Pesach and Hag HaMatzah – 2019

(Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread)
God’s Appointed Times

We return to God’s Appointed Times from the Tanakh.  Both Pesach (Passover) and Hag HaMatzah are tied to the remembrance of the exodus of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt.  The principle Scriptural reference for Pesach is in B’midbar (Exodus) 12:1-13 and Hag HaMatzah in Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:5-8.  In 2019, Pesach starts on the eve of April 19th and Hag HaMatzah on the eve of April 20th.   This eight-day remembrance ends at sundown on April 27th.

For Believers in Yeshua, this time can be a great time to reflect not only on the deliverance of the Jews from Egyptian bondage and death of the first-born by the shedding of the lamb’s blood on the doorpost; but also on the shed blood of Yeshua on the cross.  His death and resurrection paid for our sins and purchased for us eternal salvation.

I have attached a PDF version of an explanation of the traditional Pesach Seder provided by Chosen People Ministries.  Click here.

However, for those of you who want to have a Scriptural-based observation of Pesach, I highly recommend Kevin Geoffrey’s “Behold the Lamb and Preparation Guide.”  Click here to order.

The Future Hope ~ Yesha’yahu 9:1-7

In my last post, we learned more about Y’hudah’s response to The Prophetic Message in Yesha’yahu 8:11-23. In this post, we learn about Y’hudah’s Future Hope in Yesha’yahu 9:1-7.

Beyond destruction there is hope. In the Messiah’s kingdom, the darkness would give way to great light, which was to dawn in Galilee and reach the whole nation, and then the entire world. The Messiah’s rule would be marked by the vindication of the oppressed and the end of all oppression. He would bring justice and righteousness forever in a kingdom of peace.

1 But there will be no more gloom for those who are now in anguish. In the past the land of Z’vulun and the land of Naftali were regarded lightly; but in the future, he will honor the way to the lake, beyond the Yarden, Galil-of-the-Goyim. [1]

The tribes of Z’vulun and Naftali were among those hardest hit by the Assyrians in the 733 BCE campaign (see 2 Kings 15:29). At that time, the Assyrians reduced the land holdings of the northern kingdom and integrated three new provinces into their empire. These three provinces were called Magiddo (Galilee), Du’ru (the Way of the Sea), and Gal’aza (the land east of the Jordan).

How would this honor come about? Matthew 4:12-17 tells us this is a prophecy concerning Yeshua, who began His ministry in Galilee – a region that was dark and despised.

2 The people living in darkness have seen a great light; upon those living in the land that lies in the shadow of death, light has dawned.

The Assyrian invasion brought great devastation (darkness), but the people still had great reason to hope (seen a great light). Though the events were in the future, they are described as if they had already happened.

3 You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice in your presence as if rejoicing at harvest time, the way men rejoice when dividing up the spoil. 4 For the yoke that weighed them down, the bar across their shoulders, and their driver’s goad you have broken as on the day of Midyan’s defeat.

The type of deliverance the prophecy pictures seemed impossible. After all, Ashur was a world power and God’s people were weak and crushed. Thus, the oracle alludes to the day of Midyan. This refers to the events of Judges 6 and 7 when Gid’on with just a handful of troops – but with the power of God – defeated the oppressive Midyanites and expelled them from the land.

5 For all the boots of soldiers marching and every cloak rolled in blood is destined for burning, fuel for the fire.

The word for boot occurs only here in the Tanakh but is equivalent to one of the common terms for sandal or shoe. In the Assyrian army, many of the infantry went barefoot, but the cavalry was equipped with knee-high soft leather boots held on by long crisscrossed thongs. Officers also were provided with boots. Boots would be among the most common plunder stripped from the slain.

In Ashur, it was familiar rhetoric to speak of land dyed red with the blood of enemies and of the army marching through the blood of their enemies. [2]

6 For a child is born to us, a son is given to us; dominion will rest on his shoulders, and he will be given the name Pele-Yo‘etz El Gibbor Avi-‘Ad Sar-Shalom [Wonder of a Counselor, Mighty God, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace],

I confess that every time I read this verse, I get goosebumps as I “hear” Handel’s Messiah playing in my mind.

In the ancient Near East, the birth of an heir to the throne was a momentous occasion. Twice earlier in this section of Yesha’yahu, the birth of children has been described as having prophetic significance (7:14; 8:1-4). For a third time, the reader learns of a future birth. Some commentators believe the text means that this future royal child will be a purely human descendant of David who will be proclaimed king and lead God’s people to a new level of freedom and prosperity.

