying to Eliyahu, “You feel like you’ve failed to judge the sin in Israel, but one day I will judge it, and my judgment is final and complete.”

After this dramatic display of power, a quiet, subdued voice. When the prophet heard that voice, he stepped out of the cave and met Adonai. The mighty power and the great noise of the previous exhibitions didn’t stir Eliyahu, but when he heard that quiet, subdued voice, he recognized the voice of God. For the second time, he listened to the same question, what are you doing here, Eliyahu? And once again, Eliyahu repeated the same self-centered evasive answer.

God was saying to Eliyahu, “You called fire from heaven, you had the prophets of Baal slain, and you prayed down a terrific rainstorm, but now you feel like a failure. But you must realize that I don’t usually work in a manner that’s loud, impressive, and dramatic. My still, small voice brings the Word to the listening ear and heart. Yes, there’s a time and place for the wind, the earthquake, and the fire, but most of the time, I speak to people in tones of gentle love and quiet persuasion.”[1]Adonai wasn’t condemning the courageous ministry of His servant; He was only reminding Eliyahu that He uses many different tools to accomplish His work. God’s Word comes down like the gentle shower that refreshes, cleanses, and produces life (Deuteronomy 32:2; Isaiah 55:10).

In my next post, we continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu. In this passage, Eliyahu hears The Lord’s Message of Hope in 1 Kings 19:15-21.

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[1] Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament by Warren Wiersbe.

Eliyahu ~ Part 11

In my last post, Eliyahu encounters The Enemies Message of Danger in 1 Kings 19:1-4. In this post, Eliyahu hears The Angels Message of Grace in 1 Kings 19:5-8.

Don’t Worry Eliyahu; I Have Your Back

Recall that in our last passage Eliyahu ran from Izevel, sat under a broom tree, prayed and pouted and ask God to relieve his misery by taking him home. I can certainly relate to him given his immediate circumstances.

5 Then he lay down under the broom tree and went to sleep. Suddenly, an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat!” 6 He looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on the hot stones and a jug of water. He ate and drank, then lay down again. 7 The angel came again, a second time, touched him and said, “Get up and eat, or the journey will be too much for you.” 8 He got up, ate and drank, and, on the strength of that meal, traveled forty days and nights until he reached Horev the mountain of God.” ~ 1 Kings 19:5-8 (CJB)

God’s miraculous provision was resumed, this time purely for the prophet. After Eliyahu ate and rested, he returned to the place where the covenant had been given to Moshe, Mount Horev. There, Eliyahu would have his faith renewed by God’s presence.

When the heart is heavy, and the mind and body are weary, sometimes the best remedy is sleeptake a nap! Nothing seems right when you’re exhausted. But while the prophet was asleep, the Lord sent an angel to care for his needs.

The angel had prepared a simple but adequate meal of fresh bread and refreshing water, and the prophet partook of both and lay down again to sleep. We aren’t told how long the Lord permitted Eliyahu to sleep before He awakened him the second time and told him to eat. The Lord knew that Eliyahu planned to visit Mount Horev [1], one of the most sacred places in all Jewish history, was located about 250 miles from Be’er- Sheva, and he needed strength for the journey. Eliyahu obeyed the messenger of God and was able to travel for forty days and nights on the nourishment from those two meals.

When we review God’s ministries to Eliyahu as recorded in 1 Kings 18 and 19, you see a parallel to the promise in Isaiah 40. “But those who hope in Adonai will renew their strength; they will soar aloft as with eagles’ wings; when they are running, they won’t grow weary, when they are walking they won’t get tired.”~ Isaiah 40:31 (CJB)

For three years, the prophet had been hidden by God, during which time he waited on the Lord. When the Lord sent him to Mount Karmel, He enabled Eliyahu to soar aloft as with eagle’s wings and triumph over the prophets of Ba’al. After Eliyahu prayed and it began to rain, the Lord strengthened him to run and not be weary (18:46), and now He sustained him for forty days, so he could walk and not get tired (19:8). Eliyahu wasn’t wholly living in the will of God, but he was smart enough to know that he had to wait on the Lord if he expected to have the strength for the ministry and for the journey that lay before him.

