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The Real Meaning Behind the Jewish Feasts

September 2015

There has been a lot of interest lately in the coming harvest feasts celebrated by the Jews and whether or not it has any implications for us as Christians and Americans. There have been many attempts to answer and decipher its meaning. America has seen tragedy during this time of year and some people have determined it was judgment from God. Because we as Christians have not come into a clear understanding of God’s ways, His movements have often eluded us.

It was during these seasons that I received salvation and pursued a deeper understanding of God and events that occurred during these seasons. The untimely death of a loved one got my attention as I wondered why. I became angry with a God I did not know. God did not have to vindicate Himself to me but He did because He is just that kind of God. He wants us to know that He is always righteous and good. With God’s help I was able understand death and work through the grief process. I began to observe a pattern in deaths around the end and beginning of a year. As a new Christian, the Jewish feasts were unfamiliar to me until much later so it was attributed to some phenomenal related to the end of the year. For years I observed these times of unusual blessings and loss and sought to understand. This mystery was opened up further and further as I grew in Christian knowledge and searched out the ways of God.

God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He established patterns in the earth and patterns for His interactions with mankind. God’s laws are universal but His ways are to be understood by His people. There are those that can break down the Jewish feasts in ways that I would not even attempt. My intent is only to understand what God wants from us and how we are to give it. Recently I wrote out a paper of my own research in this area entitled “The Offering God Wants When He Comes to Meet With Us.” Through this research I found my answer and maybe my summary will suffice others as well.

The History of the Feast Times

To understand God, we always have to go back to what He originally instructed us and see the progression of this truth through the scripture. Because God does not change. What He originally wanted, He still wants. It is our sin that has changed the equation. God originally came to meet with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden on a regular basis (Gen 3:8). We saw in Genesis where the sons, Cain and Abel, prepared offerings for God (Gen 4:3). We are not told how these offerings began, just that they occurred. God was pleased with one offering and rejected the other. This story reveals that God expects to meet with His people at set times and that He wants us to offer up something of value to Him at His coming.

In the wilderness, we saw that Moses instructed the Children of Israel in the ways of God and how to please Him. The Israelites were told that several specific times during the year God would meet with them, how they would present their offerings, and that these would be times of a great celebration.

Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the LORD empty: Deu16:16

The Israelites worked the land and were shepherds so their offerings to God were related to their labor during the year. God expected His people to recognize and bless Him at the end of their season of work where He had prospered them to have success. The combination of their work and God’s favor produced a crop or blessing of which God expected His credit, respect and reverence.

Man’s response to God’s expectation to be remembered at this time would show man’s appreciation and thankfulness for a good and gracious God. Cain, of course, did not show proper respect or appreciation and God was not pleased. What about us? Are we thankful? God has blessed America greatly. Are we showing thankfulness? God no longer expects animal sacrifice, but He does expect from His children thankfulness and reverence.

This coming season is about a tradition of God coming to meet with His children and bringing and receiving something of value in a time of thankfulness for all He has done for us. Will we have an acceptable offering? Certainly there will be praises and worship going up to God as we carry on church services but let us not forget other behavior.

America has recently thumbed its nose to God. The White House was lit up in rainbow colors to celebrate a practice that God hates. Our legislative branch is at war with each other. The Supreme Court has validated and made legal a homosexual life style that God specifically forbade. The nation has removed prayer and the Ten Commandments from public arenas, shunned the stranger, murdered millions of babies while the rich have decried the portion for the poor and many churches have rejected God’s truth and deceived believers. America that loves money and that has made money its god is now poised to elect a new president who appears to worship money. Shall God be pleased with what America has to offer Him when He comes to be celebrated in this season? I think not. America’s present state can be found in the book of Judges where the people were willing to say to anyone: “Come and be lord over us and take this mess under your hand.”

“Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you – Jdg 8:22-23.” (Read the rest of this chapter.)

“When a man shall take hold of his brother of the house of his father, saying, Thou hast clothing, be thou our ruler, and let this ruin be under thy hand…” Isa 3:6.

Perversion of the Season

Many false religious leaders have made a mockery of this time and required of God’s people a substantial money offering during these feasts. People looking for a blessing from God have been taken advantage of and some fallen into unbelief because of it. While God does expect us to give finances to the church that upholds His name and does His work, it is in the normal process of church obedience, not in a lottery to get future blessings. We must remember too, that there were some offering as mentioned by Isaiah that God did not want.