The only possible interpretation of this passage is Messianic. This child will be given names that signify His character. He will be a sage characterized by extraordinary wisdom (Wonderful Counselor). He will have a life that is never-ending (Eternal Father). He will bring peace (Prince of Peace). But the most extraordinary thing of all that confirms He is merely not to be identified with any human because of His title, Mighty God. In the Brit Hadashah, Yeshua is recognized as the Davidic descendant who fulfilled this great promise (Matthew 1:1,22-23).

A child is born speaks of Yeshua’s humanity. A Son is given to us speaks of His deity. The sign of government on His shoulder would not be the braid of a military general or the insignia of a noted ruler. It would be a wooden cross because Yeshua would govern by laying down His life. You can get counsel from a lot of people in a lot of places, but there is only one Wonderful Counselor – and with Him, there are neither fees involved or appointments that need to be made (Hebrews 4:16).

7 in order to extend the dominion and perpetuate the peace of the throne and kingdom of David, to secure it and sustain it through justice and righteousness henceforth and forever. The zeal of Adonai-Tzva’ot will accomplish this. ~ Yesha’yahu 9:1-7 (CJB)

When Yeshua returns for His church, His kingdom will indeed be established politically and materially. But when He came the first time, His kingdom was not of this world because He was involved with something much more significant than throwing off the yoke of the Roman Empire politically. He was concerned with eternity and the salvation of humanity.

In my next blog, we learn about Judgment Against Isra’el in Yesha’yahu 9:8-21.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Verse 9:1 is actually 8:23 in the Jewish Bible.

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

The Prophetic Message ~ Yesha’yahu 8:11-23

In my last post, we learned more about The Assyrian Invasion of Y’hudah in Yesha’yahu 8:1-10. In this post, we learn about Y’hudah’s response to The Prophetic Message in Yesha’yahu 8:11-23.

11 For this is what Adonai said to me, speaking with a strong hand, warning me not to live the way this people does:

God spoke to Yesha’yahu (me) so he would not conform to the world’s beliefs. Rabbi Sha’ul instructs us to not let yourselves be conformed to the standards of the ‘olam hazeh. Instead, keep letting yourselves be transformed by the renewing of your minds; so that you will know what God wants and will agree that what he wants is good, satisfying and able to succeed. ~ Romans 12:2 (CJB)

12 “Don’t regard as alliance what this people calls alliance, and don’t fear what they fear or be awestruck by it;

The alliance may refer to the partnership between Aram (Syria) and the northern kingdom of Isra’el against Y’hudah or perhaps a secret cooperation against the pro-Assyrian party of Achaz. Whatever the exact alliance in view, the point was that Yesha’yahu must not be afraid like the people were.

13 but Adonai-Tzva’ot – consecrate him! Let him be the object of your fear and awe! 

The fear of God [here called the God of Heaven’s Armies] overshadows all other concerns (see Luke 12:5). The reason Yesha’yahu and others must not fear threatening alliances is that God is the only One who should be feared. There is a difference in the quality of the two fears described in these verses. The fear of human beings may be defined as terror (v. 12), while the fear of Adonai-Tzva’ot is described as awe.

14 He is there to be a sanctuary. But for both the houses of Isra’el he will be a stone to stumble over, a rock obstructing their way; a trap and a snare for the inhabitants of Yerushalayim.

The sanctuary image highlights God’s holiness and suggests that He protects His people, but because they have rejected Him, the people of Y’hudah will experience Him as a stumbling stone.

The trap and snare are used for hunting birds and small animals. This provides a fascinating image of what God thinks of this rebellious people.

Who shall be our sanctuary? Yeshua. If you come to Him, you’ll find a place of safety. If you turn from Him, you’ll only stumble and fall.

15 Many of them will stumble and fall, be broken and trapped and captured. 16 “Wrap up this document and confine its teaching to those I have instructed.”

Scrolls could be sealed either by tying a string around them and sealing the knot with clay or by placing them in a jar and sealing the cover. The clay or the seal around the lid would be impressed with the owner’s seal. The seals were intended to ensure the integrity of the contents. They warned against tampering and, if intact, attested to the authenticity of the document.

17 I will wait for Adonai, who is hiding his face from the house of Ya‘akov; yes, I will look for him.

Because of their sin, God will withdraw His saving presence (hiding His face) from His people (the house of Ya’akov). The faithful, represented by Yesha’yahu, will wait for His sure return.

18 Meanwhile, I and the children whom Adonai has given me will become for Isra’el signs and wonders from Adonai-Tzva’ot living on Mount Tziyon.

