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Days of the Maccabees

December 2nd, 2013

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

The week Yeshua (Jesus) was in Jerusalem, prior to his crucifixions, his disciples asked him when he would set up God’s eternal kingdom (Read Matthew 24).  They did not yet understand that he had come, not as the victorious Messiah son of David as promised in passages like Isaiah 9:6-7, but as the Suffering Servant Messiah son of Joseph, as promised in passages like Isaiah 53.

Yeshua warned them that, like the days of Noah, people will not be prepared for its coming (Matthew 24:37).  That is an interesting statement.  After all, Noah was 120 years building the ark, and in that time he surely proclaimed the truth of what God was doing.  The fact is, they just didn’t want to hear it.  The truth is that in the “days of Noah” there were two kinds of people.  God’s people, of whom there were eight, and the people who spurned God and wanted nothing to do with His ways.

This stark contrast is very obvious in the story of Hanukkah.  In those “days of the Maccabees” there were two types of Jews in Israel: Jews like the Maccabees who wanted to follow God, and Jews who wanted to follow the Greek ideals of the empire begun by Alexander the Great.  It was the latter who backed the evil incursions of the Seleucid King, Antiochus Epiphanes, which instigated the Maccabean rebellion and victory that our Hanukkah celebrations commemorate.

The name Hanukkah comes from the Hebrew word meaning ‘dedication.’  It is a fitting name, since the festival encapsulates the dedication and faithfulness of God’s people in the face of great persecution, as well as the dedication of God to His faithful people.

Are we not living in “days of the Maccabees” now?  Do not the words of the Apostle Paul, quoted in the passage above, ring true with regard to the world we live in today?  We live in a very pagan world, where the idea of a God who created and loves is unpopular and often denigrated.  His expectations are spurned and ignored.

Like those days, God’s people are called to be perseverant in their dedication and faithfulness to Him.  Why?  We do so because he continues to be dedicated and faithful to His followers.   Time and again He has shown his faithfulness, just as He did for the Maccabees and their followers – the followers of God.

No greater evidence is there than His faithfulness on the Cross.  He promised a deliverer in the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures) and He provided that deliver as we see evidenced in the B’rit Hadashah (New Testament).  That deliver is Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus Christ).

Don’t take my word for it.  Read the Tanakh and the B’rit Hadashah and see if it is not so.  We would be happy to send you both.  Just contact us; we would also be happy to answer any of your questions.

Hag Hanukkah Sameach!

Contributed by Daniel Muller, a Jewish believer and the General Director of New Covenant Forum.

Posted in Daniel Muller, Evangelism, Following God, Israel, Jesus and Israel, Jesus and Jews, Jewish festivals, Jewish holidays, Jews and Jesus, Messiah in the Tanach, Redemption, Serving God, The Bible | No Comments »

Hanukkah Posts Past

November 28th, 2013

Here are nine Hanukkah posts from the past that might interest you.  Nine messages representing nine candles on the Hanukkiah or Hanukkah Menorah:

  1. The Real Shammas of Hanukkah
  2. Hanukkah: a time to think of Jesus
  3. A Hanukkah Encounter with Jesus
  4. Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication
  5. A Message of Hanukkah (Dedication)
  6. Hanukkah: More than a Festival of Lights
  7. Light and Darkness at Hanukkah
  8. Twas the night before Hanukkah
  9. What does Hanukkah have to do with Jesus?

 

 

Posted in Anonymous, Jewish festivals, Jewish holidays, Jews and Christianity, Jews and Jesus, This, That, The Other Thing | No Comments »

Hanukkah with Thanksgiving

November 28th, 2013

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30)

These words were spoken by Yeshua (Jesus) in the Temple in Jerusalem during the Feast of Dedication – what we call Hanukkah.  Today is the first day of Hanukkah.  It is also the day when our American friends will be celebrating Thanksgiving.

Both of these holidays are intended to be centered around family festivities – the family coming together to celebrate God’s provision.  At Thanksgiving we celebrate God’s providing us not only with food and shelter as he did our early forebears who came to dwell here, but also to celebrate the land of freedom for which both the U.S. and Canada are renowned; freedom of conscience, of religion, of expression and many other freedoms.  At Hanukkah, we celebrate God’s victory for his people Israel over the Syrian Greeks, and his provision in enabling the people to rededicate themselves to Him.

