Fasting & the Shabbat ~ Yesha’yahu 58:1-14

SPECIAL NOTE: This post is a tad longer than what I have been posting of late. However, the topic was just too short I felt to break-up into a two-post series. You may want to download the PDF version below.

In my last post, we concluded our series on Justice and Judgment ~ Part 4 in Yesha’yahu 57:14-21. In this post, we look at the subject of Fasting & the Shabbat in Yesha’yahu 58:1-14.

The last section of Yesha’yahu’s book puts the final pieces in place for Adonai’s work of salvation and restoration both for Israel and for all of creation. The beginning of that restoration, from Adonai’s standpoint, is the re-establishment of proper worship. Once more, the Prophet is commissioned to shout out, and this time to call the people to repentance. Such will be the case during the time of the end. The first advent of the Lord was heralded by John the Baptist, who called the nation to repentance. Another call to repentance will precede the second advent. It is before us in this chapter. In this, we will have all the great future blessings of the converted remnant of Israel described.

1 Shout out loud! Don’t hold back! Raise your voice like a shofar! Proclaim to My people what rebels they are, to the house of Ya’akov their sins. 2 “Oh yes, they seek Me day after day and [claim to] delight in knowing My ways. As if they were an upright nation that had not abandoned the rulings of their God, they ask Me for just rulings and [claim] to take pleasure in closeness to God,

Adonai instructs Yesha’yahu to shout out the message that His people were sinning even though they came to the Temple and delighted in seeking His ways. In other words, these were people who loved to study the Word, to fellowship together, to worship Adonaiand yet Adonai indicts them. Why? Because, although they loved to learn about Adonai, they weren’t interested in obeying Him. How much is that like so many of us today. When the Ruach begins to convict us, when the Word of Adonai starts to speak to us, we usually only think of it in terms of how it applies to others.

3 [asking,] ‘Why should we fast, if you don’t see? Why mortify ourselves, if You don’t notice?’ “Here is My answer: when you fast, you go about doing whatever you like, while keeping your laborers hard at work. 4 Your fasts lead to quarreling and fighting, to lashing out with violent blows. On a day like today, fasting like yours will not make your voice heard on high. 5 “Is this the sort of fast I want, a day when a person mortifies himself? Is the object to hang your head like a reed and spread sackcloth and ashes under yourself? Is this what you call a fast, a day that pleases Adonai?

Adonai responded to His people’s challenges. He did not respond to their fasting because it was superficial and inauthentic. It led to divisions in the community and exploitative behavior toward underlings, as well as self-absorption. Adonai’s idea of fasting extended far beyond public expressions of mourning. Yeshua said the same thing in Matthew 6 when He said, Now when you fast, don’t go around looking miserable, like the hypocrites. They make sour faces so that people will know they are fasting. Yes! I tell you; they have their reward already! 17 But you, when you fast, wash your face and groom yourself, 18 so that no one will know you are fasting – except your Father, who is with you in secret. Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” ~ Matthew 6:16-18 (CJB)

6 “Here is the sort of fast I want – releasing those unjustly bound, untying the thongs of the yoke, letting the oppressed go free, breaking every yoke,

After condemning the people’s idea of fasting, Adonai defined what He understood to be legitimate and effective fasting. The emphasis is on social justice. Fasting must be connected to behavior that helps the exploited find freedom. The yoke is often an image of exploitation and bondage.

It should be noted that the only fasting that Adonai commanded was regarding Yom Kippur. All the rest are rabbinical mandates or personal acts of piety (see Leviticus 23:28).

7 sharing your food with the hungry, taking the homeless poor into your house, clothing the naked when you see them, fulfilling your duty to your kinsmen!”

What Adonai wanted was religious practice offered from truly humble hearts. Seeking to worship with false motives and with no concern for righteousness is not true worship. So, what does true religion look like? What is proper behavior for the subjects of the King? Believers are to help the oppressed (v.6), give food to the hungry, provide shelter to the homeless, and clothing the naked. As Believers, we are to “care for orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being contaminated by the world” ~ James 1:27 (CJB). Fasting for a day would provide some extra funding to fulfill this need.