The children who are signs and wonders are Sh’ar Yashuv (7:3) and Maher Shalal Hash Baz (8:1).

19 So when they tell you to consult those squeaking, squawking mediums and fortune-tellers; [you are to answer], “Shouldn’t a people seek their God? Must the living ask the dead 20 for teaching and instruction?” For they will indeed give you this unenlightened suggestion.

Because of the well-developed ancestor cult permeating much of the ancient Near East, the dead were considered to have some power to affect the living. It was believed that if libations were poured out on behalf of the deceased ancestors, their spirits would then offer protection and help to those still living. [1]

Yesha’yahu realized that things would be coming down in the northern tribes. So, he gathered his talmidim together and said, “I will seek the Lord’s face and spend time in His Word. As for you, when others tell you to listen to the astrologers, wizards, or channelers, turn instead to the Word alone.”

21 Distressed and hungry they will pass through the land, and because of their hunger they will grow angry and curse by their king and by their God. But whether they look up [to God] 22 or [down] at the earth, they will see only trouble and darkness, anguished gloom and pervasive darkness.

Those who look for a new light, a new age, a new way or a new green deal will find only the old darkness and despair. Yesha’yahu contrasts his counsel with that of his ungodly contemporaries. Yesha’yahu’s message gives light, whereas the message of the spiritists led to darkness and death.

1 But there will be no more gloom for those who are now in anguish. In the past the land of Z’vulun and the land of Naftali were regarded lightly; but in the future, he will honor the way to the lake, beyond the Yarden, Galil-of-the-Goyim. ~ Yesha’yahu 8:11-9:1 (CJB) [2]

In my next blog, we learn of The Future Hope in Yesha’yahu 9:1-7.

Click here for PDF version.

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

[2] Verse 9:1 is actually 8:23 in the Jewish Bible. I will save a discussion on that verse until the next post.

The Assyrian Invasion ~ Yesha’yahu 8:1-10

In my last post, we concluded the story in The Sign of Immanuel ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 7:17-25. We learned that despite the alliance with Assyria, the King of Assyria would invade Y’hudah. In this post, we learn more about The Assyrian Invasion in Yesha’yahu 8:1-10.

1 Adonai said to me [Yesha’yahu], “Take a large tablet, and write on it in easily readable letters; ‘Maher shalal, hash baz [the spoil hurries, the prey speeds along].’”

The significance of the large size of the tablet may merely be that the writing was to be prominent and clear. The inscription means that an invasion was imminent.

2 I had it witnessed for me by reliable witnesses – Uriyah the cohen and Z’kharyahu the son of Y’verekhyahu.

The presence of witnesses indicates that the writing of this prophecy had the force of a legal document. If the prophecy did not come true, then these two witnesses could attest to its falsity. If it did come true, they could proclaim that it was written before, and not after, the fact.

3 Then I had sexual relations with my wife; she became pregnant and gave birth to a son; and Adonai said to me, “Name him Maher Shalal Hash Baz;

Other English translations indicate that Yesha’yahu’s wife was herself a prophetess. The title “prophetess” is never used just to designate the wife of a prophet but consistently for a female prophet. While we need not doubt that this prophetess was Yesha’yahu’s wife, she must also be regarded as a woman who functioned prophetically in her own right.

The first fulfillment of the Immanuel prophecy may well relate to the birth of Maher Shalal Hash Baz recorded here.

4because before the child knows how to cry, ‘Abba!’ and ‘Eema!’, the riches of Dammesek and the spoil of Shomron will be carried off and given to the king of Ashur.”

Before the child could say “Daddy” or “Mommy,” the invasion of Ashur into Isra’el would take place.

5 Adonai went on speaking and said more to me: 6 “Since this people has rejected the gently flowing waters from Shilo’ach and takes joy in Retzin and the son of Remalyah;

Hezekiah’s tunnel had not yet been constructed at this time. The waters flowed from a spring on the side of Mount Moriah into a tranquil pool. It was to this pool that Yeshua sent a man born blind to regain his sight (John 9).

7now Adonai will bring upon them the mighty floodwaters of the [Euphrates] River — that is, the king of Ashur and his power. It will rise above all its channels and overflow all its banks.

The mighty rushing waters of the Euphrates represent the Assyrian king and thus Assyrian might. By aligning with Ashur to help him against the Syro-Ephraimite alliance, Achaz was choosing a foreign nation rather than God.