Yeshua, in the passage above, reminds us of God’s dedication to us, especially as we dedicate ourselves to Him.  We are his sheep, and we are called on to listen to Him.  Yeshua was our Messiah, God come in human form to provide the means for eternal life He promised us through the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:31-34), and so we are called on to follow Him.

To not believe in God, is to celebrate Thanksgiving meaninglessly.  It is as foolish as talking on the phone when no one is on the other end.  We may celebrate all the trappings, but the reason for our joy is gone and the holiday serves no true purpose.

To not believe in Yeshua, is to celebrate Hanukkah meaninglessly.  Because, though God is dedicated to us, he only provides the reason for our joy through our dedication to Him – and that is by faith in the Messiah of Israel, Yeshua.  We may celebrate with all the trappings, but the holiday serves no true purpose.

This year, let us all celebrate Hanukkah with thanksgiving for the joy of eternal life vouchsafed by God through our faith in Messiah Yeshua.

Posted in Anonymous, Following God, Jesus and Israel, Jesus and Jews, Jewish festivals, Jewish holidays, Jews and Jesus, Messiah, New Covenant, Salvation, The Bible | No Comments »

HAG HANUKKAH SAMEACH!

November 27th, 2013

 חג חנוכּה שׂמח

             HAG HANUKKAH SAMEACH!

                        HAVE A JOYFUL HANUKKAH FESTIVAL!

The board of directors and staff of New Covenant Forum send their warmest wishes for a joyful Hanukkah 5774 (2013) to our Jewish brethren around the world!

We pray that, in this Hanukkah season, the light of the Hanukkiah candles will remind us of the Light of the World, Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus Christ).

Posted in Jewish festivals, Jewish holidays | No Comments »

Yom Kippur Opportunity

September 13th, 2013

This evening is Yom Kippur.  What an opportune time for us to draw near to God and let His Spirit move in our hearts!

We tend to be so slow in recognizing our indebtedness to our Heavenly Father, Creator of the universe (melech ha-olam – king of the universe); slow in humbling ourselves before Him and confessing our sins and seeking forgiveness.  This is the one time of year in the Jewish calendar when we are more aware of this need in our lives.

In fact, this self-examination is prescribed for us both biblically and traditionally.  Moses described the Day of Atonement in Leviticus chapters 16 and 23. The high priest represented the people to God.  He alone could enter the holiest place in the tabernacle, and only once a year.  Even then he had to first offer a perfect animal sacrifice for his own sin, and then he and his priests offered sacrifices for the people, so their sins would be ‘covered’.  Since the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in the first century, we have replaced these animal sacrifices with our mitzvot, our good deeds.

In contrast, when our Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) came, He replaced these repetitive animal sacrifices by the costly sacrifice of Himself.  He knew that when the Temple was destroyed we would have no need to re-institute the animal sacrifices. The new covenant that God promised for us so long ago through His prophet Jeremiah came into effect (Jeremiah 31:31-34).  He set aside the first covenant so He could establish the second (Hebrews 10:9)

Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel and the Saviour of the world, is the only One who could take our place and be sacrificed for us, since He alone was without sin.  Now His is the only acceptable sacrifice to God which allows us to enter His holy Presence.

The Bible is an accurate record of the history of our people and of God’s intervention in our lives.  He loves us so much that He gave His only Son so that we can come to Him and find joy in His Presence now and forever.

If you find this teaching questionable, or confusing, or interesting enough to pursue, why not contact Daniel or Alan at newcovenantforum.org?  They’d be happy to discuss it with you and answer your questions.

Contributed by Cynthia Sugar, a Jewish believer in Jesus.

Posted in Atonement, Cynthia Sugar, Jesus and Jews, Jewish festivals, Messiah, New Covenant, Salvation | No Comments »

It’s the High Holidays!

September 11th, 2013

It’s the High Holidays!  It’s a time for spiritual awakening; a call to repentance as we prepare for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  We are to recognize our transgressions against God; we are to turn away from doing them and turn towards God.

So before Yom Kippur we ramp up our good activities and try to reduce our bad ones.  On Yom Kippur we fast and pray.  In the end, we hope that our good deeds outweigh our bad deeds sufficiently to have our names written in the Book of Life, as if our actions could ever meet the standards of our holy, perfect God.  In the end, we have no assurance – we just hope and pray that our sacrifice is acceptable to God, all the time knowing deep inside that it can never be sufficient.

What if, however, our eternal life had nothing to do with our merit and everything to do with the Lord’s?  What if our relationship with God was based on just that – our relationship and not our deeds or lack of them?  What if it were our faith that determined our eternal destiny?