8 Then your light will burst forth like the morning; your new skin will quickly grow over your wound; your righteousness will precede you, and Adonai’s glory will follow you. 9 Then you will call, and Adonai will answer; you will cry, and He will say, “Here I am.” If you will remove the yoke from among you, stop false accusation and slander,

The people began by complaining that Adonai did not respond to their fasting. Fasting seems self-denying, but Adonai recognized that the fasting of His people had been manipulative. True self-denial means helping others, and behavior that is other-centered rather than self-directed will be rewarded. Adonai will remove the yoke upon us mentioned in v.3.

10 generously offer food to the hungry and meet the needs of the person in trouble; then your light will rise in the darkness, and your gloom become like noon.

Light and darkness stand for prosperity and need. Faithful obedience and a turning from evil will transform darkness into light.

11 Adonai will always guide you; He will satisfy your needs in the desert, He will renew the strength in your limbs; so that you will be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails.

Abundant, comprehensive blessings of physical health, answered prayer, and continual guidance is promised to those with a heart for the poor and afflicted of society.

12 You will rebuild the ancient ruins, raise foundations from ages past, and be called “Repairer of broken walls, Restorer of streets to live in.”

The prophecy looks forward to the restoration when Adonai’s people will leave their captivity and return to the land, but the land and its cities, especially Yerushalayim. Obedience will lead to prosperity and fertility. The parched land will turn into a watered garden. Obedience and faithful piety will also lead to the strength needed to rebuild the city of Yerushalayim and its defenses. This would be fulfilled when, under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah, the people rebuilt the Temple and walls of Yerushalayim following their Babylonian captivity.

13 “If you hold back your foot on Shabbat from pursuing your own interests on My holy day; if you call Shabbat a delight, Adonai’s holy day, worth honoring; then honor it by not doing your usual things or pursuing your interests or speaking about them.

According to later rabbinic writings, the Shabbat in the postexilic period took on the idea of laying aside the day to worship Adonai. The Shabbat became one of the primary means of showing loyalty to Adonai and His statutes.

 14 If you do, you will find delight in Adonai – I will make you ride on the heights of the land and feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Ya’akov, for the mouth of Adonai has spoken.” ~ Isaiah 58:1-14 (CJB)

In the ancient Near East, cities were typically built on hills because of their natural defensibility, and armies chose hills as strategic points of control. The metaphor to ride on the heights of the land speaks of victory and security.

In my next post, we will begin to explore the issue of Sin, Confession & Redemption ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 59:1-11.

Click here for the PDF version.

Justice and Judgment ~ Part 4 ~ Yesha’yahu 57:3-13

In my last post, we continued to explore the effects of Justice and Judgment ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 57:3-13. In this post, we conclude our series on Justice and Judgment ~ Part 4 in Yesha’yahu 57:14-21.

This passage closes with a statement about Adonai’s good intentions toward the righteous, with a brief statement about the fate of the wicked at the end. Adonai’s people were also assured that his wrath against them would not last forever (v.16).

14 Then He will say, “Keep building! Keep building! Clear the way! Remove everything blocking My people’s path!” 15 For thus says the High, Exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy: “I live in the high and holy place but also with the broken and humble, in order to revive the spirit of the humble and revive the hearts of the broken ones.

Again, Yesha’yahu used the theme of removing obstacles between Adonai and His people to describe the restoration of an intimate relationship. In this instance, the road leads to Adonai, who lives in a high and holy place, so the way is one that goes up (build it up). Adonai may live in a high place, but the broken and humble are with Him. This is a good reminder for all of us to get our “humble” on.

 16 For I will not (emphasis added) fight them forever or always nurse My anger; otherwise, their spirits would faint before me, the creatures I Myself have made. 17 It was because of their flagrant greed that I was angry and struck them; I hid Myself and was angry, but they continued on their own rebellious way. 18 I have seen their ways, and I will heal them; I will lead them and give comfort to them and to those who mourn for them –

Adonai’s punishment of His people’s sins has a limit. He will not destroy them but will punish them in a disciplinary way. He removed His presence from them, but still, they continued to sin. Here Adonai’s people do not break their sin pattern, but Adonai in His grace always promises to heal them.

In other words, Adonai says, “I’ve seen the perversity of man. Yes, I’ve disciplined him. But I will heal, guide, and create peace within him. I will deliver him.” Adonai does not give up on me, and He won’t give up on you ever.