“To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.” Isa 1:11-14  

These verses were followed up with the truth of what God really wanted: Isa 1:17 – “Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.” God is more concerned about our heart and right behavior (New Testament Commandments) than our offering up vain offerings in an attempt to appease Him. So, like with Cain, an offering from impure or insincere hearts will not be acceptable to God. Malachi 3 helps us to see also that God will not be pleased with our refusal to give godly pastors the portion that is rightly due for the work of the Lord. The New Commandments that Jesus gave us refer to a changed heart. A right heart leads us to do right with our money.

The Expectation of God’s Coming

This upcoming season is about God coming to see what we have prepared as an offering for Him. Will it be good works, a heart of love, fellowship with Him and our brethren, an appreciation and thanks for His truth and blessings or will it be our disrespect? God will come to some in blessings for their good done toward His name but He will appear as a judge to others for their disrespect of His Word and Person. How will we meet our God?

Jewish Traditions Applied to Christians

The Jewish feast of Rosh HaShanah is September 13-15, 2015. It is the Jewish New Year and marks the beginning of a ten-day period of prayer, self examination and repentance. Jewish tradition teaches that during the High Holy Days God decides who will live and who will die during the coming year. It is a time of judgment for mankind and reconciliation with God.

The next significant feast is Yom Kippur – Atonement celebrated on September 22-23, 2015. This feast begins at sunset of one day and ends at nightfall of the next. During Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur and in the days leading up to them, the Jews begin to examine their lives and repent for any wrong doings committed the previous year. This repentance is called teshuvah. Yom Kippur is when the high priest went into the Holy of Holies each year to make an offering for the sins of Israel. The Jews during this time would make amends with those they have wronged and make plans for improving their lives during the upcoming year. Many Americans follow this custom but observe it at our New Year’s Day which starts in January. Where our calendar has gone through worldly changes the Jewish calendar is more exact. Yom Kippur is the deadline for making things right and by its end, God’s “Book of Life” is said to be closed until the next year. It is a time of fasting, repenting and cleansing to renew our relationship with God.

Even though some Christians may have difficulty with these holidays because they represent Jewish traditions, we must realize that our Savior and Christian blessings come through the lineage of Jews and that we must understand both the past and the present to get a full understanding of our God. These practices that we saw exercised in the Garden of Eden were evidently established long before Abraham. Though we do not follow the laws of the Jews, we do obey the spirit of the law and some principles are timeless as are some commands God gave to the Jews, i.e. honoring God and putting Him first. We are admonished through the word:

“Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” Pro 4:7

“But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.” 1Jn 2:20

“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Joh 8:32

God can move at any time in the life of a person but we are told specifically about His expectations at this time.  Whether for blessing or judging, we would do well to be ready for God’s presence in love and preparedness. Christians are not Jews but we serve the same God and we have been brought into a better relationship with Him through our faith in Jesus Christ. Christ actually taught His disciples about divine visitations and how to be ready for them (Mt 24-44). This is a time when we should reach out to and pray for all souls. While God comes to bless and fellowship with the obedient, the ungodly will find His judgment of sin. There are yet deeper meanings to the season for the believer in fellowship with the Lord and they should diligently seek God for His purposes. We have a standing appointment with the Righteous God over the earth and it is always a good idea to take some time to examine our lives and prepare it to be a time of celebration.

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Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving holiday is a time for all Americans to give thanks to God. Most Americans will celebrate it with their own traditions. It is a day when people gather with their loved ones and reflect on how thankful they are for their good fortune over the past year. Thanksgiving Day traditions have departed from some of its true meanings in a similar manner to some other holidays that have given over to popular practices of celebrations like Black Friday shopping sprees, consumption of foods, parades and of course, football games with beer. Sunday church sermons, no doubt, still remind all of us to be thankful for our blessings.

The original meaning of the Thanksgiving holiday was a time to be thank God and remember with gratitude the kindness of the Indians that saved the first pilgrims from starvation as they sought to occupy the new land discovered by Christopher Columbus. The pilgrims were dying of disease and starvation but the Native American Indians that occupied the land showed them how to plant food for survival. The pilgrims and the Indians celebrated the success of their collaboration with a festive dinner together that is remembered centuries later in our present day Thanksgiving Holiday. As this holiday has progressed through the centuries, the part that is seldom mentioned in public is the role of the Indians. It was the generosity of the Indians that saved the pilgrims who survived to start this powerful nation.

“All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which is place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides, they had about a peck a meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports. (William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation: S.E. Morison, ed. Knopf. N.Y., 1952. p 90)

Forgotten also is the fact that the generosity of the Indians was repaid by being pushed off their land and onto reservations where many died of starvation and disease. It is amazing how our nation has selective memories of it history and promotes only that which reflect well on it. Does anyone care how the Indians feel about this day of celebration?