In my next post, we continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu. In this passage, Eliyahu hears the Creator’s Message of Power in 1 Kings 19:9-14.

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[1]Horev is another name for Mount Sinai. If Sinai is to be found down in the southern region, he must travel another two hundred plus miles and could therefore easily take forty days. It is true that a caravan could often make seventeen to twenty miles a day, but Eliyahu is not accustomed to this type of travel and is traveling on his own. Five miles per day under such conditions in this climate would not be unusual. ~ The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament.

Rosh Hashanah – 5779

Be Ministers of Reconciliation

In this post, we take a break from our series on Eliyahu to observe the first of the fall Jewish feasts of Rosh Hashanah.

Rosh Hashanah: The Key Is Repentance, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation

Biblical References: B’midbar (Numbers) 29:1–6 and Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:23 – 25 ~ Yom Teruah (The Feast of Trumpets). In 2017, the holiday begins at sundown on September 9th.

Rabbinic Change: Since this is the first Shabbat of the Fall Holidays, it has been considered as the “spiritual” New Year. Hence, the name changed to Rosh Hashanah, “the head of the year.” It is also seen as the anniversary of creation; the sacrifice of Yitz’chak; the release of Yosef from Pharaoh’s prison; and, the birth of Samuel, the prophet.

The purpose and traditional observance of the Holy Day is summed up in one word – regathering. Since the fall holidays call us to regather to pure faith in God, Rosh Hashanah has come to represent the Day of Repentance. It is the day when people of Israel take stock of their spiritual condition and make the necessary changes to ensure that the upcoming New Year will be pleasing to God.

The shofar is sounded daily to alert the faithful that the time of repentance is near. The observance takes on a somber character, yet always with a hint of hope because of God’s forgiveness.

The traditional challah is shaped in a circle to symbolize God’s Kingship and the coming of Messiah. Sweet honey cakes and apples dipped in honey are a real treat and express the hope of a new fresh year.

Tradition tells of three books that are opened in the heavenly courts during the feast of Rosh Hashanah; one for the thoroughly righteous, one for the thoroughly wicked, and one for the average person. The thoroughly righteous are immediately inscribed in the book of life. The completely wicked are directly written in the book of death. The average person is kept in suspension from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). If they deserve well, they are inscribed in the book of life; if they do not deserve well, they are written in the book of death. Consequently, the Ten Days of Awe are a time of solemn self-examination with time spent in seeking reconciliation and doing good works in the Jewish tradition.

Since the 15th Century, the ceremony of Tashlich is celebrated in the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah. The congregation meets at a river or stream. Special prayers of repentance are recited, and a portion of Micah is read. People then take breadcrumbs and cast them into the water symbolizing that our sins are carried away by the water.

Rosh Hashanah has profound Messianic significance! The rabbis have taught that one day the shofar would sound and the Messiah would come. According to Rabbi Sha’ul, in the future, all true believers in Yeshua will be gathered to meet Him in the clouds. The dead in Messiah will rise first, to be followed immediately by those believers alive at the time. “For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a rousing cry, with a call from one of the ruling angels, and with God’s shofar, those who died united with the Messiah will be the first to rise; then we who are left still alive will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and thus we will always be with the Lord. So encourage each other with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18) That day will indeed be characterized by joy, delight, and sweetness for those who are called home! As we observe Rosh Hashanah, we should anticipate the time of Yeshua‘s return.

The traditional greeting during Rosh Hashanah is, “L’shanah tovah tikatevu!” May your name be inscribed in the book of life! As Messianic Believers, we can rightly say, “L’shanah tovah tikatevu b’shem Yeshua!” May your name be inscribed in the book of life, in the name of Yeshua!

Read 2 Corinthians 5:17 – 21. Rosh Hashanah: repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Rabbi Sha’ul wrote to the Corinthians about these key ingredients in our annual observation of this holy appointed time. As Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the new spiritual year, so it is that we become new creations when we are united with Yeshua as our Messiah.