8 It will sweep through Y’hudah, flooding everything and passing on. It will reach even up to the neck, and its outspread wings will fill the whole expanse of the land.” God is with us! [Hebrew: ‘immanu El]

The waters that represent Ashur will come up to Y’hudah’s neck. They will not be drowned, but they will find themselves paying annual tribute. On occasion, the Assyrian army will threaten their independent existence.

9 You may make an uproar, peoples; but you will be shattered. Listen, all of you from distant lands: arm yourselves, but you will be shattered; yes, arm yourselves, but you will be shattered; 10 devise a plan, but it will come to nothing; say anything you like, but it won’t happen; because God is with us [Hebrew: ‘immanu El]. ~ Yesha’yahu 8:1-10 (CJB)

It was a common strategy for the Assyrians to claim that the deities of their rebellious vassals had abandoned them because they had broken the oaths that had secured their loyalty to the Assyrians. However, Ashur will not completely subjugate Y’hudah. After all, God was still with them.

In my next blog, we learn of the response to The Prophetic Message in Yesha’yahu 8:11-23.

Click here for the PDF version.

A Message from Those Living on the Gaza Border

A powerful short video to remind us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem ~ Psalm 122:6.

Looking for the Blessed Hope

Iranian-backed Hamas would like nothing better than to rid the region of Jewish people. We hear the news of rockets launched toward Israeli homes near the Gaza border. While Israel is plenty capable of taking care of business in Gaza, the threats from Hamas are real and border residents must be prepared 24/7 for terrorist attacks.

What is it like to live under those conditions? Hear a message from Israelis living on the Gaza border. Then, continue to uphold them in your prayers.

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The Sign of Immanuel ~ Part 3 ~ Yesha’yahu 7:13-25

In my last post, we continued the story in The Sign of Immanuel ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 7:7-12. We learned that Achaz had put his fate in an alliance with Assyria rather than in God. In this post, we conclude our exploration of The Sign of Immanuel ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 7:13-25.

17 Adonai will bring the king of Ashur [Assyria] on you, your people and your father’s house. These will be days worse than any you’ve known since Efrayim broke loose from Y’hudah.”

The Neo-Assyrian Empire was inaugurated soon after Tiglath-Pileser III’s accession to the throne in 745 BCE and was not to be overthrown until 612 BCE when Nineveh fell to the alliance of the Medes and Babylonians. At its height, it included all or part of the modern countries of Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Isra’el and Egypt. Ashur’s reputation as an aggressive regime is supported by extensive documentation and stands as its historical legacy. Its strategy of psychological warfare included terrifying rhetoric, brutal destructions and carefully chosen examples of cruel torture. Its expansion was fueled by the potential for economic gain, which would come through the plunder, tribute, and tariffs that would result from control of trade and the trade routes

But it was not just Aram and the northern kingdom of Isra’el that would experience Assyrian devastation. Y’hudah would also suffer God’s punishment. As later events showed, paying Tiglath-Pileser III to take care of Achaz’s northern problem was not the smartest strategy. From that point on Achaz paid a heavy tribute as Ashur’s vassal.

18 Yes, when that day comes, Adonai will whistle for the fly in the farthest streams of the Nile in Egypt and for the bee in the land of Ashur.

Part of the lore of beekeeping maintained that a swarm could be lured out of its hive to another location by a whistling sound. Attacking armies are compared to flies and bees in Homer’s Iliad as well. [1]

19 They will come and settle, all of them, in steep vadis and holes in the rocks and on all thorn bushes and brambles.

This verse continues the imagery of bees by listing the places where bees are naturally inclined to make their hives. Such locations were also places of refuge for the desperate. However, Y’hudah’s enemies would find them there.

20 When that day comes, Adonai will shave – with a razor hired beyond the [Euphrates] River, that is, with the king of Ashur – the head and the hair between the legs and get rid of the beard as well.

While many translations suggest the shaving of the entire head, the forehead seems to be indicated explicitly by the Hebrew word. In Mesopotamia shaving off half the hair was used as a punishment intended to bring public humiliation. Additionally, a style of the haircut was used to designate a slave. Most commentators believe that the hair between the legs is a euphemism for pubic hair. [2]

21 When that day comes, a man will raise a young cow and two sheep. 22 Will they produce in abundance? No, he will [have to] eat curdled milk. Indeed, everyone left in the land will eat curdled milk and [wild] honey. 23 When that day comes, wherever there once were a thousand grapevines, worth a thousand pieces of silver, there will be only briars and thorns.