In the Tanakh (Old Testament) it is written, “the righteous shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4).

Surely we already have the love of God, but we only inherit his kingdom if we are in right relationship with him by faith.  After all, we who are in God’s image love our children, even though they do wrong, but we long for them to be in right relationship with us.

For this reason, God came to be amongst us in human form (much like he did with Abraham in Genesis 18), and became a guilt offering for us (Isaiah 53:10).  This was Yeshua (Jesus) who died on the cross for our sins and who said,

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
(John 3:16-17)

Yeshua has paid the price of sin eternally for us. We do not need to wonder, for we know that the sacrifice for our sin is complete. God has provided the way for you and me.

This Yom Kippur, as you contemplate your sinfulness before God, why not receive forgiveness the way God intended: through our Messiah Yeshua.  If you want to know more, please contact us.

HAG SAMEACH!

Posted in Anonymous, Atonement, Following God, Jewish festivals, Messiah, New Covenant, Redemption, Salvation | No Comments »

PASSOVER: Clean Home and Clean Heart

March 27th, 2013

There’s something so attractive about ‘clean’!  It feels so good to be welcomed into a home that is warm, inviting and clean. It’s so invigorating to breathe clean air and drink clean water.

The town where I live has been known for its clean water, apparently among the best in Canada. Recently for the first time, we’ve had chlorine added – permanently. It’s been a disappointing change. Now pure, clean water has become a precious commodity. Of course, there are places in this world where people are sick and dying from lack of a clean water supply. So this morning I’ve been reflecting on how grateful I am for clean air, clean water, clean clothes, a clean home – and most of all a clean heart.

A clean heart?  What is that supposed to mean?

In Exodus, Moses passes on God’s instructions for the Passover:  “Unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days; no leavened bread shall be seen with you, and no leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory” (Exodus 13:7). To this day Jewish homes are cleansed of all leavened products in preparation for the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  Why? Leaven is a symbol of sin. (See article “Why Matzah?”)

As we begin to know the Lord by studying His Word, we see that He is always more concerned about the inside of a person’s life and heart than what is apparent on the outside. When God was about to choose a king for Israel, He said to the prophet Samuel, “…Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature … For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). God was seeking a man after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). God chose David as King, and David reigned for a long time (2 Samuel 5:4-5).

Only God knows our hearts, and He wants to be with those whose hearts are clean (1 Chronicles 28:9; Jeremiah 17:10). King David wrote, “Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully”  (Psalm 24:3,4).

But who has never sinned against God?  Who has never chosen his own way over God’s way? Not a single person is righteous, for we have all turned to our own way (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Isaiah 53:6). Even what we consider to be righteous deeds are unclean to the Lord by His standards, unless our hearts are pure before Him (Isaiah 64:6).

So who then can stand before God?

That is the amazing beauty of the Passover!

God Himself made a way for us to be acceptable in His sight. In the Exodus from Egypt, the lamb was His Passover (Exodus 12:11). Only the lamb could appease God at that time. The blood of the lamb diverted God’s wrath away from those who applied the blood to the entrance of their homes and kept them sheltered by the blood until morning (Exodus 12:7,13,22,23). Those who didn’t, lost their firstborn on that terrible night.

And now we have the perspective of history unfolded. The Passover lamb was a picture foreshadowing the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Our prophet Isaiah described this Lamb of God, our Messiah, hundreds of years before Jesus came into this world (Isaiah 53:3-11). Now our Passover has been sacrificed for us, once forever, to cleanse us always from sin, guilt and shame to serve the living God (I Corinthians 5:7; Hebrews 9:14; 10:14)!

Our Lamb of God is also the Lion of the tribe of Judah,  the Root and Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star (Revelation 5:5; 22:16). He who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood is coming again. Then every eye shall see Him, every knee shall bow before Him, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Revelation 1:5-7; Philippians 2:9-11).

In the meantime, let’s give praise to God for our Passover Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, who alone can make our hearts clean (Revelation 13:8). Hallelujah, what a Saviour – what a Messiah!

Contributed by Cynthia Sugar, a Jewish believer in Jesus.

Posted in Cynthia Sugar, Following God, Jesus and Israel, Jesus and Jews, Jewish festivals, Jewish holidays, Jewish Tradition, Jews and Jesus, Messiah, Messiah in the Tanach, Redemption, Salvation, The Bible | No Comments »

PASSOVER: Exemplifying God’s love and mercy.