The fundamental idea in this passage is reconciliation. Because of our rebellion, we are the enemy of God and out of fellowship with Him. Through the work of the execution stake, Yeshua has brought God and us together again. God has been reconciled and has turned His face in love toward the lost world. The essential meaning of the word reconcile is “to change thoroughly.” It refers to a restored relationship with God and the lost world. “And it is all from God.” (2 Corinthians 5:18a)

God does not have to be reconciled to man because Yeshua accomplished that on the execution stake. It is the sinful man who must be reconciled to God. “Religion” is man’s feeble effort to be reconciled to God, efforts that are bound to fail. The Person who reconciles us to God is Yeshua, and the place where He reconciles us is His execution stake. He not only reconciles us to Himself, but he gives us the task of reconciling other people to Him. We have been entrusted with the message of reconciliation.

Another fundamental idea in this paragraph is that God does not count our sins against us. In the KJV, the term used is imputing. This is a word borrowed from banking; it just means, “to put to one’s account.” When you deposit money in the bank, the teller puts that amount into your account. When Yeshua died on the execution stake, all of our sins were imputed to Him – put into His account. God treated Him as though He had committed those sins.

What was the result? All of those sins have been paid for, and God no longer holds them against us, because we have trusted Yeshua as our Messiah. But even more: God has put into our account the very righteousness of Yeshua! “God made this sinless man be a sin offering on our behalf, so that in union with him we might fully share in Gods’ righteousness.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Reconciliation is based on imputation: because the demands of God’s Torah have been fully met on the execution stake, God can be reconciled to sinners. Those who believe in Yeshua, as their Messiah will never have their sins imputed to them again (see Psalms 32:1-2; Romans. 4:1-8). As far as their records are concerned, they share the righteousness of Yeshua!

How does this beautiful doctrine of reconciliation motivate us to serve Yeshua? We are ambassadors with a message. God has committed to us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

Since we are the ambassadors of Yeshua, this means that the world is in rebellion against God. He has sent His ambassadors into the world to declare peace, not war. “Be reconciled to God!” We represent Yeshua (see John 20:21; 2 Corinthians 4:5). If sinners reject our message and us, it is Yeshua who is rejected. What a great privilege it is to be heaven’s ambassadors to the rebellious sinners of this world!

God has not declared war on the world; at the execution stake, He said peace. But one day, He will declare war; and then it will be too late for those who have rejected Yeshua (2 Thessalonians 1:3-10). Satan is seeking to tear everything apart in this world, but Yeshua and His Messianic community are involved in the ministry of reconciliation, bringing things back together again, and back to God.

Ministry is not easy. If we are to succeed, we must be motivated by the fear of the Lord, the love of Yeshua, and the commission that He has given to us. It is indeed a privilege to serve Him!

During these next ten days before Yom Kippur, I encourage you to do some self-reflection. Is there any unconfessed sin in your life? Do you need to forgive someone who has hurt you? Are there any relationships that require reconciliation? As we enter into the start of a new spiritual year, resolve to make a fresh start and be ambassadors of Yeshua HaMashiach, “so that in union with Him, we might fully share in God’s righteousness.”

In my next post, we will return to our study of Eliyahu on The Angel’s Message of Grace.

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Eliyahu ~ Part 10

In my last post, we learned that the Rain Returns to Israel in 1 Kings 18:41- 46. In this post, Eliyahu encounters The Enemies Message of Danger in 1 Kings 19:1-4.

Danger, Danger Eliyahu

“1 Ach’av told Izevel everything Eliyahu had done and how he had put all the prophets to the sword. 2 Then Izevel sent a messenger to say to Eliyahu, “May the gods do terrible things to me and worse ones besides if by this time tomorrow I haven’t taken your life, just as you took theirs!” 3 On seeing that, he got up and fled for his life. When he arrived in Be’er-Sheva, in Y’hudah, he left his servant there; 4 but he himself went a day farther into the desert until he came to a broom tree. He sat down under it and prayed for his own death. “Enough!” he said. “Now, Adonai, take my life. I’m no better than my ancestors.” ~ 1 Kings 19:1-4 (CJB)

Before getting into our passage, let’s pause for some historical perspectives. It encourages me when I read Eliyahu was only a human being like us, yet he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and no rain fell on the Land for three years and six months.” ~ James 5:17 (CJB) When James wrote those words, he undoubtedly had 1 Kings 18 and 19 in mind, for in these chapters we see Eliyahu at his highest and at his lowest.

