As the United States celebrates the 4th of July tomorrow – Independence day – we're often reminded of the price that was paid for our freedom. But today, in that spirit, I want to recall a time when a heavy price was paid for a translation of our Bible.
In the Tenach (Old Testament), the Lord commanded Israel to count the Omer (the Barley Harvest) beginning the day after the sabbath during Passover, 50 days to the Biblical Festival of Shavuot (Pentecost). Today is the 29th day of the Omer and Shavuot is just a few weeks away…
Pesach (Passover) celebrates Israel's final departure from Egypt – that's why we read about it in "Exodus!" Leaving their former lives of slavery, the Jewish people now pressed forward looking toward the "Promised Land" and a new way of life. Their purpose was not only departure – it was also arrival to a new destination. Now there was a significant 40 year delay in the wilderness….
The Temple Institute in the Old City of Jerusalem has been preparing temple articles, priestly garments and studying for years to prepare a priesthood for service in a proposed rebuilt temple on the Temple Mount. A recent news article reported that training had begun for the preparation of the Passover sacrifice. The day for the training was the 10th of Nisan, the day designated in the Old Testament for choosing the Passover lamb. Since the eyes of the Jewish people are still partially blinded to the true identity of their Messiah, most of them don't know that the ultimate Passover Lamb was already sacrificed 2000 years ago.
Thousands of people all over the world celebrate Pesach (Passover) tonight, commemorating the day the Angel of Death passed over the Israelite slaves in Egypt, sparing their firstborn because the blood of a lamb was applied on their doorposts. Many believers in Yeshua (Jesus) also recognize this as the day that Messiah was crucified, offering Himself as the perfect Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, which reconciled man to His Maker, and restored them to close relationship.
Biblical Hebrew uses a grammatical form called "s'michut". This form joins two words together to form a single word form. We have this in English: for example, a door and a knob are two nouns, which are used to form the word "doorknob", a compound noun. This form of joining nouns is found in Judges 6:12. The expression, "Angel of the Lord" is rendered, "angel-YHVH"; (Yud-Hay-Vav-Hay); in modern English — "angel-Yehovah". Then, suddenly, the narrative changes from "angel-Yehovah" to simply, "Yehovah". Here we see another appearance of YHVH in human form in the Old Testament. The God-Man, Yeshua in a "pre-incarnate" appearance.
This groundbreaking conversation took place at Caesarea Phillipi, which lies today in the modern day reserve of the Banias in the Golan Heights region of Israel. The city was established by Ptolemaic Greeks, a Hellenistic community where the worship of the god Pan was centered. Reviled by the Jews of Yeshua's time and considered by them the most idolatrous place in the entire Galilee, to this day it remains a place of nature worship and deep paganism…
Once upon a time, there was a prince who received a very rare and beautiful bird. He named her Goldie and placed her in a lovely, 14K gold cage. But the poor creature was not impressed by the gold at all. She pleaded for her freedom but the prince loved her much too much to part with her. Still, she continued to beg. In final desperation, she asked that he at least allow her go to her relatives and tell them that, though captive, she was still alive.
After Yeshua’s (Jesus) resurrection, He showed himself to the apostles several times. Once, they were fishing, and Yeshua met them on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Peter was there, back at his craft, but swirling with inward emotions. The anguish of his recent denial, three times, exactly as Yeshua had predicted, mixed with the amazement and perplexity at the empty tomb, and finally the astounding relief and joy witnessing the risen Lord. Peter was on an emotional roller coaster for days, but the issue of his denial remained unresolved.
The story of the Exodus is a story of miracles – yet in the beginning when Moses first appeared before Pharaoh to deliver the children of Israel from 400 years of slavery, the Israelites were severely tempted and became angry because of the initial hardships that were laid upon them.
This pivotal passage of scripture, Isaiah 52 and continuing into Isaiah 53, profiles a suffering servant whom the nation of Israel would not recognize. The spiritual leaders of Yeshua's (Jesus) day were blinded to the messianic passages which pointed to the messiah's role as a humble servant and bearer of sins.
Whew! What must the disciples have felt back then as they saw the waves crashing against their boat? They we’re being swayed from side to side in the deep dark sea. They were afraid for their lives! But our Lord was there all along. He just wanted them to trust.
Tomorrow begins the holiday of Pesach (Passover), the day we remember God's merciful redemption of the Jewish people from Egypt. When the final plague struck Pharoh and the Egyptians in Exodus, those who were spared were were the ones who applied blood to their doorposts as God warned. Interestingly, the blood that God required them to apply then was the blood of a spotless, unblemished lamb.
After the Civil War, Robert E. Lee visited a Kentucky lady who took him to the remains of a once beautiful old tree in front of her house. There she bitterly cried that its limbs and trunk had been destroyed by Federal artillery fire. She looked to Lee for a word condemning the North or at least sympathizing with her loss. After a brief silence, Lee said, "Cut it down, my dear Madam, and forget it."
Growing up, one of my favorite Saturday activities was watching ABC Sports. I can still remember the opening line — “The thrill of victory or the agony of defeat!” One of the greatest prophets of the Bible, Elijah, experienced his share of victories — but he also knew that sudden feeling of defeat.
Toward the end of 1941, as the second world war was raging in Europe, the Japanese ambassador was sent to Washington D.C. apparently seeking peace; however back in Japan, the emperor was planning the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese empire sent their ambassador to D.C. as a distraction, so the sudden attack on Pearl Harbor took the United States completely by surprise.
During World War II, a US marine was separated from his unit on a Pacific Island. The fighting had been intense, and in the smoke and the crossfire he had lost touch with his comrades. Alone in the jungle, he could hear enemy soldiers coming in his direction. Scrambling for cover, he found his way up a high ridge to several small caves in the rock. Quickly he crawled inside one of the caves.
Just about every Hebrew prayer begins by saying, “Baruch Ata Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Ha Olam” which, translated, means, Blessed are you O Lord our God, King of the Universe. Now think about it, King of the Universe! Wikipedia defines "universe" as, "the composition of all the planets, stars, galaxies, the contents of intergalactic space, and all matter and energy". Hmm…that’s a lot to be king over!
The world these days is full of bad news, with tensions growing in the Middle East, economies on the brink of collapse, and nature constantly adding to the chaos with one disaster after another. It's a time of trouble all right, and for us believers it may sometimes be hard to believe – but it never is as bad as it seems. Let me illustrate with a joke I like to share with my messages.
One of my favorite heroes of the faith is Hudson Taylor. For those who are unfamiliar with him, Hudson Taylor led a great awakening in China which continues to this day.