19 I will create the right words: ‘Shalom Shalom to those far off and to those nearby!’ says Adonai; ‘I will heal them!'” 20 But the wicked are like the restless sea – unable to be still, its waters toss up mud and dirt. 21 There is no shalom, says my God, for the wicked. ~ Isaiah 57:14-21 (CJB)

There is a distinction between those to whom Adonai grants peace and those who remain wicked. The wicked will have no peace but will be like the turbulent sea. The sea is commonly a symbol of chaos and wickedness in ancient Near Eastern literature, including the Bible. [1] Nevertheless, anyone who repented and returned to the Lord would enjoy his shalom and healing. However, there is no shalom … for the wicked.

In my next post, we will explore the issue of Fasting in Yesha’yahu 58:1-14.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] HCSB Study Bible.


Justice and Judgment ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’yahu 56:9-57:2

In my last post, we began to examine the issues of Justice and Judgment ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 56:1-8. In this post, we continue to explore the effects of Justice and Judgment ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 56:9-57:2.

9 All you wild animals, come and devour, yes, all you animals in the forest!10 [Isra’el’s] watchmen are, all of them, blind; they don’t know anything. They are all dumb dogs, unable to bark, lying there dreaming, loving to sleep.11 Greedy dogs, never satisfied -such are the shepherds, unable to understand; they all turn to their own way, each one intent on his own gain:

Wow, what an indictment against the watchmen! Talk about not doing their jobs. Dogs in the ancient Near East lived as scavengers. They often roamed in packs on the outskirts of the city and wherever they found refuse. They were often the source of a biting insult. Watchmen were supposed to keep wild animals away from the crops, but these watchmenIsra’el’s leaders – were ineffective, silent (mute dogs), and asleep.

12 “Come, I’ll get some wine, we’ll fill up on good, strong liquor! Tomorrow will be like today; in fact, it will be even better!”

The leaders were totally self-indulgent. They were in it for themselves. This is an indictment, a stern rebuke against the prophets and priests who should have been feeding God’s flock but were instead fleecing them.

1 The righteous person perishes, and nobody gives it a thought. Godly men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous person is taken away from the evil yet to come.

The evil hearts of God’s people were also apparent in another way – in their lack of care for their fellow righteous citizens.

2 Yes, those who live uprightly will have peace as they rest on their couches. ~ Isaiah 56:9-57:2 (CJB)

This verse is obscure, but the sense is that the death of the righteous brings them into a peaceful state. This does not offer hope of heaven but an escape from the turmoil. Even Sh’ol is to be preferred to the wicked situation on earth.

In my next post, we will begin to examine the issues of Justice and Judgment ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 57:3-13.

Click here for the PDF version.

Justice and Judgment ~ Part 1 ~ Yesha’yahu 56:1-8

In my last post, we began a journey to hear A Call to Seek the Lord ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 55:7-13. In this post, we will start to examine the issues of Justice and Judgment ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 56:1-8.

The appeal to observe justice and do what is right was addressed to Isra’el because Adonai’s salvation was near (56:1). There was also good news for every foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord because, in the Millennial Kingdom, righteous non-Jews will also share in the blessings of the Messiah’s rule (56:3). Gentiles, who believed in the God of Isra’el and bound themselves to Him, had a place within His covenant community in the Old Testament dispensation. Here they were assured that they would also share in the kingdom with Isra’el, including sharing in Isra’el’s regathering to enjoy Adonai’s salvation and blessings under Messiah’s righteous rule. Adonai also promises a special blessing and kingdom position to those who maintain their sexual purity (1 Cor 6:9-19).

1 Here is what Adonai says: “Observe justice, do what is right, for my salvation is close to coming, my righteousness to being revealed.”

Salvation is also equivalent to victory or rescue since it envisions release from Babylonian bondage. This verse does not call for obedience that earns salvation. Obedience is a response to the promise of Adonai’s coming deliverance, not a way to earn His favor.

2 Happy is the person who does this, anyone who grasps it firmly, who keeps Shabbat and does not profane it and keeps himself from doing any evil.

Adonai pronounces happy (see Psalm 1) those who are obedient and who avoid evil. The Sabbath commandment (Ex 20:8-11; Dt 5:12-15) is singled out because it was considered the epitome of the Mosaic covenant (Ex 31:13).

3 A foreigner joining Adonai should not say, “Adonai will separate me from His people; “likewise, the eunuch should not say, “I am only a dried-up tree.”