We can learn from our defeats as well as their successes. Furthermore, by studying passages like 1 Kings 19, we’re reminded to give glory to the Master and not to His servants (1 Corinthians 1:27-29). We’re also told to prepare for what may happen after the victories God gives us. How quickly we can move from the mountaintop of triumph to the valley of testing! We need to humble ourselves before the Lord and get ready for the trials that usually follow the victories.

Warren Wiersbe opines:

If Eliyahu could have described to a counselor how he felt and what he thought, the counselor would have diagnosed his condition as a textbook case of burnout. Eliyahu was physically exhausted and had lost his appetite. He was depressed about himself and his work and was being controlled more and more by self-pity. “I only am left!” Instead of turning to others for help, he isolated himself andworst of allhe wanted to die. The prophet concluded that he had failed in his mission and decided it was time to quit. But the Lord didn’t see it that way. He always looks beyond our changing moods and impetuous prayers, and He pities us the way parents pity their discouraged children (Psalm 103:13-14). The chapter (19) shows us how tenderly and patiently God deals with us when we’re in the depths of despair and feel like giving up. [1]

The chapter begins with Eliyahu running away and trying to save himself. Then the prophet argues with the Lord and tries to defend himself. Finally, he obeys the Lord and yields himself and is restored to service. In all of this, Eliyahu was responding to four different messages.

The Enemy’s Message of Danger

When the torrential rain began to fall, Izevel was in Yizre’el and may have thought that Ba’al the storm god had triumphed on Mount Karmel. However, when Ach’av arrived home, he told her a much different story. Ach’av was a weak man, but he should have stood with Eliyahu and honored the Lord who had so dramatically demonstrated His power. But Ach’av had to live with Queen Izevel, and without her support, he knew he was nothing. If ever there was a strong-willed ruler with a gift for doing evil, it was Izevel. Neither Ach’av nor Izevel accepted the clear evidence given on Mount Karmel that Adonai was the only true and living God. Instead of repenting and calling the nation back to serving the Lord, Izevel declared war on God and His faithful servant Eliyahu, and Ach’av allowed her to do it.

Why did Izevel send a letter to Eliyahu when she could have sent soldiers and had him killed? He was in Yizre’el, and the deed could have been easily accomplished on such a wild and stormy night. Izevel wasn’t only an evil woman; she was also a shrewd strategist who knew how to make the most of Ba’al‘s defeat on Mount Karmel. Ach’av was a quitter, but not his wife!

Eliyahu was now a very popular man. Like Moshe, he had brought fire from heaven, and like Moshe, he had slain the idolaters (Leviticus 9:24; Numbers 25). If Izevel transformed the prophet into a martyr, he might influence people more by his death than by his life. If Eliyahu disappeared, the people would wonder what had happened, and they would be prone to drift back into worshiping Ba’al and letting Ach’av and Izevel have their way.

Izevel may have suspected that Eliyahu was a candidate for a physical and emotional breakdown after his demanding day on Mount Karmel, and she was right. Her letter achieved its purpose and Eliyahu fled from Yizre’el. In a moment of fear, when he forgot all that God had done for him the previous three years, Eliyahu took his servant, left Israel, and headed for Be’er-Sheva, the southernmost city in Y’hudah.

For three years, Eliyahu had not made a move without hearing and obeying the Lord’s instructions (17:2-3, 8-9; 18:1), but now he was running ahead of the Lord to save his own life. When God’s servants get out of God’s will, they’re liable to do all sorts of foolish things.

But why flee to Y’hudah, especially when Jehoram, king of Y’hudah, was married to Ach’av‘s daughter Athaliah (2 Kings 8:16-19; 2 Chronicles 21:4-7). This is the infamous Athaliah who later ruled the land and tried to exterminate all of David’s heirs to the throne (2 Kings 11). The safest place for any child of God is the place dictated by the will of God, but Eliyahu didn’t stop to seek God’s will. He traveled 90 to 100 miles to Be’er-Sheva and left his servant there. If the enemy came after Eliyahu, his servant would be safer someplace else. Furthermore, if the servant didn’t know where Eliyahu was, he couldn’t inform against him.