March 25th, 2013

In designing and instituting the Passover, God displayed His passion to save us, His power to overcome evil and His provision of a way of escape from judgment (Exodus 12).

Why did He do it? Because He loves us passionately to the point of sacrificial love, and because He wants our lives to reflect who He is (Isaiah 43:21; Hosea 14:4; Ephesians 1:6).

The Passover is a picture of a greater salvation, not only for Israel, but for everyone. God knew from the beginning of time that we would separate ourselves from Him (Isaiah 59:2) and that we would need a Saviour from spiritual darkness, from evil, and from our own wayward bent. So He created a plan to rescue us. Yeshua’s (Jesus’) sacrifice for us on the cross is so significant that it marks the division of all time:  the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures or Old Testament) looks forward to it and the B’rit Hadashah (New Testament) looks back at it. Our Messiah-Redeemer has come and one day He’s returning in power and glory.

Today we need God’s intervention again: on a personal level from our own sin and self-centeredness and on a national level for the protection and deliverance of Israel from those bent on her destruction.

As you celebrate Passover this year, worship the living God, the God of Israel, the Creator and Saviour of the world.  After all, the God of the Passover is the God of the Cross (Exodus 12:7,13; 1 Corinthians 5:7,8).  He is the same yesterday, today and forever (John 8:58; Hebrews 13:8). He is the mighty God, merciful and awesome in judgment.

May we humble ourselves before Him and be ready to meet Him face to face.

Contributed by Cynthia Sugar, a Jewish believer in Jesus.

Posted in Cynthia Sugar, Jewish festivals, Jewish holidays, Knowing God, Messiah, Messiah in the Tanach, Redemption, Salvation | No Comments »

Hag Sameach! Have a Joyful Pesach!

March 25th, 2013

The staff of New Covenant Forum send their warmest wishes for a blessed Pesach (Passover) celebration in this year 5773 (2013) to all our Jewish brethren around the world!

We pray that, in this season of God’s redemption, as you celebrate the redeeming life that was given through the Passover lamb, you will also celebrate the Lamb of God who gives eternal life to all who believe in Him: Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus Christ).

Hag Sameach!  Have a joyful festival!

P.S.  A lesson I learned early in life: don’t hide the Afikomen too well – if no one finds it, the service can’t be concluded – makes for a very late night!

Posted in Jewish festivals, Jewish holidays, Jewish Tradition | No Comments »

The Real Shammas of Hanukkah

December 14th, 2012

At Hanukkah, we light the nine-armed menorah called a Hanukkiah.  The middle candle, the one that lights all the others, is called the shammas – the leader.

We light the Hanukkiah because our sages tell us that when the Maccabees conquered the Syrian Greeks and wanted to reconsecrate the Temple, they could only find one vial of oil, enough to light the menorah for one day.  But when they used that vial, the light lasted eight days, just enough time to make more vials for use.

This great miracle of God is remembered as we light the Hanukkiah. It’s a wonderful, if not biblical story – and, who knows, it may very well have happened.  After all, though the book of the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures) was closed at the time and the Book of the B’rit Hadashah (New Testament) was not yet begun, still God was then, as he still is, “in the miracle business.”

It is amazing to me, however, that the vast majority of the Jewish people will celebrate this apocryphal story, but cannot seem to recognize the even greater miracle of their Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) – the greatest light that ever shone.

After all, Isaiah wrote of him:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.
Isaiah 9:2 (see the whole of Isaiah 9:1-7)

Isaiah goes on to describe the coming of this light:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

Isaiah continued to talk about his ministry, death and resurrection in Isaiah 53.  Jeremiah spoke of the New Covenant that he would inaugurate in Jeremiah 31:31-34.  Zechariah also talked of him, and promised a time when all Israel would one day recognize him before he comes again (Zechariah 12:10-13:1).

Such a miracle of light was promised, and God kept His promised and made His Messiah known and knowable through His Word.  Yet, tragically, the vast majority of the Jewish people do not recognize this most palpable of miracles.

Yet this miracle is knowable.  Let us send you the evidence of the Messiah’s coming.  Contact us, and let us help you to recognize him for who he really is: the real Shammas of Hanukkah and all other times; the true light of the world!

Posted in Anonymous, Jesus and Jews, Jewish festivals, Jewish holidays, Jewish Tradition, Jews and Jesus, Messiah, Messiah in the Tanach, New Covenant, Resurrection | No Comments »

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