Adonai reminds His people that foreigners who convert to the Lord are not excluded from worship. Yesha’yahu is not at odds with Ezekiel (Ezekiel 44:6-9) or Ezra (Ezra 4:1-3), because they addressed the issue of foreigners who had not converted. Indeed, Exodus 12:43 states concerning the Pesach meal that “no foreigner may eat it,” but Exodus 12:48-49 then makes it clear that if a foreigner converted and was circumcised, then he could partake of the Pesach.

4 For here is what Adonai says: “As for the eunuchs who keep my Shabbats, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant:

Eunuchs were typically excluded from worship, as it is written: A man with crushed or damaged private parts may not enter the assembly of Adonai. ~ Deuteronomy 23:1 (CJB) That law pointed out that gender and sex were divine gifts that should not be intentionally altered. However, this verse describes an obedient eunuch and thus one who had become a eunuch accidentally or who had converted to worship of Adonai after becoming a eunuch. Such devout eunuchs were invited to join in the worship of Adonai.

5 in my house, within my walls, I will give them power and a name greater than sons and daughters; I will give him an everlasting name that will not be cut off.

Eunuchs obviously could not have children and thus lacked progeny who would perpetuate their name. Adonai proclaims that He will provide a memorial for them.

6 “And the foreigners who join themselves to Adonaito serve Him, to love the name of Adonai, and to be His workers, all who keep Shabbat and do not profane it, and hold fast to my covenant, 7 I will bring them to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer; their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

Adonai will not turn away anyone who desires to worship Him, even foreigners (that’s most of us, folks) and eunuchs. His house, the Temple, will be a place where everyone can come to pray.

8 Adonai Elohim says, He who gathers Isra’el’s exiles: “There are yet others I will gather, besides those gathered already.”~ Isaiah 56:1-8 (CJB)

The dispersed of Isra’el refers to those Isra’eli, who were removed from the land of Isra’el as a result of foreign invasions (Assyrian and Babylonian) that Adonai sent as punishment against His people.

In my next post, we will begin to examine the issues of Justice and Judgment ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 56:9-57:2.

Click here for the PDF version.

A Call to Seek the Lord ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’yahu 55:7-13

In my last post, we began a journey to hear A Call to Seek the Lord ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 55:1-6. In this post, we conclude our journey to hear A Call to Seek the Lord ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 55:6-13.

In our previous post, we are told to “seek Adonai while He is available, call on Him while He is still nearby.” In this post, we will explore why.

7Let the wicked person abandon his way and the evil person his thoughts; let him return to Adonai, and He will have mercy on him; let him return to our God, for He will freely forgive.

No matter how wicked you might be, Adonai says if you come to Him, He’ll have mercy upon you and abundantly pardon. Having been confronted about his adultery with Bat-sheva and murder of Uryiah, David said, “I have sinned against Adonai.” Natan said to David, “Adonai also has taken away your sin. You will not die. ~ 2 Samuel 12:13 (CJB). Adonai is so merciful. The moment we confess, we’re forgiven.

8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways,” says Adonai. 9 “As high as the sky is above the earth are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Adonai’s invitation in verse 7 was gracious, but there was an urgency to it. If we’re honest, grace does not make sense to us because it does not reflect how people treat one another on earth. But Adonai’s perspective is not our perspective. That’s why we need a divine translator. We need the Ruach HaKodesh to enable us to have a heavenly perspective; we need “the mind of the Messiah” (1 Cor 2:16).

10 For just as rain and snow fall from the sky and do not return there, but water the earth, causing it to bud and produce, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater; 11 so is My Word that goes out from my mouth – it will not return to Me unfulfilled, but it will accomplish what I intend, and cause to succeed what I sent it to do.”

These verses offer rich encouragement regarding the power of Adonai’s Word. Even children understand this illustration about how Adonai cause rain and snow to water the earth. But Adonai says his Word works the same way. It proceeds from his mouth and does not return . . . unfulfilled. It will accomplish what He intends (55:11).

We often make grand plans. We plot and scheme. Sometimes we succeed, but, often we fail. That’s because they lack the power to guarantee their plans. Power is the ability to effect change or produce a desired result, and Adonai’s Word alone has that kind of guaranteed power. The unstoppable power of Adonai’s Word to accomplish all his purposes sets it apart in a class by itself. Adonai’s Word is always purposeful, and His purposes are always achieved. The Bible can be trusted.