Be’er-Sheva had a special meaning to the Jews because of its associations with Abraham (Genesis 21:22, 33), Isaac (26:33), and Jacob (46:1). The broom tree flourishes in the wilderness and provides shade for flocks and herds and travelers. The branches are thin and supple like those of the willow and are used to bind bundles. The roots of the plant are used for fuel and make excellent charcoal (Psalm 120:4). As Eliyahu sat under its shade, he did a wise thinghe prayed, but he didn’t pray a very wise prayer. “Enough!” he said. “Now, Adonai, take my life.” Then he gave his reason: “I’m no better than my ancestors.” But God never asked him to be better than anybody else, but only to hear His Word and obey it.

The combination of emotional burnout, weariness, hunger, and a broad sense of failure, plus lack of faith in the Lord, had brought Eliyahu into a deep depression. But there was also an element of pride involved, and some self-pity, for Eliyahu was sure that his courageous ministry on Mount Karmel would bring the nation to its knees. Perhaps he was also hoping that Ach’av and Izevel would repent and turn from Ba’al to God. His expectations weren’t fulfilled, so he considered himself a failure. But the Lord rarely allows His servants to see all the good they have done because we walk by faith and not by sight, and Eliyahu would learn that there were 7,000 people in Israel who had not bowed to Ba’al and worshiped him. No doubt his ministry had influenced many of them.

In my next post, we continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu. In this passage, Eliyahu hears The Angels Message of Grace in 1 Kings 19:5-8.

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[1] Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament

Eliyahu ~ Part 9

In my last post, we explored Eliyahu’s confrontation with the Prophets of Ba’al in Eliyahu’s Finest Hour ~ Let the Fire Fall in 1 Kings 18:30-40. In this post, we learn that the Rain Returns to Israel in 1 Kings 18:41- 46.

Let It Rain, Let It Rain, Let It Rain

41 Then Eliyahu said to Ach’av, “Get up, eat, and drink because I hear the sound of heavy rain.” 42 Ach’av went up to eat and drink, while Eliyahu went up to the top of the Karmel. He bowed down to the ground and put his face between his knees. 43 “Now,” he said to his servant, “go up, and look out toward the sea.” He went up, looked, and said, “There’s nothing there.” Seven times he said, “Go again.” 44 The seventh time, the servant said, “Now there’s a cloud coming up out of the sea, no bigger than a man’s hand.” Eliyahu said, “Go up, and say to Ach’av, ‘Prepare your chariot, and get down the mountain before the rain stops you!” 45 A little later, the sky grew black with clouds and wind; and heavy rain began falling; as Ach’av, riding in his chariot, made for Yizre’el [Jezreel]. 46 The hand of Adonai was on Eliyahu; he tucked up his clothing and ran ahead of Ach’av to the entrance of Yizre’el.” ~ 1 Kings 18:41-46 (CJB)

Two final miraculous events occur on this day: (1) the coming of the rain as a result of Eliyahu’s prayer and (2) Eliyahu’s supernatural strength in leaving the scene and passing Ach’av’s chariot before the storm. Typically, the act of preceding the king’s chariot could have been a friendly overture. It was an act of honor to the king and a tribute to the runner to be permitted to run before the king. But if this was Eliyahu’s intent, it was lost on Ach’av and was his word that stopped the rain and only his word could start it again (17:1). He was referring to the power of his prayers, the words that he spoke to the Lord (James 5:17-18). It had been a long and disappointing day for King Ach’av, and Eliyahu sent him to his retainers to get something to eat. Eliyahu went to the top of Carmel to pray and ask the Lord to send the much-needed rains.

Eliyahu’s unusual posture was almost a fetal position and indicated the prophet’s humility, his great concern for the people, and his burden for the glory of the Lord. Unlike the answer to the prayer at the altar, the answer to this prayer didn’t come at once. Seven times Eliyahu sent his servant to look toward the Mediterranean Sea and report any indications of a storm gathering, and six of those times the servant reported nothing.

Imagine how disappointed the servant and Eliyahu must have been.

The prophet didn’t give up but prayed a seventh time, and the servant saw a tiny cloud coming from the sea. This is an excellent example for us to follow as we “watch and pray” and continue to intercede until the Lord sends the answer. We have to be persistent in our prayers.