“Not everyone sees Thanksgiving Day as a cause for celebration. Each year since 1970, a group of Native Americans and their supporters have staged a protest for a National Day of Mourning at Plymouth Rock in Plymouth, Massachusetts on Thanksgiving Day. American Indian Heritage Day is also observed at this time of the year.” (http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/us/thanksgiving-day)
America has much to be thankful for and should rightly thank God for its success in the world. God, however, “…desirest truth in the inward parts (Ps 51:6).” Not only has America downgraded thankfulness owed to God in the Thanksgiving holiday but the nation seems to have also forgotten that there were many others that played a major role in the development of the nation. It is ironic that this nation, which was settled by European immigrants, has frown on Native American Indians, immigrants from other nations as well as the rights of other non-Caucasian people in America and particularly those of African descent that were brought here, not by choice but by force. Many groups of people that were oppressed during these first centuries also celebrate Thanksgiving as an American tradition. It is well to celebrate one’s good fortune but it is a shame to be so disingenuous as to sanitize history with only selective facts.

There have been many nations that rose to great success in the world but there is a Great Eternal Force that has seen nations come and nations go. There is a Sovereign God who promotes nations for His glory. Those nations that are true to God are blessed of Him to enjoy longevity and success.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance. Psa 33:12

The LORD executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed. Psa 103:6

God, however, remembers the past and works on behalf of the downcasts that have been overlooked or pushed aside by the mighty, as He did in assisting the first American settlers that were the outcasts of Europe. God is a God of truth who reveals hidden things and brings them to the light. God’s purpose in having the Israelites set up monuments and holy days was that they would not forget their history or indebtedness to God and others that help them gain victory. God has a way of bringing us back to remembrance of those things that have been covered over, hidden or pushed aside.

Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God. Co 4:5

The nation of America is now experiencing a time when it is being brought back into remembrance of past sins and wounds that have not healed. America loves it present success and does not want to be brought into remembrance of darker days. But God does remember those dark days and those oppressed by the strong. He has planned for all people to be brought into the His bountiful blessings. The powerful never want to relinquish its power but the oppressed have a right to turn to and make a demand on God for restitution and restoration. Being a just God sitting in judgment over all people, He will always bring forth righteousness.

It is at times like the Thanksgiving holiday that people should be brought into remembrance of history and the true meaning of a holiday or holy day. Thankfulness is a natural outcome of performing labor and receiving its benefits. But unrighteous rewards never give peace. Those that choose to forget the history behind holidays need to be reminded of their true meaning. It was God that set aside times and monuments to bring people back into remembrance of past events so that we could walk in truth rather than hypocrisy.

Tell ye your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation. Joe 1:3

And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the LORD’S passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshipped. Ex 12:26 -27

It is important to have a day where we reflect back and are thankful for our good fortune, but let’s not forget the God who made it possible and to do it in truth and sincerity. Part of America’s Thanksgiving celebration is the practice of providing for the poor and needy on this day. But God will greatly bless America is she reflects on the truth of why America enjoys its good fortune and recognize all those who helped make it possible.

Father God, help us to be truly thankful for all your goodness towards us. Remind us to show our thankfulness through the deeds we do for others. Preserve and keep us in health, provisions and peace for the days to come. These blessings we ask the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Whippings and the Image in the Mirror

Whippings…are they legal? Are whippings recommended or permissible for parents to administer to their children? The topic of whipping is trending today in newscasts and social media. Whippings are nothing new particularly for the black community who often grew up under the whipping belt or switch. Many parents in the black community believed that sparing the rod by withholding a good whipping spoiled the child and they had scripture to prove it.

Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying. Pro 19:18

There is no doubt that a parent can be abusive in administering corporal punishment and certainly discipline should not be done in an unreasonable manner. But there are some people who are appalled that whipping is done at all. They were not reared with this kind of correction and believe it to be inhumane. Prisons are full of criminals and children that got no correction at home but yet we debate the use of proper corporal punishment while crimes by children have greatly risen from homes without proper discipline.

In the black community, parents believed strongly in corporal punishment and, to make things all the worst, parents would tell the misbehaving child to go get his own switch off the tree outside. And if he did not get a sufficient switch then the parent would go get a proper one off the tree. Many of us learned quickly not to misbehave from mere mention of a switch or a parent’s look that promised a good whipping when we got home. We grew up knowing to do right or we would receive punishment. Teachers, neighbors or other children would report our wrongdoings and we would be dealt with when we got home. But within this generation are many children and adults who were not reared with this fear of punishment for doing wrong. Too many children were consoled with treats as reward if they would just do right or stop misbehaving. Some children are routinely sent to their room or a privilege taken away as punishment for misbehaving. There are many ways of correcting children. Modern instructors believe that corporal punishment is improper. Certainly not all methods are effective and we still debate today about the right way to get misbehaving children to comply. It is true that balance and proper instruction is needed in administering discipline to a child and not all children can be disciplined with the same method.

