Over the last couple of weeks, an unusual amount of violence has broken out across Israel - in particular, random stabbing attacks. There have also been rocks thrown at cars, through car windows and directly at people, there have been firebombs thrown and more missiles have been fired from Gaza at Israeli towns. Israel has responded with considerable force, raiding Palestinian homes to root out weapons and make arrests, but in the process, inevitably upending the lives of Palestinian families who have nothing to do with the violence. The suffering for everyone is considerable, and the answers as to how it can be resolved seem as elusive as ever. Apart from asking God for his help and protection, how can we pray in this urgent hour?
The former rains are here! From Passover to Sukkot, the blessing of dew is recited, but from the end of Sukkot, it’s time to get praying for rain. The phrase "Mashiv Ha’Ruach u’morid Hagashem" is a praise included in the daily prayers, praising God who causes the win to blow and the rain to fall, starting on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. And now rain is falling on the parched land. Rain is so important here in Israel that there are several different words for it in the Biblical Hebrew, the four main ones being; yoreh, matar, geshem and melkosh. What do these Hebrew words mean? And what can we learn from all this?
There are two problems that Gentiles used to wrestle with back in the first century, and even though the Bible gives us wonderful solutions to these two problems, they still plague many people today!
What are these problems, and what help does the Bible give to us to solve them?
We are coming to the last and greatest day of the feast - the epitome of the Festival of Sukkot. Saturday night ushers in “Hoshana Rabba” until sundown on Sunday, and then we will have another joyful feast to mark the end of the eight-day holiday. It is also called Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, which means the eighth day of the assembly and joy of the Torah. Yeshua went to celebrate the feast of Sukkot in Jerusalem, and John chapter 7 describes what Yeshua said and did at this climactic time, two millennia ago...
We are now in the middle of this eight-day Sukkot holiday, the Feast of Tabernacles. Previously, we looked at the thanksgiving aspect related to the ingathering of the harvest, and the importance of rejoicing during Sukkot. Now we will consider some of the other important aspects of the feast; the waving of the four species, and the welcoming of Ushpizin (guests), and how Gentiles are very much included in this feast!
The Feast of Sukkot is one of my favourites. All of God’s feasts are full of creativity and wonder; treasures and promises. But in Jewish literature, Sukkot is often simply called “THE feast”. The biggie - no other clarification needed. Three times a year, all of Israel were supposed to make the trek to Jerusalem for Passover and Shavuot in the Spring, and then Sukkot in the fall. Sukkot means “shelters”, "booths", or "tabernacles". This is a feast in which God instructs his people to set about making a temporary shelter or booth to camp out in for a week. As a kid I loved making dens, and Sukkot is a bit like that. But why in the world did God want us to make dens?
There will be quiet and empty roads across the land of Israel from Tuesday evening until darkness falls on Wednesday 23rd for the holiest day of the Jewish calendar: Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. In the same way that many non-believers celebrate Christmas, most Jewish will people go without food and drink for 24 hours and attend special Yom Kippur services at synagogues. They might not believe in God at all, but the habit of fasting and quiet contemplation on this day is a well-ingrained part of Jewish culture. And while they reflect in the synagogue on what it all means, sometimes God meets them there...
There are many ways in which the Biblical ordinance of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, foreshadows the greatest atonement of all: the sacrifice of the Messiah himself. God’s lists of seemingly strange and even barbaric commands about blood sacrifice in the Law can be bewildering to us in the twenty-first century sometimes. But when we look carefully at the detailed instructions and what is behind them, it can be overwhelming we start to see the beauty and depth of God’s wisdom and prophetic plans. It just takes a little bit of digging to find the treasure.
Just before Rosh haShana, Israel and the surrounding countries experienced an unusually severe sandstorm, which even resulted in two fatalities. We are now finally back to blue skies and we can see clearly once again without trying to peer through the dense, yellow fog that hung in the air for days.
In Hebrew, the word for sand, חול (‘chol’, with the ch being as Loch Ness), is the same as the word for “secular” or “ordinary” - that which is not set aside or holy. We see God separating that which is holy apart, and setting it aside for himself in many places in Scripture. In these Ten Days of Awe as we approach the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, here are some reflections on the sandstorm in relation to our own lives.
On Sunday night, the Feast of Trumpets blasts its way into the new Jewish year. Today it is known as Rosh HaShana, the “Head of the Year”, even though it’s not really the start of the Biblical year at all, according to Exodus 12:2. The calendar year was supposed to start in the month of Passover in the spring, and the Feast of Trumpets comes at the beginning of the seventh month. Like all the other "Feasts of the Lord", it is full of significance and meaning for us today, as well as prophetic meaning about what is to come.
The world has suddenly woken up to the refugee crisis in Syria, and the whole scenario is beginning to sound eerily familiar… One person recently found a newspaper clipping from 1938, which declared, “German Jews Pouring Into This Country!” The journalist went on to object that, “The way stateless Jews from Germany are pouring in from every port of this country is becoming an outrage”.
Perhaps it’s time to pay more attention to the problems that are causing people to flee in the first place. At this critical time as we come up to the High Holy Days, is there anything we can really do about the troubles in Syria? By God’s amazing grace, yes there certainly is!