The little cloud wasn’t a storm, but it was the harbinger of the rains that were to come. Eliyahu commanded the king to mount his chariot and return to his palace in Yizre’el as soon as possible. We aren’t told how he broke the news to Izevel that Baal had been publicly humiliated and declared to be a false god, and that the prophets of Baal that she supported had been slain. But neither the drought nor the famine had brought Ach’av and Izevel to repentance, and it wasn’t likely that the fire from heaven or the coming of the rain would change their hearts (Rev. 9:20-21; 16:8-11). All the evidence notwithstanding, Izevel was determined to kill Eliyahu (19:1-2).

Strength for the Journey

Soon the heavens were black with clouds, and great torrents of rain began to fall on the land. The Lord not only proved that he was the true and living God, but He also put His approval on the ministry of His servant Eliyahu. Eliyahu had neither chariots nor retainers to drive them, but he did have the power of the Lord, and he ran ahead of Ach’av and reached Yizre’el ahead of the king. This was quite a feat for an older man and in itself was another sign to the people that God’s mighty hand was upon His servant.

Yizre’el was between fifteen and twenty miles from the Karmel area. This fifteen-acre site was situated at the southeastern entrance to the Jezreel Valley between the Hill of Moreh and Mount Gilboa. It was here that Ach’av had built a winter capital. Excavations have unearthed a sizeable royal enclosure from this period occupying a significant portion of the mound. [1]

God had chastened His people with drought and famine but had cared for His special servant Eliyahu. God had sent fire from heaven to prove that He was the true and living God. Now He had answered the prayer of His prophet and had sent the rains to water the land. You would think that Eliyahu would be at his very best spiritually and able to face anything, but the next chapter records just the opposite. As great a man as Eliyahu was, he still failed the Lord and himself.

In my next post, we continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu. In this passage, we encounter The Enemies Message of Danger in 1 Kings 19:1-4.

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[1] The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament.

Eliyahu ~ Part 8

In my last post, we explored Eliyahu’s encounter with Ach’av setting the stage for Eliyahu’s Finest Hour ~ Let the Fire Fall in 1 Kings 18:20-29. In this post, we continue to examine Eliyahu’s encounter with the Prophets of Ba’al in Eliyahu’s Finest Hour ~ Let the Fire Fall in 1 Kings 18:30-40.

30 Then Eliyahu said to all the people, “Come here to me.” All the people came up to him, as he set about repairing the altar of Adonai that had been broken down. 31 Eliyahu took twelve stones, in keeping with the number of tribes of the sons of Ya‘akov, to whom the word of Adonai had come, saying, “Your name is to be Isra’el.” 32 With the stones, he built an altar in the name of Adonai. Then he dug a trench around the altar large enough for half a bushel of grain.
33 He arranged the wood, cut up the bull and laid it on the wood.

34 Then he said, “Fill four pots with water, and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” They did it. “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again. “Do it a third time,” he said, and they did it a third time. 35 By now the water was flowing around the altar, and it had filled the trench. 36 Then, when it came time for offering the evening offering, Eliyahu the prophet approached and said, “Adonai, God of Avraham, Yitz’chak, and Isra’el, let it be known today that you are God in Isra’el, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 37 Hear me, Adonai, hear me, so that this people may know that you, Adonai, are God and that you are turning their hearts back to you.”

38 Then the fire of Adonai fell. It consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones and the dust; and it licked up the water in the trench. 39 When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “Adonai is God! Adonai is God!” 40 Eliyahu said to them, “Seize the prophets of Ba‘al! Don’t let one of them escape!” They seized them, and Eliyahu brought them down to Vadi Kishon and killed them there.” ~ 1 Kings 18:30-40 (CJB)

Let the Fire Fall

Image courtesy of Google

Eliyahu now turned from the false prophets to the people. They were the ones he was determined to win over from Ba’al. He had already humiliated the prophets of Ba’al with the shenanigans they pulled trying to get Ba’al to burn up their offering. It’s interesting to me that Eliyahu called for a total of twelve large jars of water be poured on the altar, the wood, and the bull until the trench around the altar was filled. During the draught, where did that much water come from? A miracle? Eliyahu took steps to avoid any appearance of trickery or fraud. If his God could get a drenching wet sacrifice to burn, his God was God indeed.