It is difficult to determine whether the text refers to a thousand vines that would be bought or sold for a shekel each (an exorbitant price), or, more reasonably, to a vineyard housing a thousand vines whose annual produce would bring a thousand shekels. The latter understanding would find support in Song of Songs 8:11. In short, the farmers faced near total disaster.

24 One will go there [to hunt] with bow and arrow because all the land will be briars and thorns. 25 You won’t visit hills once worked with a hoe, for fear of the briars and thorns; it will be good only for pasturing cattle and being trampled down by sheep. ~ Isaiah 7:17-25 (CJB)

Cattle and flocks could be devastating to agricultural land. Their movements would trample the soil, and their grazing would defoliate it, eventually leading to massive erosion of the topsoil and depletion of water sources.

In my next blog, we learn about The Assyrian Invasion in Yesha’yahu 8:1-10.

Click here for the PDF version.

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

[2] Ibid.

The Sign of Immanuel ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’yahu 7:7-12

In my last post, we looked at The Sign of Immanuel ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 7:1-6. We learned that Aram and Isra’el had formed an alliance and were coming to the south to conquer Y’hudah. In this post, we continue the story in The Sign of Immanuel ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 7:7-12.

Yesha’yahu said to King Achaz:

7 “This is what Adonai Elohim says: ‘It won’t occur, it won’t happen. 8 For the head of Aram is Dammesek and the head of Dammesek Retzin. In sixty-five years Efrayim will be broken and will cease to be a people.

The reference to 65 years is puzzling. If this prophecy is dated to 735 BCE or thereabouts, then it would point to approximately 670 BCE, but Assyria soundly defeated the northern kingdom in 722 BCE. Of course, that is “within 65 years,” but perhaps the reference is to some unknown event among the survivors of the northern kingdom around 670 BCE. It is also possible that the deportations of Israelites and the importation of foreigners into their former region happened around that time.

9 The head of Efrayim is Shomron, and the head of Shomron is the son of Remalyah. Without firm faith, you will not be firmly established.’

The challenge that the prophecy presented to Achaz was that he should trust God and not Assyria as he faced a threat from Retzin and Pekach. Their confederacy was not going to be successful.

We know what God says always comes to pass. Sha’ul writes: Moreover, my God will fill every need of yours according to his glorious wealth, in union with the Messiah Yeshua. ~ Philippians 4:19 (CJB) We can either believe that or reject it. If we reject it, His promise still stands – but we’ll go through all kinds of unnecessary tension. Yeshua said He’s coming back for us (John 14:3). Even if you don’t believe that He’s still coming back, but if you don’t believe it when you look at the situation of the world today, you’ll be filled with fear. It’s far better to rest in the promises of God.

10 Adonai spoke again to Achaz; he said, 11 ‘Ask Adonai your God to give you a sign. Ask it anywhere, from the depths of Sh’ol to the heights above.’

There are a number of cases of signs being given by God in the Tanakh. The most similar examples are found in 1 Samuel 2:34 and 2 Kings 19:29. In these instances, the sign relates to the beginning of the fulfillment of the prophecy. The purpose of this sign in our text was to give Achaz even more reason to have confidence in God rather than Assyria to rescue him from Retzin and Pekach.

12 But Achaz answered, ‘I won’t ask, I won’t test Adonai.’”  ~ Isaiah 7:7-12 (CJB)

Although Achaz’s response sounds holy, in reality, it was hypocrisy because, in 2 Kings 16, we read that Achaz had previously taken a journey to Assyria to make his peace pact with the Assyrians. Because he sought the king of the Assyrians, he didn’t think he needed a sign from the King of the universe.

In my next blog, we will conclude our exploration of The Sign of Immanuel ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 7:13-25.

Click here for the PDF version.

The Sign of Immanuel ~ Part 1 ~ Yesha’yahu 7:1-6

In my last post, we looked at Yesha’yahu’s Commissioning in Yesha’yahu 6:8-13. In this post, we will begin to look at The Sign of Immanuel in Yesha’yahu 7:1-6.

1 During the days of Achaz the son of Yotam, the son of ‘Uziyahu, king of Y’hudah, Retzin the king of Aram (Syria) and Pekach the son of Remalyah, king of Isra’el, advanced on Yerushalayim to attack it but were unable to conquer it. 2 It was told to the house of David that Aram and Efrayim had become allies. Achaz’s heart began to tremble, as did the hearts of his people, like forest trees shaken by the wind. 

