Kislev/Tevet 5774 December 2013
MA CHADASH? WHAT’S NEW?
Two important articles about where your donation to Israel really goes:One of the frustrations of those of us involved in Jewish evangelism is that so many Christians have been giving money to organizations that supposedly help Israel but actually don’t help the Jewish people where it is needed most – which involves telling us the Good News. Charisma Magazine just published two articles about these organizations that are unworthy of our support as well as the good ones that should be supported. I encourage you to read them, be informed and forward them to others who need to be informed.
THANKS VERY MUCH!
From time to time, perceptive Messianic Jews and Gentiles ask why the candelabra used at Chanukkah (the chanukkiah) has nine branches rather than the traditional seven. The answer is, Jewish tradition tells us the miracle of the oil lasted for eight days, so we have a branch for each of the eight days of Chanukkah. The ninth branch, referred to as the shammash, or servant, is used to light the other eight. This has special significance for followers of Messiah since the One who is the Light of the World did not come to be served, but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many. We would still be in deep spiritual darkness had He not shone His marvelous light into our lives! We want to thank all of you who support the work of Congregation Shema Yisrael. Thank you for upholding us with prayer and your financial support as we proclaim that Yeshua is the great light-bearing Servant of God!
THE MEANING OF CHANUKKAH
THE DEDICATION OF THE TEMPLE
There were Chanukkah miracles, but that’s not the miracle of Chanukkah! The legend of the oil is not found in the original accounts, and most likely never happened. The real miracle of Chanukkah is that a small number of Jewish people, supernaturally empowered by the God of Israel, were able to overcome the vastly superior Syrian armies. The righteous few overcame the godless many; the weak who were loyal to the true God overcame those were much stronger than they were. The faithful remnant of Israel won miraculous victory after miraculous victory until the Syrians were defeated, Jerusalem was captured, and the Temple was cleansed and dedicated for the worship of the One True and Living God who alone can rescue fallen human beings from the real and utterly destructive forces of Satan, sin and death. From the rededicated Temple the presence of the Creator and the truths of the God who alone can save mankind were once again clearly revealed to Israel and the nations of the world! Chanukkah is not about a miracle about oil. Chanukkah is about the supernatural victories of the Jewish people and the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple was the most important place on Earth. The Temple was that special place upon which true Torah-Judaism is based – not the man-made Judaism of today that substitutes synagogues for the Temple, rabbis for priests, and human efforts for the blood of the sacrifices. The Temple was that very special place where God revealed His presence on Earth in the most profound way – where the Kavod Adonai, the Glorious Presence of the Lord, and the Shechinah, the Dwelling Presence of the Creator, were manifested most powerfully on this planet.
The Temple reminds us that the God of Israel is not the kind of God who is distant from His creation. He is the kind of Supreme Being who wants to be close to us, to live with us, to teach us and make atonement possible for us so that we can enter His house and live with Him forever and ever! We needed the Temple because this fallen world is under the power of the Evil One. The Adversary is the god of this world. The Temple was like a little beachhead on the enemy shore that the Lord won. The Temple was the beginning of God’s invasion and recapture of planet Earth. The Temple enabled the Holy God to live among sinful human beings – in a limited way. The Temple was that special place where the principles of sin and sacrifice and atonement were most clearly presented to a fallen and dying and religiously confused world. The Temple was the place where bulls, goats, lambs, rams and pigeons were killed and their blood was spilled, gathered and sprinkled on the bronze altar by Jewish priests, by the sons of Aaron, the brother of Moses, to make a temporary and limited atonement for the sins of the nation of Israel.
The Temple was the most important building on Earth. But no matter how important the Temple was, it was imperfect. Humanity needed a better Temple, a greater and perfect Temple, a Temple completely able to save us. We didn’t need another building made of gold and silver and wood and stone, but a perfect human being, made in the image of God; a holy and dedicated man in whom God could live and provide a greater atonement – not a temporary atonement, and not an incomplete atonement based on the blood of animals, but a perfect and eternal atonement based on the precious blood of the Son of Man, who is also the Son of God! Yeshua is that Greater Temple, that place where God lives and reveals Himself to fallen human beings. Yeshua is that Temple that provides complete and everlasting atonement. Yeshua is that Temple where the truth about God and the principles of atonement are most clearly seen! The Son of God, who lived with the Father from eternity, came to Earth. The One who is properly called Immanuel, God With Us, became incarnate, which means He took on a human body, became flesh, and lived among us. In Him the fullness of God lived in human form. This Wonderful Counselor, this Mighty God, this Father of Eternity, this Prince of Peace became a child who was born to us, and a son given to us. Through the incarnation, Yeshua became that greater Temple. That’s why He could tell a group of Jewish leaders: Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up… speaking about Himself – His body and His death and His resurrection.