At the time of the evening sacrifice, he lifted his voice in prayer to the God of the covenant, the God of Avraham, Yitz’chak, and Isra’el. He requested that God be glorified as the God of Israel, the true and living God, and make it known that Eliyahu was His servant. But even more, by sending fire from heaven, the Lord would be telling His people that He had forgiven them and would turn their hearts back to the worship of the true God. Eliyahu may have been thinking of God’s promise to Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:12-15.

Eliyahu‘s prayer was a powerful statement of the theology of God’s great works. Just as the temple singers declared God’s great works so the world could know God (Psalm 66:3-4), Eliyahu prayed for a miraculous sign, so this people would understand that Adonai is God. The simplicity of Eliyahu‘s procedure is impressive. The prophet prayed, and the sacrifice was miraculously burned.

Suddenly, the fire fell from heaven and entirely devoured the sacrifice, the altar, and the water in the trench around the altar. (I picked the image above specifically because it visualizes this description.) There was nothing left that anybody could turn into a relic or a shrine. The altar to Ba’al still stood as a monument to a lost cause. The prophets of Ba’al were stunned, and the people of Israel fell on their faces and acknowledged, “Adonai is God! Adonai is God!”

But Eliyahu wasn’t finished, for he commanded the people to take the false prophets of Ba’al and slay them. This was in obedience to the Lord’s command in Deuteronomy 13:13-18 and 17:2-5. The test had been a fair one, and the prophets of Ba’al had been exposed as idolaters who deserved to be killed. The law required that idolaters be stoned to death, but Eliyahu had the prophets killed with the sword (1Kings 19:1). This action, of course, angered Jezebel, from whose table these men had been fed (v. 19), and she determined to capture Eliyahu and kill him.

In my next post, we continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu. In this passage, we learn that the Rain Returns to Israel in 1 Kings 18:41- 46.

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Eliyahu ~ Part 7

In my last post, we explored Eliyahu Reencounters King Ach’av in 1 Kings 18:16-19. In this post, we continue to examine Eliyahu’s encounter with Ach’av setting the stage for Eliyahu’s Finest Hour ~ Let the Fire Fall in 1 Kings 18:20-29.

20 Ach’av sent word to all the people of Isra’el and assembled the prophets together on Mount Karmel. 21 Eliyahu stepped forward before all the people and said, “How long are you going to jump back and forth between two positions? If Adonai is God, follow him; but if it’s Ba‘al, follow him!” The people answered him not a word. 22 Then Eliyahu said to the people, “I, I alone, am the only prophet of Adonai who is left, while Ba‘al’s prophets number 450. 23 Let them give us two young bulls, and they can choose the bull they want for themselves. Then let them cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood but put no fire under it. I will prepare the other bull, lay it on the wood and put no fire under it. 24 Then, you, call on the name of your god; and I will call on the name of Adonai; and the God who answers with fire, let him be God!” All the people answered, “Good idea! Agreed!”

25 Then Eliyahu said to the prophets of Ba‘al, “Choose one bull for yourselves, and prepare it first; because there are many of you. Then call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it.” 26 They took the bull that was given to them, prepared it and called on the name of Ba‘al from morning till noon — “Ba‘al! Answer us!” But no voice was heard; and no one answered, as they jumped around on the altar they had made. 27 Around noon Eliyahu began ridiculing them: “Shout louder! After all, he’s a god, isn’t he? Maybe he’s daydreaming, or he’s on the potty, or he’s away on a trip. Maybe he’s asleep, and you have to wake him up.” 28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and knives, as their custom was until blood gushed out all over them. 29 By now it was afternoon, and they went on ranting and raving until it was time for the evening offering. But no voice came, no one answered, no one paid any attention.” ~ 1 Kings 18:20-29 (CJB)

The Prophets of Ba’al Meet the God of Israel

Representatives were present from all ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom, and it was this group that Eliyahu addressed as the meeting began. His purpose was not only to expose the false god Ba’al but also to bring the compromising people back to the Lord. Because of the evil influence of Ach’av and Izevel, the people were vacillating between two opinions and trying to serve both God and Ba’al. Like Moshe (Exodus 32:26) and Y’hosua (Joshua 24:15) before him, Eliyahu called for a decision on their part, but the people were speechless. Was this because of their guilt (Romans 3:19) or because they first wanted to see what would happen next? They were weak people, without real conviction.

