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.
While most read the story of Jonah focusing on Jonah's journey, I want to pause and examine the lives of the pagan sailors. What a journey they were on! We see the hand of God touching them providentially through Jonah's disobedience. Talk about God bringing good from evil.
We live in a day and age that everywhere we turn, there's a "self-help" theory. Books, videos and dvds, websites, world-renown speakers, you name it — all dedicated to helping us "feel good about ourselves". Yet somehow, still many of us struggle with self-consciousness, even as Christians!
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….
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.
"If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator. If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist. If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist. If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer….. but our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Savior."
Three thousand years ago, when Solomon dedicated the Temple to God, the priests offered up thousands of sacrifices. After the sacrifices were offered up — then the glory of God fell! The glory of God was so thick and heavy that the priests could no longer minister! Do you see the connection? First the offerings — THEN the glory fell!
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.
A woman once asked John Wesley what he would do if he knew that he would die at midnight the next day. "Why, Madam," he replied, "just as I intend to spend it now. I would preach this evening at Gloucester, and again at five tomorrow morning, after that I would ride to Tewkesbury, preach in the afternoon, and meet the societies in the evening. I would then go to Martin's house…talk and pray with the family as usual, retire myself to my room at 10 o'clock, commend myself to my Heavenly Father, lie down to rest, and wake up in glory."
Last Friday night and Saturday, Jews throughout the world solemnly “afflicted” their souls during Yom Kippur. However, most kids in Israel look at Yom Kippur as “ride your bikes in the streets day!” You see, Yom Kippur in Israel is the one day when TV and radio stations are completely shut down and the streets are almost completely void of vehicles of any kind. Ironically, some of the only fully operational locations in Israel on Yom Kippur are the hospital emergency rooms – since kids who finally have no restraints on their bikes, skateboards, and roller skates tend to take risks they wouldn't normally take – it's Yom Kippur – they have the streets to themselves!
Yom Kippur, which literally means Day of Coverings, can be a day of deep reflection on what the Lord has done for us. As Yeshua (Jesus) died on the cross 2000 years ago, the Gospel describes how the veil in the Temple was torn in two. This profound spiritual event reveals that the Lord gave all whose sins are covered by His blood access to the Holy of Holies, as He had become our High Priest in addition to being, Himself, the perfect sacrifice for sin.
Tonight begins one of the highest holy days of all the feasts of the Bible, Rosh ha Shana (Head of the Year). According to Jewish tradition, Rosh haShana is the Day of Judgment, the day when the righteous have their names inscribed in the Book of Life and the wicked are judged for their transgressions. It is a day to commemorate the creation of the world, the creation of mankind, and the Akeida, the binding of Isaac to the altar. On this day only the ram’s horn (or the shofar) is blown in synagogues all over the world to commemorate the ram that was provided in lieu of Isaac’s life and call us to repentance.
On December 25, 1908, a newspaper in Messina, Silicy dared God to make Himself known by sending an earthquake. Three days later, the city was destroyed by an earthquake that killed over 84,000 people.
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.
Numerous modern critics of the Bible say the resurrection of Yeshua (Jesus) is simply a myth based on pagan stories of "resurrected gods" from around the world, and that the authors of the New Testament borrowed from these myths and incorporated them into the Bible. But the similarity of two stories proves nothing about their origin or truth content. The Jews of Yeshua's time were steeped in Old Testament monotheism which had a well developed tradition of resurrection believed and taught by the Pharisees. Polytheistic pagan ideas would have been abhorrent to men who understood and practiced the Judaism of the apostles and New Testament writers.
Hebrews 10:19-22 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart […]
This past Monday marked the beginning of Pesach (Passover) on the Hebrew calendar as it was the 10th of Nisan and also the day that Yeshua (Jesus) would have entered Jerusalem 2000 years ago. Every 10th of Nisan, four days before Pesach, the children of Israel would choose a lamb for the Passover sacrifice. Each man would take a lamb for his household. Four days were required to inspect the animal to make sure it was perfect and without blemish.
The disciples worried — we only have five small loaves and two fishes! What ever will we do?? Five loaves and two fishes could never feed the multitudes in the natural realm! But we have a God who is in the multiplication business! He works on an entirely different mathematical equation than we are accustomed to — He takes the little we offer and turns it into more than we could fathom!
The word contrite in Hebrew is 'dakah' which means one that is crushed to pieces. Paul wrote of being a 'living sacrifice' holy and acceptable to God. Being a living sacrifice means we often can walk off the altar. To be a continual living sacrifice we need to renew our minds day to day!
When I studied Isaiah 53 earnestly in the ancient Hebrew, I was taken back by the Hebrew word for "afflicted" (me-u-neh). In modern Hebrew this word means "tortured". When I was young, and first learned what torture actually involved, my soul was shocked that this could happen to people; in fact that it was happening to people.