When the Son of God died, something marvelous happened to the Temple in Jerusalem. The veil to the Most Holy Place in the Temple was divinely torn from top to bottom. This teaches us that because of Messiah’s death, the dwelling presence of God was being made available to all mankind – not just to the High Priest of Israel. God is now welcoming everyone – Jews and Gentiles – into His loving and eternal presence! All anyone has to do is believe that Yeshua is the Messiah and the risen Lord and transfer his loyalties to the Three-In-One God, and that person will be forever welcomed into God’s presence. Then 50 days after the Messiah died, the Father and the Son poured out the Spirit they share into those first Messianic Jews, and they became the Temple of God, the place where God lives and reveals Himself and teaches and saves! Do you not know that you are a Temple of God, Rabbi Paul asked the community at Corinth, and that the Spirit of God lives in you? In his second letter to that same community of Jews and Gentiles, Paul proclaims: We are the Temple of the Living God; just as God said, “I will live in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Amazing! Fantastic! Wonderful! The Father and the Son, by means of the Spirit They share, have taken up eternal residence in us! Fallen human beings, once spiritually dead because of their trespasses and sins – alienated from God and headed to Hell, not Heaven, to death, not life – are now part of an eternal fellowship where God’s Spirit lives!
Now, in order for any of God’s temples to accomplish the Lord’s special purposes for that temple, that temple needs to be dedicated to the true God. It can’t be devoted to other gods. That temple needs to be pure and holy and not contaminated by anything dirty or unholy. The Temple in Jerusalem was dedicated by the blood of animals. That dedication was maintained by following the teachings contained in God’s Word about the way the Temple was to function. Messiah is the Greater Temple, and He was dedicated to God. He was devoted to His Father, set apart to obey His God and serve His Father. Throughout His life He maintained that dedication. He maintained His dedication by putting God first, and not Himself, by placing God’s desires ahead of His own plans. He stated: I came down from Heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. I do not seek My own will but the will of Him who sent Me. Messiah, that Greater Temple, maintained His dedication by sanctifying Himself. He said: I sanctify Myself. The Son of God set Himself apart from anything that was unholy, from anything that was against God’s will. He set Himself apart in order to serve God. He knew that people are sanctified, are set apart to accomplish God’s special purposes, by the truth, and that God’s Word is truth. And so Yeshua maintained His dedication by familiarizing Himself with the Word of God and then doing the Word of God, living out the Word of God. Messiah maintained that dedication by talking to God all the time. And He would continually listen to God talking to Him. And what the Son heard His Father saying, He did. Messiah, the Greater Temple, maintained His dedication by realizing that He had a mission to accomplish. He said: My food (that which is vitally important to Me and will keep Me alive) is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work. Messiah allowed nothing to deter Him from God’s work of saving fallen human beings. He focused on His mission of redemption and gave His time and energy to it. The Son of God, who is that Greater Temple, maintained His dedication by not compromising when He was pressured to yield to something wrong and by not giving in to any threat or any intimidation. Messiah Yeshua is the Temple of God, and He shows us how other human beings who have become a temple of God maintain their dedication. And since Christians and Messianic Jews are now the Temple of God, we need to dedicate ourselves to God and maintain our dedication like Messiah did.
We do that by first realizing that we need to dedicate ourselves to God. That is reasonable since the Lord has done so much for us. The Lord is not only our Creator, but also our Redeemer, who saved us at such a high cost to Himself. Have you made that commitment to dedicate yourself to the Three-In-One God? Do you realize that you belong to the Father, the Son and the Spirit, and that you have been bought with a very high price, and that it is your obligation to serve the Living God and to accomplish His special purposes? Then, after we make that initial commitment of dedication, we try to maintain that dedication. We maintain our dedication by making a decision to keep on putting God first, and not ourselves, to follow God’s will for our life, and not our own will. We maintain our dedication by familiarizing ourselves with the Word of God. We try to think about God’s Word throughout the day, and apply its teachings to each situation we encounter. We maintain our dedication by sanctifying ourselves – keeping ourselves apart from anything that is unholy, impure, unclean. We maintain our dedication by trying to stay close to God by talking to Him and trying to hear Him talking to us. We try to cultivate special periods of time alone with the Lord. We discipline ourselves to turn our mind throughout the day to God. We thank Him for the interesting things that come to our attention, for the good things He has done, is doing and will do. We praise Him for His amazing attributes. We pray for ourselves and others, for our congregations, for the Messianic Jewish Community, for the Church, for the salvation of the Jewish community, for our friends and family, and for the world. We maintain our dedication by realizing that we have a mission to accomplish and that time is limited and precious. We understand that there is important, eternal-life changing work to be done. Therefore we don’t waste our time. We have a sense of divine purpose, of mission, a task to accomplish. We focus our priorities on witnessing to those outside the community of salvation, and serving inside the community. We maintain our dedication by not compromising when pressured to do something wrong, by being bold and courageous in the midst of a godless world. And if we fail in our dedication, if we allow our temple to get dirty, we admit our failures, confess our sins, and go back to God with sorrow and repentance and ask Him to forgive us. And we have His marvelous promise: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness – from everything that we have done wrong. Then once again we are clean and dedicated to God!
Chanukkah is not about a mythical miracle of oil. It’s about dedication. It’s about the dedication of the Temple that was in Jerusalem, and the dedication of Yeshua, the Greater Temple, and about our dedication as the Temple of God. It’s a deeply meaningful holiday. Therefore it shouldn’t surprise us that Messiah was in Jerusalem for Chanukkah, the holiday of the Dedication, and honored the dedication of the Maccabees and the supernatural victories they experienced and the rededication of the Temple. We can honor the victories of the Maccabees and the dedication of that Temple, too! And now that Immanuel has come, we can learn from His dedication, so we can be better dedicated to the Living God. And that is what Chanukkah is really all about!