Eliyahu weighted the test in favor of the prophets of Ba’al. They could build their altar first, select their sacrifice and offer it first, and they could take all the time they needed to pray to Ba’al. When Eliyahu said he was the only prophet of the Lord, he didn’t forget the prophets that ‘Ovadyah had hidden and protected. Instead, he was stating that he was the only one openly serving the Lord, and therefore he was outnumbered by the 450 prophets of Ba’al. But one plus God is a majority, so the prophet had no fears. Surely the prayers of 450 zealous prophets would be heard by Ba’al, and he would answer by sending fire from heaven! (See Leviticus 9:24 and 1 Chronicles 21:26.)

By noon, Eliyahu was taunting the prophets of Ba’al because nothing had happened. The prophets of Ba’al were dancing frantically around their altar and cutting themselves with swords and spears, but still, nothing happened. Eliyahu suggested that perhaps Ba’al couldn’t hear them because he was deep in thought, or busy in some task, or even traveling. His words only made them more fanatical, but nothing happened. I loved how Stern stated in verse 27 that Ba’al might have been on the potty. [1] Very visual.

At three o’clock, the time of the evening sacrifice at the temple in Jerusalem, Eliyahu stepped forward and took charge. We are now approaching Eliyahu’s finest hour. It would become the high-water mark of his ministry. Eliyahu was waiting for the holy fire to fall. God would use this frail prophet to show the people of Israel that He is still a consuming fire.

In my next post, we continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu. In this passage, we continue to examine Eliyahu’s encounter with the Prophets of Ba’al in Eliyahu’s Finest Hour ~ Let the Fire Fall in 1 Kings 18:30-40.

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[1] It should be noted that Stern has paraphrased the Jewish Publication Society’s edition of the Tanakh. That said, several modern English translations render the phrase as “relieving himself.”

Eliyahu ~ Part 6

In my last post, we explored A Mission Impossible in 1 Kings 18:1-15. In this post, we learn that Eliyahu Reencounters King Ach’av in 1 Kings 18:16-19.

Eliyahu Reencounters King Ach’av

16 So ‘Ovadyah went, found Ach’av and told him; and Ach’av went to meet Eliyahu. 17 When Ach’av saw Eliyahu, Ach’av said to him, “Is it really you, you troubler of Isra’el?” 18 He answered, “I haven’t troubled Isra’el, you have, you and your father’s house, by abandoning Adonai’s mitzvot and following the ba‘alim. 19 Now order all Isra’el to assemble before me on Mount Karmel, along with the 450 prophets of Ba‘al and the 400 prophets of the asherah who eat at Izevel’s table.” ~ 1 Kings 18:16-19 (CJB)

Everything that Eliyahu did was according to the Word of the Lord (1 Kings 18:36), including confronting the king and inviting him and the priests of Ba’al to a meeting on Mount Karmel. Ach’av called Eliyahu the troubler of Israel, but it was Ach’av whose sins had caused the problems in the land. Surely Ach’av knew the terms of the covenant and understood that the blessings of the Lord depended on the obedience of the king and his people. Both Yeshua and Sha’ul would be called “troublemakers” (Luke 23:5; Acts 16:20; 17:6), so Eliyahu was in good company.

Mount Karmel was located near the border of Isra’el and Phoenicia, so it was a good place for the Phoenician god Ba’al to meet the God of Israel. Eliyahu told Ach’av to bring not only the 450 prophets of Ba’al but also the 400 prophets of the Asherah, the idols that represented Ba’al’s “wife.” It seems that only the prophets of Ba’al showed up for the contest (1 Kings 18:22, 26, 40).

One unanswered question remains for me from this passage. Why didn’t King Ach’av just run Eliyahu through with his sword; especially after Eliyahu accused the King of being the real troubler of Israel? Of course, if he had, we wouldn’t have the story of Eliyahu’s Finest Hour.

In my next post, we will continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu in 1 Kings 18:20-29. In this passage, we continue to examine Eliyahu’s encounter with Ach’av setting the stage for Eliyahu’s Finest Hour ~ Let the Fire Fall.

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