12Yes, you will go out with joy; you will be led forth in peace. As you come, the mountains and hills will burst out into song, and all the trees in the countryside will clap their hands. 13Cypresses will grow in place of thorns; myrtles will grow instead of briars. This will bring fame to Adonai as an eternal, imperishable sign. ~ Isaiah 55:1-13 (CJB)

The greatness of Adonai’s salvation and grace will have tremendous effects on the earth in the millennial kingdom. These verses describe briefly the new earth Adonai has promised in His reversal of the curse of Eden. The thorns and briars, which began to plague the world after Adam and Havah (Eve) sinned (see Gen 3:17-18), will be replaced by plants of beauty and usefulness (55:13).

In my next post, we will begin to examine the issues of Justice and Judgment ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 56.

Click here for the PDF version.

A Call to Seek the Lord ~ Part 1 ~ Yesha’yahu 55:1-6

In my last post, we moved forward to learn about The Future Glory of Tziyon ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 54:9-17. In this post, we are on a journey to hear A Call to Seek the Lord in Yesha’yahu 55:1-6.

This chapter consists of an invitation to Adonai’s people to experience His forgiveness. Having laid out every blessing prepared for Adonai’s people in the previous chapter, the only thing left to do was to invite Isra’el to receive the Lord’s healing and salvation from sin.

1 “All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You without money, come, buy, and eat! Yes, come! Buy wine and milk without money – it’s free!

Adonai will not only freely give water, but also the more substantial drinks of milk and wine. These drinks represent spiritual as well as physical nourishment. Water speaks of life, wine of joy, milk of growth. Romans 14:17 tells us the kingdom is inside of us. Therefore, righteousness, peace, and joy are available even now. The water of life, wine of joy, milk of growth are ours for the taking. Being thirsty for His grace is the only prerequisite.

2 Why spend money for what isn’t food, your wages for what doesn’t satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and you will eat well, you will enjoy the fat of the land.

Adonai’s people had not been accepting the free offer of salvation represented by water for the thirsty. They had been spending their resources on things that did not bring soul satisfaction.

 3 Open your ears, and come to me; listen well, and you will live – I will make an everlasting covenant with you, the grace I assured David.

The promises to David are found in 2 Samuel 7. They include the affirmation that David’s dynasty would be established forever (verse 16). During the Bavelim captivity, though, the Davidic line of kings ruling in Yerushalayim came to an end with Zedekiah. We understand the unconditional promise to be fulfilled in Yeshua HaMashiach, a descendant of David.

 4 I have given Him as a witness to the peoples, a leader, and lawgiver for the peoples. 5 You will summon a nation you do not know, and a nation that doesn’t know you will run to you, for the sake of Adonai your God, the Holy One of Isra’el, who will glorify you.”

The promises to David are extended beyond Adonai’s people to include the nations. In fulfillment of the Avrahamic covenant (Genesis 12:3), it envisions a time when the nations will come to Adonai’s people. Isra’el’s greatest days are yet to come in the kingdom age. Nations who come down on her now will run to her then because they’ll sense Adonai is with her.

6Seek Adonai while He is available, call on Him while He is still nearby.

Why? Because in Genesis 6:3, Adonai said His spirit would not live in human beings forever. If you’re not saved, there will be a time when you may not be able to seek Him as you draw your last breath here on earth. There comes a time when all hope of salvation is lost and all that’s left is despair.

In my next post, we will continue to examine A Call to Seek the Lord ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 55:7-13.

A Call to Seek the Lord ~ Part 1

Observing Purim ~ 2020


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 2020, Purim is celebrated on March 10th & 11th.


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 returned 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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. The gifts should be delivered via a third party. Children, in addition to sending their gifts of food to their friends, make enthusiastic messengers.
  1. 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.
  1. 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 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.”
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

Click here for PDF version.

The Future Glory of Tziyon ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’yahu 54:9-17

In my last post, we moved forward to learn about The Future Glory of Tziyon ~Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 54:1-8. In this post, we conclude our journey in learning about The Future Glory of Tziyon~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 54:9-17.

9 “For Me, this is like Noach’s flood. Just as I swore that no flood like Noach’s would ever again cover the earth, so now I swear that never again will I be angry with you or rebuke you. 10 For the mountains may leave and the hills be removed, but My grace will never leave you, and My covenant of peace will not be removed,” says Adonai, who has compassion on you.