‘Uziyahu was a good king and a godly man. His son, Yotam, was also a good king and a godly man. Achaz, however, was one of the worst kings in the history of Y’hudah and a wicked man. Not only did he turn his own heart against the Lord, but he caused the entire nation to backslide.

When Achaz heard that the ten northern tribes of Isra’el had formed an alliance with Aram and were going to come down and march against the two southern tribes of Y’hudah, Achaz was blown away like trees in the wind. What was the reason for this alliance? Historically, these two countries allied to protect themselves from the threat of Assyria. Assyria was to the northeast of Aram – a vast and brutal empire. Both Aram and Isra’el wanted Y’hudah to join in the confederacy, but Y’hudah refused. Therefore, Isra’el and Aram were coming to attack Y’hudah to force her to join their stand against the Assyrian threat.

The chronology of the reigns of Yotam (Jotham), Achaz (Ahaz) and Achazyah (Hezekiah) is very complicated. Nevertheless, the invasion referred to in verse one can be confidently dated to 735 BCE. By 734 BCE Tiglath-Pileser III had begun responding to the problems in the west, and the coalition would not have felt at liberty to take such aggressive action.

Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III was occupied with Urartu and Media between 737 and 735. During this time the western states were working to put together a coalition that might resist Assyrian incursions. Retzin had most likely played a significant role in bringing Pekach to the throne of Samaria. It is suspected that the attack against Yerushalayim was related to Achaz’s pro-Assyrian position. The siege was intended to result in replacing Achaz with an anti-Assyrian representative on the throne, who would then join in the coalition.

3 Then Adonai said to Yesha‘yahu, “Go out now to meet Achaz, you and your son Sh’ar Yashuv, at the end of the aqueduct from the Upper Pool, on the road to the Launderers’ Field;

The name of Yesha’yahu’s son, Sh’ar Yashuv, means “a remnant will return,” a theme that has already played a significant role in the first six chapters of the book.

Achaz deserved to be wiped out. He was, after all, a wicked ruler, a man who had no interest in the things of God. God sent Yesha‘yahu to talk to him, thereby giving Achaz yet another chance to turn to Him.

We can learn a valuable lesson here. Oh, the mercy of our Lord. How longsuffering and patient He was with Achaz. How longsuffering and patient He is with me.

4 and say to him, ‘Take care to stay calm and unafraid; don’t be demoralized by these two smoldering stumps of firewood, by the blazing anger of Retzin and Aram or the son of Remalyah; 5 or because Aram, Efrayim and the son of Remalyah have been plotting against you, thinking,

Go out now to meet with Achaz,” the Lord said to Yesha‘yahu, and tell him to stay calm and unafraid. The plans of these two firebrands are not going to work the way they think or hope. In fact, in sixty-five years, the ten northern tribes will not even be a people. Indeed, within sixty-five years, the Assyrians came down and carried away the ten northern tribes, and they haven’t been heard from since.

6  “We will invade Y’hudah, tear it apart, divide it among ourselves and appoint the son of Tav’el as king there. ~ Isaiah 7:1-6 (CJB)

Though nothing is known historically of this individual, the name Tav’el is Aramaic and thus suggests someone in the royal household (likely of Davidic lineage) whose mother was perhaps a princess from the area of Aram. Such an individual would be more likely to be a sympathizer with Aramean causes.

The political intentions of Retzin and Pekach were clear. They wanted to remove Achaz from the throne because of his unwillingness to join their coalition and they intended to install a puppet king who would be more easily manipulated.

In my next blog, we will continue to explore The Sign of Immanuel ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 7:7-12.

Click for the PDF version.

The Throne of God and Yesha’yahu’s Commissioning ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’yahu 6:8-13

In my last post, we began to look at Yesha’yahu taken to the Throne of God in Yesha’yahu 6:1-7. In this post, we will look at Yesha’yahu’s Commissioning in Yesha’yahu 6:8-13.

8 Then I [Yesha’yahu] heard the voice of Adonai saying, “Whom should I send? Who will go for us?” I answered, “I’m here, send me!”

Who is us in this verse? In my humble opinion, this is the same us in B’resheet (Genesis 1:26) God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Yesha’yahu’s readiness to serve contrasts with the reluctance of Moshe and Yirmeyahu (Exodus 4:1-17; Jeremiah 1:6). He didn’t passively say, “Lord, if You want, You can use me.” Rather, the original text indicates he said, “Behold me. Look at me, Lord.” Thus, with the enthusiasm of an eager first-grader who knows the answer, Yesha’yahu raised his hand to get the Teacher’s attention and said, “I’m here, send me!”