In the Hebrew calendar, today is the 16th of Elul, 5775 years since the creation of the world. Elul is a special month of preparation and repentance before the "Ten Days of Awe” starting with Rosh HaShanah - the Feast of Trumpets (which will start on the evening of 13th September this year), and continuing until Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement ten days later. It’s time to turn our backs on sin and turn towards God again. It’s time to turn away from the world, and look to the face of the One who loves and leads us. If we want to say “repent” in Hebrew we say, “Lachzor be Tshuva” - to return to the answer. Actually the two words both imply a return - one is to return as one might go away from home and return later, and the other is from the root word to respond, or reply, to come back with an answer.
How often do we approach the Bible, looking for something for us, as if it's all about us? Have we got it all upside down and back to front? Arlie Francis from Disciple Daily talks us through some thoughts on making sure we're reading the Bible the right way up...
"A good story has a beginning and an end. This is especially true of the Bible. Read the greatest story ever told like any other book, from the beginning!"
There was a Bible college professor who used to conduct a special ceremony on the first day of class, called “the tearing of the page”. His new students had to tear the dividing page out of their Bibles between the Old and the New Testaments, to symbolically reconnect the two testaments as one book.
The very name "Old Testament" gives the false impression that it has become invalid and replaced by the "New". But God's word is eternal! We dare not forget that every single one of the 66 books of the Bible was inspired by God, and is still living, active, and relevant to our lives today. Here's how...
Did you know that this year it is 67 years since Israel’s establishment in 1948, and 48 years since Israel regained Jerusalem in 1967? For some these dates are cause for celebration, but for others, they are painful reminders of events that have been extremely controversial and costly. Many Christians find the Middle East conflict overwhelming to think about, but the “BDS” movement that is encouraging Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel paints a very simplistic picture: Israel is portrayed as the bad guy, and Palestinians are the victims. The truth and history of it all is, of course, very much more complicated than that. There is wrong, injustice and sin on both sides, along with a huge battle in the heavenlies over this spiritual epicenter of God’s choosing.
Psalm 92:12-13 says, "The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.They shall still bear fruit in old age".
There is some remarkable news in Israel about a palm tree that has done exactly that! In the 1960s, archaeologists found an ancient jar containing palm seeds that were 2000 years old. They sat in someone's draw for decades, until in 2005, they were planted, and lo and behold, they sprouted! Astonishingly, a palm tree was successfully grown from these seeds from Biblical times. What is even more amazing is that this year, the male palm tree (named Methuselah, now ten years old) and has successfully pollinated a female palm tree, which has produced dates! This miraculous palm tree really has borne fruit in old age! 
There are countless palm trees in every direction in Israel, and there is wonderful Biblical significance to the tree, which we can remember every time we see them, or taste its fruit.
Paul states in Romans 10:4 that the Messiah is the goal of the Torah (see also 2 Cor 3:14–15; Col 2:16–17). In John 5:46, Yeshua argues that since the religious leaders did not believe Moses, they did not accept Him as the promised Messiah. “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.” Likewise, in Matthew 5:17 Yeshua says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” The author of Hebrews argues the Law was never a goal in and of itself, but rather it prescribed a system of worship that was divinely intended to point people to the Messiah. He writes about the tabernacle,
By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation (Heb 9:8–10; see also 10:1).
Please don’t love us (Jewish people) more than you love your Jewish Messiah! What do I mean?
I am Jewish – that makes me 1 of about 14,000,000.
Also, I was born in Israel (Tel-Aviv) – that takes it down to 1 of about 4,000,000.
Also, I am an Israeli-Jewish follower of Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah – that now makes me 1 of about only 7,000.
Being part of “the remnant” (Romans 11:1-6) is no easy task. On the one hand, many of my fellow Jews (who only know what the rabbis have told them about Yeshua) tend to look at me as if I have betrayed my heritage and chosen follow some kind of pagan god. We Messianic believers are not very popular among the majority of Jewish people in Israel.
Is there really such a thing as "Torah Observant"? Does God expect us to try and keep the 613 commandments of the Sinai covenant while we are under the New covenant of Yeshua? (*Tip: read all the way until the end!)
When we renovated the second floor of our facilities, we forgot to take into consideration how much we love coffee; for this reason, you will find a tiny kitchenette poorly situated in the middle of a narrow hallway. This hallway is always messy and crowded with thirty of us walking by and, of course, stopping to make coffee. One day we hope to replace this tiny kitchenette with a spacious, beautiful, perfect, fully-functioning kitchen. But until that day comes, we must make do with what we have, and make the extra effort to keep things in order. Our boss established several rules regarding the kitchenette: Keep quiet so as not to disturb your co-workers working nearby; clean up after yourself immediately, because the sink is so tiny; and do not prepare meals in the kitchenette—meals result in noise and unwanted odors. These rules will help us maintain order (and keep our boss happy)—until that glorious day arrives when we have a new kitchen! When that day comes, there may be new principles we can implement in our lives and in our new kitchen, but most of the old kitchenette's laws will no longer be applicable to the beautiful new kitchen.
The Greek word, τέλος (telos), can be interpreted in the following ways: "end", "purpose", "goal", “to set out for a definite point”... This word τέλος was used by Greek thinkers such as Aristotle and was also used in the New Testament by Paul, the author of the book of Romans.
He states in Romans 10:4 that the Messiah is the τέλος of the Torah. The Messiah is the goal, the purpose, the end, and the definite point which the Torah was moving towards.