After the flood, Adonai said: I will remember my covenant which is between myself and you and every living creature of any kin, and the water will never again become a flood to destroy all living beings. ~ Genesis 9:15 (CJB) Adonai declares in these verses that though Isra’el may sin, He will not completely eradicate His people. He may make the hills shake, but He will not utterly destroy them. Thus, Adonai is compassionate in not treating Isra’el as they deserve because of their transgressions. The covenant of peace may be an allusion to the covenant with Noach, symbolized by the rainbow.

The mountains may leave, and the hills be removed recalls for many of us when Mt. St. Helens near Seattle erupted. Four billion cubic tons of earth was moved in thirty minutes. That’s a lot of dirt! Therefore, whatever mountain is looming over you is no problem for Him.

11 “Storm-ravaged [city], unconsoled, I will set your stones in the finest way, lay your foundations with sapphires, 12 make your windows shine with rubies, your gates with garnet, your walls with gemstones.

Yerushalayim is now personified as a storm-ravaged city that Adonai will restore to unprecedented splendor, made of precious stones and metals, which anticipates new Yerushalayim in Revelation 21:15-21.

13 All your children will be taught by Adonai; your children will have great peace.

The children of Yerushalayim are its inhabitants who will be taught by Adonai. The new covenant of Jeremiah 31:31-34 anticipated a time when Adonai’s people would no longer need a teacher, for all will know Me.

14 In righteousness, you will be established, far from oppression, with nothing to fear; far from ruin, for it will not come near you.

What glorious promises verses 11-14 are – especially in light of the problems Isra’el is facing today. “Your kids will be taught of the Lord. They’ll experience peace. And terror won’t come near you.”

15 Any alliance that forms against you will not be My doing; whoever tries to form such an alliance will fall because of you.

Those who attacked Yerushalayim (the Ashurim in 701 BCE and the Bavlim in 605, 597, and 586 BCE.) did so with Adonai’s permission, but after the restoration, their enemies will not be Adonai-sent and will fall for that reason.

16 It is I who created the craftsman who blows on the coals and forges weapons suited to their purpose; I also created the destroyer to work havoc. 17 No weapon made will prevail against you. In court, you will refute every accusation. The servants of Adonai inherit all this; the reward for their righteousness is from Me,” says Adonai. ~ Isaiah 54:1-17 (CJB)

Using both military (weapon) and legal (accusation) metaphors, Adonai proclaims that His people will withstand all attacks because of His protection. As servants of the Lord, this promise is also for us. But it’s not our righteousness that qualifies us to claim it. Instead, it’s because we’re in the righteous One, Yeshua HaMashiach (see 2 Corinthians 5:21).

In my next post, we will move on to Yesha’yahu 55 to learn about A Call to Seek the Lord.

Click here for the PDF version.

The Future Glory of Tziyon ~ Part 1 ~ Yesha’yahu 54:1-8

In my last post, I  recapped both the Characteristics and the Accomplishments of the Suffering Servant in Yesha’yahu53. In this post, we move forward to learn about The Future Glory of Tziyon ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 54:1-8. Don’t -worry; this is only a two-part series. I’m trying to keep the posts on a single page.

After the sorrow of chapter 53 comes the singing of chapter 54.

1 “Sing, barren woman who has never had a child! Burst into song, shout for joy, you who have never been in labor! For the deserted wife will have more children than the woman who is living with her husband,” says Adonai.

A barren woman was often scorned in the ancient Near East and sometimes replaced by a secondary wife. With no sons to care for her in her old age, she was particularly vulnerable. Thus, barrenness is a frequent image of loneliness and helplessness. In this verse, Yerushalayim is depicted as a barren woman who will have a child (like Sarah, Rachel, or Hannah). Indeed, she will have many children. Thus, her sadness will turn to joy (see Psalm 113:9).

2 Enlarge the space for your tent, extend the curtains of your dwelling; do not hold back, lengthen your cords, make your tent pegs firm.

Tziyon is seen here with the patriarchal image of the tent. As a mother who has been blessed with many children, Tziyon will need a spacious tent. The tents were made of hand-woven, three-feet-wide strips of dark goats’ hair. When more family members needed to be accommodated, additional pieces could be sewn on. The cords that stretched from center poles to corner poles would have to be longer and tent pegs made of stronger, thicker wood to hold the weight.

3 For you will spread out to the right and the left, your descendants will possess the nations and inhabit the desolated cities.4 Don’t be afraid, for you won’t be ashamed; don’t be discouraged, for you won’t be disgraced. You will forget the shame of your youth, no longer remember the dishonor of being widowed.