It has been said that Yesha’yahu’s calling can be summarized as Woe, Lo, and Go.

  • “Woe is me, “Yesha’yahu said in verse 5.
  • “Lo, this iniquity is taken away,” the s’rafim said in verse 7.
  • “Go,” the Lord said in verse 9. [1]

9 He said, “Go and tell this people: ‘Yes, you hear, but you don’t understand. You certainly see, but you don’t get the point!’ 10 “Make the heart of this people [sluggish with] fat, stop up their ears, and shut their eyes. Otherwise, seeing with their eyes, and hearing with their ears, then understanding with their hearts, they might repent and be healed!”

Yesha’yahu was a prophet with a message of judgment. God’s commission recognized that, because of its sin, Isra’el’s healing could only come about through their punishment. Yeshayahu’s message from God would serve only to distance them even more from God.

What does the Lord say to you about your calling? What has He commissioned you to do for Him? Will you go? Whether that means across the seas or the street, around the block or the office, will you tell people about the One who saved your soul? Will you make talmidim (disciples)?

God wanted Yesha’yahu to speak His Word and to be His witness so that people might see how they were either rejecting or responding to Him. Our calling is not to be successful in ministry. Our calling is simply to be obedient to the Master. Those who are elected will respond. Others won’t.

This passage is quoted or referred to by Yeshua in Matthew 13:14-15; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; and John12:40. Sha’ul quotes it in Acts 28:-26-27. Yesha‘yahu said these things because he saw the Sh’khinah of Yeshua and spoke about him. ~ John 12:41 (CJB) It seems to me that such repetition makes it important to grab ahold of and respond to our calling as talmidim makers.

11 I asked, “Adonai, how long?” and he answered, “Until cities become uninhabited ruins, houses without human presence, the land utterly wasted; 12 until Adonai drives the people far away, and the land is one vast desolation. 13 If even a tenth [of the people] remain, it will again be devoured. “But like a pistachio tree or an oak, whose trunk remains alive after its leaves fall off, the holy seed will be its trunk.” ~ Yesha’yahu 6:8-13 (CJB)

From the start, Yesha’yahu knew that his message would not lead God’s people to repentance. They would experience destruction. Even so, a remnant would survive. This remnant is pictured as the trunk remains alive after its leaves fall off. How long would the heart of the nation be hard, the eyes of the nation be blind? Until they were carried captive into Babylon. When Nebuchadnezzar carried the Jews captive into Babylon, one-tenth were left to care for the land (2 Kings 25:12, 22). Thus, this prophecy was fulfilled perfectly.

In my next blog, we will move on to The Sign of Immanuel in Yesha’yahu 7.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Jon Courson’s Application Commentary Old Testament Volume 2.

Observing Purim ~ 2019

Introduction

Purim commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people from destruction in the reign of the Persian King Ahasuerus, or Xerxes I, as recorded in the Book of Esther. Held on the 14th and 15th days of the Jewish month of Adar, it is celebrated by feasting and merriment, almsgiving, sending food to neighbors and friends, and chanting the text of Esther. Although this is not a time appointed by God for remembrance, it is perhaps the most joyous day of the Jewish year, with masquerades, plays, and drinking of wine even in the synagogue.

In 2019, Purim is celebrated on March 21st & 22nd.

Setting

The story of Esther takes place in Sushan, an ancient royal city of the Persian Empire, approximately 150 miles north of the Persian Gulf in modern Iran. It is the traditional burial site of the prophet Daniel. The events took place in approximately 465 BCE after the Jewish people were allowed to return to Jerusalem from their Babylonian captivity by King Cyrus.

Significance for Today

The Book of Esther is a story of teamwork that shaped a nation and a study of survival of God’s chosen people. The relationship between Esther and Mordecai vividly portrays the unity that Yeshua prayed for His disciples to experience. The success of their roles, even their very survival, depended upon their unity.

The Book of Esther reminds us that God destroys those who try to harm His people. From this, we are reminded that He is faithful to destroy HaSatan and that His sovereign purposes ultimately prevail.

The Book of Esther has been called the ‘secular’ book of the Bible. It is the only book that does not mention or even allude to God. However, His imprint is obvious throughout. Esther’s spiritual maturity is seen in her knowledge to wait for God’s timing to make her request to save her people and denounce Haman. Mordecai also demonstrates maturity in seeking God’s timing and direction for the right time to have Esther disclose her identity as a Jew.

As we have been learning as we discover the Jewish roots of our faith, having a firm foundation of the Tanakh opens the Brit Hadashah up to a deeper understanding of our faith.