While we debate whether or not to use corporal punishment for misbehaving children, God has never changed His word or His practice of correcting His children. God believes in the whip. After all the Holy Spirit recorded this instruction for all posterity: “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying” (Pro 19:18). The whip referred to here evidently was severe enough to cause pain and crying. God has used the whip through the ages to discipline Israel and the nations of the world.

I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: 2Sa 7:14

A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool’s back. Pro 26:3

O LORD, rebuke me not in thy wrath: neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure. Psa 38:1

And the LORD said, Even thus shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles, whither I will drive them. Eze 4:13

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Rev 3:19

And as the evil figs, which cannot be eaten, they are so evil; surely thus saith the LORD, So will I give Zedekiah the king of Judah, and his princes, and the residue of Jerusalem, that remain in this land, and them that dwell in the land of Egypt: And I will deliver them to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth for their hurt, to be a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse, in all places whither I shall drive them. Jer 24:8-9

The principles of the bible are timeless and given by an Omniscient God who Fathered the first children and disciplined them through several methods. Scripture reveal that God uses various methods of disciplining His children. One of the ways God show adults their sin is through their children. If we look closely we can see our own bad habits and sins in children’s behavior because they are like their parents, the very image. A looking glass shows us our own image so we can see ourselves the way others see us. We look in the mirror to correct a hair out of place or clothes in disarray. Other things can be a mirror for us besides children. Other people committing our personal sin can be a mirror that can sometimes cause us unknowingly to judge our sin as well. David condemned himself by looking at such a mirror supplied by God.

And David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; …Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun. And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die. 2Sa 12:5-7, 9-14

These scriptures reveal that God use mirror imagery to reveal sin. In this example, the sinner was told the crime and punishment during the discipline as a teaching process.

God still uses the whip on individuals and nations to discipline bad behavior. We see God using the whip today but many do not recognize it because they do not understand or believe in use of the whip or use of corporal punishment. When people believe they are good, they cannot fathom being disciplined. God is whipping our nation and parts of the world today but America does not understand she is being whipped. She wonders what is going on because she is hurting but is not use to being whipped. The African American population, of all people, should understand but many black people are not paying attention to world events or are unconcerned. A great deal of Caucasian parents did not practice corporal punishment with their children and cannot easily recognize or understand these signs. But nevertheless America is being whipped to bring about correction. While America has refused Christian guidelines for moral behavior, they are, nevertheless, polling each other in society over what is acceptable or ethical behavior. Here is what God’s word has to say about this practice.

For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. But we will not boast of things without our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you. 2Co 10:12-13

When a child is disciplined they are usually told the reason and given a chance to repent. Because many people cannot hear God speaking, He is telling America its reason for being whipped through the visual pictures brought about by various reporting through the media. People are debating punishment in the news without realizing it. They are debating how to punish wrongdoing or fight back. The worst thing one can do when being whipped by a parent is to talk back, argue the punishment or fight back which usually brings twice the punishment. It is important to be careful what is said while under judgment.

Some people are looking in the mirror at their own behavior through the lives of others but not recognizing themselves because they have no righteous standard by which to judge. We are observing our nation go through a costly and time-consuming process of trying to improve on God’s plan for mankind. The Ten Commandments and the Word of God provided in the Old and New Testaments were planned as instruction to provide mirror imagery that would allow judgment of our own actions. This biblical resource answers the questions that people are still asking:
• What standard really measures what is moral and what is not?
• Is a man’s home his own personal kingdom allowing him to do what he wants?
• Are all people equal?
• Are women less valuable than men?
• Were women intended to be a mere tool for man’s pleasure?
• Is it okay to profit from other’s labor without proper compensation?
• Is wife beating a family matter?
• Is police brutality sanctioned as proper authority?
• What can be done about political corruption?
• What is the proper use of guns?
• Why are teenagers and adults committing suicide?
• What is the worth of the unborn life?
• Should the rich make the rules and lord over the poor?
• Do we owe respect to people in authority?

So while we look at this issue of whipping, we must admit that whippings were intended to be used by parents toward children as discipline and judgment for unrighteous behavior that would bring the child back to right behavior. Consider for yourself: After many years of practicing your particular type of discipline, has it proven to be successful for producing righteous, mature adults, ready for society. We do not agree as a nation about what is righteous behavior so it may take a while for many to see themselves through the mirrors presented before them. Let’s still hope and pray that we as individuals and nation realize the imagery in the mirror and correct bad behavior.

Written: September 19, 2014