The metaphor here in verse 4 is clarified in verse 6. A woman who was unable to bear children was believed to be under the punishment of a deity, incapable of serving the function for which she was married and therefore liable to be rejected and abandoned by her husband. The word translated youth here refers to one who has not borne a child. Her shame is her barrenness. She is a widow because her husband has abandoned her (as most marriage contracts allowed) and therefore is the object of reproach with little hope of remarrying. She is thus stripped of short-term support by a husband and the support in her old age that could be expected from children. [1]

5 For your husband is your Maker, Adonai-Tzva’ot is His name. The Holy One of Isra’el is your Redeemer. He will be called the God of all the earth. 

The prophecy tells the widow Isra’el not to be afraid because Adonai-Tzva’ot has married her. She has gone from nothing to everything, as the list of divine names makes clear.

6 For Adonai has called you back like a wife abandoned and grief-stricken; “A wife married in her youth cannot be rejected,” says your God. 7 “Briefly I abandoned you, but with great compassion, I am taking you back. 8 I was angry for a moment and hid My face from you, but with everlasting grace, I will have compassion on you,” says Adonai your Redeemer.

The metaphor changes in these verses. Isra’el is no longer a widow; she is a divorcee. Adonai, her husband, has abandoned her, but now He will take her back. The relationship between Adonai and Isra’el as described here is like the relationship between Hosea and Gomer (see Hosea 1; 3) that typifies Isra’el’s relationship with Adonai. He rejected Isra’el because of her sin (in a surge of anger), but now He takes her back with everlasting covenant love.

So, from the eternal perspective, the distance between Adonai and Isra’el was short-lived. The I am taking you back is also addressed by Kefa and James.

Moreover, dear friends, do not ignore this: with the Lord, one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day ~ 2 Peter 3:8 (CJB)

What we’re going through presently is just for a little moment in light of eternity. Maybe you had a bad day today or a bad life so far. But really, it’s just for a small moment because James says you don’t even know if you will be alive tomorrow! For all you are is a mist that appears for a little while and then disappears. ~ James 4:14 (CJB) For a small moment you’re experiencing difficulties, but Adonai’s kindness will last through eternity.

In my next post, we complete our journey to learn about The Future Glory of Tziyon ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 54:9-17.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament.

The Suffering Servant Part ~ 14 ~Yesha’yahu 52:13-53:12

In my last post, we completed our examination of the Suffering Servant in Yesha’yahu 53. In this post, I want to recap both the Characteristics and the Accomplishments of the Suffering Servant in Yesha’yahu53. Truthfully, I wanted to do this for myself, so I thought I would share it with you.

After a brief introduction to the Suffering Servant and discussing His identity, we explored His Characteristics:

  • The Servant Was Humble ~ Isaiah 53:1-2
  • The Servant Was Willing to Suffer Rejection ~ 53:3
  • The Servant Suffered Silently and Didn’t Retaliate ~ 53:7
  • The Servant Was Willing to Suffer ~ 53:8
  • The Servant Was Righteous and a Good Man Who Suffered Innocently ~ 53:9-10

We then moved on the examining His Accomplishments:

  • The Servant Bore Sorrows, Grief, and Sickness ~ 53:4
  • The Servant Died a Substitutionary Death for Our Sins ~ 53:5-6
  • The Servant Suffered a Humiliating Death ~ 53:8-9
  • The Servant Sacrifice Is an Offering for Our Sins ~ 53:10
  • The Servant Justifies Many ~ 53:11
  • The Servant Died and Rose from the Grave ~ 53:12

It’s interesting to me that verses 8-10 are prominent in both lists of attributes.

8 After forcible arrest and sentencing, He was taken away; and none of His generation protested His being cut off from the land of the living for the crimes of My people, who deserved the punishment themselves. 9 He was given a grave among the wicked; in His death, He was with a rich man. Although He had done no violence and had said nothing deceptive, 10 yet it pleased Adonai to crush Him with illness, to see if He would present Himself as a guilt offering. If He does, He will see His offspring; and He will prolong His days, and at His hand, Adonai’s desire will be accomplished. ~ Isaiah 53:8-10 (CJB)

My prayer is that all who might read this remarkable chapter might come to a saving knowledge of Messiah Yeshua as the Son of God who died and atoned for our sins.

In my next post, we will move on to Yesha’yahu 54 to learn about The Future Glory of Tziyon.

Click here for the PDF version.