Jewish Observance of Purim
  1. Listen to the Megillah: To relive the miraculous events of Purim, we are to listen to the reading of the Megillah (the Scroll of Esther) twice: once on Purim eve and again on Purim day.
  2. Give to the Needy (Matanot La’evyonim): Concern for the needy is a year-round responsibility, but on Purim, it is a special mitzvah (commandment) to remember the poor. Give charity to at least two, (but preferably more) needy individuals on the day of Purim. Giving directly to the needy best fulfills the mitzvah. If, however, you cannot find poor people, place at least several coins into a charity box. As in the other mitzvahs of Purim, even small children should fulfill this mitzvah.
  3. Send Food Portions to Friends (Mishloach Manot): On Purim, we emphasize the importance of Jewish unity and friendship by sending gifts of food to friends. Send a gift of at least two kinds of ready-to-eat foods (e.g., pastry, fruit, beverage), to at least one friend on Purim day. Men should send to men and women to women. It is preferable that the gifts are delivered via a third party. Children, in addition to sending their gifts of food to their friends, make enthusiastic messengers.
  4. Eat, Drink and be Merry: Purim should be celebrated with a special festive meal on Purim Day, at which family and friends gather together to rejoice in the Purim spirit. It is a mitzvah to drink wine or other inebriating drinks at this meal.
  5. Special Prayers (Al Hanissim, Torah reading): On Purim, we recite the Al HaNissim prayer in the evening, morning and afternoon prayers, as well as in the Grace After Meals. In the morning service, there is a special reading from the Torah Scroll in the synagogue.”And (we thank You) for the miracles, for the redemption, for the mighty deeds, for the saving acts, and for the wonders which You have wrought for our ancestors in those days, at this time – in the days of Mordecai and Esther, in Shushan the capital, when the wicked Haman rose up against them, and sought to destroy, slaughter and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in one day, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar and to take their spoil for plunder. But You, in Your abounding mercies, foiled his counsel and frustrated his intention, and caused the evil he planned to recoil on his head, and they hanged him and his sons upon the gallows.”
  6. Torah Reading of “Zachor”: On the Shabbat before Purim, a special reading is held in the synagogue of the Torah section called Zachor (“Remember” – Deuteronomy 25:17-19), in which we are enjoined to remember the deeds of (the nation of) Amalek (Haman’s ancestor) who sought to destroy the Jewish people.
  7. The Fast of Esther: To commemorate the day of prayer and fasting that the Jewish people held at Esther’s request, we fast on the day before Purim, from approximately an hour before sunrise until nightfall.
  8. The “Half Coins” (Machatzit Hashekel): It is a tradition to give three half-dollar coins to charity to commemorate the half-shekel that each Jew contributed as his share in the communal offerings in the time of the Holy Temple. This custom, usually performed in the synagogue, is done on the afternoon of the “Fast of Esther,” or before the reading of the Megillah.
  9. Purim Customs: Masquerades and Hamantashen: A time-honored Purim custom is for children to dress up and disguise themselves-an allusion to the fact that the miracle of Purim was disguised in natural garments. This is also the significance behind a traditional Purim food, the hamantash-a pastry whose filling is hidden within a three-cornered crust.
Summary of the Story

The Book of Esther tells of the deliverance of the Jewish people of Persia from destruction and of the institution of the feast of Purim as the annual commemoration of this event. Esther is an orphaned Jewish maiden raised by her older cousin Mordecai. (As an aside, there is some dispute amongst the various Bible translations as to whether Mordecai was Esther’s uncle or cousin. Irrespective, she was an orphan and Mordecai raised her as his daughter.) She is selected from among the most beautiful maidens of the Persian Empire to be the queen of King Ahasuerus (Xerxes I), replacing the banished Queen Vashti. Angered by Mordecai’s refusal to pay him homage, Haman, the king’s ambitious chief minister, plots to destroy Mordecai and all his people. He persuades the king to issue an edict authorizing a massacre of all the Jews in the realm on the ground that they do not keep the king’s laws. Mordecai urges Esther to persuade Ahasuerus to rescind the decree. Esther, risking execution by appearing unbidden before the king, exposes the intrigues of Haman, after that Ahasuerus orders Haman hanged and appoints Mordecai as his chief minister. The king then reverses his edict, allowing the Jews to destroy their enemies throughout the empire. On the appointed day, they carry out bloody vengeance. Finally, to celebrate their delivery, Mordecai and Queen Esther decree the annual feast of Purim.

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